I Corinthians 7:1-7



Probably the most difficult part of this chapter is discovering what the question the Corinthians asked Paul.  He doesn’t tell us what the question is, just the answer.  So we must look at the answer to discover the question.

It is very important to know that the overall subject of the chapter is worship, not marriage or sexual relations.  Years ago, I have having problems with this chapter.  I was pastoring at Salem Baptist Church at the time.  I asked your Grandpa Cecil about the meaning of this passage, and one of the first things he said to me was that the subject to the chapter was worship.  After I thought about it for a while, I discovered that was the truth, and that thought clarified what the chapter was all about.

In my studies of this chapter, I think the overall question was something like this:  “Paul, we know you are single and that God has greatly used you to serve Him and be a blessing to many people.  Marriage, in your case, isn’t good.  But the scripture tells us in Genesis 1:26-28 that God not only created a man, He also created a woman.  He told the first couple to be fruitful, to multiply and to fill the earth with people.  We take God’s command to the first couple as also applying to us.  This, of course, means a man must touch a woman, and a woman must touch a man.  But this is completely physical.  We are saved, yet at times there are feelings of physical necessity that come upon us, and we don’t know how to handle those feelings. We want to be spiritual in all things, but don’t understand how we can be both spiritual and physical at the same time.  How can we worship God and at the same time take care of these physical necessities?  Can you help us?”

The chapter seems to divide itself into three natural divisions.

1.      Verse 1-9 - Is it right or wrong to be married?

2.      Verse 10-24 - If one spouse is saved and the other is lost, should they remain married?

3.      Verse 25-40 - Should the unmarried (virgins) marry?

The overall subject of I Corinthians is worship and how the physical things of reproduction apply to worship.  I know some will object to this subject, but the whole of the Bible is about worshipping God.  Everything we do should be arranged around our worshipping God.


Verse 1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

It is good for a man to remain pure in both mind and body, to dedicate himself completely to God all the days of his life.  Life is very short, and is over before you know it.  Having a wife and children necessarily means your attentions will be divided from God by them.

Paul isn’t saying that marriage is bad, because he also said in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled...”  Paul admits that it is better in the present distress (this present troubled life, where Satan rules and sin abounds) to remain unmarried.

Verse 2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Nevertheless:  Even though Paul admits it is good and honorable to remain unmarried, there is nothing wrong with being married in this present troubled life, where Satan rules and sin abounds.  There are physical necessities of this body, necessities God has placed there for the propagation of the race, and for enjoyment of each other.  It is not wrong to recognize those necessities and fulfill them in proper order.

All down through the years, there have been those “religious” people who claim that celibacy is what God expects. Some religious organizations have been made celibacy mandatory.  And in those organizations, sexual crimes are on the rampage.  There have been other religious organizations that forced celibacy upon their congregations to the point there was no children being born, thus those groups faded away.  Other religious organizations have said they practiced celibacy, only to be discovered that their physical practices were in secret.

The way to keep the church pure and the individual lives pure is for every man to have his own wife and every wife to have her own husband.  They would satisfy each other in cleanliness.  There would be scandal in the church because of sexual improprieties.  Polygamy and divorce are not allowed, even though both are present in the church.  Both polygamy and divorce are allowed because people were saved in those conditions and they can’t go back and change what has happened in the past.  This is one reason the ministry has a qualification of having only one wife.  Not one wife at a time, or many wives all at the same time.

Verse 3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

The husband and wife are to care for the physical, mental, and emotional necessities of each other.  Paul doesn’t want married people to think they should disregard their marriage vows, or that they shouldn’t enjoy the company of their spouse.  There is nothing sacred about a couple who are married, yet live separately in the same house.

Verse 4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

Both the husband and wife lose the power of their own bodies when they are married. 

Verse 5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Sometimes it may be necessary for husband and wife to separate themselves for special purposes, but this is not the norm.  Separation will only be with the consent of both parties, and it won’t be for very long.  This passage indicates that the husband and wife should be separated from each other no longer than they would be separated from food.  For most people, this separation from food would last a very short time, but it is possible to live without food for a week.  Most of us have enough “stored up” to live a week.  : -) 

After the time of separation, it is necessary to come together again, lest Satan get an advantage of the situation by causing lustful thoughts and actions.  It is plain that Paul believed married people are to satisfy each other, and there is nothing wrong with so doing.

Verse 6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

It is hard to say whether this verse applies to verse 1-5 or to verse 7-9.  In either case, the advice is good and should be heeded.  There is no contradiction in either case.  It could be that Paul is referring only to verse 5.  It does seem to me that this verse refers more to verses 7-9 than to verses 1-5.

Paul declares that he has no Old Testament passage (most of the New Testament wasn’t written) to confirm these thoughts.  What he is saying, he is saying because it seems good to him.

I do not think this verse has anything to say about inspiration of the scriptures, as others have claimed.  Paul has been inspired of God to give his opinion, and he gives it with the complete permission of God.

Verse 7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.