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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 7

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1Co 7:1. General remarks. This chapter was occasioned by a condition existing at that time, due no doubt to the activities of the Roman Empire in its military oppression of various religions, which finally affected the church. The general existence of immorality also entered into the teaching of Paul in answer to the letter that was sent to him. The key to many of the expressions of the chapter is in the 26th verse which mentions the "present distress," brought about by the oppression just mentioned. That made it inadvisable to take on further obligations, especially those brought upon a man who begins to organize a family. Under these conditions someone wrote to Paul for advice as to what they should do, and it was that it would be better to remain just as they were, and not take upon themselves the obligations of married life. However, the marriage relation is the Lord's means of meeting the desires of the flesh on this subject, and unless a man is sure that he can resist all temptation to immorality, then he is to discard Paul's advice and enter the state of marriage for the lawful gratification of his desires. While discussing the specific subject brought up by the letter, the apostle will include some teaching on other matters, that are to be observed by disciples today. I urge the reader to become familiar with this paragraph, as it will be helpful for reference at various places, for it will not be repeated in every verse as the comments on the chapter continue. Touch is defined in Thayer's lexicon, "to fasten to, make adhere to," and in this verse it means to have intimate relations with a woman in marriage.

Verse 2

1Co 7:2. Nevertheless. See the paragraph at the beginning of the chapter, about when the advice against marriage was to be discarded.

Verse 3

1Co 7:3. Since the primary object of marriage (aside from reproduction) is to give lawful gratification of sexual desires, the husband and wife should cooperate with each other to that end.

Verse 4

1Co 7:4. Power is from EXOUSlA, which means authority or control. This verse teaches that neither husband nor wife has exclusive right about the use of his body, regarding whether it should be used for the gratification of the other. This idea, especially as it pertains to the woman, is taught in Gen 3:16.

Verse 5

1Co 7:5. The context shows that defraud means to withhold from each other the intimate relation. They are permitted to do so only on condition that both consent, so as to be free for exclusive religious devotions. Even then, they should not stay apart too long, lest they be tempted to seek gratification unlawfully; incontinency means lack of control of the fleshly desires.

Verse 6

1Co 7:6. I speak this by permission. Whether the pronoun this refers to what Paul has just said, or to what he is about to say, is relatively unimportant. The point to learn is the meaning of permission. It is taught by some that Paul was only permitted to write on some things and not commanded to do so, and therefore what he said by permission would have no binding force. I believe the distinction is unimportant, for the Lord would certainly not permit Paul to write any instruction that was not right for the benefit of all concerned.

Verse 7

1Co 7:7. Paul's general teaching on the marriage institution, as well as what he says in this chapter, would show us he does not mean to wish that every man would abstain from marriage as a permanent way of life. But if all men had the self-control over their nature that the apostle had, they would have no difficulty in following the advice during the "present distress." The gift means the natural ability to maintain control over the passions.

Verse 8

1Co 7:8. See the advice explained in the first paragraph.

Verse 9

1Co 7:9. Cannot contain denotes they cannot have complete control over the desires. Burn is from PUROO which Thayer explains at this place to mean, "to be inflamed with sexual desire."

Verse 10

1Co 7:10. Yet not I, but the Lord. This teaching was not given to them merely by the permission of the Lord (1Co 7:6), but He commanded him to give it. Let not the wife depart. Some might think that if it was better not to marry, it would likewise be proper for a wife to relieve her husband of these "added obligations," and Paul is teaching against such an action.

Verse 11

1Co 7:11. Regardless of what might cause a wife to depart, she would have no right to remarry some other man. The husband had no right to put away his wife on the ground of Paul's advice about the "present distress."

Verse 12

1Co 7:12. 1, not the Lord means by Paul's permission and not by command of the Lord. (See the notes on 1Co 7:6.) A man might have been tired of married life and thought he could be relieved of the burden by putting his wife away, using as a special excuse that she was an unbeliever. Paul means that he should not do so if the wife is willing to remain with him.

Verse 13

1Co 7:13. This takes the same comments as the preceding verse.

Verse 14

1Co 7:14. The unbelieving partner is not sanctified by the other in the sense of religious holiness before God, for in that sense no person can sanctify another. It means that the marriage of one person to another makes their cohabitation moral, since the marriage relation is a fleshly one, primarily for fleshly purposes (see the comments at 1Co 7:3). Were this not true, then children born of parents one of whom is an unbeliever would be unclean, which means ceremonially improper, whereas, all children of parents who are married to each other are holy as far as their orgin is concerned.

Verse 15

1Co 7:15. It should be noted in this verse that it is the unbeliever that is determined to desert the marriage, in spite of the willingness of the other to continue even under the "present distress." The believer is told to let him depart, which denotes that he is not obligated (is not under bondage) to hold the unbeliever with him if it would have to be done under continual strife or "family quarrels," for God is wanting his creatures to live in peace if possible, in which they were called. But that has nothing to do with the question of remarriage for either of them. In truth, 1Co 7:11 orders that if the departing wife should change her mind and desire the marriage relation again, she must go back to her husband. And that would mean also that the husband would be required to remain single, else the wife could not obey 1Co 7:11 even if she wanted to. All of this is in keeping with Mat 19:9 which clearly teaches that no married person may be remarried to another, except upon the immorality of the present marriage companion.

Verse 16

1Co 7:16. The preceding verse was rather a break into the line of thought being set forth in 1Co 7:14. In that Paul was showing that a believing husband or wife need not break up their marriage on account of the unbelief of the other; that the morality of the marriage was not affected by the unbelief of one of them. The present verse continues the thought, and gives another reason why he should remain in the marriage, namely, he might be able to convert his partner. This idea is taught in 1Pe 3:1-2.

Verse 17

1Co 7:17. Whatever condition may be the lot of a man who has accepted the call of the Lord, let him be faithful to his profession. This command is announced as being applicable to all the churches. (See notes at Joh 15:16 on ordain.)

Verse 18

1Co 7:18. Become uncircumcised. This refers to a surgical trick whereby It could not be known from appearances whether a man was circumcised or not. The verse :means for a Jew not to resort to that if he decides to become a Christian. This surgery is mentioned in Josephus, Antiquities, Book 12, Chapter 5, Section 1.

Verse 19

1Co 7:19. The teaching of the preceding verse is based on the truth of this. Under Christ it makes no difference whether a man is circumcised or not, just so he keeps the commandments of God. (See Gal 5:6 Gal 6:15.)

Verse 20

1Co 7:20. This verse is a general application of the preceding several verses.

Verse 21

1Co 7:21. A great part of the people were slaves in the Roman Empire. The fact that a man was in that "calling" or station in life, need not hold him back from accepting the Gospel call, for salvation is for all classes. However, if his master sees fit to release him, he should accept it for the advantages it would give.

Verse 22

1Co 7:22. Two kinds of service and freedom are meant here, the temporal under a human master, and the spiritual under Christ. Hence a man can be a servant under the former and yet be free from sin while being a servant of Christ.

Verse 23

1Co 7:23. This does not contradict 1Co 7:21. It means not to serve men as to any religious directions. The temporal masters often bought their slaves, and likewise Christ has purchased his with his own blood. (See chapter 6:19, 20.)

Verse 24

1Co 7:24. This is the same as 1Co 7:20.

Verse 25

1Co 7:25. No commandment in the same sense as 1Co 7:6. Give my judgment under the permission of the verse just cited. Paul had shown himself faithful to the Lord, and hence he was given the permission to use his judgment in the case.

Verse 26

1Co 7:26. So to be means for him to remain just as he is, on account of the present distress. (See the paragraph at the beginning of the chapter.

Verse 27

1Co 7:27. This repeats the teaching running through much of the chapter.

Verse 28

1Co 7:28. If thou marry, thou host not sinned. Paul had never forbidden marriage as being wrong, but only advised against it on account of the present distress. While not a sin, yet the marriage will bring them trouble in the flesh which means the hardships caused by the condition of the country. I spare you is a brief way of saying "I wish to spare you these troubles by advising you not to marry while the present conditions prevail."

Verse 29

1Co 7:29-30. The original Greek word for short is defined by Thayer at this place, "is shortened," and Robinson defines it, "the time is contracted, shortened." The time referred to in this passage is the period of the distress caused by the oppression under Rome. Naturally the passing days made that period shorter, and the teaching of this verse :is that disciples should not be so concerned about these various conditions in their earthly life. Give chief attention to their obligations as Christians until the conflict was over, which was not to be very long in comparison.

Verse 31

1Co 7:31. The good things of this world are necessary to man's existence as a temporal being, therefore he must make some use of them. Abusing is from a word similar to the one for use, with a prefix in the Greek composition that makes it mean "to overdo" the use of them. The logical reason the apostle gives for the exhortation is that all these things are temporary; they will pass away.

Verse 32

1Co 7:32-33. Carefulness means anxiety over the handicaps of the present distress. A married man would have to give his attention to the things of the world, such as those necessary to care for his wife. That would really be his duty if he had a wife, but he could avoid such anxiety for the time being if he took Paul's advice and remained single.

Verse 34

1Co 7:34. The same things apply to women in that a married woman would be obligated to give some attention to the rightful requirements of her husband. If she remained single she would be free to give her sole attention to religious devotions. Be holy both in body and in spirit does not mean that her relations with her husband would be wrong, but they would be temporal and would thus require some of the time she otherwise could devote to these spiritual matters.

Verse 36

1Co 7:35. This verse is a general summing up of several preceding ones. It shows that Paul's teaching regarding the advisability of entering marriage during the present distress was not on the basis of right and wrong. It was for their profit (advantage) in the services to Christ. Being free from the unavoidable burdens the present conditions would impose on married people, they could devote their time to the Lord's service without distraction.

Verse 37

1Co 7:37. This is the same in meaning as the preceding verse.

Verse 38

1Co 7:38. The pronoun her is in italics in both sentences and is not justified by the original. The phrase giveth in marriage means to give himself in marriage to another. He that becomes married doeth well because he avoids the guilt of immorality, but he that is able to remain unmarried doeth better because he not only maintains his moral chastity, but avoids the burdens of married life.

Verse 39

1Co 7:39. It is sometimes asked if the requirements of this verse would not be on the same proviso of present distress, as the advice of Paul about the marriage of those single at the time he was writing. The cases are not the same, for it is expressly stated that if a man married in the first place he would not do any sin (1Co 7:28), since that instruction was given as advice only to avoid the burdens of married life. The present verse plainly says the wife is bound by the law (not a temporary condition caused by the present distress) as long as her husband lived; not as long as the "distress" continued. Hence the verse involves a matter of right and wrong (not one of expediency as is the other). At liberty to be married means she has the right to be married, with the stipulation that it must be in the Lord. All marriages are in the Lord in the sense that the Lord is the author of the basis of the physical relation (Gen 2:24; Mat 19:5), hence the phrase here has a special sense since it is applied only to second marriages. To be in the Lord, therefore, can mean nothing else than being in His body which is the church. A Christian widow has no right to marry a man outside of the church. The same principle would logically apply to a Christian man. The woman is mentioned only because the greater part of the other verses have been dealing with the wives.

Verse 40

1Co 7:40. Happier if she so abide, but not more righteous, which again brings in the advisability of any single person entering marriage at that time. I think does not mean that Paul was uncertain, for it is from the same Greek word as Jesus used in Mat 22:42, where he asked the Pharisees, "What think ye of Christ?" We know Jesus did not wish them to give him any answer on which they were doubtful. It simply means to state some idea or conclusion that a person has. Paul had no doubt as to the source of his idea at this place, for it came from the same One who had given him the "permission" to speak in 1Co 7:6. Acting under that privilege, he gave it as his judgment that the woman would be happier were she to remain unmarried.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/1-corinthians-7.html. 1952.
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