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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 7

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


You wrote about. In the first six chapters, Paul with specific problems of sin in the group. Now he begins to answer questions which they had written to him. To understand this chapter, you must know that Jewish thought believed marriage to be an obligation, and saw celibacy as a sin against God. The false teacher, being a Jew, would be expected to teach this. Some of the Greek philosophers, however, thought of marriage as “legalized lust,” and taught that the only holy life was celibacy. Remember that Paul is here answering specific questions, and that he qualifies all that he says in 1 Corinthians 7:26. A man does well not to marry. Note: Paul does not denounce marriage. What he is doing is to defend celibacy as an option. But he points out that this is a gift in 1 Corinthians 7:7.

Verse 2


But because. Unless you have the special gift from God, celibacy exposes you to unnecessary temptation, especially if you live in Corinth. Remember: God himself is the author of marriage. “And God the Eternal said: It is not good, that the man is alone; I will create to him a companion-counterpart to him.” [Genesis 2:18 Zamenhof.]

Verse 3


And each should satisfy the other’s needs. God’s original marriage-law (see note on 1 Corinthians 7:2) shows that by His decree, husband and wife are to satisfy each other’s physical and emotional needs. No Jewish High Priest would ever have imagined the sexual union in marriage to be an unholy thing! This shows how much Greek thought has influenced Christianity down through the centuries.

Verse 4


But the husband is. He is the master of her body; she is the master of his body! This not only forbids adultery, but removes the “need” for it.

Verse 5


Do not deny yourselves. “If you believe you should suspend normal marital relations to be able to spend more time in prayer, that is permissible. But make it a short time, and then resume normal relations. Don’t expose yourself to unnecessary temptation from the Devil.”

Verse 6


Not as an order. This may mean: (1) what he just said in 1 Corinthians 7:5 (Johnson): (2) what he said in 1 Corinthians 7:2 (Exp. Grk. Test. ); (3) what he now says in 1 Corinthians 7:7 (MacKnight).

Verse 7


Actually I would prefer. There is strong evidence that Paul had at one time been married. Many think he is a widower as he writes this, that he never remarried, and that he is living a celibate life. The special gift. There are many different talents and gifts in the messianic community. Paul was unique (1 Corinthians 9:5).

Verse 8


Now, I say this. He restates his answer of 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. Considering the present distress (1 Corinthians 7:26), it would be better for the unmarried and the widows to live alone. Celibacy is a moral option.

Verse 9


But if you cannot restrain. Celibacy is not an option for everyone. Compare Matthew 19:11-12 and notes. It is better to marry. The unsatisfied desire is a constant source of temptation, and by the rule of 1 Corinthians 7:35, it is better to marry than to burn with passion; however, when marriage is impossible, it is infinitely better to burn, than to sin!

Verse 10


I have a command. “From what I have said about preferring all to be unmarried, you must not misunderstand and think it would be best to abandon your marriage partner. The Lord commands that you not do this.”

Verse 11


If she does. Note Paul’s emphasis on the woman leaving the man. Christianity had strongly affected the feminine mind (1 Corinthians 11:5-7; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35). The Expositor’s Greek Testament says: “In some cases, not so much incompatibility as ascetic aversion [pseudo-spirituality] (compare 1 Corinthians 7:3-4) caused the wish to separate.” An Asian church-leader forged a letter, in which he claimed Paul taught: “There can be no future resurrection, unless ye continue in chastity, and do not defile your flesh.” She must remain single. The Lord’s command is: “a wife must not leave her husband.” If she does it anyhow, she must either remain single or else be reconciled to her husband. This is because the marriage is not broken by her leaving. [For two exceptions to this, see Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15. ]

Verses 12-13


To the others I say. The Lord gave no commands about mixed marriages, yet remember Paul speaks by inspiration. Who is an unbeliever. Often only one of a couple is converted to Christ. It may be the false teacher taught that such a mixed marriage was unholy, and that the Christian ought to escape from such a union. But Paul by inspiration teaches that this difference in religion neither makes the marriage unholy (1 Corinthians 7:14), nor gives any right to break it (except as he says in 1 Corinthians 7:15).

Verse 14


Is made acceptable. MacKnight says this should be understood in a Jewish sense – things clean and unclean (as Acts 10:14-15). Paul is not talking about salvation here. Remember the false teacher at Corinth was a Jew. Paul says the marriage is clean and the children of such a marriage are clean.

Verse 15


However. This is the “Pauline privilege.” Note that it only covers the specific condition of an unbeliever deserting the Christian partner. There was and is much controversy about Christianity (compare Matthew 10:34-36), and sometimes the unbelieving partner is so fanatically opposed to Christianity that he or she refuses to continue the marriage. Is free to act. The Christian partner ABANDONED by the unbeliever is free from the former relationship. The marriage has terminated. To live in peace. Being set free in this way is not the best thing. The Christian partner is to do their best to live in peace with the unbelieving partner.

Verse 16


How can you be sure? Be kind, gentle, loving, and you may bring your unbelieving wife or husband to Christ. Compare 1 Peter 3:1-2.

Verse 17


Each one should go on. The false teacher at Corinth (who was probably one of the Circumcision Party) taught that when you became a Christian, all former moral and political obligations vanished. This caused some wives to abandon their marriages (1 Corinthians 7:10-11), and some men to quit their jobs and beg the church to support them (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). Paul says that every Christian should fulfill all the moral and political obligations which he had before becoming a Christian, unless he can change his condition lawfully.

Verse 18


If a circumcised man. Paul applies the principle of 1 Corinthians 7:17 to a specific case. Circumcision was a live issue (see Acts 15:5-21). If you are already circumcised, don’t try to undo it. If you are uncircumcised, stay that way. [It was surgically possible at that time to remove the condition of circumcision.]

Verse 19


Means nothing, Under the rule of the gospel, these human distinctions have no influence on our salvation. See Galatians 3:28. God’s commandments. Not The Law of Moses, but the law of Christ! Compare Romans 8:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21; Matthew 7:21-23; and notes on “law” at the end of Romans 3:31.

Verse 20


Every man should remain. “Since the gospel makes no change in your political and social status and obligation, you should remain as you were when you accepted God’s call.”

Verse 21


Were you a slave? Perhaps half the people of the first century were slaves, and the economy of the Roman world was based on slave labor. The changed attitudes of Christians removed the “sting” of slavery (and in time set all the slaves free). Well, never mind. Paul could not emphasize more strongly the fact that human distinctions of politics and society mean nothing! But if you do. “If you can gain your freedom by legal means, do it!”

Verse 22


For a slave. “If you must remain a slave, don’t be sad about it, because you are really free in Christ!” In the same way. “If you are a free man, don’t look down on the brother who is a slave, because you are Christ’s slave!”

Verse 23


God bought you for a price. Compare Acts 20:28; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. God buys us from our old owner, sin, through the DEATH of his Son! So do not become men’s slaves. “Do not let human influence turn you away from service to God, or infringe on the devotion which you owe to your Savior!” Paganism put a lot of pressure on Christians! See 1 Peter 4:3-5; Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:20 and notes.

Verse 24


Brothers, each one should remain. This is the third time he says this (also 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 7:20). It may be that Christian slaves at Corinth believed they had no responsibility to their Christian owners (as the false teacher probably taught). Read the Letter to Philemon.

Verse 25


Now, the matter about the unmarried. Virgin is a technical term which can mean either a man or a woman (compare Revelation 14:4 PARTHENOI). 1 Corinthians 7:27 makes this plain. In 1 Corinthians 7:25-35 Paul uses a new point of view to reinforce his instructions of 1 Corinthians 7:8-16. But I give my opinion. He has no direct word from the Lord, but this is his opinion as an inspired apostle.

Verse 26


Considering the present distress. “It will be much easier to meet the persecutions and miseries of the present distress if we have no wives and children to worry about.”

Verse 27


Do you have a wife? If you are married, the Lord decrees that you must not abandon her (see notes on 1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Are you unmarried? Either a bachelor or a widower. Then don’t look for a wife. “Considering the present distress.” Note 1 Corinthians 7:35.

Verse 28


But if you do marry. Even though it might be best not to marry at all, under the circumstances, yet it was no sin if you did! But I would rather spare you. “I would like to see you avoid the everyday troubles which marriage and family will certainly bring you, during this time of persecution.”

Verses 29-31


There is not much time left. Paul may mean: (1) the persecutions which Nero would bring against Christians (in less than ten years); (2) the Jewish Wars (in which armed terrorists would rise against Roman rule) which would end in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.; (3) the shortness of life in general. Within half a generation, civil war convulsed the Roman Empire, three emperors in succession were assassinated, and Jerusalem was razed. As though they were not. “Those who are aware of the coming crisis will from this time on think of all human relationships, conditions, and occupations as temporary and transient.” For this world, as it now is. “Like the changing scenery of a theater, the pleasures, pains, and glories of this life pass us by.”

Verse 32


To be free from worry. See 1 Corinthians 7:26. An unmarried man. The unmarried man is responsible only for himself, and can give himself to the Lord’s work.

Verse 33


But a married man. This man also is concerned about the Lord’s work, but he must take into account his family – how he can please his wife and protect her. [But do not carry this too far. See 1 Corinthians 9:5.]

Verse 34


And so he is pulled. See note on 1 Corinthians 7:26. An unmarried woman. Either a widow or one who has been abandoned (1 Corinthians 7:15). A virgin. One who has never been married. Concerns herself. She is responsible only for herself, and can give herself to the Lord’s work. But a married woman. She also is pulled in two directions by her concern for the Lord and her concern for her family. [But do not carry this too far. See 1 Corinthians 9:5.]

Verse 35


Because I want to help you. “I am not trying to put restrictions on your right to marry (all the apostles but me are married). But considering the present distress, I am trying to give you the best advice I can.” MacKnight says: “. . . the apostle recommended to both a single state, if they could therein live continently; because, being fastened to the world with fewer ties, they would leave it with less regret, when called to die for the gospel.”

Verse 36


In the case of an engaged couple. In these next verses, Paul discusses the right to marry. He has strongly defended and recommended celibacy because of the present distress. But he does not forbid marriage! He finds no SIN in marriage, and leaves the final decision in each case to the responsible parties involved. Some see in this verse “partners in celibacy,” where a couple live together in celibacy like brother and sister, without marriage. The same principle holds true in either case: when physical needs are too strong, it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9). There is no sin in this. He is not talking about premarital sex (which is sin), but about getting married! “Partners in celibacy” may have believed marriage to be an unholy thing (see note on 1 Corinthians 7:1). But God himself decreed marriage (see note on 1 Corinthians 7:2).

Verse 37


Without being forced to do so. Times would come when some would force celibacy on Christians (see 1 Timothy 4:1-3). Has firmly made up his mind. He is doing this because he believes it is the best thing for him to do. His will under complete control. See note on 1 Corinthians 7:9. Then he does well not to marry the girl. To live a celibate life.

Verse 38


Will do even better. Both are right and proper: to marry, or not to marry. But not to marry is better considering the present distress (1 Corinthians 7:26).

Verse 39


A married woman. The letter from Corinth must have asked about widows. While her husband lives, she is not free. But, if he dies (or is divorced scripturally, Matthew 19:1-9; or abandons her, 1 Corinthians 7:15), she is free to marry again. But it must be a Christian marriage. Not only would the Christian of this century not marry a non-Christian, but the question came up of whether, when one became a Christian, they could go on living with an unbelieving partner (1 Corinthians 7:12-14).

Verse 40


She will be happier. See note on 1 Corinthians 7:26. His answer is based on pragmatic considerations. Under different conditions, he recommends marriage (see 1 Timothy 5:14). I think that I too have God’s Spirit. He says this in irony to the false teacher who questions his inspiration and apostleship.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/1-corinthians-7.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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