1 Corinthians 7

The Word Made Fresh

1Let me respond now to the things about which you wrote me. You wrote, “It’s best for a man not to touch a woman.” 2Yes, but to avoid sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should honor his wife’s marital rights, and the wife her husband’s. 4The wife does not own her body alone, but owns it with her husband. And the husband doesn’t own his body alone, but owns it with his wife. 5Don’t refuse one another unless you have agreed to do so for a certain time in order to focus on prayer; then come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6I’m conceding this to you, not ordering it. 7I wish everyone could be like me, but each of us has a particular gift of one kind or another from God.

8For those who have never married, and for those who are widowed, I say it is best to remain unmarried, as I am. 9But if they are finding self-control difficult they should marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with passion.

10For those of you who are married, the Lord’s commandment (not just mine) is that a wife should not separate from her husband. 11But if she does separate let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband should not divorce his wife.

12To the rest of you (and I’m saying this, not the Lord), if one of you has a wife who is not a believer, but she agrees to live with you, you shouldn’t divorce her. 13And if a wife has a husband who is not a believer, but he agrees to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14The unbelieving partner is made holy through his or her spouse. Otherwise, their children would be impure; but as it is, they are sacred. 15If, however, the unbelieving partner wishes to separate, let it be. When that happens, the other partner is not bound, but is free. God calls us to be at peace. 16Then the wife for all you know might save her husband, or the husband his wife.

17In any case, each of you should live according to the life God has given you and the life to which God has called you. This is my rule for all the congregations. 18Were any of you already circumcised when you were called? Don’t try to remove the marks of the circumcision. Were you uncircumcised when you were called? Then don’t think you have to be circumcised. 19It is nothing to be concerned about, whether you are circumcised or not. Obeying God’s commands is what really matters. 20So, each of you should stay as you were when you were called.

21Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t worry about it. Even if you might be made free, do the best you can in your current position. 22Whoever the Lord calls as a slave is free to belong to God, in the same way that if you were free when the Lord called you and are now a slave of Christ. 23You were bought for a price, so you aren’t enslaved by human masters. 24Remain with God no matter what your situation when you were called.

25You asked about virgins, but I have no command from the Lord. I give you my opinion, as someone who by God’s mercy is trustworthy. 26I think that because of the crisis of our present time it is best to stay as you are. 27If you are married, don’t try to become free. If you are free, don’t worry about having a partner. 28If you do marry, or if a virgin marries, it is not a sin, but those who are married will experience troubles in this life, and I would spare you that.

29The time is short, friends. Let even those who are married live as though they were not, 30and 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 own nothing, 31and those who do business in the world as though they have no business in it. For the present condition of this world is passing away.

32I want you to be free from worldly anxieties. A man who is not married is anxious about how to please the Lord; 33but the married man is worried about how to please his wife, 34which divides his interest. The single woman and the virgin are anxious about what pleases the Lord, and they are sacred in body and in spirit; but the married woman is anxious about what’s going on in the world around them and how to please her husband. 35I say this for your own good – not to restrain you from marrying, but simply to promote good order and undivided attention to the Lord.

36If a man thinks he has improper feelings towards a virgin, and those feelings are strong, let him marry her if he wants. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not a sin – let them marry! 37But if a man is resolved not to marry the girl, that is well also. 38The one who marries his intended does well. And the one who refrains from marriage does even better.

39A wife is bound to her husband as long as he is living, but if he dies she may marry someone else, but only someone who belongs to the Lord. 40My opinion is that she is more blessed as a widow, and I think that I am attuned to God’s Spirit.


1-7: But Paul doesn’t stop at simply denouncing the sin. He continues with some practical advice about how to avoid sexual temptations. The quote in verse 1 is not a direct quote from scripture, but we must wonder if Paul didn’t have in mind certain passages such as Genesis 20:6, Ruth 2:9, or Proverbs 6:29. A marriage in which each party respects the other’s desire for sexual activity is the best protection against adultery and other forms of sexual immorality.

8-9: If you can’t control your desires, by all means marry somebody!

10-11: Marriage should be honored for life.

12-16: However, if one is married to an unbeliever and the unbeliever wishes to separate, Paul puts his stamp of approval on the separation. Verse 12 is extraordinary until you remember that when the Biblical code of law was published, believers in Christ did not exist. Therefore, in Paul’s mind, God has nothing to say about the marriage between a believer and a non-believer and he gives the situation the best interpretation he can imagine: an unbeliever might be saved by his or her marriage to a believer.

17-20: A judgment is rendered with respect to circumcision. You will remember that the Council of Jerusalem established the rule that Gentiles who converted to the faith did not have to be circumcised (Acts 15:19-20). Paul simply rules that whether one is circumcised or not is of no consequence.

21-24: He says as well that whether one is a slave or is free is of no consequence in terms of one’s relationship with God. Unfortunately, this paragraph has too often been taken as a stamp of implied approval for the institution of slavery.

25-31: Paul is convinced that the current world order is on its way out, and so he summarizes their questions about marriage by saying it would be best if they simply remained as they are instead of complicating their lives by being in covenant with a spouse rather than with God only. However, he does not denounce those who wish to marry.

32-35: He offers a further explanation to the above paragraph, saying simply that it is easier to be “anxious about the affairs of the Lord” if one is single.

36-38: And so forth — engaged parties may marry if they simply cannot remain single.           

39-40: Widows can remarry if they wish, but Paul’s opinion is that they are better off if they do not.


Paul’s opinions about marriage and singleness are presented in some detail in this chapter. I wonder if his ideas about marriage would have been different if he himself were married. Basically, he is saying that if you’re burning with desire it’s best to be married, otherwise it’s best to be single. But neither state is commanded nor dismissed by God. Bottom line: be true to yourself, and if you marry be true to your spouse.