10.To the married I command. He now treats of another condition of marriage — its being an indissoluble tie. Accordingly, he condemns all those divorces that were of daily occurrence among the heathens, and were not punished among the Jews by the law of Moses. Let not,says he, the husband put away his wife, and let not the wife depart from her husband.Why? Because they are joined together by an indissoluble bond. It is surprising, however, that he does not make an exception, at least in case of adultery; for it is not likely that he designed to curtail in anything the doctrine of Christ. To me it appears clear, that the reason why he has made no mention of this is, that as he is discoursing of these things only in passing, he chose rather to send back the Corinthians to the Lord’s permission or prohibition, than to go over everything in detail. For when persons intend to teach anything in short compass, they content themselves with a general statement. Exceptions are reserved for a minuter and more extended and particular discussion.
But as to what he subjoins — not I, but the Lord— he intimates by this correction, that what he teaches here is taken from the law of God. For other things that he taught he had also from the revelation of the Spirit; but he declares that God is the author of this, in respect of its being expressly taken from the law of God. If you inquire as to the particular passage, you will nowhere find it in so many words; but as Moses in the beginning testifies, that the connection between a husband and wife is so sacred, that for the sake of it a man ought to leave his father and mother. (Gen_2:24.) It is easy to gather from this, how inviolable a connection it is. For by right of nature a son is bound to his father and mother, and cannot shake off that yoke. As the connection of marriage is preferred to that bond, much less ought it to be dissolved.
I command, yet not I, but the Lord – I do not give my own private opinion or judgment in this case; for the Lord Jesus commands that man shall not put asunder them whom God hath joined, Mat_5:32; Mat_19:6. And God has said the same, Gen_2:24. The following extracts will prove that the law among the Jews was very loose relative to the firmness of the marriage bond: –
A woman might put away or depart from her husband by giving this simple reason to the elders, who would give the following certificate.
“In ____ day of ____ week, of ____ year, A., daughter of B., put away before us and said: My mother, or my brethren, deceived me, and wedded me or betrothed me, when I was a very young maid, to C., son of D.; but I now reveal my mind before you, that I will not have him.”
Sometimes they parted with mutual consent, and this also was considered legal, as was also the marriage of the separated parties to others. Witness the following story: “A good man had a good wife; but because they had no children, they mutually put away each other. The good man married a bad (a heathen) wife, and she made him bad (a heathen); the good woman married a bad (a heathen) husband, and she made him good.” Divorces were easily obtained among them, and they considered them the dissolving of the marriage bond; and, in consequence of these, the parties might remarry with others. This was contrary to the original institution of marriage, and is opposed both by our Lord and the apostle.
And unto the married – This verse commences the second subject of inquiry; to wit, whether it was proper, in the existing state of things, for those who were married to continue this relation, or whether they ought to separate. The reasons why any may have supposed that it was best to separate, may have been:
(1) That their troubles and persecutions might be such that they might judge it best that families should be broken up; and,
(2) Probably many supposed that it was unlawful for a Christian wife or husband to be connected at all with a pagan and an idolater.
I command, yet not I, but the Lord – Not I so much as the Lord. This injunction is not to be understood as adVice merely, but as a solemn, divine command, from which you are not at liberty to depart. Paul here professes to utter the language of inspiration, and demands obedience. The express command of “the Lord” to which he refers, is probably the precept recorded in Mat_5:32, and Mat_19:3-10. These precepts of Christ asserted that the marriage tie was sacred and inviolable.
Let not the wife depart … – Let her not prove faithless to her marriage vows; let her not, on any pretence, desert her husband. Though she is a Christian. and he is not, yet let her not seek, on that account, to be separate from him – The law of Moses did not permit a wife to divorce herself from her husband, though it was sometimes done (compare Mat_10:12); but the Greek and Roman laws allowed it – Grotius. But Paul here refers to a formal and legal separation before the magistrates, and not to a voluntary separation, without intending to be formally divorced. The reasons for this opinion are:
(1) That such divorces were known and practiced among both Jews and pagans.
(2) it was important to settle the question whether they were to be allowed in the Christian church.
(3) the claim would be set up, probably, that it might be done.
(4) the question whether a “voluntary separation” might not be proper, where one party was a Christian, and the other not, he discusses in the following verses, 1Co_7:12-17. Here, therefore, he solemnly repeats the law of Christ, that divorce, under the Christian economy, was not to be in the power either of the husband or wife.
11.But if she depart That this is not to be understood of those who have been put away for adultery, is evident from the punishment that followed in that case; for it was a capital crime even by the Roman laws, and almost by the common law of nations. But as husbands frequently divorced their wives, either because their manners were not congenial, or because their personal appearance did not please them, or because of some offense; and as wives, too, sometimes deserted their husbands on account of their cruelty, or excessively harsh and dishonorable treatment, he says that marriage is not dissolved by divorces or dissensions of that nature. For it is an agreement that is consecrated by the name of God, which does not stand or fall according to the inclination of men, so as to be made void whenever we may choose. The sum is this: other contracts, as they depend on the mere inclination of men, are in like manner dissolved by that same inclination; but those who are connected by marriage are no longer free, so as to be at liberty, if they change their mind, to break in pieces the pledge, (as the expression is,) and go each of them elsewhere in quest of a new connection. For if the rights of nature cannot be dissolved, much less can this, which, as we have said already, is preferred before the principal tie of nature.
But as to his commanding the wife, who is separated from her husband, to remain unmarried, he does not mean by this that separation is allowable, nor does he give permission to the wife to live apart from her husband; but if she has been expelled from the house, or has been put away, she must not think that even in that case she is set free from his power; for it is not in the power of a husband to dissolve marriage. He does not therefore give permission here to wives to withdraw, of their own accord, from their husbands, or to live away from their husband’s establishment, as if they were in a state of widowhood; but declares, that even those who are not received by their husbands, continue to be bound, so that they cannot take other husbands.
But what if a wife is wanton, or otherwise incontinent? Would it not be inhuman to refuse her the remedy, when, constantly burning with desire? I answer, that when we are prompted by the infirmity of our flesh, we must have recourse to the remedy; after which it is the Lord’s part to bridle and restrain our affections by his Spirit, though matters should not succeed according to our desire. For if a wife should fall into a protracted illness, the husband would, nevertheless, not be justified in going to seek another wife. In like manner, if a husband should, after marriage, begin to labor under some distemper, it would not be allowable for his wife to change her condition of life. The sum is this — God having prescribed lawful marriage as a remedy for our incontinency, let us make use of it, that we may not, by tempting him, pay the penalty of our rashness. Having discharged this duty, let us hope that he will give us aid should matters go contrary to our expectations.
But, and if she depart – He puts the case as probable, because it was frequent, but lays it under restrictions.
Let her remain unmarried – She departs at her own peril; but she must not marry another: she must either continue unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.
And let not the husband put away his wife – Divorces cannot be allowed but in the case of fornication: an act of this kind dissolves the marriage vow; but nothing else can. It is a fact that, among the Jews, the wife had just as much right to put away her husband as the husband had to put away his wife. As divorces were granted, it was right that each should have an equal power; for this served as a mutual check.
But and if she depart – If she have withdrawn by a rash and foolish act; if she has attempted to dissolve the marriage vow, she is to remain unmarried, or be reconciled. She is not at liberty to marry another. This may refer, I suppose, to instances where wives, ignorant of the rule of Christ, and supposing that they had a right to separate themselves from their husbands, had rashly left them, and had supposed that the marriage contract was dissolved. Paul tells them that this was impossible; and that if they had so separated from their husbands, the pure laws of Christianity, did not recognize this right, and they must either be reconciled to their husbands, or remain alone. The marriage tie was so sacred that it could not be dissolved by the will of either party.
Let her remain unmarried – That is, let her not marry another.
Or be reconciled to her husband – Let this be done, if possible. If it cannot be, let her remain unmarried. It was a duty to be reconciled if it was possible. If not, she should not violate her vows to her husband so far as to marry another. It is evident that this rule is still binding, and that no one who has separated from her husband, whatever be the cause, unless there be a regular divorce, according to the law of Christ Mat_5:32, can be at liberty to marry again.
And let not the husband – See the note at Mat_5:32. This right, granted under the Jewish law, and practiced among all the pagan, was to be taken away wholly under the gospel. The marriage tie was to be regarded as sacred; and the tyranny of man over woman was to cease.
12.To the rest I say By the rest he means those who are exceptions, so that the law, common to others, is not applicable to them; for an unequal marriage is on a different footing, when married persons differ among themselves in respect of religion; Now this question he solves in two clauses. The first is, that the believing party ought not to withdraw from the unbelieving party, and ought not to seek divorce, unless she is put away. The second is, that if an unbeliever put away his wife on account of religion, a brother or a sister is, by such rejection, freed from the bond of marriage. But why is it that Paul speaks of himself as the author of these regulations, while they appear to be somewhat at variance with what he had, a little before, brought forward, as from the Lord? He does not mean that they are from himself in such a way as not to be derived from the Spirit of God; but, as there was nowhere in the law or in the Prophets any definite or explicit statement on this subject, he anticipates in this way the calumnies of the wicked, in claiming as his own what he was about to state. At the same time, lest all this should be despised as the offspring of man’s brain, we shall find him afterwards declaring, that his statement are not the contrivances of his own understanding. There is, however, nothing inconsistent with what goes before; for as the obligation and sanctity of the marriage engagement depend upon God, what connection can a pious woman any longer maintain with an unbelieving husband, after she has been driven away through hatred of God?
But to the rest speak I, not the Lord – As if he had said: For what I have already spoken I have the testimony of the Lord by Moses, and of my own Lord and Master, Christ; but for the directions which I am now about to give there is no written testimony, and I deliver them now for the first time. These words do not intimate that the apostle was not now under the influences of the Divine Spirit; but, that there was nothing in the sacred writings which bore directly on this point.
If any brother – A Christian man, have a wife that believeth not, i.e. who is a heathen, not yet converted to the Christian faith, and she be pleased to dwell with him, notwithstanding his turning Christian since their marriage, let him not put her away because she still continues in her heathen superstition.
But to the rest – “I have spoken in regard to the duties of the unmarried, and the question whether it is right and advisable that they should marry, 1Co_7:1-9. I have also uttered the command of the Lord in regard to those who are married, and the question whether separation and divorce were proper. Now in regard to “the rest of the person’s and cases” referred to, I will deliver my opinion.” “The rest,” or remainder, here referred to, relates particularly to the cases in which one party was a Christian and the other not. In the previous verses he had delivered the solemn, explicit law of Christ, that divorce was to take place on neither side, and in no instance, except agreeably. to the law of Christ; Mat_5:32. That was settled by divine authority. In the subsequent verses he discusses a different question; whether a “voluntary separation” was not advisable and proper when the one party was a Christian and the other not. The word “rest” refers to these instances, and the questions which would arise under this inquiry.
Not the Lord – See the note at 1Co_7:6. “I do not claim, in this advice, to be under the influence of inspiration; I have no express command on the subject from the Lord; but I deliver my opinion as a servant of the Lord 1Co_7:40, and as having a right to offer advice, even when I have no express command from God, to a church which I have founded, and which has consulted me on the subject.” This was a case in which both he and they were to follow the principles of Christian prudence and propriety, when there was no express commandment. Many such cases may occur. But few, perhaps none, can occur, in which some Christian principle shall not be found, that will be sufficient to direct the anxious inquirer after truth and duty.
If any brother – Any Christian.
That believeth not – That is not a Christian; one who is a pagan.
And if she be pleased – If it seems best to her; if she consents; approves of living together still. There might be many cases where the wife or the husband, that was not a Christian, would be so opposed to Christianity, and so violent in their opposition, that they would not be willing to live with a Christian. When this was the case, the Christian husband or wife could not prevent the separation. When this was not the case, they were not to seek a separation themselves.
To dwell with him – To remain in connection with him as his wife, though they differed on the subject of religion.
Let him not put her away – Though she is a pagan, though opposed to his religion, yet the marriage vow is sacred and inviolable. It is not to be sundered by any change which can take place in the opinions of either party. It is evident that if a man were at liberty to dissolve the marriage tie, or to discard his wife when his own opinions were changed on the subject of religion, that it would at once destroy all the sacredness of the marriage union, and render it a nullity. Even, therefore, when there is a difference of opinion on the vital subject of religion, the tie is not dissolved; but the only effect of religion should be, to make the converted husband or wife more tender, kind, affectionate, and faithful than they were before; and all the more so as their partners are without the hopes of the gospel, and as they may be won to love the Saviour, 1Co_7:16.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
the woman — a believer.
let her not leave him — “her husband,” instead of “him,” is the reading of the oldest manuscripts The Greek for “leave” is the same as in 1Co_7:12, “put away”; translate, “Let her not put away [that is, part with] her husband.” The wife had the power of effecting a divorce by Greek and Roman law.
Let her not leave him – A change of phraseology from the last verse, to suit the circumstances. The wife did not have power to “put away” the husband, and expel him from his own home; but she might think it her duty to be separated from him. The apostle counsels her not to do this; and this advice should still be followed. She should still love her husband and seek his welfare; she should be still a kind, affectionate, and faithful wife; and all the more so that she may show him the excellence of religion, and win him to love it. She should even bear much, and bear it long; nor should she leave him unless her life is rendered miserable, or in danger; or unless he wholly neglects to make provision for her, and leaves her to suffering, to want, and to tears. In such a case no precept of religion forbids her to return to her father’s house, or to seek a place of safety and of comfort. But even then it is not to be a separation on account of a difference of religious sentiment, but for brutal treatment. Even then the marriage tie is not dissolved, and neither party is at liberty to marry again.
14.For the unbelieving husband is sanctified He obviates an objection, which might occasion anxiety to believers. The relationship of marriage is singularly close, so that the wife is the half of the man — so that they two are one flesh— (1Co_6:16 ) — so that the husband is the head of the wife; (Eph_5:23;) and she is her husband’s partner in everything; hence it seems impossible that a believing husband should live with an ungodly wife, or the converse of this, without being polluted by so close a connection. Paul therefore declares here, that marriage is, nevertheless, sacred and pure, and that we must not be apprehensive of contagion, as if the wife would contaminate the husband. Let us, however, bear in mind, that he speaks here not of contracting marriages, but of maintaining those that have been already contracted; for where the matter under consideration is, whether one should marry an unbelieving wife, or whether one should marry an unbelieving husband, then that exhortation is in point — Be not yoked with unbelievers, for there is no agreement between Christ and Belial. (2Co_6:14.) But he that is already bound has no longer liberty of choice; hence the advice given is different.
While this sanctification is taken in various senses, I refer it simply to marriage, in this sense — It might seem (judging from appearance) as if a believing wife contracted infection from an unbelieving husband, so as to make the connection unlawful; but it is otherwise, for the piety of the one has more effect in sanctifying marriage than the impiety of the other in polluting it. Hence a believer may, with a pure conscience, live with an unbeliever, for in respect of the use and intercourse of the marriage bed, and of life generally, he is sanctified, so as not to infect the believing party with his impurity. Meanwhile this sanctificationis of no benefit to the unbelieving party; it only serves thus far, that the believing party is not contaminated by intercourse with him, and marriage itself is not profaned.
But from this a question arises — “If the faith of a husband or wife who is a Christian sanctifiesmarriage, it follows that all marriages of ungodly persons are impure, and differ nothing from fornication.” I answer, that to the ungodly all things are impure, (Tit_1:15,) because they pollute by their impurity even the best and choicest of God’s creatures. Hence it is that they pollute marriage itself, because they do not acknowledge God as its Author, and therefore they are not capable of true sanctification, and by an evil conscience abuse marriage. It is a mistake, however, to conclude from this that it differs nothing from fornication; for, however impure it is to them, it is nevertheless pure in itself, inasmuch as it is appointed by God, serves to maintain decency among men, and restrains irregular desires; and hence it is for these purposes approved by God, like other parts of political order. We must always, therefore, distinguish between the nature of a thing and the abuse of it.
Else were your children-It is an argument taken from the effect — “If your marriage were impure, then the children that are the fruit of it would be impure; but they are holy; hence the marriage also is holy. As, then, the ungodliness of one of the parents does not hinder the children that are born from being holy, so neither does it hinder the marriage from being pure.” Some grammarians explain this passage as referring to a civil sanctity, in respect of the children being reckoned legitimate, but in this respect the condition of unbelievers is in no degree worse. That exposition, therefore, cannot stand. Besides, it is certain that Paul designed here to remove scruples of conscience, lest any one should think (as I have said) that he had contracted defilement. The passage, then, is a remarkable one, and drawn from the depths of theology; for it teaches, that the children of the pious are set apart from others by a sort of exclusive privilege, so as to be reckoned holy in the Church.
But how will this statement correspond with what he teaches elsewhere — that we are all by nature children of wrath; (Eph_2:3;) or with the statement of David — Behold I was conceived in sin,etc. (Psa_51:5.) I answer, that there is a universal propagation of sin and damnation throughout the seed of Adam, and all, therefore, to a man, are included in this curse, whether they are the offspring of believers or of the ungodly; for it is not as regenerated by the Spirit, that believers beget children after the flesh. The natural condition, therefore, of all is alike, so that they are liable equally to sin and to eternal death. As to the Apostle’s assigning here a peculiar privilege to the children of believers, this flows from the blessing of the covenant, by the intervention of which the curse of nature is removed; and those who were by nature unholy are consecrated to God by grace. Hence Paul argues, in his Epistle to the Romans, (Rom_11:16,) that the whole of Abraham’s posterity are holy, because God had made a covenant of life with him — If the root be holy, says he, then the branches are holy also. And God calls all that were descended from Israel his sons’ now that the partition is broken down, the same covenant of salvation that was entered into with the seed of Abraham is communicated to us. But if the children of believers are exempted from the common lot of mankind, so as to be set apart to the Lord, why should we keep them back from the sign? If the Lord admits them into the Church by his word, why should we refuse them the sign? In what respects the offspring of the pious are holy, while many of them become degenerate, you will find explained in Rom_10:1 the Epistle to the Romans; and I have handled this point there.
The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife – Or rather, is to be reputed as sanctified on account of his wife; she being a Christian woman, and he, though a heathen, being by marriage one flesh with her: her sanctity, as far as it refers to outward things, may be considered as imputed to him so as to render their connection not unlawful. The case is the same when the wife is a heathen and the husband a Christian. The word sanctification here is to be applied much more to the Christian state than to any moral change in the persons; for αγιοι, saints, is a common term for Christians – those who were baptized into the faith of Christ; and as its corresponding term קדושים kedoshim signified all the Jews who were in the covenant of God by circumcision, the heathens in question were considered to be in this holy state by means of their connection with those who were by their Christian profession saints.
Else were your children unclean – If this kind of relative sanctification were not allowed, the children of these persons could not be received into the Christian Church, nor enjoy any rights, or privileges as Christians; but the Church of God never scrupled to admit such children as members, just as well as she did those who had sprung from parents both of whom were Christians.
The Jews considered a child as born out of holiness whose parents were not proselytes at the time of the birth, though afterwards they became proselytes. On the other hand, they considered the children of heathens born in holiness, provided the parents became proselytes before the birth. All the children of the heathens were reputed unclean by the Jews; and all their own children holy. – See Dr. Lightfoot. This shows clearly what the apostle’s meaning is.
If we consider the apostle as speaking of the children of heathens, we shall get a remarkable comment on this passage from Tertullian, who, in his treatise De Carne Christi, chaps. 37, 39, gives us a melancholy account of the height to which superstition and idolatry had arrived in his time among the Romans. “A child,” says he, “from its very conception, was dedicated to the idols and demons they worshipped. While pregnant, the mother had her body swathed round with bandages, prepared with idolatrous rites. The embryo they conceived to be under the inspection of the goddess Alemona, who nourished it in the womb. Nona and Decima took care that it should be born in the ninth or tenth month. Partula adjusted every thing relative to the labor; and Lucina ushered it into the light. During the week preceding the birth a table was spread for Juno; and on the last day certain persons were called together to mark the moment on which the Parcae, or Fates, had fixed its destiny. The first step the child set on the earth was consecrated to the goddess Statina; and, finally, some of the hair was cut off, or the whole head shaven, and the hair offered to some god or goddess through some public or private motive of devotion.” He adds that “no child among the heathens was born in a state of purity; and it is not to be wondered at,” says he, “that demons possess them from their youth, seeing they were thus early dedicated to their service.” In reference to this, he thinks, St. Paul speaks in the verse before us: The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife – else were your children unclean; but now are they holy; i.e. “As the parents were converted to the Christian faith, the child comes into the world without these impure and unhallowed rites; and is from its infancy consecrated to the true God.”
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
sanctified — Those inseparably connected with the people of God are hallowed thereby, so that the latter may retain the connection without impairing their own sanctity (compare 1Ti_4:5); nay, rather imparting to the former externally some degree of their own hallowed character, and so preparing the way for the unbeliever becoming at last sanctified inwardly by faith.
by … by — rather, “in … in”; that is, in virtue of the marriage tie between them.
by the husband — The oldest manuscripts read, “by the brother.” It is the fact of the husband being a “brother,” that is, a Christian, though the wife is not so, that sanctifies or hallows the union.
else … children unclean — that is, beyond the hallowed pale of God’s people: in contrast to “holy,” that is, all that is within the consecrated limits [Conybeare and Howson]. The phraseology accords with that of the Jews, who regarded the heathen as “unclean,” and all of the elect nation as “holy,” that is, partakers of the holy covenant. Children were included in the covenant, as God made it not only with Abraham, but with his “seed after” him (Gen_17:7). So the faith of one Christian parent gives to the children a near relationship to the Church, just as if both parents were Christians (compare Rom_11:16). Timothy, the bearer of this Epistle, is an instance in point (Act_16:1). Paul appeals to the Corinthians as recognizing the principle, that the infants of heathen parents would not be admissible to Christian baptism, because there is no faith on the part of the parents; but where one parent is a believer, the children are regarded as not aliens from, but admissible even in infancy as sharers in, the Christian covenant: for the Church presumes that the believing parent will rear the child in the Christian faith. Infant baptism tacitly superseded infant circumcision, just as the Christian Lord’s day gradually superseded the Jewish sabbath, without our having any express command for, or record of, transference. The setting aside of circumcision and of sabbaths in the case of the Gentiles was indeed expressly commanded by the apostles and Paul, but the substitution of infant baptism and of the Lord’s day were tacitly adopted, not expressly enacted. No explicit mention of it occurs till Irenaeus in the third century; but no society of Christians that we read of disputed its propriety till fifteen hundred years after Christ. Anabaptists would have us defer baptism till maturity as the child cannot understand the nature of it. But a child may be made heir of an estate: it is his, though incapable at the time of using or comprehending its advantage; he is not hereafter to acquire the title and claim to it: he will hereafter understand his claim, and be capable of employing his wealth: he will then, moreover, become responsible for the use he makes of it [Archbishop Whately].
For the unbelieving husband – The husband that is not a Christian; who still remains a pagan, or an impenitent man. The apostle here states reasons why a separation should not take place when there was a difference of religion between the husband and the wife. The first is, that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife. And the object of this statement seems to be, to meet an objection which might exist in the mind, and which might, perhaps, be urged by some. “Shall I not be polluted by such a connection? Shall I not be defiled, in the eye of God, by living in a close union with a pagan, a sinner, an enemy of God, and an opposer of the gospel?” This objection was natural, and is, doubtless, often felt. To this the apostle replies, “No; the contrary may he true. The connection produces a species of sanctification, or diffuses a kind of holiness over the unbelieving party by the believing party, so far as to render their children holy, and therefore it is improper to seek for a separation.”
Is sanctified – ηγίασται hegiastai. There has been a great variety of opinions in regard to the sense of this word. It does not comport with my design to state these opinions. The usual meaning of the word is, to make holy; to set apart to a sacred use; to consecrate, etc; see the note at Joh_17:17. But the expression cannot mean here:
(1) That the unbelieving husband would become holy, or be a Christian, “by the mere fact” of a connection “with” a Christian, for this would be to do violence to the words, and would be contrary to facts everywhere; nor,
(2) That the unbelieving husband had been sanctified by the Christian wife (Whitby), for this would not be true in all cases; nor,
(3) That the unbelieving husband would gradually become more favorably inclined to Christianity, by observing its effects on the wife (according to Semler); for, though this might be true, yet the apostle was speaking of something then, and which rendered their children at that time holy; nor,
(4) That the unbelieving husband might more easily be sanctified, or become a Christian, by being connected with a Christian wife (according to Rosenmuller and Schleusner), because he is speaking of something in the connection which made the children holy; and because the word αγιαζω hagiazo is not used in this sense elsewhere. But it is a good rule of interpretation, that the words which are used in any place are to be limited in their signification by the connection; and all that we are required to understand here is, that the unbelieving husband was sanctified “in regard to the subject under discussion;” that is, in regard to the question whether it was proper for them to live together, or whether they should be separated or not. And the sense may be, “They are by the marriage tie one flesh. They are indissolubly united by the ordinance of God. As they are one by his appointment, as they have received his sanction to the marriage union, and as one of them is holy, so the other is to be regarded as sanctified, or made so holy by the divine sanction to the union, that it is proper for them to live together in the marriage relation.” And in proof of this, Paul says if it were not so, if the connection was to he regarded as impure and abominable, then their children were to be esteemed as illegitimate and unclean. But now they were not so regarded, and could not so be; and hence, it followed that they might lawfully continue together. So Calvin, Beza, and Doddridge interpret the expression.
Else were your children unclean – (ακάθαρτα akatharta). Impure; the opposite of what is meant by holy. Here observe:
(1) That this is a reason why the parents, one of whom was a Christian and the other not, should not be separated; and,
(2) The reason is founded on the fact, that if they were separated, the offspring of such a union must be regarded as illegitimate, or unholy; and,
(3) It must be improper to separate in such a way, and for such a reason, because even they did not believe, and could not believe, that their children were defiled, and polluted, and subject to the shame and disgrace attending illegitimate children.
This passage has often been interpreted, and is often adduced to prove that children are “federally holy,” and that they are entitled to the privilege of baptism on the ground of the faith of one of the parents. But against this interpretation there are insuperable objections:
(1) The phrase “federally holy” is unintelligible, and conveys no idea to the great mass of people. It occurs no where in the Scriptures, and what can be meant by it?
(2) it does not accord with the scope and design of the argument. There is not one word about baptism here; not one allusion to it; nor does the argument in the remotest degree hear upon it. The question was not whether children should be baptized, but it was whether there should be a separation between man and wife, where the one was a Christian and the other not. Paul states, that if such a separation should take place, it would imply that the marriage was improper; and of course the children must be regarded as unclean. But how would the supposition that they were federally holy, and the proper subjects of baptism, bear on this? Would it not be equally true that it was proper to baptize the children whether the parents were separated or not? Is it not a doctrine among Pedobaptists everywhere, that the children are entitled to baptism upon the faith of either of the parents, and that that doctrine is not affected by the question here agitated by Paul? Whether it was proper for them to live together or not, was it not equally true that the child of a believing parent was to be baptized? But,
(3) The supposition that this means that the children would be regarded as illegitimate if such a separation should take place, is one that accords with the whole scope and design of the argument. “When one party is a Christian and the other not shall there be a separation?” This was the question. “No,” says Paul; if there is such a separation, it must be because the marriage is improper; because it would be wrong to live together in such circumstances. What would follow from this? Why, that all the children that have been born since the one party became a Christian, must be regarded as having been born while a connection existed that was improper, and unChristian, and unlawful, and of course they must be regarded as illegitimate. But, says he, you do not believe this yourselves. It follows, therefore, that the connection, even according to your own views, is proper.
(4) this accords with the meaning of the word unclean (ακαθαρτα akatharta). It properly denotes that which is impure, defiled, idolatrous, unclean:
(a) In a Levitical sense; Lev_5:2.
(b) In a moral sense. Act_10:28; 2Co_6:17; Eph_5:5.
The word will appropriately express the sense of illegitimacy; and the argument, I think, evidently requires this. It may be summed up in a few words. “Your separation would be a proclamation to all that you regard the marriage as invalid and improper. From this it would follow that the offspring of such a marriage would be illegitimate. But you are not prepared to admit this; you do not believe it. Your children which you esteem to be legitimate, and they are so. The marriage tie, therefore, should be regarded as binding, and separation unnecessary and improper.” See, however, Doddridge and Bloomfield for a different view of this subject – I believe infant baptism to be proper and right, and an inestimable privilege to parents and to children. But a good cause should not be made to rest on feeble supports, nor upon forced and unnatural interpretations of the Scriptures. And such I regard the usual interpretation placed on this passage.
But now are they holy – Holy in the same sense as the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; for different forms of the same word are usual. That is, they are legitimate. They are not to be branded and treated as bastards, as they would be by your separation. You regard them as having been born in lawful wedlock, and they are so; and they should be treated as such by their parents, and not be exposed to shame and disgrace by your separation.
The note of Dr. Doddridge, to which the author has candidly referred his readers, is here subjoined: “On the maturest and most impartial consideration of this text, I must judge it to refer to infant baptism. Nothing can be more apparent, than that the word “holy” signifies persons who might be admitted to partake of the distinguishing rites of God’s people; compare Exo_19:6; Deu_7:6; Deu_14:2; Deu_26:19; Deu_33:3; Ezr_9:2, with Isa_35:8; Isa_52:1; Act_10:28. And as for the interpretation which so many of our brethren, the Baptists, have contended for, that “holy” signifies “legitimate,” and “unclean, illegitimate” (not to urge that this seems an unscriptural sense of the word,) nothing can be more evident than that the argument will by no means bear it; for it would be proving a thing by itself “idem peridem” to argue, that the converse of the parent’s was lawful because the children were not bastards, whereas all who thought the converse of the parents unlawful, must think that the children were illegitimate.”
The sense of the passage seems to be this: Christians are not to separate from their unconverted partners, although the Jews were commanded to put away their strange or pagan wives; because the unbelieving party is so far sanctified by the believing party, that the marriage connection is quite “lawful for Christians. There is nothing in the Christian religion that forbids it.” Otherwise, argues the Apostle, your children would be unclean, just as the offspring of unequal and forbidden marriages among the Jews, was unclean, and therefore denied the privilege of circumcision; whereas your infants, as appears from their right to baptism, acknowledged in all the churches, are holy, just as the Jewish children who had a right to circumcision were holy, not “internally” but externally and legally, in consequence of their covenant relation to God. Or briefly thus – Do not separate. The marriage is quite lawful for Christians, otherwise your children could not be reckoned holy, in the sense of having a right to the seal of the covenant, that is, baptism. The argument for infant baptism is indeed incidental, but not the less strong on that account. And to say there is no allusion whatever to that subject is a mere begging of the question.
To evade this conclusion in favor of infant baptism, the Baptists have strenuously contended, that the proper sense of “holy” is legitimate or lawfully born. But,
1. The word in the original (αγιος hagios) does not in a single instance bear this sense. The question is not what sense may possibly be attached to the term, but what is its real meaning. It is on the other hand, very frequently used in the sense assigned to it by Doddridge and others.
2.According to this view (namely, of legitimacy), the apostle is made gravely to tell the Corinthians, that the marriage, in the supposed case, was lawful in a “civil sense,” a thing which they could not possibly doubt, and which must have been “equally true if both parties had been unbelieving.” It is incredible that the Corinthians should wish or need to be informed on any such point? But if we call to mind what has been noticed above, concerning the command, binding the Jews to dissolve their unequal marriages, and to treat the offspring of them as unclean Ezr_10:3, we can easily imagine the Corinthians anxious to ascertain whether the Christian religion had retained any such injunction. No, says the apostle, you see your children are holy, as the children of equal or allowed marriage among the Jews were. Therefore you need have no scruples on the point; you require not to separate. Any obscurity that rests on the passage arises from inattention to the Jewish laws, and to the senses in which the Jews used the words “unclean” and “holy.” In primitive times these terms, applied to children, would be readily understood, without any explanation such as is needed now.
3. As Doddridge in the above note has acutely remarked, the supposition that the apostle proves the lawfulness of the marriage in a civil sense, from the legitimacy of the children, makes him argue in a circle. The thing to be proven, and the proof, are in reality one and the same. If the Corinthians knew that their children were legitimate, how could they think of applying to Paul on a subject so simple as the legality of of their marriages. It is as if they had said, “We know that our children are legitimate. Inform us if our marriages are legal!
15.But if an unbeliever depart.This is the second department of his statement, in which he sets at liberty a believing husband, who is prepared to dwell with an unbelieving wife, but is rejected by her, and in like manner a woman who is, without any fault on her part, repudiated by her husband; for in that case the unbelieving party makes a divorce with God rather than with his or her partner. There is, therefore, in this case a special reason, inasmuch as the first and chief bond is not merely loosed, but even utterly broken through. While some are of opinion that we are at this day situated in a much similar way with Papists, we ought to consider wisely what difference there is between the two cases, that we may not attempt anything rashly.
In peace.Here, too, interpreters differ; for some take it in this way — “We are called in peace: let us therefore avoid all ground and occasion of quarrels.” I take it in a more simple way: “Let us, so far as we can, cultivate peace with all, to which we have been called. We must not, therefore, rashly separate from unbelievers, unless they first make a divorce. God, therefore, has called us in peaceto this end, that we might cultivate peace with all, by acting properly towards every one.” This, then, belongs to the former department of his statement — that believers ought to remain with unbelievers, if they are p1eased, etc., (1Co_7:12,)because a desire for divorce is at variance with our profession.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
if … depart — that is, wishes for separation. Translate, “separateth himself”: offended with her Christianity, and refusing to live with her unless she renounce it.
brother or a sister is not under bondage — is not bound to renounce the faith for the sake of retaining her unbelieving husband [Hammond]. So Deu_13:6; Mat_10:35-37; Luk_14:26. The believer does not lie under the same obligation in the case of a union with an unbeliever, as in the case of one with a believer. In the former case he is not bound not to separate, if the unbeliever separate or “depart,” in the latter nothing but “fornication” justifies separation [Photius in Aecumenius].
but God hath called us to peace — Our Christian calling is one that tends to “peace” (Rom_12:18), not quarrelling; therefore the believer should not ordinarily depart from the unbelieving consort (1Co_7:12-14), on the one hand; and on the other, in the exceptional case of the unbeliever desiring to depart, the believer is not bound to force the other party to stay in a state of continual discord (Mat_5:32). Better still it would be not to enter into such unequal alliances at all (1Co_7:40; 2Co_6:14).
But if the unbelieving depart – If they choose to leave you.
Let him depart – You cannot prevent it, and you are to submit to it patiently, and bear it as a Christian.
A brother or a sister is not under bondage … – Many have supposed that this means that they would be at liberty to marry again when the unbelieving wife or husband had gone away; as Calvin, Grotius, Rosenmuller, etc. But this is contrary to the strain of the argument of the apostle. The sense of the expression “is not bound,” etc. is, that if they forcibly depart, the one that is left is not bound by the marriage tie to make provision for the one that departed; to do acts that might be prejudicial to religion by a violent effort to compel the departing husband or wife to live with the one that is forsaken; but is at liberty to live separate, and should regard it as proper so to do.
God hath called us to peace – Religion is peaceful. It would prevent contentions and broils. This is to be a grand principle. If it cannot be obtained by living together, there should be a peaceful separation; and “where” such a separation has taken place, the one which has departed should be suffered to remain separate in peace. God has called us to live in peace with all if we can. This is the general principle of religion on which we are always to act. In our relation to our partners in life, as well as in all other relations and circumstances, this is to guide us. Calvin supposes that this declaration pertains to the former part of this verse; and that Paul means to say, that if the unbelieving depart, he is to be suffered to do so peaceably rather than to have contention and strife, for God has called us to a life of peace.
Is not under bondage (ou dedoulotai). Perfect passive indicative of douloo, to enslave, has been enslaved, does not remain a slave. The believing husband or wife is not at liberty to separate, unless the disbeliever or pagan insists on it. Wilful desertion of the unbeliever sets the other free, a case not contemplated in Christ’s words in Mat_5:32; Mat_19:9. Luther argued that the Christian partner, thus released, may marry again. But that is by no means clear, unless the unbeliever marries first.
But God hath called us in peace (en de eirenei kekleken hemas or humas). Perfect active indicative of kaleo, permanent call in the sphere or atmosphere of peace. He does not desire enslavement in the marriage relation between the believer and the unbeliever.
16.For what knowest thou, O woman?Those who are of opinion that this observation is a confirmation of the second department of his statement, expound it thus. “An uncertain hope ought not to detain thee,” etc. But, in my opinion, the exhortation is taken from the advantage to be derived; for it is a great and distinguished blessing if a wife gain (1Co_9:19 ) her husband. Now, unbelievers are not in so hopeless a condition but that they may be brought to believe. They are dead, it is true, but God can even raise the dead. So long, therefore, as there remains any hope of doing good, and the pious wife knows not but that she may by her holy conversation (1Pe_3:1 ) bring back her husband into the way, she ought to try every means before leaving him; for so long as a man’s salvation is doubtful, it becomes us to be prepared rather to hope the best.
As to his saying, however, that a husband may be saved by his wife, the expression, it is true, is not strictly accurate, as he ascribes to man what belongs to God; but there is no absurdity in it. For as God acts efficaciously by his instruments which he makes use of, he does, in a manner, communicate his power to them, or, at least, he connects it with their service in such a manner, that what he does he speaks of as being done by them, and hence, too, he sometimes ascribes to them the honor which is due to himself alone. Let us, however, bear in mind, that we have nothing in our power, except in so far as we are directed by him as instruments.
For what knowest thou … – The apostle here assigns a reason why the believing party should not separate from the other needlessly, or why he should not desire to be separated. The reason is, the possibility, or the probability, that the unbelieving party might be converted by the example and entreaties of the other.
Whether then … – How do you know “but” this may be done? Is there not a possibility, nay a probability of it, and is not this a sufficient reason for continuing together?
Save thy husband – Gain him over to the Christian faith; be the means of his conversion and salvation. compare Rom_11:26. We learn from this verse:
(1) That there is a possibility that an unbelieving partner in life may be converted by the example of the other.
(2) That this should be an object of intense interest to the Christian husband or wife, because:
(a) It will promote the happiness of the other;
(b) It will promote their usefulness;
(c) It will be the means of blessing their family, for parents should be united on the subject of religion, and in their example and influence in training up their sons and daughters; and,
(d) Because the salvation of a beloved husband or wife should be an object of intense interest,
(3) This object is of so much importance that the Christian should be willing to submit to much, to bear much, and to bear long, in order that it may be accomplished. Paul said that it was desirable even to live with a pagan partner to do it; and so also it is desirable to bear much, very much, with even an unkind and fretful temper, with an unfaithful and even an intemperate husband, or with a perverse and peevish wife, if there is a prospect that they may be converted.
(4) this same direction is elsewhere given; 1Pe_3:1-2.
(5) it is often done. It is not hopeless. Many a wife has thus been the means of saving a husband; many a husband has been the means of the salvation of the wife – In regard to the means by which this is to be hoped for, we may observe that it is not by a harsh, fretful, complaining temper; it is to be by kindness, and tenderness, and love. It is to be by an exemplification of the excellency of religion by example; by patience when provoked, meekness when injured, love when despised, forbearance when words of harshness and irritation are used, and by showing how a Christian can live, and what is the true nature of religion; by kind and affectionate conversation when alone, when the heart is tender, when calamities visit the family, and when the thoughts are drawn along by the events of Providence toward death. Not by harshness or severity of manner, is the result to be hoped for, but by tender entreaty, and mildness of life, and by prayer. Pre eminently this is to be used. When a husband will not hear, God can hear; when he is angry, morose, or unkind, God is gentle, tender, and kind; and when a husband or a wife turn away from the voice of gentle entreaty, God’s ear is open, and God is ready to hear and to bless. Let one thing guide the life. We are never to cease to set a Christian example; never to cease to live as a Christian should live; never to cease to pray fervently to the God of grace, that the partner of our lives may be brought under the full influence of Christian truth, and meet us in the enjoyments of heaven.
32.But I would wish you.He returns to the advice which he had spoken of, (1Co_7:25,) but had not as yet fully explained, and in the outset he pronounces, as he is wont, a commendation upon celibacy, and then afterwards allows every one the liberty of choosing what he may consider to suit him best. It is not, however, without good reason that he returns so frequently to proclaim the advantages of celibacy, for he saw that the burdens of matrimony were far from light. The man who can exempt himself from them, ought not to refuse such a benefit, and it is of advantage for those who resolve to marry, to be forewarned of those inconveniences, that they may not afterwards, on meeting with them unexpectedly, give way to despondency. This we see happens to many, for having promised themselves unmixed honey, on being disappointed in that expectation, they are very readily cast down by the slightest mishap. Let them know, therefore, in good time, what they have to expect, that they may be prepared to endure everything patiently. The meaning is this: “Marriage brings along with it hindrances, from which I should wish you to be free and exempt.”
As, however, he has previously made use of the term trouble, (1Co_7:28,) and now makes mention of cares or anxieties, it may admit of doubt whether they have a different signification, or not. I am of opinion that the trouble referred to is what arises from things of a distressing nature, such as loss of children, widowhood, quarrels, and little differences, (as lawyers speak,) many occasions of dislike, faults of children, difficulty in bringing up a family, and the like. The anxieties, on the other hand, are, in my opinion, connected with things that are joyful, as for example marriage fooleries, jests, and other things with which married persons are taken up.
He that is unmarried careth for the things of the Lord.Mark the kind of exemption from anxieties that he desires in behalf of Christians — that they may devote to the Lord all their thoughts and aims. This, he says, belongs to celibacy; and therefore he desires all to enjoy this liberty. He does not mean, however, that it is invariably so in unmarried life, as experience shows it to be quite otherwise in priests, monks, and nuns, than whose celibacy nothing can be conceived to be farther from God. Add to this the many base fornicators who abstain from marriage for the very purpose of having greater liberty for the indulgence of lust, and that their vice may not appear. Where there is burning, (1Co_7:9,) no love of God can exist. But Paul’s meaning is this — that an unmarried person is free, and is not hindered from thinking of the things of God. The pious make use of this liberty. Others turn everything to their own destruction.
But I would have you – I would advise you to such a course of life as should leave you without carefulness My advice is regulated by that wish, and that wish guides me in giving it.
Without carefulness – (αμεριμνους amerimnous). Without anxiety, solicitude, care; without such a necessary attention to the things of this life as to take off your thoughts and affections from heavenly objects; see the notes on Mat_6:25-31.
careth for the things that belong to the Lord – Margin, “The things of the Lord;” the things of religion. His attention is not distracted by the cares of this life; his time is not engrossed, and his affections alienated by an attendance on the concerns of a family, and especially by solicitude for them in times of trial and persecution. He can give his main attention to the things of religion. He is at leisure to give his chief thoughts and anxieties to the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom. Paul’s own example showed that this was the course which he preferred; and showed also that in some instances it was lawful and proper for a man to remain unmarried, and to give himself entirely to the work of the Lord. But the divine commandment Gen_1:28, and the commendation everywhere bestowed upon marriage in the Scriptures, as well as the nature of the case, show that it was not designed that celibacy should be general.
33.He that is married careth for the things of the world. By the things of the world you must understand the things that belong to the present life; for the world is taken here to mean the condition of this earthly life. But from this someone will infer, that all, therefore, who are married are strangers to the kingdom of God, as thinking of nothing but this earth. I answer, that the Apostle speaks only of a portion of the thoughts, as though he had said: “They have one eye directed to the Lord, but in such a way as to have the other directed to their wife; for marriage is like a burden, by which the mind of a pious man is weighed down, so that he does not move God-ward with so much alacrity.” Let us always, however, bear in mind, that these evils do not belong to marriage, but proceed from the depravity of men. Hence the calumnies of Jerome, who scrapes together all these things for the purpose of bringing marriages into disrepute, fall. For, were any one to condemn agriculture, merchandise, and other modes of life, on this ground, that amidst so many corruption’s of the world, there is not one of them that is exempt from certain evils, who is there that would not smile at his folly? Observe, then, that whatever evil there is in marriage, has its origin somewhere else; for at this day a man would not have been turned away from the Lord by the society of his wife, if he had remained in a state of innocence, and had not corrupted the holy institution of God; but a wife would have been a help-meet to him in everything good, as she was created for that end. (Gen_2:18.)
But some one will say: “If anxieties that are faulty and blameworthy are invariably connected with marriage, how is it possible for married persons to call upon God, and serve him, with a pure conscience?” I answer, that there are three kinds of anxieties. There are some that are evil and wicked in themselves, because they spring from distrust. Of these Christ speaks in Mat_6:25 : There are others that are necessary, and are not displeasing to God; as, for example, it becomes the father of a family to be concerned for his wife and children, and God does not mean that we should be mere stumps, so as to have no concern as to ourselves. The third class are a mixture of the two former; when we are anxious respecting those things as to which we ought to feel anxiety, but feel too keenly excited, in consequence of that excess which is natural to us. Such anxieties, therefore, are not by any means wrong in themselves, but they are corrupt, in consequence of αταξια, that is to say, undue excess. And the Apostle did not intend merely to condemn here those vices by which we contract guilt in the sight of God, but he desires in a general way, that we may be freed from all impediments, so as to be wholly at leisure for the service of God.
And is divided.It is surprising how there has come to be so much diversity upon this passage. For the common Greek version is so widely different from the old Latin translation, that the diversity cannot be ascribed to mistake or inadvertence, in the way in which a mistake often happens in a single letter or a single word. Now the Greeks commonly read it literally, “He that is married thinks of the things of the world, how he may please his wife: a married woman and a virgin are divided: She that is unmarried, thinketh of the things of the Lord,” etc. And being dividedthey understand as meaning to differ, as if it had been said: “There is a great difference between a married woman and a virgin; for the one is at leisure to attend to the things of God exclusively, while the other is taken up with various matters.” But as this interpretation is somewhat at variance with the simple meaning of the word, I do not approve of it, especially as the meaning of the other reading (which is found also in some Greek manuscripts) is more suitable and less forced. We may, accordingly, understand it in this manner — that a man who is married is divided, inasmuch as he devotes himself partly to God and partly to his wife, and is not wholly and exclusively God’s.
But he that is married – He has a family to provide for, and his wife to please, as well as to fulfill his duty to God, and attend to the concerns of his own soul. The single man has nothing to attend to but what concerns his own salvation: the married man has all this to attend to, and besides to provide for his wife and family, and take care of their eternal interests also. The single man has very little trouble comparatively; the married man has a great deal. The single man is an atom in society; the married man is a small community in himself. The former is the centre of his own existence, and lives for himself alone; the latter is diffused abroad, makes a much more important part of the body social, and provides both for its support and continuance. The single man lives for and does good to himself only; the married man lives both for himself and the public. Both the state and the Church of Christ are dependent on the married man, as from him under God the one has subjects, the other members; while the single man is but an individual in either, and by and by will cease from both, and having no posterity is lost to the public for ever. The married man, therefore, far from being in a state of inferiority to the single man, is beyond him out of the limits of comparison. He can do all the good the other can do, though perhaps sometimes in a different way; and he can do ten thousand goods that the other cannot possibly do. And therefore both himself and his state are to be preferred infinitely before those of the other. Nor could the apostle have meant any thing less; only for the present distress he gave his opinion that it was best for those who were single to continue so. And who does not see the propriety of the advice?
careth for the things of the world – Is under a necessity of giving attention to the things of the world; or cannot give his undivided attention and interest to the things of religion. This would be especially true in times of persecution.
How he may please his wife – How he may gratify her; how he may accommodate himself to her temper and wishes, to make her happy. The apostle here plainly intimates that there would be danger that the man would be so anxious to gratify his wife, as to interfere with his direct religious duties. This may be done in many ways:
(1) The affections may be taken off from the Lord, and bestowed upon the wife. she may become the object of even improper attachment, and may take the place of God in the affections.
(2) the time may be taken up in devotion to her, which should be given to secret prayer, and to the duties of religion.
(3) she may demand his “society and attention” when he ought to be engaged in doing good to others, and endeavoring to advance the kingdom of Christ.
(4) she may be frivilous and fashionable, and may lead him into improper expenses, into a style of living that may be unsuitable for a Christian, and into society where his piety will be injured, and his devotion to God lessened; or,
(5) She may have erroneous opinions on the doctrines and duties of religion; and a desire to please her may lead him insensibly to modify his views, and to adopt more lax opinions, and to pursue a more lax course of life in his religious duties.
Many a husband has thus been injured by a frivilous, thoughtless, and imprudent wife; and though that wife may be a Christian, yet her course may be such as shall greatly retard his growth in grace, and mar the beauty of his piety.
34.The unmarried woman and the virgin. What he had laid down as to men he now declares in like manner as to women — that virgins and widows are not prevented by earthly things from devoting their whole cares and their whole affections to God. Not that all act this part, but that there is opportunity for it, if the mind is so disposed. When he says, that she may be holy in body and in spirit, he shows what kind of chastity is true and acceptable to God — when the mind is kept unpolluted in the sight of God. Would to God that this were more carefully attended to! As to the body,we see what kind of devotement to the Lord there commonly is on the part of monks, nuns, and the whole scum of the Papistical clergy, than whose celibacy nothing can be imagined that is more obscene. But not to speak at present of chastity of body, where is there one to be found among those that are held in admiration in consequence of their reputation for continency, that does not burn with base lusts? We may, however, infer from this statement of Paul, that no chastity is well pleasing to God that does not extend to the soul as well as to the body. Would to God that those who prate in such haughty terms as to continency, did but understand that they have to do with God! They would not be so confident in their contendings with us. At the same time, there are none in the present day who dispute on the subject of continency in more magnificent style than those who are openly and in the most shameless manner guilty of fornication. But though they should conduct themselves ever so honorably in the sight of men, that is nothing, if they do not keep their minds pure and exempt from all uncleanness.
There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin – That is: There is this difference between a married and an unmarried woman. The unmarried careth (only) for the things of the Lord, having no domestic duties to perform. That she may be holy – separated to Divine employments, both in body and spirit. Whereas she that is married careth (also) for the things of the world, how she may please her husband, having many domestic duties to fulfill, her husband being obliged to leave to her the care of the family, and all other domestic concerns.
On this verse there is a profusion of various readings in MSS., versions, and fathers, for which I must refer to Griesbach, as it would be impossible to introduce them here so as to make them look like sense.
Between a wife and a virgin, – Between a woman that is married and one that is unmarried. The apostle says that a similar difference between the condition of her that is married and her that is unmarried takes place, which had been observed between the married and the unmarried man. The Greek word here (μεμέρισται memeristai) may mean, “is divided,” and be rendered, “the wife and the virgin are divided in the same manner;” that is, there is the same difference in their case as exists between the married and the unmarried man.
The unmarried women … – Has more advantages for attending to the things of religion; has fewer temptations to neglect her proper duty to God.
Both in body and in spirit – Entirely holy; that she may be entirely devoted to God. Perhaps in her case the apostle mentions the “body,” which he had not done in the case of the man, because her temptation would be principally in regard to that – the danger of endeavoring to decorate and adorn her person to please her husband,
How she may please her husband – The apostle here intends, undoubtedly, to intimate that there were dangers to personal piety in the married life, which would not occur in a state of celibacy; and that the unmarried female would have greater opportunities for devotion and usefulness than if married. And he intimates that the married female would be in danger of losing her zeal and marring her piety, by attention to her husband, and by a constant effort to please him. Some of the ways in which this might be done are the following:
(1) As in the former case 1Co_7:33, her affections might be transferred from God to the partner of her life.
(2) her time will be occupied by an attention to him and to his will; and there would be danger that that attention would be allowed to interfere with her hours of secret retirement and communion with God.
(3) her time will be necessarily broken in upon by the cares of a family, and she should therefore guard with special vigilance, that she may redeem time for secret communion with God.
(4) the time which she before gave to benevolent objects, may now be given to please her husband. Before her marriage she may have been distinguished for zeal, and for active efforts in every plan of doing good; subsequently, she may lay aside this zeal, and withdraw from these plans, and be as little distinguished as others.
(5) her piety may be greatly injured by false notions of what should be done to please her husband. If he is a worldly and fashionable man, she may seek to please him by “gold, and pearls, and costly array.” Instead of cultivating the ornament of “a meek and quiet spirit,” her main wish may be to decorate her person, and render herself attractive by the adorning of her person rather than of her MinD.
(6) if he is opposed to religion, or if he has lax opinions on the subject, or if he is sceptical and worldly, she will be in danger of relaxing in her views in regard to the strictness of Christianity, and of becoming conformed to his. She will insensibly become less strict in regard to Sunday, the Bible, the prayer meeting, the Sunday School, the plans of Christian benevolence, the doctrines of the gospel.
(7) to please him, she will be found in the frivilous circle, perhaps in the assembly room, or even the theater, or amidst companies of gaiety and amusement, and will forget that she is professedly devoted only to God. And,
(8) She is in danger, as the result of all this, of forsaking her old religious friends, the companions of purer, brighter days, the humble and devoted friends of Jesus; and of seeking society among the frivilous, the rich, the proud, the worldly. Her piety thus is injured; she becomes worldly and vain, and less and less like Christ; until heaven, perhaps, in mercy smites her idol, and he dies and leaves her again to the blessedness of single-hearted devotion to God. O! how many a Christian female has thus been injured by an unhappy marriage with a frivilous and worldly man! How often has the church occasion to mourn over piety that is dimmed, benevolence that is quenched, zeal that is extinguished by devotion to a frivilous and worldly husband! How often does humble piety weep over such a scene! How often does the cause of sacred charity sigh! How often is the Redeemer wounded in the house of his friends! And O how often does it become necessary for God to interpose, and to remove by death the object of the affection of his wandering child, and to clothe her in the habiliments of mourning, and to bathe her cheeks in tears, that “by the sadness of the countenance her heart may be made better.” Who can tell how many a widow is made such from this cause; who can tell how much religion is injured by thus stealing away the affections from God?
And there is a difference also between the wife and the virgin (kai memeristai kai he gune kai he parthenos). But the text here is very uncertain, almost hopelessly so. Westcott and Hort put kai memeristai in 1Co_7:33 and begin a new sentence with kai he gune and add he agamos after he gune, meaning “the widow and the virgin each is anxious for the things of the Lord” like the unmarried man (ho agamos, bachelor or widow) in 1Co_7:32. Possibly so, but the MSS. vary greatly at every point. At any rate Paul’s point is that the married woman is more disposed to care for the things of the world. But, alas, how many unmarried women (virgins and widows) are after the things of the world today and lead a fast and giddy life.
35.And this for your benefit. Observe the Apostle’s moderation. Though he knew the vexations, troubles, and difficulties of the married life, and, on the other hand, the advantages of celibacy, yet he does not venture to prescribe. On the contrary, having commended celibacy, and being afraid that some of his readers might be led away by such commendations, and might straightway say within themselves what the Apostles said in reply to Christ — Itis good,therefore,so to be, (Mat_19:10 ) — not in the meantime taking into view their ability, he here declares in express terms, that he points out, indeed, what is most advantageous, but does not wish to impose a necessity upon any one.
And here you have two things worthy of observation. The first is, for what purpose celibacy is to be desired — not on its own account, nor on the ground of its being a state that is nearer to perfection, but that we may cleave to God without distraction — that being the one thing that a Christian man ought exclusively to look to during his whole life. The second thing is, that no snare must be put upon men’s consciences, so as to keep back any one from marriage, but that every one must have liberty allowed him. It is well known what grievous errors have been fallen into on both these points. As to the second point, those assuredly have been bolder than Paul, who have not shrunk from passing a law respecting celibacy, with the view of prohibiting the whole of the clergy from matrimony. The same may be said of those who have made vows of perpetual continency, which are snares by which not a few myriads of souls have been drawn into endless ruin. Hence, if the Holy Spirit has spoken by the mouth of Paul, Papists cannot clear themselves from the crime of fighting against God, (Act_5:39,) while binding men’s consciences in a matter in which He designed that they should remain free unless, perhaps, He has since that time adopted a new plan, so as to construct a snare, which he had previously disapproved of.
This I speak for your own profit – The advices belong to yourselves alone, because of the peculiar circumstances in which you are placed. Nothing spoken here was ever designed to be of general application; it concerned the Church at Corinth alone, or Churches in similar circumstances.
Not that I may cast a snare upon you – Ουχ ινα βροχον υμιν επιβαλω – Here is a manifest allusion to the Retiarius among the Romans, who carried a small casting net, which he endeavored to throw over the head of his adversary and thus entangle him. Or to a similar custom among the Persians, who made use of a noose called the camand; which they employed in the same way. One of these lies before me; it is a strong silken cord, one end of which is a loop to be held in the hand, and the rest is in the form of a common snare or noose, which, catching hold of any thing, tightens in proportion as it is pulled by the hand that holds the loop.
The apostle, therefore, intimates that what he says was not intended absolutely to bind them, but to show them the propriety of following an advice which in the present case would be helpful to them in their religious connections, that they might attend upon the Lord without distraction, which they could not do in times of persecution, when, in addition to their own personal safety, they had a wife and children to care for.
For that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction , – The original αλλα προς το ευσχημον και ευπροσεδρον τω Κυριω απερισπαστως, of which our version is only a paraphrase, is thus translated by Bishop Pearson: But for the sake of decency, and of attending more easily upon the Lord without distraction. This is much more literal than ours.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
for your own profit — not to display my apostolic authority.
not … cast a snare upon you — image from throwing a noose over an animal in hunting. Not that by hard injunctions I may entangle you with the fear of committing sin where there is no sin.
comely — befitting under present circumstances.
attend upon — literally, “assiduously wait on”; sitting down to the duty. Compare Luk_10:39, Mary; Luk_2:37, “Anna … a widow, who departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (1Ti_5:5).
distraction — the same Greek as “cumbered” (Luk_10:40, Martha).
For your own profit – That you may avail yourselves of all your advantages and privileges, and pursue such a course as shall tend most to advance your personal piety and salvation.
Not that I may cast a snare upon you – The word rendered “snare” (βροχον brochon) means a cord, a rope, a bond; and the sense is, that Paul would not Bind them by any rule which God had not made; or that he would not restrain them from that which is lawful, and which the welfare of society usually requires. Paul means, that his object in his advice was their welfare; it was not by any means to bind, fetter, or restrain them from any course which would be for their real happiness, but to promote their real and permanent advantage. The idea which is here presented by the word “snare,” is usually conveyed by the use of the word “yoke” Mat_11:29; Act_15:10; Gal_5:1, and sometimes by the word “burden;” Mat_23:4; Act_15:28.
But for that which is comely – (ευσχημον euschemon). Decorous, fit, proper, noble. For that which is best Fitted to your present condition, and which, on the whole, will be best, and most for your own advantage. There would be a fitness and propriety in their pursuing the course which he recommended.
That ye may attend on the Lord – That you may engage in religious duties and serve God.
Without distraction – Without being drawn away απερισπάστως aperispastos; without care, interruption, and anxiety. That you may be free to engage with undivided interest in the service of the Lord.
36.But if any one thinketh that it were unseemly for his virgin.He now directs his discourse to parents, who had children under their authority. For having heard the praises of celibacy, and having heard also of the inconveniences of matrimony, they might be in doubt, whether it were at all a kind thing to involve their children in so many miseries, lest it should seem as if they were to blame for the troubles that might befall them. For the greater their attachment to their children, so much the more anxiously do they exercise fear and caution on their account. Paul, then, with the view of relieving them from this difficulty, teaches that it is their duty to consult their advantage, exactly as one would do for himself when at his own disposal. Now he still keeps up the distinction, which he has made use of all along, so as to commend celibacy, but, at the same time, to leave marriage as a matter of choice; and not simply a matter of choice, but a needful remedy for incontinency, which ought not to be denied to any one. In the first part of the statement he speaks as to the giving of daughters in marriage, and he declares that those do not sin in giving away their daughters in marriage, who are of opinion that an unmarried life is not suitable for them.
The word ἀσχημονεῖν(to be unseemly) must be taken as referring to a special propriety, which depends on what is natural to the individual; for there is a general propriety, which philosophers make to be a part of temperance. That belongs equally to all. There is another, that is special, because one thing becomes one individual that would not be seemly in another. Every one therefore should consider (as Cicero observes) what is the part that nature has assigned to him. Celibacy will be seemly for one, but he must not measure all by his own foot; and others should not attempt to imitate him without taking into view their ability; for it is the imitation of the ape — which is at variance with nature. If, therefore, a father, having duly considered his daughter’s disposition, is of opinion that she is not prepared for celibacy, let him give her away in marriage.
By the flower of her age he means the marriageable age. This lawyers define to be from twelve to twenty years of age. Paul points out, in passing, what equity and humanity ought to be exercised by parents, in applying a remedy in that tender and slippery age, when the force of the disease requires it. And it requires to be so.In this clause I understand him as referring to the girl’s infirmity — in the event of her not having the gift of continency; for in that case, necessity constrains her to marry. As to Jerome’s making a handle of the expression sinneth not, for reviling marriage, with a view to its disparagement, as if it were not a praiseworthy action to dispose of a daughter in marriage, it is quite childish. For Paul reckoned it enough to exempt fathers from blame, that they might not reckon it a cruel thing to subject their daughters to the vexations connected with marriage.
Uncomely towards his virgin – Different meanings have been assigned to this verse; I shall mention three of the principal.
1. “In those early times, both among the Hebrews and Christians, the daughters were wholly in the power of the father, so that he might give or not give them in marriage as he chose; and might bind them to perpetual celibacy if he thought proper; and to this case the apostle alludes. If the father had devoted his daughter to perpetual virginity, and he afterwards found that she had fixed her affections upon a person whom she was strongly inclined to marry, and was now getting past the prime of life; he, seeing from his daughter’s circumstances that it would be wrong to force her to continue in her state of celibacy; though he had determined before to keep her single, yet he might in this case alter his purpose without sin, and let her and her suitor marry.”
2. “The whole verse and its context speaks of young women dedicated to the service of God, who were called παρθενοι, virgins, in the primitive Church. And a case is put here, ‘that circumstances might occur to render the breach of even a vow of this kind necessary, and so no sin be committed.’”
3. “The apostle by παρθενος, does not mean a virgin, but the state of virginity or celibacy, whether in man or woman.” Both Mr. Locke and Dr. Whitby are of this opinion, and the latter reasons on it thus: –
It is generally supposed that these three verses relate to virgins under the power of parents and guardians and the usual inference is, that children are to be disposed of in marriage by the parents, guardians, etc. Now this may be true, but it has no foundation in the text, for τηρειν την εαυτου παρθενον is not to keep his daughter’s, but his own virginity, or rather his purpose of virginity; for, as Phavorinus says, He is called a virgin who freely gives himself up to the Lord, renouncing matrimony, and preferring a life spent in continency. And that this must be the true import of these words appears from this consideration, that this depends upon the purpose of his own heart, and the power he has over his own will, and the no necessity arising from himself to change this purpose. Whereas the keeping a daughter unmarried depends not on these conditions on her father’s part but on her own; for, let her have a necessity, and surely the apostle would not advise the father to keep her a virgin, because he had determined so to do; nor could there be any doubt whether the father had power over his own will or not, when no necessity lay upon him to betroth his virgin. The Greek runs to this sense: if he had stood already firm in his heart, finding no necessity, viz. to change his purpose; and hath power over his own will, not to marry; finding himself able to persist in the resolution he had made to keep his virginity, he does well to continue a virgin: and then the phrase, if any man think he behaves himself unseemly towards his virgin, if it be over-aged, and thinks he ought rather to join in marriage, refers to the opinions both of Jews and Gentiles that all ought to marry. The Jews say that the time of marriage is from 16 or 17 to 20; while some of the Gentiles specify from 30 to 35. If any think thus, says the apostle, let them do what they will, they sin not: let them marry. And then he concludes with those words applied to both cases: so then, both he that marries doeth well, and he that marries not, doeth better.
This last opinion seems to be the true sense of the apostle.
It may be necessary to make a few general observations on these verses, summing up what has been said.
1. Παρθενος here should be considered as implying not a virgin, but the state of virginity or celibacy.
2. Υπερακμος, over-aged, must refer to the passing of that time in which both the laws and customs of Jews and Gentiles required men to marry. See above, and see the note on 1Co_7:6.
3. Και ουτως οφειλει γινεσθαι, And need so require; or, if there appear to be a necessity; is to be understood of any particular change in his circumstances or in his feelings; or, that he finds, from the law and custom in the case, that it is a scandal for him not to marry; then let him do what he wills or purposes.
4. Instead of γαμειτωσαν, let Them marry, I think γαμειτω, let Him marry, is the true reading, and agrees best with the context. This reading is supported by D*EFG, Syriac, in the Arabic, Slavonic, one of the Itala, and St. Augustine. Si nubat, if he marry, is the reading of the Vulgate, several copies of the Itala, Ambrose, Jerome, Ambrosiaster, Sedulius, and Bede. This reading is nearly of the same import with the other: Let him do what he willeth, he sinneth not, let him marry; or, he sinneth not if he marry.
5. The whole of the 37th verse relates to the purpose that the man has formed; and the strength that he has to keep his purpose of perpetual celibacy, being under no necessity to change that purpose.
6. Instead of ο εκγαμιζων, he who giveth her in marriage, I purpose to read ο γαμιζων, he who marrieth, which is the reading of the Codex Alexandrinus, the Codex Vaticanus, No. 1209, and of some others: with Clement, Methodius, and Basil. Την εαυτου παρθενον, his own virgin, is added after the above, by several very ancient and reputable MSS, as also by the Syriac, Armenian, Vulgate, Ethiopic, Clement, Basil, Optatus, and others; but it seems so much like a gloss, that Griesbach has not made it even a candidate for a place in the text. He then who marrieth, though previously intending perpetual virginity, doeth well; as this is agreeable to laws both Divine and human: and he who marrieth not, doeth better, because of the present distress. See 1Co_7:26.
That he behaveth himself uncomely – Acts an unbecoming part, imposes an unnecessary, painful, and improper constraint, crosses her inclinations which are in them selves proper.
Toward his virgin – His daughter, or his ward, or any unmarried female committed to his care.
If she pass the flower of her age – If she pass the marriageable age and remains unmarried. It is well known that in the east it was regarded as especially dishonorable to remain unmarried; and the authority of a father, therefore, might be the means of involving his daughter in shame and disgrace. When this would be the case, it would be wrong to prohibit her marriage.
And need so require – And she ought to be allowed to marry. If it will promote her happiness, and if she would be unhappy, and regarded as dishonored, if she remained in a state of celibacy.
Let him do what he will – He has the authority in the case, for in the east the authority resided with the father. He may either give her in marriage or not, as he pleases. But in this case it is advisable that she should marry.
He sinneth not – He errs not; he will do nothing positively wrong in the case. Marriage is lawful, and in this case it is advisable, and he may consent to it, for the reasons above stated, without error or impropriety.
37.But he who standeth firm in his heart.Here we have the second part of the statement, in which he treats of young women who have the gift of abstaining from marriage. He commends therefore those fathers who make provision for their tranquillity; but let us observe what he requires. In the first place, he makes mention of a steadfast purpose — If any one has fully resolved with himself.You must not, however, understand by this the resolution formed by monks — that is, a voluntary binding over to perpetual servitude — for such is the kind of vow that they make; but he expressly makes mention of this firmness of purpose, because mankind often contrive schemes which they next day regret. As it is a matter of importance, he requires a thoroughly matured purpose.
In the second place he speaks of the person as having no necessity; for many, when about to deliberate, bring obstinacy with them rather than reason. And in the present case they do not consider, when they renounce marriage, what is in their power, but reckon it enough to say — “such is my choice.” Paul requires them to have power, that they may not decide rashly, but according to the measure of the grace that has been given them. The absence of necessity in the case he appropriately expresses in the following clause, when he says that they have power over their own will.For it is as though he had said — “I would not have them resolve before knowing that they have power to fulfill, for it is rash and ruinous to struggle against an appointment of God.” But, “according to this system,” some one will say, “vows are not to be condemned, provided these conditions were annexed.” I answer that, as to the gift of continency, as we are uncertain respecting the will of God as to the future, we ought not to form any determination for our whole life. Let us make use of the gift as long as it is allowed us. In the meantime, let us commit ourselves to the Lord, prepared to follow whithersoever he may call us(Rev_14:4.)
Hath decreed in his heart.Paul seems to have added this to express the idea more fully, that fathers ought to look carefully on all sides, before giving up anxiety and intention as to giving away their daughters in marriage. For they often decline marriage, either from shame or from ignorance of themselves, while, in the meantime, they are not the less wanton, or prone to be led astray. Parents must here consider well what is for the interests of their daughters, that by their prudence they may correct their ignorance, or unreasonable desire.
Now this passage serves to establish the authority of parents, which ought to be held sacred, as having its origin in the common rights of nature. Now if in other actions of inferior moment no liberty is allowed to children, without the authority of their parents, much less is it reasonable that they should have liberty given them in the contracting of marriage. And that has been carefully enacted by civil law, but more especially by the law of God. So much the more detestable, then, is the wickedness of the Pope, who, laying aside all respect, either for Divine or human laws, has been so daring as to free children from the yoke of subjection to their parents. It is of importance, however, to mark the reason. This, says he, is on account of the dignity of the sacrament. Not to speak of the ignorance of making marriage a sacrament, what honor is there, I beseech you, or what dignity, when, contrary to the general feeling of propriety in all nations, and contrary to God’s eternal appointment, they take off all restraints from the lusts of young persons, that they may, without any feeling of shame, sport themselves, under pretense of its being a sacrament? Let us know, therefore, that in disposing of children in marriage, the authority of parents is of first-rate importance, provided they do not tyrannically abuse it, as even the civil laws restrict it. The Apostle, too, in requiring exemption from necessity, intimated that the deliberations of parents ought to be regulated with a view to the advantage of their children. Let us bear in mind, therefore, that this limitation is the proper rule — that children allow themselves to be governed by their parents, and that they, on the other hand, do not drag their children by force to what is against their inclination, and that they have no other object in view, in the exercise of their authority, than the advantage of their children.
Nevertheless – But. The apostle in this verse states some instances where it would not be proper to give a daughter in marriage; and the verse is a kind of summing up of all that be had said on the subject.
That standeth steadfast in his heart … – Most commentators have understood this of the father of the virgin, and suppose that it refers to his purpose of keeping her from the marriage connection. The phrase to stand steadfast, is opposed to a disposition that is vacillating, unsettled, etc., and denotes a man who has command of himself, who adheres to his purpose, a man who has “hitherto” adhered to his purpose, and to whose happiness and reputation it is important that he should be known as one who is not vacillating, or easily moved.
Having no necessity – Where there is nothing in her disposition or inclination that would make marriage necessary, or when there is no “engagement or obligation” that would be violated if she did not marry.
But hath power over his own will – Hath power to do as he pleases; is not bound in the case by another. When there is no “engagement, or contract,” made in childhood, or promise made in early life that would bind him. Often daughters were espoused, or promised when they were very young, and in such a case a man would be bound to adhere to his engagement; and much as he might desire the reverse, and her celibacy, yet he would not have power over his own will, or be at liberty to withhold her.
And hath so decreed in his heart – Has so judged, determined, resolved.
That he will keep his virgin – His daughter, or ward, in an unmarried state. He has “power and authority” to do it, and if he does it he will not sin.
Doeth well – In either of these cases, he does well. If he has a daughter, and chooses to retain her in an unmarried state, he does well or right.
38.Therefore he that giveth in marriage.Here we have the conclusion from both parts of the statement, in which he states, in a few words, that parents are free from blame if they give away their daughters in marriage, while he at the same time declares that they do better if they keep them at home unmarried. You are not, however, to understand that celibacy is here preferred to marriage, otherwise than under the exception which was a little before expressed. For if power be wanting on the part of the daughter, the father acts an exceedingly bad part if he endeavors to keep her back from marriage, and would be no longer a father to her, but a cruel tyrant. The sum of the whole discussion amounts to this — that celibacy is better than marriage, because it has more liberty, so that persons can serve God with greater freedom; but at the same time, that no necessity ought to be imposed, so as to make it unlawful for individuals to marry, if they think proper; and farther, that marriage itself is a remedy appointed by God for our infirmity, which all ought to use that are not endowed with the gift of continency. Every person of sound judgment will join with me in acknowledging and confessing, that the whole of Paul’s doctrine on this point is comprehended in these three articles.
39.The wife is bound He had previously spoken indiscriminately of husbands and wives, but as wives, on account of the modesty of their sex, might seem to have less liberty, he has thought it necessary to give in addition some special directions in reference to them. He now, therefore, teaches that women are not less at liberty than men to marry a second time, on their becoming widows. We have already mentioned above, that those who desired a second marriage were branded with the reproach of intemperance, and that, with the view of putting some kind of slight upon them, those who had been contented with being once married, were wont to be presented with the “chaplet of chastity.” Nay more, this first opinion had, in course of time, become prevalent among Christians; for second marriages had no blessing pronounced upon them, and some Councils prohibited the clergy from being present on such occasions. The Apostle here condemns tyranny of that sort, and declares, that no hindrance ought to be thrown in the way of widows’ marrying, if they think proper.
It is of little consequence, and so far as the sense is concerned it matters nothing, whether we say that the wife is bound legi, (to the law,) in the dative, or lege, (by the law,) in the ablative. For it is the law that declares the connection between husband and wife to be indissoluble. If, however, you read it in the dative, the term will convey the idea of authority or obligation. Now he reasons from contraries; for if a woman is bound to her husband for life, she is, then, set at liberty by his death. After she has been set at liberty, let her be married to whom she will
When the verb to sleep means to die, it refers not to the soul, but to the body, as is manifest from its constant use in Scripture. It is a foolish part, therefore, that is acted by certain fanatics, who, from this little word, make it their endeavor to prove that the souls of men, after being separated from their bodies, are destitute of thought and intelligence, or, in other words, of their life.
Only in the Lord This is thought to be added for the purpose of admonishing them in passing, that they ought not to yoke themselves with the irreligious, or to covet their society. This, I acknowledge, is true, but I am of opinion that more is meant that they should do this in a religious way, and in the fear of the Lord, for it is in this manner that marriages are formed auspiciously.
The wife is bound by the law – This seems to be spoken in answer to some other question of the Corinthians to this effect: “May a woman remarry whose husband is dead, or who has abandoned her?” To which he replies, in general, That as long as her husband is living the law binds her to him alone; but, if the husband die, she is free to remarry, but only in the Lord; that is she must not marry a heathen nor an irreligious man; and she should not only marry a genuine Christian, but one of her own religious sentiments; for, in reference to domestic peace, much depends on this.
The wife is bound … – ; see the notes at Rom_7:2.
Only in the Lord – That is, only to one who is a Christian; with a proper sense of her obligations to Christ, and so as to promote his glory. The apostle supposed that could not be done if she were allowed to marry a pagan, or one of a different religion. The same sentiment he advances in 2Co_6:14, and it was his intention, undoubtedly, to affirm that it was proper for a widow to marry no one who was not a Christian. The reasons at that time would be obvious:
(1) They could have no sympathy and fellow-feeling on the most important of all subjects, if the one was a Christian and the other a pagan; see 2Co_6:14-15, etc.
(2) if she should marry a pagan, would it not be showing that she had not as deep a conviction of the importance and truth of her religion as she ought to have? If Christians were required to be “separate,” to be “a special people,” not “to be conformed to the world,” how could these precepts be obeyed if the society of a pagan was voluntarily chosen, and if she became united to him for life?
(3) she would in this way greatly hinder her usefulness; put herself in the control of one who had no respect for her religion, and who would demand her time and attention, and thus interfere with her attendance on the public and private duties of religion, and the offices of Christian charity.
(4) she would thus greatly endanger her piety. There would be danger from the opposition, the taunts, the sneers of the enemy of Christ; from the secret influence of living with a man who had no respect for God; from his introducing her into society that was irreligious, and that would tend to mar the beauty of her piety, and to draw her away from simple-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ. And do not these reasons apply to similar cases now? And if so, is not the law still binding? Do not such unions now, as really as they did then, place the Christian where there is no mutual sympathy on the subject dearest to the Christian heart? Do they not show that she who forms such a union has not as deep a sense of the importance of piety, and of the pure and holy nature of her religion as she ought to have? Do they not take time from God and from charity; break up plans of usefulness, and lead away from the society of Christians, and from the duties of religion? Do they not expose often to ridicule, to reproach, to persecution, to contempt, and to pain? Do they not often lead into society, by a desire to please the partner in life, where there is no religion, where God is excluded, where the name of Christ is never heard, and where the piety is marred, and the beauty of simple Christian piety is dimmed? and if so, are not such marriages contrary to the law of Christ? I confess, that this verse, to my view, proves that all such marriages are a violation of the New Testament; and if they are, they should not on any plea be entered into; and it will be found, in perhaps nearly all instances, that they are disastrous to the piety of the married Christian, and the occasion of ultimate regret, and the cause of a loss of comfort, peace, and usefulness in the married life.
Remarks On 1 Corinthians 7
We learn from this chapter:
1. The sacredness of the marriage union; and the nature of the feelings with which it should be entered; 1Co_7:1-13. On a most delicate subject Paul has shown a seriousness and delicacy of expression which can be found in no other writings, and which demonstrate how pure his own mind was, and how much it was filled with the fear of God. In all things his aim is to promote purity, and to keep from the Christian church the innumerable evils which everywhere abounded in the pagan world. The marriage connection should be formed in the fear of God. In all that union, the parties should seek the salvation of the soul; and so live as not to dishonor the religion which they profess.
2. The duty of laboring earnestly for the conversion of the party in the marriage connection that may be a stranger to piety; 1Co_7:16. This object should lie very near the heart; and it should be sought by all the means possible. By a pure and holy life; by exemplifying the nature of the gospel; by tenderness of conversation and of entreaty; and by fidelity in all the duties of life, we should seek the conversion and salvation of our partners in the marriage connection. Even if both are Christians, this great object should be one of constant solicitude – to advance the piety and promote the usefulness of the partner in life.
3. The duty of contentment in the sphere of life in which we are placed; 1Co_7:18 ff. It is no disgrace to be poor, for Jesus chose to be poor. It is no disgrace, though it is a calamity, to be a slave. It is no disgrace to be in an humble rank of life. It is disgraceful only to be a sinner, and to complain and repine at our allotment. God orders the circumstances of our life; and they are well ordered when under the direction of his hand. The great object should be to do right in the relation which we sustain in life. If poor, to be industrious, submissive, resigned, virtuous; if rich, to be grateful, benevolent, kind. If a slave or a servant, to be faithful, kind, and obedient; using liberty, if it can be lawfully obtained; resigned, and calm, and gentle, if by the providence of God such must continue to be the lot in life.
4. The duty of preserving the order and regularity of society; 1Co_7:20-23. The design of the gospel is not to produce insubordination or irregularity, it would not break up society; does not dissolve the bonds of social life; but it cements and sanctifies the ties which connect us with those around us. It is designed to promote human happiness; and that is promoted, not by resolving society into its original elements; not by severing the marriage tie, as atheists would do; not by teaching children to disregard and despise their parents, or the common courtesies of life, but by teaching them to maintain inviolate all these relations. Religion promotes the interests of society; it does not, like infidelity, dissolve them. It advances the cause of social virtue; it does not, like atheism, retard and annihilate it. Every Christian becomes a better parent, a more affectionate child, a kinder friend, a more tender husband or wife, a more kind neighbor, a better member of the community.
5. Change in a man’s calling should not be made from a slight cause. A Christian should not make it unless his former calling were wrong, or unless he can by it extend his own usefulness. But when that can be done, he should do it, and do it without delay. If the course is wrong, it should be immediately abandoned. No consideration can make it right to continue it for a day or an hour, no matter what may be the sacrifice of property, it should be done. If a man is engaged in the slave-trade, or in smuggling goods, or in piracy, or highway robbery, or in the manufacture and sale of poison, it should be at once and forever abandoned. And in like manner, if a young man who is converted can increase his usefulness by changing his plan of life, it should be done as soon as practicable. If by becoming a minister of the gospel he can be a more useful man, every consideration demands that he should leave any other profession, however lucrative or pleasant, and submit to the self-denials, the cares, the trials, and the toils which attend a life devoted to Christ in the ministry in Christian or pagan lands. Though it should be attended with poverty, want, tears, toil, or shame, yet the single question is, “Can I be more useful to my Master there than in my present vocation?” If he can be, that is an indication of the will of God which he cannot disregard with impunity.
6. We should live above this world; 1Co_7:29-30. We should partake of all our pleasures, and endure all our sufferings, with the deep feeling that we have here no continuing city and no abiding place. Soon all our earthly pleasures will fade away; soon all our earthly sorrows will be ended. A conviction of the shortness of life will tend much to regulate our desires for earthly comforts, and will keep us from being improperly attached to them; and it will diminish our sorrows by the prospect that they will soon end.
7. We should not be immoderately affected with grief; 1Co_7:30. It will all soon end, in regard to Christians. Whether our tears arise from the consciousness of our sins or the sins of others; whether from persecution or contempt of the world; or whether from the loss of health, property, or friends, we should bear it all patiently, for it will soon end; a few days, and all will be over; and the last tear shall fall on our cheeks, and the last sigh be heaved from our bosom.
8. We should not be immoderate in our joy, 1Co_7:30. Our highest earthly joys will soon cease. Mirth, and the sound of the harp and the viol, the loud laugh and the song will soon close. What a change should this thought make in a world of gaiety, and mirth, and song! It should not make people gloomy and morose; but it should make them serious, calm, thoughtful. O, did all feel that death was near, that the solemn realities of eternity were approaching, what a change would it make in a frivilous and thoughtless world! How would it close the theater and the ball-room; how would it silence the jest, the jeer, and the loud laugh; and how would it diffuse seriousness and calmness over a now frivilous and thoughtless world! “Laughter is mad,” says Solomon; and in a world of sin, and sorrow, and death, assuredly seriousness and calm contemplation are demanded by every consideration.
9. What an effect would the thought that “time is short,” and that “the fashion of this world passeth away,” have on the lovers of wealth! It would:
(1) Teach them that property is of little value.
(2) that the possession of it can constitute no distinction beyond the grave: the rich man is just as soon reduced to dust, and is just as offensive in his splendid mausoleum, as the poor beggar.
(3) a man feeling this, would be led (or should be) to make a good use of his property on earth. See the note at Luk_16:1-9.
(4) he would be led to seek a better inheritance, an interest in the treasures that no moth corrupts, and that never fade away. See the note at Mat_6:20. This single thought. that the fashion of this world is soon to pass away – an idea which no man can doubt or deny – if allowed to take firm hold of the mind, would change the entire aspect of the world.
10. We should endeavor so to live in all things as that our minds should not be oppressed with undue anxiety and care, 1Co_7:32. In all our arrangements and plans, and in all the relations of life, our grand object should be to have the mind free for the duties and privileges of religion. We should seek not to be encumbered with care; not to be borne down with anxiety; not to be unduly attached to the things of this life.
11. We should enter into the relations of life so as not to interfere with our personal piety or usefulness, but so as to promote both, 1Co_7:32-35. All our arrangements should be so formed as that we may discharge our religious duties, and promote our usefulness to our fellow men. But, alas, how many enter into the marriage relation with unChristian companions, whose active zeal is forever quenched by such a connection! How many form commercial connections or partnerships in business with those who are not Christians, where the result is to diminish their zeal for God, and to render their whole lives useless to the church! And how much do the cares of life, in all its relations, interfere with simple-hearted piety, and with the faithful discharge of the duties which we owe to God and to a dying world! May God of his mercy enable us so to live in all the relations of life as that our usefulness shall not be retarded but augmented; and so to live that we can see without one sigh of regret the “fashion of this world pass away;” our property or our friends removed; or even the magnificence of the entire world, with all its palaces, and temples, and “cloudcapped towers,” passing away amidst the fires that shall attend the consummation of all things!