1 Corinthians 7The apostle now proceeds to consider the subjects on which the Corinthian church had asked his instructions in their letter to him. The first is the question of marriage. In very early times, a disposition manifested itself in the church to make a virtue of celibacy.—It is good; it is in itself very well. This seems to have been said in concession to those who argued for celibacy, as in what follows he enjoins the married state on all. (v. 2.)
The meaning of the passage is, that they are not to nullify the marriage tie by living in separation.
Defraud ye not, &c.; that is, in respect to the obligations of the marriage state.—For your incontinency, to your incontinency, that is, to lead you into sin.
By permission, and not of commandment; that is, he does not absolutely require marriage in all cases. Those who desired to marry were at perfect liberty to do so; they were not to be forbidden. The antithesis is in v. 10, where he says that, if any were already married, they were absolutely required to continue in that state.
Even as I myself; that is, single. (See 1 Cor. 9:5.) The preference which Paul seems to express here for a single life, in the cases of those for whom such a life was safe, has been made by the Roman Catholic church the ostensible foundation of the rule by which they enjoin celibacy in the clergy. History, however, shows that the real ground on which that practice is sustained, is that, by such a system, a body of men is perpetuated in the various countries over which that church extends, who, being bound to the social community by few ties, are the more effective and subservient as instruments of ecclesiastical power. Unmarried priests are like unmarried soldiers, which every military commander prefers.
That believeth not; who is not a Christian.
Now are they holy; that is, the children of the church are holy, being brought within its pale by being of Christian parentage on either side.
Is not under bondage. The meaning seems to be that the Christian is not bound in such cases, that is, in those mentioned above (v. 12-14,) to sunder the domestic tie, but may live in peace with an unbelieving partner.
Hath distributed to every man; hath given him his lot.
Let him not become uncircumcised; let him remain a Jew. It was a great question in the early church, whether a Gentile convert must embrace Judaism as well as Christianity. A council was held at Jerusalem on this question, as described in Acts 15.
Care not for it; be not unhappy and depressed on account of it, that is, on account of your condition of bondage.—Use it rather; seek it, prefer it. Freedom in is better if you have opportunity to acquire it.
Be not ye the servants of men; a general caution addressed to all, against too great subserviency to human authority, suggested by the subject which the apostle had been discussing.
The present distress; time of distress, that is, of impending persecution and calamity. This expression indicates that the inclination of the apostle's mind towards a preference for celibacy, manifest in this chapter, had reference to the circumstances of danger and persecution peculiar to those times.—So to be; to be single.
Shall have trouble. Marriage would obviously increase the distress and suffering in a time of persecution.—I spare you; I wish to save you as far as possible from the sufferings to which you will be exposed.
Without carefulness; free from the anxious cares which, in such times as those, must attend the charge of a family.
Not that I may cast a snare upon you; expose you to temptation by constraining you to live unmarried.
That he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin; his virgin daughter; that is, that he wrongs her by putting a constraint upon her inclinations to enter into the marriage state. The general sense of the passage (36-38) is, that, if the father find the affections of a daughter so fixed, that to prohibit her marriage would be an injury to her, it is proper to allow the marriage to take place; though it would be better for her, in such a time of persecution and trial, if she would consent to remain single.
Only in the Lord; only to one who is a Christian. The Christian widow was not to marry a heathen idolater. It has sometimes been maintained that this direction forbids a Christian female, at the present day, to marry any one not truly pious; but this is a very wide extension of its meaning. As, in all Christian lands, and among all forms of communion, the young females who give evidence of sincere piety, far outnumber those of the other sex, and that from the influence of causes permanent and universal, the doctrine that they must not marry beyond the limit above prescribed, necessarily consigns a very large proportion of the females of the church, probably more than half, to celibacy. And as the human race is equally divided between the sexes, the celibacy of any number of Christian females must necessarily occasion the celibacy of an equal number of the other sex. It is easy to see, therefore, that such a rule, besides not being here enjoined, would greatly impede the extension and establishment of Christianity in the world. In fact, one of the most powerful means of its extension is the influence of a pious mother upon her children, in cases where her efforts are not aided by the coöperation of the father.
If she so abide; abide unmarried.
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