Reply to Their Inquiries as to Marriage; the
General Principle in Other Things Is, Abide in Your Station, for the Time Is Short.
1. The Corinthians in their letter had
probably asked questions which tended to disparage marriage, and had
implied that it was better to break it off when contracted with an
good—that is, "expedient," because of
"the present distress"; that is, the unsettled state of the world, and
the likelihood of persecutions tearing rudely asunder those bound by
marriage ties. Heb 13:4, in
opposition to ascetic and Romish notions of superior sanctity in
celibacy, declares, "Marriage is HONORABLE IN
ALL." Another reason why in some cases celibacy may be a matter
of Christian expediency is stated in 1Co 7:34, 35, "that ye may attend upon the Lord
without distraction." But these are exceptional cases, and in
exceptional times, such as those of Paul.
2. Here the general rule is given
to avoid fornication—More
literally, "on account of fornications," to which as being very
prevalent at Corinth, and not even counted sins among the heathen,
unmarried persons might be tempted. The plural, "fornications,"
marks irregular lusts, as contrasted with the unity of the
marriage relation [Bengel].
let every man have—a positive command
to all who have not the gift of continency, in fact to the great
majority of the world (1Co 7:5). The
dignity of marriage is set forth by Paul (Eph 5:25-32), in the fact that it signifies
the mystical union between Christ and the Church.
3, 4. The duty of cohabitation on the part
of the married.
due benevolence—The oldest manuscripts
read simply, "her due"; that is, the conjugal cohabitation due
by the marriage contract (compare 1Co 7:4).
4. A paradox. She hath not power over
her body, and yet it is her own. The oneness of body in
which marriage places husband and wife explains this. The one
complements the other. Neither without the other realizes the perfect
ideal of man.
5. Defraud … not—namely, of the
conjugal duty "due" (1Co 7:3;
compare the Septuagint, Ex 21:10).
except it be—"unless perchance" [Alford].
give yourselves to—literally, "be at
leisure for"; be free from interruptions for; namely, on some
special "season," as the Greek for "time" means
(compare Ex 19:15; Joe 2:16; Zec 7:3).
fasting and prayer—The oldest
manuscripts omit "fasting and"; an interpolation, evidently, of
come together—The oldest manuscripts
read, "be together," namely, in the regular state of the married.
Satan—who often thrusts in his
temptations to unholy thoughts amidst the holiest exercises.
for your incontinency—because
of your inability to "contain" (1Co 7:9) your natural propensities, which Satan
would take advantage of.
6. by permission … not of
commandment—not by God's permission to me to say it:
but, "by way of permission to you, not as a commandment." "This" refers
to the directions, 1Co 7:2-5.
7. even as I—having tile gift of
continence (Mt 19:11, 12). This wish does not hold good
absolutely, else the extension of mankind and of the Church would
cease; but relatively to "the present distress" (1Co 7:26).
8. to the unmarried—in general, of both
sexes (1Co 7:10, 11).
and widows—in particular.
even as I—unmarried (1Co 9:5).
9. if they cannot contain—that is, "have
burn—with the secret flame of lust,
which lays waste the whole inner man. (Compare Augustine [Holy Virginity]). The dew of God's
grace is needed to stifle the flame, which otherwise would thrust men
at last into hell-fire.
10. not I, but the Lord—(Compare 1Co 7:12,
25, 40). In ordinary cases he
writes on inspired apostolic authority (1Co 14:37); but here on the direct
authority of the Lord Himself (Mr 10:11, 12). In both cases alike the things written
are inspired by the Spirit of God "but not all for all time, nor all on
the primary truths of the faith" [Alford].
Let not the wife depart—literally, "be
separated from." Probably the separation on either side, whether owing
to the husband or to the wife, is forbidden.
11. But and if she depart—or "be
separated." If the sin of separation has been committed, that of a new
marriage is not to be added (Mt 5:32).
be reconciled—by appeasing her
husband's displeasure, and recovering his good will.
let not … husband put away …
wife—In Mt 5:32 the
only exception allowed is, "saving for the cause of fornication."
12. to the rest—the other classes
(besides "the married," 1Co 7:10,
where both husband and wife are believers) about whom the Corinthians
had inquired, namely, those involved in mixed marriages with
not the Lord—by any direct command
spoken by Him.
she be pleased—Greek,
"consents": implying his wish in the first instance, with which hers
13. the woman—a believer.
let her not leave him—"her husband,"
instead of "him," is the reading of the oldest manuscripts The
Greek for "leave" is the same as in 1Co 7:12, "put away"; translate, "Let her not
put away [that is, part with] her husband." The wife had the
power of effecting a divorce by Greek and Roman law.
14. sanctified—Those inseparably
connected with the people of God are hallowed thereby, so that
the latter may retain the connection without impairing their own
sanctity (compare 1Ti 4:5); nay,
rather imparting to the former externally some degree of their own
hallowed character, and so preparing the way for the unbeliever
becoming at last sanctified inwardly by faith.
by … by—rather, "in … in";
that is, in virtue of the marriage tie between them.
by the husband—The oldest manuscripts
read, "by the brother." It is the fact of the husband being a
"brother," that is, a Christian, though the wife is not so, that
sanctifies or hallows the union.
else … children unclean—that is,
beyond the hallowed pale of God's people: in contrast to "holy," that
is, all that is within the consecrated limits [Conybeare and Howson]. The phraseology accords with that of the
Jews, who regarded the heathen as "unclean," and all of the elect
nation as "holy," that is, partakers of the holy covenant. Children
were included in the covenant, as God made it not only with Abraham,
but with his "seed after" him (Ge 17:7). So the faith of one Christian parent
gives to the children a near relationship to the Church, just as if
both parents were Christians (compare Ro 11:16). Timothy, the bearer of this Epistle,
is an instance in point (Ac 16:1).
Paul appeals to the Corinthians as recognizing the principle, that the
infants of heathen parents would not be admissible to Christian
baptism, because there is no faith on the part of the parents; but
where one parent is a believer, the children are regarded as not aliens
from, but admissible even in infancy as sharers in, the Christian
covenant: for the Church presumes that the believing parent will rear
the child in the Christian faith. Infant baptism tacitly superseded
infant circumcision, just as the Christian Lord's day gradually
superseded the Jewish sabbath, without our having any express command
for, or record of, transference. The setting aside of circumcision and
of sabbaths in the case of the Gentiles was indeed expressly commanded
by the apostles and Paul, but the substitution of infant baptism and of
the Lord's day were tacitly adopted, not expressly enacted. No explicit
mention of it occurs till Irenæus
in the third century; but no society of Christians that we read of
disputed its propriety till fifteen hundred years after Christ.
Anabaptists would have us defer baptism till maturity as the child
cannot understand the nature of it. But a child may be made heir of an
estate: it is his, though incapable at the time of using or
comprehending its advantage; he is not hereafter to acquire the
title and claim to it: he will hereafter understand his claim, and
be capable of employing his wealth: he will then, moreover, become
responsible for the use he makes of it [Archbishop Whately].
15. if … depart—that is, wishes
for separation. Translate, "separateth himself": offended with her
Christianity, and refusing to live with her unless she renounce it.
brother or a sister is not under
bondage—is not bound to renounce the faith for the sake of
retaining her unbelieving husband [Hammond]. So De 13:6; Mt 10:35-37;
Lu 14:26. The believer does
not lie under the same obligation in the case of a union with an
unbeliever, as in the case of one with a believer. In the former case
he is not bound not to separate, if the unbeliever separate or
"depart," in the latter nothing but "fornication" justifies separation
[Photius in Æcumenius].
but God hath called us to peace—Our
Christian calling is one that tends to "peace" (Ro 12:18), not quarrelling; therefore the
believer should not ordinarily depart from the unbelieving consort
7:12-14), on the one hand;
and on the other, in the exceptional case of the unbeliever desiring to
depart, the believer is not bound to force the other party to stay in a
state of continual discord (Mt 5:32).
Better still it would be not to enter into such unequal alliances at
all (1Co 7:40; 2Co 6:14).
16. What knowest thou but that by staying with
thy unbelieving partner thou mayest save him or her? Enforcing the
precept to stay with the unbelieving consort (1Co 7:12-14). So Ruth the Moabitess became a
convert to her husband's faith: and Joseph and Moses probably gained
over their wives. So conversely the unbelieving husband may be won by
the believing wife (1Pe 3:1)
[Calvin]. Or else (1Co 7:15), if thy unbelieving consort wishes to
depart, let him go, so that thou mayest live "in peace": for thou
canst not be sure of converting him, so as to make it obligatory on
thee at all costs to stay with him against his will [Menochius and Alford].
save—be the instrument of salvation to
17. But—Greek, "If not." "Only."
Caution that believers should not make this direction (1Co 7:16; as Alford explains it) a ground for separating "of
themselves" (1Co 7:12-14). Or, But if there be no
hope of gaining over the unbeliever, still let the general principle be
maintained, "As the Lord hath allotted to each, as God
hath called each, so let him walk" (so the Greek in the oldest
reading); let him walk in the path allotted to him and wherein he was
called. The heavenly calling does not set aside our earthly
so ordain I in all churches—Ye also
therefore should obey.
18. not become uncircumcised—by surgical
operation (1 Maccabees 1:15; Josephus [Antiquities, 12.5.1]). Some
Christians in excess of anti-Jewish feeling might be tempted to
let him not be circumcised—as the
Judaizing Christians would have him (Ac 15:1, 5, 24; Ga 5:2).
19. Circumcision … nothing, but …
keeping of … commandments of God—namely, is all in all.
5:6 this "keeping of the
commandments of God" is defined to be "faith which worketh by love";
and in Ga
6:15, "a new creature."
Circumcision was a commandment of God: but not for ever, as "love."
20. the same calling—that is, the
condition from which he is called a Jew, a Greek, a slave, or a
21. care not for it—Let it not be a
trouble to thee that thou art a servant or slave.
use it rather—Continue rather in thy
state as a servant (1Co 7:20; Ga 3:28; 1Ti 6:2). The Greek, "But if even
thou mayest be made free, use it," and the context (1Co 7:20, 22) favors this view [Chrysostom, Bengel,
and Alford]. This advice (if this
translation be right) is not absolute, as the spirit of the Gospel is
against slavery. What is advised here is, contentment under one's
existing condition (1Co 7:24),
though an undesirable one, since in our union with Christ all outward
disparities of condition are compensated (1Co 7:22). Be not unduly impatient to cast off
"even" thy condition as a servant by unlawful means
2:13-18); as, for example,
Onesimus did by fleeing (Phm 10-18). The precept (1Co 7:23), "Become not (so the Greek) the
servants of men," implies plainly that slavery is abnormal (compare
25:42). "Men stealers," or
slave dealers, are classed in 1Ti 1:10, with "murderers" and "perjurers." Neander, Grotius, &c., explain, "If called, being a
slave, to Christianity, be content—but yet, if also thou
canst be free (as a still additional good, which if thou canst
not attain, be satisfied without it; but which, if offered to thee, is
not to be despised), make use of the opportunity of becoming free,
rather than by neglecting it to remain a slave." I prefer this
latter view, as more according to the tenor of the Gospel, and fully
justified by the Greek.
22. the Lord's freeman—(Phm 16)—rather, "freedman." Though a
slave externally, spiritually made free by the Lord: from sin,
8:36; from the law, Ro 8:2; from "circumcision," 1Co 7:19; Ga
Christ's servant—(1Co 9:21). Love makes Christ's service perfect
freedom (Mt 11:29, 30; Ga 5:13; 1Pe 2:16).
23. be not ye—Greek, "become not
ye." Paul here changes from "thou" (1Co 7:21) to "ye." Ye
all are "bought" with the blood of Christ, whatever be your
earthly state (1Co 6:20).
"Become not servants to men," either externally, or spiritually; the
former sense applying to the free alone: the latter to Christian
freemen and slaves alike, that they should not be servile adherents to
their party leaders at Corinth (1Co 3:21, 22; Mt
23:8-10; 2Co 11:20); nor
indeed slaves to men generally, so far as their condition admits. The
external and internal conditions, so far as is attainable, should
correspond, and the former be subservient to the latter (compare 1Co 7:21,
24. abide with God—being chiefly careful
of the footing on which he stands towards God rather than that towards
men. This clause, "with God," limits the similar precept in 1Co 7:20. A man may cease to "abide in the
calling wherein he was called," and yet not violate the precept here.
If a man's calling be not favorable to his "abiding with God"
(retaining holy fellowship with Him), he may use lawful means to change
from it (compare Note, see on 1Co
25. no commandment of the Lord: yet … my
judgment—I have no express revelation from the Lord
commanding it, but I give my judgment (opinion); namely,
under the ordinary inspiration which accompanied the apostles in all
their canonical writings (compare 1Co 7:40; 1Co 14:37;
1Th 4:15). The Lord inspires
me in this case to give you only a recommendation, which you are
free to adopt or reject—not a positive command. In the
second case (1Co 7:10, 11) it was a positive command; for the Lord
had already made known His will (Mal 2:14, 15; Mt 5:31,
32). In the third case (1Co 7:12), the Old Testament commandment of
God to put away strange wives (Ezr 10:3), Paul by the Spirit revokes.
mercy of the Lord—(1Ti 1:13). He attributes his apostleship and the
gifts accompanying it (including inspiration) to God's grace alone.
faithful—in dispensing to you the
inspired directions received by me from the Lord.
26. I suppose—"I consider."
this—namely, "for a man so to be,"
that is, in the same state in which he is (1Co 7:27).
for—by reason of.
the present distress—the distresses to
which believers were then beginning to be subjected, making the married
state less desirable than the single; and which would prevail
throughout the world before the destruction of Jerusalem, according to
Christ's prophecy (Mt 24:8-21; compare Ac 11:28).
27. Illustrating the meaning of "so to be,"
7:26. Neither the married
(those "bound to a wife") nor the unmarried (those "loosed from a
wife") are to "seek" a change of state (compare 1Co 7:20, 24).
28. trouble in the flesh—Those who
marry, he says, shall incur "trouble in the flesh" (that is, in their
outward state, by reason of the present distress), not sin,
which is the trouble of the spirit.
but I spare you—The emphasis in the
Greek is on "I." My motive in advising you so is, to
"spare you" such trouble in the flesh. So Alford after Calvin,
Bengel, and others. Estius from Augustine
explains it, "I spare you further details of the inconveniences of
matrimony, lest even the incontinent may at the peril of lust be
deterred from matrimony: thus I have regard for your infirmity." The
antithesis in the Greek of "I … you" and "such" favors the
29. this I say—A summing up of the
whole, wherein he draws the practical inference from what precedes
the time—the season (so the
Greek) of this present dispensation up to the coming of the Lord
13:11). He uses the
Greek expression which the Lord used in Lu 21:8; Mr
it remaineth—The oldest manuscripts
read, "The time (season) is shortened as to what remains, in
order that both they," &c.; that is, the effect which the
shortening of the time ought to have is, "that for the remaining time
(henceforth), both they," &c. The clause, "as to what remains,"
though in construction belonging to the previous clause, in
sense belongs to the following. However, Cyprian and Vulgate support English
as though they had none—We ought to
consider nothing as our own in real or permanent possession.
30. they that weep … wept
not—(Compare 2Co 6:10).
they that buy … possessed
not—(Compare Isa 24:1, 2). Christ specifies as the condemning sin
of the men of Sodom not merely their open profligacy, but that "they
bought, they sold," &c., as men whose all was in this world (Lu 17:28). "Possessed" in the Greek
implies a holding fast of a possession; this the Christian will
not do, for his "enduring substance" is elsewhere (Heb 10:34).
31. not abusing it—not abusing it by an
overmuch using of it. The meaning of "abusing" here is, not so
much perverting, as using it to the full [Bengel]. We are to use it, "not to take our
fill" of its pursuits as our chief aim (compare Lu 10:40-42). As the planets while turning on
their own axis, yet revolve round the sun; so while we do our part in
our own worldly sphere, God is to be the center of all our desires.
fashion—the present fleeting
form. Compare Ps 39:6,
"vain show"; Ps 73:20, "a
4:14, "a vapor."
passeth away—not merely shall pass
away, but is now actually passing away. The image is
drawn from a shifting scene in a play represented on the stage
2:17). Paul inculcates not so
much the outward denial of earthly things, as the inward spirit whereby
the married and the rich, as well as the unmarried and the poor, would
be ready to sacrifice all for Christ's sake.
32. without carefulness—I would have you
to be not merely "without trouble," but "without distracting cares" (so
careth—if he uses aright the
advantages of his condition.
34. difference also—Not merely the
unmarried and the married man differ in their respective duties,
but also the wife and the virgin. Indeed a woman
undergoes a greater change of condition than a man in contracting
35. for your own profit—not to display
my apostolic authority.
not … cast a snare upon
you—image from throwing a noose over an animal in
hunting. Not that by hard injunctions I may entangle you with the fear
of committing sin where there is no sin.
comely—befitting under present
attend upon—literally, "assiduously
wait on"; sitting down to the duty. Compare Lu 10:39, Mary; Lu 2:37, "Anna … a widow, who departed not
from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and
distraction—the same Greek as
"cumbered" (Lu 10:40,
36. behaveth … uncomely—is not
treating his daughter well in leaving her unmarried beyond the flower
of her age, and thus debarring her from the lawful gratification of her
natural feeling as a marriageable woman.
need so require—if the exigencies of
the case require it; namely, regard to the feelings and welfare of his
daughter. Opposed to "having no necessity" (1Co 7:37).
let them marry—the daughter and her
37. steadfast—not to be turned from his
purpose by the obloquy of the world.
having no necessity—arising from the
natural inclinations of the daughter.
power over his … will—when,
owing to his daughter's will not opposing his will, he has power to
carry into effect his will or wish.
38. her—The oldest manuscripts
have "his own virgin daughter."
but—The oldest manuscripts have
39. bound by the law—The oldest
manuscripts omit "by the law."
only in the Lord—Let her marry only
a Christian (2Co 6:14).
40. happier—(1Co 7:1, 28,
I think also—"I also think"; just as
you Corinthians and your teachers think much of your opinions,
so I also give my opinion by inspiration; so in 1Co 7:25, "my judgment" or opinion. Think
does not imply doubt, but often a matter of well-grounded assurance