The original purpose of God when He created Eve was to be a companion to Adam. But given the design of marriage throughout the Bible, why did Jesus and Apostle Paul approve singleness as even greater than marriage? (1Corinthians 7:8-9, 27, 32-35, 38; Matthew 19:3-12; Revelation 14:3-5)
As shown by these verses, indeed, Jesus and Paul regard singleness as a higher spiritual state than marriage. But why are some called to be single and others are not?
According to Paul, God has given different gifts, talents and purposes to believers in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12: 14- 31). Although there are many main characters in the Bible who married, such as David, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Peter, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, and Moses. On the other hand, at least so far as to what Scripture actually reveals, Daniel, Elijah, Elisha, Paul, John the Baptist, and Jesus never married.
Part of these differences in calling likely reside in each individual’s sex drive and the variations from person to person, to put it bluntly. After all, God knows our frame, and won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to endure (1Corinthians 10:13). Paul was aware of this, so although in 1Corinthians 7 he places the celibate state as being spiritually superior to the married state, he made it crystal clear it wasn’t a sin to marry (verse 27-28): “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin.”
“Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.” (1Corinthians 7:1-7, NKJV)
This last verse, as well as verse 2, helps explain why Paul said the married state wasn’t a sin, but it was a lower spiritual state. Interestingly enough, Jesus gave similar reasoning to the disciples when they questioned His condemnation of easy divorce laws: “There are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.” (Matthew 19:12)
Paul, in 1Corinthians 7, merely makes it clear that yes, indeed, those who aren’t able to receive it (this teaching) aren’t sinning when they marry to avoid burning with passion (verses 8-9): “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”
In the verses in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, Paul explains his reasoning behind encouraging celibacy, in that married people are more divided in their interests in serving God compared to the devoted celibate single man or woman. In verse 26, he mentions the “present distress“ as a reason not to marry, but that can’t be deemed as a universally applicable reason that applies to all Christians at all times, but rather it applied in particular to the Corinthians who receive this letter roughly around 55 A.D.
He still pointed out that he wished to spare people worldly troubles resulting from becoming married, however (v. 28), which is a universally applicable point. Jesus also did warn that those women who are pregnant or have to nurse children during the great tribulation to come would wish they didn’t have those burdens then (Matt. 24:19), which is at a distinct time in history to come. Mat 24:19 How terrible it will be in those days for women who are pregnant and for mothers with little babies!