About Jesus  - Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 7 

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 Marriage  (ch. 7:1-40)  


Before we get into the text of 1 Corinthians 7 there is some background information that is important to know. 


Like Jesus, Paul isn't giving a step by step theological discussion on divorce and remarriage.  Throughout the latter half of 1 Corinthians, he is answering a number of specific questions he was asked by those in Corinth.  Chapter 7 is dedicated to answering a number of questions concerning marriage and related subjects.  Therefore, 1 Corinthians 7 isn't meant to answer all of our questions on this issue.  It's not Paul's systematic teaching on marriage, divorce, or, remarriage.    


Corinth was an extremely immoral city as seen through the lens of Christian morality.  It was a large city of commerce and religion.  The centerpiece of Corinth was the Temple of Aphrodite (or Diana).  Any citizen of Corinth, or any number of thousands of visitors to Corinth, would worship at Aphrodite's Temple.


It's important to understand that religion in the Roman Empire was polytheistic paganism.  They worshipped multiple gods.  Aphrodite was just one of many gods.  She was the god of fertility, love, and sex.  Therefore, one of the highest callings of any young pagan Roman girl and boy was to serve Aphrodite at the temple as a prostitute.  It has been said that at any given time there would have been up to a thousand prostitutes at the Temple of Diana to service those attending worship.  In short, sex was part of pagan worship.  It had been in the Roman Empire as it was in empires past.  Sailors would arrive at the seaport of Corinth.  They'd worship at the Temple of Aphrodite, which would include having sex with a woman who believed she was doing Aphrodite's will by giving herself to a man she never knew. 


It was in this context that the church at Corinth attempted to survive in.  Think about this for a minute.  Men were used to worshiping at the Temple of Aphrodite.  They looked forward to it.  They were probably addicted to the temple prostitutes.  Now, some of these men are Christians.  This would be a hard habit to break, which accounts for some of the problems in the Corinthian church, and the reason why Paul needed to answer some of the Corinthian's questions in this chapter. 


Besides the immorality at the Temple of Aphrodite's, polygamy was an accepted way of life in Corinth.  Thus, we have another problem.  What do men do with all of their wives and children born to these wives when they become Christians?  Do they kick them out of the house?  Is that the loving thing to do?   This might be the reason why Paul told Timothy that an elder in the local church must be the husband of only one wife. (1 Timothy 3:2) The same problem exists today in parts of the world where polygamy is the norm for families.  What do you do if you are a man with ten wives and you become a Christian?


There appears to be two groups in Corinth that attempted to solve these problems concerning morality, marriage, and the family.  One group promoted celibacy, even to the point of celibacy within marriage.  The other group just gave up and promoted a license to sin.


When it comes to Paul and marriage, the age old question is, "was Paul married, or, had he ever been married"?  It's clear from the text of 1 Corinthians 7 that at the time of writing he was single, or at least lived as a single man.  Some suggest that Paul was married, but simply separated from his wife so he could do the work of the Lord, as he says is permissible in verse 29


There is a very good chance that Paul was married at one point in his life.  Jewish culture was such that every young Jewish boy expected to grow up, find a wife, and have children to carry on the family line.  This was ingrained in boys from the earliest of age.  It was the thing to do in order to be a good religious Jew.  If you read Philippians 3, Paul clearly states that when it comes to all things Jewish, he was perfect.  He lacked in nothing, and I would suspect that meant obeying one of the first things God told men to do, and that was to be united to his wife.   


Those who believe Paul had been married often point to Acts 26:10 where he speaks of persecuting the saints prior to his conversion.  He said, "I cast my vote against them", "them" referring to Christians.  Because of the phrase "cast my vote", some suggest that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling party of Israel based in Jerusalem.  If he was a member of the Sanhedrin, he would have been married.  You had to be married in order to be a member of the Sanhedrin.  He could well have been a member of this elite group because he was a disciple of Gamaliel who was a member of the Sanhedrin. 


In my thinking there is an even more valid reason why Paul might have once been married.  First of all, he was a Pharisee.  Pharisees were normally married.  Second of all, his mentor, Gamaliel, was the grandson of Hillel, the founder of the Hillel liberal school of theology among the Pharisees.  These liberals believed in marriage.  They also believed that they could divorce their wives for any and every reason. They not only believed in free and easy divorce, they practiced free and easy divorce.  It's a very good chance that Gamaliel was a liberal theologian, and if so, that would have made Paul a liberal theologian.  He would have believed in what his teacher taught him, and that included free and easy divorce.  It's quite possible that Paul wasn't only married once, but a number of times.  Of course, that would have depended on his age when he became a Christian.         


I tend to believe Paul was at some point married.  Some believe his wife died and he was a widower.  Others believe his wife left him when he became a Christian.  This might account for Paul saying that he had lost all things for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:8)  


In 1 Corinthians 7:26 Paul says, "because of the present crisis …"  It is very important to realize that everything Paul says in this chapter is because of some "present crisis" the Corinthians found themselves in.  Part of the "present crisis" was probably the man sleeping with his step-mother as we see in chapter 5, which, was probably just one example of the immorality in the church that Paul had to deal with.  1 Corinthians 7 was meant to begin to fix this situation.  So, again, we need to view what Paul says here in light of the fact his words were directed to specific people, at a specific time, for specific reasons.  That's not saying we can't learn from this chapter.  We can.  It simply means there is more to Paul's thinking that what we read here.  


As I've said, in this chapter Paul is responding to questions that the Corinthians asked him.  He says in verse 1, “now concerning the matters you wrote about”.  Right away, we see that Paul is addressing issues the Corinthians wrote him about.


The NIV goes on to say, “It is good for a man not to marry”.  The KJV says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”  Why is there a difference between the two translations?  The difference appears to be in the translation of the Greek word “hapto”.  This word means more than simply touching someone.  It means “to fasten to, or “to attach to”, or ‘to cling to”.  If Paul was simply thinking about touching a woman he would have used a different word.  Therefore the NIV translators believe that Paul is speaking about a man and a woman attaching themselves together in marriage.  Also the context of chapter 7 suggests that Paul is speaking about marriage, and not simply touching a woman.  If you understand the Greek here, you must see this sentence as being highly sexual.    


Paul believed that all men would do better single in order to devote themselves solely to Jesus.  This is the underlying presupposition he has as he writes these words.  Unless we understand this, we'll probably misunderstand most of this chapter.  While preferring singleness Paul could not neglect or ignore God's original intention at creation for men and women.  God created us to be married. So he suggests that if you cannot handle being single, you should marry.  You are doing nothing wrong by finding a wife or a husband. 


In verse 2 Paul therefore says that because of all the immorality that was in Corinth , men and women should marry, thus avoiding the temptation to get involved in sexual sin.  "All the immorality" Paul is talking about is what I said earlier concerning the paganism that incorporated free sex with the worship of Diana.  Non-Christians would have seen nothing wrong with this, but from a Biblical standpoint, there are lots wrong with this.


In verses 3 and 4 Paul says that husbands and wives “should not deprive themselves of each other except for mutual consent ..."  Why did he say this?  Because in verse 4 he tells his readers that a man’s body belongs to his wife as well as to himself.  Also the wife’s body belongs to the husband as well as herself.  Paul is saying that sex is a real important part of marriage.  It is my thinking that God made sex to produce children as well as to be a pleasurable experience between a man and his wife.  It is also my thinking that the pleasure that a husband and wife has in marriage is a picture of what can happen between Christians and the Lord, both individually and collectively as the church.


I also see the sexual unity between a husband and wife as a type of worship between us and God.  In sexual union there is an entering of each others personal space, a place where no one else goes.  This process breaks down barriers between the husband and wife, just as worship breaks down barriers between us and Jesus.  Intimacy in marriage is a form of worship; it is in fact symbolic of worship of Jesus. 


The Bible is clear that we are to worship the Lord God and Him only.  Any worship beyond that is idolatry.  This is one reason why adultery is so wrong.  If intimacy is worship in one sense of the word, and if you are intimate with someone other than your spouse, you're committing a type of idolatry.   


In verse 5 Paul says that if both the husband and wife  consents for a while not to participate in sexual relations, maybe for prayer, as he says, “then come together” after the set time you have set aside.  We don't know if prayer would be the only reason to abstain from sex or if this is just an example.  Paul's point is simple.  Don't abstain for too long.  The temptation to sin is too strong, and as he says, the temptation is from satan himself and our lack of self control.   


It's important to understand that satan can only get to us if there is something in us to get to.  If we have little to no sexual self-control, then satan can temp us and maybe with success. If we have self-control, he will be less likely to tempt us successfully.    


In verse 6 Paul says that what he just said he says as "a concession, not a command".  Remember, at this point in Paul's life, and, under the present crisis situation in Corinth , Paul believes being single is the way to live, but he can't command this because that would be unbiblical.  It would go against the very reason why God created a man and a woman in the first place.      


In verse 7 Paul says that he wishes “all men would be as I am”.   Paul wished all Christians were single.  He also concedes that “each man has his own gift from God”. The ability to be single should be seen as a gift from God.  It's an exception to the Biblical rule that a man should leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.  


Concerning this gift of singleness, I can remember in my own youth many of us asking whether we had this gift or not.  One of my Bible collage teachers told us that if any of you men have ever lusted after a woman, then you do not have the gift of singleness.  I suggest that is a very good test to determine whether one has the gift of singleness or not.  I would say most don't have this gift.


You can see in verse 8 and 9 that Paul has a hard time getting away from this idea of singleness.  He says, “now to the unmarried and widows; it is good for them to remain unmarried as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion”.   Once again Paul is extolling the virtues of singleness.  Paul's choice for life is being single, yet in this time of moral crisis, he can't forbid marriage. 


We will see later that the sole reason why Paul promotes singleness is to serve Jesus without any restrictions.  Being married limits one's involvement in serving Jesus because you have a husband or wife and children to concern yourself with.  Paul wanted to be free from as many concerns as possible in order to serve Jesus.


Note that according to Paul, one real reason for marriage is so that you won't burn with sexual passion.  If you were single and burning with passion, that itself would be a hindrance in serving the Lord.   


In verse 10 Paul gives a command, but it's not his command.  It's the Lord’s command.  He says it's a command and not a concession because he is quoting Jesus.  It's a Biblical statement he is about to make.  The command is this.  “A wife must not separate herself from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife”.  Jesus said such things in Mathew 5:31 – 32, 19:1-13, Mark 10:1-10, and Luke 16:18.  That would make this a command from the Lord Jesus Himself.   


According to what Paul says here, divorce is not an option for men and women.  This is not the whole story on this subject though.  Paul elaborates later, and there are also other Scriptures that shed light on this subject, but according to these verses, Paul says that God wants men and women to remain married and not be separated and divorced.  The idea here and throughout the Bible is marriage is meant to be permanent.


Genesis 2:24 states that a man should leave his father and mother and be united unto his wife.  The Hebrew word translated as "united" here means "to glue".  Glue suggests permanency in marriage.  That is the Biblical mandate. 


Note that Paul inserts the word "but" into his sentence.  He tells couples not to separate, "but if you do…"  The simple fact is that Paul understood the fallen nature of men and women, and because of this fallen nature, they would separate and divorce.  Paul thus says that if you do separate you should remain single, again, because that is his preference. 


There would be another reason why Paul says to remain single if you divorce and that depends on the nature of the divorce.  If you are divorcing simply because you want to marry someone else, then, when you remarry, you are committing adultery, and that would not be right. 


I won't get involved in this discussion here, but if you understand the nature of the Greek passive voice, you will understand that Jesus, in Matthew 5:31 and 32 said that if you divorce your spouse for any reason other than the fact that your spouse committed adultery, then you commit adultery when you remarry.  The one, who was divorced for no valid Biblical reason, does not commit adultery when he or she remarries.  In the culture of that day, such a divorced woman was stigmatized as an adulterous even though she wasn't. 


You can find a complete explanation of this in my online line book entitled "From My Side Of  The Fence". 


In verse 12 Paul is speaking, not the Lord.  Now, when we make this distinction, we still must admit that Paul is speaking under inspiration of the Holy Spirit here. The reason why he differentiates between him and the Lord with these commands is that some of these commands came directly from the mouth of Jesus.  The others are Paul's commands under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for this particular time of moral crisis.  If you understand the doctrine of "inspiration of Scripture" as you should, "all Scripture is inspired".  No parts are less inspired than other parts.     


He is telling the Corinthian men that if they have an unbelieving wife and she is willing to live with him as a Christian, he should not divorce her.  I am sure that this subject had risen in their church as it does in all churches.  It would be an obvious question to ask when one spouse becomes a Christian and the other doesn’t.  How can the two be properly united when they are divided on such very fundamental issues.  Paul simply tells them to stay together, but the mere fact the Paul inserts the word "but" here again, he realizes couples will divorce, so he must comment on this. 


In verses 12 to 14 Paul gives his reason for why mixed marriage couples should not divorce.  He says that the unbelieving spouse “is sanctified” because of the believing spouse.  Does this mean that the unbelieving partner is a Christian?  No, it doesn’t mean that at all.  The unbelieving partner is sanctified, which means separated unto the Lord.  It means that while still in the marriage relationship the unbeliever is like one set apart from others, who has the opportunity to become a believer.  Paul says this later in verse 16 as well.


Paul has just said that if you stay with the unbelieving partner, then that partner is sanctified.  If that was not the case then their “children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy”.  Now what does this mean?  Are children saved because they have one saved parent?  This can’t be, or else there would be more than one way to be saved.  One way would be to trust Jesus, and the other way would be for you to be fortunate enough to have at least one Christian parent.  We know from Scripture that this cannot be.


I don’t believe Paul would think that a child could find salvation, or holiness outside of the cross of Christ.  If you understand his letter to the Romans, and other comments that he makes concerning the means of salvation, this cannot be.  So, we need to understand these words in this light.  It is my thinking that in the same way that an unbelieving spouse is sanctified, or separated in a special place because of the believing partner, so the children are also raised in this special place of blessing.  Both the unbelieving spouse and children have a better chance of becoming a Christian because of the believing father or mother.  It does not mean he or she is already a Christian.


It's also important to understand that the word "unclean" is a word that is associated with the Law of Moses.  I suggest that the blessing of the Lord would be on the family where one parent is a Christian.  Normally, in Old Testament Jewish terms children would be deemed as unclean if a Jew married a pagan. 


What we have to realize here is that Paul is not promoting the idea that a Christian should marry a non-Christian.  He would be totally against that. This situation that is being spoken of is once married, one spouse becomes a Christian and the other spouse doesn't.     


I believe, somewhat by experience that children when living in a Christian home experience the benefits of their parent's faith, or trust in Jesus.  When walking with Jesus as parents, we do benefit, and we are blessed.  This blessing extends to our children as long as the children are in the confines of the home, but once they leave the home to go out and live on their own, they are on their own.  If they want the same blessings, then they need to follow Jesus as their parents do.  Children born to Christian parents are very blessed because they are in a better and blessed situation.  


Within the midst of this discussion we should remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34 to 36.  In short, He said that families would be broken because of Him.  He specifically said that a man's enemies would be of his own family.  This tells us that a spouse's non-Christian stance could easily cause separation and divorce.  I might suggest that it things get bad enough the Christian spouse may consider leaving the marriage.        


What Paul says in verse 15 is important.  He says that “if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so”.  Paul is saying that you should not beg him or her to stay.  From your heart, just let the unbeliever go.  Let him or her go physically is one thing but letting go emotionally is another thing altogether.  This may not be easy, but once the unbeliever leaves and the sooner the believer can let the person go, the sooner peace will return to his or her life.  “Letting go”, is extremely important if you find yourself in this situation.  Letting go is essential if you want peace of mind, which Paul states here.  Peace of mind in Paul's thinking isn't only important for one's own benefit, but it is needed if we are ever to serve Jesus as we should after being left by our spouse. 


Paul says that we as Christians “are not bound in such circumstances”.  Why is this so?  Because “God has called us to live in peace”, he says in verse 15.  Paul knows, like many of us that there is no real peace between a husband and wife when one is a believer and the other is not, especially when there are other problems in the marriage, like adultery, that would have been the case in Corinth. 


Basically, Paul is saying to sacrifice yourself and stay with the unbeliever for their benefit, not yours.  Maybe he or she will become a Christian because of you, but if the unbeliever leaves, take the opportunity to be free from the bondage in order to live in peace.  


In verse 16 we see Paul telling us the reason why he suggests that the believer should stay with the unbeliever as I have just mentioned.  The unbelieving spouse might well come to Jesus when he or she sees the godly life the believing spouse lives.  Obviously the godly life includes sacrificial love to the unbelieving spouse.     


To sum up what Paul has said thus far.  He has said, as far as he is concerned, remain single.  If this is not possible, you should be married and engage in sexual relations with your spouse. Also, once married, don’t divorce your spouse, even if he or she is not a believer, yet if the unbelieving partner wants to leave, then let him or her go so you can live in peace.  God has called us to peace.


After saying all of this, in verses 17 and 18 Paul says, “Nevertheless each one should remain in the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.  This is the rule I lay down in every church”.  Paul was often criticized for preaching a gospel of no rules, a gospel of grace.  You can clearly see here that this was not the case, yet these rules did not have anything to do with a person’s salvation.  They were rules relating to having a healthy marriage, a healthy church, and a healthy life as a Christian. 


This is what Paul taught in all of the churches he had influence over.  One example of this rule concerned circumcision.  If when a man was first saved he was uncircumcised, there is no reason why he should get circumcised.  Why does Paul say this?   Because in verse 19 he says, “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.  Keeping God’s commands is what counts, and God's commands in the New Testament are to repent, trust your life to Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit. 

You might note that Paul says that if a man is circumcised he should not become uncircumcised.  How could this be possible?  There was a procedure back then known as reverse circumcision.  The skin of the penis would be pulled forward to cover the tip of the penis as if it had never been circumcised in the first place.  This must have been one painful thing to go through let along live with

In verse 20 Paul repeats himself by saying that “each person should remain in the situation when God called him”.  Another example that he uses is in conjunction with slavery as seen in verse 21.  He says that if you were a slave when you became a Christian, don’t be bothered by that. Stay a slave, and don’t try to be free, unless you are granted freedom. Then, take your freedom.   Besides, “you are the Lord’s free man”.  And even if you are a slave, as a Christian, “you are the Lord’s slave”.  So either way, in once sense of the word you're free, and in another sense of the word you're a slave, either to your master or to Jesus. 


I won't elaborate on slavery here.  Slavery was a normal part of Roman culture.  As a matter of fact, some slaves had it real good.  They were lawyers, teachers, and other professionals, as we would call professionals.  People always seem to ask why Paul didn't try to end slavery.  That wasn't Paul's mission.  His mission was to preach Jesus and get people saved.  He wasn't out to change the culture by legislating any kind of morality.  He was out to change the culture by winning people to Jesus one soul at a time.     


So, what does this mean to us today?  If we are a businessman when we get saved, we should remain a business man.  We don’t have to become a preacher, unless God decides for you to make the change. Whatever situation you find yourself in, remain in it.


In verse 23 Paul says that we have been bought with a price so don't become slaves of men.  I think what Paul is saying here is that we should not be enslaving ourselves with the culture of our day.  This is human tendency.  That is, to follow the rest of the world and run with the world with all of its excesses.  That shouldn't be our way of life.  Since Jesus has bought us, we are slaves to him.  Again, the word slaves is not well understood in our anti-slave western world.  Paul viewed himself as a bond servant.  That's a servant by choice. In one real sense of the word, we are slaves to Christ, although the western world prefers the word "servant" over "slave".  In Biblical reality, they're both the same.   


In verse 24 Paul says once again to remain in the situation you were in when Christ called you.  He also speaks of being responsible before the Lord.  It's important to know that each and every individual is responsible before the Lord.  We all will give a personal account of our lives to Him some day.  We need to live our lives in this present age with this in mind.  I'm sure if this was more in the forefront of our minds, we'd live much differently than we presently do.     


Throughout this chapter Paul has been going back and forth from the Lord’s commands and his concessions or suggestions.  Verse 25 is back to Paul's commands, although he qualifies what he says by saying “I give a judgment as one by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy”.


I believe it is important for us to understand in light of what Paul says here, the he is speaking under the influence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, even when he is giving his own personal opinion.  When he speaks of the Lord's commands, he is speaking of things that Jesus specifically commanded.  When he speaks of his commands or concessions, we need to know that what he says is inspired by the Holy Spirit.  We must know that all of this chapter is equally inspired by God.  Not one part is more inspired than the other.  Once again, when Paul speaks of the Lord's commands, he speaking of what Jesus Himself actually said.  Paul could have easily quoted Jesus.         

His judgment in verses 25 to 28 is directed towards virgins.  He suggests that they “should remain as they are”, meaning stay single. Again, this has been Paul’s preference all along.  Being single makes it easier to serve the Lord without any hindrance.


Over the centuries there has been some debate concerning the virgin that Paul is speaking about.  Some have said that this virgin is actually a girl already in a marital  relationship but has refrained from sexual activity, most likely for spiritual reasons.  Yet it seems more likely that Paul is speaking to unmarried virgins.  There would be natural concerns for fathers in Paul’s day that had older unmarried daughters.  This was considered a disgrace, especially in a Jewish family.


Note the words "present crisis" in verse 26.  Part of this present crisis was the crisis of morality, of which one example was a man having sex with his step mother as seen in chapter 5.  The overall crisis was the conflict these believers had with the anti-Christ culture in which they lived.   


In verse 27 Paul suggests that these virgins remain single, but he goes on to say that if you are married you should not seek a divorce, and if you are single you should not seek to be married.  Yet if you do marry you have not sinned.  It is very clear that marriage was God’s original intention for men and women; therefore it could not be a sin.


In verse 28 Paul gives his reason for his promotion of singleness.  He says “those who marry will face many troubles in life, and I want to spare you of this".  There are the obvious relational troubles that all married couples have.  Paul was surely talking about this, but there were probably other things on his mind as well.  These people lived in a very anti-Christ culture.  There was much persecution of Christians.  Some were imprisoned.  Some were executed, and to see a spouse or children so persecuted would have been devastating.  Paul didn't want anyone to go through that. 


Now after making all of the above statements, it looks like Paul had an afterthought in verse 29 that he needs to express by saying, “What I mean, brother, is that the time is short…”  Paul is basically saying the time is short, Jesus’ return might be soon, and therefore we should devote ourselves fully to Him.  He even goes as far to say that “those who have a wife should live as though they had none”.  I am not sure what the wife would think of this.  It would definitely have to be a joint decision based on what Paul has already said. This tells us that there might be a time in one's life where serving Jesus might mean separation from your spouse, not in the sense of divorce, but in the sense of simply living apart for a while, or, maybe a long while.  Some suggest that since this was Paul's thinking, he might well be living this way himself.      


Concerning the words "time is short".  I've suggested that this is in reference to the return of Christ, but that might not necessarily be the case, or so some think.  Paul does not say what he means.  Time for Christian freedom in those days might be short because of impending Roman persecution.  Paul himself was killed not many years after he wrote these words.  Time being short might simply be in reference to Christians being killed for their faith in Jesus.  Your time may be short.  You may be killed tomorrow so do all you can for Jesus today.      


All of what Paul says in verses 29 to 31 is summed up by his words that “this world in its present form is passing away”.  He does not say that the world will pass away but it is in the process of passing away right now.  Paul may be suggesting that the world is in decline and will end in the return of Christ.  For this reason, we should not devote ourselves too much to the world.  We have better things to pay attention to.  This makes me wonder how much time Christians should be spending on certain environmental issues, and other such issues, in these days when our world will be destroyed anyway and rebuilt by the Lord.  


In verses 32 and 33 Paul shares his heart to these people.  He wants them to “be free from concern”, and to fully be "devoted to Jesus".  When a man or a woman is married they have many marital concerns to deal with.  When you are single, you only have to worry about yourself and fully giving yourself to the things of God.  In verse 34 he says that a married man’s “interests are divided”.  He needs to please his wife as well as please the Lord.  Again, singleness is the underlying presupposition of this chapter, and it's strictly so that we can serve Jesus without any hindrance.  Paul is not opposed to marriage.  His goal in life is to serve Jesus the best he can.  He hopes the same for everyone.


What he has just said to men he also says to the virgin.  His desire for them is to give themselves to Jesus “in body and spirit”.  Paul tells these ladies that they will have to please their husbands, just as he told the men that they would have to please their wives. He says to the virgins in verse 35, “I am saying this for your good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord”.  So what Paul has just told the men, he now tells the women.


In verse 36 Paul says, “If anyone thinks he is acting improperly towards the virgin he is engaged to…”  Once again there have been two thoughts on this verse.  One thought is that Paul is speaking of a man and his daughter.  I feel that he is speaking about a man and his girlfriend, as we'd say in our culture.  This is the more predominant way to think about this verse.   The NIV uses the phrase “engaged to”.  This phrase is not really in the original text.  The original text reads “the virgin of him”, not “the virgin he is engaged to”.  You can see how the NIV translators understand this to be engagement of boy friend and girl friend, not father and daughter.  What I believe Paul is saying in this paragraph is that if a man has a girlfriend and he thinks he is beginning to act in an immoral way towards her, he should marry her and not sin. He is not sinning by marring his girlfriend.  He would sin if he carried out the sexual activities that may be in his heart.


This would especially be true if the girl was “getting along in years” as the NIV says.  “Huperakmos” is the Greek word that is translated as “along in years”.  This word is made up of two Greek words; "to go beyond", and "the full bloom of a flower”.  You could easily say that if a lady is past the full bloom of life, and if you are acting improperly towards her, then you should marry her.  If you chose to leave her, because she is past the bloom of life, she may never have another chance to be married.


Yet in verse 37 Paul says that if this man can control himself then he can remain single and he does the “right thing”.   Paul concludes in verse 38 that “he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry does even better”.  Once again, Paul’s preference of singleness comes through loud and clear.


I believe what Paul is speaking of here is best understood in how Hebrew marriages worked.  There is a period, we'd call engagement, where a couple is legally married, but not permitted to have sexual relationships until the second stage of marriage comes about.  Thus, if the couple is in this engagement stage, Paul suggests to stay engaged.    Don't move on to the second stage of marriage.  That being said, because Paul is writing to believers in Corinth , many of these believers would have been Christian gentiles who would not have grown up in traditional Judaism.      


In verse 39 Paul gives a command.  He says that as long as a woman is married and her husband is alive she is bound to him.  This command he gives, because this is the Lord’s command as earlier stated, but if her husband dies, then she is free to marry anyone she wishes.  There is only one stipulation and that is he must be “in the Lord.  He must be a Christian.  Paul does not give any further advice to a woman who is seeking a husband.  He doesn’t even say that she should seek the Lord on this issue, only that the man must belong to Jesus.  Paul gives the same command in Romans 7:1 and 2. Yet even after saying this to the widow Paul tells her that she would do better if she remained single.   


Paul said that a wife must remain with her husband until he dies.  We need to understand though that if a wife is divorced, the man is no longer her husband even though he is still alive.  I, therefore, suggest she, as a divorced woman, is free to remarry.    

In verse 40 Paul says that he believes he can say this with confidence “because I too have the Spirit of God.  As I said earlier, what Paul says here speaks to the issue of inspiration.  Even though Paul gives the Lord's command and his concession, all of what he is saying here is the inspired Word of God. 


Concerning marriage and weddings,  some over the years claim that living together is considered a marriage in the eyes of the Lord, and therefore a formal ceremony is not required.  Yet in Paul’s mind when he uses the word married (Greek word is “gamos”) in this chapter, he is referring to an actual ceremony including a feast that would be part of the celebration.  I say this because of the meaning of the word “gamos”, which includes a major celebration along with the ceremony.  A wedding in Paul’s day was a much bigger event than it is in our day.  Therefore when Paul uses the word “married” he is not talking about some private agreement between two people.  In his mind, he would have thought about a major celebration of commitment.  Also, he is thinking in terms of what we might call a religious marriage, not necessarily a civil marriage as we think of today. 


In today's western world, a Christian marriage ceremony is partly religious and partly civil.  To be legally married in the eyes of the government, certain words must be said in the vows of marriage.  Thus, our marriage ceremonies, at least as Christians, combines both religious and civil parts to it.  


Another thing to consider these days is that the definition of marriage is changing at a fast pace.  Many governments include gay marriage as being legal.  I would therefore suggest that Christians begin to think the idea of a government recognized marriage through.  When entering a marriage, with a marriage certificate and license, are we as Christians entering into an unbiblical state of marriage since marriage now includes gay marriage?  Should we think in terms of having a religious, Christian, ceremony only, and not be involved in the civil aspect, not to be legally married in the eyes of government?  I haven't come to any conclusion as yet on this, but it is something we now need to think through


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