1 Cor 7:8-9 (NRSV)

  1. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am.
  2. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

This presents multiple alternatives in preferential order:

  1. Remain unmarried, but practice self-control
  2. Marry
  3. Remain unmarried, but not practicing self-control (where not practicing self-control involves or necessitates being aflame with passion)

Given these alternatives, what does 'not practicing self-control' and 'being aflame with passion' involve? Sexual desire? Lust? Trying to get remarried? Romantic relationships? Sexual acts? Intercourse?

  • The alternative reading is that it is better to marry than to fall into fornication and one's eternal destiny would therefore be in a lake of fire.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 28, 2021 at 5:17
  • Some have understood the instructions on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 to be specific to those engaged full-time in missionary labors (such as Paul himself). This would, for example, reconcile the passage in the OP with Paul's rather different counsel in 1 Timothy 4:1-3. Feb 28, 2021 at 6:01
  • @HoldToTheRod That seems difficult, although not impossible, to square with 1 Tim 5:11 which seems to give the same advice, but widows outside ministry are in mind for the chapter, v16 "If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family..."
    – matt2048
    Feb 28, 2021 at 8:35

1 Answer 1


1 Cor 7:8-9 implies that Paul was practicing self-control.

1 Thessalonians 4:4

each of you must know how to control his own body in holiness and honor

What do 'not practicing self-control' and 'being aflame with passion' involve?

1 Corinthians 7:2

But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.

1 Corinthians 6:18

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

1 Timothy 5:

14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

Unmarried and not practicing self-control leads to general sexual immorality, fornication, slander, and ultimately turning his back on Christ and following Satan.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.