Now concerning the things about which you wrote: As shown by what is stated here and at 1Co 8:1, the brothers in Corinth had written to Paul, asking about marriage and about the eating of foods offered to idols.—See study notes on 1Co 1:2; 8:1.
not to touch a woman: That is, not to have sexual contact with a woman. This understanding harmonizes with other Bible verses where the expression “to touch” means to have sexual contact and sexual relations. (Ge 20:6, 7; Pr 6:29) Paul does not discourage sexual relations within marriage, since he recommends that husbands and wives render to each other the marital due. (1Co 7:3-5; see study note on 1Co 7:3.) When Paul says that “it is better for a man not to touch a woman,” it is in the context of recommending that unmarried Christians remain single.—1Co 7:6-9; compare Mt 19:10-12.
the prevalence of sexual immorality: This expression renders the plural form of the Greek word por·neiʹa. Some translations render the opening phrase: “Because sexual immorality is so common [or, “rampant”].” This well describes the situation in ancient Corinth.—See study note on 1Co 5:9.
due: Lit. “debt; obligation.” The due mentioned here refers to sexual relations that are a natural part of God’s gift of marriage. Marriage partners should not intentionally withhold that blessing from each other except by mutual consent. (1Co 7:5) Jesus allows for another exception, that is, infidelity on the part of one mate, which gives the other the option to seek a divorce.—Mt 5:32; 19:9.
by way of concession: Or “as being permissible.” Apparently referring to the advice Paul gave at 1Co 7:2.
as I am: The apostle Paul was unmarried at the time he traveled as a missionary. The Bible does not comment directly on whether he was ever married. Some of Paul’s comments seem to allow for the possibility that he was a widower.—1Co 7:8; 9:5.
be reconciled: Paul here used the compound verb ka·tal·lasʹso, which had the basic meaning “to exchange.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this verb is used with the meaning “to exchange hostility for a friendly relationship” or “to bring back into harmony.” Paul may here have used this verb in connection with marriage to show that strained marital relations could be exchanged for harmonious relations, just as it was possible to exchange a hostile relationship with God for a peaceful one.—See study note on Ro 5:10.
I say, yes, I, not the Lord: Several times in this chapter, Paul makes a distinction between his own thought or opinion and the words of Christ. (See also verses 25, 40.) It seems that Paul was humbly reminding his readers that on certain questions, he was unable to quote directly from a teaching of Jesus Christ. However, Paul was able to offer his opinion as one of Christ’s apostles who was filled with holy spirit. As Jesus had promised, that spirit would guide his followers “into all the truth.” (Joh 16:13) Paul’s counsel was thus inspired of God and, like the rest of the Scriptures, provided authoritative and helpful direction for all Christians.—2Ti 3:16.
an unbelieving wife: In this context, the expression rendered “unbelieving” does not refer to a wife who has no religious beliefs. It refers to one who does not have faith in Jesus and who is not dedicated to Jehovah. She could have been a Jewess or a believer in pagan gods.
unbelieving: In this context, Paul uses the term “unbelieving” to describe those who do not exercise faith in the ransom of Jesus Christ. Such people have not separated themselves from the unclean world and have not been set free from slavery to sin. Though unbelievers may be living honest, moral lives, they are not in themselves holy, or clean, in God’s eyes.—Joh 8:34-36; 2Co 6:17; Jas 4:4; see study note on is sanctified in relation to in this verse.
is sanctified in relation to: The Greek verb ha·gi·aʹzo, here rendered “is sanctified,” and the corresponding noun haʹgi·os, meaning “holy,” denote being set aside for God. Anything sanctified would be holy, clean, set aside for God’s service. (Mr 6:20; 2Co 7:1; 1Pe 1:15, 16; see Glossary, “Holy; Holiness.”) This clean standing before God comes to those who exercise faith in God’s provision through his Son.—See study note on unbelieving in this verse.
holy: Paul does not say that the unbelieving mate is made “holy” by the marriage bond. The unbelieving mate may engage in wrongdoing or unclean practices. Rather, Paul says that the unbelieving one is sanctified “in relation to” the believer. So God counts such a marriage relationship or union as clean, honorable. Because of the believer, the young children of the union are considered holy, under divine care and protection—a better position than that of children who do not have even one believing parent.
depart: Or “separate.” At 1Co 7:10, 11, the Greek word kho·riʹzo, used here, is rendered “separate.”
just as Jehovah has given each one a portion: The “portion” refers to the person’s lot in life, the circumstances that Jehovah has given to each Christian or has allowed him to have. Paul encourages a Christian to walk, or to continue to live, without being preoccupied with changing his lot in life. He uses the Greek term rendered “each” twice in this verse, perhaps to emphasize God’s concern for the individual Christian. Although most Greek manuscripts use the term “the Lord” (Greek, ho Kyʹri·os) here, there are good reasons for using the divine name in the main text.—See App. C3 introduction; 1Co 7:17.
God: Early Greek manuscripts read “God.” However, some later manuscripts use “Lord.” Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J7, 8, 10 in App. C4) read “Jehovah” in this part of the verse.
Let him not undo his circumcision: Paul may have been alluding to a practice on the part of some Jewish athletes who desired to participate in Hellenistic games, in which runners wore no clothing. In an effort to avoid scorn and ridicule, some Jews would try to ‘undo their circumcision’ by means of a surgical procedure aimed at restoring some semblance of a foreskin. Because arguments over circumcision were apparently dividing the congregation in Corinth, Paul urged Christians to refrain from trying to change the state in which they were called, whether circumcised or uncircumcised.—1Co 7:17-20; Heb 13:17.
the Lord’s freedman . . . a freeman: A freedman (Greek, a·pe·leuʹthe·ros) was one who had been emancipated from slavery. In the Scriptures, this Greek term is used only here. However, “freedmen” were well-known in Corinth because a large number of them had populated the city when it was rebuilt by Rome. Some of them became Christians. Other Christians had never been slaves. Paul refers to one person of that group as a “freeman” (Greek, e·leuʹthe·ros), or one who was born free. However, Christians of both groups were “bought with a price,” Jesus’ precious blood. Therefore, a Christian who was a “freedman” or one who was “a freeman” in a physical sense was a slave of God and of Jesus Christ, subject to obeying their commands. In the Christian congregation, there was no difference between a slave, a freedman, and a freeman.—1Co 7:23; Ga 3:28; Heb 2:14, 15; 1Pe 1:18, 19; 2:16; see Glossary, “Freeman; Freedman.”
virgins: Or “those who have never married.” The Greek word par·theʹnos, often rendered “virgin,” literally refers to “one who has never engaged in sexual intercourse” and can in a literal and figurative sense refer both to men and to women. (Mt 25:1-12; Lu 1:27; Re 14:4; see study note on Ac 21:9.) However, in a broader application, the verses that follow (1Co 7:32-35) apply not only to virgins but also to those who are unmarried.
I give my opinion: Here Paul expresses his personal opinion regarding marriage and singleness. He does not condemn or forbid marriage, but under inspiration he highlights the advantages of singleness in the Lord’s service.—See study note on 1Co 7:12.
a virgin: See study note on 1Co 7:25.
tribulation in their flesh: The Greek word often rendered “tribulation” basically means distress, affliction, or suffering resulting from the pressures of circumstances. It could also be rendered “troubles; problems.” The Greek word rendered “flesh” is often used to refer to a human. (See study note on Ro 3:20.) In this context, the expression “tribulation in their flesh” refers to problems and trials that are common to a married couple, who become “one flesh” in God’s eyes. (Mt 19:6) Some translations use such renderings as “troubles in life; the everyday troubles.” Such “tribulation” connected with marriage and family life may be due to sickness, economic hardships and, for Christians, persecution.—See study note on 2Co 1:4.
making use of the world: In many scriptures, the Greek word rendered “world” (koʹsmos) refers primarily to the world of mankind. (See study notes on Joh 1:9, 10; 3:16.) However, in this context, “the world” refers in a broader sense to the framework of things that affect human life—the world system in which humans live and in which human society functions. It includes the things connected with the world’s economic system, such as housing, food, and clothing. (See study note on Lu 9:25.) One way Christians are “making use of” this world is by providing materially for themselves and their families. However, they avoid using the world to the full, that is, they do not let it be the all-absorbing priority in their lives.
the scene of this world is changing: The Greek word here rendered “scene” refers to the “fashion” or “form” of something, the “present scheme of things.” Paul may have been alluding to the theater of his day, comparing this world to a stage where scenes are changing and the actors pass quickly on and off the stage. This expression may also imply that the world in its present form—its scheme or fashion of things—“is passing away.”—1Jo 2:17.
is anxious: The expression “is anxious” renders the Greek verb me·ri·mnaʹo, the meaning of which depends on the context. In this verse, it is used in a positive sense, conveying the idea of being eager, rightly concerned, about attending to spiritual matters in order to please the Lord. In the following verses, it refers to husbands and wives who are concerned with the emotional, physical, and material needs of their mate. (1Co 7:33, 34) According to 1Co 12:25, this anxiety or concern is expressed by members of the congregation for one another. In other contexts, the Greek verb can refer to worry that divides a person’s mind and distracts him, robbing him of joy.—Mt 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34; Lu 12:11, 22, 25, 26; see study notes on Mt 6:25; Lu 12:22.
the things of the Lord: That is, everything that will promote the interests of the Son of God and of his Father, Jehovah. These things essentially concern a Christian’s life, worship, and ministry.—Mt 4:10; Ro 14:8; 2Co 2:17; 3:5, 6; 4:1; see study note on 1Co 7:33.
the things of the world: Here the Greek word koʹsmos, rendered “world,” means the human sphere of life and its framework. These “things” would include the mundane or nonspiritual activities related to human life, including food, clothing, and housing. However, in this context, Paul was not referring to the things of the unrighteous world that Christians strive to avoid, such as those mentioned at 1Jo 2:15-17.—See study note on 1Co 7:32.
to restrict: Lit., “to cast a noose upon.” Used literally, this term may refer to putting a noose or a rope around the neck of an animal to catch it or to restrict its freedom. It was also used of restraining people in captivity. In this context, the term is used figuratively, conveying the idea of imposing restrictions on someone or controlling someone’s behavior. In giving counsel on marriage and singleness (1Co 7:25-34), Paul did not want to restrict the freedom of the Christians in Corinth; rather, he sought to assist them so that they could be devoted “to the Lord without distraction.”
by remaining unmarried: Or “toward his virginity.” The Greek word used here, par·theʹnos, is often rendered “virgin.” In this context, the reference is obviously not to a person who is a virgin or unmarried but to a person’s virginity, that is, to his or her remaining unmarried and a virgin. In the preceding verses, Paul was encouraging singleness, and this is a continuation of that discussion.
past the bloom of youth: This expression renders a compound Greek word (hy·perʹak·mos), which comes from the words hy·perʹ, meaning “beyond,” and ak·meʹ, meaning “bloom” or “highest part.” The second part of the expression was often used with reference to the blooming of flowers. Here “the bloom of youth” apparently refers to the time when a young person develops physical maturity to the point that childbearing is possible. However, such bodily changes are often accompanied by strong emotions that distort good judgment. In this context, Paul is discussing the advantages of being single. His counsel implies that during this time when a young person is physically mature but still developing emotionally and spiritually, it would be better to work on developing self-control rather than to rush into marriage.
to remain unmarried: Or “to keep his own virginity.” As explained in the study note on 1Co 7:36, the Greek word par·theʹnos in this context refers, not to a person who is a virgin or unmarried, but to a person’s virginity, that is, to his or her remaining unmarried and a virgin. This understanding is in harmony with the context, since Paul is discussing the advantages of remaining single.—1Co 7:32-35.
only in the Lord: Or “only to a believer in the Lord; only if he is in union with the Lord,” that is, a fellow Christian. That inspired direction applies to all Christians. It is obvious that Paul is referring to a fellow believer because at Ro 16:8-11, he uses the expression “in the Lord” when speaking about fellow believers. At Col 4:7, he uses it along with such terms as “beloved brother,” “faithful minister,” and “fellow slave.” Christians with a Jewish background would already have been familiar with God’s Law to Israel not to “form any marriage alliances” with someone from the surrounding pagan nations. Jehovah warned Israel: “They [non-Israelites] will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods.” (De 7:3, 4) In the Christian era, the admonition to marry “only in the Lord” would therefore mean to marry only someone who is a worshipper of Jehovah and a follower of Christ.
Lord: In this context, the title “Lord” could refer either to Jesus Christ or to Jehovah God.
in my opinion: See study note on 1Co 7:25.