36 “But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. 37Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. 38So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better. 39 A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment – and I think I also have the Spirit of God.”
Paul now turns toward two specific classifications of single people: (1) a father dedicating his daughter to singleness so she could serve the Lord more fully but against her desire and (2) widows.
But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry.
A father who dedicated his daughter to singleness did not sin by letting her marry. The “flower of youth” of the young woman is the passing bloom of her marrying age. “Let them marry” refers to the daughter and her suitor. “Behaving improperly” has to do with the father not making arrangements for her marriage.
Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well.
The father, who maintains his commitment to keeping his daughter single, is under no constraint by the daughter to change his mind. Steadfastness in the father’s mind encourages the daughter to maintain her steadfastness as well.
So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.
This is not an issue between right and wrong but between what is good and what is better, especially in times of distress. There is no hard and fast rule on these matters. Each case must be judged on its own merits.
A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
Paul now turns to the subject of remarriage of widows. Marriage is permanent, as long as both partners are alive. Death gives liberty to remarry. However, Christians are to marry only Christians.
But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment
Under the present distress, the widow shouldn’t marry. She will be more blessed in this situation. The word “happier” is not correctly translated.
—and I think I also have the Spirit of God.
Paul has the mind of the Spirit of God on the above point, as well as his personal judgment.
The gift of singleness is not necessarily permanent.
Some singles live in limbo. They waste their lives waiting for the “right” person. Should the right person come into their lives, they have not developed their character or prepared themselves to be all they can be. Should no person come into their lives, they wasted the valuable commodity of being single. There is a high calling in singleness.
I’ve read through your commentary on this chapter, as well as Mat. 19:1-12. You seem to use the phrases, ‘the gift of celibacy,’ and the ‘gift of singleness’ as if they are synonymous. I think this could use some clarification. Correct me where I’m wrong. I do not think that singleness is a gift, only celibacy is. The context of the gifts Paul refers to in 1 Cor. 7:7 is in reference to control over sexual desire. Vs. 7 is sandwiched between two thoughts on controlling sexual desire, one for married people, and one for the unmarried. I believe the gift Paul is attributing to himself is in regard to sexual desire; he has the gift of celibacy. Having the gift of celibacy is similar to being a eunuch, one does not need to control their sexual desires; because they have none. Whereas the single person, who doesn’t have the gift of celibacy, has to keep a constant watch in order not to sin. This is not an easy task, and this too becomes a distraction. This is why Paul recommends that those who don’t have the gift of celibacy should marry (vs.9).
I believe that many young adults use the idea of, the ‘gift of singleness,’ as a way to avoid the responsibility and maturing effect that is inherit in marriage. They are ready to serve, but their sexual desire is Corban (Mark 7:9-13).
Justin, thanks for your post. This is a difficult subject because there is very little extant statements on the subject. I do not know whether Paul was in fact celibate. He may have been. However there is some indication that he may have been married. He was obviously single when he wrote First Corinthians, “It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am” (1 Cor. 7:8). Later when listing the rights of an apostle and arguing on behalf of himself and Barnabas, he said, “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?” (1 Cor. 9:5). In interpreting this statement, some scholars say Paul’s question, taken with his statement that he was unmarried, suggests he was a widower who had at least occasionally traveled with his wife. Others see Paul using this question to emphasize that he and Barnabas, as single men, were not burdening the church with the added, though legitimate, expenses of caring for their wives.