Celibacy as a Gift (7:7)Now Paul refers to his own celibacy. Many scholars think it likely that Paul was once married, since as a young rabbi he would be expected to marry and bear children, as part of the command to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28; 9:7). That was one of the 613 traditional Old Testament commands incumbent upon devout Jews. But if he had once been married, he was not married now, nor does he ever allude to children. He was probably a widower who had chosen not to remarry.
"I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that." (7:7)
Perhaps the sexual abstinence promoters in Corinth were using Paul's celibacy as proof of their position that only those who abstain from sex were spiritual. Paul concedes that celibacy might have its advantages for people in saving them from the hassles of marriage and responsibilities for a family (7:28), but immediately concludes that this isn't the way God made most people. Paul sees celibacy as a "gift (charisma) from God" that not all have. Because of this verse, some scholars include celibacy as one of the spiritual gifts mentioned in Scripture.198
Sometimes 1 Corinthians 7 is misunderstood as Paul trying to promote celibacy in Corinth. Rather, he is trying to reason with a group in Corinth that is trying to promote celibacy there. Paul had run across groups that forbid marriage (1 Timothy 4:3). He doesn't want them to use his situation to prove their position. Celibacy is not wrong -- but it is a gift not given to most. Jesus told his disciples:
"Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." (Matthew 19:11-12, NRSV)
The Roman Catholic Church is struggling in our day with a long tradition of requiring all priests to take a vow of celibacy, rather than viewing celibacy as a unique gift given only to some.