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In 1Corinthians 7, Paul begins answering specific questions the Corinthians asked. After correcting their view that married people should be celibate, Paul addresses the widows and widowers, telling them both singleness and marriage are good gifts from God.
Then he addresses those considering divorce as a way to please God.
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Up to this point, Paul was responding to issues raised by the verbal report he received about the situation in Corinth. In 1Corinthians 7, Paul begins addressing issues which the Corinthians raised in a letter they wrote to him which we don’t have.
See: How many letters did Paul write to the Corinthians?
The phrase “now concerning” signals that Paul is answering a new question. We see it in 7:1, 7:25, 8:1, 12:1,16:1 and 16:12.
1Corinthians 7:7-11 is the middle of Paul’s response to a question the Corinthians asked about the place of sexuality within marriage.
The whole section is Paul’s response to the idea raised in 7:1 you must be celibate to be a better Christian and please God.
Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. – 1Corinthians 7:1
Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. 8But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. – 1Corinthians 7:7-11 NASB
- In my view, any interpretation which suggests that marriage is an inferior life choice does not fit the rest of Paul’s thought or Scripture.
- The “yet” is not in the Greek. It is added by the interpreters. I would omit it.
- “Gift” in 1Corinthians 7:7 does not refer to spiritual gifts as we think of them as supernatural abilities to serve God in a particular way. Rather I think Paul means simply something positive God has given me for His own purposes.
- Both marriage and singleness are good gifts from God.
- 1Corinthians 7:7 “I will that all men were even as I myself am”: I am happy to serve God as a single person and I wish that all were as content with their gift as I am.
- 1Corinthians 7:8 “the unmarried and widows”: In this context, I think Paul means widowers and widows.
- 1Corinthians 7:8-9: I think it is worthwhile for widowers and widows take advantage of the benefits of serving God while single, but they are free to marry if they so desire.
- 1Corinthians 7:9 “self-control”: Compare with 1Corinthians 9:25. Paul is talking about choosing to discipline your lifestyle to reach a goal.
- Paul’s point: I agree that remaining single as I am can be a good thing, but if you do not choose to discipline yourself for celibacy, then get married. What I don’t want you to do is remain celibate out of the wrong conclusion that it is somehow more pleasing to God, especially if you desire to be married.
7:10But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 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. – 1Corinthians 7:10-11 NASB
- In this context, Paul is not addressing the question: “Is divorce ever an option?” Paul is addressing married folks who have decided they should divorce in order to remain chaste.
- The context is a discussion with people who believe sexuality is spiritually inferior.
- 1Corinthians 7:10 “not I but the Lord”: You already have teaching from Jesus that tells you divorce is not the right option.
See: What did Moses command? Mark 10:2-12
- Divorcing so that you can be celibate is not the right choice.
- If you leave for the so-called lofty spiritual purpose of avoiding sexuality, then you should not marry someone else.
- If a wife left to pursue spirituality, and now she changed her mind, then she should reconcile with her husband, not marry someone else.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.
Next: 19 1Corinthians 7:12-24 To the rest
Previous: 17 1Corinthians 7:1-6 To the married
Series: 1 Corinthians: Pride & Prejudice in the church
Study: 1Corinthians Resources
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