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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 7

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

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Verses 1-40

4. Concerning the Relationship of Man and Woman


1. The Single and the Married Life. (1 Corinthians 7:1-9 ).

2. Separation and Divorce. (1 Corinthians 7:10-16 ).

3. Abiding in the Different Callings. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24 ).

4. The Unmarried and Married in Contrast. (1 Corinthians 7:25-40 ).

It is evident from the first verse that the Corinthians had inquired of the Apostle about marriage and the relationship of man and woman. It was an important question in a city of the character of Corinth, so full of immorality. This chapter answers their question and gives instructions concerning the unmarried and those who are joined together in marriage. “It is good for man not to touch a woman” has been used as sanctioning celibacy and discrediting the marriage union. Such is not the case. The unmarried state has for the Christian, who is fully devoted to the Lord, certain spiritual advantages. “He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord” ((1 Corinthians 7:32 ). Compare this also with the words of our Lord in Matthew 19:4-12 . The Apostle Paul was unmarried ((1 Corinthians 7:8 ) and denied himself the lawful privilege of having a wife (9:5) to be free in all things to serve the Lord. But there were great dangers, especially in heathen Corinth, where fornication was religiously sanctioned. Therefore the Apostle enjoins them that every man should have his own wife and every woman have her own husband. And in this relationship, fully approved by the Lord both must be true to its natural claims. As to the body, the husband belongs to the wife and the wife to the husband. They are not to defraud each other. However, by mutual consent they may be apart for a season to give themselves unto prayer. And this he wrote not as a command, but as a permission. “The Apostle gives his thoughts and judgment as a spiritual man, his mind animated and guided by the Spirit, and contrasts it with inspiration and what the Lord said.”

Then the question of separation and divorce is taken up. The indissolubleness of the marriage tie had been declared by the Lord and is here confirmed. “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:6 ; Matthew 19:9 ). And so the Apostle writes that which is a command not coming from himself but from the Lord, that if a separation takes place between husband and wife, she is to remain unmarried, or be reconciled. The husband is not to put away his wife. How little heed is paid to all this among professing Christians in our days. The increase of unscriptural divorces is appalling.

Next the case of mixed marriages is considered. Most likely many such cases were in existence in Corinth. “According to the law a man who had married a woman of the Gentiles (and was consequently profane or unclean) defiled himself, and was compelled to send her away; and their children had no right to Jewish privileges; they were rejected as unclean. (See Ezra 10:3 ). But under grace it was quite the contrary. The converted husband sanctified the wife, and vice versa, and their children were reckoned clean before God; they had part in the ecclesiastical rights of their parent. This is the sense of the word ‘holy,’ in connection with the question of order and of outward relationship towards God, which was suggested by the obligation under the law to send away wife and children in a similar case. Thus the believer was not to send away his wife, nor to forsake an unbelieving husband. If the unbeliever forsook the believer definitively, the latter (man or woman) was free ‘let him depart.’ The brother was no longer bound to consider the one who had forsaken him as his wife, nor the sister the man who had forsaken her as her husband. But they were called to peace, and not to seek this separation; for how did the believer know if he should not be the means of the unbeliever’s conversion? For we are under grace.” (Synopsis of the Bible J.N.D.)

Of course the unbelieving husband by being united to a believing wife was not actually sanctified. This requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But the unbelieving husband of a Corinthian household, whose wife was a believer, was no longer in the darkness of heathendom; he was surrounded by the light of Christianity and had come through being linked with a believer under its blessed influence. And so the offspring of such a union. Grace sought both the unbelieving husband and the children. But mixed marriages are never to be encouraged. 2 Corinthians 6:14 forbids them.

(1 Corinthians 7:17-24 are parenthetical. And every man is to abide in the calling wherein he is called. Each is to abide with God ((1 Corinthians 7:24 ) in his own particular calling and thus glorify God in it. A believer is to be above all earthly circumstances. Yielding obedience to God is the one great thing. “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”

The final paragraph of this chapter ((1 Corinthians 7:25-40 ) gives the contrasts between those who marry and those who do not. Let us heed these blessed exhortations of such importance to God’s people. “I say, brethren the time is short.” If that was true then, how much more so is it in the significant days in which our lot is cast. With the ever increasing signs of the ending of the age and the coming of the Lord about us, we know that the time is short. In view of this fact those who have wives are to be as though they had none; they who weep, who pass through suffering, as though they wept not; they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use the world as not abusing it, for the fashion of this world passeth away. We are to be without carefulness and distraction, so that we can serve the Lord. Much here is the advice of the Apostle concerning yielding to nature, which is perfectly lawful, or not yielding to it as to marriage. It is not the commandment of the Lord. Nevertheless we must remember that if he gives his apostolic advice, it is inspired advice, the advice of the Holy Spirit.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/1-corinthians-7.html. 1913-1922.
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