The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Corinthians

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

1 Corinthians 7

1Co 7:1

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 [1] Instructions concerning marriage: vv 1-17. [2] Regarding circumcision and slavery: vv 18-24. [3] Regarding virgins and marriage in view of social distress: vv 25-40" (GEM).

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.

1Co 7:2

In ct v 1, THIS is the more general rule!

1Co 7:3

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.)

1Co 7:5

DO NOT DEPRIVE EACH OTHER: "Do not refuse one another" (RSV).

1Co 7:6

I SAY THIS: "This" = v 2.

1Co 7:7

Vv 7-9: Advice for unmarried.

1Co 7:8

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).

1Co 7:10

Vv 10-17: Advice re marriage/divorce.

No initiative to break up a marriage should come from a believer.

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.

1Co 7:11

See Lesson, Divorce.

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.

1Co 7:12

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 16)!

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.

1Co 7:13

"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).

1Co 7:14

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).

1Co 7:15

...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).

1Co 7:16

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 spouse.

1Co 7:18

Vv 18-24: Circumcision and slavery: irrelevant issues.

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).

1Co 7:20

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".

1Co 7:22

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).

1Co 7:23

BOUGHT: Gr "agorazo": to be in the "agora", the marketplace or forum; hence, to buy or sell there. See Lesson, Redemption.

1Co 7:25

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.

1Co 7:26

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).

1Co 7:27

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.

1Co 7:28

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 all!"

YOU (first and second): Spoken to a man, whereas...

VIRGIN: Refs an unmarried woman. Feminine, as in v 34.

1Co 7:31

PASSING AWAY: Or "passing by", a fleeting parade (WWS 67).

1Co 7:34

The marriage state is no less holy, but it is more distracting and time-consuming.

1Co 7:36

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.

1Co 7:38

"He who marries" perhaps = "he who gives her in marriage" (ie, father). (Cp AV.)

1Co 7:39

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".

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