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XIII.—INSTRUCTIONS IN REGARD TO MARRIAGE
A.1—The propriety of marriage, and the duties involved
1 Corinthians 7:1-11
1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me:2 It is good for a man not 2to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication [But on account of the fornications], let every man have his own [ἑαυτοῦ] wife, and let every woman have her own 3[ἴδίον] husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence [her due3] and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5Defraud ye not one the other; except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and [om. fasting and4] prayer; and come [be5] together again, that Satan tempt you not for [through, διὰ] your incontinency. 6But I speak this by [as a, κατὰ] permission, and not of [as a, κατὰ] commandment 7For [But, δὲ6] I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one6after this manner, and another7 after that 8I say therefore 9to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. 10And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart8 from her husband: 11But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Here we enter upon the second portion of this Epistle. Having first treated of those evils in the Church which he had learned by report, he, from chap. 7. and onwards, proceeds to give his opinion on those topics in regard to which the Corinthians had questioned him in their letter. This letter being lost, we can only infer what these questions were from the nature of the answers given. One was in relation to the propriety of marriage, and the performance of the duties it involved. This topic he treats of first, since it was closely connected with his earnest warning against fornication (1 Corinthians 6:12 ff.); for not only did it embrace the subject of the sexual relations; but that very depreciation of marriage also, which had begun to prevail in the Church, under the supposition that it was a sinful connection, which ought to be avoided, and, if possible, broken up when formed, was to be regarded as a reaction against the abounding licentiousness of the place.
This undervaluation of marriage, however, is by no means to be attributed (as by Grotius) [Whitby, A. Clark, Barnes] to the philosophic views current at that period; 9 since these affected not so much the morality of the thing, as the cares and dangers which belonged to the marriage institution. It were better to infer here an inference—though only a subordinate one—of that aversion to marriage which was just then springing up (so Osiander). But whether, and how far this difference of sentiment was connected with the party divisions in the Church, is a matter of doubt. Yet, if there were such a connection, still we are neither to suppose, (with Gold-horn and others,) that it was with the Christian party in particular, whose alleged theosophic, ascetic character is altogether problematical; nor yet (with Schwegler) that it was with the Essenic Ebionite Christians, whose presence at Corinth cannot be certainly ascertained; nor yet with the Petrine party, who, rather in view of the example of their leader (1 Corinthians 9:5; Matthew 13:14), and of the Jewish, Old Testament standpoint on the subject, must have held marriage in special honor. These questions must rather have originated with the Paulinists, who, through the precedent of their assumed leader, and by reason of such expressions of his as appear here, and were misunderstood by them, might have been led into an inordinate admiration of celibacy and disparagement of marriage, in opposition both to heathen immoralities, and to Jewish sensualism in this respect. With what modesty and wisdom Paul handles his subject will appear as we proceed.
[“The whole is written,” says Alford, “under the strong impression of the near approach of the end of the present state of things (1 Corinthians 7:29-31), and as advising the Corinthians under circumstances in which persecution, and family division for the Gospel’s sake might at any time break up the relations of life. The precepts and recommendations of this chapter are therefore to be weighed as those in 8. al., with reference to change of circumstances; and the meaning of God’s Spirit in them with respect to the subsequent ages of the Church, to be sought by careful comparison and inference not rashly assumed and misapplied. I may also premise that in hardly any portion of the Epistles has the hand of correctors and interpolators been busier than here. The absence of all ascetic tendency from the Apostle’s advice, on the point where asceticism was busiest and most mischievous, was too strong a testimony to be left in its original clearness.”
1 Corinthians 7:1-2, Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote to me.—[“Each of his replies is introduced by the preposition περί, as here.” Words.].—it is good.—There is here a Brachylogy, as in 1 Corinthians 11:16; Romans 11:18. We might insert: ‘I say,’ or: ‘it is my opinion.’ [Some suppose that the Apostle is here taking up the language of the Epistle addressed to him and affirming it: ‘It is good, as you say, or inquire.’ And this is very possible, and may account for the use of the strong word καλόν here. It is adopted concessively.] The question is, however, whether by it the Apostle means to express the idea of suitableness, or allowableness, in consideration of the superior advantage of celibacy by reason of the religious opportunities it gave (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:26); or whether he here has in view the moral beauty of continence. If we understand it relatively, then it cannot be inferred, as by Jerome, that the opposite is wrong, “malum est tangere;” and so the value and dignity of marriage as set forth in the context, will remain unaffected. “This agrees with the feeling in the previous chapter. Comp. below 1 Corinthians 7:7-8; 1Co 7:26; 1 Corinthians 7:34 (mid.), 35 (end), 40. ‘Good,’ i. e., becoming, suitable for liberty and exemption from the marriage due, 1 Corinthians 7:3, and for entire power over oneself, 1 Corinthians 7:4; [good, not in view of marriage as originally designed; for in that case it was not good for a man to be alone; but good in view of the evils which sin had engendered, and by which it had marred that which was designed to be one of man’s chief blessings]; though, on the other hand, the act of ‘touching,’ mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:1, is always accompanied with modesty among the chaste. [“Much ingenuity,” says Stanley, “has been employed by the advocates of celibacy in making this word (καλόν) mean ‘lofty’ or ‘noble,’ and by the advocates of marriage in depreciating it to mean ‘convenient for existing circumstances.’ The obvious meaning is the true one. It is used as in Aristotle and the Greek moral writers generally) for ‘good,’ like ‘pulchrum’ in Latin, opposed to ‘turpe,’=αἰσχρόν, ‘bad;’ and the only limitation to be put upon it is that supplied by the context.” It means, beautiful, praiseworthy, yet only under certain circumstances, and in view of the traits thus exhibited. And so all must admit it to be, as e. g., when practised by Paul. But not universally, for certainly he cannot be supposed to contradict intentionally what he says elsewhere of marriage, as “honorable in all;” or as a type of the union of the Church with Christ (Ephesians 5:23-32); or as a thing, which to forbid was one of the signs of the great apostacy].—for a man;—’Αυθρώπῳ does not stand precisely for ἀνδρί, although, of course, as the context shows, the man is here meant; [“and that, as Meyer remarks, not merely in his sexual, but in his human capacity. Thus in its deeper reference it would include the other sex also.” Alf.].—Not to touch a woman.—This phrase the author formerly understood, with Rückert, to denote continence in the marriage state. In which case, then, the words in 1 Corinthians 7:2 : ‘to have his own wife,’ would mean sexual intercourse in the marriage state; and 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 would only be a carrying out of the same idea; and, καλόν would be equivalent to ‘morally beautiful,’ in correspondence with the tender feeling implied. But, apart from all other grounds, both the whole context as well as the usage of language (ἔχειν), leads me to abide by the common interpretation, which takes the words to mean sexual connection in general (as in Genesis 20:6; Proverbs 6:29) of which that occurring in marriage is one species. And this first comes to view prominently in 1 Corinthians 7:2. [So Alf., Meyer, de Wette. And undoubtedly they are correct. But Hammond, Whitby, Henry, Hodge, Barnes and others, take the phrase as meaning marriage, directly and primarily, finding support in this from certain supposed classical analogies. But this is certainly a perplexing and needless limitation. Paul here evidently starts with a broad, and surely very credible proposition. ‘There is, he would say, ‘nothing wrong, as the Jews argued, but rather something very proper, nay, very honorable, in having nothing at all to do with women carnally,’ as there certainly was in Paul’s case, and in that of many others who for wise reasons have given themselves up to a life of chaste celibacy.]
In 1 Corinthians 7:2 he presents to us in contrast with the ideal καλόν the real practical need.—But on account of [“διά with the Ace. indicates the ground (ratio), not the aim (not even here), and it is only by implication that the notion of design can be brought in. Fornications are the reason for which the injunction is given, in order thus to prevent them.” Winer, § XLIX.100] fornications.—The plural points to the manifold and irregular sexual vices which prevailed in Corinth (Bengel: vagas libidines), in consequence of the multitude of courtezans to be found there. Now to ward off the temptations thus offered to the unmarried, by the enjoyment of legitimate intercourse in the marriage state he says,—let every one have his own (ἑαυτοῦ) wife, and let every woman have her own (ἴδιον) husband.—The ἑαυτοῦ and ἴδιον point to the established relation of the monogamy. [The contrast between τὴν ἑαυτοῦ χυναῖκα and τοὺ ἲδιον ἂνδρα is a difference of idiom which runs all through the New Testament. ̓́Ιδιος is never used for γυνή, nor ἑαυτοῦ for ἂνήρ, in speaking of husband and wife; perhaps from the seeming inappropriateness of using ἑαυτοῦ, except in the relation when the one party is, as it were, the property of another; perhaps from the importance of pointing out that the husband is the natural adviser of the wife.” Stanley. See Winer, XXII.]
[The Imp. ἐχέτω, let have, is not to be construed as permissive only, but it carries the force of a command [Jelf, Gr. Gram. § 420, Obs. 1 Corinthians 1:0 : “The Imperative is used when something of decision or authority is wanted, so that the more civil form of the Optative would be out of place”], as is evident from the analogy of the subsequent imperatives, and from the reason by which it is sustained. But, if a command, then of course we must limit the ‘each one,’ both of man and woman, to such as have not the gift of continence (comp. 1Co 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 7:36-37). Here then we have a view of marriage in its lower aspects and bearings, as a safeguard against incontinence. But this pedagogical or practical view of marriage, as meeting a contemplated necessity, by no means excludes the ideal view given in Ephesians 5:29 ff. For, as Neander says, “we must not overlook the fact that Paul is here not treating of marriage in general, but only in its relation to the condition of things at Corinth, where he feared the effect of moral prejudices concerning celibacy.” [Besides, it must be remembered that marital intercourse is not the same in kind with the illegitimate connection, but is refined and elevated by the pure love which binds the parties in life-long and absolute union for the very noblest ends, and of which it is the bodily expression. Hence the Apostle is here prescribing a veritable cure for the evil passion, and not simply allowing it indulgence within a certain sphere].
1 Corinthians 7:3-5. In order that the direction given in 1 Corinthians 7:2 may attain its purpose, he goes on to insist upon the full consummation of the marital relationship, being prompted to this perhaps by the representations made in the letter of the Church, of a tendency towards a false asceticism in this respect, or of the actual practice of it among them.—Let the husband render unto the wife her due, and likewise also the wife to her husband.—’Οφειλήν cannot therefore mean simply ὀφειλομένη εὔνοια, due benevolence, as the Rec. Text has it [which was either substituted as an expository gloss on the supposition that ‘the due’ was one of affection merely, or as an euphemism], but it refers to the due of marriage, debitum tori. That marital intercourse should here be set forth as a matter of duty, belongs to the higher ethical aspects of the case. [See Harless, Christ. Ethik. § 52, A. a., Wuttke Sittenlehre, § 15, 3]. This he proceeds to establish more fully in the next sentence, omitting to connect it with any causal particle (for).—The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife.—Here he shows that it is implied in the very nature of marriage, that the granting or withholding be not at the caprice of either party, but that each possesses a legitimate claim upon the body of the other, and has a right to its enjoyment. This is a reciprocity whereby alone marriage receives and maintains its monogamous character. The ellipsis at the close of each of these clauses is evident, and the nominatives must have their verbs supplied from what precedes. In the expression: the wife hath not power over her own, and: the husband hath not power over his own, Bengel detects an “elegant paradox.” [“The ground of this being another’s, while they are their own, is to be found in the oneness of body in which the marriage state places them.” Alf.]. It is to this ‘power’ that the next injunction refers: Defraud not one another. At any rate, it amounts to the same thing, whether we say, ‘of this power,’ or, ‘of your body,’ or, ‘of the due.’ What he forbids is the arbitrary refusal of intercourse when the other party desires it. Except it be, εἰμή τι ἂν. [The ἂν belongs to τι. On the attachment of this particle to other than verbs, see Jelf, § 430, Obs. a.]. There is here a limitation upon the above prohibition [which is elliptical in form; and, though it would naturally be supposed from the preceding verb, plainly implies a modification in meaning. It is not ‘defrauding’ that he allows, but ‘abstaining,’ as is evident from the appended condition], that both parties are agreed upon it, so that the rights of both parties are preserved: from mutual agreement, ἐκ συμφώνου. But even then the arrangement must only be for a time, πρὸς καιρν. This might indeed denote some particular, suitable occasion that might occur, calling for Such abstinence. But, according to later usage, it must be understood of some fixed definite period [Jelf, § 38, 2, b] And this meaning is sustained by the purpose expressed, in its whole extent. First, he mentions religious exercises, for which they might wish to have time and rest.—that ye may give yourselves to prayer,—undisturbed by the excitements of this mighty passion. Such extraordinary and protracted devotional exercises were, in later times, enjoined for particular festival seasons, connected with fastings (hence the addition in the Rec. Text of τῇ νηστείᾳ καὶ)10. And it is possible that the beginnings of this custom are to be found in this period, though such seasons were evidently of a purely voluntary character. That indulgence in sexual intercourse did not comport with holy solemnities, was a point assumed alike in the Old Testament (Exodus 19:15) and among pagan nations. [Yet, as Harless well says, Christliche Ethik, § 44, c., “we are not to suppose that the Apostle meant to say that such abstinence was a necessary condition to a spirit of prayer in general, but only that it was a suitable and necessary result of these peculiar circumstances in which the soul felt moved to special devotion toward God. To the Apostle who regarded the Christian’s entire life as one continuous and perpetual prayer, it was impossible that such abstinence should appear as an absolute requisite to prayer, from the simple fact that he allowed of no enjoyment whatever which was not accompanied with prayer and thanksgiving,” 1 Timothy 4:4].—And be together again.—This indicates euphemistically the resumption of marital intercourse. ’Επὶ τὸ αὐτὸ, a constructio pregnans=‘come together and remain together.’ The dependence of ἦτε upon ἵνα is somewhat remarkable: hence the reading χεσθε (Imp.). It nevertheless rests on good grounds.
The limitation of their abstinence to a definite period, includes two objects, that they might have leisure for prayer, and might be united again. The reason for this is—that Satan may not tempt you through your incontinency.—By this he means a betrayal into that against which marriage was designed to be a safeguard, viz., those fornications which were caused by incontinence. That such incontinence existed among them was to be inferred, not only from their peculiar circumstances, but also from the fact of their being married, which showed that they had not the gift of continence (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:7). The betrayal through incontinence the Apostle ascribes to Satan. This is no mere form of speech, grounded on the supposition that all evil is to be attributed to Satan. Neither does it refer simply to seductions practised on them by the heathen, as though Satan were but another name for ‘heathen,’ the enemies of the Gospel. But it strictly accords with the whole doctrine of Scripture, and especially with Paul’s teachings, that there is such a hostile evil spirit existing, whose business it is to seduce the people of God, and who, on this account, is styled prëminently “the tempter” (ὁ πειράζων) (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). But the act of temptation (πειράζειν), in so far as it proceeds from this spirit of evil, is virtually a putting to the proof, since it presupposes some impurity or moral weakness in the parties operated on; or implies the hope of some pernicious result to them, on the ground of some suspected vitiosity of temper. In any case, it aims to demonstrate their impurity and impiety, and to effect their fall, and so to bring shame upon God and Christ, and to cause scandal in the Church, and involve it in disgrace, and hinder its spread, and weaken it in inward power and extent (comp. Job 1:2; 2 Corinthians 2:11, etc.).—ΙΙειράζειν means, to entice, to sin, and that, too, with the intention of betraying (comp. Jas. 13ff.; Galatians 6:1; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:10). But to derive ἀκρασία from κεράννυμι, as though it meant not mingling, i. e., in sexual intercourse, is a philological fiction of Rückert’s [one, also, which Words, adopts], which is untenable, if for no other reason than this, that κεράννυμι never appears as=μίγνυμι in this signification. The subst. ἀκρασία from κεράννυμι denotes bad mixture, such as that of insalubrious air. But the ἀκρασία of the text is that which comes from ἀκρατής and is=ἀκράτεια, the opposite of ἐγκράτεια [So Alford and Meyer. The latter takes the ‘your’ (ὐμῶν) as an emphatic allusion to the prevailing fault of the Corinthians. This Alford questions, but on hardly sufficient grounds.]
1 Corinthians 7:6. But this I speak as a permission, and not as a commandment.—[‘This’ (τοῦτο). What? The thing is variously argued]. It refers neither to what follows in 1 Corinthians 7:8 [as Rosen., Macknight] because of what intervenes in 1 Corinthians 7:7; nor to 1 Corinthians 7:2 ff. [as Beza, Grotius, de Wette, Hodge], since the command there given, that each man have his own wife, etc., must in that case be taken concessively contrary to the direct obligation imposed in 1 Corinthians 7:3; nor yet simply to the clause preceding: “and be together again,” [“as the ascetics Orig., Tert., Jerome, Estius, and also Calvin, because this is but a subordinate member of the preceding sentence.” Alford: “and the sense thus given to the passage is not consistent with the context” Hodge]; but to 1 Corinthians 7:5, as a whole [so Alford, Meyer, Barnes]. The limitation imposed in regard to defrauding one another, he would not have taken as a command, as though persons were under obligation to practise longer or shorter abstinence by agreement. ‘By permission’ (κατὰ συγγνώμην)=as an allowance or concession to your weakness. [‘Not as a command.’ “A proof of St. Paul’s authority. He is empowered to give a precept (ἐπιταγή) or to bestow an indulgence” (συγγνώμη) Words.].
1 Corinthians 7:7. I wish rather (δὲ) that all men were as also myself.—The reason why he does not wish to impose that restriction as a command, he here proceeds to state by pointing [to the different temperaments of individuals in respect to continence,] primarily to his own peculiarity. [That continence is the particularity in his condition which he refers to is assumed by Chrysostom, and is most probable. So de Wette, Meyer, Barnes. But Words, understands it of his unmarried state.] The above construction of the connection occasioned, no doubt, the reading γάρ; for, instead of δὲ; but it comports equally well with the latter (which is better attested), if, with Meyer, we interpret thus: ‘I do not say this by way of command. I rather wish that all men might have the gift of perfect continence, as I myself have, so that marriage were unnecessary.’—To limit the expression ‘all men’ to Christians, is inadmissible. This comprehensive wish he utters in view of the near approach of Christ’s second coming, when humanity would be made like unto the angels, and all marrying and giving in marriage would cease.
But each one has his own gift from God.—He here explains what he meant in 1 Corinthians 7:6, when he said, ‘by permission,’ stating, on the other hand (αλλά), what hindered the realization of his wish. It was individual peculiarities, God had not given to every one alike the ability to practise continence. But whether by the word ‘gift’ (χάρισμα) he means an endowment of nature, or of grace, may be doubted. In view of the words ‘all men’ in the previous clause we might infer that he intended the former; a natural aptitude which existed as a Providential favor outside the sphere of redemption. But the uniform use of the word in this Epistle and in the New Testament generally inclines us to the opinion that it is the latter—a capacity granted by God within the Church, and therefore a proper gift of grace, grounded on an actual participation in Christ’s redeeming power,—attached it may be, however, to a person’s original disposition and temperament. Though the words ‘all men’ are indeed to be construed universally, yet the Apostle has here to do only with converts, and it is these that he has in his eye when he says, ‘each one’ and ‘gift.’ As Bengel observes, “that which in the natural man is a natural habit, becomes in the saints a gift of grace.” The gift here is the entire habit of mind and body in the Christian, in so far, e. g., as marriage or celibacy is better suited to him, along with the actions suited to each state, according to God’s commandments. But in a state not voluntarily assumed, the assistance of grace is more secure to the godly.” Comp. the words in Matthew 19:11 : “To whom it is given.” The epithet ἴδιον, his own, is further explained;—one, so, and another, so.—This can either be construed generally, or applied strictly to the two subjects in discussion, viz., to continence and celibacy, on the one hand, and to the marriage state, on the other. The context inclines to the stricter construction. In this case, the second ‘so’ would refer to the fitness of the Christian of the marriage state, for forming and governing the family life.
1 Corinthians 7:8-9. A special application of the foregoing in the way of advice.—I say then to the unmarried, and to widows,—καὶ ταῖςχήραις, especially to widows; [so the καὶ must be interpreted, for widows being also unmarried cannot be regarded as a separate class.]—These, therefore, must be regarded as the parties singled out to be particularly addressed; while by the term, unmarried, single persons of both sexes are meant. And the emphasis is not to be placed on the latter, as though Paul were passing here to the consideration of a new topic—from the married to the unmarried; but it rests upon ‘I say,’ [“which is but a resumption of the ‘I say’ in 1 Corinthians 7:6, and brings this advice under the same category as 1 Corinthians 7:7.” Alford]. It is otherwise in 1 Corinthians 7:10, as may be seen from the position of the words: it is good, καλον, as in 1 Corinthians 7:1, for them, αὐτοῖς, masculine, if they should remain as I also am, i. e., unmarried. We are not to infer from this that Paul was a widower, as Clemens, Alex., Grotius [Luther, Ewald, Selden, Conybeare and Howson] suppose, for this is in no wise here intimated [so Alf., Meyer, Bengel and others. Words, leaves the case doubtful]. In view of his own gift (1 Corinthians 7:7), however, he wishes this advice to be taken conditionally. But if they are incontinent, let them marry.’ ’Εγκρατεύιν εγκρατή εἴναι, to be master of one’s self—especially as it regards the sexual passions; a word of the later Greek. For it is better to marry than to burn. ΙΙυροῦσθαι denotes the painful excitement of unsatisfied desire, which burns like a fire within, and inwardly overcomes the man, or at least disturbs and weakens the moral powers. Comp. Colossians 3:5; Sir 23:22-24. In saying ‘it is better,’ he intends no disparagement of marriage as being a lesser evil; but only contrasts a relation which, in this case, is morally allowable and sinless, with a state that is immoral, or at least troublesome to the moral life. “A second marriage among Christians is therefore not in itself unlawful; not a grievous transgression, as the Montanists and Novatians asserted; nevertheless the Church has always regarded second marriages with dislike, if only because the single marriage corresponds better with the idea of true Christian wedlock, which is a type of the union of Christ with His Church.” Bisping]. [Bisping, it must be remembered, is a Romanist].
1 Corinthians 7:10-11. And to the married.—This is connected directly, to the foregoing, meaning those who are enjoined to marry—hence, to Christians. To limit this to such as were newly married, or to some particular parties had in mind (Rückert), is warranted neither by the expression itself, nor by the context.—I command; παραγγέλλω.—Here comes in the ἐπιταγή of 1 Corinthians 7:6. It implies a stringent order, an injunction to do something (comp. Luke 5:14) 1 Timothy 6:13. And this he exhibits as a command of the Lord Himself, i. e., of Christ, the Head of the Church.—not I, but the Lord.—Here he has in mind the words of Christ in Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:12, communicated to him by a reliable tradition. To suppose that he had received a special revelation on the subject, is altogether gratuitous. [Nor are we to imagine that Paul here intends to draw a contrast between what he himself commands and what the Lord had commanded, as to the degree of authority involved in each. For as he himself states in 1 Corinthians 7:40, ‘He had the mind of Christ;’ and what is spoken under the inspiration of the Spirit, is no less valid than that which proceeded from the lips of Jesus. And what he intends here is not to draw a contrast, but merely to assert the distinction just alluded to. ‘He is simply telling the Corinthians, that, so far as what he was about to say was concerned, they had no need to come to him to learn it.’ He was merely repeating what had already been enjoined by Christ Himself. 11] The exception “except it be for fornication,” which does not appear in Luke 16:18, nor in Mark, is here dropped out, either because the tradition which came to him did not have the words, or because an instance of this sort had not occurred in Corinth (comp., however, 1 Corinthians 5:1), or because the matter was self-evident, fornication being itself a dissolution of the marriage bond.—that the wife.—The prominence given to the wife is not to be explained by supposing any reference to some existing case; but it may be accounted for on the ground of the greater inclination of the wife to obtain divorce; since she, as the weaker party, was more liable to suffer oppression, or was more naturally disposed to asceticism.—do not separate herself from her husband.—[“Χωρισθῆναι, the natural expression for the wife as not having power to dismiss her husband; ἂφιέναι, the milder form for the husband (see last clause), although it is in 1 Corinthians 7:13 used also for the wife. The words are taken from the phraseology of legal divorce; but the cases here spoken of are not so much regular divorces as accidental separations.” Stanley].’—but and if she should be separated.—This and the dependent clauses are a parenthesis, so that what follows is in direct connection with what precedes. The words ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῆ point to some possible case of divorce occurring hereafter contrary to the command of Christ, and not to any supposed actual separation which might have taken place before the latter should have reached them. The καὶ does not belong to the whole clause, making it equivalent to ‘even if,’ etc., but simply to the verb, and may be translated by ‘actually,’ or ‘in fact.’ [“This is not intended as an exception to the law, but it contemplates a case which may occur in spite of the law.—There are cases undoubtedly which justify a woman in leaving her husband, which do not justify divorce.” Hodge.]—On the injunction—let her remain unmarried—See Matthew 10:12.—or let her be reconciled to her husband.—The verb καταλλαγήτω had best be taken like χωρισθῆ in a reflexive, sense, ‘reconcile herself.’ This does not, however, exclude the mediation of others. He means that she should do her part towards becoming united to her husband; to secure his love and devote to him her love again.—The injunction on the man is very short.—And that the man put not away his wife.—From the similarity of instruction given to both, we may infer that what was said to the woman in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, applied also to the man (Osiander).
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Marriage, its nature and obligations. In the Apostle’s view, marriage is a vital and life-long communion between man and woman, involving an equality of claims on the part of both. As a living fellowship, it extends over the entire personality, embracing also our physical nature. And this is precisely the peculiarity of marriage, distinguishing it from all other kinds of friendly connexion. While it involves the element of friendship—as a union of hearts mutually completing each other—it has, likewise, besides this, a mutually supplementing bodily union, viz., the sexual. This has, indeed, its psychical side; yet it comes to its full expression and consummation in the bodily life. Both are in this respect adjusted to each other, and each party needs the other for the proper fulfilment of its position in the sexual relations. The man requires the woman in order to the exercise of his procreative power, in which respect he is “the image of God” (1 Corinthians 11:7) the Creator; and the woman requires the man in order that her capacity for receiving may become an actual conception, and her constitutional fitness for being a mother may attain to its proper development and exercise.
These mutual needs, so divinely ordained, lead to reciprocal obligations and claims in their relations to each other. Each has a right in the body of the other, and each is bound to yield to the other for sexual intercourse, so that no capricious one-sided refusal is allowable. Only an occasional abstinence by mutual consent for higher moral and religious ends is permitted.
But another consideration comes in here. Men are sinful. All their sensual impulses, especially the sexual instincts—the strongest of them all—have escaped from the control of the Spirit, from which they ought to receive their first motion. Instead of being the pure expression and exercise of love—free surrender of oneself for the pleasure and gratification of another—sexual commerce has become one of the worst forms in which a degrading selfishness manifests itself—a selfishness which prompts persons to seek others only to use them for their own gratification. Among mankind thus corrupted, marriage, therefore, appears as providentially designed to guard against the inordinate and irregular satisfaction of sexual passion, so that it shall not be indulged in promiscuously, as opportunity might be afforded; but that two persons bound together during their whole life, and in their entire personality, shall devote themselves to each other even in reference to this particular, [that so, if possible, mere passion may be refined through the power of a purer affection and the discipline of domestic life].
The less now the virtue of continence—that is, the power of the spirit over the animal passions—is cultivated and trained in full strength, the more needful will it be to take care that the abstinence agreed upon for special reasons, be not too long extended, lest either party be exposed to temptation for unlawful indulgence. [See Whewell’s “Elements of Morality,” B. IV. chap. 7., Art. 630. Baxter’s “Christian Ethics,” Pt. 2 Chap. 1 and 7. “Harless, Christ. Elhik,”§ 52 A. a.; also “Wuttke Sittenlehre, § 152, 153].
2. Celibacy, its occasion, and how far praiseworthy. This stringency of the marriage obligation, which indeed, carries with it a wealth of moral and religious elements, is apt to evoke a reaction through the natural effort of the Christian after liberty and holiness—after an un-trammeled and undivided devotion to his Lord—after a perfect consecration of soul and body to his service, and after an undisturbed enjoyment of fellowship with Him. This effort resulting in celibacy, is morally justifiable only on certain conditions. These are: 1, Provided that it is not prompted by a carnal love of ease, and by a dread of domestic crosses, and is likewise free from all spiritual pride and ambition, which, by refraining from marriage, aspires to possess a special sanctity, and to merit a higher degree of blessedness and glory. 2, Provided it is not tinctured with mere caprice, or will-worship, or prudery, or vanity, or any such moral perverse-ness. 3, Provided it is prompted by a consciousness—not, indeed, of an incapacity for marriage, which would render the act morally reprehensible—but of a peculiar fitness for a single life vouchsafed by the Lord, and of a Divine call to some sphere of labor in God’s kingdom, to which the married state would offer impediments; or occasioned by providential obstructions put in the way of some desired and sought for marriage connections, and by the quiet pondering of the Divine will as indicated in such occurrences; and, 4, provided, in general, a lack of inclination for marriage—which, on looking up to God and invoking His direction in the matter, comes to be regarded as a Divine hint as to duty—leads a person to remain unmarried. [When these conditions exist, celibacy and widowhood are states wherein some of the noblest traits of the Christian life may be displayed, and are no less honorable than that of wedlock. To disparage them in any way, is to put contempt on the plain doctrine of the Gospel. But no less un-Christian, not to say unnatural, is it to ascribe any inherent superior excellence to these states, and to make them the essential conditions of superior sanctity, and to impose them by authority upon any class of persons in the Church, as, e. g., on the clergy. The Romish doctrine on this point is not merely utterly groundless, but contrary to the express teachings of Scripture, and to the example of most of the Apostles. Paul himself specifies “the forbidding to marry” among the doctrines of devils, and when we would expect him to counsel virginity according to Romish teaching, he says rather (1 Timothy 2:15) “the woman shall be saved in child-bearing, if they continue in faith and charity.”] Hence, where the above-mentioned conditions do not exist, and there appears to be a demand for marriage, and a well-grounded hope that it will be a fellowship in the Lord, and for the furtherance of his kingdom, and it appears to be the will of God, then does an obligation arise to enter into it [both for the good of the parties concerned, and] for the propagation of the race, and the rearing of future generations morally, socially and religiously in this relation.
The Apostolic counsels in regard to celibacy, given as they were in anticipation of Christ’s speedy coming, in which case the obligation to marriage is lessened by reason of the impending dissolution of all earthly things, acquire new force whenever sure signs lead us to expect this catastrophe as at hand. [See on this subject Baxter “Christian Ethics” Book 2 chap. 1; Wuttke “Sittenlehre” § 295; Schaff Hist. Ap. Ch., § 112.]
3. Divorce, its wrong and its right. The voluntary dissolution of a Christian marriage is a departure from a state ordained by God,—the rupture of a covenant with which members of His Church have entered with each other, in His name, and in which they have thus obligated themselves to live together as husband and wife, even under the most severe and trying circumstances, faithful unto death. A separation can properly take place only under the conditions appointed by God Himself, through Christ, viz., the actual dissolution of the marriage bond by the other party in adultery or fornication, which is in fact a surrender of one’s self to a third party in such wise as is allowable only in marriage, and is reserved by the ordinance of God exclusively for those thus allied. Should any one wish to separate from his consort out of disinclination to marital intercourse, or from a dread of it, under the idea that it involved defilement, or through a general desire for liberty in this respect, he would, in so doing, be guilty of violating the most solemn obligations, and become chargeable with immorality. When conscientious scruples arise in these respects, it becomes a Christian to consult his pastor, or some experienced Christian friend, and above all to lay the matter in prayer before God, that he may be enlightened and instructed from on high, and that his partner might be induced to enter into some agreement that would not infringe on his conscience. Even though marriage has become burdensome, a person must still bear it from a sense of duty, in obedience to the Divine ordinance, and in conformity with the claims of the institution.—Mere aversion on the part of the one or the other, or of both, mortifications, maltreatment, sickness however incurable, whether of body or mind, furnish no warrant for divorce. A temporary separation, accompanied with a readiness for reunion, may, under certain circumstances, be allowed as the only means for restoring again the disturbed relations, and causing a return to a right tone of feeling, and effecting a lasting improvement.
If anything else, however, can be accepted as a ground for divorce, subsumed as it were under the head of adultery, it is malicious desertion. This means, the deliberate forsaking of the one party by the other, with the unmistakable or declared design of abandoning the marriage connection altogether. And this is nothing less than the actual dissolution of the bond, by which the obligation of the other party to fidelity is annulled. Yet, in this case, no right-minded person will be in haste to obtain a formal divorce. Rather he will be inclined to wait as long as possible, in the hope of seeing some change occur in the temper of the other party, which will lead to reconciliation and cohabitation once more. And such forbearance will show itself, even in the case of adultery, for even in such circumstances may the spirit of Christian faith signalize its patience.—And then, in reference to the forming of a new connection; after so severe a chastisement, which not unfrequently wears the character of a judgment on the conduct of him who suffers it—it may be for the manner in which he contracted the marriage, or for the manner in which he has maintained it—a true Christian will be naturally disposed to consider with great care, whether he ought to enter into a new relation; and with prayer for heavenly instruction he will seek to ascertain what is God’s will in the matter, and whether it be not a mere selfish inclination (which we are very apt to take for God’s will) that is moving him to marry again. And the whole issue of things he will leave to God, in humble resignation to His decision. And should God’s providence seem to enjoin self-denial for a longer or shorter period, he will entreat Him day by day for the supplies of that grace which shall strengthen him to endure in all patience and purity.
But here a new point comes up. If the adultery committed, whether it be in the form of fornication or of malicious desertion, be not a momentary lapse not likely to be repeated, but is a settled thing, which no patience, or gentleness, or efforts at conciliation can overcome, then it will be right to infer that the Christian character of the guilty party is in such a case entirely renounced, and to treat him as standing in the relation of an unbeliever, or, still worse, of a heathen. Here, then, we would have, to all intents, an instance of mixed marriage, such as that spoken of in the next section. It would be in vain, then to look for the hallowing of one party by the other; and all continuance in a connection, which only obstructs the purpose of the Divine calling, and mars our peace, for some vague hope of recovering the lost, would be wholly unwarranted; and contrary to the Divine will.
From that which, according to the rule of Scripture, is right for the individual believer, we may infer the duty of the Church and the State in reference to marriage. First of all, the Church acknowledges itself as bound to the work of the Lord, and can, with good conscience, sanction no divorce and marriage of the separated parties again in other connections, contrary to His expressed will. The State, as an institution, which with its enactments and executive acts is rooted in the principles of Christianity, must aim to conform its marriage legislation to these. But inasmuch as strict conformity is not possible for it, the State must at least grant the Church the liberty of abiding by the decisions of her Lord, and protect it in the maintenance of its right. It must not require the Church to bless those un-Christian marriages which it may feel constrained to allow; nor must it hinder the Church from enforcing its discipline upon those who form permanent connections after a manner ordained by it, when not accordant with the Divine rule. Such is the position to be clearly and distinctly taken in the case.
But it is a question whether our mixed congregations do not admit, or even require some modification of such proceedings?—whether an extension of the principle of analogy already employed in granting divorces for malicious desertion, is not proper and necessary in other cases also, which may in like manner be regarded as a dissolution of the marriage tie. This is one of the pressing questions of the day, a further investigation of which would, however, lead us too far.
Much that is not good has place under the forbearance of our Heavenly Father. And it is a question whether the Church ought not to exercise a maternal patience towards much which she cannot sanction? This, in fact, no one will deny. Nevertheless she must hold by the authority of God’s word, and try to enforce it. And her wisdom will show itself in wise endeavors to combine the two in a befitting manner. Consult on this question Ev. Kirch. Zeit. and Neue Ev. Kirch. Zeit. for 1859 [also Whewell, Elements of Morality, § 633–635 and § 1027–1037; Neander., Life of Christ, § 155, note, and § 224; Herzog, Enc. Art. Ehe., Bax. Ch. Eth. B. 11, 1 Corinthians 9:0].
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
[I. Celibacy or the single state, when maintained for worthy ends, being good, and in accordance with Apostolic example: 1, instead of encountering ridicule, or held in reproach, should beheld in highest honor, 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 2:0, ought not to be preferred voluntarily, unless in accordance with the clear will of God, as intimated in the gift of continence, 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 3:0, should not be enforced by commandment upon any class of persons, 1 Corinthians 7:6; 1 Corinthians 4:0, when thus enforced it is apt to lead to gross immoralities, 1 Corinthians 7:2].
[II. Marriage, too, so far from involving spiritual contamination, as ascetics pretend, is: 1, good, as a safeguard against licentiousness and a help to purity, 1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 2:0, should be entered into with full consent to all its obligations, 1 Corinthians 7:3; 1 Corinthians 3:0, involves entire self-denial in affectionate regard each for the other, 1 Corinthians 7:4; 1 Corinthians 1:0 Corinthians , 4, can be suspended long only at a hazard to morals, 1 Corinthians 7:5; though, 5, a temporary suspension, like fasting, may occasionally be advisable, as furnishing greater freedom to devotion, 1 Corinthians 7:5. 1 Corinthians 7:6, Being a union for life, neither party is at liberty to move for its dissolution, and one can be released from the obligation only by the infidelity or death of the other, 1 Corinthians 7:10].
Starke:—In view of the race, it was not good for the first man to be alone; in view of special circumstances and gifts it may be good for particular individuals to abide alone, 1 Corinthians 7:1.—Spener.:—Marriage is an antidote to the poison of sensuality.—Hed.:—Marriage intercourse is not sinful lewdness—not a mere licensed fornication, 1 Corinthians 7:3.—Crusius:—In marriage a person parts with his liberty, and binds his entire person to another, 1 Corinthians 7:4.—Marriage pleasures, like all others, may be suspended awhile for purposes of more concentrated devotion, 1 Corinthians 7:5.—Hed.:—Abstinence is not commanded, only allowed—hence not to practise it is not sinful. Yet even here there must be moderation and self-discipline. All immodest indulgence and abuse of this holy state is an abomination in the sight of a holy God, 1 Corinthians 7:6.—Hed.:—Without the Divine gift of continence, it were better to marry. Yet even with this a person is at liberty to marry, for thus he is better able to preserve the purity of his married life, especially if he have a partner like-minded, 1 Corinthians 7:9.—Ibid:—The desire for marriage is divinely implanted like hunger for food. But alas for the heathenish dishonor and scorn—the hypocritical contempt—the un-Christian prohibition put upon this sacred institution by priests and soldiers!—Hed.:—Marriage is no exchange bank. Love must here rule. But what the devil unites, and fleshly lust knits, and avarice and ambition couples, has poor luck and little blessing or aid. Pious people endure, and are silent, and shun evil occasions, and seek peace, 1 Corinthians 7:10.—In the married state it often happens that one is not content with the other. But the only remedy in such cases is patience. It is no longer a question, what sort of a wife a man shall have, but how he shall best adapt himself to the one in possession.
1 Corinthians 7:2. A well-regulated marriage opposes a dam to a large current of scandals.
1 Corinthians 7:4. Many pretend that the man is not bound. But he is. He himself has concluded the bond and given the pledge, and both parties must recognize the debt.
1 Corinthians 7:5. In making vows a person must take himself into careful consideration. Few know the depths of corruption in them and the power of Satan. We must be humble. The agreement to abstain must arise from faith, and faith is humble. Earnest progress in the Divine life requires of them who marry, because of incontinence, that they cherish a constant, heartfelt confidence in God, and devote time and energy to the mortification of the body and to prayer. But since this cannot be properly done, avoid fleshly excitements; occasional abstinence becomes needful and obligatory. Yet nature must maintain its original rights; for it is not sin, but only tainted with sin. When purged by the blood of Christ, it resumes its prerogatives. It is God’s work, not the devil’s. In attempting to destroy the latter, I must not assail the former. Yea, the flesh often gains the more power by too much tampering with the body. In attempting more than we can carry out, we fall back sadly, and then the world taunts and vilifies.
1 Corinthians 7:7. Diversity of character gives rise to a variety of conditions, which must be harmonized by the unific power of Divine grace.
1 Corinthians 7:8. Every mode of life has its advantages and disadvantages, and a Christian must learn to strike the balance.
1 Corinthians 7:10. Marriage should be held sacred. The difficulties which attend it, God must be trusted to remove. If the law of Christianity be regarded as a law, it will, indeed, press hard; but there is mercy under such constraints, and every trouble should be considered an opportunity for the exercise of faith, hope, patience and love. Man is fickle and changeable. If now the marriage relation could be readily altered, this would serve greatly to foster this fickleness and levity, and so increase the evil. Hence, we see the holiness of the Divine ordinance even in respect to its apparent severity. Adultery alone is allowed as cause for divorce, and this because it breaks the bond. All other causes originate in a dread of the cross, and against this we must ever strive. Instead of following our natural inclinations when, e. g., a man has an invalid wife, he should reflect: ‘so must I remain; here is my opportunity to exercise love; here I ought to be gladly; here is a Lazarus. God is now putting me to the proof.’
1 Corinthians 7:11. “Let her remain unmarried,” and so let another burden press her, because she has wished to escape the burden of God’s law. “Or let her become reconciled,” this were better done. But it will cost more than a couple of words to do it. There will be needed earnest effort, a disposition to renew her covenant and begin it afresh in quite a different spirit from before.
1 Corinthians 7:1. A single life is commendable for a man only when it is maintained for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake. The worth of celibacy is conditioned on personal relations and the period in which a person lives.
1 Corinthians 7:4. Man and wife belong to each other—body and soul. There must be a corresponding surrender on the part of each.
1 Corinthians 7:5. It is our duty to put limits on the charm of marital intercourse, in order to have time and inclination for religious exercises. There is danger of clogging from too much indulgence. Hours of solitude and prayer preserve the sweetness and purity of marriage. Christianity hits the golden mean.
1 Corinthians 7:7. It is the token of a holy heart when a person can wish that all were like him.
1 Corinthians 7:8. A false asceticism comes not within the scope of the Apostle. 1. What he gives is advice, and that, 2. suited to the times. 3. Elsewhere he gives marriage the preference (Ephesians 5:2 f.), and reckons the prohibition of marriage among the doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:3); 4, and ascribes no merit to celibacy, which state has worth only when the heart is pure.
1 Corinthians 7:10. According to God’s law marriages are as indissoluble as is the union of Christ with His Church.
1 Corinthians 7:2. An apparently low view of marriage; but only its negative side here presented in view of particular circumstances. There is implied here an indirect exhortation to proud Christians not to sink into the slough of sin by a contempt of marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:3. The begetting of children, not the only legitimate end of marital intercourse. It is the outward expression of a true spiritual union].
1 Corinthians 7:5. The importance of abstinence in marriage for the purpose of prayer, no more proves the evil of the thing than the importance of fasting for the same purposes proves the evil of eating and drinking. But it is the part of believers to consider wisely when to eat and drink, and when to fast. So in the other case.
1 Corinthians 7:6. A false estimate of virginity led to three errors: 1, pronouncing it the most excellent of virtues, and the very worship of God; 2, adoption of it by numbers who had not the gift; 3, the enforcement of it on the ministry, and their consequent awful corruption—while many prudent and pious men were kept from the sacred calling, refusing to ensnare themselves in this way. See Inst. B. IV chap, XII, § 23–28].
I have taken the liberty of altering Dr. Kling’s arrangement. He has treated this whole chapter connectedly, and divided the text into four subjects—1 Corinthians 7:1-40—with captions accordingly. The divisions I have adopted seem more natural, and I have treated them separately for convenience’ sake.—Tr.].
1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:1.—Μοι is stricken out by Tischendorf [Alf] according to B. C. Cod. Sin., [but is retained by nearly all the critical editions according to A. D. F. K. L. Syn.].
Ὀφειλήν according to by far the most weighty authorities [A. B. C. D. F. Cod. Sin.1]. The Rec. has ὀφειλομένην εὔνοιαν, an old gloss [found in L. and the Syriac and certain fathers], and an incorrect one arising from a mistaken interpretation of the nature of the due spoken of; [or perhaps it was a Euphemism].
1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Corinthians 7:5.—Τῇ νηστεία καί is an ascetic appendage, [not found in A. B. C. D. F. Cod. Sin.1 It appears in K. L. Cod. Sin.3 in the Syriac vers and in some of the fathers].
1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Corinthians 7:5.—The Rec. has συνέρχεσθε or συνέρχησθε—a gloss. [The true reading is ἦτε, as found in A. B. C. D. F.
1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 7:7. The Rec. has γάρ. This suits the sense, but is feebly supported. [It is found in B. D.2 K. L. Cod. Sin.3 Syr.; while δὲ is found in A. C. D. F. Cod. Sin.1].
1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 7:7.—The Rec.ὅς μὲν—ὅς δὲ, which belongs to the later Greek, ὁ—ὁ is better supported.
1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 7:10.—χωρισθῆναι [so A. B. C. K. L. Cod. Sin.], Lachmann [whom Stanley generally follows] reads χωρὶςεσθαι [found in A. D. F.]
Menander: “If a man consider marriage in a proper point of view, it is an evil; but then it is a necessary evil.” Metellus Numidicus: “If we could live unmarried, we should be saved from a great deal of trouble; but seeing that nature has so ordered it, that we cannot live very comfortably with wives, and without them cannot live at all, marriage should be adopted not for the sake of the short-lived pleasure it has, but rather for the perpetual safety.” But this was not the general opinion. From A. Clark].
“On these words was afterwards founded the practice of married persons living apart through the season of Lent.” Stanley.]
See this point discussed by William Lee: The Inspiration of Scripture, Sect, 4, Am. Ed. p. 272, and Townsend, hoc loco.]
B.—Mixed marriages. The course to be pursued by the believer in different circumstances. The general principles involved, stated and illustrated in parallel cases
1 Corinthians 7:12-24
12But to the rest speak I, 12 not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she13 be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13And the woman which [who] hath a husband that believeth not, and if Hebrews 2:0; Hebrews 2:0 be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him [her husband14]. 14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by [in, ἐν] the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by [in, ἐν] the husband [the brother15]: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us [you16] to [in, ἐν] peace. 16For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? 17But as God [the Lord17] hath distributed [allotted] to every man, as the Lord [God6] hath called every one, so let him walk. 18And so ordain I in all churches. Is [Was] any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any [Has any been18] called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. 20Let every man abide in the same 21calling wherein he was called. Art [Wert] thou called being a servant [slave]? care 22not for it: but [even] if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he [the slave] that is called in the Lord, being a servant [om. being a servant] is the Lord’s freeman:19 likewise also [om. also] he [the freeman] that is called, being free [om. being free], is Christ’s servant. 23Ye are bought with a price: be [become] not ye the ser vants of men. 24Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1 Corinthians 7:12-14. But to the rest.—By these he evidently means those living in mixed marriage, haying been converted in wedlock. From this it is plain, that in what he has been saying he has had to do solely with parties who were both Christian. But now he comes to consider a relation to which the command of our Lord does not absolutely apply. That was a command for disciples alone; but here those were involved who did not acknowledge subjection to him; and the continuance of the connection depended largely on their own free will. In this case now, the Spirit of the Lord, dwelling in the Apostle, and developing more fully and completely the injunctions given by him on earth, was called to make known what was right, in accordance with the mind of Christ. And it is to this he points when he premises—say I, not the Lord.—[The distinction here made, is simply one of fact as to the form—not one of authority]. His injunction is still an expression of the Lord’s will—if any brother has an unbelieving wife, let him not put her away.—Yet this is conditioned on the pleasure of the wife—if she be pleased to dwell with him.—And this presupposes, on the one hand, that the husband, by reason of his higher love, and of his conviction of the sanctity of marriage, had an inclination to abide with his wife; and, on the other hand, that the wife had some respect for Christianity, and presented no obstacle to the practice of it. [“We see from this how despised the Christians were at that time by the heathen, since even wives would leave their husbands because they had been converted to Christianity.” Billroth. And the threat of this is one great obstacle to the conversion of men in heathendom at this day].—Οἰκεῖν is used in the classics the same as here, and in this connection means, to house with. [Here Chrys. says: “He that putteth away his wife for fornication is not condemned, because he that is one body with her that is a harlot, is polluted; and the marriage bond is broken by fornication, but not by unbelief. Therefore it is lawful to put away a wife for the former sin, but not for the latter. But is not he who is joined with an idolatress one body? Yes, but not polluted by her. The holiness of the faithful husband prevails over the unholiness of the unbelieving wife. They are joined together in that respect in which she is not unholy. But not so in the case of an adulteress.” Words.].—And whatever woman have an unbelieving husband, and this one be pleased to dwell with her.—In καὶ οὖτος there is a change of construction, which appears also often among the Greeks. It is the introduction of a demonstrative in an accessory clause. Otherwise it would be καὶ αὐτος, which the Rec. has. [On this oratio variata see Winer §LXII. 2, 1; also on the use of ὄστις for εἴ τις see Jelf, §816, 3, 7].—Let her not repudiate her husband.—The use of ἀφιέναι in reference to the wife is somewhat remarkable. It means [properly, to put away, and is the same word as that used in the case of the man; but] here, to have, to give up; [and so the E. V. renders it, making a distinction in the rendering by reason of the diversity of the subject. Alford well says, “this is unfortunate;” and there seems no adequate reason for it, as may be seen from what follows. Robinson translates alike in both cases]. Elsewhere, Mark 10:11, απολύειν is predicated as well of the wife as of the husband. Bengel, whom Meyer follows, says, “the nobler part dismisses,” and this, in this instance, is the Christian party. According to Greek, as well as Roman law, the wife also had the liberty of obtaining divorce; among the Jews, too, the law in this respect was somewhat modified by Rabbinical definitions. Light. II:191. [Hence, there is good ground for affirming that it is not simple abandonment, but formal divorce that the Apostle here prohibits. So Hodge].
The above injunction he next proceeds to establish; and opposes the tendency to desertion arising from the dread of contamination through intimate communion with an unbeliever, by pointing to the fact, that in this case [the grace of Christianity triumphs over the disparity, and] the unbelieving party, [so far from desecrating the other, is himself sanctified by connection with the believing one.]—For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother.—The verb ἡγίασται, is sanctified, is not to be construed subjectively; since the supposition is, that the sanctifying principle—even faith, is here wanting. Neither does it point to a future conversion anticipated, (candidatus fidei); still less does it imply the sanctification of the marriage intercourse through the prayer of the believing party; but it denotes the Christian theocratic consecration. The unchristian partner standing, as he does, in vital union with a believer (one flesh), participates in his or her consecration, and is not to be regarded as profane, but as connected by this link to the Church of God, and to God’s people. The phrases, ἐν τῇ γυναικὶ—τῷ , in the wife—in the brother, denote that the sanctification here comes through the Christian partner, whose character, as holy, passes over and is imputed to the unchristian partner. Hence, it followed that the marriage was still to be regarded as one acceptable to God, and that, therefore, the Christian party was to continue therein, so far as it was possible for him or her to do so. True enough it was, indeed, that the unbelieving party, by his consent to remain in such relation to the Christian community, afforded some ground for hope that he would, in the end, prove altogether acceptable to the Church, under whose spiritual influence he was thus brought; but this fact is not here distinctly expressed.
To prove, this relative sanctification of the unbelieving party, through connection with the believing one, he introduces the following apagogic statement.—Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy.—’Επεὶ αρὰ; since then, i. e., in case this sanctification did not exist (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:10). His meaning is this: if that vital communion which existed between the married parties, of which one was a believer and another not, imparted to the latter no sacredness, then it would follow that the like vital union between Christian parents and their children, would not impart to the latter any sacredness,—that the children of Christians themselves must be regarded as impure and profane, like the heathen. But to such an inference he opposes the views already held among them, that these children were holy,—that they, by virtue of their vital connection with Christian parents, were to be regarded as properly belonging to God’s holy people. And if such a view were tenable, he argues a like result in favor of the unbelieving married parties; that they were similarly sanctified by a collateral union. [Hodge, however, with more correctness, states the argument differently. He says: “The most natural, and hence the most generally adopted view, is this: ‘The children of these mixed marriages are universally acknowledged as holy; that is, as belonging to the Church. If this be correct, as no one disputes, the marriages themselves must be consistent with the laws of God. The unbelieving must be sanctified by the believing partner, otherwise your children would be unclean, i.e., born out of the pale of the Church.’—The principle in question was not a new one, to be then first determined by Christian usage. It was, at least, as old as the Jewish economy, and familiar wherever Jewish laws and the facts of Jewish history were known. Paul circumcised Timothy, whose father was a Greek, while his mother was a Jewess, because he knew that his countrymen regarded circumcision in such cases as obligatory.” Acts 16:1-3. Barnes most unaccountably interprets “unclean” to mean “illegitimate.” Then “holy,” of course, must mean legitimate, contrary to all usage.]—This whole argument militates against, rather than favors the existence of the practice of Infant Baptism at that period. (Comp. Meyer and de Wette, Stud. and Krit., 1830, p. 669ff.; [also Neander, Stanley and Alford in loco). Had such a practice existed, it would be fair to presume, that the Apostle would have alluded to it specifically, in confirmation of his position. Here, most of all, would have been the place to have mentioned it by name, as furnishing ecclesiastical authority for the view he had taken. The fact that he did not mention it, therefore, affords some reason for concluding that the rite did not exist.]—It is another question, however, whether this passage does not furnish an important ground on which to establish the rite of Infant Baptism. According to Jewish notions, the baptism of a female proselyte sufficed for that of her child, which was afterwards born of her, so that this did not then need to be baptized. But so far as baptism is a means of grace, we may infer from this statement of the Apostle, that there was a claim for it on the part of the child, who had been already consecrated to God by virtue of his having been born of Christian parents. That relation to the kingdom of God which is founded on parentage, is sealed through baptism; and the child is set apart in a solemn manner as a partaker of the fulness of grace imparted to the Church. [On the whole subject see John M. Mason’s Works, Vol. IV., pp 373–382, who takes this in direct evidence of Infant Baptism; and also Hodge’s note, who says: “Some modern German writers find in this passage a proof that Infant Baptism was unknown in the Apostolic Church. They say that Paul does not attribute the holiness of children to their parentage; if they were baptized—because their consecration would then be due to that rite, and not to their descent. This is strange reasoning. The truth is, they were baptized, not to make them holy, but because they were holy. The Jewish child was circumcised because he was a Jew, and not to make him one. So Christian children are not made holy by baptism, but they are baptized because they are holy.” See also Hooker, Ec. Pol. Ch. LX.]. Ὑμῶν refers to the Christian parents generally, who in mixed marriages were not excluded. Νῦν δὲ, but now, logical, as in 1 Corinthians 5:11. On ἅγια compare Bengel and Osiander.
1 Corinthians 7:15-16. He here considers the possible alternative.—But if the unbelieving depart—How then?—let him depart.—‘That is his affair; he must be allowed to decide it for himself.’ And in such a case “let the brother or sister be patient, nor let him think that anything ought to be changed which cannot be changed.” Bengel. That which follows, annexed by no connecting particle, confirms this advice.—The brother or the sister is not bound in such cases.—He here assigns the reasons why a divorce should be allowed on the part of the Christian; and the words cannot simply mean: ‘he is not bound to crowd himself upon the other,’ [to insist upon the connection, as in the case where both are Christians (as Photius, Alford, Billroth)]; but they carry the further implication: ‘is not unconditionally bound to the marriage relationship like a slave,’—‘is free.’ Δέδεται, as in 1 Corinthians 7:39 (comp. Osiander). The words ἐν τοῖς τοιοίτοις are either Masc. by such (not, to such) as separate themselves; or which is better, Neut.; under such circumstances (comp. Philippians 4:11; Romans 8:37; John 4:37). “The Apostle only means, that in matters of religious conviction, one person cannot be the slave of another, [that a married Christian person cannot be forced to remain with a heathen consort, if the latter will not allow the exercise of his own religious views. Under such circumstances separation should be allowed; but concerning liberty to marry again, nothing is here said.” Neander.]20—But in peace God hath called us.—This is directly connected with the foregoing, and confirms still further the propriety of the injunction: “let him depart.”—The determination to continue in marriage against the will of the other party, would lead to hatred and strife; and this would be contrary to the peaceful character of the Christian calling.—Ἐν εἰρήνῃ, in peace, i.e., either: ‘to this end, that we may live in peace;’ in which case it would be equivalent to: unto peace [according to our English version] denoting the object of the call;21 or: ‘since he has proclaimed to us the Gospel of peace, the essential effect of which is peace,’—denoting the way and mode of the calling (comp. Ephesians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; Luke 11:11). Fundamentally, both constructions amount to the same thing; and imply that any separation would contravene the spirit of the Divine calling, inasmuch as it would increase existing estrangement and cause new outbreaks. [“Hence it is that the Rabbins, and Maimonides famous among the rest, in a book of his, set forth by Buxtorfius, tells us that ‘divorce was permitted by Moses to preserve peace in marriage, and quiet in the family.’ Milton.] This view corresponds to the whole train of thought, and agrees well with what follows. On the other hand, that view which regards the Apostle as here putting a limitation on the injunction: ‘let him depart,’ introduced adversatively by the particle, δέ, as if he meant to say: ‘a separation, however, ought, if possible, to be avoided,’ is at variance with his line of argument [see below].
The Apostle yet further confirms his advice by obviating a doubt which contained a strong motive for resisting separation in the case supposed, viz.: whether the salvation of the unbelieving party, which might be secured by a continuance of the connection, would not hereby be cut off. This he meets by pointing to the utter uncertainty of the results of any efforts directed to this end.—For what knowest thou, O! woman, whether thou shalt save thy husband.—The meaning is, thou canst have no assurance that thou wilt be the means of saving him. [On the force of the εἰ, see Jelf Vol. II., § 877 B.].—Σώζειν, to save, as in 1 Corinthians 1:18, is used here in a relative sense, q. d., to be the instrument of saving, as 1 Corinthians 9:22; Rom 11:14; 1 Timothy 4:10.—[“This verse is generally understood as stating a ground for remaining united, as 1 Corinthians 7:13, in hope that conversion of the unbelieving party may follow. Thus 1 Corinthians 7:15 is regarded as altogether parenthetical. But 1, this interpretation is harsh, as regards the context, for 1 Corinthians 7:15 is evidently not parenthetical,—and 2, it is hardly admissible grammatically, for, it makes εἰ εἰ μή,—‘What knowest thou, whether thou shalt not save?’ Lyra seems first to have proposed the true rendering, which was afterwards adopted hesitatingly by Estius, and of late decidedly by Meyer, de Wette, and Bisping; viz., that the verse is not a ground for remaining united, in hope, etc., but a ground for consummating a separation, and not marring the Christian’s peace for so uncertain a prospect as that of converting the unbelieving party. Τί οὔδας εἰ thus preserves its strict sense: what knowest thou (about the question) whether, etc.? and the verse coheres with the words immediately preceding, ἐν εἰρήνῃ κἔκληκεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θέος. Those who take εἰ for εἰ μή, attempt to justify it by referring to 2 Samuel 12:22; Joel 2:14; Jonah 3:9, where the LXX. have for Heb. םִי יוֹרֵעַ, τίς οἶδεν εἰ to express hope: but in every one of these passages the verb stands in the emphatic position, and the LXX. used this very expression to signify uncertainty.” Alford. These arguments seem conclusive. They are received also by Billr. and Neander, and are virtually advanced by Kling, in the 1st Ed. President Wolsey, in his very carefully digested articles on Divorce, in the New Englander for Jan., Ap. and July, 1867, which are well worthy of study on this whole subject, says of the attempt to make this a dissuasive against separation: “Logic will not bend to this meaning.” Words., Barnes and Hodge, however, do not admit their force. The latter says, “it is contrary to the whole animus of the Apostle. He is evidently laboring throughout these verses to prevent all unnecessary disruptions of social ties.” No such special pleading, however, is apparent. If there be a point aimed at, it would seem rather to be to put the believer in the highest spiritual condition preparatory to the coming of Christ, that his obligations previously incurred would admit of. And this liberation from the bondage of a heathen partner, ‘who has departed,’ is one of the blessings he secures. Yet it must be added, that while the grammatical argument, and some of the logical bearings, support Kling’s view, the sentiment involved in the other interpretation is thoroughly Scriptural (1 Peter 3:1-2), and is favored by most interpreters because of its gracious tone. Most of the Homiletical and Practical remarks cited in this section proceed upon it.]
Obs. 1. Our passage, especially 1 Corinthians 7:15, forms, as is well known, the Scripture ground for divorce on account of malicious desertion. But the support given is not direct or absolutely reliable. The Apostle is here speaking only of mixed marriages, in which the will of the unbelieving party is the chief thing under consideration. But for purely Christian marriages there is no other ground allowed in Scripture for divorce but adultery or fornication, which is an actual rupture of the marriage tie. The only question therefore is, whether the language of Christ is to be interpreted as giving a law literally and universally obligatory, or only laying down a principle which admits of being applied analogically, so that other circumstances also that are in fact a breaking of the bond, may be taken as furnishing good ground for divorce. In the latter case, malicious desertion would very properly be regarded as one of these circumstances.
Obs. 2. In regard to the phrase, ‘is not under bondage’ (1 Corinthians 7:15), the question arises, whether, according to the intent of the Apostle, a second marriage is allowed or forbidden. The words themselves express neither the one nor the other, and it is altogether arbitrary to supply the clause: ‘but let her remain unmarried,’ from 1 Corinthians 7:11. Rather we may say with Meyer: “Because Paul does not apply our Lord’s prohibition of divorce to mixed marriages, he does not intend also to apply his prohibition of a second marriage in Matthew 5:22 to such cases.”
[“Although a Christian may not put away his wife, being an unbeliever, yet if the wife desert her husband, he may contract a second marriage. Hence even Romish divines declare that in this case marriage is not indissoluble. Thus A. Lapide says here: ‘Observe that the Apostle in this case not only permits divorce of bed (thori divortium), but also of matrimony; so that the believing spouse is at liberty to contract a second marriage. Otherwise a brother or sister would be subject to servitude. And it is a great servitude to be held fast in matrimony, bound to an unbeliever; so that even though the latter desert you, you are not able to marry again, but must contain yourself and lead a single life.’ And in support of this opinion he refers to St. Augustine, de Adulterinis Conjugiis, c. 13 and 19. St. Thomas and Ambrosiast., who says: ‘The respect of a spouse is not due to him who contemns the Author of marriage, but a person is at liberty to unite himself to another.’ ” Words., who singularly contradicts this view in his comments on the next verse].
1 Corinthians 7:17. If not to each one as the Lord hath distributed, each one, as God hath called, so let him walk.—There are two points here in regard to which commentators differ: 1. The connection with what precedes, formed by εἰ μή; 2. The relation of the parallel clauses, beginning with ὡς: as,—whether they express essentially the same idea or different ideas. As it respects the second point, it is clear from what is specified in 1 Corinthians 7:18 ff., that Paul is here speaking of that position in life in which each one finds himself when called to be a Christian. The first of these clauses, then, designates this position as a lot appointed to each one by the Lord [“it is a dramatic metaphor, which will bring to mind a celebrated passage in Hamlet.” Bloomfield]; the second, as a position in which he received his call to salvation. It is to this position that the particles “as” and “so” refer. The two clauses, then, are not tautological. The use of the title ‘Lord,’ in connection with ‘distributeth’ (ἐμέρισε) is somewhat remarkable, since Paul generally employs this title of Christ. From this fact we are to explain the change of place between the two words, ‘the Lord’ and ‘God’ in the received text; since the former would rather be regarded as the subject of the verb ‘call,’ although the act of calling is also frequently referred back to God. This difficulty has led some to regard ‘gifts’ as the implied object of ‘distributed,’ i.e., the higher and Divinely-conferred qualifications for the state and calling of individuals (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:7). Thus Osiander, Bengel, and others. But in 1 Corinthians 7:7, the gift, which would then be treated of here, is referred back to God; and in the exposition which follows, so far from there being any hint of this, one would rather suppose that ‘Lord’ was to be taken as synonymous with ‘God.’ This might be explained on the score of a wish merely to change the form of expression, and of the fact that Paul was here speaking of the act of Lordship. The explanation of Reiche, who refers the words, “as the Lord hath distributed,” to the beneficence of Christ (comp. Meyer, Exodus 3:0), is neither supported by the context nor warranted by the position they occupy before the words, ‘as God hath called.’
In respect to the first point, however, viz: the connection of this verse with the preceding by εἰ μή, it must be confessed that an explanation altogether satisfactory does not exist. If we supply χωρίζεται from 1 Corinthians 7:15, or σώαεις from 1 Corinthians 7:16, then it would have read: εἰ δὲ μή, or εἰ δὲ καὶ μή, and this would be a decided objection, apart from all other considerations arising from the unsuitableness of the idea obtained, viz: ‘but if she should not depart,’ or: ‘if thou dost not save her.’—If, again, we join εἰ μη to what directly precedes, making it mean, or not, this would be both ungrammatical (hence the variation ἤ μή), and would only weaken the force of the question.—If, moreover, we should refer the clause εἰ μή—ὁ κύριος to the preceding words, this would be to rend asunder parallel clauses most unjustifiably, and the consequent explanation, nisi prout guemque Dominus adjuverit, would be both flat and inconsistent with the meaning of the words themselves. To take εἰ μή as equivalent to ἀλλά, is contrary to usage.—If we render the words by: ‘only,’ then there is no suitable connection with the foregoing sentence; for to go back, as de Wette does, to ‘is not bound’ would be a very questionable overleaping of what intervened. But, not to say anything of the fact that it does indeed serve for the confirmation of οὐ δεδούλωται, yet it does not suit, inasmuch as the contents of 1 Corinthians 7:17 would then be put in entire contradiction to the above statement (ου δεδού.). We should then be obliged to supply some phrase like this: ‘in case that condition, viz: the departure of the unbelieving party, does not occur.’ It still remains for us, with Grotius and Meyer, to attach εἰ μή to 1 Corinthians 7:16, in the sense of except, or unless, and to supply οἴδατε, you know, from 1 Corinthians 16:0 : ‘unless ye (know this, your obligation), let every one walk, etc.’ How hard this construction is, every one can perceive; where, instead of going straight on with the words: ‘that it is necessary for us so to walk as God hath called each one,’ we have the abrupt introduction of the imperative form. Besides, there arises also an incongruity between the contents of 1 Corinthians 7:16 and 1 Corinthians 7:17. (See what has been observed above). We prefer here to allow a (philological) non-liquet, and accept Bengel’s translation, which is most in accordance with the course of thought: ‘if this be not so, otherwise (ceteroquin).’ We might, perhaps, take εἰ μή in the sense of if not, and understand it to imply: ‘provided no element comes in to destroy the purpose of the Divine calling’ (1 Corinthians 7:15), as in the case mentioned,—the desertion of the unbelieving party. [Is it not, after all, the simplest method to consider this as resuming the implication of the previous question, and making it the basis of the following injunction, q. d. ‘How knowest thou whether thou wilt convert thy husband? If not, if thou canst not know this fact, then let each one go quietly on his course, as the Lord has marked it out for him in his Providence. If it be to be deserted and left alone, let him accept that destiny, and not fight against it to the aggravation of all difficulties.’ In such a view of the words we have no need of inserting a δέ. We would no more need it in Greek than in English. The argument is here on the rapids, and its flow is far from smooth].
[As to the two clauses, they are, as Kling asserts, by no means tautological, but seem to imply more than he states. In the first, Paul confines himself to the allotment of Providence in the case of desertion. But he at once recollects himself, as standing upon a broad principle, applicable not only to the parties directly in view, and their particular allotments (ἐμέρισεν), but also to all conditions and callings in life (κέκληκε). And here we see the reason why, in the first instance, he uses the term ὁ κύριος, the Lord, evidently referring to Christ. To the deserted one he intimates that it is the dear Saviour after all that rules in the lot, and it is not contrary to his or her salvation. It is a touch of tenderness. But when at once his view expands to all vocations and conditions of humanity, he uses the more seemingly universal epithet, God (ὀ θέος). And then it was natural for him to add]—and so I ordain in all churches.—He here shows the great breadth of the principle he enjoined, and the emphasis he put upon it. It was nothing framed for the case of the Corinthians alone, but ran through all his teachings. Hence, they were the more bound to abide by it. Each one every where was to continue walking (περιπατεῖν) in that course of life, and in that outward state, where Christianity found him. This thought afterwards is more definitely expressed by μένειν. “Here we learn the general fact that Christianity does not disturb existing relations, so far as they are not sinful, but only aims to infuse into them a new spirit. Hence, it opposes every thing revolutionary.” Neander.
1 Corinthians 7:18-19. Has any man been called who has been circumcised?—In illustrating his general precept, he takes into consideration, first, the religious position of the individual, with its outward token showing whether he was a Jew or not when making a profession of Christianity. In the one case, as little as in the other, does he approve of a change being attempted; because nothing at all depended upon these external signs, but every thing (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:7) upon the keeping of God’s commandments (comp. Romans 2:25 ff.),—upon the faith which works by love (Galatians 5:6). In opposition to the externality of such self-chosen God-service he insists upon the moral character—the obedience that involves faith (comp. 1 John 3:23) as that which alone has or imparts value for the kingdom of God (comp. Calvin and Osiander). In 1 Corinthians 7:18, as also afterwards in 1 Corinthians 7:21, some take the clauses to be questions; others as hypothetical statements. The latter is the more emphatic. Yet we might also regard them as direct assertions, as for example: “There is one who has been called, etc., let him not become uncircumcised.” The word ἐπισπᾶσθαι denotes the drawing of the prepuce again over the glands—its artificial restoration which was effected by a surgical operation. This was often practised by the Jews of a later time, both when they lapsed into paganism, and when, from shame or fear of the heathen, in times of persecution, they wished to hide their nationality, and, also, when they appeared naked as combatants in public sports (comp. 1Ma 1:15; Josephus Antiq. xii. 5, 1; and Sübkert Stud. and Crit., 1835, p. 657 ff.). Such were called סְשׁרּ כִים, recutiti. A like measure must have been resorted to by the Corinthian Jewish converts, who wished not to be behind the converts from heathenism in their entire abandonment of the law, and who, therefore, wished to wipe out all trace of Judaism from their persons.—Was any one called in uncircumcision—ἐν , as in Romans 4:10 (comp. Acts 15:1). The desire of the heathen converts to become circumcised we are to regard as a Jewish reaction against all such Hellenism. Both 1 Corinthians 7:18-19 are asyndetic by way of giving life and emphasis to the style.—Let him not be circumcised. The circumcision is nothing, and the uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping of the commandments of God.—[Supply: ‘that, indeed, is something, yea, everything.’ “In this, as in the two exactly parallel passages, Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15, the first clause is the same. ‘Circumcision availeth nothing, nor uncircumcision;’ thus asserting the two sides of the Apostle’s principle of indifference to the greatest of the Jewish ceremonies, exemplified in his conduct by the circumcision of Timotheus on the one hand, and by the refusal to circumcise Titus on the other. The peculiar excellence of the maxim is its declaration, that those who maintain the absolute necessity of rejecting forms, are as much opposed to the freedom of the Gospel, as those who maintain the absolute necessity of retaining them. In contradistinction to this positive or negative ceremonialism, he gives, in the several clauses of each of these texts, his description of what he maintains to be really essential. The variation of the three passages thus become valuable, as exhibiting in their several forms the Apostle’s view of the essentials of Christianity—‘Keeping the commandments of God,’ ‘Faith working by love,’ ‘A new creature.’ These describe the same threefold aspect of Christianity with regard to man, which, in speaking of God, is described under the names of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. In this passage, where man is viewed chiefly in his relation to the natural order of the world, the point which the Apostle wished to impress upon his hearers was, that in whatever station of life they were, it was still possible to observe the ‘commandments of God’ (perhaps with an implied reference to the two great commandments, Matthew 22:36-39). In the two passages in the Epistle to the Galatians (1 Corinthians 7:6; 1 Corinthians 6:15), the more distinct reference to faith in Christ, and to the new creation wrought by His Spirit, is brought out by the more earnest and impassioned character of the argument.” Stanley].
1 Corinthians 7:20-22. Each one in the calling in which he is called, in this let him abide.—Paul here goes back to his general rule, thus finishing up the special application in 1 Corinthians 7:18, and introducing another illustration. The demonstrative, ‘in this,’ comes in by way of emphasis. The κλῆσις, however, does not denote vocation, a position in life determined by the Divine Providence; for it nowhere else occurs with this meaning. (In Dion. H. the word κλήσεις is used to denote the distinctions among the citizens at Rome, i. e., classes, which, however, does not mean the same thing). Rather we might say, with Bengel, that it denotes “the state in which the Divine calling finds one, which is instar vocationis: as a calling.” [“As he was called, so let him remain.” Robinson]. But as applied, usage is against it. In the New Testament κλῆσις is uniformly used to denote the calling or invitation unto God’s Kingdom. This goes out broadly to all men, of every condition in life, addressing them as they are. It says, ‘thou circumcised one, thou uncircumcised, thou slave, thou freeman, believe on the Lord Jesus!’ It takes the man, therefore, as he is, in his own peculiar position in society, and in this way designates this position as compatible with Christianity, and capable of being sanctified by it. Hence, no surrender of it is required. On the contrary, the injunction is to abide therein. So we at last reach the above-mentioned sense of the word, but not in such a way as to imply that κλῆσις carries in itself this signification of a peculiar vocation. [Of course the injunction here given is supposed to be limited by the obvious consideration that there is nothing in the person’s condition which is inconsistent with the Divine vocation. If there be, a change will be necessitated.]—As a slave art thou called.—After specifying in 1 Corinthians 7:18 the religious distinction, which divided the entire human race at that time in respect to its outward token, and pronouncing it indifferent in relation to the kingdom of God, he comes now to the great distinction that existed in social life,—that between slaves and freemen, and affirms that a position of servitude even is by no means inconsistent with that of a Christian, and, therefore, that the slave, who becomes a believer, need not be troubled about changing his outward state.—Let it not concern you—i.e., as though you, in this external bondage, could not, as a Christian, and as a freeman, pray or serve God; and must be curtailed of your Christian rights.—But if also thou art able to become free, use it rather,—ἀλλἀ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ελεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. The meaning here is much disputed. Some supplement χρῆσαι with τῇ ἐλευθερία, from ελεύθερος, take ἀλλά as equivalent to: ‘but’ (aber), and attach καὶ, not to the whole sentence, but to ελεύθερος, and translate: ‘but if thou mayest in any way also become free, use this freedom rather.’ But against this it is justly objected: 1. that καὶ ought in that case to stand before ελεύθερος, and 2. that what immediately precedes and what follows (1 Corinthians 7:22), as well as the scope of the whole clause, does not indicate that he is exhorting the slave to seek a change in condition. Rather the whole drift of the argument is the other way—to make men content with their lot, and so favors the other explanation, that which regards ἀλλά as equivalent to: sondern, on the contrary, and εἰ καί to mean: even though, and makes the being called as a slave, the object of χρῆσαι; and then translates: ‘but even though thou mayest be made free, use your servitude rather, [as a means of discipline, and an opportunity for glorifying God by showing fidelity therein]. It may be said, indeed, that this conflicts with the general spirit of the Apostle. But in opposition to this Meyer justly observes: that the advice to improve opportunities for becoming free, which was rendered unimportant and trivial by the anticipation of the speedy advent of Christ, was, on the other hand, by no means incompatible with the exalted idea of Paul, that all men were one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), and that in Christ the slave was free, and the freeman was a slave (1 Corinthians 7:22). Compare also Bengel (who adds explanatorily: for he, who might become free, has a kind master, whom it were better to serve than to seek other avocations, 1 Timothy 6:2, comp. 1 Corinthians 7:22 : and sets aside the apparent contradiction between this and 1 Corinthians 7:23, by saying: it is not said then, ‘be not,’ but ‘become not the servants of men’), and Osiander, who, in the end, observes, that the severity of the advice becomes moderated by the consideration of the very tolerable condition of slaves in the civilized States of Greece, where, in many respects, they enjoyed the protection of law, and the masters did not have the power of life and death over them. “The question assumes a different aspect altogether in the slave States of North America; for there the slaves are prevented from becoming Christians, and in this way good care is taken that the fundamental principles respecting the position of Christian slaves cannot come into application. And this is one of the most frightful violations of Christian principle.” Burger. [Thank God! we can put this into the past tense now].22
for the slave who was called in the Lord is a freeman of the Lord, in like manner he who was called as a freeman is a slave of Christ.—The advice just given, is here sustained by a general truth, and the person who was called as a slave is comforted in respect to his condition. The Apostle shows how the converted slave must estimate his relation to Christ, viz., as swallowing up all the evils of his earthly lot, and conferring on him a blessed emancipation; and how the freeman has to regard his relation to Christ, viz., as one that puts him under obligations to obey. Mark the connection between the phrases ‘in the Lord’ and ‘of the Lord.’—By ‘called in the Lord,’ he signifies either, that which the calling involves, i.e., to be in Christ; or, what is simpler, the Being in whom the call is grounded. Or it may even denote the sphere in which the calling is to be fulfilled—the element in which the person called is to live. Hence it may be equivalent to: has become a Christian.—In the expression: ‘the Lord’s freeman,’ the Lord will, of course, not be understood as the person who had liberated the individual in question from His own service; since it was in Satan’s service that he was previously bound, but as the one to whom he belonged in consequence of his liberation from the yoke of the other, and for which he was under deep obligations to his deliverer. Yet he belongs to Christ, not as a slave, but as a freeman, since in the sphere of Christ there is liberty (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:17; John 8:32; John 8:36); there all slavery is done away, and the persons so liberated become His possession.—Of course the freedom here spoken of is moral and religious freedom—deliverance from the bonds of guilt, and from the power of sin; just as in the antithesis, the servitude meant is a state of moral and religious obligation to Christ—of absolute inward dependence on His grace and will. The points here contrasted belong together, as complements of each other (comp. Romans 6:16 if.). “Hence the distinction between master and slave is here virtually obliterated. To be the Lord’s freeman, and to be the Lord’s slave, are the same thing. The Lord’s freeman is one whom the Lord has redeemed from Satan, and made His own; and the Lord’s slave is also one whom Christ has purchased for Himself. So that master and slave stand on the same level before Christ. Comp. Ephesians 6:9.” Hodge.]
1 Corinthians 7:23-24. Ye were bought with a price.—The thought of belonging to Christ leads to the ground of this relation, viz., the purchase of the believer by Him (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:20).—From this the exhortation follows, not to be faithless to the obligation thus imposed, by coming under servitude to men.—become not the servants of men.—As the transition to the plural shows, he is here addressing the Corinthians at large. What he dissuades them from, is not simply men-pleasing in general, and compliance with their immoral demands; nor yet undue attachment to human guides; but rather such a subserviency to popular opinion as would cause them to seek a change in their external social position (so Fritzsche and Meyer). Paul is here showing the Christian slaves a trace of freedom, even under their outward yoke. The slaves who are obedient to their masters for the Lord’s sake (1 Peter 2:13, belong in truth to no man. Hence, no Christian, dearly purchased and called from sin, death and the devil, to true liberty, should make himself so dependent on man, as to imagine that he was not really free, even though he had a master over him (Besser).—Less in accordance with the immediate connection Osiander says: “No one should abrogate his true freedom, or his true subjection, by sacrificing his faith to unbelieving masters or companions.” To suppose a reference here to slaves, implying that they should not serve men merely (Ephesians 6:6); or to freemen, that they should not dispose of their liberty;23 or, which would be better, that they should not become morally subject to men, is unwarranted.—The whole digression from 1 Corinthians 7:17 [entered upon by way of illustration], he concludes with an exhortation essentially the same as in 1 Corinthians 7:20.—Wherein each one was called, brethren, in that let him remain with God,—Here also the emphasis is on the words “in that” (ἐν τούτω); and its antecedent denotes that relation in life which a person occupied when called. The adjunct ‘with God’ (παρὰ θεῷ) is somewhat peculiar. It may mean: directing his mind towards God as in His presence (=ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεον͂); or: as in God’s sight, tanquam in spectante Deo, (Grotius); (comp. Psalms 23:2; Ephesians 6:6), or: in communion with God. The injunction would then be: ‘let every one continue in his original condition and relations; and yet so conduct his affairs as not to disturb his fellowship with God in them.’ The last interpretation is undoubtedly to be preferred as introducing a new thought more definitely, and such a one too as refers that which is hinted at in 1 Corinthians 7:23, to its proper connection with the absolute principle of Christian life. [“To live near to God is, therefore, the Apostle’s prescription both for peace and holiness.” Hodge.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Christianity as the absolute religion is distinguished by the fact, that it takes up into its own sphere every legitimate occupation or function in life; and either ennobles it by its sanctifying power, or allows it as something indifferent, so far as its spiritual work is concerned. The contrasts in religion between Jews and Heathen, externally symbolized by circumcision and uncircumcision, vanish in the Christian sphere; there the only thing which is held valid and imparts value, is the entering of man, with his entire personality, into holy covenant with God. This takes place by faith—faith which works by love; so that the uncircumcised, who is thus found in faith, is like to the circumcised, who in like manner believes. Hence, neither the one nor the other has any reason for passing out from his own state into that of the other; as though circumcision, the token of bondage to the law, were unworthy of a Christian who has been freed from the law; or as though uncircumcision, the sign of a position outside the covenant and promise, were a hinderance to a participation in the same.—The contrasts also of civil life, such as those which exist between the slave and the free, likewise vanish, so far as it respects the inward life. The slave, as be longing to Christ, is a freeman, bound only inwardly to Christ, whom he serves in everything which he has either to do or suffer in his position; since he does and suffers everything for His sake, or because it is the will of his Lord that he should do and suffer that which his position involves, and thus should honor Him, and prove that communion with Christ makes a servant faithful and zealous. On the other hand, the freeman, as a Christian, is bound to Christ; his acts proceed not from caprice, but in constant subjection to Christ’s will. As a person who is outwardly dependent on another, is a freeman when in communion with Christ, since in his devotion to Christ, all dependence upon other men is done away; so is the person who is outwardly independent of another, made a servant by his connection with Christ, since in his entire dependence on Christ, all arbitrariness, arising from his outward independence, is removed. Thus are both essentially alike; and the slave has no reason to strive after a change of his external position, as if his dignity as a free Christian man were conditioned upon it.
It is altogether another thing, however, when within the limits of Christendom a mighty irrepressible reaction arises against slaveholding, on the part of such as wish to be Christians, and to be counted a part of Christendom. For men who are destined one day to have part in Christ, the Son of Man, the Saviour of all (even though they have not as yet any actual part in Him), are even, on this account, bound to have their personality respected, and are not to be treated always as chattels. It is inconsistent, therefore, with the spirit of Christianity, for such as pass for Christians, to presume on perpetuating bondage; and Christendom ought not to rest until it has wiped out this stain. For such has been the tendency of the Gospel from the beginning. Ever since the first centuries, in proportion as Christianity has gained the ascendency, has it operated more and more to put an end to slavery.
2. Christian Freedom.—There is something great in the freedom of a Christian, into which he has been lifted by faith—a freedom wherein he is freed from all things, and is independent of all, and yet, through love, is the servant of all. (See Luther’s remarkable treatise, which has this title). In that faith, which apprehends the eternal word of God, and beholds the unseen and future world disclosed therein, he acquires the pilgrim sense, which looks on the fashion of this world as passing away, and keeps from all entanglement in its business, in its connections and possessions, in its use and enjoyment; nor allows himself to be captivated by it. Yet, on the other hand, so long as he is outwardly occupied with it, he overlooks or neglects nothing; but rather bestows upon it all requisite duty, care, and oversight; attending to it, while he stands inwardly about it. His chief occupation, viz: his care for the kingdom of God and for a participation in it, he in no way suffers to be disturbed; and, for the sake of the highest good, he is always ready to sacrifice everything else, however dear; indeed, in all his having, and holding, and using, he is intent only upon how he can serve the Lord, further His ends, prove himself to be His follower, and do every thing in His name and to his honor (1 Chronicles 3:17; 1 Chronicles 3:171 Chronicles 3:17).—So also in marriage he aims at the same thing, by his tender solicitude for his wife, by pious domestic discipline, by acquisition of a livelihood, by skill and fidelity in the use and enjoyment of temporal goods, by moderation, beneficence, etc. The same holds good, also, of joy and sorrow, and of the various experiences arising from the vicissitudes of life. In this also does the Christian maintain his inward freedom. Not that he is devoid of feeling—not that he affects a stoical apathy; rather, in the midst of deep emotions, his aim is to preserve a mastery over self, and keep composed in God; so that joy ever resolves itself into filial gratitude; and pain, into filial resignation; he is enthralled by no affections, he is carried away by no passionate desires.
[3. Importance of unity of religious faith in married life.—According to its true ideal, marriage is the union of a man and woman in their entire personalities, and for their entire earthly existence. Being mutual complements of each other, they combine to form a larger and complex whole; “for they are no more twain but one flesh.” But in order to the perfection and harmony of this union, and for the fulfilment of ends for which it was instituted, it is necessary that there be a prevailing fellowship in thought and feeling, in ends and aims, in interests and pursuits, not only in respect to their natural, but also in respect to their spiritual life. Thus only can their influence on each other be kindly, and they prove mutual helpers in joy and sorrow, in cares and labors; thus only can they properly contribute to the happy development of each other’s character, and suitably coöperate for the training of their children and management of their household; thus only can that good be realized, in all its fulness, which was contemplated when it was ordained that ‘man should not live alone.’
It follows, therefore, that precisely to the extent that the fellowship above spoken of fails, there will be a lack of sympathy and coöperation, and occasion furnished for alienation, strife and separation. The perfect oneness of the flesh is in danger of being interrupted and broken, when there is not also oneness of spirit. And to such evil and bitter consequences do those Christians expose themselves who become voluntarily allied in marriage to the children of this world. Supposing their faith sincere, the bond which unites them to their partners can only be the lower one of the natural life. In all their deeper experiences, in all their more important hopes and aims, there is essential and irreconcilable antagonism. “For what fellowship hath ighteousness with unrighteousness? and what Communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” Harmony, in such cases, can be preserved only by “agreement to disagree,” or by an inconsistent and irksome compliance of each with the wishes of the other in the greater part of those pursuits and pleasures which involve their common action. And when there is not in the worldling a conviction of the superior worth of religion, and a considerate affection, which tolerates what it cannot share in, the effect upon the religious life of the other can only be disastrous. Instead of that kindly sympathy and furtherance so needful to the cultivation of piety, there is perpetual obstruction interposed in the way of every higher duty. Household religion becomes impossible. And so also the religious instruction and training which the Christian parent would exercise upon the children, is neutralized by the irreligious example of the other.
For such evil results there can be no responsibility incurred when conversion has taken place after marriage. But those who have voluntarily hazarded them under earthly inducements must bear the burden of the blame and take the consequences, as the penalty for consenting to be unequally yoked, contrary to the very nature of the marriage rite. For the Christian the condition of a blessed marriage is, “in the Lord.” This is at once highest reason and Divine precept].
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
[1 Corinthians 7:12-24. This section shows 1. the method in which Christianity entered into, and revolutionized human society. 1. It assailed no existing social institutions from without; marriages, callings, conditions were to remain as they were. 2. It wrought from within, sanctifying and ennobling the individual character. 3. It employed the existing bonds of society, as conductors through which to diffuse its saving power—sanctifying wives through husbands, and husbands through wives; children through parents, and parents through children, and even servants through masters, and masters through servants. 4. It aimed at the preservation of peace, as far as possible, in consistency with being in God. 5. It ignored outward distinctions—counting the external condition as of little moment, in comparison with the inward state. 7. It begot contentment with the outward estate, by imparting a blessing which more than counterbalanced all earthly ill. 8. It reconciled the opposite poles of human condition, freedom and obligation in the love it engendered, making the slave a freeman, and putting the freeman under obligations to serve, and making all alike free, and alike obligated. And 9. It placed all in the presence of God, in whose sight it constrained believers to live; whose honor it urged all to subserve; and from whom it invited all to derive their chief good. II. The true mode of preaching the Gospel. It Isaiah 1:0, to bring the individual to believe in, love and serve the Lord; 2, to teach him how to improve the circumstances of his condition to the discipline and improvement of his character; 3, to show him how he is to make the very evils that press upon him a means for illustrating the greater power of the Gospel, and for promoting the glory of God.]
Starke (Hedinger):—1. To the pure all things are pure (Titus 1:15). As it does not injure a pious man to dwell under godless rulers, so also does it not injure a believer to dwell with a heathen wife, [i.e., in case he finds himself living with her when called, and she consent to dwell with him without interfering with his religious oligations], 2. Where married people profess one Christ and one Gospel, and yet, one party, if not both, cleave to the world, there is then certainly an occasion for exercising patience and charity, 1 Corinthians 7:12-13. And 3. If one of the married parties is a believer, then is the other party sanctified by the communion of the marriage state, and the children are holy in virtue of that gracious covenant which God has instituted with believers and their seed. Genesis 12:7. Genesis 12:4. A pious partner may be able to win and convert his irreligious companion, by means of the word, prayer, and Christian conversation. (1 Peter 3:14). 5. If one of the married parties becomes faithless, and withdraws from his covenant, and can be recovered by no instrumentality, then is the other party free, and the Church authorities themselves declare him free, 1 Corinthians 7:15. 1 Corinthians 7:6. It is not enough that married, people should hold together in friendship and in earthly communion, but each ought to assist in promoting the salvation of the other, 1 Corinthians 7:16. Starke:—Since one condition and calling is in itself the same as another before God, it becomes every one to be content with ‘whatsoever state he is in.’ 1 Corinthians 7:17.—We must forget what we were before we belonged to Jesus, and think only of how we may sanctify our hearts for Him now.—In Christ no regard is paid to external conditions, whether it be for honor or contempt. Outward circumstances pass for nothing before God; they neither hinder nor help in the matter of our eternal salvation. Acts 10:34. God is no respecter of persons. 1 Corinthians 7:18-19. It is a glorious proof of the prëeminence of Christianity, that it adapts itself to all nations, communities, ages and conditions in life, and is to them what salt and seasoning is to our food. 1 Corinthians 7:20.—Thou poor man! art thou doomed to live in servitude and oppression; be of good comfort! Thou mayest yet please God, and attain to everlasting liberty (Ephesians 6:8). 1 Corinthians 7:21.—To be a servant in the eyes of the world, and a freeman in Christ before God, is honor, comfort, and blessedness enough. Galatians 3:26; Galatians 3:28. Hast thou been made free, abuse not thy freedom for a cover to iniquity. (1 Peter 2:16); but serve thy Lord, Christ, in righteousness and true holiness (Titus 2:14). 1 Corinthians 7:22.—Away with all lords and masters, who are opposed to Christ,—Gratefully should we estimate the great benefit of freedom of conscience which we have in the Evangelical Church, and improve it all the more worthily, Philippians 1:27. 1 Corinthians 7:23.—Although one vocation in life may be subject to more temptations than another, yet every one nevertheless stands under the providence of God; and if sufficient care be taken, we can remain with God in all. So, then, this remaining with God in every calling should be the first thing sought for and practised. 1 Peter 1:15, 1 Corinthians 7:24.
Berlenb. Bib.:—When married to a heathen, or an infidel, a Christian ought simply and earnestly to consider the providence of God herein, and not cut himself loose arbitrarily. Rather he should regard and improve such a state as a happy opportunity for exercising the spirit of Christ; and to this end he should pray for this spirit, and endeavor to convince and win the unconverted spouse at least by his good conduct alone, if by nothing else.—Thou art not at liberty to refrain from any possible means for effecting, at least preparatorily or initiatively, the conversion of thy associate. Since we all belong to each other, God uses all conditions and occasions for sanctifying one person through another. God desires, therefore, that we all aim at this point. This is a sacred thing in His sight. Therefore our conditions and circumstances are wisely ordered with reference to this end.—The children are holy. By prayer they are taken from Satan and consecrated to God as their rightful Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:12-14.—Liberty should be enjoyed with a readiness to suffer if need be; then it is good, and one can accept it. This is better than arbitrarily to consent to be a slave.—God does not begrudge us peace. But, at all events, we are not to think of our own trials, but to look to the sanctification of the other.—Suffering comes from sin. If a way, however, is open to a better condition, let a person improve it. Not that we should shrink from necessity and privation; but if God shows a way of escape, let us escape; and then be prepared to suffer again, if God will.—Where God appoints, there I abide in peace. But peace is often lost, simply because people are not prepared for all circumstances. 1 Corinthians 7:16.—Each one has his own duties. Hence we are not to look upon others. Be thou only true on thy part. God wills not that any should perish; but, in the apportionment of other matters, we must concede to Him His absolute right.—Each one stands under the providence of God, and as that eye leads, so let each one walk suitably to his calling, and do nothing in and of himself. Let no one undertake anything which he is not certain in his own conscience that God would have him do. Only on such terms can a man be sure of God’s blessing.—In spiritual matters we should faithfully follow the promptings of the Spirit of God. But in externals, the Gospel as little requires us to imitate the ways of others, however innocent, as it allows others to enforce their ways upon us. All arbitrariness is hereby cut off; and our conduct exhibits all suitable obedience to God, industry and fidelity, submission and patience,—in short the whole round of Christian duty towards God, our neighbor and ourselves.—On such righteous behaviour in our calling, our well-being for time and eternity depends. Not that we become blessed through such external performances, but our mode of life is so closely connected with the spiritual state of our souls, that the one cannot exist aright without the other. He, who in external matters lives disorderly, falsely and iniquitously, cannot possibly remain sound and honest within. He who, on the contrary, is in heart well ordered, governed and protected by God, can also conduct himself rightly in external things.—Inward perfection consists in following one’s gifts.—Outward perfection consists in discharging one’s own obligations in such conditions and callings as God has placed us in. 1 Corinthians 7:17.—Men often gladly pass by the essential commands of God, and take up some incidental matters as the main objects of their regard (comp. Matthew 23:23); but Paul says: ‘nothing is as you, apprehend it.’—But to perform the will of God—to be obedient to His light, and Spirit, and word—this is of consequence; and the new creature in Jesus Christ is every thing (Galatians 6:15), 1 Corinthians 7:11.—Most men make themselves servants to each other; but O! let each man recognize the greatness of his own soul, and what it has cost. It has cost the blood and life of God, which is more than all the world,—yea, hundred thousand worlds. And yet, oftentimes, this soul, so great, so noble, is sold for a trilling enjoyment—a little piece of foolery,—All those, who in any respect act upon Christ, their true pattern, have passed into the imagination and thoughts of men, and so have become their servants. But so far as thou art a servant of men in any other sense, thou withholdest from God His due. The Lord tolerates no rivals: He also needs no vicegerent, nor anything of the sort. He is alone, and there is no second. His honor He will give to no other. (Is. 12:8). He is the bridegroom, and to Him only the bride shall listen. He is the Lord, and to Him only shall men hearken, 1 Corinthians 7:23.—So great is the value put upon the immortal soul, that God takes upon Himself the labor and the care of it, calls each one especially out of His own free grace, and appoints certain ways and methods, in which each one may and should pass his life on earth beneficially and well. For this also he furnishes all the means requisite, and wisely ordains the result; and everything which He gives into our hands, He sanctifies to our use, if we will but follow Him. But each one must be certain of his calling; and in this calling let him remain and improve his gifts to the general good. Let us adorn the place to which God has appointed us, so that everything may stand and go on well in His house.—Our calling and its use must be sanctified by remaining with God and in His presence. Apart from this, our calling is subject to a curse, although in itself it were never so proper and promising. Each one must learn to look upon his state and calling wisely, and remember how it has become corrupt in and through the fall, and how the best things in life also have become vitiated by a will alienated from God, and how much that is impure cleaves to most of the modes of life, and now all such things continue only under the forbearance of a holy and merciful Creator. Bethink thyself, accordingly, how humbly and worshipfully thou hast to live in thy station before God. The blessing to spring from it must be sought from God and in communion with Him. What comes from God is good, and can also transpire in the name of God.—Faith is quiet communing with God; and while it is nothing pusillanimous, neither is it at the same time audacious. It is God in us.—Were we always calm in that position where we happened to be, and only sought to fulfil these, the ordinary duties of a true Christian satisfactorily, this would be the best thing for us, and the most acceptable to God.—There is no station in which one cannot attain to blessedness—in which he may not live in God and abide in Him; and this we can do through love—an affection which we may cherish in all circumstances. 1 John 4:16. Everything then turns on this, that each in his own station abide with God and keep near to Him. 1 Corinthians 7:24.
1 Corinthians 7:20-21. If God has not allowed thine external circumstances to hinder His bringing to thee His heavenly calling, and to advance thee thereby to the glorious possession of our Lord Jesus Christ, suffer thou not such circumstances to hinder thee from walking worthily in the Gospel, but regard thy station in life as a most favorable opportunity for serving the will of God in thy day and generation. Do not defer the inward duty, viz., obedience to the heavenly calling, because of some external circumstance. Think not to effect this or that change first, but in whatever circumstances God summons thee, and deems thee worthy of His calling, in those be assured that He will bring thee successfully through. Everything turns on the amount of light a person has from the Lord, to enable hint to fulfil his vocation conscientiously, and to make it tolerable also for himself. God does not advise us to change our external condition, but to change our hearts. But if any mode of life can be spent with God, and is the light of His presence, let a person therein abide with God.
1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:24. 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 forthwith 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, 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.]
C.—Apostolic counsel in reference to remaining single; a. for the unmarried generally, b. for maidens and their fathers, c. for widows
1 Corinthians 7:25-40
25Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. 26I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man [person, ἀνθρωπῳ,] so to be. 27Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 28But and if thou marry, [But if also thou mayest have married]24 thou best not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Neverthe less such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. 29But this I say, brethren, the time [henceforth] is short [narrowed down]: it remaineth,25 [omit, it remaineth, insert, in order] that both they that have wives be as though they had none; 30And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; 31and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world,26 as not abusing [overusing] it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. 32But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, and how he may please27 the Lord: 33But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, and how he may please4 his wife. 34There is difference also between a wife and a virgin.28 The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35And this I speak for your own profit;29 not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.30 36But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. 37Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast in his31 heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep32 [in order to keep] his virgin, doeth33 well. 38So then he that giveth her in marriage34 doeth well; but35 he that giveth her not in marriage doeth10 better. 39The wife is bound by the law36 [omit, the law] as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, [sleep, κοιμηθῇ] she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 40But she is happier [more blessed] if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also [om. also] hat I [also] have the Spirit of God.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1 Corinthians 7:25-28. But now concerning virgins.—In what follows Paul speaks indeed of unmarried men also, but it by no means follows from this that the word παρθένος, virgin, should be extended to both sexes.37 This would not suit with New Testament usage, for in Revelation 14:4, it stands only as a predicate, and describes a state; [Hodge, on the contrary.].—Virgins, properly so-called, are the ones to whom his counsel here applies. Yet a reference to other unmarried persons is also involved. Schott (in his studies upon the Epistles to the Corinthians, Luth. Zeit. 1861–4) supposes him to denote such single persons of both sexes as had chosen the celibate state to serve the Lord in, whether as Deacons or Deaconesses, or in the free exercise of their gifts; [similarly Bengel, Olsh. But Meyer, et al., limit the designation to the female sex.] The δέ indicates an advance in the discussion, which now returns from its digression to its proper theme, and contemplates the same in a new aspect.—I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give my judgment.—Ἐπιταγή, commandment, just as in 1 Corinthians 7:10. “We see here how important it was, in the view of the Apostle, to distinguish the positive commands of the Lord, from all others. This care of his presupposes with great probability the existence at that time of not merely an oral, but also a written tradition of the discourses of our Lord. Hero we have a sure fixed point against the theory of the mythical origin of the Gospels.” Neander. [“This passage has furnished the two words γνώμη and επιταγη, which the Vulgate translates “consilium” and “præceptum,” advice and command—the origin of the famous distinction of later times, between ‘counsels of perfection’ and ‘precepts.’ In this passage the distinction lies only in the fact that one was a command of Christ, and the other his own opinion, although pronounced with Apostolical authority.” Stanley.] Respecting γνώμη consult on 1 Corinthians 1:10. Here it means, best judgment, advice, counsel, (as in 1 Corinthians 7:6, συχγνώμη). But this advice he presents as something important and worthy of consideration, by adding—as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.—In this he, on the one hand, brings to view his Apostolic authority, showing that he is worthy of reliance, and that what he advised was something which ought to be accepted as agreeable to the mind of the Lord, even though it may not have been credibly handed down in any express precept of His, according to the saying of Christ, “Whosoever heareth you heareth me.” But, on the other hand, he speaks as in 2 Corinthians 4:1, in all humility giving honor to the grace of Christ, who had lifted him out of the depths of misery into this Apostolic office, and had given him the Spirit of truth, and had so revealed to him his own mind, that the advice he gave should merit perfect confidence (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:40).—Πιστός, as in 1 Timothy 1:12; 1 Timothy 1:15, Revelation 1:5, not exactly in the sense of believing. (Olst., Meyer, de Wette), nor yet precisely as true (Billr. and Rückert), but, faithful [as a steward, and dispenser of the hidden things of God. Winer, sec. 1 Corinthians 4:2; and so Stanley. Bloom field says: “as one worthy of credit,” referring to 1 Thessalonians 2:4. “Faith makes a true casuist.” Bengel].—In 1 Corinthians 7:26 ff., he gives his advice, first, in reference to the unmarried in general, and comes to speak of virgins in particular, not until 1 Corinthians 7:36. The judgment is then introduced with a modest νομίζω [“which seldom, if ever, denotes in Scripture an absolute authority or decree, but a matter of opinion or private judgment, Matthew 5:17; Matthew 10:34; Matthew 20:10; Luke 2:44; 1 Timothy 6:5, etc.” Bloomfield].—I suppose, therefore, this to be good on account of the present distress, that it is good for a person so to be.—i.e., unmarried. [Perhaps better, οὕτως, so i.e., as he is, married or single. This better suits the context; and the other is too far-fetched]. From the infinitive construction, he passes over into that, with ὁίυ, to which he might have been prompted by the subject of the clause, τὸ οὕτως εῖναι, so that we need not assume, with Meyer and others, an anacoluthon here. [Yet it is very like one, and is so regarded by Alford and Stanley]. De Wette renders ὅτι, because, and τοῦτο, as referring to the being unmarried; and makes the sense: ‘because it is, in general, good for men to be unmarried;’ but here, he inserts the words: ‘in general,’ and his explanation by no means tallies with the clause: ‘on account of the present distress:’—Κάλλον here designates that which is fitting, or advantageous, as may be seen in the ground alleged. [Ανθῤώπῳ—general term, including females, and might be rendered person]. By “the present distress,” he means either some then urgent necessity,—according to some, the famine under Claudius, according to others, marital cares and sufferings (?), and, according to others, the oppressions and persecutions of Christians, according to Mœhler, the eradication of the sexual impulse in marriage; or it were better to understand by it some impending catastrophe just on the point of occurring,—it may be the fearful crisis and bitter conflicts just preceding the coming, of Christ (dolores Messiæ) which was anticipated as near. [So Alford and Stanley (comp. Matthew 24:8; Matthew 24:19; Matthew 24:21). At all events, the reference must be to something extraordinary. This is implied in the epithet ‘present.’ And it is nothing more than “a Popish perversion,” as Bloomfield says, “to change this from a special to a general admonition”]. This ground avails naturally also for the explanatory clause,—Hast thou been bound to a wife? do not seek a separation. Hast thou been loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.—In the latter clause, his advice to single persons already introduced by ἀνθρώπω, in a general way, is more plainly brought out. This appears in the form of a contrast, as repeating the injunction of 1 Corinthians 7:11, evidently for the sake of avoiding a misconstruction by opposers, of what had been previously said. [So Meyer and de Wette; but Alford more plausibly questions this, and takes the conjunction to be simply explanatory of his ‘so to be’]. Here also, as in 1 Corinthians 7:18; 1 Corinthians 7:21, various grammatical constructions are possible. It is best to regard the introductory clauses as either hypothetical or declarative: “If thou art bound, then,” etc.; or: “Thou art bound, seek not,” etc., the sense is the same. The γυναικί stands as in Romans 7:2, ἀνδρί: Dative of communion.—Δέλυσαί, ‘hast thou been loosed?’ implies primarily the dissolution of a connection before existing, whether by death, or otherwise. [If this be insisted on, the subsequent injunction of the Apostle must then be interpreted of a second marriage]. But in this connection the simple fact of being free or unmarried, in general is meant; and the expression is introduced simply for the sake of harmonizing with δέδεσαι, hast thou been bound? [so Alford; and Bengel, who says “that the latent participle here has the force of a noun.” ‘It is also remarked by Grotius and others, that passives in Heb. and Gr. are often used as neuters’]. That the injunction: “do not seek a wife,” is to be taken merely as advice, is plain from what follows.—but even if thou shouldest have married, thou hast not sinned.—Not so, however, would it be in the other case. There would be sin in a married person seeking to be loosed. Hence it was only the last clause that was advice. [‘From these words it has been rightly inferred that there were among the Corinthians persons, like those spoken of (1 Timothy 4:3) forbidding marriage, as if it were sinful.’ Bloomfield]. Γαμήσῃς lit.: ‘If thou shouldest have married.’ In like manner γήμῃ. The word γαμείν can be predicated also of the woman, if no accusative is appended. Otherwise the phrase is γαμεῖσθαί τινι, to be married to some one.—After quieting all doubts of conscience in the matter, he points to another consideration which was closely connected with the present distress.—Tribulation in the flesh, however, will such people have.—If with Calvin and others we here conceive an allusion to domestic troubles, these must be understood as intensified by the ‘distress,’ since the relations entered into by the married people (their cares for husband, wife and children, and bodily needs) involve peculiar perplexity in times of persecution and of other troubles (comp. Luke 23:28; Matthew 24:19). The words: ‘in the flesh,’ are to be connected either with ‘tribulation,’ or with ‘shall have;’ the sense is the same. Σάρξ, flesh, denotes the lower sensuous life, with all its interests; here it refers to the domestic life, with its manifold solicitudes about food, and clothing, and the preservation of things appertaining to it from all injury, etc. Οἱ τοιοῦτοι, such people, i.e., such as marry—But I spare you.—Paul here expresses his paternal benevolence; q. d., ‘in giving you such advice, I would fain obviate all your troubles.’ Φέιδομαι stands here for φειδοίμην ἅν, I desire to spare you. Paul is not here ascribing to the unmarried any greater moral excellence than to the married, as Romanists imagine; but is only contrasting the comparative outward ease of the one, with the burdens which will press on the other by reason of approaching troubles. [Another interpretation given by Augustine and the Latin Fathers, and preferred by Estius, Newemacher, and Bloomfield, is: ‘I spare you the pain of dilating on those evils’—parallel to 2 Corinthians 12:6]. This seems to be confirmed by the following, τοῦτο δὲ φημι: ‘but this I do say’].
1 Corinthians 7:29-31. He now proceeds to confirm the advice above given, and to render his readers more inclined to follow it.—But this I say, brethren.—Τοῦτο, this, might refer to what precedes, provided only the ὅτι, because, were genuine. But now it can serve only to introduce what follows, and that, too, in such a way as to exhibit the
importance of this opening—the time henceforth is shortened, in order that.—Here the punctuation and reading are contested. The reading best accredited is ἐστὶν τὸ λοιπόν. In this case, as in the reading το λοιπόν ἐστὶν, τὸ λοιπόν may be connected with what precedes, as well as with what follows. On the contrary, were ἐστίν repeated, it could only be joined with the latter; hence, we might suppose that this reading originated in the idea that τὸ λοιπόν must be connected with what follows. Then it would mean: ‘it remains that,’ etc. [as in the E. version]. This would be opposed neither by the article, nor by the ἵνα. For even in Plato the article is found in such a mode of speaking: τὸ σὲ λοιπὸν ἥδη ἡμῖν ἐστι σκἑψαοθαι (Passow 2:1, 81). But the ἵνα shows that he is treating here about the solution of a moral problem: ‘what remains is, that they may be,’ etc. But if we connect it with the foregoing, then it must be taken as a more exact qualification of the clause, q. d., ‘henceforth, for the future.’ The decision in regard to this case depends upon which connection yields better sense. [Most commentators decide for the latter view. Among these Meyer, Alford, Bloomfield, Hodge. It certainly yields the best sense.] But what are we to understand by the declaration: ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστίν. Some [Rosen., Rückert, Olshausen] explain it: ‘the time is full of straits—grievous.’ But in those passages from which this signification is attempted to be proved (Macc. 1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 10:3), the word is used only of persons, and then means humbled, cast down, which terms cannot be predicated of time. There remains, therefore, only the other interpretation, contracted, limited, shortened. [“Συστέλλεσθαι and συστόλη are the regular grammatical words used for the shortening of a syllable in prosody”]. In any case, however, ὁ καιρὸς is not to be taken for the earthly life-time of individuals, [as Calvin and Estius]. The context rather points to the period of time from thence onward, until the second advent. But does it here denote the simple period of time in itself, or does it mean favorable time (opportunity)? i.e., the time in which one can yet ensure his salvation, or prepare himself for that great change concurrent with Christ’s second coming, which is to wind up the entire present condition of the world—the καιρὸς δεκτός: “the time accepted,” (2 Corinthians 6:2; comp. also Galatians 6:10). In this case the predicate would suit still better, and also the adjunct τὸ λοιπόν: and we should render: ‘the time (the opportune period) is compressed, or shortened henceforth.’ The final clause—in order that those having wives, etc.—may be either referred to: ‘this I say,’ as if by declaring the time short, he arrived at the thing here stated; or, which is better, it may be taken as assigning the reason why the time is shortened, so that it indicated the Divine purpose in this curtailment. [So Hodge, Alford]. And this is confirmed by the subsequent declaration brought in as proof: ‘for the fashion of this world passeth away,’ 1 Corinthians 7:31. In this way a good meaning is obtained. But the other mode of punctuating yields also good sense: ‘it remains,’ i.e., no other choice is left, but that those having wives, etc. This, however, is somewhat harsh, and the other merits the preference. But, perhaps, a still better one is afforded by the connection of τὸ λοιπόν with what follows, maintained by Meyer (3 ed.) in the sense of: henceforth, implying that “henceforth the relations should be regarded differently, from what they had been hitherto.” Ἵνα is postscribed as in Galatians 2:10, and elsewhere.—may be as those not having them, and those weeping as though they wept not, and those rejoicing as though they rejoiced not, and those buying as those that possessed not, and those using the world as not using it.—These clauses denote an internal loosing of the spirit from all bonds (even the closest), and from all circumstances, and from the possession and use of all earthly goods; in short, they enforce the maintenance of a personal independence of all external worldly relations (Meyer), the refusal to be fettered by these things in our communion with God and Christ, so that the sacrifice of all of them could be readily made when called for (comp. Luke 14:20). Accordingly, we are taught that no conjugal love, no sorrows over disasters and losses, no exultation over good fortune, should be allowed to possess the spirit, so as to impair that divine communion. And as Christians must ever be inwardly free from what is transient, in order to maintain that eternal blessing, so it becomes them to hold lightly by the earthly inheritance. They must ever remember that it is no abiding possession, and are not to cleave to it fondly; and finally, in reference to the use of the world, they should use “as using not.” The word ‘buying’ comported well with the circumstances of the Corinthians. Corinth being a great emporium, the people were given to traffic, especially to buying. In regard to καταχρώμενοι, expositors are divided; some take it as equivalent to χρώμενοι, κατά being only intensive; others translate it, abuse; but the latter meaning does not sustain the analogy with the foregoing clauses. [Alford renders it: “ ‘using it in full,’ implying an extreme and greedy use, which turns a legitimate use into a fault”]. The κατά was, perhaps, suggested by that in κατέχοντες just preceding. Χρῆσδαι, to use, takes its object here in the accusative [the only instance of the kind in the New Testament], (comp. Passow No. 1 Corinthians 2:2, p. 2496). The Rec. τῶ κοσμῷ is a change made in accordance with the more common construction. By ‘the world,’ we are to understand the totality of the visible creation, of all objects, goods, relations, belonging to the present age. It comprises in one, all the objects expressed or implied in the previous clauses. Hence, the following sentence, also, extends to these,—for the fashion of this world passeth away.—(παράγει–τὸ σχῆμα.)—By this we are not to understand a mere change of scene (an image drawn from the theatre)—a daily shifting of events belonging to the present; nor yet the transientness of earthly things in general; but the mighty revolution attendant upon the advent of Christ—the entire vanishing or destruction of the form of this world, its outward appearance and mode of existence, of which mention is made in 1 John 2:17; Revelation 21:1. This great change presents itself to him as one close at hand, and, therefore, he speaks of it in the present. (Meyer: ‘is on the point of passing away’). “The disposition which Paul here inculcates in view of the expected palingenesis of the world, is one demanded at all times. All earthly things are vanishing and in perpetual flux; we are ever approaching a new order of things. The woes which Paul saw, have often repeated themselves, and will often be repeated, until the final catastrophe breaks in.” Neander. Since this sentence does not assign the reason for an exhortation, but is brought in to substantiate that which has been previously set forth as a Divine purpose, we cannot directly annex to it the following verse, putting a comma after τούτου. But we are to regard this (1 Corinthians 7:32) as a new thought introduced—a still further reason assigned for recommending the single state. It is, however, directly joined to what precedes, in so far as Paul’s will and wishes aim at having them free from the care which belongs to the things of this world, which is so fast hastening to its end.
1 Corinthians 7:32-34. But I would that you were without care.—By ἀμέριμνοι, he means, freedom from care about the things of this world, as set forth in the 33d verse; for the care which he first speaks of,—he that is unmarried careth for the things of the Lord—can only be something which must command approval. It is perfectly right for a person (with undivided heart) to be solicitous for that which belongs to his Lord. And in what way, he explains further by the expression,—how he may please the Lord.—To the unmarried, i.e., to him who has the gift of continence, and who remains single, in order to devote himself to the interests of God’s kingdom, untrammelled by earthly bonds (comp. Matthew 19:12), it belongs to occupy himself in the concerns of his Lord, and that with the simple desire of pleasing Him.—While the Apostle here has in his mind, those who, like himself, were in the true sense ἄγαμοι, unmarried, in what follows, on the other hand, he exhibits to view the ordinary experience of mankind, [and explains the nature of the care from which he would have them relieved].—But he that is married careth for the things of this world, etc.—Here he shows that on entering the married life, they have at once a divided heart, become entangled in the occupations of the earthly life, and exhibit a tendency to consider how one party may please the other, how the one (even in these worldly interests), may do right by the other, etc.—Yet in this Paul does not intend to set forth the evils which are necessarily involved in the very nature of marriage, but only to state what is usually found to be the case in actual experience. He does not mean to disparage the divine ordinance, as though it was necessarily calculated to promote estrangement from God, (Burger.)—In carrying out of this thought in reference to the wife (1 Corinthians 7:34) Paul continues:—Divided also is the woman and the virgin.—Μεμέρισται καὶ ἡ χυνὴ καὶ ἡ παρθένος.—We encounter, first, a great diversity of readings and punctuation. The first consists in the following variations:—1. On good authorities Lachmann reads καὶ μεμέρισται καὶ,—and after this, although on fewer authorities, ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἅγαμος. 2. Tischendorf, with Griesbach and Scholz: μεμ. καὶ ἡ γυνὴ καί—supported by authorities, in part equally weighty, and in part more preponderant. 3. The received text drops the καί after μεμ., but without sufficient authority.—The punctuation, apart from the various untenable experiments of Griesb. and Scholz, may be twofold. Lachmann and Rückert attach the καί μεμ. to what precedes, making ὁ γαμήσας the subject of it; and read, ‘he that is married is divided, i.e., distracted with cares.’ Καὶ ἡ γῦνὴ then begins a new sentence, translated thus: ‘both the unmarried wife (=widow) and the unmarried virgin cares,’ etc. On the contrary, Tisch. and Meyer begin a new sentence with μεμ. ‘And there is a difference between the wife and the virgin; the unmarried careth,’ etc. [In his edition of the Codex Sinaiticus, Tisch. follows the punctuation of Lach. and Rückert, given above, putting a period after καὶ μεμ.]. The difference, according to De Wette and Meyer, is to be explained from the fact that μεμ. was not understood (and therefore entirely left out), or was misunderstood (as meaning: ‘distracted with cares,’) and therefore was attached by καί to the foregoing; consequently, γυνή was necessarily taken to denote, a widow (Esth. vidua), and as the result, ἡ ἅγαμος, the unmarried, was either put before (Vulgate), or inserted after (comp. Reiche. Comm. Crit. Spec. III. Gött. 1839). But μεμέρισται, is divided, indicates the diversity between the woman and the virgin, in respect of care (μεριμνᾷν). They are divided, separated, in their interests. (Comp. μερίζεσθαι, Matthew 12:25.) Theoph.: μεμερισμέναι εἰσὶ ταῖς σπουδαῖς. “The man is divided between the Lord and his wife.” Neander. Luther’s translation: ‘there is a difference,’ is not sufficiently definite. The use of the singular is to be explained from the position of the verb, and because the whole female sex is here embraced as one idea (Meyer.)—The unmarried cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy in both body and spirit.—For ‘virgin,’ he now says the ‘unmarried;’ and instead of ‘how she may please the Lord,’ he now puts, that which leads to this, ‘that she may be holy,’ i.e., entirely devoted to the Lord, to serve Him with her whole person, and all her powers. First, he specifies ‘in body,’ because the marriage state primarily obligates the body in an earthly or worldly relation, and involves power of the man over the body of his wife (1 Corinthians 7:4), and easily occasions a defilement of the physical life. But the sanctity of the body, if it is of the right sort, is rooted in the sanctity of the spirit (comp. Osiander). The καὶ before σώματι has the predominance of authorities in its favor; a few support Lachmann in reading τῷ σῴματι καὶ τῶ πνεύματι. [“The word holy has the sense that it has in 1 Corinthians 7:14, and so often elsewhere. It is not in purity and spirituality that the virgin is said to have advantage of the wife; but in freedom from distracting cares. In 1 Corinthians 7:14, even the unbelieving husband or wife is said to be sanctified, or made holy. And it is in the same general sense of consecration, that holiness is here predicated of virgins, as distinguished from wives. It would be to impugn a divine ordinance, and to contradict all experience, to say that married women, because married, are less holy than the unmarried. Paul advances no such idea.” Hodge.]—But she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.—[This is not charged upon her as sin, but it is a part of her obligation of marriage, and is therefore expected of her. And if she has ‘married in the Lord,’ then even this very effort to please her husband may be a part of the service she renders unto the Lord. Yet while this is so, the obligation to the husband, it must be confessed, not unfrequently presents a temptation to a divided service, and in her endeavors to gratify his wishes, especially if he is of a worldly, or even partially sanctified spirit, is often betrayed into acts which militate against her piety, and interfere with her higher obligations. This is how it happens that many a Christian woman comes to be found absenting herself from the place of prayer, frequenting the ball-room and theatre, giving parties on the Sabbath, and in other ways compromising her conscience to her own spiritual injury and the discredit of her profession. And it is to the danger of such evils, incurred by marriage, that the Apostle points.]
1 Corinthians 7:35. And this I speak for your own profit.—Here he obviates misapprehension, and assures them that his commendation of the single state, did not flow from any selfish motives—out of a desire to rule their conscience, or to obtain honor by enforcing upon them his own celibate condition; but only out of regard to their own advantage, whether it be to spare them trouble (1 Corinthians 7:28), or, as the following context would indicate, to render the maintenance of their Christian profession at that particular crisis a little easier. This is the profit which he now develops antithetically:—not that I may cast a snare over you—(βρόχον ἐπι βάλω) [a figure borrowed from hunting, and means lit., to fling a noose]. Here he applies it to mean the ensnaring of their conscience, and binding them to his opinion. In like manner we have the expressions “to put a yoke,” “to lay a burden,” in Acts 15:10; Matthew 23:4. Less plausible is the explanation: ‘to awaken scruples of conscience,’ or, ‘to endanger your purity by withholding you from marriage.’ And just as little may we connect either of these interpretations with the first. The ‘profit’ above spoken of is more fully explained by the phrase—but with a view to seemliness,—ἀλλὰ πρὸς το εὔσχημον. Προς here denotes the final end, as in 1 Corinthians 10:11, etc.,=‘for the furtherance of what is comely; that is, honestum, the worthier, more independent position—the one free from worldly cares (comp. Romans 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:12).—As a further definition of this, he proceeds,—and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.—By this he means a perpetual engagedness with him, without being diverted hither and thither by another’s influence. This is “the caring for the things of the Lord,” mentioned above, a life entirely devoted to the Lord and His cause—the opposite of being “troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41)—the practice of holiness (1 Corinthians 7:34). The whole is=εὐσχημονεῖν καὶ εὐπάρεδρον εἶναι (Meyer, Exodus 3:0. The exhibition of the inner life in its entire outward manifestation in a mode corresponding to this devotion to the Lord; the whole moral consecration and self-discipline, so far as it expresses itself in demeanor, in speech, posture, behavior, as the true outward type of the Christian life). [“The image here conveyed is exactly expressed by the story in Luke, of Mary “sitting by the side of Jesus’ feet” (παρακαθίσασα, comp. εὐπάρεδρον), and Martha, “who was cumbered (Περιεσπᾶτο) with much serving,” and “careful (μεριμνᾷς) about many things.” Stanley].
1 Corinthians 7:36. But if any man think that he behaveth himself unseemly towards his virgin,—He now comes to speak particularly of virgins [and addresses himself especially to fathers, since, according to the custom of Jews and Greeks, and most oriental nations at this day, the disposal of daughters in marriage rested with them]. The δέ introduces in contrast with the ‘seemliness’ above spoken of, an unseemliness (ἀσχημονεῖν). This word means to act unsuitably, unbecomingly (1 Corinthians 13:5). It may also mean [see Wetstein], ‘to suffer something unbecoming, to be disgraced.’ [And so most of the Gr. fathers, and Grotius interpret the word here. ‘The disgrace, which, according to the opinions of the East, female celibacy involved, extended from the virgin to the father (comp. Sir 13:9).’ Hence their desire to marry their daughters as speedily as possible (Bloomfield)]. But only the former meaning suits with ἐπὶ, which indicates the direction of an action [so Hodge, Robinson], towards, or in respect to [Jelf’s Gr. Gram., § 635, 3, 6, comp. § 905, 3, 6]. If it had the latter signification, we would rather expect ἀσχημονήσειν, that he will suffer disgrace, etc. Both significations, however, lead to the same thing; for he does not here allude to the disgrace of living unmarried, and so becoming an old maid, which would be brought upon the virgin, but to the disgrace of the temptation which would be occasioned by refusing her marriage; [so Alford, Hodge]. ‘His virgin’=his daughter,—if she be of full age.—Παρθένος ὑπέρακμος means one who has passed the years of her youth (according to Plato, the ακμή of a woman was at twenty years of age), an age when, by the refusal of marriage on the part of the father, a surrender to her lover on her part was more to be feared than in earlier years.—and it must needs so be,—και οὕτως ὀφείλει γίνεσθαι. These words cannot be made dependent (Rückert) on the ἐάν preceding, on account of the indicative; neither can γένεσθαι ever be=μένειν, q. d., ‘so she should remain single.’ They depend rather on εἱ [understood]; and by οὕτωςγέν. he means that which is expressed in the following clause, viz., the marriage of the daughter. The ὀφεἰλει (=oportet, Passow 1 Corinthians 2:2, p. 1029) implies that the temperament of the daughter, [or some other equally cogent circumstance for the phrase, may include those of every kind, whether existing in the father or in the daughter] makes marriage necessary. It introduces a further objective element, in addition to the subjective one, expressed in νομίζει.—let him do what he wishes—Ὅ θέλει denotes not mere caprice, the arbitrary wish of the father, but a purpose grounded upon his best judgment (νομίζει) [and here it will be seen that the whole authority in the premises rested with the father].—let them marry.—The subject of γαμείτωσαν is easily understood, viz., the virgin and her lover. “It can also be the plurality implied in the single subject ‘virgin,’ παρθένος, q. d., ‘let the virgins marry.’ ” Neander. [Freedom of opinion and action is wisely allowed in matters morally indifferent. As to what is the specific duty each person must decide for himself].
1 Corinthians 7:37. But he who—Here he introduces a case directly the opposite, and with unmistakable approval, as is shown by the last clause. In contrast with the previous one, who has the negative virtue of sinning not, this one ‘doeth well.’ The same may be inferred from the imperatives, which are to be construed as permissive. First, he brings prominently to view the steadfastness and independence of conviction and resolve shown,—hath stood steadfast in his heart,—in contrast with the weakness and dependence of the other, in 1 Corinthians 7:36 (ἑδραῖος, fast grounded, found also in 1 Corinthians 15:58 and in Colossians 1:24). [“This allusion here is to a statue standing firm on its pedestal.” Bloomfield]. The points in which this firmness is shown are more fully defined in the two following clauses, which are to be considered as the positive and negative explanation of the first.—having no necessity,—in contrast with the necessity occasioned by the temperament of the daughter, [or any other constraining circumstances] (1 Corinthians 7:26)—but has power.—There is an anacoluthon here ἔχει (instead of ἔχων)—over his own will—i.e., to do as he chooses. [“Often the will is one thing, and the power is another.” Bengel]. And what this will is he next states,—and has resolved this in his heart.—By ‘this’ (τοὐτο) he means, but doesn’t say: ‘to keep her unmarried.’—in order to preserve his virgin.—τοῦ τηρεῖν τὴν ἐαυτοῦ παρθένον. If it read, τηρεῖν, or, τὸ τηρεῖν, then we would simply have here the explanation of what goes before; but since the correct reading, τοῦ τηρεῖν is to be regarded as a final clause, this, according to all well established usage, cannot be. We are therefore to take τηρεῖν τὴν παρθένον not as a periphrasis for: ‘to keep her unmarried;’ but it means: ‘to preserve her in her virgin state, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit.’ [Hence we might render it: ‘in order to keep her as a virgin’]. Not, however, for the sake of his own paternal interests, as Meyer assumes. This by no means follows from the ἑαυτοῦ, and it must be regarded as a selfish motive, altogether inconsistent with the spirit of the Apostle’s exposition. The whole matter rests upon the paternal authority acknowledged not simply among Jews and Greeks, but also in the sphere of Christian life. And to this also the words τὴν παρθένον εαυτοῦ. refer. But the very manner in which the Apostle treats the affair, indicates that it is not a despotic, reckless rule, but the exercise of an authority which is considerate of the nature, the circumstances and the well being of the daughter, so that the resolve expressed in κέκρικεν is to be regarded as a well considered one. The exclusive action of the father in this case, however, indicates a distinction between the customs of antiquity and those of our modern times (comp. Grot. in hoc loco.)—doeth well.—[An approval which went right in the face of Jewish and Gentile opinions and prejudices—a commendation of a course of conduct, which in view of the exigencies of the times, and probabilities of good it involved, might seem desirable; but yet might not be adopted, because of the prevailing views of marriage; and which therefore required the special sanction of the Apostle to strengthen persons in the adoption of it.]
1 Corinthians 7:38. So then both he that giveth her in marriage doeth well, and he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.—Here he reaches the result of his discussion. The καί—καί, both—and, suit properly only to a repetition of the words, ‘doeth well,’ (hence the var. δέ, in which case the first καί might be translated, also). It appears as if Paul intended originally to repeat the words, ‘doeth well;’ but then found it more suitable to the relation previously expressed (‘he sinneth not’—‘he doeth well’), to put the second clause in the comparative. The former is well done, as being in accordance with the circumstances, and avoiding disgrace; [indeed, the man would have done wrong, had he acted otherwise]; the latter is better, according to what is said in 1 Corinthians 7:34,—[better, not in moral worth, as the Romanists pretend, but in point of advantage, considering the times, and the duties to be performed.]
1 Corinthians 7:39-40. The wife is bound by the law so long as her husband liveth.—That which he has said in reference to the marriage of virgins, he now applies to the remarrying of widows. [“There seems to be no doubt entertained respecting the second marriage of the man, probably because in the case of widowers a new marriage was generally of pressing importance, on account of the motherless children; therefore the question here is only touching the woman. The limitation, ‘only in the Lord,’ moreover, must be regarded as referring also to the man (2 Corinthians 6:14-15.) Olshausen]. After that he has expressed the woman’s release from obligation to her husband in case of his death, and her liberty to marry again according to her pleasure, on the sole condition that it be a Christian union, he points to the higher satisfaction of remaining in widowhood. But he sets this forth as his own view; which, however, is to be regarded as the view of one who has the spirit of the Lord. The word δέδεται, is bound, as in 1 Corinthians 7:29, Romans 7:2, excludes the idea of divorce and marriage with another.—but if her husband ‘sleep,’ i.e., is dead. Romans 7:3. The καί before κοιμηθῇ, which Tischendorf has accepted, is not sufficiently well attested. In that case it would necessarily be translated: “but in case the man should even die.’—only in the Lord.—These words do not simply mean: ‘in a Christian spirit,’ but they teach that the marriage should be in fellowship with the Lord,—hence a marriage with a Christian (1 Corinthians 7:12 ff. refer to marriage before conversion). This only gives to this limitation its proper significance; μονον, as in Galatians 2:10.—But she is more blessed.—He presupposes the possibility of an undisturbed devotion to the Lord and His cause, such as shall insure to a Christian woman higher contentment (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:34); not simply freedom from tribulation, nor yet higher blessedness in heaven.—if she so remain, i.e., unmarried (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:26); “it being supposed that she can preserve herself pure.” Bloomfield.—according to my judgment.—[Is this a modest way of uttering what should be deemed by us authoritative, as coming from one who was inspired by the Spirit; or is it simply the expression of an opinion, which, though coming from an inspired Apostle, was not intended to bind the conscience? In short, is this advice which we are at liberty to set aside, or is it obligatory precept? This question, one would suppose, ought to be decided by the consideration of the source whence it comes. If it proceeds from a person who, however sound in judgment, is still fallible, and has no authority over us, then there would be in us the liberty to differ. But if it comes from the all-wise God, advice at once partakes of the character of a command; for not to follow the best light, not to do the best thing, is certainly sin. Who, then, is the author of the advice—Paul, as a counsellor or friend? or Paul, as an inspired Apostle? This depends on how we interpret the next clause.]—I think also, etc.—There is here a polemic side-glance cast at his opponents, who disparaged him, and refused to recognize him as an Apostle endowed with the Spirit of God equally with the others. Δοκῶ, an ironical Litotes. “The κᾀγω, and I, presents an antagonism against those who ascribed to themselves alone the possession of the Spirit; we detect in these words a side-glance at the Judaizers who refused to acknowledge the authority of the Apostle, and especially contemned the single life so much esteemed by him.” Neander.—[If this construction be correct, then the expression: “I think I have,” is not to be taken as implying any distrust on the Apostle’s part as to his actual possession of the Spirit. On the contrary, there is here, as most commentators concede, “an emphatic meiosis expressive of full persuasion and certainty.” The inference then is, that the “judgment” issuing from this high source, is entitled not only to deference, but to obedience. When it is God that advises, who will venture, or has the liberty to say, Nay?]
[Obs.:—“The arguments by which the Apostle here recommended celibacy to the Corinthians, have been urged by the Papists in support of the rulers of their Church, who oblige the clergy and the monastic orders to live unmarried. And it must be acknowledged, that at first sight, these arguments seem to be properly applied by them. Nevertheless, when it is considered, that the Apostle’s advices were suited to Christians in the then persecuted state of the Church, and were addressed only to such as could live chastely unmarried, it may fairly be presumed, that the Papists have stretched his advices farther than the Apostle intended, when they represent them as binding in all ages and countries, on those who wish to live piously.” Macknight.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Duties of parents towards their children in the matter of marriage. Among the most delicate problems of human life, calling for the exercise of firmness no less than of consideration, of wisdom no less than love, is the right conduct of parents in reference to the marriage of their children—especially of daughters. To insist upon their settlement unconditionally, is, without doubt, unworthy of a Christian, and must be looked upon as the token of a worldly, unbelieving, or, at least, little-believing temper. At all events, regard should be had to this, that a Christian should marry one like-minded. Here, that which is inculcated upon widows in v. 40, holds good absolutely—‘only in the Lord.’ Matrimonial connections between believers and children of this world, entered into out of mere carnal complacency, or with an eye to property and brilliant position in society, and in the hope that some saving influence may at the same time be exerted, are, to say the least, exceedingly hazardous; and they more commonly result in a way directly the opposite of the one counted on—the secularization of the believing party (comp. Genesis 6:0). All such connections Christian parents should aim to hinder, rather than help; yea, they should endeavor, by all the means in their power, to restrain and hold back their children from them, even though it be at the cost of much pain and bitter struggle. Cases may indeed occur, when yielding will be unavoidable; but, at all events, consent should not be granted without giving earnest warning of the sad mistake committed, and of the great responsibility and danger incurred.—Again, if it be seen that a daughter has little or no inclination to marry, and that she is endowed with special gifts for the service of the Lord in her virgin state, and that she takes delight in such service, then does it become the parent to stand fast against all solicitation on the part of suitors and relatives, and to sustain their child in her endeavors to devote herself to the Divine calling. But the deliberation in the case must be a comprehensive one, weighing well all circumstances, and attended with earnest prayer for that Divine wisdom, which will enable the parents to examine the inward and outward condition of their daughter, and to distinguish clearly between caprice and prudery and carnal desire to consult her own convenience on the one hand, and a true spiritual firmness and proper regard for the service of the Lord on the other; and also for that simplicity of heart which shall exclude all selfish interests, and leave no room for after regrets to come up and harass when it is too late.
2. [Marriage being a Divine institution, and designed to subserve the highest moral and spiritual interests of mankind, and being then most truly blessed when occurring “in the Lord,” it is eminently fitting that the solemnization should be a religious act, performed by a minister, and under the sanction of the Church. “The custom of thus making it an ecclesiastical ceremonial,” says Besser, “is as certainly in harmony with its character as a union in the Lord, as the popular cry for civil marriage accords with the declaration: ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ ”]
3. [“The practice of the highest duties of Christianity is compatible with every station and condition of life that is not in itself unlawful. If even the degraded state of slavery be consistent with the cultivation of the true spirit of Christian liberty, if even the great religious divisions of Jew and Gentile may be regarded as alike compatible with the service of God, then in all other states in life equally the spirit of the Apostolic injunctions may be observed where, in the letter, they seem most disregarded. Freedom from worldly cares may be maintained in the married as well as in the single state; indifference to worldly gain may exist in riches, no less than in poverty. Our nearness to God depends not on our desertion of one religious community for another, but on our keeping His commandments in whatever religious community His providence has placed us.” Stanley].
4. [Right and wrong, though absolute in their essential principles, yet, as determinable in the forms of human conduct, can seldom be defined and enforced by specific rules. Much here depends on the peculiarities of personal condition and circumstance. What may be proper and beneficial for one, may prove equally unseemly and hurtful for another. Yea, the particular duty of a person in reference to the same thing, is often modified or even reversed by changes of time and place. Hence, in relation to the details of conduct, the best course to be pursued, is simply to state the general principles which should govern, to prescribe the ultimate ends to be sought, and then leave it for each one to ascertain and decide for himself upon the proper methods to be adopted by him in the discharge of his own specific obligations. To aid in discovering what the specific duty is, the advice of judicious friends and of Gospel ministers may, and ought to be, both sought and given. But when, instead of advice, there are imposed the prescripts of unwarranted authority, then the inevitable result is injury and ruin to the very cause these were unwisely intended to further. Either the morality secured is that of a legal, slavish obedience that crushes out the joy of a true divine service, or the natures thus put under bondage rebel in secret, and thus fall into grosser sins, and incur the greater guilt. An instructive illustration of these disastrous consequences is seen in the history of Romish monasticism. And similar mistakes are constantly made in the measures resorted to for the promotion of temperance, and the maintenance of the Sabbath, and the suppression of many sorts of public amusements, and the regulation of other departments of morals. Too great reliance is placed on law, and too little upon moral religious instruction and advice. Sound morality can only be established and furthered by the enlightenment of the conscience, and the instruction of the understanding as to the best means by which behests of conscience can be fulfilled; and it can coexist only with a degree of liberty of judgment and action in things indifferent. What are the proper functions, bearings, and limitations of law in this direction, is a question too broad to be discussed here].
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1 Corinthians 7:25. In all matters and questions which are not expressly decided by the written word, it is the part of a true and well-qualified teacher to understand how to counsel the conscience according to those fundamental principles which are found in the Scriptures. Hence, he must be able to comprehend and apply these principles in a divine light.
1 Corinthians 7:26. Even now, in consequence of the corrupt state of the Church, the domestic peace of Christians is often embittered by the influences of an evil world. Hence, we may infer that Paul would still give many the same advice which he gave of old, provided they were endowed with the gift of continence, and could preserve a virgin modesty by prayer and self-restraint (1 Corinthians 7:7 ff.) (Hed). The constraints arising from persecution are one thing, and the constraints of a cloister entered into by an inconsiderate vow are another thing.
1 Corinthians 7:27 (Spener). He who has received the gift of chastity, may abide by it or not, according as he may judge it serviceable to the greater honor of God and the better performance of that to which he has been called by God.
1 Corinthians 7:28. Marriage is, in itself, a sacred ordinance, and no one must accuse himself of sin in having married, unless he did so from impure motives. Many a person neither learns nor surmises the burden of the married life; experience makes them rue it when too late. Let those who will be married, make up their mind for all chances. But if the married parties are united in love and in fear of God, they will be able to lighten each other’s burdens.
1 Corinthians 7:29. Husbands should, indeed, love their wives with peculiar affection, but this affection should be tempered with self-denial, and not allowed to grow inordinate. Yea, they must hold themselves prepared for, and resigned to, a separation when God calls.
1 Corinthians 7:30. Creature enjoyments should be received as from God. In this way, they may be assimilated to our spiritual enjoyments. The fear of God, and regard for His will, loosens our hold on the earthly, moderates our temporal pleasures, makes us submissive amid losses (Job 1:21), consoles us in trouble, comforts us in our tears, and causes us to cleave lightly to all our possessions.
1 Corinthians 7:31. Believers here are as upon a journey; one is at liberty to use every thing at the inn; but further than this he takes no interest in it, and he is content if he has some good to expect at the end of the journey. Augustine: Boni ad hoc utuntur mundo, ut fruantur Deo; mali contra, ut fruantur mundo, uti volunt Deo.38
1 Corinthians 7:32 (Hed.). The statement here must be taken generally. Marriage is not absolutely, and without exception, a hinderance to Christianity, nor is a single life equally a help to it. Many a one finds more hinderance to good in a single than in married life; and marriage is, in itself, a God-service, for it is God’s holy ordinance, and the duties therein are commanded by Him, and, therefore, are a holy work, just as much as prayer. Let him who would please God acceptably in a single state, refrain from all self-complacency, and especially from the false notion that he is the more acceptable to God on this account.—Spener:—Marriage furnishes numerous occasions for other exercises of godliness, for the acknowledgment of the Divine goodness, etc. And God often blesses more effectually the few quarters of an hour devoted to Him amid its cares, than whole hours of monastic vigils. Ah! how many persons remain single only that they may serve the world better, and indulge more freely in personal luxuries!
1 Corinthians 7:33. Things of this world, in themselves allowable (1 Timothy 3:4-5; 1 Timothy 3:8), such as nourishment, clothing, habitation, and the like, often so absorb the entire regard, as to keep a person from diligent attention to spiritual things. In this respect the unmarried have less of a hinderance, provided they have the gifts and calling requisite for celibacy. Between the two extremes of excessive severity towards the wife in imposing on her the whole burden of domestic cares, and of excessive indulgence in allowing her to rule, there runs the middle course, that of controlling one’s wife wisely, by a manifestation of affection and the exercise of patience.
1 Corinthians 7:34. Spener:—Even the love which the wife cherishes towards her husband, and the obedience she owes to him, often constrain her, for the sake of avoiding displeasure, and creating disturbance, to interfere in some way, either by commission or omission, with the engagements in which she would otherwise seek to please the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:35. No preacher is lord over the conscience; but lie should be indulgent and not make a point of conscience where there is none to be made. In single life a person can often devote himself systematically to the study of God’s Word, for his own personal edification, while in married life there is much to prevent this. A mother, for example, having a child either on her bosom or perpetually around her, cannot concentrate her mind in devotion. Yet, what she does is none the less acceptable to God.
1 Corinthians 7:36. Hedinger:—The authority of parents over their children is, indeed, great; but woe to those who would constrain them to an unwilling marriage, only for the sake of money or honor. And woe to those, also, who allow them in all manner of foolery for the sake of catching husbands. But what does watching avail, if the fear of God in the child does not guard the door.
1 Corinthians 7:37. If the child’s desire to remain unmarried agrees with the will of the parents, such a child is blessed in its release from many cares in the life she has chosen.
1 Corinthians 7:39. He who would do or suffer anything for the Lord, must first be in the Lord, and hold communion with Him by faith.
1 Corinthians 7:40. It is not mere solitude that makes the widow blessed; she is so, provided only that she places her hope in God, and continues day and night in prayer and supplication (1 Timothy 5:5).
1 Corinthians 7:27. Men would often gladly part from that they have, and seek that they have not. Let each one take heed to his own spirit.
1 Corinthians 7:28. Great confusions arise from affirming that to be sin which is not. Married people may have more troubles in the flesh; but single people also have their own temptations, which may easily choke the Word. Watchfulness is the best safeguard. A pious man is cautious and self-distrustful.
1 Corinthians 7:29. With Christians of the present day, time often hangs heavy; hence pastimes and amusements are sought for. Let us rather work while the day lasts, ore the night comes, for time is short. Therefore hasten, O Soul! See to it that thou lovest God! We have no hundred years leisure for keeping vigils with God.—Even in marriage we have opportunities for self-denial, and, when occasion calls, we can let all its good things go in obedience to the Divine will. But such self-denial can neither be undertaken arbitrarily, nor for the parade of holiness, nor in self-wrought labor, but only in dependence on the mercy of God, into whose hands alone those should yield themselves, who have long become ashamed, despairing of their own strength, and feel their need of higher aid. And this aid comes with earnest prayer, and strenuous struggles against sin, and with fervent desires for the love of God in Jesus Christ. His urgent entreaties, and winning attractions draw the heart away and beyond itself, to live in the light and under the sight of God, so that all it does, however trivial, shall be done in God. So should it be with all things in this world; we should learn to lay them all down for God, and so restrain ourselves that the heart may be freely lifted heavenward. Even whatsoever is most seemly and innocent, should be held and used as if we had it not. Our aim should be to strengthen the weak senses by becoming earnestness, and in sorrow to be always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10); not to carry out our enjoyments into the flesh, but to rejoice with trembling; and to cleave to nothing which may be taken from us at any hour. In this we can succeed only through prayer. Prayer, while it knits us to God, severs us from self. He who cleaves to himself easily clings to things which may yet enhance his suffering. But he who is free cleaves only to God, and whatever is not in God, appears foreign to him. Ah, then, cast aside everything which hinders communion with Christ.
1 Corinthians 7:31. What is transient is the fashion and the quality, the show and the glitter, the outward form, or, as it now appears, the present quiet peaceful state, of this world which is spared unto Christians. How all this will pass away we need not care to know; but only that we pass not away with it.
1 Corinthians 7:32. God forbids only the care which distracts and torments. It is not His intention that we should be entirely free from all cares. Cares will come; only we must take heed and not be absorbed in them.—The celibacy of such pure souls only as are indifferent, and unconcerned about all events, who have nothing which pleases them aside from Jesus, who entirely renounce the friendships of the world, and everything which is sweet, and dear, and pleasant to the flesh, is properly sanctified; they alone are fit to walk confidingly with God.
1 Corinthians 7:33. A married man often finds himself constrained, or is of himself inclined to consider how he may please his wife, who is frequently exacting even when she has enough. But so is the progress heavenward hindered, if the man becomes ensnared in earthly occupations. Yet God can aid such in other ways; and so also believers when married, can and should attend to Divine things as well even in the midst of their work.
1 Corinthians 7:34. She only is the true virgin who cares solely for the work of the Lord, and does the will of her bridegroom.—A married woman often sticks fast under the burden of worldly things, and is obliged to endeavor to suit her husband. In such a relation what chances may not befall!—Think on this, how thou art pleasing Christ—that husband who has delivered thee from the service of sin; and take heed that thou wanderest not from Him with a roving heart. This heart must be wholly devoted to thy true bridegroom, who would fain possess thee wholly.
1 Corinthians 7:35. Even the best doctrines closely resemble fetters upon the conscience. Conscience is a very tender thing. If a man is to return to God and become one with Him in highest blessedness, he must cleave to God without reserve, and learn to abide in Him with all his powers. Can we enjoy perfect communion if one-half of us clings to the creature? The best and nearest way to perfect blessedness, is to free ourselves, more and more from the stains of our shameful apostacy; and it is a part of this work to withdraw the body also from the filth of the world, that it may be presented as an offering to the eternal Creator, in all holy service. If a person is bound in spirit to a creature, much energy of will, and much precious time is withdrawn from God. Yet the Good Spirit would not hereby intimate either that the marriage state was damnable, nor the single state alone beatific. But this is the meaning: that God wishes to have the entire man unto Himself, for His possession and enjoyment, and that we must wholly offer up, and surrender ourselves to Him, body, soul, and spirit, to be by Him sanctified and preserved. And then he tells us how well such persons should live, and how such an inward independence of all outward things, is yet possible, so that those who are married should be, and remain, as if they were not; and finally, what great happiness would arise among married people, who in their earnest conflict with the flesh, with mutual accord learn to refrain from all things in order to please the Lord and His pure Spirit.
1 Corinthians 7:36. Everything must, at all events, turn upon the person’s will, that nothing be done in a legal spirit. Christ wants our will for a bride, not for a slave. Our nature furnishes material for good, and for evil, but grace must prepare it.—Reason is not to be deified, and neither also is it to be contemned.
1 Corinthians 7:37. If the will of man is armed with the Gospel, it can accomplish more than the severest vows made under the law. An indescribably kingly power lies in the will of man—in his will disenthralled and endowed with the energies of the Gospel, when he comes to exercise confidence and courage in God, so that he is able resolutely to determine on anything he deems to be for the glory of God and the good of others.
1 Corinthians 7:38. Marriage stands between a better state in the spirit, and a worse one in the flesh.
1 Corinthians 7:39-40. If both parties are related in the Lord, then is their marriage sanctified.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31. This is the true virginity common to all Christians, that what they have during their short lives here does not sunder them from their heavenly possessions, or detain them on their journey.
1 Corinthians 7:35. God’s prohibitions are not snares for the Christian, but gentle bridlings of the Spirit, who expresses himself in the spiritual law (Romans 7:14); but man’s interdicts which forbid what God allows (1 Timothy 4:1-3), are snares by which the consciences of men are bound away from God and to other things in superstitious thraldom.
1 Corinthians 7:12; 1 Corinthians 7:12.—The Rec. has ἐγὼ λὲγω [with D. F. K. L.]. The oldest authorities [A. B. C. Cod. Sin.] read λὲγω ἐγώ.
1 Corinthians 7:12-13; 1 Corinthians 7:12-13.—Αὕτη—οὖτος, [according to A. B. C. D.1 F. Cod. Sin.]. The Rec. has αὐτή—αὐτὸς.
1 Corinthians 7:13; 1 Corinthians 7:13.—Rec. has αὐτόν, to conform with 1 Corinthians 7:11. The great preponderance of authorities is in favor of τὸν ἄνδρα.
1 Corinthians 7:14; 1 Corinthians 7:14.—̓Αδελφῷ, according to the best and oldest authorities [and, as Alford says, has peculiar force here]. The Rec. has ἄνδρι, which is a gloss.
1 Corinthians 7:15; 1 Corinthians 7:15.—The Rec. has ἡμᾶς, according to weighty authorities; and so, Lachmann [and Alf., Stanley, et al.]. ὕμᾶς is internally the more probable, [and is found in A. C. K. Cod. Sin.1].
1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 7:17.—The Rec. has transposed the proper order of ὁ κνρίος and θέος on very feeble authority. [A. B. C. D. F. Cod. Sin. Syr. read as above].
1 Corinthians 7:18; 1 Corinthians 7:18.—The Rec. has τὶς ἐκλἡθη, in conformity with the previous one. But the best authorities have the perfect: κἑκληται τις, and this is adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alf., and Stanley].
1 Corinthians 7:22; 1 Corinthians 7:22.—The Rec. has και after ὁμοίως with K. L. It is omitted in A. B. Cod. Sin. Syr., and by Alf., Stanley].
Here it will be seen that Neander does not find in the expression, “is not bound,” all that Kling does, i.e., an absolute release from marital obligation. And in this he coincides with Hammond, Whitby, Bloomtield and others, who suppose that nothing more than a separation from each other’s society is here allowed. Yet the use of the word δέδεται, is bound, in 1 Corinthians 7:39, where it evidently implies the marriage bond, seems to sustain Kling’s view. The desertion of the unbelieving party leaves the believing free. If any restriction upon this freedom was intended, we find it only in the context (see 1 Corinthians 7:10-11; 1 Corinthians 7:30). “This passage,” says Hodge, “is of great importance, because it is the foundation of the Protestant doctrine, that wilful desertion is a legitimate ground of divorce.” President Wolsey, however, in his Article on Divorce, in the New Englander, April, 1867, pp. 228–233, argues with great plausibility and force against the legitimacy of the inference. The whole controversy turns upon the meaning given to the words οὐ δεδούλωται, “is not bound.” Does this phrase imply absolute release from the marriage obligation, and permission to marry again? or does it simply give permission to the deserted party to live apart without feeling constrained to enforce cohabitation? Persons interpret variously, according to their predilections. In fault of any deciding element in the text, it will perhaps be best to abide by the injunctions of Christ, in Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:3-9.]
[Winer says that ἐν is used for εἰς after verbs of motion, for the purpose of briefly expressing at once the motion itself, and the result of it, viz.. rest. An instance of this breviloquence he finds here. The peace is the abiding condition in, which those who have been called unto it are to rest. Nor must the use of the perfect here be overlooked.]
[Stanley’s comment is too important not to be given entire. “The question here is, whether to understand ἐλευθερίᾳ or δουλείᾳ after χρἤσαι: whether the sense is, ‘Take advantage of the offer of freedom;’ or ‘Remain in slavery, though the offer is made.’ It is one of the most evenly balanced questions in the interpretation of the New Testament. 1. χρῆσαι may either be ‘choose,’ or ‘make use of,’ although it leans rather to the former, and thus favors the first interpretation. 2. εἰ καί may either be, ‘If, besides, thou hast the offer; or ‘Even if thou hast the offer,’ although it leans rather to the latter, and thus favors the second interpretation. The sense of this particular verse favors the first: for, unless the Apostle meant to make an exception to the rule which he was laying down, why should he introduce this clause at all? The sense of the general context is in favor of the second; for why should the Apostle needlessly point out an exception to the principle of acquiescence in existing conditions of life, which he is so strongly recommending? The language and practice of the Apostle himself, as described in the Acts, favor the first interpretation; e. g.. his answer at Philippi, ‘they have beaten us without a trial, and imprisoned us, being Roman citizens;....nay, let them come themselves and take us out,’ (Acts 16:37); and to the tribune at Jerusalem, ‘but I was free born’ (Acts 22:28). The general feeling of the Church, as implied in the Epistles and in this passage, favors the second interpretation: it would hardly have seemed worth while to grasp at freedom in the presence of the approaching dissolution of all things; and the apparent preference thus given to slavery may be explained on the same grounds (see 1 Corinthians 7:29-30) as the apparent preference given to celibacy. The commentators before the Reformation have chiefly been in favor of the second; since, in favor of the first; but Chrysostom observes that, in his time, there were some who adopted the view favorable to liberty; as, there have been some Protestant divines (e. g., Luther) who have adopted the view favorable to slavery. On the whole, the probability seems slightly to incline to the second; and the whole passage is then expressive of comfort to the slave under his hard lot, with which the Apostle sympathizes, and which he tenderly alleviates (as in Philemon 1:16-17), though not wishing him to leave it. And if, as is possible, the prospect of liberty, to which the Apostle alludes, arose from the fact of the master being a Christian, this sense of the passage would be still further illustrated and confirmed by 1 Timothy 6:2 : ‘Let not [the slaves] that have believing masters despise them, because they are brethren, but rather serve them’ (ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον δουλευέτωσαν).” Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Hammond, Hodge, Barnes, and most English commentators, declare decidedly for the first view; but the best modern German Exeretes, de Wette, Meyer and others, follow the early Greek Fathers in adopting the second].
[“The practice of selling one’s self was frequent in great slave markets, such as must have been at Corinth.” Stanley. But this plainly could not be the thing referred to here. Though Hammond, A. Clarke and others so construe the passage.]
1 Corinthians 7:28; 1 Corinthians 7:28.—Γαμήσης, the Rec. has γῄμης in conformity with what follows; the former is better attested [and preferred by Alf., Stanley]. Others [D. E. F. G.] read λάβῃς γυναῖκα—a gloss [found in D. E. F. G.].
1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Corinthians 7:29.—The various readings are ἐστίν before, or after τὸ λοιπόν; some repeat ἐστὶν λοιπόν with and without τό. The older authorities have το λοιπόν ἐστιν (see Exeget. and Crit.).
1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 Corinthians 7:31.—Tire Rec. τῷ κόσμῳa correction. The right text is τὸν κοσμόν (without τουτον, which originated in what follows). [So A. B. D. F. G. followed by all good editions].
1 Corinthians 7:32-33; 1 Corinthians 7:32-33.—Ἀρέσει; Lachmann ἀρἑσῃ: less probable, because more common. [Yet it is found in A. B. D. E. F. G., and is preferred by Stanley. Alford reads ἀρἔσει.]
1 Corinthians 7:34; 1 Corinthians 7:34.—Many readings and punctuations. See Exeget. and Crit.
1 Corinthians 7:35; 1 Corinthians 7:35.—Συμφορον. The Rec. συμφέρον. The former is supported by the older authorities [A. B. D.1]
1 Corinthians 7:35; 1 Corinthians 7:35.—Εὐπάρεδρον is better supported than the Rec. εὐπρόσεδρον, being found in [A. B. D. E. F. G.].
1 Corinthians 7:37; 1 Corinthians 7:37.—Αὑτοῦ is strongly supported, and is indeed original.
1 Corinthians 7:37; 1 Corinthians 7:37.—The τοῦ before τηρεῖν is indeed omitted by good authorities, but is nevertheless strongly supported [A. B. D. E. F. G.], and besides is the more difficult reading [Meyer, de Wette, Alf., have it; Stanley rejects it].
1 Corinthians 7:37-38; 1 Corinthians 7:37-38.—Lachmann reads ποιήσει with good, but not sufficiently adequate authorities.
1 Corinthians 7:38; 1 Corinthians 7:38.—Ὁ ἐκγαμίζων. So Tisch., Meyer, Lachmann [Alford] and others [after A. B. D. E.]. The reading γαμίζων τὴν παρθένων ἑαυτοῦ, though indeed sustained by important authorities, is nevertheless perhaps a Gloss.
1 Corinthians 7:38; 1 Corinthians 7:38.—Καὶ ὁ. The Rec. ὁ δὲ. The former is the original [found in A. B. D. E. F. G.], the latter was substituted by reason of the contrast implied.
1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Corinthians 7:39.—The Rec. has νόμῳ taken from Romans 8:2 [omitted in A. B. D. F.], and by Alford, Stanley, and other critics.
Bloomfield says, Crit. Dig.: “The most eminent modern commentators are agreed that it must refer to both sexes, and thus be equivalent to our single persons; a sense not only recognized by the ancient Lexicographers, but occurring also in the Classical writers. So Krause, Lampe, Schleusner.”
[Good men use the world that they may enjoy God; the bad, on the contrary, wish to use God that they may enjoy the world].
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25