I Corinthians 7 On Marriage And Divorce
In response to questions that the Corinthians had asked Paul, he gives the instruction in this chapter.
First, he asserts that it is intrinsically good (as opposed to evil) that a man not touch (have a sexual relationship with or attach himself to) a woman. A man or woman may live a single life and be pleasing to God. Verse Two indicates the problem of fornication (sexual immorality) and declares the rightful place of marriage as a help to avoiding immoral conduct by each man having his own wife and each woman having her own husband. This does not assume that marriage is, or can be, universal among those who sexually feel a need to be married, because there are some people who cannot find a suitable person willing to marry them, and there are some people who have, by their violations of God's law or by having been divorced unlawfully, lost the right to marry. Paul does not, in this second verse, cancel the restrictions of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. Verses three through five charge both husbands and wives to fulfill their marital obligations and charges them not to defraud each other except by consent for a period of prayer and then be together again. He does not command marriage, nor does He command abstinence during marriage (v.6). Though Paul did not need to marry, he recognized that not all people are the same in physical make-up (v.7).
Paul again declares in Verse Eight that it is intrinsically good (not evil) for the unmarried and widows to remain single as he was, but if they felt the need to marry, they were permitted to do so. Again, this permission does not nullify Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. The married women are charged, first by the Lord and here by Paul also, not to depart (separate) from their spouses (Matthew 19:6; I Corinthians 7: I 0, II ). (Robertson says the word used here is referring to divorce by the woman). And husbands are commanded not to put away (or leave - ASV) their wives. To violate this command is to sin; and, if one so sins, two possibilities are given: be reconciled or remain unmarried. Obviously, if both are Christians faithfully serving God, they can be reconciled; but if one refuses to be reconciled, the only other alternative is to remain unmarried.
Next, Paul deals with marriage between believers and unbelievers (a reality though not an ideal situation even under the best conditions). The believer is not to put away the unbeliever if the unbeliever is content to dwell with the believer (v.12,13). If the unbeliever is not content and departs, the believer has no choice but to let him depart. A believer is not enslaved to an unwilling unbeliever who by actions or words demands a parting (v.15). This does not grant the believer the right to remarry in disregard to Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. In the latter part of the chapter, Paul gives some reasons for his recommendations. It was a time of distress, and he desired to spare his brethren from greater burdens (v.24-40). Marriage carries necessary duties and burdens (v.33-35), and the unmarried are free from those particular responsibilities and thus freer to serve the Lord without distraction (v.35). Still, if one in that time of distress saw fit to give his daughter in marriage, he did not sin in doing so, even though life would probably be harder for her (v.36-38).
Finally, Paul concludes this portion of his letter by restating the law of God (v.39), the only exception having been given by the Lord in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. He was directed by the Holy Spirit in these commands and recommendations (v. 40 and also 2: 13 and 14:37).