Monday, April 8, 2024

The Issue of Marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-2)

"It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Cor. 7:1).

Evidently there were some in the Corinthian Church who believed that it was wrong to marry, that celibacy was the better state to be in. Others taught that marriage was obligatory for everyone. As we can see from later passages in the letter, some also thought that once a person became a Christian, he or she could dissolve the marriage relationship, especially if one was married to an unbeliever.

To those who wanted to make marriage obligatory to everyone, Paul says that it is certainly beneficial and good for a person to be celibate, if that is what he is called to be. Paul is not saying here that celibacy is better than marriage, only that it is not wrong. If a person is given the grace to be single, to serve God when he would otherwise be serving a family, then he should obey that calling. But, to those who claimed that celibacy is the better way, that a person should remain single no matter what the circumstances, Paul says that if a person is not able to control himself, if he has not been given the grace to be single, then he should marry.

Marriage is a divine institution, having its foundation, its beginning, in the very nature of man; therefore, it must be good. God Himself declared, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). When Paul supports celibacy, he must not be understood as contradicting God’s Word concerning the sanctity of marriage. “To depreciate marriage would be to go contrary both to nature and revelation, and such depreciation has never failed to be attended by the most injurious consequences to the church and to the world,” Hodge wrote.

The apostle teaches that as a general rule, every man should have his own wife and every woman her own husband. Whatever exceptions there might be to this rule in particular cases, the rule itself stands. Celibacy is for those whom God has given the grace to be self-controlled and to be single, but it is the exception, not the rule.

As for those who thought they should abandon the marriage relationship because they had become a Christian, Paul later tells them to remain married. Our status in Christ does not disrupt our earthly relationships. The slave is to remain a slave, the uncircumcised are to remain uncircumcised, and the married are to remain married.

Reread 1 Corinthians 7:2. What does this verse tell you of one purpose of marriage? What does it say about the natural propensities of men and women? What is the only acceptable relationship in which to engage in sexual intimacy? Pray for the single people in your church, that they will be free from sin.