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1 Corinthians 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.
The Question About Marriage
1Now let me address the things you wrote to me about. Some of you are saying, “It’s good for a man not to sleep with a woman,” as if that were more spiritual. 2But since you can’t control yourselves, this is leading to sexual sin. So each man should sleep with his own wife and each woman should sleep with her own husband. 3A husband should satisfy his wife’s needs, and a wife should satisfy her husband’s needs. 4The wife’s body doesn’t belong only to her; it also belongs to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body doesn’t belong only to him; it also belongs to his wife. 5Don’t deprive each other. You could agree not to have sexual relations for a while if you really needed time to pray. But after that, you should go back to having sexual relations. Otherwise, Satan will tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6(I’m giving you permission to do this; I’m not telling you that you should.) 7I wish all of you were single like me. But each person has their own gift from God. One has the gift of being happily married, and another has the gift of being happily single.
8I think it would be good if those of you who aren’t married or who are widowed could stay single like me. 9But if you couldn’t control yourselves, then you should get married. It’s better to get married than to burn with desire.
10But as for those who are married, I need to give you a command that comes directly from the Lord Jesus, not from me: A wife must not leave her husband. 11If she does, she must stay unmarried or else go back to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
12I know that some of the rest of you are in a complicated situation. We don’t have a direct command from the Lord about that, but let me offer some advice. If a brother has a wife who isn’t a believer, he shouldn’t divorce her if she’s willing to live with him. 13In the same way, if a woman has a husband who isn’t a believer, she shouldn’t divorce him if he’s willing to live with her. 14An unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and an unbelieving wife is made holy through her believing husband. If that weren’t true, your children wouldn’t be clean. But since it is true, they are holy.
15But if the unbeliever wants to leave, let them go. In that case, the believer isn’t bound to them. God wants us to live in peace. 16Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?
Stay as You Were When God Chose You
17But each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them. Stay as you were when God chose you. That’s the rule I tell people to follow in all the churches. 18If a man was already circumcised when he was called, then he shouldn’t become uncircumcised. If he was uncircumcised when he was called, then he shouldn’t be circumcised. 19Being circumcised means nothing and being uncircumcised means nothing. Doing what God commands is what matters. 20Each of you should stay as you were when God chose you.
21Were you a slave when God called you? Don’t let that trouble you, although if you can gain your freedom, you should do that. 22Someone who was a slave when the Lord called them is now serving the Lord as a free person. But it’s just as true that someone who was free when God called them is now a slave of Christ. 23You were bought with a price, so don’t become slaves of human beings. 24Brothers and sisters, each person should stay as they were when God called them, knowing that God will be with them in that situation.
Advice for Those Who Are Engaged
25Now let me speak to those who are engaged. I don’t have a direct command from the Lord for you. But I’d like to give my opinion as someone who, by the Lord’s mercy, can be trusted. 26Times are difficult right now, so I think it’s good for a man to stay as he is. 27Are you engaged to a woman? Then don’t break the engagement. Are you not engaged to anyone? Then don’t look for a wife. 28But if you do marry someone, you haven’t sinned. And if a woman marries her fiancé, she hasn’t sinned. But those who do marry will have many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you from those.
29What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on, those who have a husband or wife should live as if they didn’t have one. 30Those who are mourning should live as if they weren’t, and those who are rejoicing should live as if they weren’t. Those who buy something should live as if it weren’t theirs to keep, 31and those who use the things of this world shouldn’t become all wrapped up in them. The world as it now exists is passing away.
32I don’t want you to have anything to worry about. A single man is concerned about the things of the Lord. He wants to know how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the things of this world. He wants to know how he can please his wife. 34So he’s pulled in two directions. An unmarried or single woman is concerned about the things of the Lord. She wants to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of this world. She wants to know how she can please her husband. 35I’m saying these things for your own good. I’m not trying to hold you back. I want you to be free to live in a right way and devote yourselves completely to the Lord.
36Suppose someone is worried that he’s not acting honorably toward his fiancée. Suppose his desires are too strong, and he feels that he should marry her. He should do as he wants. That wouldn’t be a sin. They should get married. 37But suppose a man has made up his mind not to marry his fiancée. He has no compelling need to get married; he’s able to control himself. If that’s what he has decided, then he’s also doing the right thing. 38So then, the man who marries his fiancée is doing the right thing, but the man who doesn’t marry his fiancée is doing an even better thing.
39A woman has to stay married to her husband for as long as he lives. If he dies, she’s free to marry anyone she wants. But the man she marries must belong to the Lord. 40In my opinion, she’s happier if she stays single. I say that as someone who has the Spirit of God too.