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1. Observe: With this chapter commences a new section of the Epistle; the topics, and perhaps their order, suggested by a letter of formal inquiry brought from Corinth: vii. Marriage; viii. Things offered to Idols; ix. Support of Ministry; x. Lord’s Supper and Love-feast; xi. Women in Public Services, Lord’s Supper; [x., xi. Public Worship, sundry topics connected with;] xii. Spiritual Gifts; (xiii. parenthetic, “Charity”;) xiv. Spiritual Gifts resumed; xv. The Resurrection.
2. Observe also: Stanley thinks the questions were proposed by the loyal party, and, on the whole, most likely by the Gentile element in the Church. “The tendency to celibacy was at this period … strong” “in the Gentile world generally.” [But celibacy by no means meant personal purity.] Others rather see the motive in the Gentile, quasi-philosophic idea that matter was evil, and a celibate’s life nobler, as being “spiritual,” in comparison with marriage.
3. Observe further: In all these chapters are good instances of one mode and method of divinely inspired teaching. Particular cases (even of quite temporary importance, and now mainly interesting to us historically, as, e.g., much in chap. 11) are examined with constant reference to, and are decided upon, great and abiding principles of Divine order for the Church of Christ. [Just as elsewhere the biographies and character portraits, the histories, and their course and consequences, are an integral part of the Revelation. In them God is declaring His will in concrete instances, rather than in general, didactic language.]
B. 1 Corinthians 7:1. Good.—Not exactly “morally good,” as if the opposite were sinful. Plainly so, from drift of chapter, and particularly 1 Corinthians 7:35; 1 Corinthians 7:40. Relatively good; “an excellent thing,” in many circumstances, and for many reasons, “but,” etc. Touch.—Euphemistic, for a more significant word.
1 Corinthians 7:2. (The) fornications (, accurately).—Q.d. which notoriously abound in your heathen, social surroundings. [Perhaps not specially at Corinth, beyond any other great centre of Gentile life. See Introduction.] Own.—“Christianity allows no polygamy.” “Own … own” are interestingly different in Greek, having a slight trace of the different conception, even in Judaism, of the respective propriety of husband and wife in each other. On his side is something of ownership; on hers of exclusive relation. Have.—Like “touch,” is euphemistic; expanded in 1 Corinthians 7:3.
1 Corinthians 7:3.—follows the ancient, correct, expressive reading: “Let not married persons fancy [as, e.g., Edward the Confessor] that there is any perfection in living with each other as if they were unmarried.”
1 Corinthians 7:4. Power.—Obviously is the sense of “authority.” N.B. the perfect equality of the sexes; a particular case of a great principle asserted for the woman by Christianity.
1 Corinthians 7:5 Fasting.—Omit, as Acts 10:30 (“certainly”); Matthew 17:21 (“probably”); Mark 9:29 (“not unlikely”). “These various readings affect materially the teaching of Scripture about fasting” (Beet). Question of textual criticism, basing itself on diplomatic evidence; as likely to have been dropped in a lax age, as to have been inserted by an ascetic one. N.B. Ascetic counsels and practice might create new occasions for the Tempter’s attack. N.B. also how abstinence is valued, not for prudential or selfish reasons, but according as it affects the spiritual life and its exercises. Everything dealt with here with delicacy of thought and language, and every topic lifted up into, and judged in, the light of great spiritual verities. Be together [not “come”], again euphemistic.
1 Corinthians 7:6.—See Bible-class Talk, infra.
1 Corinthians 7:7.—Paul evidently now unmarried, or at least wifeless; was he a widower? Only facts are: The prevalent Jewish judgment that a man of twenty sinned in remaining unmarried even so long; that a member of the Sanhedrin must be married. Inferences from 1 Corinthians 9:5 and 1 Corinthians 7:8 are very precarious. Philippians 4:3 is now never understood as referring to any possible wife of Paul. Not quite certain that Paul was formally a member of the Council; the one fact is, “I gave my vote” (Acts 26:10, if the word means quite so much). His … gift.—His charism; the word used of the “gifts” of chap. 12 Great rule; in arrest of hard judgments of other people (Matthew 19:11).
1 Corinthians 7:8.—How “relative” all these judgments are is evident from, e.g., 1 Timothy 5:9-16.
1 Corinthians 7:10.—See Bible-class Talk, infra. Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12 [a chapter full of suggestive side-lights upon Christ’s attitude towards home, family, wife, children].
1 Corinthians 7:11. If she depart.—Under such a supposed necessity as seems to her to overbear all other considerations [local, not legal, separation or divorce being supposed], at any rate let her not be led to go further and—[A Greek or Roman wife could divorce her husband.]
1 Corinthians 7:12. The rest.—Viz. to the unmarried, the widows, [and widowers] (“of whom I just made mention”); and now, further, to those involved in a marriage which has become, by the conversion of one party, a mixed one.
1 Corinthians 7:12-17. Sanctified, holy.—Plainly not with a real, only with a relational, holiness. So “unclean” as in Acts 10:14. Husband and children stand in a different, and nearer, relation to Christ, if the wife and mother be a Christian. N.B. the children are holy: a great dictum, with the authority of 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 7:40 behind it. Let him depart.—The Christian is never to initiate the separation; but needs not absolutely resist it, if the step be taken from the other side. In (not “to”) peace.—Therefore the believer needs not enforce union upon a reluctant unbeliever, or one determined to separate; to acquiesce in the inevitable is peace for both, and the way is open for resuming the old relation, if good may (1 Corinthians 7:16) result from it. Shalt save.—Perhaps hardly so much as, “If you remain with the unconverted one, is it not the sure way to save?” Nor so little as, “How do you know—how can you think—that you will, if even you persist?” Lies between. “Who can tell? Perhaps you may. There is at least a chance.” (He is reverting to 12–14.) But (1 Corinthians 7:17).—“Only,” Difficult to translate, very elliptical. “Indeed, I give hardly any fixed rule, only let this be the great guiding principle.” So ordain I.—Word of full Apostolic authority. [1 Corinthians 14:37 very definite and important upon this point.] Distributed.—Not as 1 Corinthians 7:7; but only of station in life.
1 Corinthians 7:19.—Join this with Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15.
1 Corinthians 7:20. Calling.—From this verse, very largely, rose our common use of the phrase for a man’s occupation or pursuit in life. True we really are appointed to, guided into, this by God. Yet in the word here is only the “sacred” sense: the calling into fellowship of His people. (Was any man ever “called of” God to be a slave?) “Whatever you were when the call reached you and saved you, in that, as a rule, abide.” Cf. 1 Corinthians 7:17-18; 1 Corinthians 7:21; 1 Corinthians 7:24 also.
1 Corinthians 7:21. Servant.—“A slave.” Care not.—“Do not anxiously seek liberty.” Use it.—Use what?
(1) The condition of slavery, or
(2) the opportunity of liberty? Curiously ambiguous. Both senses defended from very early times. For
(1) is the general drift of Paul’s advice, “Incline on the whole to make no change.” And this, it is suggested, with the idea in the background, “It will not matter long; the Lord will soon be here.” Also Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon to be received “as a servant.” For
(2) is the asserted unnaturalness of the other counsel, and, as things were, its cruel requirement that a slave should remain at the mercy of such masters as were many of those days, It is pointed out that Paul sent Onesimus back to a Christian master, and at least suggested his manumission. Also that, though certainly the Christian religion has usually wrought great revolutions by the “inoculation” of great principles into the social system, rather than by change imposed ab extra, yet that from the beginning it has favoured, and worked for, manumission whereever possible.
1 Corinthians 7:24.—Contrast “Of men … with God.”
1 Corinthians 7:25. Virgins.—Might include both sexes (Revelation 14:4). In point of fact (except perhaps in 1 Corinthians 7:26-27) young women are in his thought. Origin here of distinction between consilia and prœcepta. (See again infra, Bible-class Talk.)
1 Corinthians 7:26.—A perplexing verse again. well presents the again curiously ambiguous original. On the whole “present” is preferable to “pressing” (q.d. “the pressing cares of the married state”); “distress” being then the uncertainties and dangers involved or risked by being Christians in such times of change and, always possible, persecution. So to be.—How?
(1) As he is;
(2) As I am;
(4) As I go on to say in detail. Probably
1 Corinthians 7:28. I spare you.—Choose between
(1) “I speak as little and as tenderly as possible”;
(2) “I want to save you from such risks and cares and dangers, as, just now, must come upon married people.”
1 Corinthians 7:29 sqq.—See Separate Homily.
1 Corinthians 7:32. Carefulness.—Favours 1 Corinthians 7:28,
(2); as does 1 Corinthians 7:35, latter half. But 1 Corinthians 7:35 also favours
(1). Both are true and good reasons for cautious pronouncements. “Without any avoidable anxieties to burden your thoughts.” gives all needful indication of the effect of the different punctuations here, and of the different translations of “There is difference.”
1 Corinthians 7:34.—The ideal of “unmarried” life. Would that they all did!
1 Corinthians 7:35. Attend upon.—Stanley finds apt illustration of the three leading words of this clause in Luke 10:39-42.
1 Corinthians 7:36. Uncomely.—“Unhandsomely” (Evans). Spoken of the parent or guardian, not of the possible husband. He is presumed to wish to do what the need of the case requires. “Very good; the way is quite clear; he may consent to her marrying her betrothed.” Also, probably, “unhandsomely toward her”; not “unhandsomely as regards public opinion about keeping virgin daughters at home.” This only true of Jewish opinion.
1 Corinthians 7:37.—Conybeare and Howson, and Stanley, remark that no other statement of a daughter’s position was then conceived or then practicable; she was absolutely under her father’s power. See, for the fearful extent of this power, Pressensé, Early Years, Life and Practice, p. 363. As in the case of slavery, or the position of woman, Christianity did not change the social order ab extra, but ab intra. It attacked the sinful thing, polygamy (1 Corinthians 7:2), directly, by definite prohibition; it left this, not intrinsically sinful, relation between father and daughter to be changed by the working of the principle of the equal dignity of redeemed human nature in all races, ages, conditions, and in both sexes. He speaks here of a father who is not swayed by any external opinion, and who has no necessity arising from any circumstances of his daughter or her betrothed; in the then “present distress” he might do the excellent thing in marrying her, but the more excellent in keeping her at home.
1 Corinthians 7:39. In the Lord.—Christian must only wed Christian.
1 Corinthians 7:40. I.—Emphatic. Perhaps, q.d., “As well as your Cephas and the rest.”
HOMILETIC ANALYSIS.—Whole Chapter
[An indirect treatment is suggested; thus:] Observe—
I. How purely Paul deals with such matters.
II. How wisely.
III. How authoritatively.
IV. How spiritually.
I. How purely.—
1. His language is euphemistic. “Touch” (1 Corinthians 7:1); “have” (1 Corinthians 7:2); “the debt” (1 Corinthians 7:3); “be together” (1 Corinthians 7:5). [So the true reading, as, e.g., R.V.] Yet only with the euphemism which provides a seemly covering of what, though in itself neutral, has been debased, and has now no native, unshamed, simplicity in which it may present itself to the mind. Nothing of the wrong euphemism which robes sin with a vesture of innocence and even poetry and beauty, till it flaunts itself before us in what should only have been a necessary covering of its repulsive evil. Paul’s language rather indicates than mentions; there is no unhealthy suggestiveness of more than he dares unveil. His thought touches as lightly as may be; his mind and heart look with halfaverted gaze. Model for all who must, on occasion, speak. So the Lord Himself dealt with sin and sinners. “Some (poets) will tune their harps to sensual pleasures, and by the enchantment of their genius well-nigh commend their unholy theme to the imagination of saints” (Edw. Irving, Divine Oracles, Oration I.).
2. The topic must be touched, or the Bible were not a complete directory for life. The young need pure, but plain, words. Every missionary in heathen lands finds the value of such definite, holy, wise, authoritative pronouncement upon what are questions arising every day in heathen life, or in the nascent stage of a Christianised society. Such passages as these lifted up the whole relation between man and woman to the Christian level in the early Christian centuries. Such chapters as these, privately read, still keep the conscience sensitive and the standard true.
3. May be thankful that Bible has such pages, so healthy and pure. The tendency—not to say the aim—of “natural” thinking and writing is always to minimise the sinfulness of sin. Happy for the world that one Book in the world is unaffected by the fashions or the passions of an age, and stands forth unvaryingly the “testimony” of God; an objective standard by which the perverted judgment or conscience may be regulated, an objectivised conscience, to arouse or embolden the conscience within to resume its old, instinctive testimony, when dulled, or drugged, or hardened into silence.
4. Paul and the Bible might say, with Jeremy Taylor: “I have used all the care I could, in the following periods, that I might neither be wanting to assist those that need it, nor yet minister any occasion of fancy or vainer thoughts to those who need them not. If any man will snatch the pure taper from my hand, and hold it to the Devil, he will only burn his own fingers, but shall not rob me of the reward of my care and good intention; since I have taken heed how to express the following duties, and given him caution how to read them” (Holy Living, sect. iii.). Paul speaks of them as under the physician’s necessity, and with the physician’s abstinence from needless words. The Bible supplies abundant material for a holy estimate of sensual sin, even though existent only in thought.
II. How wisely.—
1. Recognises that the question arises out of a necessity of human nature, as God has made it. All men not alike (1 Corinthians 7:7) by their very God-given constitution. To have nothing to say on the topic would have been for the Bible to make the same mistake as the philosophies, which disregarded the matter as altogether beneath their exalted notice. Satan (1 Corinthians 7:5), or surrounding conditions (1 Corinthians 7:2), may make the very faculty and desire, which are per se neutral, and have their useful part to play, the occasion of temptation. God has therefore ordained the marriage institution (1 Corinthians 7:9); and, given marriage, there follow reciprocal obligations perfectly legitimate in their fulfilment (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
2. Yet the freedom and the self-mastery, the self-sufficient continence, of the unmarried have their excellence (1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:8; 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Corinthians 7:34), and especially in times of difficulty and possible persecution (1 Corinthians 7:26). [Paul should have full weight given to Revelation 14:4 on the side of his slight “preference” for the unmarried condition.]
3.He sees that the order of the world is not ideal in its simplicity, and the complex conditions of life do not permit, in some instances, of hard-and-fast rules. E.g. the very success of the Gospel, finding its way into heathen (or Jewish) homes, would create a difficulty and add a new element of complication to a Christian life. Husband or wife might become Christian, whilst the other remained an obstinate, perhaps persecuting, heathen (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). [Where both are Christians, and indeed as the fundamental principle of the marriage institution, there are to be no separations. The rule is plain. Divorce, only permissible in one case, even then simply recognises a union already broken by the wrongdoer. Nothing else must break it (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).] The Christian must not move in the direction of separation; there is already a blessing to the other party, and to the children, in the fact that one member of the house is Christ’s (1 Corinthians 7:14), and—who can tell?—there may arise a greater blessing yet (1 Corinthians 7:16). Still, the Christian need not, without exception and in all cases, resist separation forced on from the other side. It may be best to acquiesce in the parting; it may do more harm to seek to enforce the continued association; and God is tender of His children, and does not desire what may conduce to strife and misery, and almost make impossible peaceful service to Him (1 Corinthians 7:15).
4. Indeed, the general rule, applying not only to such cases as those particularly under discussion, is: “Make as little change as possible. Where, and what, the call of God which led you to Christ, found you, there, and that, remain; provided always that (as, e.g., with the now neutral circumcision) there is no wrong or right involved.” “Seek to abide therein with God. ‘Do all things as unto God, and as in His immediate presence’ (Bengel) (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). Circumcision is now become a mere piece of surgery; never mind it, either way. As to slavery; be not restlessly anxious for freedom (1 Corinthians 7:21); above all, do not, voluntarily, become any man’s slave (1 Corinthians 7:23); it will be a harder thing there than anywhere to be the freeman of Christ (1 Corinthians 7:22). You are not to choose to give the slave’s absolute subjection of your life, your will, your self, to any but to Christ; to Him you ought to give it; you are the bondservant of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 7:22; cf. Paul’s frequent description of himself in these terms). And if He open the door for freedom, be free, the better to serve Him.”
5. Shall the unmarried “make no change”? “There is no unvarying rule. The Lord has given none. I must not create difficulties for any of you by laying down one myself (1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:28). Case by case, each must be dealt with by itself. Though I do judge that, for the present, as things are, and are likely to be, the fewer new obligations man or woman assumes the better (1 Corinthians 7:26).” [And so, in effect, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35.]
6. Shall a father consent to, and even promote, or shall he refuse, the marriage of his daughters? Given, as before, that marriage is not per se sinful, but recognised and ordained by God; given also that, in the particular instance, there is no sin,—(e.g. given that both parties are “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39)—this is obligatory; to disregard this were sin),—let him give consent, if there be any apparent desirableness or necessity in it. He may promote the marriage; the course is quite clear. Still, if he do not desire it, nor the daughter herself desire and require it, he is at liberty to say that she must remain at home with him. “Make no change,” Paul said; but he makes no absolute rule; only saying that, as things are, she is better free (1 Corinthians 7:36-38).
7. Lastly, the bond between husband and wife is lifelong, but not longer. Death gives liberty for remarriage, subject always to this—“In the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39).
8. A perfect code all this for the regulation of home and family life, of marital and parental authority. Removed, on one hand, from undue freedom, such as might become licence; on the other from unnatural, and perhaps impracticable, restriction. Absolute veto, in any direction where the express command of Christ or the original law of marriage plants a barrier. Freedom, where no considerations of moral wrong intervene; but limited by considerations of temporary fitness or of general expediency, variable, modifiable, dispensable, from age to age, from case to case. The inviolable, indissoluble, sacredness of the marriage bond is safeguarded; the mere comfort (1 Corinthians 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15; 1 Corinthians 7:39) of the parties, or of one of them, is not deemed unworthy of consideration. [The possible wider application of these principles to similar cases is suggested by their employment in 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 7:24.] [They not only apply in heathen lands reached by Christian missions to-day, but have analogues at home. E.g. wife with drunkard or adulterous husband, inquiring her duty in regard to him; a wife [or son] converted in, and bound to reside with husband [or father] at, low public-house; man converted in some, not exactly sinful, but exceedingly difficult, position for maintaining a Christian walk.]
III. How authoritatively.—
1. Any word of Christ is absolute legislation for His Church (1 Corinthians 7:10).
2. Paul also can, on occasion, claim that his own pronouncements are in effect Christ’s, and carry Christ’s authority with them (2 Corinthians 13:3; 2 Corinthians 2:0 Cor. 14:37).
3. If here he gives “permissions,” not “injunctions,” the permissions are authoritative (1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:40). The alternation, “oscillation”—not between “yes” and “no” (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:18), but between “good” and “better,” between counsel in a negative sense and consent in an opposite direction—do not indicate any misgiving as to his power to speak, or as to his own soundness of judgment. The absence of positiveness is itself, in these cases, sound judgment. The nature of the case forbids anything further. Even the Lord would have said, would say, no more, in cases where Paul does not; Paul will go no further than his Lord has done or would do (1 Corinthians 7:25).
4. The contrast between Paul and Christ is only as between supplementary and earlier-given dicta, between complementary and primary, but both equally authentative. [The relation of Paul to Christ in this chapter is more nearly analogous to that of the prophets to the Law of Sinai. The one leading, fundamental, Divine utterance having been once given, the prophets and the Apostle deal with the applications of it to the ramifying, multiplying, cases which are ever arising; but not with less Divine authority of utterance.]
IV. How spiritually.—Next to this, “Christ says so,” which is the final appeal, the test is the bearing of the matter upon the religious life of the individual.
1. Even the one duty and mutual obligation which differentiates marriage from all other unions between man and woman, may, with consent, be subordinated to a higher duty: from time to time to have special seasons for prayer, and the cultivation of the spiritual life (1 Corinthians 7:5). When its fulfilment is resumed, it is as a safeguard for the spiritual life against fleshly, devilish, temptation.
2. The inconvenience, and perhaps opposition and suffering, which a Christian may suffer from a heathen partner are not indeed to be borne as if of unalterable obligation. “Peace” may sometimes best be secured by acquiescence in the departure of the heathen one (1 Corinthians 7:15). Yet very much should be borne, very long and patiently, for the sake of the blessed effect upon the position, and perhaps hereafter on the heart, of the heathen one (1 Corinthians 7:14; 1 Corinthians 7:16). “What if that one may be saved?”
3. Circumcision, uncircumcision; slavery, freedom,—the Lord’s apportionment was as truly in them all as it was in the “call” (1 Corinthians 7:17). Keeping the commandments is “the whole of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13); the rest is accident (1 Corinthians 7:19). The slave has a freedom, the freeman a bondage, to Christ, which should not be forgotten (1 Corinthians 7:22). Let him bear himself as a man “bought with a price,” and in any, every, station and condition as having God with him for his aid and defence (1 Corinthians 7:24). [
4. The outburst of 1 Corinthians 7:29 sqq. is dealt with separately.]
5. On all grounds it is worth something to be “without carefulness,”—undue, distracting, anxiety. But it is chiefly worth, as the leisure of mind and heart are leisure for Christ and His service (1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Corinthians 7:34). A single life finds its glory and its best justification in becoming a consecrated leisure for Him, with the opportunity, Mary-like, of oftener sitting at His feet, “attending upon the Lord Christ (1 Corinthians 7:35) without” Martha’s “distraction.”
6. The father who marries his daughter to a Christian man “sinneth not,” for the highest question is not one of prudence, but of sin.
7. And the one primary, all-embracing, all-qualifying condition of any liberty of action for those who are Christ’s is “Only in the Lord.” The member of the Body must not go beyond the Body for its fellowships. Everything is thus judged in the light of its bearing upon the life in Christ. Next to the fundamental wrong, which bars anything, comes Christian expediency, and this must mainly be estimated by those who are “in Christ,” and who judge by His Spirit’s grace of how their life in Him will be affected.
Whole chapter may also be organised homiletically thus, as—
A Christian Directory of Relative Duties in Household Life.—A Christian home begins with marriage. First therefore come:
I. Husband and wife.—Celibacy has its advantages in its freedom from responsibility (1 Corinthians 7:32 sqq.), its opportunity for choosing one’s place and one’s work for God, with no obligatory reference to any will but His. [Except that the Christian daughter will pay right deference to her father’s judgment and command (1 Corinthians 7:36-38)]. Where it does not occasion difficulty and become a point of assault for the Evil One, a man or woman may choose it, if they will. Yet married life is as honourable a condition. The foundations of a home may be laid with every hope of the blessing of God. It is a “doctrine of devils” to say otherwise (1 Timothy 4:3). It is the safest condition for some natures and physical temperaments. It has its own special helps and endearments. It is traced on the lines of a higher, closer, mystical union. “One flesh” may be all; or the Christian man and wife may make this lead them up to “one spirit with Christ” (1 Corinthians 6:17). See them “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7), joint-heirs in the same “great expectations,” with a parallel share in the reversionary estate, Life. See them kneeling together, night and morning, “giving themselves to prayer.” Or with special, consentaneous, self-denial, making way for some longer, more emphatic time of joint waiting upon God (1 Corinthians 7:5). Neither wronging the other; each belonging wholly to the other; gladly giving all that may help the other to all purity and holiness of thought and life. And over all the union there is inscribed the Lord’s own law, “No separation.” They were joined for absolute, entire, exclusive, lifelong, property in each other (1 Corinthians 7:10). If unhappily some fatal disagreement should arise, or even the wrong-doing of the husband should seem to compel the wife to quit her husband’s roof, still she belongs to him. She may not give herself to another whilst he lives. [And if his death release her, let her only look at a Christian husband again (1 Corinthians 7:39).] Let her heart be open to a reconciliation and to a return, if a repentant man desire it (1 Corinthians 7:11). Suppose God sends
II. Children, then these are “holy.” They are not the Devil’s children, not nobody’s [not Jewish, nor Mahometan, nor heathen]; from their very coming into a home which belongs to Christ, they belong to Him. Born of a redeemed human stock, every child born into a home enters it a redeemed child. Paul himself baptized (at Philippi, and Corinth, certainly) “households,” and—whether or not these happened to include very young children or infants matters little—his act recognised that the baptism and faith of the responsible head of the house carried with it the principle of the baptism of the house. Father, or even mother, becoming converted, the whole household becomes one on which Christ has a larger claim. It is “holiness to the Lord” Christ, from that moment. If the father or the mother stand alone, without sympathy or support, perhaps indeed distinctly persecuted, as a Christian, that one need not despond, nor hastily think of quitting the home. The presence of the one Christian sanctifies the children, and even the opposing partner. And if so in a divided home, how much more are the children “holy” where both parents are agreed, and are one in Christ! They may, with abundant confidence—they will, with no less assurance than if, as proselytes, they had even entered into the Jewish fold—bring them to that baptism which, at its lowest of significance, includes them all in the Christian community, that Christian “Church” whose census man can take. With no less boldness than did a Jewish father, they will claim for their “holy” children, under the sign and seal of the Grace itself, that Holy Spirit who is the gift and grace and privilege of the Christian form of the “covenant before confirmed of God in Christ,” which runs on in unbroken continuity from the day of God’s “promise to Abraham and his seed” (Galatians 3:14-18). Nor will that Lord refuse them Who once and again made the child’s spirit of docility and of simple, direct inclination to believe, the model of the spirit which alone can find its way into the kingdom of heaven, or be greatest when it is in (Matthew 18:3-4). And with how many prayers, and with what thankfulness, will these Christian ones seek to train and lead these, relatively, “holy” children to appreciate and seek a real holiness, by a personal choice of, and trust in, and life for, Christ! If that mother, busy within her home, not able to do outside work for Christ, only helps a Christian husband and Christian children to be holy, she may lie down to die feeling that she has not been an inconsiderable worker for Christ and His Church.
III. When the children are old enough to be married, what then?—
1. That Christian father is not to put frivolous, selfish, tyrannous obstacles in the way of his children’s marriage. If the Lord have found for the maiden daughter a Christian man to be her mate, the father should not lightly say they must not marry. He is to remember that all the same reasons which made it better, safer, holier, helpful, needful (1 Corinthians 7:36), for himself and her mother to marry, may point to the right of the girl’s happy, holy union too, for her sake and her suitor’s. Fulfil God’s order once again and lay the foundation of another Christian home: “let them marry.”
2. He needs be swayed by no undue regard for outside opinion. If he think indeed that there is anything in it worth his regard, and that it were an unhandsome thing to compel girl and suitor to wait and wait, whilst her best life is slipping away, let him follow his judgment, and further their marriage [with dowry and outfit perhaps, but certainly] with his consent and blessing (1 Corinthians 7:22).
3. It may be that she has not any strong reason or claim upon her to leave his side; a widower father then may keep his one child to be his comfort. Two parents grown old may lovingly require her attendance and the ministrations of love and duty, so it be not with tyrannous and unfair control over her liberty, but with her free consent. “He may keep his virgin” daughter (1 Corinthians 7:23) till she close his eyes in death. If like Lydia’s or the gaoler’s or Philemon’s, the home has its servants, or even its slaves, then as to
IV. The servant in the house.—
1. The foundation of all is that the Lord put him or found him in a slave’s condition. That is his post; there he must stay until the Commander relieves him.
2. The Gospel and its Lord, the God who is its Author, does not forget him, has indeed deigned to ennoble him, lifting him up to the honour of being a freeman in the citizenship of Christ’s kingdom. [The slave might hold office in the Church.] He is a man; a man for whom Christ died. The same redeemed human nature in him as in his master, saves him from any ignoble condition, and gives him rights never conceded before to slaves. He need not therefore fear but that even as a slave he shall have God continually near him.
3. He goes about his work cheerful, content, with an eye in every duty to his Master Christ. Servility, slavish fear, unlawful submission—these are chased out of his life; the servility is out of his heart.
4. As belonging to Christ he is not to be indolent, untruthful, impure, a centre of intrigue and moral corruption, as slaves proverbially were in antiquity. With new rights, owed to Christ, come new responsibilities to Him, and the slave may be, should be, holy, even in an unholy household. And how transformed will the home life be in the one fact that master, mistress, children, servants, all are equally in Christ, and are only apportioned to different stations by Him, for His glory and their mutual help!
1 Corinthians 7:14. “Sanctified by the wife; sanctified by the husband.”—Query, wife named first here (not above in 1 Corinthians 7:12-13) as the case of greater hardship for the one Christian, more affecting to consider, more hopeful for the conversion of the other? Wife will sooner convert husband, than husband wife?
I. Great principle of God’s dealings.—
1. Noah’s sons saved with, and for sake of, their father. Lot blessed for Abraham’s sake (Genesis 19:29); Lot’s wife and daughters brought out for their father’s sake; Potiphar’s house blessed for Joseph’s sake (Genesis 39:5); the crew of the Castor and Pollux all saved for Paul’s sake (Acts 27:4)—all “given to him.” How much blessing on an ungodly man’s house or business is accounted for by the presence and prayers of the godly wife, or even the godly servant or clerk? How much blessing on “unholy” children because of their connection with a godly, praying parent? How many a safe journey or voyage because of the presence of one of God’s “peculiar” ones amongst the company?
2. The world blessed for Christ’s sake, though ignorant of Him, or rejecting Him.
3. The Christian Church—this one isolated Christian—“holy” because of the connection with Christ.
II. Natural to expect that the one Christian will lead the rest into a real, saving, holy relation to Christ.—
1. By example. Great responsibility to be the first Christian in a family, or family circle; great grace given to meet it. Did the conversion of Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), Paul’s “kinsmen, in Christ before him,” prove the first “prick” of the goad which he really felt? “Who is this Nazarene—what is there in his ‘religion’—that even our own family cannot be kept pure from the taint of heresy?” The one light shining amidst the darkness reveals the darkness to itself, and convicts it (Ephesians 5:13); the first step towards its removal. “Believe, … thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31); not indeed without their own repentance and faith, but yet the more probably, now that the head of the house has believed.
2. By praying.
3. By direct effort. Part of the purpose of the family institution, that by the training of Christian parents a succession of godly offspring may be secured. Large principle in Luke 22:31-32. Satan desired all (“you”); Christ prayed for one, Peter (“thee”); and saved the rest mediately, though Peter. (“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”) God saves one in a house, a circle, not that that one may simply concentrate thought and effort on self preservation, self-cultivation, but that, through that one, appeal, conversion, holiness, may come to the rest.
1 Corinthians 7:19. The Indifference of Circumcision and Uncircumcision.
I. “Circumcision, uncircumcision—nothing.” (Connect with Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15.)
1. “These [three passages] 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 … man is viewed chiefly in his relation to the natural order of the world.… In the two … in the … Galatians, the more distinct reference to faith in Christ, and to the new creation wrought by His Spirit, is brought out.” (Stanley, in loco.)
2. (1 Corinthians 7:19.) Circumcision or Uncircumcision nothing for a Christian to be distressed about or hindered by. They do not prejudice his status before God; such external accidents cannot hinder living for God. (Galatians 5:6.) Circumcision [or Uncircumcision] nothing for him to trust to as a sinner for acceptance with God. Faith the one condition, if evidenced as living, saving faith by its work in love to God and to man. (Galatians 6:15.) Circumcision or Uncircumcision nothing for Churches to wrangle about, to compete in propagating, to press upon their members as necessities of salvation. Can they show, do their work and teaching produce, or help and train, “new creatures” in Christ Jesus? That is the aim; all else subsidiary; worthless, or even mischievous, unless it contributes to that. Nothing! Then why insist upon it? Nothing! Then why quarrel over it?
3. Then, don’t tell me what are a man’s accidents of birth or station; does he there walk in all practical commandment-keeping? He may find grace to do it. The level of the supply of grace will rise and fall as the difficulty or disadvantage does. Don’t tell me—don’t let a man tell himself—that he has been baptized; that he belongs to a covenant, Christian stock. Is he a believer, whose faith is plainly rooted in, and is renewing, his heart? Don’t tell me how a Church is winning adherents to its ceremonial, its creed, or confession; don’t let it, on the other hand, boast how it is getting rid of ritual or dogma; don’t let the member boast of his orthodoxy, or of his liberalism. Does this mean a membership of renewed men and women? That only is vital. Yet—
II. Circumcision, uncircumcision, may come to be something.—
1. Controversy made it such to Paul.
(1) He circumcised Timothy, to give him greater freedom of access to Jewish work (Acts 16:3), and this even after (1 Corinthians 15:1) the circumcision controversy had begun. Had to him become merely “concision” (Philippians 3:2), a mere piece of surgery. Old meaning had evaporated, leaving as residuum a mere cutting of flesh. If it might facilitate work of Christ amongst Jews, it was an innocent, expedient concession to prejudice and training.
(2) He refused to circumcise Titus (Galatians 2:3), [or, at the least, if he were circumcised, made it clear that it was not by “compulsion”. or “by subjection”]. Others were making circumcision a co-ordinate, or supplementary, ground of salvation, in a conjunction with faith which really involved disloyalty to Christ, as alone and in Himself a sufficient Saviour. [So baptism at the hands of an episcopally ordained minister in an exclusive line of succession may in some circumstances not be worth a word of controversy, but in others may become a matter involving deepest issues, and requiring most thorough, strenuous discussion. So “ritual” may be merely question of the style and taste of the conduct of public worship; or may become full of significance as to the priesthood of Christ, the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Calvary, the ground and means of the regenerate life; deserving then most earnest discussion. So a creed may become a test of loyalty to Christ and to Truth.]
2. God, had made circumcision much to His people.—The symbol of a complete sanctification of human life—even bodily, animal (Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6). The seal between Him and them of a blessing not only promised to them, but thus pledged to them. [As baptism may in parents and in children help faith to claim what God has not only promised, but covenanted to give—Christ and the Spirit.]
3. Should be remembered how the importance of such things varies with God’s appointment or repeal, with the knowledge or the needs of a Church, an age, a generation, an individual. Value relative, not absolute.
1 Corinthians 7:21. “Use it rather.”—It is surprisingly ambiguous to us. [Was it also so to Paul? Did he mean it to read ambiguously, lest the letter should fall into hands of heathen masters, and cause trouble to Christian slaves? (As some assume the number 666 in Revelation 13:18 to be a cipher, intelligible to Christians through orally given and transmitted explanation, but, prudently, left unintelligible to any chance heathen reader.) Would this be “the simplicity which is in Christ”? (2 Corinthians 11:3.)] Like “so to be” (in 1 Corinthians 7:26), can be read in more than one way; like some well-known oracles of Delphi (to Crœsus and others). Said to be unnatural, cruel, to counsel a slave to refuse liberty if offered. Probably so; and this is then parallel to the permission given to a Christian wife to accept her “freedom” from a determined, troublesome, heathen husband, who himself leaves her, without provocation on her part, except that she is Christian. Spirit of paragraph (1 Corinthians 7:17-24) may be summed up thus:—
I. Do not force change; do not be anxiously concerned to make a change; where “the call” found a man, “there let him walk.” “Care not.”
1. Very natural to Christians whose providential (1 Corinthians 7:17) place presents difficulties in being godly, to wish themselves somewhere else. The saint-slaves in Cæsar’s household (Philippians 4:22) naturally look wistfully, in some day of special hardship, toward the position of the poorest Roman free citizen in the Church. A modern Obadiah—finding every day in some Ahab’s house, with a Jezebel for a mistress, that he walks constantly as between red-hot ploughshares, every step an ordeal and a peril—wishes he were something else than Ahab’s steward.
2. Feeling shapes itself, “Ah, now! if I were only in So-and-so’s position”; or, “If I had only So-and-so’s husband”; or, “If, instead of what I am, I could only be such-and-such a thing;—then I would serve Christ! If I only had that man’s opportunities, would I not be a saint and a worker!” And a step farther is common, and easy to take: to assume that no thorough-going service, no fulness of happy Christian life, is possible in our actual providential position, and to give up effort and hope, acquiescing in being an average, a minimum, Christian; just holding on; not quite giving up Christ, but no more. And then a step farther: to be fretful under and rebellious against the appointment of the Father, Who guided us to the position, or converted us in it, and has not yet seen fit to open a way out.
3. No. First, is there any sin in remaining in the present position? If there is, then duty is plain: at all costs get out of it. But if not,—as seems likely from the fact that God does not open a way out,—until He does, that is a man’s place, as before God. Christ, the Lord of his life, wants him there for the present—there and nowhere else. To be the light there, the salt, the leaven. For the testing, the moral probation, perhaps the salvation, of some set over him, or in daily association with him. Where He puts a man, converts him, keeps him, there it is possible to live near to God (1 Corinthians 7:24), and to exemplify and honour the Christian profession. [Said a wise mother to her boy, smitten with some boyish longing to be something (other than his apprenticed trade) which had smitten his fancy, and who urged, “I shall never do any good at—; if I were only put to—, then I should do well.’ “Thou has nothing to do but to be what thou is.”—Known to H. J. F.] If it be only difficulty, not sin, that is involved, there is no insuperable barrier to being very holy under any conditions. Conversion in them, no providential way out of them offering itself, set up fair presumption that God says, “Stay there as My witness. I am with thee always. Abide there with Me.” The slave, the circumcised man, the uncircumcised man, the Christian wife of a heathen husband, can glorify, and enjoy, God where they are.
II. Accept thankfully God’s providential relief.—“Use it.”
1. The moment He sees that the sevenfold heat of the furnace can, and need, no longer be borne, He will, depend upon it, open the door. Then Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego, should “use” their opportunity. Their work for God in the furnace is done; now they are called to continue their work for Him outside. Paul had “learned”—he wrote from a Roman dungeon—“in whatever state therewith”—with dungeon and daily peril from Nero’s capricious, cruel “justice”—“to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Yet when the prison doors were opened, there would have been no “contentment” in not coming out to the wider field, larger opportunities, greater comfort, outside.
2. Whilst under the pressure of the difficulty, nothing forbids earnest, childlike, submissive prayer that a way out may, if it please God, be found or shown; especially if the difficulty verge upon sinful conditions, and an impossibility of retaining the favour of God or being holy.
III. The relief, the release, is to be used, not for our own comfort, but for Christ.—The free man, or the liberated, is not his own master. He belongs to Christ (1 Corinthians 7:22). His liberty gives the opportunity of a self-devotion to Christ, unfettered by conditions or the rule of another. If God take off the pressure from the Christian employé, or wife; if His providence “set the feet in a large place” after long “straitness”; grace will be needed to keep in the new conditions as really as in the old. The change means that He desires him to go on with his work for Christ somewhere else, which He chooses shall be more favourable. [Same principle as in the case of the freedom of the unmarried. Miss Havergal is a very ready-to-hand illustration of the consecrated leisure of an unmarried life (1 Corinthians 7:34).] With none of the spirit of bondage, he must use his new position—perhaps its wealth after poverty—with as strict a sense of obligation to his Master, as a slave is forced to recognise towards his. Every added privilege—liberty from persecution, from care, from a trying association, from an unhappy marriage,—all is so much the more facility for serving the Lord Christ. “Use it rather,” but for Christ in all things.
IV. Be careful not to create bondage or difficulty for oneself.—The free man is not voluntarily to become the slave of man [whether literally, or in a sense perhaps obliquely glancing at the Corinthian subjection to their party leaders] (1 Corinthians 7:23). In self-created, self-incurred, difficulty or trial, there is still blessing and help, indeed; God never takes the attitude: “There, I told you so. Now you must take the consequences.” But there is no such claim to it as where the “call” finds and saves a man in the bondage. The young girl who does not marry “in the Lord” may lose her religion, or, at the best, has created for herself a bondage or a cross, perhaps for life. Let the Christian remember the dignity of the freedom which belongs to his status in Christ. He will not go into a partnership, or take up a calling or business, which will fetter him, and limit or destroy his freedom to serve Christ and be holy. Keep and “use” liberty “rather.” “Ye are bought with a price.” Your life—yourself—too precious to play into Devil’s hands, or to assume man’s fetters in any sense.
1 Corinthians 7:29-32. “As not abusing it.”—An eruptive burst of solemnly intense feeling. On a higher level than the preceding and following verses. As if all such discussion of small points of prudential regulation were uncongenial. “Brethren, I answer the questions of your letter. But why do I spend—why do ye—so much time and thought upon matters which if the Lord came, or life ended, would in an instant cease to have any importance for us. I answer you, but, above all, this I say,” etc.
I. Two great considerations.—
1. “The time is short.”
(1) The time has lengthened out to nearly twenty centuries! Yet there should be no haste to assume Paul to have been mistaken in expecting the Parousia during his own lifetime. Remember how closely Christ had associated His coming with the fall of Jerusalem; remember how, practically, the Lord does come to every man in his death-hour. Practically we are ever in the presence of His Coming.
(2) “Short” and “has been shortened” (so the Greek). Illustrate by the cell discovered when the French captured Madrid in 1808, and overhauled the Palace of the Inquisition. Its walls iron plates, removable; each night one taken out, and the opening closed up, till at last three only left; then one removed; two left, which closed fatally upon the prisoner. So Paul reminds us how the end is being made to close in upon us; nor have we the power to stay this constant narrowing in of our opportunity for making ready to meet our Lord. Every night, and another “wall” has been removed; our space by that much the narrower, our time shortened by a day.
(3) That prisoner might count his days, and, if that were his temperament, might give himself up to some employment, reckoning with all human certainty upon such-and-such a margin of time, and regarding the inevitable end lightly until it was actually upon him. Our danger is that, knowing nothing whether one day or a thousand be ours, and believing (with more or less of reality of faith) that any mistake will be irreparable, we should so give up ourselves to home (1 Corinthians 7:29), pleasure (1 Corinthians 7:30), business (ib.), as to find the end upon us, and ourselves unprepared for the Lord.
(4) Time never seems “short” until gone, and too late to repair an error. True of some temperaments more than others. The special danger of young hearts. Time stretches away in such a long, long vista that no end is seen at all. Sir Philip Sidney hits off that characteristic in a well-known description of a pastoral landscape in his “Arcadia,” book i. [Describes proudly high hills with stately trees; humble valleys with silver rivers; meadows enamelled with flowers; thickets full of well-tuned birds; and concludes:] “Here a shepherd’s boy piping, as though he should never be old.”
(5) Yet not the danger of young people only and of inexperienced ages of life. The danger of every eager, active nature. Older men, with their half-century or more behind them, are found planning and working and hoping, on a scale and with an intensity which seems to count on staying here for ever. It is the “secular” temper always. A worthy, noble side to it. The restless, untiring, hopeful, inventive energy, to the last planning something new or larger, is a witness to a nature in man made for a larger life than the earthly. Such men vindicate for man a nature which can only in an eternity find room for its development and activity. [True, there is eternity for a harvest, but the sowing-time has each day been shortened, with solemn inevitableness.]
2. “The fashion … passeth away.”—
(1) Paul’s word suggests all the incessant change of men and circumstances in our busy life, as the change of scenes and action and “business” in a great stage-play. The Christian is as much an actor in the ever-shifting scene as any other. But. Paul asks men to moderate their eagerness by doing what is so hard to do: “Come off the stage for a few moments. Be a spectator, a critic, instead of an actor. See how things change, and how fast they change! See how little they all mean when the play is over!”
(2) [Of course his word only slightly connected with fashion in dress. Yet illustrate by it.] Take up book of old fashion-plates! How you laugh! How grotesque! Yet those odd, absurd dresses were to many objects of life-absorbing, soul-destroying, interest once. “Odd that the actors should lose life over the dress in which they play their parts.” You think so? Look, then—laugh, learn! In an old library, you come across dusty bundle of old political pamphlets and election literature. “Dry as dust!” Yet all England once rang from end to end with that strife. “Never heard of many of these names.” Yet they once were on every lip; around them raged the fiercest party feeling. Yourselves remember some old political contest; to-day you wonder, laugh, at the eagerness you felt. Learn, then, to measure the real importance of the present-day Act of the Drama. Men are losing their souls over it. Yet it is the merest stage-play passion and “business,” passing away. Or, remove from a town, long your place of residence. How soon the newspaper becomes uninteresting. How small the play they are acting there, the little personages, of whom fewer and fewer are known to you! Difficult to keep up correspondence with a friend there; you soon drift into different worlds. As to all the drama of the town’s life, its busy world of buying, selling, marrying, burying, weeping, rejoicing,—you soon find yourself very much “off the stage.” It seems “thin”; but to the actors on those boards there is danger lest they be so swallowed up in it as to forget the end.
(3) In truth, we cannot be only spectators. Whether we will or not, we change with the changing scene. Loves, friendship, habits,—all change. We ought to take our part. The passages and personages in the daily drama have their importance. They are our work. The stage is our place, for the time.
(4) But we are not to forget, amidst the bustle of the acting and the shifting of the scenery, or the interest of the drama, that all is passing—the play and the actors—and the coming of the Lord is drawing near. Not to let this stage-play of a life make us forget that the world of eternity is the world of reality, and that its first fact is the Coming and Assize of the Lord and Judge.
II. A great rule for conduct—
1. “Not abusing it,” or, more exactly, “not using it to the full.” [Illustrate by child with hand thrust into narrow-necked jar of filberts. Hand too full to allow of its being drawn out again. Child too greedy to take smaller handful.] Others besides children make the mistake, and need the lesson. Use the world; you must, you shall; its work is duty. Home has legitimate claims. No reason in religion why a man should feel no natural sorrow or joy. God gave the heart that feels, and the dear ones who give the joy, or, in their removal, cause the anguish. Be the good business man God made you. Some things indeed are out of all question; no place possible for them in a Christian life at all. But for the rest, take care! Do not fill your hand too full! Not quite as full as in the abstract perhaps you might, lest the world get grip upon your heart till you cannot get release at will. Do, enjoy, a little less than is lawful. Keep well within the limit; keep yourself free. Not to the full! [Paul saw how the comforts, pleasures, cares, responsibilities, of home might so steal away, or swallow up, the whole man, as to leave little time, and less and less energy, for the kingdom of God. Men are paralysed with sorrow or stupefied into uselessness; or nurse grief till it becomes a reason for doing less, or nothing, for the Lord, if, indeed, they are not soured and made rebellious towards Him. The very joy in the abundance of God’s gifts may ensnare hearts, until the outlook, the future, the Coming, is forgotten. Danger in buying and selling, whether successfully or unsuccessfully.] [R. Cecil said, “I want to see no more sea, hills, fields, valleys, abbeys, castles; I feel vanity pervading everything but eternity and its concerns, and perceive these things to be suited to children.” The weakness and the strength of the Evangelical school there. The weakness; repellant, e.g., to such as Kingsley (compare, in Wesley’s Journal, his vivid interest in everything). The strength; “This one thing I do.”] When first go to stay by seaside one sound always in one’s ears. Amidst the merry play of the children, behind the music of the shore, in the background of conversation, or reading, or dreamy thought—the roar of the waves. By-and-by we get accustomed to it, and forget it. The spirit of Paul’s outburst is: “Don’t be unpractical. Don’t be unhealthily ascetic. No need to wish, or to try, not to take part in life. But behind all do not lose out of your ears and thoughts the ocean of Eternity, and the coming of the Lord which launches you upon it.”
1 Corinthians 7:6. (Connect with 1 Corinthians 7:12; 1 Corinthians 7:25, and 2 Corinthians 8:8-10.)
Permission and Commandment. A Bible-class Talk
“Does not Paul say plainly that he writes some things without the help of the Holy Ghost, and simply on his own responsibility?” “For example?” “ ‘I speak this by permission, not of commandment’; and, more plainly (1 Corinthians 7:12), ‘to the rest speak I, not the Lord’; and further (1 Corinthians 7:25), ‘I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my judgment,’ etc.” “As to 1 Corinthians 7:6, the difficulty only lies in the English phrase employed. [R.V. makes this perfectly plain.] 2 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 8:10 also uses [what are really in Greek] the same phrases, and where the meaning, even in English, is clearer. Paul is making a great Relief collection for poor Christians at Jerusalem. The Corinthians are not too well disposed towards him, and (1 Corinthians 7:20) perhaps a little suspicious about all this money-getting. He had foregone his right to maintenance amongst them, lest there should be any chance for any one to say that he made a gain of them or of the Gospel (chap. 9). So here he will not ‘command’ them to finish up the collection, but gives his deliberately formed ‘advice,’ guided by the Spirit of God; [for when he says (1 Corinthians 7:40), ‘I think that I also have the Spirit of God,’ there is no doubt in ‘I think,’ but only a modestly restrained expression of perfect assurance.] Explain similarly 1 Corinthians 7:6 and its paragraph. ‘In this whole matter of marrying, I do not speak by way of commandment. I do not say “Marry,” for it seems to me just now expedient, because of the present and impending evils of the Church, that a man should have as few ties and responsibilities as possible. But I do not say, “Do not marry”; as an apostle I give you full permission to marry if you wish.’ Is that clear?” “Yes; but go on to 1 Corinthians 7:10.” “Well, next he forbids frivolous, capricious separation between husband and wife, such as was a common scandal in Greece and Rome. ‘I command that there be none of this,’ he says. And then, to make this important point more emphatic, he backs up his own Apostolic judgment with the express words of the Lord Jesus Christ on this very matter (Mark 10:11-12). He adds, therefore, ‘But here the Lord commands as well as I.’ There is no hope that disobedience will be blameless. ‘But (1 Corinthians 7:12) to the rest—the unmarried and the widows—I only say that they are prayerfully and soberly to follow their own judgment of what is prudent or necessary. There is no express word of Christ on record as to this particular point.’ Now 1 Corinthians 7:25 will present no difficulty.” “Does he mean to say that, as to the marriage of their young women, he has no express command of Christ on record, or in the Apostolic oral report of the life of Jesus to fall back upon, but that he once more gives his decision as one found worthy to be entrusted with an apostle’s commission and grace?”—H. J. F., Wesleyan Methodist Sunday-School Magazine, 1876, p. 131 (condensed).
[Farrar, in loc., reflects another type of estimate of Paul: “In the abstract, somewhat hesitatingly, and with the confession that he is not sure of his ground, and is therefore offering no authoritative decision, St. Paul on the whole agrees with” those who “regarded celibacy as the only perfect form of life.” In a footnote he adds: “The chapter is the best manual for the ductor dubitantium, because it teaches him ‘that he must not give himself airs of certainty on points where certainty is not to be had’ (Maurice, Unity, p. 429).”]
[Bearing on this point are 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 7:12; 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Corinthians 11:23 (1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 11:3); 1 Corinthians 14:37 (“my words are the words of Christ”), 1 Corinthians 15:3 (2 Corinthians 1:24), (1 Corinthians 10:8-9); also 1 Thessalonians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; Colossians 4:16.]
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25