1 Corinthians 7

The matter under consideration was drawn to Paul’s attention be letter.

There were various problems mentioned in the letter but Paul chose to speak of the problems which some had regarding marriage.

This chapter deals with some general principles (v. 1-7), has a discussion of the problems of marriage (v. 8-24), and addresses the unmarried (v. 25-40).

Paul may have been asked in the letter to approve celibacy as a duty for all. Instead he submits that celibacy is good, and that it was a personal preference for him. However, he advises that marriage is a necessity for most to avoid fornications. This admonition would be particularly useful to the believers at Corinth.

v. 3-5—In these verses Paul brings to our attention that marriage in the Lord is a partnership between two people. It is the union of two people who become “one flesh.” This unique relationship involves mutual obligations and conjugal rights. Should these rights be violated, those concerned open themselves to subtle, devilish temptations.

v. 6-7—Paul says that he has been speaking these things as an inspired man, and was not giving a command or laying down regulations. In verse 7 he again expresses his celibacy and adds “I wish all men were like me.” But finally he says that everyone has a special gift from God. One brother’s gift is for celibacy, while another’s is for marriage.

v. 8-9—In these verses Paul speaks to the unmarried and to widows, and advises them to remain single. Consider the current circumstances. Then he adds some practical advice, that if they have no control over their passions then they should marry. It is better to marry than to be tortured with ungratified desire. In such a state one is no good for God, nor man.

v. 10-24—Paul addresses married people. Firstly, he gives a charge to all who are married and reminds them that it was the Lord Himself who first gave the instructions.

v. 10—The wife must not leave her husband.

v. 11—But if she leaves or divorces him let her remain single, or be reconciled to her husband. The same charge was given to the husband.

v. 12-16—In these verses Paul gives his opinion on mixed marriages. This was a subject on which the Lord gave no leading.

v. 12-13—If a believing husband has a wife who is a heathen, still burning incense to idols, and she still wants to live with him, he should not put her away. Jewish law required the unbeliever to be put away—Ezra 9:1—10:44. Despite this, the NT truth is no separation. The same rules apply to the believing wife. She must not leave her husband.

v. 14-16—In these three verses we find three reasons why the aforementioned command should be obeyed.

1. The unbelieving partner and the children of a mixed marriage are sanctified. This does not mean that the partner and children are saved. It means that they are kept from heathen contamination and brought into contact with believers, and so are put in a place of privilege, being shown the way of salvation.

2. The second reason Paul gives for the preservation of the marriage is found in the fact that God has “called us to peace.” If the unbelieving partner decides to leave, the believing partner is instructed to let them go. In such cases the believing partner is not morally bound. There must be no striving and fighting about this, because “God has called us to peace.”

3. The third reason for no separation is given in this verse. There is the distinct possibility that through a godly life and witness the unbelieving partner might be saved.

v. 17-24—In these verses Paul summarizes the marital relationship. He urges each one to abide in God’s calling, to live the life God has allotted to them. This is an important message for it is mentioned three times in these verses.

v. 25—In the remainder of the chapter, Paul deals with three groups: (1) The unmarried young, v. 25-35; (2) The parents, v. 36-38; (3) The widows, v. 39-40. This section of the chapter points out that under the prevailing circumstances that celibacy is desirable, but it is not demanded.

v. 25-26—In these verses he urges marriageable maidens to remain unmarried because of the present distress. At this time there were considerable pressures in being a Christian. In fact, history records that many believers were losing their life. For this reason the same advice was given to the young men. Paul gives three reasons why they should remain in their present state: (1) Because of the distress and sorrow that could be involved (v. 28); (2) Because the time is short (v. 29); (3) Because the present world order will pass away (v. 31).

v. 32-35—Paul is pointing out here that unmarried people have less distraction and less responsibility, therefore more time to serve the Lord. He cares for the things of the Lord and how he can please Him. On the other hand a married man cares for the things of the world, and how he may please his wife.

v. 36-38—The question that keeps coming up in the chapter is whether to marry or remain single. In verse 36 Paul mentions the case of a young woman who is passing the bloom of her youth. Her boyfriend is wondering if they should get married or remain single. Paul suggests that they should get married, that he was not sinning in doing this. This verse gives us the other side. If he feels strongly enough not to marry, and has the will power and self-control over his passions and desires, then he doeth well. The inference here could be that this young man is going to serve the Lord more fully.

v. 38—This verse has a message to the fathers of unmarried daughters. He asks the question about all this, “What should I do? Should I give my daughter to be married?” Paul’s answer to the question is, If you give your daughter to be married you do well. If you do not give your daughter to be married you do better. Paul’s whole argument in the chapter seems to be that the celibate state is not holier than the married state. But it affords greater opportunity to serve the Lord.

v. 39—Paul makes the sweeping statement here that a wife is bound to her husband as long as he is alive. If her husband die then she is free to marry, but only in the Lord.

v. 40—It is Paul’s considered opinion that a widow is much happier if she does not marry again.

In making these statements and giving these instructions, Paul believed that he had the mind of the Spirit of God.

This chapter begins a new section of the epistle. In the first section Paul answered questions raised by the household of Chloe. In this section he answers the questions sent to him by the Corinthian church. There were three questions:

1. Problems relating to marriage.

2. Concerning things offered to idols.

3. Concerning spiritual gifts.

The marriage relationship occupies a prominent place in the Word. Marriage for a believer becomes God’s own wonderful picture of the mystic union which subsists between Christ and His Church. At Corinth there were many irregularities to be corrected, hence the reason for chapter 7.

v. 1—“It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” The Roman church has taken this phrase and carried it to extremes. They believe that the unmarried monk or priest and the unwedded nun are holier than those who are married. Not so. Paul has in mind here the service of the Lord particularly as it related to that 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 be best for a man to remain single. He is not suggesting that an unmarried person is holier than one who is married.

v. 2—Paul recognized that there were certain dangers attached to this regulation. Corinth was a wicked city and full of immoral temptations. There were also human tendencies in one which might encourage fornication and immorality. If this be so then he urges that each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.

Verses 3-5 contain some instructions and advice to the married. One of the things brought out here is the oneness of the marriage union. Genuine marriage is a partnership, a union of two people who become “one flesh.” This covers every area of the relationship.

v. 6—Paul admits that these things which he has written in verses 2-5 are instructions from him as their spiritual guide. He is counseling by permission from God, not giving a specific commandment from God.

v. 7—“Yet I would that all men were as myself.” Paul chose celibacy for the sake of the Gospel. He saw the benefit of this, that he would be free to move about without the responsibility of supporting a wife and home. He qualifies this statement lest he be misunderstood. He says that no matter the condition of one, celibate or married, God has endowed each with a gift, by His grace, therefore we should use it according to our circumstances for the glory of God. Paul says that for him to do this, it is better for him to be a bachelor.

v. 8—This verse contains advice to the unmarried and widows, especially the widows. He urges them to remain in that state for the sake of the gospel. The case of young unmarried women is treated separately in verses 25-28.

v. 9—If for some reason the widows lack control of their passions and desires, they should marry. It is better to marry than to be tormented with ungratified desire. (1) In this condition there is no desire for the things of God; (2) There is the danger of falling into sin.

v. 10-11—Notice the strong language here to believers. It is the Lord who is commanding.

1. Let not the wife depart from her husband.

2. If she chooses to leave, then she has to remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.

3. The believing husband has not to put away or divorce his wife.

v. 12—“But to the rest speak I, not the Lord.” These words have been used to contrast the difference between inspired and uninspired teaching. When Paul says that “the Lord is commanding” he means that the Lord has already given instructions, which he has repeated. In this verse he is dealing with a situation not covered by the Lord. So he says “I speak”. He spoke by inspiration, claiming the same authority or His words as for the words of Christ Himself. The subject of our present verses was not covered by the Lord.

The class referred to here are those who were married before conversion. Then the husband got saved. Paul instructs the believing husband that if his unbelieving wife desires to stay with him, he was not to put her away.

v. 13—Expresses the same truth in reverse.

v. 14—In a situation of this kind the unbelieving partner is sanctified by the believing. This means that they are brought into a new relationship with God, because there is someone in the home who loves the Lord, prays, reads the Word, and lives for Christ. The unbelieving partner, being exposed to this, is privileged and being exposed has a better chance of being saved. The children in a marriage like this are holy. It is a privilege for a child to be brought up under godly influence of a believing parent. There is a better chance of it being saved, and in this sense they are set apart.

v. 15—In a union like this there is always the possibility that the unbelieving partner might leave. Under the circumstances the believer is not bound.

v. 16—Would point to the desirability of maintaining the marriage union.

v. 17—This verse is Paul’s final word in the previously mentioned matters. Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, remain therein. These instructions were not only for the Corinthian church, but were obligatory to all churches.