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Paul's View of Marriage

"Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control. I say this by way of concession, not of command. wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another." (1 Corinthians 7:1-7 RSV)

"But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another"

The apostle Paul (and other key figures among God's people, including Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus Christ) was not married (some are of the opinion that Paul may have been a widower; see also Paul's Ministry), but Paul taught neither for, or against, marriage. What Paul taught regarding marriage was a matter of what was best for an individual's righteous life.

Holy Bible

"To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." (1 Corinthians 7:8-9 RSV)

Paul was not absolute in his teaching, of The Lord's teaching ("I give charge, not I but the Lord"), about separation and divorce, but he did make a distinction between marriage in general ("To the married I give charge") and a marriage that involves a believer and an unbeliever ("if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound").

"To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband - and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy.

But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?" (1 Corinthians 7:10-16 RSV)

Paul's primary focus was "let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him." Does that mean that, for example, Paul remained single because he was single when he was called, while Peter (see Peter's Ministry) was married to a "believing" wife because Peter was married (we know that Peter was married at his calling because Jesus cured Peter's mother-in-law of a fever i.e. Luke 4:38-39) when he was called? Perhaps, but as Paul explains further, his, or Peter's, or anyone else's, circumstances and choices do not apply to everyone. It depends on the calling, the mission.

"Only, let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches." (1 Corinthians 7:17 RSV)

But what did he mean by that?

"Was any one at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was any one at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the Commandments of God.

Every one should remain in the state in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God.

Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that." (1 Corinthians 7:18-28 RSV)

Paul's summary? Marry or remain single, not as one state being better than the other, for everyone, but as a matter if whichever makes an individual more productive to their calling in this life. Some are more effective Christians married, while others are more effective Christians single.

"I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short [see Could Christ Return Tonight?]; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry - it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I have the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 7:29-40 RSV)

Fact Finder: While Christ was not married as a mortal man, that does not mean that He will not have a "wife." Who is the betrothed bride of Christ? When will the marriage happen?
Ephesians 5:25-32, Revelation 19:7-8


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