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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.
About Marriage
1Now I will discuss the things you wrote me about. You asked if it is better for a man not to have any sexual relations at all. 2But sexual sin is a danger, so each man should enjoy his own wife, and each woman should enjoy her own husband. 3The husband should give his wife what she deserves as his wife. And the wife should give her husband what he deserves as her husband. 4The wife does not have power over her own body. Her husband has the power over her body. And the husband does not have power over his own body. His wife has the power over his body. 5Don’t refuse to give your bodies to each other. But you might both agree to stay away from sex for a while so that you can give your time to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not be able to tempt you in your weakness. 6I say this only to give you permission to be separated for a time. It is not a rule. 7I wish everyone could be like me. But God has given each person a different ability. He makes some able to live one way, others to live a different way.
8Now for those who are not married and for the widows I say this: It is good for you to stay single like me. 9But if you cannot control your body, then you should marry. It is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire.
10Now, I have a command for those who are married. Actually, it is not from me; it is what the Lord commanded. A wife should not leave her husband. 11But if a wife does leave, she should remain single or get back together with her husband. And a husband should not divorce his wife.
12The advice I have for the others is from me. The Lord did not give us any teaching about this. If you have a wife who is not a believer, you should not divorce her if she will continue to live with you. 13And if you have a husband who is not a believer, you should not divorce him if he will continue to live with you. 14The husband who is not a believer is set apart for God through his believing wife. And the wife who is not a believer is set apart for God through her believing husband. If this were not true, your children would be unfit for God’s use. But now they are set apart for him.
15But if the husband or wife who is not a believer decides to leave, let them leave. When this happens, the brother or sister in Christ is free. God chose you to have a life of peace. 16Wives, maybe you will save your husband; and husbands, maybe you will save your wife. You don’t know now what will happen later.
Live as God Called You
17But each one of you should continue to live the way the Lord God has given you to live—the way you were when God chose you. I tell people in all the churches to follow this rule. 18If a man was already circumcised when he was chosen, he should not change his circumcision. If a man was without circumcision when he was chosen, he should not be circumcised. 19It is not important if anyone is circumcised or not. What is important is obeying God’s commands. 20Each one of you should stay the way you were when God chose you. 21If you were a slave when God chose you, don’t let that bother you. But if you can be free, then do it. 22If you were a slave when the Lord chose you, you are now free in the Lord. You belong to the Lord. In the same way, if you were free when you were chosen, you are now Christ’s slave. 23God paid a high price for you, so don’t be slaves to anyone else. 24Brothers and sisters, in your new life with God, each one of you should continue the way you were when God chose you.
Questions About Getting Married
25Now I write about people who are not married.#7:25 people who are not married Literally, “virgins.” I have no command from the Lord about this, but I give my opinion. And I can be trusted, because the Lord has given me mercy. 26This is a time of trouble. So I think it is good for you to stay the way you are. 27If you have a wife, don’t try to get free from her. If you are not married, don’t try to find a wife. 28But if you decide to marry, that is not a sin. And it is not a sin for a girl who has never married to get married. But those who marry will have trouble in this life, and I want you to be free from this trouble.
29Brothers and sisters, this is what I mean: We don’t have much time left. So starting now, those who have wives should be the same as those who don’t. 30It should not be important whether you are sad or whether you are happy. If you buy something, it should not matter to you that you own it. 31You should use the things of the world without letting them become important to you. This is how you should live, because this world, the way it is now, will soon be gone.
32I want you to be free from worry. A man who is not married is busy with the Lord’s work. He is trying to please the Lord. 33But a man who is married is busy with things of the world. He is trying to please his wife. 34He must think about two things—pleasing his wife and pleasing the Lord. A woman who is not married or a girl who has never married is busy with the Lord’s work. She wants to give herself fully—body and spirit—to the Lord. But a married woman is busy with things of the world. She is trying to please her husband. 35I am saying this to help you. I am not trying to limit you, but I want you to live in the right way. And I want you to give yourselves fully to the Lord without giving your time to other things.
36A man might think that he is not doing the right thing with his fiancée. She might be almost past the best age to marry.#7:36 She … to marry Or “He may have trouble controlling his desires.” So he might feel that he should marry her. He should do what he wants. It is no sin for them to get married. 37But another man might be more sure in his mind. There may be no need for marriage, so he is free to do what he wants. If he has decided in his own heart not to marry his fiancée, he is doing the right thing. 38So the man who marries his fiancée does right, and the man who does not marry does better.
39A woman should stay with her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, the woman is free to marry any man she wants, but he should belong to the Lord. 40The woman is happier if she does not marry again. This is my opinion, and I believe that I have God’s Spirit.