1 Corinthians #7 – Questions about Marriage 1 Corinthians 7

01 Dec

Verse by Verse - 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 - YouTube

QUESTIONS ABOUT MARRIAGE  1 Corinthians 7:1-16

After discussing disorder in the church, Paul moved to the list of questions that the Corinthians had sent him, including those on marriage, singleness, eating meat offered to idols, propriety in worship, orderliness in the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection. Questions that plague churches today are remarkably similar, so we can receive specific guidance in these areas from this letter. The first section (7:1-16) applies to those who are presently married or who have been married.

In the verses that follow, Paul makes his basic position very clear: Marriage involves two people, a man and a woman, working out their life for a lifetime. Even a casual reader notes the balance. What is really good for the man is really good for the woman. What is really good for the wife is really good for the husband. Marriage itself is good. In spite of sinfulness and societal attitudes that have devalued and twisted marriage, God’s original design remains the ideal. A mutual commitment to God’s ways in marriage can make even the most difficult union survive. Base your convictions on what God says, not on society’s distortions.

Christians in Corinth were surrounded by sexual temptation. The city had a reputation even among pagans for sexual immorality and religious prostitution. To this sexually saturated society, Paul was delivering these instructions on sex and marriage. The Corinthians needed special, specific instructions because of their culture’s immoral standards. Some believers were teaching total sexual abstinence within marriage because of a mistaken notion that sexual relations were sinful; some were proposing separating from or divorcing spouses in order to stay pure.

To the first question, Paul answered that it is good to live a celibate life (“It is well for a man not to touch a woman,” nrsv). At first glance this may seem to contradict God’s words in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (nlt). Paul maintained a high view of marriage (Ephesians 5:25-33). In 7:1, Paul was not stating an absolute; rather, he was simply explaining that celibacy was normal, and that it may be God’s will for some to remain single. Paul’s advice may have been directed at the “present crisis” referred to in 7:26; he thought it would be easier to face persecution as a single person. But, as Paul would explain later in this chapter, his words do not mean that married couples should divorce or that Christians ought not marry.

For those whom God calls to celibacy (such as Paul himself), the lifestyle is in accordance with God’s will for them. They should see it as a gift to be used to further God’s kingdom (7:7).7:1 Now about the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life.NLT The Corinthian believers had written to Paul, asking him several questions, or perhaps even taking issue with some of his principles, relating to the Christian life and problems in the church. Apparently this first question regarded whether people should stay married or if those previously married should remain celibate.

Much of what Paul wrote about marriage was based on its lifelong nature. First Corinthians serves as a “mini” marriage seminar for Christians. The Corinthian church was in turmoil because of the immorality of the culture around them. Some Greeks, in rejecting immorality, rejected sex and marriage altogether. The Corinthian Christians wondered if this was what they should do also, so they asked Paul several questions: “Because sex is perverted, shouldn’t we also abstain in marriage?” “If my spouse is unsaved, should I seek a divorce?” “Should unmarried people and widows remain unmarried?” Paul answered many of these questions by saying, “For now, stay put. Be content in the situation where God has placed you. If you’re married, don’t seek to be single. If you’re single, don’t seek to be married.”

Much of what Paul wrote about marriage was based on its lifelong nature. First Corinthians serves as a “mini” marriage seminar for Christians. The Corinthian church was in turmoil because of the immorality of the culture around them. Some Greeks, in rejecting immorality, rejected sex and marriage altogether. The Corinthian Christians wondered if this was what they should do also, so they asked Paul several questions: “Because sex is perverted, shouldn’t we also abstain in marriage?” “If my spouse is unsaved, should I seek a divorce?” “Should unmarried people and widows remain unmarried?” Paul answered many of these questions by saying, “For now, stay put. Be content in the situation where God has placed you. If you’re married, don’t seek to be single. If you’re single, don’t seek to be married.”
The main teaching points in Paul’s advice about marriage include the following:
• Choosing to remain unmarried can be good if the unmarried person uses the extra time to serve God.
• Married people belong to each other, and they should live that relationship out fully.
• A Christian husband and wife ought to find a way to stay together.
• A marriage partner who becomes a Christian may not use his or her faith as an excuse for divorce and may have to accept rejection by his or her non-Christian partner.
• Believers should be content in the roles God has given them.
• Marriage can either complicate or clarify a person’s commitment to Christ.
• Believers should always be available to the Lord, regardless of their status in life

7:2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.NLT After saying that living the celibate life is acceptable and good, Paul quickly added that he did not mean that being married was bad. God created marriage, so it cannot be bad. Those who can remain celibate should do so, but the believers in Corinth ought not deprive themselves of being married and try to enforce celibacy. That would set them up for failure because there is so much sexual immorality. As noted above, sexual immorality was pervasive in Corinth, invading even the worship of some of their gods and goddesses. Many of the believers had come out of very immoral lifestyles. Paul advised, therefore, that those men and women not given the gift of celibacy from God should go ahead and marry. Then they would be able to fulfill their sexual desires in the God-honoring institution of marriage.

7:3 The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband.NLT In the same way that God created marriage, he also created sex with which the human race could procreate as well as find great enjoyment. Just as with anything else that God created, however, sinful humanity can find a way to dirty it. God created sex to occur only between a man and a woman, and only within the confines of the marriage commitment, but humans have used sex wrongly. The Corinthians were surrounded by sexual temptations. Such temptations can be difficult to withstand because they appeal to the normal and natural desires that God has given to human beings.

Some people in the ancient world reacted against the extreme immorality by doing just the opposite—becoming ascetics and abstaining from sex altogether. Apparently, some married people, who saw or experienced the evil of sex wrongly used, began to believe that all sex was immoral, so they should abstain even in their marriages. While celibacy should be the rule for those who choose to remain single (7:1), Paul explained that it should not have any place in the marriage relationship. Marriage provides God’s way to satisfy natural sexual desires and to strengthen the partners against temptation. Married couples have the responsibility to care for each other; therefore, husbands and wives should not deprive each other but should fulfill each other’s needs and desires. Notice that Paul did not emphasize that one partner can demand sex from the other but rather that neither should withhold it. Both partners need to listen to God in this matter and do what is best for the union. Paul’s reference to the wife’s right as a married woman as being equal to the man’s right was revolutionary in this culture of male domination. Paul stressed equality of men and women in their rights as marriage partners to give and receive from each other.

7:4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.NIV A person’s body belongs to God when that person becomes a Christian because Jesus Christ bought that person by paying the price to release him or her from sin (see 6:19-20). Physically, their bodies belong to their spouses. God designed marriage so that through the union of husband and wife two become one. The sexual relationship makes two people “one flesh” (6:16; also Genesis 2:24). The sexual act causes a mystical and intimate union such that the wife’s body no longer belongs just to her but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body no longer belongs to him alone but also to his wife. The unity given to the married couple through their sexual relationship makes them no longer independent beings; they have become “one flesh.” So Paul said to these married believers that sex is not immoral because God created it; therefore, they should not deprive their spouse.

7:5-6 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.NRSV The only time the spouses should deprive one another of sexual intimacy would be if they mutually agree, for a set time, to abstain from sex in order to devote [themselves] to prayer. Times of devoted prayer to God are vital for all believers; some may feel that they want to do this with total focus on God and so would abstain from sex or even food if it were a time for fasting. This is laudable, but Paul also explained that it should not be a habit. Because those married are already “one flesh,” they must maintain that union and come together again. Otherwise, they would leave themselves open for Satan’s temptations with sexual immorality because of a possible lack of self-control.

This I say by way of concession, not of command.NRSV Some scholars think that this statement most likely refers to all that Paul had said thus far concerning his answer to their marriage question (7:1). Marriage is desirable, and certainly needful in order to procreate under God’s guidelines, but marriage is not commanded by God. However, this statement could just as easily conclude his statement in 7:5-6—which he doesn’t want to them to understand as if it were a command.

7:7 I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do. But we are not all the same. God gives some the gift of marriage, and to others he gives the gift of singleness.NLT Paul made a personal note, further explaining that celibacy is acceptable, by stating that he wished everyone could get along without marrying just as he did. Paul well knew that his lifestyle—itinerant travel, difficult work, not having a permanent home, danger, often being mocked and ridiculed, sometimes being beaten and jailed, all for the sake of the gospel—was not one that he could easily adhere to with a wife and children along. He would feel the need to protect them; he would worry about them as any good husband and father would. So Paul thanked the Lord for his gift of being able to remain celibate by doing what God wanted him to do with the freedom that a married man would not have. He wished that others could serve the Lord with such complete abandon.

Paul also realized, however, that if everyone remained unmarried, there would be no Christian children and no furthering of the Christian faith to the next generation. Thus all believers are not the same. To some God gives . . . the gift of marriage, and they can serve God well in that capacity. To others he gives the gift of singleness so they can fulfill other roles in the furthering of his kingdom. Because these are gifts from God, one should not try to force either one on anyone’s life.

Both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. One is not morally better than the other, and both are valuable for accomplishing God’s purposes. It is important for each believer, therefore, to accept his or her present situation. When Paul said he wished that all people were like him (that is, unmarried), he was expressing his desire that more people would devote themselves completely to the ministry without the added concerns of spouse and family, as he had done. He was not criticizing marriage—after all, marriage and sex are God’s created way of providing companionship and populating the earth.
Are you married? Seek to honor God with your marriage commitment by honoring your spouse. Seek to serve God in whatever situation, position in life, or surroundings that you and your spouse share. If your spouse is not a believer, pray that your life and faithfulness will lead him or her to faith in Jesus Christ.
Are you single? Seek to honor God with your singleness. Do not feel that you are less of a person, alone in a world of couples. Instead, see your singleness as a gift from God. Ask him how he would have you serve him with that gift. You may find opportunities available to you that might never have been possible if you were married.
Trust God with your life. Seek to serve him with the gifts he has given.

Paul laid down the general principles regarding marriage in the previous verses; here he began to speak to various people’s situations specifically. First, he wrote instructions to the unmarried and the widows (and widowers). Paul’s single-minded focus was always on God’s kingdom and service for it, so his advice to these believers in Corinth is couched in his concern for their ability to bear up under persecution for their faith and to serve the Lord wholeheartedly (see 7:26, 32-35). (Note that in a different place and situation, Paul counseled the younger widows to marry. See 1 Timothy 5:14.) So he suggested to those presently not bound in marriage that it would be well for them to remain unmarried as he himself was.

It is unknown whether Paul was ever married, if his wife left him (perhaps when he became a Christian), or if he was widowed. Some believe he was probably married at one time because marriage was required of Jewish men in positions of leadership among the Jews, as Paul had been before he became a Christian.

7:9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.NIV The Corinthians seemed to have a problem with self-control—as suggested by the kind of sexual immorality so common in the city. The believers came out of that lifestyle, yet probably many still were struggling with their sinful natures in that area. Paul did not suggest enforced celibacy on such people. Instead, he told married people to give themselves to each other (7:3-4); he told single people to try to use their singleness as an opportunity to give all to the Lord (7:7-8). Yet, he also understood that those who struggled with self-control should not put themselves in the position of enforced celibacy, for Satan would use many temptations right there in the city to bring them down. Instead, Paul said these people should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. This is not a put-down of marriage as being no more than a legitimate way to release sexual pressure; instead, it is tied with the gifts of marriage and singleness that Paul had mentioned in 7:7. Those who do not have the gift of singleness, and thus have a passion that will need a proper release, ought to marry. It would be difficult to live with such a desire without having been given the grace to do so.

Sexual pressure is not the best motive for getting married, but it is better to marry the right person than to “burn with passion.” Some in Corinth taught that all sex was wrong, so engaged couples may have been deciding not to get married. In this passage, Paul was telling couples who wanted to marry that they should not frustrate their normal sexual drives by avoiding marriage. This does not mean, however, that people who have trouble controlling themselves should marry the first person who comes along. It is better to deal with the pressure of desire than to deal with an unhappy marriage.

7:10-11 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.NIV Having spoken to the unmarried people in 7:8-9, Paul here turned his attention to the married. He explained to the Corinthian believers the Christian view of divorce, given as a command, not from Paul himself, but from the Lord, referring to Jesus Christ. Jesus had taught about divorce during his time on earth (see Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18), saying that married people were not meant to be divorced. While divorce was permitted as a concession, it was not God’s plan for married people. Paul either had received this teaching by divine inspiration, or he may have heard it in one of his conversations with the disciples.

Paul explained, therefore, that a wife must not separate from her husband. Apparently it was possible in the Greco-Roman culture for a wife to leave her husband (in Jewish culture, divorce laws focused on the husband separating from his wife). If a woman has already separated from her husband, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. She does not have the option to marry another man. In the same way, the husband must not divorce his wife. Although Paul gave an exception in 7:15, the ideal remains.


Genesis 2:18-24 Marriage is God’s idea.
Genesis 24:58-60 Commitment is essential to a successful marriage.
Genesis 29:10-11 Romance is important.
Jeremiah 7:34 Marriage holds times of great joy
Malachi 2:14-15 Marriage creates the best environment for raising children.
Matthew 5:31-32 Unfaithfulness breaks the bond of trust, the foundation of all relationships.
Matthew 19:6 Marriage is permanent.
Romans 7:2-3 Ideally, only death should dissolve marriage.
1 Corinthians 7 In marriage, the husband and wife belong to each other.
Ephesians 5:21-33 Marriage is based on the principled practice of love.
Ephesians 5:23-32 Marriage is a living symbol of Christ and the church.
Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is good and honorable.
1 Peter 3:1-7 In marriage, each partner has responsibilities in caring for the other.

7:12-13 Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is an unbeliever and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a Christian woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him.NLT Next, Paul turned his attention to the rest of you—the people who were married but felt “single” because their spouses were unbelievers. Undoubtedly, there were many such couples in the Corinthian church. About this particular situation, Paul said he did not have a direct command from the Lord. So he did what all believers must do when Scripture doesn’t state exactly what must be done in a particular situation—he inferred what should be done from what Scripture does say. Scripture has plenty to say about marriage. The “command” about the permanence of marriage (7:10) comes from the Old Testament (Genesis 2:24) and from Jesus (as noted above). Paul based his advice on God’s commands about marriage and applied them to the situation the Corinthians were facing.

By forbidding divorced persons from remarrying, Paul was upholding the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:11-12; and Luke 16:18. Jesus’ main point was to teach that the divorce laws should not be used to dispose of one partner in order to get another one.

Because of their desire to serve Christ, some people in the Corinthian church thought they ought to divorce their pagan spouses and marry Christians. But Paul affirmed the marriage commitment. God’s ideal is for marriages to stay together—even when one spouse is not a believer. To leave the marriage—even for the noblest of goals in serving the Lord—would actually be to disobey God’s express command regarding marriage (Mark 10:2-9). Instead, the believing spouse should try to win the other to Christ (7:16). It would be easy to rationalize leaving; however, Paul makes a strong case for staying with the unbelieving spouse and being a positive influence on the marriage. Paul, like Jesus, believed that marriage is permanent. Paul commanded this for the believers in the church whose unbelieving spouses were willing to continue living with them. He gave other advice to those whose unbelieving spouses wanted to dissolve the marriage because the husband or wife had become a Christian (see 7:15).

7:14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.NIV The church included individuals who had become believers but whose spouses had not. Paul had already stated that these believers must remain with their unbelieving wife or husband. He explained that the unbelieving spouse has been sanctified by the believing spouse. The word “sanctify” can mean to cleanse, make pure, regard as sacred. It is used in the Old Testament to describe the items that become holy because of their relationship to something already deemed holy by God. For example, the temple sanctified the gold connected with it, or the altar sanctified the gift laid on it (see Matthew 23:17, 19). There are two views of how “sanctified” is applied to the unbeliever. One view is that there is a moral influence on the unbeliever as the Christian spouse bears witness to Christ and lives obediently to God. The other view is that the Christian, now blessed by God, includes his or her spouse in the promised blessings of the covenant as they overflow to the unbeliever. “Sanctification” does not carry the meaning of “salvation”; that is, the unbelieving husband is not “saved” through his wife’s salvation. That would make no sense because of Paul’s words in 7:16 about the desired conversion of these pagan partners. More likely, the Corinthians had heeded Paul’s advice in 5:9-11 not to associate with unbelievers. They had interpreted Paul to mean that sex with an unbelieving marriage partner would defile them. Paul affirmed the opposite. When believers have sexual relations with their unbelieving spouse, the unbelievers are blessed in a certain way. The marriage and its sexual relations set up or lead into the possibility of the conversion of the unbeliever.

In this context, Paul pictured the unbelieving husband or wife, although remaining pagan, would assume “sanctification” in the eyes of God because of his or her intimate relationship with a believer. An unbelieving husband, as guardian and caretaker of a home and of his Christian wife, is sanctified by God due to the man’s role in the life of one of God’s chosen ones. The same is true of the wife.

The blessings that flow to believers don’t stop there but extend to others. Among those most likely to receive benefits from God’s work in believers’ lives are their spouse and children. God regards the marriage as “sanctified” (set apart for his use) by the presence of one Christian spouse. The other partner does not receive salvation automatically but is helped by this relationship. The unbeliever is in a relationship with one upon whom God has his hand and whom God will use for his service. This will have an effect because of the close relationship and love between the partners that presumably already exist.

Paul calls the children of such a marriage holy because of God’s blessing on the family. Many feel that the blessing given to the Christian parent extends to the children (though this is not expressly stated in Scripture), and they are to be regarded as Christian until they are old enough to decide for themselves. “Holy” here means dedicated to God by the believing parent. But the believing parent, called upon to raise his or her children in the faith, will hopefully have such an influence that the children will accept salvation for themselves.

7:15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.NIV While the believing spouse must not leave the marriage if the unbeliever wants to stay married (7:12-13), the opposite may also happen. The unbeliever may decide that, because his or her spouse has become a Christian, the marriage should be dissolved. In this case, the believer’s only choices would be to deny faith in Jesus Christ in order to maintain the marriage, or maintain faith in Christ and let the marriage be dissolved. As difficult as it might be, and as much as marriage is sanctified by God, the high calling of God must not be denied for any reason. So the believer must let the unbeliever go. When a divorce happens for this reason, a believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances to God’s law regarding divorce. This may be the second exception to remarriage, along with adultery (see Matthew 5:31-32). So the Christian man or woman can allow the divorce to happen and not be disobeying God. Another reason to not block this divorce is that God has called us to live in peace—a situation that would be impossible in a home where the unbeliever felt hostile toward the believer. It would be better for such a marriage to be dissolved.

7:16 You wives must remember that your husbands might be converted because of you. And you husbands must remember that your wives might be converted because of you.NLT Another reason for believers to try not to dissolve their marriage to an unbeliever is that they can be a good influence on their spouse. The intimacy and day-to-day-ness of marriage provide ample opportunity for the Christian to be a powerful witness to his or her spouse. So powerful can it be, Paul reminded them, that the unbelieving wife or husband might be converted because of the faithful testimony of the believing wives and husbands. For those couples who can stay together “in peace” (7:15), this would be the most joyous result of all.


Paul had just finished explaining to the believers who were married to unbelievers that they should stay in their situation peacefully if at all possible and live for Christ in their marriage. This passage expands his thought on that topic, explaining that just because people become Christians, this does not call for wholesale changes in every part of their outward lives.

7:17-19 You must accept whatever situation the Lord has put you in, and continue on as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now.NLT Christ makes changes from within and calls people from all walks of life. While some changes are made in behavior and attitudes, the believers ought not make some kinds of changes. For example, they ought not change marriage partners. They need not even try to change jobs (unless the job was dishonoring to God). Instead, accept whatever situation the Lord has put you in, and continue on as you were when God first called you because God can use his faithful followers in all areas of life. This was not Paul’s advice just to the church in Corinth but his rule for all the churches.

For instance, Paul wrote, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. The ceremony of circumcision was an important part of the Jews’ relationship with God. In fact, before Christ came, circumcision was commanded by God for those who claimed to follow him (Genesis 17:9-14). But after Christ’s death and resurrection, circumcision was no longer necessary (Acts 15; Romans 4:9-11; Galatians 5:2-4; Colossians 2:11). For the Jews, circumcision was the sign of their covenant with God; the Greeks, however, looked down upon it as the mark of lowly people. Some Jews, in an attempt to become more acceptable in Greek culture, could attempt to surgically reverse the marks of a circumcision. To add to the confusion, the Judaizers (a group of false teachers) were claiming that Gentiles had to be circumcised before they could become Christians. Paul pointed out that, in God’s kingdom, circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.NKJV Jewish Christians did not need to reverse their circumcisions, and Gentile Christians did not need to be circumcised (Romans 2:25, 29; Galatians 5:6). Instead, they should stay exactly as they were when they became believers; any outward change would make no difference. The inner change is all that matters. They should focus on keeping the commandments of God, desiring to conform their heart and will in obedience to him.

Apparently the Corinthians were ready to make wholesale changes without thinking through the ramifications. Paul was writing to say that people should be Christians where they are. You can do God’s work and demonstrate your faith anywhere. If you became a Christian after marriage, and your spouse is not a believer, remember that you don’t have to be married to a Christian to live for Christ. Don’t assume that you are in the wrong place or are stuck with the wrong person. You may be just where God wants you (see 7:20).

7:20 You should continue on as you were when God called you.NLT Paul repeated what he had said in 7:17 for emphasis and because he had said this was his rule for all the churches. The believers should continue on as they were when God called them. This refers to examples such as marriage, circumcision or uncircumcision (as noted above), job, or station in life (slave or free, 7:21-23). Obviously, it does not refer to one’s spiritual, inward life; that should be growing and changing every day as believers draw closer to and learn more about God.

Often we are so concerned about what we could be doing for God somewhere else that we miss great opportunities right where we are. Paul says that when someone becomes a Christian, he or she should usually continue with the work he or she has previously been doing—provided it isn’t immoral or unethical. Every job can become Christian work when you realize that the purpose of your life is to honor, serve, and speak out for Christ. Because God has placed you where you are, look carefully for opportunities to serve him there. After all, if God found you there, God can certainly use you there!

7:21 Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it.NLT From religious variations in the church (between those circumcised and those uncircumcised), Paul moved on to the varied social states of the believers. The church in Corinth also included people from every station in life—many of them slaves. Therefore, if a believer was a slave when he became a Christian, he could continue as a Christian slave, doing his work as for the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-9). The key phrase is “don’t let that worry you.” The slaves should not feel that because they became Christians they could no longer serve as slaves because they deserved freedom. Unfortunately, they might have to keep living as slaves, but they should serve Christ wholeheartedly in their position. Of course, they also were free to seek to better themselves, for Paul says, if you get a chance to be free, take it. Obedience to God, as always, is what matters most (7:19). For more on Christianity and slavery, see the following Life Application Bible Commentaries: Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-4:2, and Titus 2:9-10.

7:22-23 And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, the Lord has now set you free from the awful power of sin. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. God purchased you at a high price. Don’t be enslaved by the world.NLT Slavery was common throughout the Roman Empire, so many of the believers in Corinth were slaves when the Lord called [them]. Paul said that although the Christian slaves remained enslaved to other human beings, they were free from the awful power of sin in their lives (Romans 6:18, 22). These slaves had been made free. In the same way, if a person was free when the Lord called him, he was now a slave of Christ. The free people had become servants of the Savior who purchased [them] at a high price, higher than any rich person ever paid for a slave, for the Savior had paid with his blood (6:20; Romans 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Because God paid a great price to bring his people to himself, he has complete authority over their lives. Believers’ lives and service come under his control; all that they do is for his kingdom and his glory. Because believers are servants of God, they should no longer be enslaved by the world. They live in the world, but they are not of it, looking forward to a future citizenship in heaven.

People are slaves to sin until they commit their lives to Christ, who alone can conquer sin’s power. Sin, pride, and fear no longer have any claim over them, just as a slave owner no longer has power over slaves who have been sold. The Bible says that people become Christ’s slaves when they become Christians (Romans 6:18), but this actually means that they gain freedom, because sin no longer controls them. Don’t let the society around you dictate the rules. Make Christ your final authority.

7:24 So, dear brothers and sisters, whatever situation you were in when you became a believer, stay there in your new relationship with God.NLT This passage repeats Paul’s statement of 7:17 and 7:20. God can use people from all areas of life, so whatever situation God found them in, they should stay there in [their] new relationship with God. Because believers have been set free from sin and are free to live for God, they ought not feel either pride or shame in their station in life. Instead, they should serve God from that position, seeking to share the gospel with those who might not otherwise hear it. For further discussion on living with unbelievers, see the LAB Cmy: 1 Peter 3:1-7.


Throughout this chapter, Paul has been telling believers not to seek to change their situations but to remain where they are and to seek to serve the Lord there. A person should not make drastic changes during difficult times. Paul wanted the believers to focus on making the most of their time before Christ returns—sharing the faith so that many more can become believers. Paul’s urgency and single-minded focus on God’s kingdom come through in the advice he gives to married and single people in these verses. As always, he did not want anything to hinder their work for the advance of God’s kingdom.

7:25-26 Now, about the young women who are not yet married. I do not have a command from the Lord for them. But the Lord in his kindness has given me wisdom that can be trusted, and I will share it with you. Because of this present crisis, I think it is best to remain just as you are.NLT The words “now, about” indicate that at this point Paul began addressing another matter about which the Corinthian church had asked. In their culture, a young woman’s parents usually would make the decision about whether or not their daughter would marry. So these parents had written wondering what decisions to make regarding their daughters—the young women who are not yet married.

Paul clearly stated that he had no specific command from the Lord for the believers on this subject; that is, he did not have a direct teaching from Jesus to draw from. This does not mean, however, that Paul’s words here should be taken as any less inspired. Paul offered them this advice because he knew that the Lord in his kindness [had] given [him] wisdom that can be trusted. Paul shared that wisdom with the believers when they asked such questions as this.

Paul advised the young women to remain as they were, unmarried. He reasoned that it would be easier on them to be single than married during this present crisis. There has been discussion among scholars regarding the nature of this “crisis.” Some have suggested that Paul expected the Lord’s return and was referring to the certain calamities that would take place prior to the Second Coming. Most likely, however, Paul foresaw the impending persecution that the Roman government would soon bring upon Christians. He gave this practical advice because being unmarried would mean less suffering and more freedom to throw one’s life into the cause of Christ (7:29), even to the point of fearlessly dying for him. Paul’s advice reveals his single-minded devotion to spreading the Good News. He wanted these unmarried believers to consider the times in which they were living and how well they could follow the will of God for them in their unmarried state as compared to being married.

7:27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.NIV Speaking to the young women not yet married, Paul had explained that “it is best to remain just as you are.” This means that it would be best for them not to put their energies into worrying about getting married. Paul expanded his advice for everyone, both men and women, married and single. A married person should not seek a divorce; an unmarried man should not look for a wife. Paul’s reasoning rested with what he had said in 7:26. It would be difficult to be a Christian in the Roman Empire in coming days. Paul was advising church members to stay focused on the Lord and on the business of sharing the gospel.

7:28 But if you do get married, it is not a sin. And if a young woman gets married, it is not a sin. However, I am trying to spare you the extra problems that come with marriage.NLT Lest he be misunderstood, Paul explained that he was not saying that it would be sinful for these young unmarried women to get married. That would be inconsistent with all of Scripture. Instead, Paul was trying to spare [them] the extra problems that come with marriage. Life holds plenty of difficulties—and in the first-century Roman world, one of those difficulties would be persecution of Christians. Paul wanted the believers in Corinth to be able to let go of everything in their faithfulness to God—that would be much easier without the attachment of marriage. Thus, he advised the unmarried to remain that way. If they chose to marry, however, that would not be wrong.

Many people naively think that marriage will solve all their problems. Here are some problems marriage won’t solve:
Sexual temptation
Satisfaction of one’s deepest emotional needs
Elimination of life’s difficulties
Marriage alone does not hold two people together, but commitment does—commitment to Christ and to each other despite conflicts and problems. As wonderful as it is, marriage does not automatically solve every problem. Whether married or single, be content with your situation and focus on Christ, not on loved ones, to help address your problems.

7:29-30 Now let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short, so husbands should not let marriage be their major concern. Happiness or sadness or wealth should not keep anyone from doing God’s work.NLT As Paul had challenged the unmarried to consider their situation in light of the call of God on their lives and their brief time on earth to accomplish it, so he challenged all the brothers and sisters to look at life and realize that the time that remains is very short. Paul probably did not have the Second Coming in mind here; rather, he probably was thinking of coming persecutions and the resulting curtailment of the believers’ freedom to witness for their faith. Paul urged the believers not to regard marriage, home, or financial security as the ultimate goals of life. As much as possible, they should live unhindered by the cares of this world, not getting involved with burdensome mortgages, budgets, investments, or debts that might keep them from doing God’s work. Married men and women, as Paul pointed out (7:33-34), must take care of earthly responsibilities—but they should make every effort to keep them modest and manageable. They must live for the Lord in their marriages. If life brings them happiness or sadness or wealth, they should not be bound up in any of it; these situations must not keep [them] from doing God’s work.

Paul’s focus, as always, was that believers make the most of their time before Christ’s return. Every person in every generation should have this sense of urgency about telling the Good News to others. Life is short—there’s not much time!

7:31 Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away.NLT Believers must live detached from this world. Those who have been blessed with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them. Material blessings can be used to further God’s kingdom. Jesus commended the unbelievers in his day who used money wisely, and he encouraged the disciples to learn from them: “I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven” (Luke 16:9 nlt). All of our possessions and opportunities can be shared with those in ministry or put to good use. Our homes can be opened, our cars loaned out, and our possessions shared. Believers who have been blessed with material wealth must always remember that they have been blessed in order to bless others. Paul did not want the believers to be “attached” to anything in this life as if that were all there is—to do so would be to forget that this world and all it contains will pass away (see also 1 John 2:8, 17).

7:32-34 In everything you do, I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man can’t do that so well. He has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be more devoted to the Lord in body and in spirit, while the married woman must be concerned about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.NLT Marriage is a tremendous responsibility for each of the spouses involved. For a marriage to be successful, husband and wife must work at their relationship—they will both have to be concerned about earthly responsibilities and about how to please each other. This is good and important for those who are married. Paul was not saying that this was wrong in any way; he was simply pointing out that unmarried people can focus their energies elsewhere. For example, an unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him, and an unmarried woman can be more devoted to the Lord in body and in spirit. As Paul had noted in 7:28, his advice rests on his desire that these believers be free from the concerns of this life. Later, Paul would uphold the privilege of marriage (9:3-5), but this was his advice to those who had asked about their personal situations.

Some single people feel tremendous pressure to be married. They think their lives can be complete with a spouse. But Paul underlines one advantage of being single—the potential of a greater focus on Christ and his work. If you are unmarried, use your special opportunity to serve Christ wholeheartedly.

7:35 I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.NRSV Paul gave the advice in the previous verses for their benefit, but not to put any restraint upon the believers. These were not regulations that the churches had to follow. Instead, this advice came from Paul’s heart, to help the struggling believers in Corinth to be able to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord. This would be helpful as they lived their Christianity in the midst of the gross immorality of Corinth and as they anticipated persecution for their faith.

7:36-37 If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing.NIV The phrase “getting along in years” means past the prime age for marriage. In their culture at that time, a young woman was considered “fully developed” and ready for marriage at eighteen to twenty years old. The young man should marry if he feels he ought to marry. But if he has made up his mind not to marry, he should let the young woman go. In so doing, this young man also does the right thing. That he is under no compulsion means that he does not have outside pressure such as from parents or through a prior agreement. Such a man has control over his own will and can thus make his own decision.

7:38 So the person who marries does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better.NLT When Paul wrote that the person who doesn’t marry does even better, he was referring to the potential time available for service to God. The single person does not have the responsibility of caring for a spouse and raising a family. Singleness, however, does not ensure service to God—involvement in service depends on the commitment of the individual.

7:39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.NIV The Bible teaches that marriage is a lifelong contract between a man and a woman—”as long as they both shall live.” Therefore, a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. The relationship was not to be dissolved for any reason. If the woman’s husband were to die, however, the marriage contract would be void, and she is free to marry anyone she wishes, providing that this person were a Christian (he must belong to the Lord). This also applied to men whose wives had died.

There may have been some teaching in either Jewish or Greek society stating that a widowed woman could not remarry because she was bound forever to her husband, even if he had died. Paul stated clearly that this was not to be the case. But the widow or widower should still be very careful about whom he or she chooses to get married to—that part is prescribed by God, for he would not have them marry unbelievers.

7:40 But in my opinion it will be better for her if she doesn’t marry again, and I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this.NLT While the widow can remarry (7:39), that doesn’t necessarily mean that she should. In fact, Paul’s opinion was that it will be better for her if she doesn’t marry again for the same reasons he said that the unmarried people might think about remaining single (7:25, 28, 32-34).

When Paul stated I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this, there was nothing tentative in his meaning. At times he gave these believers commands from the Lord because he could bring words directly from Jesus or from the Old Testament; at other times, he gave them his “advice” or “counsel,” but this still carried the weight of divine inspiration. Paul’s advice came from the Holy Spirit, who gave him the words he needed to answer the Corinthian church’s questions.

Although Paul’s words were written almost two thousand years ago, his counsel rings true. Struggling marriages, quick divorces, and lonely singles are not a modern invention. Life in a fallen world is difficult. Paul’s responses to the Corinthian questions and mistakes are filled with wisdom, realism, truth—the evidences of inspiration by God’s Spirit. Some of his guidelines may not apply directly to us personally; others may be difficult to understand. But neither of those points relieves us from acting on what does apply and what we do understand. Take the clear steps of obedience, and much of the ambiguity will fall away.

Life Application Bible Commentary – Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Corinthians.

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Posted by on December 1, 2022 in 1 Corinthians


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