On one hand, our culture seems to idolize marriage. We have television shows where singles compete for a proposal and online apps that promise to find you the perfect spouse. At the same time, marriage after marriage ends in divorce. Is it better to stay single?
Paul’s answer to this question is mixed. His own experience as a single man showed advantages to being unmarried. This seemed particularly expedient in the Corinthian context, given the “present crisis” (v. 26). Paul does not specify the exact nature of the crisis, but the same word is used in Luke 21:23 to speak of “great distress.” The unmarried person enjoys the luxury of serving Christ without being distracted by the concerns of married life, and whatever situation they were facing (vv. 32–35).
However, some in Corinth were already “pledged” in marriage. To these Paul directs, “Do not seek to be released.” (v. 27). Paul did not regard singleness to be spiritually superior to marriage. Although he argues the advantages of serving Christ as a single, later in this letter, he also defends the “right” of those who preach the gospel to take “a believing wife” when they engage in ministry (1 Cor. 9:5). In verse 2 the apostle also points to marriage as God’s remedy for sexual immorality.
Paul advises the engaged to take propriety and passion into account when deciding when to marry (v. 36). If delaying the marriage would be interpreted as a dishonorable action or the engaged person feels their passions are too strong and they cannot wait, they should go ahead and get married. Marriage should never be entered into lightly. God views it as a sacred covenant. Those who marry are bound together for life (v. 39).
>> Paul describes both marriage and singlehood as a gift (1 Cor. 7:7). God’s design for most people is marriage, but that is not true for all. Whether married or single, we must live for Him.
Lead us in serving You, God. We live for You, to be used by You for Your purposes in the world. Our relationship with You is paramount. Teach us joy and contentment, whether we are married or single.