The Christian’s Preparation To Be Single Long-Term (eBook, PDF, Audio-Book)
This book is a must read for Christians whether single or married. Be prepared for conviction and encouragement.
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Problems related to this matter are an epidemic in the Body of Christ. I can say confidently that at least half, if not significantly more, of the Christians whom I have seen fall away from the Lord, have done so with fear of and/or unwillingness to be a single Christian long-term (i.e. a long-term single adult living by the rules of the God of the Bible) as a significant, notable factor in their falling away. This is tragic! Yet such casualties of faith do not need to happen.-Brother Aaron (Author)
A short exhortation on 1 Corinthians 7:8-9: “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”
What does “cannot contain” mean in the context of this passage? Is it teaching that someone who is defeated by sexual sin should get married to solve the problem of their inability to exercise self-control? Some definitely think that. But if that were true, that would mean that the Apostle Paul is teaching here that the person marrying them would have to compromise Christian standards in their selection of a spouse in order to marry them. That is ridiculous! There is a way to understand this without having to come to such a ridiculous (and unrighteous) conclusion.
It should be established that nobody ever needs to commit sexual sin, even if they are single and they find being single very difficult. And anyone who is yielding to temptation and lacking self-control will surely not be cured of this by getting married. They will likely still be plagued by sexual sin after marriage, and even if they are not, they will still carry habits of being impulsive and intemperate which will manifest themselves in other ways (bad temper, talking way too much, improper eating, inability to handle finances, etc). If someone does not seek God and learn to take up their cross daily to overcome sexual sin by the grace of God while they are single, then marriage will not make them a spiritual person. Marriage will only draw someone else into having to put up with their carnality in a very personal and continual way, even if their carnality can be better cloaked for a while due to some relief in one area that marriage might provide.
So what does the phrase “cannot contain” actually mean if it can only apply to faithful Christians who are righteously eligible to enter into marriage with another faithful Christian? Consider the context of the Apostle Paul’s main point in this chapter as he talked about the perspective which Christians should have about marriage.
That point can be summed up well by 1 Corinthians 7:35 “And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
Paul had been saying throughout this chapter that singleness, when one could handle it well, is a better state to attend upon the Lord without distraction. Marriage brings a set of cares and snares related to this life which are good to avoid. If someone is happy single and prospering in the Lord while single, it is best that they stay single! And yet, going back to the opening nine verses of the chapter, for many people this is not the case. Many were already married when they came to Christ (and this chapter has instructions for these too) AND many single Christians find the weight of long-term singleness very hard to bear. They can overcome sexual sin and endure faithfully in this state as long as they need to by the grace of God- yet they may find it very difficult. They may find it so difficult that it is a weight and a care to them even greater than the weights and cares associated with marriage.
Obviously the weights and cares of an unequal marriage yoke are way worse than being single would ever likely be, but that truth only strengthens the case that “cannot contain” here is referring to finding singleness to be a notable difficulty, not as a reference to being overcome by sexual sin. Viewing it as the latter would mean that another Christian would have to compromise and enter into a marriage that would be a tremendous spiritual weight for them, in order to help solve the other’s sexual sin problems. That is a view which is not righteous nor practical. Yet when “cannot contain” is understood as singleness being a weight that might hold someone back from serving the Lord as well as they might were they to marry another faithful Christian, then that is both a sensible and righteous understanding of what Paul meant here. Such an understanding also lines up well with the main point Paul sought to drive home in this chapter related to how Christians should view and approach marriage.