Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
INQUIRIES AS TO
STATION, FOR THE
1. The Corinthians in their letter had probably asked questions which
tended to disparage marriage, and had implied that it was better to
break it off when contracted with an unbeliever.
good--that is, "expedient," because of "the present distress"; that
is, the unsettled state of the world, and the likelihood of persecutions
tearing rudely asunder those bound by marriage ties.
in opposition to ascetic and Romish notions of superior sanctity
in celibacy, declares, "Marriage is HONORABLE IN
ALL." Another reason why in some cases celibacy may be a matter
of Christian expediency is stated in
1Co 7:34, 35,
"that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." But these are
exceptional cases, and in exceptional times, such as those of Paul.
2. Here the general rule is given
to avoid fornication--More literally,
"on account of fornications," to which as being very prevalent at
Corinth, and not even counted sins among the heathen, unmarried persons
might be tempted. The plural, "fornications," marks irregular
lusts, as contrasted with the unity of the marriage relation
let every man have--a positive command to all who have not the gift
of continency, in fact to the great majority of the world
The dignity of marriage is set forth by Paul
in the fact that it signifies the mystical union between Christ and the
3, 4. The duty of cohabitation on the part of the married.
due benevolence--The oldest manuscripts read simply, "her due"; that
is, the conjugal cohabitation due by the marriage contract (compare
4. A paradox. She hath not power over her body, and yet it is
her own. The oneness of body in which marriage places husband
and wife explains this. The one complements the other. Neither without
the other realizes the perfect ideal of man.
5. Defraud . . . not--namely, of the conjugal duty "due"
compare the Septuagint,
except it be--"unless perchance" [ALFORD].
give yourselves to--literally, "be at leisure for"; be
free from interruptions for; namely, on some special "season,"
as the Greek for "time" means (compare
fasting and prayer--The oldest manuscripts omit "fasting and"; an
interpolation, evidently, of ascetics.
come together--The oldest manuscripts read, "be together," namely,
in the regular state of the married.
Satan--who often thrusts in his temptations to unholy thoughts amidst
the holiest exercises.
for your incontinency--because of your inability to "contain"
your natural propensities, which Satan would take advantage of.
6. by permission . . . not of commandment--not
by God's permission to me to say it: but, "by way of permission to
you, not as a commandment." "This" refers to the directions,
7. even as I--having tile gift of continence
(Mt 19:11, 12).
This wish does not hold good absolutely, else the extension of mankind
and of the Church would cease; but relatively to "the present distress"
8. to the unmarried--in general, of both sexes
(1Co 7:10, 11).
and widows--in particular.
even as I--unmarried
9. if they cannot contain--that is, "have not continency."
burn--with the secret flame of lust, which lays waste the whole inner
man. (Compare AUGUSTINE [Holy Virginity]). The dew of God's grace
is needed to stifle the flame, which otherwise would thrust men at last
10. not I, but the Lord--(Compare
1Co 7:12, 25, 40).
In ordinary cases he writes on inspired apostolic authority
but here on the direct authority of the Lord Himself
(Mr 10:11, 12).
In both cases alike the things written are inspired by the Spirit of
God "but not all for all time, nor all on the primary truths of the
Let not the wife depart--literally, "be separated from." Probably
the separation on either side, whether owing to the husband or to the
wife, is forbidden.
11. But and if she depart--or "be separated." If the sin of
separation has been committed, that of a new marriage is not to be
be reconciled--by appeasing her husband's displeasure, and recovering
his good will.
let not . . . husband put away . . . wife--In
the only exception allowed is, "saving for the cause of
12. to the rest--the other classes (besides "the married,"
where both husband and wife are believers) about whom the Corinthians
had inquired, namely, those involved in mixed marriages with
not the Lord--by any direct command spoken by Him.
she be pleased--Greek, "consents": implying his wish in the first
instance, with which hers concurs.
13. the woman--a believer.
let her not leave him--"her husband," instead of "him," is the
reading of the oldest manuscripts The Greek for "leave" is the
same as in
"put away"; translate, "Let her not put away [that is, part
with] her husband." The wife had the power of effecting a divorce by
Greek and Roman law.
14. sanctified--Those inseparably connected with the people of God
are hallowed thereby, so that the latter may retain the connection
without impairing their own sanctity (compare
nay, rather imparting to the former externally some degree of their own
hallowed character, and so preparing the way for the unbeliever
becoming at last sanctified inwardly by faith.
by . . . by--rather, "in . . . in"; that is, in virtue of the
marriage tie between them.
by the husband--The oldest manuscripts read, "by the brother." It is
the fact of the husband being a "brother," that is, a Christian, though
the wife is not so, that sanctifies or hallows the union.
else . . . children unclean--that is, beyond the hallowed pale of
God's people: in contrast to "holy," that is, all that is within the
consecrated limits [CONYBEARE and
HOWSON]. The phraseology accords with
that of the Jews, who regarded the heathen as "unclean," and all of the
elect nation as "holy," that is, partakers of the holy covenant.
Children were included in the covenant, as God made it not only with
Abraham, but with his "seed after" him
So the faith of one Christian parent gives to the children a near
relationship to the Church, just as if both parents were Christians
Timothy, the bearer of this Epistle, is an instance in point
Paul appeals to the Corinthians as recognizing the principle, that the
infants of heathen parents would not be admissible to Christian
baptism, because there is no faith on the part of the parents; but
where one parent is a believer, the children are regarded as not aliens
from, but admissible even in infancy as sharers in, the Christian
covenant: for the Church presumes that the believing parent will rear
the child in the Christian faith. Infant baptism tacitly superseded
infant circumcision, just as the Christian Lord's day gradually
superseded the Jewish sabbath, without our having any express command
for, or record of, transference. The setting aside of circumcision and
of sabbaths in the case of the Gentiles was indeed expressly commanded
by the apostles and Paul, but the substitution of infant baptism and of
the Lord's day were tacitly adopted, not expressly enacted. No explicit
mention of it occurs till IRENÆUS in the
third century; but no society of Christians that we read of disputed
its propriety till fifteen hundred years after Christ. Anabaptists
would have us defer baptism till maturity as the child cannot
understand the nature of it. But a child may be made heir of an estate:
it is his, though incapable at the time of using or comprehending its
advantage; he is not hereafter to acquire the title and claim to
it: he will hereafter understand his claim, and be capable of employing
his wealth: he will then, moreover, become responsible for the use he
makes of it [ARCHBISHOP WHATELY].
15. if . . . depart--that is, wishes for separation. Translate,
"separateth himself": offended with her Christianity, and refusing to
live with her unless she renounce it.
brother or a sister is not under bondage--is not bound to renounce
the faith for the sake of retaining her unbelieving husband [HAMMOND].
The believer does not lie under the same obligation in the case of a
union with an unbeliever, as in the case of one with a believer. In the
former case he is not bound not to separate, if the unbeliever separate
or "depart," in the latter nothing but "fornication" justifies
separation [PHOTIUS in Æcumenius].
but God hath called us to peace--Our Christian calling is one that
tends to "peace"
not quarrelling; therefore the believer should not ordinarily depart
from the unbelieving consort
on the one hand; and on the other, in the exceptional case of the
unbeliever desiring to depart, the believer is not bound to force the
other party to stay in a state of continual discord
Better still it would be not to enter into such unequal alliances at
16. What knowest thou but that by staying with thy unbelieving partner
thou mayest save him or her? Enforcing the precept to stay with the
So Ruth the Moabitess became a convert to her husband's faith: and
Joseph and Moses probably gained over their wives. So conversely the
unbelieving husband may be won by the believing wife
[CALVIN]. Or else
if thy unbelieving consort wishes to depart, let him go, so that thou
mayest live "in peace": for thou canst not be sure of converting
him, so as to make it obligatory on thee at all costs to stay with
him against his will [MENOCHIUS and ALFORD].
save--be the instrument of salvation to
17. But--Greek, "If not." "Only." Caution that believers should
not make this direction
as ALFORD explains it) a ground for separating "of
Or, But if there be no hope of gaining over the
unbeliever, still let the general principle be maintained, "As the
Lord hath allotted to each, as God hath called each, so let
him walk" (so the Greek in the oldest reading); let him walk in
the path allotted to him and wherein he was called. The heavenly
calling does not set aside our earthly callings.
so ordain I in all churches--Ye also therefore should obey.
18. not become uncircumcised--by surgical operation
(1 Maccabees 1:15;
JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 12.5.1]). Some
Christians in excess of anti-Jewish feeling might be tempted to this.
let him not be circumcised--as the Judaizing Christians would have
(Ac 15:1, 5, 24;
19. Circumcision . . . nothing, but . . .
keeping of . . . commandments of God--namely, is all in
this "keeping of the commandments of God" is defined to be "faith which
worketh by love"; and in
"a new creature." Circumcision was a commandment of God: but not for
ever, as "love."
20. the same calling--that is, the condition from which he is
called a Jew, a Greek, a slave, or a freeman.
21. care not for it--Let it not be a trouble to thee that thou art a
servant or slave.
use it rather--Continue rather in thy state as a servant
The Greek, "But if even thou mayest be made free,
use it," and the context
(1Co 7:20, 22)
favors this view [CHRYSOSTOM,
This advice (if this translation be right) is not absolute, as the
spirit of the Gospel is against slavery. What is advised here is,
contentment under one's existing condition
though an undesirable one, since in our union with Christ all outward
disparities of condition are compensated
Be not unduly impatient to cast off "even" thy condition as a
servant by unlawful means
as, for example, Onesimus did by fleeing
"Become not (so the Greek) the servants of men," implies plainly
that slavery is abnormal (compare
"Men stealers," or slave dealers, are classed in
with "murderers" and "perjurers."
&c., explain, "If called, being a slave, to Christianity, be
content--but yet, if also thou canst be free (as a still
additional good, which if thou canst not attain, be satisfied
without it; but which, if offered to thee, is not to be despised),
make use of the opportunity of becoming free, rather than by
neglecting it to remain a slave." I prefer this latter view, as more
according to the tenor of the Gospel, and fully justified by the
22. the Lord's freeman--
--rather, "freedman." Though a slave externally, spiritually made
free by the Lord: from sin,
from the law,
Love makes Christ's service perfect freedom
(Mt 11:29, 30;
23. be not ye--Greek, "become not ye." Paul here changes from
are "bought" with the blood of Christ, whatever be your earthly state
"Become not servants to men," either externally, or spiritually; the
former sense applying to the free alone: the latter to Christian
freemen and slaves alike, that they should not be servile adherents to
their party leaders at Corinth
(1Co 3:21, 22;
nor indeed slaves to men generally, so far as their condition admits.
The external and internal conditions, so far as is attainable, should
correspond, and the former be subservient to the latter (compare
1Co 7:21, 32-35).
24. abide with God--being chiefly careful of the footing on which he
stands towards God rather than that towards men. This clause, "with
God," limits the similar precept in
A man may cease to "abide in the calling wherein he was called," and
yet not violate the precept here. If a man's calling be not favorable
to his "abiding with God" (retaining holy fellowship with Him), he may
use lawful means to change from it (compare Note, see on
25. no commandment of the Lord: yet . . . my
judgment--I have no express revelation from the Lord
commanding it, but I give my judgment (opinion); namely,
under the ordinary inspiration which accompanied the apostles in all
their canonical writings (compare
The Lord inspires me in this case to give you only a
recommendation, which you are free to adopt or reject--not a
positive command. In the second case
(1Co 7:10, 11)
it was a positive command; for the Lord had already made known His will
(Mal 2:14, 15;
Mt 5:31, 32).
In the third case
the Old Testament commandment of God to put away strange wives
Paul by the Spirit revokes.
mercy of the Lord--
He attributes his apostleship and the gifts accompanying it (including
inspiration) to God's grace alone.
faithful--in dispensing to you the inspired directions received by me
from the Lord.
26. I suppose--"I consider."
this--namely, "for a man so to be," that is, in the same state in which
for--by reason of.
the present distress--the distresses to which believers were then
beginning to be subjected, making the married state less desirable than
the single; and which would prevail throughout the world before the
destruction of Jerusalem, according to Christ's prophecy
27. Illustrating the meaning of "so to be,"
Neither the married (those "bound to a wife") nor the unmarried (those
"loosed from a wife") are to "seek" a change of state (compare
1Co 7:20, 24).
28. trouble in the flesh--Those who marry, he says, shall incur
"trouble in the flesh" (that is, in their outward state, by reason of
the present distress), not sin, which is the trouble of the spirit.
but I spare you--The emphasis in the Greek is on "I." My motive
in advising you so is, to "spare you" such trouble in the flesh.
So ALFORD after
BENGEL, and others.
explains it, "I spare you further details of the inconveniences of
matrimony, lest even the incontinent may at the peril of lust be
deterred from matrimony: thus I have regard for your infirmity." The
antithesis in the Greek of "I . . . you" and "such"
favors the former.
29. this I say--A summing up of the whole, wherein he draws the
practical inference from what precedes
the time--the season (so the Greek) of this present
dispensation up to the coming of the Lord
He uses the Greek expression which the Lord used in
it remaineth--The oldest manuscripts read, "The time (season) is
shortened as to what remains, in order that both they," &c.; that
is, the effect which the shortening of the time ought to have is, "that
for the remaining time (henceforth), both they," &c. The clause, "as
to what remains," though in construction belonging to the previous
clause, in sense belongs to the following. However,
Vulgate support English Version.
as though they had none--We ought to consider nothing as our own in
real or permanent possession.
30. they that weep . . . wept not--(Compare
they that buy . . . possessed not--(Compare
Isa 24:1, 2).
Christ specifies as the condemning sin of the men of Sodom not merely
their open profligacy, but that "they bought, they sold," &c., as men
whose all was in this world
"Possessed" in the Greek implies a holding fast of a
possession; this the Christian will not do, for his "enduring
substance" is elsewhere
31. not abusing it--not abusing it by an overmuch using
of it. The meaning of "abusing" here is, not so much perverting,
as using it to the full [BENGEL]. We are to
use it, "not to take our fill" of its pursuits as our chief aim
As the planets while turning on their own axis, yet revolve round the
sun; so while we do our part in our own worldly sphere, God is to be
the center of all our desires.
fashion--the present fleeting form. Compare
passeth away--not merely shall pass away, but is
now actually passing away. The image is drawn from a
shifting scene in a play represented on the stage
Paul inculcates not so much the outward denial of earthly things, as
the inward spirit whereby the married and the rich, as well as the
unmarried and the poor, would be ready to sacrifice all for Christ's
32. without carefulness--I would have you to be not merely "without
trouble," but "without distracting cares" (so the Greek).
careth--if he uses aright the advantages of his condition.
34. difference also--Not merely the unmarried and the married man
differ in their respective duties, but also the wife and the
virgin. Indeed a woman undergoes a greater change of condition than
a man in contracting marriage.
35. for your own profit--not to display my apostolic authority.
not . . . cast a snare upon you--image from throwing a noose over
an animal in hunting. Not that by hard injunctions I may entangle you
with the fear of committing sin where there is no sin.
comely--befitting under present circumstances.
attend upon--literally, "assiduously wait on"; sitting
down to the duty. Compare
"Anna . . . a widow, who departed not from the temple, but
served God with fastings and prayers night and day"
distraction--the same Greek as "cumbered"
36. behaveth . . . uncomely--is not treating his daughter well in
leaving her unmarried beyond the flower of her age, and thus debarring
her from the lawful gratification of her natural feeling as a
need so require--if the exigencies of the case require it; namely,
regard to the feelings and welfare of his daughter. Opposed to "having
let them marry--the daughter and her suitor.
37. steadfast--not to be turned from his purpose by the obloquy of the
having no necessity--arising from the natural inclinations of the
power over his . . . will--when, owing to his daughter's will not
opposing his will, he has power to carry into effect his will or wish.
38. her--The oldest manuscripts have "his own virgin daughter."
but--The oldest manuscripts have "and."
39. bound by the law--The oldest manuscripts omit "by the law."
only in the Lord--Let her marry only a Christian
(1Co 7:1, 28, 34, 35).
I think also--"I also think"; just as you Corinthians and your
teachers think much of your opinions, so I also give my
opinion by inspiration; so in
"my judgment" or opinion. Think does not imply doubt, but often
a matter of well-grounded assurance