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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 7

Dunagan's Commentary on the BibleDunagan's Commentary

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I. The Premise of the Whole Chapter: 7:1-2

II. Sexual Obligations in Marriage: 7:3-6

III. Advice to the Unmarried/Widows: 7:7-9

IV. Commands to the Married: 7:10-11

V. When Married to an Unbeliever: 7:12-16


This chapter begins what could be viewed as the second half of First Corinthians. With this chapter Paul begins his response to a letter that they had written him (7:1). We can infer some of the topics of their letter from the often repeated phrase, "now concerning" (7:1,25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1,12). Two basic views exist concerning the spirit and tone of their letter. (1) Their letter included a sincere list of questions that they were wanting Paul to give them God's will upon. (2) Their letter was combative in nature, "probably a response to Paul's previous letter mentioned in 5:9, in which they were taking exception to his position on point after point. In light of their own theology of spirit, with heavy emphasis on "wisdom" and "knowledge" they have answered Paul with a kind of "Why can't we?" attitude, in which they are looking for his response.' [Note: _ Fee p. 267]

'Not every item is equally combative (e.g., chapters 8-10 are much more so that 7:1-24 or 7:25-40); nonetheless in every case he takes exception to their position, or at least to the position of some among them who have influenced the whole. ' (Fee p. 267)

Various Misconceptions Existed in the Ancient World Concerning Marriage:

We need to realize that the Church in Corinth was composed of members from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. Both of these cultures held to various myths concerning marriage, that apparently some in Corinth were still bothered by or advocating.

The Greeks and the Romans had a very low view of the permanency of marriage. (7:10-11) 'Demosthenes, the Athenian, said: "We keep courtesans to be amused, concubines to be nursed, wives for the bringing forth of legitimate children and as faithful watchers of the house."....Seneca said Roman women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married...Walton spoke of "an extraordinary freedom of divorce"..and Mommsen spoke of the second century B.C. as marked by "the frequency of divorce and the general aversion to marriage."' [Note: _ McGuiggan pp. 88-89]

And yet on the other hand, the Jewish culture had a very low view of being single. 'It was taught with vigor that a man who had not married by the age of twenty had transgressed the law of God...Celibacy was frowned on and early marriages were urged..' (McGuiggan p. 88) 'Now orthodox Jewish belief laid down the obligation of marriage. If a man did not marry and have children, he was said to have "slain his posterity", "to have lessened the image of God in this world." Seven were said to be excommunicated from heaven, and the list began, "A Jew who has no wife."' (Barclay p. 68)

And then there was the question of being married to an unbeliever. (7:12-16) Could it be that some were arguing that the example in the book of Ezra (Jews being commanded to put away foreign wives), necessitated that Christians divorce non-Christian mates?

And what about widows? (7:8-9; 39-40) 'The Jews in keeping with other nations esteemed highly those who remained unmarried when their partner died..Jerome and others thought remarriage after the death of a partner was "decent adultery."' (McGuiggan p. 89)

There also existed questions concerning the moral purity of sexual relations even in the marriage relationship. (7:2-5) Apparently there were some Greek schools of thought that considered the body to be evil, and hence anything done with the body, including sexual relations in marriage were also evil. But that teaching doesn't seem to have made much of a dent in Corinthian society. When people come out of sin, sometimes they are prone to go overboard in their zeal. Paul preached so strongly against fornication, that some in Corinth might of been so repulsed by their former ways, that they went overboard and declared all sex to be sinful, or at least, "an unspiritual activity."

In conclusion, McGuiggan reminds us, 'Do remember, that divorce and remarriage, celibacy, sexual abstinence are all matters for discussion whether you were prone to Greek asceticism or Greek libertinism or Jewish whatever. These questions don't relate to any one group, they were all interested in them . And it wouldn't hurt us to pay special attention to the fact that it was to Hebrews and not Greeks that the word was written: "Let marriage be had in honor among all." ( Heb_13:4 )' (p. 91)




I. Calling and Status: 7:17-24

II. Concerning Virgins: 7:25-38

III. Concerning Widows: 7:39-40


'Here Paul lays down one of the first rules of Christianity, "Be a Christian where you are." It must often have happened that when a man became a Christian he would have liked to break away from his job, and from the circle in which he moved, and begin a new life. But Paul insisted that the function of Christianity was not to give a man a new life, but to make his old life new.' [Note: _ Barclay p. 72]

'A man or woman's social status is of minor importance; what matters is the fact that one has been called by God into his fellowship and service (1:9). To this calling the believer should remain faithful whatever his state of life may be. Concern to change one's status could absorb energies which might be more profitably devoted to Christian life and service.' [Note: _ F.F. Bruce p. 71]

'As a summary rule for all things of a smaller nature, the apostle says that each man must rest content to walk in the lot which God has apportioned to him, not making his new religion an excuse for unwarranted changes.' [Note: _ McGarvey p. 81]


Verse 1

1Co_7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

'Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote' -'The matters which they raised can be gathered in part from Paul's introducing them successively with "now concerning"; by this criterion they included: marriage and divorce (7:1), virginity (7:25), food offered to idols (8:1), spiritual gifts (12:1), the collection for Jerusalem (16:1), and Apollos (16:12)' [Note: _ F.F. Bruce p. 66]

'It is good for a man not to touch a woman' -The first question that Paul answers. Is this the slogan of some in Corinth, that Paul agrees with (to a point), or Paul's own original statement? In the end, the conclusion is the same, Paul agrees with it (to a point). When considering that this chapter contains other statements similar to the above (7:8 "it is good.."; 7:26); the evidence seems to tell us that this is Paul's own statement. Now let's define what Paul is and isn't saying in the above expression.

'good' -'Not merely expedient, but morally salutary.' (Vincent p. 217) 'Honourable, morally befitting' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 822) 2570. kalos kal-os'; of uncertain affinity; properly, beautiful, but chiefly (figuratively) good (literally or morally), i.e. valuable or virtuous (for appearance or use, and thus distinguished from 18, which is properly intrinsic): -X better, fair, good(-ly), honest, meet, well, worthy.

-'Morally good, pleasing to God; it can also mean 'what is expedient (what is profitable).' (Willis p. 209)

'What does "good" mean? The word constantly speaks of what is morally excellent, what is honorable (Arndt, 400). But it is also used to speak of "advantage" as in 9:15. So what does the statement mean? Does it mean: "It is honorable and morally excellent for a man to choose celibacy?", or, "It is advantageous for a man to choose celibacy"? Given the right context Paul would insist both were correct.' (McGuiggan p. 91)

'touch' -680. haptomai hap'-tom-ahee; reflexive of 681; properly, to attach oneself to, i.e. to touch (in many implied relations): -touch.

-a euphemism for sexual intercourse. And since such activity is only allowed in marriage (7:2), Paul must here be saying, 'It is good for a man to remain unmarried', i.e. choose the celibate life.

Points to Note:

1. Jerome erroneously took the above expression to mean, 'if it is good not to touch a woman, it is therefore evil to touch one.' The problem with this view, is that it contradicts the Bible.

2. Paul is not placing celibacy in a position of moral superiority over marriage. Rather he is saying that celibacy is morally acceptable. God also labels "marriage" to be "good". ( Gen_1:31 ; Gen_2:18 ; 1Ti_4:1-5 ; Heb_13:4 "Let marriage be held in honor among all..")

Concerning the question of the "moral" status of celibacy, Paul says that it is "good". We should note that in this chapter Paul doesn't "force" celibacy or marriage upon the single Christian.

3. 'Our present social attitudes encourage marriage to such an extent that anyone who chooses not to marry is looked upon as a freak.' (Willis p. 209) 'Paul is not disparaging marriage..but defending celibacy against those who thought it inhuman.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 822)

Verse 2

1Co_7:2 But, because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

'because of fornications' -(multiplied occurrences of it). 'but because there is no much immorality' (Mon) 'The many instances of fornication current.' (Alford p. 1010) 'Because of the (prevalent) fornications (the unusual plural indicating the variety and extent of profligacy).' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 822)

Points to Note:

1. Some have accused Paul of holding a very low view of marriage. 'The accusation brought against Paul that he thus places marriage on a very low level as though it were only the lesser of two evils, is unwarranted. For in Eph_5:22-23 the same Paul writes about the high and holy aspects of marriage as no man has ever done.' (Lenski p. 274)

2. While the above isn't the only reason to get married, it still is a valid one among many.

3. Paul didn't have his head in the sand. He was a spiritually minded man who was very much in touch with reality. I think McGuiggan has a good point here, 'Celibacy is good, but those who are equipped to be celibate won't be committing fornication and fornication is going on ( 2Co_12:21 ). So verbal celibacy was probably more common than actual . Don't claim to be celibate if you can't control yourself sexually, he says. There is an honorable way in which to satisfy sexual hunger--get married! Celibacy is honorable but so is marriage. And marriage without fornication beats "celibacy" with fornication, every time! ' (p. 93)

In this commentary Mike Willis has something to say to parents on this point, 'Sometimes pre-marital sexual relationships occur...because the parents will not allow their children to marry as they desire to do...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.' (p. 210)

'let each man have his own wife' -clearly points to monogamy. 'It must be Christian marriage, as opposed to heathen libertinism and Jewish polygamy.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 822) Jesus taught the same thing. ( Mat_19:5 )

'let each woman have her own husband' -no double standard here. Women could only have one current husband and husbands could only have one current wife.

Point to Note:

There is a great lesson in these verses for realizing one's limitations. Here and in 7:9, Paul reminds us not to try to live a life that we weren't cut out for. 'Don't try to live the celibate life, if your not cut out for it.' Now, note what Paul doesn't say. He doesn't advocate living together arrangements (such is fornication). It's either celibacy or marriage, with no safe sexual middle ground. This must reveal something about the motives behind living together arrangements. The people in them, don't want celibacy, and yet neither do they want the commitment of marriage. Selfishness must be the motive to want a sexual relationship, without the commitment involved in a marriage relationship. Living together sends a strange message, two people that claim to "love each other" (the excuse given to legitimize the relationship), and yet they don't "love each other" to the point of wanting to commit to each other for life. It is a professed "endless love". But they don't act like it will be endless. 'I love you and am sexually attracted to you..but I'm not sure that I want you to be my only sexual partner for the rest of my life..I want to keep my options open if something better comes along.' [Note: _ For more information concerning the fallacy of living-together, see "Living-Together Myths" (Sermon 6-13-93, Beaverton Church of Christ, Mark Dunagan.) For read 'Why Wait', by Josh McDowell and Dick Day, especially pages 130-137.]

Verse 3

1Co_7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife her due: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

One might ask, what do verses 3-6 have to do with the previous points? 'In verse 1 he has said that celibacy is honorable and advantageous, but, come what may, fornication must be avoided. The lawful channel for sexual satisfaction is the marriage. But what's the point of choosing marriage (in part) to avoid fornication if the partner's sexual needs are not being met? ' (McGuiggan p. 93)

From looking at verses 5-6, it seems to be a fair deduction that some in Corinth were advocating and practicing "celibacy" in the marriage relationship.

'render unto the wife her due' -'to give what one owes or is under obligation to render.' (Lenski p. 275) 'The language of obligation, literally, "the payment of what is due.", implies that married couples are indebted to one another sexually.' (Fee p. 279)

'likewise also the wife unto the husband' -in the area of sexual relations, we find equally among the sexes in marriage. No double standard here.

Points to Note:

1. In a time when everyone likes to say or think, 'I don't owe you anything and you don't owe me anything'. Paul says that "indebtedness" exists in marriage. Both partners owe a debt to the other partner that they can never repay.

2. To marry someone, and then withhold sexual intimacy from them, is to deliberately deceive them, it's false advertizing, it's fraud and it's sin. Paul didn't believe in "sexless marriages". If you have no desire for sexual relations, then don't get married! Some may argue, "but I just want some companionship". Paul would tell us, "you can find companionship with good friends (he had many), but marriage is much more than companionship".

4. 'Failure to fulfill one's obligation in marriage might cause the partner to seek sexual gratification outside the martial relationship..in the event that this happens, the one who withheld sexual intercourse is not an innocent party!' [Note: _ Willis p. 211]

5. Fee even speculates that this may have been the reason why some of the men at Corinth were or were being tempted to seek out the services of the temple prostitutes (6:15-18).

Verse 4

1Co_7:4 The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife.

'power' -1850. exousiazo ex-oo-see-ad'-zo; from 1849; to control: -exercise authority upon, bring under the (have) power of. 'The wife does not have the right to do as she pleases with her own body' (Wms). 'The wife cannot claim her body as her own' (NEB)

'likewise' -'In wedlock separate ownership of the person ceases.' (Robertson p. 124) 'In regard to the sexual relation both are on the same level , both have equally lost their authority or right over their body... All false, individualistic independence on the part of either wife or husband is barred out.' (Lenski p. 276)

'A person in a marriage relationship does not have the authority over his own body as he had prior to his marriage...the satisfaction of one's own personal whims is not even second to the desires of Jesus!' (Willis p. 212)

Points to Note:

1. Don't marry someone, unless you are prepared to give them "authority" over your own body. This reveals that marriage is only for those who are unselfish enough to place themselves in third place (behind Jesus and their mate). As one writer said, ' Marriage is for the Mature '.

2. I still like what McGuiggan said about being "one flesh"-'the expression "one flesh" is not speaking of what happens at the moment a husband makes love to his wife. It is because the man and woman become one flesh in marriage that they have the right to sexual power over one another (7:4) . Gen_2:24 isn't saying: "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two shall unite their bodies sexually." Gen_2:24 is saying: "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two will no longer regard themselves as INDEPENDENT of other another but that together they are one entity. And because they are not independent one of another, they have power over one another sexually . And this sexual act is specifically ordained of God to express, as nothing else does, the closeness of their relationship.' (p. 79)

3. This verse reveals how shallow and self-centered some marriages are. Marriage was designed to be more than a financial arrangement, more than a way that two people could own a home, more than a friendship, more than simple companionship, more than an arrangement to care for children. It is a relationship in which you completely give yourself to another person. Now that's a marriage! Everything else is 'just playing house'.

4. This verse also reveals that the phrase "marriage of convenience", isn't an accurate expression. Considering the work and unselfishness demanded in the marriage relationship ( Eph_5:22-33 ; 1Pe_3:7 ), marriage isn't "convenient or easy!"

5. Now someone has probably been asking themselves, is this verse teaching that one can have sexual relations with their mate any time and in any way they want? In response I offer the following quote:

'I know that there are books written by Christian leaders who say that basically anything is legal in the bedroom, but I would have to disagree. As we discussed in Chapter 2, at the heart of love is a decision to honor a person--to count him or her as incredibly valuable. Forcing my wife to violate her conscience to please my sexual appetite is absolutely wrong and an invitation to sexual problems. Regardless of the "no holds barred" pictures of pornography that are painted throughout our culture as being "acceptable" some forms of sexual behaviour are dishonoring. To ask a spouse to perform a sexual act that is wrong or repulsive to him or her is to show at least a degree of insensitively or even a lack of love.' [Note: _ Love is a Decision. pp. 155-156, Gary Smalley.]

At the same time, we need to warn the mate that might to tempted to place all forms of sexual activity into the violation of conscience category. Paul didn't! Paul realized that a realm of sexual activity exists, that doesn't violate the consciences of husbands or wives and that both can participate in.

Verse 5

1Co_7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be by consent for a season, that ye may give yourselves unto prayer, and may be together again, that Satan tempt you not because of your incontinency.

'Defraud' -650. apostereo ap-os-ter-eh'-o; from 575 and stereo (to deprive); to despoil: -defraud, destitute, kept back by fraud. 'One-sided insistence on abstinence therefore amounts to robbing the other party of his or her rights.' (F.F. Bruce p. 67)

-present imperative tense, the ordinary meaning being, "stop defrauding". 'Stop depriving' (NASV) Indicating that some Corinthians were "defrauding". Again, note the strong word that God chose for such withholding. To draw a person into a marriage, and then deny sexual intimacy, in God's view amounts to fraud. You lied! And we know how God feels about liars. ( Rev_21:8 )

'except it be by consent' -'by agreement' (NASV) And this agreement must be mutual. One partner doesn't have the right to control the sexual on and off switch in a marriage. God gives neither one the "exclusive" control.

Note: Paul is speaking about voluntary abstinence. Sickness and other involuntary conditions are not seen as "defrauding".

In addition, because of sin you can create a situation in which your mate can't fulfill their sexual duties to you. If you break the law and end up in prison, you have defrauded your mate and have created a situation in which normal sexual relations aren't possible, they haven't defrauded you. A man who abuses his wife or children, has also created a situation in which his wife can't fulfill verses 3-5.

'for a season' -'fixed, definite time.' Willis reminds us that this should be a lesson to us men, especially preachers who can be out of town for extended periods of time. The needs of our wives (emotional and sexual) need to be considered and consulted before we fill up our calenders with extended business trips.

'that ye may give yourselves unto prayer' -'A separation because of gripes, to punish a partner, or some other petty reason is an unauthorized defrauding of one's mate...'(Willis p. 213)

'It indicates that the early church placed value on concerted times of prayer, uninterrupted by other normal pursuits.' (Fee p. 282)

The sad thing is, that often in the church we find Christian couples abstaining from sexual intimacy for all the "wrong reasons" (anger, bitterness, resentment, marital problems, selfishness, revenge, hate)....and while the griping level may be loud, the praying level is often non-existent.

'that Satan tempt you not because of your incontinency' -'because of your lack of self-control.' (NASV) While this may not flatter us, it's honest.

'In light of society's wickedness, in light of their vulnerability (seen in the very fact that they married in the first place), Paul urges them to be sensible in their abstinence . "By all means", pursue deeper dedication by mutually sought abstinence, " but don't overdo it ".' [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 95]

Points to Note:

1. Well-intentioned religious acts, carried beyond the limits of one's endurance, are vain. It doesn't do any good to devote yourselves to prayer, if such devotion tempts you to commit fornication.

2. The Catholic Church needs to read these verses. Their human rules concerning a mandatory celibate clergy has resulted in more harm than good.

3. Satan already knows what our own areas of weakness are and he will attempt to exploit any "weakness" that we give him. ( Rom_13:14 ; Eph_4:27 )

Verse 6

1Co_7:6 But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment.

'concession' -4774. suggnome soong-gno'-may; from a compound of 4862 and 1097; fellow knowledge, i.e. concession: -permission. '

The question that arises is what in the previous verses is a "concession" and not a "command"? Something that is allowed but not commanded. Now, while marriage isn't "commanded" (Paul didn't command everyone to get married). Marriage is "commanded" if one wishes to engage in sexual activity. In the previous context, the "concession" is the mutually determined period of abstinence. 'Paul does not command couples to have such periods of devotion but he does allow them under the conditions given in verse 5.' (Willis p. 215)

'It is the temporary abstinence, not the 'coming together again', that is permitted as a concession; regular marital relations are recognized as the norm. Far from being the discourager of marriage that he is popularly supposed to be...' (F.F. Bruce pp. 67-68)

Verse 7

1Co_7:7 Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that.

'all men were even as I myself' -'I would that every one lived as I do.' (Mon)

We should note, this statement is saying more than, "I wish that everyone were single". 'celibacy in its true sense-- not referring to singleness as such (after all, many who are "celibate" in this sense wish they were otherwise), but to that singular gift of freedom from the desire or need of sexual fulfillment that made it possible for him to live without marriage in the first place.' [Note: _ Fee p. 284]

'Yet I would' -'I wish'. Here is Paul's personal preference.

Points to Note:

1. In view of God's original purpose in marriage ( Gen_2:18 ), some might wonder, why would Paul say such a thing. Part of Paul's wish must be in view of the circumstances that Christians were facing at the time. (7:28,33-34)

2. In no way can we view this as a slam on marriage. For the very same Paul penned such passages as Eph_5:22-33 . And it was this very same writer who insisted that elders and deacons must be the husband of one wife.

3. We forget that Paul may be speaking from experience. From 1Co_9:5 , we learn that Paul didn't have a wife who was a believer when he wrote this letter. But that doesn't mean that he had never been married..'Whether he had been married and was now a widower turns on the interpretation of Act_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.' (Robertson p. 125)

Vincent adds.. 'It is not certain, but most probable, that Saul was a member of the Sanhedrin ( Act_26:10 ). If so, he must have been married, as marriage was a condition of membership.' (p. 218) Of all the things that Paul sacrificed for Christ ( Php_3:7-8 ), Christianity may have also cost him a Jewish wife, that refused to convert, and subsequently left him.

'Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God' -'but I realize that everyone has his own particular gift from God.' (Phi)

What a sensible man Paul is! He realized that everyone wasn't cut out for the celibate life, and neither is everyone cut out for the married life. The ability to live the truly celibate life, is a special gift from God, and those that don't possess this ability, should marry (7:1-2). Again, we see compassion and wisdom in the Scriptures. Paul is telling Christians, 'don't try to live a life that you weren't cut out for. Realize your own limitations. Neither celibacy or marriage are dishonorable conditions. Simply choose the life that fits you best.'

'Not all men are exactly alike in their intensity drives. We are all different; none is better than the other; all originate from God. The Catholic practice of celibacy fails to take this into consideration.' (Willis p. 216)

Points to Note:

1. Christians shouldn't be intimidated or influenced by studies that define what the "national average" is for sexual frequency in marriage. Remember, your not married to any of the people being surveyed in those studies. You have a particular sexual drive and so does your spouse. And together you need to come to an agreement based on your own drives and what will work best in your marriage.

2. Word of Caution: Paul isn't saying that you can break out of the celibate life anytime you want to. The only non-sinful way out of celibacy is marriage (7:1-2). And a Christian can get themselves into a condition where marriage might not be possible. (7:10-11; Rom_7:1-3 ; Mat_5:32 )

So wisdom would tell us, 'If you realize that you aren't cut out for the celibate life, the last thing that you want to do, is JEOPARDIZE your scriptural right to be married!'

Verse 8

1Co_7:8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

'unmarried' -22. agamos ag'-am-os; from 1 (as a negative particle) and 1062; unmarried: -unmarried. 'It is possible that by "the unmarried" (masculine plural) the apostle means only men since widows are added and since virgins receive special treatment later (verse 25).' (Robertson p. 125)

McGuiggan adds, 'The "unmarried" may be speaking specifically of scripturally divorced and widowed men since he will speak later (25f,36ff) of unmarried ladies. And it could be he treats widows as a special group because they can be of much service to the congregation. ( 1Ti_5:9 ff)' (p. 96)

Fee says, 'if "unmarried" refers to all the unmarried, then why add widows?...On balance, "widower" seems to be the best understanding of the word here.' (p. 288)

Verse 9

1Co_7:9 But if they have not continency, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

'But' -'But he insists again on people being sensible about their personal limitations.' (McGuiggan p. 96)

'than to burn' -'to burn is a present to indicate a recurrent condition'. (Lenski p. 284) 'Continuous present: to burn on: continuance in unsatisfied desire.' (Vincent p. 218) 'to be consumed with the fire of sexual desire..the present tense of the verb precludes the possibility of this referring to the future punishment of the fires of Gehenna (even though such would also be true, i.e. it is better to marry than be consumed by lust that will send you to hell- Mat_5:28 )' (Willis p. 219)

Point to Note:

Paul doesn't become so "theological" that he ceases to preach a "practical" message. Paul gets to the bottom line. 'Paul is discussing no sentimental, economical, social, or even providential features connected with marriage..He is counselling consciences on how to avoid sin.' [Note: _ Lenski p. 284]

Before we move on, another point needs to be considered. The Bible doesn't give couples a definite time for an engagement period before marriage. And these verses give the reason. Everyone is different. So in setting the wedding date, keep in mind your own "gift", and make sure that the date you set, is the date within reach of your own level of self-control.


Verse 10

1Co_7:10 But unto the married I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord, That the wife depart not from her husband

'the married' -considering the context, verses 10-11 are specifically directed at a marriage involving two Christians. (7:12)

'I give charge' -3853. paraggello par-ang-gel'-lo; from 3844 and the base of 32; to transmit a message, i.e. (by implication) to enjoin: -(give in) charge, (give) command(-ment), declare.

-'I command' (KJV); 'I issue orders (present tense), he means that the order of Jesus has continuous, permanent force.' (Lenski p. 285)

Paul did not "command" marriage nor did he "command" celibacy. In addition, in the previous verses he had given some advice (7:6,7,8) But to already married Christian couples , direct commands are given. 'Just as they may not reject sexual relations within marriage (7:2-5), so they may not dissolve their marriages through divorce.' (Fee p. 290)

'yea not I, but the Lord' -'My command--or rather, the Lord's command.' (Nor)

Points to Note:

1. All of Paul's ethical instructions were the commandments of the Lord ( 1Co_14:37 ; 1Th_4:1-2 ). Paul is appealing to what Jesus had taught while upon this earth.

2. This demands that some 20-25 years after the ascension of Jesus, in Greece the teachings of Jesus were well known to Christians. In other places, Paul appeals directly to the teaching of Jesus. (9:14; 11:23; 1Ti_5:18 ; Act_20:35 )

3. Paul may be saying here, 'Concerning this subject, you already know what the Lord said, and it's clear.' 'He cites Christ's words in distinction from his own (12), not as though his word was insufficient (7:40;5:3f), but inasmuch as this was a principle upon which "the Lord" had pronounced categorically..' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 825)

4. Therefore, the conclusion that Paul reaches in verse 11 must be the inspired commentary upon what the Lord taught in such passages as Mat_5:32 ; Mat_19:9 ; Mar_10:11-12 ; and Luk_16:18 .

'That the wife depart not from her husband' -'What needs to be noted is that such an action by a woman was generally not allowed among the Jews...But women could, and did, divorce their husbands in the Greco-Roman world, although for obvious socio-economic reasons it was not common for them to do so--this despite Seneca's bitter complaint: "Is there any woman that blushes at divorce now that certain illustrious and noble ladies reckon their years, not by the number of consuls, but by the number of their husbands, and leave home in order to marry, and marry in order to be divorced?' (Fee p. 294)

Since the woman is mentioned first, this has lead some to believe that certain women in Corinth were 'using their slogan (7:1b) to reject sexual relations with their husbands (7:5), and arguing for divorce if it came to that.' (Fee p. 290) 'This command is probably aimed at those who were advising that Christians should be too spiritually minded to engage in sexual union; hence, they might as well separate.' (Willis p. 220)

'depart' -5562. choreo kho-reh'-o; from 5561; to be in (give) space, i.e. (intransitively) to pass, enter, or (transitively) to hold, admit (literally or figuratively): -come, contain, go, have place, (can, be room to) receive.

Point to Note:

Considering the other uses of the word "depart" (7:11,12,13,15), and the fact that after "departure" has happened, the wife is spoken of as "unmarried" (7:11). The word must refer to actual divorce, rather than a temporary separation.

Verse 11

1Co_7:11 (but should she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband); and that the husband leave not his wife.

'but should she depart' -'describes an exception whether past, present or future.' (Willis p. 221) 'but if she be already parted' (Con); 'if she has done so' (TCNT)

'let her remain unmarried' -indicating that more than a temporary separation has taken place.

'unmarried' -'Were they unmarried? Well, yes and no. He says they were unmarried and yet, the woman is urged to be reconciled to "her husband" if she didn't wish to remain unmarried. What does that tell you? It says to me that they went through a divorce proceeding (and so were "unmarried") which didn't really dissolve the union. Jesus ( Mat_19:9 ) speaks of a man "marrying" another after he has divorced his wife. In this case, the man put away his wife for something other than fornication, and he "married" another. In the course of doing so he committed "adultery". Why was it adultery he committed? ...Why does this man commit adultery in marrying another? Because he's still a married man despite having put his wife away. ' (McGuiggan p. 101)

'or else be reconciled to her husband' -'The wife who may happen to divorce her husband may not use her present unmarried condition as an excuse for remarriage to someone else..In a culture in which divorce has become the norm, this text has become a bone of contention. Some find Paul and Jesus too harsh and try to find ways around the plain sense of the text...If the Christian husband and wife cannot be reconciled to one another, then how can they expect to become models of reconciliation before a fractured and broken world?' (Fee pp. 295-296)

Points to Note:

1. Remarriage is not an biblical option (despite repentance) following an unscriptural divorce.

2. Repentance can't undue all the consequences of a sin. Sin must happen when an unscriptural divorce occurs (at least one partner in the marriage has disobeyed a direct command of God, 'depart not' (7:10). But even after such an act is repented of, remarriage still isn't an option. (7:11) I say this because, Paul felt that one could remain in the "unmarried" condition, and still be right with God, if not, then why is that option even given? i.e. one can be in either condition found in 7:11, and still be right with God. This implies that the woman needed to repent of violating verse 10. But such repentance didn't erase the fact that they were still husband and wife.

This verse also reveals that "sin" can narrow down our biblical options. While the single person can either remain single or marry the person of their choice. The married person who unlawfully departs from their spouse, has just found themselves with one less option. No longer can they marry the person of their choice. Now, because of their previous sin, they can only remain in a celibate condition or seek reconciliation with the former mate.

***Repentance doesn't always bring you back to square one!

3. Just because a divorce has taken place, doesn't mean that remarriage to another person is sanctioned by Scripture.

4. A couple still remains husband and wife, in the eyes of God, even after an legal, but unscriptural divorce. (7:11 'to her husband')

5. Here would of been an excellent opportunity for Paul to add any other "just" causes for divorce and remarriage among Christians, and yet Paul doesn't. Fornication still remains the only "cause". ( Mat_19:9 )

6. God doesn't buy emotional arguments or appeals. Paul believed that if people really do want to serve God and if they honestly can't live the "unmarried life", then such Christians will diligently seek reconciliation with the former mate, and won't argue for their "right" to marry someone else.

7. While the congregation can help in the reconciliation process ( Gal_6:2 ); Paul places the primary responsibility for such on the shoulders of the Christians that profess to want it.

8. Note: Paul doesn't add anything like, 'or else be reconciled to her husband (unless she is re-baptized, which changes everything.)'

'and that the husband leave not his wife' -no double standard. God is fair. 'This was a novel idea in Paul's day; the Jew allowed the man to divorce his wife but did not allow the woman (in most cases) to divorce her husband.' (Willis p. 222)


Verse 12

1Co_7:12 But to the rest say I, not the Lord: If any brother hath an unbelieving wife, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her.

'say I, not the Lord' -'he leaves the realm of those things which Jesus personally discussed.' (Willis p. 223) 'Shall a Christian husband or wife be compelled to live with a heathen? Christ left no explicit answer to this question.' (Erdman p. 79)

Points to Note:

1. Paul isn't giving his opinion here, he is still giving the commands of the Lord (14:37). Rather, he is giving revelation on a matter in which Jesus had not specifically addressed while upon this earth.

2. Why is this topic brought up? 'The question may have been raised in the Corinthian's letter: "Should not the believing partner separate from the other, rather than be "mismated" with an unbeliever?"' (F.F. Bruce p. 69)

3. 'What it also demonstrates is that not all conversions were household conversions.' (Fee p. 299)

4. Becoming a Christian or "unbelief" in a partner do not qualify as scriptural grounds for divorce.

5. 'There is nothing in the following passage which reveals that God wants Christians to marry non-Christians...The matter which Paul discusses here is the proper conduct of a Christian in a mixed marriage relationship and not whether entering such relationships is right or wrong.' (Willis p. 224)

6. Neither are we to conclude that Jesus didn't give any biblical principles that would apply to Christian-unbeliever marriages. Certainly Mat_19:4-6 , is the basis for such marriages even being considered legitimate marriages in the first place. Paul's point is that Jesus didn't specifically discuss the legitimacy of Christian-unbeliever marriages. And yet, this doesn't mean that none of the things Jesus said apply. In comparing this section (7:12-15) with Mat_19:3-9 , will find some similarities. (1) All are under God's marriage law-7:14 (i.e. God joins together those who aren't His people); 19:4-6. (2) The same type of command is found in both texts, i.e. don't leave or depart, don't sunder what God joined together (7:12,13=19:6)

A dangerous twist happens when we try to argue that Jesus' teaching about marriage doesn't apply at all in Christian-unbeliever, or even unbeliever-unbeliever marriages. If Mat_19:9 or 5:32 doesn't apply in Christian-unbeliever marriages, then consistency would demand that Christians can't put away non-Christian spouses who are guilty of fornication.

'If, as some conclude, believers in "mixed" marriages are not subject to Jesus' personal teaching on marriage and divorce, then there exists no scriptural grounds whatsoever for them to divorce their mates for fornication, even if those unbelieving spouses in Corinth might have visited the temple prostitutes on a daily basis. Why? Because the only scriptural instruction granting the right to divorce for the cause of fornication is found in that very source, which supposedly does not apply to them, namely in the personal teaching of Jesus...Thus, the believer, having an unbelieving spouse with the daily practice of fornication, would be obligated to remain in that marriage..' (GOT. 'May the Believer Deserted By an Unbeliever Remarry?' 1-4-90. p. 22)

'content to dwell with him' -'if he/she has no desire to terminate the marriage' (McGuiggan p. 104) 'to house with him (her) and means to continue the marriage relation.' (Lenski p. 291) 'To be pleased together with, agree together.' (Robertson p. 127)

Point to Note:

It is always "assumed" that the believer is "content" to dwell with the unbeliever. The believer is never to initiate the divorce (except for fornication). In addition, the believer isn't allowed to make life miserable for the unbeliever, and hence "force" them out of the marriage. Sometimes we forget what becoming a Christian meant to people of the first century. Apparently, when some men and women obeyed the gospel, they were taking the risk of losing their mates. ( Mat_10:37 ; Luk_10:26 ) And often we complain that we can't sleep in any longer on Sunday morning--what a contrast!

Verse 13

1Co_7:13 And the woman that hath an unbelieving husband, and he is content to dwell with her, let her not leave her husband.

Again, Paul doesn't give a double standard.

Verse 14

1Co_7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

'sanctified' -first of all, we already know what this verse isn't teaching:

That marriage to a Christian automatically saves you. Verse 16 completely contradicts such a view, 'For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?'

Apparently we have a question posed by the Corinthians behind this verse, probably something like, "But doesn't a marriage to a pagan mate defile the Christian?" Or, possibly some Jewish Christians in Corinth were arguing that since God condemned intermarriage with unbelievers in the O.T. ( Exo_34:16 ; Deu_7:3-4 ; Jos_23:14 ; and even commanded Israelites to put away heathen wives and children, Ezr_10:3-44 ; Neh_13:30-31 ), that such laws were binding upon Christians married to unbelievers.

Points to Note:

1. "Sanctified" may simply mean that God recognizes such a marriage as being legitimate and right in His sight. 'Clearly he only means that the marriage relation is sanctified so that there is no need of a divorce.' (Robertson p. 128)

2. Many feel that the term means that in being married to a believer, the unbeliever finds themselves in a relationship in which the possibility for their salvation is present or a greater possibility, i.e. 'There is a greater chance that they can saved, because they are married to you and you are a Christian!' ( 1Pe_3:1 ff) 'But from Paul's perspective, as long as the marriage is maintained the potential for their realizing salvation remains. To that degree they are "sanctified" in the believing spouse.' (Fee p. 300)

'else were your children unclean; but now are they holy' -at this point Paul might be taking "their argument" and drawing a logical conclusion. 'If as you say, Christian-unbeliever marriages aren't recognized by God, then the children of that union must be "unclean" (illegitimate?). But my view is, the marriage is recognized by God, hence, the children born of that relationship are holy.

But Paul also might be saying. 'If the believer departs (as you advocate), what will happen to the children? What will be their chances for salvation? But if the believer stays in the marriage, then the children have a good chance at being saved.'

'The constant day by day living with a marriage partner who is a Christian exposes the unbeliever to the word of God, to the influence of the Christian in living, to the circle of brethren in the church and their influence. That places the unbeliever in a better atmosphere, and a better position to be converted than would exist with most unbelievers.' (Barnett p. 23)

Before we move on we cannot lose sight of a very important point. The "believer" in such a marriage, needs to feel the great responsibility that rests upon their shoulders. I need to present the best face of Christianity that I can. Often, I am the only hope that this person has for being saved. The salvation of my spouse and my children often depends on whether I set a consistent example of faithfulness or not. Very often, I am the only contact with Christianity that this person has on a frequent basis.

Members in such marriages need to realize, that before another Christian can get in the door with this non-Christian mate, in the hopes of teaching them, the Christian mate must make a positive impression first.

Verse 15

1Co_7:15 Yet if the unbelieving departeth, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us in peace.

'departeth' -'determined to separate' (Wey), i.e. wants out of the marriage. (7:11) The separation under consideration here is in "process". 'All standard English versions properly render the first verb..in the present tense: "depart" (KJV), "separateth" (ASV); "leaves" (NASV), etc...Paul does not say, "if the unbeliever has departeth"...the process of separating is in its earliest stage, existing only in desire or determination..' [Note: _ GOT. 'May the Believer Deserted By an Unbeliever Remarry?'. Jerry R. Earnhart. 1-4-90 p. 21]

'If the unbelieving partner desires to separate' (RSV); 'if..the heathen partner wishes for a separation'(NEB); 'In case the nonbeliever wants to separate' (Ber) 'But if the unbeliever separates, he may separate--let the separation take its course' (The Ex. Greek Testament, p. 827)

'let him depart' -'Although the Christian cannot initiate the divorce, he is not required to stay married to the unbeliever against the unbeliever's wishes...one person cannot maintain a marriage if the other does not want to maintain it.' (Willis p. 230)

'is not under bondage in such cases' -a statement that has generated plenty of discussion.

Points to Note:

1. The tense of this phrase is interesting. 'Paul used a perfect tense verb..the brother...has not been and is not now enslaved...in such cases the brother or sister has not been enslaved and does not now stand enslaved.' (McGuiggan p. 105)

And seeing that the "not under bondage" begins immediately at the point that the unbeliever expresses the desire to depart, I have a hard time believing that "bondage" in this verse applies to the marriage bond. If that were the case, then Paul is teaching that the Christian spouse is no longer married to the unbeliever, even before the unbeliever actually departs. 'Not under bondage cannot possibly refer to release from the marriage bond. Otherwise, we have the case of a person who is free to court and marry another, while the divorce from the first mate is not yet completed. Are brethren making an argument for remarriage on this passage ready to accept this consequence?' (Earnhart p. 21)

This makes me think. What "bondage" would cease at the moment that the unbeliever expresses the wish to end the marriage? Some would say the bondage to "remain unmarried or be reconciled" (7:11), and yet that would have the Christian free to remarry even before the unbeliever actually departs. At this point I think that Wayne Jackson made a good point by saying, 'If "not under bondage" refers to the marriage bond, we should be able to substitute the marriage bond in the place of "not under bondage" and the text express the truth. "Let the reader substitute the word 'marriage' for 'bondage', giving the full force to the perfect tense (i.e. has not been married and is not married) and the fallacy of viewing the bondage as marriage will be readily apparent.' (" 'The Pauline Privilege'-So Called", The Beacon March 28, 1985, p. 2) The "bondage" of this verse must refer to something else. A "bondage" that the Christian is free from the moment the unbeliever expresses the desire to leave.

2. 'The verb "to be under bondage" is not his (Paul's) ordinary one for the "binding" character of marriage (cf. 7:39; Rom_7:2 ).' (Fee p. 303)

3. The same word rendered "bondage" in this verse is also used of the "bondage" of accommodating oneself to others, in the effort to save them, "I made myself a slave of all" ( 1Co_9:19 ). And saving the soul of one's unbelieving mate is found in the immediate context. (7:16)

'In such cases, the believer is no longer under bondage, i.e. no longer obligated for the Gospel's sake to adjust accommodatively to the departing mate, especially in matters peculiar to marriage.' (Earnhart p. 22)

One of the assumptions that is often made concerning the "departing" in verse 15, is that the unbelieving mate has "left town". People forget, as happens today, and people get divorced, and neither party leaves the area, in fact, both parties still see each other, especially if children are involved. Some Christians probably had questions concerning what are my God given obligations to a spouse that wants out of the marriage, especially seeing that in many cases that spouse would still be around town.

'In 1Pe_3:1-4 ..women who are Christians and have unbelieving husbands are still to be in subjection to the husband. The marriage is valid. In addition to this the Christian is to try in every way possible to save her husband. If the husband will not hear the word then he can be gained by the wife's behavior before him. This obligation is from God...She was to accomodate herself to the circumstances in every way to save her husband...So, in 1Co_7:15 we find that the unbeliever is not "content to dwell" with the believer because of the practice of the spouse's faith. The unbeliever has rejected the message of truth and every effort the believer has put forth. To continue to try to reach him under the circumstances would only cause turmoil, and "God has called us unto peace.' [Note: _ Gospel Anchor, November 1983 ' 1Co_7:15 (Unbelievers And God's Law on Marriage.' Maurice Barnett p. 27]

Someone might ask, 'but am I ever not under bondage to make every effort to save someone?' The answer from Scripture is "yes", when they have rejected the message and your efforts. Paul said that he was a "debtor" to all men ( Rom_1:14 ), and yet, there were times when that "debt" with particular individuals ceased. ( Act_13:44-46 ; Act_18:6 ; Mat_7:6-7 )

4. In addition, we need to ask ourselves, 'Why is the unbeliever not content to dwell with the believer in verse 15?' I think Willis has a good point here:

'To use this verse to prove that remarriage is allowed in cases in which the mate has left because of incessant complaining, refusal of sexual relations, or other marital failures is to greatly abuse this passage....The very most that this verse can authorize is the opportunity of remarriage for those whose mates forsake them because they become Christians.' (p. 231)

In trying to clarify the two views, let me offer the following as a summation:

If 1Co_7:12-15 , are matters that have nothing to do with what Jesus taught while upon the earth (i.e. Mat_19:9 , etc.. doesn't apply to such marriages), and if verse 15 is allowing remarriage for the cause of desertion, then this is what you must give up and concede (i.e. this is the price that we must be willing to pay) to hold to such a view. (1) Remarriage is only allowed when the unbeliever leaves because of the Christian's faith . (2) Since 19:9, etc..doesn't apply in such cases, then the Christian cannot put away a non-Christian mate who is engaging in fornication. If they are an adulterer, but they are "content to dwell with you", then you must remain with them.

'but God hath called us in peace' -'to peace' (NASV) 'one should not contest the divorce..one should let the separation occur in as peaceful a way as possible, not creating unnecessary disturbances.' (Fee p. 303) 'Nothing is to be gained by harassing him into "keeping it together". Nagging won't get it done!' (McGuiggan p. 109)

Here is Christianity "under fire". Even in the face of a unbelieving spouse leaving, the Christian isn't allowed to act in an "unchristian manner". God doesn't allow Christians to "persecute" the departing mate, or make "life a living hell for them", or "make them regret the day they left", or "if they are going to divorce me, then I'll make it as tough for them as possible, I'll fight them at every turn, I'll take them for all their worth......."

While much more could be written on this section, I tried to make my notes on this section as easy as possible to understand and read. It was my attempt to only present what I considered to be the clearest and most concise arguments on this hotly debated portion of Scripture. You can see me if you desire further articles on this subject.

Verse 16

1Co_7:16 For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O husband, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

'For how knowest thou' -'For how do you know' (NASV). 'This verse has been used as a reason to keep the marriage going and as a reason to let it go.' (McGuiggan p. 109) Paul is saying either: (1) The reason to keep the marriage together and not leave, is that you may just convert your unbelieving mate. (2) Let the determined unbeliever depart, make it peaceful on your part, because a refusing to let them leave, making it very difficult upon them, or compromising your Christianity in the misguided hope that such will enable you can keep them, and eventually save them..is based on an uncertain hope. There are no assurances that your mate would of ever obeyed the gospel, no matter how hard you would of tried, or how many spiritual compromises you would have made.

Actually a third view is possible. Paul may be saying, 'Don't compromise your faith, and don't act ungodly during the divorce, let is happen, live in peace, because in the end, you might just save them, i.e. because of your stand for truth and in demonstrating godly attitudes during the worst of times, they might just come back, and convert to Christianity. If this view is correct, or if view number (2) is correct, then this verse offers one more proof that "not under bondage" of 7:15 doesn't refer to the marriage bond. For the unbelieving mate, the person one isn't in bondage to, is still called by the terms "thy husband" and " thy wife", i.e. the marriage is still in tact in the eyes of God.

Verse 17

1Co_7:17 Only, as the Lord hath distributed to each man, as God hath called each, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all the churches.

'Only' -'I would add this' (Nor) 'This sentence is tied to what precedes by the excepting conjunction "nevertheless", which refers back to the exception in v. 15. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases; nevertheless, change is not to be the rule.' (Fee p. 309)

'distributed' -'assigned' (NASV) 'Our providentially allotted task' (Lenski p. 299) 'And we're not to understand Paul to say that because God has "distributed" to each man his position that God actively worked it out in every man's case. There is the permissive will of God. In the final analysis, however, nothing happens that God doesn't permit.' (McGuiggan p. 110)

'To determine what has been assigned, we need to look at the context-slavery, circumcision, i.e. to be a Jew or Gentile. One's outward circumstances in life are assigned to him by God.' (Willis p. 234)

'as God hath called each' -'and in which God has called him.' (RSV); 'and whatever his condition when God called him.' (Wey) The "call" of this verse doesn't refer to one's vocation, but to one's being called by the gospel. ( 1Co_1:9 ; 2Th_2:14 ; Eph_4:1 ) 'Whereas the first clause designates one's position in life as given to him by the Lord, the second clause relates to one's station in life when he received the call to obey the gospel.' (Willis p. 234)

'so let him walk' -'or go on in his life' (Lenski p. 299) So let him serve God in that social condition.

'And so ordain I in all the churches' -'This statement is necessary in order that the Corinthians may understand that what Paul writes to them on the practical subjects mentioned above is not something that was newly devised for the Corinthians alone but something that was applied by Paul in all the churches.' (Lenski p. 299)

-See 4:17; 11:16; 14:33. Every congregation was commanded by God to obey the apostles teaching. ( Act_2:42 )

'This is the second of four instances in this letter where Paul appeals to what goes on in other churches. The lack of this kind of appeal in his other letters suggests that this is his way of reminding them that theirs is the theology that is off track, not his .' (Fee p. 311)

Points to Note:

1. Paul is not teaching that the Christian could never change jobs, or his social circumstances. For he allowed Christians to marry (7:9,28,39-40) and slaves to become free. (7:21)

2. Paul is correcting some misconceptions that the Corinthians had, especially concerning the spiritual value of certain social conditions.

'Paul does not mean to stereotype a Christian's secular employment from the time of his conversion, but forbids his renouncing this under a false notion of spiritual freedom , or in contempt of secular things as though there were no will of God for him in their disposition.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 829)

I think Fee is on the right track, concerning what is going on behind the scenes in this chapter, or what Paul is really responding to, when he says..

'..they were seeking to change their present status, apparently because as believers they saw this as conforming to the more spiritual existence that they had already attained. Thus they saw one's status with regard to marriage/celibacy has having religious significance and sought to change it...Paul's concern, therefore, is not that they retain their present social setting, but that they recognize it as the proper one in which to live out God's call .' (Fee p. 309)

When I look at this chapter, it appears to me that the Corinthians were contending that one social condition was "spiritually superior" to another. Celibacy and marriage were on different spiritual levels (7:1-2); Celibacy in marriage is better (spiritually) than sex in marriage (7:3-5); Divorce is better than sex in marriage (7:10-11); Divorce is better than being married to an unbeliever (7:12-15). I see Paul saying to all of this, No! Paul is saying, in whatever social situation in which you were converted, YOU CAN SERVE GOD THERE!

3. 'This command to remain in the circumstances in which one has been called has been given applications which Paul never intended for it to bear since the very earliest of Christian exegesis. In the days of Tertullian (160-240 A.D.), "manufacturers of idols...claimed this principle as justifying their continuing to earn a living in this way." Some among us today want to use this passage to justify the continuance of a marital relationship which the Scriptures label as adulterous.' [Note: _ Willis p. 234]

a. We should note that the social circumstances in this chapter are conditions which the gospel has labeled as morally neutral or indifferent. (7:18-28)

b. The social circumstances of this chapter are conditions that the Lord views as acceptable or morally neutral. (7:17) There are certain marital conditions that the Lord doesn't approve of. ( Mat_5:32 ; Mat_19:9 ; Mar_6:17-18 ; Rom_7:3 )

c. The social circumstances of this chapter, are the very social conditions in which one became a Christian. 'As God has called each' (7:17)

Now we all know that you can't become a Christian while engaging in a sinful lifestyle or while being involved in a sinful relationship. Before some of the Corinthians accepted the gospel call, i.e. before they were baptized, they had to stop sinful practices ( 1Co_6:9-11 ) Before you can accept the gospel call, repentance is demanded . ( Act_2:38 )

McGuiggan makes a good comment when he says, 'And of course God doesn't give a person an immoral relationship.' (p. 110)

d. Verse 18 is a good test verse to see what types of social conditions Paul actually had in mind. The social conditions are those that you can substitute for the word "circumcised", and have the text still making sense. These are the types of social conditions that this chapter is dealing with. But the following doesn't fit: 'Was any man called already having an affair with another man's wife? Let him not break off the affair'. 'Was any man called already being in a marriage in which adultery is taking place? ( Mat_5:32 ) Let him not cease the adultery.'???

Verse 18

1Co_7:18 Was any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Hath any been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised.

'called being circumcised?' -'already circumcised?'

'Let him not become uncircumcised.' -'Let him not try to disguise it' (Wey) Many believe that this verse refers to, 'the process of restoring a circumcised person to his natural condition by a surgical operation.' (Vincent p. 219) This custom is referred to in 1 Macc. 1:15 and Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, XII, 5:1.

'call in uncircumcision' -i.e. of Gentile background. 'A Jewish Christian might have a variety of reasons that might prompt him to desire to hide his origin from Gentile Christians and from pagans. A Gentile Christian might likewise imagine it to be to his advantage to appear as if he, too, had originally belonged to the chosen nation.' (Lenski p. 300)

'Let him not be circumcised' -While Paul did have Timothy circumcised. That circumcision was for practical reasons, rather than for spiritual reasons relating to one's salvation. ( Act_16:3 ) Paul was absolutely unyielding when anyone tried to give it "spiritual importance in the church". ( Act_15:1-41 ; Gal_2:1 ff; Gal_5:1-6 )

Verse 19

1Co_7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God.

'Circumcision is nothing' -Wow! Talk about a statement that would of "offended" the Jewish community in Corinth! 'It is hard for us to imagine the horror with which a fellow Jew would have responded. For not only did circumcision count, it counted for everything.' (Fee p. 313) Keep the above statement in mind when you hear people advocating that the church refrain from preaching on controversial subjects.

'and uncircumcision is nothing' -There is no moral virtue in either condition. Neither condition has a "upper spiritual hand" on the other. Both are immaterial as far as one's relationship with God is concerned.

Modern Applications:

1. Being white is nothing and being black is nothing. Paul reveals that all ethnic backgrounds are irrelevant concerning one's acceptance with God.

2. The same is true concerning gender. ( Gal_3:28 )

'but the keeping of the commandments of God' -'obedience to God's commandments is everything.' (Wey); 'but what matter's is the keeping of the commandments of God' (NASV)

'Paul simply cannot allow a religious statement like "circumcision counts for nothing" to be turned into "obedience to the will of God counts for nothing."' (Fee p. 314)

Points to Note:

1. Obviously, being circumcised is no longer a commandment of God that needs to be kept. ( Gen_17:12-14 ) Which indicates that a change in what constitutes God's commandments has happened.

2. Seeing that failing to be circumcised cut one off from the "covenant" ( Gen_17:12-14 ), and was to be practiced "throughout your generations". This verse finds itself among many which testify to the fact that God's covenant with the Jewish nation has ceased and has been replaced by a covenant for all nations. ( Col_2:14-17 ; Eph_2:14-16 )

3. Even though we are no longer under the Law of Moses, "commandments" still exist which are essential for Christians to obey. ( Mat_7:21-23 ; Joh_14:15 ; Heb_5:8-9 )

4. Compare this verse with Gal_5:6 'For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.' The expression "faith working through love", is exactly the same as "keeping the commandments of God". Therefore, the "faith" that saves is an obedient faith. "Faith that works", is a "faith that obeys God's word". Hence, my faith isn't working until I obey what God has said.

'For Christians, national distinctions are of no great importance, but obedience to God is everything.' (Erdman p. 81)

5. At other times Paul compares the unimportance of circumcision/uncircumcision with 'being a new creature.' ( Gal_6:15 ) Therefore the indication that one is truly becoming a new creature, is obedience to God's will.

Verse 20

1Co_7:20 Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called.

'abide' -'remain in that condition in which he was called' (NASV)

Here, for instance, is one such condition where a person might become a Christian in.

Verse 21

1Co_7:21 Wast thou called being a bondservant? Care not for it: nay, even if thou canst become free, use it rather.

'The central and important issue with Paul was not the external circumstances, but one's response to the call of God. (No one..ever believed that Paul was saying we could abide in the calling of God while abiding in some vile relationship). Paul is not saying: "Is your calling to slavery?" He did say: "Where you called (while) being a bondservant?" Well, then, while you are a slave, walk as one called by God. Slavery doesn't prevent you from living like Christ.' (McGuiggan p. 110)

'Care not for it' -'Do not worry about it' (NASV); 'Let it not trouble thee!' (Lenski p. 302) 'Stop letting that annoy you.' (Wms) 'Don't let your social condition be a concern to you.' (Fee p. 316)

What Paul is saying, 'There is no dishonor in being a slave', being a slave doesn't make you an inferior Christian. You can serve God effectively and be a slave all at the same time.

'He tells them not to let it be a source of anxiety to them that they are slaves. Never mind! he says, because you can serve God in that position.' (McGuiggan p. 111)

Modern Application:

Too many of us live "in the future". We convince ourselves, 'I could really serve God if only...I had a bigger home to entertain Christians in... more money and could help more people... was married... was single...etc...' Paul shatters our illusions. Paul says, you can serve God just fine in your present social condition. Jesus gave a similar principle ( Luk_16:10 'He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much..')

'nay, even if thou canst become free, use it rather' -'but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.' (NASV)

'Slaves were legally freed in various ways, sometimes even without their consent as by a master's death and testament. This automatically set the slave free. Slaves were also freed by a master's generosity or as gratitude in reward for notable service.' (Lenski p. 303)

'use it rather' -there is quite a bit of debate in commentaries concerning "what" the slave is to use. Some argue that "it" refers to slavery, i.e. 'Even if you can gain your freedom, make the most of your present condition instead.' (Gspd) But seeing that Paul allows virgins to marry (change their condition) (7:28), it doesn't make sense that Paul would forbid a slave to accept an offer of freedom. Rather Paul is saying, 'if you gain your freedom, then use it to serve Christ.'

What a lesson there is here for us. If you happen to become successful in business, get married, have a family, etc..then use that condition to serve God in!

"From this and other verses, we can see how little Christianity became involved in the social issues of the first century. Christianity was designed to save men and women from sin; it was not designed to make this earth a utopia. The influence of Christianity on social matters occurred incidentally. Christianity changes men through the gospel to make their character what God desires it to be. As these men permeate the society, social changes are inevitable. Rather than the church becoming involved in politics, it should be concerned with converting the politicians!' (Willis p. 240)

Verse 22

1Co_7:22 For he that was called in the Lord being a bondservant, is the Lord's freedman: likewise he that was called being free, is Christ's bondservant.

'For he that was called in the Lord being a bondservant' -'while a slave' (NASV)

'is the Lord's freedman' -an old word for a manumitted slave. (Robertson p. 130) The slave had been in bondage to a more serious form of slavery, i.e. sin. ( Joh_8:31-34 ) And in Christ the slave stands on equal ground with everyone else. ( Gal_3:28 )

'is Christ's bondservant' -'Our calling has eliminated the option of belonging to ourselves. We belong to another, Christ.' (Fee p. 319) 'We may put it abstractly: slavery in Christ is true freedom (i.e. freedom from sin); freedom in Christ is true slavery.' (Lenski p. 305) Every Christian is to be a "servant" of Christ. ( Rom_6:13 ; Rom_6:16 ; 2Co_5:14-15 ; Gal_2:20 )

Therefore any religious teaching that places personal freedom and choice above God's written law, is a teaching that contradicts the very heart of Christianity.

Side Note On Slavery:

'This imagery, of course, must be understood in light of Greco-Roman slavery, not that of recent American history. Slavery was in fact the bottom rung on the social order, but for the most part it provided generally well for up to one-third of the population in a city like Corinth or Rome. The slave had considerable freedom and very often experienced mutual benefit along with the master. The owner received the benefit of the slave's services; and the slave had steady "employment", including having all his or her basic needs met--indeed, for many to be a slave was preferable to being a freedman, whose securities were often tenuous at best.' [Note: _ Fee p. 319]

For an excellent article on First Century slavery see: 'Slave, Slavery' The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Volume Q-Z, pp. 453-460.

Verse 23

1Co_7:23 Ye were bought with a price; become not bondservants of men.

'Ye were bought with a price' -the price of our freedom and our slavery. (6:20; 1Pe_1:18-19 )

'become not bondservants of men' -not in the sense of becoming physical slaves of men. For many in the First Century couldn't avoid that. Rather, something different than physical slavery is under consideration in this verse.

'To let society's voice speak instructions in their ear all the time is to become servants of men. To listen to the various groups calling for conformity to their views and to seek to please them is to become slaves to men.' (McGuiggan p. 112) 'Public opinion and the social pressure of heathenism were too likely to enslave the Corinthians.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 831) 'With these final words Paul is probably reflecting once again on their penchant to let merely human wisdom, disguised in the form of "spirituality", dictate their present anxieties about the need to be free from certain social settings, especially marriage. Don't come under such bondage, he tells them.' (Fee p. 320)

Modern Application:

Many that profess to be "free", are often the "slaves of men". "Political Correctness" is a modern form of such bondage. Any man-made "party-line" is a form of bondage. ( Joh_12:42-43 ) The danger of being enslaved to such bondage exists throughout life. From the peer pressure that one encounters early on in school, to the 'keeping up with the Jones' in the suburbs, and the 'political correctness' that we face in the work place. 'Bondage to men' exists all around us.

Verse 24

1Co_7:24 Brethren, let each man, wherein he was called, therein abide with God.

'with God' -'in close communion with God' (TCNT); 'to live his life with God in the state in which he was when he was called.' (Phi)

'The prepositional phrase "with God" puts the whole issue into perspective. One is not simply to remain in one's situation (married, single, circumcised, uncircumcised, slave, free, etc..) because in many cases change may come about without one's seeking it. Paul's point right along has been that one should remain with God ; that is, whether one is slave or free, one's status is finally determined by one's being "before" or "in the sight of" God in that situation. That sets one free both to remain in it and especially to live out the Christian calling therein.' [Note: _ Fee p. 321]


Verse 25

1Co_7:25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: but I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be trustworthy.

'Now concerning virgins' -'the opening words of this phrase suggest that this was a specific question raised in the Corinthian's letter.' (F.F. Bruce p. 73)

'Virgins' -in the context we find advice given to both unmarried men (7:26-28a) and women (7:28,34,36-37).

Point to Note:

It seems that some in Corinth were struggling with a question. 'Should an engaged young woman or man, go ahead and follow through with the marriage?'

'I have no commandment of the Lord' -i.e. no expressed precept (Alford p. 1016) 'Paul is quick to let us know what God commands and what he doesn't. Wish preachers in general were that quick.' (McGuiggan p. 112) 'Now he repeats that the Lord did not address this concern of their's either. But more that than seems to be intended here; the issue itself lies in the category of concerns for which there are no commands of any kind, just advice or judgements.' (Fee p. 328)

'but I give my judgement, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be trustworthy.' -'and it is that of a man who, through the Lord's mercy, is deserving of your confidence.' (Mon)

'Paul's judgement is not thereby to be understood as unimportant.' (Fee p. 328)

Points to Note:

1. This section of Scripture contains inspired advice. And yet, it is advice that one could incorporate into their own life, or not use. (7:28) And as with all good advice, we may pay the price for not taking it, but that is our liberty. (7:28)

2. Paul refused to allow "advice" to rise to the level of a commandment.

3. Love and concern are Paul's motives for giving this advice. It appears in a couple of places that some in Corinth were being "pressured" not to marry. Paul reminds them, 'he doesn't want to pressure anyone' (7:32). In addition, he gives this advice from the motive of, 'what would be the best for them' (7:35)

Verse 26

1Co_7:26 I think therefore that this is good by reason of the distress that is upon us, namely, that it is good for a man to be as he is.

'I think therefore' -the language of one giving advice. 'Paul proceeds to express therefore the previously mentioned judgement, and call it his opinion, not because he is uncertain, but simply because it is not a command, but advice.' (Robertson p. 131)

'that this is good' -good advice, a recommended course of action, a good situation to be in, a smart move.

'by reason of the distress' -'This is the first expression of the reason for his advice' (Fee p. 328).

Point to Note:

The following advice was given to Christians in a particular situation. Under different circumstances, Paul told/advised people to marry. ( 1Ti_5:14 )

'that is upon us' -'in view of the impending distress, suggesting that "present" really means "that which is about to come present". But that seems to fly full in the face of Paul's usage elsewhere, where the term "present" invariably means what is already present in contrast to what is yet to come. ( 1Co_3:22 ; Rom_8:38 ). Therefore, whatever the "crisis" is, for Paul is it something they are already experiencing.' (Fee p. 329)

-signifies "present" rather than "impending". (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 831)

Points to Note:

1. Many commentators view the "present distress" as the period of time before the Second Coming of Christ. I like what McGuiggan says here, 'Tut, tut. I hardly think that Paul would contradict what he wrote in 2Th_2:1 ff (not to mention what he wrote in 1Th_5:1-3 and 2Th_3:6-15 ). Nor do I think that Paul would view the return of Christ as a "distress" of any kind.' (p. 113)

'let me say that some have not considered the implications of the idea that Paul expected the Second Coming of Christ to occur shortly after he penned this epistle in relation to the doctrine of inspiration. If the inspired writings err with reference to the second coming, they might also err in other places such as, for example, in the doctrine of God.' (Willis p. 246)

Paul didn't view the Second Coming as "distressful", he welcomed it. ( 1Co_16:22 'O our Lord come!' The meaning of the term Maranatha).

2. Others view the "present distress" as the destruction of Jerusalem which would take place in A.D. 70. And yet, it seems hard to connect how the persecution of Jews in Palestine would have a serious affect on a congregation of Christians (many of them Gentiles) in Corinth.

3. The distress may have been a local persecution. When Paul wrote this letter, he was suffering persecution in Ephesus. (15:32/16:8; 4:9-13)

Verse 27

1Co_7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.

'bound unto a wife?' -'didst thou marry at one time, and art thou thus married now?' (Lenski p. 313) 'Are you married?' (NIV) ( 1Co_7:39 ; Rom_7:2 )

'Seek not to be loosed' -'do not be seeking' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 832) 'Present active imperative.."Do not be seeking release."' (Robertson p. 132)

This implies that some were "seeking" to be released, i.e. that some in Corinth were pro-divorce for "spiritual" reasons.

Point to Note:

1. The "present distress" didn't change God's mind concerning divorce. Now, if persecution doesn't justify divorce in God's sight, then "irreconcilable differences" are a poor excuse.

2. The only exception to this part of verse 27 is Mat_19:9 . Even in 1Co_7:15 , the believer isn't to seek the divorce, rather they are to allow it to happen if the unbelieving mate insists upon it.

'Art thou loosed from a wife?' -'Are you unmarried? Stop looking for a wife' (Wms) 'The term "loosed" is general: any form of "release" that would "loose" or dissolve the existing marriage.' (Lenski p. 314)

Verse 28

1Co_7:28 But shouldest thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Yet such shall have tribulation in the flesh: and I would spare you.

'thou' -'If you (i.e. the man spoken to in vv 26-27) do marry..' (Fee p. 332)

'thou hast not sinned' -indicating that those "loosed" have been scripturally loosed, i.e. widowers and the scripturally divorced. Therefore 1Co_7:27 is not discussing those that have been unlawfully put away, put away for scriptural cause, or put away their mates not for fornication-- for those people do sin when they remarry. ( Mat_5:32 ; Mat_19:9 ; Rom_7:3 )

'and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned' -apparently some in Corinth might of been teaching the exact opposite. 'The whole matter of marrying in spite of the present distress has nothing to do with committing or with avoiding sin. No one must entertain such an idea or draw conclusions from such an idea. Paul seems to fear something of the sort because the Corinthians perhaps wanted to know whether the Lord had left a command regarding the marrying of maidens. Let it be understood then, Paul says, that it is no more a sin for a maiden to marry than for any other person.' (Lenski pp. 315-316)

'shall have tribulation in the flesh' -'trouble in this life' (NASV)

'tribulation' -2347. thlipsis thlip'-sis; from 2346; pressure (literally or figuratively): -afflicted(-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.

'A man who has no wife or children liable to suffer because of his refusal to compromise or deny his faith in face of persecution is in a stronger position than one who must consider what effect his stand will have on his dependents. Paul wants to spare his friends the agonizing decisions which family responsibilities impose in such a situation.' [Note: _ F.F. Bruce p. 75]

Times of distress always are tough upon those with families. ( Luk_21:23 ; Luk_23:29 )

'The affliction that Paul foresees is aptly indicated by Photius.."More easily and with small distress shall we endure if we have no wives and children to carry along with us in persecutions and countless miseries". At such times, for those who have domestic cares, there arises "the terrible alternative, between duty to God and affection to wife and children." (Gr. Ex. N.T. pp. 832-833)

'and I would spare you' -'I am trying to spare you.' (NASV) 'I for my part..am sparing you', namely by counselling you as I do, by trying to make your life easier for you and not harder. Paul reveals his ethical motive here.' (Lenski p. 316)

And isn't this great! Paul says, 'I'm not trying to make your lives harder, but easier. I'm not trying to burden you down with a bunch of unnecessary rules. I'm trying to spare you agonizing decisions.' Oh, that more people, Christian and non-Christian would realize that God says "no" for very good reasons! ( Eph_6:1-2 ; 1Pe_3:10-12 ; 1Jn_5:3 ; Deu_6:2 ; Deu_6:24 'for our good always.')

Let's forever put to rest the idea that God is just out of make our lives miserable.

Verse 29

1Co_7:29 But this I say, brethren, the time is shortened, that henceforth both those that have wives may be as though they had none;

'But this I say' -'What I mean' (TCNT) 'A new turn is here given to the argument about the present necessity.' (Robertson p. 133) 'but I will add this solemn consideration.' (Alford p. 1017)

'the time is shortened' -'the time has been shortened' (NASV) Various views exist concerning what Paul meant by this statement: (1) The time before the distress hits is short? 'The appointed time has grown very short' (Gspd); 'The time is short' (TCNT) (2) The time of the distress has been shortened ( Mat_24:22 )?

'that henceforth' -'so that from now on' (NASV)

'as though they had none' -'that is, they should learn to live in such a way that when the choice must be made between allegiance to Christ and family affection they will be able to choose Christ.' (Willis p. 249)

Verse 30

1Co_7:30 and those that weep, as though they wept not; and those that rejoice,as though they rejoiced not; and those that buy, as though they possessed not;

Verse 31

1Co_7:31 and those that use the world, as not using it to the full: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

'as not using it to the full' -'that is, be "not engrossed" or "absorbed" in it.' (Fee p. 341) 'While you use the world, don't try to get out of it all you can.' (Beck); 'And those who are busy with worldly affairs must not be overly absorbed in them.' (Nor)

Points to Note:

1. Paul isn't forbidding any of the above..'one (the Christian) lives in the world just as the rest--married, sorrowing, rejoicing, buying, making use of it-- but none of these determines one's life ...Paul does not discourage buying and selling. As with the other items, the Corinthians are expected to continue doing such things. But Christians do not buy to possess; that is to let the world govern the reason for buying.' (Fee pp. 340-341)

2. It's interesting to note that Paul didn't advocate an "aloofness" from the world, nor an "escapist" attitude.

3. 'The world, with its resources and its opportunities is there to be used, but it is unwise to put all one's eggs into the basket of an order whose present form is passing away.' (F.F. Bruce p. 75)

'for the fashion of this world passeth away' -'Fashion'-the outward appearance ( 1Jn_2:17 ). 'Present external form' (Alford p. 1018) 'It's outward manifestations are always in a state of flux.' (Willis p. 250)

'We at once see that marriage, weeping, etc.., are only a part of this form and fashion of the world which is ever moving on and away, is transient, for a day....Why try to cling to them, to make of them more than they are, to value them above their real worth?' (Lenski p. 320)

'..is Paul's way of saying that the things people hold dear and treasure are not to be too treasured. In light of the distress and for however long it lasts..the joys of marriage and ownership are to be held lightly. They are not to be leaned on too heavily because they won't bear the weight. The married man will discover that in life's arena the relationship is fragile and the pain to be endured will sour the sweetness of the relationship. If one is mourning over some loss, he will find that the trial will make that loss appear insignificant. In 31 he tells them that they are not to become too dependent on the joys of living because those are the very things which vanish in times of distress.' (McGuiggan pp. 116-117)

Modern Application:

Paul's teaching here is refreshing. Christians are allowed to marry and enjoy the wholesome things of this life, but we must always remember that we can't elevate any of the things of this life above God. There's nothing wrong with recreation, entertainment, family events, or social activities. And yet the Christian must keep all such and or like things in subjection to the fact that God comes first. ( Mat_6:33 ) Jesus' attitude was-- appreciate the good things of this life, enjoy them when you have them ( 1Ti_4:4 ); but we must always to willing to sacrifice them, if need be. ( Luk_14:33 )

Verse 32

1Co_7:32 But I would have you to be free from cares. He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

'free from cares' -'But I want you to be free from concern.' (NASV); 'free from all anxieties' (Mon); 'I don't want you to worry.' (Beck) Note the love of God for these people. Paul doesn't want to burden them down, he wants to lighten their load. Jesus had the same desire. ( Mat_6:25-34 ; Mat_11:28-30 )

'He closed verse 28 by saying he wished to help them avoid pain. He repeats that in 32. Marriage brings vulnerability with it.' (McGuiggan p. 117)

'careful' -'concerned' (NASV). Note: Not all 'unmarried' people, but those who are faithful.

Verse 33

1Co_7:33 but he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife,

'things of the world' -i.e. not sinful things of the world, but the things of the world which are necessary for his wife and family. Further explained by, 'how he may please his wife.'

'how he may please his wife' -something that God commands. ( Eph_5:25-29 ; 1Pe_3:7 ; Col_3:19 ; Deu_24:5 )

Verse 34

1Co_7:34 and is divided. So also the woman that is unmarried and the virgin is careful for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married is careful for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

'and is divided' -'That does not mean that he is full of anxieties, but that he "cares for" both the Lord and his wife. The "division" may mean that he has less opportunity for service than is available to the unmarried.' (Fee p. 344)

Point to Note:

We should note that Paul doesn't say that this "division" is sinful. Rather, he points out the "reality" of married life, especially married life during times of distress. 'A man who is a hero in himself becomes a coward when he thinks of his widowed wife and his orphaned children.' (McGuiggan p. 117)

'So also the woman that is unmarried and the virgin' -Paul now repeats for the women what he has just said to the men.

'that she may be holy both in body and in spirit' -We should first of all note, that Paul isn't teaching that the unmarried woman is holier than the married woman. (1) Two groups of women are in this verse, "virgins" and "unmarried", i.e. widows/the divorced. (2) Marriage is a 'holy' relationship. ( Heb_13:4 ), i.e. nothing about it makes one "less spiritual" in the sight of God.

The phrase probably means something like, 'is anxious to please the Lord in all she is and does.' (Tay), or 'holy in every way' (Fee p. 346) Since these woman are free from the obligations of a marriage, they can dedicate more of their time to the "direct" service of God.

'how she may please her husband' -again, nothing is wrong with that, if fact it is commanded. ( Tit_2:4 )

Points to Note:

1. Marriage isn't for the selfish! A God given obligation in marriage is to "please" the partner in the marriage. A "normal" marriage from God's point of view, is one in which both partners are "concerned" about "pleasing" the other.

2. 'There is nothing wrong with this divided interest; indeed, the married man (or woman) sins if he does not strive to please his wife. I am afraid that some preachers especially are going to lose their souls because they have the obligations of the married man but strive to live the life of the celibate.' (Willis p. 252)

3. To the above I would add. Don't marry, if your not going to have time for your spouse.

4. Note Paul's view of the Christian single. More time for God, more opportunities to serve God, wholly dedicated to God. Is that what we see in the church today? Writing in 1931, A.T. Robertson commented, 'But, alas, how many unmarried women (and men) are after the things of the world today and lead a fast and giddy life.' (p. 134)

Verse 35

1Co_7:35 And this I say for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is seemly, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

'for your own profit' -'I am saying this to help you' (Tay); 'for the advantage of your own selves.' (Lenski p. 324) 'A third time Paul declares that he is consulting for the welfare of his readers, not insisting on his own preference nor laying down an absolute rule, ..looking to your advantage I say.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. pp. 835-836)

'snare' -'restraint' (NASV). 'Lit., a noose or slip-knot.' (Vincent p. 223) 'Noose or slip-knot used for lassoing animals.' (Robertson p. 135) 'He doesn't want them to feel guilty should they decide to marry. He just wants to them serve God as undistractedly as possible.' (McGuiggan p. 117)

For after all, first and foremost, celibacy is a gift. (7:9)

'but for that which is seemly' -'but to promote what is seemly.' 'By these words Paul does not want to restrict them, as the ascetics would do, but to free them for whatever is appropriate in their case (apparently either marriage or celibacy) so that they may have constant and unhindered devotion to the Lord.' (Fee p. 347)

Verse 36

1Co_7:36 But if any man thinketh that he behaveth himself unseemingly toward his virgin daughter, if she be past the flower of her age, and if need so requireth, let him do what he will; he sinneth not; let them marry.

'that he behaveth himself unseemingly toward his virgin (daughter)' -'is not acting properly' (Gspd) 'The arranging of marriages by parents wasn't a Pauline invention. He took it as he found it.' (McGuiggan pp. 117-118)

Apparently the "unseemingly" behaviour, would be not allowing a daughter to marry, who isn't cut out for the celibate life. (7:2,9)

'past the flower of her age' -'beyond the peak, bloom, zenith, etc..', here the word refers to full sexual maturity. (Lenski p. 326); 'Past her youth' (TCNT) 'With women it frequently is used to refer to "coming of age", especially puberty..for the woman, therefore, it would mean either that she is getting "past her prime", or "was fully developed sexually., and therefore ready for marriage.' (Fee p. 352)

'and if need so requireth' -'if it must be so' (NASV), i.e. 7:9 and 7:2. 'and so the matter is urgent' (Mon); 'and it has to be' (RSV)

Verse 37

1Co_7:37 But he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power as touching in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, shall do well.

'standeth steadfast in his heart' -'has settled the matter in his own mind', i.e. has made up his own mind. (Fee p. 353) This would demand some communication between father and daughter, and that a father would know the type of daughter that he had raised. Did she have the gift of celibacy or didn't she? Should he arrange a marriage for this daughter, or was such unnecessary? What should be the word concerning the eligibility of this particular daughter, when others ask?

'having no necessity' -'being under no constraint' (NASV) 'The daughter does not have the desire for marriage nor the threat of fornication as a compulsion for her. The father, hence does not have to worry about her losing her virginity through some act of immorality.' (Willis p. 256)

'but hath power as touching in his own heart' -'meaning that no one else is forcing this action upon him.' (Fee p. 353) 'Not everyone could do this. Some were slaves and others had already entered marital agreements.' (Willis p. 256)

'to keep his own virgin daughter' -i.e. to take care of her in his own home as a maiden all her days. (Lenski p. 329)

'The objection that the daughter's will is left entirely out of consideration is not in accord with the fact. For in each case the father considers the physical make-up of his daughter, and that means her desires and wishes as well.' (Lenski p. 329)

Verse 38

1Co_7:38 So then both he that giveth his own virgin daughter in marriage doeth well; and he that giveth her not in marriage shall do better.

'shall do better' -i.e. in view of the present circumstances. And yet we need to remember that if a father overlooks the needs and desires of his own daughter, he may 'giveth her not in marriage', but in doing so, he would do worse.


Verse 39

1Co_7:39 A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

'bound' -'The perfect..means that, once bound by the marriage tie...remains thus bound as long as her husband lives, which is self-evident from 7:10-11 .' (Lenski p. 331)

This verse indicates that something more than just civil law or mutual agreement "binds" husband and wife together. ( Mat_19:6 )

'so long time as her husband liveth' -'Someone apparently has asked something about the duration of marriage. Is a woman bound to a man even after his death? In essence, is she compelled to remain celibate?' (McGuiggan p. 118) 'The Corinthians may have asked a supplementary question about the remarriage of widows, calling for a more detailed answer than in verses 8-9.' (F.F. Bruce p. 77)

'so long time' -compare with the "while" of Rom_7:2 .

'The first statement, "A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives", runs so counter to Jewish understanding and practice at this point in history that it almost certainly reflects Paul's understanding of Jesus' own instructions....there is no argument here, simply a matter-of-fact reiteration of a point made previously (7:10,13).' [Note: _ Fee p. 355]

'she is free to be married' -'The widow is permitted to remarry (though many Jews didn't like that view).' (McGuiggan p. 118)

'to whom she will' -this woman (being a widow) had full freedom to make her choice. In contrast to a daughter still at home.

'only in the Lord' -various views exist as to what this statement means.

1. 'Forbids any union formed with un-Christian motives'. Similar views, 'Yet many take "in the Lord" in a wider sense, namely, "in a Christian way", or "in the fear of the Lord", asking his blessing.' (Lenski p. 331)

But wouldn't this type of "in the Lord", apply to all and any marriages? Wouldn't it be wrong to enter any marriage with wrong motives? Shouldn't all Christians enter any marriage "in a Christian" way? This leads me to conclude that "in the Lord" means, "marry a Christian".

But then another point needs to be settled. Is this "in the Lord" a command for all time, or does it only apply to the then present distress?

2. Some see this limitation (only in the Lord) as being applicable only during the present distress. 'The person who married a non-Christian in a time when Christians were being persecuted foolishly brought unnecessary problems upon himself. Hence, Paul counsels that the widows should marry Christians.' (Willis p. 258)

'This is not so much a command that she may not marry outside the Lord as it is good sense..Such a woman lives from such a radically different perspective and value system from that of a pagan husband..If she becomes a believer after marriage, then she should maintain the marriage with the hope of winning him to the Lord (7:12-16); but it makes no sense from Paul's perspective for one to engage such a marriage once one is a Christian.' (Fee p. 356)

McGuiggan has a good comment on 2Co_6:14-17 : 'That's why I don't believe he has marriage in view in 2Co_6:14-17 . Because there he urges (commands) separation and in 1Co_7:12-13 he forbids it.' (p. 119)

Verse 40

1Co_7:40 But she is happier if she abide as she is, after my judgment: and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.

'happier' -i.e. in view of the present circumstances.

'abide as she is' -single.

'after my judgement' -probably referring back to Paul's "reasons" in 7:28-35. Note: In another circumstance, Paul advised widows to marry. ( 1Ti_5:14 )

'and I think that I also have the Spirit of God' -'Apparently some who were giving their advice in Corinth asserted that they were inspired. Hence, Paul emphatically asserted that he also had the Spirit of God in giving the counsel which he gave. This last clause is a claim to inspiration. This chapter cannot be set aside as uninspired judgement. Rather, we must recognize it as the revelation of God. In that revelation of God, some types of conduct were optional--not required of all men. This is the proper understanding of Paul's "judgements" in this chapter.' (Willis p. 259)

'It is the language of modesty, not misgiving.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 838)

'I think (whatever others may say of me) that I also have (an inspiration of) the Spirit of God.' (Erdman p. 86)

Fee has a good comment when he says, 'vv 36-38 are not a judgement on marriage or singleness per se at all...It has nothing to do with good or evil, or even with better or worse, but with good and better in the light of that situation. It is perhaps noteworthy that the entire discussion is carried on quite apart from one of the major considerations in our culture-- love of one another. ' (p. 357).

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/1-corinthians-7.html. 1999-2014.
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