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7
Marriage and its ideal
1Yes, my brethren, it is a good thing for both man and woman to be above all sexual intercourse. You wrote and asked me if that were good, and I answer yes. 2-3But marriage exists to prevent fornication. It is a step towards chastity. The ideal is to rise above all physical union of the sexes. Perfect chastity is a higher condition than the married state, and the intercourse of married persons, of husband and wife, is condoned and allowed, not commanded. I would that all men had reached the condition with regard to these questions that the spirit has conferred as a gift on me; but, as it is, we must have marriage, and those that are married must follow its rules. 4Husbands and wives, you are not masters of your own bodies. Each must do as the other has a right to demand in this important matter, 5-7and if by mutual consent you abstain from it altogether for a time, giving yourselves more thoroughly to prayer, and guarding against the entry of the spirit of evil through the avenue of indulgence, that is the best rule to observe.
Constancy in the truth
8-9Now whether married or unmarried, my advice is — remain as you were when God first called you into the truth. 10-13If married, do not seek separation. Husband and wife may not both be in the faith, nevertheless if the one to whom the truth has not yet come is agreeable to remain with the other, there should be no thought of separation. 14Both will be sanctified by the presence of the truth in the household, and likewise the children also, and who knows? probably the one that has faith will save the other. 15-16But if you were unmarried or widowed when the truth first came to you, then my advice is — do not change your state. Be as I am — and live a life of total abstinence from the claims of the body in this direction. But if this is beyond you, then marry; marriage is far better than unsuccessful efforts at this form of self-mastery. Now all this is only an expression of my own opinion, but the following is a commandment to all married persons. Let neither husband nor wife seek separation; or if they must be separated, let neither marry again whilst the other lives, but let them rather, if possible, be once more reconciled. That is the Lord's expressed command and no matter of opinion.
In other matters also
17Further, in other matters besides marriage, I enjoin the same rule as that which I have just explained. 18After the truth has come to you, make no outward change in your manner of life, that is to say, in such matters as the circumcision or uncircumcision. 19-20Let it not make the slightest difference what you were before you received the truth, for in the truth these differences are seen to be nothing, so remain as you always were in this matter. For the keeping of God's commandments is all that matters. 21Similarly, if you were a slave when called, do not seek to obtain manumission, but even prefer to continue in the old calling. 22-23You know now that you are Christ's freedman and bought out of slavery at a heavy price. That freedom is everything, for those that were of free birth when called are now the slaves of Christ. Let then neither bond nor free be in spirit the slaves of men; that is all the faith demands; 24in outward respects remain as you were.
Chastity a noble thing
25Some are married when called into the faith; some have had wives, but have put them away; some are unmarried, and have never been married and have on no occasion indulged the sexual impulse, but are virgins. 26To all these I repeat the same advice. Stay as you are, as you were before God called you; 27-28and this even applies to the last class, those who have never known sexual intercourse. To these I would give no definite command, and yet even here, I will give my opinion, and I will give it with the consciousness that in this matter I have been faithful myself, or rather that God in His infinite mercy has taken pity on the weakness of my flesh, and made me by His own power firm and trustworthy in the matter. Well, my opinion is that perfect chastity, abstention from marriage and all sexual intercourse is a noble thing in a man, 29-31and the reason of that is that the world is changing, the end of the old order is near, and the doom of the physical approaches. We are called to attend to something higher than marriage and its cares. The whole outward form and manner of the universe is changing and passing away. Marriages, feastings, funerals, business and worldly matters may continue, but the time is short. Rise above them, and be as if they were not, even though you take part in them. 32I would have you without such cares; 33and you know that a married man thinks of his wife 34and cares about his business and the world for her sake, whilst the unmarried man or woman who lives a virgin life is free to dedicate that life to the Lord. 35But of course, if such an one, who has never touched a woman, elect to marry, he does so with good conscience, sinning not; only such persons, whether male or female, will find that their physical appetite puts obstacles and trials in their way, the details of which I spare you. 36Of course, if a man is not certain in his own mind, if he has lingering regrets that he has never used this important function of mortal man, let him marry by all means, he does no wrong thereby. 37But if he is certain, if he has clearly determined that to live and die a virgin is for him the best course of all, then let him keep his resolution, and he will do well by it. 38It will be the best and greatest course of all, though he who marries may rightly be congratulated on so doing. 39Lastly, a wife of course is bound to her husband for his life-time only — if he dies, she is free to marry again, but let her second choice not be one of the heathen, but one who belongs to the faith. 40But, as I said before, I believe it to be better that she marry not again, but remain a widow, and in so saying I believe that my sense in this matter is governed by the Spirit of God.
7
Questions about marriage
1Now I will answer the questions that you asked in your letter. You asked, “Is it best for people not to marry?”#7.1 people not to marry: Or “married couples not to have sex”. 2Well, having your own husband or wife should keep you from doing something immoral. 3Husbands and wives should be fair with each other about having sex. 4A wife belongs to her husband instead of to herself, and a husband belongs to his wife instead of to himself. 5So don't refuse sex to each other, unless you agree not to have sex for a little while, in order to spend time in prayer. Then Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6In my opinion that is what should be done, though I don't know of anything the Lord said about this matter. 7I wish that all of you were like me, but God has given different gifts to each of us.
8Here is my advice for people who have never been married and for widows. You should stay single, just as I am. 9But if you don't have enough self-control, then go ahead and get married. After all, it is better to marry than to burn with desire.#7.9 with desire: Or “in the flames of hell”.
10I instruct married couples to stay together, and this is exactly what the Lord himself taught. A wife who leaves her husband#Mt 5.32; 19.9; Mk 10.11,12; Lk 16.18. 11should either stay single or go back to her husband. And a husband should not leave his wife.
12I don't know of anything else the Lord said about marriage. All I can do is to give you my own advice. If your wife isn't a follower of the Lord, but is willing to stay with you, don't divorce her. 13If your husband isn't a follower, but is willing to stay with you, don't divorce him. 14Your husband or wife who isn't a follower is made holy by having you as a partner. This also makes your children holy and keeps them from being unclean in God's sight.
15If your husband or wife isn't a follower of the Lord and decides to divorce you, then you should agree to it. You are no longer bound to that person. After all, God chose you and wants you to live at peace. 16And besides, how do you know if you will be able to save your husband or wife who isn't a follower?
Obeying the Lord at all times
17In every church I tell the people to stay as they were when the Lord Jesus chose them and God called them to be his own. Now I say the same thing to you. 18If you are already circumcised, don't try to change it. If you are not circumcised, don't get circumcised. 19Being circumcised or uncircumcised isn't really what matters. The important thing is to obey God's commands. 20So don't try to change what you were when God chose you. 21Are you a slave? Don't let that bother you. But if you can win your freedom, you should. 22When the Lord chooses slaves, they become his free people. And when he chooses free people, they become slaves of Christ. 23God paid a great price for you. So don't become slaves of anyone else. 24Stay what you were when God chose you.
Unmarried people
25I don't know of anything that the Lord said about people who have never been married.#7.25 people who have never been married: Or “virgins”. But I will tell you what I think. And you can trust me, because the Lord has treated me with kindness. 26We are now going through hard times, and I think it is best for you to stay as you are. 27If you are married, stay married. If you are not married, don't try to get married. 28It isn't wrong to marry, even if you have never been married before. But those who marry will have a lot of trouble, and I want to protect you from that.
29My friends, what I mean is that the Lord will soon come,#7.29 the Lord will soon come: Or “there's not much time left” or “the time for decision comes quickly”. and it won't matter if you are married or not. 30It will be all the same if you are crying or laughing, or if you are buying or are completely broke. 31It won't make any difference how much good you are getting from this world or how much you like it. This world as we know it is now passing away.
32I want all of you to be free from worry. An unmarried man worries about how to please the Lord. 33But a married man has more worries. He must worry about the things of this world, because he wants to please his wife. 34So he is pulled in two directions. Unmarried women and women who have never been married#7.34 women who have never been married: Or “virgins”. worry only about pleasing the Lord, and they keep their bodies and minds pure. But a married woman worries about the things of this world, because she wants to please her husband. 35What I am saying is for your own good—it isn't to limit your freedom. I want to help you to live right and to love the Lord above all else.
36But suppose you are engaged to someone old enough to be married, and you want her so much that all you can think about is getting married. Then go ahead and marry.#7.36 But suppose you are engaged…go ahead and marry: Verses 36-38 may also be translated: 36 “If you feel that you are not treating your grown-up daughter right by keeping her from getting married, then let her marry. You won't be doing anything wrong. 37 But it is better to have self-control and make up your mind not to let your daughter get married. 38 It is all right for you to let her marry. But it is better if you don't let her marry at all.” There is nothing wrong with that. 37But it is better to have self-control and to make up your mind not to marry. 38It is perfectly all right to marry, but it is better not to get married at all.
39A wife should stay married to her husband until he dies. Then she is free to marry again, but only to a man who is a follower of the Lord. 40However, I think I am obeying God's Spirit when I say she would be happier to stay single.