Sex and Marriage
1Now for my response concerning the issues you’ve asked me to address. You wrote saying, “It is proper for a man to live in celibacy.” 2Perhaps. But because of the danger of immorality, each husband should have sexual intimacy with his wife and each wife should have sexual intimacy with her husband. 3A husband has the responsibility of meeting the sexual needs of his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. 4Neither the husband nor the wife have exclusive rights to their own bodies, but those rights are to be surrendered to the other. 5So don’t continue to refuse your spouse those rights, except perhaps by mutual agreement for a specified time so that you can both be devoted to prayer. And then you should resume your physical pleasure so that the Adversary cannot take advantage of you because of the desires of your body. 6I’m not giving you a divine command, but my godly advice. 7I would wish that all of you could live unmarried, just as I do. Yet I understand that we are all decidedly different, with each having a special grace for one thing or another.
8So let me say to the unmarried and those who have lost their spouses, it is fine for you to remain single as I am. 9But if you have no power over your passions, then you should go ahead and marry, for marriage is far better than a continual battle with lust.
10And to those who are married, I give this charge—which is not mine, but the Lord’s—that the wife should not depart from her husband. 11But if she does, then she should either remain unmarried or reconcile with her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 12To the rest I say, which is not a saying of the Lord, if a brother has an unbelieving wife and she is content to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is content to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband has been made holy by his believing wife. And the unbelieving wife has been made holy by her believing husband by virtue of his or her sacred union to a believer. Otherwise, the children from this union would be unclean, but in fact, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving spouse wants a divorce, then let it be so. In this situation the believing spouse is not bound to the marriage, for God has called us to live in peace.
16And wives, for all you know you could one day lead your husband to salvation. Or husbands, how do you know for sure that you could not one day lead your wife to salvation?
Living the Life God Has Assigned
17May all believers continue to live the wonderful lives God has called them to live, according to what he assigns for each person, for this is what I teach to believers everywhere. 18If when you were called to follow Jesus you were circumcised, it would be futile to try to undo the circumcision. And if you were called while yet uncircumcised, there is no need to be circumcised. 19Your identity before God has nothing to do with circumcision or uncircumcision. What really matters is following God’s commandments. 20So everyone should continue to live faithful in the situation of life in which they were called to follow Jesus. 21Were you a slave when you heard the call to follow Jesus? Don’t let that concern you. Even if you can gain your freedom, make the most of the opportunity. 22For truly, if you are called to a life-union with the Lord, you are already a free man! And those who were called to follow Jesus when they were free are now the Messiah’s slaves. 23Since a great price was paid for your redemption, stop having the mind-set of a slave. 24Brothers and sisters, we must remain in close communion with God, no matter what our situation was when we were first called to follow Jesus.
Instructions to the Single and Widowed
25Now let me address the issue of singleness. I must confess, I have no command to give you that comes directly from the Lord. But let me share my thoughts on the matter, as coming from one who has experienced the mercy of the Lord to keep me faithful to him. 26Because of the severe pressure we are in, I recommend you remain as you are. 27If you are married, stay in the marriage. If you are single, don’t rush into marriage. 28But if you do get married, you haven’t sinned. It’s just that I would want to spare you the problems you’ll face with the extra challenges of being married.
29My friends, what I mean is this. The urgency of our times mean that from now on, those who have wives should live as though without them. 30And those who weep should forget their tears. And those who rejoice will have no time to celebrate. And those who purchase items will have no time to enjoy them. 31We are to live as those who live in the world system but are not absorbed by it, for the world as we know it is quickly passing away. 32Because of this, we need to live as free from anxiety as possible.
For a single man is focused on the things of the Lord and how he may please him. 33But a married man is pulled in two directions, for he is concerned about both the things of God and the things of the world in order to please his wife. 34And the single woman is focused on the things of the Lord so she can be holy both in body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world and how she may please her husband. 35I am trying to help you and make things easier for you and not make things difficult, but so that you would have undistracted devotion, serving the Lord constantly with an undivided heart.
36However, if a man has decided to serve God as a single person, yet changes his mind and finds himself in love with a woman, although he never intended to marry, let him go ahead and marry her; it is not a sin to do so. 37On the other hand, if a man stands firm in his heart to remain single, and is under no compulsion to get married but has control over his passions and is determined to remain celibate, he has chosen well. 38So then, the one who marries his fiancée does well and the one who chooses not to marry her does better.
39A wife is bound by the marriage covenant as long as her husband is living. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry again as she desires—but, of course, he should be a believer in the Lord. 40However, in my opinion (and I think that I too have the Spirit of God), she would be happier if she remained single.