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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 7

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

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

The Corinthians in their letter had asked questions tending to disparage marriage, and implied that it was better to break off marriage with an unbeliever.

Good - i:e., expedient, because of "the present distress;" i:e., the unsettled state of the world, and the likelihood of persecutions tearing asunder marriage-ties. Hebrews 13:4 opposes Romish notions of superior sanctity in celibacy. Another reason why celibacy may be a matter of Christian expediency is (1 Corinthians 7:34-35), 'that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.' But these are exceptional cases, and in exceptional times.

Verse 2

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

To avoid fornication The general rule is "to avoid fornication" - literally, 'on account of the fornications' [ dia (G1223) tas (G3588) porneias (G4202)] to which, as prevalent at Corinth, and not counted sins among the pagan, the unmarried might be tempted. The plural marks irregular lusts, as contrasted with the unity of marriage.

Let every man have - a positive command to the great majority of the world who have not continency (1 Corinthians 7:5). The dignity of marriage (Ephesians 5:25-32) lies in the fact that it signifies the mystical union between Christ and the Church.

Verses 3-4

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

Duty of cohabitation between the married.

Due benevolence. 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, read simply [ ofeileen (G3782)], 'Let due' - i:e., conjugal cohabitation, due by marriage contract (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:4).

Verse 4. A paradox. She hath not power over her body; yet it is her own. The oneness of body in which marriage places husband and wife explains this. One complements the other. Neither without the other realizes the perfect ideal of man.

Verse 5

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Defraud ye not - namely, of the conjugal "due" (1 Corinthians 7:3: cf. Septuagint, Exodus 21:10).

Give yourselves - literally, be at leisure for; be free from interruptions for; on some special 'season' [ kairon (G2540)]; as before Easter (Exodus 19:15; Joel 2:16; Zechariah 7:3). Fasting and prayer. A B Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit "fasting and;" 'Aleph (') C support the words. Interpolated by ascetics.

Come together. 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G read 'be together,' namely, in the regular married state.

Satan - who thrusts in his temptations to unholy thoughts amidst the holiest exercises.

For your incontinency - because of your inability to "contain" (1 Corinthians 7:9) natural propensities, which Satan takes advantage of.

Verse 6

But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

By permission ... not of commandment - not, by God's permission to me to say it; but, 'by way of permission to you, not as a commandment;' not what you must, but what you may do. "This" refers to the directions, 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.

Verse 7

For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

Even as I - having the gift of continence (Matthew 19:11-12). This wish does not hold good absolutely, else the extension of mankind and of the Church would cease; but relatively to "the present distress" (1 Corinthians 7:26).

Verse 8

I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

To the unmarried - in general, of both sexes (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).

And widows - in particular. Even as I - unmarried (1 Corinthians 9:5).

Verse 9

But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

If they cannot contain (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Burn - with the flame of lust, which consumes the whole inner man. The dew of God's must stifle the flame, or it will thrust men into hell-fire.

Verse 10

And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

Not I, but the Lord - (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:12; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:40.) Ordinarily he writes on inspired apostolic authority (1 Corinthians 14:37); here on the direct authority of the Lord Himself (Mark 10:11-12). In both cases the things written are inspired by the Spirit of God; but not all for all times, nor all on essentials. The wisdom of Scripture is shown no less in what they leave open questions, than in what they positively decide.

Let not the wife depart - `separate herself,' or 'be separated from.'

Verse 11

But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

But and if she depart - `But if even she be separated.' If the sin of separation has been committed, whether owing to her or him, that of a new marriage is not to be added.

Be reconciled - by appeasing her husband's displeasure, and recovering his good will.

Let not the husband put away his wife. In Matthew 5:32 the only exception allowed is, 'saving for fornication,' which constitutes divorce itself.

Verse 12

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

To the rest (besides "the married," 1 Corinthians 7:10, where both husband and wife are believers) - the Corinthians had inquired about believers married to unbelievers.

Not the Lord - by any former direct command.

She be pleased, [ suneudokei (G4909)] - 'consents:' implying his wish firstly, with which hers concurs. So despised was Christianity that wives often left their husbands who embraced it.

Verse 13

And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

The woman - a believer.

Let her not leave him. 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, read 'her husband,' for "him." The Greek [ afietoo (G863)] for "leave" is the same as 1 Corinthians 7:12, "put away." Translate, 'let her not put away her husband.' The wife had the power of divorce by Greek and Roman law.

Verse 14

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

Sanctified. Those connected with the people of God are hallowed thereby, so that the latter may retain the connection without impairing their own sanctity (cf. 1 Timothy 4:5); nay, rather imparting to the former some of their own hallowed character, so, through the believer's holy influence, preparing the way for the unbeliever becoming sanctified inwardly by faith. Contrast legal uncleanness (Haggai 2:12-13). Heathenism, brought face to face with Christianity, must succumb, not vice versa. By the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by - rather, 'in ... in;' in the person of; in virtue of the marriage-tie between them.

By the husband. So C. But A B Delta G 'Aleph (') f g, read 'in the brother.' It is the fact of the husband being a 'brother' - i:e., a Christian, though the wife is not so, that sanctifies the union.

Else were your children unclean - i:e., beyond the sanctified pale of God's people.

But now (as it is) are they holy - within that pale: relatively hallowed, in Providential destination, and by a pious parent's influence. The Jews regarded pagans as "unclean," and all of the elect nation as "holy" - i:e., partakers of the holy covenant. Children were included in it, as God made it not only with Abraham, but with his "seed after" him (Genesis 17:7). So the faith of one Christian parent gives to the children a relationship to the Church, just as if both were Christians (cf. Romans 11:16). Timothy, the bearer of this letter, is an instance (Acts 16:1; 2 Timothy 1:5). Paul appeals to the recognized principle, that the infants of pagan parents would not be admissible to Christian baptism, because there is no faith in the parents; but where one is a believer, the children are not aliens from, but admissible into, the Christian covenant: for the Church presumes that the believing parent will rear the child in Christianity.

Lydia's and the gaoler's households were baptized along with the believing heads of the houses. The faith of the head was regarded as consecrating the family, so that its members, whether children or adults, if interposing no obstacle, were fit recipients of baptism (Acts 16:4). The covenant with Abraham was sealed in infants by a sacrament: why should not Christians also seal it in their children? (Calvin, 'Inst.,' b. 4: 100: 16:6.) Infant baptism tacitly superseded infant circumcision, just as the Christian Lord's day superseded the Jewish Sabbath, without our having express command for, or record of, the transference. The setting aside of circumcision and of Sabbaths in the case of the Gentiles was indeed expressly commanded by the apostles; but the substitution of infant baptism and of the Lord's day was tacitly adopted, not expressly enacted. No explicit mention of it occurs until Irenaeus (b. 2: 100: 22) and Justin Martyr (2 'Apolog.'), in the second century; but no Christians disputed its propriety until 1500 years after Christ. Anabaptists would defer baptism until maturity, as the child cannot understand the nature of it. But a child may be heir of an estate, though incapable of using or comprehending its advantage: he is not hereafter to acquire the title to it: he will hereafter understand his claim, and he capable of employing his wealth: he will then, moreover, become responsible for the use he makes of it. Relative consecration does not dispense with personal regeneration.

Verse 15

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

If the unbelieving depart, let him depart. Translate, 'separateth himself:' offended with her Christianity, and refusing to live with her unless she renounce it.

Brother or a sister is not under bondage - is not bound to renounce the faith for the sake of retaining her husband. (So Deuteronomy 13:6; Matthew 10:35-37; Luke 14:26.) The believer has not the same obligation in a union with an unbeliever, as in one with a believer. In the former case he is not bound, if the unbeliever wish to separate, to force such a one to stay in continual discord; in the latter, nothing but "fornication" justifies separation.

But God hath called us to peace. Our Christian calling tends to "peace" (Romans 12:18), not quarrelling-therefore the believer should not ordinarily depart from the unbelieving consort (1 Corinthians 7:12-14). Better still it would be not to enter such unequal alliances at all (1 Corinthians 7:40; 2 Corinthians 6:14).

Verse 16

For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

By staying with thy unbelieving partner thou mayest save him or her. Enforcing "peace" with the unbelieving consort (1 Corinthians 7:15, end). So Ruth the Moabitess became a convert to her husband's faith: Joseph and Moses probably gained over their wives. Conversely, the unbelieving husband may be won by the believing wife (1 Peter 3:1). Alford explains 1 Corinthians 7:15, 'If thy unbelieving consort wishes to depart, let him go, that thou mayest live "in peace:" for thou canst not be sure of converting him, so as to make it obligatory on thee at all costs to keep him against his will.'

Save - be the instrument of saving (James 5:20).

Verse 17

But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

But - Greek [ ei-mee (G1508)], 'If not.' 'Only.' The "But" favours the former view. But if there be no hope of gaining over the unbeliever, still the general principle holds good, 'As the Lord hath allotted to each, as God hath called each, so let him walk' (so 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, transpose "Lord" and "God"); i:e., let him walk in the calling allotted to him. The heavenly calling does not set aside our earthly callings, as the marriage relation. Christianity can maintain itself in all outward relations, without requiring us to forsake them.

So ordain I in all churches - ye also therefore should obey.

Verse 18

Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised Is any called in uncircumcision? Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

Not become uncircumcised - by surgical operation ( 1Ma 1:15 ). Such were called meshukim; recutiti. Some, in excess of anti-Jewish feeling, might be tempted to this.

Let him not be circumcised - as the Judaizing Christians would have him (Acts 15:1-41; Galatians 5:2).

Verse 19

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Circumcision is nothing ... but the keeping of the commandments of Cod - namely, is all in all. Galatians 5:6 defines the Gospel commandment, "faith which worketh by love;" and Galatians 6:15, "a new creature" (cf. 1 John 3:26 ). Circumcision was a commandment of God; but not forever, as "love."

Verse 20

Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

The same calling - i:e., the condition from which he is called-a Jew, a Greek, a slave, or a freeman.

Verse 21

Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

Care not for it - let it not be a trouble to thee that thou art a slave.

Use it rather. Either,

(1) Continue rather in thy state as a servant (1 Corinthians 7:20; Galatians 3:28; 1 Timothy 6:2). The Greek, 'But if even thou mayest be made free, rather use it,' and the context (1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:22), are cited for this view. What is advised thus is not slavery, but contentment under one's existing condition (1 Corinthians 7:24), though an undesirable one, since in union with Christ all outward disparities are compensated (1 Corinthians 7:22). Be not unduly impatient to cast off 'even' thy condition as a slave by unlawful means (1 Peter 2:13-18), as Onesimus did by fleeing (Philemon 1:10-18). The precept (1 Corinthians 7:23), 'Become not [ ginesthe (G1096)] the servants of men,' implies that slavery is abnormal (cf. Leviticus 25:42). "Men-stealers," or slave-dealers, are classed in 1 Timothy 1:10 with "murderers." Or,

(2) 'If called, being a slave, to Christianity, be content; but yet, if also (besides spiritual freedom) thou canst be free (bodily; a still additional good, which if thou canst not attain, be satisfied without; but which, if offered, desp ise not), use the opportunity of becoming free, rather than remain a slave.' This view ore accords with the Gospel, and is fully justified by the Greek; and (1 Corinthians 7:23) "use it" refers plainly to the words just before, "be made free" (2 Peter 2:19).

Verse 22

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.

For - being spiritually free, one ought to be so bodily also.

The Lord's freeman (Philemon 1:16) - rather, "freedman," spiritually made free by the Lord: from sin, John 8:36; from the law, Romans 8:2; from "circumcision," 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:1.

Christ's servant (1 Corinthians 9:21) - deprived of the false liberty of self-indulgence. Love makes Christ's service perfect freedom (Matthew 11:29-30; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16).

Verse 23

Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

Be (become) not ye. Paul changes from "thou" (1 Corinthians 7:21) to "ye." YE ALL are "bought" with the costly blood of Christ to be free men (1 Corinthians 6:20) - 'become not servants to men,' either externally or spiritually. Christian freemen should not be servile adherents to party leaders (1 Corinthians 3:21-22; Matthew 23:8-10; 2 Corinthians 11:20). The external and internal conditions, as far as attainable, should correspond, and the former be subservient to the latter (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:21; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

Verse 24

Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. Abide with God - chiefly careful of his standing toward God, rather than toward men. This clause, "with God," limits the precept (1 Corinthians 7:20). A man may cease to "abide in his calling," and yet not violate the precept here. If a man's calling be not favourable to his "abiding with God" (in holy fellowship with Him), he may use lawful means to change it (cf. Note, 1 Corinthians 7:21).

Verse 25

Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

Now ... (Greek, 'But') no commandment of the Lord: yet ... my judgment - I have no authoritative commandment from the Lord as to their abiding in their state (1 Corinthians 7:20), but I give my opinion (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:40; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 4:15). The Lord inspires me to give you only a recommendation, which you are free to adopt or reject (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). It was a positive command, for the Lord had already made known His will (Malachi 2:14-15; Matthew 5:31-32). In 1 Corinthians 7:12 the Old Testament commandment of God to put away strange wives (Ezra 10:3), Paul by the Spirit revokes.

Mercy of the Lord (1 Timothy 1:13). He attributes his gifts (including inspiration) to God's grace alone.

Faithful - trustworthy in dispensing the inspired directions received by me from the Lord.

Verse 26

I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

I suppose - `I consider.'

This - namely, "for a man so to be," in the same state in which he is (1 Corinthians 7:27).

For [ dia (G1223)] - by reason of.

The present distress - to which believers were then beginning to be subjected, making the married state less desirable, and which should prevail throughout the world before the destruction of Jerusalem, according to Christ's prophecy (Matthew 24:8-21: cf. Acts 11:28).

Verse 27

Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

Illustrating 1 Corinthians 7:26. Neither the married (those "bound to a wife") nor the unmarried (those "loosed from a wife") are to "seek" a change of state (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:24).

Verse 28

But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

Trouble in the flesh - in their outward state, by reason of the present distress; not sin, which is the trouble of the spirit.

But I spare you. The emphasis (Greek) is on "I." My motive in advising you so is, to "spare you" such trouble. Augustine explains, 'I spare you further details of the inconveniences' of matrimony, lest the incontinent may at the peril of lust be deterred from it. The "But" then follows naturally in 1 Corinthians 7:29. My motive in the concession (1 Corinthians 7:28) is, because 'I have regard to your infirmity:' "BUT" I qualify this concession by saying, "the time," etc.

Verse 29

But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

This I say - a summing up the practical inference from what precedes (1 Corinthians 15:50).

The time - the season [ ho (G3588) kairos (G2540)] of this present dispensation up to the Lord's coming (Romans 13:11). He uses the Greek which the Lord used in Luke 21:8; Mark 13:33.

Short - literally, contracted.

It remaineth. A B Delta 'Aleph (') read 'the season is shortened in order that henceforth both they,' etc. - i:e., the effect which the shortening of the time ought to have is, 'that for the remaining time both they,' etc. G, Cyprian, and Vulgate support the English version.

As though they had none - in real or permanent possession; not making idols of them.

Verse 30

And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;

They that weep ... wept not (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:10) - not letting grief gain uncontrolled mastery.

They that buy ... possessed not - (cf. Isaiah 24:1-2.) Christ specifies as the condemning sin of Sodom not merely open profligacy, but that "they bought, they sold," etc., as men whose all was in this world (Luke 17:28). "Possessed" [ katechontes (G2722)] implies a holding fast of a possession: this the Christian will not do, for his "enduring substance" is elsewhere (Hebrews 10:34).

Verse 31

And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

Not abusing it - by overmuch using of it. "Abusing" here is not so much perverting, as using it to the full, as our chief portion (cf. Luke 10:40-42). As the planets, turning on their own axis, yet revolve round the sun, so, while we act in our worldly sphere, God is to be the center of our desires.

Fashion - the present fleeting form [ scheema (G4976)], not the essence, perisheth (Revelation 20:1-15; Revelation 21:1-27: cf. Psalms 39:6, "vain show;" Psalms 73:20, "a dream;" James 4:14, "a vapour").

Passeth away - not merely shall pass, but is now actually passing away. The image is from a shifting scene in a play on the stage (1 John 2:17). Paul inculcates not so much outward denial of earthly things, as the inward spirit, whereby the married and the rich, as well as the unmarried and the poor, would be ready to sacrifice all for Christ.

Verse 32

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

But. Connect with 1 Corinthians 7:31. 'The world's fashion passeth,' and so entails anxious care on its votaries; "but I would have you," etc. Without carefulness - not merely 'without trouble,' but without 'distracting cares' [ amerimnous (G275)].

Careth - if he uses aright the advantages of his condition.

Verse 33

But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

Married careth for ... world. When marriage ties are made paramount, instead of subordinate to His service (Luke 17:27), not when marriage is what God designed (Hebrews 13:4).

Verse 34

There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

Difference also - not merely the unmarried and the married man differ in respective duties, but also the wife and the virgin. A woman undergoes a greater change than a man in contracting marriage. So G f g. But 'Aleph (') A B Delta read [ kai (G2532) memeristai (G3307)] (1 Corinthians 7:33-34) 'He that is married careth for the world, AND is divided (in heart, Matthew 6:24). Also the woman that is unmarried, and the virgin that is unmarried, careth for the things of the Lord.'

Verse 35

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

For your own profit - not to display my apostolic authority.

Not ... cast a snare upon you - upon your conscience. Not that, by hard injunctions, I may entangle you with scruples, where there is no sin.

Comely - becoming under present circumstances. Attend upon, [ euparedron (G2137b)] - literally, 'assiduously wait on:' sitting down to the duty (cf. Luke 10:39, Mary; Luke 2:37, Anna; 1 Timothy 5:5).

Distraction - the same [Greek, aperispastoos (G563)] as "cumbered" (Luke 10:40, Martha).

Verse 36

But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

Behaveth ... uncomely - is not treating his daughter becomingly, in leaving her unmarried beyond the flower of her age, and debarring her from lawful gratification as a marriageable woman.

Need so require - if regard to the feelings and welfare of his daughter require it. Opposed to "having no necessity" (1 Corinthians 7:37).

Let them marry - the daughter and her suitor.

Verse 37

Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

Stedfast - not to be turned from his purpose by obloquy.

Having no necessity - arising from the natural inclinations of the daughter.

Power over his own will - when, owing to his daughter's will not opposing him, he has power to effect his will.

Decreed - determined.

Verse 38

So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

Her. 'Aleph (') A B Delta f, Vulgate, have 'his own virgin daughter.'

But. A B Delta G 'Aleph (') f g, Vulgate, have 'and.'

Verse 39

The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

Bound by the law. So 'Aleph (') G C. But A B Delta f omit "by the law."

Only in the Lord - let her marry only a Christian (2 Corinthians 6:14), and in the fear of the Lord.

Verse 40

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

Happier (1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:28; 1 Corinthians 7:34-35).

I think also - `I also;' just as you Corinthians think much of your opinions, so I also give mine by inspiration: so in 1 Corinthians 7:25. Think does not imply doubt, but often well-grounded assurance (John 5:39).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-corinthians-7.html. 1871-8.
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