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Summary —Marriage the Resource Against Social Sins. Not to be Lightly Dissolved. The Mutual Obligations. The Unmarried State Freest from Trouble in Times of Persecution. But Neither Husband nor Wife to Leave Each Other. If They Should, to Remain Unmarried. Not to Abandon an Unbelieving Husband or Wife Because of their Unbelief. To Rest Content with the Secular State in which One is Converted. The Treatment of Virgin Daughters. Let Them Marry Under Certain Conditions. Under Others, Best Not to Marry in those Critical Times. The Remarriage of Widows.
1–7. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote. In the preceding six chapters Paul has mainly treated of irregularities in the Corinthian church, of which he had learned through the “household of Chloe,” and other private sources. Now he begins to answer various questions asked in a letter from the church. If we had that letter, it would aid much in understanding what follows by revealing more clearly the state of the church and the discussions going on within. It is good for a man not to touch a woman. An Old Testament phrase which means not to marry. He does not mean that marriage is wrong, but that on account of “the present distress” it was a good thing not to be bound by family ties. See verse 26. “Forbidding to marry” is one of the signs of apostasy (1 Tim. 4:3). See Heb. 13:4. 2. To avoid fornication. To prevent this sin, and the temptations to it in an unmarried state, especially in a vicious community, it was best for each sex that they be married; the normal condition of the sexes. 3. Let the husband render unto the wife her due. The Revision is correct. Marriage is a state of mutual obligations. Each must yield to the other what those obligations require. 4. The wife hath not power over her own body, etc. Each sex here is put on exactly the same footing. The body of each belongs to the other, and cannot be yielded to other parties. The spirit of the passage not only forbids adultery, but polygamy. 5. Defraud ye not one the other. The married pair are not live apart, except by mutual agreement, and that only for a season, while devoting themselves to a period of prayer. In the East, the women have separate apartments, and during this season the husband would not enter the wife's apartments. 6. But this I say by permission, etc. What is just stated (verse 5) is permissible in the married state, not 94commanded. 7. I would that all men were as I myself. Had absolute self-control, as I have. His directions all recognize the weakness of human nature, and the need of making no requirements too great for it. But every man hath his proper gift. He had the gift of self-control; others might have other gifts which he did not have.
8–11. To the unmarried and widows. If they have his self-control, it is well for them to remain unmarried, even as he. Not that the unmarried state is better, but on account of “the present distress” (verse 26), the critical times. There are times when it is best to remain unmarried; for instance, in a time of war and invasion. The ground of his advice is not moral, but prudential. 9. If they cannot contain. If they cannot control their desires, it is best to marry. 10. To the married I command. Some might say, “If the unmarried state is best now, it will be better to leave our married partner.” He replies, “The Lord commands otherwise” (Mark 10:12; Matt. 5:32; Matt. 19:9). 11. But and if she depart. Provided, despite the prohibition, there is such disagreement that she leaves her husband, she must remain unmarried, or be reconciled. Let not the husband put away his wife. The wife “departs,” because she leaves the home; the husband “puts away his wife,” by sending her off. Both are equally prohibited. The same rules apply to each sex. Among the Jews, only the husband exercised the right of divorce; among the Greeks and Romans, the wife exercised it equally with the husband.
12–17. To the rest I speak, not the Lord. On the circumstances that follow, the Lord has not directly spoken, as he did on divorce; hence, Paul speaks by inspiration. If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, etc. If either husband or wife is converted, and the other is not, they must not on this account forsake the unbelieving helpmeet, provided he or she is pleased to remain. 14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified, etc. This passage has been much debated, and little understood. The unbelieving husband or wife is not made personally holy, not do the children of believers have personal holiness transmitted to them by virtue of birth relation. Sanctification, then, means something besides personal holiness. To sanctify is to separate to a sacred use, or relation (Exod. 20:8; 28:38). In 1 Tim. 4:4, 5, food is “sanctified by the word of God and prayer” Here Paul uses the term to denote that one Christian member of a household brings a sanctifying influence to it, so that all the members are to be regarded as separated in part from the great, ungodly, unclean world. 95Nehemiah commanded Jews to part from heathen wives on the ground that they were ceremonially unclean. Paul insists, rather, that the believer cleanses the other, and that the unbelieving partner, or the children, are rendered ceremonially clean. But now are they holy. Brought into such a sacred relation that the unbelieving partners are under the power of sacred influences, and not to be counted as sources of defilement. 15. But if the unbelieving depart. If the unbelieving husband or wife insists upon making the Christian profession a ground of separation, let them have their way. Examples of this kind occur in every age, and the rule is always applicable. God hath called us to peace. Hence, if strife must prevail to prevent separation, let the other go. 16. How knowest thou, O wife, etc. Let the Christian be gentle, forbearing, unselfish, though true to Christ, and perhaps the result will be that they will be God's means to save their partner. This has occurred in thousands of instances. 17. As God hath distributed to every man. “This I would add,” says Paul in effect, “whatever may be the lot and special circumstances of each man, single, married, or deserted on account of Christianity, let him walk in it without seeking a change.”
18–24. Was any one called being circumcised? He now applies the principle just stated, of walking “as God called every one.” The circumcised Jews were to be content that they were circumcised; the uncircumcised Gentiles were to remain so when they became Christians. 19. Circumcision is nothing, etc. Has no bearing on final salvation. The one essential condition is “keeping the commandments of God.” Nothing can take the place of this. 20. Let each man abide, etc. In that secular condition of life in which he was when called. 21. Art thou called being a servant? Half the population of the Roman Empire at this time were slaves. Thousands of the early Christians were in this condition. If a servant was converted, let him not be troubled over his servile state; but if he had the means of becoming free, let him rather choose freedom. 22. For he that is called … being a servant. The eternal equality of the servant and freeman in Christ is shown. The “servant” is Christ's freedman, since Christ has freed him from sin; the freeman, when converted, is Christ's servant. 23. Ye are bought with a price. Christ has bought each alike, ransomed them from the bondage of sin with his blood, and bound them to his service as his own. Be not ye the servants of men. As Christ's servants, do not become the followers of any other religious master. 96 24. Let every man, wherein he is called, etc. Let each one remain in the domestic and social condition in which the call of God found him.
25–28. Now concerning virgins. No doubt in the letter from Corinth it was asked whether a father should place his virgin daughters in marriage. In the East to this day the marriage arrangements are made by the parents. I have no commandment. He had no revelation upon the subject, but could give his Christian judgment. 26. I suppose … for the present distress. The critical condition in which Christians were placed by the spirit of persecution which then prevailed. Good for a man so to be. To remain in the state he already is. 27. Art thou bound? If married, he is to remain true to the bond; if unmarried, at present it seemed best to remain so. 28. But and if thou marry. Still, while it seemed prudent, with impending persecution, not to marry, it was not wrong to do so. Nevertheless, those who did, should have trouble in the flesh. Anxiety and distress on account of their domestic ties.
29–35. The time is short. The precise application cannot be known. It was but a short time until Jerusalem should be destroyed, and the early church
supposed this would be the end of the world. Life, too, is short; the time of preparation is short. It was the general feeling
then that some awful convulsion was close at hand. There was. Within half a generation the whole Roman world was turned up
by civil war, three emperors in succession were slain, and Jerusalem was destroyed.
As though they had none. Should look on all earthly ties as soon to be broken. All earthly arrangements must be regarded as transitory. 31. Those that use this world, etc. We all have to use the world; but we must not misuse it. That is the charge here. 32. I would have you free 97from cares. That is, I would have you free from the causes which bring cares. 34. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The sole thought of the unmarried person who is consecrated to Christ is to please Christ. 35. This I speak … not that I may cast a snare. Not to interfere with your freedom to marry. A snare thrown over the head made the victim helpless. Paul merely advises what, under the circumstances of that period, seemed most prudent.
36–38. But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin daughter. While giving a judgment in favor of the unmarried state, at that time, he gives full liberty. A man may give his daughter in marriage. Behaveth uncomely. Improperly in withholding her from marriage. If she pass the flower of her age. If she is fully matured. If need so require. If circumstances of any kind seem to require her marriage. 37. He that standeth steadfast . . having no necessity. If no need makes marriage necessary, and the purpose that she remain unmarried continues steadfast, he does well to let her remain so. To choose either course is well, but the last is the better, where circumstances permit (verse 38), on account of the “distress” (verse 26).
39, 40. The wife is bound by the law, etc. One point remains to be discussed, viz., The remarriage of widows. I suppose that the letter of inquiry asked about this. She is at liberty. In case of her husband's death, she is free from the marriage bond, and can marry whom she will, with one limitation—she must marry in the Lord; that is, a Christian. An alien marriage is prohibited. Indeed, so far was an ancient Christian from marrying an unbeliever that the question actually arose whether, when the sinner was converted, he could still live with an unconverted partner. See verses 12–14. 40. But she is happier. In his judgment, and in the conditions then prevailing, she will consult her happiness by remaining a widow. It is not only his judgment, but the Spirit seems to point the same lesson. 1 Tim. 5:14, might be supposed to conflict with this, but it does not, when we remember that Paul's advice here is due to prevailing circumstances. The question of marriage or remarriage is one of prudential considerations. 98
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