But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.1 Corinthians 7:8(NASB)
The first few chapters of 1 Corinthians deals with disorder in the Church, which caused chaos among the congregation. Paul had to chastise them for division within the body of Christ; immorality among believers and the filing of foolish lawsuits against one another. He also upbraided them for moral neglect and sexual sin, all of which presented a poor Christian testimony to the outside world and dishonoured the Lord Who bought them.
Having spent six chapters of his letter correcting a wide range of abuses within the church at Corinth, Paul continued by giving apostolic answers to important questions which had been asked about Christian marriage and how it relates to celibacy, divorce, remarriage and its role in ministry.
In the first few verses of chapter 7 Paul gives advice to married couples and the mutual respect, responsibility and commitment they should have towards one another. He describes the unique, interdependent relationship that exists within marriage and points out that any sexual abstinence should not deprive the other another of their conjugal rights, but should be mutually agreed - when they engage in seasons of fasting and prayer. However such abstinence it should be for a limited period or it could lead to lustful thoughts, frustrated feelings or immoral practices.
After his advice on periods of temporary abstinence from sexual intercourse as an agreed concession within marriage, Paul turns his attention to those who are not married by saying "but I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I".
It is evident that Paul was not married when he wrote this letter, but whether or not he had previously been married, widowed, divorced or remained single, is not the issue, "but", he continued, "I wish that all men were even as I".
No doubt as his ministry progressed and as he travelled with married men and those that were unmarried, Paul recognised that despite marriage being a sacred union of a man and a woman, instituted by God in the garden of Eden, there were advantages of remaining in the unmarried state, for both men and women - if they were able to control their passion.
It is interesting that Paul uses the word's "unmarried' and "widow" in this passage rather than "single", implying that his main target audience were men and women, who for one reason or another had been married, but who were now in an unmarried state, rather than young, single men.
This verse is not a call to celibacy as a requirement for Christian ministers, as some denomination teach, nor does it imply that marriage is superior or inferior to the unmarried state. It is not commanded that the unmarried should never remarry, nor that being unmarried indicates someone is more or less spiritual than their married brothers and sisters in Christ.
It must never be forgotten that Paul was living in the formative years of the Christian church, when the principles and practices within the Christianity were being instituted and agreed. Today we should endeavour to follow the whole counsel of God in our marriages and relationships, so that our practice and principles should line up with God's word and God Word should be reflected in every area of our life.
Whether we are married or remain unmarried, may we be a living witness of a life that honours the Lord, in all I say and do so that others may see Jesus in us.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your guidance on Christian marriages, the single state and celibacy - both in Paul's letter to the Corinthians and throughout Your word. Thank You for the institution of marriage and the many instructions given to married couples and those that remain unmarried. I pray that in whatever state I find myself, during my time on earth, my life would be a living sacrifice unto God and I would conduct myself as unto the Lord. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.
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