Because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband... I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do. But we are not all the same. God gives some the gift of marriage, and to others he gives the gift of singleness. — 1 Corinthians 7:2, 7
Marriage is a divine idea. Right from the beginning of creation, God ordained that a man and a woman should devote themselves to each other in a mutually loving, caring, marital relationship. He made it clear that marriage was to be a fundamental building block of society.
But in Corinthian society, as in our modern societies, there were some people who, for a variety of reasons, did not wish to be married. They glorified the unmarried state, and they believed that it was a superior lifestyle.
They asked for Paul’s opinion, and he agreed: “Yes, it is good to live a celibate life” (1 Corinthians 7:1). Paul went even further and said, “I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do” (7:7).
But having said that, he stopped far short of advocating that being single was morally superior to being married. On the contrary, he insisted, “God gives some the gift of marriage, and to others he gives the gift of singleness” (7:7). To those who have the gift of being married, Paul says, “Each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband” (7:2).
The downside of singleness, from Paul’s point of view, was that if natural sexual desires were not carefully controlled, single people—particularly those living in the sexually charged environment of Corinth—would be vulnerable to the blandishments of illicit sexual activity. Rather than allow that to happen, they should marry and enjoy mutually satisfying sexual relations.
But marriage is not without its difficulties either. Marriage is particularly difficult when one of the partners becomes a Christian subsequent to the marriage. Rather than working through the difficult tensions that such a situation created, people in Corinth were giving up on their marriages and settling for divorce. Christians who were contemplating taking this way out of difficult marriages were overlooking, or ignoring, the fact that a Christian marriage partner “brings holiness to” her or his marriage, and that the children of such a marriage live under a “godly influence” (7:14).
The Christian, bearing all this in mind, should not divorce. On the other hand, if the unbeliever decides to leave the marriage, the Christian partner “is not required to stay” with that person (7:15).
In marriage matters, modern western society bears striking similarities to ancient Greco-Roman society. So it is not too difficult to make an application of Paul’s teachings and of Christ’s specific commands.
Marriage is good, and in special circumstances, singleness is a blessing. But marriage is not easy.
In certain limited circumstances, divorce is permissible—but it also creates major problems.
So honor marriage, respect singleness, and avoid divorce. And remember, “God wants his children to live in peace” (7:15).
For Further Study: 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.