When talking about being or not being married, Apostle Paul said: “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am however, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. ” (1 Corinthians 7:7) So, being married is a gift and not being married is not a disaster, but also a gift. Paul was unmarried. How can you know what is your gift or your calling: to marry or to remain unmarried? In this article we will see the answer that God gives to us. Exteriorly, it seems that Paul is against marriage and wants to advice the readers to remain unmarried. The author tells us that he says this for their own benefit; not to put a restraint upon them. At the beginning he presents some realities about marriage and then situations when one has to marry and situations when marriage doesn’t have to take place.
1. The realities about marriage that have to be consulted are the next:
- Difficult conditions that were at the time of the epistle’s writing or can be in other period. Paul starts this way:“Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.” (1 Corinthians 7:25–26). We don’t know exactly what is that “present distress”, but it seems that is about Christians’ persecutions in different places from the Roman Empire, and that were expected daily to increase more and more all around. We know the persecutions that took place in the reign of Nero. When people were married, these persecutions brought much more anxiety, affecting the dear ones from the family (husband, wife or children). That is how Paul writes further: “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.” (1 Corinthians 7:27–28). Paul wants all Cristians from that time to understand clearly the reality of the times they live and of the martyrdom that can come upon them and that later came. The apostle continues to write: “But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29–31)
- The change of priorities can be a result of a Christian’s marriage. Have you seen men and women who until marriage were concerned by the holy things, by preaching the Gospel and after marriage they dip and concern more and more in “family business”, so that they have time neither to go to church, nor for others, nor for God’s ministry and worship. This is not a good thing and Apostle Paul warns the readers of this danger when he says: “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32–35) There are a lot youths that are not yet married, but the concernment for marriage and for the future partner goes as a prority before that of having a beautiful relation with God. The marriage of these people will aggravate even more their attitude and they have to solve it now. But in marriage, we have to keep the priorities. To this Paul refers, when he says: “those who have wives should be as though they had none.”
- The existence of necessity to marry is another reality told by the Apostle Paul when he says: “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well.” (1 Corinthians 7:36–37) Even if it seems that the virgin didn’t have any word to say when it was the time to get married, don’t think that this was in all situations. It is right that parents had a greater authority in those times, but as it is today, there were parents who respected their children’s choices and liberties and there were those who were manipulating or even using their children and their marriages to accomplish their own plans. Today also exist such parents. Don’t be one of them. But, let us go back to our subject, what necessity does Paul refer to when he says that the unmarried must marry “if need so require”? The answer we find also in the Word of God in this chapter, when it says: “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:1–2) If an unmarried person is under a continue pressure of sexual desire, this is a necessity, or a need that can be fulfilled only in one place – marriage. This person has to marry. Marriage is not the best solution for him or her, but firstly he/she has to learn to control this desire. The presence of this desire that is needed to be controlled is a gift, so as the lack of this desire is also a gift. Apostle Paul speaks so about this: “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” (1 Cornthians 7:7) The man or the woman who marries only for the reason of sexual desire will not be happy in his/her marriage.
2. You have to marry if you are under a permanent desire to marry
The Word of God says:
But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. (1 Corinthians 7:36)
Above, I have explained what is this need and if you are under the pressure of this desire, choose to marry, but how I have said, not only for this reason or according this standard. Learn to control yourself. This will help you a lot and will male you be constant and happy in life. You may tell me that I contradict myself or the Bible contradicts itself. No way! More than this, the Scripture says:
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. (1 Corinthians 7:27)
Why so? Because God is the One who brings the wife to the one who will be her husband and God does this through love that He puts in both hearts, that of the man and that of the woman. This love draws them one to the other to marry. The same apostle Paul who speaks here about marriage, and it seems, exteriorly, that he tries to convince the readers not to marry, he says in the first Epistle to Timothy this:
A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. (1 Timothy 5:9–15)
According to the covenant that we made with Jesus Christ, we, Christians, have to take care for each other, That’s why, in the primary church there was a list of widows for the support of the church. Apostle Paul writes that on that list should be included only over 60 years old women, who couldn’t afford their personal needs, but who took care of their own needs and of the needs of others in their life. But there were also young widows, who, wishing to be supported by the church, were asking to be included on those lists. Paul says to Timothy not to accept them for two reasons: because if they were material supported by the church, they would learn to be idle, and go around from house to house, the second reason is their pressure of sexual desire that can make them “turn and follow Satan”. That’s why Paul says that for these women it is better to marry, to have children and to be housewives.
3. You don’t have to marry if you have the whole liberty to be unmarried and not to be under any pressure
But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. (1 Corinthians 7:37)
We don’t have to make a virtue either from being married or from being unmarried. Along the centruries, it was this bias in the church to make a virtue from being unmarried (celibacy, monasteries, etc.) This doesn’t change our position before God and it doesn’t make us more holy or less holy. On the other side, laymen and the unmarried have another bias to commiserate with those who are unmarried, as it is such a disaster to remain unmarried. It is not so. The Scripture even says that it is good. So, let your condition of being unmarried be neither a virtue nor a disaster. And when you talk with others on this subject, make through your words feel uncomfortable neither those who are married nor those who are unmarried.
May God help us to live for Him and to serve Him with all our consecration, no matter what is our marital condition and to have this fulfillment in our hearts either being married or unmarried. May the spring of our fulfillment be God.
Translated by Djugostran Felicia