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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 7

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-40

It is evident from the tenor of this chapter that the Corinthians had written to the apostle for advice on the subject of marriage and its obligations, and that he is here resolving their various difficulties. Some of them, from observing the gross licentiousness of their native city, and affected it may be with the habits of the eastern ascetics, which afterwards prevailed, appeared to doubt of the lawfulness of marriage in any case: 1 Corinthians 7:1-9. Others who had unbelieving wives and husbands doubted whether it were expedient to continue the connection; and are told that they must not be put away for their unbelief, provided they were disposed to live in peace: 1 Corinthians 7:10-14. Another case of extreme difficulty seems to have been proposed, and that is, what should be done when the unbeliever is determined to depart, from an insuperable aversion to christianity, and thus to vacate the marriage contract: 1 Corinthians 7:15. To these and other questions the apostle replies, according to the wisdom given him from above.

1 Corinthians 7:3 . Let the husband render to the wife due benevolence, in all the conjugal rights of marriage. Moses says, in Exodus 21:10, ענה , from the root ônah, which is the Greek word ευνοια but slightly varied “If he take to him [his habitation] another wife, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage shall he not diminish.” St. Paul’s reference to the law would confer weight on his words.

1 Corinthians 7:8 . It is good for them if they abide even as I. Paul was now, it would seem, a widower. Eusebius affirms that three of the apostles were married, and that Paul was one of these. St. Clement of Alexandria thinks his wife was dead. Vide Poli Synop. His special call to preach to the gentiles did not allow him to entangle himself in the affairs of this life; otherwise he had a right, as well as other apostles, to lead about a wife in all his labours and travels.

1 Corinthians 7:9 . If they cannot contain, let them marry. Ει δε ουκ εγκρατευονται γαμησατωσαν : “If they do not contain, let them marry.” God has made no man under the necessity of committing mortal sins. The promise is full of power: My grace is sufficient for thee. Temperance and prayer are the divine resources of christian purity. In due time they may marry: but the birds build their nests before they lay their eggs. Prudence is requisite in marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:12 . If any brother hath a wife that believeth not. When the jews returned from Babylon, Ezra the priest obliged them to dismiss their idolatrous wives, as polluters of their blood, and as dangerous to their religion. Ezra 9:10. This was difficult to do, and it occasioned great anguish of mind. But the jews could then marry other wives, instead of those they had dismissed; and what then could the converted gentiles do in such a case. One great part of the mystery of godliness was, that the gentiles should be fellow-heirs with the believing jews of the grace of life, and equally participate in all their privileges. But in the jewish case, as well as in the christian, marrying with unbelievers is forbidden by a permanent law of the church. The christian widow, as in 1 Corinthians 7:39, cannot marry, except in the Lord, or to one regenerate and born again. Romans 8:1; Romans 16:7.

1 Corinthians 7:14 . The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, a phrase indicating that their marriage was without spot, sanctification being here restricted to conjugal purity. Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy. Those two words, ακαθαρτα unclean, and αγια holy, refer to the gentiles and the jews, the former being accounted unclean, and the latter a holy nation. They do not imply, either in the jewish or the christian children, an exemption from original sin.

1 Corinthians 7:28 . Such shall have trouble in the flesh. They may find it difficult to procure food and raiment in times of so much inquietude and persecution; and for a time the storm may drive many from their families.

1 Corinthians 7:40 . She is happier if she so abide, and serve God as a matron in the church. There is a glory attendant on certain women, and certain ministers, who have lived single with a view to move in a particular sphere of usefulness.


We have here a happy chain of advice, admirably calculated to promote personal comfort and family peace. To enter adequately into the apostle’s arguments we should beware, that Corinth was a proverb of lawless love among the heathen writers. A thousand women were consecrated to Venus, whose sumptuous temple stood on the hill above the city. Hence St. Paul most justly levels a full stroke at fornication; hence also many holy persons, going from one excess to another, abstained from marriage, and extolled celibacy. But the apostle sets all right by recurring to the original foundation: “let every man have his own wife.” His arguments of a single life are merely founded on certain persons devoting themselves to God’s service, or because of the present distress or persecution: 1 Corinthians 7:26. And surely it is better in those times to forego marriage for a season than to risk apostasy, because a married man, tempted by the tears of his wife and children, was very liable to conform to idolatry, on the required occasion to save his life and his lands.

In regard to marriage, every man has his proper gift of God: and being a gift, whether it be virginal or matrimonial chastity, it is alike holy.

The believing wife is to save if possible the unbelieving husband. Treading in the path of duty, let her piety be sincere, her temper happy, and her obedience in all lawful things unlimited. But let her suffer for truth and righteousness rather than yield to sin. How shall a carnal husband be encouraged to venture on a religion which does not make his wife holy and happy? Hence, avoiding sinful compliances with his humour and menaces, she must strive to gain him by arguments and sweetness of disposition.

Though St. Paul advised abstinence from marriage because of the persecution, yet he speaks with deference to fathers. In such cases let the father do what he will, he sinneth not. If he thinks that he behaves unseemly to his virgin, who is already betrothed and promised to a young man, let them marry. Yet in such a case of persecution, the father that giveth not the daughter in marriage acts more prudently than he who marries his children under the inevitable aspects of trouble in the flesh.

The injunction to the widow to marry only in the Lord, applies with equal force to young people, and to all pious parents in the disposal of their children. Shall lands, or riches, or family connections be preferred to piety? What then must the church think of the religion of those who act against the commandment; and how are such marriages likely to operate on the children? Will not a carnal father train up his sons to all his own habits of life; and will not a carnal mother train up her daughters to all the vanities of the world? But where the parents are both of one mind, the children are dedicated to God in baptism, and trained up to the faith and worship of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-corinthians-7.html. 1835.
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