What Does It Mean That It Is Better To Marry Than To Burn in 1 Corinthians 7:9?


In today’s blog post, we will be discussing the famous phrase from the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, specifically 1 Corinthians 7:9, where he writes that “it is better to marry than to burn.” This passage has been a subject of much debate and interpretation throughout the years, and we will be examining its meaning in the context of the larger biblical narrative, as well as its implications for believers today. By doing so, we aim to provide clarity and understanding to this complex and intriguing topic.

The passage comes from a section of the letter where Paul is addressing questions and concerns raised by the Corinthian church regarding marriage, celibacy, and sexual relations. It is important to remember that Paul’s words must be considered within the context of the first-century Greco-Roman world, where the social and cultural norms were different from our own. Nevertheless, his teachings on this matter continue to hold relevance and significance for Christians in the 21st century.

Before diving into the main content, we would like to remind our readers that the Bible is a rich and intricate tapestry of interconnected ideas and themes, and as such, we encourage everyone to approach this topic with an open heart and a willingness to learn. We will do our best to provide a comprehensive analysis of this passage, but we invite you to further study and engage with the Word of God as you seek to apply its teachings to your own life.

marriage in the Bible

The Context of 1 Corinthians 7

To better understand the meaning behind the phrase “it is better to marry than to burn,” it is crucial to explore the context of 1 Corinthians 7. In this chapter, Paul addresses questions related to marriage, celibacy, and sexual relations that were raised by the Corinthian church. The society of Corinth was known for its sexual immorality and lax attitude towards marital relations, which led to confusion among the believers about how they should conduct themselves in these matters.

Paul begins by acknowledging that celibacy is a gift from God and that it is good for a person to remain unmarried if they can manage their desires (1 Corinthians 7:1, 7). However, he also recognizes that not everyone is capable of living a celibate life, which leads him to discuss the role of marriage in helping believers maintain their purity.

The Meaning of “Better to Marry Than to Burn”

The key verse in this discussion is 1 Corinthians 7:9 (NKJV), which states: “but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” The phrase “better to marry than to burn” can be understood in two ways: first, as a reference to the burning passion of uncontrolled sexual desire, and second, as a reference to the potential judgment of God for engaging in sexual immorality.

Paul’s main point is that marriage provides a legitimate and God-honoring means for believers to fulfill their sexual desires. In the context of the verse, the term “burn” signifies the strong and potentially overwhelming nature of human sexual desire. By suggesting that it is better to marry than to burn, Paul is not condemning those who struggle with their desires but rather providing a practical solution for them to maintain their purity.

The second interpretation of “burn” refers to the potential judgment of God for those who engage in sexual immorality. While this perspective may not be the primary focus of the verse, it serves as a reminder that God takes our sexual conduct seriously and that there are consequences for engaging in sinful behavior.

The Role of Marriage in the Christian Life

Given the context and meaning of the phrase “better to marry than to burn,” it is important to discuss the role of marriage in the Christian life. According to the Bible, marriage is a sacred institution created by God for the benefit and well-being of humanity (Genesis 2:24). It serves several purposes, including companionship, procreation, and the fulfillment of sexual desires within a committed and God-honoring relationship.

Marriage is designed to be a reflection of Christ’s love for the Church (Ephesians 5:25-33), and as such, it is meant to be a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman that is entered into with love, respect, and commitment. Within this context, believers are called to be faithful to their spouses and to exercise self-control in managing their sexual desires.

Balancing Celibacy and Marriage

While Paul acknowledges that celibacy is a gift from God, he also recognizes that not everyone is called to live a life of celibacy. It is important for believers to discern their own personal calling and to make decisions about marriage and celibacy based on their individual abilities and circumstances.

For those who have the gift of celibacy, they can devote their lives entirely to the service of God without the added responsibilities and concerns that come with marriage and family life (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). For those who do not have this gift, marriage provides a way to honor God and maintain purity while still enjoying the companionship and love of a spouse.

Practical Implications for Believers Today

The teachings of 1 Corinthians 7:9 have several practical implications for believers today. First, it is crucial for Christians to approach the topic of marriage and celibacy with an attitude of humility and openness, recognizing that each person’s situation and calling may be different. It is important to be supportive and understanding of one another’s choices, whether they choose to marry or remain celibate.

Second, Christians must strive to maintain purity in their relationships, both within and outside of marriage. This involves exercising self-control, setting appropriate boundaries, and seeking God’s guidance in matters of sexual conduct. In doing so, believers can honor God with their bodies and demonstrate their love and commitment to Him.


In conclusion, the phrase “it is better to marry than to burn” in 1 Corinthians 7:9 serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining purity in our relationships and the role that marriage can play in helping believers achieve this goal. While celibacy is a gift from God, not everyone is called to live a celibate life, and marriage provides a legitimate and God-honoring means for fulfilling one’s sexual desires.

As we seek to apply the teachings of this passage to our own lives, let us remember the importance of discerning our individual callings and making decisions about marriage and celibacy with wisdom and prayerful consideration. Furthermore, let us strive to maintain purity in our relationships, honoring God with our bodies and demonstrating our love for Him through our actions.

May the Lord guide and strengthen you as you seek to live a life that is pleasing to Him, whether you are called to marriage or to a life of celibacy. Remember that both paths can be used to honor and serve God, and as you make your choices, always keep Him at the center of your life.

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