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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 7

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 7:1

Problems in the church at Corinth:

#4 Questions about marriage and/or celibacy - ch. 7:1-9

1) 1 Corinthians 7:1-7, Is marriage itself all right before God?

2) 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, Should widowers and widows remain unmarried?

3) 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, Should marriages be disrupted?

4) 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, Should the Christian who is married to a non-Christian leave the non-Christian?

5) 1 Corinthians 7:14-16, What is the unbelieving companion departs upon his own?

6) 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, Does one’s becoming a Christian make it necessary for him to change his cultural situation (situations which are right and scriptural within themselves)?

7) 1 Corinthians 7:25-38, What about those persons who never have been married?

8) 1 Corinthians 7:39-40, What is God’s will about the remarriage of a widow?

Now, concerning ... -- In reply to your inquiries. The first, it seems, was in regard to the propriety of marriage; that is, whether it was lawful and expedient.

Possibly the issues addressed in chapters 1-6 were related to Paul by Chloe’s people. The phrase "now concerning" refers to specific questions that the church at Corinth sent to Paul probably by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Corinthians 16:1; 1 Corinthians 16:12). It is very difficult to interpret this chapter without knowing exactly what questions the Corinthians asked and who asked them (i.e., the faithful believers, the libertine group, the ascetic group, or one of the factious house churches). - Utley

It is good -- This phrase is most likely a direct quote from a letter Paul received.

good -- i.e. acceptable, approved (for a man not to have any relations with a woman. Jewish scholar.)

It is good -- It is well. It is fit, convenient, or, it is suited to the present circumstances, or, the thing itself is well and expedient in certain circumstances.

The apostle did not mean that marriage was unlawful, for he says Hebrews 13:4 that “marriage is honorable in all.” But he here admits, with one of the parties in Corinth, that it was well, and proper in some circumstances, not to enter into the marriage relation; see 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, 1 Corinthians 7:26, 1 Corinthians 7:28, 1 Corinthians 7:31-32.

not to touch a woman -- Not to be connected with her by marriage. Xenophon (Cyro. b. 1) uses the same word (ἅπτω haptō, “to touch”) to denote marriage; compare Genesis 20:4, Genesis 20:6; Genesis 26:11; Proverbs 6:29.

Verse 2

1 Corinthians 7:2

The text and structure of 1 Cor 7 make it clear that Paul is addressing the issue to believers of both genders. The following display makes this plain:

7:2 each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

7:3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.

7:4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, -- Someone(s) had written to Paul that celebracy was better than being married, apparently in regard to current matters in serving the Lord.

let each ... -- Paul uses the phrase “have a wife” and “have a husband” in referring to the state of marriage and not “having sex” in marriage, the latter idea being discussed in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. Paul here in 1 Corinthians 7:2 affirms marriage as an acceptable relationship over celibacy (mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:1) which might lead to sexual immorality.

Marriage is not the exception; it is the norm, not a concession (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3; Hebrews 13:4).

Verse 3

1 Corinthians 7:3

A mate gives to the partner a "deed of trust" over one’s own body.

The husband ... likewise the wife ... -- Paul is even-handed in the parallel structure in dealing with sexual intimacy in marriage. This verse shows Paul’s ability to balance the impropriety of his own culture (cf. Ephesians 5:21-33).

due benevolence -- οφειλομενην, due G3784, V-PPP-ASF ευνοιαν, benevolence G2133 N-ASF The word "due" could rightly be translated "debt" as it means "to owe something, to be in debt for, that which is due, the debt". And the word "benevolence" means "good will, kindness"

The reading of the T. R. [KJV], due benevolence, is a paraphrase substituted for Paul’s real words, the debt, with the view of avoiding what might be offensive in the latter in public reading. - Godet

Paul in using the term "duty"[G3784, "debt"] highlights the importance attributed to sexual intimacy in God’s framework for marriage.

Many modern version here go to the liberty of giving an "interpretation" instead of a strict "translation". (Example: "her conjugal rights" ESV, RSV; "sexual needs" NLT).

In Paul’s day wives had few rights. Paul addresses both married partners with a mutual responsibility. Sexual needs are not evil. They are a God-given desire.

In Paul’s wording there is no coarseness or vulgarity but his meaning is clear.

Verse 4

1 Corinthians 7:4

authority [power; full rights; rule] -- ουκ G3756, PRN-T; εξουσιαζει G1850, V-PAI-3S, authority, right and power. To have or exercise power in the sense of permitting (1 Corinthians 7:4), meaning that one has no separate power or liberty over his own body to use it as he will (Sept.: Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 6:2). To exercise authority, rule, reign (Luke 22:25; Sept.: Nehemiah 5:15; Nehemiah 9:37; Ecclesiastes 10:4). - WordStudy

Verse 5

1 Corinthians 7:5

Do not deprive one another, -- Of the right mentioned above. Withdraw not from the society of each other.

except perhaps by agreement for a limited time [except it be with consent for a season; unless by agreement for a time; except by mutual consent;] -- Only by mutual understanding, that you may engage in the practice or devotion of one’s religion, i.e, prayer,

Afterward you should come together again -- Even by mutual consent, the apostle would not have this separation to be perpetual, since it would expose them to many of the evils which the marriage relation was designed to avoid. - BN

that Satan -- That Satan take not advantage of you, and throw you into temptation, and fill you with thoughts and passions which the marriage compact was designed to remedy. - BN

self-control [incontinency] -- ἀκρασία, akrasía; gen. akrasías, fem. noun from akratḗs G192; N-ASF; incontinent. Lack of strength, want of power to regulate one’s appetites, intemperance, incontinence (Matthew 23:25; 1 Corinthians 7:5, the latter referring to sexual incontinence). lack of self-control. Because of you not being together. - WordStudy

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 7:6

But this I say -- This phrase comes first in the Greek, not at the end as the ESV puts it.

this -- It is not quite certain whether the word “this” (τοῦτο, touto), in this verse, refers to what precedes, or to what follows. On this commentators are divided.

Barns says, "The more natural and obvious interpretation would be to refer it to the preceding statement. I am inclined to think that the mare natural construction is the true one. and that Paul refers to what he had said in 1 Corinthians 7:5. Most recent commentators, as Macknight and Rosenmuller, however, suppose it refers to what follows" - BN

concession [permission; concurrence] -- συγγνωμην G4774; N-ASF. This word means “indulgence,” or “permission,” and stands opposed to that which is expressly enjoined.

command -- G2003; N-ASF, an injunction, mandate, command. Not by express instructions. See 1 Corinthians 7:25.

This is no restriction whatever upon Paul’s inspiration. He is simply stating a matter that is allowable but not a command. It is written by inspiration as all other subjects by Paul (Ephesians 3:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Peter 3:15-16).

Verse 7

1 Corinthians 7:7

For I would [wish; desire] --

that all men -- From 1 Corinthians 9:5 it appears that Paul was unmarried, but he does not refer to this fact here. When he wishes that all people were like himself, he evidently does not intend that he would prefer that all should be unmarried, for this would be against God’s plan and against Paul’s own precepts elsewhere. But he would be glad if all people had control over their passions and propensities as he had, the gift of self-control.

But each one has his own gift from God, -- Each man has own special gift, ability, capability or talent, or excels in a certain matter from God.

We are not to judge others by ourselves, or measure their virtues or abilities by ours. We may excel in some one thing and they in another.

Paul here is referring to his own continency, or sexual self-control, as "his own gift from God."

from God, -- Either bestowed by God through the faculities of our body or mind, or by his grace.

Paul apparently had strength of discipline or by his resolution, manner of life, his fastings and trials, or "by the abundant employment" which God gave him in his apostleship. (Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:32-38; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 9:15).

This chapter seems to have been written by one who knew something of the intimacies of the married life. And combined this with the fact of Paul’s voting in the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10), for which it was said, marriage was a prerequisite, make these the two reasons for supposing that Paul had been married. While it was almost a universal tradition of the early church that Paul was never married, that tradition appears to be weak. Farrar stated that it "has no certain support of tradition."

Verse 8

1 Corinthians 7:8

2) 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, Should widowers and widows remain unmarried?

to the unmarried and to the widows: -- Paul agains answers the question whether unmarried persons should marry or not. "Due to the present distress" (1 Corinthians 7:26, whatever that was) his advice was that if the were able to live chastely without marriage, it would be better for them.

Most believe that a savage persecution was raging against the church at this time and that it was an inopportune time for marring, but even so marriage was not forbidden.

as I am; -- This is evidence that Paul was not married at the time of this writting.

Verse 9

1 Corinthians 7:9

but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. -- Paul advises the unmarried who have the gift of self-control to remain unmarried, but those lacking it shold avoid unlawful lusts by marriage. - McGarvey

better to marry than to burn [be alfame] with passion -- This has reference to being on fire with raging and consuming passion.

In this reference he invokes the imagery of burning sexual passion and argues that marriage is far better than a life of celibacy or attempted celibacy compromised by a lack of sexual self-control. - CPNIV

to burn -- πυρουσθαι, G4448, V-PPN, to burn. The phrase “to burn" most naturally fits the contextual imagery of sexual passions aflame; moreover, Paul, unlike Jesus, is not known for referring to the flames of hell.

Verse 10

1 Corinthians 7:10

Problems in the church at Corinth:

3) 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, Should marriages be disrupted?

DIVORCE -- Matthew 19:8-9 & Matthew 5:31-32; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:1-3, Mark 6:16-18, Ezra 10:1-3.

to the married -- Paul turns from speaking to the "unmarried" and his wish for them in the distressful time in which he was writing (1 Corinthians 7:26) to speak to those "married" and their conduct in that "present distress."

not I -- Paul declares here that it is unnecessary for him to give any inspired utterance on such a subject, because the Lord himself had given specific instructions on this very thing.

but the Lord: -- The Lord Himself had something to say about the husband-wife relationship. (Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18).

not I but the Lord -- What Paul writes to these believers was already made clear by Jesus during His earthly ministry (Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:5-8; cf. Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:16). - MSB

depart -- Not meaning divorce, but she is not to leave her husband. The proof that the word "depart" does not mean "divorce" is seen in the next verse (1 Corinthians 7:11) where if she leaves ("departs") her husband she must remain unmarried or be reconciled.

Many who today take liberal views on marriage-divorce-remarriage would like for "depart" here to mean "divorce" but the context of this full chapter will not allow this liberal view.

depart -- χωρισθηναι depart. G5563 V-APN-M

Verse 11

1 Corinthians 7:11

even if she does depart -- Paul has just said a wife is not to depart from her husband, but now writes what she must do should she find in necessary to leave him (perhaps because of abuse or persecution.)

depart -- χωρισθη she depart G5563 V-API-3S-M

remain unmarried or be reconciled -- Divorce is not an option for her. The ONLY option for divorce is stated by the Lord in Matthew 19:9.

And a husband is not to divorce [ESV] [leave, ASV; his wife.] -- the exact same rule applied to a husbands about leaving a wife.

put away [divorce, ESV] -- αφιεναι, put away. G863 V-PAN ; 1 Corinthians 7:12 and 1 Corinthians 7:13. It is implied in the grammatical construction that he too must remain unmarried or be reconciled.

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 7:12

4) 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, Should the Christian who is married to a non-Christian leave the non-Christian?

But to the rest -- Paul now turns his attention to speak to Christians who are married to unbelievers.

I, not the Lord, -- While the Lord Himself had much to say about marriage (Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18) the Lord did not deal specifically with mixed marriages. Apparently these marriages were where one mate became a Christian after their marriage and the other did not.

On such mixed marriages Paul now give inspired teaching.

"The meaning here is not that Paul’s injunction here had any less inspiration and authority behind it, but that its authority derived from his own apostolical commission, and not from any direct commandment uttered by Jesus during his ministry, such as that he had just cited." - Coffman

"In this instance Paul cannot refer to any direct command of Christ, as he could for the previous case; but his words carry the full weight of inspiration and authority." - Marsh

To try to minimize Paul’s instruction by claiming he was not inspired is to dispute all internal evidence from the Scriptures about the Holy Spirit guiding the apostles and NT prophets in their doctrine.

Consider: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:19-21, 1 Corinthians 14:37, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Galatians 1:11-12, Matthew 17:5, Luke 1:68-70; Ephesians 3:3-5; 2 Peter 3:15-16; Remember Jesus’ words to the apostles, John 16:13-14.

depart -- μη let him not G3361 PRT-N; αφιετω put her away G863 V-PAM-3S [divorce, RSV, ESV, NKJV; send her away, YLT; leave, NLT; LITV]

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 7:13

any woman -- The same rule given in 1 Corinthians 7:12 for a "brother" applies to the woman (wife).

A newly converted wife might think it her duty to separate from an unbelieving husband but the apostles counsels her not to do this.

Even in the conversion of one mate the marriage tie is not dissolved and neither party is at liberty to marry again.

Verse 14

1 Corinthians 7:14

5) 1 Corinthians 7:14-16, What is the unbelieving companion departs upon his own?

the unbelieving husband ... wife -- consecrated [sanctified; made holy; brings holiness to his marriage, NLT] -- This is speaking of the relationship between the husband and wife. Their marriage union is a valid relationship before God and is not adulterous.

otherwise your children would be unclean -- Their children are not the product of an adulterous relationship, but are clean.

Verse 15

1 Corinthians 7:15

Not under bondage -- to dwell with him/her (v.12) and to forsake Christ to do so. Let him/her go. [Nothing here about re-marriage.]

Depart -- v.11 Not meaning divorce, but leaving or deserting. The believer is not under bondage to seek reconciliation at the expense of faith.

Not under bondage to fulfill the duties mentioned in v.3 [Nothing about divorce and remarriage.] If the unbeliever departs, v. 11 1 Corinthians 7:11.

bondage -- The word here is dedoulotai, perfect passive indicative, third person singular of the word douloo. In three passage where the bond referred to is unquestionably the marriage bond (1 Corinthians 7:27; 1 Corinthians 7:39; and Romans 7:2) the word used is deo, not douloo. In this very chapter, in referring to the marriage bond, Paul twice used deo, but in verse 15 he uses a different word. This fact is significant!

The word douloo (in some form) occurs 133 times in the New Testament, and not a single time--unless 1 Corinthians 7:15 is the exception--does it refer to the marriage bond. This word refers to slavery--"the lowest term in the scale of servitude."

The Christian--the deserted Christian--does not stand, and--in fact--never did stand under that kind of bondage [to a mate]. This very construction--the perfect tense verb--make it impossible for the bondage under consideration to mean the marriage bond. The perfect tense means: is not NOW, and in fact NEVER HAS BEEN, in the kind of bondage referred to. But the deserted Christians HAS BEEN in the marriage bondage. Therefore, the bondage referred is here NOT (AND COULD NOT BE) the marriage bond.

Paul "simply means that the unbeliever is not so bound to the unbeliever that he must give up Christ to hold the unbeliever." - Roy Lanier, Sr.

"Paul uses dedoulotai in 1 Corinthians 7:15 because he wishes to say that for a Christian to yield to pressure to give up his Christianity to preserve his marriage would mean slavery of the most abject kind. The Christ must never consider himself in such bondage." - Harvey Floyd

The doctrine that a 1 Corinthians 7:15 gives the deserted believer the right of remarriage contradicts the universal law of Christ given in Matthew 19:9. Such an interpretation would mean that "except" (of Matthew 19:9) does not mean "except." - Roy Deaver

If "except" does not mean "except" in Matthew 19:9, ( ει G1487 COND μη G3361 PRT-N ) how do we know "except" doesn’t mean "except" in John 14:6, (ει G1487 COND μη G3361 PRT-N) and Matthew 18:3, except -- (G3362, εαν G1437 COND μη G3361 PRT-N); etc. - WG

Verse 16

1 Corinthians 7:16

Wife -- Here Paul addresses individually the wife and the husband and what they may be able to achieve in their married relationship.

you will save your husband ... wife? -- The Christian mate may be the instrument of converting the unbeliever. How this can be done is stated in 1 Peter 3:1-2; The believer can be an example of how a Christian behaves, 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Timothy 4:12. Doing what is good and right usually wins approval, Romans 13:3.

An alternative idea is that by staying with your mate you may prevent that one from going off into an adulterous relationship (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-4) to seek sexual satisfaction.

Verse 17

1 Corinthians 7:17

6) 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, Does one’s becoming a Christian make it necessary for him to change his cultural situation (situations which are right and scriptural within themselves)?

Verse 20

1 Corinthians 7:20

remain in the same calling -- Paul is talking about cultural situation which were right within themselves.

About being slaves or free, about being married or single. And not about being in a situation that was wrong, such as a temple priest or prostitute, a thief or an assassin for hire, etc.

A thief would have to show repentance and stop thieving, etc. A wrong-doer would have to stop his sinning. Paul is not legitimazing one to remain in a sinful situation.

Verse 25

1 Corinthians 7:25

7) 1 Corinthians 7:25-38, What about those persons who never have been married?

Verse 26

1 Corinthians 7:26

The present distress . .

Verse 27

1 Corinthians 7:27

Are you bound to a wife? -- Art thou already married? Marriage is often thus represented as a “tie,” a “bond,” etc.; see the note at Romans 7:2.

If married, he is to remain true to the bond; if unmarried, at present it seemed best to remain so. -PNT

Even though Paul explicitly states that he is dealing with virgins in 7:25ff, many translations and interpreters have Paul abandon his stated topic and begin to discuss the issue of divorce and remarriage. ...

Paul’s first question, in Greek, is, “Are you obligated to a woman?” Paul’s answer is, “Do not seek [your] freedom.” The apostle’s second question is, “Are you free from a woman?” Paul’s answer is, “Do not seek a wife.” Paul is writing to those who are obligated by engagement to a woman. He is not requiring that they terminate this relationship. “Are you free from a woman?” refers to being free from a relationship of engagement. To those at present unengaged, Paul counsels them not to enter such a relationship with a woman. - CPNIV (College Press Commentary on the NIV)

bound -- This is a perfect passive indicative from the tern deo, which means to tie or bind. It is used in a metaphorical sense for marriage (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:27; 1 Corinthians 7:39; Romans 7:2). There is a parallel to this phrase in the same verse, which is also a perfect passive indicative, "Are you released from a wife?" Paul wants his hearers to stay as they are. - Utley

Do not seek to be loosed [free] -- Seek not a “dissolution” (λύσιν lusin) of the connection, either by divorce or by a separation from each other; see 1 Corinthians 7:10-17.

loosed -- (mē zētei lusin). Present active imperative with negative mē, “Do not be seeking release” (lusin) from the marriage bond, old word, here only in N.T. - RWP

Are you loosed [free] from a wife? - Are you unmarried? It should have been rendered “free from” a wife; or are you single? It does not necessary imply that the person had been married, though it may have that meaning, and signify those who had been separated from a wife by her death. There is no necessity of supposing that Paul refers to persons who had divorced their wives. (Grotius, Schleusner, Doddridge, etc.)

Neither the married (those "bound to a wife") nor the unmarried (those "loosed from a wife") are to "seek" a change of state (compare 1 Corinthians 7:20, 1 Corinthians 7:24). - JFB

Verse 29

1 Corinthians 7:29

New Paragraph

Verse 39

1 Corinthians 7:39

8) 1 Corinthians 7:39-40, What is God’s will about the remarriage of a widow?

bound ...as long as he lives. -- The marriage bond is for life, not to be broken or disrupted by man. Malachi 2:16; Luke 16:18, Romans 7:1-3; Matthew 10:9; Matthew 19:6.

but if the husband be dead, -- The only situation that dissolves the marriage vows made for life, in the sight of God, is the death of one of them.

only in the Lord -- Adverbial phrase - modifying "marriage" and not, an adjective, modifying "man".

(xxx See James Meadows in Studies in 1Corinthians, Denton Lectures, 1982, Dub McClish.)


1) Some interpretate it that when a Christian remarries, he/she must marriage one who "in the Lord", i.e., a Christian.

2) The marriage must be one that would be authorized by the Lord! That is, not a marriage that would be considered as "adultery" (Matthew 19:9); and not a marriage of a "believer" with an atheists, or Moslem, Hundi, etc., or of a "faith" that is contrary to the True God of heaven! (2 Corinthians 6:14-15; 1 Corinthians 6:16;)

"And to marry in the Lord is to marry with the Lord’s favor, in harmony with his will." - Deavers

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/1-corinthians-7.html. 2021.
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