1 Corinthians 7 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 1 Corinthians 7)

Verse 1

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

It is good for a man — Who is master of himself.

Not to touch a women — That is, not to marry. So great and many are the advantages of a single life.

Verse 2

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

Yet, when it is needful, in order to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. His own - For Christianity allows no polygamy.

Verse 3

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

Let not married persons fancy that there is any perfection in living with each other, as if they were unmarried.

The debt — This ancient reading seems far more natural than the common one.

Verse 4

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

The wife-the husband — Let no one forget this, on pretence of greater purity.

Verse 5

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

Unless it be by consent for a time — That on those special and solemn occasions ye may entirely give yourselves up to the exercises of devotion.

Lest — If ye should long remain separate.

Satan tempt you — To unclean thoughts, if not actions too.

Verse 6

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

But I say this — Concerning your separating for a time and coming together again. Perhaps he refers also to 1 Corinthians 7:2.

Verse 7

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

For I would that all men were herein even as I — I would that all believers who are now unmarried would remain "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" St. Paul, having tasted the sweetness of this liberty, wished others to enjoy it, as well as himself.

But every one hath his proper gift from God — According to our Lord's declaration, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they," the happy few, to whom it is given," Matthew 19:11.

Verse 8

[8] I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

It is good for them if they remain even as I — That St. Paul was then single is certain and from Acts 7:58, compared with the following parts of the history, it seems probable that he always was so. It does not appear that this declaration, any more than 1 Corinthians 7:1, hath any reference at all to a state of persecution.

Verse 10

[10] And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

Not I — Only.

But the Lord — Christ; by his express command, Matthew 5:32.

Verse 11

[11] But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

But if she depart — Contrary to this express prohibition.

And let not the husband put away his wife — Except for the cause of adultery.

Verse 12

[12] But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

To the rest — Who are married to unbelievers.

Speak I — By revelation from God, though our Lord hath not left any commandment concerning it.

Let him not put her away — The Jews, indeed, were obliged of old to put away their idolatrous wives, Ezra 10:3; but their case was quite different. They were absolutely forbid to marry idolatrous women; but the persons here spoken of were married while they were both in a state of heathenism.

Verse 14

[14] For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

For the unbelieving husband hath, in many instances, been sanctified by the wife - Else your children would have been brought up heathens; whereas now they are Christians. As if he had said, Ye see the proof of it before your eyes.

Verse 15

[15] But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

A brother or a sister — A Christian man or woman.

Is not enslaved — is at full liberty.

In such cases: but God hath called us to peace — To live peaceably with them, if it be possible.

Verse 17

[17] But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

But as God hath distributed — The various stations of life, and various relations, to every one, let him take care to discharge his duty therein. The gospel disannuls none of these.

And thus I ordain in all the churches — As a point of the highest concern.

Verse 19

[19] Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing — Will neither promote nor obstruct our salvation. The one point is, keeping the commandments of God; "faith working by love."

Verse 20

[20] Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

In the calling — The outward state.

Wherein he is — When God calls him. Let him not seek to change this, without a clear direction from Providence.

Verse 21

[21] Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

Care not for it — Do not anxiously seek liberty.

But if thou canst be free, use it rather — Embrace the opportunity.

Verse 22

[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.

Is the Lord's freeman — Is free in this respect. The Greek word implies one that was a slave, but now is free.

Is the bondman of Christ — Not free in this respect; not at liberty to do his own will.

Verse 23

[23] Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

Ye are bought with a price — Ye belong to God; therefore, where it can be avoided, do not become the bondslaves of men - Which may expose you to many temptations.

Verse 24

[24] Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

Therein abide with God — Doing all things as unto God, and as in his immediate presence. They who thus abide with God preserve an holy indifference with regard to outward things.

Verse 25

[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.

Now concerning virgins — Of either sex.

I have no commandment from the Lord — By a particular revelation. Nor was it necessary he should; for the apostles wrote nothing which was not divinely inspired: but with this difference,-sometimes they had a particular revelation, and a special commandment; at other times they wrote from the divine light which abode with them, the standing treasure of the Spirit of God. And this, also, was not their private opinion, but a divine rule of faith and practice. As one whom God hath made faithful in my apostolic office; who therefore faithfully deliver what I receive from him.

Verses 26-27

[26] I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. [27] Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

This is good for the present distress — While any church is under persecution.

For a man to continue as he is — Whether married or unmarried. St. Paul does not here urge the present distress as a reason for celibacy, any more than for marriage; but for a man's not seeking to alter his state, whatever it be, but making the best of it.

Verse 27

[27] Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.


Verse 28

[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.

Such will have trouble in the flesh — Many outward troubles.

But I spare you — I speak as little and as tenderly as possible.

Verse 29

[29] But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

But this I say, brethren — With great confidence. The time of our abode here is short. It plainly follows, that even they who have wives be as serious, zealous, active, dead to the world, as devoted to God, as holy in all manner of conversation, as if they had none - By so easy a transition does the apostle slide from every thing else to the one thing needful; and, forgetting whatever is temporal, is swallowed up in eternity.

Verse 30

[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;

And they that weep, as if they wept not — "Though sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." They that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not - Tempering their joy with godly fear.

They that buy, as if they possessed not — Knowing themselves to be only stewards, not proprietors.

Verse 31

[31] And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

And they that use this world, as not abusing it — Not seeking happiness in it, but in God: using every thing therein only in such a manner and degree as most tends to the knowledge and love of God. For the whole scheme and fashion of this world - This marrying, weeping, rejoicing, and all the rest, not only will pass, but now passeth away, is this moment flying off like a shadow.

Verse 32

[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:

Now I would have you — For this flying moment.

Without carefulness — Without any incumbrance of your thoughts.

The unmarried man — If he understand and use the advantage he enjoys-Careth only for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.

Verse 33

[33] But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

But the married careth for the things of the world — And it in his duty so to do, so far as becomes a Christian.

How he may please his wife — And provide all things needful for her and his family.

Verse 34

[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.

There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin — Whether the church be under persecution or not.

The unmarried woman — If she know and use her privilege.

Careth only for the things of the Lord — All her time, care, and thoughts centre in this, how she may be holy both in body and spirit. This is the standing advantage of a single life, in all ages and nations. But who makes a suitable use of it?

Verse 35

[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.

Not that I may cast a snare upon you — Who are not able to receive this saying.

But for your profit — Who are able. That ye may resolutely and perseveringly wait upon the Lord - The word translated wait signifies sitting close by a person, in a good posture to hear. So Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, Luke 10:39.

Without distraction — Without having the mind drawn any way from its centre; from its close attention to God; by any person, or thing, or care, or incumbrance whatsoever.

Verse 36

[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.

But if any parent think he should otherwise act indecently - Unbecoming his character. Toward his virgin daughter, if she be above age, (or of full age,) and need so require, 1 Corinthians 7:9, let them marry - Her suitor and she.

Verse 37

[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.

Having no necessity — Where there is no such need.

But having power over his own will — Which would incline him to desire the increase of his family, and the strengthening it by new relations.

Verse 38

[38] So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

Doeth better — If there be no necessity.

Verse 39

[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.

Only in the Lord — That is, only if Christians marry Christians: a standing direction, and one of the utmost importance.

Verse 40

[40] But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

I also — As well as any of you.

Have the Spirit of God — Teaching me all things This does not imply any doubt; but the strongest certainty of it, together with a reproof of them for calling it in question. Whoever, therefore, would conclude from hence, that St. Paul was not certain he had the Spirit of Christ, neither understands the true import of the words, nor considers how expressly he lays claim to the Spirit, both in this epistle, 1 Corinthians 2:16; 14:37, and the other. 2 Corinthians 13:3. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the word here and elsewhere translated think, does not always imply the fullest and strongest assurance. See 1 Corinthians 10:12.