v1 - Remember, 1 Corinthians is a letter, written to specific people with specific problems and questions. The responses Paul gives in this chapter are in answer to the Corinthians' specific situations, so they may not be Godly advice for every situation we encounter.
v1-24 - Teachings on marriage
1-6 - Married couples must yield to one another, if for not other reason than to prevent temptation.
7-17 - The situation you've been given in life - married / unmarried - is a gift from God.
Paul's personal advice for single people is to not get married, but rather devote your life to serving God without the encumbrances that marriage and family life can bring.
Married people have an obligation to remain in the relationship they've bound themselves to.
These principles can be applied to other situations besides marriage. In v18-19 they're applied to circumcision, and v21-24 to slavery.
The main point is in v20 - God put you in the situation you're in for a reason, so glorify Him at whatever station you're in, because your identity comes from Him purchasing you.
v25-39 - It's clear Paul is responding to a list of questions the Corinthians had submitted. He's reply to a question about unmarried young people in v25 and women's ability to get remarried in v39. The gist of his reply in the second half of this chapter is very similar to the first half. It's summarized in v35:
I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
Although we consider this passage inspired, authoritative, and inerrant, we also strive to read it the way Paul (and the Holy Spirit) wrote it: specific replies to specific situations. Paul admits several times in this chapter that this advice can not be universally applied. For another Biblical perspective on a difficult issue like divorce, see our post on Matthew 19.
OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCE:
Psalm 86:11-13 speaks of the undivided heart that all Christians - married, unmarried, divorced, widowed, slave or free must have, since all of our identities are formed not by our situation in life, but by our deliverance from the depths.
Use the comment box below to discuss one or more of these questions:
EYE FOR DETAIL—From what you recall seeing in this chapter, try answering the following question without looking at your Bible: Bible: How does Paul complete the following sentence? “It is better to marry than to …” (See v9.)
If this chapter was the only Scripture portion you had ever known, what would you conclude from it about God’s design for marriage?
How does this passage change when we read it in the light of other applicable passages?
Question 1 and 2a taken from The Complete Bible Discussion Guide: New Testament
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The Creator who made us male and female, and who has made us, His Church, His bride forever (v4).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: What God has joined together, let no one separate (v6).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: