7:32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
36 But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. 37 But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. 38 So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.
Again crucial to remember that Paul is here giving his own counsel and he has pointed that out himself. He does not want us reading this as counsel from God. There are two things going on that are driving this advice. One is that trouble is coming and he felt under the circumstances it would be easier to serve God and navigate through that time as a single person. The other factor was the brokenness of the people.
The whole tone regarding marriage is sad throughout this letter. It paints marriage almost solely as a legal arrangement for sexual gratification. I'm not convinced Paul saw it that way because he does repeatedly say throughout his writings that the marriage bed is pure and that getting married is not bad. His counsel to the church in Corinth was that marriage is a good choice but remaining single is better.
I wasn't there. I don't know the whole story. That being the case I am not going to judge Paul or the counsel he gave. Likely it was good counsel for that time and circumstance.
What I would like to do is give my views on marriage and/or remaining single.
Marriage entered into as a legal arrangement for sexual gratification is better than running around. Science proves this from a physical and mental health point of view. However it is a major disservice to paint marriage in such a one dimensional light. The truth is if a couple gets married for that purpose alone the marriage will either fail or be an unhappy and unfulfilling one. Sex was designed by God. As such it is holy. It was created to be the seal of the marriage relationship. It sets a marriage apart from all other relationships. It forms a bond unique to any other relationship and the statistics prove that it works. Less than 5% of couples who married as virgins get divorced. To put a seal on something you have to have something to seal. Kings used to seal all official letters and documents with their ring presses into wax the hardened and made a seal. It signified who was sending the letter and ensured that the recipient was the first to open it. A marriage based on sex has nothing to seal. This is why sex is to be reserved for after marriage. First you build the relationship and then you seal it.
Perhaps Paul was jaded by being surrounded by so much lack of self-control. Perhaps he was trying to make the best of a bad situation. One thing I have learned is that there is the way things are supposed to be and then there is reality and reality must be recognized and faced while striving to return to the ideal.
On that note let's not forget that God's ideal was marriage. Before sin ever entered the human experience God's first negative statement about His creation was "It is not good for man to be alone. I will create an equal partner for him." Marriage was His idea and sex as the seal for marriage was also His idea.
Paul's reason for championing the single life was increased devotion to God. While this is practically true it lacks a side I believe needs equal consideration. We are by nature selfish. We do what we want when we want when we are single. Marriage teaches us to be less selfish which in my opinion makes us more fit and able to be willing to serve God.
Lots to think about here. The Bible contains great servants of God who were married and great servants of God who were single. If you have an opinion on this I would be glad to hear it. :)