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. Chapter 7.

The Christian in a pagan society

Problems concerning Marriage

1 AND NOW for the matters you wrote about.

It is a good thing for a man to have nothing to do with women; [Or: You say, 'It is a good thing ... women; ...] 2 but because there is so much immorality, let each man have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband must give the wife what is due to her, and the wife equally must give the husband his due. 4 The wife cannot claim her body as her own; it is her husband's. Equally, the husband cannot claim his body as his own; it is his wife's. 5 Do not deny yourselves to one another, except when you agree upon a temporary abstinence in order to devote yourselves to prayer; afterwards you may come together again; otherwise, for lack of self-control, you may be tempted by Satan.

6 All this I say by way of concession, not command. 7 I should like you all to be as I am myself; but everyone has the gift God has granted him, one this gift and another that.

8 To the unmarried and to widows I say this: it is a good thing if they stay as I am myself; 9 but if they cannot control themselves, they should marry. Better be married than burn with vain desire.

10 To the married I give this ruling, which is not mine but the Lord's: a wife must not separate herself from her husband; 11 if she does, she must either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband; and the husband must not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say this, as my own word, not as the Lord's: if a Christian has a heathen wife, and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her; 13 and a woman who has a heathen husband willing to live with her must not divorce her husband. 14 For the heathen husband now belongs to God through his Christian wife, and the heathen wife through her Christian husband. Otherwise your children would not belong to God, whereas in fact they do. 15 If on the other hand the heathen partner wishes for a separation, let him have it. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is under no compulsion; but God's call is a call to live in peace. 16 Think of it: as a wife you may be your husband's salvation; as a husband you may be your wife's salvation.

The Life Which the Lord Has Assigned

17 However that may be, each one must order his life according to the gift the Lord has granted him and his condition when God called him. That is what I teach in all our congregations. 18 Was a man called with the is marks of circumcision on him? Let him not remove them. Was he uncircumcised when he was called? Let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision or uncircumcision is neither here nor there; what matters is to keep God's commands. 20 Every man should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Do not let that trouble you; but if a chance of liberty should come, take it. [Or: but even if a chance of liberty should come, choose rather to make good use of your servitude.] 22 For the man who as a slave received the call to be a Christian is the Lord's freedman, and, equally, the free man who received the call is a slave in the service of Christ. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Thus each one, my friends, is to remain before God in the condition in which he received his call.

The Unmarried and Widows

25 On the question of celibacy, I have no instructions from the Lord, but I give my judgement as one who by God's mercy is fit to be trusted.

26 It is my opinion, then, that in a time of stress like the present this is the best way for a man to live-it is best for a man to be as he is. 27 Are you bound in marriage? Do not seek a dissolution. Has your marriage been dissolved? Do not seek a wife. 28 If, however, you do marry, there is nothing wrong in it; and if a virgin marries, she has done no wrong. But those who marry will have pain and grief in this bodily life, and my aim is to spare you.

29 What I mean, my friends, is this. The time we live in will not last long. While it lasts, married men should be as if they had no wives; 30 mourners should be as if they had nothing to grieve them, the joyful as if they did not rejoice; buyers must not count on keeping what they buy, 31 nor those who use the world's wealth on using it to the full. For the whole frame of this world is passing away.

32 I want you to be free from anxious care. The unmarried man cares for the Lord's business; his aim is to please the Lord. 33 But the married man cares for worldly things; his aim is to please his wife; 34 and he has a divided mind. The unmarried or celibate woman cares [Some witnesses read: ... his wife. And there is a difference between the wife and the virgin. The unmarried woman cares ...] for the Lord's business; her aim is to be dedicated to him in body as in spirit; but the married woman cares for worldly things; her aim is to please her husband.

35 In saying this I have no wish to keep you on a tight rein. I am thinking simply of your own good, of what is seemly, and of your freedom to wait upon the Lord without distraction.

36 But if a man has a partner in celibacy [Or: a virgin daughter (or: ward).] and feels that he is not behaving properly towards her, if, that is, his instincts are too strong for him, [Or: if she is ripe for marriage.] and something must be done, he may do as he pleases; there is nothing wrong in it; let them marry. [Or: let the girl and her lover marry.] 37 But if a man is steadfast in his purpose, being under no compulsion, and has complete control of his own choice; and if he has decided in his own mind to preserve his partner [Or: his daughter.] in her virginity, he will do well. 38 Thus, he who marries his partner [Or: gives his daughter in marriage.] does well, and he who does not will do better.

39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband die, she is free to marry whom she will, provided the marriage is within the Lord's fellowship. 40 But she is better off as she is; that is my opinion, and I believe that I too have the Spirit of God.

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