1 Now I will discuss the things you wrote me about. You asked if it is better for a man not to have any sexual relations at all. 2 But sexual sin is a danger, so each man should enjoy his own wife, and each woman should enjoy her own husband. 3 The husband should give his wife what she deserves as his wife. And the wife should give her husband what he deserves as her husband. 4 The wife does not have power over her own body. Her husband has the power over her body. And the husband does not have power over his own body. His wife has the power over his body. 5 Don’t refuse to give your bodies to each other. But you might both agree to stay away from sex for a while so that you can give your time to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not be able to tempt you in your weakness. 6 I say this only to give you permission to be separated for a time. It is not a rule. 7 I wish everyone could be like me. But God has given each person a different ability. He makes some able to live one way, others to live a different way.
8 Now for those who are not married and for the widows I say this: It is good for you to stay single like me. 9 But if you cannot control your body, then you should marry. It is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire.
10 Now, I have a command for those who are married. Actually, it is not from me; it is what the Lord commanded. A wife should not leave her husband. 11 But if a wife does leave, she should remain single or get back together with her husband. And a husband should not divorce his wife.
12 The advice I have for the others is from me. The Lord did not give us any teaching about this. If you have a wife who is not a believer, you should not divorce her if she will continue to live with you. 13 And if you have a husband who is not a believer, you should not divorce him if he will continue to live with you. 14 The husband who is not a believer is set apart for God through his believing wife. And the wife who is not a believer is set apart for God through her believing husband. If this were not true, your children would be unfit for God’s use. But now they are set apart for him.
15 But if the husband or wife who is not a believer decides to leave, let them leave. When this happens, the brother or sister in Christ is free. God chose you to have a life of peace. 16 Wives, maybe you will save your husband; and husbands, maybe you will save your wife. You don’t know now what will happen later.
Live as God Called You
17 But each one of you should continue to live the way the Lord God has given you to live—the way you were when God chose you. I tell people in all the churches to follow this rule. 18 If a man was already circumcised when he was chosen, he should not change his circumcision. If a man was without circumcision when he was chosen, he should not be circumcised. 19 It is not important if anyone is circumcised or not. What is important is obeying God’s commands. 20 Each one of you should stay the way you were when God chose you. 21 If you were a slave when God chose you, don’t let that bother you. But if you can be free, then do it. 22 If you were a slave when the Lord chose you, you are now free in the Lord. You belong to the Lord. In the same way, if you were free when you were chosen, you are now Christ’s slave. 23 God paid a high price for you, so don’t be slaves to anyone else. 24 Brothers and sisters, in your new life with God, each one of you should continue the way you were when God chose you.
Questions About Getting Married
25 Now I write about people who are not married.* people who are not married Literally, “virgins.” I have no command from the Lord about this, but I give my opinion. And I can be trusted, because the Lord has given me mercy. 26 This is a time of trouble. So I think it is good for you to stay the way you are. 27 If you have a wife, don’t try to get free from her. If you are not married, don’t try to find a wife. 28 But if you decide to marry, that is not a sin. And it is not a sin for a girl who has never married to get married. But those who marry will have trouble in this life, and I want you to be free from this trouble.
29 Brothers and sisters, this is what I mean: We don’t have much time left. So starting now, those who have wives should be the same as those who don’t. 30 It should not be important whether you are sad or whether you are happy. If you buy something, it should not matter to you that you own it. 31 You should use the things of the world without letting them become important to you. This is how you should live, because this world, the way it is now, will soon be gone.
32 I want you to be free from worry. A man who is not married is busy with the Lord’s work. He is trying to please the Lord. 33 But a man who is married is busy with things of the world. He is trying to please his wife. 34 He must think about two things—pleasing his wife and pleasing the Lord. A woman who is not married or a girl who has never married is busy with the Lord’s work. She wants to give herself fully—body and spirit—to the Lord. But a married woman is busy with things of the world. She is trying to please her husband. 35 I am saying this to help you. I am not trying to limit you, but I want you to live in the right way. And I want you to give yourselves fully to the Lord without giving your time to other things.
36 A man might think that he is not doing the right thing with his fiancée. She might be almost past the best age to marry.† She … to marry Or “He may have trouble controlling his desires.” So he might feel that he should marry her. He should do what he wants. It is no sin for them to get married. 37 But another man might be more sure in his mind. There may be no need for marriage, so he is free to do what he wants. If he has decided in his own heart not to marry his fiancée, he is doing the right thing. 38 So the man who marries his fiancée does right, and the man who does not marry does better.
39 A woman should stay with her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, the woman is free to marry any man she wants, but he should belong to the Lord. 40 The woman is happier if she does not marry again. This is my opinion, and I believe that I have God’s Spirit.
*7:25 people who are not married Literally, “virgins.”
†7:36 She … to marry Or “He may have trouble controlling his desires.”