1 Corinthians 7
SUMMARY.--Marriage the Resource Against Social Sins.
Not to be Lightly Dissolved.
The Mutual Obligations.
The Unmarried State Freest from Trouble in Times of Persecution.
But Neither Husband nor Wife to Leave Each Other.
If They Should, to Remain Unmarried.
Not to Abandon an Unbelieving Husband or Wife Because of their Unbelief.
To Rest Content with the Secular State in which One is Converted.
The Treatment of Virgin Daughters.
Let Them Marry Under Certain Conditions.
Under Others, Best Not to Marry in those Critical Times.
The Remarriage of Widows.
1-7. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote. In the
preceding six chapters Paul has mainly treated of irregularities in the
Corinthian church, of which he had learned through the "household of
and other private sources. Now he begins to answer various questions
asked in a letter from the church. If we had that letter, it would aid
much in understanding what follows by revealing more clearly the state
of the church and the discussions going on within.
It is good for a man not to touch a woman. An Old Testament
phrase which means not to marry. He does not mean that marriage is
wrong, but that on account of "the present distress" it was a good
thing not to be bound by family ties. See
"Forbidding to marry" is one of the signs of apostasy
(1 Tim. 4:3).
2. To avoid fornication. To prevent this sin, and the
temptations to it in an unmarried state, especially in a vicious
community, it was best for each sex that they be married; the normal
condition of the sexes.
3. Let the husband render unto the wife her due. The Revision is
correct. Marriage is a state of mutual obligations. Each must yield to
the other what those obligations require.
4. The wife hath not power over her own body, etc. Each sex here
is put on exactly the same footing. The body of each belongs to the
other, and cannot be yielded to other parties. The spirit of the
passage not only forbids adultery, but polygamy.
5. Defraud ye not one the other. The married pair are not live
apart, except by mutual agreement, and that only for a season, while
devoting themselves to a period of prayer. In the East, the women have
separate apartments, and during this season the husband would not enter
the wife's apartments.
6. But this I say by permission, etc. What is just stated
is permissible in the married state, not
7. I would that all men were as I myself. Had absolute
self-control, as I have. His directions all recognize the weakness of
human nature, and the need of making no requirements too great for it.
But every man hath his proper gift. He had the gift of
self-control; others might have other gifts which he did not have.
8-11. To the unmarried and widows. If they have his
self-control, it is well for them to remain unmarried, even as he. Not
that the unmarried state is better, but on account of "the present
the critical times. There are times when it is best to remain
unmarried; for instance, in a time of war and invasion. The ground of
his advice is not moral, but prudential.
9. If they cannot contain. If they cannot control their desires,
it is best to marry.
10. To the married I command. Some might say, "If the unmarried
state is best now, it will be better to leave our married partner." He
replies, "The Lord commands otherwise"
Matt. 5:32; Matt. 19:9).
11. But and if she depart. Provided, despite the prohibition,
there is such disagreement that she leaves her husband, she must remain
unmarried, or be reconciled.
Let not the husband put away his wife. The wife "departs,"
because she leaves the home; the husband "puts away his wife," by
sending her off. Both are equally prohibited. The same rules apply to
each sex. Among the Jews, only the husband exercised the right of
divorce; among the Greeks and Romans, the wife exercised it equally
with the husband.
12-17. To the rest I speak, not the Lord. On the circumstances
that follow, the Lord has not directly spoken, as he did on divorce;
hence, Paul speaks by inspiration.
If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, etc. If either
husband or wife is converted, and the other is not, they must not on
this account forsake the unbelieving helpmeet, provided he or she is
pleased to remain.
14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified, etc. This passage
has been much debated, and little understood. The unbelieving husband
or wife is not made personally holy, not do the children of believers
have personal holiness transmitted to them by virtue of birth relation.
Sanctification, then, means something besides personal holiness. To
sanctify is to separate to a sacred use, or relation
(Exod. 20:8; 28:38).
1 Tim. 4:4, 5,
food is "sanctified by the word of God and prayer" Here Paul uses the
term to denote that one Christian member of a household brings a
sanctifying influence to it, so that all the members are to be regarded
as separated in part from the great, ungodly, unclean world.
Nehemiah commanded Jews to part from heathen wives on the ground that
they were ceremonially unclean.
Paul insists, rather, that the believer cleanses the other, and that
the unbelieving partner, or the children, are rendered ceremonially
But now are they holy. Brought into such a sacred relation that
the unbelieving partners are under the power of sacred influences, and
not to be counted as sources of defilement.
15. But if the unbelieving depart. If the unbelieving husband or
wife insists upon making the Christian profession a ground of
separation, let them have their way. Examples of this kind occur in
every age, and the rule is always applicable.
God hath called us to peace. Hence, if strife must prevail to
prevent separation, let the other go.
16. How knowest thou, O wife, etc. Let the Christian be gentle,
forbearing, unselfish, though true to Christ, and perhaps the result
will be that they will be God's means to save their partner. This has
occurred in thousands of instances.
17. As God hath distributed to every man. "This I would add,"
says Paul in effect, "whatever may be the lot and special circumstances
of each man, single, married, or deserted on account of Christianity,
let him walk in it without seeking a change."
18-24. Was any one called being circumcised? He now applies the
principle just stated, of walking "as God called every one."
The circumcised Jews were to be content that they were circumcised; the
uncircumcised Gentiles were to remain so when they became
19. Circumcision is nothing, etc. Has no bearing on final
salvation. The one essential condition is "keeping the commandments of
God." Nothing can take the place of this.
20. Let each man abide, etc. In that secular condition of life in
which he was when called.
21. Art thou called being a servant? Half the population of the
Roman Empire at this time were slaves. Thousands of the early
Christians were in this condition. If a servant was converted, let him
not be troubled over his servile state; but if he had the means of
becoming free, let him rather choose freedom.
22. For he that is called . . . being a servant. The
eternal equality of the servant and freeman in Christ is shown. The
"servant" is Christ's freedman, since Christ has freed him from sin;
the freeman, when converted, is Christ's servant.
23. Ye are bought with a price. Christ has bought each alike,
ransomed them from the bondage of sin with his blood, and bound them to
his service as his own.
Be not ye the servants of men. As Christ's servants, do not
become the followers of any other religious master.
24. Let every man, wherein he is called, etc. Let each one
remain in the domestic and social condition in which the call of God
25-28. Now concerning virgins. No doubt in the letter from
Corinth it was asked whether a father should place his virgin daughters
in marriage. In the East to this day the marriage arrangements are
made by the parents.
I have no commandment. He had no revelation upon the subject,
but could give his Christian judgment.
26. I suppose . . . for the present distress. The
critical condition in which Christians were placed by the spirit of
persecution which then prevailed.
Good for a man so to be. To remain in the state he already
27. Art thou bound? If married, he is to remain true to the
bond; if unmarried, at present it seemed best to remain so.
28. But and if thou marry. Still, while it seemed prudent, with
impending persecution, not to marry, it was not wrong to do so.
Nevertheless, those who did, should
have trouble in the flesh. Anxiety and distress on account of
their domestic ties.
29-35. The time is short. The precise application cannot be
known. It was but a short time until Jerusalem should be destroyed, and
the early church supposed this would be the end of the world. Life,
too, is short; the time of preparation is short. It was the general
feeling then that some awful convulsion was close at hand. There was.
Within half a generation the whole Roman world was turned up by civil
war, three emperors in succession were slain, and Jerusalem was
As though they had none. Should look on all earthly ties as soon
to be broken. All earthly arrangements must be regarded as
31. Those that use this world, etc. We all have to use the world;
but we must not misuse it. That is the charge here.
32. I would have you free
from cares. That is, I would have you free from the causes which
34. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin.
The sole thought of the unmarried person who is consecrated to Christ
is to please Christ.
35. This I speak . . . not that I may cast a snare.
Not to interfere with your freedom to marry. A snare thrown over the
head made the victim helpless. Paul merely advises what, under the
circumstances of that period, seemed most prudent.
36-38. But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward
his virgin daughter. While giving a judgment in favor of the
unmarried state, at that time, he gives full liberty. A man may give
his daughter in marriage.
Behaveth uncomely. Improperly in withholding her from marriage.
If she pass the flower of her age. If she is fully matured.
If need so require. If circumstances of any kind seem to require
37. He that standeth steadfast . . having no necessity. If no
need makes marriage necessary, and the purpose that she remain
unmarried continues steadfast, he does well to let her remain so. To
choose either course is well, but the last is the better, where
on account of the "distress"
39, 40. The wife is bound by the law, etc. One point remains to
be discussed, viz., The remarriage of widows. I suppose that the letter
of inquiry asked about this.
She is at liberty. In case of her husband's death, she is free
from the marriage bond, and can marry whom she will, with one
limitation--she must marry
in the Lord; that is, a Christian. An alien marriage is
prohibited. Indeed, so far was an ancient Christian from marrying an
unbeliever that the question actually arose whether, when the sinner
was converted, he could still live with an unconverted partner. See
40. But she is happier. In his judgment, and in the conditions
then prevailing, she will consult her happiness by remaining a widow.
It is not only his judgment, but the Spirit seems to point the same
1 Tim. 5:14,
might be supposed to conflict with this, but it does not, when we
remember that Paul's advice here is due to prevailing circumstances.
The question of marriage or remarriage is one of prudential