1Co 7: "The Corinthian Ecclesia was split by many problems,
and particularly those relating to the covenant of marriage. The city was a
Sodom and Gomorrah of those days, similar to the loose world today. Family
issues was one of the conflicts affecting the ecclesia, and for which they
sought Paul's advice. His response has been recorded by inspiration for the
direction of the ecclesia in every generation. He speaks of  Instructions
concerning marriage: vv 1-17.  Regarding circumcision and slavery: vv 18-24.
 Regarding virgins and marriage in view of social distress: vv 25-40"
Vv 1-17: There is the need for mutual consideration, and for
the support of each other. It is a modern attitude to seek for self-fulfillment,
whereas marriage is an illustration of the principle of sacrifice and for the
honor of Yahweh. Paul states the facts clearly and frankly, and yet with such
delicacy as to avoid offence. His teaching is based on that of the Lord (Mat
5:31-33; 19:4-12), to which he directs the attention of his readers. Under
certain conditions, celibacy for Christ's sake is a 'beautiful' thing (1Co 7:1);
in other circumstances it is 'better' to marry (v 9). Paul insists that the
basis of marriage is proper care for one another, and that each partner should
respect the desires of the other in this regard (vv 3-5).
Celibacy, a free decision (1Co 7:6-9; Mat 19:12). Peter was
married (Mat 8:14), and others (1Co 9:5), including bishops (1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:6).
Note: mark of apostasy was celibacy (1Ti 4:1-3).
Poss a response to the question: "Is it good for a man not to
touch a woman?"
"In the Roman world even laxer customs prevailed. Either
partner might, to all intents and purposes, divorce the other on the slightest
pretext and marry again. The Law intervened only to regulate the practice, and
to secure that grave injustice was not done in the distribution of the dowry and
estate" (M&D 66).
IT IS GOOD: That is, it is expedient: prob because of
the "present distress" (v 26). (Paul does not forbid marriage: 1Ti 4:3). See
also Gen 2:18; Heb 13:4; Pro 18:22.
In ct v 1, THIS is the more general rule!
Vv 3-5: Some were adopting idea that celibate state was more
holy than marriage -- thus, husbands and wives should live apart. (Prob backlash
against the blatant immorality of Corinth.)
DO NOT DEPRIVE EACH OTHER: "Do not refuse one another"
I SAY THIS: "This" = v 2.
Vv 7-9: Advice for unmarried.
As in v 1, this advice is given in view of the "present
distress" (v 26). Note, by ct, Paul's ideal of marriage (Eph 5:22-33).
Vv 10-17: Advice re marriage/divorce.
No initiative to break up a marriage should come from a
NOT I, BUT THE LORD: Heb idiom: "Not I ONLY, but ALSO
the Lord." Ref Christ's words in Mat 19:9; Mar 10:11,12; Luk 16:18. "By this he
means that the Lord Jesus had spoken on the subject of this question and Paul
quotes what the Lord had said, as recorded in the gospels. This reference to the
Lord's words raises an interesting query whether the gospels were not written
much earlier than is generally recognized" (Orac 94). See also v 12n.
That is, the initiative is with the person who departs from a
believing spouse. Thus, no contradiction with v 16.
DIVORCE: Aphiemi: to send away. Sw vv 12,13.
TO THE REST I SAY THIS (I, NOT THE LORD): "...Paul
answers one of the questions the Corinthians had addressed to him on which there
was no guidance from the Lord's discourses... It is not inspiration he is
disclaiming, but only saying that no decree from the Lord's own lips could be
cited, but as the Lord's ambassador he spake, giving instructions what they
should do" (Orac 94).
Vv 12-16: In this section, Paul is answering questions from
the ecclesia (1Co 7:1). The believers had prob asked something like: "What is
the position of a man or woman already 'married' under Gentile law at the time
of his or her baptism? Is he or she to be considered by the ecclesia as a
married person? Or should the 'marriage' entered into before learning the Truth
be considered no marriage at all? If this is the case, can such a new brother or
sister take steps to end the legal union and leave the unbelieving partner?"
In a situation like that described in Acts, where "many of the
Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized" (Act 18:8), there would
inevitably be a number of cases where one mate accepted the Truth but the other
did not. How were they to react in this difficult situation? In answer, the
apostle Paul describes the unbelieving partner as "a wife" or "a husband" who
believes not. That is to say, he regards the brother or sister concerned as
being truly and properly married to his/her partner, no matter under what
situation or what law the ceremony had been performed. This ought therefore to
be the attitude of the ecclesia in the matter. If two people are regarded as
married by generally accepted law, then the ecclesia should also recognize them
as married -- with all the Scriptural implications that such recognition carries
with it. Thus the apostle lays upon the one believing partner in such a case
exactly the same obligations to maintain the union (vv 12,13) as he has
previously laid upon two believing partners (vv 10,11). The baptism of one
partner in an existing marriage does not give that one any authority or right to
seek to terminate the marriage -- in fact, the apostle Paul teaches the very
opposite: the believing partner should use the marriage relationship (and the
practical application of the spiritual lessons of marriage), even in trying
circumstances, in such a way as to seek to bring the other to salvation (v
TO THE REST: That is, to Christians married to an
unbeliever (in ct vv 10,11 -- marriage between 2 believers).
I, NOT THE LORD: Although Paul's words are equally
inspired. Ct with v 10.
"There are, doubtless, many drawbacks to a sister who finds
herself in this position. She is thereby deprived of much encouragement and
help, and experiences many obstacles which would not exist with her husband's
hearty co-operation in, and identification with the truth. Still, even this form
of evil may not exist without advantage to the sister so circumstanced, though
such advantage will, doubtless, rank among the 'forced benefits' of her
experience. One of them will be that she will be thrown upon her own resources
for spiritual sustenance, and her profiting will appear in her individual
intelligence and spontaneity in the truth. At the same time, there is much
danger. Her connection with an unbelieving husband may exclude the atmosphere of
the truth, and surround her with adverse influences which she may be unable to
resist. She may, if not on her guard, be insensibly and gradually robbed of her
enthusiasm for the truth, and having a name to live, may become dead. The simple
principle of placing Christ first, her Lord, in all her course through life,
would prove a guiding star out of many a dangerous path into which she might
otherwise be led. Better brace the disfavour of husband and friends than imperil
a favourable reception from the King of kings, when he comes forth to judge his
household. Of course, she will require to use discretion in such a matter, and
not unnecessarily cause trouble; still, if she cannot comply with the commands
of Christ without giving offence to her husband, she has no alternative. But let
her see to it that it is really the offence of the truth, and not the flesh in
some form taking advantage of the liberty wherewith the truth has made us free.
If she have brought herself into his condition of unequal yoking subsequent to
her acceptance of the truth, she will have ample reason to repent her folly and
her sin, and will, probably, find sufficient retribution in the increased
difficulties which she will find around her, in the good fight of faith. If she
have arrived at a knowledge of the truth after her union with an unbeliever, she
can at least rejoice that she has done so, and will make the best of her
surroundings, hoping by her faithful endeavours to bring about a better and more
harmonious state of things" (Jane Roberts).
CHILDREN... ARE HOLY: Special favor to children of a
believer, ie Psa 103:17; Pro 20:7. Similar principle: Potiphar with Joseph (Gen
39:5,6), and Laban with Jacob (Gen 30:27).
...IS NOT BOUND: Cp sense in 1Co 7:39: "Bound" = not
free to marry. Thus, "not bound" = free to marry (cp vv 27,28). "The Pauline
privilege" (JT in M&D 73; Elp 51). Or, alternatively, there is no duty to
follow, support, or care for spouse, nor responsibility to save spouse (v 16),
because replaced by a higher duty: seek first the kingdom (Mat 6:33).
GOD HAS CALLED US TO LIVE IN PEACE: The conclusion to
vv 12-15: Christians should live in peace with all men -- even unbelieving
spouses. Believers are called to: liberty (Gal 5:13); blessing (1Pe 3:9); peace
(1Co 7:15); and glory (2Pe 1:3).
Sb an expression of hope, not of despair (cp 1Pe 3:6).
Continue to walk in your calling (v 27); do not look back in yearning to former
Vv 18-24: Circumcision and slavery: irrelevant
A surgical operation to reverse circumcision was poss, though
the effect was very painful and the results were imperfect -- and is referred to
in 1Ma 1:15 and Josephus (Ant 12:5:1).
Gibbon estimates slaves as 1/2 of 120 million population in
Roman Empire (Spk). The "situation" or "calling" (KJV) is to follow Christ. Do
not let any secular consideration turn you away from that "calling".
THE LORD'S FREEDMAN: "A man being Christ's free man is
a great reason why he should patiently endure the humiliations and bondages that
belong to this life. Our present probation is only for a season, and that a
short one. It will assuredly come to an end. The toil, and the monotony, and the
weariness of body and mind, as we grapple with the duties of our position, are
each day lessening in their duration. The days hurry by, and hasten us to the
freedom that awaits us in Christ; and any day the change may burst upon us like
a lightning flash; whether we think of the coming of Christ or of that
dissolution in death that awaits us all in the ordinary course. And when it
comes, each happy heir of the liberty that belongs to Christ's free men will
experience how real a thing it is" (SC 91,92).
BOUGHT: Gr "agorazo": to be in the "agora", the
marketplace or forum; hence, to buy or sell there. See Lesson,
Vv 25-40: Virgins and marriage; the present distress. Much in
these vv must be understood against the background of the "present distress".
Possibilities: Luk 21:23; 1Th 3:7.
PRESENT: "Impending" (RSV). Either actually present or
impending: lit, "standing near".
PRESENT CRISIS: Some historians say: a plague /
epidemic that was taking away many Corinthians at this time.
"It is a great mistake to think that Paul discountenanced
marriage because upon one occasion, by reason of certain distress, he gave
exceptional advice. To the Hebrews (Heb 13:4) he wrote of marriage being
honourable in all, and the word he used has been rendered 'had in reputation'
(Act 5:34); 'dear' (Act 20:24); 'precious' (1Co 3:12); 'most precious' (Rev
21:11); and similarly in fourteen texts. Besides, Paul expressly commanded the
young women to marry (1Ti 5:14). Who were they to marry? Surely not old brethren
-- or the medically unfit -- or the alien young men! No: marriage is honourable
in all. Brother Roberts was right in concluding as he did: 'I always felt that
marriage was something that lay in my path before I could enter upon the earnest
work of life. And, now I see how serviceable it has been in every way for the
work that has been done.' How many of us who have been Christadelphians
practically all our lives can say Amen to those conclusions?" (FGJ).
Basic reason for this advice: the present distress! One can
use whatever state he is in to the glory of God. Neither the single state nor
marriage is an end in itself.
Essentially the same advice as given by Christ in Mat
19:10-12: "if this is the situation... it is better not to marry at
YOU (first and second): Spoken to a man, whereas...
VIRGIN: Refs an unmarried woman. Feminine, as in v
PASSING AWAY: Or "passing by", a fleeting parade (WWS
The marriage state is no less holy, but it is more distracting
Vv 36-38: Poss 3 characters: young man (vv 36,37), fiancee,
and father (v 38).
PARTHENOS does not mean the state of "virginity" but the
person, ie "virgin", or "maiden". AV [and possible alternatives in brackets]:
"But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely [dishonourably,
shamefully] toward his virgin [or virgin daughter], if she pass the flower of
her age [or if his passions are strong], and need so require, let him do what he
will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast
[determined, established] in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over
his own will [desire], and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep (her
as) his virgin [or virgin daughter], doeth well. So then he that giveth her in
marriage [or marries her] doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage [or
does not marry] doeth better." (Of course the Corinthians knew exactly what Paul
was writing about, because he was answering one of their questions.)
IMPROPERLY: "Aschemoneo": "Indecent, disgraceful,
shameful." Paul uses the noun form in Rom 1:27 ref to sexual depravity; he uses
the adjective in 1Co 12:23 of "shameful parts" of the body (the LXX also applies
this word to the sexual organs). If this refs to the fathers advising their
daughters not to marry it seems a very strong term to use of what is no more
than flouting a social convention. On the other hand it fits better the
situation of a couple in the throes of unconsummated passion. Also Paul has just
been recommending that, under the current circumstances, singleness is to be
preferred. The exception to this is the danger of immorality -- which
"aschemoneo" almost certainly refers to -- in which case the man who is guilty
of it must be the potential husband not the father.
THE VIRGIN: If Paul meant "daughter" or "unmarried
daughter" it is likely that the word for "daughter" would appear.
GETTING ALONG IN YEARS: This word "huperkamos" is
ambiguous. Normal syntax would refer it to the man, however, as he is
the subject of the preceding verb.
AND HE FEELS HE OUGHT TO MARRY: "Let them marry"
(plural), after a series of singulars (re the man and the woman). Most likely --
in the absence of any extra detail -- is that the subjects of this plural verb
are the two individuals who have already appeared. To apply it to one of them
and somebody else is awkward.
"He who marries" perhaps = "he who gives her in marriage" (ie,
father). (Cp AV.)
Marriage with unbelievers causes many problems: Gen 27:46; Deu
7:1-4; Exo 34:14-16; 1Ki 11:1-4; 1Co 7:39; 2Co 6:14-17. "Enter marriage
carefully and prayerfully. If God is with you in it, it can be almost
inconceivable blessing and comfort and joy. If God is not with you in it, it
cannot be at last anything but a dreadful bondage and curse, if you have any
sincerity for the Truth. Beware! It is for your life! Do not dare to enter
marriage without the assurance of God's approval (by doing it His way according
to His commands). Any other course is tragic folly, IF you are truly interested
in the joy of total Divine service and communion. With those who are not, it
doesn't really matter much either way, for outside of God, all life is tragic
folly" (GVG). See Lesson, Marriage "only in the Lord".