RPM, Volume 18, Number 23, May 29 to June 4, 2016

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical
Part 57

By Albert Barnes



First Corinthians CHAPTER 6

The main design of this chapter is to reprove the Corinthians for the practice of going to law before heathen courts or magistrates, instead of settling their differences among themselves. It seems that after their conversion they were still in the habit of carrying their causes before heathen tribunals, and this the apostle regarded as contrary to the genius and spirit of the Christian religion, and as tending to expose religion to contempt in the eyes of the men of the world. He, therefore, 1 Co 6:1-7, reproves this practice, and shows them that their differences should be settled among themselves. It seems also that the spirit of litigation and of covetousness had led them in some instances to practise fraud and oppression of each other; and he therefore takes occasion 1 Co 6:8-11 to show that this was wholly inconsistent with the hope of heaven and the nature of Christianity.

It would seem, also, that some at Corinth had not only indulged in these and kindred vices, but had actually defended them. This was done by plausible, but sophistical arguments, drawn from the strong passions of men; from the fact that the body was made for eating and drinking, etc. To these arguments the apostle replies in the close of the chapter, 1 Co 6:12-20, and especially considers the sin of fornication, to which they were particularly exposed in Corinth, and shows the heinousness of it, and its entire repugnance to the pure gospel of Christ.

Verse 1. Dare any of you. The reasons why the apostle introduced this subject here may have been,

(1.) that he had mentioned the subject of judging, 1 Co 5:13, and that naturally suggested the topic which is here introduced; and

(2.) this might have been a prevailing evil in the church of Corinth, and demanded correction. The word dare here implies that it was inconsistent with religion, and improper. "Can you do it; is it proper or right; or do you presume so far to violate all the principles of Christianity as to do it?"

Having a matter. A subject of litigation; or a suit. There may be differences between men in regard to property and right, in which there shall be no blame on either side. They may both be desirous of having it equitably and amicably adjusted. It is not a difference between men that is in itself wrong, but it is the spirit with which the difference is adhered to, and the unwillingness to have justice done, that is so often wrong.

Against another. Another member of the church. A Christian brother. The apostle here directs his reproof against the plaintiff, as having the choice of the tribunal before which he would bring the cause.

Before the unjust. The heathen tribunals; for the word unjust here evidently stands opposed to the saints. The apostle does not mean that they were always unjust in their decisions, or that equity could in no case be hoped from them, but that they were classed in that division of the world which was different from the saints, and is synonymous with unbelievers, as opposed to believers.

And not before the saints. Before Christians. Can you not settle your differences among yourselves as Christians, by leaving the cause to your brethren, as arbitrators, instead of going before heathen magistrates? The Jews would not allow any of their causes to be brought before the Gentile courts. Their rule was this: "He that tries a cause before the judges of the Gentiles, and before their tribunals, although their judgments are as the judgments of the Israelites, so this is an ungodly man," etc. Maimon. Hilch. Sanhedrim, chap. xxvi. § 7. They even looked no such an action as bad as profaning the name of God.

{*} "unjust" "unrighteous"


Verse 2. Do ye not know, etc. The object of this verse is evidently to show that Christians were qualified to determine controversies which might arise among themselves. This the apostle shows by reminding them that they shall be engaged in determining matters of much more moment than those which could arise among the members of a church on earth; and that if qualified for that, they must be regarded as qualified to express a judgment on the questions which might arise among their brethren in the churches.

The saints. Christians, for the word is evidently used in the same sense as in 1 Co 6:1. The apostle says that they knew this, or that this was so well established a doctrine that none could doubt it, It was to be admitted on all hands.

Shall judge the world. A great variety of interpretations has been given to this passage. Grotius supposes it means that they shall be first judged by Christ, and then act as assessors to him in the judgment, or join with him in condemning the wicked; and he appeals to Mt 19:28; Lu 22:30, where Christ says that they which have followed him should "sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." See Barnes "Mt 19:28".

Whitby supposes that it means that Christians are to judge or condemn the world by their example, or that there shall be Christian magistrates, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, Isa 49:23, and Daniel, Da 7:18. Rosenmuller supposes it means that Christians are to judge the errors and sins of men pertaining to religion, as in 1 Co 2:13,16; and that they ought to be able, therefore, to judge the smaller matters pertaining to this life. Bloomfield, and the Greek Fathers, and commentators, suppose that this means, that the saints will furnish matter to condemn the world; that is, by their lives and example they shall be the occasion of the greater condemnation of the world. But to this there are obvious objections.

(1.) It is an unusual meaning of the word judge.

(2.) It does not meet the case before us. The apostle is evidently saying that Christians will occupy so high and important a station in the work of judging the world, that they ought to be regarded as qualified to exercise judgment on the things pertaining to this life; but the fact that their holy lives shall be the occasion of the deeper condemnation of the world, does not seem to furnish any plain reason for this. To the opinion also of Whitby, Lightfoot, Vitringa, etc., that it refers to the fact that Christians would be magistrates, and governors, etc., according to the predictions of Isaiah and Daniel, there are obvious objections.

(1.) The judgment to which Paul in this verse refers is different from that pertaining to things of this life, 1 Co 6:3; but the judgment which Christian magistrates would exercise, as such, would relate to them.

(2.) It is not easy to see in this interpretation how, or in what Sense, the saints shall judge the angels, 1 Co 6:3. The common interpretation, that of Grotius, Beza, Calvin, Doddridge, etc., is that it refers to the future judgment, and that Christians will in that day be employed in some manner in judging the world. That this is the true interpretation is apparent, for the following reasons.

(1.) It is the obvious interpretation—that which will strike the great mass of men, and is likely, therefore, to be the true one.

(2.) It accords with the account in Mt 19:28, and Lu 22:30,

(3.) It is the only one which gives a fair interpretation to the declaration that the saints should judge angels, in 1 Co 6:3. If asked in what way this is to be done, it may be answered, that it may be meant simply that Christians shall be exalted to the right hand of the Judge, and shall encompass his throne; that they shall assent to and approve of his judgment; that they shall be elevated to a post of honour and favour, AS IF they were associated with him in the judgment. They shall then be regarded as his friends, and express their approbation, and that with a deep sense of its justice, of the condemnation of the wicked. Perhaps the idea is, not that they shall pronounce sentence, which will be done by the Lord Jesus, but that they shall then be qualified to see the justice of the condemnation which shall be passed on the wicked; they shall have a clear and distinct view of the case; they shall even see the propriety of their everlasting punishment, and shall not only approve it, but be qualified to enter into the subject, and to pronounce upon it intelligently. And the argument of the apostle is, that if they would be qualified to pronounce on the eternal doom of men and angels; if they had such views of justice and right, and such integrity as to form an opinion and express it in regard to the everlasting destiny of an immense host of immortal beings, assuredly they ought to be qualified to express their sense of the smaller transactions in this life, and pronounce an opinion between man and man.

Are ye unworthy. Are you disqualified.

The smallest matters. Matters of least consequence—matters of little moment, scarcely worth naming, compared with the great and important realities of eternity. The "smallest matters" here mean the causes, suits, and litigations relating to property, etc.

{a} "saints shall judge" Da 7:22; Mt 19:28; Jude 1:14,15; Re 20:4

{*} "matters" "causes"


Verse 3. Shall judge angels. All the angels that shall be judged, good or bad. Probably the reference is to fallen angels, as there is no account that holy angels will then undergo a trial, The sense is, "Christians will be qualified to see the justice of even the sentence which is pronounced on fallen angels. They will be able so to embrace and comprehend the nature of law, and the interests of justice, as to see the propriety of their condemnation. And if they can so far enter into these important and eternal relations, assuredly they ought to be regarded as qualified to discern the nature of justice among men, and to settle the unimportant differences which may arise in the church." Or, perhaps, this may mean that the saints shall in the future world be raised to a rank m some respects more elevated than even the angels in heaven. (Prof. Stuart.) In what respects they will be thus elevated, if this is the true interpretation, can be only a matter of conjecture. It may be supposed that it will be because they have been favoured by being interested in the plan of salvation—a plan that has done so much to honour God; and that to have been thus saved by the immediate and painful intervention of the Son of God, will be a higher honour than all the privileges which beings can enjoy who are innocent themselves.


Verse 4. Ye have judgments. Causes; controversies; suits.

Things pertaining to this life. Property, etc.

Set them to judge, etc. The verb translated set—kayizete may be either in the imperative mood, as in our translation, and then it will imply a command; or it may be regarded as in the indicative, and to be rendered interrogatively, "Do ye set or appoint them to judge who are of little repute for their wisdom and equity?" i.e., heathen magistrates. The latter is probably the correct rendering, as according to the former no good reason can be given why Paul should command them to select as judges those who had little repute for wisdom in the church. Had he designed this as a command, he would doubtless have directed them to choose their most aged, wise, and experienced men, instead of those "least esteemed." It is manifest, therefore, that this is to be read as a question'. "Since you are abundantly qualified yourselves to settle your own differences, do you employ the heathen magistrates, in whom the church can have little confidence for their integrity and justice? It is designed, therefore, as a severe reproof for what they had been accustomed to do; and an implied injunction that they should do it no more.

Who are least esteemed: exouyenhmenouv. Who are contemned, or regarded as of no value or worth; in whose judgment and integrity you can have little or no confidence. According to the interpretation given above of the previous part of the verse, this refers to the heathen magistrates into men in whose virtue, piety, and qualifications for just judgment Christians could have little confidence; and whose judgment must be regarded as in fact of very little value, and as very little likely to be correct. That the heathen magistrates were in general very corrupt there can be no doubt. Many of them were men of abandoned character, of dissipated lives, men who were easily bribed, and men, therefore, in whose judgment Christians could repose little confidence. Paul reproves the Corinthians for going before them with their disputes when they could better settle them themselves. Others, however, who regard this whole passage as an instruction to Christians to appoint those to determine their controversies who were least esteemed, suppose that this refers to the lowest orders of judges among the Hebrews; to those who were least esteemed, or who were almost despised; and that Paul directs them to select even them in preference to the heathen magistrates. See Lightfoot. But the objection to this is obvious and insuperable. Paul would not have recommended this class of men to decide their causes, but would have recommended the selection of the most wise and virtuous among them. This is proved by 1 Co 6:5, where, in directing them to settle their matters among themselves, he asks whether there is not a "wise man" among them, clearly proving that he wished their difficulties adjusted, not by the most obscure and the least respected members of the church, but by the most wise and intelligent members.

In the church. By the church. That is, the heathen magistrates evince such a character as not to be worthy of the confidence of the church in settling matters of controversy.


Verse 5. I speak to your shame. I declare that which is a reproach to you, that your matters of dispute are carried before heathen tribunals.

Is it so, etc. Can it be that in the Christian church—the church collected in refined and enlightened Corinth—there is not a single member so wise, intelligent, and prudent, that his brethren may have confidence in him, and refer their causes to him? Can this be the case in a church that boasts so much of its wisdom, and that prides itself so muck in the number and qualifications of its intelligent members?

{*} "judge" "Decide"


Verse 6. But brother, etc. One Christian goes to law with another. This is designed as a reproof. This was wrong,

(1.) because they ought rather to take wrong and suffer themselves to be injured, 1 Co 6:7;

(2.) because they might have chosen some persons to settle the matter by arbitration, without a formal trial; and,

(3.) because the civil constitution would have allowed them to have settled all their differences without a lawsuit. Josephus says that the Romans (who were now masters of Corinth) permitted the Jews in foreign countries to decide private affairs, where nothing capital was in question, among themselves. And Dr. Lardner observes, that the Christians might have availed themselves of this permission to have settled their disputes in the same manner. Credibility, vol. i. p. 165.


Verse 7. There is utterly a fault. There is altogether a fault; or, you are entirely wrong in this thing.

Because ye go to law, etc. That is, in the sense under discussion, or before heathen magistrates. This was the point under discussion, and the interpretation should be limited to this. Whatever may be the propriety or impropriety of going to law before Christian magistrates, yet the point which the apostle refers to was that of going to law before heathens. The passage, therefore, should not be interpreted as referring to all litigation, but only of that which was the subject of discussion. The apostle says that that was wholly wrong; that they ought by no means to go with their causes against their fellow Christians before heathen magistrates; that whoever had the right side of the question, and whatever might be the decision, the thing itself was unchristian and wrong; and that rather than dishonour religion by a trial or suit of this kind, they ought to be willing to take wrong, and to suffer any personal and private injustice. The argument is, that greater evil would be done to the cause of Christ by the fact of Christians appearing before a heathen tribunal with their disputes, than could result to either party from the injury done by the other. And this is probably always the case; so that although the apostle refers here to heathen tribunals, the same reasoning, on the principle, would apply to Christians carrying their causes into the courts at all.

Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do you not suffer yourself to be injured, rather than to dishonour the cause of religion by your litigations? They should do this,

(1.) because religion requires its friends to be willing to suffer wrong patiently, Pr 22:22; Mt 5:39,40; Ro 12:17,19; 1 Th 5:15.

(2.) Because great injury results to the cause of religion from such trials. The private wrong which an individual would suffer, in perhaps all cases, would be a less evil on the whole than the public injury which is done to the cause of piety by the litigations and strifes of Christian brethren before a civil court.

(3.) The differences among Christians could be adjusted among themselves, by a reference to their brethren. In ninety-nine cases of a hundred, the decision would be more likely to be just and satisfactory to all parties from an amicable reference, than from the decisions of a civil court. In the very few cases where it would be otherwise, it would be better for the individual to suffer, than for the cause of religion to suffer. Christians ought to love the cause of their Master more than their own individual interest. They ought to be more afraid that the cause of Jesus Christ would be injured than that they should be a few pounds poorer from the conduct of others, or than that they should individually suffer in their character from the injustice of others.

To be defrauded? Receive injury; or suffer a loss of property. Grotius thinks that the word "take wrong" refers to personal insult; and the word "defrauded" refers to injury in property. Together, they are probably designed to refer to all kinds of injury and injustice. And the apostle means to say, that they had better submit to any kind of injustice than carry the cause against a Christian brother before a heathen tribunal. The doctrine here taught is, that Christians ought by no means to go to law with each other before a heathen tribunal; that they ought to be willing to suffer any injury from a Christian brother rather than do it. And by implication the same thing is taught in regard to the duty of all Christians, that they ought to suffer any injury to their persons and property rather than dishonour religion by litigations before civil magistrates. It may be asked, then, whether lawsuits are never proper; or whether courts of justice are never to be resorted to by Christians to secure their rights? To this question we may reply, that the discussion of Paul relates only to Christians, when both parties are Christians, and that it is designed to prohibit such an appeal to courts by them. If ever lawful for Christians to depart from this rule, or for Christians to appear before a civil tribunal, it is conceived that it can be only in circumstances like the following:

(1.) Where two or more Christians may have a difference, and where they know not what is right, and what the law is in a case. In such instances there may be a reference to a civil court to determine it— to have what is called an amicable suit, to ascertain from the proper authority what the law is, and what is justice in the case.

(2.) When there are causes of difference between Christians and the men of the world. As the men of the world do not acknowledge the propriety of submitting the matter to the church, it may be proper for a Christian to carry the matter before a civil tribunal, Evidently, there is no other way, in such cases, of settling a cause; and this mode may be resorted to, not with a spirit of revenge, but with a spirit of love and kindness. Courts are instituted for the settlement of the rights of citizens, and men by becoming Christians do not alienate their rights as citizens. Even these cases, however, might commonly be adjusted by a reference to impartial men, better than by the slow, and expensive, and tedious, and often irritating process of carrying a cause through the courts.

(3.) Where a Christian is injured in his person, character, or property, he has a right to seek redress. Courts are instituted for the protection and defence of the innocent and the peaceable against the fraudulent, the wicked, and the violent. And a Christian owes it to his country, to his family, and to himself, that the man who has injured him should receive the proper punishment. The peace and welfare of the community demand it. If a man murders my wife or child, I owe it to the laws and to my Country, to justice and to God, to endeavour to have the law enforced. So if a man robs my property, or injures my character, I may owe it to others as well as to myself that the law in such a case should be executed, and the rights of others also be secured. But in all these cases a Christian should engage in such prosecutions, not with a desire of revenge, not with the love of litigation, but with the love of justice, and of God, and with a mild, tender, candid, and forgiving temper, with a real desire that the opponent may be benefited, and that all his rights also should be secured. See Barnes "Ro 13:1" and following.

{a} "take wrong" Pr 20:22; Mt 5:39,40; Ro 12:17,19; 1 Th 5:15


Verse 8. Nay, ye do wrong, etc. Instead of enduring wrong patiently and cheerfully, they were themselves guilty of injustice and fraud.

And that your brethren. Your fellow Christians. As if they had injured those of their own family—those to whom they ought to be attached by most tender ties. The offence in such cases is aggravated, not because it is in itself any worse to injure a Christian than another man, but because it shows a deeper depravity, when a man overcomes all the ties of kindness and love, and injures those who are near to him, than it does where no such ties exist. It is for this reason that parricide, infanticide, etc., are regarded everywhere as crimes of peculiar atrocity, because a child or a parent must have sundered all the tenderest cords of virtue before it could be done.

{a} "defraud" 1 Th 4:6


Verse 9. Know ye not", etc. The apostle introduces the declaration in this verse to show the evil of their course, and especially of the injustice which they did one to another, and their attempt to enforce and maintain the evil by an appeal to the heathen tribunals. He assures them, therefore, that the unjust could not be saved.

The unrighteous. The unjust adikoi—such as he had just mentioned—they who did injustice to others, and attempted to do it under the sanction of the courts.

Shall not inherit. Shall not possess; shall not enter into. The kingdom of heaven is often represented as an inheritance, Mt 9:29; Mt 25:34; Mr 10:17; Lu 10:25; 18:18; 1 Co 15:50; Eph 1:11,14; 5:5.

The kingdom of God. Cannot be saved; cannot enter into heaven. See Barnes "Mt 3:2".

This may refer either to the kingdom of God in heaven, or to the church on earth—most probably the former. But the sense is the same essentially, whichever is meant. The man who is not fit to enter into the one, is not fit to enter into the other. The man who is fit to enter the kingdom of God on earth, shall also enter into that in heaven.

Be not deceived. A most important direction to be given to all. It implies,

(1.) that they were in danger of being deceived.

(a) Their own hearts might have deceived them.

(b) They might be deceived by their false opinions on these subjects.

(c) They might be in danger of being deceived by their leaders, who perhaps held the opinion that some of the persons who practised these things could be saved.

(2.) It implies, that there was no necessity of their being deceived. They might know the truth. They might easily understand these matters. It might be plain to them that those who indulged in these things could not be saved.

(3.) It implies that it was of high importance that they should not be deceived. For

(a) the soul is of infinite value.

(b) To lose heaven—to be disappointed in regard to that, will be a tremendous loss.

(c) To inherit hell and its woes will be a tremendous curse. Oh, how anxious should all be that they be not deceived, and that while they hope for life, they do not sink down to everlasting death!

Neither fornicators. See Ga 5:19-21; Eph 5:4,5; Heb 12:14; 13:4.

See Barnes "Ro 1:29.

Nor effeminate, malakoi. This word occurs in Mt 11:8, and Lu 7:25, where it is applied to clothing, and translated "soft raiment;" that is, the light, thin garments worn by the rich and great. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except here. Applied to morals, as it is here, it denotes those who give themselves up to a soft, luxurious, and indolent way of living; who make self-indulgence the grand object of life; who can endure no hardship, and practise no self-denial in the cause of duty and of God. The word is applied in the classic writers to the Cinaedi, the Pathics, or Catamites; those who are given up to wantonness and sensual pleasures, or who are kept to be prostituted to others. Diog. Laer. vii. 5, 4; Xenoph. Mem. iii. 7, 1; Ovid, Fast. iv. 342. The connexion here seems to demand such an interpretation, as it occurs in the description of vices of the same class—sensual and corrupt indulgences. It is well known that this vice was common among the Greeks—and particularly prevailed at Corinth.

Abusers of themselves with mankind. Arsenokoitai. Paederastae, or Sodomites. Those who indulged in a vice that was common among all the heathen. See Barnes "Ro 1:27".

{b} "fornicators" Ga 5:19-21; Eph 5:4,5; Heb 12:14,18; 13:4; Re 22:15


Verse 10. Nor covetous See Barnes "1 Co 5:10".

It is remarkable that the apostle always rank the covetous with the most abandoned classes of men.

Nor revilers. The same word, which, in 1 Co 5:11 is rendered railer. See Barnes "1 Co 5:11".

Nor extortioners. See Barnes "1 Co 5:11".

Shall inherit. Shall enter; shall be saved, 1 Co 6:9. {*} "extortioners" "Oppressors"


Verse 11. And such. Such drunkards, lascivious and covetous persons. This shows

(1) the exceeding grace of God, that could recover even such persons from sins so debasing and degrading.

(2.) It shows that we are not to despair of reclaiming the most abandoned and wretched men.

(3.) It is well for Christians to look back on what they once were. It will produce

(a) humility,

(b) gratitude,

(c) a deep sense of the sovereign mercy of God,

(d) an earnest desire that others may be recovered and saved in like manner. Comp. Eph 2:1,2; 5:8; Col 3:7; Tit 3:3-6.

The design of this is to remind them of what they were, and to show them that they were now under obligation to lead better lives—by all the mercy which God had shown in recovering them from sins so degrading, and from a condition so dreadful.

But ye are washed. Heb 10:22. Washing is an emblem of purifying. They had been made pure by the Spirit of God. They had been indeed baptized, and their baptism was an emblem of purifying; but the thing here particularly referred to is not baptism, but it is something that had been done by the Spirit of God, and must refer to his agency on the heart in cleansing them from these pollutions. Paul here uses three words—washed, sanctified, justified—to denote the various agencies of the Holy Spirit by which they had been recovered from sin. The first, that of washing, I understand of that work of the Spirit by which the process of purifying was commenced in the soul, and which was especially signified in baptism—the work of regeneration or conversion to God. By the agency of the Spirit, the defilement of these pollutions had been washed away or removed—as filth is removed by ablution. The agency of the Holy Ghost in regeneration is elsewhere represented by washing. Tit 3:5, "The washing of regeneration." Compare Heb 10:22.

Ye are sanctified. This denotes the progressive and advancing process of purifying which succeeds regeneration in the Christian. Regeneration is the commencement of it—its close is the perfect purity of the Christian in heaven. See Barnes "Joh 17:17".

It does not mean that they were perfect—for the reasoning of the apostle shows that this was far from being the case with the Corinthians; but that the work was advancing, and that they were in fact under a process of sanctification.

But ye are justified. Your sins are pardoned, and you are accepted as righteous, and will be treated as such on account of the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. See Barnes "Ro 1:17'' See Barnes "Ro 3:25, See Barnes "Ro 3:26" See Barnes "Ro 4:3".

The apostle does not say that this was last in the order of time, but simply says that this was done to them. Men are justified when they believe, and when the work of sanctification commences in the soul

In the name of the Lord Jesus. That is, by the Lord Jesus; by his authority, appointment, influence. See Barnes "Ac 3:6".

All this had been accomplished through the Lord Jesus; that is, in his name remission of sins had been proclaimed to them, Lu 24:47; and by his merits all these favours had been conferred on them.

And by the Spirit of our God. The Holy Spirit. All this had been accomplished by his agency on the heart. This verse brings in the whole subject of redemption, and states in a most emphatic manner the various stages by which a sinner is saved; and by this single passage a man may obtain all the essential knowledge of the plan of salvation. All is condensed here in few words.

(1.) He is by nature a miserable and polluted sinner—without merit, and without hope.

(2.) He is renewed by the Holy Ghost, and washed by baptism.

(3.) He is justified, pardoned, and accepted as righteous, through the merits of the Lord Jesus alone.

(4.) He is made holy—becomes sanctified—and more and more like God, and fit for heaven.

(5.) All this is done by the agency of the Holy Ghost.

(6.) The obligation thence results that he should lead a holy life, and forsake sin in every form.

{c} "such were" Eph 2:1,2; 5:8; Col 3:7; Tit 3:3-6

{d} "washed" Heb 10:22

{e} "sanctified" Heb 2:11

{f} "justified" Ro 8:30


Verse 12. All things are lawful unto me. The apostle here evidently makes a transition to another subject from that which he had been discussing—a consideration of the propriety of using certain things which had been esteemed lawful. The expression, "all things are lawful," is to be understood as used by those who palliated certain indulgences, or who vindicated the vices here referred to, and Paul designs to reply to them. His reply follows. He had been reproving them for their vices, and had specified several. It is not to be supposed that they would indulge in them without some show of defence; and the declaration here has much the appearance of a proverb, or a common saying—that all things were lawful; that is, "God has formed all things for our use, and there can be no evil if we use them." By the phrase "all things" here, perhaps, may be meant many things; or things in general; or there is nothing in itself unlawful. That there were many vicious persons who held this sentiment there can be no doubt; and though it cannot be supposed that there were any in the Christian church who would openly advocate it, yet the design of Paul was to cut up the plea altogether, wherever it might be urged, and to show that it was false and unfounded. The particular things which Paul here refers to, are those which have been called adiaphoristic, or indifferent; i.e., pertaining to certain meats and drinks, etc. With this Paul connects also the subject of fornication—the subject particularly under discussion. This was defended as "lawful," by many Greeks, and was practised at Corinth; and was the vice to which the Corinthian Christians were particularly exposed. Paul designed to meet all that could be said on this subject; and to show them that these indulgences could not be proper for Christians, and could not in any way be defended. We are not to understand Paul as admitting that fornication is in any case lawful; but he designs to show that the practice cannot possibly be defended in any way, or by any of the arguments which had been or could be used. For this purpose he observes,

(1.) that admitting that all things were lawful, there were many things which ought not to be indulged in;

(2.) that admitting that they were lawful, yet a man ought not to be under the power of any improper indulgence, and should abandon any habit when it had the mastery.

(3.) That fornication was positively wrong, and against the very nature and essence of Christianity, 1 Co 6:13-20.

Are not expedient. This is the first answer to the objection. Even should we admit that the practices under discussion are lawful, yet there are many things which are not expedient; that is, which do not profit, for so the word sumferei properly signifies; they are injurious and hurtful. They might injure the body; produce scandal; lead others to offend or to sin. Such was the case with regard to the use of certain meats, and even with regard to the use of wine. Paul's rule on this subject is stated in 1 Co 8:13. That if these things did injury to others, he would abandon them for ever; even though they were in themselves lawful. See Barnes "1 Co 8:1"

and following, and See Barnes "Ro 14:14"

and following. There are many customs which, perhaps, cannot be strictly proved to be unlawful or sinful, which yet do injury in some way if indulged in; and which, as their indulgence can do no good, should be abandoned. Anything that does evil—however small—and no good, should be abandoned at once.

All things are lawful. Admitting this; or even on the supposition that all things are in themselves right.

But I will not be brought under the power. I will not be subdued by it; I will not become the slave of it.

Of any. Of any custom, or habit, no matter what it is. This was Paul's rule; the rule of an independent mind. The principle was, that even admitting that certain things were in themselves right, yet his grand purpose was not to be the slave of habit, not to be subdued by any practice that might corrupt his mind, fetter his energies, or destroy his freedom as a man and as a Christian. We may observe,

(1.) that this is a good rule to act on. It was Paul's rule, 1 Co 9:27, and it will do as well for us as for him.

(2.) It is the true rule of an independent and noble mind. It requires a high order of virtue; and is the only way in which a man may be useful and active.

(3.) It may be applied to many things now. Many a Christian and Christian minister is a slave; and is completely under the power of some habit that destroys his usefulness and happiness. He is the SLAVE of indolence, or carelessness, or of some VILE HABIT—as the use of tobacco or of wine. He has not independence enough to break the cords that bind him; and the consequence is, that life is passed in indolence or in self-indulgence, and time, and strength, and property are wasted, and religion blighted, and souls ruined.

(4.) The man that has not courage and firmness enough to act on this rule should doubt his piety. If he is a voluntary slave to some idle and mischievous habit, how can he be a Christian? If he does not love his Saviour and the souls of men enough to break off from such habits which he knows are doing injury, how is he fit to be a minister of the self-denying Redeemer?

{a} "power" 1 Co 9:27


Verse 13. Meats for the belly, etc. This has every appearance of being an adage or proverb. Its meaning is plain. "God has made us with appetites for food, and he has made food adapted to such appetites; and it is right, therefore, to indulge in luxurious living." The word belly here, koilia denotes the stomach; and the argument is, that as God had created the natural appetite for food, and had created food, it was right to indulge in eating and drinking to any extent which the appetite demanded. The word meats here, brwmata, does not denote animal food particularly, or flesh, but any kind of food. This was the sense of the English word formerly, Mt 3:4; 6:25; 9:10; 10:10; 14:9, etc.

But God shall destroy. This is the reply of Paul to the argument. This reply is, that as both are so soon to be destroyed, they were unworthy of the care which was bestowed on them, and that attention should be directed to better things. It is unworthy the immortal mind to spend its time and thought in making provision for the body which is soon to perish. And especially a man should be willing to abandon indulgences in these things when they tended to injure the mind, and to destroy the soul. It is unworthy a mind that is to live for ever, thus to be anxious about that which is so soon to be destroyed in the grave. We may observe here:

(1.) This is the great rule of the mass of the world. The pampering of the appetites is the great purpose for which they live, and the only purpose.

(2.) It is folly. The body will soon be in the grave; the soul in eternity. How low and grovelling is the passion which leads the immortal mind always to anxiety about what the body shall eat and drink!

(3.) Men should act from higher motives. They should be thankful for appetites for food; and that God provides for the wants of the body; and should eat to obtain strength to serve him, and to discharge the duties of life. Man often degrades himself below—far below—the brutes in this thing. They never pamper their appetites, or create artificial appetites. Man, in death, sinks to the same level; and all the record of his life is, that "he lived to eat and drink, and died as the brute dieth." How low is human nature fallen! How sunken is the condition of man!

Now the body is not, etc. "But de the body is not designed for licentiousness, but to be devoted to the Lord." The remainder of this chapter is occupied with an argument against indulgence in licentiousness—a crime to which the Corinthians were particularly exposed. See the Introduction to this epistle. It cannot be supposed that any members of the church would indulge in this vice, or would vindicate it; but it was certain,

(1.) that it was the sin to which they were particularly exposed;

(2.) that they were in the midst of a people who did both practise and vindicate it. Comp. Re 2:14,15. Hence the apostle furnished them with arguments against it, as well to guard them from temptation, as to enable them to meet those who did defend it, and also to settle the morality of the question on an immovable foundation. The first argument is here stated, that the body of man was designed by its Maker to be devoted to him, and should be consecrated to the purposes of a pure and holy life. We are, therefore, bound to devote our animal as well as our rational powers to the service of the Lord alone.

And the Lord for the body. "The Lord is, in an important sense, for the body; that is, he acts, and plans, and provides for it. He sustains and keeps it; and he is making provision for its immortal purity and happiness in heaven. It is not right, therefore, to take the body, which is nourished by the kind and constant agency of a holy God, and to devote it to purposes of pollution." That there is a reference in this phrase to the resurrection, is apparent from the following verse. And as God will exert his mighty power in raising up the body, and will make it glorious, it ought not to be prostituted to purposes of licentiousness.

{b} "belly" Mt 15:17,20; Ro 14:17

{c} "fornication" 1 Th 4:3,7

{d} "lord" Ro 12:1

{e} "Lord" Eph 5:23


Verse 14. And God hath both raised up, etc. This is the second argument against indulgences in this sin. It is this: "We are united to Christ. God has raised him from the dead, and made his body glorified. Our bodies will be like his, (comp. Php 3:21;) and since our body is to be raised up by the power of God; since it is to be perfectly pure and holy; and since this is to be done by his agency, it is wrong that it should be devoted to purposes of pollution and lust." It is unworthy

(1.) of our connexion with that pure Saviour who has been raised from the dead, the image of our resurrection from the death and defilements of sin, See Barnes "Ro 6:1" and following and

(2) unworthy of the hope that our bodies shall be raised up to perfect and immortal purity in the heavens. No argument could be stronger. A deep sense of our union with a pure and risen Saviour, and a lively hope of immortal purity, would do more than all other things to restrain from licentious indulgences.

{f} "God hath" Ro 6:5,8


Verses 15, 16. Know ye not, etc. This is the third argument against licentiousness. It is, that we, as Christians, are united to Christ, (comp. See Barnes "Joh 15:1, etc.;) and that it is abominable to take the members of Christ, and subject them to pollution and sin. Christ was pure, wholly pure. We are professedly united to him. We are bound therefore to be pure, as he was. Shall that which is a part, as it were, of the pure and holy Saviour, be prostituted to impure and unholy embraces?

God forbid. See Barnes "Ro 3:4".

This expresses the deep abhorrence of the apostle at the thought. It needed not argument to show it. The whole world revolted at the idea; and language could scarcely express the abomination of the very thought.

Know ye not, etc. This is designed to confirm and strengthen what he had just said.

He which is joined. Who is attached to; or who is connected with.

Is one body. That is, is to be regarded as one; is closely and intimately united. Similar expressions occur in classic writers. See Grotius and Bloomfield.

For two, saith he, etc. This Paul illustrates by a reference to the formation of the marriage connexion in Ge 2:24. He cannot be understood as affirming that that passage had original reference to illicit connexions; but he uses it for purposes of illustration. God had declared that the man and his wife became one; in a similar sense, in unlawful connexions the parties became one.

{a} "members of Christ" Eph 5:30


Verse 16. No Barnes text on this verse.

See Barnes "1 Co 6:15"

{b} "for two" Ge 2:24; Mt 19:5


Verse 17. But he that is joined to the Lord. The true Christian, united by faith to the Lord Jesus. See Joh 15:1, seq.

Is one spirit. That is, in a sense similar to that in which a man and his wife are one body. It is not to be taken literally; but the sense is, that there is a close and intimate union; they are united in feeling, spirit, intention, disposition. The argument is beautiful. It is, "As the union of souls is more important than that of bodies; as that union is more lasting, dear, and enduring than any union of body with body can be; and as our union with him is with a Spirit pure and holy, it is improper that we should sunder that tie, and break that sacred bond, by being joined to a harlot. The union with Christ is more intimate, entire, and pure, than that can be between a man and woman; and that union should be regarded as sacred and inviolable." Oh, if all Christians felt and regarded this as they should, how would they shrink from the connexions which they often form on earth! Comp. Eph 4:4.

{c} "one spirit" Joh 17:21-23; Eph 4:4


Verse 18. Flee fornication. A solemn command of God—as explicit as any that thundered from Mount Sinai. None can disregard it with impunity—none can violate it without being exposed to the awful vengeance of the Almighty. There is force and emphasis in the word flee, feugete. Man should escape from it; he should not stay to reason about it—to debate the matter—or even to contend with his propensities, and to try the strength of his virtue. There are some sins which a man can resist; some about which he can reason without danger of pollution. But this is a sin where a man is safe only when he flies; free from pollution only when he refuses to entertain a thought of it; secure when he seeks a victory by flight, and a conquest by retreat. Let a man turn away from it without reflection on it, and he is safe. Let him think, and reason, and he may be ruined. "The very passage of an impure thought through the mind leaves pollution behind it." An argument on the subject often leaves pollution; a description ruins; and even the presentation of motives against it may often fix the mind with dangerous inclination on the crime. There is no way of avoiding the pollution but in the manner prescribed by Paul; there is no man safe who will not follow his direction. How many a young man would be saved from poverty, want, disease, curses, tears, and hell, could these TWO WORDS be made to blaze before him like the writing before the astonished eyes of Belshazzar, Da 5 and could they terrify him from even the momentary contemplation of the crime.

Every sin, etc. This is to be taken comparatively. Sins in general; the common sins which men commit, do not immediately and directly affect the body, or waste its energies, and destroy life. Such is the case with falsehood, theft, malice, dishonesty, pride, ambition, etc. They do not immediately and directly impair the constitution, and waste its energies.

Is without the body. Does not immediately and directly affect the body. The more immediate effect is on the mind; but the sin under consideration produces an immediate and direct effect on the body itself.

Sinneth against his own body. This is the fourth argument against indulgence in this vice; and it is more striking and forcible. The sense is, "It wastes the bodily energies; produces feebleness, weakness, and disease; it impairs the strength, enervates the man, and shortens life." Were it proper, this might be proved to the satisfaction of every man by an examination of the effects of licentious indulgence. Those who wish to see the effects stated, may find them in Dr. Rush on the Diseases of the Mind. Perhaps no single sin has done so much to produce the most painful and dreadful diseases, to weaken the constitution, and to shorten life, as this. Other vices, as gluttony and drunkenness, do this also; and all sin has some effect in destroying the body; but it is true of this sin in an eminent degree.

{d} "Flee fornication" Pr 6:25-32; 7:24-27


Verse 19. What? know ye not, etc. This is the fifth argument against this sin. The Holy Ghost dwells in us; our bodies are his temples, and they should not be defiled and polluted by sin. See Barnes "1 Co 3:16,17".

As this Spirit is in us, and as it is given us by God, we ought not to dishonour the gift and the Giver by pollution and vice.

And ye are not your own. This is the sixth argument which Paul uses. We are purchased; we belong to God; we are his by redemption; by a precious price paid; and we are bound, therefore, to devote ourselves, body, soul, and spirit, as he directs, to the glory of his name, not to the gratification of the flesh. See Barnes "Ro 14:7,8".

{e} "your body" 2 Co 6:16

{f} "not your own" Ro 14:7,8

{*} "Holy Ghost" "Spirit"


Verse 20. For ye are bought. Ye Christians are purchased; and by right of purchase should therefore be employed as he directs. This doctrine is often taught in the New Testament; and the argument is often urged, that therefore Christians should be devoted to God. 1 Co 7:23; 1 Pe 1:18,19; 2:9; 2 Pe 2:1; Re 5:9.

See Barnes "Ac 20:28".

With a price. Timhv. A price is that which is paid for an article, and which, in the view of the seller, is a fair compensation, or a valuable consideration why he should part with it; that is, the price paid is as valuable to him as the thing itself would be. It may not be the same thing either in quality or quantity, but it is that which to him is a sufficient consideration why he should part with his property. When an article is bought for a valuable consideration, it becomes wholly the property of the purchaser. He may keep it, direct it, dispose of it. Nothing else is to be allowed to control it without his consent. The language here is figurative. It does not mean that there was strictly a commercial transaction in the redemption of the church, a literal quid pro quo, for the thing spoken of pertains to moral government, and not to commerce. It means,

(1.) that Christians have been redeemed, or recovered to God.

(2.) That this has been done by a valuable consideration, or that which, in his view, was a full equivalent for the sufferings that they would have endured if their had suffered the penalty of the law.

(3.) That this valuable consideration was the blood of Jesus, as an stoning sacrifice, an offering, a ransom, which would accomplish the same great ends in maintaining the truth and honour of God, and the majesty of his law, as the eternal condemnation of the sinner would have done; and which, therefore, may be called, figuratively, the price which was paid. For if the same ends of justice could be accomplished by his atonement which would have been by the death of the sinner himself, then it was consistent for God to pardon him.

(4.) Nothing else could or would have done this. There was no price which the sinner could pay, no atonement which he could make; and, consequently, if Christ had not died, the sinner would have been the slave of sin, and the servant of the devil for ever.

(5.) As the Christian is thus purchased, ransomed, redeemed, he is bound to devote himself to God only, and to keep his commands, and to flee from a licentious life.

Glorify God. Honour God; live to him. See Barnes "Mt 5:16" See Barnes "Joh 12:28" See Barnes "Joh 17:1".

In your body, etc. Let your entire person be subservient to the glory of God. Live to him: let your life tend to his honour. No stronger arguments could be adduced for purity of life, and they are such as all Christians must feel.

{g} "bought" Ac 20:28; 1 Pe 1:18,19; Re 5:9

{h} "glorify God" 1 Pe 2:9


(1.) We see from this chapter 1 Co 6:1-8 the evils of lawsuits, and of contentions among Christians. Every lawsuit between Christians is the means of greater or less dishonour to the cause of religion. The contention and strife; the time lost, and the money wasted; the hard feelings engendered, and bitter speeches caused; the ruffled temper, and the lasting animosities that are produced, always injure the cause of religion, and often injure it for years. Probably no lawsuit was ever engaged in by a Christian that did not do some injury to the cause of Christ. Perhaps no lawsuit was ever conducted between Christians that ever did any good to the cause of Christ.

(2.) A contentious spirit, a fondness for the agitation, the excitement, and the strife of courts, is inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel. Religion is retiring, peaceful, calm. It seeks the peace of all, and it never rejoices in contentions.

(3.) Christians should do nothing that will tend to injure the cause of religion in the eye of the world, 1 Co 6:7,8. How much better is it that I should lose a few pounds, than that my Saviour should lose his honour! How much better that my purse should be empty of glittering dust, even by the injustice of others, than that a single gem should be taken from his diadem! And how much better even that I should lose all, than that my hand should be reached out to pluck away one jewel, by my misconduct, from his crown! Can silver, can gold, can diamonds be compared in value to the honour of Christ and of his cause?

(4.) Christians should seldom go to law, even with others; never, if they can avoid it. Every other means should be tried first; and the law should be resorted to only when all else fails. How few lawsuits there would be if man had no bad passions! How seldom is the law applied to from the simple love of justice; how seldom from pure benevolence; how seldom for the glory of God! In nearly all cases that occur between men, a friendly reference to others would settle all the difficulty; always if there were a right spirit between the parties. Comparatively few suits at law will be approved of, when men come to die; and the man who has had the least to do with the law, will have the least, usually, to regret when he enters the eternal world.

(5.) Christians should be honest—strictly honest—always honest, 1 Co 6:8. They should do justice to all; they should defraud none. Few things occur that do more to disgrace religion than the suspicions of fraud, and overreaching, and deception, that often rest on professors of religion. How can a man be a Christian, and not be an honest man? Every man who is not strictly honest and honourable in his dealings should be regarded, whatever may be his pretensions, as an enemy of Christ and his cause.

(6.) The unholy cannot be saved, 1 Co 6:9,10. So God has determined; and this purpose cannot be evaded or escaped. It is fixed; and men may think of it as they please, still it is true that there are large classes of men who, if they continue such, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The fornicator, the idolater, the drunkard, and the covetous, cannot enter heaven. So the Judge of all has said, and who can unsay it? So he has decreed, and who can change his fixed decree? And so it should be. What a place would heaven be, if the drunkard, and the adulterer, and the idolater were there! How impure and unholy would it be! How would it destroy all our hopes, dim all our prospects, mar all our joys, if we were told that they should sit down with the just in heaven! Is it not one of our fondest hopes that heaven will be pure, and that all its inhabitants shall be holy? And can God admit to his eternal embrace, and treat as his eternal friend, the man who is unholy; whose life is stained with abomination; who loves to corrupt others; and whose happiness is found in the sorrows, and the wretchedness, and vices of others? No; religion is pure, and heaven is pure; and whatever men may think, of one thing they may be assured, that the fornicator, and the drunkard, and the reviler, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

(7.) If none of these can be saved as they are, what a host are travelling down to hell! How large a part of every community is made up of such persons! How vast is the number of drunkards that are known! How vast the host of extortioners, and of covetous men, and revilers of all that is good! How many curse their God and their fellow-men! How difficult to turn the corner of a street without hearing an oath! How necessary to guard against the frauds and deceptions of others! How many men and women are known to be impure in their lives! In all communities, how much does this sin abound! and how many shall be revealed at the great day as impure, who are now unsuspected I how many disclosed to the universe as all covered with pollution, who now boast even of purity, and who are received into the society of the virtuous and the lovely! Verily, the broad road to hell is thronged! And verily, the earth is pouring into hell a most dense and wretched population, and rolling down a tide of sin and misery that shall fill it with groans and gnashing of teeth for ever.

(8.) It is well for Christians to reflect on their former course of life, as contrasted with their present mercies, 1 Co 6:11. Such were they, and such they would still have been but for the mercy of God. Such as IS the victim of uncleanness and pollution, such as is the profane man and the reviler, such we should have been but for the mercy of God. That alone has saved us, and that only can keep us. How should we praise God for his mercy, and how are we bound to love and serve him for his amazing compassion in raising us from our deep pollution, and saving us from hell!

(9.) Christians should be pure, 1 Co 6:11-19. They should be above suspicion. They should avoid the appearance of evil. No Christian can be too pure; none can feel too much the obligation to be holy. By every sacred and tender consideration, God urges it on us; and by a reference to our own happiness, as well as to his own glory, he calls on us to be holy in our lives.

(10.) May we remember that we are not our own, 1 Co 6:20. We belong to God. We have been ransomed by sacred blood. By a reference to the value of that blood; by all its preciousness and worth; by all the sighs, and tears, and groans that bought us; by the agonies of the cross, and the bitter pains of the death of God's own Son, we are bound to live to God, and to him alone. When we are tempted to sin, let us think of the cross. When Satan spreads out his allurements, let us recall the remembrance of the sufferings of Calvary, and remember that all these sorrows were endured that we might be pure. Oh, how would sin appear were we beneath the cross, and did we feel the warm blood from the Saviour's open veins trickle upon us! Who would dare indulge in sin there? Who could do otherwise than devote himself, body and soul and spirit, unto God?



First Corinthians CHAPTER VII, Introduction

THIS chapter commences the second part or division of this epistle, or, the discussion of those points which had been submitted to the apostle in a letter from the church at Corinth, for his instruction and advice. See the Introduction to the epistle. The letter in which they proposed the questions which are here discussed, has been lost. It is manifest that, if we now had it, it would throw some light on the answers which Paul has given to their inquiries in this chapter. The first question which is discussed, 1 Co 7:1-9, is, whether it were lawful and proper to enter into the marriage relation. How this question had arisen, it is not now possible to determine with certainty. It is probable, however, that it arose from disputes be- tween those of Jewish extraction, who held not only the lawfulness, but the importance of the marriage relation, according to the doctrines of the Old Testament, and certain followers or friends of some Greek philosophers, who might have been the advocates of celibacy. But why they advocated that doctrine is unknown. It is known, however, that many even of the Greek philosophers, among whom were Lycurgus, Thales, Antiphanes, and Socrates, (see Grotius,) thought that, considering "the untractable tempers of women, and how troublesome and fraught with danger was the education of children," it was the part of wisdom not to enter into the marriage relation. From them may have been derived the doctrine of celibacy in the Christian church; a doctrine that has been the cause of so much corruption in the monastic system, and in the celibacy of the clergy among the papists. The Jews, however, everywhere defended the propriety and duty of marriage. They regarded it as an ordinance of God. And to this day they hold that a man who has arrived at the age of twenty years, and who has not entered into this relation, unless prevented by natural defects, or by profound study of the law, sins against God. Between these two classes, or those in the church who had been introduced there from these two classes, the question would be agitated whether marriage was lawful and advisable.

Another question which, it seems, had arisen among: them was, whether it was proper to continue in the married state in the existing condition of the church, as exposed to trials and persecutions; or whether it was proper for those who had become converted to continue their relations in life with those who were unconverted. This the apostle discusses in 1 Co 7:10-24. Probably many supposed that it was unlawful to live with those who were not Christians; and they thence inferred that the relation which subsisted before conversion should be dissolved. And this doctrine they carried to the relation between master and servant, as well as between husband and wife. The general doctrine which Paul states in answer to this is, that the wife was not to depart from her husband, 1 Co 7:10; but if she did, she was not at liberty to marry again, since her former marriage was still binding, 1 Co 7:11. He added that a believing man, or Christian, should not put away his unbelieving wife, 1 Co 7:12, and that the relation should continue, notwithstanding a difference of religion; and that if a separation ensued, it should be in a peaceful manner, and the parties were not at liberty to marry again, 1 Co 7:13-17. So, also, in regard to the relation of master and slave. It was not to be violently sundered. The relations of life were not to be broken up by Christianity; but every man was to remain in that rank of life in which he was when he was converted, unless it could be changed in a peaceful and lawful manner, 1 Co 7:18-24.

A third subject submitted to him was, whether it was advisable, in existing circumstances, that the unmarried virgins who were members of the church should enter into the marriage relation, 1 Co 7:25-40. This the apostle answers in the remainder of the chapter. The sum of his advice on that question is, that it would be lawful for them to marry, but that it was not then advisable; and that, at all events, they should so act as to remember that life was short, and so as not to be too much engrossed with the affairs of this life, but should live for eternity. He said that though it was lawful, yet,

(1.) in their present distress it might be unadvisable, 1 Co 7:26.

(2.) That marriage tended to an increase of care and anxiety, and it might not be proper then to enter into that relation, 1 Co 7:32-35.

(3.) That they should live to God, 1 Co 7:29-31.

(4.) That a man should not be oppressive and harsh towards his daughter, or towards one under his care; but that, if it would be severe in him to forbid such a marriage, he should allow it, 1 Co 7:36. And

(5.) that on the whole it was advisable, under existing circumstances, not to enter into the marriage relation, 1 Co 7:38-40.

Verse 1. Now concerning, etc. In reply to your inquiries. The first, it seems, was in regard to the propriety of marriage; that is, whether it was lawful and expedient.

It is good. It is well. It is fit, convenient; or, it is suited to the present circumstances; or, the thing itself is well and expedient in certain circumstances. The apostle did not mean that marriage was unlawful, for he says, Heb 13:4, that "marriage is honourable in all." But he here admits, with one of the parties in Corinth, that it was well and proper, in some circumstances, not to enter into the marriage relation. See @1 Co 7:7,8,26,28,31,32.

Not to touch a woman. Not to be connected with her by marriage. Xenophon, (Cyro., b. 1,) uses the same word (aptw, to touch) to denote marriage. Compare Ge 20:4,6; 26:11; Pr 6:29.

{*} "to touch" "Not to take a wife"


Verse 2. Nevertheless. But, (de.) Though this is to be admitted as proper where it can be done, when a man has entire control of himself and his passions, and though in present circumstances it would be expedient, yet it may be proper also to enter into the marriage connexion.

To avoid fornication. Greek, On account of (dia) fornication. The word fornication is used here in the large sense of licentiousness in general. For the sake of the purity of society, and to avoid the evils of sensual indulgence, and the corruptions and crimes which attend an illicit intercourse, it is proper that the married state should be entered. To this vice they were particularly exposed in Corinth. See the Introduction. Paul would keep the church from scandal. How much evil, how much deep pollution, how many abominable crimes would have been avoided, which have since grown out of the monastic system, and the celibacy of the clergy among the papists, if Paul's advice had been followed by all professed Christians! Paul says that marriage is honourable, and that the relations of domestic life should be formed, to avoid the evils which would otherwise result. The world is the witness of the evils which flow from the neglect of his advice. Every community where the marriage tie has been lax and feeble, or where it has been disregarded or dishonoured, has been full of pollution, and it ever will be. Society is pure and virtuous, just as marriage is deemed honourable, and as its vows are adhered to and preserved.

Let every man, etc. Let the marriage vow be honoured by all.

Have his own wife. And one wife, to whom he shall be faithful. Polygamy is unlawful under the gospel; and divorce is unlawful. Let every man and woman, therefore, honour the institution of God, and avoid the evils of illicit indulgence.


Verse 3. Let the husband, etc. "Let them not imagine that there is any virtue in living separate from each other, as if they were in a state of celibacy."—Doddridge. They are bound to each other; in every way they are to evince kindness, and to seek to promote the happiness and purity of each other. There is a great deal of delicacy used here by Paul, and his expression is removed as far as possible from the grossness of heathen writers. His meaning is plain; but instead of using a word to express it which would be indelicate and offensive, he uses one which is not indelicate in the slightest degree, The word which he uses (eunoian, benevolence) denotes kindness, good-will, affection of mind. And by the use of the word "due," (ofeilomenhn,) he reminds them of the sacredness of their vow, and of the fact that in person, property, and in every respect, they belong to each other. It was necessary to give this direction, for the contrary might have been regarded as proper by many, who would have supposed there was special virtue and merit in living separate from each other; — as facts have shown that many have imbibed such an idea;—and it was not possible to give the rule with more delicacy than Paul has done. Many Mss., however, instead of "due benevolence," read ofeilhn, a debt, or that which is owed; and this reading has been adopted by Griesbach in the text. Homer, with a delicacy not unlike the apostle Paul, uses the word filothta, friendship, to express the same idea.

{a} "husband" Ex 21:10; 1 Pe 3:7

{+} "benevolence" "What is due to the wife"


Verse 4. The wife hath not power, etc. By the marriage covenant that power, in this respect, is transferred to the husband.

And likewise also the husband. The equal rights of husband and wife, in the Scriptures, are everywhere maintained. They are to regard themselves as united in the most intimate union, and in the most tender ties.


Verse 5. Defraud ye not, etc. Of the right mentioned above. Withdraw not from the society of each other.

Except it be with consent. With a mutual understanding, that you may engage in the extraordinary duties of religion. Comp. Ex 19:15.

And come together again, etc. Even by mutual consent, the apostle would not have this separation to be perpetual; since it would expose them to many of the evils which the marriage relation was designed to avoid.

That Satan

, etc. That Satan take not advantage of you, and throw you into temptation, and fill you with thoughts and passions which the marriage compact was designed to remedy.

{b} "with consent" Joe 2:16

{c} "Satan" 1 Th 3:5


Verse 6. But I speak this by permission, etc. It is not quite certain whether the word "this," (touto) in this verse, refers to what precedes, or to what follows. On this commentators are divided, the more natural and obvious interpretation would be to refer it to the preceding statement. I am inclined to think that the more natural construction is the true one, and that Paul refers to what he had said in 1 Co 7:5. Most recent commentators, as Macknight and Rosenmuller, however, suppose it refers to what follows, and appeal to similar places in Joe 1:2; Ps 49:2; 1 Co 10:23.

Calvin supposes it refers to what was said in 1 Co 7:1

By permission. Suggnwmhn. This word means indulgence, or permission, and stands opposed to that which is expressly enjoined. Comp. 1 Co 7:25: "I am allowed to say this; I have no express command on the subject; I give it as my opinion; I do not speak it directly under the influence of Divine inspiration." See 1 Co 7:10,25,40.

Paul here does not claim to be under inspiration in these directions which he specifies. But this is no argument against his inspiration in general, but rather the contrary. For,

(1.) it shows that he was an honest man, and was disposed to state the exact truth. An impostor, pretending to inspiration, would have claimed to have been always inspired. Who ever heard of a pretender to Divine inspiration admitting that in anything he was not under Divine guidance? Did Mohammed ever do this? Do impostors now ever do it?

(2.) It shows that in other cases, where no exception is made, he claimed to be inspired. These few exceptions, which he expressly makes, prove that in everywhere else he claimed to be under the influence of inspiration.

(3.) We are to suppose, therefore, that in all his writings where he makes no express exceptions, (and the exceptions are very few in number,) Paul claimed to be inspired. Macknight, however, and some others, understand this as mere advice, as an inspired man, though not as a command.

Not of commandment. Not by express instruction from the Lord. See 1 Co 7:25. I do not claim in this to be under the influence of inspiration; and supposed that it was unlawful for a Christian wife or husband to be my counsel here may be regarded, or not, as you may be able able to receive it.


Verse 7. For I would, etc. I would prefer.

That all men, etc. That Paul was unmarried is evident from 1 Co 9:5. But he does not refer to this fact here. When he wishes that all men were like himself, he evidently does not intend that he would prefer that all should be unmarried, for this would be against the Divine institution, and against his own precepts elsewhere. But he would be glad if all men had control over their passions and propensities as he had; had the gift of continence, and could abstain from marriage when circumstances of trial, etc., would make it proper. We may add, that when Paul wishes to exhort to anything that is difficult, he usually adduces his own example to show that it may be done; an example which it would be well for all ministers to be able to follow.

But every man hath his proper gift. Every man has his own peculiar talent, or excellence. One man excels in one thing, and another in another. One may not have this particular virtue, but he may be distinguished for another virtue quite as valuable. The doctrine/i> here is, therefore, that we are not to judge of others by ourselves, or measure their virtue by ours. We may excel in some one thing, they in another. And because they have not our peculiar virtue, or capability, we are not to condemn or denounce them. Comp. Mt 19:11,12.

Of God. Bestowed by God, either in the original endowments and faculties of body or mind, or by his grace. In either case it is the gift of God. The virtue of continence is his gift as well as any other; and Paul had reason, as any other man must have, to be thankful that God had conferred it on him. So if a man is naturally amiable, kind, gentle, large-hearted, tender, and affectionate, he should regard it as the gift of God, and be thankful that he has not to contend with the evils of a morose, proud, haughty, and severe temper. It is true, however, that all these virtues may be greatly strengthened by discipline, and that religion gives rigour and comeliness to them all. Paul's virtue in this was strengthened by his resolution; by his manner of life; by his frequent fastings and trials, and by the abundant employment which God gave him in the apostleship. And it is true still, that if a man is desirous to overcome the lusts of the flesh, industry, and hardship, and trial, and self-denial will enable him, by the grace of God, to do it. Idleness is the cause of no small part of the corrupt desires of men; and God kept Paul from these, (1.) by giving him enough to do; and, (2.) by giving him enough to suffer.

{a} "every man" Mt 19:11,12


Verse 8. To the unmarried. The word unmarried (agamoiv) may refer either to those who had never been married, or to widowers. It here means simply those who were at that time unmarried, and his reasoning applies to both classes.

And widows. The apostle specifies these, though he had not specified widowers particularly. The reason of this distinction seems to be, that he considers more particularly the case of those females who had never been married, in the close of the chapter, 1 Co 7:25.

It is good for them. It may be advisable, in the present circumstances of persecution and distress, not to be encumbered with the cares and anxieties of a family. 1 Co 7:26,32-34.

If they abide. That they remain, in the present circumstances, unmarried. See 1 Co 7:26.

{*} "unmarried and widows" "Or to widowers"


Verse 9. But if they cannot contain. If they have not the gift of continence; if they cannot be secure against temptation; if they have not strength of virtue enough to preserve them from the danger of sin, and of bringing reproach and scandal on the church.

It is better. It is to be preferred.

Than to burn. The passion here referred to is often compared to a fire. See Virg. AEn. iv. 68. It is better to marry, even with all the inconveniences attending the marriage life in a time of distress and persecution in the church, 1 Co 7:26, than to be the prey of raging, consuming, and exciting passions.

{+} "contain" "have not continence"

{b} "let them marry" 1 Ti 5:14


Verse 10. And unto the married. This verse commences the second subject of inquiry; to wit, whether it was proper, in the existing state of things, for those who were married to continue this relation, or whether they ought to separate. The reasons why any may have supposed that it was best to separate, may have been,

(1.) that their troubles and persecutions might be such that they might judge it best that families should be broken up; and,

(2.) probably many supposed that it was unlawful for a Christian wife or husband to be connected at all with a heathen and idolator.

I command, yet not I, but the Lord. Not I so much as the Lord. This injunction is not to be understood as advice merely, but as a solemn divine command, from which you are not at liberty to depart. Paul here professes to utter the language of inspiration, and demands obedience. The express command of "the Lord" to which he refers, is probably the precept recorded in Mt 5:32; 19:3-10. These precepts of Christ asserted that the marriage tie was sacred and inviolable.

Let not the wife depart, etc. Let her not prove faithless to her marriage vows; let her not, on any pretence, desert her husband. Though she is a Christian, and he is not, yet let her not seek, on that account, to be separate from him. The law of Moses did not permit a wife to divorce herself from her husband, though it was sometimes done, (comp. Mr 10:12; but the Greek and Roman laws allowed it.—Grotius. But Paul here refers to a formal and legal separation before the magistrates, and not to a voluntary separation, without intending to be formally divorced. The reasons for this opinion are,

(1.) that such divorces were known and practised among both Jews and heathens.

(2.) It was important to settle the question whether they were to be allowed in the Christian church.

(3.) The claim would be set up, probably, that it might be done.

(4.) The question whether a voluntary separation might not be proper, where one party was a Christian and the other not, he discusses in the following verses, 1 Co 7:12-17. Here, therefore, he solemnly repeats the law of Christ, that divorce, under the Christian economy, was not to be in the power either of the husband or wife.

{c} "Let not the wife" Mal 2:14-16; Mt 19:6,9


Verse 11. But and if she depart. If she have withdrawn by a rash and foolish act; if she has attempted to dissolve the marriage vow, she is to remain unmarried, or be reconciled. She is not at liberty to marry another. This may refer, I suppose, to instances where wives, ignorant of the rule of Christ, and supposing that they had a right to separate themselves from their husbands, had rashly left them, and had supposed that the marriage contract was dissolved.

Paul tells them that this was impossible; and that if they had so separated from their husbands, the pure laws of Christianity did not recognise this right, and they must either be reconciled to their husbands or remain alone. The marriage tie was so sacred that it could not be dissolved by the will of either party.

Let her remain unmarried. That is, let her not marry another.

Or be reconciled to her husband. Let this be done, if possible. If it cannot be, let her remain unmarried. It was a duty to be reconciled, if it was possible. If not, she should not violate her vows to her husband so far as to marry another. It is evident that this rule is still binding, and that no one who has separated from her husband, whatever be the cause, unless there be a regular divorce, according to the law of Christ, (Mt 5:32,) can be at liberty to marry again.

And let not the husband. See Barnes "Mt 5:32".

This right, granted under the Jewish law, and practised among all the heathen, was to be taken away wholly under the gospel. The marriage tie was to be regarded as sacred; and the tyranny of man over woman was to cease;


Verse 12. But to the rest. "I have spoken in regard to the duties of the unmarried, and the question whether it is right and advisable that they should marry, 1 Co 7:1-9. I have also uttered the command of the Lord in regard to those who are married, and the question whether separation and divorce were proper. Now in regard to the rest of the persons and cases referred to, I will deliver my opinion." The rest, or remainder, here referred to, relates particularly to the cases in which one party was a Christian, and the other not. In the previous verses he had delivered the solemn, explicit law of Christ, that divorce was to take place on neither side, and in no instance, except agreeably to the law of Christ, Mt 5:32. That was settled by Divine authority. In the subsequent verses he discusses a different question; whether a voluntary separation was not advisable and proper when the one party was a Christian and the other not, The word rest refers to these instances, and the questions which would arise under this inquiry.

Not the Lord. See Barnes "1 Co 7:6".

"I do not claim, in this advice, to be under the influence of inspiration; I have no express command on the subject from the Lord; but I deliver my opinion as a servant of the Lord; 1 Co 7:40, and as having a right to offer advice, even when I have no express command from God, to a church which I have founded, and which has consulted me on the subject." This was a case in which both he and they were to follow the principles of Christian prudence and propriety, when there was no express commandment. Many such cases may occur. But few, perhaps none, can occur in which some Christian principle shall not be found, that will be sufficient to direct the anxious inquirer after truth and duty.

If any brother. Any Christian.

That believeth not. That is not a Christian; that is a heathen.

And if she be pleased. If it seems best to her; if she consents; approves of living together still. There might be many cases where the wife or the husband, that was not a Christian, would be so opposed to Christianity, and so violent in their opposition, that they would not be willing to live with a Christian. When this was the case, the Christian husband or wife could not prevent the separation. When this was not the case, they were not to seek a separation themselves.

To dwell with him. To remain in connexion with him as his wife, though they differed on the subject of religion.

Let him not put her away. Though she is a heathen, though opposed to his religion, yet the marriage vow is sacred and inviolable. It is not to be sundered by any change which can take place in the opinions of either party. It is evident, that if a man were at liberty to dissolve the marriage tie, or to discard his wife when his own opinions were changed on the subject of religion, that it would at once destroy all the sacredness of the marriage union, and render it a nullity. Even, therefore, when there is a difference of opinion on the vital subject of religion, the tie is not dissolved; but the only effect of religion should be, to make the converted husband or wife more tender, kind, affectionate, and faithful, than they were before; and all the more so, as their partners are without the hopes of the gospel, and as they may be won to love the Saviour, 1 Co 7:16.

{d} "not the Lord" Ezr 10:11, etc.


Verse 13. Let her not leave him. A change of phraseology from the last verse, to suit the circumstances. The wife had not power to put away the husband, and expel him from his own home; but she might think it her duty to be separated from him. The apostle counsels her not to do this; and this advice should still be followed. She should still love her husband, and seek his welfare; she should be still a kind, affectionate, and faithful wife; and all the more so, that she may show him the excellence of religion, and win him to love it. She should even bear much, and bear it long; nor should she leave him unless her life is rendered miserable, or in danger; or unless he wholly neglects to make provision for her, and leaves her to suffering, to want, and to tears. In such a case, no precept of religion forbids her to return to her father's house, or to seek a place of safety and of comfort. But even then it is not to be a separation on account of a difference of religious sentiment, but for brutal treatment. Even then the marriage tie is not dissolved, and neither party are at liberty to marry again.

{*} "him" "not put him away"


Verse 14. For the unbelieving husband. The husband that is not a Christian; who still remains a heathen, or an impenitent man. The apostle here states reasons why a separation should not take place when there was a difference of religion between the husband and the wife. The first is, that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife. And the object of this statement seems to be, to meet an objection which might exist in the mind, and which might, perhaps, be urged by some, "Shall I not be polluted by such a connexion? Shall I not be defiled, in the eye of God, by living in a close union with a heathen, a sinner, an enemy of God, and an opposer of the gospel?" This objection was natural, and is, doubtless, often felt. To this the apostle replies, "No; the contrary may be true. The connexion produces a species of sanctification, or diffuses a kind of holiness over the unbelieving party by the believing party, so far as to render their children holy, and therefore it is improper to seek for a separation."

Is sanctified. Hgiastai. There has been a great variety of opinions in regard to the sense of this word. It does not comport with my design to state these opinions. The usual meaning of the word is, to make holy; to set apart to a sacred use; to consecrate, etc. See Barnes "Joh 17:17".

But the expression cannot mean here,

(1.) that the unbelieving husband would become holy, or be a Christian, by the mere fact of a connexion with a Christian, for this would be to do violence to the words, and would be contrary to facts everywhere; nor,

(2.) that the unbelieving husband had been sanctified by the Christian wife, (Whitby,) for this would not be true in all cases; nor,

(3.) that the unbelieving husband would gradually become more favourably inclined to Christianity, by observing its effects on the wife, (according to Semler;) for though this might be true, yet the apostle was speaking of something then, and which rendered their children at that time holy; nor,

(4.) that the unbelieving husband might more easily be sanctified, or become a Christian, by being connected with a Christian wife, (according to Rosenmuller and Schleusner,) because he is speaking of something in the connexion which made the children holy; and because the word agiazw is not used in this sense elsewhere. But it is a good rule of interpretation, that the words which are used in any place are to be limited in their signification by the connexion; and all that we are required to understand here is, that the unbelieving husband was sanctified in regard to the subject under discussion; that is, in regard to the question whether it was proper for them to live together, or whether they should be separated or not. And the sense may be, "They are by the marriage tie one flesh. They are indissolubly united by the ordinance of God. As they are one by his appointment, as they have received his sanction to the marriage union, and as one of them is holy, so the other is to be regarded as sanctified, or made so holy by the Divine sanction to the union, that it is proper for them to live together in the marriage relation." And in proof of this, Paul says if it were not so, if the connexion was to be regarded as impure and abominable, then their children were to be esteemed as illegitimate and unclean. But now they were not so regarded, and could not so be; and hence it followed that they might lawfully continue together. So Calvin, Beza, and Doddridge interpret the expression.

Else were your children unclean, akayarta. Impure; the opposite of what is meant by holy. Here observe,

(1.) that this is a reason why the parents, one of whom was a Christian and the other not, should not be separated; and,

(2.) the reason is founded on the fact, that if they were separated, the offspring of such a union must be regarded as illegitimate, or unholy; and,

(3.) it must be improper to separate in such a way, and for such a reason, because even they did not believe, and could not believe, that their children were defiled, and polluted, and subject to the shame and disgrace attending illegitimate children. This passage has often been interpreted, and is often adduced to prove that children are "federally holy," and that they are entitled to the privilege of baptism on the ground of the faith of one of the parents. But against this interpretation there are insuperable objections.

(1.) The phrase "federally holy" is unintelligible, and conveys no idea to the great mass of men. It occurs nowhere in the Scriptures, and what can be meant by it?

(2.) It does not accord with the scope and design of the argument. There is not one word about baptism here; not one allusion to it; nor does the argument in the remotest degree bear upon it. The question was not whether children should be baptized, but it was whether there should be a separation between man and wife, where the one was a Christian and the other not. Paul states, that if such a separation should take place, it would imply that the marriage was improper; and of course the children must be regarded as unclean. But how would the supposition that they were federally holy, and the proper subjects of baptism, bear on this? Would it not be equally true that it was proper to baptize the children whether the parents were separated or not? Is it not a doctrine among Paedobaptists everywhere, that the children are entitled to baptism on the faith of either of the parents, and that that doctrine is not affected by the question here agitated by Paul? Whether it was proper for them to live together or not, was it not equally true that the child of a believing parent was to be baptised? But

(3.) the supposition that this means that the children would be regarded as illegitimate if such a separation should take place, is one that accords with the whole scope and design of the argument. "When one party is a Christian and the other not, shall there be a separation?" This was the question. "No," says Paul; "if there be such a separation, it must be because the marriage is improper; because it would be wrong to live together in such circumstances." What would follow from this? Why, that all the children that have been born since the one party became a Christian, must be regarded as having been born while a connexion existed that was improper, and unchristian, and unlawful, and of course they must be regarded as illegitimate. But, says he, you do not believe this yourselves. It follows, therefore, that the connexion, even according to your own views, is proper.

(4.) This accords with the meaning of the word unclean, akayarta

(a.) in a Levitical sense, Le 5:2;

(b.) in a moral sense, Ac 10:28; 2 Co 6:17; Eph 5:5.

The word will appropriately express the sense of illegitimacy; and the argument, I think, evidently requires this. It may be summed up in a few words. "Your separation would be a proclamation to all, that you regard the marriage as invalid and improper. From this it would follow that the offspring of such a marriage would be illegitimate. But you are not prepared to admit this; you do not believe it. Your children you esteem to be legitimate, and they are so. The marriage tie, therefore, should be regarded as binding, and separation unnecessary and improper." See, however, Doddridge and Bloomfield for a different view of this subject. I believe infant baptism to be proper and right, and an inestimable privilege to parents and to children [This is Barnes' opinion, not necessarily the opinion of Online Bible]. But a good cause should not be made to rest on feeble supports, nor on forced and unnatural interpretations of the Scriptures. And such I regard the usual interpretation placed on this passage.

But now are they holy. Holy in the same sense as the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; for different forms of the same word are usual. That is, they are legitimate. They are not to be branded and treated as bastards, as they would be by your separation. "You regard them as having been born in lawful wedlock, and they are so; and they should be treated as such by their parents, and not be exposed to shame and disgrace by your separation.

{a} "now are they holy" Mal 2:15,16


Verse 15. But if the unbelieving depart. If they choose to leave you.

Let him depart. You cannot prevent it, and you are to submit to it patiently, and bear it as a Christian.

A brother or a sister is not under bondage, etc. Many have supposed that this means that they would be at liberty to marry again when the unbelieving wife or husband had gone away; as Calvin, Grotius, Rosenmuller, etc. But this is contrary to the strain of the argument of the apostle. The sense of the expression, "is not bound," etc. is that if they forcibly depart, the one that is left is not bound by the marriage tie to make provision for the one that departed; to do acts that might be prejudicial to religion by a violent effort to compel the departing husband or wife to live with the one that is forsaken; but is at liberty to live separate, and should regard it as proper so to do.

God hath called us to peace. Religion is peaceful. It would prevent contentions and broils. This is to be a grand principle. If it cannot be obtained by living together, there should be a peaceful separation; and where such a separation has taken place, the one which has departed should be suffered to remain separate in peace. God has called us to live in peace with all if we can. This is the general principle of religion on which we are always to act. In our relation to our partners in life, as well as in all other relations and circumstances, this is to guide us. Calvin supposes that this declaration pertains to the former part of this verse; and that Paul means to say, that if the unbelieving depart, he is to be suffered to do so peaceably, rather than to have contention and strife, for God has called us to a life of peace.

{*} "bondage" "Not enslaved"

{a} "called" Ro 12:18; 14:19; Heb 12:14

{1} "to peace" "in peace"


Verse 16. For what knowest thou, etc. The apostle here assigns a reason why the believing party should not separate from the other needlessly, or why he should not desire to be separated. The reason is, the possibility or the probability that the unbelieving party might be converted by the example and entreaties of the other.

Whether thou, etc., How do you know but this may be done? Is there not a possibility, nay, a probability of it, and is not this a sufficient reason for continuing together?

Save thy husband. Gain him over to the Christian faith; be the means of his conversion and salvation. Comp. Ro 11:26. We learn from this verse,

(1.) that there is a possibility that an unbelieving partner in life may be converted by example of the other.

(2.) That this should be an object of intense interest to the Christian husband or wife, because

(a) it will promote the happiness of the other;

(b) it will promote their usefulness;

(c) it will be the means of blessing their family; for parents should be united on the subject of religion, and in their example and influence in training up their sons and daughters; and

(d) because the salvation of a beloved husband or wife should be an object of intense interest.

(3.) This object is of so much importance, that the Christian should be willing to submit to much, to bear much, and to bear long, in order that it may be accomplished. Paul said it was desirable even to live with a heathen partner to do it; and so also it is desirable to bear much, very much, with even an unkind and fretful temper, with an unfaithful and even an intemperate husband, or with a perverse and peevish wife, if there is a prospect that they may be converted.

(4.) This same direction is elsewhere given, 1 Pe 3:1,2.

(5.) It is often done. It is not hopeless. Many a wife has thus been the means of saving a husband; many a husband has been the means of the salvation of the wife. In regard to the means by which this is to be hoped for, we may observe that it is not by a harsh, fretful, complaining temper; it is to be by kindness, and tenderness, and love. It is to be by an exemplification of the excellency of religion by example—by patience when provoked, meekness when injured, love when despised, forbearance when words of harshness and irritation are used, and by showing how a Christian can live, and what is the true nature of religion; by kind and affectionate conversation when alone, when the heart is tender, when calamities visit the family, and when the thoughts are drawn along by the events of Providence towards death. Not by harshness or severity of manner is the result to be hoped for; but by tender entreaty, and mildness of life, and by prayer. Preeminently this is to be used. When a husband will not hear, God can hear; when he is angry, morose, or unkind, God is gentle, tender, and kind; and when a husband or a wife turn away from the voice of gentle entreaty, God's ear is open, and God is ready to hear and to bless. Let one thing guide the life. We are never to cease to set a Christian example; never to cease to live as a Christian should live; never to cease to pray fervently to the God of grace, that the partner of our lives may be brought under the full influence of Christian truth, and meet us in the enjoyments of heaven.

{b} "save thy husband" 1 Pe 3:1,2

{2} "how knowest" "What"


Verse 17. But as God hath distributed, etc. As God hath dividedemerisen; i.e., given, imparted to any one. As God has given grace to every one. The words ei mh denote simply but in the beginning of this verse. The apostle here introduces a new subject; or an inquiry varying somewhat from that preceding, though of the same general nature. He had discussed the question whether a husband and wife ought to be separated on account of a difference in religion. He now says that the general principle there stated ought to rule everywhere; that men who become Christians ought not to seek to change their condition or calling in life, but to remain in that situation in which they were when they became Christians, and show the excellence of their religion IN that particular calling. The object of Paul, therefore, is to preserve order, industry, faithfulness in the relations of life, and to show that Christianity does not design to break up the relations of social and domestic intercourse. This discussion continues to 1 Co 7:24. The phrase, as God hath distributed," refers to the rendition in which men are placed in life, whether as rich or poor, in a state of freedom or servitude, of learning or ignorance, etc. And it implies that God appoints the lot of men, and orders the circumstances of their condition; that religion is not designed to interfere directly with this; and that men should seek to show the real excellence of religion in the particular sphere in which they may have been placed by Divine Providence before they became converted.

As the Lord hath called every one. That is, in the condition or circumstances in which any one is when he is called by the Lord to be a Christian.

So let him walk. In that sphere of life; in that calling, 1 Co 7:20; in that particular relation in which he was, let him remain, unless he can consistently change it for the better, and THERE let him illustrate the true beauty and excellence of religion. This was designed to counteract the notion that the fact of embracing a new religion dissolved the relations of life which existed before. This idea probably prevailed extensively among the Jews. Paul's object is to show that the gospel, instead of dissolving those relations, only strengthened them, and enabled those who were converted the better to discharge the duties which grow out of them.

And so ordain I, etc. This is no peculiar rule for you Corinthians. It is the universal rule which I everywhere inculcated. It is not improbable that there was occasion to insist everywhere on this rule, and to repress disorders which might have been attempted by some who might suppose that Christianity dissolved the former obligations of life.

{c} "as the Lord" 1 Co 7:20,24

{d} "And so ordain" 1 Co 4:17; 2 Co 11:28

{+} "ordain" "Appoint"


Verse 18. Is any man called. Does any one become a Christian. See Barnes "1 Co 7:26".

Being circumcised. Being a native-born Jew, or having become a Jewish proselyte, and having submitted to the initiatory rite of the Jewish religion.

Let him not become uncircumcised. This could not be literally done. But the apostle refers here to certain efforts which were made to remove the marks of circumcision which were often attempted by those who were ashamed of having been circumcised. The practice is often alluded to by Jewish writers, and is described by them. Comp. 1 Mac. i. 15. It is not decorous or proper here to show how this was done. The process is described in Cels. de Med. 7.25. See Grotius and Bloomfield.

Is any called in uncircumcision? A Gentile, or one who had not been circumcised.

Let him not be circumcised. The Jewish rites are not binding, and are not to be enjoined on those who have been converted from the Gentiles. See Barnes "Ro 2:27, seq.

{e} "uncircumcision" Ac 15:1; Ga 5:2


Verse 19. Circumcision is nothing, etc. It is of no consequence in itself. It is not that which God requires now. And the mere external rite can be of no consequence one way or the other. The heart is all; and that is what God demands. See Barnes "Ro 2:29".

But the keeping of the commandments of God. Is something, is the main thing, is everything; and this can be done whether a man is circumcised or not.

{a} "Circumcision" Ga 5:6; 6:15

{b} "keeping" Joh 15:14


Verse 20. Let every man abide. Let him remain or continue.

In the same calling. The same occupation, profession, rank of life. We use the word calling in the same sense to denote the occupation or profession of a man. Probably the original idea which led men to designate a profession as a calling was the belief that God called every man to the profession and rank which he occupies; that is, that it is by his arrangement, or providence, that he occupies that rank rather than another. In this way every man has a call to the profession in which he is engaged as really as ministers of the gospel; and every man should have as clear evidence that God has called him to the sphere of life in which he moves, as ministers of the gospel should have that God has called them to their appropriate profession. This declaration of Paul, that every one is to remain in the same occupation or rank in which he was when he was converted, is to be taken in a general and not in an unqualified sense. It does not design to teach that a man is in no situation to seek a change in his profession when he becomes pious. But it is intended to show that religion was the friend of order; that it did not disregard or disarrange the relations of social life; that it was fitted to produce contentment even in an humble walk, and to prevent repinings at the lot of those who were more favoured or happy. That it did not design to prevent all change is apparent from the next verse, and from the nature of the case. Some of the circumstances in which a change of condition, or of calling, may be proper when a man is converted, are the following:

(1.) When a man is a slave, and he can obtain his freedom, 1 Co 7:21.

(2.) When a man is pursuing a wicked calling or course of life when he was converted, even if it is lucrative, he should abandon it as speedily as possible. Thus if a man is engaged, as John Newton was, in the slave-trade, he should at once abandon it. If he is engaged in the manufacture or sale of ardent spirits, he should at once forsake the business, even at great personal sacrifice, and engage in a lawful and honourable employment. See Barnes "Ac 19:19".

No considerations can justify a continuance in a course of life like this after a man is converted. No consideration can make a business which is "evil, and only evil, and that continually," proper or right.

(3.) Where a man can increase his usefulness by choosing a new profession. Thus the usefulness of many a man is greatly promoted by his leaving an agricultural or mechanical employment; or by his leaving the bar, or the mercantile profession, and becoming a minister of the gospel. In such situations, religion not only permits a man to change his profession, but it demands it; nor will God smile upon him, or bless him, unless the change is made. An opportunity to become more useful imposes an obligation to change the course of life. And no man is permitted to waste his life and talents in a mere scheme of money-making, or in self-indulgence, when by changing his calling he can do more for the salvation of the world.

{c} "abide" Pr 27:8


Verse 21. Being a servant. Doulov. A slave. Slaves abounded in Greece, and in every part of the heathen world. Athens, e.g., had, in her best days, twenty thousand freemen, and four hundred thousand slaves. See the condition of the heathen world on this subject illustrated at length, and in a very learned manner, by Rev. B. B. Edwards, in the Bib. Repository for Oct. 1835, pp. 411—436. It was a very important' subject to inquire what ought to be done in such instances. Many slaves who had been converted might argue that the institution of slavery was contrary to the rights of man; that it destroyed their equality with other men; that it was cruel, and oppressive, and unjust in the highest degree; and that therefore they ought not to submit to it, but that they should burst their bonds, and assert their rights as freemen. In order to prevent restlessness, uneasiness, and insubordination; in order to preserve the peace of society, and to prevent religion from being regarded as disorganizing and disorderly, Paul here states the principle on which the slave was to act. And by referring to this case, which was the strongest which could occur, he designed doubtless to inculcate the duty of order, and contentment in general, in all the other relations in which men might be when they were converted.

Care not for it. Let it not be a subject of deep anxiety and distress; do not deem it to be disgraceful; let it not affect your spirits; but be content in the lot of life where God has placed you. If you can in a proper way obtain your freedom, do it; if not, let it not be a subject of painful reflection. In the sphere of life where God by his providence has placed you, strive to evince the Christian spirit, and show that you are able to bear the sorrows and endure the toils of your humble lot with submission to the will of God, and so as to advance in that relation the interest of the true religion. In that calling do your duty, and evince always the spirit of a Christian. This duty is often enjoined on those who were servants, or slaves, Eph 6:5; Col 3:22; 1 Ti 6:1; Tit 2:9; 1 Pe 2:18. /p>

This duty of the slave, however, does not make the oppression of the master right or just, any more than the duty of one who is persecuted or reviled to be patient and meek makes the conduct of the persecutor or reviler just or right; nor does it prove that the master has a right to hold the slave as property, which can never be right in the sight of God; but it requires simply that the slave should evince, even in the midst of degradation and injury, the spirit of a Christian, just as it is required of a man who is injured in any way to bear it as becomes a follower of the Lord Jesus. Nor does this passage prove that a slave ought not to desire freedom if it can be obtained, for this is supposed in the subsequent clause. Every human being has a right to desire to be free, and to seek liberty. But it should be done, in accordance with the rules of the gospel; so as not to dishonour the religion of Christ, and so as not to injure the true happiness of others, or overturn the foundations of society.

But if thou mayest be made free. If thou canst—dunasaiif it is in your power to become free. That is, if your master or the laws set you free; or if you can purchase your freedom; or if the laws can be changed in a regular manner. If freedom can be obtained in any manner that is not sinful. In many cases a Christian master might set his slaves free; in others, perhaps, the laws might do it; in some, perhaps, the freedom of the slave might be purchased by a Christian friend. In all these instances it would be proper to embrace the opportunity of becoming free. The apostle does not speak of insurrection, and the whole scope of the passage is against an attempt on their part to obtain freedom by force and violence. He manifestly teaches them to remain in their condition, to bear it patiently and submissively, and in that relation to bear their hard lot with a Christian spirit, unless their freedom could be obtained without violence and bloodshed. And the same duty is still binding. Evil as slavery is, and always evil and only evil, yet the Christian religion requires patience, gentleness, forbearance; not violence, war, insurrection, and bloodshed. Christianity would teach masters to be kind, tender, and gentle; to liberate their slaves, and to change the laws so that it may be done; to be just towards those whom they have held in bondage. It would not teach the slave to rise on his master, and imbrue his hands in his blood; to break up the relations of society by violence; or to dishonour his religion by the indulgence of the feelings of revenge and by murder.

Use it rather. Avail yourselves of the privilege if you can, and be a freeman. There are disadvantages attending the condition of a slave; and if you can escape from them, in a proper manner, it is your privilege and your duty to do it.

{d} "care not" Heb 13:5


Verse 22. For he that is called in the Lord. He that is called by the Lord; he that becomes a Christian.

Being a servant. A slave when he is converted.

Is the Lord's freeman. Marg., Made free. Apeleuyerov. Is manumitted, made free, endowed with liberty by the Lord. This is designed evidently to comfort the heart of the slave, and to make him contented with his condition; and it is a most delicate, happy, and tender argument. The sense is this: "You are blessed with freedom from the bondage of sin by the Lord. You were formerly a slave to sin, but now you are liberated. That bondage was far more grievous, and far more to be lamented, than the bondage of the body. But from that long, grievous, and oppressive servitude, you are now free. Your condition, even though you are a slave, is far better than it was before; nay, you are now the true freeman, the freeman of the Lord. Your spirit is free; while those who are not slaves, and perhaps your own masters, are even now under a more severe and odious bondage than yours. You should rejoice, therefore, in deliverance from the greater evil, and be glad that in the eye of God you are regarded as his freeman, and endowed by him with more valuable freedom than it would be to be delivered from the bondage under which you are now placed. Freedom from sin is the highest blessing that can be conferred on men; and if that is yours, you should little regard your external circumstances in this life. You will soon be admitted to the eternal liberty of the saints in glory, and will forget all your toils and privations in this world."

Is Christ's servant. Is the slave (doulov) of Christ; is bound to obey law, and to submit himself, as you are, to the authority of another. This, too, is designed to promote contentment with his lot, by the consideration that all are bound to obey law; that there is no such thing as absolute independence; and that, since law is to be obeyed, it is not degradation and ignominy to submit to those which God has imposed on us by his providence in an humble sphere of life. Whether a freeman or a slave, we are bound to yield obedience to law, and everywhere must obey the laws of God. It is not, therefore, degradation to submit to his laws in a state of servitude, though these laws come to us through an earthly master. In this respect, the slave and the freeman are on a level, as both are required to submit to the laws of Christ; and, even if freedom could be obtained, there is no such thing as absolute independence. This is a very beautiful, delicate, and happy argument; and perhaps no consideration could be urged that would be more adapted to produce contentment.

{e} "is the Lord's freeman" Joh 8:36; Ro 6:18,22

{1} "freeman" "made free"

{a} "Christ's servant" Ps 116:16; 1 Pe 2:16


Verse 23. Ye are bought with a price. Though you are slaves to men, yet you have been purchased for God by the blood of his Son. See Barnes "1 Co 6:20".

You are, therefore, m his sight, of inestimable worth, and are bound to be his.

Be not ye the servants of men. That is, "Do not regard yourselves as the slaves OF MEN. Even in your humble relation of life, even as servants under the laws of the land, regard yourselves as the servants of God, as obeying and serving him even in this relation, since all those who are bought with a price—all Christians, whether bond or free—are in fact the servants (slaves, douloi) of God, yet. 22. In this relation, therefore, esteem yourselves as the servants of God, as bound by his laws, as subject to him, and as really serving him, while you yield all proper obedience to your master." Rosenmuller, Grotius, and some others, however, think that this refers to Christians in general; and that the apostle means to caution them against subjecting themselves to needless rites and customs which the false teachers would impose on them. Others have supposed (as Doddridge) that it means that they should not sell themselves into slavery; but assuredly a caution of this kind was not needful. The view given above I regard as the interpretation demanded by the connexion. And in this view it would promote contentment, and would even prevent their taking any improper measures to disturb the relations of social life, by the high and solemn consideration that even in that relation they were, in common with all Christians, the true and real servants of God. They belonged to God, and they should serve him. In all things which their masters commanded, that were in accordance with the will of God, and that could be done with a quiet conscience, they were to regard themselves as serving God: if at any time they were commanded to do that which God had forbidden, they were to remember that they were the servants of GOD, and that he was to be obeyed rather than man.

{b} "bought with a price" 1 Co 6:20


Verse 24. Brethren, etc. See Barnes "1 Co 7:20".

{c} "let every men" 1 Co 7:17,20


Verse 25. Now concerning virgins. This commences the third subject on which the opinion of Paul seems to have been asked by the church at Corinth—whether it was proper that those who had unmarried daughters, or wards, should give them in marriage. The reason why this question was proposed may have been, that many in the church at Corinth were the advocates of celibacy, and this, perhaps, on two grounds:

(1.) Some may have supposed that in the existing state of things—the persecutions and trials to which Christians were exposed—it would be advisable that a man who had unmarried daughters, or wards, should keep them from the additional cares and trials to which they would be exposed with a family; and,

(2.) some may have already been the advocates for celibacy, and have maintained that that state was more favourable to piety, and was altogether to be preferred. It is known that that opinion had an early prevalence, and gave rise to the establishment of nunneries in the papal church; an opinion that has everywhere been attended with licentiousness and corruption. It is not improbable that there may have been advocates for this opinion even in the church of Corinth; and it was well, therefore, that the authority of an apostle should be employed to sanction and to honour the marriage union.

I have no commandment, etc. No positive, express revelation. See Barnes "1 Co 7:6, See Barnes "1 Co 7:10".

Yet I give my judgment. I give my opinion, or advice. See Barnes "1 Co 2:6".

As one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord. As a Christian; one who has been pardoned, whose mind has been enlightened, and who has been endued with the grace of God.

To be faithful. Faithful to my God. As one who would not give advice for any selfish, or mercenary, or worldly consideration; as one known to act from a desire to. honour God, and to seek the best interests of the church, even though there is no explicit command. The advice of such a man—a devoted, faithful, self-denying, experienced Christian—is entitled to respectful deference, even where there is no claim to inspiration. Religion qualifies to give advice; and the advice of a man who has no selfish ends to gratify, and who is known to seek supremely the glory of God, should not be disregarded or slighted. Paul had a special claim to give this advice, because he was the founder of the church at Corinth.

{*} "virgins" "Single persons"

{d} "commandment" 1 Co 7:6,10,40

{e} "faithful" 1 Ti 1:12


Verse 26. I suppose. I think; I give the following advice.

For the present distress. In the present state of trial. The word distress, anagkhn, necessity, denotes calamity, persecution, trial, etc. See Lu 21:23. The word rendered present, (enestwsan,) denotes that which urges on, or that which at that time presses on, or afflicts. Here it is implied,

(1.) that at that time they were subject to trials so severe as to render the advice which he was about to give proper; and,

(2.) that he by no means meant that this should be a permanent arrangement in the church, and of course it cannot be urged as an argument for the monastic system. What the urgent distress of this time was, is not certainly known. If the epistle was written about A.D. 59, (see the Introduction,) it was in the time of Nero; and probably he had already begun to oppress and persecute Christians. At all events, it is evident that the Christians at Corinth were subject to some trials which rendered the cares of the marriage life undesirable.

It is good for a man so to be. The emphasis here is on the word so, (outwv;) that is, it is best for a man to conduct [himself] in the following manner; the word so referring to the advice which follows. "I advise that he conduct [himself] in the following manner, to wit." Most commentators suppose that it means, as he is; i.e., unmarried; but the interpretation proposed above best suits the connexion. The advice given is in the following verses.

{f} "that it is good" 1 Co 7:1,8


Verse 27. Art thou bound unto a wife? Art thou already married? Marriage is often thus represented as a tie, a bond, etc. See Barnes "Ro 7:2".

Seek not to be loosed. Seek not a dissolution (lusin) of the connexion, either by divorce or by a separation from each other. See Barnes "1 Co 7:10, also 1 Co 7:11-17.

Art thou loosed from a wife? Art thou unmarried? It should have been rendered, free from a wife; or, art thou single? It does not imply of necessity that the person had been married, though it may have that meaning, and signify those who had been separated from a wife by her death. There is no necessity of supposing that Paul refers to persons who had divorced their wives. So Grotius, Schleusner, Doddridge, etc,


Verse 28. Thou hast not sinned. There is no express command of God on this subject, The counsel which I give is mere advice, and it may be observed or not, as you shall judge best. Marriage is honourable and lawful; and though there may be circumstances where it is advisable not to enter into this relation, yet there is no law which prohibits it. The same advice would be proper now, if it were a time of persecution; or if a man is poor, and cannot support a family, or if he has already a dependent mother and sisters to be supported by him, it would be well to follow the advice of Paul. So also when the cares of a family would take up a man's time and efforts; when but for this he might give himself to a missionary life, the voice of wisdom may be in accordance with that of Paul; that a man may be free from these cares, and may give himself with more undivided interest and more successful toil to the salvation of man.

Such shall have trouble in the flesh. They shall have anxiety, care, solicitude, trials. Days of persecution are coming on, and you may be led to the stake; and in those fiery trials, your families may be torn asunder, and a part be put to death. Or you may be poor, and oppressed, and driven from your homes, and made wanderers and exiles, for the sake of your religion.

But I spare you. I will not dwell on the melancholy theme. I will not pain your hearts by describing the woes that shall ensue. I will not do anything to deter you from acting as you deem right. If you choose to marry, it is lawful; and I will not imbitter your joys and harrow up your feelings by the description of your future difficulties and trials. The word flesh here denotes outward circumstances, in contradistinction from the mind. They might have peace of mind, for religion would furnish that; but they would be exposed to poverty, persecution, and calamity.

{g} "thou hast not sinned"

{*} "shall" "will"


Verse 29. But this I say. Whether you are married or not, or in whatever condition of life you may be, I would remind you that life hastens to a close, and that its grand business is to be prepared to die. It matters little in what condition or rank of life we are, if we are ready to depart to another and a better world.

The time is short. The time is contracted, drawn into a narrow space, (sunestalmenov.) The word which is here used is commonly applied to the act of furling a sail, i.e., reducing it into a narrow compass; and is then applied to anything that is reduced within narrow limits. Perhaps there was a reference here to the fact that the time was contracted, or made short, by their impending persecutions and trials. But it is always equally true that time is short. It will soon glide away, and come to a close. The idea of the apostle here is, that the plans of life should all be formed in view of this truth, THAT TIME IS SHORT. No plan should be adopted which does not contemplate this; no engagement of life made when it will not be appropriate to think of it; no connexion entered into when the thought, "time is short," would be an unwelcome intruder. See 1 Pe 4:7; 2 Pe 3:8,9.

It remaineth. to loipon. The remainder is; or this is a consequence from this consideration of the shortness of time.

Both they that have wives, etc. This does not mean that they are to treat them with unkindness or neglect, or fail in the duties of love and fidelity. It is to be taken in a general sense, that they were to live above the world; that they were not to be unduly attached to them; that they were to be ready to part with them; and that they should not suffer attachment to them to interfere with any duty which they owed to God. They were in a world of trial; and they were exposed to persecution; and as Christians they were bound to live entirely to God; and they ought not, therefore, to allow attachment to earthly friends to alienate their affections from God, or to interfere with their Christian duty. In one word, they ought to be just as faithful to God, and just as pious, in every respect, as if they had no wife and no earthly friend. Such a consecration to God is difficult, but not impossible. Our earthly attachments and cares draw away our affections from God, but they need not do it. Instead of being the occasion of alienating our affections from God, they should be, and they might be, the means of binding us more firmly and entirely to him and his cause. But alas! how many professing Christians live for their wives and children only, and not for God in these relations! How many suffer these earthly objects of attachment to alienate their minds from God, rather than make them the occasion of uniting them more tenderly to him and his cause!

{a} "time is short" 1 Pe 4:7; 2 Pe 3:8,9


Verse 30. And they that weep. They who are afflicted.

As though they wept not. Restraining and moderating their grief by the hope of the life to come. The general idea in all these expressions is, that in whatever situation Christians are, they should be dead to the world, and not improperly affected by passing events. It is impossible for human nature not to feel when persecuted, maligned, slandered, or when near earthly friends are taken away. But religion will calm the troubled spirit; pour oil on the agitated waves; light up a smile in the midst of tears; cause the beams of a calm and lovely morning to rise on the anxious heart; silence the commotions of the agitated soul, and produce joy even in the midst of sorrow. Religion will keep us from immoderate grief, and sustain the soul even when in distress nature forces us to shed the tear of mourning. Christ sweat great drops of blood, and Christians often weep; but the heart may be calm, peaceful, elevated, confident in God, in the darkest night and the severest tempest of calamity.

And they that rejoice. They that are happy; they that are prospered; that have beloved families around them; that are blessed with success, with honour, with esteem, with health. They that have occasion of rejoicing and gratitude.

As though they rejoiced not. Not rejoicing with excessive or immoderate joy; not with riot or unholy mirth; not satisfied with these things, though they may rejoice in them; not forgetting that they must soon be left; but keeping the mind in a calm, serious, settled, thoughtful state, in view of the fact that all these things must soon come to an end. Oh, how would this thought silence the voice of unseemly mirth! How would it produce calmness, serenity, heavenly joy, where is now often unhallowed riot; and true peace, where now there is only forced and boisterous revelry!

As though they possessed not. It is right to buy and to obtain property; but it should be held with the conviction that it is by an uncertain tenure, and must soon be left. Men may give a deed that shall secure from their fellow-men; but no man can give a title that shall not be taken away by death. Our lands and houses, our stocks and bonds and mortgages, our goods and chattels, shall soon pass into other hands. Other men will plough our fields, reap our harvests, work in our shops, stand at our counters, sit down at our firesides, eat on our tables, lie upon our beds. Others will occupy our places in society, have our offices, sit in our seats in the sanctuary. Others will take possession of our gold, and appropriate it to their own use; and we shall have no more interest in it, and no more control over it, than our neighbour has now, and no power to eject the man that has taken possession of our houses and our lands. Secure, therefore, as our titles are, safe as are our investments, yet how soon shall we lose all interest in them by death; and how ought this consideration to induce us to live above the world, and to secure a treasure in that world where no thief approaches, and no moth corrupts.


Verse 31. And they that use this world. That make a necessary and proper use of it to furnish raiment, food, clothing, medicine, protection, etc. It is right so to use the world, for it was made for these purposes. The word using here refers to the lawful use of it, (crwmenoi.)

As not abusing it. katacrwmenoi. The preposition kata, in composition, here has the sense of too much, too freely, and is taken not merely in an intensive sense, but to denote evil, the abuse of the world. It means that we are not to use it to excess; we are not to make it a mere matter of indulgences, or to make that the main object and purpose of our living. We are not to give our appetites to indulgence our bodies to riot; our days and nights to feasting and revelry.

For the fashion of this world. to schma. The form, the appearance. In 1 Jo 2:17, it is said that "the world passeth away and the lust thereof." The word "fashion" here is probably taken from the shifting scenes of the drama; where, when the scene changes, the imposing and splendid pageantry passes off. The form, the fashion of the world is like a splendid, gilded pageant. It is unreal and illusive. It continues but a little time; and soon the scene changes, and the fashion that allured and enticed us now passes away, and we pass to other scenes.

Passeth away. Paragei. Passes off like the splendid, gaudy, shifting scenes of the stage. What a striking description of the changing, unstable, and unreal pageantry of this world! Now it is gay, splendid, gorgeous, lovely; tomorrow it is gone, and is succeeded by new actors and new scenes. Now all is busy with one set of actors; tomorrow a new company appears, and again they are succeeded by another, and all are engaged in scenes that are equally changing, vain, gorgeous, and delusive. A similar idea is presented in the wellknown and beautiful description of the great British dramatist:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances.
And one man in his time plays many parts."

If such be the character of the scenes in which we are engaged, how little should we fix our affections on them, and how anxious should we be to be prepared for the real and unchanging scenes of another world!

{b} "fashion" Ps 39:6; Jas 4:14; 1 Pe 4:7; 1 Jo 2:17


Verse 32. But I would have you. I would advise you to such a course of life as should leave you without carefulness. My advice is regulated by that wish, and that wish guides me in giving it.

Without carefulness, amerimnouv. Without anxiety, solicitude, care; without such a necessary attention to the things of this life as to take off your thoughts and affections from heavenly objects. See Barnes "Mt 6:25" and Mt 6:26-31.

Careth for the things that belong to the Lord. Marg., "The things of the Lord;" the things of religion. His attention is not distracted by the cares of this life; his time is not engrossed, and his affections alienated, by an attendance on the concerns of a family, and especially by solicitude for them in times of trial and persecution. He can give his main attention to the things of religion. He is at leisure to give his chief thoughts and anxieties to the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom. Paul's own example showed that this was the course which he preferred; and showed also that in some instances it was lawful and proper for a man to remain unmarried, and to give himself entirely to the work of the Lord. But the Divine commandment, (Ge 1:28,) and the commendation everywhere bestowed upon marriage in the Scriptures, as well as the nature of the case, show that it was not designed that celibacy should be general.

{*} "carefulness" "Anxious care"

{a} "unmarried" 1 Ti 5:5

{1} "things" "Of the Lord, as 1 Co 7:34"


Verse 33. Careth for the things that are of the world. Is under a necessity of giving attention to the things of the world; or cannot give his undivided attention and interest to the things of religion. This would be especially true in times of persecution.

How he mast please his wife. How he may gratify her; how he may accommodate himself to her temper and wishes, to make her happy. The apostle here plainly intimates that there would be danger that the man would be so anxious to gratify his wife, as to interfere with his direct religious duties. This may be done in many ways.

(1.) The affections may be taken off from the Lord, and bestowed upon the wife. She may become the object of even improper attachment, and may take the place of God in the affections.

(2.) The time may be taken up in devotion to her, which should be given to secret prayer, and to the duties of religion.

(3.) She may demand his society and attention when he ought to be engaged in doing good to others, and endeavouring to advance the kingdom of Christ.

(4.) She may be gay and fashionable, and may lead him into improper expenses, into a style of living that may be unsuitable for a Christian, and into society where his piety will be injured, and his devotion to God lessened; or,

(5.) she may have erroneous opinions on the doctrines and duties of religion; and a desire to please her may lead him insensibly to modify his views, and to adopt more lax opinions, and to pursue a more lax course of life in his religious duties. Many a husband has thus been injured by a gay, thoughtless, and imprudent wife; and though that wife may be a Christian, yet her course may be such as shall greatly retard his growth in grace, and mar the beauty of his piety.


Verse 34. Between a wife and a virgin. Between a woman that is married and one that is unmarried. The apostle says, that a similar difference between the condition of her that is married and her that is unmarried takes place, which had been observed between the married and the unmarried man. The Greek word here (memeristai) may mean, is divided, and be rendered, "the wife and the virgin are divided in the same manner;" i.e., there is the same difference in their case as exists between the married and the unmarried man.

The unmarried woman, etc. Has more advantages for attending to the things of religion; has fewer temptations to neglect her proper duty to God.

Both in body and in spirit. Entirely holy; that she may be entirely devoted to God. Perhaps in her case the apostle mentions the "body," which he had not done in the case of the man, because her temptation would be principally in regard to that—the danger of endeavouring to decorate and adorn her person to please her husband.

How she may please her husband. The apostle here intends, undoubtedly, to intimate that there were dangers to personal piety in the married life, which would not occur in a state of celibacy; and that the unmarried female would have greater opportunities for devotion and usefulness than if married. And he intimates that the married female would be in danger of losing her zeal, and marring her piety, by attention to her husband, and by a constant effort to please him. Some of the ways in which this might be done are the following:

(1.) As in the former case, 1 Co 7:33, her affections might be transferred from God to the partner of her life.

(2.) Her time will be occupied by an attention to him and to his will; and there would be danger that that attention would be allowed to interfere with her hours of secret retirement and communion with God.

(3.) Her time would be necessarily broken in upon by the cares of a family; and she should therefore guard with peculiar vigilance, that she may redeem time for secret communion with God.

(4.) The time which she before gave to benevolent objects may now be given to please her husband. Before her marriage she may have been distinguished for zeal, and for active efforts in every plan of doing good; subsequently, she may lay aside this zeal, and withdraw from these plans, and be as little distinguished as others.

(5.) Her piety may be greatly injured by false notions of what should be done to please her husband. If he is a worldly and fashionable man, she may seek to please him by "gold, and pearls, and costly array." Instead of cultivating the ornament of "a meek and quiet spirit," her main wish may be to decorate her person, and render herself attractive by the adorning of her person rather than of her mind.

(6.) If he is opposed to religion, or if he has lax opinions on the subject, or if he is skeptical and worldly, she will be in danger of relaxing in her views in regard to the strictness of Christianity, and of becoming conformed to his. She will insensibly become less strict in regard to the Sabbath, the Bible, the prayer-meeting, the Sabbath-school, the plans of Christian benevolence, the doctrines of the gospel.

(7.) To please him, she will be found in the gay circle—perhaps in the assembly room, or even the theatre, or amidst companies of gaiety and amusement—and will forget that she is professedly devoted only to God. And,

(8.) she is in danger, as the result of all this, of forsaking her old religious friends, the companions of purer, brighter days, the humble and devoted friends of Jesus; and of seeking society among the gay, the rich, the proud, the worldly. Her piety thus is injured; she becomes worldly and vain, and less and less like Christ; until Heaven, perhaps, in mercy smites her idol; and he dies, and leaves her again to the blessedness of single-hearted devotion to God. Oh, how many a Christian female has thus been injured by an unhappy marriage with a gay and worldly man! How often has the church occasion to mourn over piety that is dimmed, benevolence that is quenched, zeal that is extinguished, by devotion to a gay and worldly husband! How often does humble piety weep over such a scene! How often does the cause of sacred charity sigh! How often is the Redeemer wounded in the house of his friends! And oh, how often does it become NECESSARY for God to interpose, and to remove by death the object of the affection of his wandering child, and to clothe her in the habiliments of mourning, and to bathe her cheeks in tears, that "by the sadness of the countenance her heart may be made better!" Who can tell how many a widow is made sucK from this cause? Who can tell how much religion is injured by thus stealing away the affections from God?

{b} "married" Lu 10:40-42


Verse 35. For your own profit. That you may avail yourselves of all your advantages and privileges, and pursue such a course as shall tend most to advance your personal piety and salvation.

Not that I may cast a snare upon you. The word rendered snare (brocon) means a cord, a rope, a bond; and the sense is, that Paul would not bind them by any rule which God had not made; or that he would not restrain them from that which is lawful, and which the welfare of society usually requires. Paul means, that his object in his advice was their welfare; it was not by any means to bind, fetter, or restrain them from any course which would be for their real happiness, but to promote their real and permanent advantage, The idea which is here presented by the word snare, is usually conveyed by the use of the word yoke, Mt 11:29; Ac 15:10; Ga 5:1, and sometimes by the word burden, Mt 23:4; Ac 15:28.

But for that which is comely. (euschmon.) Decorous, fit, proper, noble. For that which is best fitted to your present condition, and which, on the whole, will be best, and most for your own advantage. There would be a fitness and propriety in their pursuing the course which he recommended.

That ye may attend upon the Lord. That you may engage in religious duties and serve God.

Without distraction. Without being drawn away, (aperispastwv;) without care, interruption, and anxiety. That you may be free to engage with undivided interest in the service of the Lord.

{+} "profit" "Advantage"

{*} "comely" "becoming"


Verse 36. That he behaveth himself uncomely. Acts an unbecoming part; imposes an unnecessary, painful, and improper constraint; crosses her inclinations which are in themselves proper.

Toward his virgin. His daughter, or his ward, or any unmarried female committed to his care.

If she pass the flower of her age. If she pass the marriageable age, and remains unmarried. It is well known that in the east it was regarded as peculiarly dishonourable to remain unmarried; and the authority of a father, therefore, might be the means of involving his daughter in shame and disgrace. When this would be the case, it would be wrong to prohibit her marriage.

And need so require. And she ought to be allowed to marry. If it will promote her happiness; and if she would be unhappy, and regarded as dishonoured, if she remained in a state of celibacy.

Let him do what he will. He has the authority in the case; for in the east the authority resided with the father. He may either give her in marriage or not, as he pleases. But in this case it is advisable that she should marry.

He sinneth not. He errs not; he will do nothing positively wrong in the case. Marriage is lawful, and in this case it is advisable; and he may consent to it, for the reasons above stated, without error or impropriety.

{+} "uncomely" "unbecoming"

{++} "virgin" "virgin daughter"


Verse 37. Nevertheless. But. The apostle in this verse states some instances where it would not be proper to give a daughter in marriage; and the verse is a kind of summing up of all that he had said on the subject.

That standeth steadfast in his heart, etc. Most commentators have understood this of the father of the virgin, and suppose that it refers to his purpose of keeping her from the marriage connexion. The phrase, to stand stedfast, is opposed to a disposition that is vacillating, unsettled, etc., and denotes a man who has command of himself, who adheres to his purpose, a man who has hitherto adhered to his purpose, and to whose happiness and reputation it is important that he should be known as one who is not vacillating, or easily moved.

Having no necessity. Where there is nothing in her disposition or inclination that would make marriage necessary, or when there is no engagement or obligation that would be violated if she did not marry.

But hath power over his own will. Hath power to do as he pleases; is not bound in the case by another. When there is no engagement, or contract, made in childhood, or promise made in early life that would bind him. Often daughters were espoused, or promised, when they were very young; and in such a case a man would be bound to adhere to his engagement; and much as he might desire the reverse, and her celibacy, yet he would not have power over his own will, or be at liberty to withhold her.

And hath so decreed in his heart. Has so judged, determined, resolved.

That he will keep his virginpower and authority to do it, and if he does it he will not sin.

Doeth well. In either of these cases, he does well. If he has a daughter, and chooses to retain her in an unmarried state, he does well or right.

{&} "decreed" "determined"


Verse 38. Doeth well. Does right; violates no law in it, and is not to be blamed for it.

Doeth better. Does that which is on the whole to be preferred, if it can be done. He more certainly, in the present circumstances, consults here happiness by withholding her from the marriage connexion than he could by allowing her to enter it.

{a} "So then" Ro 7:2


Verse 39. The wife is bound, etc. See Barnes "Ro 7:2".

Only in the Lord. That is, only to one who is a Christian; with a proper sense of her obligations to Christ, and so as to promote his glory. The apostle supposed that could not be done if she were allowed to marry a heathen, or one of a different religion. The same sentiment he advances in 2 Co 6:14; and it was his intention, undoubtedly, to affirm that it was proper for a widow to marry no one who was not a Christian. The reasons at that time would be obvious.

(1.) They could have no sympathy and fellow-feeling on the most important of all subjects, if the one was a Christian and the other a heathen. See 2 Co 6:14,15, etc.

(2.) If she should marry a heathen, would it not be showing that she had not as deep a conviction of the importance and truth of her religion as she ought to have? If Christians were required to be "separate," to be "a peculiar people," not "to be conformed to the world," how could these precepts be obeyed if the society of a heathen was voluntarily chosen, and if she became united to him for life?

(3.) She would in this way greatly hinder her usefulness; put herself in the control of one who had no respect for her religion, and who would demand her time and attention, and thus interfere with her attendance on the public and private duties of religion, and the offices of Christian charity.

(4.) She would thus greatly endanger her piety. There would be danger from the opposition, the taunts, the sneers of the enemy of Christ; from the secret influence of living with a man who had no respect for God; from his introducing her into society thus was irreligious, and that would tend to mar the beauty of her piety, and to draw her away from simple-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ? And do not these reasons apply to similar cases now? And if so, is not the law still binding? Do not such unions now, as really as they did then, place the Christian where there is no mutual sympathy on the subject dearest to the Christian heart? Do they not show that she who forms such a union has not as deep a sense of the importance of piety, and of the pure and holy nature of her religion, as she ought to have? Do they not take time from God and from charity? break up plans of usefulness, and lead away from the society of Christians, and from the duties of religion? Do they not expose often to ridicule, to reproach, to persecution, to contempt, and to pain? Do they not often lead into society, by a desire to please the partner in life, where there is no religion, where God is excluded, where the name of Christ is never heard, and where the piety is marred, and the beauty of simple Christian piety is dimmed? And if so, are not such marriages contrary to the law of Christ? I confess that this verse, to my view, proves that all such marriages are a violation of the New Testament; and if they are, they should not on any plea be entered into; and it will be found, in perhaps nearly all instances, that they are disastrous to the piety of the married Christian, and the occasion of ultimate regret, and the cause of a loss of comfort, peace, and usefulness in the married life.

{b} "The wife is bound" Ro 7:2

{c} "only in the Lord" 2 Co 6:14


Verse 40. If she so abide. If she remain a widow, even if she could be married to a Christian.

After my judgment. In my opinion, 1 Co 7:25.,

And I think also that I have the Spirit of God. Macknight and others suppose that this phrase implies entire certainty; and that Paul means to affirm that in this he was clear that he was under the influence of inspiration. He appeals for the use of the term (dokw) to Mr 10:42; Lu 8:18; 1 Co 4:9; 8:2; 11:16; Heb 4:1, etc. But the word does not usually express absolute certainty. It implies a doubt, though there may be a strong persuasion or conviction; or the best judgment which the mind can form in the case. See Mt 6:7; 26:53; Mr 6:49

Lu 8:18; 10:36; 12:51; 13:2,4; 22:24; Ac 17:18; 25:27; 1 Co 12:22, etc. It implies here a belief that Paul was under the influence of the infallible Spirit, and that his advice was such as accorded with the will of God. Perhaps he alludes to the fact that the teachers at Corinth deemed themselves to be under the influence of inspiration; and Paul said that he judged also of himself that he was divinely guided and directed in what he said.—Calvin. And as Paul in this could not be mistaken; as his impression that he was under the influence of that Spirit was, in fact, a claim to Divine inspiration, so this advice should be regarded as of Divine authority, and as binding on all. This interpretation is further demanded by the circumstances of the case. It was necessary that he should assert Divine authority to counteract the teaching of the false instructors in Corinth; and that he should interpose that authority in prescribing rules for the government of the church there, in view of the peculiar temptations to which they were exposed.

{d} "my judgment" 1 Co 7:25

{e} I think" 2 Pe 3:15

REMARKS On First Corinthians CHAPTER 7

We learn from this chapter,

(1.) The sacredness of the marriage union; and the nature of the feelings with which it should be entered, 1 Co 7:1-13. On a most delicate subject Paul has shown a seriousness and delicacy of expression which can be found in no other writings, and which demonstrate how pure his own mind was, and how much it was filled with the fear of God. In all things his aim is to promote purity, and to keep from the Christian church the innumerable evils which everywhere abounded in the pagan world. The marriage connexion should be formed in the fear of God. In all that union, the parties should seek the salvation of the soul; and so live as not to dishonour the religion which they profess.

(2.) The duty of labouring earnestly for the conversion of the party in the marriage connexion that may be a stranger to piety, 1 Co 7:16. This object should lie very near the heart; and it should be sought by all the means possible. By a pure and holy life; by exemplifying the nature of the gospel; by tenderness of conversation and of entreaty; and by fidelity in all the duties of life, we should seek the conversion and salvation of our partners in the marriage connexion. Even if both are Christians, this great object should be one of constant solicitude-to advance the piety and promote the usefulness of the partner in life.

(3.) The duty of contentment in the sphere of life in which we are placed, 1 Co 7:18, etc. It is no disgrace to be poor, for Jesus chose to be poor, It is no disgrace, though it is a calamity, to be a slave. It is no disgrace to be in an humble rank of life. It is disgraceful only to be a sinner, and to murmur and repine at our allotment. God orders the circumstances of our life; and they are well-ordered when under the direction of his hand. The great object should be to do right in the relation which we sustain in life. If poor, to be industrious, submissive, resigned, virtuous; if rich, to be grateful, benevolent, kind. If a slave or a servant, to be faithful, kind, and obedient; using liberty, if it can be lawfully obtained; resigned, and calm, and gentle, if by the providence of God such must continue to be the lot in life.

(4.) The duty of preserving the order and regularity of society, 1 Co 7:20-23. The design of the gospel is not to produce insubordination or irregularity. It would not break up society; does not dissolve the bonds of social life; but it cements and sanctifies the ties which connect us with those around us. It is designed to promote human happiness; and that is promoted, not by resolving society into its original elements; not by severing the marriage tie, as atheists would do; not by teaching children to disregard and despise their parents, or the common courtesies of life, but by teaching them to maintain inviolate all these relations. Religion promotes the interests of society; it does not, like infidelity, dissolve them. It advances the cause of social virtue; it does not, like atheism, retard and annihilate it. Every Christian becomes a better parent, a more affectionate child, a kinder friend, a more tender husband or wife, a more kind neighbour, a better member of the community.

(5.) Change in a man's calling should not be made from a slight cause. A Christian should not make it unless his former calling were wrong, or unless he can by it extend his own usefulness, But when that can be done, he should do it, and do it without delay. If the course is wrong, it should be forthwith abandoned. No consideration can make it right to continue it for a day or an hour; no matter what may be the sacrifice of property, it should be done. If a man is engaged in the slave-trade, or in smuggling goods, or in piracy, or in highway robbery, or in the manufacture and sale of poison, it should be at once and for ever abandoned. And in like manner, if a young man who is converted can increase his usefulness by changing his plan of life, it should be done as soon as practicable. If by becoming a minister of the gospel he can be a more useful man, every consideration demands that he should leave any other profession, however lucrative or pleasant, and submit to the self-denials, the cares, the trials, and the toils which attend a life devoted to Christ in the ministry, in Christian or pagan lands. Though it should be attended with poverty, want, tears, toil, or shame, yet the single question is, "Can I be more useful to my Master there than in my present vocation? " If he can be, that is an indication of the will of God which he cannot disregard with impunity.

(6.) We should live above this world, 1 Co 7:29,30. We should partake of all our pleasures, and endure all our sufferings, with the deep feeling that we have here no continuing city, and no abiding place. Soon all our earthly pleasures will fade away; soon all our earthly sorrows will be ended. A conviction of the shortness of life will tend much to regulate our desires for earthly comforts, and will keep us from being improperly attached to them; and it will diminish our sorrows by the prospect that they will soon end.

(7.) We should not be immoderately affected with grief, 1 Co 7:30. It will all soon end, in regard to Christians. Whether our tears arise from the consciousness of our sins, or the sins of others; whether from persecution, or contempt of the world; or whether from the loss of health, property, or friends, we should bear it all patiently, for it will soon end; a few days, and all will be over; and the last tear shall fall on our cheeks, and the last sigh be heaved from our bosom.

(8.) We should not be immoderate in our joy, 1 Co 7:30. Our highest earthly joys will soon cease. Mirth, and the sound of the harp and the viol, the loud laugh and the song, will soon close. What a change should this thought make in a world of gaiety, and mirth, and song. It should not rage men gloomy and morose; but it should make them serious, calm, thoughtful. Oh, did all feel that death was near, that the solemn realities of eternity were approaching, what a change would it make in a gay and thoughtless world! How would it close the theatre and the ball-room; how would it silence the jest, the jeer, and the loud laugh; and how would it diffuse seriousness and calmness over a now gay and thoughtless world! "Laughter is mad," says Solomon; and in a world of sin, and sorrow, and death, assuredly seriousness and calm contemplation are demanded by every consideration.

(9.) What an effect would the thought that "time is short," and that "the fashion of this world passeth away," have on the lovers of wealth! It would,

1st, teach them that property is of little value.

2nd. That the possession of it can constitute no distinction beyond the grave; the rich man is just as soon reduced to dust, and is just as offensive in his splendid mausoleum, as the poor beggar.

3rd. A man feeling this, would be led (or should be) to make a good use of his property on earth. See Barnes "Lu 16:1" and Lu 16:2-9.

4th. He would be led to seek a better inheritance—an interest in the treasures that no moth corrupts, and that never fade away. See Barnes "Mt 6:20".

This single thought, that the fashion of this world is soon to pass away—an idea which no man can doubt or deny, if allowed to take firm hold of the mind—would change the entire aspect of the world.

(10.) We should endeavour so to live in all things, as that our minds should not be oppressed with undue anxiety and care, 1 Co 7:32. In all our arrangements and plans, and in all the relations of life, our grand object should be to have the mind free for the duties and privileges of religion. We should seek not to be encumbered with care; not to be borne down with anxiety; not to be unduly attached to the things of this life.

(11.) We should enter into the relations of life so as not to interfere with our personal piety or usefulness, but so as to promote both, 1 Co 7:32-35. All our arrangements should be so formed as that we may discharge our religious duties, and promote our usefulness to our fellow-men. But alas! how many enter into the marriage relation with unchristian companions, whose active zeal is for ever quenched by such a connexion! How many form commercial connexions or partnerships in business with those who are not Christians, where the result is to diminish their zeal for God, and to render their whole lives useless to the church! And how much do the cares of life, in all its relations, interfere with simple-hearted piety, and with the faithful discharge of the duties which we owe to God and to a dying world! May God of his mercy enable us so to live in all the relations of life, as that our usefulness shall not be retarded, but augmented; and so to live that we can see, without one sigh of regret, the "fashion of this world pass away;" our property or our friends removed; or even the magnificence of the entire world, with all its palaces, and temples, and "cloud-capped towers," passing away amidst the fires that shall attend the consummation of all things!

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