1 Corinthians 7:6-11
Each Has His Own Gift from God
Once when the Pharisees were “testing” Jesus, they asked him if it were lawful to divorce one’s wife, with the intention of getting him in trouble with either the more conservative or more liberal rabbis who disagreed on the question, but even better to see how he handled Moses on the issue. When Jesus answered that in the marriage union, “the two become one flesh” and no man should violate that union, it seemed to the Pharisees that he had taken the bait. “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away,” they ask. “Because of your hardness of heart,” Jesus answered, “but from the beginning it was not so.” And in that brief response, just as in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), our Lord proclaimed his authority even over Moses.
But more to the point of today’s passage, when the disciples, apparently in shock, said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (a sorry response at that time from the men who would one day be the very foundation upon which the Church was built, Ephesians 2:20), Jesus replied, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given” (Matthew 19:3-12).
And we should let that be the background of Paul’s discussion with the Corinthians here. We spoke yesterday that some in the Corinthian church thought the body was basically evil and needed to be denied every pleasure and basic need, even within marriage. We see in this passage that some were even considering divorce for no other reason than the faulty one just mentioned. They had come to see celibacy as superior to married life because they considered intimacy as “dirty,” a hang-up some Christians even live with today. Some even accuse the Apostle Paul of such misgivings.
But that’s untrue. Like Jesus, Paul says here that some, indeed few, have that “gift,” yes, gift. Sure he can say that he wishes all were like himself, but he is realistic. So if one can remain single and celibate, then good; they’ll have more time to serve the Lord (7:32-35), but if not, then better to marry. Nor should either husband or wife separate from the other as our Lord said himself. But I focus here on the word, “gift.” Both celibate life and married life are gifts of God, neither to be elevated over the other as long as each is used for the Lord. (And “celibate” is a better word than “single” as it speaks to sexual purity.) So rejoice over the gift that God has given you—and over the gift that God has given others—and use your gift to glorify the Giver.