“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:6-9)
God does not call everyone to be married, but He does call everyone to a particular marital status. In this passage, Paul teaches us that we are either called to be married or called to be single. He personally felt it was better to remain single, but only if one was not “burning with passion.” In that case, it would be better for the person to get married than risk sinning due to uncontrollable sexual desires. Paul makes it clear that he is speaking as a “concession, not a command” in verse 6. A concession has the meaning of something agreed to or granted to come to agreement or compromise. Paul clearly thinks that being single, which is his status, is better than being married. He repeats this clarification in verse 25, “Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” Jesus also made this concession, and it is recorded in Matthew 19:12: “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
There is no command in Scripture for anyone to stay single, although there is to be married (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). Knowing that the teaching of Scripture has the authority of God, who called the apostles to write the New Testament, and that Jesus also made this concession, we should regard Paul’s advice as excellent. If called to be single, without undue stress or great sexual temptation, we should stay single. Please notice that Paul speaks of burning with passion, which is an extreme state of agitation and distress, not ordinary sexual temptations that face us all at some time or another.
Later in the letter, Paul explains his preference for singleness. “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34) Let married people not regard singleness as superior, but as a gift from the Lord (v. 6). Let single people not think they are somehow superior since Scripture clearly commands and endorses marriage.
In verse 17, Paul writes, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” Many commentators are convinced that this is the vocational, marital, or economic status of the believer at the time of regeneration in Christ, versus being “called” to a particular status based on some inward conviction. I highly favor this interpretation because it places the basis of our standing with God, not with us who are flawed, emotional, and sentimental, thinking that some inner feeling is a calling from God.
Are you willing to stay in your current marital status, knowing that God has a purpose for you there? If you are single, are you burning with passion? If so—get married—but to a believer! If you are divorced or widowed and unhappy or lonely, will you commit to asking God for help to be content with your singleness?