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 1 Corinthians Chapter Seven - Part One

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PostSubject: 1 Corinthians Chapter Seven - Part One   Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:29 pm

1 Corinthians 7:1

Difficulties in the Church

The note on which Paul concluded 1Co_6:1-20, “honor God with your body,” could well serve as the guiding principle for this fourth section in which he answered questions put to him by the Corinthians on the topics of marriage (1Co_7:1-40), personal liberty (8:1-11:1), church order (11:2-14:40) and doctrine (1Co_15:1-58).
Counsel concerning marriage

Marriage and Celibacy

Paul had spoken in 1Co_6:1-20 on the dangers of sexuality outside of marriage. Then he turned to the duty of sexuality within marriage. Probably abandonment of marital duties on the part of some in Corinth had contributed to the immorality he had just described.
The phrase not to marry may be an over translation of the Greek phrase “not to touch a woman.” In the first 7 verses these verses elevate singleness, as long as it is celibate, but they in no way teach that marriage is either wrong or inferior.
This letter had to be written to an individual in the church in Corinth, because we notice that it was in answer to a letter that Paul had received. We know that this, like many other specific Scriptures, is not to be taken as doctrine, or even rules for the church at large, because it goes against what God said at the creation of man and woman. There would be no need for two genders, if God had intended this to be so. We must look at this carefully to understand.
This is probably written to an individual who is, perhaps, going to minister in God's work. Paul is just explaining to this person, that the fewer other obligations he has, the more time he will have to devote to God's work. Paul was never married, and he understood the freedom from other obligations that went with not being married. Marriage is not a sin, however. It is God's plan for populating the earth.
Paul probably intended it as a euphemism for sexual intercourse (cf. Gen_20:6; Pro_6:29). This too may have been a slogan for some in Corinth (cf. 1Co_6:12-13) who argued that even those who were married should abstain from sexual intercourse. All that Paul said, however, was that celibacy was a good state and not to be depreciated.

1 Corinthians 7:2

However, marriage with sexual intercourse was much more common. For an individual to try to maintain a celibate state apart from the enablement of God (cf. 1Co_7:7) would lead to immorality. For that reason Paul encouraged people to marry. Paul is saying here, that if you desire to be married, it is better to go ahead and get married. You might be tempted to sin, if you desire a wife and do not have one.
There is a great danger of sexual sin when single. Marriage is God’s only provision for sexual fulfillment. Marriage should not be reduced simply to that, however. Paul has a much higher view and articulates it in Eph. 5:22-23. He is, here, stressing the issue of sexual sin for people who are single.
Again, I say, there is not sin in getting married. There is a sin when you live with someone you are not married to.

1 Corinthians 7:3-4

Paul stressed the equality and reciprocity of the husband and wife’s sexual relationship by emphasizing the responsibilities of each to satisfy the other. When a man and woman get married, they then are to think of the needs of their spouse more than they think of their own needs. The above Scripture is just saying, be true to the wife or husband you have chosen. Love them and comfort them, so there will be no need for them to look for comfort elsewhere.
Married believers are not to sexually deprive their spouses. While celibacy is right for the single, it is wrong for the married. The practice of deprivation may have been most common when a believer had an unsaved spouse. When we get married, we become one flesh and we are no longer two flesh. Husbands and wives should not be ashamed in the presence of their spouse. Their bodies belong not to one of them, but each belongs totally to the other.
By the marriage covenant, each partner is given the right over the spouse’s body for the satisfaction of the other.

1 Corinthians 7:5

Some in Corinth were trying to practice celibacy within marriage. Apparently this refraining from sex within marriage was a unilateral decision of one partner, not a mutually agreed-on decision (1Co_7:3-4). Such a practice sometimes led to immorality on the part of the other mate (1Co_7:5; cf. 1Co_7:2). Paul commanded that they stop this sort of thing unless three conditions were met: (a) The abstention from sexual intercourse was to be a matter of mutual consent on the part of both husband and wife. (b) They were to agree beforehand on a time period at the end of which normal intercourse would be resumed. (c) This refraining was to enable them to devote themselves to prayer in a concentrated way. The meaning of incontinency: without self-restraint, especially in regard to sexual activity
This is just saying for they two to comfort each other. They are not to refuse the closeness of husband and wife, unless they have agreed that they will refrain from personal contact, because they are fasting and praying.
The reason it is so important for the husband and wife to sleep together is because if they do not, their partner might stray to someone else for comfort. This is not just a physical togetherness with the husband and wife, but is a bond between them.
“That Satan temp you not”: After a “time” of abstinence say for pregnancy, an illness, separation or for prayer and fasting, sexual desires intensify and a spouse becomes more vulnerable to sinful desire.

1 Corinthians 7:6

Paul presented this possibility for temporary abstention from sexual intercourse in marriage as a concession if the preceding stipulations were met. He did not want his advice construed as a command. All of this Paul has said here, is something that Paul wanted to share with others who were going into the ministry. It is a little of a personal testimony of himself. He realized that he was freer to go and minister, since he did not have the obligation of family. He was a eunuch by choice to serve God. Jesus spoke of this only once in the following Scripture.
Matthew 19:12 "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from [their] mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive [it], let him receive [it]."
The suggestion that Paul was referring to marriage itself as a “concession” is unlikely in view of Gen_1:28, the first command to mankind in the Bible, and in view of Paul’s Jewish background where marriage was obligatory for all men except the sexually impotent (Mishnah Niddah 5.9).

1 Corinthians 7:7

Paul, however, did not want any stigma to be attached to the single state, so he affirmed, as he had done earlier (1Co_7:1), that celibacy was good. Paul, in fact, thought it to be an excellent state, and wished that everyone could see the benefits of celibacy from his point of view. He realized, however, that marriage or remaining single was more than a matter of weighing alternative benefits; each was a gift from God. Paul was a eunuch by choice, and he felt the call of the ministry could be better answered with fewer distractions that way. Not all men are called to be eunuchs that are ministers of God. This is a special calling.
Eunuch: Tertullian, a second century Church Father, described Jesus himself and Paul of Tarsus as spadones, which is translated as "eunuchs" in some contexts. However, these statements can be interpreted as a metaphor for celibacy, especially given the broad meaning of the term spado in Late Antiquity.
As a single person, Paul recognized the special freedom and independence he had to serve Christ. But he did not expect all believers to be single, nor all who were single to stay that way, nor all who were married to act celibate as if they were single. Both singleness and marriage are God’s gracious gifts.
It is God who enables each Christian to be married or single (cf. Mat_19:12).

1 Corinthians 7:8-9

What Paul wrote in 1Co_7:1-2 he now pointedly applied to those in Corinth who were unmarried but were sexually experienced (cf. “virgins,” 1Co_7:25). The unmarried included divorced persons of both sexes as well as widowers, with widows mentioned separately (cf. 1Co_7:39-40). For these Paul affirmed the suitability of remaining single, if they had the appropriate enablement from God (1Co_7:7). Paul was expecting the soon return of the Lord, and he thought there was not time to get entangled with anything that might slow down their work for the Lord. He is saying, if for any reason you are single, just stay that way and spend all of your time for the Lord.
This verse makes it clear that the unmarried and widows are distinct. His first suggestion is that they stay single because of its freedoms in serving the Lord.
Paul, no armchair theologian, anticipated the practical question of how a person can know whether he or she is able to remain celibate. Paul gave his judgment; if one lacks sexual control, he does not have the gift of celibacy, and should marry. This probably is speaking of those who want to be married, and are not, who are burned up with lust for the opposite sex. It would be much better to be married, than to be filled with lust.
The Greek tense indicates a command, since a person can’t live a happy life and serve the Lord effectively if dominated by unfulfilled sexual passion, especially in the Corinthian society.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Marriage and Divorce
Paul’s advice to married Christians is summed up in 1Co_7:24 after he addressed, in turn, individual Christians married to one another (1Co_7:10-11), Christians married to non-Christians (1Co_7:12-16), and other external physical and vocational states for Christians (1Co_7:17-23). What Paul writes to these believers was already made clear by Jesus during His earthly ministry. (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:5-8; Gen. 2:24; and Mal. 2:16)
Depart is a word used as a synonym for divorce, as indicated by the parallel use of the word “put away” in verse 11.
He is just saying, if you are married, stay married. You can still work for the Lord married. Divorce is of man and not of God. God made one woman for one man. They two are to be one. To divorce and marry another does not fulfill the wishes of God.
Paul’s direction to Christians married to one another was like that of Jesus Himself (Mar_10:2-12): as a rule, no divorce (cf. Mat_5:32). The difference in language between separate (chōristh̄nai) on the part of the wife (1Co_7:10) and divorce (aphienai) on the part of the husband (1Co_7:11) was probably due to stylistic variation as the word translated “separate” (chōrizō) was commonly used in the vernacular as a term for divorce. The union of husband and wife is to be a permanent arrangement. It is not to be like in our society today, jumping from one husband to the other. A person should not get a divorce for just any little whim. The Lord has made provision for those to get a divorce from the unfaithful spouse.
This is saying that if a Christian divorces another Christian except for adultery, neither partner is free to marry another person. They should reconcile, or at least remain unmarried.
When problems occurred in a Christian marriage, the resolution was to be sought in reconciliation (cf. Eph_4:32), not in divorce.

1 Corinthians 7:12-13

The rest referred to Christians who were married to non-Christians. Jesus, in the course of His ministry, never had addressed this issue (cf. 1Co_7:10, 1Co_7:25). But Paul, with no less authority (cf. 1Co_7:25) did. Some divorces may have been initiated because of the command of Ezra to the Israelites in Jerusalem after the Exile (Ezr_10:11) to divorce themselves from pagan spouses. Paul affirmed that the same principle should operate in a believer-unbeliever marriage as in a marriage of two Christians: as a rule, no divorce. A Christian husband must not divorce (aphietō) an unbelieving wife, and a Christian wife must not divorce (aphietō) a non-Christian husband. “To the rest”: Those not covered by the instruction of verses 10-11. This is a simple way of saying that Jesus had not spoken on this and God had not previously given revelation on the matter, as Paul was then writing. Apparently some Christians felt they should divorce their unsaved spouses, to live celibately or marry a believer.
The Lord had taught from the beginning not to be unequally yoked with those of unbelief. They should not have married a non believer in the beginning. This house would have to be a house of confusion. One believing and the other does not, leaves a separation between them. It is possible, in time that this circumstance could change. If you love them enough to put up with the divided house, then Paul is saying, it is alright to stay. Marriages with mixed belief seldom last.


1 Corinthians 7:14

Divorce was to be avoided because the Christian spouse was a channel of God’s grace in the marriage. Within the “one flesh” relationship the blessing of God which came to the Christian affected the family as a whole (cf. Jacob in Laban’s household [Gen_30] and Joseph in Potiphar’s [Gen_39]; also cf. Rom_11:16). It is in this sense that the unbelieving spouse was sanctified and the children were holy. This does not mean that an unbeliever will go to heaven, because their spouse is saved. Sanctified in this instance, would be made clean. Not by the wife, but in the wife. This really is not speaking of the child being saved in infancy, but is speaking of not having any curse of unbelief on the child from birth. This child would not be a bastard child, but would be of a union made acceptable to God through marriage where one parent is a believer. This cleanliness is of a ceremonial nature and is speaking of the family as being a Christian family, because one is a believer.
The sanctification is matrimonial or pertaining to family, not personal or spiritual and means that the unsaved partner is set apart for temporal blessing because the other belongs to God. One Christian in a marriage brings grace that spills over on the spouse, even possibly leading them to salvation.
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.

1 Corinthians 7:15

However, there were exceptions to the rule of no divorce. If the unbeliever insisted on a divorce, he was not to be denied (the word trans. leaves is chōrizetai, the verb used in 1Co_7:10). Should this occur, the Christian was not bound to maintain the marriage but was free to marry again (cf. 1Co_7:39). This would be covered in the spiritual adultery above. Moses permitted divorce, so that there might be peace in the family. The very fact that two people could not agree in their worship would be a very unsettling factor in a family. These two could not be one, if they had such varying commitments.
“Let him depart”: A term referring to divorce. When an unbelieving spouse cannot tolerate the partner’s faith and wants a divorce, it is best to let that happen in order to preserve peace in the family (Rom. 12:18). The bond of marriage is broken only by death (Rom. 7:2), adultery (Matt. 19:9), or an unbeliever’s leaving.
“Not under bondage”: When the bond is broken in any of those ways, a Christian is free to marry another believer. Throughout Scripture, whenever legitimate divorce occurs, remarriage is assumed. When divorce is permitted, so is remarriage. By implication, the permission for a widow to remarry (verses 39-40; Rom. 7:3) because the “bond” is broken, extends to this case where there is no more “bondage.”
Paul did not say, as he did in 1Co_7:11, that the Christian in this case should “remain unmarried.” (However, some Bible students say that not being “bound” means the Christian is not obligated to prevent the divorce, but that it does not give freedom for remarriage.)
The second part of this verse in which Paul affirmed that God had called Christians to live in peace could be understood as a separate sentence. The same conjunction (de, but) which introduced the exception at the beginning of this verse was repeated by Paul, probably to indicate another shift in thought and a return to the main point in this section, namely, the importance for the Christian spouse of preserving the marriage union and living “in peace” with the non-Christian. (For a similar digression in a discourse on the general rule of no divorce, see Mat_19:9.) Paul’s point was that a Christian should strive to preserve the union and to keep the peace, but with the understanding that marriage is a mutual not a unilateral relationship.

1 Corinthians 7:16

Paul then stated a second (cf. 1Co_7:14) and crucial reason why a Christian should stay married to a non-Christian. God might use the Christian mate as a channel of blessing (cf. 1Co_7:14), leading ultimately to the point where the unbelieving spouse would believe the message of the Cross and experience salvation (cf. 1Pe_3:1-2). I have always believed that if a person lives a good Christian life around anyone [especially their spouse}, it would have great influence on the non-believer. That, in my opinion is what this is saying. Love them with the love of the Lord and live peaceably with them, and they will be won over to the Lord by your great devotion to your Lord.
Some may have been reluctant to let go of their unsaved spouse, who wanted out and was creating discord in the home thinking they could evangelize the spouse by hanging on for the purpose of seeing that one converted. Paul says there are no such assurances and it is better to divorce and be at peace (v.15), If the unsaved partner wants to end the marriage that way.

1 Corinthians 7:17

The general principle which Paul affirmed in dealing with decisions affecting a Christian’s marital status was again stated three times (1Co_7:17, 1Co_7:20, 1Co_7:24; cf. also 1Co_7:26): in brief, “stay put.” The call to conversion radically altered an individual’s spiritual relationship but need effect no changes at all in physical relationships that were not immoral. Paul is saying in this, if you were married when you were called, stay married. Serve God wherever you were when the Lord called you. Do not leave your spouse to serve the Lord. If you were called to the ministry while you were single, consider staying single and devoting all of your time to the Lord. Paul is saying, if you were called in a certain circumstance, who is he to question God in that? Just serve where you were called, and how you were called.
Discontent was prevalent among these new believers in the Corinthian church. As noted up to this point (v.1-16), some wanted to change their marital status, some were slaves who wanted to be free, and some used their freedom in Christ to rationalize sinning. In a general response to that, this passage plainly repeats the basic principal that Christians should willingly accept the marital condition and social situations into which God has placed them and be content to serve Him there until He leads them elsewhere.
This is the first verse of three Paul states the principal of contentment which is required of all Christians. The other two are verses 20 and 24.

1 Corinthians 7:18-19

The external operation of circumcision or the obliteration of the same (cf. [apocryphal] 1 Maccabees 1:15-16) was a matter of little importance compared with keeping God’s commands, which for Paul meant being controlled by the Spirit (cf. Rom_2:25-29). With Judaizers demanding all Gentile believers in Christ to be circumcised (Gal. 5:1-6), and with some Christian Jews wanting to disassociate with Judaism and thus having a surgery to become uncircumcised (as addressed in rabbinic literature), Paul needed to clarify the issue by saying that neither was necessary. Figuratively, the idea is that when a Jew became a Christian, he was not to give up his racial and cultural identity in order to appear like a Gentile. Likewise, a Gentile was not to become culturally like a Jew. Culture, social order and external ceremony have no bearing on spiritual life. What matters is faith and obedience. This is just explaining that it is not the doctrine of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to keep the law of Moses. If a person is not circumcised, then let him stay that way. If he was acceptable to God, then why should the people put extra restrictions on him? Of course, if a person is already circumcised before he receives the Lord, that is alright too. Accept them the way the Lord accepted them. Circumcision was part of the law which Jesus fulfilled on the cross. Sacrificing of any kind after the crucifixion of Jesus would have been saying that Jesus' sacrifice was not enough. You can see why all of this sacrificing was stopped.
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1 Corinthians Chapter Seven - Part One
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