1 Corinthians 7:25–40 (NKJV)
25 Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. 26 I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is: 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.1 Corinthians 7:25-40
29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, 30 those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31 and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.
32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. 33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. 34 There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. 35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
36 But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. 37 Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. 38 So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.
39 A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment—and I think I also have the Spirit of God.
Paul follows up his short interlude on contentment in the last passage with this thought that carried contentment into the choice of whether to be married or not. He immediately tells the virgins that they are better off if they do not marry. He then tells everyone to remain in the state in which they find themselves. He concedes that being married is not a sin, but is not expedient, but will cause trouble. This discussion takes the ideas of contentment and celibacy to an even stronger depth. Paul still allows marriage, but suggests that everyone would be better if not being married. Yet not everyone can accept this. Paul then offers the explanation of his rationale here. He or she who is married care about the needs of his or her spouse, but the unmarried can dedicate all their concern and effort toward pleasing God.
In the last several verses, Paul addresses few thoughts. First, he gives room for a man to offer his daughter in marriage if he thinks it proper, even though celibacy would be better. Second, Paul reiterates that singleness is better than marriage for those seeking to follow God fully, but still allows marriage for those who cannot embrace celibacy. Finally, Paul discusses the accountability of widows. Married women are bound by their vows as long as their husband lives, but if he dies, they are free to be married again. This is the second justification for divorce in the Bible. Jesus spoke of the first in Matthew 25 (adultery). In the end, this passage of Paul’s teaching stills touts the value of celibacy, but admits that marriage is not evil or prohibited. He even gave instructions on how to behave in marriage in the earlier part of this chapter. But his insistence that one consider celibacy is strong.
In today’s world, marriage has taken a beating. Commitment is weak toward marriage. Even in the church, marriage is not nearly as sacred a vow as it once was. It is important that the church embrace marriage as a sacred relationship and commitment and strengthen marriage in every way possible. We should celebrate singleness in the church as valid and important as well. The church should be a place where every believer can grow, thrive, and contribute with grace and dignity. So, if you are called to be single, be single with all your heart and serve the Lord fully. If you are made to be married, be married and enjoy that relationship as you work together for the Lord. Either way, respect and encourage every believer to live in their calling and thrive!