Let Them Marry

1Corinthians 7:36-40 But if any man think that he behave himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinned not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. So then he that gives her in marriage does well; but he that gives her not in marriage does better. The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God. 

‘Uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sins not: let them marry.’ In the early times among both Jews and Christians the daughters were wholly in the power of the father, so that he might give them in marriage or bind them to perpetual virginity. If the father had devoted his daughter to perpetual virginity, and afterwards found that she had her affection centred upon a man, being strongly inclined to marry, he could change his plans regarding her virginity and give her in marriage at any time, even after the flower of her age. He would not be committing sin by changing his plans for her. ‘His virgin’ – this will be his virgin daughter, not a sweetheart.

‘If she pass the flower of her age.’ If she is of full age to marry, which was at a very young age as was the Eastern culture for women.

‘And need so require’ – If she wants to get married instead of being a perpetual virgin. Sometimes the conditions of 1Corinthians 7:8-9 enter into the picture.

‘Let him do what he will, he sinned not: let them marry.’ Let the father of the virgin do what he knows is best for his daughter under the circumstances, regardless of how he has already planned her life. He is free from all former plans and vows.

‘Nevertheless he that stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well.’ If the father finds it unnecessary to change his plans, it being unnecessary to betroth his virgin daughter, because of her being inclined not to marry and wanting to consecrate both body and spirit, as in 1Corinthians 7:34, then let him keep his daughter from marriage.

‘So then he that gives her in marriage does well; but he that gives her not in marriage does better.’ This explains 1Corinthians 7:36-37 and proves that it is a father who gives or does not give his virgin daughter in marriage. ‘Wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.’ Evidently this verse is in answer to a question of the Corinthians about a woman whose husband was dead. Should she remarry? Paul gave the Christian law on this and laid down a restriction that she remarries only a Christian man, not a heathen. He then gave the advice that she would be happier if she remained single in view of the present conditions in the world for Christians (7:40). Paul by no means contended for celibacy, but gave sound advice for the present distress.

Without Carefulness

1Corinthians 7:32-35 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 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 you may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 

‘Without carefulness’ – Carefulness is a characteristic of being cautious, thoughtful, or prudent. When you write “fragile” on a package, you’re hoping it will be handled with care. Acting without thinking things through is carelessness. You can think of carelessness as negligence, a failure to pay close attention or carefully consider the possible ramifications of your actions. Paul is warning against such an attitude that can turn out disastrous.

‘He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord.’ The single man or woman can attend to the things of the Lord without distraction (7:32, 34).

‘He that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.’ The married man or woman has many responsibilities in caring for their family and household (7:33-34).

‘Holy’ [Greek: hagios] devoted; holy; pure. Here it means that she may be devoted to God and pure in both body and spirit so that she may attend to the things of God without distraction (7:34-35). ‘I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you.’ Paul gives a warning that will benefit those who fall in the noted categories and not to ensnare them. This is what a godly warning should consist of, it must be for the hearer’s benefit and not something that will entrap them.

Trouble in the Flesh

1Corinthians 7:25-31 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that has obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Are thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Are thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou have not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; 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; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passes away. 

‘Virgins’ [Greek: parthenos] a pure, unmarried young woman. This was another subject that the Corinthians had asked Paul about.

‘That this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.’ Paul’s advice here was for the present distress or persecutions of Christians. They were at the mercy of their enemies with no state protection as we have today. On this account it would be better for unmarried persons to remain single.

‘Are thou bound unto a wife? … Are thou loosed from a wife?’ This means to be married (bound) or divorced (loosed) from a wife or husband on legal and scriptural grounds. Because of the “present distress” of that day the advice was: “seek not a wife;” but if you do marry you have not sinned (7:27-28).

‘Time is short: it remains, that both they that have wives be as though they had none …’ this is the 9th New Testament prophecy in 1Corinthians (verses 29-31). This predicts the immediate persecution of Christians which Nero was then preparing.

‘Trouble in the flesh’ most marriages are not pleasant or easy because of the partners’ selfishness or unsaved state where everyone today only lives for themselves without consideration for others. Because of impending persecutions: Let all people be without anxiety concerning families, property, and the world in general (7:32-33). Let the married live as though not married (7:29). Let those who weep act as though they wept not (7:30). Let those who rejoice act as though they did not rejoice. Let those who buy live as though they did not possess. Let those who use this world make proper use of it, for the very fashion of it will soon pass away (7:31; 1Jn. 2:17). The way rituals and rites are done on earth will pass away and have no eternal value (1Jn. 2:15-17).

Called Us to Peace

1Corinthians 7:12-16 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother has a wife that believes not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which has an husband that believes not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 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. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace. For what know thou, O wife, whether thou shall save thy husband? or how know thou, O man, whether thou shall save thy wife? 

‘Let her not leave him’ – That men and women have complete equal rights is clear in all Scripture (7:2-5, 10-16, 27-40; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11).

‘Sanctified’ [Greek: hagiazo] Here it simply means that the unbeliever, by virtue of being one flesh with a Christian, is not considered living in an unlawful relationship. It also refers to the spiritual influence and power the Christian holds over the unbelieving companion. It could not mean that the Christian could save the soul of the unbeliever. Should the sanctification referred to here not be allowed, the children would be considered ceremonially unclean, not to be received by Christians or given any rights and privileges of Christians. Children also qualify for God’s provision – which includes protection -because of the one saved parent.

‘Unclean; but now are they holy.’ Jews considered any child born out of holiness if born of parents who were not proselytes at the time of his birth, even though afterwards they became proselytes. On the other hand, they considered children of heathen born in holiness, provided the parents became proselytes before the birth of their children. All heathen children were considered unclean by Jews; and all their own children holy. Heathen mothers went through certain ceremonies to idols and children were consecrated to the goddess Statina. Children of Christians came into the world without these impure and unhallowed heathen rites and were consecrated to God. This is what the apostle alludes to here. ‘If the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace.’ Here we have another legal and scriptural reason for divorce and remarriage. If the unbeliever refuses to live with a wife or husband because of Christianity and if he or she is determined to leave on this account, the Christian is not under further marriage bonds and is not held responsible or punished by requirement to remain single the rest of his or her life because of the rebellion of another. The Christian is to submit to the breaking of the marriage covenant under such circumstances.

Commands Concerning Marriage

1Corinthians 7:10-11 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 

‘I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband.’ Commands concerning marriage: Let every man have his own wife and every woman her own husband (7:2). Let the husband meet the sexual needs of the wife and the wife that of her husband (not just his own and without any perversion (7:3-4). Defraud not each other in sexual matters – fulfil your conjugal vows. Come together again after you have consented to live content for a period so as to pray and fast (7:5). Let both man and woman marry if they have battles of self-control (7:9). Let not the wife depart from her husband (7:10). If she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband (7:11) if there was no fornication, violence or neglect. Let not the husband divorces his wife (7:11). Let not the Christian man/wife divorces the non-Christian if he/she is pleased to dwell with him/her (reasons, 7:12-16). If the unbelievers depart and refuse to live with the Christian, let him/her depart. Do not force continuance of the marriage. The Christian is freed from the marriage bonds in such cases (7:15). Let every man or woman remain as he or she was when each became a Christian (7:17-24). That is, do not use Christianity as an excuse to break up your own home and perhaps another, seeking a new companion. If you are bound to a wife, seek not to be loosed (7:27). That is, do not get a divorce, regardless of the past. Stay in the same calling and state in which you were saved (7:17-24). If you are loosed from a husband/wife, seek not another (7:27). If you do marry, however, you have not sinned (7:28). You that have husbands/wives, live as though you did not have them (7:29-31). That is, live free from anxiety and stress (7:32-35). It is no sin for the virgin to marry (7:36-38). The wife is bound by law to be married as long as the husband lives (7:39). Marriage is for the lifetime of the husband or wife. Christians must remarry only Christians when companions die or leave (7:39).

‘Depart’ – This means to get a divorce, or Paul would not have restricted her to remain single, not remarrying unless it was to her former husband. Among Jews a woman had just as much right to put away a husband as the husband had to put away a wife. A woman could say to the elders that her parents or brethren had deceived her, betrothed her to the husband when she was young, and state, “I now reveal to you that I will not have him as my husband.” Some parted with mutual consent and this was considered legal, as was also their remarriage to others. All divorces were considered the complete dissolution of the marriage bond; and, in consequence of this, they were free to remarry. Any woman or man who got a divorce on grounds other than those allowed was to remain single or remarry the former companion. Divorce on scriptural grounds meant that a person was free to remarry, providing it was to another Christian (7:15, 27-28; Matt. 5:32; 19:6). The innocent was not to be held responsible for the sins of the guilty (Ezek. 18:2-4, 13, 17-32).