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1st Corinthians 7:1-40


“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me:  It is good for a man not to touch a woman.  Nevertheless to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” (verses 1-2) 


Paul’s Teaching for Married Believers


“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence:  and likewise also the wife unto the husband.  The wife hath no power of her own body, but the husband:  and likewise also the husband hath no power of his own body, but the wife.  Defraud ye not one another, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.         But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.  For I would that all men were even as I myself.  But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.  I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.  But if they cannot contain, let them marry:  for it is better to marry than to burn.  And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband:  and let not the husband put away his wife.”  (verses 3-11)


Paul’s Teaching for Non-Believers


“But to the rest speak I, not the Lord:  If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.  And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband:  else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.  But if the unbelieving [mate] depart, let him depart.  A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases:  but God hath called us to peace.  For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (verses 12-16)


Remain in the state you were called in


“But God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.  And so ordain I in all the churches.  Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised.  Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.  Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.  Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.  Art thou called being a servant? care not for it:  but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.  For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman:  likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.  Ye are bought with a price; be not ye servants of men.  Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.”  (verses 17-24)


Advice to the Unmarried and Widows


“Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord:  yet I give my judgment as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.  I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.  Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed.  Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.  But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned.  Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh; but I spare you.  But this I say, brethren, the time is short:  it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it:  for the fashion of this world passeth away.  But I would have you without carefulness.  He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:  but he that married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.  There is difference also between a wife and a virgin.  The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit:  but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not:  let them marry.  Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.  So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.  The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.  But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment:  and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.” (verses 25-40)


Paul’s Teaching For the Church on Marriage


“1st Corinthians 7 is about communion, fellowship in marriage.  Today walls of separation exist between husbands and wives in many marriages---with a definite lack of intimacy.  It is dangerous for these walls to exist in marriage.  Paul is answering questions they had previously written him about.  Three basic questions were being answered by Paul here which we will cover:


          1.  What about marriage, should we remain married?

          2.  What about singlehood, should we remain single?

          3.  What about being married to an non-believer?


Another dynamic that was working in the Corinthian church was that it was highly suspected the Jewish Christians were pushing all the Gentiles to marry.  Jewish Christians and all Jews believed that all should be married.  This goes back to their application of the Old Testament Scriptures they followed, found in Genesis 2:24 which states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh,” and Genesis 9:1 which states, “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to him, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,’” and Genesis 24:60 which states, “And they blessed Rebekah and said to her:  ‘Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of tenthousands; and may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them.’”  In the Old Testament having a wife and bearing children was an important thing---a duty.  Onan had refused to bear children for his dead brother’s wife, Tamar, and God killed him for refusing to fulfill the duty of carrying on the family line (Genesis 38:1-10).  In Genesis 25:1-2 it states, “Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah.  And she bore him Zimram, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.”  Abraham, the chief father above Isaac and Israel, even got remarried after Sarah died and had six more sons!  Israel had two wives, twelve sons and one daughter!  The Jews saw this as a major Scriptural example of what we were placed here to do---marry and have children.  This is not wrong, it is part of the Scriptures.  Over the centuries it became part of the Jewish psyche and culture, as it is to this very day.  It is not wrong to feel this way, but as Paul brings out, it isn’t everything.


Reasons to be single---Reasons to marry


Verses 1-2, “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:  it is good for a man to not touch a woman.  Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.”  In 1st Corinthians 7:1-2 Paul brings out that it can also be good for a person to remain single---but because of the sexual immorality all around you in Corinth, it’s good to be married.  [Comment:  In our oversexed society, it must be quite similar to what Corinth was, so this applies to us now too.  Corinth was a sailor-town.  Need I say more?]  It’s a natural thing for a man and woman to be married.  God created man and woman and gave them a sex drive.  Marriage is a safeguard against sexual immorality. 


Paul’s Teaching For Married Couples


Verses 3-5, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  Now that you are in the marriage Paul says you need to protect each other from sexual immorality.  You have this union, so don’t deprive each other sexually.  Matthew 19:4-6 states, “‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female [Gen. 2:24], and said, For this reason two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’”  Verse 5 shows us the only reason to deprive each other from the marriage union in sex.  You can’t have oneness without this union.  The marriage bed takes down the walls within the marriage and sets them around the marriage, protecting it.  When the marriage bed is deprived, the walls go up within the marriage and come down around the marriage.  Paul warns against depriving the marriage bed.  It’s more than a physical thing.  Marriage in God’s eyes is very important.  Sex outside of marriage pollutes our spiritual union with Christ.  1st Corinthians 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute?  Never!” How are our bodies united with Christ?  John explains.  John 14:23, “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come and make our home with him.’”  How does Jesus do this?  John 14:15-17, 20, gives the answer, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever---the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you…On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”  i.e by the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus and God the Father dwell within us.  Romans 8:15-16 shows that God’s Holy Spirit is intertwined with our human spirits, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’  The Spirit himself bears witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God.”  Each and every human being has a human spirit within them, and this human spirit grants their brains the vast computing power humans possess, as Paul brings out in 1st Corinthians 2:11, “For what man knows the things of man except [by] the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except [by] the Spirit of God.”  Now here’s a real interesting twist.  What does it mean when a man and woman are “one flesh”?  Well, naturally during sex it can be considered one flesh.  But if each person has a human spirit granting them human intelligence far beyond any animal (what animal creates buildings, computers, aircraft, ships, trains, electrical appliances, music, literature, and understands the sciences as we do?) what happens when a man and woman have sex, other than being united sexually?  The Bible, in 1st Corinthians 6:15, which we already looked at gives the key.  We are united with Christ because our human spirit is intertwined with the Holy Spirit, which is also in Jesus and the Father.  When a man and woman become sexual partners, their human spirits intertwine.  A man and a woman who are married and sexually active are in a similar type union of spirit just as God the Father and Jesus are by the very Holy Spirit they share.  A married couple, or any couple sexually active, are a type of God the Father and Jesus linked by the Holy Spirit, except they are linked by their human spirits.  1st Corinthians 6:15-16, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?  Shall I then make them members of a harlot?  Certainly not!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her?  For ‘the two,’ he says, ‘shall become one flesh.’  But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.  It may seem like a hard concept to wrap your mind around, but it is a true Biblical concept.  In our marriage unions, we are a direct spirit picture of who God is, Christ united to the Father through the Holy Spirit, one God, although we cannot see that spirit union between husband and wife or between lovers who have gone beyond the one-night stand.  Human spirits tend to blend or intertwine when a couple start having sex, that seems to be the way God designed it (whether they are properly married or not).  The marriage protects the spiritual bond as well as the marriage bond itself.  Immorality pollutes this spiritual bond we have with Christ.  Usually there are other issues which cause a man or woman to dishonor the marriage bed.  In Ephesians 5:22-30 and 1st Peter 3:1-7 we see a total consistency between Paul’s teaching and Peter’s on the subject of marriage.  Paul does not say these things based on any cultural reasons.  These principles are universal, for all times and cultures.  These Scriptures (Ephesians 5:22-30 and 1st Peter 3:1-7) bring out two basic points.  Add to them the third point Paul brings out in 1st Corinthians 7, “Don’t deprive each other in the marriage bed” and you have the three basic points that lead to and bring about a healthy marriage.


Peter and Paul’s Three Points for a Healthy Marriage


Three basic points are brought out in the New Testament which lead to a happy marriage---just three.  It sounds simplistic, but that’s all there is.  But if applied, these three points really do lead a couple to experience the joy of a happy marriage.  Two of these three points are found in Ephesians 5:22-31 and 1st Peter 3:1-7, and one is found in 1st Corinthians 7:3-5. 


1) Men need to love their wives and show them that they love them.  [Comment: This refers to filling their emotional bank accounts!  This one point involves a lot of understanding on the part of men, which tends to get over-simplified in sermons like this.  Refer to http://www.HOWMARRIAGEWORKS.COM for further study material dealing with this first point.  This is a major fault men have which drives their women away.  Without men applying the solid principles on that link, the other two points below don’t make for a genuinely happy marriage.  Most Christian “authorities” ignore this fact of life.]


2) Women need to submit and obey their husbands.


3)  Don’t deprive each other in the marriage bed.  And as we saw in 1st Corinthians 7:3-5, this goes both ways, applies to both marriage partners.


If we leave services today with the attitude that we are going to honor God by obeying his Word on these three points, you are on the road to a healthy marriage.  Remember, you’re not perfect, and neither is your spouse.  To deny the marriage bed puts you on dangerous ground.  My wife [pastor talking] has said to me, as so many women so often say to their husbands, “Get away from me!  I don’t want anything to do with you.”  It is one of the most common statements women make to their men---and it is part of the dangerous wall-building process that so often goes on between marriage partners.  We have read 1st Corinthians 7:3-5, the third point.  Now let’s read Ephesians 5 and 1st Peter 3 and see the other two points as Peter and Paul stated them.  Ephesians 5:23-31, 33,  “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church---for we are members of his body.  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh…Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  1st Peter 3:1-7, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.  They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham, and called him master.  You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.  Husbands, in the same manner be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”  Those two scriptures include both points #1 and #2 within them.  That link in point #1 can really help men understand how to go about loving your wife. 


Paul says “Good to be single like me”


Paul is saying it’s good to be single like he was, but if you’re married, God probably wants you married.  Part of that reason God may want you married comes out in verse 9.  Verses 6-9, “But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment.  For I wish that all men were even as I myself.  But each one has his own gift from God, one this manner and another in that.  But I say to the unmarried and to the widows:  it is good for them if they remain even as I am:  but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry.  For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”


God’s Word For Married Believers


The standard laid out by Paul in verses 10-11 comes actually from Jesus himself and was first stated in Matthew 19:3-9.  It is addressed to married couples where both are believers, Christians.  Verses 10-11, “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord:  A wife is not to depart from her husband.  But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”  Paul got this command from the Lord as stated. Let’s read what Jesus said on the same matter.  Matthew 19:3-9, “Some Pharisees came to him to test him.  They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’  ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’  ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’  Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.  But it was not this way from the beginning.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness [King James: fornication (sex outside of marriage)], and marries another woman commits adultery.”  The Bible teaches that when you are married to another believer, you are married for life.  You can separate if there is abuse.  Separation is not good because Satan can get in and cause you or your spouse to sin.  God’s business is reconciliation.  Verbal wounds are just as deadly as physical wounds.  Be careful what you say to each other.  If you feel like you are headed for separation, pray.  Prayer is powerful.  God loves prayer.  God digs it when you pray in faith for your spouse.  (Keep a journal and see how much God does for you in answering your prayers over time.)


God’s Word Covering Marriage Between a Believer and a Non-Believer


Verses 12-16, “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say:  If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.  And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.  But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart;  a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.  But God has called us to peace.  For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or how do you know O husband, whether you will save your wife?”  Verses 12-16 cover marriages between Christian believers and non-believers.  Some fellowships have not honored the marriage between two believers because a non-believing mate has left the marriage and the other believing mate has remarried to a believer.  Fellowships that do so are not properly interpreting these Scriptures on marriage, and such a marriage is fine in the eyes of the Lord.  It is best to find another fellowship, if they’re not honoring your marriage under such circumstances.  What we see here is that such a divorce and remarriage is Scriptural and permitted.  But Paul also brings out emphatically that the believing mate is not to leave the non-believer if the non-believer is pleased to dwell with the believer.  The emphasis, as seen in 1st Peter 3:1-7 is that a believing spouse’s example may just save the non-believer, so that the non-believer becomes a Christian also.


The “pleased to dwell with you” issue


Another point is about a non-believer being “pleased to dwell” with a believing mate.  Just because a non-believing mate may want to keep living in the same house with you, if the non-believer is showing he or she is “not pleased to dwell with you” by abusive actions and the way he or she may be treating you, by their actions they’re showing “they’re not pleased to dwell with you.”  In the situation where you have an abusive non-believer mate that is hurting the believer mate, either physically or emotionally, especially if it is carrying over to the children, then divorce is totally permissible.  Such marriages are not bound by God in any way. 


Sanctification of the Non-believer and Children


Paul brings out another important point here too.  Not only is the non-believer sanctified [i.e. is open to God’s calling should he or she wish] because of the believing partner, but the children from this union are also sanctified [i.e they’re also open to God’s calling, should they wish it].  God has set both the non-believing mate and the children aside for conversion, should they desire it.  The opportunity is wide open for them.  And as Peter brings out, if the example of the believing spouse is good enough, the non-believing mate may just become a believer based on example alone.  So the strong Bible emphasis is to stick with a marriage to a non-believer.  Some marriages of this type have gone through years of separation, and because the non-believer saw changes in the life of the believer, came back into the marriage, and became a believer as well.  In some other marriages of this type, upon conversion of one mate, the other wants out and to get as far away as possible from the believer.  One is not bound in such cases.  “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.  A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.  How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”  (verses 15-16)


Live as you are called


Verses 17-24, “But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk.  And so I ordain in all the churches.  Was anyone called while circumcised?  i.e. as part of the Jewish branch of the Body of Christ, living specifically in Judea, at the time Paul was writing this, or as a member of a Jewish-Christian congregation, what we would call ‘Torah observant.’  Let him not become uncircumcised.  Was anyone called while uncircumcised.  Let him not be circumcised.  i.e. let him remain a Gentile Christian, if that is how he was called.  Back when Paul was writing, the Body of Christ, as Galatians brings out, was divided into two separate branches, the Jewish and Gentile branches, with the apostle Peter over Jewish brethren, living mainly in Judea and Syria, and the Gentile Judeo-Christians, living mainly in Asia Minor, under the apostles Paul and later, John.  That’s the meaning of verses 17-19.  Now just within the past 40 years, God has seen fit to restore the Jewish branch of the Body of Christ, which had been dead for 1700 years. So again, there are two distinct branches of the Body of Christ, Jewish and Gentile (see  Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.  Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.  Were you called while a slave?  Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it.  For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman.  Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.  You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.  Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.


Advice to Unmarried and Widows


Verses 25-40 are addressed to single people.  Paul brings out the spiritual positives of remaining single and the spiritual negatives of being married.  There are spiritual positives and negatives, and Paul wants everyone to understand them.  A positive for marriage is that you are protected from immorality in a highly immoral world, if you have a good marriage.  Paul now brings out a spiritual negative to being married.  Verses 25-40, “Now about virgins:  I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.  Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.”  i.e. this is somewhat dated material to the time Paul was writing this, perhaps during the persecution of Nero, which could have put a definite hurt on married couples, and families with little ones.  “Are you married?  Do not seek a divorce.  Are you unmarried?  Do not look for a wife.  But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned.  But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.  What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short [or the apostles believed this at the time Paul wrote this].  From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if they were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of this world, as if not engrossed in them.  For this world in its present form is passing away. [the apostles all believed Jesus’ 2nd Coming was right around the corner, imminent. But this could apply to us now, as we get closer to that glorious event.] I would like you to be free from concern.  An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs---how he can please the Lord.  But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world---how he can please his wife---and his interests are divided.  An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs:  Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.  But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world---how she can please her husband.  I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.  If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants.  He is not sinning.  They should get married.  But the man who has settled the matter in his mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who had made up his mind not to marry the virgin---this man also does the right thing.  So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her even better.  A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives.  But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.  [i.e. Believers are to marry believers, it’s a huge mistake to marry a non-believer]  In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is---and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.”


Related links:


Details Covering the First Point of the Three Points given:


(good material for both husbands and wives)


Also be sure to log onto the Matthew 19:1-12 file in the section on Matthew.



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