Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Better to Marry than Burn (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)

"… but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry" (1 Cor. 7:8).

One of the key arguments Paul gives in exhorting the unmarried to marry has to do with self-control. But, at the same time, we must not understand Paul as advocating a marriage based solely on the physical relationship. It is wrong for two people to marry just to have an object upon which to release their passions. Paul is clearly speaking of a particular situation in the context of broader teachings on marriage in which there is mutual love, respect, and self-sacrifice.

“Marriage, according to Paul, does for man in the sphere of nature, what union with Christ does for him in the sphere of grace,” Hodge wrote. “The truth is that the apostle writes to the Corinthians as he would do to an army about to enter on a most unequal conflict in an enemy’s country, and for a protracted period. He tells them, ‘This is no time for you to think of marriage. You have a right to marry. And in general it is best that all men should marry. But in your circumstances marriage can only lead to embarrassment and increase of suffering.” ’ Embarrassment because they might not be able to fulfill their duties, and increase of suffering because of the added responsibilities on account of a family. In this sense, Paul wishes the unmarried in Corinth could be like him. But if they could not control themselves, they must marry. The problem among the Corinthians was clearly one of self-control. Paul says “it is better to marry than to burn.” This might seem to depreciate marriage as if it were nothing better than the mating relations between animals. But Paul is not depreciating marriage here because that would be in contradiction to the rest of Scripture, which emphasizes the nobility of marriage.

Self-control is a grace given from above, and in the case of sexual restraint, more grace is given. If a person is not given the grace to be single, he must think about getting married, not simply to satisfy his physical cravings, but because it would be very difficult to live with such passionate desires if he has not been given the grace to do so. In such circumstances, he must not be talked out of marriage by those who exalt celibacy. He, instead, must make necessary preparations in his own character and his circumstances to become married.

Select one or two single people in your church to pray for today. If you are single yourself, do the same. Pray that they be protected from their own desires until they are married. Pray that God give them self-control and patience. Pray that they prepare their hearts and lives for getting married, if they have not been called to singleness.