Principles for Marriage
7 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Live as You Are Called
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
The Unmarried and the Widowed
Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.
A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 7 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Paul writes about sex and marriage and purity is tied in here as well. This passage may seem a bit odd at first glance simply because ‘why would he write all this?’ There is belief that the Corinthian church had written Paul a letter inquiring of these things about marriage and sex. In fact, one commentator went back to the history of the Jews making the point that in Paul’s day men were expected to be married.
It was a thing that had to be done regardless of if they truly wanted to or not. They based this on Old Testament scripture. Where their question could have come was through the idea of celibacy and how that would honor God. The problem was where did this lay things out for the married person and how sex is an important aspect of such an intimate relationship.
Paul addresses several things in this passage, topics if you will. The overall principle is important thought – God makes it clear there is nothing wrong and everything right about sex in marriage. Of course, this is where the enemy lays groundwork again and again to encourage sex outside the sanctity of marriage and discourage sex within it. Paul really lays out here how a husband and wife must not accept a poor sexual relationship between them. Although problems come, they can be easily solved. Withholding sex from one another is not right as well as forcing it.
And so Paul speaks specifically throughout this passage of various situations involving marriage, sex, thoughts and so forth. But really the overarching principle is found in verse 17.
“Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk.”
Live where God has you right now. Sometimes the single person thinks and lives by the fact, “I’ve got to get married!” Sometimes the married individual looks at things in their everyday life and says, “I wish I were single.” To use a worn-out phrase, “The grass always looks greener on the other side.”
What Paul is stating is if we believe God is in control of things and helping things snap together for our lives; if we trust him, then live where we are at this moment. No matter what our station is in life – married, single, divorced, widowed, remarried – God can and is working in our lives. Instead of thinking we will live for God when our placement changes, walk where you are right now.
1 Corinthians 7 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
It is important to first understand that Paul is not dealing with a full theology of marriage in this chapter. He is answering specific questions the Corinthians had asked him. We know this from the opening phrase.
Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.1 Corinthians 7:1 NASB
In order to develop a full view of marriage, we must also include Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3. The Corinthian church was tempted to take the angle of complete celibacy in response to the sexual immorality all around them. This was a slippery slope as it would naturally lead to couples splitting up in order to be more holy. Paul brings balance by stating that sexual immorality is wrong, but, in a healthy, committed marriage the husband will meet the wife’s needs and vice versa.
Although Paul does not want couples to divorce, he does go on to write that if you are single, it is better to remain so. In this way, you have a single-minded approach to your relationship with God and your interests are not divided among your family. It really ends up being a straightforward answer.
If you are married, be married to the glory of God. If you are single, be single to the glory of God.
Paul prefers singleness but does not look down on those who are married. In fact, the encouragement to marry is directly tied to holiness in Paul’s mind. Sex is not the only or even the most important reason to marry, but it does provide a God-ordained relationship to satisfy the natural desires and passions we were created with.
Paul then comes to an interesting point. It is often twisted and misunderstood. He shifts from writing about couples who are both believers to situations where one is a believer and the other is not. Paul’s advice to the believer is to stay committed for the sake of the Gospel.
And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.1 Corinthians 7:13-14 NASB
Obviously, as we read in 1 Corinthians 6, there are exceptions here. No Christian should tolerate persistent, unrepentant abuse and Jesus specifically addressed this in Matthew 19. It is difficult to formulate a blanket answer to suit every situation. However, Paul clearly states here that if a believing spouse remains with their unbelieving spouse, the latter is blessed in the sense that they are tied to someone showing them the Gospel on a daily basis. Paul is not saying the unbelieving spouse is saved by being married to a believer. He is stating that the unbelieving spouse has an opportunity to be set apart for a special work by being so close to a God-fearing believer.
Paul then moves to the children. Most commentaries agree that the children in such a relationship are saved until they reach the age of accountability (which varies for each child) due to the one believing parent. This is an incredible assurance!
“The Christian need not separate from an unbeliever because of fear that the unbelieving spouse may defile the children. God promises the opposite. They would be unclean if both parents were unsaved, but the presence of one believing parent exposes the children to blessing and brings them protection. The presence of even one Christian parent will protect children from undue spiritual harm and they will receive many blessings, and often that includes salvation.”John MacArthur