Singleness & Marriage

I Corinthians 7

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
February 2024

Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 

I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (I Corinthians 7:1-9 NIV)

Today, we came to one of the longest chapters in the whole book.  It is forty verses long.  It is the second longest chapter in the book.  The longest chapter is I Corinthians 15.

I Corinthians 7 is a chapter that deals with marriage counseling.  How would you like to get marriage counseling from the Apostle Paul?

We would probably have less marriage problems if counseling was done by apostles.  Paul does not just give marriage counseling in this chapter.  He gives premarital counseling for singles.

Paul was not just an apostle.  He was a pastor.  He was a pastor of the church.  He founded it.

In I Corinthians 6, Paul dealt with sexual purity.  In I Corinthians 7, he deals with singleness and marriage.  He also deals with marriage and divorce.  He deals with divorce and remarriage.

He also deals with desertion.  He deals with abandonment in marriage.  He even deals with marriage to an unbeliever.

I Corinthians 7 begins the second part of the book.  In the second part of the book, Paul answers questions.  Notice how the chapter begins.  Now for the matters you wrote about (I Corinthians 7:1 NIV).

The Corinthians wrote Paul a letter and asked him some questions and he answered their questions.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what their questions were.  We only have Paul’s answers.  We can only hear one side of the conversation, but we can guess what the questions were from Paul’s answers.

It is good to ask questions.  It is the best way to learn.  One of the best ways to do Bible study is to ask questions of the text.  If we don’t know the answers, we should seek out the answers.  We should ask people who know more than we do.

When we don’t ask questions, we miss out.  If the Corinthians did not ask these questions, we would not have most of I Corinthians.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to ask Paul anything we wanted?  Wouldn’t it to be cool to have a Q & A with a real apostle.  What were some of the questions that the Corinthians had?

Possible Questions

If you are single, should you rush to get married or should you stay single?

What is the role of sex in marriage? If you are married, should you have sex with your spouse or try to be spiritual and abstain from sex in marriage?

If you are not getting along with your spouse, should you get a divorce?

If you are an unbeliever, marry an unbeliever and later you become a Christian, should you get a divorce, since you are now unequally yoked?

What should you do if your spouse leaves you?  Can you remarry?  Are you free to do that?

If you are a slave, should you remain in slavery or try to become free?

It is a fascinating chapter.  It applies to all of us.  All of us are either single or married.  What does this chapter say about our situation?

Paul tells us what Jesus said about it, but he also deals with some specific topics that Jesus never addressed in the Gospel.

We are going to look at four topics that Paul addresses in these nine verses.  He addresses singleness, marriage, and sex.  Let’s look at each one.


There are four things that Paul got right about singleness.  We see it in this chapter.  There is some confusion about what Paul meant.

1) Singleness is good

We live in a day in which there is a stigma placed on being single.  If you are single, people think there is something wrong with you.  They might ask, “Why aren’t you married?”  That is wrong.

You can spend your whole life as a single person, never marry and your life is not wasted, if that is what God is calling you to do.

I never received that call but there are some famous people in the Bible who never married.  Jeremiah never married.  John the Baptist never married.  Mary Magdalene never married, as far as we know.  Jesus never married.  Paul never married.

It is GOOD for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” (I Corinthians 7:1 NIV).

Notice, Paul does NOT say that it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with his wife.  He says, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with A WOMAN.”

What does he mean that it is good?  It doesn’t mean morally good.  If it is good not to touch a woman, does that mean it is bad to touch one?  That is what some of the church fathers said.

That is why Catholics do not allow their priests to marry.  That is why they used to encourage people to be monks and nuns.  That is why there were so many monasteries.

Jerome said, “If it is good not to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one: for there is no opposite to goodness but badness” (Against Jovinianus Book I, 7).[1]

Paul said the idea that marriage is bad or should be forbidden “a doctrine of demons” (I Timothy 4:1-3). It is not just false; it is demonic.  That is what some of the cults believed (e.g., the Shakers). That comes straight from the pit of hell.

Paul is NOT saying marriage is bad, because later in the chapter, he says that if you get married, you have not sinned.  It is not a sin to be married or to get married.  He called it a gift from God (I Corinthians 7:7).

If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is NOT sinning. They SHOULD get married. (I Corinthians 7:36 NIV)

It is good to be single in the sense that it is profitable.  It is useful.  It is beneficial.  It is worthwhile.  It has some advantages, as we will see.

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is GOOD for them to stay unmarried, as I do. (I Corinthians 7:8)

Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is GOOD for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do NOT look for a wife (I Corinthians 7:25-27)

So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her DOES BETTER. (I Corinthians 7:34 NIV)

A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40 In my judgment, she is HAPPIER if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God. (I Corinthians 7:39-40 NIV)

2) Singleness has some advantages.

There are all kinds of advantages to being single.  Paul says so.  What did he say was the advantage to being single?

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. (I Corinthians 7:32-35 NIV)

There are many other advantages.  You have the freedom to do whatever you want when you want.  You don’t answer to anyone, except Jesus.  You don’t have to listen to a husband or wife.

If you want to throw your clothes on the floor, you can.  If you want to stay up late or go out of town, you don’t have to tell anyone.  You have more freedom.

The contemporary Christian musician Rich Mullins once said that the difference between being married and single is that when you are single, you can pick up hitchhikers.

Paul needed to be single.  He was persecuted.  He was constantly beaten.  He was jailed.  He eventually had his head cut off.  He had the kind of ministry that is hard to do when you have family responsibilities.

3) Singleness is not for everyone

Paul says that people have different gifts.  Each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. (I Corinthians 7:7 NIV).

Some have the gift of marriage, and some have the gift of singleness.  Paul calls them a χάρισμα. That is the same word that he uses later in the book for a “spiritual gift.”

Some should never be married. They would hate it.  Some should never be single.  They were not made for marriage. They would be miserable.

What Paul did not say is that everyone should be single.  Paul did NOT command people to be single (I Corinthians 7:25, 40).  He did not say that it is for everyone.

Jesus said, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given” (Matthew 19:11 NIV).  He said, “The one who can accept this should accept it” (Matthew 19:12 NIV).

The truth is that everyone cannot accept it.  It has not been given to everyone.  We should live according to our gifts.

4) If singleness is your gift, you will like it

If you have the gift of being single, you will not be single by circumstances but by choice.  You will want to be single.  You will like it.  You will have no desire to get married.

Paul was single. He liked being single.  He was happy being single.  He said that being single is good.  He recommended it to others.  He said, “I wish that ALL OF YOU were as I am.” (I Corinthians 7:7 NIV).

Paul was single.  He loved being single and he wanted everyone to be single, but he knew that everyone would not be single.  If they did, the whole race would die out.


What does the Bible say about marriage?  What does Paul say?  It may surprise you.  He is not writing a treatise on marriage.  He is answering questions but there are several things we can say about marriage.

1) Marriage is good

It could not be wrong.  It was created by God.  It was His idea.  The government did not create marriage.  God did.  It is a God-ordained institution.

Marriage is good.  God called it good.  He said, “It is NOT GOOD for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18 NIV).

While there are some advantages to being single, there are some advantages to being married.  Some ministries can be done better as a couple.  The Bible says, “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

The poverty rate is higher for people who are not married.  Families headed by single parents have a far higher poverty rate than families headed by two parents.

Marriage improves your health.  Numerous studies tell us that married people live longer than those who are single, divorced or widowed?  They have a lower mortality rate.  Marriage improves your life expectancy.

Marriage is good.  It is not perfect.  We live in a fallen world.  Marriages have problems.  We will see that next week.

The problem today is that many people think that they don’t need to get married.  They can just live together and skip marriage.  They do not see marriage as good.

2) Marriage is lifelong

A woman is bound to her husband AS LONG AS HE LIVES (I Corinthians 7:39 NIV).  Marriage is a lifelong commitment.  It is not something to rush into.

Paul says, “Are you bound?  Don’t seek to be loosed.  Are you free, don’t seek to be bound.”  That describes marriage as bondage.  Marriage is not slavery, but it is a lifelong commitment to someone.

“If you are married, stay in the marriage. If you are single, don’t rush into marriage. 28 But if you do get married, you haven’t sinned.  It’s just that I would want to spare you the problems you’ll face with the extra challenges of being married. (I Corinthians 7:28-29 TPT)

One of the biggest mistakes that people make today is that they rush into marriage.  They want to be in a relationship.  They want to get married so badly that they will marry anyone.

I work in a high school, and I see some of the guys that girls date and I shutter.  I know that 99% of those relationships will not last.

You don’t want to make that kind of a commitment with just anyone.  You do not want to take that commitment lightly.

3) Marriage is sanctifying

Marriage can make you holy.   For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. (I Corinthians 7:14 NIV).

If there is sanctification when only one spouse is a believer, how much more if both are believers.  They would sanctify themselves.

Marriage can make you holy.   Marriage can prevent sin.  Married couples can still struggle with lust, but Paul says that marriage can prevent sexual immorality.

“It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” BUT SINCE SEXUAL IMMORALITY IS OCCURRING, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. (I Corinthians 7:1-2 NIV)

But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion (I Corinthians 7:9 NIV)

Does this mean that Paul had a low view of marriage?  Is marriage just a deterrent to sexual sin for sex craved singles who are burning with lust?

Paul does NOT say that this is the only reason for marriage.  The reason given in the Book of Genesis is that Adam was lonely.

It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18 NIV).

Adam did not need to get married to avoid sexual immorality but to avoid loneliness.

Marriage is not just to get a sex partner.  It is to get a life partner, someone to share life with.  There are many other reasons as well.

Paul did not have a low view of marriage.  Paul described the marriage relationship as a picture of our relationship to Christ.

He said that husbands are the head of their wives as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). He said that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).

4) Marriage is sexual

There were two extremes in the Corinthian Church.  On the one extreme was to be sexually immoral.  Some in the church were visiting prostitutes.  Then there was the other extreme was to abstain from sex altogether.

It is good to abstain from sex before marriage.  Some thought it would be a good idea to abstain from sex after marriage.

If sex is so bad and so wicked, married couples should not have sex. They should just have a “spiritual marriage.”

Paul says the exact opposite.  He says if you are married, you should act like married people.

Withdrawal from sex in marriage is not spiritual.  It is sinful.  What is spiritual outside of marriage is sinful inside of marriage.

You should not only have sex, but you should also have it regularly.  He says you should stop only for a short time.

Paul gives us a biblical view of married sex.  He gives us a brand-new perspective on sex in marriage.  What he said was radical in his day.  He was way ahead of him time.

There are abuses of sex today.  Some use it as a weapon in marriage.  Some use it to control their spouse to get what they want.  That is wrong.  Paul calls that defrauding your spouse.  It is cheating them.

In the ancient world, sex in marriage was one-sided.  A husband could do what he wanted with his wife.  She was little more than a slave.  She was a sex slave for her husband.

Paul says something that no one had ever said in the ancient world.  He not only said that the body of the wife belongs to the husband, he said that the body of the husband belongs to the wife.

There is complete equality here.  It is not pictured as one spouse dominating their spouse, demanding sex against his or her will.  Paul is talking about something that is completely mutual and voluntary.

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. (I Corinthians 7:3-4 NIV)

Biblical Principles of Sex

1) Sex was created by God.  Hollywood did not come up with the idea. God did. He invented it.

2) God created sex exclusively for the marriage relationship.

3) Sex was designed by God to be enjoyed between a husband and wife in heterosexual relationship.

4) Sex is not only allowed in marriage; it is commanded

5) Sex was not designed strictly for procreation.  It is fun.

6) Sex in marriage is to be regular and frequent.

7) Sex is about giving, not taking. The husband is to meet the sexual needs of his wife. The wife is to meet the sexual needs of her husband.

8) Sex is not to be used as a weapon or bargaining chip in marriage.

9) All things must be done in moderation.

10) All things must be done in love.

5) Marriage is restricted

It is restricted to the opposite sex.  Paul does not believe in gay marriage.  He says, “Each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.

There is nothing about gay marriage here.  A man is to have his own wife, not his own husband.  A woman is to have her own husband, not her own wife.

It is also restricted to Christians.  The one passage in the NT that explicitly says this that Christians are to marry Christians is found in I Corinthians 7.

Unfortunately, many do not follow this today.  Plenty of young people today fall in love with someone and get married, even though that person is not a believer. Paul talks about widows at the end of the chapter.  Notice what he says.

A married woman is not free as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, then she is free to be married to any man she wishes, but only if he is a Christian. (I Corinthians 7:39 GNT)

Marriage is a lifelong commitment.  At death, a widow is free to remarry.  She can marry anyone she wants.  There is only one stipulation.  She can only marry a Christian.  She can only marry someone in the Lord.



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