6 “But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.”
But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment.
“But I say this” refers back to the importance of sexual pleasure in marriage (7:1-5). Paul makes this point by “concession” because it is not God’s will that everyone marry. The word “concession” means to hold a joint opinion. Thus, Paul’s point is that it is not God’s will for every individual to abstain from sex under certain conditions. This is merely a recommendation and not a hard rule. Although sexual pleasure is the norm in marriage, there are exceptions to that norm of sex in marriage. Singleness and absence from sex can be intrinsically good. Neither married people nor single people should look down their noses at the other group.
For I wish that all men were even as I myself.
Paul wishes that everyone could function as a single person like himself but he does not expect everyone to function like him. A married person has to give much time to domestic matters. Paul was probably married (members of the Sanhedrin had to be married) but became single as a widower later.
But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
This phrase qualifies the “wish” of the previous phrase. Marriage is a gift from God and celibacy is a gift from God. Both married and single people should use their gifts as unto the Lord. We should disparage neither state.
The standard governing whether or not to marry is not a hard-and-fast rule; we should not confuse celibacy with spirituality.
Singleness is not a second-class condition in comparison to marriage. There are certain advantages spiritually to being single. In serving the Lord, the unmarried person is not constrained as much by time limitations as is a married person. People often try to sell single people the idea that “if you are not married, something is not right with your life.” This is a snow job because it is not always right for all people to marry. Some gifts are not compatible with marriage. It takes time to make a successful marriage and rear well-balanced children. That is why God gifts certain people to be single. The only advantage to living unmarried is that the single person has more time to serve the Lord.
Church fathers such as Origin, Cyprian, Tertullian, and Jerome urged celibacy on the basis of 1 Corinthians 7. This led to asceticism, and then to the practice of being a hermit, then later to the cloister, and finally to the monastery. All this is misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 7.