|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:1-9 The apostle tells the Corinthians that it was good, in that juncture of time, for Christians to keep themselves single. Yet he says that marriage, and the comforts of that state, are settled by Divine wisdom. Though none may break the law of God, yet that perfect rule leaves men at liberty to serve him in the way most suited to their powers and circumstances, of which others often are very unfit judges. All must determine for themselves, seeking counsel from God how they ought to act.
Verses 1-40. - Answers to the inquiries of the Corinthians respecting marriage. Verses 1-11. - The lawfulness of marriage, and its duties. Verse 1. - Now concerning. This refers to questions of the Corinthians (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1). It is good for a man not to touch a woman. The word used is not agathon, good, but kalon, fair; "an excellent thing." In ver. 26 he limits the word by the clause, "good for the present necessity." There is no limitation here, and it is probable that St. Paul is quoting the actual words of the letter which he had received from Corinth. There had sprung up among them some antinomians, who, perhaps by perverting his own teaching or that of Apollos, had made liberty a cloak of lasciviousness. In indignant reaction against such laxity, others, perhaps, with Essene proclivities, had been led to disparage matrimony as involving an inevitable stain. Gnosticism, and the spirit which led to it, oscillated between the two extremes of asceticism and uncleanness. Both extremes were grounded on the assertion that matter is inherently evil. Ascetic Gnostics, therefore, strove to destroy by severity every carnal impulse; antinomian Gnostics argued that the life of the spirit was so utterly independent of the flesh that what the flesh did was of no consequence. We find the germs of Gnostic heresy long before the name appeared. Theoretically, St. Paul inclines to the ascetic view, not in the abstract, but in view of the near advent of Christ, and of the cares, distractions, and even trials which marriage involved in days of struggle and persecution. Yet his wisdom is shown in the cautious moderation with which he expresses himself. The tone of the letter written by Gregory the Great to Augustine with reference to similar inquiries about Saxon converts is very different. The example of St. Paul should have shown the mediaeval moralists and even the later Fathers how wrong it is "to give themselves airs of certainty on points where certainty is not to be had." Not to touch a woman. St. Paul means generally "not to marry" (comp. Genesis 20:4 [LXX.]). Celibacy under the then existing conditions of the Christian world is, he admits, in itself an honourable and morally salutary thing, though, for the majority, marriage may be a positive duty. He is not dreaming of the nominal marriages of mediaeval ascetics, for he assumes and directs that all who marry should live in conjugal union.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me,.... Though the false apostles had greatly influenced the members of this church, yet there were many among them that had a very great respect for the apostle, and kept up a correspondence with him, though at a distance from him, by writing; in which way they informed him of their doubts and difficulties, that arose in their minds about certain things, and desired his judgment in them, to which they paid a very great deference. The things they wrote to him about, here referred to, may be collected from the contents of this chapter, and some others following; as whether a Christian man ought not to abstain from the use of women; whether a believer ought to live with an unbelieving yoke fellow; whether such as had been circumcised should not make use of some methods to draw on the foreskin of their flesh; whether apprentices, who were called by the grace of God, ought to serve out their time with their masters; and concerning celibacy or virginity, the eating of things offered to idols, and the maintenance of ministers: and he begins with the first; to which he answers,
it is good for a man not to touch a woman; which is to be understood, not of merely touching a woman, which can neither be criminal, nor in all cases inexpedient, or be attended with any ill, or dangerous consequences; nor of the matrimonial contract, which is lawful and honourable; but of the act of carnal copulation with a woman: in this sense the Jews use the phrase,
"there are three (they say (r)) that fled from transgression, and the blessed God joined his name with them; and they are these, Joseph, and Joel, and Phalti. Joseph, as appears from what is said, Psalm 81:5 "a testimony in Joseph is his name"; what is the meaning of the phrase "in Joseph?" this testifies concerning him, , "that he did not touch Potiphar's wife" (i.e. he did not lie with her); Jael, as is clear from what is said, Judges 4:18 "and Jael went forth to meet Sisera, and she covered him with a mantle"; what is the meaning of the phrase, (which is rendered, "with a mantle";) our Rabbins here (in Babylon) say with a linen cloth; but our Rabbins there (in the land of Israel) say with bed clothes; says Resh Lekish, if we run over the whole Scripture, we shall not find any household goods so called; wherefore what is it? it is all one as , "my name is thus": and the meaning is, my name witnesses concerning her, , "that that wicked one (Sisera) did not touch her" (s); (i.e. had not carnal knowledge of her;) Phalti, as is evident from hence, one Scripture says, "and Saul gave Michal his daughter to Phalti", 1 Samuel 25:44 and another Scripture says Phaltiel; sometimes he is called Phalti, and sometimes he is called Phaltiel; who takes Phalti? and who gives Phaltiel? but I testify concerning him; , "that he did not touch David's wife"; (i.e. did not lie with her;)''
see Genesis 20:6. And in this sense also is the word "touch" used, both by Greek and Latin authors. The apostle's meaning is not that it is unlawful to marry, or that it is sinful to lie with a woman in lawful wedlock; but that it is much better, and more expedient on several accounts, to abstain from the use of women, when persons have the gift of continency.
(r) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 164. 4. & 165. 1. Vid Shemot Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 91. 4. (s) Vid. Kimchi in Jud. iv. 18.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
1Co 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.
1. The Corinthians in their letter had probably asked questions which tended to disparage marriage, and had implied that it was better to break it off when contracted with an unbeliever.
good—that is, "expedient," because of "the present distress"; that is, the unsettled state of the world, and the likelihood of persecutions tearing rudely asunder those bound by marriage ties. Heb 13:4, in opposition to ascetic and Romish notions of superior sanctity in celibacy, declares, "Marriage is HONORABLE IN ALL." Another reason why in some cases celibacy may be a matter of Christian expediency is stated in 1Co 7:34, 35, "that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." But these are exceptional cases, and in exceptional times, such as those of Paul.
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