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1 Corinthians 7

7
Marriage and its ideal
1Yes, my brethren, it is a good thing for both man and woman to be above all sexual intercourse. You wrote and asked me if that were good, and I answer yes. 2-3But marriage exists to prevent fornication. It is a step towards chastity. The ideal is to rise above all physical union of the sexes. Perfect chastity is a higher condition than the married state, and the intercourse of married persons, of husband and wife, is condoned and allowed, not commanded. I would that all men had reached the condition with regard to these questions that the spirit has conferred as a gift on me; but, as it is, we must have marriage, and those that are married must follow its rules. 4Husbands and wives, you are not masters of your own bodies. Each must do as the other has a right to demand in this important matter, 5-7and if by mutual consent you abstain from it altogether for a time, giving yourselves more thoroughly to prayer, and guarding against the entry of the spirit of evil through the avenue of indulgence, that is the best rule to observe.
Constancy in the truth
8-9Now whether married or unmarried, my advice is — remain as you were when God first called you into the truth. 10-13If married, do not seek separation. Husband and wife may not both be in the faith, nevertheless if the one to whom the truth has not yet come is agreeable to remain with the other, there should be no thought of separation. 14Both will be sanctified by the presence of the truth in the household, and likewise the children also, and who knows? probably the one that has faith will save the other. 15-16But if you were unmarried or widowed when the truth first came to you, then my advice is — do not change your state. Be as I am — and live a life of total abstinence from the claims of the body in this direction. But if this is beyond you, then marry; marriage is far better than unsuccessful efforts at this form of self-mastery. Now all this is only an expression of my own opinion, but the following is a commandment to all married persons. Let neither husband nor wife seek separation; or if they must be separated, let neither marry again whilst the other lives, but let them rather, if possible, be once more reconciled. That is the Lord's expressed command and no matter of opinion.
In other matters also
17Further, in other matters besides marriage, I enjoin the same rule as that which I have just explained. 18After the truth has come to you, make no outward change in your manner of life, that is to say, in such matters as the circumcision or uncircumcision. 19-20Let it not make the slightest difference what you were before you received the truth, for in the truth these differences are seen to be nothing, so remain as you always were in this matter. For the keeping of God's commandments is all that matters. 21Similarly, if you were a slave when called, do not seek to obtain manumission, but even prefer to continue in the old calling. 22-23You know now that you are Christ's freedman and bought out of slavery at a heavy price. That freedom is everything, for those that were of free birth when called are now the slaves of Christ. Let then neither bond nor free be in spirit the slaves of men; that is all the faith demands; 24in outward respects remain as you were.
Chastity a noble thing
25Some are married when called into the faith; some have had wives, but have put them away; some are unmarried, and have never been married and have on no occasion indulged the sexual impulse, but are virgins. 26To all these I repeat the same advice. Stay as you are, as you were before God called you; 27-28and this even applies to the last class, those who have never known sexual intercourse. To these I would give no definite command, and yet even here, I will give my opinion, and I will give it with the consciousness that in this matter I have been faithful myself, or rather that God in His infinite mercy has taken pity on the weakness of my flesh, and made me by His own power firm and trustworthy in the matter. Well, my opinion is that perfect chastity, abstention from marriage and all sexual intercourse is a noble thing in a man, 29-31and the reason of that is that the world is changing, the end of the old order is near, and the doom of the physical approaches. We are called to attend to something higher than marriage and its cares. The whole outward form and manner of the universe is changing and passing away. Marriages, feastings, funerals, business and worldly matters may continue, but the time is short. Rise above them, and be as if they were not, even though you take part in them. 32I would have you without such cares; 33and you know that a married man thinks of his wife 34and cares about his business and the world for her sake, whilst the unmarried man or woman who lives a virgin life is free to dedicate that life to the Lord. 35But of course, if such an one, who has never touched a woman, elect to marry, he does so with good conscience, sinning not; only such persons, whether male or female, will find that their physical appetite puts obstacles and trials in their way, the details of which I spare you. 36Of course, if a man is not certain in his own mind, if he has lingering regrets that he has never used this important function of mortal man, let him marry by all means, he does no wrong thereby. 37But if he is certain, if he has clearly determined that to live and die a virgin is for him the best course of all, then let him keep his resolution, and he will do well by it. 38It will be the best and greatest course of all, though he who marries may rightly be congratulated on so doing. 39Lastly, a wife of course is bound to her husband for his life-time only — if he dies, she is free to marry again, but let her second choice not be one of the heathen, but one who belongs to the faith. 40But, as I said before, I believe it to be better that she marry not again, but remain a widow, and in so saying I believe that my sense in this matter is governed by the Spirit of God.
7
Teaching on Marriage
1Now as to the matters of which you wrote: It is good (beneficial, advantageous) for a man not to touch a woman [outside marriage]. 2But because of [the temptation to participate in] sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3The husband must fulfill his [marital] duty to his wife [with good will and kindness], and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife does not have [exclusive] authority over her own body, but the husband shares with her; and likewise the husband does not have [exclusive] authority over his body, but the wife shares with him. 5Do not deprive each other [of marital rights], except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, so that you may devote yourselves [unhindered] to prayer, but come together again so that Satan will not tempt you [to sin] because of your lack of self-control. 6But I am saying this as a concession, not as a command. 7I wish that all the people were as I am; but each person has his own gift from God, one of this kind and one of that.
8But I say to the unmarried and to the widows, [that as a practical matter] it is good if they remain [single and entirely devoted to the Lord] #Some scholars believe Paul may have been a widower.as I am. 9But if they do not have [sufficient] self-control, they should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
10But to the #Couples who are both believers.married [believers] I give instructions—not I, but the Lord—that the wife is not to separate from her husband, 11(but even if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be #In reference to married Christians, Paul teaches that reconciliation is always preferable to separation or divorce and should be actively sought.reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not leave his wife.
12To the #Christians married to non-believers. It is evident that some of the married couples in Corinth had wed before either of them had become Christians, and subsequently the believing spouses probably wondered whether their marriage was legitimate in the eyes of God.rest I declare—I, not the Lord [since Jesus did not discuss this]—that if any [believing] brother has a wife who does not believe [in Christ], and she consents to live with him, he must not leave her. 13And if any [believing] woman has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not leave him. 14For the unbelieving husband is #The unbeliever is not saved by marriage to a Christian. Each person, whether spouse or child, must make a personal decision to accept and follow Christ to receive salvation and God’s promises.sanctified [that is, he receives the blessings granted] through his [Christian] wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be [ceremonially] #The word used here seems to be borrowed from the language of OT ritual. There were many things that could render a person ceremonially unclean. All these things would disqualify a person from participating in worship, and required cleansing rituals to correct.unclean, but as it is they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner leaves, let him leave. In such cases the [remaining] brother or sister is not [spiritually or morally] bound. But God has called us to #Probably peace between the spouses, hopefully leading to restoration and salvation (v 16).peace. 16For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband [by leading him to Christ]? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife [by leading her to Christ]?
17Only, let each one live the life which the Lord has assigned him, and to which God has called him [for each person is unique and is accountable for his choices and conduct, let him walk in this way]. This is the rule I make in all the churches. 18Was anyone at the time of his calling [from God already] circumcised? He is not to #Paul may be speaking figuratively of abandoning all of one’s Jewish heritage and culture; however, there was a procedure in ancient medicine for reversing circumcision.become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called while uncircumcised? #A faction of Jewish Christians (often called “Judaizers”) hounded Paul and insisted that Gentile believers must be circumcised.He is not to be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is keeping the commandments of God. 20Each one should remain in the condition in which he was [when he was] called.
21Were you a slave when you were called? Do not worry about that [since your status as a believer is #In practice, even if both a slave and his master became Christians, the slave would remain so unless he were freed (cf Onesimus and Philemon); he could not claim that his freedom in Christ applied to his civil status as a slave. But it would have been wrong for others to treat a slave differently from anyone else in church services.equal to that of a freeborn believer]; but if you are able to gain your freedom, #This essentially is an exception to the rule of v 20.do that. 22For he who was a slave when he was called in the Lord is a freedman of the Lord, likewise he who was free when he was called is a slave of Christ. 23You were bought with a price [a precious price paid by Christ]; do not become slaves to men [but to Christ]. 24Brothers, let each one remain with God in that condition in which he was [when he was] called.
25Now concerning the virgins [of marriageable age] I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26I think then that because of the impending distress [that is, the pressure of the current trouble], it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you #Lit released from a wife.unmarried? Do not seek a wife. 28But if you do marry, you have not sinned [in doing so]; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned [in doing so]. Yet those [who marry] will have troubles (special challenges) in this life, and I am trying to spare you that. 29But I say this, believers: the #Paul may be referring to the appointed time of the return of Christ, or he may have been focusing on the briefness of human life, or both of these.time has been shortened, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they did not; 30and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess [anything]; 31and those who use the world [taking advantage of its opportunities], as though they did not make full use of it. For the outward form of this world [its present social and material nature] is passing away.
32But I want you to be free from concern. The unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33but the married man is concerned about worldly things, how he may please his wife, 34and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman or the virgin is concerned about the matters of the Lord, how to be holy and set apart both in body and in spirit; but a married woman is concerned about worldly things, how she may please her husband. 35Now I say this for your own benefit; not to restrict you, but to promote what is appropriate and secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
36But if any man thinks that he is not acting properly and honorably toward his virgin daughter, [#In ancient times marriages were usually arranged by a girl’s father or the head of the family.by not permitting her to marry], if she is #I.e. has reached her child-bearing years.past her youth, and it must be so, let him do as he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. 37But the man who stands firmly committed in his heart, having no compulsion [to yield to his daughter’s request], and has authority over his own will, and has decided in his own heart to keep his own virgin [daughter from being married], he will do well. 38So then both the father who gives his virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.
39A wife is bound [to her husband by law] as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry whomever she wishes, only [provided that he too is] in the Lord. 40But in my opinion a widow is happier if she stays as she is. And I think that I also have the Spirit of God [in this matter].