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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:7

Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Celibacy;   Chastity;   Continence;   Example;   Gifts from God;   Marriage;   Stoicism;   Scofield Reference Index - Holy Spirit;   Thompson Chain Reference - Example;   Paul's;   The Topic Concordance - Marriage;   Sexual Activities;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Gifts of God, the;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Wife;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Marriage;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Polygamy;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Adultery;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Sex, Biblical Teaching on;   1 Corinthians;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Marriage;   Spiritual Gifts;   Woman;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Abstinence;   Eunuch ;   Example;   Gifts;   Marriage;   Marriage (Ii.);   Woman;   Worldliness;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - 11 To Desire, Will, Purpose;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Corinthians;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Gift;   Proper;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

Verse 1 Corinthians 7:7. For I would that all men, c.] He wished that all that were then in the Church were, like him self, unmarried but this was in reference to the necessities of the Church, or what he calls, 1 Corinthians 7:26, the present distress: for it never could be his wish that marriage should cease among men, and that human beings should no longer be propagated upon earth; nor could he wish that the Church of Christ should always be composed of single persons; this would have been equally absurd; but as the Church was then in straits and difficulties, it was much better for its single members not to encumber themselves with domestic embarrassments.

Every man hath his proper gift of God — Continence is a state that cannot be acquired by human art or industry; a man has it from God, or not at all: and if he have it from God, he has it from him as the author of his nature; for where it does not exist naturally, it never can exist, but either by miraculous interference, which should never be expected, or by chirurgical operation, which is a shocking abomination in the sight of God. Matthew 19:12.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


Responsibilities of marriage (7:1-9)

Paul now deals with those matters concerning which the Corinthians had written. One problem concerned marriage. Some thought it more honourable and a sign of moral purity not to marry. Paul replies that marriage is honourable. It is the normal course God has set out for humankind, though there are exceptions. In some cases it may be better not to marry (he will explain this in a moment), but because Corinth is an immoral city and full of temptation, it is better to marry (7:1-2).
In marriage both husband and wife have their rights, but they also have obligations to each other (3-4). In some circumstances husband and wife may feel such a need for increased prayer that they agree not to have sexual relations for a time. But this is exceptional. They should resume normal marital relations as soon as possible, so that Satan does not rouse their natural passions wrongly (5).
There are no rules that Paul can lay down to demand that people marry or not marry, though his personal preference is that they be like him and remain single. In this way they can serve God without the added responsibilities of marriage. He realizes, however, that everything depends on how God has prepared each person (6-7).
Concerning the unmarried and widows, Paul recommends that they remain single. But if in their single state they are only going to burn with sexual desire, they would do better to marry (8-9).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

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

Would that all men ... Paul could not have meant that he wished that all men were unmarried, like himself, but rather that all men had the gift of continence, which is clearly "his own gift from God."

Even as I myself ... The question of whether or not Paul was ever married always surfaces here, there being many dogmatic opinions supporting either view. One thing is certain, Paul was at this time not married. Halley gave his opinion that "This chapter seems to have been written by one who knew something of the intimacies of the married life,"[17] and combined this with the fact of Paul's voting in the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10), for which, it was said, marriage was a prerequisite, making these the two reasons for supposing that Paul had been married. Shore, however, declared that "The almost universal tradition of the early church was that Paul was never married."[18] However, that tradition appears to be weak. Farrar stated that it "has no certain support of tradition";[19] and the testimony of both Tertullian and Jerome (in favor of the "unmarried" view) he wrote off as inadmissible, because both of them "were biased witnesses."[20] It is not a matter of great import either way, but this student inclines to the belief that Paul was a widower, his wife having deserted him at the time of his conversion. Moreover, the tradition of Paul's never having been married was most likely fostered by the historic church as a support of their unscriptural doctrine of celibacy for the clergy.

[17] Henry H. Halley, Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1927), p. 546.

[18] T. Teignmouth Shore, Ellicott's Commentary on the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 307.

[19] F. W. Farrar, op. cit., p. 225.

[20] Ibid.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For I would ... - I would prefer.

That all men ... - That Paul was unmarried is evident from 1 Corinthians 9:5. But he does not refer to this fact here. When he wishes that all people were like himself, he evidently does not intend that he would prefer that all should be unmarried, for this would be against the divine institution, and against his own precepts elsewhere. But he would be glad if all people had control over their passions and propensities as he had; had the gift of continence, and could abstain from marriage when circumstances of trial, etc., would make it proper. We may add, that when Paul wishes to exhort to anything that is difficult, he usually adduces “his own example” to show that “it may be done;” an example which it would be well for all ministers to be able to follow.

But every man hath his proper gift - Every man has his own special talent, or excellence. One man excels in one thing, and another in another. One may not have this particular virtue, but he maybe distinguished for another virtue quite as valuable. The doctrine here is, therefore, that we are not to judge of others by ourselves, or measure their virtue by ours. We may excel in some one thing, they in another. And because they have not our special virtue, or capability, we are not to condemn or denounce them; compare Matthew 19:11, Matthew 19:12.

Of God - Bestowed by God either in the original endowments and faculties of body or mind, or by his grace. In either case it is the gift of God. The virtue of continence is his gift as well as any other; and Paul had reason, as any other man must have, to be thankful that God had conferred it on him. So if a man is naturally amiable, kind, gentle, large-hearted, tender, and affectionate, he should regard it as the gift of God, and be thankful that he has not to contend with the evils of a morose, proud, haughty, and severe temper. It is true, however, that all these virtues may be greatly strengthened by discipline, and that religion gives vigor and comeliness to them all. Paul’s virtue in this was strengthened by his resolution; by his manner of life; by his frequent fastings and trials, and “by the abundant employment” which God gave him in the apostleship. And it is true still, that if a man is desirous to overcome the lusts of the flesh, industry, and hardship, and trial, and self-denial will enable him, by the grace of God, to do it. idleness is the cause of no small part of the corrupt desires of people; and God kept Paul from these:

  1. By giving him enough to do; and,
  2. By giving him enough to suffer.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

7:7: Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that.

Paul wished that “all” (i.e. all mankind) were like him, but he did not specify what he was like. Most believe he was single. Paul may have been a widower or his wife may have left him (these two possibilities are suggested by Acts 26:10). If Acts 26:10 means Paul had been a member of Sanhedrin, he would have been married. If Paul was married while practicing Judaism and single when he wrote to the Corinthians, his wife either died or divorced him. Thus, many believe the encouragement to be “like him” meant the single people at Corinth were to stay single unless they had a compelling reason to marry (this was based on the “distress” faced by the Corinthians, verse 26). There are commentators who believe Paul was never married, but this explanation seems to be more based on their desire to justify “celibate clergy” instead of New Testament facts. The New Testament never refers to a clergy; telling people they must remain celibate is a sign of apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

Sexual self control (verses 7-9) is also in the context of the thought, so being like Paul may include the idea of “not burning with passion.” Paul may not have had strong sexual desires, or more likely, he had found a great measure of self-control and self mastery (1 Corinthians 9:27). He wanted the Corinthians to have this same degree of self-discipline. He recognized that some (verse 36, “if need so require”) may not have this same degree of self-discipline and may have needed to find a mate. When one looks at all the problems at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:21; 1 Corinthians 14:27), more self-control would have indeed been a great blessing.

The ASV uses the word “Howbeit” to affirm some might not stay single. The KJV is even clearer with the conjunction “but.” Some would find it too difficult to stay single; being without a mate was not their “gift.” Gift (charisma) is sometimes associated with the miraculous gifts described in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Here it describes the ability to control sexual feelings and desires. Paul believed many single people can adequately contain and control their sexual urges (the sexual fulfillment found in marriage is simply not needed by some people). Paul also realized there are Christians who “burn with desire” and marriage will be an aid to them in avoiding fornication (verse 9 and compare 7:2a). Men and women have varying degrees of sexual desire; even Jesus taught this in Matthew 19:11-12. Marriage is a may, not a must. Unsaved people can be ruled by sexual lust (1 Thessalonians 4:5).

At the very end of this verse Paul spoke of people having their own gift “from God.” A similar statement is made in verse 17 and a fuller commentary on the thought is available there. Here we may say God uses His infinite wisdom, omnipotence and omniscience to give people diverse abilities they can choose to develop, nurture and use (God’s power and man’s free-will are perfectly combined). All are created equal and are in God’s image, but not all have the same abilities, skills or aptitudes. Some abilities, even the control of sexual desires, can be obtained by becoming and remaining a faithful Christian (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

God is said to be the giver of our abilities. If we are not satisfied with what we have received, we imply God failed to provide for us what is right. Too often people want the talents received by someone else. We need to take what we have received and be a good steward of it. The following chart contrasts our “natural gifts” with the supernatural abilities available in the first century:

Natural talents (gifts)First century supernatural gifts
Given by God and are within us at birthActs 8:18
These help with the things of day-to-day lifeMark 16:15-20
Must be recognized, developed and used2 Timothy 1:6
They benefit us and others2 Timothy 3:16-17
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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians".

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

7. For I should wish, that all. This is connected with the exposition of the foregoing statement; for he does not fail to intimate, what is the more convenient way, but he wishes every one to consider what has been given him. (387) Why, then, has he, a little before, spoken not by way of commandment ? It is for this reason, that he does not willingly constrain them to marry, but rather desires that they may be free from that necessity. As this, however, is not free to all, he has respect to infirmity. If this passage had been duly weighed, that perverse superstition connected with the desire of celibacy, which is the root and cause of great evils, would never have gained a footing in the world. Paul here expressly declares, that every one has not a free choice in this matter, because virginity is a special gift, that is not conferred upon all indiscriminately. Nor does he teach any other doctrine than what Christ himself does, when he says, that

all men are not capable of receiving this saying. (Matthew 19:11.)

Paul, therefore, is here an interpreter of our Lord’s words, when he says that this power has not been given to all — that of living without marriage.

What, in the meantime, has been done? Every one, without having any regard to his power, has, according to his liking, vowed perpetual continency. Nor has the error as to this matter been confined to the common people and illiterate persons; for even the most eminent doctors, devoting themselves unreservedly to the commendation of virginity, and forgetting human infirmity, have overlooked this admonition of Paul — nay rather, of Christ himself. Jerome, blinded by a zeal, I know not of what sort, does not simply fall, but rushes headlong, into false views. Virginity, I acknowledge, is an excellent gift; but keep it in view, that it is a gift. Learn, besides, from the mouth of Christ and of Paul, that it is not common to all, but is given only to a few. Guard, accordingly, against rashly devoting what is not in your own power, and what you will not obtain as a gift, if forgetful of your calling you aspire beyond your limits.

At the same time the ancients erred even in their estimate of virginity, for they extol it as if it were the most excellent of all virtues, and wish it to be regarded as the worship of God. (388) Even in this there is a dangerous error; and now follows another — that, after celibacy had begun to be so much esteemed, many, vying with each other, rashly vowed perpetual continency, while scarcely the hundredth part of them were endowed with the power and gift. Hence, too, a third sprung up — that the ministers of the Church were forbidden to enter into marriage, as a kind of life unbecoming the holiness of their order. (389) As for those who, despising marriage, rashly vowed perpetual continency, God punished their presumption, first, by the secret flames of lust; (390) and then afterwards, by horrible acts of filthiness. The ministers of the Churches being prohibited from lawful marriage, the consequence of this tyranny was, that the Church was robbed of very many good and faithful ministers; for pious and prudent men would not ensnare themselves in this way. At length, after a long course of time, lusts, which had been previously kept under, gave forth their abominable odor. It was reckoned a small matter for those, in whom it would have been a capital crime to have a wife, to maintain with impunity concubines, that is, prostitutes; but no house was safe from the impurities of the priests. Even that was reckoned a small matter; for there sprung up monstrous enormities, which it were better to bury in eternal oblivion than to make mention of them by way of example. (391)

(387) “ Donne de Dieu;” — “Given by God.”

(388) “ Comme vn service agreable a Dieu;” — “As a service agreeable to God.”

(389) “ Comme vn estat indigne et non conuenable a la sanctete de l’ordre;” — “As a condition unbefitting, and unsuitable to the holiness of their order.”

(390) “ De passions et cupiditez desordonnees;” — “Of inordinate passions and lusts.”

(391) The reader will find the same subject largely treated of by our author in the Institutes, volume 3. — Ed.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Shall we turn now in our Bibles to the seventh chapter of I Corinthians.

The Corinthian church was a mess. There were just a lot of problems, a problem with carnality. There were divisions in the church, some saying that they were of Cephas, or Peter, and others saying that they were of Paul, and some saying that they were of Apollos. They were suing each other at law, going to the earthly courts. And Paul had received the report, so he wrote to them about these things. But basically his purpose of writing was to answer a letter that they had sent to him with certain questions. So, Paul beginning with chapter 7 is responding now to their letter and the questions that they had asked in their letter to him.

Now, it is important that we understand, really, the background of this situation in Corinth. Corinth was an extremely pagan city. On the acropolis above Corinth there was a great temple to Aphrodite, and the temple priestesses would come down into Corinth each evening. They were prostitutes, and the worship of the goddess was supported by the earnings of the prostitutes.

In this city God had many people. For when Paul was there in Corinth, the Lord encouraged him, and said, "I have many people in this city." So, Paul established the church there. But, as I say, the church was a mess.

They had a lot of weird kind of teachings, doctrines that had spread. They felt that the body was completely evil, and so that left a twofold kind of an attitude. First, there were those who said because the body is totally evil it doesn't matter what you do with your body; your body doesn't count. It is your spirit that counts, so you can do with your body what ever you want. It doesn't matter. You can use your body for fornication or whatever you desire, the body is totally evil anyhow, so it doesn't matter what you do with your body. Others coming from that same base that the body is totally evil said you shouldn't then do any of those naturals things in the body. Even if you are married you should restrain from relations with your wife, because everything of the body is evil, all of the urges or desires or whatever are evil. And so there was this second tendency toward asceticism.

So Paul is dealing here, beginning in chapter 7, with this concept of whether or not as a Christian I should be married, or if I am married should I have intimate relationships with my wife. So, he begins the seventh chapter by saying:

Now concerning the things whereof you wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband ( 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 ).

Trying to live a celibate life is unnatural, and Paul recognizes it as such. It is good if you can not touch a woman, but yet, that is an unnatural condition. Therefore, every man should have a wife, and every wife should have a husband.

It is interesting that nothing is ever said in the scripture about Paul being married, but I feel that he obviously was. Number one, he was a rabbi. And according to Jewish law, every man should be married and have children, because God said be fruitful and multiply. And they felt that that was a divine injunction that every man should fulfill, and that if you did not have children you were killing, actually, your progeny. So being a rabbi, and as he said concerning the righteousness of the law, "I was blameless," he no doubt was married. Also, it is indicated that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, and a requirement of the Sanhedrin, who was a judge of sorts, was that he be married, because they figured if a man is married he is more merciful. I think he at least has greater understanding.

Now, the question arises: What happened to Paul's wife? And there are two speculations. One that she died. But the other, which is probably more correct, is that when Paul embraced Christianity, she left him. That is the general tradition that is carried through the church.

Now, the seventh chapter here is written with an overlying thought, which he brings out in verse 1 Corinthians 7:29 , and that is, time is short. Paul felt that the Lord was coming very, very soon, and so because time is short, he is giving these instructions concerning marriage. It would seem to be that he is discouraging getting married, but if so, it is only because of his concept that time is so very short. We really don't have time to get married. But, to avoid fornication, every man should have his own wife and every woman have her own husband, especially in the conditions that existed there in Corinth.

And let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise the wife to the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not the power of his own body, but the wife. Therefore do not withhold the sexual rights from each other, unless it be with consent for a time, that you might give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency ( 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 ).

So, Paul here is declaring that the sexual relationships within marriage are proper, and that the wife should seek to satisfy the husband and the husband should seek to satisfy the wife. And that you should not withhold from each other unless it be by a mutual consent, and then only in a specified period of time as you're giving yourselves to fasting and praying, because the temptations are apt to be too great. The pressure is too great on each other.

But I speak this by permission, and not by commandment. For I would that all men were even as myself. But every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I ( 1 Corinthians 7:6-8 ).

Now, Paul, of course, at this point was unmarried, and he is advocating his status of not being married, but he recognizes that there is a gift of God in a sense for this position.

Now, Jesus talked about those who were eunuchs by birth. Some were called of God for this, others became such for the kingdom of God's sake. But Paul having that gift and recognizing that it was something that God had done, because the normal, natural physical drives promote marriage. It is not natural not to have a sex drive. It is the fourth strongest drive that we have, following the air, thirst, and hunger. It ranks right there near the top. And if a person doesn't have a strong sex drive it means that perhaps God has taken it away in order that this person might be a special instrument for God freed from the . . . well, as Paul said, the cares that come upon a person when they get married.

Marriage does present a whole different situation. Before I was married, I could travel freely across the United States. All I needed was a sack of apricots and I could go. I only stopped at service stations for gasoline. I never stopped at restaurants. When I was going I like just to get there. After I got married it became different.

We were coming home from Phoenix and my wife said, "Honey, I would like to have a cup of coffee." And I kept going past the coffee shops. She said, "Honey, I would like to have a cup of coffee!" "Sure, who wouldn't?" And I went by another coffee shop, and boy, I felt her foot go on the floor that had she had a brake there I would have been thrown through the windshield. I got the message, and we stopped at a coffee shop. But, that is a waste of time.

But, as Paul said, if you are married you don't really care so much for the things of the Lord, you care for your wife, how you are going to please her, since you have to live with her. And thus, you want to please her proper. That is correct.

So, Paul said, "If you have the gift, that is good. Live like I do. For the unmarried and the widows, stay like I am."

But if you don't have this gift: but it is better that you marry than [to have a burning compassion or a burning lust] to burn with lust. Now to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife ( 1 Corinthians 7:9-11 ).

This, of course, was the teaching of Jesus Christ. So Paul said, "This is not my command, it's the Lord's."

But to the rest I will speak ( 1 Corinthians 7:12 ),

Now, the Lord didn't speak specifically in these issues, so now Paul speaks as an apostle.

But to the rest I speak, not the Lord [dealing now with a special situation]: If a brother has a wife that does not believe, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And if the woman which has a husband that believes not, and if he is pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 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 ( 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 ).

So, either the husband or the wife believing, bring into the home a holy environment by which the children are covered.

Many times I am questioned as to the fate of children who die. Or more often, the question arises if the church is raptured, or when the church is raptured will the little children all go up in the rapture. I can speak for surety on the children of a saved parent, either one or both, that they are protected and covered by the believing parent. I do not have that same surety where the parents are unbelievers. I personally feel that because they are not at an age of responsibility, God will be gracious and merciful unto them. And I believe strongly in the justice and the fairness of God. Though I do not have a sound scriptural base, I don't have any scripture that says that all children are going to go up in the rapture, or all children that die are saved. We do know that it is so if there is a believing husband or wife.

Now, my feeling is, why live under the cloud of a question? Why even worry about it? Just receive the Lord and know. But, we do know as far as a believing parent that the house is sanctified by either one being a believer.

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace ( 1 Corinthians 7:15 ).

So, if on your receiving Jesus Christ your husband or your wife just can't handle you anymore, they say, "Look, I didn't bargain for this. I can't stand you. I can't live with you like this," then let them depart. You are not under bondage. You are not under bondage to remain with them in such cases. Let them depart. God has called us to peace, not to warfare in marriage.

For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how do you know, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all churches ( 1 Corinthians 7:16-17 ).

Now he deals with what condition you were in when God called you.

Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Therefore let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called ( 1 Corinthians 7:18-20 ).

When God saved you, were you an uncircumcised Gentile? Then don't bother about going through the Jewish rite of circumcision. Remain as you were when God called you.

Now, if you were a servant when God called you, don't worry about it if you can be free, then use your freedom rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman ( 1 Corinthians 7:21-22 ):

Now, you may still be a servant as far as man is concerned, but you are free now and you are God's freeman.

also he that is called, being free, becomes Christ's servant ( 1 Corinthians 7:22 ).

So, the calling in where I was called, abide in that calling. Don't try to change things radically after you've become a Christian, unless the life that you were living, or the occupation that you had is so totally antagonistic towards Christian principals that you have got to get out.

You were bought with a price; therefore don't be the servants of men ( 1 Corinthians 7:23 ).

If you are a servant of man, realize that you are a servant of Jesus Christ. And so that is basically where we all are, servants of Jesus Christ.

Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. 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 ( 1 Corinthians 7:24-25 ).

Now we are dealing with an interesting area here, and there are three possible interpretations. There are those that say that Paul is talking now to the fathers who have daughters who are virgins. And that he is dealing with the situation of whether or not you allow your daughter to get married.

There is the second that, again, takes in the cultural aspects. There were those people who were living together and even sleeping in the same bed, but not having conjugal relationship. And even . . . they were just sort of . . . the trial marriage kind of thing but without the sex aspect of it, seeing if you get along living together, yet not entering into a physical relationship. This was a common practice in those days there in Corinth.

The third thought is that there were also those who did get married, but felt it was more spiritual not to have sex even in marriage. And I personally feel that Paul is probably referring to this third category. The language sort of precludes a father having a daughter who is a virgin and giving her in marriage, the language sort of precludes that. I think that it probably is referring to this third concept of "we are more spiritual because we don't have sex. Yes, we are married, but my wife is still a virgin." Weird! I couldn't handle that, but this is what I feel was the issue that Paul was addressing in this part. "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I'll give my judgment, as one who has obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful."

I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, it is good for a man so to be. Are you bound unto a wife? Don't then seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Then don't seek a wife ( 1 Corinthians 7:26-27 ).

Again, Paul is saying this under the whole umbrella of time is so short. Later on, when he wrote to the church of Ephesus, realizing that the coming of Jesus evidently wasn't going to be immediate, he used the marriage relationship as a beautiful example of the deep relationship that exists between Christ and His church, and uses it in one of the most beautiful illustrations of relationship that can exist.

So, are you married? Don't seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Don't seek a wife.

But and if you married, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: and I would just spare you ( 1 Corinthians 7:28 ).

He is saying, "Hey, marriage is not always what it is trumped up to be. You can have difficulties in marriage."

This I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains, that both they that have wives be as though they had none ( 1 Corinthians 7:29 );

Now, that has to be interpreted in the context. For in the context he said, "He that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. He that is not married actually just seeks to please God." So, when he says that they that are married should be as though they are not married, he is just saying that you should be concerned in pleasing God. That should be your primary concern.

And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoice not; and they that buy, as though possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passes away ( 1 Corinthians 7:30-31 ).

Time is short. He is actually saying, "We don't have time, really, to get involved in marital relationships. We don't have time to indulge in grief or sorrow. We don't have time for partying and revelry. We don't have time to amass possessions. We are in the world, but let's not abuse it. Let us use it; we have got to live. We have got to eat so do what you have to, but don't get overly involved, for the fashion of the world is passing away, or is rapidly passing away."

So, as Paul was looking at the situation in his day, at the deterioration of the whole social scene of the things taking place, he gives these warnings. Time is short, things are rapidly passing away, we really don't have time for the extraneous.

But I would have you without this carefulness ( 1 Corinthians 7:32 ).

Full of care is a better way . . . we understand that better. I would keep you freed from that fullness of care, worry.

He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, that you may attend upon the Lord without distraction ( 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 ).

So he is just saying that in giving yourself completely to serving the Lord, a wife can be an encumbrance, can be a hindrance. You have to now take her into consideration, and your real interest is pleasing her. That is proper. We should be concerned, fellows, in how to please our wives. And you wives should be concerned in how to please your husbands. And we need to take careful consideration of these things. It is proper. It is right.

I think that, again, a man has to be gifted to live a single life. And that if God has not gifted you, as the scripture says, he who has found a wife has found a good thing and favor of the Lord. Paul is talking out of the concept that time is so short; we don't have time for these things now. And it could be that we are approaching that kind of a situation again as we come to the end of the age. However, the Bible does not speak despairingly of marriage, but does hold it up as God's plan and God's purpose for man. It is the natural thing. It is unnatural not to be married.

But if a man thinks that he behaving himself uncomely towards his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sins not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity ( 1 Corinthians 7:36-37 ),

Having no necessity is an important clause.

but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, he does well. So then he that gives her in marriage does well; but he that gives her not in marriage does better. The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abides, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God ( 1 Corinthians 7:37-40 ).

Now, in my judgment, she would be happier to remain unmarried. It is an interesting situation. It must be looked at in the light of the conditions in Corinth and in the light of Paul's concept that time was short and it was almost over.


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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The importance of sexual relations in marriage 7:1-7

Paul advised married people not to abstain from normal sexual relations.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. Advice to the married or formerly married 7:1-16

Paul proceeded to give guidelines to the married or formerly married. The statement "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Corinthians 7:1) may well have been a Corinthian slogan. [Note: Ibid., p. 270.] This hypothesis, which seems valid to me in light of Paul’s argumentation, results in a different interpretation of the text than has been traditional. The traditional view takes the entire section as explaining Paul’s position on marriage in general in response to the Corinthians’ question about its advisability. [Note: Advocates of the traditional interpretation include Godet, Lightfoot, Grosheide, Morris, Mare, and Wiersbe.] I believe Paul responded to the Corinthians’ false view, as expressed in this slogan, in all that follows in this section.

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These files are public domain.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Paul evidently was not a married man when he wrote this epistle (1 Corinthians 7:8). We do not have enough information about his life to know whether he had never married, had become a widower, or if his wife had left him.

To Paul the single state had certain advantages for a servant of the Lord such as himself. He had to put up with many hardships in his ministry that would have been difficult for a wife to share. Moreover God had given him grace to live as a single person without feeling consumed by the fires of lust (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:9). "Burning" was a very common description of unfulfilled passion in Greek and Roman literature. [Note: Keener, p. 63.]

He wished everyone could live as he did, but he realized that most could not. Each person has his or her own special gift (Gr. charisma) from God, some to live single and some to live married (cf. Matthew 19:12). These are spiritual gifts just as much as those gifts listed in chapters 12-14 are. The gift of celibacy is a special ability that God gives only some people to feel free from the desire or need of sexual fulfillment in marriage. [Note: Fee, The First . . ., p. 284.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 7

COMPLETE ASCETICISM ( 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 )

7:1-2 With regard to your letter and its suggestion that it would be a fine thing for a man not to have anything to do with a woman--to avoid fornication, let each man possess his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

We have already seen that in Greek thought there was strong tendency to despise the body and the things of the body; and that that tendency could issue in a position where men said, "The body is utterly unimportant; therefore we can do what we like with it and it makes no difference if we allow its appetites to have their fullest play." But that very tendency could issue in a precisely opposite point of view. It could move a man to say, "The body is evil; therefore we must bring it into subjection; therefore we must completely obliterate, and if that is not possible, we must completely deny, all the instincts and desires which are natural to it." It is that second way of looking at things with which Paul is dealing here. The Corinthians, or at least some of them, had suggested that, if a man was going to be a Christian in the fullest sense of the term, he must have done with physical things and must refuse to marry altogether.

Paul's answer is extremely practical. In effect he says, "Remember where you are living; remember that you are living in Corinth where you cannot even walk along the street without temptation rearing its head at you. Remember your own physical constitution and the healthy instincts which nature has given you. You will be far better to marry than to fall into sin."

This sounds like a low view of marriage. It sounds as if Paul is advising marriage in order to avoid a worse fate. In point of fact he is honestly facing the facts and laying down a rule which is universally true. No man should attempt a way of life for which he is naturally unfitted; no man should set out on a pathway whereby he deliberately surrounds himself with temptations. Paul knew very well that all men are not made the same. "Examine yourself," he says, "and choose that way of life in which you can best live the Christian life, and don't attempt an unnatural standard which is impossible and even wrong for you being such as you are."

THE PARTNERSHIP OF MARRIAGE ( 1 Corinthians 7:3-7 )

7:3-7 Let the husband give to the wife all that is due to her; and in the same way let the wife give to the husband all that is due to him. A wife is not in absolute control of her own body, but her husband is. In the same way a husband is not in absolute control of his own body, but his wife is. Do not deprive each other of each other's legitimate rights, unless it be by common agreement, and for a limited time. You could do so in order to have time for prayer and afterwards come together again; but you must come together again, so that Satan may not get the chance to tempt you because you find it impossible to control your desires. But I am giving this advice more as a concession than as a command. I wish that all men were like myself; but each man has his own gift from God, one one way, and another another.

This passage arises from a suggestion from Corinth that if married people are to be really Christian they must abstain from all intercourse with each other. This is another manifestation of that line of thought which looked on the body and its instincts as essentially evil. Paul declares a supremely great principle. Marriage is a partnership. The husband cannot act independently of the wife, nor the wife of the husband. They must always act together. The husband must never regard the wife simply as a means of self-gratification. The whole marriage relationship, both in its physical and spiritual sides, is something in which both are to find their gratification and the highest satisfaction of all their desires. In a time of special discipline, in a time of long and earnest prayer, it might be right to set aside all bodily things; but it must be by mutual agreement and only for a time, or it simply begets a situation which gives temptation an easy chance.

Once again Paul seems to belittle marriage. This, he suggests, is not an ideal command; it is a considerate concession to human weakness. He would prefer as an ideal that everyone was as he was. What exactly was that? We can only deduce.

We may be fairly certain that at some time Paul had been married. (i) We may be certain of that on general grounds. He was a Rabbi and it was his own claim that he had failed in none of the duties which Jewish law and tradition laid down. Now orthodox Jewish belief laid down the obligation of marriage. If a man did not marry and have children, he was said to have "slain his posterity," "to have lessened the image of God in the world." Seven were said to be excommunicated from heaven, and the list began, "A Jew who has no wife; or who has a wife but no children." God had said, "Be fruitful and multiply," and, therefore, not to marry and not to have children was to be guilty of breaking a positive commandment of God. The age for marriage was considered to be eighteen; and therefore it is in the highest degree unlikely that so devout and orthodox a Jew as Paul once was would have remained unmarried. (ii) On particular grounds there is also evidence that Paul was married. He must have been a member of the Sanhedrin for he says that he gave his vote against the Christians. ( Acts 26:10). It was a regulation that members of the Sanhedrin must be married men, because it was held that married men were more merciful.

It may be that Paul's wife died; it is even more likely that she left him and broke up his home when he became a Christian, so that he did indeed literally give up all things for the sake of Christ. At all events he banished that side of life once and for all and never remarried. A married man could never have lived the life of journeying which Paul lived. His desire that others ideally should be the same sprang entirely from the fact that he expected the Second Coming at once; time was so short that earthly ties and physical things must not be allowed to interfere. It is not that Paul is really disparaging marriage; it is rather that he is insisting that all a man's concentration must be on being ready for the coming of Christ.

THE BOND THAT MUST NOT BE BROKEN ( 1 Corinthians 7:8-16 )

7:8-16 To the unmarried and to the widows I say, it would be a fine thing if they were to remain like myself, but if they find continence impossible, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to go on being inflamed with passion. To those who are married I give this order--and the order is not mine but the Lord's--that a wife should not separate herself from her husband; but if she does separate, let her either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband; and that a husband should not put his wife away. To others I say this--but I give it as my advice and not as a commandment of the Lord--if any brother has a wife who is not a believer, and she agrees to live with him, let him not put her away; and if there is any wife who has a husband who is not a believer, and he agrees to live with her, let her not put her husband away; for the unbelieving husband is consecrated by his wife and the unbelieving wife is consecrated by the husband who is a brother. If this were not so your children would not be cleansed; but as it is they are set apart for God. If the unbelieving partner wishes to separate, let him or her separate, for the Christian brother or sister in such cases is not under any slavish obligation. it is in peace that God has called us. Wife, how can you tell whether you will save your husband? Or, Husband, how can you tell whether you will save your wife?

This passage deals with three different sets of people.

(i) It deals with those who are unmarried or who are widows. In the circumstances of an age which, as Paul thought, was hastening to its end, they would be better to remain as they are; but once again, he warns them not to court temptation, not to attempt a situation which would be for them dangerous. If they have a nature naturally passionate, let them marry. Paul was always sure that no one could lay down one course of action for everyone. It all depended on the person involved.

(ii) It deals with those who are married. Paul forbids divorce on the ground that Jesus forbade it. ( Mark 10:9; Luke 16:18). If there is such a separation, he forbids remarriage. This may seem a hard doctrine, but in Corinth with its characteristic laxity, it was better to keep the standards so high that no taint of loose-living could enter the Church.

(iii) It deals with the marriage of believers and unbelievers. On this Paul has to give his own judgment, because there is no definite command of Jesus to which he can refer them. The background must be that there were those in Corinth who declared that a believer must never live with an unbeliever; and that, in the event of one partner of a marriage becoming a Christian and the other remaining a heathen, separation must at once follow.

In fact one of the great heathen complaints against Christianity was exactly that Christianity did break up families and was a disruptive influence in society. "Tampering with domestic relationships" was one of the first charges brought against the Christians. ( 1 Peter 4:15). Sometimes the Christians did in fact take a very high stand. "Of what parents are you born?" the judge asked Lucian of Antioch. "I am a Christian," Lucian answered, "and a Christian's only relatives are the saints."

Undoubtedly mixed marriages produced problems. Tertullian wrote a book about them in which he describes the heathen husband who is angry with his Christian wife because, "for the sake of visiting the brethren she goes round from street to street to other men's cottages, especially those of the poor.... He will not allow her to be absent all night long at nocturnal convocations and paschal solemnities...or suffer her to creep into prison to kiss a martyr's bonds, or even to exchange a kiss with one of the brethren." (In the early Church Christians greeted each other with the holy kiss of peace). It is indeed difficult not to sympathize with the heathen husband.

Paul dealt with this problem with supreme practical wisdom. He knew the difficulty and he refused to exacerbate it. He said that if the two could agree to live together by all means let them do so; but if they wished to separate and found living together intolerable, let them do so, because the Christian was never meant to be a slave.

Paul has two great things to say which are of permanent value.

(i) He has the lovely thought that the unbelieving partner is consecrated by the believer. They two have become one flesh and the wonder is that in such a case it is not the taint of heathenism but the grace of Christianity which wins the victory. There is an infection about Christianity which involves all those who come into contact with it. A child born into a Christian home, even into a home where only one of the partners is a Christian, is born into the family of Christ. In a partnership between a believer and an unbeliever, it is not so much that the believer is brought into contact with the realm of sin, as that the unbeliever is brought into contact with the realm of grace.

(ii) He has the equally lovely thought that this very association may be the means of saving the soul of the unbelieving partner. For Paul evangelization began at home. The unbeliever was to be looked on, not as something unclean to be avoided with repulsion, but as another son or daughter to be won for God. Paul knew that it is blessedly true that often human love has led to love of God.

SERVING GOD WHERE GOD HAS SET US ( 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 )

7:17-24 The one thing that is necessary is that each man should walk as God has allotted to him and as God has called him. It is thus that I order things in all the Churches. Was any man called after he had been circumcised? Let him not try to efface it. Was any man called when he was not circumcised? Let him not get himself circumcised. Circumcision is of no importance and uncircumcision is of no importance, but keeping God's commandments is everything. Let each man remain in the condition in which he was when God called him. Were you called as a slave? Do not let that distress you. But if you can become free, grasp the opportunity, for he who, in the Lord, was called as a slave is the Lord's free man; and in the same way, the free man who has been called is Christ's slave. You have been bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men. Brothers, let each man remain in the sight of God in the state in which he was called.

Paul lays down one of the first rules of Christianity, "Be a Christian where you are." It must often have happened that when a man became a Christian he would have liked to break away from his job, and from the circle in which he moved, and begin a new life. But Paul insisted that the function of Christianity was not to give a man a new life, but to make his old life new. Let the Jew remain a Jew; let the Gentile remain a Gentile; race and the marks of race made no difference. What did make a difference was the kind of life he lived. Long ago the Cynics had insisted that a true man can never be a slave in nature although he may be a slave in status; and that a false man can never be a free man in reality but is always a slave. Paul reminds them that slave or free, a man is a slave of Christ because Christ bought him with a price.

Here there is a picture in Paul's mind. In the ancient world it was possible for a slave at a great effort to purchase his own freedom. This was how he did it. In the little spare time he had, he took odd jobs and earned a few coppers. His master had the right to claim commission even on these poor earnings. But the slave would deposit every farthing he could earn in the Temple of some god. When, it might be at the end of years, he had his complete purchase price laid up in the Temple, he would take his master there, the priest would hand over the money, and then symbolically the slave became the property of the god and therefore free of all men. That is what Paul is thinking of. The Christian man has been purchased by Christ; therefore, no matter what his human status may be, he is free of all men because he is the property of Christ.

Paul insists that Christianity does not make a man kick over the traces and become querulously discontented with things as they are; it makes him, wherever he is, carry himself as the slave of Christ. Even the meanest work is no longer done for men but for Christ. As George Herbert wrote:

All may of thee partake;

Nothing can be so mean,

Which with this tincture, "for thy sake,"

Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause

Makes drudgery divine:

Who sweeps a room, as for, thy laws,

Makes that and the action fine.

This is the famous stone

That turneth all to gold;

For that which God doth touch and own

Cannot for less be told.

WISE ADVICE ON A DIFFICULT PROBLEM ( 1 Corinthians 7:25 ; 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 )

7:25,36-38 I have no command of the Lord with regard to virgins, but I give you my opinion, as one who has found the mercy of God and who can be trusted.... If anyone thinks that his conduct to his virgin is unseemly, if he finds that his passions are too strong, and if he thinks that they ought to marry, let him do what he wishes. He does no wrong; let them marry. But if any man is fixed and settled in his mind, and if there is no compulsion on him, but if he has complete power to abide by his own wish, and if in his mind he has come to the decision to keep his own virgin, he will do well. The thing comes to this--he who marries his virgin acts rightly; and he who does not marry her will do better.

1 Corinthians 7:25-38, while they form a paragraph, really fall into two parts, which it is simpler to examine separately. 1 Corinthians 7:25 and 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 deal with this problem concerning virgins; while the verses between give the reason for accepting the advice which runs through the whole chapter. This section concerning virgins has always been a problem. It has been given three different explanations.

(i) It has been regarded simply as advice to fathers as to the marriage of their unmarried daughters; but it does not read like that; and it is hard to see why Paul uses the word virgin if he means daughter; and for a father to speak of his virgin when he meant his daughter would be an odd way of speaking.

(ii) It has been regarded as dealing with a problem which in later times became acute and which more than one Church Council tried to deal with and forbade. Certainly later on it was the custom for a man and woman to live together, sharing the same house and even sharing the same bed, and yet to have no physical relations with each other at all. The idea was that if they could discipline themselves to share the spiritual life in such intimacy without allowing the body to enter into their relationship at all, it was a specially meritorious thing. We can understand the idea behind this, the attempt to cleanse human relationships of all passion; but it is clear how dangerous a practice it was, and how, on occasion, it must have resulted in a quite impossible situation. In such a relationship the woman was known as the man's virgin. It may well be that that custom had arisen in the Church at Corinth. If so, and we think that it was so, then Paul is saying, "If you can retain this difficult situation, if your self-discipline and your self-control are sufficient to maintain it, then it is better to do so; but, if you have tried it and have found that it is too great a strain on human nature, then abandon it and marry; and to do so will be no discredit to you."

(iii) While we think that is the correct interpretation of this passage, there is a modification of it which deserves to be noted. It is suggested that in Corinth there were men and women who had actually gone through the marriage ceremony but had decided never to consummate the marriage and to live in absolute continence so as to devote themselves entirely to the spiritual life. Having done so, it might well be that they discovered that what they planned to do placed too great a strain upon them. In that case, Paul would be saying, "If you can keep your vow, you will do supremely well; but if you cannot, frankly admit it and enter into normal relations with each other."

To us the whole relationship seems dangerous and abnormal and even wrong; and so indeed it was; and in time the Church was compelled to brand it as wrong. But given the situation, Paul's advice is full of wisdom. He really says three things.

(i) Self-discipline is an excellent thing. Any means whereby a man tames himself until he has every passion under perfect control is an excellent thing; but it is no part of Christian duty to eliminate the natural instincts of man; rather the Christian uses them to the glory of God.

(ii) Paul really says, "Don't make an unnatural thing of your religion." That, in the last analysis, is the fault of the monks and the hermits and the nuns. They regard it as necessary to eliminate the natural feelings of mankind in order to be truly religious; they regard it as necessary to separate themselves from all the normal life of men and women in order to serve God. But Christianity was never meant to abolish normal life; it was meant to glorify it.

(iii) In the end Paul is saying, "Don't make an agony of your religion." Collie Knox tells how, when he was a young man, he was apt to find religion a stress and a strain; and he tells how a well-loved chaplain once came to him and laid a hand on his shoulder and said, "Young Knox, don't make an agony of your religion." It was said of Burns that he was "haunted rather than helped by his religion." No man should be ashamed of the body God gave him, the heart God put into him, the instincts that, by God's creation, dwell within him. Christianity will teach him, not how to eliminate them, but how to use them in such a way that passion is pure and human love the most ennobling thing in all God's world.

THE TIME IS SHORT ( 1 Corinthians 7:26-35 )

7:26-35 I think that this is the right thing because of the present crisis-- that it is the right thing for a man to remain as he is. Have you been bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released from that bond. Are you free from marriage ties? Do not seek a wife. But, if you do marry, you have committed no sin. Those who do marry will have trouble about bodily things, and I would wish to spare you this. This I do say, brothers, the time is short, so short that, for the future those who have wives must live as if they had not, those who have sorrow must live as not sorrowing, those who rejoice must live as not rejoicing, those who buy must buy as if they had no secure possession of anything, those who use this world must use it as if they had no full use of it; for the outward form of this world is passing away. I want you to be without anxieties. The man who remains unmarried is anxious for the things of the Lord; his anxiety is how he may please the Lord. The man who marries is anxious for the things of the world; his anxiety is how he may please his wife. There is a distinct difference between the married and the unmarried woman. The unmarried woman is anxious for the things of the Lord; her aim is that she may be dedicated to God both in her body and in her spirit. The woman who has married is anxious for the things of the world; her anxiety is that she may please her husband, It is for your advantage that I am saying this. I do not want to put a halter round your neck. My aim is that you should live a lovely life and that you should serve the Lord without distractions.

It is in many ways a pity that Paul did not begin the chapter with this section because it has the heart of his whole position in it. All through this chapter we must have felt that he was belittling marriage. It looked again and again as if he was allowing marriage only as a concession to avoid fornication and adultery; as if marriage was only a second best.

We have seen that the Jews glorified marriage and considered it a sacred duty. There was only one valid reason, according to Jewish tradition, for not marrying, and that was in order to study the law. Rabbi ben Azai asked, "Why should I marry? I am in love with the Law. Let others see to the prolongation of the human race." In the Greek world, Epictetus, the stoic philosopher, never married. He said that he was doing far more for the world by being a teacher than if he had produced two or three "ugly-nosed brats." "How," he asked, "can one whose function is to teach mankind be expected to run for something in which to heat the water to give the baby its bath?" But that was not the Jewish point of view and it was certainly not the Christian point of view.

Nor was it Paul's final point of view. Years later when he wrote the letter to the Ephesians he had changed; for there he uses the relationship of man and wife as a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church ( Ephesians 5:22-26). When he wrote to the Corinthians, his outlook was dominated by the fact that he expected the Second Coming of Christ at any moment. What he is laying down is crisis legislation. "The time is short." So soon was Christ to come, he believed, that everything must be laid aside in one tremendous effort to concentrate on preparation for that coming. The most important human activity and the dearest human relationship must be abandoned if they threatened to interrupt or to slacken that concentration. A man must have no ties whatsoever to keep him when Christ bade him rise and go. He must think of pleasing no one other than Christ. Had Paul thought that he and his converts were living in a permanent situation, he would never have written as he did. By the time he wrote Ephesians he had realized the permanency of the human situation and regarded marriage as the most precious relationship within it, the only one which was even faintly parallel to the relationship of Christ and the Church.

For us it must always be true that home is the place which does two things for us. It is the place where we find the noblest opportunity to live the Christian life; and the pity is it is so often the place where we claim the right to be as querulous and critical and boorish as we may, and to treat those who love us as we would never dare to treat a stranger. Also it is the place from whose rest and sweetness we draw strength to live more nearly as we ought within the world.

Paul in this chapter looked on marriage as a second best because he believed that life as we know it had only days to run; but the day came when he saw it as the loveliest relationship upon earth.

MARRYING AGAIN ( 1 Corinthians 7:39-40 )

7:39-40 A wife is bound for as long as her husband is alive; but, if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, so long as the marriage is made in the Lord. In my opinion she will be happier if she remains as she is--and I think that I have the Spirit of God.

Again Paul takes up his consistent point of view. Marriage is a relationship which can be broken only by death. A second marriage is perfectly allowable, but Paul would rather see the widow stay a widow. We know now that he was speaking only of the crisis situation in which he thought men were living.

In many ways a second marriage is the highest compliment that the one who survives can pay the one who has gone before; for it means that without him or her life was so lonely as to be insupportable; it means that with him or her the married state was so happy that it can fearlessly be entered into again. So far from being an act of disrespect it can be a mark of honour to the dead.

One condition Paul lays down--it must be a marriage in the Lord. That is, it must be a marriage between Christian folk. It is seldom that a mixed marriage can be successful. Long, long ago Plutarch laid it down, that "marriage cannot be happy unless husband and wife are of the same religion." The highest love comes when two people love each other and their love is sanctified by a common love of Christ. For then they not only live together but also pray together; and life and love combine to be one continual act of worship to God.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Corinthians 9:1-27; 1 Corinthians 10:1-33 deal with a problem which may seem extremely remote to us, but was intensely real to the Christians at Corinth and demanded a solution. It was the problem of whether or not to eat meat which had been offered to idols. Before we begin to study these chapters in detail, it will be well to state the problem and the broad lines of the solutions which Paul offers in the various cases in which it impinged upon life.

Sacrifice to the gods was an integral part of ancient life. It might be of two kinds, private or public. In neither case was the whole animal consumed upon the altar. Often all that was burned was a mere token part as small as some of the hairs cut from the forehead.

In private sacrifice the animal, so to speak, was divided into three parts. First, a token part was burned on the altar. Second, the priests received as their rightful portion the ribs, the ham and the left side of the face. Third, the worshipper himself received the rest of the meat. With the meat he gave a banquet. This was specially the case at times like weddings. Sometimes these feasts were in the house of the host; sometimes they were even in the temple of the god to whom the sacrifice had been made. We have, for instance, a papyrus invitation to dinner which runs like this: "Antonius, son of Ptolemaeus, invites you to dine with him at the table of our Lord Serapis." Serapis was the god to whom he had sacrificed.

The problem which confronted the Christian was, "Could he take part in such a feast? Could he possibly take upon his lips meat that had been offered to an idol?" If he could not, then obviously he was going to cut himself off almost entirely from social occasions.

In public sacrifice, that is sacrifice offered by the state, and such sacrifices were common, after the requisite symbolic amount of the meat had been burned and after the priests had received their share, the rest of the meat fell to the magistrates and others. What they did not need, they sold to the shops and the markets; and therefore, even when meat was bought in the shops, it might well have been already offered to some idol. A man never knew when he might be eating meat that had formed part of a sacrifice to an idol.

What complicated matters still further was that this age believed strongly and fearfully in demons and devils. The air was full of them and they were always lurking to gain an entry into a man, and, if they did, they would injure his body and unhinge his mind. One of the special ways in which these spirits gained entry was through food; they settled on the food as a man ate and so got inside him. One of the ways of avoiding that was to dedicate the meat to some good god whose presence in the meat put up a barrier against the evil spirit. For that reason, nearly all animals were dedicated to a god before being slaughtered; and, if that was not done, as a defence meat was blessed in the name of a god before it was eaten.

It therefore followed that a man could hardly eat meat at all which was not in some way connected with a heathen god. Could the Christian eat it? That was the problem; and, clearly, although to us it may be a matter of merely antiquarian interest, the fact remains that, to the Christian in Corinth or any other Greek city, it was one which pervaded all life, and which had to be settled one way or another.

Paul's advice falls into different sections.

(i) In 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 he lays down the principle that, however safe the strong and enlightened Christian may feel from the infection of heathen idols and even if he believes that an idol is the symbol of something which does not exist at all, he must do nothing which will hurt or bewilder a brother whose conscience is neither so enlightened nor so strong as his.

(ii) In 1 Corinthians 9:1-27 he deals with those who invoke the principle of Christian freedom. He points out that there are many things that he is free to do which he abstains from doing for the sake of the Church. He is well aware of Christian freedom, but equally aware of Christian responsibility.

(iii) In 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 he deals with those who declare that their Christian knowledge and privileged position make them quite safe from any infection. He cites the example of the Israelites who had all the privileges of God's Chosen People and who yet fell into sin.

(iv) In 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 he uses the argument that any man who has sat at the table of the Lord cannot sit at the table of a heathen god, even if that god be nothing. There is something essentially wrong in taking meat offered to a false god upon lips that have eaten the body and blood of Christ.

(v) In 1 Corinthians 10:23-26 he advises against overfussiness. A man can buy what is offered in the shops and ask no questions.

(vi) In 1 Corinthians 10:27-28 he deals with the problem of what to do in a private house. In a private house the Christian will eat what is put before him and ask no questions; but if he is deliberately informed that the meat set before him was part of a heathen sacrifice, that is a challenge to his Christian position and he will refuse to eat it.

(vii) Finally in 1 Corinthians 10:29-33 to 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul lays down the principle that the conduct of the Christian must be so far above reproach that it gives no possible offence either to Jew or non-Jew. He is better to sacrifice his rights than to allow these rights to become an offence.

Now we can proceed to deal with these chapters in detail.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 7:7

For I would [wish; desire] --

that all men -- From 1 Corinthians 9:5 it appears that Paul was unmarried, but he does not refer to this fact here. When he wishes that all people were like himself, he evidently does not intend that he would prefer that all should be unmarried, for this would be against God’s plan and against Paul’s own precepts elsewhere. But he would be glad if all people had control over their passions and propensities as he had, the gift of self-control.

But each one has his own gift from God, -- Each man has own special gift, ability, capability or talent, or excels in a certain matter from God.

We are not to judge others by ourselves, or measure their virtues or abilities by ours. We may excel in some one thing and they in another.

Paul here is referring to his own continency, or sexual self-control, as "his own gift from God."

from God, -- Either bestowed by God through the faculities of our body or mind, or by his grace.

    Paul apparently had strength of discipline or by his resolution, manner of life, his fastings and trials, or "by the abundant employment" which God gave him in his apostleship. (Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:32-38; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 9:15).

This chapter seems to have been written by one who knew something of the intimacies of the married life. And combined this with the fact of Paul’s voting in the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10), for which it was said, marriage was a prerequisite, make these the two reasons for supposing that Paul had been married. While it was almost a universal tradition of the early church that Paul was never married, that tradition appears to be weak. Farrar stated that it "has no certain support of tradition."

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Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For I would that all men were even as I myself,.... The apostle speaks not of his state and condition, as married or unmarried, for it is not certain which he was; some think he had a wife, others not: it looks, however, as if he had not at this time, as appears from 1 Corinthians 7:8 but be it which it will, it can hardly be thought he should wish all men to be in either state, either all married, or all unmarried; but he speaks of the gift of continency, which he had, as the following words show; and this he desires for all men, that they might not be in any danger from Satan's temptations, and that they might be more fit for and intent upon the service of Christ. The Syriac version adds, בדכיותא in "purity", or "chastity"; which may be preserved in a marriage state, as well as in single life:

but every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that: all the gifts of nature and grace which men have, they have of God, and not of themselves; and every man has a gift proper to himself; no one man has all gifts, but some one, and some another; and with respect to the case in hand, one man has the gift of continency, another the gift of marriage; all cannot contain themselves, only to whom it is given: and all are not disposed to marriage; some are inclined to a single life, and some to a marriage state; and of those that are married, some can abstain from the use of the marriage bed longer than others, without being in danger of being tempted by Satan for their incontinency; and such a disposition is desirable.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Against Fornication. A. D. 57.

      1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.   2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.   3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.   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.   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.   6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.   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.   8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.   9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

      The apostle comes now, as a faithful and skilful casuist, to answer some cases of conscience which the Corinthians had proposed to him. Those were things whereof they wrote to him,1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:1. As the lips of ministers should keep knowledge, so the people should ask the law at their mouths. The apostle was as ready to resolve as they were to propose their doubts. In the former chapter, he warns them to avoid fornication; here he gives some directions about marriage, the remedy God had appointed for it. He tells them in general,

      I. That it was good, in that juncture of time at least, to abstain from marriage altogether: It is good for a man not to touch a woman (not to take her to wife), by good here not understanding what is so conformable to the mind and will of God as if to do otherwise were sin, an extreme into which many of the ancients have run in favour of celibacy and virginity. Should the apostle be understood in this sense, he would contradict much of the rest of his discourse. But it is good, that is, either abstracting from circumstances there are many things in which the state of celibacy has the advantage above the marriage state; or else at this juncture, by reason of the distress of the Christian church, it would be a convenience for Christians to keep themselves single, provided they have the gift of continency, and at the same time can keep themselves chaste. The expression also may carry in it an intimation that Christians must avoid all occasions of this sin, and flee all fleshly lusts, and incentives to them; must neither look on nor touch a woman, so as to provoke lustful inclinations. Yet,

      II. He informs them that marriage, and the comforts and satisfactions of that state, are by divine wisdom prescribed for preventing fornication (1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:2), Porneias--Fornications, all sorts of lawless lust. To avoid these, Let every man, says he, have his own wife, and every woman her own husband; that is, marry, and confine themselves to their own mates. And, when they are married, let each render the other due benevolence (1 Corinthians 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:3), consider the disposition and exigency of each other, and render conjugal duty, which is owing to each other. For, as the apostle argues (1 Corinthians 7:4; 1 Corinthians 7:4), in the married state neither person has power over his own body, but has delivered it into the power of the other, the wife hers into the power of the husband, the husband his into the power of the wife. Note, Polygamy, or the marriage of more persons than one, as well as adultery, must be a breach of marriage-covenants, and a violation of the partner's rights. And therefore they should not defraud one another of the use of their bodies, nor any other of the comforts of the conjugal state, appointed of God for keeping the vessel in sanctification and honour, and preventing the lusts of uncleanness, except it be with mutual consent (1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Corinthians 7:5) and for a time only, while they employ themselves in some extraordinary duties of religion, or give themselves to fasting and prayer. Note, Seasons of deep humiliation require abstinence from lawful pleasures. But this separation between husband and wife must not be for a continuance, lest they expose themselves to Satan's temptations, by reason of their incontinence, or inability to contain. Note, Persons expose themselves to great danger by attempting to perform what is above their strength, and at the same time not bound upon them by any law of God. If they abstain from lawful enjoyments, they may be ensnared into unlawful ones. The remedies God hath provided against sinful inclinations are certainly best.

      III. The apostle limits what he had said about every man's having his own wife, c. (1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:2): I speak this by permission, not of command. He did not lay it as an injunction upon every man to marry without exception. Any man might marry. No law of God prohibited the thing. But, on the other hand, not law bound a man to marry so that he sinned if he did not; I mean, unless his circumstances required it for preventing the lust of uncleanness. It was a thing in which men, by the laws of God, were in a great measure left at liberty. And therefore Paul did not bind every man to marry, though every man had an allowance. No, he could wish all men were as himself (1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 7:7), that is, single, and capable of living continently in that state. There were several conveniences in it, which at that season, if not at others, made it more eligible in itself. Note, It is a mark of true goodness to wish all men as happy as ourselves. But it did not answer the intentions of divine Providence as well for all men to have as much command of this appetite as Paul had. It was a gift vouchsafed to such persons as Infinite Wisdom thought proper: Every one hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner and another after that. Natural constitutions vary; and, where there may not be much difference in the constitution, different degrees of grace are vouchsafed, which may give some a greater victory over natural inclination than others. Note, The gifts of God, both in nature and grace, are variously distributed. Some have them after this manner and some after that. Paul could wish all men were as himself, but all men cannot receive such a saying, save those to whom it is given,Matthew 19:11.

      IV. He sums up his sense on this head (1 Corinthians 7:9; 1 Corinthians 7:10): I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, to those in a state of virginity or widowhood, It is good for them if they abide even as I. There are many conveniences, and especially at this juncture, in a single state, to render it preferable to a married one. It is convenient therefore that the unmarried abide as I, which plainly implies that Paul was at that time unmarried. But, if they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn. This is God's remedy for lust. The fire may be quenched by the means he has appointed. And marriage, with all its inconveniences, is much better than to burn with impure and lustful desires. Marriage is honourable in all; but it is a duty in those who cannot contain nor conquer those inclinations.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

As usual, the introductory words (1 Corinthians 1:1-3) of the epistle give us no little intimation of that which is to follow. The apostle speaks of himself as such "called [to be ] an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God," but coupling a brother with him, "and Sosthenes our brother," he writes to "the church of God at Corinth" not to the saints, as was the case in the epistle to the Romans, but to the church at Corinth "to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus," as in the former epistle "called [to be] saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours."

This will be found to lead the way into the main subject of the present communication. Here we must not look for the great foundations of Christian doctrine. There is the unfolding of the assembly in a practical way; that is, the church of God is not viewed here in its highest character. There is no more than an incidental glance at its associations with Christ. No notice is here taken of the heavenly places as the sphere of our blessing; nor are we given to hear of the bridal affections of Christ for His body. But the assembly of God is addressed, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints called, "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord." Thus room is left for the profession of the Lord's name. It is not, as in Ephesians, "to the saints which are in Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." There is no such closeness of application, nor intimacy, nor confidence in a really intrinsically holy character. Sanctified they were in Christ Jesus. They had taken the place of being separate, "calling upon the name of the Lord;" but the remarkable addition should be noticed by the way "with all that in every place call upon the name of the Lord, both theirs and ours." And this is the more notable, because if there be an epistle which the unbelief of Christendom tries more than another to annul in its application to present circumstances, it is this first letter to the Corinthians. Nor need we wonder. Unbelief shrinks from that which calls, now rather recalls, the saints to a due sense of their responsibility in virtue of their position as the church of God here below. Those at Corinth had forgotten it. Christendom has not merely forgotten but denied it, and so would fain treat a large part of that which will come before us tonight as a bygone thing. It is not disputed that God did thus work in times past; but they have not the smallest serious thought of submitting to its directions as authoritative for present duty. Yet who can deny that God has taken more care to make this plain and certain in the very frontispiece of this epistle than anywhere else? He is wise and right: man is not. Our place is to bow and believe.

There is another point also to be weighed in the next verses (4-8). The apostle tells them how he thanks his God always on their behalf, but refrains from any expression of thankfulness as to their state. He recognises their rich endowments on God's part. He owns how they had been given all utterance, and all knowledge, the working of the Spirit of God, and His power. This is exceedingly important; for there is a disposition often to consider that difficulties and disorder among the saints of God are due to a want of government and of ministerial power. But no amount of gift, in few or many, can of itself produce holy spiritual order. Disorder is never the result of weakness alone. This, of course, may be taken advantage of, and Satan may tempt men to assume the semblance of a strength they do not possess. No doubt assumption would produce disorder; but weakness simply (where it leads souls, as it should, to spread out their need before the Lord) brings in the gracious action of the Holy Ghost, and the unfailing care of Him who loves His saints and the assembly. It was not so at Corinth. Theirs was rather the display of conscious strength; but at the same time they lacked the fear of God, and the sense of responsibility in the use of what God had given them. They were like children disporting themselves with not a little energy that wrought in vessels which altogether failed in self-judgment. This was a source, and a main source, of the difficulty and disorder at Corinth. It is also of great importance to us; for there are those that continually cry out for increase of power as the one panacea of the church. What reflecting spiritual mind could doubt that God sees His saints are not able to bear it? Power in the sense in which we are now speaking of it that is, power in the form of gift is far from being the deepest need or the gravest desideratum of the saints. Again, is it ever the way of God to display Himself thus in a fallen condition of things? Not that He is restrained, or that He is not Sovereign. Not, moreover, that He may not give, and liberally as suits His own glory; but He gives wisely and holily, so as to lead souls now into exercise of conscience and brokenness of spirit, and thus keep and even deepen their sense of that to which God's church is called, and the state into which it has fallen.

At Corinth there was a wholly different state of things. It was the early rise of the church of God, if I may so say, among the Gentiles. And there was not wanting an astonishing sample of the power of the Spirit in witness of the victory that Jesus had won over Satan. This was now, or at least should have been, manifested by the church of God, as at Corinth. But they had lost sight of God's objects. They were occupied with themselves, with one another, with the supernatural energy which grace had conferred on them in the name of the Lord. The Holy Ghost in inspiring the apostle to write to them in no way weakens the sense of the source and character of that power. He insists on its reality, and reminds them that it was of God; but at the same time he brings in the divine aim in it all. "God," says he, "is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Immediately after he alludes to the schisms that were then at work among them, and calls on them to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment; informing them of the tidings which had reached him through the house of Chloe, that there were contentions among them, some saying, "I am of Paul," others "I am of Apollos;" some, "I am of Cephas," and others "I am of Christ himself." There is no abuse to which flesh cannot degrade the truth. But the apostle knew how to introduce the Lord's name and grace with the grandly simple but weighty facts of His person and work. It was unto His name that they were baptized; it was He that had been crucified. And be it observed, that from the first of this epistle it is the cross of Christ that has the prominence. It is not so much His blood-shedding, nor even His death and resurrection, but His cross. This would have been as much out of place in the beginning of Romans as the putting forward of propitiation would be out of place here. Expiation of sins by Christ, His death and resurrection, are given of God to be displayed before the saints, who needed to know the firm, immutable foundation of grace; but what the saints wanted most was to learn the gross inconsistency of turning to selfish ease, honour, and aggrandisement the privileges of God's church, and the power of the Spirit of God that wrought in its members.

It is the cross which stains the pride of man, and puts all his glory in the dust. Hence the apostle brings Christ crucified before them. This to the Jew was a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. These Corinthians were deeply affected by the judgment of both Jews and Greeks. They were under the influence of man. They had not realized the total ruin of nature. They valued those that were wise, scribes, or disputers of this world. They were accustomed to the schools of their age and country. They conceived that if Christianity did such great things when those who possessed it were poor and simple, what might it not do if it could only be backed by the ability, and the learning, and the philosophy of men! How it must ride triumphantly to victory! How the great must bow, and the wise be brought in! What a glorious change would result when not the unlettered poor only, but the great and the noble, the wise and the Prudent, were all joined in the confession of Jesus!

Their thoughts were fleshly, not of God. The cross writes judgment on man, and folly on his wisdom, as it is itself rejected by man as folly; for what could seem more egregiously unreasonable to a Greek than the God that made heaven and earth becoming a man, and, as such, crucified by the wicked hands of His creatures here below? That God should use His power to bless man was natural; and the Gentile could coalesce as to it with the Jew. Hence too, in the cross, the Jew found his stumbling-block; for he expected a Messiah in power and glory. Though the Jew and the Greek seemed opposite as the poles, from different points they agreed thoroughly in slighting the cross, and in desiring the exaltation of man as he is. They both, therefore, (whatever their occasional oppositions, and whatever their permanent variety of form,) preferred the flesh, and were ignorant of God the one demanding signs, the other wisdom. It was the pride of nature, whether self-confident or founded on religious claims.

Hence the apostle Paul, in the latter part of chap. 1, brings in the cross of Christ in contrast with fleshly wisdom, as well as religious pride, urging also God's sovereignty in calling souls as He will. He alludes to the mystery (1 Corinthians 2:1-16), but does not develop here the blessed privileges that flowed to us from a union with Christ, dead, risen, and ascended; but demonstrates that man has no place whatever, that it is God who chooses and calls, and that He makes, nothing of flesh. There is glorying, but it is exclusively in the Lord. No flesh should glory in his presence."

This is confirmed in1 Corinthians 2:1-16; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, where the apostle reminds them of the manner in which the gospel had entered Corinth. He had come there setting his face against all things that would commend himself. No doubt, to one of such eminent ability and such varied gifts as the apostle Paul, it was hard, to speak after the manner of men, to be nothing. How much it must have called for self-denial utterly to decline that which he could have handled so well, and which people at Corinth would have hailed with loud acclamation. Just think of the great apostle of the Gentiles, on the immortality of the soul, giving free rein to the mighty spirit that was in him! But not so. What absorbed his soul, in entering, the intellectual and dissolute capital of Achaia, was the cross of Christ. He determined therefore, as he says, to know nothing else not exactly to know the cross alone, but "Jesus Christ and him crucified." It was emphatically, though not exclusively, the cross. It was not simply redemption, but along with this another order of truth. Redemption supposes, undoubtedly, a suffering Saviour, and the shedding of that precious blood which ransoms the captives. It is Jesus who in grace has undergone the judgment of God, and brought in the full delivering power of God for the souls that believe. But the cross is more than this. It is the death of shame pre-eminently. It is utter opposition to the thoughts, feelings, judgments, and ways of men, religious or profane. This is the part accordingly that he was led in the wisdom of God to put forward. Hence the feelings of the apostle were distrust of self, and dependence on God according to that cross. As he says, "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." Thus, as Christ Himself is said in 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 to be crucified in weakness, such was also the servant here. His speech and his preaching was "not in enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Accordingly, in this chapter he proceeds to supplement the application of the doctrine of the cross to the state of the Corinthians by bringing in the Holy Ghost; for this again supposes the incapacity of man in divine things.

All is opened out in a manner full of comfort, but at the same time unsparing to human pride. Weigh from the prophecy of Isaiah the remarkable quotation "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." There is first the great standing fact before our eyes. Such is the Saviour to the saved. Christ crucified is the death-knell on all man's wisdom, and power, and righteousness. The cross writes total condemnation on the world. It was here the world had to say to Jesus. All that it gave Him was the cross. On the other hand, to the believer it is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because he humbly but willingly reads in the cross the truth of the judgment of his own nature as a thing to be delivered from, and finds Him that was crucified, the Lord Himself, undertaking a deliverance just, present, and complete; as he says, "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Flesh is absolutely put down. Man cannot go lower for weakness and ignominy than the cross on which hangs all the blessedness God gives the believer. And therein God is glorified as He is nowhere else. This in both its parts is exactly as it should be; and faith sees and receives it in Christ's cross. The state of the Corinthians did not admit of Christ risen being brought in, at least here. It might have drawn a halo, as it were, round human nature this presenting the risen man in the first instance. But he points to God as the source, and Christ as the channel and means, of all the blessing. "Of him," says he, "are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." But then, as he shows, there was not only this great source of blessing in Christ, but there is the power that works in us. Never is it the spirit of man that lays hold of this infinite good which God vouchsafes him. Man requires a divine power to work within him, just as he needs the Saviour outside himself

Accordingly, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, still carrying on the thought of Christ crucified, and connecting it with their condition, he intimates that he was in no wise limited to it. If persons were grounded in Christianity, he was prepared to go into the greatest depths of revealed truth; but then the power of entering safely was not human, but of the Holy Ghost. Man is no more capable of fathoming the depths of divine things than a brute can comprehend the works of human wit or science. This doctrine was utterly repulsive to the pride of the Greeks. They might admit man to have need of pardon, and of moral improvement. They fully admitted his want of instruction, and refinement, and, so to speak, of spiritualization, if it only might be. Christianity deepens our estimate of every want. Man not only wants a new life or nature, but the Holy Ghost. It is not merely His grace in a general sense, but the power of the Holy Ghost personally dwelling in him. It is this alone which can lead us into the deep things of God. And this, he lets us see, affects not merely this particular or that, but the whole working of divine grace and power in man. The whole and sole means of communicating blessing to us must be the Holy Ghost. Hence he insists, that as it is the Spirit of God in the first place who reveals the truth to us, so it is the same Spirit who furnishes suitable words, as, finally, it is through the Holy Ghost that one receives the truth revealed in the words He Himself has given. Thus, from first to last, it is a process begun, carried on, and completed by the Holy Ghost. How little this makes of man!

This introduces 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 and gives point to his rebukes. He taxes them with walking as men. How remarkable is such a reproach! Walking as men! Why, one might ask, how else could they walk? And this very difficulty as no doubt it would be to many a Christian now (that walking as men should be a reproach) was no doubt a clap of thunder to the proud but poor spirits at Corinth. Yes, walking as men is a departure from Christianity. It is to give up the distinctive power and place that belongs to us; for does not Christianity show us man judged, condemned, and set aside? On the faith of this, living in Christ, we have to walk. The Holy Ghost, besides, is brought in as working in the believer, and this, of course, in virtue of redemption by our Lord Jesus. And this is what is meant by being not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, which is proved by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.

Here the apostle does not explain all this, and he gives a very withering reason for his reticence. These Corinthians had an uncommonly good opinion of themselves, and so they must be told plainly the reason why he does not open out these deep things. They themselves were not fit; they were but babes. What! the polished Greek believers no more than babes! This was rather what they would have said of the apostle or of his teaching. They thought themselves far in advance. The apostle had dwelt on the elementary truths of the gospel. They yearned after the fire of Peter and the rhetoric of Apollos. No doubt they might easily flatter themselves it was to carry on the work of God. How little many a young convert knows what will best lead him on! How little the Corinthians dreamt of depreciating the Second man, or of exalting the first! Hence the apostle tells them that he could not speak unto them as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat." Far from denying, he owns that their insinuation was true he had only brought before them elementary truths. They were not in a condition to bear more. Now this is full of meaning and importance practically at all times. We may damage souls greatly by presenting high truths to those that want the simplest rudiments of divine truth.

The apostle, as a wise master-builder, laid the foundation. The state of the Corinthians was such that he could not build on the foundation as he would have desired. His absence had given occasion for the breaking out of their carnal wishes after the world's wisdom. They were making even the ardour of a Peter and the eloquence of an Apollos to be a reason for dissatisfaction with one that, I need not say, was superior to both of them. But the apostle meets them in a way most unexpected to their self-satisfaction and pride, and lets them know that their carnality was the real reason why he could not go on with them into deeper things.

This leads him to point out the seriousness of the work or building; for he presents the church of God under this figure. What care each servant needs to take how and what he builds! What danger of bringing in that which would not stand the fire or judgment of God nay, further, of bringing in that which was not simply weak and worthless, but positively corrupting; for it was to be feared there were such elements even then at Corinth! Again he brings in another principle to bear upon them. Their party spirit, their feeling of narrowness, the disposition to set up this servant of Christ or that, was not only a dishonour to the Master, but a real loss to themselves. Not that there is any ground to suppose it was the fault of Peter or Apollos any more than of Paul. The evil was in the saints themselves, who indulged in their old zeal of the schools, and allowed their natural partiality to work. In point of fact this never can be without the most grievous impoverishment to the soul, as well as a hindrance to the Holy Ghost. What faith must learn is, that "all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; . . . . . all are yours." Thus the subject enlarges, as is his wont, taking in an immense breadth of the Christian's possessions life, death, things present, and things to come. "All are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

This again brings in another point before the subject closes. He is not content with the pressing of responsibility on others; he had a solemn sense of his own place, which made him wonderfully independent of the judgments of men. Obedience gives firmness as well as humility. Not in the smallest degree was the pride of the Corinthians met by pride on his part, but by keeping the Lord and His will before his soul. Yet this is certainly true that this effect of faith looks like pride to a man who merely views things on the surface. The calm going on in the service of Christ, the endurance of this spirit or that, as no more than the idle wind, was no doubt exceedingly unpleasant to such as were wise in their own conceit, and valued the criticism they freely bestowed on the different servants of the Lord. But Paul sees all in the light of the eternal day. They had forgotten this, and were in a sense trafficking with these powers of the Spirit of God. They were making them the counters of a game they were playing in this world. They had forgotten that what God gives He gives in time, but in view of eternity. The apostle puts the truth of the case before their souls as he had it vividly before his own. (1 Corinthians 4:1-21)

Another thing is noticeable here. He had reproached them with walking not as Christians but as men (that is, with their habitual life and conversation formed on human principles instead of divine). On the other hand, it would appear from what follows, that they reproached the apostle in their hearts, not, of course, in so many words, with not being enough of a gentleman for their taste. This seems to me the gist of the fourth chapter. It was a thing that they considered quite beneath a Christian minister to work from time to time with his hands, often poor, occasionally in prison, knocked about by crowds, and so on. All this they thought the fruit of indiscretion and avoidable. They would have preferred respectability, public and private, in one who stood in the position of a servant of Christ. This the apostle meets in a very blessed way. He admitted that they were certainly not in such circumstances; they were reigning as kings. As for him it was enough to be the off-scouring of all men, this was his boast and blessedness. He wished that they did indeed reign that he might reign with them (that the blessed time might really arrive). How his heart would rejoice in that day with them! And surely the time will come, and they would all reign together when Christ reigns over the earth. But he quite admits that for the present the fellowship of Christ's sufferings was the place he had chosen. Of honour in the world, and ease for the flesh, he at least could not, if they could, boast. Present greatness was what he in no wise coveted; to suffer great things for His sake was what the Lord had promised, and what His servant expected in becoming an apostle. If his own service was the highest position in the church, his was certainly the lowest position in the world. This was as much an apostle's boast and glory as anything that God had given them. No answer can I conceive more telling to any one of his detractors at Corinth who had a heart and conscience.

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 we enter on another and more painful part of the epistle. A fearful instance of sin had come to light, so gross, indeed, that the like was not even named among the Gentiles. In fact it was a case of incest, and this among those called of God, and sanctified in Christ Jesus! The question is not in the least raised whether the guilty person was a saint or not; still less does he allow that which one so often and painfully heard pleaded in extenuation, "Oh, but he [or she] is a dear Christian." Christian affection is most excellent; as brethren we should love even to laying down life for each other; as it is also very right that we should own the work God has wrought, above all what He has wrought in grace. But when one bearing the name of the Lord has, through unwatchfulness, fallen into wickedness, which of course grieves the Holy Ghost and stumbles the weak, it is not the time to talk thus. It is the time, in the very love that God implants, to deal sternly with that which has disgraced the name of the Lord. Is this to fail in love to the person? The apostle showed ere long that he had more love for this evildoer than any of them. The second epistle to the Corinthians entreats them to confirm their love to him whom they had put away. They were too hard against him then, as they were too loose now. Here their consciences needed to be roused. To deal with the matter they owed to the Lord Jesus. It was not merely getting rid of the obnoxious man. They had to prove themselves clear in the matter certainly; but he puts before them another course, whenever the guilty one had repented.

"I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already," etc. The case was most gross, and there was no question about it. The facts were indisputable; the scandal was unheard of. "I have judged already, as though present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." There was no discussion raised whether the person might be converted. The fact is, church discipline supposes and goes on the ground that those on whom it is exercised are Christians; but when it is a question of discipline, it is not the season for the display of Christian affection. This would falsify the conscience and turn the eye from off the point to which the Holy Ghost was directing attention. There was wickedness in their midst; and while known and unjudged, all were implicated; none could be clean till it was put away. Accordingly the apostle, while he expresses the desire that the spirit of the man should be saved in the day of the Lord, flesh being destroyed, at the same time rouses the saints to that which became the name of the Lord on the very ground that they were unleavened. If they were free from evil, let them act consistently. Let them preserve that purity in practice which was theirs in principle. They were unleavened, and therefore should be a new lump. Notoriously there was old leaven among them. What business had it there? "Put away from" not the table of the Lord merely, this he does not say, but "Put away from among yourselves." This is much stronger than expelling from the table. Of course, it implies exclusion from the Lord's table, but from their table too "with such an one, no, not to eat." An ordinary meal, or any such act expressive even in natural things of fellowship with the person thus dishonouring the Lord, is forbidden.

Mark, they must put away. It is not the apostle acting for them; for God took particular care that this case, demanding discipline to the uttermost, should be where the apostle was not. What an admirable instruction for us who have no longer an apostle! None can pretend that it was an assembly where there was a high degree of knowledge or spirituality. The very reverse was the case. The responsibility of discipline depends on our relationship as an assembly to the Lord, not on its changing states. The Corinthians were babes; they were carnal. He who loved them well could not speak of them as spiritual. Nevertheless, this responsibility attached to the very fact that they were members of Christ His body. If saints are gathered to the name of the Lord, and so are God's assembly, if they have faith to take such a position here below, and have the Holy Ghost owned as in their midst, this, and nothing short of this, is their responsibility; nor does the ruined state of the church touch the question, nor can it relieve them from their duty to the Lord. The church at Corinth had soon failed most gravely far and wide. This was the more shameful, considering the brightness of the truth vouchsafed to them, and the striking manifestation of divine power in their midst. The presence of apostles elsewhere in the earth, the beautiful display of Pentecostal grace at Jerusalem, the fact that so short a time had elapsed since they had been brought out of heathenism into their standing in God's grace, all made the present state of the Corinthians so much the more painful; but nothing can ever dissolve the responsibility of saints, whether as individuals or as an assembly. "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person."

Another thing is to be observed, that the Holy Spirit's scale of sin is not that of man. Which of you, my brethren, would have thought of classing a railer with an adulterer? A railer is one who uses abusive language for the purpose of injuring another, not the transient out-breaking of flesh, sad as it is, but provoked it may be, or at any rate, happening through unwatchfulness. The habit of evil speaking stamps him who practises it as a railer; and such a man is unfit for the company of the saints, for God's assembly. It is the old leaven of malice and wickedness. He is unclean. Doubtless the world would not so judge; but this is not the world's judgment. The Corinthians were under the influence of the world. The apostle had already shown that to walk as men is beneath the Christian. Now we see that to walk as the world, no matter how refinedly, ever exposes Christians to act worse than men of the world. God has stamped upon His children the name of Christ; and what does not express His name is inconsistent, not only with the Christian, but with His assembly. They are all as such held responsible, according to the grace and holiness and glory of Christ, for the sin done in their midst, of which they are cognisant. They are bound to keep themselves pure in ways.

There was another case also: brother was going to law with brother. (1 Corinthians 6:1-20) We have no reason to think they had fallen so far as to go to law with those that were not brethren; this would seem to be a lower step still. But brother was going to law with brother, ,and this before the unjust. How often now-a-days one hears, "Well, one expects something better from a brother; and surely he ought to suffer the consequences of his ill-doing." This was just the feeling of the Corinthian plaintiff. What, then, is the weapon that the apostle uses in this case? The dignified place in the glory that God designs for the Christian: "Know ye not that we shall judge the world judge angels?" Were such going before the Gentiles? Thus is seen how practical all truth is, and how God casts the bright light of the approaching day on the smallest matters of the life of today.

Again, there was no quarter in the world where personal purity was more unknown than at Corinth. Indeed, such were the habits of the ancient world, it would only defile the ears and minds of God's children to have any proofs of the depravity in which the world then lay, and that too in its best estate, the wisest and the greatest not excepted, those, alas. whose writings are in the hands of the youth of our day, and more than ever, perhaps, in their hands. Those wits, poets, and philosophers of heathen antiquity lived in habitual, yea, often in unnatural grossness, and thought nothing of it. It is a danger for the saints of God to be tinctured by the atmosphere of the world outside when the first fervour of grace cools, and they begin to take up their old habits. It was certainly so at Corinth.

Accordingly the believers there were betrayed into their former uncleanness of life when the heavenly light got dim. And how does the apostle deal with this? He recalls to them the Holy Spirit's dwelling in them. What a truth, and of what force to the believer! He does not say simply that they were redeemed, though he brings it in also; still less does he merely reason on the moral heinousness of the sin; neither does he cite the law of God that condemned it. He presses upon them that which was proper to them as Christians. It was no question of man, let him be Gentile or Jew, but of a Christian. Thus he sets before them the distinctive Christian blessing the Holy Ghost dwelling in the believer, and making his body (not his spirit but his body) a temple of the Holy Ghost; for here was precisely where the enemy seems to have misled these Corinthians. They affected to think they might be pure in spirit, but do what they liked with their bodies. But, answers the apostle, it is the body which is the temple of the Holy Ghost. The body belongs to the Lord and Saviour; the body, therefore, and not the spirit only, He claims now. No doubt that the spirit be occupied with Christ is a grand matter; but the licentious flesh of man would talk, at any rate, about the Lord, and at the same time indulge in evil. This is set aside by the blessed fact that the Holy Ghost even now dwells in the Christian, and this on the ground of his being bought with a price. Thus the very call to holiness ever keeps the saint of God in the sense of his immense privileges as well as of his perfect deliverance.

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 naturally leads from this into certain questions that had been proposed to the apostle touching marriage and slavery questions which had to do with the various relationships of life. The apostle accordingly gives us what he had learned from the Lord, as well as what he could speak of as a commandment of the Lord, distinguishing in the most beautiful manner, not between inspired and non-inspired, but between revelation and inspiration. All the word is inspired; there is no difference as to this. There is no part of Scripture that is less inspired than another. " All (every) scripture is given by inspiration of God;" but all is not His revelation. We must distinguish between parts revealed and the whole inspired. When a thing is revealed of God, it is absolutely new truth, and of course is the commandment of the Lord. But the inspired word of God contains the language of all sorts of men, and very often the conversation of wicked men nay, of the devil I need not say that all this is not a revelation; but God communicates what Satan and wicked men say (as for instance Pilate's words to our Lord and the Jews). None of these evidently was that which is called a revelation; but the Holy Ghost inspired the writers of the book to give us exactly what each of these said, or revealed what was in the mind of God about them. Take, for example, the book of Job, in which occur the sayings of his friends. What intelligent reader could think that they were in any way authorised communicators of the mind of God? They say sometimes very wrong things, and sometimes wise, and often things that do not in the smallest degree apply to the case. Every word of the book of Job is inspired; but did all the speakers utter necessarily the mind of God? Did not one of the speakers condemn one or other of the rest? Need one reason on such facts? This, no doubt, makes a certain measure of difficulty for a soul at the first blush; but on maturer consideration all becomes plain and harmonious, and the word of God is enhanced in our eyes.

And so it is in this chapter, where the apostle gives both the commandment of the Lord, and his own matured spiritual judgment, which he expressly says was not the commandment of the Lord. Still he was inspired to give his judgment as such. Thus the whole chapter is inspired, one part of it just as much as another. There is no difference in inspiration. What was written by the different inspired instruments is of God as absolutely as if He had written it all without them. There is no degree in the matter. There can be no difference in inspiration. But in the inspired word of God there is not always revelation. Sometimes it is a record which the Spirit gave a man to make of what he had seen and heard, sometimes he recorded by the Spirit what no man could have seen or heard. Sometimes it was a prophecy of the future, sometimes a communication of God's present mind according to His eternal purpose. But all is equally and divinely inspired.

The apostle then lays down at least as far as may be here briefly sketched that while there are cases where it is a positive duty to be married, undisguisedly there was a better place of undivided devotedness to Christ. Blessed is he who is given. thus to serve the Lord without let: still it must be the gift of God. The Lord Jesus had laid down the same principle Himself. InMatthew 19:1-30; Matthew 19:1-30, it is needless to say, you have the selfsame truth in another form.

Again, while the Lord employs the apostle thus to give us both His own commandment and His mind, the general principle is stated as to the relationships of life. It is broadly laid down that one should remain in that condition in which he is called, and for a very blessed reason. Supposing one were a slave even, he is already, if a Christian, a freeman of Christ. You must remember that in these days there were everywhere bondmen: those that then ruled the. world took them from all classes and all countries There were bondmen highly educated, and once in a high position of life. Need it be said that often these bondmen rose up against their cruel masters? The very knowledge of Christ, and the possession of conscious truth, if grace did not counteract mightily, would tend to increase their sense of horror at their position. Suppose, for instance, a refined person, with the truth of God communicated to his soul, was the slave of one living in all the filth of heathenism, what a trial it would be to serve in such a position! The apostle urges the truth of that liberty in Christ which Christendom has well-nigh forgotten that if I am Christ's servant I am emancipated already. Match if you can the manumission he has got. Twenty millions will procure no such emancipation. At the same time, if my master allows me liberty, let me use it rather. Is it not a remarkable style of speech and feeling? The Christian, even if a slave, possesses the best freedom after all: anything else is but circumstantial. On the other hand, if you are a freeman, take care how you use your liberty: use it as the Lord's bondman. The freeman is reminded of his bondmanship; the bondman is reminded of his freedom. What a wonderful antithesis of man is the Second Man! How it traverses all the thoughts, circumstances, and hopes of flesh!

Then he brings before us the different relationships at the end of the chapter, as they are affected by the coming of the Lord. And there is nothing which shows more the importance of that hope as a practical power. There is not only the direct but the indirect allusion when the heart is filled with an object; and the indirect is a yet stronger witness of the place it holds than the direct. A mere hint connects itself with that which is your joy and constant expectation; whereas when a thing is little before the heart you require to explain, prove, and insist upon it. But this chapter brings vividly before them how all outward things pass away, even the fashion of this world. Time is short. It is too late either to make much of scenes so changing, or to seek this thing or that here below with such a morrow before our eyes. Hence he calls on those who had wives to be as those who had none, on those who were selling and buying to be above all the objects that made up the sum of business. In short, he puts Christ and His coming as the reality, and all else as the shadows, transitions, movements of a world that even now crumbles underneath us. No wonder that he follows all up at the end with his own judgment, that the man most blessed is he who has the least entanglement, and is the most thoroughly devoted to Christ and His service.

Next in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 he begins to take up another danger for the Corinthian saints. They had the sound of the truth ringing in their ears; and assuredly there are few sounds sweeter than the liberty of the Christian. But what is more liable to abuse? They had abused power to self-exaltation; they were now turning liberty to license. But there is a solemn fact which none can afford to forget as to both power and liberty that without responsibility nothing is more ruinous than either. Herein lay the sad failure of these saints. In the sense of responsibility they were utterly wanting They seem to have forgotten completely that the Lord from whom the liberty had come is the One in whose sight, and for whose glory, and according to whose will, all power was to be used. The apostle recalls them to this; but he takes up their license in going into heathen temples, and eating things offered to idols, not first of all on the high ground of the Lord, but on account of their brethren. In their boasted liberty, and because they knew an idol was nothing, they considered that they might go anywhere, and do what they pleased. Nay, not so, cries the apostle; you must consider your brother. There is many a disciple who, far from knowing how vain idolatry is, thinks a good deal of the idol. Thus, you that know so much, if you make light of going here and there, will induce other disciples to follow your steps who may slip into idolatry through it, and thus a brother perish for whom Christ died; and what is the liberty of one who is instructed may prove the extreme ruin of one who is equally a believer in the Lord. Thus he looks at the thing in its full character and ultimate tendency if unchecked. Grace, as we know, can arrest these tendencies, and avert the evil results.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-27 he interrupts the course of his argument by an appeal to his own place as an apostle. Some were beginning to question his apostolate. It was not that he in the slightest degree forgot his call by God's will to that special service; neither was he insensible to the blessed liberty in which he was serving the Lord. He could lead about a sister-wife like another; he had foregone this for the Lord's sake. He could look for support from the church of God; he preferred to work with his own hands. So in the second epistle to the Corinthians he begs them to forgive the wrong; for he would not accept anything from them. They were not in a condition to be entrusted with such a gift. Their state was such, and God had so overruled it in His ways, that the apostle had received nothing from them. This fact he uses in order to humble them because of their pride and licentiousness.

The course of this chapter then touches on his apostolic place, and at the same time his refusal to use the rights of it. Grace can forego all questions of right. Conscious of what is due, it asserts rights for others, but refuses to use them for itself. Such was the spirit and the faith of the apostle. And now he shows what he felt as to practical state and walk. Far from being full of his knowledge, far from only using his place in the church for the assertion of his dignity and for immunity from all trouble and pain here below, he on the contrary was as one under the law to meet him that was under it; he was as a Gentile to meet him that was free from law (that is, a Gentile). Thus he was a servant of all that he might save some. Besides, he lets them know the spirit of a servant, which was so lacking in the Corinthians in spite of their gifts; for it is not the possession of a gift, but love which serves and delights in service. The simple fact of knowing that you have a gift may and often does minister to self-complacency. The grand point is to have the Lord before you, and when others are thought of, it is in the love which has no need to seek greatness, or to a et it. The love of Christ proves its greatness by serving others.

This, then, was the spirit of that blessed servant of the Lord. He reminds them of another point that he was himself diligent in keeping his body in subjection. He was like a man with a race that was going to be run, and who gets his body into training. He puts this in the strongest way, "Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Mark the tact of the apostle. When he has something discreditable to say, he prefers to say it about himself; when he has something pleasing to say, he loves to put it with regard to others. So here he says, "Lest I myself become a castaway," not " you." He meant their profit, no doubt; his aim was for them to have their own consciences searched by it. If Paul even was exercising himself to have a conscience void offence; if Paul was keeping his body in subjection, how much more did these men need it? They were abusing all the comfort that Christianity brings, to live at ease and play the gentleman, if one may speak according to modern language. They had not entered in the smallest degree into the spirit of the moral glory of Christ humbled here below. They had dislocated the cross from Christianity. They had severed themselves from the power of service. Thus they were in the utmost possible jeopardy; but the apostle, who had the blessedness of Christ before him, and the fellowship of His sufferings is scarce another had like him, even he used all diligence of heart, and held a tight rein over himself. Faithful man as he was, he allowed himself none of these licenses. Liberty indeed he prized, but it was not going here and there to feasts of idols. He was free to serve Christ, and time was short: what had such an one to do with heathen temples?

Thus he wants them to feel their danger, but first of all he begins with himself. He was free but watchful; and he was jealous over himself, the greater the grace shown him. It was not that he in the smallest degree doubted his security in Christ, as some so foolishly say; or that such as have eternal life may lose it again. But it is plain that men who merely take the place of having eternal life may, and often do, abandon that place. Those who have eternal life prove it by godliness; those who have it not prove the lack of it by indifference to holiness, and lack of that love which is of God. So the apostle shows that all his knowledge of the truth, far from making him careless, prompted him to yet greater earnestness, and to daily denial of himself. This is a very important consideration for us all (I press it more especially on the young in such a day as this); and the greater the knowledge of the saints, the more they need to keep it in view.

The apostle draws their attention to another warning in the history of Israel. These had eaten of the same spiritual meat, for so he calls it; they had the heaven-sent manna, had drunk of the same spiritual drink; yet what became of them? How many thousands of them perished in the wilderness? The apostle is approaching far closer to their state. He began with application to his own case, and now he points to Israel as a people sanctified to Jehovah. At length the word is, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful." This was a great comfort, but it was also a serious caution. "God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." It is in vain, therefore, to plead circumstances as an excuse for sin. "But [He] will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." He makes it plain that he is, with characteristic address, dealing with their little-exercised consciences from the statement of his own earnest vigilance over his ways, and then from the sad and solemn history of Israel judged of the Lord. Thus, too, he goes forward into new ground, the deeper spiritual motives, the appeal to Christian affection as well as to faith. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? He begins with that which most nearly touches the heart. It would have been an order more natural, if one may so say, to speak of the body of Christ; as we know in the Lord's supper habitually, there is that which brings before us first the body and then the blood. The departure from what may be called the historical order makes the emphasis incomparably greater. More than that, the first appeal is founded on the blood of Christ, the answer of divine grace to the deepest need of a soul found in its guilt before God and covered with defilement. Was this to be slighted? "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" He does not here say, "the blood" or the "body of the Lord." This we find in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34; but it is here Christ, because it becomes a question of grace. "The Lord" brings in the idea of authority. This, then, is evidently an immense advance in dealing with the subject. Accordingly he now develops it, not on the ground of injury to a brother, but as a breach of fellowship with such a Christ, and indifference to His immense love. But he does not forget His authority: "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table and of the table of demons." It is not simply the love of Christ, but His full authority as the Lord. The apostle contrasts two mighty powers that were contesting demons, on the one hand, a power stronger than man, struggling as to him here below; and, on the other hand, there was the Lord that had shed His blood for them, but the Lord of all who should judge quick and dead. Hence he follows up with a comprehensive and simple principle, but full of liberty withal, that in going into the market you need ask no questions. If I do not know that the food has been connected with idols, the idol is nothing to me; but the moment I know it, it is no longer the question of an idol but a demon; and a demon, be assured, is a very real being indeed. Thus what the apostle insists on amounts to this, that their vaunted knowledge was short indeed. Whenever a person boasts, you will in general find. that he particularly fails precisely where he boasts most. If you set up for great knowledge, this will be the point in which you may be expected to break down. If you set up for exceeding candour, the next thing we may well dread to hear is that you have played very false. The best thing is to see that we give ourselves credit for nothing. Let Christ be all our boast. The sense of our own littleness and of His perfect grace is the way, and the only way, to go on well. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"

Then in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34 we enter on another point. It would seem that the sisters at Corinth gave them a deal of trouble, and that they had forgotten entirely their due relative place. No doubt the men were at least as much to blame. It is hardly possible that women should ever put themselves forward in the church unless Christian men have deserted their true, responsible position and public action. It is the man's place to guide; and although women may assuredly be far more useful in certain cases, still, unless the man guides, what an evident departure from the order God has assigned to them both! How complete a desertion of the relative position in which they were placed from the first! Thus it was at Corinth. Among the heathen, women played a most important part, and in no quarter of the world, perhaps, so prominent a one as there. Need it be said that this was to their deep shame? There was no city in which they were so degraded as that in which the attained such conspicuous and unnatural prominence. And how does the apostle meet this new feature? He brings in Christ. This is what decides all. He affirms the everlasting principles of God, and he adds that which has so brightly been revealed in and by Christ. He points out that Christ is the image and the glory of God, and that the man stands in an analogous place as connected with and distinguished from the woman. That is to say, the woman's place is one of unobtrusiveness, and in fact, she is most effective where she is least seen. The man, on the contrary, has a public part a rougher and ruder task, no doubt one that may not at all bring into play the finer affections, but which demands a calmer and more comprehensive judgment. The man has the duty of the outward rule and administration.

Accordingly he marks the first departure from what was right by the woman's losing the sign of her subjection. She was to have a covering, on her head; she was to have that which indicated as a sign that she was subject to another. The man seemed to have failed just in the opposite way; and although this may seem a very little thing, what a wonderful thing it is, and what power it shows, to be able to combine in the same epistle eternal things and the very smallest matter of personal decorum, the wearing of long hair or short, the use of a covering on the head or not! How truly it marks God and His word!! Men. would scorn to combine them both in the same epistle; it seems so petty and so incongruous. But it is the littleness of man which calls for big matters to make him important; but the smallest things of God have significance when they bear on the glory of Christ, as they always do. In the first place, it was out of order that a woman should prophesy with her head uncovered; man's place was to do so. He was the image and the glory of God. The apostle connects it all with first principles, going up to the creation of Adam and Eve in a very blessed manner, and above all bringing in the second Man, the last Adam. Did they think to improve on both?

The latter part of the chapter takes up not the relative place of the man and the woman, but the supper of the Lord, and so the saints gathered together. The first part of it, as is evident, has nothing to do with the assembly, and thus does not dispose of the question whether a woman should prophesy there. In fact, nothing is said or implied in the early verses of the assembly at all. The point primarily mooted is of her prophesying after the manner of a man, and this is done with the greatest possible wisdom. Her prophesying is not absolutely shut out. If a woman has a gift for prophecy, which she certainly may have as well as a man, for what is it given of the Lord but for exercise? Certainly such an one ought to prophesy. Who could say the gift of prophecy given to a woman is to be laid up in a napkin? Only she must take care how she does exercise it. First of all, he rebukes the unseemly way in which it was done the woman forgetting that she was a woman, and the man that he is responsible not to act as a woman. They seem to have reasoned in a petty way at Corinth, that because a woman has a gift no less than a man, she is free to use the gift just as a man might. This is in principle wrong; for after all a woman is not a man, nor like one officially, say what you please. The apostle sets aside the whole basis of the argument as false; and we must never hear reasoning which overthrows what God has ordained. Nature ought to have taught them better. But he does not dwell on this; it was a withering rebuke even to hint at their forgetfulness of natural propriety.

Then, in the latter verses, we have the supper of the Lord, and there we find the saints expressly said to be gathered together. This naturally leads the way to the spiritual gifts that are treated of in1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. As to the supper of the Lord, happily I need not say many words to you. It is, by the great mercy of God, familiar to most of us; we live, I may say, in the enjoyment of it, and know it to be one of the sweetest privileges God vouchsafes us here below. Alas! this very feast had furnished occasion, in the fleshly state of the Corinthians, to a most humiliating abuse. What led to it was the Agape, as it was styled; for in those days there was a meal which the Christians used to take together. Indeed, the social character of Christianity never can be overlooked without loss, but in an evil state it is open to much abuse. Everything that is good may be perverted; and it never was intended to hinder abuse by extinguishing that which was only to be maintained aright in the power of the Spirit of God. No rules, no abstinence, no negative measures, can glorify God, or make His children spiritual; and it is only by the power of the Holy Ghost in producing a sense of responsibility to the Lord as well as of His grace that saints are duly kept. So it was then at Corinth, that the meeting for the Lord's Supper became mingled with an ordinary meal, where the Christians ate and drank together. They were glad to meet at any rate, originally it was so, when love was gratified with the company of each other. Being not merely young Christians, but unwatchful and then lax, this gave rise to sad abuse. Their old habits re-asserted their influence. They were accustomed to the feasts of the heathen, where people thought nothing whatever of getting drunk, if it was not rather meritorious. It was in some of their mysteries considered a wrong to the god for his votary not to get drunk, so debased beyond all conception were the heathen in their notions of religion.

Accordingly these Corinthian brethren had by little and little got on until some of them had fallen into intemperance on the occasion of the Eucharist; not, of course, simply by the wine drank at the table of the Lord, but through the feast that accompanied it. Thus the shame of their drunkenness fell upon that Holy Supper; and hence the apostle regulated, that from that time forward there should be no such feast coupled with the Lord's Supper. If they wished to eat, let them eat at home; if they came together in worship, let them remember it was to eat of the Lord's body, and to drink of the Lord's blood. He puts it in the strongest terms. He does not feel it needful or suitable to speak of "the figure" of the Lord's body. The point was to make its grace and holy impressiveness duly felt. It was a figure, no doubt; but .still, writing to men who were at least wise enough to judge aright here, he gives all its weight, and the strongest expression of what was meant. So Jesus had said. Such it was in the sight of God. He that partook undiscerningly and without self-judgment was guilty of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. It was a sin against Him. The intention of the Lord, the true principle and practice for a saint, is to come, examining his ways, trying his springs of action, putting himself to the proof; and so let him eat (not stay away, because there is much discovered that is humbling). The guard and warning is, that if there be not self-judgment, the Lord will judge. How low is the state of things to which all saints tend, and not the Corinthians only! There ought to have been, I suppose, an interposition of the church's judgment between the Christian's lack of self-judgment and the Lord's chastenings; but, alas! man's duty was altogether lacking. It was from no want of gifts. They had no sense of the place God designed self-judgment to hold; but the Lord never fails.

In 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 accordingly, the apostle enters on a full statement of these spiritual powers. He shows that the distinctive feature of that which the Spirit of God leads to is the confession, not exactly of Christ, but of Jesus as Lord. He takes the simplest and most necessary ground that of His authority. This is observable in verse 3: "Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed, and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost." Impossible that the Spirit should dishonour, yea, that He should not exalt, Him who humbled Himself for God's glory. "Now, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all." They had forgotten all this. They were pre-occupied with human thoughts, with this clever Jew and that able Gentile. They had lost sight of God Himself working in their midst. The apostle points out that if there were different services, if distinct gifts to one and another, it was for the common good of all. He illustrates the nature of the church as a body with its various members subserving the interests of the body and the will of the head. "By one Spirit were we all baptized into one body;" it is not the Holy Ghost merely making many members, but "one body." Accordingly he confronts with this divine aim their misuse of their spiritual powers, independence one of another, disorder as to women, self-glorification, and the like, as we see in1 Corinthians 14:1-40; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 the detail. He presses that the least comely members, those that are least seen, may be of more importance than any others; just as in the natural body some of the most vital parts are not even visible. What would a man do without a heart, or liver, or lungs? So in the spiritual body there are members which are most important and not seen at all. But men are apt to value most those which make a showy appearance. Thus he rebukes the whole tenor and spirit of Corinthian vanity; at the same time he maintains their place of blessing and responsibility to the last. After all their faults he does not hesitate to, say, "Now ye are the body of Christ." This way of dealing with souls has been grievously enfeebled in the present day. Grace is so feebly known, that the first thought you will find amongst godly people is what they ought to be; but the ground and weapon of the apostle Paul is what they are by God's grace. "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular; and God hath set some in the church." It was far from his mind in the least to deny it. Observe here an important use of the expression, "the church." It cannot be the local assembly, because, looking at Corinth, no apostles were there. Whatever might be the providential arrangements outside in the world, he is looking at the assembly of God here on earth; and it is the assembly as a whole, the Corinthian assembly being, as every true assembly is, a kind, of representative, of the church universally. It is the church of God here below; not merely churches, though that was true also.

Thus we can look at what the church will be by-and-by glorified and absolutely perfect. We can also look at a particular local assembly. Besides there is this most important sense of the church never to be forgotten namely, that divine institution viewed as a whole on. earth. Members of Christ no doubt compose it; but there is His body, the assembly as a whole, in which God works here below. Such is the reason why we do not find in this epistle evangelists or pastors, because it is not a question of what is needed to bring souls in or lead them on. He looks at the church as a thing already, subsisting as the witness of the power of God before men. Therefore it was not at all necessary to dwell on those gifts which are the fruit of Christ's love to and cherishing of the church. It is regarded as a vessel of power for the maintenance of God's glory, and responsible for this here below. Therefore tongues miracles, healings, the use of outward powers, are largely dwelt on here.

But we pass on to another and a still more important theme, a wonderfully full picture even for God's word, that most perfect and beautiful unfolding of divine love which we have in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. After all, if the Corinthians had coveted gifts, they had not coveted the best But even if we may desire the best gifts, there is better still; and the best of all is charity love. Accordingly we have this in the most admirable manner brought out both in what it is and in what it is not, and that too as corrective of the wrong desires of the Corinthians, and the evil spirit which had manifested itself in the exercise of their gifts; so that what seems to be an interruption is the wisest of parentheses between chapter 12, which shows us the distribution of gifts and their character, and chapter 14, which directs the due exercise of gifts in the assembly of God. There is but one safe motive-power for their use, even love. Without it even a spiritual gift only tends to puff up its owner, and to corrupt those who are its objects.

Hence 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 thus opens: "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy." And why? Prophecy seemed to be somewhat despised amongst the Corinthians. Miracles and tongues were liked, because these made themselves of importance. Such wonders made men stare, and drew general attention to those who were invested evidently with a superhuman energy. But the apostle lays it down, that the gifts which suppose the exercise of spiritual understanding have a far higher place. He himself could speak more tongues than they all. It need hardly be added that he did more miracles than any of them. Still, what he valued most was prophesying. We must not suppose that this gift simply means a man preaching. Prophesying never means preaching. More than this, prophesying is not simply teaching. It, no doubt, is teaching; but it is a good deal more. Prophesying is that spiritual application of the word of God to the conscience which puts the soul in His presence, and makes manifest as light to the hearer the mind of God. There is a great deal of valuable teaching, exhortation, and application, that has no such character. It is all very true, but it does not put the soul in the presence of God; it gives no such absolute certainty of God's mind flashing on the condition and judging the state of the heart before Him. I do not speak now of the unconverted, though prophesying might affect such as well as the converted. The direct object of it was, of course, the people of God; but in the course of the chapter the unbeliever is shown coming into the assembly and falling on his face, and owning that God was among them of a truth. Such is the genuine effect. The man finds himself judged in the presence of God.

There is no need to enter into all that this chapter brings before us, but it may be well to observe that we have giving of thanks and blessing, as well as singing and prayer. Prophesying and the rest are brought in as all pertaining to the Christian assembly. What was not directly edifying, as speaking in a tongue, is forbidden unless one could interpret. I doubt very much whether there was any revelation after the scheme of Scripture was complete. To suppose anything revealed, when that which is commonly called the canon was closed, would be an impeachment of God's purpose in it. But till the last portion of His mind was written down in a permanent form for the church, we can quite understand His goodness in allowing a special revelation now and then. This gives no warrant to look for anything of the sort at any time subsequent to the completion of the New Testament. Again, it is plain from this that there are certain modifications of the chapter. Thus so far it is true that if anything has, through the will of God, terminated (for instance, miracles, tongues, or revelations), it is evident that such workings of the Spirit ought not to be looked for; but this does not in the smallest degree set aside the Christian assembly or the exercise according to God's will of what the Spirit still distinctly gives. And undoubtedly He does continue all that is profitable, and for God's glory, in the present state of His testimony and of His church here below. Otherwise the church sinks into a human institute.

In the end of the chapter a very important principle is laid down. It is vain for people to plead the mighty power of God as an excuse for anything disorderly. This is the great difference between the power of the Spirit and the power of a demon. A demon's power may be uncontrollable: chains, fetters, all the power of man outside, may utterly fail to bind a man who is filled with demons. It is not so with the power of the Spirit of God. Wherever the soul walks with the Lord, the power of the Spirit of God on the contrary is always connected with His word, and subject to the Lord Jesus. No man can rightly pretend that the Spirit forces him to do this or that unscripturally. There is no justification possible against Scripture; and the more fully the power is of God, the less will a man think of setting aside that perfect expression of God's mind. All things therefore are to be done decently and in order an order which Scripture must decide. The only aim, as far as we are concerned, that God endorses, is that all be done to edification, and not for self-display.

The next theme (1 Corinthians 15:1-58) is a most serious subject doctrinally, and of capital importance to all. Not only had the devil plunged the Corinthians into confusion upon moral points, but when men begin to give up a good conscience, it is no wonder if the next danger is making shipwreck of the faith. Accordingly, as Satan had accomplished the first mischief among these saints, it was evident the rest threatened soon to follow. There were some among them who denied the resurrection not a separate state of the soul, but the rising again of the body. In fact the resurrection must be of the body. What dies is to be raised. As the soul does not die, "resurrection" would be quite out of place; to the body it is necessary for God's glory as well as man. And how does the apostle treat this? As he always does. He brings Christ in. They had no thought of Christ in the case. They seem to have had no wish to deny the resurrection of Christ; but should not a Christian have at once used Christ to judge all by? The apostle at once introduces His person and work as a test. if Christ did not rise, there is no resurrection, and therefore no truth in the Gospel; "your faith is vain: you are yet in your sins." Even they were quite unprepared for so dreadful a conclusion. Shake the resurrection and Christianity goes. Having reasoned thus, he next points out that the Christian waits for the time of joy and glory and blessing for the body by-and-by. To give up resurrection is to surrender the glorious hope of the Christian, and to be the most miserable of men.. For what could be more cheerless than to give up all present enjoyment without that blessed hope, for the future at Christ's coming? Thus strongly was the whole complex nature of man before the apostle's mind in speaking of this hope of blessedness by-and-by.

Then, somewhat abruptly, instead of discussing the matter any more, he unfolds a most weighty revelation of truth "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the. resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." True, the kingdom is not yet come for which we are waiting, but it 'will come. See how all truth hangs together, and how Satan labours to make a consistency in error. He knows the weakness of man's mind. Nobody likes to be inconsistent. You may be dragged into it, but you are never comfortable when you have a sense of inconsistency about you. Hence, after one. error gains empire over the mind of man, he is ready to embrace others just to make all consistent.

Such was the danger here among the Corinthians. They had been offended by the apostle's supreme indifference to all that is of esteem among men. His habits of speech and life were not at all up to the mark that they supposed seemly before the world in a servant of God. Out of this fertile root of evil has the clergy grown. It has been the effort to acquire as much refinement as possible. Holy orders make a man a sort of gentleman if he was not so before. This seems to have been at work in, the minds of these critics of the apostle. Here we find what lay at the bottom of the matter. There is generally a root of evil doctrine where you find people wrong in practice. At any rate, where it is a deliberate, persistent, and systematic error, it will not be merely a practical one, but have a root deep underneath. And this was what now came out at Corinth. It was feebleness about that which, after all, lies at. the very foundation of Christianity. They did not mean to deny the person of Christ or His condition as risen from the dead; but, this is what the enemy meant, and into this their wrong notion tended to drift them. The next step, after denying resurrection for the Christian, would be to deny it about Christ. And here the apostle does not fail to rebuke them, and in a manner trenchant enough. He (exposes the stupidity of their questions, wise as they flattered themselves to be. How? It is always the danger of man that he is not content to believe; he would like first of all to understand. But this is ruinous in divine things, which are entirely outside sense and reason. All real understanding for the Christian is the fruit of faith.

The apostle does not hesitate in apostrophising the unbeliever, or at any rate, the errorist he has in view, to expose his folly. "Thou fool," says he, "that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die." Thus the strongest possible censure falls on these Corinthians, and this for the very matter in which they plumed themselves. Human reasoning is poor indeed outside its own sphere. However, he is not content merely with putting down their speculations; he brings in subsequent and special revelation. The previous part of the chapter had pointed out the connection of Christ's resurrection with our resurrection, followed by the kingdom which finally gives place in order that God may be all in all. In the latter part of the chapter he adds what had not been explained hitherto, From the early portion we should not have known but that all saints die, and that all rise at Christ's coming. But this would not be the full truth. It is most true that the dead in Christ rise, of course, but this does not explain about the living saints. He had vindicated the glorious character of the resurrection; he had proved how fundamental, and momentous, and practical, is the truth that the body is to be raised again, which they were disposed to deny as though it were a low thing, and useless even if possible. They imagined the true way to be spiritual was to make much of the spirit of man. God's way of making us spiritual is by a simple but strong faith in the resurrection-power of Christ; look to His resurrection as the pattern and spring of our own. Then at the last he adds that he would show them a mystery. On this I must just say a few words in order to develop its force.

The resurrection itself was not a mystery, The, resurrection of just and unjust was a well-known Old Testament truth. It might be founded on Scriptures comparatively few, but it was a fundamental truth of the Old Testament, as the apostle Paul lets us hear in his controversy with the Jews in the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, the Lord Jesus also assumes the same thing in the gospels. But if the raising of the dead saints was known, and even the raising of the wicked dead, the change of the living saints was a truth absolutely unrevealed. Up to this it was not made known, It was a New Testament truth, as this indeed is what is meant by a "mystery." It was one of those, truths that were kept secret in the Old Testament, but now revealed not so much a thing difficult to comprehend when stated, as a thing not revealed before. "And behold," says he, "I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Evidently this supports and confirms, while it might seem an exception to, the resurrection; but, in point of fact, it gives so much the more force and consistency to the rising of the dead in a very unexpected way. The general truth of the resurrection assuredly does put the sentence of death on all present things to the believer, showing that the earth cannot rightly be the scene of his enjoyment, where all is stamped with death, and that he must wait for the resurrection power of Christ to be applied before he enters the scene where the rest of God will be our rest, and where there will be nothing but joy with Christ, and even this earth will behold Christ and His saints reigning over it till the eternal day. The addition to this of the New Testament truth of the chance gives immense impressiveness to all, and a fresh force, because it keeps before the Christian the constant expectancy of Christ. "Behold, I show you a mystery" not now that the dead in Christ shall rise, but "we," beginning with the "we" "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed; for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality." And "therefore," as he closes with the practical deduction from it all, "my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work, of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

The last chapter is now before us, in which the apostle lays down a weighty exhortation as to collections for the saints. He puts it on the ground of their being prospered in any degree, and connects it with the special day of Christian enjoyment, when they gather together for the communion of saints. "Upon the, first day of the week let every one of you lay by in store as he has been prospered, that there be no gatherings when I come." Need it be said how human influence has dislocated the truth there? No doubt this was precisely what the apostle, or the Holy Ghost rather, discerned to be at work at Corinth, the same mistake that has wrought so malignantly in Christendom; that is to say, personal rank, learning, eloquence, or a great name (as of an apostle for instance), invoked to call out the generosity of the saints (perhaps, even of the world), and increase the proceeds by all these or like means.

But is there not another danger? Is there no snare for you, beloved brethren? When persons are more or less free from the ordinary incubus of tradition, when they are not so much under the influence of excitement, and of those appeals to the love of being known and of pleasing this or that man, or the cause, or any of those human motives that often do operate, I apprehend that they are exposed to danger in a wholly opposite direction. Do we sufficiently make it a matter of personal responsibility to the Lord, everyone of us, to give, and that in connection with the first day of the week and its blessed surroundings and objects, when we meet at His table? Do we every one of us give as we are prospered by the way? It is very well to keep clear of human influence, but let us see to it that we do not forget that "the Lord has need" of our giving for the purposes He loves here below. And of this I am sure, that if we have rightly cast aside mere human calls, and if we do thank God for the deliverance from worldly influence, and from the power of custom, public opinion, etc., it would be a deep reproach if we did not do double as much now, under the grace that confides in us, as we used to do under the law that used to govern us. Your own consciences must answer whether you can meet the Lord about this matter. I believe that we are in no small danger of settling down in the conviction that our old way was quite wrong, and simply keeping the money in our pockets. It does seem to me, I confess, that bad as human pressure may be in order to raise money, bad as may be a variety of earthly objects in this way or that, bad as a worldly lavish expenditure is, after all, a selfish personal keeping to ourselves of what we have is the worst thing of all. I am quite persuaded that the danger of the saints of God who have been brought outside the camp lies here, lest, delivered from what they know to be wrong, they may not seek in this an exercised conscience. Standing in the consciousness of the power of God's grace, they need to be continually looking out that they be devoted to Him. To cease doing what was done in a wrong way, and sometimes for wrong ends too, is not enough. Let there be zealous and vigilant exercise of soul, and enquiry how to carry out right objects in right ways, and so much the more, if indeed a simpler, fuller knowledge of God's grace and of Christ's glory has been given us.

Then we have various forms of ministry noticed. It is not here gifts as such, but persons devoted to labouring in the Lord; for there is a difference between the two things, as this chapter shows us strikingly. For instance, the apostle himself comes before us in ministry with his especial gift and position in the church. Then again, Timothy is there, his own son in the faith, not only an evangelist, but with a charge over elders at length, to a certain extent acting occasionally for the apostle Paul. Again, we have the eloquent Alexandrian thus introduced: "As touching our brother Apollos I greatly desired him to come unto you, but his will was not at to come at this time." How delicate and considerate the grace of Paul who wished Apollos to go to Corinth then, and of Apollos who wished not to go under the circumstances! On the face of the case we have the working of liberty and responsibility in their mutual relations; and the apostle Paul is the very one to tell us that Apollos's will was not to go as he himself wished at this time. It was no question of one in a place of worldly superiority regulating the movements of another of subordinate degree. The apostle did express his strong desire for Apollos to go; but Apollos must stand to his Master, and be assured that he was using a wisdom greater than that of man's. Finally, we observe another character of service lower down in "the house of Stephanas." This was a simpler case and a humbler position, but very real before God, whatever the danger of being slighted of men. Hence, I think, the word of exhortation "I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)" etc. They gave themselves up in an orderly manner to this work. "That ye submit yourselves," not merely to Timothy or to Apollos, but to such, to the simple-hearted Christian men whose desire was to serve the Lord with the measure of power they had, and this proved by their persevering labour. Undoubtedly, in the midst of the difficulties of the church, in the face of the oppositions and disappointment, manifold griefs, enemies, and sources of sorrow and shame, it requires the power of God to go on without being moved by any of these things. It is an easy thing to make a start; but nothing short of the power of God can keep one without wavering at the work in the face of everything to cast down. And this was the question. We may suppose that these Corinthians were troublesome enough. From the statements made in the early part of the epistle it is evident; and so the apostle calls upon them to submit themselves. Evidently there was an unsubject spirit, and those ministered to thought they were just as good as the house of Stephanas. It is good to submit ourselves "unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us and laboureth." I am persuaded, beloved brethren, that it is no impeachment of the blessedness of the brotherhood to maintain the speciality of ministry in the Lord. There can be in these matters no more deplorable error than to suppose that there is not to be this godly submission one toward another, according to the place and power that the Lord is pleased to entrust.

The Lord grant that our souls may hold fast the truth here revealed, and in no general or perfunctory way. All I pretend to now is to give a sketch or combination of the parts of the epistle. But may the word itself, and every part of it, sink into our souls and be our joy, that we may not only take the precious truth of such an epistle as the Romans for the peace and joy of our hearts in believing individually, but also may understand our place by faith as of God's assembly on earth, and with thankful praise as those that call on the name of the Lord ours as well as theirs as those that find ourselves practically in need of such exhortations. The Lord give us His own spirit of obeying the Father.

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:7". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. 1860-1890.