by Matt Slick
- 1 Cor. 7:8, “But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.”
- 1 Cor. 7:24,27, “Brethren, let each man remain with God in that condition in which he was called… 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.”
Some people use these verses as a justification to avoid being married, while others think that Paul was telling Christians that the better state is to remain unmarried. But like all other verses in the Bible, they must be understood in context. In 1 Cor. 7:26 Paul says, “I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.” At that time, there was an apparent persecution occurring against Christians in Corinth. After all, Corinth was a center for idolatry and much commerce was based upon idolatry. As Christianity spread, various kdol makers, priestly offices, and other commercial enterprises based upon pagan temple worship would have been adversely affected. The natural response by the pagans would have been to persecute the Christians.
"...the distresses to which believers were then beginning to be subjected, making the married state less desirable than the single; and which would prevail throughout the world before the destruction of Jerusalem, according to Christ’s prophecy (Mt 24:8–21; compare Ac 11:28)."1
The two words "present distress" in the Greek can be understood in two ways. First, it could mean that they are then at that time under persecution. Second, it can also be translated as "impending distress" as though Paul knows something is about to occur that will be difficult for believers. Christian persecution is normal as was prophesied by Jesus in John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Paul also confirmed such persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
Either way, Paul is urging Christians to be wise about marriage during situations of persecution or impending persecution because there is an additional responsibility within the family, and particularly when children are produced, that makes dealing with it all the more difficult.
So, Paul is not forbidding marriage. The verse is talking about the situation at the time and does not apply to us today; at least not yet.
- 1. Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.