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7. Sexual Immorality and Marriage

1Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2But, because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3Let the husband render unto the wife her due: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife. 5Defraud ye not one the other, except it be by consent for a season, that ye may give yourselves unto prayer, and may be together again, that Satan tempt you not because of your incontinency. 6But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment. 7Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that. 8But I say to the unmarried and to widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9But if they have not continency, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. 10But unto the married I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord, That the wife depart not from her husband 11(but should she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband); and that the husband leave not his wife. 12But to the rest say I, not the Lord: If any brother hath an unbelieving wife, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her. 13And the woman that hath an unbelieving husband, and he is content to dwell with her, let her not leave her husband. 14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15Yet if the unbelieving departeth, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us in peace. 16For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O husband, whether thou shalt save thy wife? 17Only, as the Lord hath distributed to each man, as God hath called each, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all the churches. 18Was any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Hath any been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God. 20Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called. 21Wast thou called being a bondservant? Care not for it: nay, even if thou canst become free, use it rather. 22For he that was called in the Lord being a bondservant, is the Lord's freedman: likewise he that was called being free, is Christ's bondservant. 23Ye were bought with a price; become not bondservants of men. 24Brethren, let each man, wherein he was called, therein abide with God. 25Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: but I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be trustworthy. 26I think therefore that this is good by reason of the distress that is upon us, namely, that it is good for a man to be as he is. 27Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife. 28But shouldest thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Yet such shall have tribulation in the flesh: and I would spare you. 29But this I say, brethren, the time is shortened, that henceforth both those that have wives may be as though they had none; 30and those that weep, as though they wept not; and those that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and those that buy, as though they possessed not; 31and those that use the world, as not using it to the full: for the fashion of this world passeth away. 32But I would have you to be free from cares. He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33but he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34and is divided. So also the woman that is unmarried and the virgin is careful for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married is careful for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35And this I say for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is seemly, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 36But if any man thinketh that he behaveth himself unseemly toward his virgin daughter, if she be past the flower of her age, and if need so requireth, let him do what he will; he sinneth not; let them marry. 37But he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power as touching in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, shall do well. 38So then both he that giveth his own virgin daughter in marriage doeth well; and he that giveth her not in marriage shall do better. 39A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 40But she is happier if she abide as she is, after my judgment: and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.

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Inviolability of the Marriage Bond. (a. d. 57.)

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?

In this paragraph the apostle gives them direction in a case which must be very frequent in that age of the world, especially among the Jewish converts; I mean whether they were to live with heathen relatives in a married state. Moses's law permitted divorce; and there was a famous instance in the Jewish state, when the people were obliged to put away their idolatrous wives, Ezra x. 3. This might move a scruple in many minds, whether converts to Christianity were not bound to put away or desert their mates, continuing infidels. Concerning this matter the apostle here gives direction. And,

I. In general, he tells them that marriage, by Christ's command, is for life; and therefore those who are married must not think of separation. The wife must not depart from the husband (v. 10), nor the husband put away his wife, v. 11. This I command, says the apostle; yet not I, but the Lord. Not that he commanded any thing of his own head, or upon his own authority. Whatever he commanded was the Lord's command, dictated by his Spirit and enjoined by his authority. But his meaning is that the Lord himself, with his own mouth, had forbidden such separations, Matt. v. 32; xix. 9; Mark x. 11; Luke xvi. 18. Note, Man and wife cannot separate at pleasure, nor dissolve, when they will, their matrimonial bonds and relation. They must not separate for any other cause than what Christ allows. And therefore the apostle advises that if any woman had been separated, either by a voluntary act of her own or by an act of her husband, she should continue unmarried, and seek reconciliation with her husband, that they might cohabit again. Note, Husbands and wives should not quarrel at all, or should be quickly reconciled. They are bound to each other for life. The divine law allows of no separation. They cannot throw off the burden, and therefore should set their shoulders to it, and endeavour to make it as light to each other as they can.

II. He brings the general advice home to the case of such as had an unbelieving mate (v. 12): But to the rest speak I, not the Lord; that is, the Lord had not so expressly spoken to this case as to the former divorce. It does not mean that the apostle spoke without authority from the Lord, or decided this case by his own wisdom, without the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. He closes this subject with a declaration to the contrary (v. 40), I think also that I have the Spirit of God. But, having thus prefaced his advice, we may attend,

1. To the advice itself, which is that if an unbelieving husband or wife were pleased to dwell with a Christian relative, the other should not separate. The husband should not put away an unbelieving wife, nor the wife leave an unbelieving husband, v. 12, 13. The Christian calling did not dissolve the marriage covenant, but bind it the faster, by bringing it back to the original institution, limiting it to two persons, and binding them together for life. The believer is not by faith in Christ loosed from matrimonial bonds to an unbeliever, but is at once bound and made apt to be a better relative. But, though a believing wife or husband should not separate from an unbelieving mate, yet if the unbelieving relative desert the believer, and no means can reconcile to a cohabitation, in such a case a brother or sister is not in bondage (v. 15), not tied up to the unreasonable humour, and bound servilely to follow or cleave to the malicious deserter, or not bound to live unmarried after all proper means for reconciliation have been tried, at least of the deserter contract another marriage or be guilty of adultery, which was a very easy supposition, because a very common instance among the heathen inhabitants of Corinth. In such a case the deserted person must be free to marry again, and it is granted on all hands. And some think that such a malicious desertion is as much a dissolution of the marriage-covenant as death itself. For how is it possible that the two shall be one flesh when the one is maliciously bent to part from or put away the other? Indeed, the deserter seems still bound by the matrimonial contract; and therefore the apostle says (v. 11), If the woman depart from her husband upon the account of his infidelity, let her remain unmarried. But the deserted party seems to be left more at liberty (I mean supposing all the proper means have been used to reclaim the deserter, and other circumstances make it necessary) to marry another person. It does not seem reasonable that they should be still bound, when it is rendered impossible to perform conjugal duties or enjoy conjugal comforts, through the mere fault of their mate: in such a case marriage would be a state of servitude indeed. But, whatever liberty be indulged Christians in such a case as this, they are not allowed, for the mere infidelity of a husband or wife, to separate; but, if the unbeliever be willing, they should continue in the relation, and cohabit as those who are thus related. This is the apostle's general direction.

2. We have here the reasons of this advice. (1.) Because the relation or state is sanctified by the holiness of either party: For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband (v. 14), or hath been sanctified. The relation itself, and the conjugal use of each other, are sanctified to the believer. To the pure all things are pure, Tit. i. 15. Marriage is a divine institution; it is a compact for life, by God's appointment. Had converse and congress with unbelievers in that relation defiled the believer, or rendered him or her offensive to God, the ends of marriage would have been defeated, and the comforts of it in a manner destroyed, in the circumstances in which Christians then were. But the apostle tells them that, though they were yoked with unbelievers, yet, if they themselves were holy, marriage was to them a holy state, and marriage comforts, even with an unbelieving relative, were sanctified enjoyments. It was no more displeasing to God for them to continue to live as they did before, with their unbelieving or heathen relation, than if they had become converts together. If one of the relatives had become holy, nothing of the duties or lawful comforts of the married state could defile them, and render them displeasing to God, though the other were a heathen. He is sanctified for the wife's sake. She is sanctified for the husband's sake. Both are one flesh. He is to be reputed clean who is one flesh with her that is holy, and vice versâ: Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy (v. 14), that is, they would be heathen, out of the pale of the church and covenant of God. They would not be of the holy seed (as the Jews are called, Isa. vi. 13), but common and unclean, in the same sense as heathens in general were styled in the apostle's vision, Acts x. 28. This way of speaking is according to the dialect of the Jews, among whom a child begotten by parents yet heathens, was said to be begotten out of holiness; and a child begotten by parents made proselytes was said to be begotten intra sanctitatem—within the holy enclosure. Thus Christians are called commonly saints; such they are by profession, separated to be a peculiar people of God, and as such distinguished from the world; and therefore the children born to Christians, though married to unbelievers, are not to be reckoned as part of the world, but of the church, a holy, not a common and unclean seed. "Continue therefore to live even with unbelieving relatives; for, if you are holy, the relation is so, the state is so, you may make a holy use even of an unbelieving relative, in conjugal duties, and your seed will be holy too." What a comfort is this, where both relatives are believers! (2.) Another reason is that God hath called Christians to peace, v. 15. The Christian religion obliges us to act peaceably in all relations, natural and civil. We are bound, as much as in us lies, to live peaceably with all men (Rom. xii. 18), and therefore surely to promote the peace and comfort of our nearest relatives, those with whom we are one flesh, nay, though they should be infidels. Note, It should be the labour and study of those who are married to make each other as easy and happy as possible. (3.) A third reason is that it is possible for the believing relative to be an instrument of the other's salvation (v. 16): What knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Note, It is the plain duty of those in so near a relation to seek the salvation of those to whom they are related. "Do not separate. There is other duty now called for. The conjugal relation calls for the most close and endeared affection; it is a contract for life. And should a Christian desert a mate, when an opportunity offers to give the most glorious proof of love? Stay, and labour heartily for the conversion of thy relative. Endeavour to save a soul. Who knows but this may be the event? It is not impossible. And, though there be no great probability, saving a soul is so good and glorious a service that the bare possibility should put one on exerting one's self." Note, Mere possibility of success should be a sufficient motive with us to use our diligent endeavours for saving the souls of our relations. "What know I but I may save his soul? should move me to attempt it."




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