Many look at Paul’s teaching on “it is better to remain single” which is 1 Corinthians 7 verse 1… but we fail to continue reading. For the purposes of this post the amplified version of scripture is being used/quoted because it tends to give more Greek and Hebrew meaning within the context of scripture.
Now as to the matters of which you wrote me. It is well [and by that I mean advantageous, expedient, profitable, and wholesome] for a man not to touch a woman [to cohabit with her] but to remain unmarried.
But because of the temptation to impurity and to avoid immorality, let each [man] have his own wife and let each [woman] have her own husband.
But I am saying this more as a matter of permission and concession, not as a command or regulation.
I wish that all men were like I myself am [in this matter of self-control]. But each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another.
But to the unmarried people and to the widows, I declare that it is well (good, advantageous, expedient, and wholesome) for them to remain [single] even as I do.
But if they have not self-control (restraint of their passions), they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame [with passion and tortured continually with ungratified desire].
Verse one leads to a few perspectives that Paul may have also merely suggested “living with a woman outside of marriage is wrong” among other things. Paul wouldn’t merely suggest that “marriage” is bad. How could he? From the very beginning Jesus said:
Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him. Genesis 2:18
Once Eve was created Adam called Eve “wife” before the fall, before sin had entered into the equation.
Then Adam said, This [creature] is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of a man.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall become united and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not embarrassed or ashamed in each other’s presence.
Marriage is good. Marriage was in the design from the beginning. God designed that community because He gave each of them (man and woman) half of his attributes. This is why He said “it is not sufficient for man to be alone, I will make a complementary helper for him.”
So according to scripture, it would be incorrect to say that God doesn’t want people to be married.
Paul was speaking to a crowd of people who had no self control.
Paul was writing letters to the Corinthians who were allowing their emotions and passions to control them. He gave them guidelines for speaking in tongues, for prophesy, for how they preach the gospel, and all the rest of the gifts of the spirit, to make sure that they were correctly portraying the Character of Christ. He then gave his thoughts on singleness and marriage.
He was speaking to a crowd overrun by emotion and desire and was seeking to “renew their minds”
Paul was telling them “singleness is good and it allows us to devote more time to Jesus while we remain single and that there are advantages to being single/things single people can do that married can’t (and vice versa), but that if you are being tempted by sexual sin and desire etc. it is better to get married than to tempt yourselves to stumble into fornication.”
This is not to say that people cannot choose a life of singleness for the Lord. Paul was offering encouragement to both choices.
He is saying “hey widows, and unmarried people…singleness is good! We shouldn’t be like ‘omg where’s my future spouse because I am incomplete?’ but rather, be excited for when that happens, while focusing on the LORD first. Seek Him first, and all other [good] things will be added to you.”
Paul is pointing out the fact that the problem wasn’t singleness or marriage (or which was better). The problem (as it always is) was sin. Paul was giving instructions on how to avoid sin in both singleness and married life. He was not declaring that marriage was bad/singleness was better or the other way around.
In fact, here’s something interesting to note about Paul:
But Paul, when he perceived that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part Pharisees, cried out to the council (Sanhedrin), Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; it is with regard to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am indicted and being judged. Acts 23:6
Paul was a Pharisee and one of the requirements (especially if he indeed was a member of the Sanhedrin at one point) was to be married. One joke is that the “thorn in his side” was the unbelieving ex-wife, but I digress.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are in perfect community and they created Man in their image, for perfect community.
Man is incomplete in the attributes of God, just as Woman is incomplete. God made Woman as the helper because He designed Man’s attributes to “lead” and Woman’s to “direct and support.” Adam was placed in the garden first to prepare a place for Eve. Adam didn’t ask God for a wife, but God knew He needed a helper…but before that occurred, Adam had work to do, naming the animals, tending the garden etc. and THEN Eve was created and brought to him.
Both are necessary for unity, otherwise it’s a mess.
Genesis 2 (above) is an account in the garden before sin had entered in. The terms wife and husband were used before they ate of the fruit and chose sin. There was no “talking” or “dating” or even a “wedding.” God made Eve to be the perfect complement to Adam and they were husband and wife from the start.
If God had intended man to remain single in the garden would He not have used the terms such as “A man shall meet his BFF and they shall have a platonic relationship, thus leading to no procreation of life (going against His command for us to multiply) and the end of all humanity after one generation”?
Some look at marriage or a spouse as a “distraction” from Jesus. While this is a real possibility, as we should not be putting another person above the place of Christ in our hearts, Jesus gave us community so that we would understand His character MORE.
A GOOD husband/wife will be those who point us to new perspectives on who Christ is and just how vast His unconditional love is.
So as someone who loves all of Paul’s writings and loves Jesus more, I will share the same message in current vernacular as I (the writer) understand it:
Hey …single people…simma down. Being single isn’t the end of the world and you aren’t dying because of that. Jesus has to come first before a spouse does since He knows how to complete you. BUT if you really….really can’t control yourselves…even though for the last 20+ years you have somehow survived without being married, then please get married so that you don’t fall into sexual sin. However, if we could all just grow up and lean more into Christ, we would learn to enjoy the times when we are married and the times when we are single, for as all things on this earth… both are only temporary. God made marriage on the 6th day asked us to take care of the garden, be fruitful and multiply (which we can’t do by ourselves and we can’t do outside the context of marriage) but rather than fulfilling that command, we screwed it up royally. So…friends, family, brothers, sisters….get a grip. Jesus loves you. He’ll make sure to take care of the rest of your needs. So whether you are single or married, enjoy what God is doing in your life and in the mean time….TELL THE WORLD HIS STORY!
1 Author’s Rant 2:1-6 (a joke for those who need clarification)
Scripture cannot contradict itself and Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t contradict God’s plans and purposes with his teachings. It is just more likely, that we need to be renewing our minds and studying scripture, the character of God, and the love of God more…so that we understand what He is teaching us.
Being single is good. Being married is good. God is good.
Our focus is Christ. Everything else will fall into place.