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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 7

Smith's WritingsSmith's Writings

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Verses 1-40

1 Corinthians 7 .

(Vv. 1, 2). Having exhorted the saints to maintain holiness in the assembly ( 1 Cor. 5 ) and individual holiness ( 1 Cor. 6 ), the apostle now instructs us to maintain holiness in the natural relationships of life. Christianity by no means sets aside the order of nature, though it will correct the abuses by which fallen man may have corrupted these relationships. Every man is at liberty to have his own wife, and every woman her own husband, and indeed this is a legitimate way to avoid the temptation to unholiness. The spurious pretension to higher spirituality by insisting upon asceticism is thus entirely condemned.

(Vv. 3-5). The apostle gives his advice to those in the married state. The relationship is to be taken up with due consideration for each other as being mutually dependent upon each other.

(Vv. 6-9). In having said, “Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband”, he is careful to explain that he is not giving a command, but he speaks as consenting to the married state. His own wish is that all should be as he himself, free from these relationships. But he recognises that it is not given of God for all to remain unmarried, and where not given it is “better to marry”.

(Vv. 10, 11). To the married he gives, not simply his counsel, but the direct ruling of the Lord. The wife is not to depart from the husband. If she shall have been separated, she is to remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. Let not the husband put away his wife.

(Vv. 12-17). The apostle then takes up the difficult position of a brother with an unbelieving wife, or the woman with an unbelieving husband. Here he gives his advice. This does not con-template for a moment the case of a believer marrying an unbeliever, which is clearly contrary to the mind of the Lord ( 2Co_6:14 ). Here it is the case of mixed marriages, where one of the parties has been converted after the marriage. In this case the believer is not defiled by union with the unbeliever. On the contrary the unbeliever is sanctified and the children holy. Here the sanctification and the holiness do not signify a spiritual condition that puts them in relationship with God, but rather that through the believer the relationship is clean and owned of God, so that the believer can continue in it. If, however, the unbeliever departs, the believer is released from the bondage of being tied to an unbeliever and is not to raise any dispute with the one that has departed, for we are called to peace. This does not give the believer any licence to break the tie by departing from the unbeliever, nor does it grant the abandoned believer permission to remarry. So far from the believer separating from the unbeliever, the brother or sister is to remain at all cost in the relationship, counting upon God for the salvation of the unbeliever. There will thus be submission to what the Lord has allowed, and a walk in accord with His will. This, too, we are reminded, is the order for all the assemblies; thus ecclesiastical independency is shut out. The assemblies are not independent companies, each left free to adopt its own practices. The word of God is still our only guide, and assemblies walking in the light of the word will be united in submitting to its instructions.

(Vv. 18, 19). The apostle has spoken of the call of God having come to a believer when linked with an unbeliever. He now speaks of the call coming to a believer when circumcised or uncircumcised. We know that Jewish training led some to set great value on the rite of circumcision, even going so far as to say that apart from circumcision Gentile believers could not be saved ( Act_15:1 ). Here the apostle states that, for the Christian, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any value. Obedience to the word of God is of value in His sight, not mere religious distinctions in the flesh.

(Vv. 20-24). Then the apostle passes on to speak of the call of God coming to believers in different social positions. Again we learn that, as circumcision or uncircumcision has nothing to do with our call as Christians, so the social position as a slave or a freeman has nothing to say to the Christian call. As a general rule, therefore, let every man abide in the position in which he is called. He need not be concerned as to being a bondman. If, however, he can become free, so much the better. In any case let the Christian bondman remember that he is the Lord's freeman, and the freeman that he is Christ's bondman. Both have been bought with a price, and the One Who has bought us with the price of His precious blood has the first claim upon us. Thus, while we are exhorted to abide in our calling, either as bondmen or freemen, it is to be “with God”. This surely indicates that, though it may be right to remain a slave, it would not be right to continue in some dishonest trade in which it would be impossible to be “with God”.

(Vv. 25-34). The apostle has spoken to those called in the marriage relationship; now he gives his advice to the unmarried. On account of the present condition of the world in all its distresses and necessities, and that the time is short, and its weeping and rejoicing will soon be over - for the fashion of this world is passing - he judges that it is good for a Christian to be free from earthly ties. This, however, does not mean that if a man is bound to a wife he is to seek to be free, but if free it is better to remain so. Nevertheless, Christians who enter upon the married state do no wrong, but they will have trouble in the flesh and add to their cares. The apostle would, as far as possible, have us without care, so that we might undistractedly serve the Lord. Naturally, and so far rightly, the married seek to please each other, whereas the unmarried are more free to serve the Lord undistractedly in spirit and in body.

(Vv. 35-40). In thus speaking the apostle has our profit in view. He has no wish to cast a snare before us that may lead us into the delusion of being monks or nuns, which has led to so much corruption in a large part of professing Christendom. He leaves all free to marry, and adds a word as to the widow, about whom a question may arise, that she is free to marry - only let it be “in the Lord”. But he judges that he has the mind of the Lord in thinking she would be happier to remain free.

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/1-corinthians-7.html. 1832.
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