1 Corinthians 7:18-40
This is a continuation of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth. He starts chapter 7 by indicating that he’s replying to a letter they’ve sent him. While we don’t know the exact content of that letter we can guess based on his reply. In verses 1-16 he gives advice on marriage between two believers and also marriage between a believer and a nonbeliever. In verse 17 he transitions into talking about the church and how we should allow an unbeliever to leave the church if that’s their choosing.
As we continue with the last half of chapter 7 I hope you’ll pull out your own Bible and join me.
18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
This is an ellipsis. We should supply “is everything” or “is alone important” at the end of this verse.
Circumcision is nothing. Being uncircumcised is nothing. But the keeping (or guarding) of the commandments of God is everything.
Regarding circumcision, if you want to do it for health reasons that’s fine, but it isn’t a commandment any longer.
Let’s look in Hebrews for more documentation of this.
Hebrews 10:5 Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared Me:
Jesus came in the flesh. He is a body prepared for sacrifice.
Hebrews 10:6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure.
God didn’t enjoy burnt offerings and sacrifices. Hebrews 6:6 says the same. God wants our love and not our burnt offerings.
Hebrews 10:7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God.
Jesus comes in the flesh to fulfill the Word (God’s Word, the Bible). This is further documented in Matthew 5:17-18. The Word tells us from the very beginning (Jesus is referenced throughout the Old Testament) to the very end what God’s plan is. It tells us that Jesus will come, why Jesus comes, of His crucifixion, and of His ultimate return as the victor. His coming in the flesh not only will allow Him to conquer death (Hebrews 2:14) but it will also allow the veil to be rent (ripped open) so that we may have direct access to God (Matthew 27:50-51).
Hebrews 10:8 Above when He said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
Sacrifices, burnt offerings, and sin offerings were required by law but they brought no pleasure to God.
Hebrews 10:9 Then said He, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second.
He takes away the first covenant (the old one) to establish a new covenant. What is the new covenant that we gain through Jesus? It’s the forgiveness of our sins. He’s our offering, the final and only offering required. How amazing that through His blood on the cross and our repentance and love of Him we can have everlasting life.
Hebrews 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
His body is the final offering.
Hebrews 10:11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
Hebrews 10:12 But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
Hebrews 10:13 From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool.
No person (man, woman, no one) can take away sins. Only our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ can do this.
Now Jesus is waiting at the right hand of God until the second advent (when He returns). He is there waiting until the time when His enemies will be made his footstool. This occurs through the witnessing of the Holy Spirit through the elect.
Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
That one offering is enough. No more offerings are necessary. What offering could be more powerful than Jesus?
Hebrews 10:15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before,
Hebrews 10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
The word ‘hearts’ in verse 16 is 2588 kardia meaning thoughts or feelings (mind); also (by anal.) the middle:- (+broken-) heart (-ed). So what we’re talking about here is our mind. God says He’s making a new covenant with us, giving His laws into our minds (thoughts) and in our minds He will write them.
Hebrews 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
When we have repented of our sins God doesn’t want to hear about them again. They are gone. Wiped clean.
Hebrews 10:18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
Remission is 859 aphesis in the original Greek. It means freedom; (fig.) pardon:- deliverance, forgiveness, liberty, remission. Once you have been forgiven for a sin there is no offering required because that sin is completely gone. What would you be making an offering for? Repent and be done with it.
Now we’ve covered that blood offerings (including circumcision) are no longer required by God. Colossians 2:10-11 can provide further documentation on circumcision too. What’s important is to keep God’s Word in our minds. To live that Word. We have a new covenant that grants us forgiveness of sins through repentance and the one and only offering for sin through Jesus.
20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
The order of this sentence differs in the original Greek. It reads: Each one in the calling in which he was called, in this let him remain.
We are granted different gifts by God. Paul spoke of it in 1 Corinthians 7:7. We should use those gifts and not try to imitate someone else. Our gifts are for a God-given purpose. They are all important and they all work together in the service of Christ.
Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Don’t think you are better than another because of your gift. Our gifts are from God. The glory belongs to God alone.
Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
We all have different ways that we can contribute to God’s plan. Each contribution is important. The eye may do the seeing but the hand does the touching and the mouth does the talking. Every part adds value. We need all the parts to get more done.
Romans 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
Romans 12:7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
Romans 12:8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Whatever your gift is use it for the glory of the Lord and the fulfillment of His plan.
Elsewhere in Romans Paul talks about how our gifts and our calling are without repentance.
Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
These gifts are not to be repented of. God chooses who to use for what tasks. He grants abilities as He sees fit. His ways are perfect. If He has called you to do something and given you the gifts required to do it, He will make sure you do it. You may get off course. You may make a mistake. You may resist. But He will correct you and rest assured you will do it. Consider Paul himself. He was called by Jesus to bring the Word to the nations (Acts 9:15) even though he had spent his life dedicated to destroying the followers of Christ. Can you imagine a man who might have more reason to be skeptical of his calling? Yet he did it.
21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
Servant is 1401 doulos. It means a slave (lit. or fig., invol. or vol.; frequently, therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or subserviency):- bond (-man), servant. This person is in a low position.
‘Care not for it’ is better translated as ‘let it not be a care to thee’.
Mayest = canst.
‘Be made’ is better translated ‘become’.
So it reads: Art though called being a slave (Are you called and you’re a slave)? Let it not be a care to thee: but if though can’t become free, use it rather.
If you’re a slave and you can’t become free use your gift and fulfill your calling anyway. No matter what your station in life you can serve the Lord.
22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.
If you’re called and you’re a servant, you’re free in the Lord. If you’re called and you’re already free (by the world’s standard), you’re still Christ’s servant. We all obtain our freedom through serving the Lord.
23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
Are = Were
What price were we bought with? With Christ’s blood. With His sacrifice. We serve Him first and foremost. That doesn’t mean we should neglect our other responsibilities. But our service to Him is first. As we covered in verse 21 we can serve Him in whatever we do and whatever our station.
24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
Wherever you are in life you can abide with God. You can be a servant. You can be a teacher. You can be a doctor, a garbage collector, a scientist, or a business man/woman. You can be in prison. You can do the work of God anywhere. If God has a calling for you and has granted you a gift, who or what could possibly keep you from it?
25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
This is an interesting change of subject. Recall that this chapter is Paul’s response to a letter the church of Corinth wrote to him. He’s answering their questions. First, he addresses marriage and how the church should allow unbelievers to leave the church if an unbeliever departs (1 Corinthians 7:1-17). Then he talks about how being circumcised or being uncircumcised is nothing and that keeping God’s commandments is everything. Next he addresses how we are to use the gifts God has granted us no matter what our station in life. He’s working his way through the issues they raised in their letter to him. Now he’s moving to another subject.
Paul tells them that what he’s about to say (concerning virgins) isn’t a commandment of the Lord. He’s going to give his own opinion. His opinion is obviously worth considering as he is a highly faithful and trusted servant of God.
26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
We don’t know exactly what the present distress is since we haven’t seen this letter he’s received. (But he’s covered other distresses in the previous chapters such as their giving credit to their teachers instead of to God and the incestuous relationship they were condoning).
Paul is telling them that it’s good to be as he is. He said the same in 1 Corinthians 7:7. He was unmarried and doing the work of the Lord.
27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
Paul believes it’s okay to be married. Be satisfied with it and don’t seek to be unmarried when you’re married. He also believes it’s okay to be unmarried. Be satisfied with that and don’t seek to be married when you’re unmarried.
While Paul recommends his choice to be unmarried in order to travel and serve God (especially given the lack of technology at that time), it isn’t a requirement. You can serve God while being married. You can serve God will being unmarried. We can serve God wherever we are.
28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
Paul is going to spare them the whole “this is way you should do it”. You can be married or unmarried. You’ll have troubles either way because we are in the flesh. You’ll likely encounter even more trouble if you do marry (he explains why shortly). Still neither is a sin.
29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;
When you understand His Word and grow your relationship with our Father you learn that our time on earth is short. Our eternity with our Father is long. This is why we should let our spiritual body rule over our flesh. Don’t let our flesh dictate how we spend our time here.
A little sadness or happiness on this earth won’t last long and isn’t the end all be all. What we buy on this earth we cannot take with us. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be happy or that we shouldn’t rejoice. We should be joyful and our enjoy our lives. Solomon speaks of this in Ecclesiastes. But finding joy in the flesh isn’t the end game. That can’t be what drives all our decisions. There is a big picture here and it’s much more than our flesh.
31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
Abuse is 2710 katachraomai, from 2596 and 5530; to overuse, i.e. misuse:- abuse.
This world will pass away. Therefore the things of this world should not be our purpose in life. Our purpose is bigger. That’s not to say we can’t enjoy the things of this earth. We can. But we can’t misuse them. We can’t overuse them.
Our jobs and our house are important because they provide the income and shelter we along with our family require in the flesh; However, what we do in service of God is still most important. We shouldn’t let our job and our house take all of our time. Remember we can serve God in our job (no matter the position, 1 Corinthians 7:21). But are we?
The question to ask is: What do we spend most of our time pursuing? A relationship with God? An understanding of His Word and His plan? Serving Him in all things? Or the pursuit of a bigger home and fancier car? (You can insert anything here that this world deems valuable.) If you can have a big home and a fancy car while putting Him first in your life that’s wonderful. Nothing wrong with that. It’s when we neglect Him in pursuit of the things of this world that’s the problem.
God wants us to be happy and have peace. He doesn’t want us to be anxious and full of worry. That peace comes from God and not from the things of this world. It’s so easy to try to fill ourselves up with more and more and more of this world while leaving little room for Him.
32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
Paul is reiterating that it’s easier to stay focused on God when you’re not feeling the pull of family. Again, his own experience is that of a man serving the Lord and traveling full-time. He was likely only home once or twice every few years. Imagine how difficult it would have been for him to have a family while doing this.
Today we have cars, planes, internet, and cell phones to make doing Paul’s work easier. Yet having a family is still a responsibility. You have to provide food, shelter, emotional support, spiritual support, etc. But don’t let that responsibility weigh you down. God will provide when you work hard, live in Him, and trust Him.
34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
The same is true of the wife. When you’re unmarried it is easier to focus on the Lord. When you’re married you also have the needs of your husband and children to consider. It is of course possible for the married woman to focus on the Lord but she will have to be disciplined enough to balance the needs of her family with it.
35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.
“That ye may attend” = “for devoted attention”
Paul says all this to help them give the Lord their devoted attention.
36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.
This reiterates Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 7:9. If you cannot contain your lust then it is better to marry.
37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.
However, it is Paul’s opinion that it is better to stay in control of your lust and remain unmarried.
38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.
Again, this is not saying to leave your marriage or that you can’t serve the Lord while married. Paul is simply making his case for why it is easier to stay focused on God when you’re unmarried.
39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
The phrase “by the law” is not in the original manuscript so remove that here.
Remember that Paul is still talking to the Christians in Corinth so he’s referring to a Christian wife. The believing wife is bound to her husband as long as he’s alive. She is free to marry if he is no longer alive.
This mirrors the message in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. The believing wife should be not depart from her believing husband. If she does she should remain unmarried or reconcile with him.
We also know from 1 Corinthians 7:13 that if the believing wife is married to an unbeliever she should not leave him if he wishes to remain in the marriage and doesn’t interfere with her worship of the Lord. But, according to 1 Corinthians 7:15, if the unbelieving husband departs the believing wife she should let him go. She is not under bondage to him.
40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.
Paul believes that the widow may be happier if she doesn’t seek to remarry (for the reasons given in 1 Corinthians 7:34). It’s his opinion and not a commandment from God, but Paul was called by God (Acts 9:15-16) and is certainly qualified to give his advice. Nevertheless that marriage is not a sin.