Paul answered their questions about marriage
You wrote a letter to me and asked me some questions, and now I will answer one of those questions. You asked me, “Is it good for a man to stay single and never marry a woman?” My answer is, “Yes, but only if he can stay single without going wrong.” You see, a lot of people can’t do that. They try to stay single, but then they go wrong, and they end up sleeping with somebody, as if they are married to each other. So, I reckon, every man has to have his own wife and only ever sleep with her, and every woman has to have her own husband and only ever sleep with him.
If a wife needs her husband to sleep with her and do what married people do together, he has to agree to it, to make her happy. And if a husband needs his wife to sleep with him and do what married people do together, she has to agree to it, to make him happy. You see, the wife’s body does not only belong to her, it also belongs to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body doesn’t only belong to him, it also belongs to his wife.
So, if your husband or wife wants to sleep with you, to do what married people do together, you can’t say, “No.” But both of you can agree to wait for a while without sleeping together, so you can use the time to pray. Then, soon after that, you have to sleep together again. If you don’t, Satan might trick you. He knows you can’t control yourselves very well. If you go too long without sleeping together, then he will try to get one of you to sleep with somebody else. I’m not saying that you have to stop sleeping together. I’m saying that if you both agree to stop for a while, so you can pray more, that’s all right. You know, I reckon it is good for everyone to stay single, like me. But God helps people in different ways. He helps some people be a good husband or wife, and he helps other people stay single without going wrong.
Now I will talk to you people that are not married. Maybe your wife or husband has died, or maybe you never married anyone. This is what I reckon. Stay single, like me. But you have to control yourself properly. If that is too hard for you, then marry somebody. If you are always wanting to sleep with somebody and do what married people do together, don’t try to stay single.
10 Now I will talk to you Christians that are married, and your partner is another Christian. Don’t get divorced. This rule comes from our leader, Jesus, not just from me. A wife can’t leave her husband. 11 But if she does leave him, she has to stay single. Or she can go back to her husband. And it is the same for a husband. He cant leave his wife.*
12 Now I will talk to you people that are married, but your partner is not a Christian. This is not a rule that comes from our leader, Jesus, but this is what I reckon. If a Christian man has a wife, and if she doesn’t believe in Jesus, but she agrees to stay with him, that man cant split up the marriage, he cant divorce her. 13 If a Christian woman has a husband, and if he doesn’t believe in Jesus, but he agrees to stay with her, that woman can’t split up the marriage, she can’t divorce him. 14 You see, if a woman believes in Jesus, but her husband doesn’t, God says it’s good for them to stay married. And in the same way, if a man believes in Jesus, but his wife doesn’t, God says it’s good for them to stay married. And I’ll tell you about their kids too. If their mother or father believes in Jesus, God reckons those kids are special. They are not just like the kids of people who don’t believe in him.
15 So if you have a husband or wife that isn’t Christian, and they want to leave you, then you can let them go. Christians don’t have to try to make their partners stay with them if their partners are not Christians. God wants us to be quiet and happy. He doesn’t want us to be arguing and fighting with each other. But if your husband or wife isn’t Christian, but they agree to stay with you, then don’t leave them. 16 Listen, Christian wife, maybe you can help your husband turn around and let God save him. And listen, Christian husband, maybe you can help your wife turn around and let God save her.
Stay the same as you were when you first believed
17 You know, I’ve been talking to you about marriage, and I said that married people have to stay married. Well, our leader Jesus gives us all different lives. Some people are married, some people are not married. Some men have had a young man operation, some men haven’t. Some people are workers with no pay, some people are free. But this is the rule that I tell Christians in all the churches, everywhere I go. I tell them, “You don’t have to try to change those things. You can just stay the same as you were when God picked you to be in his family.” 18 It’s like this. Some of you were born Jews, so your Jewish family did a young man operation on you. After that, God picked you to be in his family. All right, don’t try to get another operation to change it back again. And some of you are not born Jews, but God has picked you to be in his family. All right, don’t try to be Jewish now. Don’t get a young man operation. 19 It doesn’t matter if you get that Jewish operation, or not. This is what’s important, you have to do what God tells us all to do.
20 You see, God picked each of you to be in his family, so don’t try to change everything. Stay the same as you were at that time when God picked you. 21 Sometimes bosses own their workers. Those workers belong to their bosses and their bosses control them. They have to do what their bosses say, and they don’t get any pay. If God picked you while you were a worker like that, don’t worry. Don’t try to run away and get free. (But if your boss says you can go free, then do that.) 22 Some of you are that sort of worker. Your boss owns you and controls you. But think about this. God picked you to join up with Jesus, and you are in his family, so now you are properly free. You are free from the bad things you used to do. They don’t control you any more.
In the same way, some of you are free people, nobody owns you. But think about this. God picked you, and you are in Jesuss family, so now Jesus owns you and you work all the time for him. 23 You see, God bought you and he paid a lot for you. So don’t let anyone else control you and get you to go wrong. 24 You see, my Christian friends, I’m telling you that each one of you has to live for God, and stay the same as you were when God picked you.
25 I’m going to talk now about young people that are not married, and I will try to answer your question. Our leader Jesus didn’t tell me what to say about this, but I will tell you what I think. God is good to me and he helps me think properly, so I reckon you can believe me. This is what I think. 26 People everywhere are making trouble for God’s people these days, so I reckon it is best for you to stay the way you are. 27 This is what I reckon, if you are married, don’t try to leave your partner. But if you are not married, don’t look for a partner. 28 The bad people in this world will make a lot of trouble for Gods people, and married people will find it hard to live with that trouble. I want to save you from getting too much trouble, so I’m telling you to stay single. But if you do marry somebody, you are not doing wrong.
29-31 My Christian friends, listen to what I’m saying. There is not much time left before Jesus will come back, and he will change this world. So don’t just think about the things of this world. That is the reason why I’m telling you married men that after Jesus comes back, it will not matter if people are married or single. And I’m telling you people that are sad, don’t worry, the trouble that makes you sad will go away when Jesus comes back. And I’m telling you people that are happy, the things that make you happy will go away when Jesus comes back. And I’m telling you people that buy things for yourselves, you will not own those things after Jesus comes back. You see, we do those things in this world now, but soon, when Jesus comes back, all those things will finish up. So don’t just live for those things now.
32 You see, I don’t want you to be worried about the things in this world. A single man thinks a lot about Jesus, and he only wants to make Jesus happy. 33 But a married man wants to make his wife happy too, so he also thinks a lot about the things in this world. 34 So he has a lot to think about. He doesn’t just think about God, but he thinks about his family too. And it is like that for women too. A single woman thinks a lot about God, and she wants both her body and her spirit to belong to him. But a married woman wants to make her husband happy too, so she also thinks a lot about the things in this world. 35 I’m saying this to help you. I’m not making rules for you, but I want you to listen properly to God, and think about him, and work properly for him. Don’t let anything get in your way and stop you from doing that.
36 Maybe a young woman was promised to a man, but those 2 think it is better to work for God, and they agree not to get married yet. And maybe that woman is getting older now, and soon she will not be a good age to marry, so that man thinks that it is best for him to marry her now. That’s all right. He has to do what he thinks is good. It’s all right for them to get married. He will not be doing anything wrong.
37 But maybe another young woman was promised to a man, and those 2 agreed to work for God and not to get married, but this man still wants to stay single, and he can control himself. Well, he can stay single if he wants to. If he doesn’t get married, that is good. 38 This is what I reckon. The man that marries his promise does something good. But the man that stays single does something better.
39 And now I will tell you about widows. A married woman has to stay with her husband while he is alive. She can’t leave him and go away and marry another man. But if her husband dies, then she can marry again. But a Christian widow has to marry a Christian man. 40 But I reckon she will be more happy if she stays single, and I think Gods spirit is telling me what to say to you.
* 7:11 Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18