Notice the change in format: Paul in the previous 6 chapters has been addressing the divisions, immoralities and lawsuits in the Corinthian church that he had been informed about probably by “Chloe’s people” (1Co 1:11). Now he begins to address “the things about which you wrote” (1Co 7:1), referring to some letter they had written to the apostle with questions about marriage (1Co 7), food sacrificed to idols (1Co 8-10), a woman’s head-covering and the Lord’s Supper (1Co 11), spiritual gifts (1Co 12-14) and the resurrection (1Co 15).
1Co 7:1-9 In the previous chapter Paul spoke of the great sin of immorality; what advice does he give here to those who may be tempted by such? See 1Co 7:2 and also 1Co 7:9. Is the main reason to get married to avoid immorality, so that it is actually more spiritual to remain single? See Gen 2:18. Is the natural state of most men to marry or remain unmarried? See 1Co 9:5, 1 Tim 3:2,4-5,12. What do these verses teach us about the rights of a married man and woman over their own bodies?
1Co 7:10-16 1Co 7:15 is often used as a scriptural prerogative allowing one to divorce an unbelieving spouse and then remarry another. In light of the context of 1Co 7:10-11 and 39, does it teach this? See also Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, Rom 7:1-3. What does it teach? What does Paul mean that an unbelieving spouse is sanctified through his/her believing partner? Does it mean they are saved? See 1Co 7:16. Are the children of such a union to be considered illegitimate?
1Co 7:17-24 What is the connection between these verses and the issues of marriage Paul discusses in both the previous and following context? See 1Co 7:12-13, 27. What is the general principle he lays down? See 1Co 7:8, 17, 20, 24, 26 and 40. When a Gentile becomes a Christian, should he cease to be a Gentile? When a Jew becomes a Christian, should he cease to be a Jew? See 1Co 7:18. Although slavery was an integral part of Paul’s culture, what do his words in 1Co 7:21-23 reveal about his ultimate view concerning it? See also Philemon 1:15-18. What does he mean that one called as a slave is the Lord’s freedman, and one called while free is the Lord’s slave? See Rom 6:6-7, 16-18, 20-22.
1Co 7:25-28 What question had the Corinthians asked, and how does Paul answer it in these verses? What does Paul mean by the “present distress”? Does it refer to some event specific to the Corinthians, or to the age in which we also live? See 1Co 7:28. Note: the word translated “distress” refers to a distress or hardship that comes from being under compulsion or necessity; see 1Co 7:37, 9:16, 2 Cor 6:4, 9:7, 12:10. How might one lawfully be “released from a wife”? See 1Co 7:39, and also Mat 1:18-19. Why did Paul recommend that those who had been released from a wife remain unmarried rather than remarrying? See 1Co 7:28. What do these verses teach us about man’s freedom of choice within the will of God?
1Co 7:29-31 What does Paul mean that the time has been shortened? See Rom 13:11-12, 1 Pet 4:7, Ps 39:4-7, 103:15. How then should Christians live now in light of eternity? Why? See 1Co 7:31b. In 1Co 7:29 does Paul mean that husbands should cease caring about their wives? See Eph 5:25,28,33, Col 3:19. What does he mean? See again 1Co 7:31, and 1 Jn 2:15-17, Mat 22:30.
1Co 7:32-35 What concerns would Paul have us to be free from? See Mark 4:18-19, 1 Jn 2:15. Does he mean to say that it is not possible for one who is married to still be concerned about the things of the Lord? Does he mean that being single naturally predisposes one to greater devotion to the Lord? See 1 Tim 5:11-15. Is Paul’s purpose in these verses to restrain people from marrying? What is his purpose? See 1Co 7:35, Luke 10:38-40, 1 Tim 5:5. Note: it is clear from throughout Scripture that the most natural state of man is to be married. Paul was unique among the apostles for not being married (see 1Co 9:5). His point is not to exalt celibacy over marriage, but rather to set forth the merits of celibacy in serving the Lord, both to those who have never been married and to those who have been widowed (see 1Co 7:8, 34, 39-40, and notice that Paul himself may have been a widower, as his words in Acts 26:10 would lead us to believe he was at one time a member of the Sanhedrin, which required one to be married). It is precisely because marriage is the norm that Paul is compelled to point out that there are benefits to being single when it comes to serving the Lord, and that if for whatever reason a Christian should find himself unmarried, he would do well to consider Paul’s advice to “remain as he is”.
1Co 7:36-38 Note: “full age” in 1Co 7:36 means literally “past the best age for marriage”. What is the best age for marriage? What authority did a father have over his daughter’s marriage in the Bible cultures of those days? Should it be that way today? Under what circumstances might a father be under constraint/necessity or not have authority over his own will (as in 1Co 7:37)? Note: recall that in eastern cultures marriage arrangements were often made between families while children were still young. In 1Co 7:38, what does Paul mean that he who does not give his daughter in marriage does better? Notice the context of 1Co 7:36 and see again 1Co 7:24 and 26 and 40. Does he mean to say that it is better for people in general not to marry? See again 1Co 7:9 and 1 Tim 5:14.
1Co 7:39-40 What does 1Co 7:39 teach us about the circumstances under which a person may lawfully be remarried? What does it teach us about whom a follower of Christ may lawfully marry? See Deut 7:3-4, 2 Cor 6:14. Why does Paul think a widowed person would be happier to remain as they are than to remarry? See again 1Co 7:20, 24, 26, 29 and 31.