1Co 7:6-9 “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”
The apostle Paul often speaks directly from the leadership of the Spirit. Occasionally, as in this instance, he shares his experience and observation. Even as he does so, he makes recognition of the fact that everyone does not have the same gift.
Although there has been some debate about the matter, the scripture does not indicate that Paul was ever married. There is no mention of his wife or his children in the scriptures. We know that his father was a Pharisee (Act 23:6) and that he had a sister and a nephew (Act 23:16). Other than that, any mention of Paul’s family (mother, brothers, sisters, and sons) was of a purely spiritual nature.
However, it is likely that Paul had some personal knowledge of what it might mean to have a wife. Paul clearly points out that others of the apostles had wives, including the Lord’s brothers and Peter (1 Co 9:5). It is also likely that Paul had seen that he was at greater liberty to go from place to place and endure varied circumstances than were his brethren who had wives and families to think about.
Knowing that God placed Adam and Eve in the garden with the command to be fruitful and multiply, it is easy to see why Paul qualified some of his statements as being made by permission and not of commandment. Paul was encouraging those who had been given the gift of self-control (as not needing a companion) as he had to continue in that gift. Since Paul’s zeal was for the spreading of the gospel, he recognized that others who were gifted in the same manner as he could more easily be about that task.
Paul also understood that everyone had not been given the gift that he had. There were those who longed for companionship of a husband or wife. For these people, it is better to marry. Otherwise, their desire for that relationship is going to distract them from God’s service more than having a spouse would and could lead them into fornication.
For me, the spiritual lesson in this is simple. We should all walk in the gifts God has given us. It is not good for us to try and use someone else’s gift regardless of how much we might respect or love them. Our goal should be to honor God to our utmost ability with the proper gift He has seen fit to grant us.
May God give us the wisdom to rejoice in the gift of others while making the best use of our own!