1 Corinthians 7
1Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.
Evidently, the Corinthians had written Paul earlier with some questions about marriage. Paul says that it is fine and acceptable for a person to remain celibate (see Matthew 19:12 for examples of Biblical celibacy). Yet, given that sexual desire is good and of God, those who are called to marriage will have a good and healthy outlet to express their sexual desires. Marriage is one man for one woman as Paul clearly identifies. And sex is to be only between the man and his wife.
3The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
4The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
5Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
6But this I say by way of concession, not of command.
Within the marriage relationship, both partners have needs. The wife is to look out for the needs of her husband, and the husband is to look out for her needs. Paul has in mind the sexual needs in particular. If both partners are getting their needs fulfilled by the other, falling into temptation is far less likely. Wives should realize that the husband has authority over their bodies, and husbands should realize that wives have authority over their bodies. This simply reinforces the idea that it is not right to keep one’s body from satisfying a legitimate need for the partner. The partner has a right to enjoy the other, and the other should not stop them from doing this. To deprive one another is wrong, and it must be stopped. Sexual expression is normal, good, and healthy in marriage because of the unifying force is brings and cultivates. There may be a time to agree together to abstain for a time such as for prayer, but it should also be agreed upon when the time to come back together is. It appears that it shouldn’t be too long of a gap given that Satan will try to exploit the situation. The concession Paul is speaking of is in verse 2 when he says that marriage is necessary because of immoralities that would otherwise occur. Thus, he is not commanding people to get married, but he is saying that some people are better off marrying than committing immorality because they are unable to harness their desires. Obedience in marriage is better than disobedience as a single person. This is his point.
7Yet 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.
His wish, however, is that all people could be single as he is such that they could devote themselves wholly to the work of the kingdom rather than having to care for the needs of family as well. Yet he realizes that God has not gifted all that way, and some are not able, as he was, to remain celibate. To impose celibacy upon a person with a desire and call to marriage is foolish, evil, and wrong. Paul understands this, and thus he goes on to give instruction concerning marriage.
8But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.
9But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Those who are unmarried or who are widowed can stay as they are and be morally in the right. Yet if they lack self-control because they desire the intimacy of marriage, then they should marry rather than start committing adultery or lust to satisfy their needs. It is better for them to marry than to let the passion and desire fester and burn until it leads to giving in to temptation.
10But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband
11(but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
For those who are married already, the wife should not leave the husband or divorce him, and the husband should not abandon or divorce his wife. The marriage should remain in tact, and divorce is not a desirable option. In fact, from the beginning, it has never been God’s plan (Matthew 19:4-6). God merely allows it in the instance of adultery (Matthew 19:6) because of reasons of safety and protection for the innocent party, but still, if at all possible, the marriage should remain in tact legally. Even if divorce occurs, the marriage is still in tact before God because of the covenant made (Romans 7:1-3, Malachi 2:14-16, 1 Corinthians 7:39). What is also clear from this passage is that it is not right to divorce and then remarry. This is because of the fact that marriage is a permanent covenant until the death of a spouse. Thus, to remarry after a divorce is still adultery (Matthew 5:32). If a divorce occurs, then both parties should remain single. The desirable outcome is for them to recommit themselves to one another, and thus they should be very wary of the danger of committing adultery.
12But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.
13And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.
14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.
In the case of a marriage where one spouse is a believer and one is an unbeliever, obviously conflict will arise because the two are unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14). But if the unbelieving spouse is willing to live with the believing partner, then the believer must not divorce the unbeliever. A marriage should not be ripped apart, particularly in that the unbeliever could still come to Christ. The believer need not worry about the children because the children can come to Christ and be saved. The unbelieving spouse is sanctified in that the Lord watches over the family as if it is a believing family because of the faith of the one believing spouse. Thus, staying together, if the unbeliever is willing to do so, is much better than divorcing.
15Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.
16For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
If the unbelieving spouse does leave or divorce the other, the one abandoned or divorced is no longer under bondage. This does not mean that the believer is now free to remarry because Paul has already explained that in the case of marriage in general that marriage after divorce is wrong (v. 10). What Paul is saying is that the believer can let the unbeliever go and live his or her separate life. The believer does not need to feel as if he or she still needs to live under the same roof, share finances, or these kinds of things. The practical attachments of marriage are free to dissolve in this instance, and the believer does not need to worry about maintaining these things. There is also no longer a sexual need to meet (v. 3). Thus, the believer should feel free to live as a single person, except that he or she ought not to remarry. God’s call is for peace, and to force the unbeliever to stay by any means is not Biblical. If the unbeliever wants to leave, he or she needs to be allowed to leave for the sake of peace. God is in charge of salvation, and it is possible that the unbeliever who left could still be saved. This is another reason why the believer should not remarry. The unbeliever might return some day as a saved spouse. Yet, in the short term when conflict is tense, the believer shouldn’t force the unbeliever to stay as if he or she could force that person into salvation to preserve the marriage. There is a time to let the unbeliever go for the sake of peace, and the believer should pray for salvation and restoration of the marriage.
17Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk And so I direct in all the churches.
Christians will find themselves in different walks of life. Some will be single, others will marry, and still others will end up divorced or widowed. The bottom line is that in whatever stage a person finds themselves, they must do things God’s way and accept the reality given them. This is all the more reason to marry rightly the first time, and all of this teaching should motivate individuals to do just that. These principles are not just for Corinth but for all the churches.
18Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised.
19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.
20Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.
Some might get saved after being circumcised, and there is no reason for them to go back to being uncircumcised. Some might be saved while uncircumcised, and there is no reason for them to get circumcised. Circumcision is not the issue but whether or not somebody keeps the commands of God. The heart is what matters (Romans 2:29), so each person should remain as they were when saved so that circumcision doesn’t become an unnecessarily distracting issue.
21Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.
22For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave.
23You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
24Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
Some were saved when they were slaves. If so, it is fine for them to remain as they are, but if they can become free, then they should seek freedom. It is important for slaves to understand that they are free in the Lord, having full dignity as human beings. Those who are free should realize that they are slaves of Christ, servants of Him called to do His will. Who a person is in Christ is thus more important than their status in life. Those who are free should not seek to become slaves. God bought them with a price, spiritually speaking, and as servants of God, they should live in an honorable way but not as slaves. A Christian should only have one ultimate master and that is Christ Himself. So if a person is saved while free, he must stay free. If a person is saved while a slave, he can remain a slave or seek freedom if he can get it. But the bottom line is that they need not worry about their lot in life as much as their spiritual state. If things are right with the Lord, they can be content whether slave or free.
25Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.
26I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.
In light of the difficult time that these believers lived in where persecution was severe, Paul advised those who were single to remain single, lest they have to deal with the heartache of being separated from family or watching family be persecuted. As a single person, one could be spared some of the possibilities of such immense sorrow.
27Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
28But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
If a person is already married, then he should stay married and not seek to be released no matter what happens. Divorce is never God’s plan as Paul has already emphasized. If a person is divorced, he is not allowed to remarry, but if he is separated because of death, he would be free to remarry. Yet, Paul’s advice, in light of the difficult time, is that he should not to seek a wife. Yet, if one chooses to marry anyway, it is not a sin. It merely opens the door to the possibility of great loss or sorrow should persecution come to that family. So virgins can marry or stay single and not sin either way. The important thing is that they do what God calls them to do. Paul’s only point in cautioning those who would be married is to spare them the trouble that they might have in life because of hardship that comes from being a believer in a hostile environment.
29But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none;
30and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess;
31and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
32But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord;
33but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife,
34and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
35This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
Given that time is short until Christ returns and the that the devil will wreak havoc until then, it is important for believers to live fully devoted to the Lord and without distraction as much as is possible. Obviously, this is easier for the single person than it is for those married or with children. Paul’s advice is to not hold on to things too tightly. One should not get too excited given that trouble could be just around the corner, but one needs to be sober and focused on what matters. One should not get overly sad because time is short and heaven is coming quickly. Those who own things should think as though they don’t really own things given that they might be separated from their possessions quickly and given that they can’t take them along after death anyway. Paul’s desire is that believers be free from the concerns of the world which can become overwhelming. Obviously, those who are married, who own things, or who have children, must tend to those things, but they must do all that they can to not let those things distract them from the ultimate purpose of their lives, which is serving God. Those who are single have the advantage of time and fewer distractions, and so they should be especially diligent to be holy in body and in spirit. Paul isn’t forcing a person to remain single and not marry, but he simply thinks that it is for their own benefit in this particular time. Yet each must choose before the Lord what is best and right for him or her to do according to His principles. Whether single or married, each must strive to make Christ the ultimate center of attention and devotion in their lives.
36But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.
37But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well.
38So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.
A father is allowed to keep his virgin daughter from marrying if he believes before the Lord that that is truly the best thing for her. If he believes that it is best to give his virgin daughter in marriage, he can do that as well. In Paul’s view, he does a good thing to give her in marriage and a better thing to keep her. We should remember, however, that this is in the context of difficult times, and this should be a factor in determining whether or not a father should agree to marriage for his daughter. The assumption here is that the father is not treating the daughter wrongly but is taking her desires and interests into view as well because her desires matter (Psalm 37:4, Song of Solomon).
39A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
40But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.
Paul reiterates the fact that marriage is for life until one of the spouses dies. If the wife’s husband dies, the woman can be remarried to whomever she desires as long as the person is a believer. A principle here is that believers can marry whomever they desire as long as it lines up with the Biblical criteria of what a person should look for in a mate. Paul’s opinion is that the widow will be happier to remain single than to try to remarry, but this is not an absolute command for all widows (see 1 Timothy 5:11-14).