Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 7

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote [Hitherto Paul has written concerning things which he learned by common report; he now begins to reply to questions which they had asked him in their letter. As we come to the several answers we will state the probable form of the question, as an aid to interpretation. All of the apostle’s answers, however, have reference to then existing conditions, which were very stringent and threatening. His advice is therefore to be wisely and conscientiously applied by modern Christians after weighing differences between present conditions and those which then existed. First question: Is marriage to be desired or avoided by Christians? Paul answers]: It is good [advisable, proper] for a man not to touch [marry] a woman.

Verse 2

But, because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. [Paul does not discourage marriage, much less forbid it (1 Timothy 4:3; Hebrews 13:4). Moreover, while he begins by counseling the Corinthians to abstain from it under their present conditions (1 Corinthians 7:26), he tempers and practically countermands his counsel because of the prevalent licentiousness in Corinth, against which matrimony, being man’s normal state, was a great safeguard.]

Verse 3

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

Verse 4

The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife.

Verse 5

Defraud [deprive] ye not one the other, except it be by consent for a season, that ye may give yourselves unto prayer, and may be together again, that Satan tempt you not because of your incontinency.

Verse 6

But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment. [That his readers may understand his counsel, Paul discusses the marriage state, and shows that the reciprocal rights of the parties thereto forbid abstinence to either husband or wife, save in cases where one wishes to devote a season to prayer; but even here the abstinence must be by mutual consent, and the apostle does not enjoin it, but merely concedes or permits it at such times, because the higher duty of prayer may for a season suspend conjugal duty. But here again caution must be observed, lest too prolonged abstinence might work temptation to either party, especially the prayerless one.]

Verse 7

Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that.

Verse 8

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

Verse 9

But if they have not continency, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. [In contrast with the enforced indulgence of matrimony, Paul sets up his own life of abstinence as preferable, but only to such as have with him a gift of absolute self-control. But all have not this gift, for God’s gifts are infinitely various. He therefore advises the unmarried who have the gift of self-control to remain unmarried, but those lacking it should avoid unlawful lusts by marriage. In short, then, the single state is preferable in troublous times to such as have Paul’s continence. Second question: Is marriage to be dissolved when one party believes, and the other does not? It is likely that this question was raised by the Judaizers, for while the original law given by Moses only forbade marriage with the seven Canaanitish nations (Deuteronomy 7:1-3), yet the prophets and rulers so interpreted the law as to make it include Egyptians and Edomites (1 Kings 11:1-2; Ezra 9:1-2), and at last it came to be understood that Jews were forbidden to marry outside their own nation (Josephus Ant. VIII. 7:5; XI. 5:4; XI. 7:2; XI. 8:2; XII. 4:6), and the children of such marriages were regarded as illegitimate-- Ezra 10:3]

Verse 10

But unto the married I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord [by his own lips-- Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:3-12; Mark 10:12], That the wife depart not from her husband

Verse 11

(but should she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband); and that the husband leave not his wife.

Verse 12

But to the rest [the further application of the law or principle] say I [as an inspired apostle], not the Lord [with his own lips]: If any brother hath an unbelieving wife, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her.

Verse 13

And the woman that hath an unbelieving husband, and he is content to dwell with her, let her not leave her husband.

Verse 14

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife [The word "sanctified" is here used in the Jewish sense of being not unclean, and therefore not to be touched], and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother [her husband]: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. [Holy is contrasted with unclean, and means the same as "sanctified."]

Verse 15

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

Verse 16

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

Verse 17

Only, as the Lord hath distributed to each man, as God hath called each, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all the churches. [Paul first answers generally that under no conditions are the husband and wife to separate (the single exception (Matthew 19:9) not being given, because not a point in controversy). This law, however, rests not on Paul’s authority alone (which some of the Judaizers might question), but on that of the Lord himself, who plainly propounded it, repealing the ordinances of Moses which were contrary to it (see "Fourfold Gospel," p. 242). As an inspired apostle, Paul applies this law to the case of Christians united in wedlock with unbelievers, and declares that such should not separate on account of their faith; for the law of Christ so reverses that of Moses that the Christian sanctifies or removes the uncleanness of the unbelieving partner, and of the children. But such unequal marriages are not favored by God (2 Corinthians 6:14), and therefore if the unbeliever be so intolerant as to refuse to live with a converted partner, then the partner is not under bondage to the unbeliever. But God calls the believer to a life of peace which forbids any such discordant acts as tend to induce or drive the unbeliever to dissolve the marriage, for by the exercise of Christian gentleness and forbearance the believer may convert and save the unbeliever (1 Peter 3:1-2). As a summary rule for all things of a smaller nature, the apostle says that each man must rest content to walk in the lot which God has apportioned to him, not making his new religion an excuse for unwarranted changes. As this rule applied to all churches, it worked no especial hardship to the Corinthians.]

Verse 18

Was any man called [converted] being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. [1 Macc. 1:15.] Hath any been called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

Verse 19

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God. [is, in this connection, everything.]

Verse 20

Let each man abide in that calling [trade or social condition] wherein he was called.

Verse 21

Wast thou called being a bondservant? care not for it: nay, even if ["nay, even if" should read "but if"] thou canst become free, use it [i. e., freedom] rather.

Verse 22

For he that was called in the Lord being a bondservant, is the Lord’s freedman: likewise he that was called being free, is Christ’s bondservant.

Verse 23

Ye were bought with a price; become not bondservants of men.

Verse 24

Brethren, let each man, wherein he was called, therein abide with God. [i. e., abide with God in the calling wherein he was called. Taking up the rule of 1 Corinthians 7:17; Paul shows by way of illustration its application to other matters. Christianity does not require that Jews or Greeks change their nationality, for nationality has nought to do with salvation, which rests wholly on obedience to the law of Christ. Again, Christianity does not demand that a man change his vocation or calling, if honest and clean (comp. Luke 3:12-14). Taking up the extreme case of slavery, Paul counsels that a change is not to be feverishly sought. If, however, freedom can be obtained, it is to be preferred, and where master and slave are both Christians it should be bestowed, for the slave is exalted to be Christ’s freedman (Luke 1:52), and the master is humbled in Christ to be a servant (Matthew 20:25-28). Acting under these principles, Paul asked Philemon to free Onesimus. The price which the Lord paid for his own when he gave his precious blood as their ransom, so far exceeds that paid for them as slaves that it nullifies slavery. Third question: Is celibacy or virginity preferable to marriage? Paul answers:]

Verse 25

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

Verse 26

I think therefore that this is good by reason of the distress that is upon us, namely, that it is good for a man to be as he is.

Verse 27

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

Verse 28

But shouldest thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Yet such shall have tribulation in the flesh: and I would spare you. [the pains and sufferings which will arise by reason of your marriage ties.]

Verse 29

But this I say, brethren, the time is shortened, that henceforth both those that have wives may be as though they had none;

Verse 30

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

Verse 31

and those that use the world, as not using it to the full: for the fashion of this world passeth away. [At the time of Paul’s writing, a great social convulsion was expected. The persecutions under Nero and his successors, and the destruction of Jerusalem, were sufficient of themselves to form the burden of many an awe-inspiring prophecy, and such were no doubt plentiful. Because of the nearness of the impending crisis Paul counsels each one to stay as he is, and refrain from entangling himself with new ties and obligations; for the trials of the hour would require stoical fortitude of every disciple. He gives this advice and that which follows simply as a Christian, and not as an inspired apostle.]

Verse 32

But I would have you to be free from cares. He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

Verse 33

but he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife,

Verse 34

and is divided. So also the woman that is unmarried and the virgin is careful for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married is careful for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

Verse 35

And this I say for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is seemly, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. [The less the Christian is entangled with social ties, the freer he is to perform the Lord’s service. Those who have no desire to marry have larger liberty to do church work if they remain single. But the apostle warns us not to turn his counsel into a snare by construing it as a prohibition of marriage. Paul saw no peculiar holiness in celibacy, for with him marriage was holy (1 Corinthians 11:13; Ephesians 5:25-32; comp. Revelation 4:4; Revelation 21:2). He merely states that unmarried people are less encumbered.]

Verse 36

But if any man thinketh that he behaveth himself unseemly toward his virgin daughter, if she be past the flower of her age, and if need so requireth, let him do what he will; he sinneth not; let them [such daughters] marry.

Verse 37

But he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power as touching his own will, and hath determined this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, shall do well.

Verse 38

So then both he that giveth his own virgin daughter in marriage doeth well; and he that giveth her not in marriage shall do better. [Marriages in the East were then, as now, arranged by the parents. If a parent saw fit to marry his daughter he had a perfect right to do so and was guilty of no sin, but if he heeded the apostle’s warning as to the coming trials and kept his daughter free from alliances he acted more wisely. Fourth question: Should widows remarry? is answered thus:]

Verse 39

A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. [i. e., to a Christian.]

Verse 40

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

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/1-corinthians-7.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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