This chapter begins the new section of the epistle. In the first section, chapters 1-6, Paul answers the questions raised by the household of Chloe. In this second section, he answers the questions sent to him by the Corinthian church, which were varied in topic. There were questions relating to marriage, questions concerning things offered to idols, and questions concerning spiritual gifts. Chapter 7 exists because the church in Corinth needed to see how these particular areas were connected to Christian faith.
Paul writes, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman." The Roman church had come to believe this and had carried it to the extreme. They began teaching that the unmarried monk or priest and the unmarried nun were holier than those who were married. However, Paul is not saying that at all. In saying this, he does not have holiness in mind, but rather the services of the Lord, particularly as they are related to that time. In that particular time, to be a Christian and to publicly confess Christ in baptism was to put one’s life in jeopardy. Under such conditions, Paul says, it might really be best for a man to remain single. In no way is he suggesting that a person who is unmarried is holier than the person who is married.
Paul recognizes that there are certain dangers attached to this regulation. Because of inherited human tendencies, this might encourage fornication or sexual immorality. In such circumstances, he urges that every man should have his own wife and every woman should have her own husband.
These verses contain advice to the married and in regards to the marriage relationship and verse 6 refers to the preceding verses of this chapter.
Paul chose, for the sake of the Gospel, to remain unmarried. The benefit to him was that he was free to move about with no responsibility to the home, etc. In order that the church might not misunderstand his statement, however, he qualifies it, stating that whether one chooses to be celibate or married, each was endowed with a gift by the grace of God.
This verse contains advice to the unmarried and widows. He urges the widows to remain as they are for the sake of the gospel. He treats the unmarried women separately in verses 25-28.
If it is impossible for some to do this, then Paul says they should marry.
Paul uses strong language here: I command that a believing wife should not leave her believing husband. If she does, then she should remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. In addition, the believing husband must not put away his wife.
These verses refer to those who had married before conversion. The first instance he cites is in the case of a brother with an unconverted wife. Paul says if she is willing to live with him, then let her stay. Conversely, if a sister has an unconverted husband who is willing to stay with her, then she must not leave him.
As the believer stays with their partner, the unbelieving partner is sanctified. This does not mean that they are saved because of the relationship. It does, however, mean that they are brought into a relationship with God. This happens as there is someone in that home who loves the Lord, who prays, who reads the Scripture, and who lives for Christ. As the unbelieving partner is being exposed to this privilege, he or she has a better chance of being saved. In this sense, they are set apart.
In the case of the children, they were unclean, but are now holy. It is a privilege for any child to be brought up under the godly influence of a believing parent. There is a better chance of them being saved in this atmosphere than in an unconverted home. So, in this sense, they are holy.
In verse 15 there is the possibility that the unbelieving partner in marriage will depart. Paul says here, that the believing one does not sin in letting them go. Verse 16 sums up the former argument. By staying with an unbelieving partner, the believing partner may see his or her spouse saved.
This verse contains Paul's final word in regards to marriage. Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, remain therein. These instructions were not only for the Corinthian church, but were obligatory for all churches.
Paul extends his teaching from the marital union to circumcision and slavery. His exhortation is the same for both the Jew and the Gentile. Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, remain therein. If you were a Jew when you were saved, do not try to become like a Gentile. On the other hand, if you were a Gentile when you were saved, do not attempt to become like a Jew.
With God, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of value. It is the keeping of the commandments of God that is of value to him.
As it is in the marital union, so it is in all other spheres of life. Everyone should remain in the sphere in which he was saved.
Here Paul begins to deal with slaves in their situation. If you are a converted slave, he urges you to remain that way. If you are set free, he urges you to use your freedom for the glory of God.
A slave, though subject to his master, can still be the Lord's servant. If he is set free and has no earthly master, he is the Lord's bond slave.
The Lord paid the price of redemption and freedom from the slavery of sin. Therefore, they are the Lord's servants.
This is a repetition of verse 20, with the addition "with God."
Paul gives counsel to the unmarried. This subject was introduced in verses 8 and 9, but here is handled more fully. In verses 25-28, the apostle gives his private opinion. Though he is writing under the influence of the Spirit, the Lord has not given him authority to command that an unmarried girl must or must not marry. However, his inspired judgment in the matter is that, under the prevailing conditions, it would be better to remain unmarried "for the present distress."
Are you married? Do not try to dissolve that marriage. Are you married? Seek not a wife. Paul claims that if you marry, despite what he has said, you have not sinned. But, nevertheless, you will have trouble. Paul gives this advice in order to spare you this trouble.
In verses 29-31 the apostle says that life is short, and it is more important to glorify God than to rule out our happiness. As a wise pastor, Paul says, "I would have you free from worry." The unmarried person, being free from marital responsibilities, is free to even give his life for the Lord, if necessary. The married person has to give thought and attention to his wife and family. The difference between the married and unmarried sisters is this: the unmarried sister is free to engage more broadly in the Lord's work, while the married sister must take care of her husband, home and children. This, of course, is the Lord's will, but it limits her sphere of service.
Paul says that he is writing this for his profit. He does not want to cast a snare over them or to deprive them of their liberty to choose which way they want to live. But rather, he says in effect, "I am showing you the best way to serve the Lord." He concludes, if anyone who is unmarried thinks it better to be married, then he should go ahead and get married, for there is no sin involved. On the other hand, if one does not feel any particular yearning for marriage and has decided to remain single, he should do so. One does well whether married or single. He who marries does well, but he who does not marry does better.
A wife is bound by law to her husband as long as he is alive. If the husband dies, she is free to marry again, but only in the Lord. If she remains unmarried, Paul’s judgment is that she will be much happier. There were some who were questioning Paul’s authority to say these things. Therefore he adds, "and I think that I have the Spirit of God" as the mind of Christ in this matter.