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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
1 Corinthians 7

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

Building a happy marriage

1 Corinthians 7:1-11

Some of the Corinthians had written to Paul asking his advice and counsel on matters pertaining to marriage. In these verses Paul talks about the advantages, nature, duties and permanence of marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:1. It is not unlawful to marry, nor sinful to lie with a woman in wedlock (Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 2:18-25; Hebrews 13:4). Paul is simply saying that if a person has the gift of self-restraint and no need for sexual expression, he would be better off unmarried. While a good marriage produces happiness, fulfillment and companionship, it carries with it heavy responsibilities, personal sacrifice and certain troubles and sorrows in the flesh (v.28).

1 Corinthians 7:2. ‘To avoid sexual immorality and unlawful relationships, let every man have a wife to love and enjoy and let every woman have a husband to share her life and meet her needs.’

1 Corinthians 7:3. ‘Let the husband render unto the wife all the offices of love – tenderness, kindness, provisions, protection and respect.’ But the chief reference here is to the marriage bed and her sexual needs. Likewise, the wife is to be aware of the needs of her husband and to meet those needs willingly; otherwise, she is called by the ancient writers ‘a rebellious wife.’ According to the Song of Solomon, this relationship, when properly understood (free from traditional guilt and false piety, and knowing it is ordained of God with his blessings), ceases to be a duty and becomes joy and pleasure.

1 Corinthians 7:4. A wife does not have exclusive authority over and ownership of her body to refrain the use of it from her husband, to give it to someone else, to neglect it, nor to abuse it. The husband has a power over and right to her body. The same is true of the husband's body, to which the wife has certain rights. Better to recognize this as a joy rather than a duty or an unpleasant task. Happy are the wife and husband who find delight in pleasing each other with an attractive, clean and loving person and personality.

1 Corinthians 7:5. ‘Fraud’ is a strong word, but to refuse love and affection where it is needed and to deprive each other of that which it is in our power to give is selfish and evil. A lazy husband who will not work and support his family fails as a husband; likewise, a wife who fails in her marriage responsibilities to her husband is a fraud. ‘You may interrupt marital relationship in time of special spiritual burdens, trials and fastings, but only by mutual consent and only briefly, lest one of you be tempted to find satisfaction elsewhere.’

1 Corinthians 7:6. What Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:5 about parting for a time and coming together again is not a command of God, but he speaks it by permission. This time of separation (for whatever reason) is neither essential nor required, but only according to their own wishes.

1 Corinthians 7:7. Paul speaks here of the gift of self-control and abstinence, which he covets for all believers that we might not be in danger of temptation and that our minds and thoughts might be more on Christ, not the flesh. It would be a blessing to be rid of all fleshly thoughts and desires, yet each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another.

1 Corinthians 7:8. If a man or woman is unmarried and chooses to remain that way (not that it is sinful to marry again), it would be better for them; for they would be more free from the cares of this life, have less trouble and be free to serve Christ. Paul was unmarried, had no home nor children, and was free to devote his entire time to the gospel (vv.32, 33).

1 Corinthians 7:9. If a person does not have the gift of self-control in this area, he should seek a wife, and the woman a husband. It is much better to marry than to be aflame with passion and tortured by desire.

1 Corinthians 7:10. As indicated, some of the above was spoken by permission and given as good advice; but this is a commandment! What he is about to say, we are under obligation to observe, because this is a law of God! ‘A wife is not to leave her husband!’ (Matthew 19:6; Genesis 2:24.) Marriage vows are not to be taken lightly. Neither husband nor wife is at liberty to separate from the other because of disagreement, disease, or even differences in matters of faith.

1 Corinthians 7:11. If a person cannot be prevailed upon to remain with his or her partner but leaves for some reason, that person is to remain unmarried; his departure does not make the marriage void, ‘Remain unmarried or be reconciled to your husband or wife.’


Verses 12-24

Continue in the station wherein you were called

1 Corinthians 7:12-24

In the preceding verse the apostle gave a strong and direct commandment to married believers: ‘Let not the wife depart from her husband and let not the husband put away his wife.’ There is no debate nor argument to be heard.

1 Corinthians 7:12-13. To the believer who is married to an unbeliever, Paul offers his counsel and advice. He is saying that he has no commandment from the Lord in regard to this matter, but if a believer is married to an unbeliever and that unbeliever consents to live in harmony and peace with the believer, do not depart.

1 Corinthians 7:14. The unbelieving husband or wife is espoused or legally married in the eyes of God to the believer. They are rightly and legally husband and wife regardless of their differences concerning the gospel. If a person is converted to Christ and his partner is not, this does not dissolve the marriage nor make it unholy in God's sight. If their marriage were not legal and holy, children born to them would be illegitimate. But children born to this type of marriage are, in a legal and civil sense, as holy as children born to believing parents.

1 Corinthians 7:15. If the unbeliever should leave the believer on account of the gospel (in hatred of it) and will not live with the believer unless Christ is denied or truth compromised, let him leave. The deserted person may live in peace, being not to blame; for a brother or sister is bound in conscience to obey in things pertaining to worship and the service and glory of Christ. Nor is the believer bound to remain unmarried in such cases but is free to marry another, only in the Lord. Desertion in such cases (for the sake of the gospel) is a breach of the marriage contract; otherwise, a brother or sister would be in subjection and bondage to the rebel for the rest of his or her life. God has called us to a peaceful life in the church and in the home.

1 Corinthians 7:16. If a believer is married to an unbeliever and they can build a life of peace together, it may be that the unbeliever will, by the witness and behavior of the believer, be brought to a saving interest in Christ. ‘Continue to live together, if possible, for the glory of Christ and the eternal welfare of all concerned.’

1 Corinthians 7:17. This word is placed here with regard to all that is said before and all that follows. It has respect to every man's proper gift and station in life, whether as a single person or married, whether married to a believer or an unbeliever, and to the examples which follow. God has distributed our gifts as to nature and grace. He has given us the place we are to fill, the business we must follow and the area of usefulness in his kingdom. So when he calls us and reveals his grace to us, wherever we are and whatever we are, let us be content with his good providence and walk with him.

1 Corinthians 7:18-19. If a man is a Jew, being circumcised in infancy, and has embraced the Lord Jesus, there is no reason for him to be uneasy or take methods to remove this mark from his flesh because it has been fulfilled and abolished by Christ. If a man is a Gentile, has never been circumcised and is called by grace, let him not submit to circumcision for religious purposes. In the affair of justification before God, circumcision is nothing! It cannot make a man righteous or unrighteous before God. The commandments of our Lord and Saviour are to be observed from the principle of love and with a view to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 7:20. Coming to know Christ does not require that a man change his business, his marriage, or his station in life as a servant or master, unless that station in life is unlawful according to the word, or dishonest, or detrimental to his Christian life and testimony (2 Kings 5:18-19).

1 Corinthians 7:21. ‘Were you a slave or a servant when you were called to Christ? Do not be troubled by it or be anxious to be otherwise. Be a good servant, serve your master faithfully, and do not look upon a lowly position or hard work as a contradiction of your call. If you are able to gain your freedom and better your position, avail yourself of the opportunity.’

1 Corinthians 7:22. The reason a believer should be content to be a slave, a servant, or whatever, is because he that is called by grace, though a servant in a civil sense, is the Lord's freeman in a spiritual sense. He that is free in a civil sense when called, is the bond-servant of Christ (Romans 1:1).

1 Corinthians 7:23-24. We are bought with the price of Christ's blood and, whether servants or masters, we are the servants of Christ, not of men. So in whatever station, state or condition of life we were when called, let us continue there until it please God in his providence to change it.


Verses 25-40

More about marriage

1 Corinthians 7:25-40

1 Corinthians 7:25. In these verses the apostle returns to the subject of marriage and addresses first those who have never been married. What he is about to say to them is not by a law or commandment of God, but is his own opinion and advice, with sincerity, as one counted faithful by the Lord himself.

1 Corinthians 7:26. ‘My opinion? declares the apostle, ‘is that, because of this time of persecution, affliction and distress, it would be better if believers remained unmarried.’ Believers were put in prison, driven from place to place and life in general was most difficult.

1 Corinthians 7:27. He advises those who are married by no means to desert one another nor seek to dissolve the marriage bond; on the other hand, if they are free from a wife, it would be better not to seek one.

1 Corinthians 7:28. If a person who has never been married, or one who has been legally freed from a wife, think it fit to be married, he commits no sin. It is not a sin to be married. But those who choose married life shall have physical and earthly troubles, and Paul is concerned that they be spared from these troubles.

1 Corinthians 7:29. Our days on earth are so short and full of trouble that an unmarried state is preferable. As for those who are married, it would be wise for them to give themselves to the worship of God, his gospel and his glory, both publicly and privately, and not be taken up overmuch with family and personal cares.

1 Corinthians 7:30-31. Every worldly relationship, sorrow, joy, possession and care is fading and perishing (Job 1:21). Nothing about this world is permanent nor lasting. We may weep, but weeping endures for the night; joy comes in the morning. We may rejoice in earthly treasure, but only temporarily. We may buy and sell, but we really own nothing. Let us use the world and its material and physical qualities with a loose hand, neither too much depressed by its sadness nor too much elated over its joys. It will all pass away.

1 Corinthians 7:32. The apostle's earnest desire is to have believers as free as possible from entangling physical, emotional and material cares that accompany marriage. The unmarried man is more at leisure and can more conveniently care for the things that have to do with grace and glory.

1 Corinthians 7:33-34. The married man must attend to business, provide food and clothing, educate and discipline children and make his family comfortable. He must be involved to a greater extent in the world than the unmarried man. The same is true of women, as stated in 1 Corinthians 7:34.

1 Corinthians 7:35. Paul said these things to them for their own welfare and profit, not to put restrictions and burdens on them which they could not bear, but to promote their comfort and good, that they might attend to the things of God without distraction from worldly cares.

1 Corinthians 7:36. If a man's daughter reaches the age for marriage and desires to be married, he should not take this opinion of the apostle and force her to remain unmarried. The father should give his blessing to the marriage. No one sins in this regard, neither the father nor the couple.

1 Corinthians 7:37. But where there is no necessity for marriage, where the woman or man has the gift of continency and is determined not to be married, there is no shame nor reproach in remaining single any more than in being married.

1 Corinthians 7:38. The parents who give their daughters and sons in marriage do well. The parents who are not pressured by tradition or custom and allow their children to remain unmarried with parental help and blessings, do better.

1 Corinthians 7:39. While a husband is living, the believing wife is bound by God's law to continue to live with him, but when he is dead, she is free to marry whom she will, providing that he, too, is a believer! No true believer is free to marry an unbeliever and expect God's blessing.

1 Corinthians 7:40. In the apostle's opinion, a widow will be happier if she remains unmarried. He adds, ‘I think I have the mind of the Spirit in this matter.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/1-corinthians-7.html. 2013.

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