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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Corinthians 7

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1-2

1 Corinthians 7:1-2. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me — The letter of the Corinthian believers to which the apostle alludes here, and in which it appears they put divers questions to him, hath long been lost; a circumstance to be much regretted; for had it been preserved, it would doubtless have illustrated many passages of the two epistles to the Corinthians, which are now obscure because we are ignorant of the matters to which the apostle alludes in these passages. It is good for a man — Who is master of himself, and has his passions and appetites under due control; not to touch a woman — That is, not to marry; so great and many are the advantages of a single life, especially in the present calamitous state of the church. Nevertheless — Since the God of nature has, for certain wise reasons, implanted in the sexes a mutual inclination to each other; to avoid — That is, in order to prevent; fornication — And every other species of uncleanness and pollution; let every man — Who finds it expedient in order to his living chastely; have his own wife — His own, for Christianity allows no polygamy; and every woman her own husband — “Here the apostle speaks in the imperative mood, using the style in which superiors give their commands; but although he recommends a single life in certain circumstances, this and the injunction (1 Corinthians 7:5) given to all who cannot live chastely unmarried, is a direct prohibition of celibacy to the bulk of mankind. Further, as no person in early life can foresee what his future state of mind will be, or what temptations he may meet with, he cannot certainly know whether it will be in his power to live chastely unmarried. Wherefore, as that is the only case in which the apostle allows persons to live unmarried, vows of celibacy and virginity, taken in early life, must in both sexes be sinful.” — Macknight.


Verse 3-4

1 Corinthians 7:3-4. Let the husband — Where this relation is commenced; render unto the wife, την οφειλομενην ευνοιαν, the due benevolence — That is, the conjugal duty, the duty resulting from the nature of the marriage- covenant. Or, let not married persons fancy that there is any perfection in living with each other as if they were unmarried. The wife hath not power over her own body — Namely, in this respect, but by the marriage- covenant hath transferred it to her husband. And likewise the husband hath not power over his own body; but it is, as it were, the property of the wife, their engagements being mutual; so that, on every occasion, conscience obliges them to remain appropriated to each other. “The right of the wife to her husband’s body, being here represented as precisely the same with the husband’s right to her body, it excludes the husband from simultaneous polygamy; otherwise the right of the husband to his wife’s body would not exclude her from being married to another, during her husband’s lifetime. Besides, the direction, (1 Corinthians 7:2,) let every woman have her own husband, plainly leads to the same conclusion. The right of the wife to her husband’s body is a perfect right, being founded on the ends of marriage, namely, the procreation of children, their proper education, and the prevention of fornication. But these ends would, in a great measure, be frustrated, if the wife had not an exclusive right to her husband’s person.” — Macknight.


Verses 5-7

1 Corinthians 7:5-7. Defraud not — Or deprive not; one the other — Of this benevolence; or withdraw not from the company of each other; except it be with consent for a time, that — On those special and solemn occasions, you may entirely give yourselves up to the exercises of devotion. From this passage it appears, that, in the first age, when married persons parted for a time to employ themselves in the duties of devotion, they lived in separate habitations, or rather in different parts of their own house. For in the eastern countries the houses were so built, that the women had apartments allotted to themselves. And come together again — As usual, and do not continue the separation too long; that Satan tempt you not — To unclean thoughts, if not actions too, which he probably might do, if you should long remain separate from each other; for your incontinency — The word ακρασια, thus translated, properly signifies, the want of the government of one’s passions and appetites. It is properly observed here by Dr. Macknight, “that marriage being an affair of the greatest importance to society, it was absolutely necessary that its obligation and duties, as well as the obligation and duties of the other relations of life, should be declared by inspiration in the Scriptures. This passage, therefore, of the word of God ought to be read with due reverence, both because it was dictated by the Holy Spirit, and because throughout the whole of his discourse the apostle has used the greatest chastity and delicacy of expression.” But I speak this — That which I have said, for the preventing of incontinency, both in the unmarried, (1 Corinthians 7:2,) and married, (1 Corinthians 7:5,) by permission — From Christ, to leave you to your liberty therein, if you have the gift of continency. Or, as an advice, as some render κατα συγγνωμην. Bengelius says the word denotes an opinion, rightly suited to the state or disposition of another. And not of commandment — Not as an injunction. Or, as some commentators suppose, he may refer to what follows. For I would that all men — All the disciples of Christ who are unmarried, and can live chastely, were even as I myself — That is, would remain eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; or, that they could as easily bear the restraints of a single life in present circumstances, and exercise as resolute a command over their natural desires. Paul, having tasted the sweetness of this liberty, wished others to enjoy it as well as himself. But every man hath his proper gift of God — According to our Lord’s declaration, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given, Matthew 19:11.


Verse 8-9

1 Corinthians 7:8-9. I say, therefore — I give this advice; to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them — It is a condition of life which will tend to promote their eternal welfare, that, if they conveniently can, they abide even as I — Namely, unmarried; for that Paul was then single is certain: and from Acts 7:58, compared with the following parts of the history, it seems probable that he always was so. It may not be improper to observe, that many of the things which the apostle delivers here, as also chap. 14., and in some other parts of this epistle, are rather to be considered as advices about what was best to be done in many particular cases, to which the general precepts, or doctrine of the gospel revealed to this apostle, did not descend, than as commands, enjoining these things to the believers, under the penalty of their contracting guilt, and exposing themselves to the divine displeasure, if they did not comply with them. Yet these also were directions, or counsels of the Lord, concerning what was expedient to be done, and were delivered to the apostle by the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit, (as appears by comparing 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; with 1 Corinthians 14:40,) and were faithfully delivered by him; and therefore the assent of the Corinthians is required to them as such. See the like advice concerning some particular charities of the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 8:10; the apostle distinguishing between the commands of God, which none might disobey without sin, and these advices, concerning what was fitting and proper, though not absolutely necessary. And therefore, as he directs, that it was better to observe them, so he acknowledges that there was no command that made it unlawful to omit them. But if they cannot — Live continently, or preserve themselves in purity of body and spirit in a single state; let them marry — Especially the younger widows, (1 Timothy 5:14,) or widowers; for it is better to marry — And suffer the inconveniences attending marriage, than to be tormented with unchaste desires.


Verse 10-11

1 Corinthians 7:10-11. The married I command — Greek, τοις δε γεγαμηκοσι παραγγελλω, Now those that have married I charge: so these words should be rendered, the phrase being the same with that in 1 Timothy 1:3, rendered by our translators, that thou mightest charge some. Yet not I — Only, or not I by any new revelation, nor by mere counsel, or prudential advice, as 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:40. But the Lord — Namely, in the first institution of marriage, Genesis 2:24; and the Lord Christ also commanded the same, Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:6; Matthew 19:9. The Lord Jesus, during his ministry on earth, delivered many precepts of his law in the hearing of his disciples. And those which he did not deliver in person, he promised to reveal to them by the Spirit, after his departure. Therefore there is a just foundation for distinguishing the commandments which the Lord delivered in person, from those which he revealed to the apostles by the Spirit, and which they made known to the world in their sermons and writings. This distinction is not only made by Paul; it is insinuated likewise by Peter and Jude, 2 Peter 3:3, 1:17, where the commandments of the apostles of the Lord and Saviour are mentioned, not as inferior in authority to the commandments of the Lord, (for they were all as really his commandments as those which he delivered in person,) but as different in the manner of their communication. And the apostle’s intention here was not, as many have imagined, to tell us in what things he was inspired, and in what not; but to show us what commandments the Lord delivered personally in his own lifetime, and what the Spirit inspired the apostles to deliver after his departure. This Paul could do with certainty; because, although he was not of the number of those who accompanied our Lord during his ministry, all the particulars of his life and doctrine were made known to him by revelation, as may be collected from 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Timothy 5:18; and from many allusions to the words and actions of Christ, found in the epistles which Paul wrote before any of the gospels were published; and from his mentioning one of Christ’s sayings, not recorded by any of the evangelists, Acts 20:35. Further, that the apostle’s intention, in distinguishing the Lord’s commandments from those he calls his own, was not to show what things he spake by inspiration, and what not, is evident, from his adding certain circumstances, which prove that, in delivering his own commandments, or judgment, he was really inspired. Thus, when he asserted that a widow was at liberty to marry a second time, by adding, (1 Corinthians 7:40,) she is happier if she so abide, after (that is, according to) my judgment; and I think, or, (as δοκω rather means,) I am certain that I also have the Spirit of God, he plainly asserted that he was inspired in giving that judgment or determination. See more on this subject in Macknight. Let not the wife depart from her husband — Wilfully leave him, on account of any disagreement between them. But if she depart — Contrary to this express prohibition, assigning, perhaps, reasons apparently necessary for it, as that her life is in danger, or the like; let her remain unmarried, or — Rather, if it may be accomplished by any submission on her part, let her be reconciled to her husband — That, if possible, they may live in such a union and harmony as the relation requires. And let not the husband put away his wife — Except for the cause of adultery; because the obligations lying on husbands and wives are mutual and equal. The apostle, after saying concerning the wife, that if she departed from her husband, she must remain unmarried, or be reconciled to him, did not think it necessary to add a similar clause respecting the husband, namely, that if he put away his wife, he must remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her. This, however, is implied in what he says concerning him.


Verse 12-13

1 Corinthians 7:12-13. To the rest — Who are married to unbelievers; speak I — By revelation from God; not the Lord — Who, during his ministry, gave no commandment concerning the matter. If any brother hath a wife that believeth not — Is a heathen, not yet converted; let him not put her away — If she consent to dwell with him. The Jews indeed were obliged, of old, to put away their idolatrous wives, Ezra 10:3; but their case was quite different. They were absolutely forbid to marry idolatrous women; but the persons here spoken of were married while they were both in a state of heathenism. It is probable that some of the more zealous Jewish converts, on the authority of that example of Ezra, contended that the Corinthians, who before their conversion had been married to idolaters, were bound to put away their spouses, if they continued in idolatry. Therefore the sincere part of the church having consulted the apostle on that question, he ordered such marriages to be continued, if the parties were willing to abide together. But as a difference of religion often proves an occasion of family quarrels, and there was danger, if the believers should be connected in marriage with idolaters and open sinners, lest they should be drawn by their partners into similar vices and abominations, the apostle advised them, in his second epistle, in contracting marriages after their conversion, by no means to marry idolaters, 2 Corinthians 6:14. And — On the other hand, if any Christian woman have an unbelieving husband, whether he be a Jew or a Gentile, and he consent to dwell with her, let her not leave him — Nor put him away, as the expression αφιετω αυτον (the same that is used in the preceding verse) implies. And it is certain, though the Jewish law did not put it into a woman’s power to divorce her husband, yet that in those countries, in the apostle’s days, the wives among the heathen had a power of divorce as well as the husbands; and that the Roman women practised it in a most scandalous manner, as did several Jewish ladies of distinguished rank; and among them, even Josephus’s own wife. See Lardner’s Credibility, part I, vol. 2. p. 890, Juv. Sat., ver. 222-230.


Verse 14

1 Corinthians 7:14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife — That is, so far that their matrimonial converse is as lawful, holy, and honourable, as if they were both of the same faith: and in many instances the unbeliever, whether husband or wife, hath been converted to God by the instrumentality of the believing partner. The former sense, however, and not this latter, seems to be the primary meaning of the apostle. Else were your children unclean — And must be looked upon as unfit to be admitted to those peculiar ordinances by which the seed of God’s people are distinguished; but now are they holy — Confessedly; and are as readily admitted to baptism as if both the parents were Christians: so that the case, you see, is in effect decided by this prevailing practice. So Dr. Doddridge, who adds, “On the maturest and most impartial consideration of this text, I must judge it to refer to infant baptism. Nothing can be more apparent than that the word holy signifies persons who might be permitted to partake of the distinguishing rites of God’s people. See Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:19; Ezra 9:2; Acts 10:28, &c. And as for the interpretation, which so many of our brethren, the Baptists, have contended for, that holy signifies legitimate, and unclean, illegitimate, (not to urge that this seems an unscriptural sense of the word,) nothing can be more evident, than that the argument will by no means bear it; for it would be proving a thing by itself, (idem per idem,) to argue that the converse of the parents was lawful, because the children were not bastards; whereas all who thought the converse of the parents unlawful, must of course think that the children were illegitimate.” Thus also Dr. Whitby: “He doth not say, ‘else were your children bastards, but now they are legitimate,’ but

‘else were they unclean;’ that is, heathen children, not to be owned as a holy seed, and therefore not to be admitted into covenant with God, as belonging to his holy people. That this is the true import of the words ακαθαρτα and αγια, will be apparent from the Scriptures, in which the heathen are styled the unclean, in opposition to the Jews, who were in covenant with God, and therefore styled a holy people. Whence it is evident that the Jews looked upon themselves as δουλοι θεου καθαροι, the clean servants of God, Nehemiah 2:20; and upon all the heathen and their offspring, as unclean, by reason of their want of circumcision, and the sign of the covenant. Hence, whereas it is said that Joshua circumcised the people, chap. 1 Corinthians 5:4, the LXX. say, περιεκαθαρεν, he cleansed them. Moreover, of heathen children, and such as are not circumcised, they say, they are not born in holiness; but they, on the contrary, are styled σπερμα αγιον, a holy seed, Isaiah 6:13; Ezra 9:2; and the offspring from them, and from those proselytes which had embraced their religion, are said to be born in holiness, and so thought fit to be admitted to circumcision, or baptism, or whatsoever might initiate them into the Jewish Church; and therefore to this sense of the words holy and unclean, the apostle may be here most rationally supposed to allude. And though one of the parents be still a heathen, yet is the denomination to be taken from the better, and so their offspring are to be esteemed, not as heathen, that is, unclean, but holy; as all Christians by denomination are. Hence, then, the argument for infant baptism runs thus: ‘If the holy seed among the Jews was therefore to be circumcised, and be made federally holy, by receiving the sign of the covenant, and being admitted into the number of God’s holy people, because they were born in sanctity; then, by like reason, the holy seed of Christians ought to be admitted to baptism, and receive the sign of the Christian covenant, the laver of regeneration, and so be entered into the society of the Christian Church.’ So also Clemens Alexandrinus and Tertullian.”


Verses 15-17

1 Corinthians 7:15-17. But if the unbelieving party depart, let him, or her depart — And take the course they think best. A brother or sister — A Christian man or woman; is not under bondage — Is at full liberty; in such cases: but — Let it be always remembered; God hath called us to peace — To live peaceably with them, if it be possible: and therefore it ought to be our care to behave in as inoffensive a manner as may be, in all the relations of life; that so, if there must be a breach, the blame may not be chargeable upon the Christian. For what knowest thou, &c. — As if he had said, It is of great importance that you should conduct yourselves properly toward those who thus make, as it were, a part of yourselves, and that you should adorn the gospel by the most amiable and engaging behaviour possible, that thereby the unbeliever may be gained over to Christianity. And surely the everlasting happiness of the person, now the companion of your life, will be more than an equivalent for all the self-denial to which you may be required at present to submit. See on 1 Peter 3:1-2. But — However it be, whether the unbeliever be converted or not; as God hath distributed to every man — The various stations of life, and various relations, let him take care to discharge his duty therein; for the gospel disannuls none of them: And as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk — “By declaring here, and 1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:24, that men were bound, after their conversion, to continue under all the moral and just political obligations, which lay on them before their conversion, the apostle condemned the error of Judaizers, who taught, that, by embracing the true religion, all the former obligations, under which the convert lay, were dissolved. The gospel, instead of weakening any moral or just political obligation, strengthens them all.” This I ordain in all churches — This I lay down as a general rule for all Christians to observe, and insist on it, as a matter of the greatest importance.


Verse 18-19

1 Corinthians 7:18-19. Is any man called — Brought to the saving knowledge of Christ, and to a participation of his grace; being circumcised — Having been born of Jewish parents, and therefore circumcised in his childhood, or being a proselyte of righteousness, and therefore circumcised; let him not become uncircumcised — Not act as if he were desirous, as far as possible, to undo what was done for him by his Jewish parents, or others. Is any called in uncircumcision — Having been a Gentile by birth; let him not be circumcised — The Judaizing teachers urged the Gentile converts to receive circumcision as necessary to salvation. This the apostle declared to be a renouncing of the gospel, Galatians 5:2-3. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing — Will neither promote nor obstruct our salvation. The one point is, keeping the commandments of God — Namely, from a principle of faith and love, and with a single eye to the glory of God: for this, according to the same apostle, implies faith working by love, and a new creature, or a new creation, the necessity of which the apostle declares, in similar terms, Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15.


Verses 20-24

1 Corinthians 7:20-24. Let every man abide wherein he was called — Affect not to change without the clear and evident leadings of Providence, as there is generally greater reason to expect a man will enjoy comfort, and be holy and useful, in a situation to which he is accustomed, than in another to which he is a stranger. The apostle repeats the injunction because of its great importance; for they who are so unsettled in their minds as to be continually changing from one condition or line of life to another, seldom make progress, or are of much use to themselves or others, in any one. Art thou called being a servant — Or bondman, as δουλος properly signifies; care not for it — Do not much regard it, nor anxiously seek liberty: do not suppose that such a condition renders thee less acceptable to God, or is unworthy of a Christian. But if thou mayest be made free — By any lawful method; use it rather — Embrace the opportunity. He that is called in, or by, the Lord — To the Christian faith; being a servant — Or a bond-man; is the Lord’s freeman — Being delivered by him from the slavery of sin and Satan, and therefore possesses the greatest of all dignities. Likewise — In like manner; he that is called, being free — From the authority of any human master; is Christ’s servant — Or bondman; not free in this respect; not at his own disposal; not at liberty to do his own will, but bound to be subject and obedient to Christ. Surely, as Goodwin observes, “the apostle could not have expressed in stronger terms his deep conviction of the small importance of human distinctions than he here does; when, speaking of what seems, to great and generous minds, the most miserable lot, even that of a slave, he says, Care not for it.” To this Doddridge adds, “If liberty itself, the first of all temporal blessings, be not of so great importance as that a man, blessed with the high hopes and glorious consolations of Christianity, should make himself very solicitous about it, how much less in those comparatively trifling distinctions on which many lay so disproportionate, so extravagant a stress.” Ye are bought with a price — Christ hath redeemed you at the expense of his own blood, a price of infinite value; be not ye the servants — The slaves; of men — If it can by any lawful means be avoided, since so many evils, dangers, and snares are inseparable from such a condition. Brethren, let every man, &c. — Here the apostle repeats the same advice a third time in the compass of a few verses, intending, L’Enfant thinks, “to correct some disorders among the Christian slaves in Corinth, who, agreeably to the doctrine of the false teachers, claimed their liberty, on pretence that, as brethren in Christ, they were on an equality with their Christian masters.” Therein abide with God — Doing all things as unto God, and as in his immediate presence. They who thus abide with God, preserve a holy indifference with regard to outward things.


Verse 25-26

1 Corinthians 7:25-26. Now concerning virgins — The word παρθενων, translated virgins, denotes persons of either sex, who never were married. For Elsner, after Suidas, tells us, that men were called παρθενοι, virgins, as well as women; of which Revelation 14:4 is an undoubted example; these are they which were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. The apostle seems here to speak of such single persons as were in their fathers’ families. I have no commandment of the Lord — Namely, delivered during his ministry, or communicated by any particular revelation. Nor was it necessary he should; for the apostles wrote nothing which was not divinely inspired, but with this difference, sometimes they delivered what Christ had expressly declared or enjoined during his personal ministry, or what was made known to them by a particular revelation, and a special commandment; at other times they wrote from the divine light, which abode with them, the standing treasure of the Spirit of God. And this also was not their own private opinion, but a divine rule of faith and practice to the Christians, or a directory to them in cases of difficulty. See note on 1 Corinthians 7:6. Yet I give my judgment — Guided by the Holy Spirit, not only to deliver sound doctrine, but faithful and wholesome advice, 1 Corinthians 7:40; 1 Thessalonians 4:8. As one that hath obtained mercy to be faithful — As one whom God hath in mercy made faithful in my apostolic office, who therefore faithfully deliver what I receive from him. The apostle, in other passages, ascribes his inspiration and supernatural gifts to divine mercy, (2 Corinthians 4:1,) and grace; (Galatians 2:9 :) wherefore, as by this mercy and grace he was enabled to be a faithful apostle and steward of the mysteries of God, his judgment, in all cases, must be considered as being dictated by inspiration. I suppose therefore — The word νομιζω, thus rendered, might, with propriety, have been translated I determine, or I establish by law; (see Park. Dict.;) for the apostle does not give a simple opinion, such as any wise man might give, but an inspired decision: that this is good — Is right and proper, and ought to be observed; for the present distress — Or exigency; that is, while any church is under persecution. The same word, αναγκη, is used for affliction arising from outward circumstances, Luke 21:23. By mentioning the present distress as the chief, or only thing which rendered a single state proper, the apostle hath prevented us from fancying that celibacy is a more holy or perfect state than matrimony. The one or the other, as Macknight justly observes, is proper, according to the circumstances in which persons are placed. I say that it is good for a man so to be — “Though the English word man, like its corresponding word in Greek and Latin, denotes both sexes, the Greek word here might have been translated a person, better to agree with the signification of the word virgin, which, as we have just observed, denotes an unmarried person of either sex.”


Verse 27-28

1 Corinthians 7:27-28. Art thou bound to a wife? — “Because the directions which the apostle was about to give (1 Corinthians 7:36) to fathers, concerning the disposal of their children in marriage, were partly to be founded on the inclination and circumstances of the children, before he gave these directions, he very properly addressed the children themselves, and set before them the considerations by which their inclinations were to be regulated in that matter, namely, the inconveniences attending a married state, and the brevity and uncertainty of all human enjoyments; considerations which, he told them, ought to determine them to wish to remain unmarried under the present distress.” Seek not to be loosed — From her by an unjust divorce, or by deserting her. Art thou loosed? — Hath Providence never led thee into those engagements; or has it broken the bond by the death of thy former companion? Seek not a wife — If thou canst conveniently and virtuously continue as thou art; at least at present, till the storm, which now hovers over the church, be a little blown over, and more peaceful times return. But yet if thou marry, thou hast not thereby sinned: and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned — The marriage state is, no doubt, both lawful and honourable. Nevertheless, such shall have trouble in the flesh — Many outward troubles; but I spare you — I speak as little and as tenderly as possible.


Verses 29-31

1 Corinthians 7:29-31. But this I say, &c. — But though I leave every one to his own liberty in the case now mentioned, yet here is what is necessary for all to observe. The time — Of our abode here, and of these worldly enjoyments; is short: it remaineth — It plainly follows; that those who have wives be as though they had none — Namely, as serious, zealous, and active, dead to the world, as devoted to God, as holy in all manner of conversation, preserving themselves from all inordinate affection toward them, and to be prepared to leave them, or to part with them, whenever a wise, unerring, and gracious Providence shall call them so to do. By so easy a transition does the apostle slide from every thing else to the one thing needful, and, forgetting whatever is temporal, is swallowed up in eternity. And they that weep — That sorrow on account of any trouble; as though they wept not — Knowing that the end of temporal troubles, as of temporal joys, is fast approaching, and therefore not being too much concerned, cast down, and distressed on account of them. And they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not — Knowing the transitory nature of all earthly joys, and therefore tempering their joy with godly fear. And they that buy, as though they possessed not — Considering that they hold nothing here by a certain tenure, but must shortly resign all, and therefore not placing much dependance on any thing secular for happiness; and knowing themselves to be only stewards, and not proprietors of what they possess, and that they must shortly be called to give an account of the use they have made of it. And they that use this world — That is, the comforts and accommodations thereof; as not abusing it — By employing them to other ends than those to which they were intended; or in another manner than that prescribed by the great Proprietor of all, and not seeking happiness therein, but in God: using every thing only in such a manner and degree as most tends to the knowledge and love of him. For the fashion of this world — The whole scheme of it, and the manner and way of living or conversing here, with the several conditions, relations, and connections of life; this marrying, weeping, rejoicing, and all the rest, not only will pass, but now passeth away, is this moment flying off like a shadow.


Verses 32-35

1 Corinthians 7:32-35. But — Or now; I would have you — During this flying moment; without carefulness — Or anxiety, amidst all these uncertainties: without any encumbrance or distraction of your thoughts, about the affairs of this short uncertain life, in order that you may freely and cheerfully wait on God in a due attendance on all his ordinances, and may serve him according to his will; and therefore, for the present, I advise you to remain single as you are. For he that is unmarried — If he understand and use the advantage he enjoys; careth chiefly for the things that belong to the Lord — Namely, the Lord Christ; how he may please the Lord — And is in a great degree at liberty to employ his thoughts, cares, and labours, for the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom among men; and surely there is no other employment so honourable, so delightful, and, when remote consequences are taken into the account, so profitable. But he that is married careth for the things of the world — And it is his duty so to do, so far as becomes a Christian; how he may please his wife — May accommodate himself to her temper in all lawful things, so as to make her easy and happy, and provide all things needful for her and his family. There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin — Whether the church be under persecution or not. The unmarried woman — Not burdened with a family, if she know and use her privilege; careth chiefly for the things of the Lord — All her time, care, and thoughts, centre in this, how she may be holy both in body and spirit. — This is the standing advantage of a single life in all ages and nations, but who makes a suitable use of it? But she that is married, careth how she may please her husband — And the diversity of humours both in men and women, and the imperfection of even the best tempers, make this sometimes, on both sides, a difficult task; on which account single persons have always some considerable advantages, and especially in times of public danger. And this — Concerning the advantages of a single life; I speak for your profit — To show you what is most advantageous for your souls; not that I may cast a snare upon you — Who are not able to receive this saying; but for that which is comely προς το ευσχημον, for that which is decent, agreeable to your holy calling and profession: and that you may attend upon the Lord — May resolutely and perseveringly wait upon him in the use of all the means of grace, and in a continual attention to the voice of his providence, word, and Spirit. The word ευπροσεδρον, rendered attend upon, signifies sitting close by a person, in a good posture to hear: so Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, Luke 10:39 : without distraction — Without having the mind drawn from its centre, from its close attention to God, by any person or thing, care or encumbrance whatsoever.


Verses 36-38

1 Corinthians 7:36-38. But if any man — Who is a parent or guardian; think that he behaveth himself uncomely — That he should act indecently, or in a manner unbecoming his character, or unsuitably to her credit and reputation; toward his virgin — By hindering her from marriage; if she pass, &c. — Greek, εαν η υπερακμος, if she be above age, or of full age; and need so require και ουτως οφειλει γινεσθαι, and it be necessary to be so done, whether the necessity ariseth from her conscience and inclination, or her being sought in marriage; let him do what he will — As he sees occasion, according to circumstances, either to marry her, or keep her single. Or, as the words may be rendered, Let him do what she inclineth to; he sinneth not — In complying with her inclination in such a case: let them — Let such virgin daughters, marry — See on 1 Corinthians 7:9. “As both the Jews and Gentiles reckoned celibacy dishonourable, some fathers might think it sinful to restrain their daughters from marriage; while others, following the opinion of the Essenes and rigid philosophers, fancied they acted properly in restraining them. The Corinthians, therefore, had judged it necessary to consult the apostle on that head.” Nevertheless — Or but; he that standeth steadfast, &c. — Who continueth firmly persuaded in his mind, that it is no sin in his daughter to remain unmarried; having no necessity — From her opinion, or inclination, or circumstances, to give her in marriage; and hath power over his own will — Which would incline him to desire the increase of his family, and the strengthening of it by new relations; or, who hath the direction of his own will — In that affair, being a freeman, and not a slave; and hath so decreed, &c. — Hath determined this in his mind; to keep his virgin — Unmarried, agreeably to her own inclination; doeth well — Doeth what is preferable. So then he that giveth her in marriage — When need so requires, doeth well — Doth what is lawful, and in his daughter’s case is, on the whole, proper, even in the present distress; but he that giveth her not doeth better — What is better for her, more for her spiritual improvement; because if she agrees to it, by keeping her in his own family unmarried, she will be exposed to fewer temptations than if she were married, and in a better condition for acquiring that knowledge of, and faith in, the gospel, with holiness in heart and life, which will enable her to adhere to and adorn the cause of Christ in a time of persecution.


Verse 39-40

1 Corinthians 7:39-40. The wife is bound by the law — See on Romans 7:2. Or the apostle may mean the law of the gospel, called the law of faith, and the law of liberty; or he may intend the law of marriage given to Adam and Eve in paradise: is bound to her husband so long as he liveth — This is the general rule, from which is excepted the case of fornication, (Matthew 5:32,) and desertion, 1 Corinthians 7:15. The apostle repeats what he had enjoined in the preceding part of the chapter, (1 Corinthians 7:10-13,) namely, that married Christian women were not to leave their husbands on account of the troubles which in that time of persecution attended the married state. But if her husband be dead — Or if he be justly divorced from her, or maliciously deserts her; she is at liberty to be married, but only in the Lord — That is, let Christians only marry Christians; or let the truly pious only marry the truly pious: a standing direction, and one of the utmost importance. But she is happier — Approaches nearer to the happiness of heaven, which consists in freely enjoying God, and uninterruptedly serving him; if she so abide — Remain a widow; after my judgment — See on 1 Corinthians 7:6; 1 Corinthians 7:25 : he speaks only modestly, not doubtingly. And I think that I also — As well as any of you, and no less than the other apostles; have the Spirit of God — Teaching me in all things that concern the religion of Jesus; or, that I am infallibly guided by God’s Spirit, and endued with knowledge and wisdom to determine matters of controversy in the church. The word δοκω, rendered I think, in this, as in many other passages, does not express doubting, but certainty, 1 Corinthians 4:9; Mark 10:42; Luke 8:18; 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Corinthians 14:32. From these, and many other examples which might be adduced, it is evident that the word in this verse does not imply that the apostle was in any doubt whether he was inspired in giving this judgment. It is only a soft way of expressing his certain knowledge of his own inspiration, and may have been used ironically in reference to, and reproof of, the false teachers and others who called his inspiration in question. Whoever therefore would conclude from hence that St. Paul was not certain he had the Spirit of Christ, neither understands the true import of the words, nor considers how expressly he lays claim to the Spirit, both in this epistle, 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 14:37; and in the other, 1 Corinthians 13:3.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-corinthians-7.html. 1857.

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