I have for quite some time been tying to write this post on 1st Corinthians 7, this particular chapter in Corinthians is in my opinion some of the hardest scripture to understand and make sense of, with parts of Revelation being the exception. I write this with less of an intent of exposition as perhaps a means of getting my thoughts down for the sake of coherency for my own benefit most of all. But the prompt behind this was here of late I have become aware of an idea or more exactly a statement that is drawn from this 7th chapter. I’m going to try to as faithfully as possible lay out the statement, but I have drawn it from several sources so I apologize of any fragmentation you may observe. But the subject statement’s overarching idea is that Paul in chapter 7 is qualifying being single as having particular and greater advantaged to marriage. Not just in the sense of it could be better, but that being single is in fact “best.” To go ahead and state where I stand on this right up front, I find this statement to be entirely inconsistent with this passage of scripture. I can’t find a legitimate way to make this statement congruent with this chapter. I’m gonna offer some counters to this position in two ways, the first being a right view of this passage in light of the context in which the chapter and more accurately the entire book itself is written. The second being the more general inconsistency that this statement exhibits when placed beside other parts of scripture regarding the topic of singleness and marriage. Ok gonna try and keep these both brief so fingers crossed.
Context. From my own study it has struck me how direct this seventh and the following chapters are, this is not just a general letter Paul wrote to encourage and strengthen the church at Corinth. He penned this letter in response to a letter written TO him from the Corinthians, and it’s particularly direct because we can see some of the open and unabashed sin that had invaded the church at this time. Paul does indeed suggest singleness, not looking at denying that at any means. But I would encourage you to consider the “why” behind the statement. Why would Paul suggest this? I see the context of this particular case, meaning the deep rooted sexual sin as well as the general context of being a Christian at this time, which entailed open and constant persecution, as being the driving force. So I would argue that in context Paul is not trying to qualify being single as better or higher than choosing marriage. Just at this particular point in time given the situation one might ought to consider not marrying, this is not in any way a general statement. It’s also worth noting how carful Paul is to make sure the Corinthians know he is not laying a “restraint” upon them regarding marriage. So in a terribly brief conclusion: contextually speaking, the aforementioned statement is actually this chapter simply taken out of context.
Ok part 2. I see the subject statement as being a radical redefinition of the order and view of marriage laid out in scripture. Setting aside the fact that scripture uses marriage as the means to convey the image of the greatest hope of the Christian life, I see the scriptures as having a very high view of marriage. The only scripture I’m gonna throw at you for conciseness sake is Genesis 2:18: Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone…”(Also using it because it is so direct) This is the very first malediction God ever pronounced over his creation, he saw man was single and did not praise it, but instead provided a fit partner. There are other scriptures regarding marriage and singleness but I think this accurately conveys my point. To say singleness is best is wholly inconsistent with the view of what it means to be married AND what it means to be single.
Anyways I want to be crystal clear that I write this only because I was us to think correctly about what the scriptures say about marriage and singleness. I think that the level of regard in which scripture holds marriage should point us towards taking very seriously our duty of understanding it rightly. I feel that qualifying singleness as best is a misrepresentation of the intent behind Paul’s words. And to push this ideal as the standard for relationships I feel is a tragedy. Before I close however I do want to say that this is not in any way pushing away or dealing with celibacy, if you feel you have been called to it then I encourage you to pursue it in faith. I don’t want my words to be misconstrued in this regard, would not want to be taken out of context 🙂
Here are some links that might be helpful: