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Study Notes on 1 Corinthians 7

1 Corinthians 7

This is 40 verses so a pretty long chapter and we’ll move kinda quick through it.

Chapter 6 goes from talking about fornication, “flee fornication” to instructions for the rightful place of sex and marriage.

It seems that the Corinthians asked about abstaining from sex in marriage.

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

Yes, abstinence is good, BUT…

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

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

Don’t hold back sex from each other.

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.

Big statement about sexual relations in marriage.

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.

Incontinency means lack of self-control.

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

In other words, the husband and wife are given permission to do this (refrain from sex for a time), and it is not a command, a requirement.

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.

Kind of a tough verse, but Paul is NOT talking about his married status, but of his gift of continency, his gift of self-control from verse 5 and then verse 8. Don’t sin out of a lack of contentment regarding your relationship status.

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

Abide in self-control.

Paul under the Holy Spirit is NOT saying in these verses that people should stay single because 1 Timothy 5:14 says, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”

Hebrews 13:4 says “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

1 Timothy 4:1-3 mentions forbidding to marry as a doctrine of devils.

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

If they can’t remain in their current state then get married. “To burn” means burn with passion or to be troubled.

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

The Lord commanded this in Genesis 2:24, Matt. 5:32, Matt 19:6.

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.

Only two options. See Matthew 19:9

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.

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.

Paul’s not saying that what he’s writing is suddenly NOT under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he’s saying that this instruction hadn’t previously been given.

God hates divorce.

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.

This is answering a question that the Corinthians might have asked (see verse 1) about if the believer is made unclean by being in union with a non-believer/pagan. Don’t marry an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14), but if one gets saved while married and the other does not, don’t separate.

Rather than the believer being made unclean, in this case the non-believer and the marriage itself is made clean, and sanctified in used in a ceremonial sense, not a salvation sense. We are each individually responsible for our salvation. We see examples on non-salvation sanctification in verses like Exodus 13:2 where things are set apart for God.

In chapters five, six, and up to this verse in chapter seven, Paul has spent much time dealing with fornication. He now ties the sin of fornication in with this idea of the unbeliever becoming "sanctified." The unbeliever, perhaps, was involved in fornication as an everyday habit before the mate became a Christian; however, he now agrees to give up that lifestyle because of the conversion of his mate. In this sense, sanctification has reference to "abstaining from fornication". The unbeliever is set apart from THAT worldly sin within the marriage.

See 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4.

Else can mean “otherwise”, so what’s being said here is that if the marriage was of fornication, then your children would be bastards. But that’s not the case.

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.

Peace is important so don’t cause fights if the unbeliever wants to leave. Let them go. The believer is not under bondage to maintain the marriage. If the unbeliever wants a divorce, then there obviously wasn’t much peace in that home. God calls us to peace.

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?

You that are Christians, and who have heathen partners, do not give them up because they are such, for you may become the means of saving them unto eternal life. Don’t leave the marriage, your partner might become saved because of you.

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.

Now this verse 17 and through 24, we get kind of a summary, “key verse” statement. However you are called, whatever state you are in, whether single or married, slave or free, circumcised or not, be content in that state and serve God.

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

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

Circumcision is nothing! To the jews it was everything. We shouldn’t focus on the circumstances we are in but focus on following God as we’re led by the Holy Spirit and as the bible instructs us.

This phrase in v. 19 is quoted three times in the NT: Here, Galatians 5:6; 6:15.

This has nothing to do with the Ten Commandments which were abolished (2 Cor 3:7), or commandment that God gave Adam & Eve (Gen. 2:16), or other commands that God gave to Old Testament Israel. The commandments turning to God in faith, loving your neighbor, loving God, etc. So much more to say on this, 1 Cor. 14:37 Paul said his words were commandments of the Lord.

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

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

Freedom is better than slavery, but either way serve Christ! People can be obsessed over changing their earthly condition whether that’s their job, or title, or marital status, and miss the greater thing in this world and that’s to serve the Lord.

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.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

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

Great verse. We have been purchased with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19), follow Him alone.

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

Summing it up. Following verses address the unmarried.

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.

Again, not specifically previously given by the Lord. Virgins means male and female as the next couple verses makes clear.

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

Most take it that there were current problems in the area or persecutions against the church, so it would be easier to stay in one’s present condition.

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

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.

So if there’s a present distress then naturally there will be difficulty. And there is difficulty in marriage anyway.

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

The time is short could mean uncertainty of life, the world will pass away (v. 31). Paul was beheaded and the apostles were killed. Many church leaders were martyred.

“be as though they had none” is explained by the context in verse 32. Put God first.

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;

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

Don’t be overly involved in the cares of this world. Time is short for each of us. 1 John 2:17

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:

So be free of anxious care. Positives of being single: You can focus on serving the Lord.

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

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.

Especially during times of distress, the focus of a spouse is towards their spouse.

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.

So these instructions or advice are for our benefit, for the benefit of the Corinthians. The whole theme of this section is to put the Lord first.

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.

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.

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

There’s some different views on this, but basically it’s saying a father should let his daughter marry. I think this shows that a daughter goes from being under her father to being under her husband as the biblical ideal.

Matthew Henry says “he that gives her in marriage does well; but he that keeps her single, if she can be easy and innocent in such a state, does what is better; that is, more convenient for her in the present state of things, if not at all times and seasons."

Note, 1. Children should be at the disposal of their parents, and not dispose of themselves in marriage. Yet, 2. Parents should consult their children's inclinations, both to marriage in general and to the person in particular, and not reckon they have uncontrollable power to do with them, and dictate to them, as they please.”

Again, Corinth was at that time troubled by some unusually distressing circumstances. In view of this, Paul felt it best for people, whether married or single, to stay as they were for the time being. The responsibilities that go with marriage and a family would only add to the current difficulties.

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.

Remarriage is allowed here, only to another believer.

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

Probably better to stay single.


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