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Paul’s view on marriage and chastity

Sunday Word BY PROSPER TINGINI

Apostle Paul’s letters constitute almost half of all the New Testament scriptures.

Consequently, his teachings are often the basis for most of our Christian beliefs and doctrines.

I have urged that at times some of the contents of Paul’s letters could be a reflection of his personal opinions rather than those coming from the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 7:6 on
marriage issues, he writes, “I say this by way of concession, not of command.” In verse 25 he proceeds to say, “Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give
my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trust-worth.” My notion that some contents of Paul’s letters are of his own personal opinions, not of God’s, is thus validated.

On marriage, Paul writes (1 Corinthians 7:2-5); “But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give
to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his
own body, but the wife does. Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a reason, that you may devote yourselves to prayers; but then come together again, lest Satan
tempt you through lack of control.” I totally agree with Paul’s sentiments, and viewing both partners as equals in a marriage, with equal needs and services.
In verses 10-11, he goes on to reiterate What Jesus Christ, the Lord, had already spoken of: “To the married, I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from
her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) — and that the husband should not divorce his wife”. In Mathew 5:31-32, Jesus Christ had ruled
that the single ground for divorcing a wife is adultery.

Some churches or ministries discourage or forbid their followers from marrying people of other religions or worse still non-believers. The reason being that they are considered as
unsuitable and the fear is that they can contaminate or discourage the other from following his/her religion. Paul’s opinion on this, not the Lord’s, is as follows (1 Corinthians 7:12-
16)” To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any man has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an
unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through
her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or
sister is not bound. For God has called you to peace.”

He proceeds to write: “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be with whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is
happier if she remains as she is. And I think I have the Spirit of God”.

In 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, he advises the singles: “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.” God created man and woman (Adam and Eve) and among other things commanded them to multiply. He directed
mankind, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). If we were all to remain single then it would be a negation of God’s directive. God thus
incorporated into the man and woman’s bodily mechanisms the feelings that encourage mating, the human passions. Paul rightly advises that those afflicted with these bodily desires
would rather marry if they cannot control their passions.

Paul remained single in order to commit himself to the full service of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He did it voluntarily in order to avoid any distraction. He had to control his feelings of
passions for the opposite sex. Marriage should definitely have restrained him in his works and commitments.

This is why some church denominations, notably the Roman Catholic Church, forbid its priests and nuns from marrying, are following in the footsteps of Apostle Paul. Before ordination,
the priests, ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ (nuns) are made to take vows of chastity, to refrain from sexual activity forever. This in essence rules out any question of marriage. It would
seem a few have managed to uphold their vows of chastity. Let’s give praise to those who have steadfastly remained loyal to their vows.

In support of his views for retaining bachelorhood or spinsterhood, Paul writes (1 Corinthians 32-35); “I want you to be free from anxieties (caused by distresses within marriages). The
unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about wordily affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are
divided. And an unmarried woman or girl (virgin) is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how
to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” It is apparent that
the churches that encourage chastity took a cue from these verses of Paul. Jesus Christ himself died a bachelor to concentrate on his assigned mission as pronounced by his Father, the
Lord our God. Paul was thus living in Jesus’ example.

God wanted all His species of living things to multiply, to keep in motion the reproduction process, otherwise all the created species would have gone extinct, including mankind. Every
living creature has male and female for that purpose. It was God’s plan for perpetuating an everlasting existence for all of His living creations. We have to be disciplined with our
passions otherwise we would end up behaving like other creatures who act on their passions out in the open. Those who want to express their passion should seek first a marriage
partners, then are free to indulge and to answer God’s call to multiply.

True, marriage sometimes might have some distractions but it can also strengthen the relationship with God, especially where the marriage union is strong and God-fearing. Two people are
better than one for various reasons. The Lord our God recognizes the importance of a marriage union and its sacredness. He never ruled that those wanting to be in the priest-hood should
remain single all their lives. Let it be a matter of choice. He, however, gave some guidelines on what sort of a woman a priest should choose for a marriage partner. On rules for
priests in Leviticus 21 verses 13-15, God proclaimed, “The chief priest who is among his brethren shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or one divorced, or a woman who has been
defiled, or a harlot, these he shall not marry; but he shall take to wife a virgin of his own people, that he may not profane his children among his people; for I am the Lord who
sanctify him”.

Let’s stand guided by Paul’s teachings and also observe the command of the Lord our God.

Prosper Tingini is the president of the Children of God Missionary Assembly. Registration in progress for those who wish to undertake Bible Studies or train as Ministers of Religion.
Contact 0771 260 195 or email: ptingini@gmail.com

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