1 I now want to reply to the matters you people wrote me about. It is [a] good [idea] for a man not to get married. [Note: The words "to get married" here are "to touch" in the Greek and probably refer to sexual relations within marriage. This advice, not a prohibition, is further explained in verses 26-35]. 2 But, because of so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his [marital] duty to his wife, and the wife should do the same thing for her husband. 4 The wife does not have [sole] authority over her own [physical] body, but the husband [also has his right to it]. And in the same way, the husband also does not have [sole] authority over his own [physical] body, but the wife [i.e., has her right to it, as well]. 5 Do not deprive each other [of these marital rights], except by mutual agreement, so that you can spend the time in prayer. Then resume [normal sexual] relations again, so Satan is not able to tempt you [i.e., to have an affair] because of your lack of self-control. 6 But I am telling you this by way of [granting you] permission and not as a command. 7 Yet I wish that everyone were like me [i.e., with the ability to remain single. See 9:5]. However, each person has his own special gift from God; one has this gift [i.e., being content to remain single. See Matt. 19:12], and another has the other gift [i.e., feeling the need to marry and have a family]. 7 and 9:5].
8 Now to those people who are not married [Note: This probably refers to all unmarried people, and not just to widowers, as some think], or who are widows, I say it is [a] good [idea] for them to remain like me [i.e., single. See verse 9 But if they cannot control their [sexual] desires, they should get married, for it is better [for them] to marry than to burn [i.e., with sexual lust which cannot be legitimately gratified].
10 Now I command married people, although it is [really] the Lord's command [See. Mark 10:2-12]: A wife should not separate from her husband. [Note: This act implies the intention of pursuing a legal and permanent breach of the marriage relationship by divorce. "Separate" and "divorce" appear to be used interchangeably in this section. See verses 11-15]. 11 (But if she does separate [from her husband], she should remain unmarried, or else [attempt] a reconciliation with her husband). And a husband should not divorce his wife. 12 But I, not the Lord, say this to the rest of you [Note: Paul now addresses the matter of mixed marriages, a circumstance Jesus never taught about]: If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she agrees to continue living with him [Note: In these verses Paul addresses a situation where one marriage partner is converted after they are married], he should not divorce her. 13 And the woman with a husband who is an unbeliever, who agrees to continue living with her, should not divorce her husband. 14 For the unbelieving husband is set apart [i.e., as an acceptable mate, although not yet saved. See verse 16], through his wife [i.e., her Christian commitment is viewed as having a godly effect on the home], and the unbelieving wife is set apart through the brother [i.e., for the same reason]. Otherwise, your children would be [considered] unclean. [Note: "Unclean" suggests they would be viewed as pagans were it not for one parent being a Christian]. But, as it is, they are set apart as acceptable [i.e., to God, because of the influence of the one Christian parent]. 15 Yet if the unbelieving mate separates [from his spouse], let him go. The brother or sister is not obligated [to continue the marriage] under such circumstances. For God has called you [believers] to live in peace. 16 How can you know, [Christian] wife, whether or not you will [be able to] convert your husband? Or how can you know, [Christian] husband, whether or not you will [be able to] convert you wife?
17 Each person should live according to what the Lord has given him and in the state he was when God called him. And this is what I require in all the churches. 18 Was any man already circumcised when he was called [by God to be a Christian]? Then he should not [try to] become uncircumcised. [Note: Some Jews in that day resorted to a surgical procedure in an attempt to conceal their circumcision]. Was any man uncircumcised when he was called? Then he should not become circumcised. 19 Being circumcised does not matter [with God], nor does being uncircumcised matter [either]. But observing God's commands is what matters. 20 Each person should remain in the [same] state he was in when he was called [by God]. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? It should not matter to you [i.e., if you still are]. But if, indeed, you can become a free person, then use that freedom instead [i.e., for serving God]. 22 For the person who was a slave when called by the Lord is [now] the Lord's freed person. In the same way, the person who was free when he was called [by the Lord] is [now] Christ's slave. 23 [Since] you people were bought for a price [i.e., the blood of Christ], do not become slaves to [other] people. 24 Brothers, each person should remain [in fellowship] with God in the [same] state he was in when he was called [by God to be a Christian].
25 Now I have no command from the Lord concerning [what you wrote about] unmarried women. [Note: The word here is "virgins" but some think it includes both males and females]. But I give my advice as someone who has received the Lord's mercy to be counted trustworthy. 26 So, because of the impending crisis, I think it is a good thing for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you married? [If so], then do not separate [from your mate]. Are you unmarried? [If so], then do not look for a wife. 28 But if you should marry, you have not sinned. And if a virgin girl marries, she has not sinned. Yet those individuals [who do marry] will have troubles in this life, and I want to spare you of that. 29 But I say this, brothers; there is not much time left [i.e., before the crisis arrives in full fury. See verse 26]. From now on those men who are married should live as though they were single. 30 Those who cry [should live] as though they were not sad. Those who rejoice [should live] as though they were not happy. Those who buy things [should live] as though they did not own them. 31 And those who make use of the things of the world [should live] as though they were not [really] involved with them. For the world as we know it is passing away. [Note: The five "as though's" of verses 29-31 are intended to emphasize that Christians should live with eternity in mind and not to become preoccupied with even legitimate earthly circumstances].
32 But I want you to be free from worry. The man who is not married is concerned about the affairs of the Lord [and] how to please the Lord. 33 But the person who is married is [also] concerned about the affairs of the world [and] how to please his wife, 34 so his interests are divided. However, the unmarried woman [Note: Possibly this refers to a widow, divorcee or non-virgin] and the virgin are concerned about the affairs of the Lord [and] how to be dedicated [to God] in both body and spirit. But the married woman is concerned about the affairs of the world [and] how to please her husband. 35 Now I am saying this for your own benefit, not in order to put [unreasonable] restrictions on you, but that you may do whatever is proper and devote yourselves to the Lord's service without distraction.
36 But if any man thinks he is [being tempted to] behave improperly toward his virgin [fiancee], and she is past prime [marriageable] age, and feels the need [to get married] [Note: The Greek says "and so it has to be"], he should do what he wants; they should get married --- that man has not sinned. 37 But [another] man, who has a conviction in his heart [about the matter], and does not feel it is necessary [to get married], but has control over his will [i.e., his sexual passion], and has made up his mind to keep [from marrying] his own virgin [fiancee] --- that man is doing the right thing [also]. 38 So then, the man who marries his virgin [fiancee] is doing the right thing and the man who does not marry her is doing [even] better.
39 A wife is bound [i.e., to stay married] for as long as her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to anyone she wants; [but it must be] only in the Lord [i.e., he must be a faithful Christian]. 40 But she will be happier if she remains as she is [i.e., single]. This is my advice and I think that I, too, have God's Holy Spirit.