1 Corinthians 7:1
Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.
(a) The things about which you wrote. The Corinthians had written a letter where they asked a series of questions. The second half of this letter contains Paul’s responses to their questions: “Now concerning the things about which you wrote” (1 Cor. 7:1). “Now concerning virgins…” (1 Cor. 7:25). “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols…” (1 Cor. 8:1). “Now concerning spiritual gifts…” (1 Cor. 12:1). “Now concerning the collection for the saints…” (1 Cor. 16:1).
(b) Not to touch a woman. The Corinthians had evidently asked Paul for his views on celibacy. They did this because Corinth was a hotbed of sexually immorality (see entry for 1 Cor. 6:18). The temptation to sin was confronting, so we can perhaps understand why sexual immorality had infiltrated the church (1 Cor. 5:1). The Corinthians wondered whether celibacy might be a godly response to the sin and temptation they faced. Paul acknowledges the benefits of celibacy before recommending another strategy (see next verse).
1 Corinthians 7:2
But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.
Each man is to have his own wife. Sex is good provided you do it God’s way.
The key word in this verse is have. Husbands and wives are supposed to have each other. “Because of the danger of immorality, each husband should have sexual intimacy with his wife and each wife should have sexual intimacy with her husband” (1 Cor. 7:2, TPT).
A Christian marriage is like nothing on earth. When two people who are each living from their union with the Lord come together in marriage, the result is heaven on earth. Nothing in the alleyways and diseased temples of Corinth could compare with that.
1 Corinthians 7:4
The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
Husbands belong to their wives and wives belong to their husbands, and they both have authority over each other. As the Shulammite woman said, “My beloved is mine and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16).
Under God’s original plan for marriage, “two shall become one” (Gen. 2:24). When two become one, each partner gives up their right to live independently of the other. A graceless marriage is marked by selfishness and the defense of rights, but a godly marriage is characterized by mutual submission and unconditional love.
Further reading: “Who has authority in a marriage?”
1 Corinthians 7:5
Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Satan. The devil is the ultimate source of temptation; see entry for Matt. 4:3.
1 Corinthians 7:10
But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband
Marriage is a life-long commitment between two people who have become one flesh. What God has joined together, let no one separate (Mark 10:9). But the sad fact some marriages end. The Law of Moses outlined reasons for divorce (Deu. 24:1) and these led to debates that even Jesus was drawn into (see entry for Mark 10:11).
1 Corinthians 7:11
(but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
When a marriage is broken or strained, the best thing we can hope for is healing and restoration. However, Paul is not saying that victims of domestic violence should remain in abusive situations (see entry for Matt. 5:32).
1 Corinthians 7:14
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.
(a) Sanctified through his wife. We are sanctified by Jesus, not our spouses or parents (Heb. 10:10). But an unbeliever who is married to a believer cannot help but be sanctified or affected by their partner’s faith. As Peter said, a godly wife may win over an unbelieving husband through her behavior (see entry for 1 Pet. 3:1). By upholding him in prayer and revealing the love of God to them, she may lead him to repentance.
Corinth was an idol-worshipping city. If a man or woman came to Christ, the chances were they had a marriage partner who remained an unbeliever. Was their marriage doomed? Hadn’t Paul said something about not being unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14)? Paul wrote to allay these fears. If your spouse is not a believer, have faith in God. Because light is greater than darkness, your faith has a sanctifying effect on your marriage.
(b) Your children are set apart too. They are ear-marked for salvation because they are under your godly influence. Never under-estimate the power of a praying parent.
1 Corinthians 7:19
Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.
The commandments of God refer to the many ways the Bible exhorts us to believe, receive, heed, or have faith in his Son (1 John 5:2–3, 2 John 1:6, Rev. 12:17, 14:12). “This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23). This is the only commandment that counts.
1 Corinthians 7:23
You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
You have been bought with a price. You belong to God (1 Pet. 2:9).
1 Corinthians 7:27
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
(a) Do not seek to be released means stay married. Don’t seek a divorce. This is a healthy exhortation because divorce is destructive. Your loving Father doesn’t want to see you go through that pain.
Yet some turn this exhortation into a law. “Thou shalt not get divorced!” And they interpret divorce as a sin. Since the law inflames sin (Rom. 7:5) this message actually promotes divorce. Thus it hurts the church two ways; by stirring up sin and then condemning the sinner. Much harm has been done by telling divorced people they are sinners. Even if that were true, Jesus is the friend of sinners. If you read these words as law, you must be consistent and preach the whole verse.
(b) Are you released from a wife? In other words, are you unmarried or single?
(c) Do not seek a wife. If the first part is a law, so is the second. If divorced people are sinning, then so are those who get married. Obviously that is not what Paul is saying.
“Do not seek a wife” can be read as, “Don’t be so consumed with the prospect of marriage that you miss the joys of being single.” Some people are obsessed with finding the right marriage partner. This is not being led by the Spirit. This is chasing fantasies. Don’t seek a wife; seek the Lord trusting that he will take care of everything else.
Further reading: “Can divorced people remarry?”
1 Corinthians 7:28
But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
Much damage has been done by telling singles they are incomplete apart from marriage. A good marriage is heaven on earth, but it was never God’s intent for us to have all our needs met by people.
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- 1 Corinthians 7:1
- 1 Corinthians 7:2
- 1 Corinthians 7:4
- 1 Corinthians 7:5
- 1 Corinthians 7:10
- 1 Corinthians 7:11
- 1 Corinthians 7:14
- 1 Corinthians 7:19
- 1 Corinthians 7:23
- 1 Corinthians 7:27
- 1 Corinthians 7:28