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"But and if..." (1 Corinthians 7)

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The Single Life in Corinthians 7: An Exposition




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1 Corinthians 7

Paul answers questions about singleness
Now concerning the things of which you wrote. It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because there is so much immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render to the wife her due and likewise also the wife to the husband. 4 The wife has no power over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise also the husband has no power over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, unless it is for an agreed time, so that you may give yourselves to prayer and then come together again, that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
   6 But this I say by way of concession, not by commandment. 7 Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. However each man has his own gift from God, one after this manner and another after that.
   8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they live as I do. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn.
   10 But to the married I give this instruction; not I, but the Lord: That the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but should she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband) and the husband should not leave his wife.
   12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her. 13 And the woman that has an unbelieving husband and he is content to dwell with her, let her not leave her husband. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother. Else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving departs, let him depart. The brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases; but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you shall save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you shall save your wife?
   17 Only as the Lord has distributed to each man, as God has called each, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all the churches. 18 Was anyone called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has any been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing- but the keeping of the commandments of God is all important. 20 Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called. 21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry, but if you can become free, do so. 22 For he that was called in the Lord being a slave, is the Lord's freedman. Likewise he that was called being free, is Christ's slave. 23 You were bought with a price. Become not slaves of men. 24 Brothers, let each man, wherein he was called, therein stay with God.
   25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give my judgment, as one that has obtained mercy of the Lord to be trustworthy. 26 I think therefore that it is good by reason of the present distress that is upon us, that a man should remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But should you marry, you have not sinned, and if a virgin marry, she has not sinned. Yet such shall have tribulation in the flesh, and I would spare you.

Serving the Lord without distraction
   29 But this I say brothers, because the time is shortened, that from this time forward both those that have wives may be as though they had none; 30 those that weep, as though they wept not, those that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not, and those that buy, as though they possessed not. 31 And those that use the world, as not using it to the full. For the fashion of this world passes away.
   32 But I would have you to be free of worries. He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. 33 But he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and is divided. Also the woman that is unmarried or betrothed  is anxious about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
   35 And this I say for your own profit. Not that I may cast a snare upon you, but so you may do what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
   36 But if anyone thinks that he behaves himself inappropriately toward his betrothed, if she be past the flower of her age, and if need so requires, let him do what he will. He sins not. Let them marry. 37 But he that stands steadfast in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desires under control, and has determined this in his heart, to remain betrothed; he shall do well. 38 So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.
   39 A wife is bound for as long as her husband lives; but if the husband dies she is free to be married to whoever she chooses. But only in the Lord. 40 But in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I am certain that I also have the Spirit of God.


7:2 Paul often sets an ideal standard, and yet recognizes God's concessions to human weakness. Thus he advises the single life, but makes a concession to marriage; in marriage, there shouldn't be separation, but if there is, then remain single (v. 11).

7:5 We are tempted by our own internal libido, rather than a cosmic being. The internal desire for forbidden sexual relations is our real adversary / Satan.

7:7 Both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. Yet many single people so wish to be married, and some married so wish to be single again; thinking that they would serve God better in this case. But whatever state we are in, is a gift from God that we must use.

7:12 I, not the Lord- All that Paul wrote was inspired by God's Spirit. Often, however, he is repeating the teaching which the Lord Jesus had already given (v. 10). However, now Paul tells us something which has been revealed additionally to him by the Spirit, and which is not to be found in the teaching of Jesus.

7:14 To some extent our unbelieving or immature family members are 'covered' in us. It's a motivation to remain faithful to God ourselves.

7:16 Whilst God through Jesus will save people, He has delegated this work to us. A believer can save another person; this is a great encouragement to 'stick it out' in marriage to an unbeliever, and in preaching the Gospel.

7:17 In all the churches- Paul's teaching to this one church was inspired by God and is therefore relevant and binding far wider than to that one church. His letters are therefore not merely historical documents, but the voice of God to all believers in all generations. We do of course live in a different place in time and geography, but the essence of God's teaching through him must be applied by us all.

7:20,23 If you can become free... become not slaves- Maybe relevant to signing ourselves up for careers or employment which enslaves us and takes us away from the things of God.

7:36 It appears that 7:26-40 are Paul's comments upon a very specific situation in Corinth- he is writing an answer to various things which the Corinthians had written to him about (v. 1). We are reading only his answers, without having seen the original questions.

7:39 Marriage is for life. At no other time in human history has this principle been under such attack as it is today. Marriage for believers is to be only "in the Lord"- to those who have been baptized into Him.

7:40 I think- the Greek can imply 'I am certain that...'.