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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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1 Corinthians 7

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Verse 1

Problems Concerning Marriage Is Celibacy Wrong?

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: In the first six chapters, Paul deals with matters brought to his attention in personal reports from those acquainted with the church in Corinth (Apollos, Chloe, Stephanas, and possibly others). No doubt, Paul had also received letters from the Corinthians themselves about problems within their congregation. Beginning with this chapter and throughout the remaining chapters of this letter, Paul discusses problems the Corinthians have asked about. The first such problem is about "marriage"; and, to understand Paul’s teaching, it is necessary to keep every verse in context. Failure to do so will lead to confusion on this crucial subject.

It is good for a man not to touch a woman: The Corinthians’ first question concerns celibacy. It appears from the term "good" (kalos) in this verse and the phrase "let every man have his own wife" in verse 2 that the Corinthians’ letter may have advocated celibacy. Possibly this question was asked because many of the Greek philosophers maintained that marriage was evil, but the Jews taught that marriage was required of every man. Paul is not condemning marriage. Instead, he holds marriage in high esteem; and, in his letter to the church at Ephesus (5:22-23), he compares the relationship of the wife to her husband to that of the church to Christ.

The term "touch" (haptomai) means "to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to" (Thayer 70-1-680). The word "touch" refers to the marital relations and not to marriage itself. "’To touch a woman’ is euphemistic for the sexual contact and intercourse in marriage" (Lenski 273). Paul has reference to "carnal intercourse with a woman, or cohabitation" (Thayer 70-1-680).

Notice the way God uses the term "touch" (haptomai) about Sarah (Abraham’s wife) in Genesis 20. Abraham, fearing for his life (verse 11), had told Abimelech (King of Gerar) that Sarah was his sister; therefore, Abimelech "took Sarah" (verse 2). God intervened, however, before Abimelech defiled her (verse 4) and told him in a dream that Sarah was "a man’s wife." God then said in verse 6 "...therefore suffered I thee not to touch her." The word "touch" in this passage and in 1 Corinthians 7:1 means "to lie with" (Gesenius 532).

Paul is speaking to those who have never married when he says, "It is good for a man not to ’touch’--to lie with--to have intercourse with or cohabitate with a woman." He says that celibacy, under certain circumstances, is good. But Paul’s instruction is not given as a command nor is he implying that the unmarried state is superior to the married state. Paul does not have reference to what is morally good about man. Instead, by the word "good" (kalos), he refers to what is "expedient" (or) "profitable" (Thayer 322-2-2570). Because of the Corinthians’ "present distress" (7:26), Paul encourages them, for expediency sake, not to marry. His reason for this statement is explained in verses 26 and 32-33:

I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be....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.

The encouragement to refrain from marriage is not Paul’s normal teaching. In 1 Timothy 4:1-3, Paul warns Timothy of those who:

...depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

Certainly, Paul is not teaching for Christians never to marry as those who "depart(ed) from the faith" were. For him to do so would be to teach against God’s instructions. For example, God says, "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). Paul says, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled" (13:4). He is teaching, however, that if man could control his lusts, it would be better not to marry under the present conditions.

Verse 2

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication: The term "fornication" (porneia) is defined as "harlotry including adultery and incest" (Strong #4202). The sin of "fornication," as has been discussed in chapters five and six, was a serious and prevalent sin in the Corinthian society and was to be avoided at all cost.

let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband: In verse 1 Paul encourages the Corinthians, because of the present distress, "not to touch a woman" (have sexual relations with); however, he now says that if necessary to avoid the terrible sin of fornication, "let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." The city of Corinth was an extremely wicked place in which to live, and it appears that the habits of the world were being adopted by many of the Corinthian Christians. They were living a promiscuous lifestyle. Paul speaks of this situation when he says,

And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed (2 Corinthians 12:21).

Paul commands that to "avoid fornication" "let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." The term "have" (echo) "signifies have and keep to" (The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. II 822). In other words, to avoid fornication, man is to marry and keep himself sexually to his wife only, and the woman is to marry and keep herself sexually to her husband only. By the words "let every man have his own wife" and "let every woman have her own husband," Paul is stressing the need of faithfulness to the marriage vows by both parties. Paul is not indicating that "to avoid fornication" is the only reason for marriage, but certainly it is one reason. In his commentary, Willis, says,

Some of the young people and their parents of today need to reconsider what Paul said in this verse. Across the nation, sexual promiscuity is becoming more prominent; many fine Christians are being ensnared by it. Sometimes pre-marital sexual relationships occur solely because the parents will not allow their children to marry as they desire to do. Parents need to accept what Paul said; marriage is better than fornication and is a preventive to it. For a family to have to financially assist a young married couple through a couple of years of school is far better than to see their souls lost because of their involvement in fornication (210).

Paul advises marriage as a general rule. It is of interest to note, in this verse, that Paul not only gives permission to marry under this circumstance but goes further, in the following verses, and gives instructions to both husbands and wives about their marriage. These same instructions are to be followed today.

Verse 3

General Rules Concerning Marriage

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

In verses 1 and 2, Paul gives permission to marry and even commands marriage if necessary to avoid fornication. He now continues by giving rules that must be followed to have a successful marriage. In this verse and the next two, Paul specifically and repeatedly states that the rules apply from husband to wife and wife to husband. The subject being discussed is sexual relations. The term "render" (apodidomi) means "to pay off" or "discharge" (Thayer 61-1-591). The husband has an obligation to discharge to his wife what is "due" (opheilo); and, likewise, the wife has an obligation to discharge to her husband what is "due" (opheilo). Paul has specific reference to discharging marital duties. Marital duties may involve every form of marital responsibilities; however, Paul has specific reference to the duties about sexual relations as is clearly identified in verse 5.

The marital duties (sexual relations) should never be looked upon as favors for one another but as obligations one to another; and, likewise, it should never be withheld as some form of punishment for each other. The only Biblically authorized suspension of sexual relations between husbands and wives is based upon their religious lives and never upon their personal lives. Also, the suspension of sexual relations is temporary and only for the reason related by Paul in verse 5: "that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer."

The word "benevolence" found in the King James Version is not in the original manuscripts; therefore, the New American Standard Version is correct in rendering, "Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband." The Revised Standard Version renders, "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband." The Revised Version may offer the best translation: "Let the husband render unto the wife her due; and likewise also the wife unto her husband."

Paul’s purpose here is to issue instructions that will prevent acts of fornication. His message is simple: Husbands, do your duty concerning sexual relations toward your wives, and, wives, do your duty concerning sexual relations toward your husbands, for this will prevent acts of fornication.

Fornication is a terrible sin--the only sin which will lead to the dissolving of marriage. Jesus says,

Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery (Matthew 5:32).

The husband who withholds sexual relations from his wife or the wife who withholds sexual relations from her husband should never consider himself or herself as an innocent party when the mate commits fornication. Certainly, withholding sexual relations would not justify the fornicator, but neither does it justify the mate who failed to obey the Apostle Paul by withholding himself or herself from the marriage partner. He would be held guilty of causing the other to stumble.

Verse 4

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

In verses 2 and 3, the husband is dealt with first, but here Paul names the wife first for no apparent reason. Since Paul specifies both the man and the woman, he is indicating the equality of the two sexes in the marital relationship. In writing to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 5:22-23), Paul teaches that with respect to the household, the husband is the head of the wife and the wife is to be in subjection; however, concerning sexual relations, the husband and wife are equal. Certainly such key instructions as this one should be considered before entering into marriage.

The word "power" (exousiazo) means "to be master of any one, exercise authority over one" (Thayer 225-1-1850) and refers "to be master of the body, that is, to have full and entire authority over the body, to hold the body subject to one’s will." Paul says that the husband does not have the right to withhold his body sexually from his wife, or to give his body sexually to another, because in marriage the husband and wife become one flesh (6:16) and thus his wife has authority over his body. Likewise, the same is true of the wife withholding her body sexually from her husband. The New American Standard Version renders this verse: "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." Paul’s words here should be kept in context with the main subject--how "to avoid fornication."

Verse 5

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Defraud ye not one the other: "Defraud" (apostereo) means to "rob" or "despoil" (Thayer 68-1-650) and refers, within this context, to one mate’s withholding sexual rights from the other. Paul is teaching, in a negative way, the same truth as presented in verse 3, concerning rendering what is due. In verse 3, Paul teaches to "render what is due" and here he teaches not to rob one another of what is due.

except it be with consent for a time: Paul continues by giving an exception to the rule of not "defraud(ing)" one another by saying, "except it be with consent for a time." The Cambridge Greek Testament says this phrase "adds an element of uncertainty to the exception." This reference continues and says that Paul means defraud ye not one the other "unless perhaps" it be with "consent for a time" (109).

In verse 5, Paul gives three rules that must be followed with respect to abstention.

1. There must be consent between the married partners. The term "consent" (sumphonos), according to Thayer (598-1-4859), means "harmonious" or "agreeing." Therefore, withholding oneself from the married partner is acceptable only when it is mutually agreeable between the husband and wife. The husband cannot decide by himself to abstain from his wife, and neither can the wife decide by herself to abstain from the husband, even for religious reasons. This must be a mutual agreement.

2. The agreeable abstention must be for a "time" (kairos). This does not refer to an indefinite time; but instead to "a fixed and definite time" (Thayer 318-1-2540). When the abstention begins, both the husband and wife must agree and also must know when the "time" is to conclude.

that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer: Paul’s third rule about abstention concerns the purpose:

3. The agreeable abstention must be for the purpose of "fasting and prayer." "The most authentic manuscripts do not contain here any mention of fasting" (Vine 94). That the term "fasting" is not found in most manuscripts is likely the reason that the New American Standard Version renders this verse:

Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Abstention must never be abused. Within this context, the purpose of sexual relations between husbands and wives is "to avoid fornication" (verse 2). Likewise, Paul says that the purpose of abstention is "that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer." The words "may give yourselves" (scholazo) suggest "to be free from labor, to be at leisure, to be idle; to have leisure for a thing, that is, to give one’s self to a thing" (Thayer 610-1-4980). The husband and wife agree for a specific period of time to live as if they were not married that they may draw closer to God through fasting and prayer. During this agreeable time of abstention, the husband and the wife give themselves to God and concern themselves only with how they may please God, instead of each other.

and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency: The words "come together" (sunerchomai autos) refer to conjugal cohabitation. In order to "avoid fornication" (verse 2), after the period of self-denial is over, the husband and wife must come together again. Paul says this is done "that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." The word "incontinency" (akrasia) means "want of self-control (or) intemperance" (Thayer 23-2-192).

Satan will always use a person’s weakness as a means of temptation. Therefore, when abstinence is practiced, even with agreement of the other mate, we must be careful that Satan does not tempt us to sin. A failure to come together again may lead to fornication.

We should give heed to Paul’s warnings in this verse. He gives one exception for abstention: fasting and prayer. There is no other reason granted; therefore, when a Christian couple argues and then separates--and one runs home to "mama," there is always sin involved. Such actions must be avoided, for the sin of fornication is possible under such a circumstance. Certainly the fornicator and the one who defrauded the other will be guilty of sin in the sight of God.

Verse 6

But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

But I speak this by permission: The word "permission" (suggnome) means "indulgence" (Thayer 592-1-4774). This is the only time this term is found in the Greek New Testament. The word "commandment" (epitage) means that something is "mandated" (Thayer 244-2-2003). The "this" found in this verse refers to refraining from sexual relations for a period of time as mentioned in verse 5.

and not of commandment: Obviously the Corinthians had written Paul letters advocating abstinence for everyone. Paul responds that such is permissible but should never be taught as a command. The Apostle Paul is very careful, throughout this discussion about marriage, to distinguish between what is given as commands from God and what is given as advice, as one might give to his friends.

This verse does not indicate that Paul is unsure about his instructions; instead, he is saying that it is permissible for married people, with consent, to refrain from sexual relations with one another for a set period of time. Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that such an action is not to be confused as being a command. In other words, husbands and wives are not required, by command, to refrain from sexual relations, but they have permission to do so if they mutually desire.

Verse 7

Was Paul Married?

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.

For I would that all men were even as I myself: The term "would" (thelo) implies Paul’s "desire" or "wish" (Thayer 286-1-2309) for the Christians in Corinth. His preference, because of the conditions in Corinth, is that all men were just as he is in reference to celibacy. The Apostle Paul was unmarried when writing this letter, and he encourages others to remain unmarried. Some scholars imply that Paul was married earlier before he became an apostle:

It is not certain, but most probable, that Saul was a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10). If so, he must have been married, as marriage was a condition of membership. From verse 8 it is plausibly inferred that he classed himself among widowers (Vincent, Vol. III 217).

It is manifest that the apostle was unmarried, although Clements, Alexander, and some moderns have inferred otherwise from Philippians 4:3. That he had never been married is by no means certain. Two things, however, are clear: that if Paul had known the married state, it was before his apostleship--’wife and children are never hinted at, he goes about entirely free from such ties’ (The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. II 824).

...Paul was not then married and it is confirmed by 9:5. Whether he had been married and was now a widower turns on the interpretation of Acts 26:10 ’I cast my vote.’ If this is taken literally (the obvious way to take it) as a member of the Sanhedrin, Paul was married at that time. There is no way to decide (Robertson, Vol. IV 125).

Was Paul ever married? To this writer, the fact is doubtful since nothing is mentioned of it in the scriptures. Whether he was or not does not weaken or strengthen his teachings on this important subject. What we do positively know is that he is not married at the time he wrote this letter.

But every man hath his proper gift of God: Even though Paul’s desire was for "all men" in Corinth to be celibate, he realizes that such is not possible because all men do not share the same spiritual strength in reference to abstaining from sexual intercourse. If all men attempted to be as Paul, in this reference, many would be tempted to commit fornication. Therefore, he qualifies his "desire" by explaining that he realizes that abstinence is not always possible because "every man hath his proper gift of God." By "proper" (idios) Paul refers to man’s "own gift from God" as is translated in the Revised Version. The "gift" (charisma) of God refers to man’s capability of self-control. The word "gift" denotes "the natural gift of continence, due to the grace of God as creator" (Thayer 667-1-5486).

one after this manner, and another after that: The words "One after this manner, and another after that" mean God made "different men in different ways" (Thayer 468-2-3779). Paul’s statement here strongly indicates that he does not recognize superiority in the celibate life over the married life. However, he is teaching the celibate state may be more advantageous because of their circumstances. Personally, Paul found celibacy to be better for himself, but others find marriage to be better. Celibacy does not make a person a better or worse Christian. One who does not possess the "gift" (of sexual self-control), as Paul did, should marry.

Verse 8

Instructions to Christian Widowers and Widows

I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

I say therefore to the unmarried and widows: The word "unmarried," at times, may be applied to everyone (men and women) who is not married; however, in this verse, according to Findlay in The Expositor’s Greek New Testament and Robertson in Word Pictures in the New Testament, Paul uses the "masculine" plural word agamos. Therefore, Paul has reference to unmarried men; some deny this statement and apply the word "unmarried" to every unmarried person (men and women). This conclusion is not valid, for had Paul meant all people he would have had no reason to say, "and widows," for they would have already been included. Others say its "...primary reference is to divorcees" (Kittel, Vol. IX 452). This view also contains many problems because of Paul’s words in verse 9, instructing those in verse 8 to "marry." The most logical conclusion is that Paul refers to unmarried men.

Accepting the fact that unmarried men are spoken of, there is still much controversy about whether Paul refers to all unmarried men (bachelors, widowers, etc.) or only to widowers--men who have married but whose wives have died. Most likely, Paul is referring only to widowers because, in the same verse, he restricts himself to widows--women who have been married, but their husbands have died. If Paul is not referring only to widowers, it would seem strange that he would restrict his comments here to "widows"--why not also include all unmarried women? The most logical conclusion is that Paul has only widowers and widows in mind. The other groups will be dealt with later in this chapter. In verse 8, agamos is "spoken of those who do not marry a second time" (Robinson 4).

It is good for them if they abide even as I: Paul uses the word "good" (kalos) here, as in verse 1, to indicate what is "expedient (or) profitable" (Thayer 322-2-2570). In verse 1 he says it is "good" for a man "not to touch a woman," having reference to sexual relations. In this verse, he strengthens this truth by giving the same instruction to widowers and widows: "It is good for them if they abide even as I"--remain unmarried and be celibate.

We should keep in mind that Paul is not condemning marriage for those who have lost their mate to death but is stating what is more profitable because of their personal distress. He also is not issuing a command for the widows and widowers not to marry. "Note the conditional clause: ’if they remain or shall remain’; the decision rests entirely with them. There is no inkling of a command" (Lenski 283).

Some believe that Paul, in saying, "It is good for them (widows and widowers) if they abide even as I," was implying that he was a widower himself. It is not necessary, however, to read such an interpretation into this verse. In verse 7, Paul refers to "all men," which includes every person, and wishes that they were as he in reference to celibacy--unmarried. Now, with verse 8, Paul begins naming certain classes of people and gives instructions to them. In this verse he strengthens the general statement of verse 7 by naming a class of unmarried people (widows and widowers) and encourages them to remain unmarried, as he is, because of the present distress.

In verse 10, Paul names another class of people (married Christians); and, in verse 12, he speaks of still another class (marriages of believers to unbelievers). Paul’s initial instruction for every class, regardless of whether they are married or unmarried, is, "as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk" (verse 17). In this verse, he is encouraging the widows and widowers to remain "as the Lord hath called" them, in this case, unmarried.

Verse 9

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: This verse strengthens the idea that the Corinthians had written Paul advocating the practice of never marrying. Some possibly had taught this idea as a command; however, Paul says to the "they" (widowers and widows) that, since they had been accustomed to marriage and sexual relations, if they cannot "contain let them marry." The word "contain" (egkrateuomai) means "to be self-controlled (and refers to) those who cannot curb sexual desires" (Thayer 167-1-1467). When such is the condition of a person, Paul says, "let them marry."

for it is better to marry than to burn: The term "better" (kreitton) does not imply more righteous but is defined by Thayer (359-2-2909) as to be "more advantageous." Paul has stated in verse 1 that "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" and in verse 7 he says, "I would that all men were even as I myself (unmarried)."

Paul qualifies the statements in verses 1 and 7, reassuring the Corinthians that if they are burning with sexual desires it would be to their advantage to marry. They should plan to marry in order not to enter into sin. The statement "for it is better to marry than to burn" explains why Paul encourages marriage "if they cannot contain." To "burn" (puroo) literally means "to be on fire...to be inflamed with sexual desire" (Thayer, 558-2-4448) or "to burn with passion" (Cambridge Greek Testament 110). Vincent says "to burn" is in the "continuous present (implying) to burn on: continuance in unsatisfied desire" (Vol. III 218).

This instruction is the same as Paul issues in verse 5 to those who are married but have mutually agreed to withhold themselves from sexual relations. Paul urges them to "come together again." Why? He says, "That Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." The same admonition is given to these with burning desires here in verse 9. These who are accustomed to sexual relationships, but who are now separated from their mate because of death, are encouraged to marry if they cannot "abide" (verse 8). Certainly, the dangers of fornication are near when a person "burns" with sexual desires; therefore, it is better to marry than to have this burning sexual desire continually.

Jesus spoke of those burning with sexual desires in Matthew 5:28 as committing adultery even without actually committing the act of adultery: "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Verse 10

Instructions to Married Christians

And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

And unto the married: Paul now addresses Christians who are married to Christians. Marriages between Christians and unbelievers are not under consideration here because he deals with them separately beginning in verse 12.

I command, yet not I, but the Lord: The instructions about to be given are not to be understood as matters of expediency, as in the previous verses (1, 7, 8) where he says, "It is good." Here Paul’s words "I command, yet not I, but the Lord" are put in contrast with verse 6 where he says, "But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment." In other words, the instructions about to be given are to be obeyed regardless of the circumstances, for they are "commands of the Lord." There is no reason for Paul to give his own instructions about marriages of Christians because the Lord is plain when he says in Matthew 19:6, "...they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Let not the wife depart from her husband: Evidently those in Corinth who advocated Christians living in an unmarried state had also advocated that the married Christians should separate from their mate that they might live as if they were unmarried, that is, without sexual relations. Paul, here, explains in clear terms what the Lord commands about this matter. The Lord commands, "Let not the wife depart from her husband."

Paul is not giving these instructions only to the wife, but to the husband also. The first part of verse 11 should actually be in parenthesis (as in the New American Standard Version and the Revised Standard Version), and therefore the Lord’s command reads: "Let not the wife depart from her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife."

Paul says the Lord commands for the wife not to "depart" from her husband. Two major views are held about the word "depart." One is that it refers to divorce. The second view, which seems more correct because of the definition of the word, is that "depart" refers to a "separation." The actual definition of the word "depart" (chorizo) is "to leave a husband or wife." In his comments Thayer adds the words "of divorce"; however, in his definition, he does not include these words (Thayer 674-2-5563). The word "let not the wife depart," means let her "not be separated" (Cambridge Greek Testament 111), implying that the separation is done by her own actions. In other words, the Lord commands that the wife is not to decide on her own to separate herself from her husband. The only separation that is allowed is a mutual separation "with consent for a time" (verse 5). The definition of the word "depart" as given by Thayer and the Cambridge Greek Testament is consistent with other scholars as follows:

Strong says "depart" means "to place room between" (#5563).

Robinson’s Greek English Lexicon defines "depart" as "to separate oneself, to depart" (790).

A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament by Abbott and Smith defines "depart" as "to separate oneself, depart" (486).

Bullinger, in his Critical Lexicon and Concordance, defines "depart" as "middle voice to separate one’s self, to depart as from a place or person" (216).

Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich say, "separate (oneself), be separated" (898). (Note: This source comments "of divorce," but he does not indicate this meaning in the definition.)

Marriage is a union of two people joined by God. God’s rule is that this bond is never to be dissolved except by death, as Paul teaches, "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband" (Romans 7:2). Under this condition, since she is "loosed from the law of her husband," she has the right to marry another person. Paul says, "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord" (7:39).

The separation, spoken of in verses 10 and 11, of a Christian husband and wife, does not break the marriage tie--they are still husband and wife and neither has the approval of God to marry another. (See verse 11: "...if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband....") In this context, Paul is not speaking of divorce as we may think of divorce, meaning to dissolve a marriage, or as Jesus does in Matthew 19:9 where the exception of adultery is named.

Anytime a marriage is dissolved in God’s sight, a remarriage is acceptable. For example: Death dissolves marriage (7:39); and Paul says, "she is at liberty to be married to whom she will...." Also, divorce, on the grounds of fornication, dissolves marriage; therefore, the mate who divorces his sexually unfaithful mate may remarry; however, the guilty cannot remarry. Jesus teaches plainly:

Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Matthew 19:9).

These are the only two grounds that God views as actually dissolving the marriage tie. In 1 Corinthians 7:10, however, Paul is speaking of Christian husbands and wives not getting along (no reason actually stated), or the wife becomes unhappy in the relationship; and she decides on her own that she is going to "depart" or separate herself from her husband.

This word "depart" (chorizo) is in the passive middle voice meaning "to separate oneself" (Thayer 674-2-5563). Had Paul used the active voice, the meaning would have been to separate someone else from oneself. The term Paul uses, however, indicates that the object being separated is oneself and not the partner; therefore, divorce is not the subject--separation is. The parties involved are still considered husband and wife in God’s sight; therefore, in verse 11 Paul says if "she" (the wife from verse 10) departs and later desires a marriage situation that she must "be reconciled to her husband." (Notice she still has a husband in God’s sight.) In other places, such as Matthew 19:9 where Jesus speaks of divorcing one’s mate, the Greek active term apoluoo (to dismiss) is used about the spouse. In other words, in verse 10, the wife is separating herself--she is deserting her husband; however, to God the marriage is still binding. The husband, then, should do everything possible to try to convince her not to leave him.

Verse 11

But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

But and if she depart: In verse 10, Jesus commands that the wife not "depart." Paul now explains what must be done if someone has already separated from her mate or one who may later decide not to abide by the Lord’s teaching and separate from her husband. Paul is not giving his approval for this separation, for marriage is to be viewed as a permanent "together" situation. It should never be entered into under a trial and error basis with the idea that if it is not what a person wants, he just destroys it.

let her remain unmarried: Paul teaches what should be done when the separation is forced on a mate by the other mate’s desertion. Two alternatives are given: (1) "let her remain unmarried" or (2) "be reconciled to her husband." Carefully note that there is no option to divorce and marry a second person.

The law of Christ is that, under these circumstances, the husband and wife must never marry a second person. The reason they cannot marry someone else is that they are not actually divorced in God’s sight. Marriage is dissolved only when adultery is involved; therefore, in this situation, the marriage has not been dissolved--the couple is simply separated. Paul refers to this departing wife as being "unmarried"; however, she is not "unmarried" in the sense of not having a husband, for Paul tells her to be reconciled "to her husband." Instead, she is "unmarried" in the sense of not abiding in a marriage relationship. She has left, deserted, or abandoned this relationship; but she is still married, even if she is granted a divorce by the law of the land.

If either mate marries another, he or she commits adultery. In this situation, repentance alone, without leaving the relationship, will not correct this adulterous relationship. The wife will have to, first, dissolve the adulterous relationship and, then, repent of her sins and have prayer for forgiveness. Forgiveness will never come to her as long as she is in an adulterous relationship.

or be reconciled to her husband: Should the wife realize that remaining "unmarried" is not best for her, she has a second option, that of being "reconciled to her husband." Notice that the departing person (the wife in this case) still has a husband--the marriage has not been dissolved, regardless of whether the law of the land says it has or not. Paul, therefore, instructs the wife that her only alternative for a marriage relationship is to "be reconciled to her husband."

The word "reconciled" (katallasso) literally means "to change" or "exchange" (Thayer (333-2-2644) or "to change mutually" (Strong #2644).

and let not the husband put away his wife: The words "put away" (aphiemi) do not mean divorce, but "to bid go away or depart" (Thayer 88-2-863). In other words, the wife (for some reason other than fornication) separates from her husband--she leaves him. Later she realizes her error and her need for the marriage relationship; therefore, she desires to "be reconciled to her husband." Paul instructs the husband not to refuse his wife, not to bid her to go away, not to do anything against the restoration of the marriage relationship. The husband must forgive her and be ready to restore the marriage. If he refuses, he could be guilty of causing his wife to commit adultery.

The difference between the two cases mentioned in verses 10 and 11 is that, in verse 10, the wife chooses to separate herself from the husband. In verse 11, the wife is forced by the husband to leave. The words "let not the husband put away his wife" indicate that the husband not only is not to force the wife to leave but that he is to do everything possible to influence his wife to stay.

Verse 12

Instructions for Christians Married to Heathens

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.

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: In verses 8-9, the apostle writes instruction about marriage to the widows and "unmarried" (widowers). In verses 10-11, he writes to the Christians whose mates were still living. Now, he addresses "the rest" (loipoy) or "the rest, who are not of the specified class or number" (Thayer 382-1-3062); therefore, Paul refers to the final class of married people. This marriage situation deals with Christians married to unbelievers. (NOTE: Later, in verse 25, Paul will deal with a class called "virgins," those who are not presently married. He does not include the virgins in this first section because they are not married.)

In verse 6, Paul gives instructions but then specifies that they are permissible things and not commandments. In verse 10, he explains that the things he has to say to the "married" are commandments of the Lord--subjects the Lord actually spoke on during His personal ministry on the earth. Now, beginning with this verse, he names a third type of instruction--instructions that the Lord did not teach on specifically because he did not have an occasion to do so. These instructions, however, are just as binding as any others because they are instructions from the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come" (John 16:13). Hodge says,

The distinction which he here and in verse 12 makes between his commands and those of the Lord, is not a distinction between what is inspired and what is not; nor is it a distinction between what Paul taught and what the Scriptures teach as Calvin understand it; but Lord here evidently refers to Christ; and the distinction intended is between what Christ had taught while on earth, and what Paul by his Spirit was inspired to teach (112).

If any brother hath a wife that believeth not: Those who "believeth not" (apistos) are those who "refuse belief in the gospel" (Thayer 57-2-571) of Jesus Christ. Paul spent much time in chapter one building up Christ and explaining in verse 18, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." It is these who consider the cross of Christ "foolishness" that he specifically has reference to.

This class of married people is not an indication that Paul endorses Christians marrying unbelievers. The example given is of a man and woman who marry before either becomes a Christian. Later, the man obeys the gospel, but his wife does not. In verse 13, the reverse is true: The wife becomes a Christian but the husband does not. That these marriages took place before either mate became a Christian is evident from Paul words, "...if any brother hath a wife that believeth not...." Notice that he does not say, if any brother takes a wife that believeth not, but "hath," thus indicating he already had her before becoming a "brother." The same is true of the Christian woman in verse 13.

and she be pleased to dwell with him: The conduct of the believer within this marriage situation depends upon the action and attitude of the unbeliever. If the unbeliever is "pleased" to dwell with the newly converted believer, the believer has one obligation--to live with him. The term "pleased" (suneudokeo) means "consent" or "agree to" (Thayer 604-1-4909). The unbelieving wife consents to dwell with the husband even after he becomes a believer.

The word "dwell" (oikeo) means "to live with someone" (Bauer Arndt & Gingrich 559). Bullinger says that "dwell" indicates "to inhabit, hold as one’s abode, to house" with (239). This situation is one in which the unbelieving wife agrees to live in the same house with the Christian husband and to be sexually faithful to him. In other words, she agrees to give up fornication and all forms of immorality that she may have been accustomed to.

let him not put her away: In the situation mentioned in the previous clause in which the unbelieving wife agrees to dwell with the newly converted Christian husband, Paul instructs the believing husband "not (to) put her away" (aphiemi); that is, do not instruct her to leave--do not "put away (or) to bid go away or depart" (Thayer 88-2-863). It should be understood that this is not Paul’s suggestion: it is a commandment--do not put her away! Do not instruct her to leave and do not do anything that would encourage her to leave! There is nothing said here to indicate that Paul has reference to divorce. He is speaking only of the possibility of the husband causing his unbelieving wife to leave the house. "Some understand aphiemi as separation from bed and board, not divorce" (Robertson, Vol. IV 127).

Verse 13

And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

In this verse, Paul says that the same instructions found in verse 12 about a brother who has an unbelieving wife also apply to the sister who has an unbelieving husband. If the unbelieving husband agrees to live with her and to be faithful to her after she becomes a Christian, "let her not leave him." The words "let her not leave him" are from the same Greek term, aphiemi, translated "not put her away" in verse 12 meaning "to bid go away or depart" (Thayer 88-2-863).

The only apparent difference between the Greek term aphiemi in verses 12 and 13, according to the King James Version, is that in verse 12 the unbelieving wife is the individual who would be leaving ("let him not put her away") and in verse 13 the believing wife would be the one leaving ("let her not leave him"). In both verses, the wife is the one who is departing or being forced to depart. Some writers say this wording is given because the house always belonged to the husband and not to the wife; therefore, the wife would have to leave if anyone did. Others say "there is no reason for changing the meaning as the Authorized Version does" (Vine 97). The New American Standard Version does not make a distinction between the two verses but simply renders, "...let him not send her away...let her not send her husband away."

Verse 14

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: Paul explains why the Christian mates must not "leave" their unbelieving mates as long as the unbelieving mate consents to live with the believing mate. He says the unbelieving mate is "sanctified" by the believer. The word "sanctified" (hagiazo) literally means to "declare sacred or holy," indicating "to purify internally by reformation of soul." Thayer further comments,

In 1 Corinthians 7:14 that (this term) is used in a peculiar sense of those who, although not Christians themselves, are yet, by marriage with a Christian, withdrawn from the contamination of heathen impiety... (Thayer 6-2-37).

The term "sanctified" is used here in a ceremonial sense and does not refer to salvation from sins. The unbelieving mate is "sanctified" in the same sense that objects and animals were sanctified in the Old Testament. Examples of this practice are found in the Old Testament: "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine" (Exodus 13:2). This sanctifying has no reference to salvation from sins but to being separated from sexual impurities. The words "is sanctified" are in the passive voice, indicating that this setting apart of the unbeliever did not come about because of his own actions but by the actions of the spouse. Paul is indicating here the strength of Christian influence. Paul’s reasoning is as follows:

Good is stronger than evil; that the consecration of the Christian partner asserts itself over the other, so that the heathen partner (that has agreed to withdraw himself from the ways of the world such as fornication) comes under consecration (Cambridge Greek Testament 112).

The purpose of instructing the believer to remain with the consenting unbeliever is to win the unbelieving mate to Christ. Paul makes specific reference to this point later in this chapter when he says, "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife" (verse 16). The Apostle Peter speaks of the believing wife converting her unbelieving husband: "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives" (1 Peter 3:1).

In chapters five, six, and up to this verse in chapter seven, Paul has spent much time dealing with fornication. He now ties the sin of fornication in with this idea of the unbeliever becoming "sanctified." The unbeliever, perhaps, was involved in fornication as an everyday habit before the mate became a Christian; however, he now agrees to give up that lifestyle because of the conversion of his mate. In this sense, sanctification has reference to "abstaining from fornication" (Zodhiates 133). Paul says,

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).

else were your children unclean; but now are they holy: The term "else" (ara) means and is often translated "otherwise" (NAS, RSV). The word "unclean" (akathartos) means to be "impure" (Strong #169). Paul is teaching that the unbelieving mate who has agreed to live with and be faithful to the believing mate in a Christian atmosphere is looked upon as being sanctified (not sanctified or set apart for God but for the believing mate).

Having children "unclean" or "holy" does not refer to children’s being legitimate or illegitimate. Neither do these words indicate infant baptism. Paul makes a comparison here between an unbelieving husband and unbaptized children: just as unbaptized children are not looked down upon because they have not been baptized, neither is the unbelieving husband looked down upon because he has not been baptized. Both groups are sanctified--set apart from the heathen world in the eyes of Christians--because of the believing mate. It is recognized, then as well as today, that unbaptized children of Christians are looked upon as being "holy" (hagios) and not heathen. They are viewed as such because of the Christian parent who is "bring(ing) them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Without the presence of the Christian parent, that child would be said to be "unclean," which is in contrast to sanctified or "holy."

Paul’s reasoning here does not mean that the unbaptized children are Christians; for when they, just as with a mate, reach a point in spiritual maturity they will have to obey God in baptism to become a child of God.

Verse 15

Instructions to the Believing Mate
if the Unbelieving Mate Departs

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart: This verse seems as if it should be in parentheses. The Greek word for "unbelieving" here is the same word Paul uses in verses 12 and 14 and refers to the unbelieving husband or the unbelieving wife. The word "unbeliev(er)" is used in contrast to the word "brother" in verse 12. In verses 12 and 14, Paul deals with a marriage situation in which the unbelieving mate agrees to live with and be faithful to the newly converted Christian mate; however, in this verse he deals with the opposite situation in which the unbelieving mate does not agree to live with and be faithful to the believing mate. If the unbelieving mate is not pleased to dwell with the believing mate, the believer is NOT told to divorce the unbelieving mate. The only reason the believer may scripturally divorce an unbelieving mate is for continuous and unrepented unfaithfulness (5:9).

The word "depart" (chorizo) is the same word as used in verses 10-11 where it means a "separation." The "depart(ing)" in this example is done by the unbeliever and not by the believer. If the unbelieving husband desires to leave, Paul says to "let him depart." The words "let him depart" are in the middle voice, indicating if he departs, that is, if he separates, let him leave.

"Not Under Bondage"

A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: The word "bondage" (douloo) means "to make a slave of (or) to be under bondage, held by constraint of law or necessity, in some matter" (Thayer 158-1-1402). In this particular situation, because of the unbeliever’s departing, Paul says that the believer "is not under" constraint.

What "bondage" is the believer not under? Some believe Paul has reference to the marriage tie. The context does not so teach. A second view is that Paul is indicating that the believer is not bound to make provisions for the unbeliever who has left. This view also is not consistent with the context. A third view is that Paul refers to the bondage of not defrauding one another "except it be with consent for a time" as mentioned in verse 5. "The believing party is free from obligation to cohabit with the other" (Bloomfield 394). In this view, since the unbeliever does not desire to remain in the marriage, the believer is not under obligation to render himself or herself sexually to the unbeliever. A fourth view is that Paul has verses 12-13 in mind and, therefore, is speaking of the believer being bound to "dwell" with the unbeliever. In other words, in verses 12 and 13, Paul instructs the believer "not (to) leave"; however, if the unbelieving mate leaves, the Christian is not bound to continue living with his or her mate. Contextually, this last view seems correct; however, sexual bondage from verse 5 is also possible from this context and may be included as well. The other views noted are mere speculation.

In examining the words "not under bondage," the question always comes up as to whether the innocent party (the Christian mate who did not leave) may remarry. We must recognize the fact that there is nothing said to indicate that remarriage, under these conditions, is acceptable. Furthermore, we must understand that the only exception for divorce and remarriage for a Christian is given by Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:9 and that is adultery. Otherwise, the Christian mate must apply verse 12 to herself "...let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband...."

Some object, saying verse 11 does not apply because there Paul is speaking of marriages of two Christians and now he is speaking of marriages of a Christian and a non-Christian. While it is true that this is a mixed marriage, it is also true that verse 11 applies to a married Christian. Therefore, even if a Christian is married to an unbeliever, the Christian mate must abide by the laws given by God to the Christian; and verse 11 is such a law. If, on the other hand, the Apostle Paul is teaching that the believer may remarry, he would be giving an exception to the exception given by Christ in Matthew 19:9. When a couple divorces solely because of fornication, the innocent party may remarry, provided he is not to blame for the mate’s committing fornication. Many attempts are made to justify remarriages when fornication is not the grounds for the divorce. Such actions are futile and must not be tolerated by the church.

Divorces in Which Remarriage Is Forbidden

The only party who may remarry is the party who initiates the divorce on the grounds that the mate committed fornication. Jesus says, "Whosoever shall put away his wife...for fornication, and shall marry another..." (Matthew 19:9). Notice Jesus is speaking of the mate who does the "put(ing) away" and not the one who is put away.

Also, divorce is not a waiting game in which one mate sits back and waits for the other mate to remarry. If the separation did not originally take place because of fornication, neither person may remarry under any condition as long as the mate lives.

Another situation occurs when one mate commits adultery but repents and is forgiven by the other mate. Later the innocent mate grows tired of the marriage and wants out. He brings up the adulterous situation, which has been forgiven, and divorces his mate on the grounds of adultery. God is not mocked!

Three views are generally held concerning the idea of remarriage after a divorce:

1. The innocent may remarry.

"This seems to involve the permissibility of another marriage" (Cambridge Greek New Testament 113).

"...here he declares that the party...was at liberty to marry" (MacKnight 107).

"By way of parenthesis, he explains that the Christian partner must not oppose the pagan, should the latter insist upon divorce. This is a case in which the prohibition of divorce does not hold. Only, the first step in the separation has to be taken by the non-Christian partner. Naturally it is implied that the Christian brother or sister has given no ground for such action by any personal misconduct; perhaps also, though this is not so clear, that he or she was now free to re-marry (verse 39)" (Moffatt 83).

"Our text gives no express information upon the point, whether Paul would allow the Christian partner in such a union to marry again....It may be inferred, however, that as in Paul’s view mixed marriages did not come under Christ’s prohibition of divorce, so neither would he have applied the prohibition of remarriage in Matthew 5:32 to the case of such unions" (Meyer 162).

2. The innocent may not remarry unless the unbeliever remarries.

" (Remarriage) is by no means clear, unless the unbeliever marries first" (Robertson, Vol. IV 128).

"The meaning most likely is that the believer can regard the unbeliever’s act as final, and need not seek to live with him, while yet in such cases remarriage is not approved....If, however, the unbeliever should marry another person, he would by the act commit adultery and in that case the wife or husband would be at liberty to marry" (Lipscomb 102).

3. The innocent may not remarry.

"Whether the freedom of the innocent divorced extends to remarriage, does not appear:...in view of verse 11, the inference that the divorced should remain unmarried is the safer" (Expositor’s Greek Testament Vol. II 827).

If the unbeliever leaves, "God declares the Christian is not under bondage. This does not mean he is free to marry again....It simply means a Christian is not under bondage to live with the person and support the person" (DeHoff 66).

"...this verse still does not authorize re-marriage" (Willis 230).

"...to contract another marriage when there has been no such real dissolution is, as our Lord says, to commit adultery, which is certainly applicable in this case" (Gould 61).

"’Not under bondage’ does not mean that the believer is released, from the marriage vows so that he or she may remarry; but simply that they are not required to compel their partner to remain or return. They are guiltless before God in respect of the separation, but they may not marry another" (Conley 47).

but God hath called us to peace: Being "called" refers to the calling of the gospel--the call to be Christians. Paul says that "God hath called us to peace." The word "to" comes from the Greek word en, which is better translated "in"; therefore, it would read: "God hath called us in peace." Keep in mind that Paul is dealing with a situation where a marriage of two unbelievers took place; later, one mate is "called"--he becomes a Christian. This mate becomes a Christian while "in peace" with their mate; therefore, Paul instructs him to remain in peace.

God has never called a person out of a peaceful situation into turmoil. The fact that "God hath called us" indicates the permanent condition of this calling; and, therefore, we must remain in peace. Since this call is the call of the gospel and the gospel is a gospel of peace, those who are faithful must strive for peace in everything--including "peace" in the separation of mates. By following Paul’s guidelines concerning separation, Christians will have "peace" in mind at all times. For example, in order to preserve peace, the Christian mate continues living with the unbeliever if the unbeliever wishes while at the same time agreeing to the separation if the unbeliever desires the separation.

Verse 16

For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

Paul continues to make statements to both husbands and wives. To the wife, he says, "what knowest thou..." and to the husband he says, "how knowest thou...." Both words ("what" and "how") should have been translated "how."

This verse is often misunderstood. Confusion comes from trying to decide where it should be applied. If it connects with verse 15, it is explaining the purpose of agreeing to a separation. If it applies to verses 12-13, however, it explains why not to separate.

It appears that verse 15 is probably parenthetical; therefore, this verse joins with the idea presented in verses 12-13 about the believing mate not separating himself from the consenting unbelieving mate. Verse 14 gives one reason why Paul instructs the believer not to initiate the separation. Here Paul gives a second reason for his instructions. Reading verses 12, 13, and 16 together makes the understanding clearer:

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....For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

Paul’s command is: Do not initiate a separation from your heathen mate if he agrees to abide in the marriage because you may be able to save his soul.

Verse 17

Contentment in Social Relationships

But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

But as God hath distributed to every man: Instead of using the word "but" to begin this verse, the translators would have served the text better by rendering it "only" (NAS). Tying this verse to verse 15, Paul is saying, "...God hath called us to peace...only as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk."

The word "distributed" (merizo) means "to impart" (Thayer 400-1-3307). To maintain peace, those who are married must remain as God called them instead of making changes in their marital status--they are to remain married, if possible.

as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk: In verse 15, Paul instructs the believer to allow the unbeliever to depart, if he desires, because "God hath called us to peace." Some, in Corinth, obviously were teaching that since they were converted to Christ and their mates were not, they could end their martial ties and use the gospel as their excuse. This, however, is not Paul’s teaching; therefore, he explains: As Christians you are called to peace; therefore, remain peaceful by "walk(ing)" (peripateo) or "regulating one’s life, (that is) to conduct one’s self" (Thayer 504-1-4043) "as the Lord (has) called every one." To practice Paul’s instruction is to fulfill all duties in every relationship in which Christians are involved before their conversion.

And so ordain I in all churches: These instructions are not given only to the church at Corinth but to those "in all churches."

Verse 18

Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

Paul gives an example about being content in the situation in which they were when they were called to be Christians. The "circumcised" are Jews, and the "uncircumcised" are Gentiles. Being a Jew or a Gentile by nationality is no better or no worse as far as God is concerned. Paul says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Paul’s point is that just as a Jew who is circumcised before his conversion is not expected to be uncircumcised (see note) and a Gentile who is uncircumcised is not to be circumcised, the person who is already involved in a marriage to an unbeliever is to remain in that marriage situation.

NOTE: The first use of the word "uncircumcised" (epispaomai) is "to pull" or "draw over" the foreskin. Thayer continues by saying:

From the days of Antiochus Epiphanes there had been Jews who, in order to conceal from heathen persecutors or scoffers the external sign of their nationality, sought artificially to compel nature to reproduce the prepuce, by extending or drawing forward with an iron instrument the remnant of it still left, so as to cover the glans (243-1-1986).

Verse 19

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing: The reason Paul instructs, as he did in verse 18, about circumcision is that "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" have no spiritual significance. To the church of Galatia, Paul says, "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6).

but the keeping of the commandments of God: Under the gospel of Jesus Christ, faithfulness has nothing to do with circumcision--faithfulness is seen only by "the keeping of the commandments of God." The word "keeping" (teresis) indicates a "complying with (or) obeying" (Thayer 622-2-5084) the commandments of God.

Verse 20

Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

Generally the word "calling" (klesis) in the New Testament refers to the call of God to salvation; however, here it cannot carry this meaning but instead applies to the social situation in which a person is called--for example, if he is called being married, let him remain married.

This verse is teaching the same as verse 17; however, it is repeated as a way to introduce the next comparison. A person who is called by God to Christianity is to remain in the same calling, whether he is a Jew or Gentile, a servant or freeman, married or single. His calling to Christianity has nothing to do with his social condition. Paul says,

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Romans 2:25-29).

Paul’s message is that Christians are to remain in whatever social situation they are when God calls them.

Verse 21

Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: The word "servant" (doulos) means "a slave, bondman (or a) man of servile condition" (Thayer 158-1-1401). Paul is speaking about a person who is a slave when he becomes a Christian. The fact of being a slave or a free man has nothing to do with living a Christian life; therefore, Paul instructs, "care not for it," that is, do not be troubled over your situation because you still can live a Christian life.

but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather: These words have two interpretations, which create "one of the most evenly balanced questions in the interpretations in the New Testament" (Vincent, Vol. III 220). Some think that Paul has reference to taking advantage of becoming free, if possible; others think that Paul is instructing not to change, but to remain in slavery.

The word "use" (chraomai) indicates that it has reference to taking "the opportunity of becoming free" (Thayer 670-2-5530). This interpretation, however, is not consistent with the context. Paul is using this and the previous example of circumcision to teach that those in mixed marriages must remain in the marriage. The words "use it rather" indicate "to remain in slavery" (Alford, Vol. II 527). The context requires this interpretation. Thus verses 20 and 24 read, "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called....Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."

Nothing in this context teaches to get out of the marriage if possible, and this would be the instruction if Paul means to take advantage of any possibility of getting out of slavery. The text of the Revised Standard Version says, "Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity." The footnote of this translation says, "make use of your present condition instead." The footnote of the New English Bible renders: "but even if a chance of liberty should come, choose rather to make good use of your servitude." Goodspeed translates by saying, "Even if you can gain your freedom, make the most of your present condition instead."

Possibly the confusion over this phrase is partially because of the fact that the English translations overlook the Greek word kai and translate "but if" instead of accurately translating: "but if even" or "although" (Strong #1499).

Verse 22

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: Being "called in the Lord" refers to the time when the Corinthians came under the authority of Christ by becoming Christians. In verse 21, Paul tells the converted slaves not to worry about being slaves because they can live a Christian life as a slave just as they can as a free man. Paul comes back to this same thought and reemphasizes this truth by saying, "he that is called in the Lord, being a servant" should not be concerned about it because people who are earthly slaves when they become Christians are "the Lord’s freeman" or freedman. In other words, in Jesus Christ they are set free--not free from earthly slavery, but free from the slavery of sin. Paul says, "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life" (Romans 6:22). Jesus says, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant: Paul now gives an example of a converted individual who is "free." He says when a free man (one who is not and never has been a slave to anyone) becomes a Christian, he is "Christ’s servant." By being a Christian, he is a slave to Jesus because Jesus becomes his master (just as it is with the man who is an earthly slave). Jesus makes reference to this relationship when he says,

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).

"The change from the title ’Lord’ to the title ’Christ’ is significant. ’The Lord’ speaks of authority; ’Christ’ speaks of grace and love" (Vine 100).

Verse 23

Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

Ye are bought with a price: In verse 22, Paul refers to some at Corinth as being "the Lord’s freeman." This verse indicates that they are purchased--they were "bought with a price" by the Lord. Paul makes reference to the same idea earlier by saying, "ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s" (6:20). They were actually "bought" with the blood of Christ. Peter says,

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18-19).

be not ye the servants of men: At first, it may appear that this verse contradicts the explanation of verse 21 about being set free, if possible; however, it does not because the words "be not ye the servants of men" refer to one "who gives himself up wholly to another’s will" (Thayer 158-1-1401).

Paul is not saying not to be the physical slaves of man, but instead he is speaking about being spiritual slaves. They may be physical slaves of man; however, they are the spiritual slaves of Christ (verse 22) and, therefore, must serve Him with spiritual subjection. Serving man and serving Christ are done in two different ways. In writing to the church in Ephesus, Paul says,

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him (Ephesians 6:5-9).

Paul’s instruction is that a Christian slave must obey his owner; however, he must never obey his owner to the point of disobeying his spiritual master, Christ. "Let no human influence divert you from service to God, or infringe on the devotion due to your Redeemer" (Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. II 831). Paul says, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1). The "yoke of bondage" refers to the bondage of sin. Possibly, in speaking these words, Paul had in mind some of those at Corinth who had intentionally become the servants of man (see comments on 1:12-13 and 3:4-9).

Paul desires that the servants of Christ follow only Him and not men because the reward of serving Christ is far better than man can offer. In writing to the church in Colosse, Paul says, "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:24).

Verse 24

Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called: This verse repeats Paul’s instructions in verse 20 (see comment).

therein abide with God: By the words "abide with God," Paul is teaching not to be concerned with changing their social condition but instead to walk worthy of God’s call, in the way that they were called. The best comments on how to "abide with God" come from the words of the Apostle John:

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us (1 John 3:6-24).

Verse 25

Instructions to the Unmarried Women
Concerning Marriage

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.

Now concerning virgins: Paul now returns to the main subject of this portion of his letter and continues talking about marriage. Having addressed several possible marriage situations, he now gives instructions about Christian women who have never married.

Paul begins with the words, "Now concerning," as he did in verse 1 to introduce his second major section about marriage. It appears that someone has asked specific questions about the conduct of unmarried women. The word "virgins" (parthenos) may, at times, have special reference to male and female (Revelation 14:4); however, as used here it generally refers to "marriageable maidens" or unmarried women (Thayer 489-1-3933) as is obvious from verses 28, 34, and 36-38.

Paul’s instructions are not actually to the virgins, but instead, they are to the fathers "concerning their virgin daughters" as is indicated in his answer in verses 36-38. The question may have been something on the order of: "Is it permissible for a Christian man to allow his virgin daughters to marry?" Paul is speaking of the custom that existed at that time when the father would arrange his daughter’s marriage. She, in essence, had nothing to do with whom she married or when she married--this was the father’s responsibility. Therefore, Paul’s words here and in verses 36-38 do not apply today except perhaps in principle because fathers today do not make such decisions.

I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment: As was true in verses 6 and 12, Paul clearly says that the things he is about to say are not actually given by the Lord. The Lord never had a reason to give commandments about the marriage of virgin women; therefore, Paul gives his "judgment" (gnome), or his "opinion" (Strong #1106) about this subject. Here Paul means the same thing as when he says, "And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you" (2 Corinthians 8:10).

as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful: Paul’s judgment is to be accepted because, as he said, he "hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful." The word "faithful" (pistos) means "worthy of trust; (one) that can be relied on" (Thayer 514-1-4103). Possibly, Paul was asking for the Corinthians to accept his instruction based upon the fact that he had obtained mercy of the Lord, which is made obvious by his apostleship. In writing to Timothy, Paul says,

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 1:12-14).

Because Paul was trustworthy, he asks that his opinion on this matter be acted upon voluntarily.

Verse 26

I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

Beginning with this verse and continuing through verse 35, Paul elaborates on conditions that arise while being married. It seems that after stating the situation (concerning the marriage of virgins), Paul feels the need to explain himself before actually giving his answer in verses 36-38.

I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress: In verse 25, Paul explains that he did not have a specific commandment from the Lord about virgins and that he would therefore give his own opinion. He now, somewhat, redundantly expresses what is good: "I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress."

The pronoun "this" is explained in the next phrase: "it is good for a man so to be," referring to remaining as he is called. The question arises: What is good? Paul continues by saying, "It is good for a man so to be." By the word "good" (kalos), Paul refers to that which is "expedient" or "profitable" (Thayer 322-2-2570), that is, it is more expedient because of the "present distress" (enistemi anagke) for a person to remain "wherein he is called." The word "distress" literally means "necessity" (Thayer 36-2-318) and is translated as such in verse 37 when Paul says, "Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity...." As used in verse 26, however, Paul had the idea of "distress" or "calamity" (Thayer 36-2-318).

What is the present distress to which Paul refers? Some (Robertson, Hodge) believe Paul thought Jesus was about to return and he had reference to the distress that would accompany the end of the world. They refer to verses 29-31 as their proof. Others, correctly, I believe, understand that Paul has reference to the persecutions the church in Corinth was facing at that time. The first view does not appear to be possible because the situation Paul had in mind was a situation "present" with them and not something in the future. Furthermore, if this were Paul’s thoughts, he was in error; and if he were wrong about this fact, he could have been wrong about every fact. Contextually, the second view, about the present troubles surrounding the Corinthians, was what Paul had in mind.

I say, that it is good for a man so to be: Paul here states who he is speaking about. The term "man" (anthropos) should not apply only to the unmarried but to every person, in every condition of life that he has named. In verse 25, Paul makes reference to "virgins" (unmarried women). Now it appears that after a little thought he decides his instruction should be applied to every group. In the following verses (27-28), Paul specifically names those to whom he has reference as those who are "bound to a wife," those who are "loosed from a wife," and "virgins." In verses 32-33, he names them again by saying: "unmarried," "married" and "virgins." Paul’s advice is for every person to remain as he was when he became a Christian--if married remain married; if unmarried remain unmarried.

Verse 27

Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

Paul reconfirms his previous statement ("that it is good for a man so to be") by asking two questions and then responding to them as though the questions are answered affirmatively. It appears from this verse that Paul is being overly cautious with his answers and makes sure that he does not say something others may misunderstand, or even be able to apply in a wrong way. For example, he has indicated in verse 26 that it would be better for virgins not to marry. He now restates this point and clears up any possible misunderstanding. He realizes that critics in Corinth may read this letter and say, "Since it is better for virgins not to marry, would not it be better for those already married to dissolve their marriage?" He responds by saying, "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed."

Special attention should also be given to the fact that Paul’s instructions are because of "the present distress" as mentioned in verse 26. This fact does not indicate that everything Paul says would be different if it were not for the "present distress." For example, in the first phrase Paul says, "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed." These questions do not mean that they could seek to be loosed if the "distress" were not present because such actions would be violating the commandments of God mentioned in verses 10-16.

Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed: The word "bound" (deo) means to "put under obligation" (Thayer 131-2-1210). Here it is in the perfect passive tense, indicating "having been bound." It carries the same meaning as it does in Paul’s writing to the church in Rome:

For the woman which hath an husband is bound (deo) by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man (Romans 7:2-3).

In both instances Paul is speaking to those who are married and uses the word "bound" in contrast to the term "loosed" (lusis), which means "a loosing of any bond, as that of marriage" (Thayer 384-1-3080). In other words, if he is "loosed," he is single; and Paul is saying for married men not to "seek" (zeteo) for the opportunity of becoming single. The word "seek," as used here, indicates "to seek after, seek for, aim at, (to) strive after" (Thayer 272-1-2212).

Paul’s instruction for married men is: Do not strive for a divorce--or as the Greek actually bears out--if you are married, "do not be seeking a release." Before a person is married, he must weigh out all the consequences of marriage. He should consider any present distress or problems of any type that may affect the marriage. These things should be the deciding points about whether to marry or not. If these points are not recognized until after the marriage, we must still understand that there is no dissolving the marriage after it is instituted.

Paul asks, "Art thou bound unto a wife?" Being "bound" is not an act of the married person. In other words, he does not "bound" himself; and neither does his wife. The term "bound" (deo) is in the passive voice, indicating that someone else (God, in the case of marriage) does the joining. Jesus says, "...What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6). Man and woman agree to the marriage--God does the joining; therefore, man and woman do not have the right to loose or dissolve the marriage--God does, when He takes one of the mates by death.

Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife: The term "loosed" (luo) means "to loose any person (or thing) tied or fastened" (Thayer 384-2-3089). It should be understood, however, that a "loosed" person does not necessarily indicate the divorce or death of a mate, nor does it indicate the person was ever married. The Greek term luo may "be spoken of a single man, whether he has already had a wife or has not yet married" (Thayer 384-2-3089). Here Paul probably has a single man in mind regardless of whether he has ever married or is a widower. It is certain that he is not referring to those who may have divorced, for such would be violating God’s commandment in verses 10-11 and here. As is made obvious from the next verse, Paul is giving his opinion (see verse 25) and not God’s commandments.

Verse 28

But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned: Paul continues to remove any misunderstanding about his teaching concerning whether or not people should marry. He said in verse 25 that he is giving his own opinion and now he re-emphasizes that point by clearly saying, "if thou marry, thou hast not sinned." This situation is true of both those who have lost their mate to death and to virgins. Marriage, at certain times, may not be expedient, but it must never be viewed as sin (divorce cases not included). There are, of course, situations today in which it is much better for people not to marry because of problems they would encounter. Young people still in high school serve as an example. There would be no sin involved if they did marry; however, the troubles that accompany marriage (example: childbearing) will make their lives more difficult. Paul, of course, did not have reference to people in school, but to the many problems within the Corinthian church, as well as within the entire city of Corinth. Paul, however, warns of troubles to come; and if they choose to ignore these warnings, there is no sin involved by marrying.

Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: The word "such" (toioutos) means "one who is of such a character" (Thayer 627-2-5108). By the word "trouble" (thlipsis), Paul does not have reference to sin (which is obvious because he has just said that if they marry they have not sinned), but to the natural troubles or "pressures" (Strong #2347) of married life. The "trouble" or pressures to which Paul refers are those involved in "pleasing" a mate (verse 33), the pressures that accompany childbearing and rearing children, and other family duties. Possibly Paul had in mind the same idea presented by Jesus when He says,

But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people....For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck (Luke 21:23; Luke 21:29).

Paul realizes, probably from his own marital status, that a single person does not have the concerns that a married person has. Those who are single have as their only concern how to please the Lord (which in times of distress is exactly what they need to think about) (7:32).

but I spare you: Paul has a desire to help the Corinthians avoid added pressures in life. By "but I spare you," he is saying: "I am trying to help you avoid such trouble by advising you not to marry at this time." "The meaning is: I give you these injunctions in order to spare you the tribulation of the flesh" (Vincent, Vol. III 221).

Verse 29

But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

But this I say, brethren, the time is short: By using the familiar term "brethren," Paul intends to draw himself into the hearts of the brethren at Corinth. The words he is about to say are of grave importance, and he needs their undivided attention. The words "this I say" do not refer to the things just said but to the things Paul is about to say regarding the same subject.

The word translated "short" (sustello) would be better translated "shortened" (Thayer 608-1-4958). Paul says the "time" (kairos) is shortened. "Time" refers to "a (limited) period of time" (Thayer 318-2-2540). This limited period of time does not refer to the return of Christ but to man’s time on earth; therefore, Paul is saying that man’s time has been shortened. He speaks of the time being short in the way that every Christian should--in expecting and preparing for death and thus Jesus’ return. This must be the attitude of all people for Jesus says, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13).

Paul may have had reference to the shortening of life that man may be saved. Jesus says, "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened" (Matthew 24:22).

it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none: Paul is not indicating for the married men to act as if they are not married; instead, he is saying: "Your life on this earth is short; therefore, even if you are married, do not allow your mate to be first in your life; do not let her come before the Lord--keep Jesus first because this marriage is only for this life and not for eternity." Jesus teaches this same idea when He says,

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26).

Verse 30

And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;

And they that weep, as though they wept not: Just as in the previous statement, Paul does not mean to indicate that it is wrong to weep. Instead he is speaking of sorrow and is warning the people not to allow sorrow which they face to keep them from obeying God--for sorrow is temporary and not eternal in heaven.

and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not: It is not sinful to "rejoice." Jesus says "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven..." (Matthew 5:12); however, Paul is saying: "Do not allow the joys of this life to be your ultimate goal which would keep you from your service to God--for just as sorrow is temporary so are also the things that cause you to rejoice on the earth temporary." There are many activities and hobbies in life that within themselves are not sinful; however, they become sinful when they are allowed to interfere with service to God.

and they that buy, as though they possessed not: Paul has reference to our occupations or businesses. Certainly there is nothing wrong in being involved in business; however, such is sinful if it pulls us and our service away from God. Paul’s warning is for us not to be overly concerned with our occupations, for they are temporary.

Verse 31

And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

And they that use this world, as not abusing it: Finally Paul warns people not to become so caught up with things of this world (possibly including everything mentioned above) that they begin abusing them. The term "abusing" is used in the sense of "overuse" (Vincent, Vol. III 222). Abuse or overuse of worldly things (which may include anything: jobs, family, recreations, property, etc.) is seen when they are allowed to interfere with our relationship and service to God. We must remember that all earthly things are temporary. Jesus teaches the same message in Luke 14:33 when He says, "...whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."

for the fashion of this world passeth away: Paul is not saying that the "world" passes away (this is a true fact, but it is not his present teaching); instead, "the fashion" of this world" passes away. The word "fashion" indicates that the "substance" of the world (Thayer 610-1-4976) passes away. None of the above categories should come between man and his service to God because all these things (marriage, sorrow, rejoicing, business) are temporary and are passing away. At death all things overused or abused by us are no longer for our use--they are gone; therefore, they must not be first in our lives. Paul says, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2).

Verse 32

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 I would have you without carefulness: The word "But" means "since this is so--since the time is so short" (Alford, Vol. II 532). For this reason Paul would advise people not to enter into situations that would cause more concerns. By the word "would" (thelo), Paul means he "desire(s)" or "wish(es)" (Thayer 286-1-2309) for them to be without "carefulness" (amerimnos), to be "free from anxiety" (Thayer 32-1-275) or "without worldly cares (undistracted)" (Alford, Vol. II 532). Jesus teaches the same thought when He says,

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?...Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:...Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?...Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:27-28; Matthew 6:31; Matthew 6:34).

In verses 29-31, Paul names things people are concerned about; and now he points to the fact that things that cause anxieties pull a person’s attention away from the Lord. Paul continues now and applies his reasoning to the subject at hand (marriage).

He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: Paul now returns to the idea presented in verses 24-26 about remaining unmarried. The word "unmarried" applies to everyone in the unmarried status; however, in this context, Paul is probably using it as a way to get back to his instruction about virgin daughters. He explains why it is better, at times, to remain unmarried so that a person is free from worries associated with married life.

Since unmarried people do not have their attention divided, they can give more attention to how they may please the Lord. We should keep in mind that Paul is speaking to people under a special circumstance, surrounded by many problems; and his words about not marrying are not the normal rule but better for the time because of the "present distress" (7:26).

Verse 33

But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

Contrary to his reasoning in verse 32 about those who are unmarried, Paul now states a truth about those who are married. Married Christians must divide their attention between spiritual things and their mate. Ordinarily, this situation may not cause problems; however, when there are already troubles and difficulties in the world, people should consider these problems before entering into a marriage relationship. In dividing our attention between God and our mates, we must be careful not to divide so that God is second in our lives--He must be first at all times.

Verse 34

There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

There is difference also between a wife and a virgin: In verses 32 and 33, Paul proves there is a difference between a married man and an unmarried man. Here Paul is showing the same is true about a married woman and an unmarried woman. The differences are the same as for the man.

The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord: The "unmarried" woman refers to any woman who is single either because she has never married or because of the death of her husband. The person, man or woman, who is unmarried has more opportunities to decide how to please the Lord than the person who is married.

that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: The unmarried woman searches for ways that she "may be holy in body and in spirit." The word "holy" means to be "pure, sinless, upright" (Thayer 7-1-40). What does it mean to be "holy both in body and in spirit?" First, Paul does not mean that a married woman cannot be holy, for certainly she can; however, he means the unmarried woman is able to be committed to God totally--holy physically and spiritually.

but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband: This is the negative side of the picture. A married woman, just as a married man (verse 33), has to divide her concerns between the Lord and her mate. She desires to please her husband, and this desire would take up part of her time that otherwise would be given to God. She must be careful not to put God second in her life--she must keep God first.

Verse 35

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

And this I speak for your own profit: Paul, who has the Corinthians’ welfare in mind, explains that he has given the above encouragement, about celibacy, for their own "profit" (sumphero) or for their own "advantage" (Thayer 597-2-4851). Paul says nothing to build himself up; instead all things he says are for the best "interest" (Vine 106) of the Corinthians. Paul reemphasizes these words when he says, "Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved" (10:33).

not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely: To cast a "snare" means "by craft or by force to bind one to some necessity, to constrain him to obey some command" (Thayer 106-1-1029). The term "snare" is used in the sense of a noose or halter on an animal by which one can force it to do what he wants it to. In other words, Paul’s purpose for giving these instructions is not an attempt to force the Corinthians to follow his personal convictions and to live a life of celibacy; but instead, his words are spoken as encouragement for them to do what is best under the present conditions.

and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction: Paul once again warns and encourages the Corinthians to do what is best at a specific time--the third such warning. The first warning is in verse 28 where he says, "...Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh, but I spare you." In verse 32, he says, "I would have you without carefulness (concern)."

In this verse Paul says, "...that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." The word "attend" means that you may be "sitting constantly by" (Thayer 261-1-2145) undistracted. A good example of this action can be seen when Luke teaches that Martha was "cumbered about much serving" (Luke 10:39-41). She was distracted from Jesus because of her domestic duties, whereas Mary was "sitting constantly by," or as the scriptures say, she "sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his words."

In discussing the subject of celibacy, Paul is not teaching what is sin or how to avoid a particular sin. Sin, itself, is not actually involved. Instead, his purpose is to teach people to do things or refuse to do things, especially during troublesome times, for a spiritual advantage. He teaches them to do only the things that will not cause distraction from the Lord.

Verse 36

Instructions to the Fathers of Unmarried Women

But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin: The Apostle Paul says, "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" (7:25). In verses 26-35, Paul strays away from the main idea of marriages of virgins to state specific facts that are true concerning unmarried men and women as well as married men and women. He now returns to his original subject of virgins. These instructions, as noted in the comments on verse 25, actually go to the father of the virgins because, at that time, it was customary for the father to make all arrangements for the marriage of his virgin daughters. He arranged whom she was to marry and whether she was to marry. Therefore, Paul says, "...if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin...."

There is confusion in the minds of some about to whom the pronoun "he" should be applied. Two views are held: Some say "he" refers to the father of the virgin and others (RSV) that "he" refers to the fiance. "If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry--it is no sin." The New International Version renders the same idea by saying, "If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to...." This second view is difficult to follow. It is strange how anyone could destroy the meaning of this verse as was done in these translations. It appears that these translations endorse a virgin and her fiance living together before marriage--for this arrangement would be the way the fiance would be "not behaving properly toward his betrothed...." These translations completely do away with the father and apply Paul’s instructions to the virgin and her suitor. The Revised Version is more accurate in saying, "If any man thinketh that he behaveth unseemly toward his virgin daughter."

That the father, and not the fiance, is referred to by the pronoun "he" is obvious from the words "he that giveth her in marriage" (ekgamizo) in verse 38, meaning "to give away in marriage" (Thayer 193-1-1547). The question that arises, then, is "What does Paul mean by a man, referring to the father, behaving himself uncomely toward his virgin daughter?" First, we should notice that Paul does not say "behaving himself uncomely WITH his virgin," but instead TOWARD his virgin. If he were behaving uncomely "with" his virgin, he would be acting immorally. Paul, however, says he acts uncomely "toward his virgin." How does a father act uncomely "toward" his daughter? In Jewish and Greek societies, an unmarried person (old enough to be married) was looked upon as being disgraceful. This custom has caused some to think that by the father’s not allowing his virgin daughter to marry, he is acting "uncomely toward" her. As is made obvious from this verse, however, Paul did not have this custom in mind; instead he had reference to a father, because of troubles of the day, prohibiting his virgin daughter to marry, even though she is of marriageable age and is being tempted to commit fornication. Maybe the father was keeping his daughter at home for selfish reasons, such as to serve him.

A second possibility, which is more likely, is that the actual situation has not already arisen and Paul is simply giving an answer to questions that might arise from this teaching.

if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry: "If she pass the flower of her age, and need so require" refers to a virgin daughter who "is in danger of defilement" (Thayer 640-1-5230). Paul’s instruction to a father of a virgin is "let him do what he will." If his daughter is of marriageable age and is obviously struggling to refrain from fornication, then he is at liberty to do as he thinks is best for his daughter. There is no sin involved if he chooses to allow her to marry. It appears that the sin would be in not allowing the marriage, even though there is "present distress" (verse 26), "...to avoid fornication" (verse 2). This idea repeats Paul’s statement in verse 28: "But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you." The phrase "let them marry" refers to the virgin daughter and her suitor.

Verse 37

Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart: The father’s decision for his daughter not to marry must not be based upon his own personal desires. In this verse Paul gives four factors that the father must take under consideration in making this determination.

The father’s first consideration is that he "stand(s) stedfast in his heart" in contrast to thinking that he is behaving "uncomely." He does not think that he is acting uncomely toward his daughter because his daughter is not in the same situation mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:36 --she is not desiring a marital relationship and she is not having to struggle to stay away from sexual relations.

having no necessity: The second factor that the father must take into consideration is the "no necessity" factor. The word "necessity" (anagke) is the same word translated "distress" in verse 26. The father’s decision to keep his daughter unmarried, then, must be based upon what is necessary. There are many reasons that may develop that could bring forth the necessity for a man’s daughter to marry. This factor may refer to his personal financial situation; but, more likely, it refers to whether or not his daughter has a sexual necessity to marry. Paul says, "to avoid fornication...let every woman have her own husband" (7:2). If there is "no necessity" from his daughter’s standpoint, it is better not to arrange the marriage.

but hath power over his own will: The father’s third consideration is that he must have "power over his own will." Paul’s reference to this father’s having "power over his own will" means that he "is free to act as he pleases" (Vincent, Vol. III 224). Since the daughter is having no problem in abstaining from fornication, the father decides, not because of the daughter’s will but because of his "own will," what is best for her concerning marriage.

and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well: The fourth and final consideration for the father is whether he has "decreed" that his daughter will remain at home. "Decreed" (krino) means "to distinguish (or) decide" (Strong #37). If he does decide that it is best for her to remain at home rather than to marry, the father "doeth well," Paul says. If he makes this decision, he must be willing to keep her in his home under his authority. If he does not desire for his daughter to remain at home, he is to arrange a marriage for her (as the custom was).

Verse 38

So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well: In verse 37, Paul says that the father who is able to keep his daughter unmarried "doeth well"; and now, in the very next statement, he says the father that "giveth her in marriage doeth well." The words "giveth her in marriage" (gamizei) are spoken in contrast to "keep his virgin" (verse 37) and mean "to give away in marriage" (Thayer 193-1-1547). To "give her in marriage" has the same meaning that Jesus did when He spoke of the resurrection: "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22:30). The "given in marriage" is an act done by the father for his virgin daughters. This statement proves that it is not sinful for the marriage to take place; but it is better, because of the present distress, not to arrange a marriage.

but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better: Paul’s teaching is not on what is "good" in contrast to what is "bad," but on what is "good" in contrast to what is "better." Therefore, after everything is said and done, the final decision is left to the father. He must honestly examine the situation and determine whether it is best for his daughter to marry or whether she can refrain from sexual relations--if not, he must let her marry.

Verse 39

Instructions to Widows

The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

In verses 36-38, Paul instructs Christian women who have never been married. He encourages them, if possible, not to marry because of the present distress. Now, he writes to Christian women who have been married but are now single because of the death of their husband.

The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth: Paul does not specifically mention the husband whose wife has died, but only the wife whose husband has died; however, the same instructions, undoubtedly, would apply to both.

These instructions are probably the most overlooked, but yet the most important, commands given in this seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians. Paul says, "The wife is bound by the law." The word "bound" (deo), used here and in verse 27, means "to bind, that is, (to) put under obligation" (Thayer 131-2-1210). This binding or joining was the act of God and not the act of the husband and wife. Jesus says, "...What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6). The same idea is presented here in verse 39: "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth." As was noticed in verse 27, man and woman agree to the marriage--God does the joining; therefore, man and woman do not have the right to loose or dissolve the marriage--God does. The only time that God dissolves a marriage is when He takes one of the mates by death. Until death, the wife is bound to her husband by the law of God.

Many translations leave out the phrase "by the law." It really does not matter, however, because the meaning does not change if this phrase is in or out of the statement. The fact is "The wife is bound as long as her husband lives." God joins the man and woman in marriage; therefore, the law of God regulates this marriage from its beginning until its end when God breaks it by the death of one of the mates. Paul teaches that a Christian woman is not free to remarry if her husband is still living.

but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will: This is the only case throughout 1 Corinthians 7 that Paul speaks favorably toward a second marriage. And the reason he gives for allowing a second marriage is the death of a mate. Under this condition, she is at "liberty," she is "free" or "exempt" (Thayer 204-1-1658) to be married to whom she will. Paul gives the same instruction when he says,

For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man (Romans 7:2-3).

only in the Lord: This clause gives a restriction about whom the widow may marry. Paul says that she is "free" to marry, but she must marry someone who is "in the Lord," someone who is already a Christian. There is no exception given to this command, and any violation is sin. Some object to this reasoning and say that the restriction to marry "only in the Lord" was said in light of the "present distress" (verse 26) and, therefore, does not necessarily apply today. Such objections are worthless and obviously are made without considering the rest of what this verse says: "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will." Nothing in this statement could logically lead one to believe that Paul was referring only to the present distress. If he were, the consequences would be that "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth ONLY DURING TIMES OF "PRESENT DISTRESS." We know that this statement is not true because marriages are permanent, regardless of "distress." Again, "she is at liberty to be married to whom she will." Is this allowance only during times of "distress?" Obviously NOT! And likewise the last phrase: "only in the Lord" was not spoken only in light of the present distress. Every Christian should marry another Christian! Paul says,

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).

Verse 40

But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: Paul says that a widow is "happier" if she lives unmarried as he has advised because of the present distress. Once again, however, Paul lets it be known that remaining unmarried was his suggestion and not a command from the Lord.

The word "happier" (makarios) is defined as "blessed" (Thayer 386-2-3107). The better translations render "more blessed," that is, she is spiritually richer. She is spiritually richer because she is able to "care for the things of the Lord," instead of working to please her husband. Paul has reference to the same idea when he says, "The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit" (7:34).

and I think also that I have the Spirit of God: By the words "I think," Paul is not expressing doubt about having the Spirit of God, for he is positive of this fact. Apparently Paul was accepting the fact that others (possibly false teachers) might differ with him; therefore, he is expressing that he personally feels his opinion should be accepted over others because he has "the Spirit of God" or the Holy Spirit. That Paul was not against widows’ marrying is obvious from his writings to Timothy when he says,

But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan (1 Timothy 5:11-15).

From these verses, it is obvious that the Apostle Paul would advise widows (and others) to remain unmarried under certain circumstances; and, under other circumstances (as in 1 Timothy 5), he would advise them to marry.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/1-corinthians-7.html. 1993-2022.
 
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