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Summary: Paul in no sense advocated celibacy, except in certain situations and circumstances, and even in those cases it was merely "allowable," and not commanded.

December 3, 2012

Commentary on First Corinthians

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson 6.1: Marriage and Sex

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7.1-7.7

1 Cor 7.1-7 (KJV)

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

Commentary

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

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me:

It is obvious that the Corinthian believers had written a letter to Paul concerning this problem. We do not have the question, but we do have Paul’s answer. Paul has taken a long time to get to this. He first dealt with the divisions and the scandals in their midst. However, he has no reluctance in dealing with the subject of marriage, and he writes boldly and very frankly. Before we get into the text itself, I wish to deal with two introductory matters.

First there is the question: Was Paul ever married? If Paul was never married, then in his explanation he is simply theorizing. He is not speaking from experience. However, Paul did not do that. Paul always spoke from experience. It was not the method of the Spirit of God to choose a man who knew nothing about the subject on which the Spirit of God wanted him to write.

It has always been assumed that Paul was not married on the basis of the seventh verse: “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.” If we are going to assume that Paul was not married, we need to pay attention to the verse that follows: “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.” Someone will say, “He still says that he is unmarried.” I agree. We know he was not married. But notice that he mentions two classes here: the unmarried and the widows (or widowers). He could have been unmarried or a widower.

It is difficult to believe that Paul had always been unmarried because of his background and because of who he was. Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin. In Acts 26:10 Paul says, “Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.” How could he give his voice against them? It was by his vote in the Sanhedrin, which means he was a member of the Sanhedrin. Since Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, he must have been a married man because that was one of the conditions of membership.

There was an insistence upon Jewish young men to marry. The Mishna said this should be at the age of eighteen. In the Yebhamoth, in the commentary on Genesis 5:2 it states: “A Jew who has no wife is not a man.” I believe it is an inescapable conclusion that Paul at one time was a married man. He undoubtedly was a “widower” who had never remarried. In chapter 9 we read, “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor 9:5). I think Paul is saying, “I could marry again if I wanted to; I would be permitted to do that. But I’m not going to for the simple reason that I would not ask a woman to follow me around in the type of ministry God has given to me.”

It is my conviction that in the past Paul had loved some good woman who had reciprocated his love because he spoke so tenderly of the marriage relationship. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).

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