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The Apostle is chiefly treating in this Chapter, on the Subject of Marriage. He dwells largely on the several Circumstances connected with it, and makes very many blessed Observations, by way of Improve. went.
(1) Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (2) Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (3) Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
I have often considered a great part of this Chapter as having a spiritual illustration. And sure I am, if we were to read it in many parts of it with an eye to Christ and his Church, as the Apostle beautifully spiritualized the same subject elsewhere, (see Ephesians 5:32 ) to this amount; we should find numberless passages in it, sweetly explained in this way. As for example: In the opening of it, while Paul speaks of the advantage a man would have in a single state; may we not say, what pains, and agonies of soul, the Son of God would have saved himself, had he never touched our nature, neither regarded our lost and ruined state? Precious Jesus! What unspeakable mercies doth thy Church, thy Spouse, derive from her union with thee? But who shall calculate, yea; what heart shall conceive the sorrows which arose out of thy Surety-ship, when redeeming our ruined nature, from the guilt and consequences of the fall?
I am not to be told, that the Apostle, in the greater part of this Chapter, is answering certain questions the Corinthians proposed to him on the subject of marriage. This is evident from the first verse, in which he takes notice of the Church having written to him upon this occasion. Nevertheless, as their questions had respect to the times in which they lived, and the particular customs to which they were subject, and are altogether in many cases mentioned in this Chapter, foreign to the manners of the present day; I venture to believe, that both the Writer and Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary, will find it more profitable, to have our minds exercised unto godliness, under the Holy Ghost teaching, while perusing this Chapter, if we consider the Church's union with Christ; and see whether some very sweet and precious instructions, concerning that union, may not be gathered from what is here said.
Hence, when I read, that to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband; I not only see the Lord's solemn ordination, and appointment, from the very first dawn of revelation, when at the creation of our first parents, Adam and Eve, the precept went forth, that a man should leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they should be, one flesh; (Genesis 2:24 ) but I see the blessedness of union between Christ and his Church, which that marriage of Adam and Eve was designed to represent. It was Christ, concerning whom the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him, Genesis 2:18 . And it was the Church, which the Lord God did form, to be an help meet for him, and an help mate to him, which as his spouse, his bride, might be a partaker with him, and from him, of all that is communicable of grace here, and glory to all eternity to Jehovah's praise, and the Church's happiness. And therefore, with an eye to this, how blessedly we read, what God the Holy Ghost by the Apostle here saith, in the opening of this Chapter: let every man have his own wife, and every woman have her own husband, Christ hath but one wife, his Church; and his Church hath but one husband, the Lord Jesus. My dove, my undefiled, (saith the Bridegroom in the Canticles), is but one, she is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her, Song of Solomon 6:9 . And elsewhere the Lord blessedly saith: Thou shalt abide for me many days: thou shalt not play the harlot: and thou shalt not be for another man: so Will I also be for thee, Hosea 3:3 . Reader! do not overlook the love of Jesus, in those sweet scriptures; that amidst all our spiritual fornications, and departures from the Lord, Jesus never departs from us. The Lord God of Israel saith, that he hateth putting away. See a beautiful scripture to this effect, Malachi 2:14 , to the end. See also Hosea 2:0 throughout.
And sure I am, that no child of God, who is truly and savingly regenerated, can read in this Chapter what is said of the husband rendering unto the wife due benevolence, but must be led (if so be the Holy Ghost opens to his view the thought,) to contemplate, the unceasing grace, and mercy, and loving kindness of the Lord Jesus. With what earnestness of affection doth Jesus woo every individual of the persons the Father hath given him to himself? How many, and how unceasing are his love calls, to allure us to his arms? Though in our fallen state, we have made a covenant with death, and with hell we are at agreement; yet when Jesus comes to demand his own, he saith: your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand, Isaiah 28:18; Isaiah 28:18 . By the sweet and gracious influences of the Holy Ghost at regeneration, all the holds of Satan are broken down, and the world and sin lose their charms; and notwithstanding all our loathsomeness and unworthiness as we are in ourselves, our poverty, weakness, ignorance, and the innumerable provocations wherewith we have provoked him to anger, Jesus unites us to himself, makes us his spouse, cleanseth us in his blood, cloatheth us in his robe of righteousness, makes us comely from the comeliness which he putteth upon us, brings us to his ordinances here, and will bring us home to his marriage supper in heaven, when all the purposes of his holy will are fulfilled; and grace is consummated in endless glory. Reader! Is this the due benevolence Jesus renders to his wife the Church? Oh! that you and I could bear as cheerful a testimony concerning ourselves, when it is said, in the latter part of the verse : and likewise also the wife render due benevolence unto the husband. But oh! thou dear Lord! how often, as a treacherous wife departeth from her husband, hath my poor heart been wandering from thee? Lord! let me hear thy sweet voice by the Prophet: Return ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding. May the Lord enable me to answer: Behold we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God, Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 3:22 .
(4) The 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. (5) Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. (6) But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. (7) For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. (8) I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. (9) But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. (10) And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: (11) But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. (12) But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. (13) And the woman which hath a husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. (14) For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. (15) But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. (16) For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? (17) But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
Having by the foregoing observations, aimed to shew, how capable this and similar chapters and portions in God's word are, of being spiritualized; I would now also endeavor to consider, some of the several expressions which the Apostle hath made use of in this Chapter, which at first view are not so plain to he understood.
The general phrases, of wives having no power over their own bodies, and husbands in like manner over themselves, and the charge of not defrauding one another, but with consent for the duties of religion : these are expressions as delicately framed, as the nature of the subject would admit; and they intimate the mutual obligation, that each party is to attend to one another, in all the departments in which the married state can be supposed to be circumstanced : that none of the enemies of our salvation, neither Satan, nor the world, nor the lusts of our own, corrupt and fallen nature, may at any time tempt to evil. And I take occasion, from what the Apostle hath here said, to observe, that very sure I am, even among the Lord's people too little attention in the minuter circumstances of life, in temper, disposition, the want of accommodation, and what Paul elsewhere calls bearing one another's burdens, and so to fulfill the law of Christ; hath been, and frequently is productive of many sad consequences, in social, and religious life, Galatians 6:2 . It would be well, if all professing godliness, were attentive to those things, that no occasion might be given to the adversary to blaspheme. To behold such as profess to know the Lord, and to have passed from death to life, followers of God in Christ, as dear children; and by that profession, to be supposed as walking in love, as Christ also hath loved us; and to become examples of believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity, and yet of temper's so unkind, that except when actually engaged in seasons of worship, those with whom they dwell find continual occasion to complain there is somewhat highly unsuitable, and unbecoming in all this where is the Spirit of Christ, and the meekness of Jesus, it may be said? And I have heard it more than once said by some, and have found cause to blush when hearing it, as unable to answer the charge: "if there were no, other life than the present, I would rather spend my social hours with some amiable tempers, who make no profession of grace, than dwell with many that do." Solomon long since observed, that it is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman, Proverbs 21:19 . And whether man or woman, if professing godliness, and yet indulging a fretful, irritable temper, it brings great reproach upon the blessed Gospel of Christ, and is productive of much discomfort to his people.
When the Apostle in this Chapter draws a line of distinction between what he speaks by commandment, and what from himself, we are not to suppose that he means his authority was not the same. The commandment, to which he refers, is the precepts, which are found in the Word of God on the subject, Genesis 2:24 ; Exodus 21:19 . So again, when he saith, that he would all men were even as himself: He doth not mean in relation to the married, or the unmarried state. For it is not known whether Paul had, or had not a wife. And if unmarried, he could not be supposed to wish that there were no marriages. But Paul modestly wished, that all men were blessed with grace, to the state in which they were, as himself.
So once more, when Paul saith, that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband, we are not to suppose the Apostle meant, that the one, which is a partaker of grace, sanctifies, or makes holy the other, which is not a partaker of grace. None but God the Holy Ghost can regenerate, and make holy; and therefore this is impossible. But the sense is, that by virtue of one of the parties in marriage being in a state of regeneration; it renders the state of matrimony, which is between those two persons, a sanctified, or holy state, notwithstanding the unsanctified unholy state of the other party. And hence the children, which otherwise would be unclean, springing from both parents, if both had been unregenerate, are now by virtue of one of them, holy; that is, are born in holy wedlock. And, it should be considered moreover; that in this Chapter, where those terms are made use of, the Apostle is writing to a Church gathered from heathenism and idolatry. Therefore, if one of the parties in wedlock be still in heathenism, this doth not make the children heathens, because the other is a believer. Hence the children are sanctified, that is, are born in holy wedlock. And this is all that is, or can be meant by it, as relating to the circumstances of human life. A husband's regeneration cannot produce the regeneration of the wife, neither the wife's the husband. Neither are children, by any birth of nature, even if both parents are regenerate, made thereby children of grace. But, all that is here said, relates to the state of holy wedlock, as concerning transactions in social life; and a sweet scripture it is, to comfort the people of God, when, in either case, man in grace happens to be united to a woman not in grace: and so on the other hand, a gracious woman to an ungracious man. But while this Scripture affords consolation under such circumstances, it is truly blessed, when both parties are true yoke-fellows, have first given themselves to the Lord, and then to each other; and are one in Christ, 2 Corinthians 6:14 . But, while so much may be said, and indeed ought to be said from this scripture, in reference to the marriage state in human life, I beg the Reader not to overlook, the very sweet and precious instruction arising from this subject, in a spiritual sense, as it relates to the Church's marriage with Christ. Here, indeed, and in truth, our glorious, holy Husband, sanctifies his whole body the Church; for by the one offering of himself once offered he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified, Hebrews 10:14 . And by his uniting his Church to himself, she is made holy in his holiness: The root being holy, so are the branches, Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one. Oh! precious Sanctifyer of thy people! Yes! thou holy Lord, we hear thee say For their sakes I sanctify myself, Hosea 2:18-19 ; Jeremiah 23:6 and Jeremiah 33:16 ; Isaiah 54:5 ; Hebrews 2:11 ; John 17:19 .
What the Apostle hath added in the question put both to the wife, and husband, about saving each other, hardly needs an observation. By saving, simply means no more than the being instrumental in bringing unbelievers under the means of grace. No man can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him. For the redemption of the soul is precious. And this is solely the office of Christ. The Lord hath done it, and being once done it ceaseth forever, Psalms 49:7-8 ; Hebrews 10:14 . And when souls are brought under the word, and that word is prayed over; this is the utmost that can be done. And very hopeful it is when God's children are enabled so to do; and find their minds led out in the service, by God the Holy Ghost. The Lord that quickened one poor sinner can quicken another. And he that mercifully called me, (a child of God may say,) can, if he so please call you. But here the matter must rest. What knowest thou, 0 wife, whether thou shalt save thine husband? And how knowest thou, 0 man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
(18) Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. (19) Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. (20) Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. (21) Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. (22) For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. (23) Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. (24) Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. (25) Now 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. (26) I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. (27) Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. (28) But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. (29) But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; (30) And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; (31) And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. (32) But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: (33) But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. (34) There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. 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. (35) And this I speak for your own profit; 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. (36) But 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. (37) Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. (38) So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. (39) The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. (40) But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.
As the Apostle on this subject of circumcision, as well as all the other points on ordinances, wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost; it is to the peace and happiness of the Church, to have a clear instruction concerning those things. And what is here said, is highly satisfactory, being stated by the Lord himself in his government of his Church and people. Here we are expressly taught that if a Jew be called by the Spirit, his former circumcision hath nothing of objection in it. He is not to conceal, or even wish to conceal, his having been circumcised. Let him not become uncircumcised. He cannot indeed be so. The thing itself in fact is impossible. But the Apostle probably alludes to the case of some, who in times of trouble, when it was considered by heathens a crime to be a Jew, and such upon examination as were found so, were cruelly treated, or put to death; attempted means to make it appear, that they had not been circumcised. To all such the Apostle speaks when he saith, let him not become uncircumcised. In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature, Galatians 6:15 . And on the other hand, if a Gentile from among the heathen world, be called by sovereign grace, to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; let him not be circumcised by way, as he may think, of being entitled to the Covenant made with Abraham; for this he is without it, Galatians 3:28-29 . Circumcision was indeed an holy ordinance of God; and appointed to be observed by the whole house of Israel, under the severest penalties, Genesis 17:10-14 . But as it was intended only as a sign and seal of a better Covenant, established upon better promises; it never was intended to minister any further, than unto the coming of Christ. It served as a shadow to Him. For it intimated the fall, and corruption of nature; and that without shedding of blood there was no remission. But when He came, who by the one offering of himself once offered perfected forever them that were sanctified; this ordinance was done away. The substance being come, the shadow forever ceased, Nay, indeed, it not only ceased to be necessary, but became improper. For, as circumcision had wholly an eye to Christ, whoever submitted to the rite after the coming of Christ, did virtually by the act call in question, either that Christ was come, or that his coming was the fulfillment of the whole law. Hence, the Apostle in another Scripture saith, that if a man be circumcised, Christ shall profit him nothing: that is, if he be circumcised from not being satisfied with Christ's obedience and death, as accomplishing redemption and becoming the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. See Galatians 5:2-3 ; Romans 10:4 .
The Apostle makes use of the same kind of reasoning, respecting the several departments of social life: the servant with the master and the wife with her husband, and in short all the several railings of the world. All situations in civil society, provided the station be lawful, and honest, may be followed; for they have nothing to do with the grand concerns of salvation. He that is called in the Lord with an holy calling by sovereign grace, and is thereby proved to be of the family of Christ, bought with the precious price of Christ's blood, and thereby redeemed from the Adam-nature fall, hath an infinitely higher concern, than the mere consideration of any worldly calling. The time here, is short. It is hardly worth a thought, what station of life a man is placed in, high or low, rich or poor; unless it were to seek that which might best promote the everlasting interests of the upper, and brighter world. Even the tender alliances in the charities of life: our continuance in them is so transitory, that we ought to sit as loose and detached from them as possible: and conscious that here we have no continuing city, we therefore ought to be always on the lookout in seeking, one to come, Hebrews 13:14 . I do not think it necessary to enlarge on several particulars set forth by the Apostle, towards the close of the Chapter; being in themselves sufficiently plain and obvious.
READER! You and I shall read this Chapter of the Apostle's to no small improvement, if from what is here said in relation to the civil societies in common life, we make a spiritual reflection on that near, and dear union, which subsists between Christ and his Church. There can be no connection so near, none so dear, none so important, interesting, and durable; for it is forever. All other unions die with the body. But Christ and his Church are one, to all eternity.
It may be very blessed to have an eye to this, in our forming connections in the marriage state; and to invite the Lord Jesus and his disciples to the wedding. And, with respect to the humble, or exalted state, in which the members of Christ's body are placed, experience loudly confirms the truth every day; poverty, or riches, go but a little way, to frustrate, or promote, the real comforts of life. Where Jesus is, and where He forms the union, blessedness must follow, in the sanctified use of all dispensations.
Reader! do not overlook, or forget, the decision of the Lord by the Apostle in this Chapter, concerning ordinances. Circumcision or uncircumcision, with every other ordinance whatever, are in themselves nothing. Many of Christ's redeemed ones now in glory, like the man Jesus took with him to Paradise from the cross; never enjoyed a single ordinance upon earth. And many, it is to be feared, who have had all the privileges of ordinances, know nothing of the God of ordinances to their souls joy. Reader! may it be your happiness, and mine, to form our conclusions upon the Apostle's standard, as regulated by the Spirit of God. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God, Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16