“But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” (1 Corinthians 7:6–9, AV)
Most all of us have received a gift from someone. As a young boy, I remember always looking forward to my birthday. On that day, we would have a cake and it was all about me. My mom and dad would give me some sort of special gift. It would be something unique to me and generally something that fit me well. One of my many interests was art. I enjoyed oil painting. I could reproduce what I saw nearly exactly as I saw it. So, on one of my birthdays, I received some art supplies. Neither my brother or sister were interested in painting or art so they never received such a gift for their use. Gifts are like that. They are given from someone freely and are usually very unique to the recipient.
Paul had written to the church at Corinth about sexual relationships. In this, he encouraged both men and women in the church to marry due to their sensual desires. His big point is that these passions were natural and that they were to be satisfied in biblical marriage.
However, in these few verses of Scripture, he dealt with the issue of living a life of celibacy. Here he began by telling them, I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” Paul’s point here is that he did not command all people to be married and he did not command all to remain single. He told them of an option. Yet, it was an option that would be taken according to the purpose of God. Neither option was wrong.
Paul went on to say that it was his desire that all should be like he was, a single person. Paul thought it was good for one to remain single if they could. The reason is that this would allow them a focus on God and His work unencumbered by the influence of the marital relationship. However, this was not for everyone for only those with a unique ability to remain single should choose this path in life.
Paul went on to explain about the ability to live the single lifestyle, “But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” The phrase “gift of God,” charisma ek Theou, is significant. He indicated that some believers were given a special and specific ability to remain single without struggling with uncontrolled sexual passions. Since it was a gift, Paul realized that not all would have this ability. In fact, it seems that very few would have it. Yet, those that had this gift should remain single.
Paul went on to explain how one would know if they had this gift of celibacy and what to do if they did not. “It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry.” If a man or a woman does not have the gift of celibacy, they would not be able to control their sensual desires. Those who would be in this case must marry.
The conclusion is that it is good to be single as Paul was and yet, it was not wrong to marry. Both the single and the married have their place in the church. Moreover, God gives a gift of celibacy to those who can remain single. For us in the church today, we must remember to honor God with our bodies, and respect both those who are married and those who are single.