But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. (1 Corinthians 7:6-7 KJV)
In this chapter Paul answers questions about a man’s relationship to a woman and marriage. He doesn’t seem strongly in favor of marriage, wishing all men were as he, unencumbered to travel and preach the gospel. Right now, though, I’m interested in two other aspects of these verses.
First, what he writes here is with God’s permission, not God’s commandment. Here we see that God allowed Paul to include a personal suggestion – once it was made clear that not all men had to follow this to be examples of Christ to others. Paul understands that a wife and family means obligations and responsibilities that would not allow the freedom of movement needed for his work:
But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:32-33 KJV)
Paul is careful to explain the items that are his, not God’s:
But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. (1 Corinthians 7:12-13 KJV)
We see that same permission a bit later:
Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. (1 Corinthians 7:25 KJV)
He was given no commandment from the Lord in this question, but he offers his opinion. To me this is included in God’s word to help us understand the freedom of choice He has given us.
I also thought about the inclusion of the word “gift.” Paul’s gift appears to have been a ministry that could not include a family, but for another, the proper gift might be a family. Paul could understand, and share his opinion, on another’s gift. I believe God uses his words to give us a personal insight to our own gift.
Fifty-four years ago I made the choice for family. Even now I’m not certain I put sufficient thought into whether or not it was God’s choice for my life, but He has blessed that decision, abundantly. I do appreciate my gift!
I also appreciate this chapter as it allows us to see that God does give us choices. Paul could have omitted references to his personal views and written this chapter as commands from God. He took care to differentiate his thoughts from God’s commandments – and that allows us to consider the freedom we have within God’s gift to us.