…it is better to marry than to burn … 1 Cor 7:9
Beginning in chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians, Paul begins to answer the specific questions that the Corinthians had written to him about – the first is about marriage.
Conscious of the low standard of pagan sexual immorality, and the admiration held for the ascetic practices of celibacy, the Holy Spirit through the apostle strikes a delicate and honest balance between the blessings of singleness and of marriage. While Paul himself prefers singleness (see vs. 6 & 26), his advocacy of this state is restrained. He does not command the celibate state because he knows that it is not possible to maintain unless one has a particular special gift (v. 7). Yet he warns that marriage will carry with it certain challenges (see vss. 28, 32-34), particularly in light of the persecutions and mission of preaching the Gospel in these times. Paul preferred his singleness because he wished to serve the Lord without any distraction – with no wife and no child to worry about or support, he could devote all of his time, resources and energy to his Gospel labors.
Nevertheless, people do have the good, God-given desire for intimacy – both for the affection and emotional aspect as well as sexual aspect of a relationship. This is a good thing; however, Satan would seek to take what is God-given and good, and pervert it. Be sure, Satan does use sexual desire, and he would have Christian young people fall into the sin of fornication – physical intimacy outside of marriage; and he would have Christian married people fall into the sin of adultery – physical with someone other than your spouse. And the more strongly that desire is felt, the more susceptible one is to falling into these sins of sexual immorality. The stronger the urge, the more vulnerable one is to be deceived. Do not be deceived brethren, Satan will use this powerful urge to seek to steal, kill and destroy your life.
John Piper said of sexual desire:
You can cut it out of the oyster before it matures or you can feed it to the swine. Satan does his best to cut off sexual desire from the oyster of God’s grace and truth. If he can get people to isolate sex from the reality of God, he has virtually destroyed its true meaning and beauty. He also does his best to take the pearl of sexual desire and, instead of putting it in the pendant of marriage, feed it to the swine of fornication and adultery and pornography and incest and child abuse and homosexuality. But the pearl of sexual desire is meant to grow and come to its full beauty in the grace and truth of God, its maker, and then be taken and placed in the golden pendant of marriage.
You must know that when you battle against sexual desire, you battle against Satan – not because Satan created the desire, but because he has become so masterful in using it to destroy so may lives.
In light of this Paul offers the decision in verse 9, it is better to marry than to burn. This does not mean that marriage is only about getting to appropriately express sexual passion. But rather that God would use one’s desire for physical intimacy to reveal to them, that they do not have the special gift of celibacy, and they should therefore marry; where in marriage, a husband can love his wife as Christ loves the church and so beautifully display God’s glory.
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