SPECIAL TOPIC: CELIBACY AND MARRIAGE (from 1 Corinthians 7)
A. 1 Corinthians 7 is Paul's most extensive discussion of domestic relationships. He deals with
1. sexual immorality, 1 Cor. 6:9-20; 7:2
2. marriage, 1 Cor. 7:2-5, 10-16, 28
3. singles, 1 Cor. 7:6-9, 25-26, 29-35
4. virgins, 1 Cor. 7:36-38
5. remarriage of widows and widowers, 1 Cor. 7:39-40
6. the recurrent theme is, "stay as you are," 1 Cor. 7:1, 6-7, 8, 10, 17-24, 26-35, 37, 40; because of the current crisis and the expected parousia, although he allows for exceptions
B. There seem to be two inappropriate attitudes/factions in Corinth that were causing great strife. The first were those people who tended toward asceticism (cf. 1 Cor. 7:1). The other group were those who tended toward moral looseness or antinomianism (cf. 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). All truth is attacked by the extremes. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is trying to walk a practical and theological tightrope between these excesses, while still speaking to both groups.
C. There is a recurrent theme running through 1Corinthians 7. It is characterized by 1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24,26,40 and made allusion to in 7:8. That theme is "stay as you are" because the time is short. This cannot be a universal principle because
1. this is related to a period of persecution
2. marriage is God's will for mankind (cf. Gen. 1:28)
3. this church faced internal problems with false teachers
One wonders to which category (i.e., never married, once married, or married to an unbeliever) Paul himself belonged. Maybe he existentially knew them all. Most Jews married because of rabbinical interpretation of Gen.1:28 as well as tradition. Paul's wife either died (i.e., he was a widower) or she left him because of his new faith (i.e., he was a divorcee). At the point of his call to salvation and ministry (i.e., the Damascus road) he personally chose celibacy, as did Barnabas, but he never condemned Peter's marriage (cf. 1 Cor. 9:5).
D. Marriage in the Bible is the expected norm (cf. Gen. 1:28; 2:18). Paul was probably married at one time (i.e., the implication of Acts 26:10, if Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, then he had to be married). He asserts that marriage is an honorable state for the believer (cf. 1 Cor. 6:16; 7:14; 2 Cor. 11:2 and Eph. 5:22-31). We must remember that Paul is addressing a local first century, Gentile, factious, cosmopolitan situation.
E. See full notes on I Corinthians 7 online.
F. A book that has helped me in texts such as this is F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions. For this subject see pages 91-93.
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