Chapter 5


  Dispensational Position of I Corinthians 7  
  To Remain Single or Marry?  
  Equal Responsibility for the Husband and Wife  
  Responsibilities of Widowers and Widows  
  Christian and Jewish--Gentile Marriages  
  Present Necessity--To Abide in One's Calling  
  Responsibilities of the Married and Unmarried  
  Father and Virgin Daughter  
  Widow--To Remain Single or Remarry?  
  I Corinthians 7 And Its Relevance Today   

Sexual ethics are just as important today as they were in the days of the Apostle Paul.  This one chapter of I Cor 7 deals with every category within the Christian scheme, be it single, married, divorced or widowed.  Before examining these sexual ethics we must understand the position of this chapter relative to the entire Epistle and then the Epistle's dispensational position relative to the Apostle Paul.

The mixed culture within the city of Corinth consisted primarily of dispersed Jews and pagan Gentiles.  This chapter falls within a section in which Paul addresses questions written to him (chapter 7:1 through 8:13).  It follows a section containing things that Paul had heard and that he addresses in chapters 5:1 through 6:20, which deal specifically with physical fornication (incest and harlotry).  These sections set the stage for chapter 7, and deal specifically with Christian sexual conduct.

- Dispensational Position of I Corinthians 7 NOTE -

At this juncture, it is essential to give a brief overview regarding the chronological order of the Pauline Epistles.  We use the term "essential" because this chapter cannot be taken out of its dispensational context.  If so, its truth will be lost and its wisdom wrongly applied.  We use the term "brief overview" as that is all time and space would permit us to do.  The concept of dispensations is both vast in its scope and vital in its application.  Indeed, all truth is dispensational and must be "rightly divided" in that context.

Having stated the importance of dispensational truth, let us glean over the chronological order of the Pauline Epistles.  The earlier Pauline Epistles would consist of I and II Thess, Gal, I and II Cor and Rom, respectively (for the sake of argument, we will not deal with the Epistle to the Heb regarding its authorship here).  These Epistles were written during the time covered by the Book of Acts.  The later Pauline Epistles or sometimes-called Prison Epistles consist of Eph, Phil, Col, II Tim and Philem.  Since these epistles were written following the period covered by the Book of Acts, they may also be called "post-Acts" Epistles.  In addition, Paul also wrote I Tim and Titus.

Jesus Christ ministered principally to the people of Israel (the Judeans) known also as the lost sheep of the House of Israel and "the circumcision" (see Matt 15:24; John 10:11,15; Rom 15:8).  His work was geared toward achieving the repentance of the nation of Israel (Matt 4:17; Mark 6:12; Luke 13:3, 5).  Instead of Israel repenting at the voice of their king, they crucified Him on a tree (Matt 26:2, 27:22-35; Mark 15:15-27; Luke 23:23, 33; John 19:16; Acts 2:36, 4:10; I Pet 2:24).  Though they rejected His life and ministry, it was the same Jesus who asked the Father in His dying hours, "… : forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34).  Following this, the FATHER's re-offering of the kingdom is given to the nation of Israel.  Had they repented, their Christ would have reappeared to collect them up as a body in Christ (not to be mistaken as the Body of Christ).  These truths add to the significance of Peter's address in Acts 2-4 regarding repentance and the many Old Testament references and prophesies yet to be fulfilled.  The book of Acts is a historical record of this reoffering of the kingdom to Israel.  That re-offering focused primarily on reaching the dispersed Judeans.  For the most part, the nation was given an opportunity to change its mind (repent) about Jesus being the Christ.  As Peter and the twelve started their mission in Jerusalem, they eventually would reach out to the dispersed Jews in the surrounding nations.  The Apostle Paul plays a significant role from Acts 9 onward.  As Peter was to the Circumcision, Paul would be to the Un-circumcision.  Paul is the one who would be the vital means of reaching the Gentiles after the nation of Israel refused to change its mind.

Throughout the book of Acts, even after Paul's involvement, it was the Judeans who were approached first with the message of repentance.  The Gentiles came in secondarily, under the blessing of the Judeans.  Israel had been the chosen nation by God (Gen 35:9-12; 46:1-4; Ex 19:3-6; II Sam 7:22-26), and the Gentiles were given entrance with the Judeans during the Acts period because of the nation of Israel.  This reality tints the earlier Pauline Epistles and provides a gauge or standard which will answer many questions that arise in these epistles concerning "the Jew, and also to the Greek [Gentile]."  It sets these Acts Epistles in a totally different light when compared to the Prison or post-Acts Epistles.  As the dispensational variations surface in I  Cor 7, we will note them and show their relevance in relation to our dispensational position.  There is much truth still applicable today, but there is some which is not because of the dispensation to which it was principally written.  At the end of the book of Acts, we see the formal close of the previous Pentecostal dispensation, Paul's imprisonment and the ushering in of a new dispensation.  This dispensation is the one in which we live, the Grace Administration, concerning the Mystery of the One Body of Christ.

Acts 28:23-28  And when they [the Jews] had appointed him [Paul] a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.  (24) And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.  (25) And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost of Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet unto our fathers,  (26) Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:  (27) For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  (28) Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

This is the formal pronouncement and close of the Pentecostal dispensation.  It brought in "the salvation of God unto the Gentiles," in order "to make in himself [Jesus] of twain [Jew and Gentile] one new man."  Therefore, we have "the dispensation of the mystery: which is his body [the Body of Christ], the fullness of him that filleth all in all" (see Acts 28:28, Eph 2:15, 3:2-6 and 1:28).

- To Remain Single or Marry? -

I Cor 7:1  Now concerning the things whereof you wrote unto me;  It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

The word for "good" is the Greek kalon from kalos and denotes that which is useful, noble or praiseworthy.  It is that kind of goodness that others can immediately see to be good as it is manifested to them. 58  In other words, Paul supposes that the Cor wished to touch a woman, and that, he says, is not good.  Why?  The same Greek word is found in the LXX of the Old Testament.

Eccl 3:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

The word "beautiful" is the Greek kalos.  But notice that every thing is beautiful "in his time."  The word "time" is the Hebrew "'eth" and is used of a particular point in time; not time in general.  Examples are found in Gen 8:11 ("evening"); Gen 18:10 ("time of life"); Gen 21:22 ("at that time"), etc.  It is also in Eccl 3:1 ("a season and a time") and Eccl 3:17 ("a time…for every purpose").  In order for something to be "good", it has to be "in its time."  If it is not in "its time", it is not "good."  This is significant because of the dispensational context of 1 Cor 7.  Paul is not saying that it is never "good" or beautiful to touch a woman.  On the contrary, GOD gave the woman to be with the man (see Gen 2).  But in this particular circumstance or dispensation, Paul is stating that it is not "good."

We are beginning to see the outworking of the dispensational context here.  We won't delve into it too much at this point.  We'll let the chapter develop a little further.  Do note that the word "good" or kalos occurs elsewhere in this same chapter; vs 8 ("good…abide even as I"); vs 26 ("good for the present distress").

The word "touch" is the Greek haptomai and means to attach or apply oneself to as in a physical embrace.  It is used in the sense of applying oneself carnally to and, therefore, to have sexual intercourse with.  This is the only usage of this word in the New Testament used in this manner.  It can be seen in the Greek version of the Old Testament (the LXX or Septuagint) implying sexual touching (see Gen 20:4, 6; Prov 6:29).  The wording in 1 Cor 7 is a euphemistic expression.  "Woman" is the Greek gunaikos, meaning an adult female, whether a virgin, married or widowed.59  It was good, noble or praiseworthy at this time for a man not to wish or desire to have sex with a woman, or more properly, marry (cp. vss 2, 3).  The statement is made for the need they had to spread the gospel of repentance.  The New International Version, which translates it thus, shows this:  "It is good for a man not to marry."  Here in the very beginnings of I Cor 7, we have a dispensational influence that will set the theme for the immediate context of the whole chapter.  It was very much a requirement, because of the necessity to preach or speak the gospel of repentance to the nation of Israel and its dispersed Judeans, that the apostles have as many helpers as possible to accomplish their objective.  Therefore, in light of II Cor 5:18-21 and the ministry of reconciliation, the primary concern was not the desire and attainment of marriage.  On the contrary, the communication of the message of repentance to a dispersed Israel was the primary objective during the Pentecostal dispensation.  The more single Christians there were, the more easily the gospel of repentance could be delivered to such a needful nation and this, Paul says would be good.

I Cor 7:2  Nevertheless, to avoid fornication [Gk. porneia], let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

"Nevertheless" is the Greek conjunction de and should be translated "but."  Paul is contrasting vs 2 with vs 1, which dealt with remaining single.  There is no corresponding Greek word for "to avoid."  However, there is the Greek preposition dia, which in the accusative case should be translated "on account of" or "because of."60   Paul says "but on account of, or because of, "fornication" let every [each] man have his own wife, and let every [each] woman have her own husband."  The answer not only provides a solution or alternative to fornication but also rejects polygamy or concubinage, for wife and husband are singular in tense.  Considering this, an examination of I Tim 3:2,12 and Titus 1:6 shows that bishops, deacons and elders are each to be the husband of "one wife."  This means they can only have one wife at a time (cp. Rom 7:2-3; I Cor 7:39).

- Equal Responsibility for the Husband and Wife -

I Cor 7:3  Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

The word "render" is the Greek apodidomi and means to give back or deliver over to as an obligation; hence, to pay over to another as a vow or that which is due.61   It conveys the concept of repayment (compensation) or reward (to give something in return).  What compensation would the husband deliver to the wife and vice versa?  The vs says, "due benevolence."  The Critical Greek texts read "the debt" or "the due" (Gk. opheilo).  The word opheilo is from the root ophelos which means advantage or profit (1 Cor 15:32; James 2:14,16).  What benefit or profit is Paul speaking about that would be "owed?"  Consider this, when you "owe" someone, you have the obligation to pay.  You don't choose whether or not you will repay the debt; you are expected to do so (see Matt 18:23-34).  One's sexuality was not designed to be a tool or weapon that is wielded against your spouse in order to control him or her.  Rather, sexual fulfillment is the benefit that you owe and are expected to repay to your spouse as a part of the marital commitment.

That which is "due" to the respective spouse is the sexual fulfillment within the marital relationship.  It is the responsibility and obligation of the husband to repay sexual satisfaction to the wife in their marriage.  The same is true of the wife in relation to her husband.  If sexual satisfaction is not repaid, the spouse will fall short of "rendering the debt" which is fulfilled through the marital sexual relationship.  The NIV reads: "The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband."

I Cor 7:4  The wife hath not power [Gk. exousia, delegated authority giving one the right or liberty to do something62] of her own body, but the husband: and likewise the husband hath not power [exousia] of his own body, but the wife.

The husband and wife no longer have exousia or independent control over their own bodies in the marital relationship.  The word for "power" also deals with the concept of mastery.  You no longer rule your own body sexually but allow your spouse to exercise the control.  The word "body" is the Gk. soma and refers to the body, as it would be used in a sexual relationship (cp. 1 Cor 6:13,16,18; 7:34).  Note that Paul is not talking about the "mind" but the "body"; that vehicle for fulfilling the sexual desire of the man and woman in a marital relationship.  There is no control exercised over the mind of your spouse.  Paul is not suggesting some form of mental abuse or badgering of your spouse to get them to perform sexually.  Instead, he is saying that they should willingly give themselves to a physical relationship that serves to meet the sexual needs of each other.

When Paul speaks of the "body", he wasn't just saying "her body" or "his body," he includes the Gk. word idios.  This word means that which belongs to oneself; individual or private.  This is used to emphasize the fact that once you have entered the commitment of marriage, that which once belonged solely to you now belongs to another for their use.  You don't decide independently whether or not to give yourself sexually to your spouse (contrast this with the idea of abstaining with "consent" in 1 Cor. 7:5).   Within the relationship of a marriage, each spouse can exercise what we call the right of sexual permission.   In other words, they have the freedom to initiate a sexual relationship with their spouse as necessary in order to satisfy their sexual requirements.  To "defraud" (spoken of in vs 5) is to refuse the sexual advances of a spouse.

Remember we stated in Chapter 1 ("Marriage") that the husband and wife become "one flesh."  This implies that they function in a harmonious fashion.  For example, just as they "consent" to abstain from sexual relations, so they should work together in satisfying each other's sexual needs.  As the body is carried in the direction it needs to go, so likewise, a couple should move together in the direction that the relationship require.  Through nurturing and mutual understanding, the two can come to appreciate each other's sexual thermostat and work to meet the requirements of the same.  There are times when more or less sexual activity is needed.  A demonstration of this can be found in Eccl as there is a "time" for all things.

Eccl 3:5 …a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

This is the reality of daily living.  It should not be a question of enough sex or forced abstinence in a marriage.  Rather, the two should function as a whole; they become one flesh.  This can be clarified by looking in Ephesians.  Eph 5:29 states, "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, …"  The husband is instructed in Eph 5 to love his wife as he does himself.  Would a husband ever do anything to injure or hurt himself?  We think not!  Likewise, a woman is instructed in Eph 5 to respect her husband, to show consideration and high regard for him.  Might she be moved to esteem his needs more than her own when he shows his love for her?  These fundamental concepts flow into every aspect of the marriage and sex is by no means excluded.

Independence is the realm of the single individual.  This is not the case for the married couple.  The INdependence of a single life is exchanged for the INTERdependence of a married one.  It is this concept of mutual dependence that separates the single from the married and establishes the foundation for the concluding "I do" of the marriage vows.  This interdependence is aptly demonstrated in Ecclesiastes.

Eccl 4:9-12  Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.  (10) For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.  (11) Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?  (12) And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Married couples that act independently move in their own direction and can never expect to satisfy each others needs.

Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed [Hebrew ya'ad; to fix or set; betroth]?

The two who walk together must be "fixed" or "set" with respect to their direction.  The idea of "betroth" in the Hebrew ya'ad is revealed in the concept of commitment.  The two must be committed to the same goal or end point in order to arrive there together.  Such is true in our daily walk.  The mind and feet must both be fixed toward achieving the same goal in order to walk.  To meet each other's sexual needs, a couple must exercise this same understanding.

I Cor 7:5-6  Defraud [Gk. apostereo, to rob or steal; hence, to deprive someone of something63 ] ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that [in order that] ye may give yourselves to fasting and [omit "fasting and" according to Critical Greek Texts] prayer; and come together again, that [in order that] Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.  (6) But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

The English word "defraud" is derived from the Latin meaning to cheat from.  The selection of this word may have stemmed from the use of defraud as it relates to the practice of law; an intentional deception that results in a person relinquishing a legal right.  The right here has to do with that of sexual relations.  A spouse may use deception as a means of convincing the other to give up their "rights" in this particular area of a marriage.  "Defraud" in the Greek is apostereo, which means to deprive, hold back, or diminish.  It is the act of withholding or depriving your spouse of the sexual fulfillment due them as a result of their marital commitment to you.  This is "the debt" we previously spoke of that comes with the responsibility of a marital commitment.  The positive instruction "render unto" was handled in vs 3.  This is the negative "defraud ye not."  Both sides of instruction are dealt with.  "Consent" is the only manner in which you may avoid "defrauding" your spouse.  "With consent" is the Greek ek sumphonos, meaning, metaphorically, out of or out from harmonious agreement. 64  Sexual abstinence for a married couple should only occur because of a mutual agreement and only for a time (season).

The words "ye may give yourselves" are the Greek scholazo, meaning to devote or give one's time to something. 65  The Greek root of this word is schole from which we get the English word "school" (see Acts 19:9).  The idea being conveyed is the cessation of labor or activity so as to have leisure time for the pursuit of learning.  Indeed, it is profitable for a husband and wife to periodically depart from sexual activity to allow time for spiritual learning and growth.  Prayer is essential in the life and growth of any married couple.  However, in order to avoid "defrauding" the other, it must be by mutual consent.  The cessation of sexual activity is only for a portion of time for it says, "and come together again."  A husband and wife can't suspend their sexual relationship indefinitely without introducing a potential danger.  The caution is given in the remainder of the vs, "in order that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency."  Married couples should resume their sexual relationship so Satan does not tempt them because of their incontinence or lack of self-control. 66  Each person has a sexual thermostat that regulates his or her sexual desires.  Some need sexual activity more or less frequently than others.  The only safe guard that any couple has to maintaining their sexual faithfulness and avoiding the temptation to look for sexual fulfillment elsewhere when abstinent is "mutual consent" and only "for a time."  The NIV gives a more precise translation:

Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.  Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The "Permission" (Gk. suggnome) in vs 6 means to concede or indulge.  Paul is giving way to those who desired to marry.  The "present distress" (vs 26) or present necessity would demand that the primary goal should be to hold forth the gospel of repentance.  This is the dispensational character of the epistle.  The time of its writing and its address occurred during the Book of Acts.  Those without the responsibility of marriage could more effectively minister during that call to repentance.  Paul adds, "and not of commandment." "Commandment" is the Greek epitage and is the same word used in vs 25 speaking of the commandment of the Lord.  It means to give an injunction or enjoin upon someone as an order or charge.  Paul is not commanding people to marry and observe periodic abstinence (vss. 3-5).  He indulges those who have the "need" to marry as revealed in the next several vss.  This doesn't exclude the point he made in vs 2 of marriage being the alternative to fornication.  Fornication is never the right thing to do (as he demonstrated in previous chapters in this epistle).  Paul does acknowledge the context of this epistle as it relates to the Book of Acts and its dispensational character.

- Responsibilities of Widowers and Widows -

I Cor 7:7  For I would that all men [Gk. anthropos: persons] were even as I myself.  But every [each] man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

The words "For I would" are the Greek thelo de and are more accurately rendered, "But I wish."  Using the adversative conjunction "but," Paul is contrasting the concession for marriage with his current marital status.  The word "were" is the Greek einai and is a present active verbal form of "to be." 66  Paul desired that all men be as he was at this time; single.  The "proper gift" is the Greek idios charisma, meaning one's own gift of grace or favor.67   This "gift" is specific to the individual person as the adjective idios indicates that which belongs to oneself.  That which is given by GOD as a "gift" is the grace to keep one's libido under control and remain single like Paul.  The "gift" needed was the ability to remain single so as to herald forth the gospel of repentance.  That is why Paul said, "I would that all men were even as I myself." But not every individual has that "gift" and this Paul acknowledged.

The concept of self-control also enters into the arena as seen in vs 9.  The libido is the influence of a person's body upon their mind.  Self-control is the influence of the person's mind upon their body.  Paul goes on to teach that there is a relationship between these two.  If one has a strong libido but is weak in self-control, he or she will "need" to marry.  However, if they have a weak libido and a strong degree of self-control, they are able to remain single.

I Cor 7:8  I say therefore to the unmarried [masculine] and widows [feminine], It is good [Gk. kalon, see vs 1] for them to abide even as I.

The word for "widows" is the Greek cherias or, in lexical form, chera and is derived from the Indo-European root gag, meaning forsaken or left empty.  Thus, the word originally came to mean a woman without a husband and therefore not only applied to a widow, but also a woman living without a husband. 68   However, in its biblical usage, the Greek word chera was used specifically of one bereft of a husband.

Luke 4:25-26  But I tell you of a truth, many widows [Gk chera] were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;  (26) But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow [Gk chera].

This is a reference to an incident recorded in the Book of 1 Kings.

1 Kings 17:9  Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there:  behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

The Septuagint uses the same Greek word chera for "widow" in this verse.  It is the Hebrew word 'almanah which refers to a wife who is separated from her husband by death.  In fact, it is well distinguished from other categories of separated women.

Gen 38:11  Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow [Hebrew 'almanah, Gk chera] at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did.  And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.

Ex 22:22-24  Ye shall not afflict any widow [Hebrew 'almanah, Gk chera], or fatherless child.  (23) If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;  (24) And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows [Hebrew 'almanah, Gk chera], and your children fatherless.

Lev 21:14  A widow [Hebrew 'almanah, Gk chera], or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.

Lev 22:13  But if the priest's daughter be a widow [Hebrew 'almanah, Gk chera], or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father's house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father's meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof.

Num 30:9  But every vow of a widow [Hebrew 'almanah, Gk chera], and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.

The word for "unmarried" is the Greek agamos, meaning those without nuptials, and is used four times in I Cor 7 (vss 8, 11, 32, 34).  Three of the four occurrences use the word of those separated from a spouse.  Single and divorced men and widowers (the one group that Paul does not address at any other place in this Epistle) would fit into the category of unmarried, for they are without nuptials.  However here, Paul does not address the counterpart of the single or divorced man, that being the single or divorced woman.  Instead, he addresses "widows."  Elsewhere in this chapter, he addresses the single man and woman and those who are divorced and even the widow receives mention again at the end of chapter 7.  Paul states that it is "good" for all of them to "abide" or remain even as he.  The word "good" is the same Greek word as used in vs 1 and the same argument would apply here, the present necessity.  Paul is stressing the need for single individuals, "even as I;" Paul's marital status at the time of writing this epistle.  The argument for Paul previously being married is immaterial as the statement, "abide even as I" dealt with being single at the time the epistle was written.  To restate, the importance was to have men and women who could "wholly" give themselves to the Lord and the present work.

I Cor 7:9  But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better [Greek kreisson, meaning more advantageous or superior69] to marry than to burn.

The words "cannot contain" are the Greek ou engkrateuomai, meaning "if they have not self-control." 70  The word for "self-control" is used in the Septuagint in Gen. 43:31 and 1 Sam. 13:12 and connotes the idea of holding back or restraining oneself.  We readily think of this when we talk of someone containing his or her emotions by exercising self-restraint or control.  Now, in the sexual realm, there is more here than just the idea of keeping one's "hands" off of another.  The libido can still produce a strong enough yearning or desire for physical sexual contact that one still "burns."  "Burn" is the Greek puroomai and is associated with the word pur, which is translated "fire" in Matthew 3:10 and is used, metaphorically, of emotions.71   The NIV translates it "burn with passion." In terms of sexual slang, when one gets "hot" or "horny", they are sexually excited or aroused.  The "burning" is the simmering of sexual desire that continues to occupy one's thoughts.  For those who continue to be distracted by sexual desires because they are unable to curb their thoughts and emotions, it is better to marry.  The advantage comes into play with respect to the ministry of reconciliation and heralding forth the gospel of repentance.  For one to marry and satisfy their sexual desire would enable them to be more effective than remaining single and being preoccupied with that burning.  (cp. I Tim 5:2-16).

- Christian and Jewish--Gentile Marriages -

I Cor 7:10-11  And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:  (11) But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

The word "depart" is the Greek chorizo, meaning to be put apart or separated; hence, to sever or dissociate oneself from someone else.72   It is the opposite of being "joined together" (Matt 19:6; Mark 10:9).  Paul is giving the "command" or order as given him by "the Lord."  "What therefore GOD hath joined together, let not man put asunder."  If the wife chooses to ignore the command and "depart", she is instructed to remain or abide as "unmarried" (Gk. agamos) or be "reconciled" to her husband.  The fact that "unmarried" is used of the separated wife does not mean that she "divorced" her husband.  Indeed, the Greek word chorizo does not mean divorce but separation or dwelling apart.  The word for "divorce" is the Greek apostasion (Deut 24:1,3 [LXX]; Isa 50:1 [LXX]; Jer 3:8 [LXX]; Matt 5:31; 19:7; Mark 10:4).  Paul does not use apostasion here but chorizo.  The Old Testament affirms that once a "bill of divorcement" was given, reconciliation was not available.(Deut 24:1-4).  In 1 Cor 7, the wife can be reconciled to her husband as they were only separated, and not dwelling together.  The word "reconciled" is the Greek katallageto from the root katallasso, meaning to change or exchange something on the part of one.  It is not a mutual change that reunites the wife with the husband.  Rather, it is the wife who changes her attitude toward her husband.  She is the one who chose to depart and she is therefore the one who chooses to reunite with him.  Interestingly, the word "reconciled" is a verb in the imperative mood.  As in English, the imperative mood in the Greek expresses the strongest command or request.  The wife who departs has two options; she can remain separated but not allowed to marry another or, she can change her attitude and be reunited with her husband.  Given the imperative command of being reconciled to her husband, it suggests that she ought to do that over remaining unmarried.  Often it is the petty things that push a wife and husband apart.  However, if they would only exercise a mature spiritual attitude, they might find that the seeds of experience that they plant together do yield their fruit and can only be enjoyed when they remain together. 

What is true for the one is as true for the other.  The husband is instructed not to "put away" his wife.  "Put away" is the Greek aphiemi, meaning to let go or abandon; hence, to divorce.73   Interestingly, the Greek word is also translated "forgive" (see Matt 6:12; Mark 4:12; Rom 4:7; 1 John 1:9).  We believe there is a dual message here.  The husband is instructed not to send away or divorce his wife.  Why would the husband seek to do so?  Christ spoke in the Gospels to the people of Israel regarding divorce (Matt 19:6-8; Mark 10:4-9).  He said it was their "hardness of heart" that motivated them to seek divorce.  Their heart was unyielding when it came to forgiving or pardoning their spouse.  If their wife didn't live up to the standards the husband had set, it was simple enough to send her away.  We dealt with the concept of divorce in Chapter 4 of this book.  The husband had two options available to him; either he could divorce his wife or, forgive her in whatever manner she transgressed and welcome her back into his heart.  As Paul states by command, he is not to put her away.  The only viable course of action is to exercise the spirit of forgiveness and keep the commitment he made before GOD to maintain his lifelong union with his wife.  Even though there is no specific directive for the Christian husband to remain unmarried if the wife chooses to "depart", it is to be understood.  If he should remarry (someone other than his wife), it would be unavailable for the wife to be reconciled to him.

I Cor 7:12  But to the rest [Gk. loipos, those left or remaining 74 ] 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

Paul is speaking to the remaining ones (the rest) who form a group or category that the Lord Jesus Christ did not address.  When Paul states "speak I" he is thus given the permission to speak his divine understanding on the revelation given to him by GOD through the Lord Jesus Christ.  The word "brother" is the Greek adelphos and its meaning, here, is a fellow Christian believer (cp. 1 Cor 5:11; 6:6; 9:5).75   The "wife that believeth not" is the Greek apistos gune or, more precisely, an unbelieving wife (cp. vs 14).

1 Cor 7:12-15  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 [Gk. meta, in company with] him, let him not put her away [Gk. aphiemi, divorce her; same as vs 11].  (13) And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with [Gk. meta] her, let her not leave him.  (14) 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.  (15) But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.  A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

Vs 12-15 address the many Christian/non-Christian marriages contracted during the Pentecostal dispensation when this Epistle was written and would, of necessity, require special instruction.  There were marriages in which one spouse became a Christian after the marriage began, resulting in a Christian/non-Christian martial union.  The word for "be pleased" is the Greek suneudokeo, meaning to consent or approve and therefore, to join in approval or agreement.76   It is the good or right thing that is agreeable and pleasing to both parties.77  Paul is telling the believing husband or wife that they don't have to divorce their spouse just because he or she is an "unbeliever."  Peter found himself in a similar situation in the Book of Acts (Acts 10:1-28) where he distinguishes between "clean" and "unclean."  GOD does not mandate that the two divorce because of their "Christian state" and answers why in vs 14.  Paul is stating that if the two desire to keep their marriage and dwell together, it's all right.

I Cor 7:13  And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, [Gk. apistos andra, an unbelieving husband] and if he be pleased [Gk. suneudokeo] to dwell with her, let her not leave [Gk. aphiemi, send away or divorce] him.

This is the converse of vs 12 with the same standards.  Note that the husband and wife have equal rights in relation to marriage before God and these are insisted upon throughout this chapter.77   However, the responsibilities of both as husband and wife differ according to God's design and plan for man and woman and the family they would become (cp. Gen 2:21-24; 3:16, 20; I Cor 11:7-12; Eph 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Col 3:18-21; I Thess 4:3, 4; I Tim 2:8-15; 5:1-16; Titus 2:2-6; I Pet 3:1-7).

I Cor 7:14  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified [Gk. hagiazo, to set apart or purify and therefore cleansed78] by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

Paul gives the rationale for the believing spouse not to divorce the unbelieving one if it is mutually good and right for them to dwell together.  The Greek word for "sanctified" is the same word that is translated "holy." The preposition "by" is the Greek en and means "in" or "within."  The unbelieving wife is made holy "in" her husband and the unbelieving husband is made holy "in" his wife.  The LXX uses this same Greek word in the Old Testament when speaking about the "altar" and its "vessels" (Ex 29:37; 30:29).  That which came into contact with those items was "sanctified."  When a man and woman marry, they become "one flesh."  It is the believing spouse that cleanses or purifies the unbelieving one as they are no longer two, but one flesh.  The implications of this concept of one flesh cannot be ignored.  This is why Paul spoke earlier about fleeing fornication (1 Cor. 6:15-20).  The distinction between these two instances is that Paul in 1 Cor 6 is speaking about an illegitimate relationship whereas here, he is speaking of a legitimate one (i.e., a husband and wife).  Now, why are the children "clean?"  It is because they are the offspring of that "one flesh" which is sanctified and holy.  The NIV translates the second half of the vs, "otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is [both parents being themselves holy], they [the children] are holy."

I Cor 7:15  But if the unbelieving [Gk. apistos] depart [Gk. chorizo, be separated; same as in vss 10,11], let him depart [Gk. chorizo].  A brother or a sister is not under bondage[Gk. douloo, to be enslaved or constrained]79 in such cases: but God hath called us to peace [Gk. in peace].

With the contrasting conjunction "but," Paul is contrasting vss 15 and 16 with vss 12-14.  Notice the emphasis on "unbelieving?"  He doesn't stress "wife" or "husband."  The point is that the believing spouse is no worse off if the unbelieving spouse chooses to leave.  Indeed, such a one could be a hindrance to the growth of the Christian in their walk with GOD.  It is the word and deed of the Christian that will either change the unbeliever or, on the account of their own conscience, drive them away.

There is no Greek word for "under" here.    A brother or sister is "not bound" or "not enslaved" in situations such as these.  Why?  GOD hath called us "in peace."  The opposite of peace is war (cp. Deut 20:12; Ps 120:7; Matt 10:34).  Peace is to be written all over the life of the believer (Rom 5:1; 8:6; 14:17,19; 15:13; 1 Cor 14:33; 2 Cor 13:11, etc.).  For a believing spouse to stay together with an unbeliever when such wants to be separated would only result in headache and tribulation for the believer.  For a believer to remain in peace, they must not be bound but set free from their marriage with the unbeliever.  This freedom, we believe, Paul declared for the benefit of the believer's conscience.

The best possible outcome for any marriage is when both husband and wife believe and act according to the directives of Scripture.  In the Pentecostal dispensation, Gentiles became exposed to those directives.  Some would choose to believe and some not.  In marriages where only one of the spouses believed the gospel, a unique situation was created.  In believing the scriptures, one would hold to the directives regarding the commitment of marriage and its life-long bond.  The other, not holding the scriptural directives as imperative but doing whatever they so desired, could choose to  "depart."  The unbeliever would not value the true "worth" of the commitment and marriage.

I Cor 7:16  For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

This vs helps to build an understanding of "if the unbelieving depart, let him depart" (vs 15).  The word "For" is the Greek gar and is a coordinating conjunction expressing a cause or reason.  This conjunction connects this vs with the previous one and helps to support the argument.  A key to this vs is the word "save" (Gk. sozo, to preserve safe from danger, loss or destruction80 ).  Paul is letting the believer know that even if they remain with the unbeliever, there is no guarantee that the unbeliever would ever receive and believed the gospel.  Paul is again declaring this to help clear the conscience of the believer.  In other words, "there is no need to blame yourself because the unbeliever left you.  Had you been able to convince them to stay even though they wanted to go, you don't know that they ever would have accepted the gospel."  For more information about unbelief refer to [Appendix D: Unbelief].

- Present Necessity--To Abide in One's Calling -

I Cor 7:17  But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.  And so ordain I in all churches.

This vs serves as a conclusion to the previous section and an introduction to the next (vss 18-24).  The placement of GOD and Lord should be transposed, as in the NIV; "each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him."  In other words, GOD calls, the Lord Jesus Christ assigns.  Believers were to live their lives as children of God, and fulfill their function assigned by the Lord as their contribution to a body in Christ.  Paul ordained or appointed this truth in all assemblies or churches of Christians.

The gist of vss 18-24 is as follows:  Paul uses examples of circumcision and servitude to illustrate the need for the Christian to abide in whatever marital state they were in when GOD called.  They were to use their position as bonded or free (i.e., married or single) to further the gospel of repentance to the dispersed people of Israel.

Within vss 25-28 is found the figure of speech parembole (or insertion).  It is a parenthetic insertion independent and complete in itself.81   It consists of vss 26-28a and can be seen as illustrated below.

I Cor 7:25-28  (25) Now concerning virgins [Gk. parthenos, a young marriageable woman; a virgin82 ] I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one who hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful ... .

((26) I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good [Gk. kalon] for a man so to be.  (27) Art thou bound unto a wife?  Seek not to be loosed.  Art thou loosed from a wife?  Seek not a wife.  (28a) 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.

Paul says that because of the current distress or necessity (holding forth the gospel of repentance and therefore the soon reappearing of the Lord), it would be good for listeners to remain as they are.  In vs 26, the words "so to be" are the Greek houtos einai and means "in this manner" or "thus."  It prepares the way for what follows in vs 27.

I Cor 7:27  Art thou bound [Gk. deo, to tie or bind as in a marital agreement83 ] unto a wife?  seek not to be loosed [Gk. lusis, a loosing from the marital state or release from nuptials; hence, divorce84 ].  Art thou loosed [Gk. luo, verbal form - same as lusis] from a wife?  seek not a wife.

If you are bound or married, you should not seek to be loosed.  If you have been loosed, do not seek a wife.

Vs 20, 21, 27  (20) Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.  (21) Art thou called being a servant?  Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.  (27) Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed.  Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

All three vss relate to the calling and present necessity.  The general desire or purpose, specific to that dispensation, was to fulfill the service of reconciliation.  This was accomplished by preaching the gospel of repentance to the nation of Israel according to the purpose of the Pentecostal dispensation.

I Cor 7:28  But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned.  Nevertheless such shall have trouble [Gk. thlipsis, pressure or distress; hence, a burden85 ] in the flesh: but I spare you

In contrast to being loosed (divorced) and seeking a wife (vs 27b), if you marry (or more properly remarry--cp. "married" in vs 39), you have not sinned.  The entrance of divorce with remarriage applies to vss 12-15 or to those who "divorced" prior to knowing the directives of scripture regarding marriage (meaning, prior to hearing the Word of GOD).  Vs 28 gives the permission to remarry after a divorce.  This would pertain to the believing spouses, after the unbelieving ones have departed (vss 12, 13) or where two unbelievers were married but divorced and now one has become a believer upon hearing the Word of GOD and wants to marry.  They make up or comprise those who are addressed in vs 28a, "but if thou marry [which would really mean remarry], thou hast not sinned . . . "

Paul refers to the present necessity when he speaks of "trouble in the flesh."  In light of all the responsibilities that were burdening the Christian believers, marriage would only bring on more responsibility, burden and pressure.  They were to complete their work (the national repentance of Israel) as "the time is short (vs 29)."  This would have been followed by the reappearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That is why he gives the following recommendation.

I Cor 7:29-31  But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;  (30) And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoice not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;  (31) And they that use this world, as not abusing it for the fashion of this world passeth away.

- Responsibilities of the Married and Unmarried -

Paul wards off any anxiety that may have arisen from his previous statements.

I Cor 7:32-35  But I would have you without carefulness [Gk. amerimnos, free from anxiety, concern or distraction86].  He that is unmarried [Gk. agamos] careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:  (33) But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.  (34) 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.  (35) And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

The term "unmarried" as it is used throughout this chapter refers to one separated from his or her spouse, be they widowed or divorced.  This person, because of his or her lack of a spouse is concerned about the "affairs (NIV)" of the Lord, and how to please Him.  The married man (vs 33) is concerned about the affairs of the world so that he may please his wife.  The word "careth" is the Greek merimnao meaning anxiety.  It is a preoccupation of the mind with something that produces anxiety.  It is the same word used in the discourse in Matt 6:25-34 ("take thought").  Consider the example of Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  Paul uses two similar terms in a contrasting fashion.  When he says, "I would have you without carefulness," the Greek word is amerimnos (the prefix "a" means without).  His desire is that they be without anxiety and yet each class, "unmarried" or "married" were to have "care" or anxiety toward their respective duties.  In the one sense, Paul wanted them to be without distraction with regard to what their responsibilities were.  On the other hand, he wanted them to know that whatever state they were in, "unmarried" or "married" they were to be preoccupied with fulfilling their duties.  The "unmarried" would be attendant to, concerned about, preoccupied with those "things that belong to the Lord" so as to "please the Lord."  The "married" would have the same frame of mind regarding the things "that are of the world" so as to "please" their spouse.

There is a gap in translating vss 33 and 34 in the KJV that makes this translation misleading.  According to Berry's Greek Interlinear, the NIV gives the better and more accurate translation.

But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world--how he can please his wife [Gk. gune]--(34) and his interests are divided.  An unmarried [Gk. agamos] woman or virgin [Gk. parthenos] 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.

There are three categories of women listed in vs 34.  First, the wife or gune, second, the unmarried (separated) woman or agamos, and third, the virgin or parthenos.  It is the separated woman and virgin who are concerned about the Lord's affairs.  This would include the separated woman in vss 10 and 11, the believing spouse who remains unmarried in vss 12-15 and those who were in that state when they heard the Word of GOD and believed.  Note that the "unmarried woman" and "virgin" were to be "holy both in body and in spirit."  The "body" is not excluded in being "holy" or separated to the Lord.  This stands in stark contrast to sexual improprieties that were occurring in Corinth (cp. 1 Cor 5 and 6) and agrees with what Paul taught them earlier regarding the "body" and "the Lord" (1 Cor 6:19, 20).

I Cor 7:35  And this I speak for your own profit [Gk. sumphero, advantageous or used in conjunction with others87]; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

The purpose or end of vss 32-34 is "for your own profit."  The advantage or usefulness for themselves and others would be "to attend upon the Lord without distraction."

- Father and Virgin Daughter -

I Cor 7:36-38  But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely [Gk. aschemoneo, unbecoming or to act unseemly88 ] toward his virgin [Gk. parthenon, fem. virgin89 ], if she pass the flower of her age [be of full age; beyond her prime90], and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.  (37) Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast in his heart, having no necessity [Gk. anagke, to arise from constraint91], but hath power [Gk. exousia, exercised authority; the power of choice] over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin doeth well [Gk. kalos, suitable or proper92].  (38) So then he that giveth her in marriage [Gk. ekgamizo, to give in marriage] doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better [Gk. kreisson, more advantageous or superior93].

These vss of Scripture have not entered the minds of many without debate.  In vs 36, the father ("man") acts "unseemly" toward his daughter ("virgin") by not allowing her to marry.  If she "passed the flower of her age" and he feels that she ought to marry, the father can do as he wills; let her and her betrothed get married.  If the father gives his daughter in marriage, he does the suitable and proper thing.  If the father keeps his daughter single by not giving her in marriage, he does better for in keeping her single, she is free from the many burdens and responsibilities of marriage. She is free to attend to the present necessity.

The father is granted the liberty to give his virgin daughter in marriage ("if she pass the flower of her age and need so require . . . "), without any fear of consequence ("he sinneth not").  He is also granted the liberty to keep his virgin daughter unmarried, but only by freedom of choice without the constraint or force of tradition ("having no necessity"--vs 37).  The father who does not give his virgin daughter in marriage does better (vs 38).  She is at liberty to minister in the movement of the gospel of repentance (Rom 16:1, 2, 6, 12) without the added responsibilities of marriage.

We believe the NIV text note supplies the best translation with the least difficulties.

If anyone thinks he is not treating his daughter properly, and if she is getting along in years, and he feels she ought to marry, he should do as he wants.  He is not sinning.  He should let her get married.  (37) But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind to keep the virgin unmarried--this man also does the right thing.  (38) So then, he who gives his virgin in marriage does right, but he who does not give her in marriage does even better.

- Widow--To Remain Single or Remarry? -

I Cor 7:39-40  The wife is bound by the law ["by the law" omitted in the Critical Greek Texts] as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married [remarried] to whom she will; only in the Lord.  (40) But she is happier if she so abide after my judgement: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

The chapter closes with a section regarding the widow.  Again, the reality of truth is that "the wife is bound . . . as long as [for such time as] her husband liveth."  It is evident the permanence of marriage among believers is only broken "if her husband be dead."  She may remarry, but the individual she chooses is to be a believing Christian.  The last vs reads in the NIV, "In my judgement, she is happier if she stays as she is--and I think that I too have this Spirit of God."  She is free to attend to the present necessity and take care of the affairs of the Lord that she may please Him.

- I Cor 7 And Its Relevance Today -

The entire chapter must be understood in light of dispensational truth, for without that understanding much is open to speculation.  We are not required to maintain the urgency that existed within the Pentecostal dispensation (preaching the gospel of repentance to the children of Israel), since the dispensation in which we live is one of grace (concerning the Mystery of the One Body of Christ) and contains its own urgency (preaching the gospel of Christ--Col 3:16; Phil 2:16).  With regard to the scriptures specifically addressed to us, there is no stress or importance upon being single today.  The conditions are not the same as we are in a different dispensation.  Indeed, dispensational distinction is vital with regard to truth.  There are some who will go so far as to teach that we should not marry today (1 Tim 4:3).  Regardless, we believe a marriage still possesses its instructional and institutional value.

Previous Section Table of Contents Next Section