Category Archives: 1 CORINTHIANS 7

Instruction to Christians regarding marriage.

1 CORINTHANS 7

SURVEY OF THE CHAPTER

Having dealt with the immorality that was being allowed in the assembly at Corinth, and shown how to deal with it in chapter 5, and having given instruction with regard to the sanctity of the believer’s body in chapter 6, the apostle is now in a position to give instruction and advice on the subject of marriage. If the teaching of chapter 7 is vigorously taught, and diligently followed, then the need for action against immorality will not be needed. The chapter consists of the answers to two matters the Corinthians had on their minds. First, the different situations arising when one partner is not saved. And second, from verse 25, what should be the attitude of those not yet married to the idea of getting married. There are subdivisions in the chapter, but this is the broad outline.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER

Section (a)

Verses 1-9

The apostle advising married couples who are both saved.

Section (b)

Verses 10-16

The apostle commanding married couples in the matter of separating.

Section (c)

Verses 17-24

The apostle ordaining with regard to the believer’s calling in life.

Section (d)

Verses 25-38

The apostle’s judgement regarding those not yet married.

Section (e)

Verses 39-40

The apostle’s concluding remarks about the principle of marriage.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 7, VERSES 1 TO 9

7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

7:6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

7:7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

7:8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

7:9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

 

Section (a) Verses 1-9 The apostle advising married couples who are both saved.

7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me- as an apostle, and also as the evangelist who had established the assembly in Corinth, Paul had a double claim upon the believers, and most, (but not all of them), recognised this, and hence they enquire of him upon matters that perplex them. Since the matters discussed are of general and constant importance, the reply of the apostle to the Corinthians’ question has been recorded for our learning.

It is good for a man not to touch a woman- there were those in the days of the apostles who were forbidding to marry, 1 Timothy 4:1-3. The apostle labels that a doctrine of demons. This is a severe term, but events have justified that severity, for the section of Christendom that forbids its “priests” to marry, is permeated by immoral and detestable behaviour. (It was not without good reason that up until a few years ago in England a Catholic priest was not allowed to live next to the building where he took confession, for obvious reasons). Unhappily, unbelievers generally are not able to distinguish between the true church and Christendom, so that the distaste even the unsaved have for the behaviour of some of the clergy is directed to true believers also, and thereby the gospel is hindered. It is worth noting that the man who Roman Catholics believe was the first pope, was a married man, Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5.

The apostle is far from forbidding marriage by the statement of this verse. He is simply denying that being unmarried is a inferior state. On the contrary, it is a good state to be in for those who are fitted by God for it. It is not the general rule, however, that believers should remain unmarried. Scripture is very definite when it says, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled, but adulterers and whoremongers God will judge”, Hebrews 13:4.

Notice the delicate way the apostle phrases his statement. We would do well to imitate him in this. All coarse and suggestive remarks should be studiously avoided by believers, so that our relationships with one another are maintained on a high level of decency and propriety. The practice in the world of making marriage a subject of jesting is to be deplored, and certainly should not be copied by believers. It is sad when the solemn occasion of the wedding of two believers is marred by horse-play and ribaldry at the reception afterwards. The couple who are being married would do well to exclude from their invitation list those who are likely to spoil the occasion with their antics. Far better to upset some friends, than grieve the Holy Spirit.

This is not to say that a wedding is only a solemn event. It is that, but also an opportunity to “rejoice with those who do rejoice”, Romans 12:15. That rejoicing, however, should be spiritual in character, and not the spurious merry-making of the world, which is “the laughter of fools”, Ecclesiastes 7:6.

Further with regard to the apostle’s delicate phraseology. He instructs the young men to treat the younger women in the assembly as if they were sisters, 1 Timothy 5:2. Of course they are sisters in the Lord, but the meaning is “as if they were sisters on a natural level”. If this is done, eligible young ladies will not be treated as marriage material, but as those with whom we are seeking to progress in the things of God.

We might well compare the “it is good” of this verse, with the “it is not good” of Genesis 2:18. God made provision of a wife for Adam because He knew he would be lonely. He provided a companion who would be suitable or meet for him, and also a help to him. We see a foreshadowing here of the fact that the Lord Jesus, the Last Adam, will not be alone in eternity, for He will have His bride by His side, Ephesians 5:31,32. In the light of that we cannot say marriage is not good. The apostle is not saying that here, but is simply rejecting the idea that to remain unmarried is to be disobedient to God in some way. After all, marriage is not compulsory, any more than celibacy is, so we each must be guided by the Lord as to what our calling is.

7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication- the apostle is not suggesting here that if a believer does not get married he will become a fornicator. Nor is he advocating marriage as simply a means of avoiding that temptation. After all, being married does not infallibly prevent believers being unfaithful. The point is that in the world, fornication is rife, and marriage held in low esteem. To prevent this disregard of marriage from influencing believers, the apostle’s permission is for them, generally, to marry. The world will think believers have a low regard for marriage if the majority of them do not marry.

Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband- the instruction is very balanced here, with the word directed to both the man and the woman. They are to each have, and by implication be loyal to, their own husband or wife, as the case may be. The other implication being that they are not to have, in any sense, another’s spouse as well.

7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence- there is to be kindness and respect shown to the wife by the husband. The wife is not a slave; she is the husband’s suitable partner and helper. Believing men should not get married for the sake of financial advantage, or merely to avoid paying for a house-keeper. The wife is the weaker vessel, 1 Peter 3:7, so unreasonable demands should not be placed upon her.

And likewise also the wife unto the husband- the husband should not be looked on as merely the breadwinner, who enables the wife to have a life of ease and luxury. The ideal wife described in Proverbs 31 was a very busy person. The wife should appreciate that to provide for her and perhaps a family does place a strain upon the man. Before he was married he only had himself to keep; now others are dependant on him, and the responsibility may cause him anxiety, and the wife should be aware of this possibility, and be a good house-keeper, making the best use of the resources available.

7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband- those contemplating marriage should be aware that there is a physical relationship involved. Whilst the joining physically is not the whole of marriage, it is a significant part of it, and this should be taken into account by both parties. After all, one of the main reasons for the institution of marriage was so that children could be born and brought up in a stable environment.

When she commits herself in marriage to a man, the believing wife is doing so with her whole being, body included. She should recognise that the man now has conjugal rights over her, and she is not to act as a single person would, in independence of the man. Marriage is not a financial arrangement, where two persons pool their resources to make savings and enjoy a better lifestyle.

And likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife- notice the use of the word likewise in both this verse and the previous one. There is to be mutual benevolence and the mutual acknowledgement of rights. The wife has now a certain control over the man’s body; she can reasonably expect that what he does in the body and with the body is not contrary to her wishes. He has no right to consort with another woman, for his wife has control over him, in the very best sense. He has no right to physically abuse her, for it is the wife who has the right to say whether that happens or not. The husband should be aware that if he does make his wife’s life intolerable, she is allowed to separate from him, according to verse 11. After all, it is very doubtful that a husband who beats his wife is a believer.

7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Defraud ye not one the other- the withholding of marriage rights by one partner, perhaps to put pressure on the other so as to get his or her way, is totally out of order. The using of these rights as a bargaining tool is a profaning of the Divine institution of marriage.

Except it be with consent for a time- there are exceptions to this rule, but only when both partners are fully in agreement with the planned course of action. And then only for a brief period, for the reason the apostle now gives.

That ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer- the only reasons the apostle gives for this time of abstinence from physical marriage relations is for a more wholehearted giving over to fasting, (which would be in the daytime), and prayer, (which might well be in the night). The apostle makes no mention of a man separating himself from his wife because he has a lot of meetings to take. If that is the situation, perhaps he has agreed to take too many meetings. The idea that a brother who absents himself from wife and family because of speaking engagements can expect the Lord to take care of them, is not supported in the New Testament. Those apostles who were married took their wives with them when they travelled, 1 Corinthians 9:5.

7:6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment- the apostle now reverts back to the general question of marriage. By writing in verse 2 that every believer should be married, he was not issuing a command. He was permitting, on behalf of the Lord, all believers to marry if they wished, and if they were in a position to do so. To issue commands on this highly personal matter would be to lower Christianity to the level of a cult.

7:7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

For I would that all men were even as I myself- the fact that the apostle links together in the next verse the once-married and the unmarried, suggests that either he was a widower, or his wife had left him when he was converted, (or at least soon after), or he was unmarried. So when he says “even as I myself” he is referring to contentment in whatever status we have, as verse 8 will emphasise. The Corinthians must have known what his status was, but we do not need to know.

But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that- perhaps Scripture is deliberately vague about this matter lest in their personal matters there should be an artificial modelling on the status of the apostle, as if his state was the only one allowed. It is said that members of the Sanhedrin had to be married, and it is strongly implied in Acts 26:10 that Paul was a Sanhedrist, for he had a voice in the decision-making process. Each must decide before the Lord what his or her proper gift is, meaning the appropriate way of life for which God as creator has fitted them.

7:8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I- if the apostle was a widower, then he had personal experience of both being single and being married, and could vouch for the fact that, as far as being free to do the work of God was concerned, it was better to be in an unmarried state. The operative word, however, is “abide”, for it is not good to force one-self into a situation in which there is constant frustration. The Lord would have us to be in a state of peace regarding these personal matters, as verse 15 says.

7:9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

But if they cannot contain, let them marry- if the desire to get married is overwhelming, so that the thought is always on the mind, then it is best to marry. The very fact that there is this strong feeling would suggest that marriage is right for such people. After all, overwhelming desire to get married cannot be artificially created, so the presence of such desire is indication that marriage suits them.

For it is better to marry than to burn- in verse 8 there was the word “abide”, suggesting a calm, restful acceptance of a situation. Here, the word burn suggests the opposite, an agitated, frustrated feeling, where the real desire to marry is being stifled. The apostle is using the word burn in a better sense than he did in Romans 1:27, where he speaks of unrestrained lust. Here he refers to strong but legitimate desire to marry.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 7, VERSES 10 TO 16

7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

7:11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

7:13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

7:15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

7:16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

Section (b) Verses 10-16 The apostle commanding married couples in connection with the matter of separating.

7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord- we are reminded in 14:37 that the spiritual person will acknowledge that the things the apostle wrote were the commandments of the Lord. He is stating that here as well, and also contrasting other parts of the chapter where he only gives his personal judgement, (verses 25, 40), or permission, (verse 6). Here the Lord is directly instructing us, as opposed to advising us through the experience and personal opinions of the apostle, (although the whole of the passage is Divinely inspired, of course).

Let not the wife depart from her husband- this, then, is a direct command from the Lord. Yet even so, as we shall see in the next verse, it is not a rule without exception. In a normal situation, a Christian wife, (for the apostle has not come to the section where he deals with a marriage situation where one partner is not a believer), is not to depart from her husband. This is not a reference to divorce, which the apostle does not mention in this chapter, for he has already taught in 6:16 that the two become one flesh, and so divorce is not an option for a believer. Marriage is for life, and it is not permitted for one partner to suddenly abdicate their responsibilities by departing from the family home, unless there are very pressing reasons for it.

7:11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband- the Lord understands that there may be circumstances where the wife is in an intolerable situation, and provision is made for her to leave that situation. But she should remember certain things as she does so. First, she is not free to marry another, so she must not have that at the back of her mind when she leaves, nor should the desire to marry someone else affect her estimate as to whether a situation is intolerable. It must be unbearable of itself, not of itself and alsobecause she would prefer to be living with someone else. The unbearable situation is a reason for leaving, not an excuse for doing so.

Second, she must always remember that, ideally, things will change, and it may be possible for her to return to her husband. The fact that the apostle calls this being reconciled shows the depth of bad feeling that there had been between the two of them before the wife left. Perhaps the departure of the wife brought the man to his senses. It is important to remember that as believers we are commanded to love one another, so it ought to be easy for a Christian couple to do this as husband and wife. But if they find that their love is growing cold, and they claim that they hate one another, then the Scripture is clear regarding this situation also, for the Lord commands believers to love their enemies, Matthew 5:44. Love never faileth, 1 Corinthians 13:8, so it does not fail in this situation, if we allow it to do its work in our hearts.

Third, she should remember that even though she has departed from him, he is still her husband. She is not free to marry another, even though separated from her husband. Nor is she free to consort with another even though not married to him, but she is to be faithful in all respects to the husband from whom she has separated herself.

And let not the husband put away his wife- it is important to note that the word translated “put away” here, which is aphiemi, is not the same as is used in Matthew 19:3,7,8, 9, where the Lord Jesus is referring to divorce. The word here means “to send away, put away, or leave”. So the man is being commanded here not to send or put away his wife out of the house, nor to leave her by leaving the house himself. The Lord makes no provision for the man to depart, as he does for the woman. She has greater rights than the man in this respect, and is just one more instance where Christianity liberates women, and does not enslave them as the opponents of Divine truth suggest. The reason why the Lord does not command the man not to divorce is because he has already given teaching on the matter in the gospels, indicating very clearly that divorce is not an option God sanctions.

7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord- a false construction has been put upon these words by some. They suggest that the apostle has no specific command from the Lord for what he is about teach, but he goes ahead and teaches it nonetheless. Nothing could be further from the truth, for such a view forgets that the words of the apostle are the commandments of the Lord, 14:37, as already noted. What he means is that the Lord Jesus, during His ministry on earth, although He spoke on the subject of marriage at various times, never touched upon the matters that the apostle is about to deal with. The reason being that they were not relevant at that time. The Lord Jesus was a “minister of the circumcision for the truth of God”, Romans 15:8, and He was “not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, Matthew 15:24. It is no surprise, then, that He did not touch upon the matter of mixed marriages, because it was not envisaged that in Israel there would be mixed marriages. Once the gospel of the grace of God began to be preached, however, people got saved, but their husbands or wives, as the case may be, were perhaps not saved at that time. The apostle is now giving guidance to those in that situation.

If any brother hath a wife that believeth not- we must be clear that it is not expected of believers that they will marry unbelievers. Since marriage is a process whereby two persons merge into one, how is it possible for a believer to merge with an unbeliever? The two are going in totally different directions, with radically different outlooks and ambitions. One is living for self, the other should be living for the Lord. As Amos said, “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3. Of course the Lord can step in and the unbelieving partner can be saved, but it is not certain that He will do so. And certainly the believer should not marry an unbeliever with the purpose of getting that to happen, or expecting it to happen. Nor should believers engage in the practice of dating unbelievers “to introduce them to the gospel”. This is not God’s way. Christ does not use bait to catch His fish, Matthew 17:27, and nor should we.

And she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away- these last words do not refer to divorce, for the apostle has no need to forbid a believer to divorce his wife, since the Lord Jesus had already made it clear he is not free to do so, and if he does do so and marries another, then he has become an adulterer, Matthew 19:9. For the believer divorce is not an legitimate option in any circumstance. We have here a situation where the wife is not yet saved, and willingly consents, (the idea behind “content”), to live with the believing man. He has no obligation to leave her, and certainly no Scripture for divorcing her. The fact that even though she is an unbeliever she is content to live with a believer shows that she has some inclination towards Christian things, or certainly is not antagonistic, or else she would leave.

7:13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him- there is exactly the same option for the unbelieving wife as the unbelieving husband, for Christianity delivers from the harsh attitudes of a man-dominated world. The phrase “let her not leave him” uses the same verb as is found in verse 12, “let him not put her away”. We learn that the putting away that is forbidden is the putting of her out of his sight by him leaving her. So there are three degrees of separation of a husband and a wife. First, there is the separation, (chorizo, cutting off) of the wife if her husband makes life intolerable, verse 10,11, but with the hope that conditions may change so that she will be happy to return. Second, the leaving, (aphemei, leaving), of the home by the unbelieving wife or husband if they are not willing to live with their saved partner, verses 12,13, but still with the hope that they may return, verse 16. Third,there is divorce, (apoluo, loosing), which is not permitted by God to any person now, despite what the world may say.

7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband- as far as believers are concerned, they are sanctified by Divine calling, 1:2, and that sanctification or reckoning to be holy, (the ideas are the same), is based on the sacrifice of Christ, Hebrews 10:9, and the work of the Spirit of God, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2. But there is also such a thing as sanctification by association. For instance, the seventh day of the week is exactly the same in physical terms as the other days of the week, but because God rested on the seventh day after His six days of creation-work, He sanctified the seventh day, Genesis 2:3, and required Israel to keep it set apart for holy purposes. So the Sabbath is, for those to whom it is relevant, a holy day because of its associations.

Then again, the mountain to which the Lord Jesus took His disciples in Matthew17:1 was an ordinary mountain. But when the transfiguration of Christ took place upon it then the apostle Peter, (who was present on that occasion), says it was a holy mount, 2 Peter 1:18. It was not holy the day before, or the day after, but it was holy by association with the Holy Son of God.

So it is that the unbelieving partner in this marriage is in a sense set apart for holy things by being married to a believer. He or she is placed in a position of advantage, for they have easy access to the holy things of God as the believer lives before them.

In Ezra’s day, certain Levites were found to have taken heathen wives, and Ezra insisted that they put them away, for they defiled the family home, and might hinder the Levites in their work. The word that is used throughout Ezra chapter 10 is the Hebrew word “to dwell”, and only in that chapter is it used of men and women who live together in the same house as if they were married. These people were simply living together and were not in a true marriage relationship, so the action of Ezra in commanding them to put away their wives is not an example of God requiring divorce. But the point in connection with the verse we are considering is that these strange wives were to be separated from, Ezra 10:11, for as Ezra 9:2 says, “the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands”.

Else were your children unclean; but now are they holy- some of those Levites who had taken strange wives had begotten children by them, and these also were put away when the women were. In the Old Testament, then, these children were reckoned unclean; now, in this present age, things are different, and they are holy by association, having the advantage of close contact with holy things.

7:15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart- the apostle now envisages the opposite situation to that of verses 12,13, where the unbeliever was content to stay. Here he or she insists on leaving. If that is the case, no good purpose is served by forcing them to remain. By “let him depart”, the apostle means to include the wives as well, since he refers to both believing wives and believing husbands in the next sentence.

A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases- the apostle is not saying here that a man is released from the bondage of marriage if his unbelieving wife leaves him, for that would contradict verse 39. The reference is to “such cases”, that is, to the situations where unbelieving wives have departed. After that has happened, the man is not bound to pursue his wife so as to bring her back. The unbeliever is perfectly at liberty to leave, even though it is not in her best spiritual interests to do so. Having had the advantage of association with Christian things, the unsaved partner is not forced to remain against her will. It is illogical to suggest that whereas a believing wife may depart from her husband and then be reconciled again, as is envisaged in verse 11, an unbelieving wife may be divorced. It is in fact more desirable that an unbelieving wife be reconciled, so that she may have association with Christian things again and be saved.

But God hath called us to peace- instead of feeling that he is imprisoned by obligations to his departed wife, the man is to remember that the Christian life is one of harmony with God primarily. Anything that disturbs the enjoyment of that peace is to be avoided.  If God has said “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart”, then the believer may rest in that word, and be calmly confident that the right thing is being done.

7:16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? It is significant that this comes after verse 15 and not after verse 14. This ensures that we do not run away with the idea that the phrase in verse 14 “not in bondage” means “not under any obligation to consider yourself married to the departed partner”, for this verse still holds out the hope, not just of reconciliation, but the salvation of the unsaved person involved. Of course a believer cannot save another in the ultimate sense, but only inasmuch as they so live that the Christian faith is commended. Peter has things to say about this in 1 Peter 3:1-7.

Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?Notice that the woman is still his wife, even though she has left husband, house and home. He is not to be bitter against her, nor to take any steps to divorce her, or else she would be very reluctant to come back to him. In any case, a man who divorces his wife, whatever she has done, is hard of heart, Matthew 19:8, and at best is a poor example of Christianity, and at worst is an unbeliever.

It is noticeable in this chapter that even though the apostle believed that the unmarried state was best, nevertheless the teaching he gives to married couples is all conducive to the preservation of their marriage. And this, even if one of the two is an unbeliever.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 7, VERSES 17-24

7:17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

7:18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

7:20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

7:21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

7:22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

7:23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

7:24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

Section (c) Verses 17-24 The apostle ordaining with regard to the believer’s calling in life.

7:17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

But as God hath distributed to every man- the apostle takes the opportunity to widen the subject, and include every way in which a believer may have difficulties with earthly arrangements and relationships. For the adverse circumstances of life in the world can strain the marriage relationship. As Creator, God has made everyone as He has pleased. Some are more fitted for married life, some for unmarried conditions. Each has his own gift from God in this matter.

As the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk- now the subject is the call of the gospel, and so it is the Lord Jesus, as the Saviour of His people, who is said to call men where they are found, so that they may respond in faith. God is content to call widely differing persons, for He does not send the gospel to a certain class. That being the case, He is able to sustain that person in his situation, as long as it does not compromise the truth. As a general rule, then, the believer is to remain where he is, and walk with God in that circumstance. In this way, Christian influence is spread throughout the world of men.

And so ordain I in all churches- note the authority of the apostle here, to ordain everywhere. As one who was acting for the Head of the church, he had a responsibility to all assemblies of God’s people, where-ever found. Those companies should be everywhere the same in principle. Since we all have the Word of God as our guide, there should not be diversity of belief and practice. The idea that some assemblies can be “loose” and others “tight” is foreign to the Scriptures. There should be uniformity of belief, so that any member of one assembly should be free to go to another assembly without anxiety.

7:18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised- having thought of the man’s everyday life of work, we now have instruction in regard to spiritual things. A Jew, when saved, is not to be concerned about the fact that he is circumcised, and is therefore committed to the Law. Mere marks in the flesh are of no significance now. As Romans 2:29 says, “circumcision is that of the heart”.

Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised- the same goes for a converted Gentile. He has no need to be circumcised, for that is not a Christian requirement. If he does get circumcised, it might be a sign he has not grasped the radical difference between Judaism and Christianity. The truth of the Epistle to the Galatians would help him in this.

Perhaps this marks the point at which the Lord’s teaching regarding those who committed fornication after betrothal but before marriage comes to an end, for that system of betrothal was an Old Testament concept. By saying there is no difference now in the matter of circumcision, (whereas there was a difference from Abraham’s time onwards), Paul is in effect sweeping away all secondary customs and practices as well. Hence the insertion of this teaching about circumcision in a passage that deals with marriage.

7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing- physical marks distinguishing Jew from Gentile are of no significance now, “for in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love”, Galatians 5:6.

But the keeping of the commandments of God- physical marks are nothing, but the keeping of God’s commandments, especially, in this context, is of first importance. Christianity is essentially spiritual in character, and physical operations on the body for religious purposes, (even purposes sanctioned by God in former ages), are of no value now.

7:20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called- the emphasis here is on abiding in a settled state of mind, and not being agitated and restless because of one’s position in society. When the call of God in the gospel is heeded, the everyday affairs of life carry on unchanged. There is work to go to, bills to pay, duties to perform, just as before. Of course, when a person is saved, the way those duties and obligations are attended to will be vastly different, for as the apostle wrote elsewhere, “whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”, 10:31. Generally speaking, a believer may happily be engaged in any sort of employment, as long as it is moral and decent, and does not pose any ethical problems, The word here is that he should do so in a settled frame of mind, and not hanker for other circumstances. Although as the next verse indicates, it is not a cast-iron rule that he should never change circumstances, but it is required that he abide in whatever circumstances are current for him.

7:21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

Art thou called being a servant? care not for it- of course the apostle is not saying the Christian servant is not to care about his work, for there should be no more conscientious worker that the Christian. What he is saying is that there should be no agitation of mind about the circumstances; they should be accepted as from the Lord.

But if thou mayest be made free, use it rather- the servant referred to in this verse is a slave, who in those days could not choose his employer or his work. In certain circumstances, however, either through the kindness of his owner or the generosity of a patron, a slave might be made free. The apostle sees in this the opportunity to be more useful to the Lord. In that case, the preferable course (hence the word “rather”), is to use that opportunity, and become a freeman. A similar situation might arise today if a believer has the opportunity and inclination to become self-employed. He will have more control over his hours of work, and can arrange his affairs so as to serve the Lord more effectively and widely. Much prayerful thought should be given to this, however, for not everyone is suited to self-employment, especially after long years of employment under others.

7:22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman- we are now told the underlying reason why Christian slaves should not be agitated about their position. It is because, although they are the slaves of men as to their situation on earth, they are freemen who belong to the Lord by right of redemption. He has emancipated them, and that is the most important consideration. He has redeemed them, and therefore He is their Lord, and as such has authority over them. This should give them great peace of mind as they go about their daily, and perhaps arduous, duties.

Likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant- by the same token, those who are freemen when the gospel call comes, are thereby made the servants of Christ. So the slave who has the opportunity to be free is not to think that his liberty will mean he can be free of obligation to the Lord. Nor should those who are called when they are free think that they are free to do as they please. “Even Christ pleased not Himself”, Romans 15:3, so those who are the servants of such a one should remember that, and act accordingly.

7:23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men- every believer, slave or freeman, has been purchased by the precious blood of Christ, 1 Peter 1:18,19, and is therefore free in the very best sense.

Be not ye the servants of men- the word “be” has the idea of “become”. They are the servants of men in the lesser sense, but because of the price that has released them from the bondage to sin, they are not to allow their service to men to over-ride their service for the Lord. No man can serve, (be a slave to), two masters. A man in the modern world may have two employers, but no slave in the ancient world could be in that position, for he was exclusively the property of his master. The Christian slave must remember, however, that he may serve his earthly master on an earthly level, but he must serve his heavenly Master on a higher level, and part of that service for the Lord consists of doing his everyday duties well. See Colossians 3:24, where Paul reminds Christian slaves that they serve the Lord Christ. They may be the slaves of men, but if they serve their earthly masters in a Christian way, that service is reckoned to be to the Lord, primarily.

7:24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God- this is the apostle’s summary of what he has said in verses 20-23. The emphasis being on the word abide”, content with one’s lot in life, and using whatever opportunities present themselves to serve the Lord.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 7, VERSES 25 TO 38

7:25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

7:26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

7:28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

7:29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

7:30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;

7:31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

7:32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

7:33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

7:34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

7:35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

7:36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

7:37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

7:38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

Section (d) Verses 25-38 The apostle’s judgement regarding those not yet married.

7:25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgement, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord- this does not mean that the following words are not inspired, or that the apostle is here writing in independence of the authority of the Lord, but simply that the Lord allowed the apostle to give advice to unmarried believers, but not command them as from the Lord. For the apostle to command people to marry would make him just as oppressive as those heretics who forbid to marry, 1 Timothy 4:3.

Yet I give my judgement, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful- the apostle now gives his considered view, as one subject to the Lord, and writing as inspired by the Spirit of God. In personal matters like these, the advice of a spiritual person who is in the same situation, is extremely valuable.

Whether the apostle was unmarried, a widower, or his wife had left him when he got saved does not matter here. The point is that he has not the responsibility of a wife, and has been faithful to the Lord in that situation, and therefore is in a position to give advice from personal experience.

7:26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress- the conditions in the world at the time of the writing of the epistle were apparently not settled, and could be the cause of distress if too much responsibility was taken on by way of marriage. In the goodness of God the gospel first began to spread during the period that historians call the “Pax Romana”, when conditions were peaceful in the empire, in the main. Things were changing however, and in view of this the apostle has misgivings about believers marrying in such circumstances.

I say, that it is good for a man so to be- the apostle again emphasises that this is his personal view, and he is not legislating. “So to be” anticipates the next verse. The believer is to be as that verse advises.

7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed- the married man is not to entertain any wish in his heart to be freed from obligation to his wife. The difficult times meant hardship for the man who was married, but he is to “abide with God”, verse 20, and trust Him to undertake. The only real way in which a man is loosed from his wife is through her death, as Romans 7:2 indicates. The unfaithfulness of one partner does not release the other partner from the marriage tie. If divorce was allowable, then the doctrine that Paul derived from marriage in Romans 7 would fall to the ground. Those “married to the Lord”, verse 4, might in that case be divorced by Him! That would be a position of extreme insecurity, whereas the purpose of the passage is to instil a sense of security in the believer’s heart.

Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife- he whose wife has died would be well advised to remain single thereafter, in the judgement of the apostle.

7:28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned- so whether it is widower or a single lady, there is no sin attached to getting married. Those who get married ideally do so because God fitted them for this position. It cannot be sin to fulfil God’s design for us.

Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you-the only reservation the apostle has is that due to the distress of the times, to be married would involve trouble in the flesh. This is not trouble in the body, but the wider thought of trouble as regards ordinary life in flesh and blood conditions upon the earth. The only reason the apostle is hesitant to encourage them to marry is because he would spare them the trouble that will come during times of difficulty.

7:29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

But this I say, brethren, the time is short- this is another reason why he has reservations. The time of our stay on earth is brief, and that, coupled with the distress of those times, combined together to make the apostle cautious about believers marrying. He is not making the mistake of predicting when the Lord will come.

It remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none- it remaineth means “as to what is left”. In other words, for the short time that we believers are upon the earth. As for those who are married, they must honour their marriage bond, but do so in a way that keeps the interests of the Lord foremost; so much so that in one sense it is as if they are not married.

7:30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;

And they that weep, as though they wept not- the difficulties of the time might cause them sorrow in some way, but they were to have eternity in view. Paul is not encouraging callous indifference to those who sorrow for some reason, for elsewhere he commands that we weep with those who weep. If others weep for a believer, then surely the believer himself may weep.

And they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not- there is no harm in innocent enjoyment, but it is to be kept under control, even to the extent of being a matter of indifference. This is a very spiritual attitude, but it nonetheless should be striven after.

And they that buy, as though they possessed not- materialism is a great hindrance to spiritual growth, so the apostle encourages us to cultivate an indifference to possessions. Necessary things are a gift from the Lord, for “He giveth us richly all things to enjoy”, 1 Timothy 6:17. There is a great need for a balancing out of resources amongst Christians. Unbelievers are often contemptuous of Christianity because believers seem not to have a heart for the plight of others in undeveloped countries. 2 Corinthians 8:14 speaks of an equality, with those who have surplus distributing to others, until there is a balancing up. This is the principle enshrined in the law which said “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”, Leviticus 19:18. So half is mine and half should be for others.

7:31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

And they that use this world, as not abusing it- as believers we are at liberty to make use of various things that the world provides. For instance, cars are manufactured by men of the world. The Christian may use that invention, but he should take care not to abuse it, in other words, use it in a wrong way. A car is to get to the meetings of the Lord’s people, or to facilitate evangelism; it is not for self-gratification and the pursuit of pleasure. Of course Christian parents will want to bring up their children with this attitude, but that does not mean they cannot have the enjoyment of the innocent pleasures of life.

For the fashion of this world passeth away- all that is in the world by way of material things go to make up the fashion of the world, what sort of place it is. The life of the world revolves around material things, and one day will be dissolved, for the elements shall melt with fervent heat, 2 Peter 3:10. As the apostle John said in a slightly different connection, (for he was warning about the moral dangers the world represents), “the world passeth away, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever”, 1 John 2:17.

7:32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

But I would have you without carefulness- the word carefulness has the idea of distracting anxiety, and is connected with the word the Lord Jesus used about Martha when He described her as “careful and troubled about many things”, Luke 10:41. Of course believers should be meticulous and particular in all their dealings, but here the apostle is warning about getting into a situation where care overwhelms us to the point where our devotion to the Lord suffers.

He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord- it is important to see that the apostle is warning both the married and the unmarried about distracting care in the first sentence of this verse. The context is one of general advice about how to handle the things that bring care into our hearts because we are living in the world. This applies to both married and unmarried persons. The unmarried person can become so taken up with the things of the Lord that they become an obsession, and the everyday things of life become neglected, to the harming of the testimony.

7:33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife- if this is a general statement about all married believers, then there could be no elders, for they are to be married, and seek to please the Lord as well. The point is that the married person is liable, if not watchful, to become distractingly occupied with the things of this life, which is necessarily lived in this world. He may do this to keep his wife happy, and in so doing may neglect the things of God. It is good when a husband cares for his family, but he should beware of becoming so family-orientated that spiritual things become neglected. After all, that is no benefit to his family, so is counter-productive.

7:34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit- there is instruction now for female believers. There is no suggestion here that marriage makes a woman unholy, for Scripture expressly says that “marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled”, Hebrews 13:4. Rather, the idea is of separation unto the Lord so as to serve Him. Both in relation to life down here in the body, and in relation to God the unmarried believer will be more free to serve the Lord.

But she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband- the apostle highlights the danger for the believing wife, that she may become distracted by a desire to please her husband, and the things of the Lord become neglected.

7:35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you- the apostle is not seeking to tie the believers to a particular calling, either marriage or singleness. He has only their best spiritual interests at heart.

But for that which is comely- this is a word that is translated honourable in reference to Joseph of Arimathea. The apostle wants the believers to live lives that are spiritually elegant and suited to their high calling as Christians.

And that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction- to be pre-occupied with domestic and family matters will result in a lessening of the devotion to the Lord which is His due. We should all, whether married or not, strive to give the Lord our best, whether in terms of energy, time, finance, or worship. This will mean that the things of self will have to recede into the background. This will be no hardship to those who have a right view of this passing world. In fact, the apostle has said at the beginning of the verse that he seeks our profit, so attendance upon the Lord is in fact to our profit as well as to His.

7:36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

7:37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

7:38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

It is possible to translate these words in two ways, and the Authorised Version chooses one way, as found above, whilst the literal translation of the Textus Receptus reads as follows: “But if anyone thinks he behaves unseemly to his virginity, if he be beyond his prime, and it ought so to be, let him do what he wills, he does not sin: let them marry. But he who stands firm in heart, not having necessity, but has authority over his own will, and has judged this in his heart to keep his own virginity, does well. So he also that gives in marriage does well; and he that gives not in marriage does better”. We can easily see that the Authorised version envisages a man with daughters who have passed the age at which they would in normal circumstances get married. They then wish to get married later in life, and the father is here advised that if he allows this to happen, he does well, for there is no sin involved. But the father who remains steadfastly of the opinion that it would be better if his daughter did not get married at this late stage of her life,  does better.

In practice the advice is relevant to the father and daughter situation, and also to the man who has passed the normal age for marriage. To allow one’s daughter to marry, or, in the case of a man, to get married, is not a sin. But to refrain from marriage (if the person involved has power over the will), is better.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 7, VERSES 39 TO 40

7:39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

7:40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

Section (e) Verses 39-40 The apostle’s concluding remarks about the principle of marriage.

7:39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth- to be bound to a husband is in the context of the binding force of the obligation that taking the marriage vows puts upon a person. The wife is under obligation to her husband; she is not bound in the sense of being a slave to her husband. That obligation continues until her husband dies. Nothing that men may do can alter the fact that marriage is for life. As soon as the woman says “I will”, she has committed herself to marriage to her husband as long as he is alive, even if their marriage is never physically consummated. As the apostle says in Romans 7:1-3, “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man”. The argument that the apostle was not dealing with the subject of marriage in Romans 7 and therefore did not take into account some supposed “escape clauses”, is not valid. If the apostle uses an illustration which has exceptions to it, then there are exceptions to the link that the believer has with Christ, for that is the inference that the apostle draws from his use of the marriage relationship. If believers may divorce one another, without contravening Romans 7:1-3, then Christ can separate believers from Himself on that basis too.

But if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will- notice that the opposite of being bound is to be at liberty to marry another. So to be bound means to not be at liberty to marry. The apostle is not saying that marriage is bondage. Notice that the expression “to whom she will” is very carefully qualified. It is only to be “in the Lord”. So the Christian widow is not just limited to marrying a believer, for it ought to go without saying that she would only do this. That would be marrying in Christ. To marry in the Lord is to marry in full recognition of His lordship over her, with all that entails in terms of obedience to His commands. So she would not contemplate marrying a divorced believer- “whom she will” does not include that sort of option.

7:40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgement: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgement- the apostle’s considered view was that widows are happier if they do not enter into marriage commitments after their husband has died. If Christian widows disagree with the apostle in this they must not complain if it turns out that he is right, and they would have been happier being unattached.

Of course in 1 Timothy 5:11-14 the apostle instructs younger widows who are still of child-bearing age to marry, so clearly he is speaking in this passage of older widows.

And I think also that I have the Spirit of God- the apostle was confident that he had captured the mind of the Spirit of God in this sensitive and very personal matter. It is very doubtful that anyone else since the days of the apostle’s has grasped the mind of the Spirit in such as way as would override the view of the apostle expressed here.