People want to belong. One of the chief means of “belonging”, for the known history of the world, has been having and being a mate. Marriage has changed, of course. Long, long ago, marriage meant, for a woman, that she belonged to her husband. She may have been one of several or of many women owned by her husband. It’s still like that in some places, but in the Christian world, this sort of thing is frowned upon.
I say the Christian world because it is chiefly Judaism and then Christianity that has brought about the state of affairs in which a woman can say of her beloved, “He is mine” as well as the more widely accepted: “I am his”. But this is not a post about women’s rights, so I’ll move on to the main point of this particular passage. There are many reasons to marry, and also some good reasons to stay single. If we do choose to stay single, it doesn’t have to mean not belonging when we belong to God. Paul talks about the options in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. He has some suggestions, but makes it clear that they are not for everyone.
Paul starts out by saying explicitly that he has no command from the Lord, but that he is going to offer his own advice. It’s important to remember this. As to his reference to “virgins”, he could be referring to any unmarried person or (more likely) to women specifically. In either case the meaning doesn’t change. Paul says concerning marriage that it’s fine to stay as one is. The married should not seek to become single and, because of the persecution they were undergoing, the unmarried should not seek to become married.
Again, Paul clarifies that this is his advice only and that not following it isn’t sin. Getting married is not sin. He wants to spare the Corinthian Christians from troubles (and if you’re married you know that it does bring troubles as well as blessings), particularly because of the persecution they were experiencing at that time.
Even if you are married, Paul says, you need to live for Christ first. You must hold the things that are dear to you lightly, for you could lose any of them at any moment, including beloved family members. The only thing or person we are guaranteed to be able to keep in this life is our Lord Jesus. If we grieve; if we rejoice; if we own things or use the world’s system, we must remember that none of it will last. The world as it is will soon pass away and may pass away for ourselves, personally, at any moment. We are only a breath away from eternity. We need to hold the things God has blessed us with in an open hand, knowing that we will keep them as long as God wills and no longer. Soon we will stand before Him. That is the most important thing.
Paul explains how an unmarried person can offer his or her full devotion to the Lord, while a married person must divide her concerns. It is important (and it is God’s will) that she please her husband as well as working for God. Likewise, it is God’s will that a married man work to bless his wife. Single people have only the Lord to please. It would be wrong, and displeasing to God, for a married person to disregard his/her spouse’s (and children’s) needs in order to devote all time to God. If we decide we will devote all our time and energy to God, we must not marry.
The term “his virgin” is here a bit ambiguous. It could refer to a man’s virgin daughter or to his virgin fiancee (or celibate companion) or to a female companion with whom he has exchanged vows of commitment but with whom he has agreed to a non-sexual relationship for the present. Paul says here that for a father to give his daughter in marriage or for a man to go ahead and marry his beloved companion and begin full marriage relations is not sin. He also states that for a man to remain unmarried is also not sin so long as he has self control. He concludes by saying that marrying is good but not marrying is better. This may or may not be the case in your situation. Elsewhere, Paul points out that strong desire is adequate grounds for marriage and that it is better to marry than to burn with desire.
Paul points out that a widow is free to remarry so long as she marries a man of like Christian faith. He believes that she will be happier if she remains single. Again, this depends on the situation. It’s a general statement and elsewhere, Paul councils young widows to marry and bear children.
Paul had rather a bent toward the single life and he admits that his advice that others follow his example in this instance is not from the Lord but from his own experience. He freely acknowledges that not everyone has the gift of graceful singleness or celibacy and he lays out conditions under which people are better off to marry. The Corinthians were undergoing persecution, and this also was a factor. That said, I agree with Paul that being single has its advantages. A lifestyle that doesn’t include marriage doesn’t have to be empty or meaningless when ones life is lived in and for the Lord. It can be rich and full of adventures that never could have happened in a married lifestyle. So if you’re single now, don’t write off either possibility. You don’t have to be married to someone in order to be a worthwhile person and you don’t have to remain single if you’re not cut out for that lifestyle. Only make sure that if you do marry, you choose a mate who is a genuine Christian and (and this is my own advice, but like Paul, I do think I have the Spirit of God on this) you would do best to choose a spouse who is at a level of spiritual maturity not too far different from your own level of maturity.
Grace and Peace and the Wisdom of God to you