Online Bible Commentary
Avoiding Sexual Immorality
1 Corinthians 7:7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. (NKJV)
In this passage the Apostle Paul follows up on the previous two chapters where he frequently addresses sexual immorality. Here, he gives us instructions for avoiding sexual immorality.
The Apostle Paul wishes “that all men were even as I myself” (v. 7a). This is a reference to his personal decision to remain celibate. Paul was not married. He may have never been married or, less likely, he may have been widowed. It is also possible that Paul had previously been married but his wife left him when he converted to Christianity.
Whatever, he was now celibate and endorsed this lifestyle in order to better focus on his relationship with the Lord. The goal was to be able to avoid the sin of sexual immorality. Paul was able to avoid it, but recognized that others may not be able to.
Each person has “his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that” (v.7b). In other words, some may have a greater sex drive than others. Some may be able to live a life of celibacy, while others who try may fall into sexual immorality. Again, the goal was not to fall into the sin of sexual immorality.
Next, Paul specifically addresses “unmarrieds and widows”. He declares that “it is good” if they remain celibate, like himself (v. 8). He adds that if they are unable to “exercise self control” in order to avoid sexual immorality, they should marry (v. 9a).
“It is better to marry than to burn with passion”, according to Paul (v. 9b). Paul is writing here to the church in Corinth, to Christians. Therefore, when he writes “burn with passion” he is not referring to the fires of Hell. Christians have already been declared justified, innocent, by God at the time they are saved. Once saved, always saved. So the phrase “burn with passion” refers to the passion that causes one to fall into sexual immorality.
Now, Paul turns to specifically addressing “marrieds” (v. 10a). This time he adds that this is a “command” from “the Lord”, acknowledging that the Corinthian believers were very aware that this comes from the Lord (v. 10b). Paul is doubling down in the hopes of receiving obedience from his readers.
First, he addresses married women and commands that “a wife is not to depart from her husband” (v. 10c). The literal Greek is that a wife must not “allow herself to be separated or divided” from her husband, as evidenced by the passive verb.
This points to the wife’s power in keeping her marriage together. In the preceding passage Paul stated that sexual relations in marriage should not be withheld except for fasting and prayer, and even then only by mutual consent of husband and wife. The withholding of sexual relations was, and is, a major cause of marriage separations.
The Greek structure of verse eleven translates better “If she gets separated”, not “if she does depart” (v. 11a). The verb “to separate” is aorist subjunctive passive.
So, if the wife gets separated from her husband she should “remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband” (v. 11b). She should not divorce him. Neither should “the husband “divorce his wife” (v. 11c).
Divorce is not the remedy for marital separation. The remedy is to eventually be reconciled after a time apart to work on the problems that caused the separation.
It is interesting that Paul follows his instructions on avoiding sexual immorality in verses 7-9 with instructions on marital separation in verses 10-11. The two are often related.
Sexual immorality within the marriage often leads to marital separation. However, it often is the result of sexual problems within the marriage. Correcting these sexual problems through communication during a time of separation could go a long way towards salvaging the marriage.
God wants us Christians to avoid the sin of sexual immorality. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and belong to God. They were purchased with the blood of Christ and we accepted this purchase when we accepted Him as our Lord. As Lord He has dominion over us, including the use of our bodies. Sexual immorality has no place in the lives of Christians. We must do everything possible to avoid sexual immorality.