So, what I take away from these verses is that Paul is not prohibiting marriage but merely cautioning those of us who are contemplating such a union.  Know what you’re getting into and consider what new perimeters marriage is going to set for your priorities, your energy and your time.  Pure and simple, it’s just harder to focus on God and give him our full attention when we’re married.  We have a whole new set of responsibilities (a spouse, and perhaps one day children!) that are going to take up more room on the proverbial plate.

Also, earlier in chapter 7, Paul had this to say:

... It is good for a man not to marry.  But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband (vv. 1-2).

… 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.  Now to the unmarried and the widows I say:  It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion (vv. 7-9).

If you have the gift of celibacy, that is one thing (and Paul is saying that it is a good thing!).  And not being distracted by someone else will allow you to devote more of your life to the work of the Lord.  But since you have expressed that “temptations are strong” when it comes to your girlfriend, then it’s probably safe to say that you have the desire to be married and are not destined for a celibate lifestyle.

As far as I can tell, it sounds as though you are committed to finishing seminary and that your questioning has more to do with what course your relationship with your girlfriend should take.  So at this point, it seems as though you have three options given your current situation:

  • Continue your seminary training, get engaged and marry soon.
  • Continue your seminary training, keep dating and get married later.
  • Continue seminary training and take an indefinite break from your relationship.

Although many may say that 20 is too young to get married, I am of the mindset that each couple’s maturity level is different and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  Perhaps you are very grounded for your age and both you and your girlfriend know what you want in life.  You could be very like-minded and are ready to serve together in ministry and could do this even more effectively as husband and wife.  I know many couples who have married “young” and were newlyweds during a spouse’s seminary training.  In each case, they knew for certain (after much prayerful consideration) that this was God’s plan for their lives.  Yes, they had to learn to balance studying and classes with time spent together as husband and wife.  But they, like other married couples who are either in seminary or already in the pastorate or in full-time ministry, learned to make it work. 

Another consideration, if you feel that your focus would be too divided and if you do think that you have self-control (when it comes to maintaining purity in your relationship), is to postpone marriage, continue dating and focus on school for the next few years.  You would still be able to spend time with your girlfriend and remain in each other’s lives.  Perhaps you are indeed too young to get married right now.  Are you emotionally mature?  Are you prepared to take on a wife and everything that that would require of you as a husband (see all of 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5:22-33)?  This is where the wise counsel of your family (including your dad) and other discerning Christian elders or mentors who know you well should come into play.  Many times those who are closest to us can see what we cannot see.  We need this accountability and those who will speak the truth in love as we contemplate major decisions in our lives.  If you come to agreement that waiting to marry is best, these years (spent in seminary and continuing to date) will allow you to focus on your studies, mature even more and get to know one another even better before you enter into marriage and begin your career in Christian ministry.