Answers to Questions Asked by the Church at Corinth
With reference to the subjects about which you wrote to me: It is good for a man to remain single. But, owing to the prevalence of immorality, I advise every man to have his own wife, and every woman her husband. A husband should give his wife her due, and a wife her husband. It is not the wife, but the husband, who exercises power over her body; and so, too, it is not the husband, but the wife, who exercises power over his body. Do not deprive each other of what is due — unless it is only for a time and by mutual consent, so that your minds may be free for prayer until you again live as man and wife — otherwise Satan might take advantage of your want of self-control and tempt you. I say this, however, as a concession, not as a command. I should wish everyone to be just what I am myself. But everyone has his own gift from God — one in one way, and one in another.
My advice, then, to those who are not married, and to widows, is this: It would be good for them to remain as I am myself. But, if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be consumed with passion. 10 To those who are married my direction is — yet it is not mine, but the Master's — that a woman is not to leave her husband 11 (If she has done so, she should remain as she is, or else be reconciled to her husband) and also that a man is not to divorce his wife. 12 To all others I say — I, not the Master — If a follower of the Lord is married to a woman, who is an unbeliever but willing to live with him, he should not divorce her; 13 and a woman who is married to a man, who is an unbeliever but willing to live with her, should not divorce her husband. 14 For, through his wife, the husband who is an unbeliever has become associated with Christ's people; and the wife who is an unbeliever has become associated with Christ's people through the Lord's follower whom she has married. Otherwise your children would be “defiled,” but, as it is, they belong to Christ's people. 15 However, if the unbeliever wishes to be separated, let them be so. Under such circumstances neither is bound; God has called you to live in peace. 16 How can you tell, wife, whether you may not save your husband? And how can you tell, husband, whether you may not save your wife?
17 In any case, a person should continue to live in the condition which the Lord has allotted to them, and in which they were when God called them. This is the rule that I lay down in every church. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? Then he should not efface his circumcision. Has a man been called when uncircumcised? Then he should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing; the want of it is nothing; but to keep the commands of God is everything. 20 Let everyone remain in that condition of life in which they were when the call came to them. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Do not let that trouble you. No, even if you are able to gain your freedom, still do your best. 22 For the person who was a slave when they were called to the master's service is the Master's freedman; so, too, the person who was free when called is Christ's slave. 23 You were bought, and the price was paid. Do not let yourselves become slaves to people. 24 Friends, let everyone remain in the condition in which they were when they were called, in close communion with God.
25 With regard to unmarried women, I have no command from the Master to give you, but I tell you my opinion, and the Master in his mercy has made me worthy to be trusted. 26 I think, then, that, in view of the time of suffering that has now come upon us, what I have already said is best — that a man should remain as he is. 27 Are you married to a wife? Then do not seek to be separated. Are you separated from a wife? Then do not seek for a wife. 28 Still, if you should marry, that is not wrong; nor, if a young woman marries, is that wrong. But those who marry will have much trouble to bear, and my wish is to spare you. 29 What I mean, friends, is this — the time is short. Meanwhile, let those who have wives live as if they had none, 30 those who are weeping as if not weeping, those who are rejoicing as if not rejoicing, those who buy as if not possessing, 31 and those who use the good things of the world as using them sparingly; for this world as we see it is passing away. 32 I want you to be free from anxiety. The unmarried man is anxious about the Master's cause, desiring to please him; 33 while the married man is anxious about worldly matters, desiring to please his wife; 34 and so his interests are divided. Again, the unmarried woman, whether she is old or young, is anxious about the Master's cause, striving to be pure both in body and in spirit, while the married woman is anxious about worldly matters, desiring to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not with any intention of putting a halter round your necks, but in order to secure for the Master seemly and constant devotion, free from all distraction.
36 If, however, a father thinks that he is not acting fairly by his unmarried daughter, when she is past her youth, and if under these circumstances her marriage ought to take place, he should act as he thinks right. He is doing nothing wrong — let the marriage take place. 37 On the other hand, a father, who has definitely made up his mind, and is under no compulsion, but is free to carry out his own wishes, and who has come to the decision, in his own mind, to keep his unmarried daughter at home will be doing right. 38 In short, the one who consents to his daughter's marriage is doing right, and yet the other will be doing better.
39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives; but, if the husband should pass to his rest, the widow is free to marry anyone she wishes, provided he is a believer. 40 Yet she will be happier if she remains as she is — in my opinion, for I think that I also have the Spirit of God.