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New Testament Letters

1 Corinthians, Chapter 7 - Corinthian Letter to Paul

INTRODUCTION: In this chapter Paul answered some questions that had been sent to him in a letter from the assembly of believers at Corinth. Some of Paul's answers could be firmly supported as guidance from the Lord; while in some other instances he said he was giving opinion from his own personal perspective as an Apostle of God. He wanted his readers to know that the Lord equips believers with different gifts for service according to His purpose. Having both types of guidance mixed within this fairly long passage likely resulted in a mixed response at Corinth, as it does among believers in our time.

NOTE: All scripture is from the Bible in Basic English.


1 Corinthians 7 "1 Now, as to the things in your letter to me: It is good for a man to have nothing to do with a woman. 2 But because of the desires of the flesh, let every man have his wife, and every woman her husband. 3 Let the husband give to the wife what is right; and let the wife do the same to the husband. 4 The wife has not power over her body, but the husband; and in the same way the husband has not power over his body, but the wife. 5 Do not keep back from one another what is right, but only for a short time, and by agreement, so that you may give yourselves to prayer, and come together again; so that Satan may not get the better of you through your loss of self-control. 6 But this I say as my opinion, and not as an order of the Lord. 7 It is my desire that all men might be even as I am. But every man has the power of his special way of life given him by God, one in this way and one in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows, it is good for them to be even as I am. 9 But if they have not self-control let them get married; for married life is better than the burning of desire."

COMMENTS: Considering the first few sentences together, Paul was addressing questions sent to him about proper intimate male and female relationships. Stating that it is better to have nothing to do with a woman was in the sense of avoiding temptations for those like himself who wanted to remain unmarried. But for some people marriage is much better than burning with desire that can lead to immoral sexual relationships. Paul had given very strong condemnation about immorality in previous chapters. In marriage, the husband and wife have a mutual responsibility to meet each others need for intimacy. Paul advised married couples not to withhold from one another what is right except by agreement such as for times of independent prayer, but to come together again so Satan will not have opportunity through the loss of self control. Paul then expressed his personal desire that all men remain single, and he made it clear that this is not a requirement from the Lord. God has given every person the power of a special way of life with differing qualities. Recognizing that truth, Paul still gave advice to the unmarried and to the widows, that it is good for them to remain unmarried. But if self-control is an issue, married life is better than burning with desire.


1 Corinthians 7 "10 But to the married I give orders, though not I but the Lord, that the wife may not go away from her husband 11 (Or if she goes away from him, let her keep unmarried, or be united to her husband again); and that the husband may not go away from his wife. 12 But to the rest I say, and not the Lord; if a brother has a wife who is not a Christian, and it is her desire to go on living with him, let him not go away from her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a Christian, and it is his desire to go on living with her, let her not go away from her husband. 14 For the husband who has not faith is made holy through his Christian wife, and the wife who is not a Christian is made holy through the brother: if not, your children would be unholy, but now are they holy. 15 But if the one who is not a Christian has a desire to go away, let it be so: the brother or the sister in such a position is not forced to do one thing or the other: but it is God's pleasure that we may be at peace with one another. 16 For how may you be certain, O wife, that you will not be the cause of salvation to your husband? Or you, O husband, that you may not do the same for your wife?"

COMMENTS: Since Paul had just given some of his own opinion, he now wanted his readers to know the Lord has set the standard for marriage between two believers. The wife is not to leave her husband, and she must not marry again if she is separated from him. Likewise the husband should not separate from his wife. The best ending of separation in either case is for them to be reunited.

Paul then transitioned to the case when only one of the marriage partners is a believer, and he said this was his advice, and not specific direction from the Lord. If a believer has a spouse who is not a Christian, and does not want to leave the marriage, they should remain together. It is better for children to be with married parents in a peaceful home. But if the non-Christian desires to leave, the Christian is not forced to decide either way: but it is God's pleasure that we may be at peace with one another. The Lord may use the consistent demeanor of the Christian to move the heart of the Non-Christian toward faith in Christ.

Paul later wrote something similar to another church, but with a more general application. Romans 12 "16 Be in harmony with one another. Do not have a high opinion of yourselves, but be in agreement with common people. Do not give yourselves an air of wisdom. 17 Do not give evil for evil to any man. Let all your business be well ordered in the eyes of all men. 18 As far as it is possible for you be at peace with all men."


1 Corinthians 7 "17 Only, as the Lord has given to a man, and as is the purpose of God for him, so let him go on living. And these are my orders for all the churches. 18 If any man who is a Christian has had circumcision, let him keep so; and if any man who is a Christian has not had circumcision, let him make no change. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and its opposite is nothing, but only doing the orders of God is of value. 20 Let every man keep the position in which he has been placed by God. 21 If you were a servant when you became a Christian, let it not be a grief to you; but if you have a chance to become free, make use of it. 22 For he who was a servant when he became a Christian is the Lord's free man; and he who was free when he became a Christian is the Lord's servant. 23 It is the Lord who has made payment for you: be not servants of men. 24 My brothers, let every man keep in that condition which is the purpose of God for him."

COMMENTS: Paul said the Lord has given to every person their condition for Christian service, and he gave this same instruction to every church. Making this next point was especially important since both Jews and Gentiles were in the church. Christians do not need to be circumcised, and those who were already circumcised when they believed in Christ are equally acceptable in the church. Following the commands of the Lord is the only thing of value, so let every person keep the position in which they have been placed by God. Anyone who was a servant when they became a Christian has no need for concern; but they may use the opportunity to become free if it is available. Christians in required servitude are free unto the Lord; and all Christians are servants to the Lord since the Lord has made payment for their life. Every Christian should remain in whatever condition which is the purpose of God for them, or respond to change if provided by the Lord.

Ephesians 6 "5 Servants, do what is ordered by those who are your natural masters, having respect and fear for them, with all your heart, as to Christ; 6 Not only under your masterís eye, as pleasers of men; but as servants of Christ, doing the pleasure of God from the heart; 7 Doing your work readily, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 In the knowledge that for every good thing anyone does, he will have his reward from the Lord, If he is a servant or if he is free."


1 Corinthians 7 "25 Now about virgins I have no orders from the Lord: but I give my opinion as one to whom the Lord has given mercy to be true to him. 26 In my opinion then, because of the present trouble, it is good for a man to keep as he is. 27 If you are married to a wife, make no attempt to get free from her: if you are free from a wife, do not take a wife. 28 If you get married it is not a sin; and if an unmarried woman gets married it is not a sin. But those who do so will have trouble in the flesh. But I will not be hard on you. 29 But I say this, my brothers, the time is short; and from now it will be wise for those who have wives to be as if they had them not; 30 And for those who are in sorrow, to give no signs of it; and for those who are glad, to give no signs of joy; and for those who are getting property, to be as if they had nothing; 31 And for those who make use of the world, not to be using it fully; for this world's way of life will quickly come to an end."

COMMENTS: Paul began his remarks about pure single women as potential spouses, indicating that he was giving his own opinion drawn from the mercy given to him to be true to the Lord. Paul said due to trouble present all around, it was good for a man to remain married, or to remain single if unmarried. Marriage is not a sin for either a man or a woman, yet there are some inherent troubles within marriage. But Paul said he would not be hard on those who were married. Every Christian needs to keep in mind that the time is short while still in this world, therefore keeping Christ foremost in our heart. This is important whether in marriage or remaining single, and when dealing with sorrow or joy. Any gain of material things should be accepted as having minimal value, and we should not make the use of the world system a priority for us. This world's way of life will come to an end, but the hope of Christians is eternal.

Paul was well acquainted with the Hebrew scriptures which have lasting application for believers, and he had many he could have referenced. The feeling that difficulty or injustice seems to last much too long has been expressed by believers for many centuries. But life is still short even for those who live well past the average age of death, when compared with eternal life with the Lord. Psalm 37 "7 Take your rest in the Lord, waiting quietly for him; do not be angry because of the man who does well in his evil ways, and gives effect to his bad designs. 8 Put an end to your wrath and be no longer bitter; do not give way to angry feeling which is a cause of sin. 9 For the evil-doers will be cut off: but those who have faith in the Lord will have the earth for their heritage. 10 For in a short time the evil-doer will be gone: you will go searching for his place, and it will not be there. 11 But the gentle will have the earth for their heritage; they will take their delight in peace without measure."

Even though their enemies had been allowed by the LORD to conquer them after Israel had been in the land of promise for many centuries, those who truly trusted in the LORD had hope. Lamentations 3 "24 I said to myself, The Lord is my heritage; and because of this I will have hope in him. 25 The Lord is good to those who are waiting for him, to the soul which is looking for him. 26 It is good to go on hoping and quietly waiting for the salvation of the Lord."

Some years after Paul had written to the Corinthians, he wrote to another beloved church while he was a prisoner in Rome, and he again said the Lord is near. Philippians 4 "4 Be glad in the Lord at all times: again I say, Be glad. 5 Let your gentle behaviour be clear to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Have no cares; but in everything with prayer and praise put your requests before God. 7 And the peace of God, which is deeper than all knowledge, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."


1 Corinthians 7 "32 But it is my desire for you to be free from cares. The unmarried man gives his mind to the things of the Lord, how he may give pleasure to the Lord: 33 But the married man gives his attention to the things of this world, how he may give pleasure to his wife. 34 And the wife is not the same as the virgin. The virgin gives her mind to the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in body and in spirit: but the married woman takes thought for the things of the world, how she may give pleasure to her husband. 35 Now I say this for your profit; not to make things hard for you, but because of what is right, and so that you may be able to give all your attention to the things of the Lord. 36 But if, in any man's opinion, he is not doing what is right for his virgin, if she is past her best years, and there is need for it, let him do what seems right to him; it is no sin; let them be married. 37 But the man who is strong in mind and purpose, who is not forced but has control over his desires, does well if he comes to the decision to keep her a virgin. 38 So then, he who gets married to his virgin does well, and he who keeps her unmarried does better. 39 It is right for a wife to be with her husband as long as he is living; but when her husband is dead, she is free to be married to another; but only to a Christian. 40 But it will be better for her to keep as she is, in my opinion: and it seems to me that I have the Spirit of God."

COMMENTS: Since Paul was responding to the contents of the letter that the Corinthians had sent to him, he MAY HAVE needed to return to the topic of being married or single. Paul recognized that the Lord has designed that there be strong personal commitment between husband and wife, and he believed that could be a source of cares and stresses that are not typical sources for individuals who remain unmarried. Paul had already said in an early part of this chapter that God has given every person the power of a special way of life with differing qualities.

As he closed his response to the Corinthian letter, he continued to put emphasis on the ever present personal responsibilities of a married person compared with those of someone who is not married. Paul did not want his points to be generally taken as restrictive and difficult, BUT for one who is called to remain single; this would have personal value to assure them they could have more freedom to serve the Lord. But for any man who believes he would not be doing right for the woman of his romantic interest, he should follow through with a marriage, and it is not a sin. So the man who marries his girl friend does well, and Paul said the one who does not make that choice does better. Based on the overall context, that would be a better choice if the intent from the heart was to have a TIME CONSUMING personal commitment to the Lord. Paul said a Christian widow could marry again, but only to a Christian. He then closed this chapter one more time saying it would be better not to be married, in his opinion: and it seemed to him that he had the Spirit of God guiding him.


Lord, as I reviewed this chapter I found how much I need to be aware of the different circumstances believers may experience as they make service to your kingdom their ever present goal according to your purpose for them. Paul provided sufficient basic examples about being married or single, being in the undesirable vocation of a servant due to legal obligations, and the equality in your sight between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Help me, Lord, to fulfill in a manner that honors you, whatever personal responsibilities I have while in the world. I want to joyfully serve you knowing my freedom from sin was purchased through the sacrifice of Christ. John 8 "34 And this was the answer Jesus gave them: Truly I say to you, Everyone who does evil is the servant of sin. 35 Now the servant does not go on living in the house for ever, but the son does. 36 If then the son makes you free, you will be truly free." Hallelujah, Amen!

Published 11 March 2018