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Should A Single Christian Marry?
Paul turned from dealing with problems of which he had heard to questions the Corinthians had asked. The first question, as seen by McGarvey, was, "Is marriage to be desired or avoided by Christians?" Paul answered that it was better not to touch a woman. He was referring to sexual relations, which for the Christian would be confined to marriage (see Gen_20:6 ; Pro_6:29 ). Due to circumstances at the time (see 1Co_7:26 ), the apostle's answer was an exception to God's rule, or plan ( 1Co_7:1 ; Gen_2:18 ).
Yet, to avoid sin brought on by natural desires, some should marry. God gave the marriage bed as a special place of joy to fulfill man's desire. Marriage was also given by God to provide a helper specially suited to man and a means of procreation ( 1Co_7:2 ; Gen_2:18 ; 1Ti_2:15 ). Paul said marriage partners should satisfy one another's desires to help each other avoid great temptation. Neither one has the right to refuse the other the privileges of marriage ( 1Co_7:3-4 ).
He further instructed that they should not deprive one another, except upon agreement during a special time of prayer. After that time of denial, relations should be resumed lest one, or both, be tempted to sin. Paul was not commanding them to refrain from relations during special seasons of prayer. Those matters are to be decided by individuals at home ( 1Co_7:5-6 ).
Some have enough self-control in the area of sexual desires that would allow them to live without marriage ( Mat_19:11-12 ). Not everyone has the same gift, so all could not remain single as Paul did. Under the circumstances at the time of writing this letter, Paul said it would be better for those who had never married, or were single again because of death, to remain single. However, if one could not control his desires, it was better to marry than to burn with passion ( 1Co_7:7-9 ).
Should Married Christians Separate?
The second question would seem to be, "Should a Christian, who is joined to Christ, separate from the union of marriage?" Jesus had answered this question ( Mat_5:31-32 ; Mat_19:3-9 ; Mar_10:2-12 ; Luk_16:1-8 ). Generally, they should not even separate. Lipscomb says, "If she and her husband cannot live harmoniously together let her remain unmarried. She is not permitted to marry again. That would be adulterous." Further, "If the wife who has separated from her husband finds that, after all, she cannot live a single life in purity the only course open to her is to be reconciled to the husband whom she has injured." The rules of this verse apply to a husband, too ( 1Co_7:10-11 ).
Paul wrote the Lord's commandments ( 1Co_14:37 ), but the Lord had not spoken of this matter while on earth. By inspiration, Paul spoke the Lord's will in the matter. To this point, Paul has instructed believers married to unbelievers. If the unbeliever is willing to live with the believer and allow him to be faithful, the believer should not separate. The principle applies to believing wives as well as husbands ( 1Co_7:12-13 ).
There is nothing sinful or illegitimate about a marriage between believer and unbeliever. The children were not born of an illegitimate union. So, the law would not require the believer to quit such a relationship. McGarvey says the word "unclean" should be taken in the Jewish sense, meaning "not to be touched." A marriage of such a nature under Moses' law would have been unclean ( Deu_7:13 ; 1Ki_11:12 ; Ezr_9:12 ). "The law of Christ so reverses that of Moses that the Christian sanctifies or removes the uncleanness of the unbelieving partner, and of the children" ( 1Co_7:14 ).
If the unbelieving partner refuses to live with the believer, so long as the believer practices his, or her, beliefs, then, the believer does not have to live with the unbeliever. Continuing to live with the unbeliever would, under these circumstances, place the believer in slavery to Satan and cause him to reject Christ. The unbeliever cannot, by appealing to the husband/wife relationship of love, force the believer into such bondage. The believer should, however, separate peacefully. By being peaceful and patient, the believer may be able to convert the unbeliever ( 1Co_7:15-16 ; 1Pe_3:12 ).
The Christian's Social Relations
Becoming a Christian should not be used as an excuse for disrupting normal social relations, assuming they are not sinful. Christianity is only disruptive to that which is evil. It encourages us in all the good relationships we have in life. The apostle also stated the rule applied to all the churches, not just Corinth. To illustrate his point that radical changes in social relationships are unnecessary unless sin is involved, Paul mentioned circumcision. Some, perhaps out of embarrassment, had tried to hide the fact that they were circumcised. Others, who were Gentiles, had thought it would be necessary to be circumcised to please God. Paul told them to remain as they were when called by the gospel. Obedience to the law of Christ is what counts once one becomes a Christian ( 1Co_7:17-19 ; Gal_5:6 ).
Lipscomb saw three basic distinctions that "divide and unite" mankind. They are: national, social, and physical ( Gal_3:28 ). Becoming a Christian does not require a change in those distinctions. Anyone can be a Christian if he is willing to obey the gospel. Slaves did not have to escape slavery to be Christians. However, if freedom was offered, it was to be preferred since more time would have been available for the Lord's service ( 1Co_7:20-21 ).
Even in slavery, Christianity frees man from sin ( 1Co_7:22 ; Rom_6:22 ). Upon becoming a Christian, those who were free become slaves to Christ because he purchased them ( 1Co_7:22 ; Rom_6:22 ; Act_20:28 ). Since Christ bought Christians, they are his servants no matter what state they may be in ( Eph_6:5-8 ). Their work should have been done to God's glory. So, each Christian was admonished by Paul to remain in the basic social relationships they were in at the time they obeyed Christ, unless the association involved sin ( 1Co_7:23-24 ).
Is Celibacy Preferable To Marriage?
McGarvey thinks the third question must have been, "Is celibacy or virginity perferable to marriage?" Paul was inspired in his judgment (7:40; 14:37), so we can rely on his answer. The basic rule to be followed was to stay the same. Because of the distress Christians found themselves in at that time, married or unmarried were to seek no change ( 1Co_7:25-27 ).
Remember, the statements above were statements of inspired judgment, not commands. If one could not control himself, marriage was not a sin. It would simply increase the number of problems to be handled and Paul would have liked to help them avoid that ( 1Co_7:28 ). Paul digressed into a discussion of the shortness of our time upon the earth. The suffering of this life is limited.
When this life is over, even if one used life's pleasures to the fullest, it was going to seem as if he had not used life's pleasures fully. You may recall, the pleasures of sin are short lived ( Heb_11:24-25 ; 1Jn_2:17 ). When the distress came, Paul wanted them to be free of the extra cares of marriage. The unmarried can center his whole attention on the Lord's work. In contrast, the married man has to watch for the needs of his family and divide his attention. This, of course, was stressed because of the pressures (distress) they were to face. A woman is like a man in respect to this issue. All this advice was for their good at that time. He did not mean to place them in the path of undue temptation, only to help them avoid an extra load of cares. This, then, should not be used to substantiate a marital prohibition ( 1Co_7:29-35 ).
Giving A Daughter's Hand In Marriage
At the time Paul wrote, the fathers' gave their daughters' hands in marriage without consulting them. Paul said that fathers might feel they wronged their daughters by keeping them from marrying, even after the normal age for marrying. Such fathers, when they saw their daughters were not able to withstand the temptations of the unmarried state, were urged by the apostle to go ahead and let them marry. There was no sin in being married. However, the father that was sure the marriage of his daughter would be incorrect for the time, was free to act according to his judgment. Paul's judgment on this matter assumed that no circumstances warranted a different conclusion. Paul was not saying it was against the Lord's will to allow a virgin daughter to be given in marriage. He was saying that due to the coming trials, it was wiser to keep her from marrying ( 1Co_7:36-38 ).
Should Widows Remarry?
McGarvey thinks the fourth question was, "Should widows remarry?" Marriage is a contract for life, with but one exception ( Rom_7:1-3 ; Mat_19:9 ). If either party died, the other was free to remarry. However, the Christian widow was restricted by Paul to marrying "only in the Lord."
There are two schools of thought regarding the expression "en kurioo," which is translated, "in the Lord." McGarvey translates, "to a Christian." This reasoning says only a Christian is in the Lord ( Rom_6:3 ; Galatians 3:2628 ; Rev_14:13 ; Eph_6:10 ; Eph_1:7 ; Colossians 1:14; 2:57 ). Guy N. Woods in Questions and Answers Open Forum Freed-Hardeman College, quotes from Arndt and Gingrich in their Greek/English Lexicon 'Of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. They "define the phrase enkurioo, 'in the Lord', 'esp. in Paul or John usage, to designate a close personal relation...be or abide in Christ...gameetheenaii en kurioo marry in the Lord marry a Christian, 1Co_7:39 '." Lipscomb writes, "This prohibits the widow marrying one not a Christian."
The other view is that "in the Lord" means in accord with the Lord's will. In Eph_6:1 , en kurioo is used in a discussion of children obeying their parents. Certainly Paul's point there is that children should obey their parents as long as what they ask is in accord with the Lord's will.
Again, under the circumstances present at the time of Paul's writing, the Christian widow would face less problems unmarried. Lipscomb and Shepherd say the idea behind, "I think," "implies full persuasion that in the advice he had given he was speaking under the direction of the Holy Spirit" ( 1Co_7:39-40 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25