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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This chapter commences the second part or division of this Epistle, or, "the discussion of those points which had been submitted to the apostle in a letter from the church at Corinth, for his instruction and advice." See the Introduction to the Epistle. The letter in which they proposed the questions which are here discussed, has been lost. It is manifest that, if we now had it, it would throw some light on the answers which Paul has given to their inquiries in this chapter. The first question which is discussed 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 is, whether it were lawful and proper to enter into the marriage relation. How this question had arisen, it is not now possible to determine with certainty. It is probable, however, that it arose from disputes between those of Jewish extraction, who held not only the lawfulness but the importance of the marriage relation, according to the doctrines of the Old Testament, and certain followers or friends of some Greek philosophers, who might have been the advocates of celibacy.
But "why" they advocated that doctrine is unknown. It is known, however, that many even of the Greek philosophers, among whom were Lycurgus, Thales, Antiphanes, and Socrates (see Grotius), thought that, considering "the untractable tempers of women, and how troublesome and fraught with danger was the education of children," it was the part of wisdom not to enter into the marriage relation. From them may have been derived the doctrine of celibacy in the Christian church; a doctrine that has been the cause of so much corruption in the monastic system, and in the celibacy of the clergy among the papists. The Jews, however, everywhere defended the propriety and duty of marriage. They regarded it as an ordinance of God. And to this day, they hold that a man who has arrived to the age of twenty years, and who has not entered into this relation, unless prevented by natural defects, or by profound study of the law, sins against God. Between these two classes, of those in the church who had been introduced there from these two classes, the question would be agitated whether marriage was lawful and advisable.
Another question which, it seems, had arisen among them was, whether it was proper to continue in the married state in the existing condition of the church, as exposed to trials and persecutions; or whether it was proper for those who had become converted, to continue their relations in life with those who were unconverted. This the apostle discusses in 1 Corinthians 7:10-24. Probably many supposed that it was unlawful to live with those who were not Christians; and they thence inferred that the relation which subsisted before conversion should be dissolved. And this doctrine they carried to the relation between master and servant, as well as between husband and wife. The general doctrine which Paul states in answer to this is, that the wife was not to depart from her husband 1 Corinthians 7:10; but if she did, she was not at liberty to marry again, since her former marriage was still binding; 1 Corinthians 7:11. He added that a believing man, or Christian, should not put away his unbelieving wife 1 Corinthians 7:12, and that the relation should continue, notwithstanding a difference of religion; and that if a separation ensued, it should be in a peaceful manner, and the parties were not at liberty to marry again; 1 Corinthians 7:13-17. So, also, in regard to the relation of master and slave. It was not to be violently sundered. The relations of life were not to be broken up by Christianity; but every man was to remain in that rank of life in which he was when he was converted, unless it could be changed in a peaceful and lawful manner; 1 Corinthians 7:18-24.
A third subject submitted to him was, whether it was advisable, in existing circumstances, that the unmarried virgins who were members of the church should enter into the marriage relation; 1Co. 7:25-40. This the apostle answers in the remainder of the chapter. The sum of his advice on that question is, that it would be lawful for them to marry, but that it was not then advisable; and that, at all events, they should so act as to remember that life was short, and so as not be too much engrossed with the affairs of this life, but should live for eternity. He said that though it was lawful, yet:
(1) In their present distress it might be unadvisable; 1 Corinthians 7:26.
(2) that marriage tended to an increase of care and anxiety, and it might not be proper then to enter into that relation; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35.
(3) that they should live to God; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
(4) that a man should not be oppressive and harsh toward his daughter, or toward one under his care; but that, if it would be severe in him to forbid such a marriage, he should allow it; 1 Corinthians 7:36. And,
(5) That on the whole it was advisable, under existing circumstances, not to enter into the marriage relation; 1 Corinthians 7:38-40.
1Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
Now, concerning ... - In reply to your inquiries. The first, it seems, was in regard to the propriety of marriage; that is, whether it was lawful and expedient.
It is good - It is well. It is fit, convenient, or, it is suited to the present circumstances, or, the thing itself is well and expedient in certain circumstances. The apostle did not mean that marriage was unlawful, for he says Hebrews 13:4 that "marriage is honorable in all." But he here admits, with one of the parties in Corinth, that it was well, and proper in some circumstances, not to enter into the marriage relation; see 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, 1 Corinthians 7:26, 1 Corinthians 7:28, 1 Corinthians 7:31-32.
Not to touch a woman - Not to be connected with her by marriage. Xenophon (Cyro. b. 1) uses the same word (ἅπτω haptō, "to touch") to denote marriage; compare Genesis 20:4, Genesis 20:6; Genesis 26:11; Proverbs 6:29.
2Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
Nevertheless - But (δὲ de). Though this is to be admitted as proper where it can be done, when a man has entire control of himself and his passions, and though in present circumstances it would be expedient, yet it may be proper also to enter into the marriage connection.
To avoid fornication - Greek On account of διὰ dia fornication. The word fornication is used here in the large sense of licentiousness in general. For the sake of the purity of society, and to avoid the evils of sensual indulgence, and the corruptions and crimes which attend an illicit contact, it is proper that the married state should be entered. To this vice they were particularly exposed in Corinth. See the introduction. Paul would keep the church from scandal. How much evil, how much deep pollution, how many abominable crimes would have been avoided, which have since grown out of the monastic system, and the celibacy of the clergy among the papists, if Paul's advice had been followed by all professed Christians! Paul says that marriage is honorable, and that the relations of domestic life should be formed to avoid the evils which would otherwise result. The world is the witness of the evils which flow from the neglect of his advice. Every community where the marriage tie has been lax and feeble, or where it has been disregarded or dishonored, has been full of pollution, and it will always be. Society is pure and virtuous, just as marriage is deemed honorable, and as its vows are adhered to and preserved.
Let every man ... - Let the marriage vow be honored by all.
Have his own wife - And one wife to whom he shall be faithful. Polygamy is unlawful under the gospel; and divorce is unlawful. Let every man and woman, therefore, honor the institution of God, and avoid the evils of illicit indulgence.
3Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
Let the husband ... - "Let them not imagine that there is any virtue in bring separate from each other, as if they were in a state of celibacy" - "Doddridge." They are bound to each other; in every way they are to evince kindness, and to seek to promote the happiness and purity of each other. There is a great deal of delicacy used here by Paul, and his expression is removed as far as possible from the grossness of pagan writers. His meaning is plain; but instead of using a word to express it which would be indelicate and offensive, he uses one which is not indelicate in the slightest degree. The word which he uses εὔνοιαν eunoian," benevolence") denotes kindness, good-will, affection of mind. And by the use of the word "due" ὀφειλομένην opheilomenēn, he reminds them of the sacredness of their vow, and of the fact that in person, property, and in every respect, they belong to each other. It was necessary to give this direction, for the contrary might have been regarded as proper by many who would have supposed there was special virtue and merit in living separate from each other; as facts have shown that many have imbibed such an idea - and it was not possible to give the rule with more delicacy than Paul has done. Many mss., however, instead of "due benevolence," read ὀφειλὴν opheilēn, "a debt, or that which is owed;" and this reading has been adopted by Griesbach in the text. Homer, with a delicacy not unlike the apostle Paul, uses the word φιλότητα filotēta, "friendship," to express the same idea.
4The 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.
The wife hath not power ... - By the marriage covenant that power, in this respect, is transferred to the husband,
And likewise, also, the husband - The equal rights of husband and wife, in the Scriptures, are everywhere maintained. They are to regard themselves as united in most intimate union, and in most tender ties.
5Defraud 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.
Defraud ye not ... - Of the right mentioned above. Withdraw not from the society of each other.
Except it be with consent - With a mutual understanding, that you may engage in the extraordinary duties of religion; compare Exodus 19:15.
And come together again ... - Even by mutual consent, the apostle would not have this separation to be perpetual, since it would expose them to many of the evils which the marriage relation was designed to avoid.
That Satan ... - That Satan take not advantage of you, and throw you into temptation, and fill you with thoughts and passions which the marriage compact was designed to remedy.
6But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
But I speak this by permission ... - It is not quite certain whether the word "this" (τοῦτο touto), in this verse, refers to what precedes, or to what follows. On this commentators are divided. The more natural and obvious interpretation would be to refer it to the preceding statement. I am inclined to think that the mare natural construction is the true one. and that Paul refers to what he had said in 1 Corinthians 7:5. Most recent commentators, as Macknight and Rosenmuller, however, suppose it refers to what follows, and appeal to similar places in Joel 1:2; Psalm 49:2; 1 Corinthians 10:23. Calvin supposes it refers to what was said in 1 Corinthians 7:1.
By permission - συγγνώμην sungnōmēn. This word means "indulgence," or "permission," and stands opposed to that which is expressly enjoined; compare 1 Corinthians 7:25. "I am 'allowed' to say this; I have no express command on the subject; I give it as my opinion; I do not speak it directly under the influence of divine inspiration;" see 1 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Corinthians 7:25, 1 Corinthians 7:40. Paul here does not claim to be under inspiration in these directions which he specifics. But this is no argument against his inspiration in general, but rather the contrary. For:
(1) It shows that he was an honest man, and was disposed to state the exact truth. An impostor, pretending to inspiration, would have claimed to have been always inspired. Who ever heard of a pretender to divine inspiration admitting that in any thing he was not under divine guidance? Did Mahomet ever do this? Do impostors now ever do it?
(2) it shows that in other cases, where no exception is made, he claimed to be inspired. These few exceptions, which he expressly makes, prove that in everywhere else he claimed to be under the influence of inspiration.
(3) we are to suppose, therefore, that in all his writings where he makes no express exceptions, (and the exceptions are very few in number,) Paul claimed to be inspired. Macknight, however, and some others, understand this as mere adVice, as an inspired man, though not as a command,
Not of commandment - Not by express instruction from the Lord; see 1 Corinthians 7:25. I do not claim in this to be under the influence of inspiration; and my counsel here may be regarded, or not, as you may be able to receive it.
7For 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.
For I would ... - I would prefer.
That all men ... - That Paul was unmarried is evident from 1 Corinthians 9:5. But he does not refer to this fact here. When he wishes that all people were like himself, he evidently does not intend that he would prefer that all should be unmarried, for this would be against the divine institution, and against his own precepts elsewhere. But he would be glad if all people had control over their passions and propensities as he had; had the gift of continence, and could abstain from marriage when circumstances of trial, etc., would make it proper. We may add, that when Paul wishes to exhort to anything that is difficult, he usually adduces "his own example" to show that "it may be done;" an example which it would be well for all ministers to be able to follow.
But every man hath his proper gift - Every man has his own special talent, or excellence. One man excels in one thing, and another in another. One may not have this particular virtue, but he maybe distinguished for another virtue quite as valuable. The doctrine here is, therefore, that we are not to judge of others by ourselves, or measure their virtue by ours. We may excel in some one thing, they in another. And because they have not our special virtue, or capability, we are not to condemn or denounce them; compare Matthew 19:11, Matthew 19:12.
Of God - Bestowed by God either in the original endowments and faculties of body or mind, or by his grace. In either case it is the gift of God. The virtue of continence is his gift as well as any other; and Paul had reason, as any other man must have, to be thankful that God had conferred it on him. So if a man is naturally amiable, kind, gentle, large-hearted, tender, and affectionate, he should regard it as the gift of God, and be thankful that he has not to contend with the evils of a morose, proud, haughty, and severe temper. It is true, however, that all these virtues may be greatly strengthened by discipline, and that religion gives vigor and comeliness to them all. Paul's virtue in this was strengthened by his resolution; by his manner of life; by his frequent fastings and trials, and "by the abundant employment" which God gave him in the apostleship. And it is true still, that if a man is desirous to overcome the lusts of the flesh, industry, and hardship, and trial, and self-denial will enable him, by the grace of God, to do it. idleness is the cause of no small part of the corrupt desires of people; and God kept Paul from these:
(1) By giving him enough to do; and,
(2) By giving him enough to suffer.
8I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
It is good for them - It may be advisable, in the present circumstances of persecution and distress, not to be encumbered with the cares and anxieties of a family; see 1 Corinthians 7:26, 1 Corinthians 7:32-34. The word unmarried (ἀγάμοις agamois) may refer either to those who had never been married, or to widowers. It here means simply those who were at that time unmarried, and his reasoning applies to both classes.
And to widows - The apostle specifies these, though he had not specified "widowers" particularly. The reason of this distinction seems to be, that he considers more particularly the case of those females who had never been married, in the close of the chapter, 1 Corinthians 7:25.
That they abide - That they remain, in the present circumstances, unmarried; see 1 Corinthians 7:26.
9But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
But if they cannot contain - If they have not the gift of continence; if they cannot be secure against temptation; if they have not strength of virtue enough to preserve them from the danger of sin, and of bringing reproach and scandal on the church.
It is better - It is to be preferred.
Than to burn - The passion here referred to is often compared to a fire; see Virgil, Aeneas 4:68. It is better to marry, even with all the inconveniences attending the marriage life in a time of distress and persecution in the church 1 Corinthians 7:26, than to be the prey of raging, consuming, and exciting passions.
10And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
And unto the married - This verse commences the second subject of inquiry; to wit, whether it was proper, in the existing state of things, for those who were married to continue this relation, or whether they ought to separate. The reasons why any may have supposed that it was best to separate, may have been:
(1) That their troubles and persecutions might be such that they might judge it best that families should be broken up; and,
(2) Probably many supposed that it was unlawful for a Christian wife or husband to be connected at all with a pagan and an idolater.
I command, yet not I, but the Lord - Not I so much as the Lord. This injunction is not to be understood as adVice merely, but as a solemn, divine command, from which you are not at liberty to depart. Paul here professes to utter the language of inspiration, and demands obedience. The express command of "the Lord" to which he refers, is probably the precept recorded in Matthew 5:32, and Matthew 19:3-10. These precepts of Christ asserted that the marriage tie was sacred and inviolable.
Let not the wife depart ... - Let her not prove faithless to her marriage vows; let her not, on any pretence, desert her husband. Though she is a Christian. and he is not, yet let her not seek, on that account, to be separate from him - The law of Moses did not permit a wife to divorce herself from her husband, though it was sometimes done (compare Matthew 10:12); but the Greek and Roman laws allowed it - Grotius. But Paul here refers to a formal and legal separation before the magistrates, and not to a voluntary separation, without intending to be formally divorced. The reasons for this opinion are:
(1) That such divorces were known and practiced among both Jews and pagans.
(2) it was important to settle the question whether they were to be allowed in the Christian church.
(3) the claim would be set up, probably, that it might be done.
(4) the question whether a "voluntary separation" might not be proper, where one party was a Christian, and the other not, he discusses in the following verses, 1 Corinthians 7:12-17. Here, therefore, he solemnly repeats the law of Christ, that divorce, under the Christian economy, was not to be in the power either of the husband or wife.
11But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
But and if she depart - If she have withdrawn by a rash and foolish act; if she has attempted to dissolve the marriage vow, she is to remain unmarried, or be reconciled. She is not at liberty to marry another. This may refer, I suppose, to instances where wives, ignorant of the rule of Christ, and supposing that they had a right to separate themselves from their husbands, had rashly left them, and had supposed that the marriage contract was dissolved. Paul tells them that this was impossible; and that if they had so separated from their husbands, the pure laws of Christianity, did not recognize this right, and they must either be reconciled to their husbands, or remain alone. The marriage tie was so sacred that it could not be dissolved by the will of either party.
Let her remain unmarried - That is, let her not marry another.
Or be reconciled to her husband - Let this be done, if possible. If it cannot be, let her remain unmarried. It was a duty to be reconciled if it was possible. If not, she should not violate her vows to her husband so far as to marry another. It is evident that this rule is still binding, and that no one who has separated from her husband, whatever be the cause, unless there be a regular divorce, according to the law of Christ Matthew 5:32, can be at liberty to marry again.
And let not the husband - See the note at Matthew 5:32. This right, granted under the Jewish law, and practiced among all the pagan, was to be taken away wholly under the gospel. The marriage tie was to be regarded as sacred; and the tyranny of man over woman was to cease.
12But 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.
But to the rest - "I have spoken in regard to the duties of the unmarried, and the question whether it is right and advisable that they should marry, 1 Corinthians 7:1-9. I have also uttered the command of the Lord in regard to those who are married, and the question whether separation and divorce were proper. Now in regard to "the rest of the person's and cases" referred to, I will deliver my opinion." "The rest," or remainder, here referred to, relates particularly to the cases in which one party was a Christian and the other not. In the previous verses he had delivered the solemn, explicit law of Christ, that divorce was to take place on neither side, and in no instance, except agreeably. to the law of Christ; Matthew 5:32. That was settled by divine authority. In the subsequent verses he discusses a different question; whether a "voluntary separation" was not advisable and proper when the one party was a Christian and the other not. The word "rest" refers to these instances, and the questions which would arise under this inquiry.
Not the Lord - See the note at 1 Corinthians 7:6. "I do not claim, in this advice, to be under the influence of inspiration; I have no express command on the subject from the Lord; but I deliver my opinion as a servant of the Lord 1 Corinthians 7:40, and as having a right to offer advice, even when I have no express command from God, to a church which I have founded, and which has consulted me on the subject." This was a case in which both he and they were to follow the principles of Christian prudence and propriety, when there was no express commandment. Many such cases may occur. But few, perhaps none, can occur, in which some Christian principle shall not be found, that will be sufficient to direct the anxious inquirer after truth and duty.
If any brother - Any Christian.
That believeth not - That is not a Christian; one who is a pagan.
And if she be pleased - If it seems best to her; if she consents; approves of living together still. There might be many cases where the wife or the husband, that was not a Christian, would be so opposed to Christianity, and so violent in their opposition, that they would not be willing to live with a Christian. When this was the case, the Christian husband or wife could not prevent the separation. When this was not the case, they were not to seek a separation themselves.
To dwell with him - To remain in connection with him as his wife, though they differed on the subject of religion.
Let him not put her away - Though she is a pagan, though opposed to his religion, yet the marriage vow is sacred and inviolable. It is not to be sundered by any change which can take place in the opinions of either party. It is evident that if a man were at liberty to dissolve the marriage tie, or to discard his wife when his own opinions were changed on the subject of religion, that it would at once destroy all the sacredness of the marriage union, and render it a nullity. Even, therefore, when there is a difference of opinion on the vital subject of religion, the tie is not dissolved; but the only effect of religion should be, to make the converted husband or wife more tender, kind, affectionate, and faithful than they were before; and all the more so as their partners are without the hopes of the gospel, and as they may be won to love the Saviour, 1 Corinthians 7:16.
13And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
Let her not leave him - A change of phraseology from the last verse, to suit the circumstances. The wife did not have power to "put away" the husband, and expel him from his own home; but she might think it her duty to be separated from him. The apostle counsels her not to do this; and this advice should still be followed. She should still love her husband and seek his welfare; she should be still a kind, affectionate, and faithful wife; and all the more so that she may show him the excellence of religion, and win him to love it. She should even bear much, and bear it long; nor should she leave him unless her life is rendered miserable, or in danger; or unless he wholly neglects to make provision for her, and leaves her to suffering, to want, and to tears. In such a case no precept of religion forbids her to return to her father's house, or to seek a place of safety and of comfort. But even then it is not to be a separation on account of a difference of religious sentiment, but for brutal treatment. Even then the marriage tie is not dissolved, and neither party is at liberty to marry again.
14For 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.
For the unbelieving husband - The husband that is not a Christian; who still remains a pagan, or an impenitent man. The apostle here states reasons why a separation should not take place when there was a difference of religion between the husband and the wife. The first is, that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife. And the object of this statement seems to be, to meet an objection which might exist in the mind, and which might, perhaps, be urged by some. "Shall I not be polluted by such a connection? Shall I not be defiled, in the eye of God, by living in a close union with a pagan, a sinner, an enemy of God, and an opposer of the gospel?" This objection was natural, and is, doubtless, often felt. To this the apostle replies, "No; the contrary may he true. The connection produces a species of sanctification, or diffuses a kind of holiness over the unbelieving party by the believing party, so far as to render their children holy, and therefore it is improper to seek for a separation."
Is sanctified - ἡγίασται hēgiastai. There has been a great variety of opinions in regard to the sense of this word. It does not comport with my design to state these opinions. The usual meaning of the word is, to make holy; to set apart to a sacred use; to consecrate, etc; see the note at John 17:17. But the expression cannot mean here:
(1) That the unbelieving husband would become holy, or be a Christian, "by the mere fact" of a connection "with" a Christian, for this would be to do violence to the words, and would be contrary to facts everywhere; nor,
(2) That the unbelieving husband had been sanctified by the Christian wife (Whitby), for this would not be true in all cases; nor,
(3) That the unbelieving husband would gradually become more favorably inclined to Christianity, by observing its effects on the wife (according to Semler); for, though this might be true, yet the apostle was speaking of something then, and which rendered their children at that time holy; nor,
(4) That the unbelieving husband might more easily be sanctified, or become a Christian, by being connected with a Christian wife (according to Rosenmuller and Schleusner), because he is speaking of something in the connection which made the children holy; and because the word ἁγιάζω hagiazō is not used in this sense elsewhere. But it is a good rule of interpretation, that the words which are used in any place are to be limited in their signification by the connection; and all that we are required to understand here is, that the unbelieving husband was sanctified "in regard to the subject under discussion;" that is, in regard to the question whether it was proper for them to live together, or whether they should be separated or not. And the sense may be, "They are by the marriage tie one flesh. They are indissolubly united by the ordinance of God. As they are one by his appointment, as they have received his sanction to the marriage union, and as one of them is holy, so the other is to be regarded as sanctified, or made so holy by the divine sanction to the union, that it is proper for them to live together in the marriage relation." And in proof of this, Paul says if it were not so, if the connection was to he regarded as impure and abominable, then their children were to be esteemed as illegitimate and unclean. But now they were not so regarded, and could not so be; and hence, it followed that they might lawfully continue together. So Calvin, Beza, and Doddridge interpret the expression.
Else were your children unclean - (ἀκάθαρτα akatharta). Impure; the opposite of what is meant by holy. Here observe:
(1) That this is a reason why the parents, one of whom was a Christian and the other not, should not be separated; and,
(2) The reason is founded on the fact, that if they were separated, the offspring of such a union must be regarded as illegitimate, or unholy; and,
(3) It must be improper to separate in such a way, and for such a reason, because even they did not believe, and could not believe, that their children were defiled, and polluted, and subject to the shame and disgrace attending illegitimate children.
This passage has often been interpreted, and is often adduced to prove that children are "federally holy," and that they are entitled to the privilege of baptism on the ground of the faith of one of the parents. But against this interpretation there are insuperable objections:
(1) The phrase "federally holy" is unintelligible, and conveys no idea to the great mass of people. It occurs no where in the Scriptures, and what can be meant by it?
(2) it does not accord with the scope and design of the argument. There is not one word about baptism here; not one allusion to it; nor does the argument in the remotest degree hear upon it. The question was not whether children should be baptized, but it was whether there should be a separation between man and wife, where the one was a Christian and the other not. Paul states, that if such a separation should take place, it would imply that the marriage was improper; and of course the children must be regarded as unclean. But how would the supposition that they were federally holy, and the proper subjects of baptism, bear on this? Would it not be equally true that it was proper to baptize the children whether the parents were separated or not? Is it not a doctrine among Pedobaptists everywhere, that the children are entitled to baptism upon the faith of either of the parents, and that that doctrine is not affected by the question here agitated by Paul? Whether it was proper for them to live together or not, was it not equally true that the child of a believing parent was to be baptized? But,
(3) The supposition that this means that the children would be regarded as illegitimate if such a separation should take place, is one that accords with the whole scope and design of the argument. "When one party is a Christian and the other not shall there be a separation?" This was the question. "No," says Paul; if there is such a separation, it must be because the marriage is improper; because it would be wrong to live together in such circumstances. What would follow from this? Why, that all the children that have been born since the one party became a Christian, must be regarded as having been born while a connection existed that was improper, and unChristian, and unlawful, and of course they must be regarded as illegitimate. But, says he, you do not believe this yourselves. It follows, therefore, that the connection, even according to your own views, is proper.
(4) this accords with the meaning of the word unclean (ἀκάθαρτα akatharta). It properly denotes that which is impure, defiled, idolatrous, unclean:
(a) In a Levitical sense; Leviticus 5:2.
(b) In a moral sense. Acts 10:28; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 5:5.
The word will appropriately express the sense of illegitimacy; and the argument, I think, evidently requires this. It may be summed up in a few words. "Your separation would be a proclamation to all that you regard the marriage as invalid and improper. From this it would follow that the offspring of such a marriage would be illegitimate. But you are not prepared to admit this; you do not believe it. Your children which you esteem to be legitimate, and they are so. The marriage tie, therefore, should be regarded as binding, and separation unnecessary and improper." See, however, Doddridge and Bloomfield for a different view of this subject - I believe infant baptism to be proper and right, and an inestimable privilege to parents and to children. But a good cause should not be made to rest on feeble supports, nor upon forced and unnatural interpretations of the Scriptures. And such I regard the usual interpretation placed on this passage.
But now are they holy - Holy in the same sense as the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; for different forms of the same word are usual. That is, they are legitimate. They are not to be branded and treated as bastards, as they would be by your separation. You regard them as having been born in lawful wedlock, and they are so; and they should be treated as such by their parents, and not be exposed to shame and disgrace by your separation.
The note of Dr. Doddridge, to which the author has candidly referred his readers, is here subjoined: "On the maturest and most impartial consideration of this text, I must judge it to refer to infant baptism. Nothing can be more apparent, than that the word "holy" signifies persons who might be admitted to partake of the distinguishing rites of God's people; compare Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 33:3; Ezra 9:2, with Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 52:1; Acts 10:28. And as for the interpretation which so many of our brethren, the Baptists, have contended for, that "holy" signifies "legitimate," and "unclean, illegitimate" (not to urge that this seems an unscriptural sense of the word,) nothing can be more evident than that the argument will by no means bear it; for it would be proving a thing by itself "idem peridem" to argue, that the converse of the parent's was lawful because the children were not bastards, whereas all who thought the converse of the parents unlawful, must think that the children were illegitimate."
The sense of the passage seems to be this: Christians are not to separate from their unconverted partners, although the Jews were commanded to put away their strange or pagan wives; because the unbelieving party is so far sanctified by the believing party, that the marriage connection is quite "lawful for Christians. There is nothing in the Christian religion that forbids it." Otherwise, argues the Apostle, your children would be unclean, just as the offspring of unequal and forbidden marriages among the Jews, was unclean, and therefore denied the privilege of circumcision; whereas your infants, as appears from their right to baptism, acknowledged in all the churches, are holy, just as the Jewish children who had a right to circumcision were holy, not "internally" but externally and legally, in consequence of their covenant relation to God. Or briefly thus - Do not separate. The marriage is quite lawful for Christians, otherwise your children could not be reckoned holy, in the sense of having a right to the seal of the covenant, that is, baptism. The argument for infant baptism is indeed incidental, but not the less strong on that account. And to say there is no allusion whatever to that subject is a mere begging of the question.
To evade this conclusion in favor of infant baptism, the Baptists have strenuously contended, that the proper sense of "holy" is legitimate or lawfully born. But,
1. The word in the original (ἁγιος hagios) does not in a single instance bear this sense. The question is not what sense may possibly be attached to the term, but what is its real meaning. It is on the other hand, very frequently used in the sense assigned to it by Doddridge and others.
2. According to this view (namely, of legitimacy), the apostle is made gravely to tell the Corinthians, that the marriage, in the supposed case, was lawful in a "civil sense," a thing which they could not possibly doubt, and which must have been "equally true if both parties had been unbelieving." It is incredible that the Corinthians should wish or need to be informed on any such point? But if we call to mind what has been noticed above, concerning the command, binding the Jews to dissolve their unequal marriages, and to treat the offspring of them as unclean Ezra 10:3, we can easily imagine the Corinthians anxious to ascertain whether the Christian religion had retained any such injunction. No, says the apostle, you see your children are holy, as the children of equal or allowed marriage among the Jews were. Therefore you need have no scruples on the point; you require not to separate. Any obscurity that rests on the passage arises from inattention to the Jewish laws, and to the senses in which the Jews used the words "unclean" and "holy." In primitive times these terms, applied to children, would be readily understood, without any explanation such as is needed now.
3. As Doddridge in the above note has acutely remarked, the supposition that the apostle proves the lawfulness of the marriage in a civil sense, from the legitimacy of the children, makes him argue in a circle. The thing to be proven, and the proof, are in reality one and the same. If the Corinthians knew that their children were legitimate, how could they think of applying to Paul on a subject so simple as the legality of of their marriages. It is as if they had said, "We know that our children are legitimate. Inform us if our marriages are legal!
15But 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.
But if the unbelieving depart - If they choose to leave you.
Let him depart - You cannot prevent it, and you are to submit to it patiently, and bear it as a Christian.
A brother or a sister is not under bondage ... - Many have supposed that this means that they would be at liberty to marry again when the unbelieving wife or husband had gone away; as Calvin, Grotius, Rosenmuller, etc. But this is contrary to the strain of the argument of the apostle. The sense of the expression "is not bound," etc. is, that if they forcibly depart, the one that is left is not bound by the marriage tie to make provision for the one that departed; to do acts that might be prejudicial to religion by a violent effort to compel the departing husband or wife to live with the one that is forsaken; but is at liberty to live separate, and should regard it as proper so to do.
God hath called us to peace - Religion is peaceful. It would prevent contentions and broils. This is to be a grand principle. If it cannot be obtained by living together, there should be a peaceful separation; and "where" such a separation has taken place, the one which has departed should be suffered to remain separate in peace. God has called us to live in peace with all if we can. This is the general principle of religion on which we are always to act. In our relation to our partners in life, as well as in all other relations and circumstances, this is to guide us. Calvin supposes that this declaration pertains to the former part of this verse; and that Paul means to say, that if the unbelieving depart, he is to be suffered to do so peaceably rather than to have contention and strife, for God has called us to a life of peace.
16For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
For what knowest thou ... - The apostle here assigns a reason why the believing party should not separate from the other needlessly, or why he should not desire to be separated. The reason is, the possibility, or the probability, that the unbelieving party might be converted by the example and entreaties of the other.
Whether then ... - How do you know "but" this may be done? Is there not a possibility, nay a probability of it, and is not this a sufficient reason for continuing together?
Save thy husband - Gain him over to the Christian faith; be the means of his conversion and salvation. compare Romans 11:26. We learn from this verse:
(1) That there is a possibility that an unbelieving partner in life may be converted by the example of the other.
(2) That this should be an object of intense interest to the Christian husband or wife, because:
(a) It will promote the happiness of the other;
(b) It will promote their usefulness;
(c) It will be the means of blessing their family, for parents should be united on the subject of religion, and in their example and influence in training up their sons and daughters; and,
(d) Because the salvation of a beloved husband or wife should be an object of intense interest,
(3) This object is of so much importance that the Christian should be willing to submit to much, to bear much, and to bear long, in order that it may be accomplished. Paul said that it was desirable even to live with a pagan partner to do it; and so also it is desirable to bear much, very much, with even an unkind and fretful temper, with an unfaithful and even an intemperate husband, or with a perverse and peevish wife, if there is a prospect that they may be converted.
(4) this same direction is elsewhere given; 1 Peter 3:1-2.
(5) it is often done. It is not hopeless. Many a wife has thus been the means of saving a husband; many a husband has been the means of the salvation of the wife - In regard to the means by which this is to be hoped for, we may observe that it is not by a harsh, fretful, complaining temper; it is to be by kindness, and tenderness, and love. It is to be by an exemplification of the excellency of religion by example; by patience when provoked, meekness when injured, love when despised, forbearance when words of harshness and irritation are used, and by showing how a Christian can live, and what is the true nature of religion; by kind and affectionate conversation when alone, when the heart is tender, when calamities visit the family, and when the thoughts are drawn along by the events of Providence toward death. Not by harshness or severity of manner, is the result to be hoped for, but by tender entreaty, and mildness of life, and by prayer. Pre eminently this is to be used. When a husband will not hear, God can hear; when he is angry, morose, or unkind, God is gentle, tender, and kind; and when a husband or a wife turn away from the voice of gentle entreaty, God's ear is open, and God is ready to hear and to bless. Let one thing guide the life. We are never to cease to set a Christian example; never to cease to live as a Christian should live; never to cease to pray fervently to the God of grace, that the partner of our lives may be brought under the full influence of Christian truth, and meet us in the enjoyments of heaven.
17But 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.
But as God hath distributed ... - As God hath divided (ἐμέρισεν emerisen); that is, given, imparted to anyone. As God has given grace to everyone. The words εἰ μὴ ei mē denote simply but in the beginning of this verse. The apostle here introduces a new subject; or an inquiry varying somewhat from that preceding, though of the same general nature. He had discussed the question whether a husband and wife ought to be separated on account of a difference in religion. He now says that the general principle there stated ought to rule everywhere; that people who become Christians ought not to seek to change their condition or calling in life, but to remain in that situation in which they were when they became Christians, and show the excellence of their religion in that particular calling. The object of Paul, therefore, is to preserve order, industry, faithfulness in the relations of life, and to show that Christianity does not design to break up the relations of social and domestic contact. This discussion continues to 1 Corinthians 7:24. The phrase "as God hath distributed" refers to the condition in which people are placed in life, whether as rich or poor, in a state of freedom or servitude, of learning or ignorance, etc. And it implies that God appoints the lot of people, and orders the circumstances of their condition; that religion is not designed to interfere directly with this; and that people should seek to show the real excellence of religion in the particular sphere in which they may have been placed by divine providence before they became converted.
As the Lord hath called everyone - That is, in the condition or circumstances in which anyone is when he is called by the Lord to be a Christian.
So let him walk - In that sphere of life; in that calling 1 Corinthians 7:20; in that particular relation in which he was, let him remain, unless he can consistently change it for the better, and there let him illustrate the true beauty and excellence of religion. This was designed to counteract the notion that the fact of embracing a new religion dissolved the relations of life which existed before. This idea probably prevailed extensively among the Jews. Paul's object is to show that the gospel, instead of dissolving those relations, only strengthened them, and enabled those who were converted the better to discharge the duties which grow out of them.
And so ordain I ... - This is no unique rule for you Corinthians. It is the universal rule which I everywhere inculcated. It is not improbable that there was occasion to insist everywhere on this rule, and to repress disorders which might have been attempted by some who might suppose that Christianity dissolved the former obligations of life.
18Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
Is any man called? - Does anyone become a Christian? See the note at 1 Corinthians 1:26.
Being circumcised - Being a native-born Jew, or having become a Jewish proselyte, and having submitted to the initiatory rite of the Jewish religion.
Let him not become uncircumcised - This could not be literally done. But the apostle refers here to certain efforts which were made to remove the marks of circumcision which were often attempted by those who were ashamed of having been circumcised. The practice is often alluded to by Jewish writers, and is described by them; compare 1 Mac. 1 Corinthians 1:15. It is not decorous or proper here to show how this was done. The process is described in Cels. de Med. 7:25; see Grotuns and Bloomfield.
Is any called in uncircumcision? - A Gentile, or one who had not been circumcised.
Let him not be circumcised - The Jewish rites are not binding, and are not to be enjoined on those who have been converted from the Gentiles; see the notes at Romans 2:27-30.
19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
Circumcision is nothing ... - It is of no consequence in itself. It is not that which God requires now. And the mere external rite can be of no consequence one way or the other. The heart is all; and that is what God demands; see the notes at Romans 2:29.
But the keeping of the commandments of God - Is something, is the main thing, is everything; and this can be done whether a man is circumcised or not.
20Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
Let every man abide - Let him remain or continue.
In the same calling - The same occupation, profession, rank of life. We use the word "calling" in the same sense to denote the occupation or profession of a man. Probably the original idea which led people to designate a profession as a CallinG was the belief that God called every man to the profession and rank which he occupies; that is, that it is by his "arrangement, or providence," that he occupies that rank rather than another. In this way every man has a Call to the profession in which he is engaged as really as ministers of the gospel; and every man should have as clear evidence that "God has called" him to the sphere of life in which he moves as ministers of the gospel should have that God has called them to their appropriate profession. This declaration of Paul, that everyone is to remain in the same occupation or rank in which he was when he was converted, is to he taken in a general and not in an unqualified sense. It does not design to teach that a man is in no situation to seek a change in his profession when he becomes pious. But it is intended to show that religion was the friend of order; that it did not disregard or disarrange the relations of social life; that it was suited to produce contentment even in an humble walk, and to prevent repinings at the lot of those who were more favored or happy. That it did not design to prevent all change is apparent from the next verse, and from the nature of the case. some of the circumstances in which a change of condition, or of calling, may be proper when a man is converted, are the following:
(1) When a man is a slave, and he can obtain his freedom, 1 Corinthians 7:21.
(2) when a man is pursuing a wicked calling or course of life when he was converted, even if it is lucrative, he should abandon it as speedily as possible. Thus, if a man is engaged, as John Newton was, in the slave-trade, he should at once abandon it. If he is engaged in the manufacture or sale of ardent spirits, he should at once forsake the business, even at great personal sacrifice, and engage in a lawful and honorable employment; see the note at Acts 19:19. No considerations can justify a continuance in a course of life like this after a man is converted. No consideration can make a business which is "evil, and only evil, and that continually," proper or right.
(3) where a man can increase his usefulness by choosing a new profession. Thus, the usefulness of many a man is greatly promoted by his leaving an agricultural, or mechanical employment; or by his leaving the bar, or the mercantile profession, and becoming a minister of the gospel. In such situations, religion not only permits a man to change his profession, but it demands it; nor will God smile upon him, or bless him, unless the change is made. An opportunity to become more useful imposes an obligation to change the course of life. And no man is permitted to waste his life and talents in a mere scheme of money-making, or in self-indulgence, when by changing his calling he can do more for the salvation of the world.
21Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
Being a servant - (δοῦλος doulos). A slave. Slaves abounded in Greece and in every part of the pagan world. Athens, e. g., had, in her best days, 20,000 freemen, and 400,000 slaves. See the condition of the pagan world on this subject illustrated at length, and in a very learned manner, by B. B. Edwards, in the Bib. Repository for October, 1835, pp. 411-436. It was a very important subject to inquire what ought to be done in such instances. Many slaves who had been converted might argue that the institution of slavery was contrary to the rights of man; that it destroyed their equality with other people; that it was cruel, and oppressive, and unjust in the highest degree; and that therefore they ought not to submit to it, but that they should burst their bonds, and assert their rights as freemen. In order to prevent restlessness, uneasiness, and insubordination; in order to preserve the peace of society, and to prevent religion from being regarded as disorganizing and disorderly, Paul here states the principle on which the slave was to act. And by referring to this case, which was the strongest which could occur, he designed doubtless to inculcate the duty of order, and contentment in general in all the other relations in which people might be when they were converted.
care not for it - Let it not be a subject of deep anxiety and distress; do not deem it to be disgraceful; let it not affect your spirits; but be content in the lot of life where God has placed you. If you can in a proper way obtain your freedom, do it; if not let it not be a subject of painful reflection. In the sphere of life where God by his providence has placed you, strive to evince the Christian spirit, and show that you are able to bear the sorrows and endure the toils of your humble lot with submission to the will of God, and so as to advance in that relation the interest of the true religion. in that calling do your duty, and evince always the spirit of a Christian. This duty is often enjoined on those who were servants, or slaves; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18. This duty of the slave, however, does not make the oppression of the master right or just, any more than the duty of one who is persecuted or reviled to be patient and meek makes the conduct of the persecutor or reviler just or right; nor does it prove that the master has a right to hold the slave as property, which can never be right in the sight of God; but it requires simply that the slave should evince, even in the midst of degradation and injury, the spirit of a Christian, just as it is required of a man who is injured in any way, to bear it as becomes a follower of the Lord Jesus. Nor does this passage prove that a slave ought not to desire freedom if it can be obtained, for this is supposed in the subsequent clause. Every human being has a right to desire to be free and to seek liberty. But it should be done in accordance with the rules of the gospel; so as not to dishonor the religion of Christ, and so as not to injure the true happiness of others, or overturn the foundations of society.
But if thou mayest be free - If thou canst (δύνασαι dunasai), if it is in your power to become free. That is, if your master or the laws set you free; or if you can purchase your freedom; or if the laws can be changed in a regular manner. If freedom can be obtained in "any" manner that is not sinful. In many cases a Christian master might set his slaves free; in others, perhaps, the laws might do it; in some, perhaps, the freedom of the slave might be purchased by a Christian friend. In all these instances it would be proper to embrace the opportunity of becoming free. The apostle does not speak of insurrection, and the whole scope of the passage is against an attempt on their part to obtain freedom by force and violence. He manifestly teaches them to remain in their condition, to bear it patiently and submissively, and in that relation to bear their hard lot with a Christian spirit, unless their freedom could be obtained without "violence and bloodshed." And the same duty is still binding. Evil as slavery is, and always evil, and only evil, yet the Christian religion requires patience, gentleness, forbearance; not violence, war, insurrection, and bloodshed. Christianity would teach masters to be kind, tender, and gentle; to liberate their slaves, and to change the laws so that it may be done; to be "just" toward those whom they have held in bondage. It would not teach the slave to rise on his master, and imbrue his hands in his blood; to break up the relations of society by violence; or to dishonor his religion by the indulgence of the feelings of revenge and by murder.
Use it rather - Avail yourselves of the privilege if you can, and be a freeman. There are disadvantages attending the condition era slave, and if you can escape from them in a proper manner, it is your privilege and your duty to do it.
22For 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.
For he that is called in the Lord - He that is called by the Lord; he that becomes a Christian.
Being a servant - A slave when he is converted.
Is the Lord's freeman - Margin, "Made free" (ἀπελεύθερος apeleutheros). Is manumitted, made free, endowed with liberty by the Lord. This is designed evidently to comfort the heart of the slave, and to make him contented with his condition; and it is a most delicate, happy, and tender argument. The sense is this. "You are blessed with freedom from the bondage of sin by the Lord. You were formerly a slave to sin, but now you are liberated. that bondage was far more grievous, and far more to be lamented than the bondage of the body. But from that long, grievous, and oppressive servitude you are now free. Your condition, even though you are a slave, is far better than it was before; nay, you are now the true freeman, the freeman of the Lord. Your spirit is free; while those who are not slaves, and perhaps your own masters, are even now under a more severe and odious bondage than yours. You should rejoice, therefore, in deliverance from the greater evil, and be glad that in the eye of God you are regarded as his freeman, and endowed by him with more valuable freedom than it would be to be delivered from the bondage under which you are now placed. Freedom from sin is the highest blessing that can be conferred upon people; and if that is yours, you should little regard your external circumstances in this life. You will soon be admitted to the eternal liberty of the saints in glory, and will forget all your toils and privations in this world."
Is Christ's servant - Is the "slave" (δοῦλος doulos) of Christ; is bound to obey law, and to submit himself, as you are, to the authority of another. This too is designed to promote contentment with his lot, by the consideration that all are bound to obey law; that there is no such thing as absolute independence; and that, since law is to be obeyed, it is not degradation and ignominy to submit to those which God has imposed on us by His providence in an humble sphere of life. Whether a freeman or a slave, we are bound to yield obedience to law, and everywhere must obey the laws of God. It is not, therefore, degradation to submit to his laws in a state of servitude, though these laws come to us through an earthly master. In this respect, the slave and the freeman are on a level, as both are required to submit to the laws of Christ; and, even if freedom could be obtained, there is no such thing as absolute independence. This is a very beautiful, delicate and happy argument, and perhaps no consideration could be urged that would be more adapted to produce contentment.
23Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
Ye are bought with a price - Though you are slaves to people, yet you have been purchased for God by the blood of His Son; see the note at 1 Corinthians 6:20. You are, therefore, in his sight of inestimable worth, and are bound to be His.
Be not ye the servants of men - That is, "Do not regard yourselves as the slaves of men. Even in your humble relation of life, even as servants under the laws of the land, regard yourselves as the servants of God, as obeying and serving him "even in this relation," since all those who are bought with a price - all Christians, whether bond or free - are in fact the servant (slaves, δοῦλοι douloi) of God, 1 Corinthians 7:22. in this relation, therefore, esteem yourselves as the servants of God, as bound by his laws, as subject to him, and as really serving him, while you yield all proper obedience to your master." Rosenmuller, Grotius, and some others, however, think that this refers to Christians in general; and that the apostle means to caution them against subjecting themselves to needless rites and customs which the false teachers would impose on them. Others have supposed (as Doddridge) that it means that they should not sell themselves into slavery; but assuredly a caution of this kind was not needful. The view given above I regard as the interpretation demanded by the connection. And in this view it would promote contentment, and would even prevent their taking any improper measures to disturb the relations of social life, by the high and solemn consideration that even in that relation they were in common with all Christians, the true and real servants of God. They belonged to God, and they should serve Him. In all things which their masters commanded, that were in accordance with the will of God, and that could be done with a quiet conscience, they were to regard themselves as serving God; if at any time they were commanded to do that which God had forbidden, they were to remember that they were the servants of God, and that he was to be obeyed rather than man.
24Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
Brethren ... - ; see the note at 1 Corinthians 7:20.
25Now 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.
Not concerning virgins - This commences the "third" subject on which the opinion of Paul seems to have been asked by the church at Corinth - whether it was proper that those who had unmarried daughters, or wards, should give them in marriage. The reason why this question was proposed may have been, that many in the church at Corinth were the advocates of celibacy, and this, perhaps, on two grounds:
(1) Some may have supposed that in the existing state of things - the persecutions and trials to which Christians were exposed - it would be advisable that a man who had unmarried daughters, or wards, should keep them from the additional cares and trials to which they would be exposed with a family; and,
(2) Some may have already been the advocates for celibacy, and have maintained that that state was more favorable to piety, and was altogether to be preferred. It is known that that opinion had an early prevalence, and gave rise to the establishment of "nunneries" in the papal church; an opinion that has everywhere been attended with licentiousness and corruption. It is not improbable that there may have been advocates for this opinion even in the church of Corinth; and it was well, therefore, that the authority of an apostle should be employed to sanction and to honor the marriage union.
I have no commandment ... - No positive, express revelation; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 7:6, 1 Corinthians 7:10.
Yet I give my judgment - I give my opinion, or advice; see the note at 1 Corinthians 7:6.
As one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord - As a Christian; one who has been pardoned, whose mind has been enlightened, and who has been endued with the grace of God.
To be faithful - Faithful to my God. As one who would not give advice for any selfish, or mercenary, or worldly consideration; as one known to act from a desire to honor God, and to seek the best interests of the church, even though there is no explicit command. The advice of "such" a man - a devoted, faithful, self-denying, experienced Christian - is entitled to respectful deference, even where there is no claim to inspiration. Religion qualifies to give advice; and the advice of a man who has no selfish ends to gratify, and who is known to seek supremely the glory of God, should not be disregarded or slighted. Paul had a special claim to give this advice, because he was the founder of the congregation at Corinth.
26I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
I suppose - I think; I give the following advice.
For the present distress - In the present state of trial. The word "distress" (ἀνάγκην anagkēn, necessity) denotes calamity, persecution, trial, etc.; see Luke 21:23. The word rendered "present" (ἐνεστῶσαν enestōsan) denotes that which "urges on," or that which at that time presses on, or afflicts. Here it is implied:
(1) That at that time they were subject to trials so severe as to render the advice which he was about to give proper; and,
(2) That he by no means meant that this should be a "permanent arrangement" in the church, and of course it cannot be urged as an argument for the monastic system.
What the "urgent distress" of this time was, is not certainly known. If the Epistle was written about 59 a.d. (see the introduction), it was in the time of Nero; and probably he had already begun to oppress and persecute Christians. At all events, it is evident that the Christians at Corinth were subject to some trials which rendered the cares of the marriage life undesirable.
It is good for a man so to be - The emphasis here is on the word "so" οὕτως houtōs; that is, it is best for a man to conduct "in the following manner;" the word so referring to the advice which follows. "I advise that he conduct in the following manner, to wit." Most commentators suppose that it means "as he is:" that is, unmarried; but the interpretation proposed above best suits the connection. The advice given is in the following verses.
27Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
Art thou bound unto a wife? - Art thou already married? Marriage is often thus represented as a "tie," a "bond," etc.; see the note at Romans 7:2.
Seek not to be loosed - Seek not a "dissolution" (λύσιν lusin) of the connection, either by divorce or by a separation from each other; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 7:10-17.
Art thou loosed from a wife? - Art thou unmarried? It should have been rendered "free from" a wife; or art thou single? It does not imply of necessity that the person had been married, though it may have that meaning, and signify those who had been separated from a wife by her death. There is no necessity of supposing that Paul refers to persons who had divorced their wives. So Grotius, Schleusner, Doddridge, etc.
28But 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.
Thou hast not sinned - There is no express command of God on this subject. The counsel which I give is mere advice, and it may be observed or not as you shall judge best. Marriage is honorable and lawful; and though there may be circumstances where it is advisable not to enter into this relation, yet there is no law which prohibits it. The same advice would be proper now, if it were a time of persecution; or if a man is poor, and cannot support a family; or if he has already a dependent mother and sisters to be supported by him, it would be well to follow the advice of Paul. So also when the cares of a family would take up a man's time and efforts; when but for this he might give himself to a missionary life, the voice of wisdom may be in accordance with that of Paul; that a man may be free from these cares, and may give himself with more undivided interest and more successful toil to the salvation of man.
Such shall have trouble in the flesh - They shall have anxiety, care; solicitude, trials. Days of persecution are coming on, and you may be led to the stake, and in those fiery trials your families may be torn asunder, and a part be put to death. Or you may be poor, and oppressed, and driven from your homes, and made wanderers and exiles, for the sake of your religion.
But I spare you - I will not dwell on the melancholy theme. I will not pain your hearts by describing the woes that shall ensue. I will not do anything to deter you from acting as you deem right. If you choose to marry, it is lawful; and I will not imbitter your joys and harrow up your feelings by the description of your future difficulties and trials. The word "flesh" here denotes outward circumstances in contradistinction from the mind. They might have peace of mind, for religion would furnish that; but they would be exposed to poverty, persecution, and calamity.
29But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
But this I say - Whether you are married or not, or in whatever condition of life you may be, I would remind you that life hastens to a close, and that its grand business is to be prepared to die. It matters little in what condition or rank of life we are, if we are ready to depart to another and a better world.
The time is short - The time is "contracted," "drawn into a narrow space" (συνεσταλμένος sunestalmenos). The word which is used here is commonly applied to the act of "furling" a sail, that is, reducing it into a narrow compass; and is then applied to anything that is reduced within narrow limits. Perhaps there was a reference here to the fact that the time was "contracted," or made short, by their impending persecutions and trials. But it is always equally true that time is short. It will soon glide away, and come to a close. The idea of the apostle here is, that the plans of life should all be formed in view of this truth, that time is short. No plan should be adopted which does not contemplate this; no engagement of life made when it will not be appropriate to think of it; no connection entered into when the thought "time is short," would be an unwelcome intruder; see 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 3:8-9.
It remaineth - (τὸ λοιπόν to loipon). The remainder is; or this is a consequence from this consideration of the shortness of time.
Both they that have wives ... - This does not mean that they are to treat them with unkindness or neglect, or fail in the duties of love and fidelity. It is to be taken in a general sense, that they were to live above the world; that they were not to be unduly attached to them that they were to be ready to part with them; and that they should not suffer attachment to them to interfere with any duty which they owed to God. They were in a world of trial; and they were exposed to persecution; and as Christians they were bound to live entirely to God, and they ought not, therefore, to allow attachment to earthly friends to alienate their affections from God, or to interfere with their Christian duty. In one word, they ought to be "just as faithful to God," and "just as pious," in every respect, as if they had no wife and no earthly friend. Such a consecration to God is difficult, but not impossible. Our earthly attachments and cares draw away our affections from God, but they need not do it. Instead of being the occasion of alienating our affections from God, they should be, and they might be, the means of binding us more firmly and entirely to him and to his cause. But alas, how many professing Christians live for their wives and children only, and not for God in these relations! how many suffer these earthly objects of attachment to alienate their minds from the ways and commandments of God, rather than make them the occasion of uniting them more tenderly to him and his cause!
30And 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 weep - They who are afflicted.
As though they wept not - Restraining and moderating their grief by the hope of the life to come. "The general idea in all these expressions is, that in whatever situation Christians are, they should be dead to the world, and not improperly affected by passing events." It is impossible for human nature not to feel when persecuted, maligned, slandered, or when near earthly friends are taken away. But religion will calm the troubled spirit; pour oil on the agitated waves; light up a smile in the midst of tears; cause the beams of a calm and lovely morning to rise on the anxious heart; silence the commotions of the agitated soul, and produce joy even in the midst of sorrow. Religion will keep us from immoderate grief, and sustain the soul even when in distress nature forces us to shed the tear of mourning. Christ sweat great drops of blood, and Christians often weep; but the heart may be calm, peaceful, elevated, confident in God in the darkest night and the severest tempest of calamity.
And they that rejoice - They that are happy; they that are prospered; that have beloved families around them; that are blessed with success, with honor, with esteem, with health. They that have occasion of rejoicing and gratitude.
As though they rejoiced not - Not rejoicing with excessive or immoderate joy. Not with riot or unholy mirth. Not satisfied with these things; though they may rejoice in them. Not forgetting that they must soon be left; but keeping the mind in a calm, serious, settled, thoughtful state, in view of the fact that all these things must soon come to an end. O how would this thought silence the voice of unseemly mirth; How would it produce calmness, serenity, heavenly joy, where is now often unhallowed riot; and true peace, where now there is only forced and boisterous revelry!
As though they possessed not - It is right to buy and to obtain property. But it should be held with the conviction that it; is by an uncertain tenure, and must soon be left. People may give a deed that shall secure from their fellow man; but no man can give a title that shall not be taken away by death. Our lands and houses, our stocks and bonds and mortgages, our goods and chattels, shall soon pass into other hands. Other people will plow our fields, reap our harvests, work in our shops, stand at our counters, sit down at our firesides, eat on our tables, lie upon our beds. Others will occupy our places in society, have our offices, sit in our seats in the sanctuary. Others will take possession of our gold, and appropriate it to their own use; and we shall have no more interest in it, and no more control over it, than our neighbor has now, and no power to eject the man that has taken possession of our houses and our lands. Secure therefore as our titles are safe as are our investments, yet how soon shall we lose all interest in them by death; and how ought this consideration to induce us to live above the world, and to secure a treasure in that world where no thief approaches, and no moth corrupts.
31And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
And they that use this world - That make a necessary and proper use of it to furnish raiment, food, clothing, medicine, protection, etc. It is right so to use the world, for it was made for these purposes. The word using here refers to the lawful use of it (χρώμενοι chrōmenoi).
As not abusing it - καταχρώμενοι katachrōmenoi. The preposition κατα kata, in composition here has the sense of "too much, too freely," and is taken not merely in an intensive sense, but to denote evil, the abuse of the world. It means that we are not to use it to EXCesS; we are not to make it a mere matter of indulgences, or to make that the main object and purpose of our living. We are not to give our appetites to indulgence; our bodies to riot; our days and nights to feasting and revelry.
For the fashion of this world - (τὸ σχῆμα to schēma.) The form, the appearance. In 1 John 2:17, it is said that "the world passeth away and the lust thereof." The worst "fashion" here is probably taken from the shifting scenes of the drama where, when the scene changes, the imposing and splendid pageantry passes off. The form, the fashion of the world is like a splendid, gilded pageant. It is unreal and illusive. It continues but a little time; and soon the scene changes, and the fashion that allured and enticed us now passes away, and we pass to other scenes.
Passeth away - (παράγει paragei). Passes off like the splendid, gaudy, shifting scenes of the stage. What a striking description of the changing, unstable, and unreal pageantry of this world! Now it is frivilous, splendid, gorgeous, lovely; tomorrow it is gone, and is succeeded by new actors and new scenes. Now all is busy with one set of actors; tomorrow a new company appears, and again they are succeeded by another, and all are engaged in scenes that are equally changing, vain, gorgeous, and delusive. A simliar idea is presented in the well known and beautiful description of the great British dramatist:
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts."
If such be the character of the scenes in which we are engaged, how little should we fix our affections on them, and how anxious should we be to be prepared for the "real and unchanging" scenes of another world!
32But 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:
But I would have you - I would advise you to such a course of life as should leave you without carefulness My advice is regulated by that wish, and that wish guides me in giving it.
Without carefulness - (ἀμερίμνους amerimnous). Without anxiety, solicitude, care; without such a necessary attention to the things of this life as to take off your thoughts and affections from heavenly objects; see the notes on Matthew 6:25-31.
careth for the things that belong to the Lord - Margin, "The things of the Lord;" the things of religion. His attention is not distracted by the cares of this life; his time is not engrossed, and his affections alienated by an attendance on the concerns of a family, and especially by solicitude for them in times of trial and persecution. He can give his main attention to the things of religion. He is at leisure to give his chief thoughts and anxieties to the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom. Paul's own example showed that this was the course which he preferred; and showed also that in some instances it was lawful and proper for a man to remain unmarried, and to give himself entirely to the work of the Lord. But the divine commandment Genesis 1:28, and the commendation everywhere bestowed upon marriage in the Scriptures, as well as the nature of the case, show that it was not designed that celibacy should be general.
33But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
careth for the things of the world - Is under a necessity of giving attention to the things of the world; or cannot give his undivided attention and interest to the things of religion. This would be especially true in times of persecution.
How he may please his wife - How he may gratify her; how he may accommodate himself to her temper and wishes, to make her happy. The apostle here plainly intimates that there would be danger that the man would be so anxious to gratify his wife, as to interfere with his direct religious duties. This may be done in many ways:
(1) The affections may be taken off from the Lord, and bestowed upon the wife. she may become the object of even improper attachment, and may take the place of God in the affections.
(2) the time may be taken up in devotion to her, which should be given to secret prayer, and to the duties of religion.
(3) she may demand his "society and attention" when he ought to be engaged in doing good to others, and endeavoring to advance the kingdom of Christ.
(4) she may be frivilous and fashionable, and may lead him into improper expenses, into a style of living that may be unsuitable for a Christian, and into society where his piety will be injured, and his devotion to God lessened; or,
(5) She may have erroneous opinions on the doctrines and duties of religion; and a desire to please her may lead him insensibly to modify his views, and to adopt more lax opinions, and to pursue a more lax course of life in his religious duties.
Many a husband has thus been injured by a frivilous, thoughtless, and imprudent wife; and though that wife may be a Christian, yet her course may be such as shall greatly retard his growth in grace, and mar the beauty of his piety.
34There 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.
Between a wife and a virgin, - Between a woman that is married and one that is unmarried. The apostle says that a similar difference between the condition of her that is married and her that is unmarried takes place, which had been observed between the married and the unmarried man. The Greek word here (μεμέρισται memeristai) may mean, "is divided," and be rendered, "the wife and the virgin are divided in the same manner;" that is, there is the same difference in their case as exists between the married and the unmarried man.
The unmarried women ... - Has more advantages for attending to the things of religion; has fewer temptations to neglect her proper duty to God.
Both in body and in spirit - Entirely holy; that she may be entirely devoted to God. Perhaps in her case the apostle mentions the "body," which he had not done in the case of the man, because her temptation would be principally in regard to that - the danger of endeavoring to decorate and adorn her person to please her husband,
How she may please her husband - The apostle here intends, undoubtedly, to intimate that there were dangers to personal piety in the married life, which would not occur in a state of celibacy; and that the unmarried female would have greater opportunities for devotion and usefulness than if married. And he intimates that the married female would be in danger of losing her zeal and marring her piety, by attention to her husband, and by a constant effort to please him. Some of the ways in which this might be done are the following:
(1) As in the former case 1 Corinthians 7:33, her affections might be transferred from God to the partner of her life.
(2) her time will be occupied by an attention to him and to his will; and there would be danger that that attention would be allowed to interfere with her hours of secret retirement and communion with God.
(3) her time will be necessarily broken in upon by the cares of a family, and she should therefore guard with special vigilance, that she may redeem time for secret communion with God.
(4) the time which she before gave to benevolent objects, may now be given to please her husband. Before her marriage she may have been distinguished for zeal, and for active efforts in every plan of doing good; subsequently, she may lay aside this zeal, and withdraw from these plans, and be as little distinguished as others.
(5) her piety may be greatly injured by false notions of what should be done to please her husband. If he is a worldly and fashionable man, she may seek to please him by "gold, and pearls, and costly array." Instead of cultivating the ornament of "a meek and quiet spirit," her main wish may be to decorate her person, and render herself attractive by the adorning of her person rather than of her MinD.
(6) if he is opposed to religion, or if he has lax opinions on the subject, or if he is sceptical and worldly, she will be in danger of relaxing in her views in regard to the strictness of Christianity, and of becoming conformed to his. She will insensibly become less strict in regard to Sunday, the Bible, the prayer meeting, the Sunday School, the plans of Christian benevolence, the doctrines of the gospel.
(7) to please him, she will be found in the frivilous circle, perhaps in the assembly room, or even the theater, or amidst companies of gaiety and amusement, and will forget that she is professedly devoted only to God. And,
(8) She is in danger, as the result of all this, of forsaking her old religious friends, the companions of purer, brighter days, the humble and devoted friends of Jesus; and of seeking society among the frivilous, the rich, the proud, the worldly. Her piety thus is injured; she becomes worldly and vain, and less and less like Christ; until heaven, perhaps, in mercy smites her idol, and he dies and leaves her again to the blessedness of single-hearted devotion to God. O! how many a Christian female has thus been injured by an unhappy marriage with a frivilous and worldly man! How often has the church occasion to mourn over piety that is dimmed, benevolence that is quenched, zeal that is extinguished by devotion to a frivilous and worldly husband! How often does humble piety weep over such a scene! How often does the cause of sacred charity sigh! How often is the Redeemer wounded in the house of his friends! And O how often does it become necessary for God to interpose, and to remove by death the object of the affection of his wandering child, and to clothe her in the habiliments of mourning, and to bathe her cheeks in tears, that "by the sadness of the countenance her heart may be made better." Who can tell how many a widow is made such from this cause; who can tell how much religion is injured by thus stealing away the affections from God?
35And 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.
For your own profit - That you may avail yourselves of all your advantages and privileges, and pursue such a course as shall tend most to advance your personal piety and salvation.
Not that I may cast a snare upon you - The word rendered "snare" (βρόχον brochon) means a cord, a rope, a bond; and the sense is, that Paul would not BinD them by any rule which God had not made; or that he would not restrain them from that which is lawful, and which the welfare of society usually requires. Paul means, that his object in his advice was their welfare; it was not by any means to bind, fetter, or restrain them from any course which would be for their real happiness, but to promote their real and permanent advantage. The idea which is here presented by the word "snare," is usually conveyed by the use of the word "yoke" Matthew 11:29; Acts 15:10; Galatians 5:1, and sometimes by the word "burden;" Matthew 23:4; Acts 15:28.
But for that which is comely - (εὔσχημον euschēmon). Decorous, fit, proper, noble. For that which is best Fitted to your present condition, and which, on the whole, will be best, and most for your own advantage. There would be a fitness and propriety in their pursuing the course which he recommended.
That ye may attend on the Lord - That you may engage in religious duties and serve God.
Without distraction - Without being drawn away ἀπερισπάστως aperispastōs; without care, interruption, and anxiety. That you may be free to engage with undivided interest in the service of the Lord.
36But 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.
That he behaveth himself uncomely - Acts an unbecoming part, imposes an unnecessary, painful, and improper constraint, crosses her inclinations which are in them selves proper.
Toward his virgin - His daughter, or his ward, or any unmarried female committed to his care.
If she pass the flower of her age - If she pass the marriageable age and remains unmarried. It is well known that in the east it was regarded as especially dishonorable to remain unmarried; and the authority of a father, therefore, might be the means of involving his daughter in shame and disgrace. When this would be the case, it would be wrong to prohibit her marriage.
And need so require - And she ought to be allowed to marry. If it will promote her happiness, and if she would be unhappy, and regarded as dishonored, if she remained in a state of celibacy.
Let him do what he will - He has the authority in the case, for in the east the authority resided with the father. He may either give her in marriage or not, as he pleases. But in this case it is advisable that she should marry.
He sinneth not - He errs not; he will do nothing positively wrong in the case. Marriage is lawful, and in this case it is advisable, and he may consent to it, for the reasons above stated, without error or impropriety.
37Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast 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.
Nevertheless - But. The apostle in this verse states some instances where it would not be proper to give a daughter in marriage; and the verse is a kind of summing up of all that be had said on the subject.
That standeth steadfast in his heart ... - Most commentators have understood this of the father of the virgin, and suppose that it refers to his purpose of keeping her from the marriage connection. The phrase to stand steadfast, is opposed to a disposition that is vacillating, unsettled, etc., and denotes a man who has command of himself, who adheres to his purpose, a man who has "hitherto" adhered to his purpose, and to whose happiness and reputation it is important that he should be known as one who is not vacillating, or easily moved.
Having no necessity - Where there is nothing in her disposition or inclination that would make marriage necessary, or when there is no "engagement or obligation" that would be violated if she did not marry.
But hath power over his own will - Hath power to do as he pleases; is not bound in the case by another. When there is no "engagement, or contract," made in childhood, or promise made in early life that would bind him. Often daughters were espoused, or promised when they were very young, and in such a case a man would be bound to adhere to his engagement; and much as he might desire the reverse, and her celibacy, yet he would not have power over his own will, or be at liberty to withhold her.
And hath so decreed in his heart - Has so judgeD, determined, resolved.
That he will keep his virgin - His daughter, or ward, in an unmarried state. He has "power and authority" to do it, and if he does it he will not sin.
Doeth well - In either of these cases, he does well. If he has a daughter, and chooses to retain her in an unmarried state, he does well or right.
38So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.
Doeth well - Does right; violates no law in it, and is not to be blamed for it.
Doeth better - Does that which is on the whole to be preferred, if it can be done. He more certainly, in the present circumstances, consults her happiness by withholding her from the marriage connection than he could by allowing her to enter it.
39The 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.
The wife is bound ... - ; see the notes at Romans 7:2.
Only in the Lord - That is, only to one who is a Christian; with a proper sense of her obligations to Christ, and so as to promote his glory. The apostle supposed that could not be done if she were allowed to marry a pagan, or one of a different religion. The same sentiment he advances in 2 Corinthians 6:14, and it was his intention, undoubtedly, to affirm that it was proper for a widow to marry no one who was not a Christian. The reasons at that time would be obvious:
(1) They could have no sympathy and fellow-feeling on the most important of all subjects, if the one was a Christian and the other a pagan; see 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, etc.
(2) if she should marry a pagan, would it not be showing that she had not as deep a conviction of the importance and truth of her religion as she ought to have? If Christians were required to be "separate," to be "a special people," not "to be conformed to the world," how could these precepts be obeyed if the society of a pagan was voluntarily chosen, and if she became united to him for life?
(3) she would in this way greatly hinder her usefulness; put herself in the control of one who had no respect for her religion, and who would demand her time and attention, and thus interfere with her attendance on the public and private duties of religion, and the offices of Christian charity.
(4) she would thus greatly endanger her piety. There would be danger from the opposition, the taunts, the sneers of the enemy of Christ; from the secret influence of living with a man who had no respect for God; from his introducing her into society that was irreligious, and that would tend to mar the beauty of her piety, and to draw her away from simple-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ. And do not these reasons apply to similar cases now? And if so, is not the law still binding? Do not such unions now, as really as they did then, place the Christian where there is no mutual sympathy on the subject dearest to the Christian heart? Do they not show that she who forms such a union has not as deep a sense of the importance of piety, and of the pure and holy nature of her religion as she ought to have? Do they not take time from God and from charity; break up plans of usefulness, and lead away from the society of Christians, and from the duties of religion? Do they not expose often to ridicule, to reproach, to persecution, to contempt, and to pain? Do they not often lead into society, by a desire to please the partner in life, where there is no religion, where God is excluded, where the name of Christ is never heard, and where the piety is marred, and the beauty of simple Christian piety is dimmed? and if so, are not such marriages contrary to the law of Christ? I confess, that this verse, to my view, proves that all such marriages are a violation of the New Testament; and if they are, they should not on any plea be entered into; and it will be found, in perhaps nearly all instances, that they are disastrous to the piety of the married Christian, and the occasion of ultimate regret, and the cause of a loss of comfort, peace, and usefulness in the married life.
40But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.
If she so abide - If she remain a widow even if she could be married to a Christian.
After my judgment - In my opinion; 1 Corinthians 7:25.
And I think also that I have the Spirit of God - Macknight and others suppose that this phrase implies entire certainty; and that Paul means to affirm that in this he was clear that he was under the influence of inspiration. He appeals for the use of the term (δωκῶ dōkō) to Mark 10:32; Luke 8:18; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 8:2; 1 Corinthians 11:16; Hebrews 4:1, etc. But the word does not usually express absolute certainty. It implies a doubt; though there may be a strong persuasion or conviction; or the best judgment which the mind can form in the case; see Matthew 6:7; Matthew 26:53; Mark 6:49; Luke 8:18; Luke 10:36; Luke 12:51; Luke 13:24; Luke 22:24; Acts 17:18; Acts 25:27; 1 Corinthians 16:12, 1 Corinthians 16:22, etc. It implies here a belief that Paul was under the influence of the infallible Spirit, and that his advice was such as accorded with the will of God. Perhaps he alludes to the fact that the teachers at Corinth deemed themselves to be under the influence of inspiration, and Paul said that he judged also of himself that he was divinely guided and directed in what he said - "Calvin." And as Paul in this could not be mistaken; as his impression that he was under the influence of that Spirit was, in fact, a claim to divine inspiration, so this advice should be regarded as of divine authority, and as binding on all. This interpretation is further demanded by the circumstances of the case. It was necessary that he should assert divine authority to counteract the teaching of the false instructors in Corinth; and that he should interpose that authority in prescribing rules for the government of the church there in view of the special temptations to which they were exposed.
Remarks On 1 Corinthians 7
We learn from this chapter:
1. The sacredness of the marriage union; and the nature of the feelings with which it should be entered; 1 Corinthians 7:1-13. On a most delicate subject Paul has shown a seriousness and delicacy of expression which can be found in no other writings, and which demonstrate how pure his own mind was, and how much it was filled with the fear of God. In all things his aim is to promote purity, and to keep from the Christian church the innumerable evils which everywhere abounded in the pagan world. The marriage connection should be formed in the fear of God. In all that union, the parties should seek the salvation of the soul; and so live as not to dishonor the religion which they profess.
2. The duty of laboring earnestly for the conversion of the party in the marriage connection that may be a stranger to piety; 1 Corinthians 7:16. This object should lie very near the heart; and it should be sought by all the means possible. By a pure and holy life; by exemplifying the nature of the gospel; by tenderness of conversation and of entreaty; and by fidelity in all the duties of life, we should seek the conversion and salvation of our partners in the marriage connection. Even if both are Christians, this great object should be one of constant solicitude - to advance the piety and promote the usefulness of the partner in life.
3. The duty of contentment in the sphere of life in which we are placed; 1 Corinthians 7:18 ff. It is no disgrace to be poor, for Jesus chose to be poor. It is no disgrace, though it is a calamity, to be a slave. It is no disgrace to be in an humble rank of life. It is disgraceful only to be a sinner, and to complain and repine at our allotment. God orders the circumstances of our life; and they are well ordered when under the direction of his hand. The great object should be to do right in the relation which we sustain in life. If poor, to be industrious, submissive, resigned, virtuous; if rich, to be grateful, benevolent, kind. If a slave or a servant, to be faithful, kind, and obedient; using liberty, if it can be lawfully obtained; resigned, and calm, and gentle, if by the providence of God such must continue to be the lot in life.
4. The duty of preserving the order and regularity of society; 1 Corinthians 7:20-23. The design of the gospel is not to produce insubordination or irregularity, it would not break up society; does not dissolve the bonds of social life; but it cements and sanctifies the ties which connect us with those around us. It is designed to promote human happiness; and that is promoted, not by resolving society into its original elements; not by severing the marriage tie, as atheists would do; not by teaching children to disregard and despise their parents, or the common courtesies of life, but by teaching them to maintain inviolate all these relations. Religion promotes the interests of society; it does not, like infidelity, dissolve them. It advances the cause of social virtue; it does not, like atheism, retard and annihilate it. Every Christian becomes a better parent, a more affectionate child, a kinder friend, a more tender husband or wife, a more kind neighbor, a better member of the community.
5. Change in a man's calling should not be made from a slight cause. A Christian should not make it unless his former calling were wrong, or unless he can by it extend his own usefulness. But when that can be done, he should do it, and do it without delay. If the course is wrong, it should be immediately abandoned. No consideration can make it right to continue it for a day or an hour, no matter what may be the sacrifice of property, it should be done. If a man is engaged in the slave-trade, or in smuggling goods, or in piracy, or highway robbery, or in the manufacture and sale of poison, it should be at once and forever abandoned. And in like manner, if a young man who is converted can increase his usefulness by changing his plan of life, it should be done as soon as practicable. If by becoming a minister of the gospel he can be a more useful man, every consideration demands that he should leave any other profession, however lucrative or pleasant, and submit to the self-denials, the cares, the trials, and the toils which attend a life devoted to Christ in the ministry in Christian or pagan lands. Though it should be attended with poverty, want, tears, toil, or shame, yet the single question is, "Can I be more useful to my Master there than in my present vocation?" If he can be, that is an indication of the will of God which he cannot disregard with impunity.
6. We should live above this world; 1 Corinthians 7:29-30. We should partake of all our pleasures, and endure all our sufferings, with the deep feeling that we have here no continuing city and no abiding place. Soon all our earthly pleasures will fade away; soon all our earthly sorrows will be ended. A conviction of the shortness of life will tend much to regulate our desires for earthly comforts, and will keep us from being improperly attached to them; and it will diminish our sorrows by the prospect that they will soon end.
7. We should not be immoderately affected with grief; 1 Corinthians 7:30. It will all soon end, in regard to Christians. Whether our tears arise from the consciousness of our sins or the sins of others; whether from persecution or contempt of the world; or whether from the loss of health, property, or friends, we should bear it all patiently, for it will soon end; a few days, and all will be over; and the last tear shall fall on our cheeks, and the last sigh be heaved from our bosom.
8. We should not be immoderate in our joy, 1 Corinthians 7:30. Our highest earthly joys will soon cease. Mirth, and the sound of the harp and the viol, the loud laugh and the song will soon close. What a change should this thought make in a world of gaiety, and mirth, and song! It should not make people gloomy and morose; but it should make them serious, calm, thoughtful. O, did all feel that death was near, that the solemn realities of eternity were approaching, what a change would it make in a frivilous and thoughtless world! How would it close the theater and the ball-room; how would it silence the jest, the jeer, and the loud laugh; and how would it diffuse seriousness and calmness over a now frivilous and thoughtless world! "Laughter is mad," says Solomon; and in a world of sin, and sorrow, and death, assuredly seriousness and calm contemplation are demanded by every consideration.
9. What an effect would the thought that "time is short," and that "the fashion of this world passeth away," have on the lovers of wealth! It would:
(1) Teach them that property is of little value.
(2) that the possession of it can constitute no distinction beyond the grave: the rich man is just as soon reduced to dust, and is just as offensive in his splendid mausoleum, as the poor beggar.
(3) a man feeling this, would be led (or should be) to make a good use of his property on earth. See the note at Luke 16:1-9.
(4) he would be led to seek a better inheritance, an interest in the treasures that no moth corrupts, and that never fade away. See the note at Matthew 6:20. This single thought. that the fashion of this world is soon to pass away - an idea which no man can doubt or deny - if allowed to take firm hold of the mind, would change the entire aspect of the world.
10. We should endeavor so to live in all things as that our minds should not be oppressed with undue anxiety and care, 1 Corinthians 7:32. In all our arrangements and plans, and in all the relations of life, our grand object should be to have the mind free for the duties and privileges of religion. We should seek not to be encumbered with care; not to be borne down with anxiety; not to be unduly attached to the things of this life.
11. We should enter into the relations of life so as not to interfere with our personal piety or usefulness, but so as to promote both, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. All our arrangements should be so formed as that we may discharge our religious duties, and promote our usefulness to our fellow men. But, alas, how many enter into the marriage relation with unChristian companions, whose active zeal is forever quenched by such a connection! How many form commercial connections or partnerships in business with those who are not Christians, where the result is to diminish their zeal for God, and to render their whole lives useless to the church! And how much do the cares of life, in all its relations, interfere with simple-hearted piety, and with the faithful discharge of the duties which we owe to God and to a dying world! May God of his mercy enable us so to live in all the relations of life as that our usefulness shall not be retarded but augmented; and so to live that we can see without one sigh of regret the "fashion of this world pass away;" our property or our friends removed; or even the magnificence of the entire world, with all its palaces, and temples, and "cloudcapped towers," passing away amidst the fires that shall attend the consummation of all things!