1 Corinthians 7:1-40 . REPLY TO THEIR INQUIRIES AS TO MARRIAGE; THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE IN OTHER THINGS IS, ABIDE IN YOUR STATION, FOR THE TIME IS SHORT.
20. the same calling--that is, the condition from which he is called a Jew, a Greek, a slave, or a freeman.
21. care not for it--Let it not be a trouble to thee that thou art a servant or slave.
use it rather--Continue rather in thy state as a servant ( 1 Corinthians 7:20 , Galatians 3:28 , 1 Timothy 6:2 ). The Greek, "But if even thou mayest be made free, use it," and the context ( 1 Corinthians 7:20 1 Corinthians 7:22 ) favors this view [CHRYSOSTOM, BENGEL, and ALFORD]. This advice (if this translation be right) is not absolute, as the spirit of the Gospel is against slavery. What is advised here is, contentment under one's existing condition ( 1 Corinthians 7:24 ), though an undesirable one, since in our union with Christ all outward disparities of condition are compensated ( 1 Corinthians 7:22 ). Be not unduly impatient to cast off "even" thy condition as a servant by unlawful means ( 1 Peter 2:13-18 ); as, for example, Onesimus did by fleeing ( Philemon 1:10-18 ). The precept ( 1 Corinthians 7:23 ), "Become not (so the Greek) the servants of men," implies plainly that slavery is abnormal (compare Leviticus 25:42 ). "Men stealers," or slave dealers, are classed in 1 Timothy 1:10 , with "murderers" and "perjurers." NEANDER, GROTIUS, &c., explain, "If called, being a slave, to Christianity, be content--but yet, if also thou canst be free (as a still additional good, which if thou canst not attain, be satisfied without it; but which, if offered to thee, is not to be despised), make use of the opportunity of becoming free, rather than by neglecting it to remain a slave." I prefer this latter view, as more according to the tenor of the Gospel, and fully justified by the Greek.
22. the Lord's freeman--( Philemon 1:16 )--rather, "freedman." Though a slave externally, spiritually made free by the Lord: from sin, John 8:36 ; from the law, Romans 8:2 ; from "circumcision," 1 Corinthians 7:19 , Galatians 5:1 .
Christ's servant--( 1 Corinthians 9:21 ). Love makes Christ's service perfect freedom ( Matthew 11:29 Matthew 11:30 , Galatians 5:13 , 1 Peter 2:16 ).
23. be not ye--Greek, "become not ye." Paul here changes from "thou" ( 1 Corinthians 7:21 ) to "ye." YE ALL are "bought" with the blood of Christ, whatever be your earthly state ( 1 Corinthians 6:20 ). "Become not servants to men," either externally, or spiritually; the former sense applying to the free alone: the latter to Christian freemen and slaves alike, that they should not be servile adherents to their party leaders at Corinth ( 1 Corinthians 3:21 1 Corinthians 3:22 , Matthew 23:8-10 , 2 Corinthians 11:20 ); nor indeed slaves to men generally, so far as their condition admits. The external and internal conditions, so far as is attainable, should correspond, and the former be subservient to the latter (compare 1 Corinthians 7:21 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 ).
24. abide with God--being chiefly careful of the footing on which he stands towards God rather than that towards men. This clause, "with God," limits the similar precept in 1 Corinthians 7:20 . A man may cease to "abide in the calling wherein he was called," and yet not violate the precept here. If a man's calling be not favorable to his "abiding with God" (retaining holy fellowship with Him), he may use lawful means to change from it (compare Note,
25. no commandment of the Lord: yet . . . my judgment--I have no express revelation from the Lord commanding it, but I give my judgment (opinion); namely, under the ordinary inspiration which accompanied the apostles in all their canonical writings (compare 1 Corinthians 7:40 , 1 Corinthians 14:37 , 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ). The Lord inspires me in this case to give you only a recommendation, which you are free to adopt or reject--not a positive command. In the second case ( 1 Corinthians 7:10 1 Corinthians 7:11 ) it was a positive command; for the Lord had already made known His will ( Malachi 2:14 Malachi 2:15 , Matthew 5:31 Matthew 5:32 ). In the third case ( 1 Corinthians 7:12 ), the Old Testament commandment of God to put away strange wives ( Ezra 10:3 ), Paul by the Spirit revokes.
mercy of the Lord--( 1 Timothy 1:13 ). He attributes his apostleship and the gifts accompanying it (including inspiration) to God's grace alone.
faithful--in dispensing to you the inspired directions received by me from the Lord.
26. I suppose--"I consider."
this--namely, "for a man so to be," that is, in the same state in which he is ( 1 Corinthians 7:27 ).
for--by reason of.
the present distress--the distresses to which believers were then beginning to be subjected, making the married state less desirable than the single; and which would prevail throughout the world before the destruction of Jerusalem, according to Christ's prophecy ( Matthew 24:8-21 ; compare Acts 11:28 ).
27. Illustrating the meaning of "so to be," 1 Corinthians 7:26 . Neither the married (those "bound to a wife") nor the unmarried (those "loosed from a wife") are to "seek" a change of state (compare 1 Corinthians 7:20 1 Corinthians 7:24 ).
28. trouble in the flesh--Those who marry, he says, shall incur "trouble in the flesh" (that is, in their outward state, by reason of the present distress), not sin, which is the trouble of the spirit.
but I spare you--The emphasis in the Greek is on "I." My motive in advising you so is, to "spare you" such trouble in the flesh. So ALFORD after CALVIN, BENGEL, and others. ESTIUS from AUGUSTINE explains it, "I spare you further details of the inconveniences of matrimony, lest even the incontinent may at the peril of lust be deterred from matrimony: thus I have regard for your infirmity." The antithesis in the Greek of "I . . . you" and "such" favors the former.
29. this I say--A summing up of the whole, wherein he draws the practical inference from what precedes ( 1 Corinthians 15:50 ).
the time--the season (so the Greek) of this present dispensation up to the coming of the Lord ( Romans 13:11 ). He uses the Greek expression which the Lord used in Luke 21:8 , 13:33 .
it remaineth--The oldest manuscripts read, "The time (season) is shortened as to what remains, in order that both they," &c.; that is, the effect which the shortening of the time ought to have is, "that for the remaining time (henceforth), both they," &c. The clause, "as to what remains," though in construction belonging to the previous clause, in sense belongs to the following. However, CYPRIAN and Vulgate support English Version.
as though they had none--We ought to consider nothing as our own in real or permanent possession.
30. they that weep . . . wept not--(Compare 2 Corinthians 6:10 ).
they that buy . . . possessed not--(Compare Isaiah 24:1 Isaiah 24:2 ). Christ specifies as the condemning sin of the men of Sodom not merely their open profligacy, but that "they bought, they sold," &c., as men whose all was in this world ( Luke 17:28 ). "Possessed" in the Greek implies a holding fast of a possession; this the Christian will not do, for his "enduring substance" is elsewhere ( Hebrews 10:34 ).
31. not abusing it--not abusing it by an overmuch using of it. The meaning of "abusing" here is, not so much perverting, as using it to the full [BENGEL]. We are to use it, "not to take our fill" of its pursuits as our chief aim (compare Luke 10:40-42 ). As the planets while turning on their own axis, yet revolve round the sun; so while we do our part in our own worldly sphere, God is to be the center of all our desires.
fashion--the present fleeting form. Compare Psalms 39:6 , "vain show"; Psalms 73:20 , "a dream"; James 4:14 , "a vapor."
passeth away--not merely shall pass away, but is now actually passing away. The image is drawn from a shifting scene in a play represented on the stage ( 1 John 2:17 ). Paul inculcates not so much the outward denial of earthly things, as the inward spirit whereby the married and the rich, as well as the unmarried and the poor, would be ready to sacrifice all for Christ's sake.
32. without carefulness--I would have you to be not merely "without trouble," but "without distracting cares" (so the Greek).
careth--if he uses aright the advantages of his condition.
34. difference also--Not merely the unmarried and the married man differ in their respective duties, but also the wife and the virgin. Indeed a woman undergoes a greater change of condition than a man in contracting marriage.
35. for your own profit--not to display my apostolic authority.
not . . . cast a snare upon you--image from throwing a noose over an animal in hunting. Not that by hard injunctions I may entangle you with the fear of committing sin where there is no sin.
comely--befitting under present circumstances.
attend upon--literally, "assiduously wait on"; sitting down to the duty. Compare Luke 10:39 , Mary; Luke 2:37 , "Anna . . . a widow, who departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day" ( 1 Timothy 5:5 ).
distraction--the same Greek as "cumbered" ( Luke 10:40 , Martha).
36. behaveth . . . uncomely--is not treating his daughter well in leaving her unmarried beyond the flower of her age, and thus debarring her from the lawful gratification of her natural feeling as a marriageable woman.
need so require--if the exigencies of the case require it; namely, regard to the feelings and welfare of his daughter. Opposed to "having no necessity" ( 1 Corinthians 7:37 ).
let them marry--the daughter and her suitor.
37. steadfast--not to be turned from his purpose by the obloquy of the world.
having no necessity--arising from the natural inclinations of the daughter.
power over his . . . will--when, owing to his daughter's will not opposing his will, he has power to carry into effect his will or wish.
38. her--The oldest manuscripts have "his own virgin daughter."
but--The oldest manuscripts have "and."
39. bound by the law--The oldest manuscripts omit "by the law."
only in the Lord--Let her marry only a Christian ( 2 Corinthians 6:14 ).
40. happier--( 1 Corinthians 7:1 1 Corinthians 7:28 1 Corinthians 7:34 1 Corinthians 7:35 ).
I think also--"I also think"; just as you Corinthians and your teachers think much of your opinions, so I also give my opinion by inspiration; so in 1 Corinthians 7:25 , "my judgment" or opinion. Think does not imply doubt, but often a matter of well-grounded assurance ( John 5:39 ).