What does 1 Corinthians 7:9 mean?
ESV: But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
NIV: But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
NASB: But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
CSB: But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.
NLT: But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.
KJV: But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
NKJV: but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has written in the previous verse that those currently unmarried should not seek to be married "just because." Marriage, in and of itself, is not something believers must pursue or achieve. To be celibate and single as Paul was is a good thing. For one, it allows a Christian to devote more time and energy to serving Christ (1 Corinthians 7:32–34).

Paul adds a qualifier to this idea, as begun in verse 8. He refers to an unmarried person who "burns with passion." The context doesn't suggest someone who is oversexed or obsessed with sexuality. Rather, Paul means this in contrast to someone who has the gift of celibacy. A person who feels a strong desire for sexual activity ought to pursue marriage as would any other Christian. As a parallel application, those involved in romantic relationships or betrothals—engagement—should pursue marriage rather than engaging in sexual immorality because of a loss of self-control. This is something Paul will address more directly near the end of this chapter (1 Corinthians 7:36).

Paul does not mean a person ought to rush into marriage simply because they are frequently "in the mood." Paul has directly stated that married couples ought to "have" one another, because of their sexual urges. He did not indicate one should "seek" a spouse for that reason: specifically so one can have sex (1 Corinthians 7:2).

Those content in singleness should not seek to get married. Those who desire to be married should prepare for marriage by honoring God with their lives and desires. In this verse, Paul instructs those not called to exercising lifelong self-control—those not called to singleness—to pursue getting married. Paul’s comment dissuades those with the common human desire for sexual intimacy from “burning with passion” by artificially taking on lifelong celibacy when God may not be calling them to it. Marriage is not better than singleness, nor is being unmarried better than being married. What’s best is submitting to God’s calling on our lives, at all times. Being married will not cure or “fix” sexual temptations. Marriage is, however, the appropriate place for sexual desire to be fulfilled. Those called to celibacy may still experience temptation, just as the married person may experience illicit desires; prayerfully submitting our desires to the Spirit is needed in all cases.

Paul's main concern here has to do with correcting any wrong thinking about reasons to get married or to avoid marriage. Nobody should choose one over the other thinking it inherently more spiritual or more honoring to God. Those choosing to remain unmarried should make that choice based on the gifts God has given to them specifically. Those who choose marriage, or who are already married, however, should continue to honor their marriage commitments, as explained in the following verses.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 7:1–16 includes Paul's teaching about sex and marriage for Christians. Some in Corinth apparently thought even married believers should not have sex. Paul rejects that idea, insisting that married Christians belong to each other and should not deprive each other in this way because of the temptation to sexual sin. Also, married believers should not divorce in order to somehow be closer to God. The Lord intends marriage to be for life. Those married to unbelievers may, by staying in the marriage, help lead the other person to Christ.
Chapter Summary:
Paul rejects an idea concerning the Corinthian believers: that married Christians should not have sex. Perhaps some even thought marriages should be dissolved and avoided. On the contrary, Scripture says married Christians should have regular sex in order to avoid temptation. Those who are married ought to remain married. Unmarried believers with the gift of celibacy, however, should consider remaining single in order to avoid the troubles of marriage. That is Paul's personal preference, though that gift is not given to all others. Single believers can devote themselves to serving Christ without distraction. The time is short. All believers should live and serve Christ now as if this world is passing away.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 7 follows Paul's teaching in the previous chapter, which focused mostly on avoiding sexual immorality. Here he commands married husbands and wives not to deprive each other of sex, or get divorced, in a misguided attempt to be more spiritual. Unmarried people who can live contentedly without sex, however, should consider remaining single in order to serve Christ undivided. Getting married is good, but the time is short. The form of this world is passing away. Unmarried people should think about the opportunities to avoid trouble and serve Christ that come with staying single.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
Accessed 5/29/2024 3:07:13 PM
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