“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote,,, ” (1 Corinthians 7: 1)
In chapter 7, Paul addresses matters regarding marriage and singleness from a letter the Corinthians wrote to him. He gives several thoughts about these topics to the Corinthians who have been experiencing a lot of marriage problems amongst them. The Corinthians had no deep understanding of uniform principles for marriage in Christ, and because of this problematic reality, some formulated the attitude that marriage and sexual relations are not good (v. 1). This would give way to thinking that the single or the sexually pure life is the noble life, placing a negative view towards marriage or even having sexual relations in one. Ultimately, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to seek such wisdom in God (the Divine Wisdom) in order to discern how one should act and carry him or herself.
PRINCIPLES FOR MARRIAGE (v. 1-16)
“…But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7: 7 – 9)
In verses 1 – 16, Paul addresses those who are married. He first addresses the Corinthian statement, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” by pointing out some proper principles. He affirms that singleness and celibacy is good but because of sexual immorality, men and women should get married (v. 2) because such sexual relations between men and women are good in the context of marriage (v. 3 – 4). In verses 7 to 9, Paul points not to his own wisdom but to God’s for ultimate guidance – living the single life with self-control is a gift from God, and therefore, the unmarried and the widowed should marry if they cannot practice self-control from sexual temptations. As good as celibacy can be, marriage is better if remaining single results in sexual temptation or lust because. One may think he or she would be more pure by witholding sex, but this may be the very thing that leads the person to lose him or herself to it and therefore, celibacy is a gift from God. It is better to marry and to carry out sexual relations in the proper God-given context of marriage than to “burn with passion.”
Paul addresses divorce to the married from verses 10 to 16, and he makes a distinction between instruction given by God and that given by himself. From God, Paul commands that the wife should not depart from her husband but if she does, she should remain unmarried or be reconciled to the husband, as the husband should also not divorce his wife (v. 11). Then Paul gives his own instruction, specifically to those who are married to unbelieving partners. It must be noted here that Paul is referring to the Corinthians who became Christians after marriage. This does not encourage or justify any unmarried believers to pursue marriage to an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6: 14 – 16). Paul instructs these believing Corinthians to remain and not depart from their unbelieving spouse (v. 12 – 13). He says that the believing partner will be an instrument of sanctifying influence on the unbelieving partner, and the children as well (v. 14). However, if the unbelieving one wants to leave the marriage, then let it be so because the believer is not bound to slavery since marriage should be one of partnership.
LIVE AS YOU ARE CALLED (v. 17 – 24)
“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” (1 Corinthians 7: 17)
Paul makes a very clear statement here with his overarching principle regarding marriage and singleness to all. He says that each person should walk in the path that the LORD has called – to live for God where you are right now. Every believer’s duty is to live according to our calling as bondservants of Jesus, not of men. We must be content in our placement (married, single, divorced, widowed, etc.) and walk in it, instead of thinking that living for God will happen once the placement changes.
THE UNMARRIED AND THE WIDOWED (v. 25 – 40)
“I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7: 35)
In light of Paul’s overarching principle from verses 17 to 24, Paul gives instructions primarily to those who are single here. He mentions the “present distress” and instructs the principle of “remaining where you are.” For the single, to remain so and for the married, to remain together. However, Paul elaborates on the great advantage of being single: full devotion to the LORD. Paul is not saying that being married versus remaining single is a matter of choosing between good and bad but rather, it is recognizing marriage will bring anxieties and attentions particular to its context (v. 33) but those who are unmarried can be preoccupied by things of the LORD (v. 34) more fully. Of course, Paul remains with his earlier exhortation to marry if self-control and falling to sin is at stake.
CONTENTMENT IN THE LORD AND HIS WISDOM
“…And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 7: 40)
Even with all that Paul addressed regarding singleness, marriage, divorce and sexual relations in this chapter, there is one common exhortation through them all – to be content in Christ in our placement and to seek His Divine wisdom in our walk with Him. We live by faith and not by sight, trusting that He is indeed the Divine Wisdom. Our present life is lived in the Spirit and we should not look to be hasty to change our post if we are not content, but rather inquire of the LORD and to walk in accordance with the Spirit.