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1st Corinthians CHAPTER VII, Introduction

THIS chapter commences the second part or division of this epistle, or, the discussion of those points which had been submitted to the apostle in a letter from the church at Corinth, for his instruction and advice. See the Introduction to the epistle. The letter in which they proposed the questions which are here discussed, has been lost. It is manifest that, if we now had it, it would throw some light on the answers which Paul has given to their inquiries in this chapter. The first question which is discussed, 1 Co 7:1-9, is, whether it were lawful and proper to enter into the marriage relation. How this question had arisen, it is not now possible to determine with certainty. It is probable, however, that it arose from disputes be- tween those of Jewish extraction, who held not only the lawfulness, but the importance of the marriage relation, according to the doctrines of the Old Testament, and certain followers or friends of some Greek philosophers, who might have been the advocates of celibacy. But why they advocated that doctrine is unknown. It is known, however, that many even of the Greek philosophers, among whom were Lycurgus, Thales, Antiphanes, and Socrates, (see Grotius,) thought that, considering "the untractable tempers of women, and how troublesome and fraught with danger was the education of children," it was the part of wisdom not to enter into the marriage relation. From them may have been derived the doctrine of celibacy in the Christian church; a doctrine that has been the cause of so much corruption in the monastic system, and in the celibacy of the clergy among the papists. The Jews, however, everywhere defended the propriety and duty of marriage. They regarded it as an ordinance of God. And to this day they hold that a man who has arrived at the age of twenty years, and who has not entered into this relation, unless prevented by natural defects, or by profound study of the law, sins against God. Between these two classes, or those in the church who had been introduced there from these two classes, the question would be agitated whether marriage was lawful and advisable.

Another question which, it seems, had arisen among: them was, whether it was proper to continue in the married state in the existing condition of the church, as exposed to trials and persecutions; or whether it was proper for those who had become converted to continue their relations in life with those who were unconverted. This the apostle discusses in 1 Co 7:10-24. Probably many supposed that it was unlawful to live with those who were not Christians; and they thence inferred that the relation which subsisted before conversion should be dissolved. And this doctrine they carried to the relation between master and servant, as well as between husband and wife. The general doctrine which Paul states in answer to this is, that the wife was not to depart from her husband, 1 Co 7:10; but if she did, she was not at liberty to marry again, since her former marriage was still binding, 1 Co 7:11. He added that a believing man, or Christian, should not put away his unbelieving wife, 1 Co 7:12, and that the relation should continue, notwithstanding a difference of religion; and that if a separation ensued, it should be in a peaceful manner, and the parties were not at liberty to marry again, 1 Co 7:13-17. So, also, in regard to the relation of master and slave. It was not to be violently sundered. The relations of life were not to be broken up by Christianity; but every man was to remain in that rank of life in which he was when he was converted, unless it could be changed in a peaceful and lawful manner, 1 Co 7:18-24.

A third subject submitted to him was, whether it was advisable, in existing circumstances, that the unmarried virgins who were members of the church should enter into the marriage relation, 1 Co 7:25-40. This the apostle answers in the remainder of the chapter. The sum of his advice on that question is, that it would be lawful for them to marry, but that it was not then advisable; and that, at all events, they should so act as to remember that life was short, and so as not to be too much engrossed with the affairs of this life, but should live for eternity. He said that though it was lawful, yet,

(1.) in their present distress it might be unadvisable, 1 Co 7:26.

(2.) That marriage tended to an increase of care and anxiety, and it might not be proper then to enter into that relation, 1 Co 7:32-35.

(3.) That they should live to God, 1 Co 7:29-31.

(4.) That a man should not be oppressive and harsh towards his daughter, or towards one under his care; but that, if it would be severe in him to forbid such a marriage, he should allow it, 1 Co 7:36. And

(5.) that on the whole it was advisable, under existing circumstances, not to enter into the marriage relation, 1 Co 7:38-40.

Verse 1. Now concerning, etc. In reply to your inquiries. The first, it seems, was in regard to the propriety of marriage; that is, whether it was lawful and expedient.

It is good. It is well. It is fit, convenient; or, it is suited to the present circumstances; or, the thing itself is well and expedient in certain circumstances. The apostle did not mean that marriage was unlawful, for he says, Heb 13:4, that "marriage is honourable in all." But he here admits, with one of the parties in Corinth, that it was well and proper, in some circumstances, not to enter into the marriage relation. See

@1 Co 7:7,8,26,28,31,32.


Not to touch a woman. Not to be connected with her by marriage. Xenophon, (Cyro., b. 1,) uses the same word (aptw, to touch) to denote marriage. Compare Ge 20:4,6; 26:11; Pr 6:29.


{*} "to touch" "Not to take a wife"

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