“But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self–control, let them marry;
for it is better to marry than to burn.”
1 Corinthians 7:8–9
“It is good for them if they remain even as I.” Paul’s words in this passage have puzzled untold numbers of single Christians throughout the history of the church: Does he actually mean that staying single is a holier choice than getting married? If I really want to be married, does that mean I’m not as godly as someone who wants to stay single? Can’t married Christians please God as much as single Christians?
The Apostle’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 certainly does spark a number of questions. In the following Q & A, John MacArthur provides some helpful clarifications…
Dr. MacArthur explains more:
The point is that those who are single when converted to Christ should know that it is good for them to stay that way. There is no need to rush into marriage. Many well-meaning Christians are not content to let people remain single. The urge to play cupid and matchmaker can be strong, but mature believers must resist it. Marriage is not necessary or superior to singleness, and it limits some potential for service to Christ (vv. 32-34).
Later in the chapter Paul advised believers to remain as they were. Staying single was not wrong, and becoming married or staying married were not wrong. But “in view of the present distress” the Corinthian believers were experiencing, it seemed much better to stay as they were (7:25-28).
Deciding about marriage obviously is more difficult for the person who has strong sexual desires but who has no immediate prospect for a husband or wife. It is never God’s will for Christians to marry unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14), but neither is it right just to marry the first believer who will say yes. Though we may want very much to be married, we should be careful. Strong feelings of any sort tend to dull judgment and make one vulnerable and careless.
There are several things that Christians in this dilemma ought to do. First, they should not simply seek to be married, but should seek a person they can love, trust, and respect, letting marriage come as a response to that commitment of love. People who simply want to get married for the sake of getting married run a great risk of marrying the wrong person. Second, it is fine to be on the lookout for the “right person,” but the best way to find the right person is to be the right person. If believers are right with God and it is His will for them to be married He will send the right person—and never too late.
If, however, a single believer did not have self–control, that person should seek to marry. If a Christian is single but does not have the gift of singleness and is being strongly tempted sexually, he or she should pursue marriage. Let them marry in the Greek is in the aorist imperative, indicating a strong command. “Get married,” Paul says, for it is better to marry than to burn. The term means “to be inflamed,” and is best understood as referring to strong passion (cf. Rom. 1:27). A person cannot live a happy life, much less serve the Lord, if he is continually burning with sexual desire—even if the desire never results in actual immorality. And in a society such as Corinth’s, or ours, in which immorality is so prevalent and accepted, it is especially difficult not to succumb to temptation.
I believe that once a Christian couple decides to get married they should do it fairly soon. In a day of lowered standards, free expression, and constant suggestiveness, it is extremely difficult to stay sexually pure. The practical problems of an early marriage are not nearly as serious as the danger of immorality.
[John MacArthur in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians]
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