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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
1 Corinthians 7

 

 

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Verse 1

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

Ver. 1. Whereof ye wrote unto me] Certain cases of conscience they had propounded, which here he answers. This he could do excellently, and so could Luther, as having had experience, and been much beaten and exercised with spiritual conflicts. Conscience is a diamond, and will be wrought on by nothing but dust of diamond, such as contrition hath ground it to.

It is good for a man] Now since the fall, it is good, i.e. convenient for the many troubles of the married state. It is not evil to marry, but good to be wary, else coniugium may prove coniurgium, marriage a mar-age.


Verse 2

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

Ver. 2. To avoid fornication] Gr. πορνειας, fornications, comprehending all lustful burnings, self-pollutions, and all other impurities of a single life. How many are there that enter into God’s ordinance (marriage) through the devil’s portal (fornication), that take such liberty before, that after marriage they rue it all the days of their lives.

Let every man have his own wife] Not many wives. Turks may have as many as they can keep. And some sensualists plead now for polygamy. See Malachi 2:15. Scotorum natio uxores proprias non habet, saith Jerome of the old Scots. And too many among us are sick of a pleurisy. {a}

{a} Inflammation of the pleura, with or without effusion of fluid (serum, pus, blood, etc.) into the pleural cavity; a disease characterized by pain in the chest or side, with fever, loss of appetite, etc.; usually caused by chill, or occurring as a complication of other diseases (scarlatina, rheumatic fever, phthisis, etc.). ŒD


Verse 3

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

Ver. 3. Let the husband, &c.] Let them be chaste between themselves, and beware both of excess and defect. Chastity is a man’s honour, 1 Thessalonians 4:5. And modesty is the best preserver of nuptial chastity. Marriage as well as meats must be sanctified by the word and prayer. God must be sent for to bless this physic to the soul. Raging lust is a great enemy to conjugal love.


Verse 4

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

Ver. 4. The wife hath no power, &c.] The husband’s body is servant to the wife, and the wife’s to the husband: they have passed themselves one to another by mutual covenant, and God keeps the bonds, Proverbs 2:17; Malachi 2:14.


Verse 5

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.

Ver. 5. To fasting and prayer] Preces nobis ieiuniis alendum et quasi saginandum. Fasting days are soul fatting days: prayer is edged and winged thereby.

That Satan tempt you not] The temptation is strong to fornication, stronger to adultery. Watch therefore. Our nature is catching this way; and once in, it is not so easy to come off. This is a searing sin, Hosea 4:11; Ephesians 4:19.


Verse 6

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

Ver. 6. And not of commandment] Among the Jews marriage was not held a thing indifferent, or at their own liberty to choose or refuse, but a binding command. (Targum on Genesis 1:28) Hereto Paul seems in this verse to allude. In this day every Jew is bound to marry about 18 years of age, or before 20; else he is accounted as one that liveth in sin.


Verse 7

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.

Ver. 7. For I would that all, &c.] He had a peculiar gift, that he was so eminently chaste; such as might be in reprobates. So Moses’ meekness was partly from his natural temper. And Luther’s not being tempted to covetousness was much helped by the freeness and generousness of his spirit.


Verse 8

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

Ver. 8. I say therefore to the unmarried] Yet doth not the apostle simply prefer virginity on viduity before marriage as better. The Saturnalian heretics said that marriage was of the devil. And the blemish will never be wiped off some of the ancient fathers, who, to establish their own idol of I know not what virginity, which they themselves had not, have written most wickedly and basely of marriage. If the same God had not been the author of virginity and marriage, he had never countenanced virginity by marriage, as he did in the blessed Virgin.


Verse 9

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

Ver. 9. Let them marry] There is no lust so hot and violent, but God’s medicines rightly applied will cool and heal. Only remember that it is not the having, but the loving of a wife that keepeth a man chaste and clean. And that God doth use to correct excess and dalliance between married couples, with strong temptations after strange flesh.

Better to marry than burn] As an oven heated by the baker, Hosea 7:4. As those pagans were scalded, Romans 1:27, and these papagans {a} still are, that are forbidden to marry, and yet cannot contain.

{a} Papist, Popish (with allusion to pagan). ŒD


Verse 10

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

Ver. 10. Yet not I] By prudential advice only.

But the Lord] Not in so many words, but by just consequence drawn from Matthew 19:6.


Verse 11

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.

Ver. 11. Or let her be reconciled] Ut quae mode pugnarant iungant sua rostra columbae. (Ovid.) Why should married couples be as glass, that being once broken can never be pieced again? The Lord hates putting away, Malachi 2:16.


Verse 12

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.

Ver. 12. Let him not put her away] For to the pure all things are pure. Uxoris vitium aut tollendum, aut tolerandum est, saith Varro in Gellius. Mend a bad wife, if thou canst; bear with her, if thou canst not.


Verse 13

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.

Ver. 13. If he be pleased, &c.] If he blaspheme not Christ, force her not to deny the faith, &c., as that king of Denmark that would have compelled his wife to go to mass, who was therefore forced to flee for her life to her brother the elector of Brandenburg (as Luther relateth,) where she died Christianly.


Verse 14

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.

Ver. 14. But now they are holy] With a federal holiness, and are therefore to be baptized, as being partakers of the covenant of grace. The Habassines (a kind of mongrel Christians in Africa) have an odd conceit, that the souls of infants departing before baptism, are saved by virtue of the eucharist received by the mother after conception, which sanctifieth the child in the womb. Anabaptists play the devil’s part (saith a late writer) in accusing their own children, and disputing them out of the Church and covenant of Christ; affirming them to be no disciples, no servants of God, not holy, as separated to him, when God saith the contrary, Leviticus 25:41-42, Deuteronomy 29:10-15, Acts 15:10, and here.


Verse 15

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.

Ver. 15. But God hath called us to peace] To domestic peace, which they that lack, Plus quam dimidiae beatitudinis suae parte privati sunt, saith Aristotle; They have lost the greater half of the happiness of their lives. This was verified in Phoroneus the lawgiver, and Sulla the Roman general. (Bruson.)


Verse 16

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?

Ver. 16. Whether thou shalt save] And to have any hand in saving a soul is the highest honour.


Verse 17

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.

Ver. 17. But God hath distributed] In case you should not save your yoke fellow, yet keep your station, be content with your condition, and adorn it, 1 Peter 3:1-2. It is the duty of a Christian (said Luther) to believe things invisible, to hope for things deferred, and to love God when he shows himself contrary to us.


Verse 18

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

Ver. 18. Let him not become uncircumcised] Some Jews, for fear of Antiochus, made themselves uncircumcised, RAPC 1Ma 1:15. Others for shame after they were gained to the knowledge of Christ, as here. This was done by drawing up the foreskin with a sergeon’s instrument. And of this wicked invention Esau is said to be the first author and practiser. (Godw. Antiq. Hebr.)


Verse 19

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

Ver. 19. But the keeping of the commandment] This is that bonum hominis, good of man, Micah 6:8, that totum hominis, the whole of man, Ecclesiastes 12:13, that one thing necessary, that is better than sacrifice, 1 Samuel 15:22. Mallem obedire, quam miracula facere, saith Luther; I had rather obey than be able to do miracles.


Verse 20

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

Ver. 20. Abide in the same calling] And therein learn to "maintain good works," or to be their craftsmen, to excel in their profession, honestis functionibus praeesse, as some render the apostle there, Titus 3:8; Titus 3:14. αιεν αριστευειν και υπειροχον εμμεναι αλλων. These things are good and profitable unto men.


Verse 21

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

Ver. 21. Use it rather] Liberty is that we lost by sin, and affect by nature. Servus est nomen officii. A servant is not αυτοματος, one that moveth absolutely of himself, he is the master’s instrument, and ολως εκεινου, wholly his, saith Aristotle. Oh that we could be God’s servants in that sort!


Verse 22

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.

Ver. 22. For he that is called] See a parallel place to this, James 1:9-10. Our preferment in Christ should make us hold up our heads, but not too high, And be cheerful, but not also scornful. Laeti simus in Domino, sed caveamus a recidivo. Bern.


Verse 23

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

Ver. 23. Ye are bought with a price] The redeemed among the Romans were to addict themselves to the service of their redeemers, and to observe them as their parents all days of their lives.

Be not ye the servants of men] When they command you things forbidden by Christ, or when they would tyrannize over your consciences, as the Jesuits, that require blind obedience. Cardinal Tolet saith, The people may merit at God’s hand in believing a heresy, if their teacher propound it; for their obedience is meritorious. (Cases of Conscience.) If a priest teach it (saith Stapleton), be it true, be it false, take it as God’s oracle. If the Church should approve and authorize Arianism or Pelagianism, saith Erasmus (Epist. ad Firkeimer), I would do so too. But so would no wise man.


Verse 24

24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

Ver. 24. Let every man wherein, &c.] This is the same with 1 Corinthians 7:20. The apostle inculcateth it, as we not only anoint our benumbed limbs with ointments, but also rub and chafe them in.


Verse 25

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.

Ver. 25. I give my judgment] The Rhemists (after Erasmus) render it counsel, and thereupon ground a distinction between Divine commands and counsels. But the word γνωμην betokens viri boni rectum et verum iudicium, saith Magirus, the right and sound judgment of some good man. (In Arist. Ethic.) And surely if the apostle had no express command from Christ, neither had he any counsel from him concerning this business.


Verse 26

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

Ver. 26. I suppose therefore] This is his judgment, his vote or verdict: the first part thereof we have here; the second, 1 Corinthians 7:28; the third, 1 Corinthians 7:35.


Verse 27

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

Ver. 27. Art thou bound to a wife?] A manifest metaphor from oxen. Hence we call them yoke fellows:

" Quam male inaequales veniunt ad aratra iuvenci;

Tam premitur magno, &c." (Ovid. Epist.)

Dare not to yoke thyself with any untamed heifer that bears not Christ’s yoke.


Verse 28

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.

Ver. 28. Thou hast not sinned] If any man call lawful marriage a sinful defilement, he hath the apostate dragon dwelling in him, saith Ignatius. (Epist. ad Philadelph.) And yet the Papists teach that it is a far greater sin for a priest to have a wife than to keep many harlots.

Such shall have trouble in the flesh] Mark that he saith, "in the flesh;" the delights of wedlock will be alloyed with troubles, to avoid surfeit. Before marriage people promise themselves much happiness in that estate, and think they could live together with all delight; but after, they see they are deceived, and therefore need to go to school to learn how to behave themselves one toward another.

But I spare you] q.d. No more of that; and yet I’ll show you a way how you may escape, or at least mitigate those troubles in the flesh. Thus this First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, though in weight of argument it be far inferior to the preceding Epistle to the Romans, yet in variety of things it ought to be judged equal, and in order of time before the other. Thesaurus sane est, imo vere mundus rerum cognitu dignissimature, as Erasmus saith of Pliny’s Natural History: surely it is a treasure, yea, a very world of things, most worthy to be understood.


Verse 29

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

Ver. 29. This then I say, brethren] The best counsel I can give you, is, that you hang loose to all these outward comforts, as having yourselves but a while to be here. You have a long task, and but a little time. God hath hanged the heaviest weights upon the weakest wires; for upon this moment depends eternity. Castigemus igitur mores et moras nostras. Up, therefore, and be doing.

The time is short] Gr. συνεσταλμενος, contracted and rolled up, as sails used to be by the mariners, when the ship draws nigh to the harbour. Others say, it is a metaphor from a piece of cloth rolled up, only a little left at the end. So hath God rolled up all his works, only he hath left a little at the end, and then all his glory shall appear. The time is short, saith the apostle, and you have business enough another way; therefore let other things (as wiving and buying, &c.) pass, and mind the main. There is water little enough to run in the right channel, therefore let none run beside. Some that have lain dying would have given a world for time: as I have heard (saith a reverend man) one crying day and night, Call time again. And I also have known the like of a great lady of this land. Let us therefore use all speed and diligence, lest (so as children have usually torn their books) we have ended our lives before we have learned our lessons; or (as Themistocles) we begin but to be wise when we come to die.

They that have wives, &c.] Not be uxorious, since they know not how soon God may take from them, as he did from Ezekiel, the delight of their eyes, their dearest spouses. The Jews of this day have a custom, when a couple are married, to break the glass wherein the bridegroom and bride drank; thereby to admonish them of their dying condition, and that there must be a parting again ere long. (Sphinx. Philos.)


Verse 30

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;

Ver. 30. And they that weep] viz. In the loss of wife or children: let them moderate their grief, as Abraham did in the loss of Sarah, Genesis 23:2; "He came to weep for her;" where the Hebrew hath one little letter extraordinary, {Hebrew Text Note} to note, that Abraham wept but a little for her; and this, not because she was old and overly worn (as the Rabbins give the reason), but because he had hope of a happy resurrection, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, and because she was his still, though dead; therefore he so often in that chapter calleth her "my dead," 1 Corinthians 7:4; 1 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Corinthians 7:13; 1 Corinthians 7:15.

And they that rejoice] In the marrying of wives, or birth of children. The marriage day is called the day of "the rejoicing of a man’s heart," Song of Solomon 3:11 : and when should men be merry rather than at the recovering of the lost rib? But he was to blame that said, he had married a wife, and therefore he could not come. And he was a wiser man that said, Uxori nubere nolo meae, ( Martial.)

As if they possessed not] Mind earthly things we must, as if we minded them not: as a man may hear a tale, and have his mind elsewhere; or as a man that baits at an inn, his mind is somewhere else. A right believer (saith Mr Ward) goes through the world as a man whose mind is in a deep study; or as one that hath special haste of some weighty business. Rebus non me trado, sed commodo, saith Seneca. Be not wholly dulled or drowned in the world; look at it out of the eyes’ end only, lest, as the serpent Scytale, it bewitch us with its beautiful colours, and sting us to death.


Verse 31

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

Ver. 31. As not abusing it] Not shooting our affections overly far into it. David was as a weaned child, Paul as a crucified man. If Job’s heart had not been weaned from the world, when as yet he wallowed in worldly wealth, he could not have borne so bravely the ruin of so rich a state without repining. The devil hath no way to entangle us, but to say, as he did to Christ, Mitte te deorsum, Cast thyself down, pitch upon the bait, eat and devour hook and all. We have no safer way to escape him, than by minding the main, and looking upon all things here below as by-businesses. The Fathers make this observation here; that the joys of this world are but quasi, as if they were joys, not joys indeed, but shadows or figures, as Isaiah 29:8, like the commotions of the affections in a dream.

For the fashion of this world] The word σχημα signifies a mathematical figure, which is a mere notion, and nothing in substance. So Psalms 39:6; "Surely every man walketh in a vain shadow," he leadeth an imaginary life, rather than a life itself. The pomp of this world is but a fantasy, Acts 25:23. (See the note there.) The glory of it, an opinion. The word here used intimateth that there is nothing of any firmness or solid consistency in the creature. It is but a surface, outside, empty promise; all the beauty of it is but skin-deep. The word here used signifies, say some, such a fashion as is in a comedy or stageplay, where all things are but for a while, to please the eye.

Passeth away] Temporals are as transitory as a hasty headlong torrent. The posting sun of all worldly pleasure, after a short gleam of vain glistering, sets in the ocean of endless sorrow. In the pope’s enthronization, before he is set in his chair, and puts on his triple crown, a piece of tow or wad of straw is set on fire before him, and one appointed to say, Sic transit gloria mundi, The glory of this world is but a blaze. It is indeed an ignis fatuus, a walking fire that leadeth men into brakes and ditches. And so some render this text. The fashion or hue of this world deceiveth, misleadeth, carrieth men another way, out of their way, παραγει. Fallit, transversum agit. (Bud.) For of the world we may say as Plutarch saith of Herodotus, Both the words and shows of it are full of fraud. δολερα μεν τα σχηματα, δολερα δε τα ρηματα. Nec tantum fallacia sunt quia dubia (saith Lactantius), sed et insidiosa, quia dulcia.


Verse 32

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:

Ver. 32. Without carefulness] That unavoidably attendeth the marriage state, Genesis 30:30; 1 Timothy 5:8.


Verse 33

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

Ver. 33. Careth how he may please] He taketh extraordinary care to please, and so doth she, 1 Corinthians 7:34. The word μεριμνα implies a dividing of the mind into various thoughts, casting this way and that way, and every way, how to give best content. That is a happy study.


Verse 34

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.

Ver. 34. Careth for the things] Expeditius vacat.

Holy both in body and spirit] For contemplative wickedness and mental uncleanness also greatly displeaseth God. Incesta est, et sine stupro, quae stuprum cupit, saith Seneca (In Declam.); and, Quae quia non licuit non facit, illa facit, saith Ovid. The very desire to do evil is to do evil. The Romans punished one of their Vestal Virgins for uttering this verse only:

" Faelices nuptae! moriar ni nubere dulce est.

Oh! ‘tis a brave thing to be married."

How she may please her husband] As Sarah did Abraham, calling him lord; as Rebecca did Isaac, by providing him the meat that he loved; as Livia did Augustus, by observing his disposition, and drawing evenly with him, being a piece so just cut for him, as answered him rightly in every joint.


Verse 35

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.

Ver. 35. That you may attend, &c.] Gr. ευπροσεδρον. That you may sit close to him, as Mary did, Luke 10:40, while Martha was distracted about much service. Let every man bend himself to banish and beat away distractions,

" Nam neque chorda sonum reddit, quem vult manus et mens

Poscentique gravem persaepe remittit acutum."

Hor. de Art. Poet.


Verse 36

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.

Ver. 36. If she pass the flower] Childhood is counted the flower of age: so long the apostle would have marriage forborne. While the flower of the plant sprouteth, the seed is green, unfit to be sown.


Verse 37

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.

Ver. 37. And hath so decreed] Reserving still a liberty of doing otherwise, if need require: which Popish votaries do not.


Verse 38

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

Ver. 38. Doth better] 1. For the better waiting upon God’s work without distraction. 2. For the better bearing of persecution.


Verse 39

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.

Ver. 39. She is at liberty] The Montanists therefore (and with them Tertullian in his old age) were in an error that condemned second marriage, and said it was no better than fornication. Secundas nuptias pro fornicationibus habent. (Aug) Howbeit that of Jerome is not to be disliked. Think daily of death; and that will be enough to forbid the banns of second marriage.


Verse 40

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

Ver. 40. But she is happier] i.e. She shall live more at ease, and have less to care for. And we should contract our cares into as narrow a compass as we can, in hard times especially.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-corinthians-7.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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