William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.1 Corinthians Chapter 7
We now enter on a fresh division of the Epistle, though the opening of it is naturally connected with (at least, so as to follow) the apostle's exhortation to personal purity, which he has just shown to be due to the Holy Ghost's presence, as well as the Lord's purchase of us: our consequent call is to glorify God in our body.
It seems that the saints in Corinth had written, among other topics, about marriage, and the various questions it naturally raised for the Christians as yet little versed in the truth. From the laxity of heathen, especially of the Greeks and above all the Corinthians, there was a reaction toward asceticism, that favourite resource of moralists and philosophers in the East, which had thence spread more or less into the West. The apostle urges holiness, but not at the expense of liberty in Christ.
"But concerning the things of which ye write to me, [it is] good for a man not to touch a woman; but on account of fornications, let each have his own wife, and each have her own husband. To the wife let the husband render his due, and likewise also the wife to the husband. The wife hath not authority over her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath not authority over his own body, but the wife. Defraud not one another, unless by consent for a time, that ye may have leisure for prayer, and again be together, that Satan tempt you not because of your incontinency." (Ver. 1-5.)
When Adam was made, Jehovah said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a help meet for him. And so He builded the woman out of the man. They were to be, and were, one flesh. The apostle was the last man to weaken the order of nature. It was he who still later wrote to the Hebrews, Let marriage be every way honourable, and the bed undefiled. Here he in no way contradicts it or differs. He is in full unison with his Master (in Matthew 19 and Mark 10) who vindicated God's original institution from creation for man in the flesh, whatever the law might allow in view of the hardness of men's hearts, though he maintained the superior excellence of the unmarried state, where there was power to be undividedly for the Lord and His things. But it is not so with every saint. All cannot receive it, but those to whom it has been given If any one is able, let him receive it: if he boast, he is in danger of dishonouring the Lord more than those he despises. The Lord and His apostle both caution souls. Grace may call and strengthen to live above what is not only lawful but honourable every way; and surely, if kept thus in lowliness, the former is the better portion.
But there are snares through nature as it is; and nowhere was there reason to fear more from the habits and associations of the place than at Corinth. Heathenism in some cases consecrated fornication. Because of the licentious ways, there and then of the commonest occurrence but at all times a danger, let each have his own wife, and each have her own husband. Mutual consideration to the last degree becomes both in a relationship where they that were two are no longer so but one. Grace, if it lift above nature in certain cases for the Lord's glory, enforces the honour and duties of those who are in a natural relationship. It is the sure mark of the enemy, where grace is perverted to put contempt on the least or lowest ordering of God. If we are in the relationship, we are bound to be true to its claims. Hence the husband was to pay her due to the wife, and in like manner the wife to the husband. The married estate is inconsistent with independence of each other in all that pertains to it. The wife has not authority over her own body, but the husband; and in like manner also the husband has not authority over his own body, but the wife. Hence they were not to defraud or wrongfully deprive one another, unless by consent for a time, that they might be free for prayer and again be together, lest Satan should tempt them for their incontinency. The law made nothing perfect. Christ vindicated God's mind and will as to the first man, but Himself was the manifestation of God in man. So does the apostle speak of marriage in words far above the thoughts and ways of Israel. What is first was never so fully stated before; but grace, as ever, presents a better thing.
"But this I say by way of permission, not by way of command. Now I wish all men to be even as myself; but each hath his own gift of God, one this way, and another that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them that they remain even as I. But if they have not self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn." (Vers. 6-9.) Thus did the Holy Spirit lead the large-hearted apostle to write, in what he had laid down, declaring that it was not as a commandment, but a permission. His own wish for others was that all should be even as himself. But he does not overlook that each has as God gives him. Hence to the unmarried and to widows he says, it is good for them to remain even as he; yet even then not absolutely, but only in case they can without fear of sinning in this respect.
"But to the married, not I enjoin, but the Lord, that wife be not separated from husband (but if also she be separated, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband), and that husband leave: [or put away] not wife." (Vers. 10, 11.) Here it was no fresh direction from apostolic authority, but the ruling of the Lord Himself, already known, the general duty of man and wife, grounded on the indissolubleness of the tie. Wife was not to be parted from husband, nor husband to dismiss wife: if parted, she was to abide unmarried, or be reconciled; for, even if she were without fault; separation is a reproach and might be a snare.
Next we have the apostle inspired to add light as to present difficulties, and this not at all a repetition of the principle for Israel, but in contrast with it. "But to the rest I say, not the Lord, If any brother have an unbelieving wife, and she consent to dwell with him, let him not leave [or put away] her; and a woman which hath an unbelieving husband, and he consents to dwell with her, let her not leave [or put away] him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife,* and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother;** since then your children are unclean, but now are they holy." (Vers. 12-14.) Here it was the grave question of mixed marriages, where one of the parties already united, and not the other, had been won to Christ by the gospel. In this the grace of Christianity is strikingly contra-distinguished from the rigour of Judaism. (Compare Ezra 9:10.) One of the ways in which Israel abode a holy people was in refusing to mix with the heathen in marriage. Those who thus intermarried, or took strange wives, were polluted, and their children were unclean; when they felt and judged the sin, they proved it by not only offering a ram for the trespass but putting both away. The holiness of the Christian is not only intrinsic, instead of being fleshly and external, but there is a far more gracious consideration, and a largeness, of which the law knew little or nothing. Thus, if husband or wife were a believer, he or she was not defiled by union with the unbeliever, but contrariwise the unbeliever is sanctified, and the children are holy.
* The best MSS ( A B C K L Q, etc.) do not give τῃ πιστῃ as in D E F G and some ancient versions
** ἀδελφῳ is read by p m. A B a D p.m. E F G P, etc., ἀνδρί by the mass, and by almost all the ancient versions.
In this way does the Spirit of God comfort the believer whose wife or husband, as the case might be, still remained an unbeliever; for I presume it was as true of an Israelite as of a heathen. It was of course a grievous trial to be so united. If the believer were the wife, she might be suspected and thwarted at every turn by her unbelieving husband. He would naturally be vigilant that the children should be kept from Christian truth and privileges of every kind, and would himself show his contempt for that which his wife valued, resenting above all the calm confidence of faith that counted idols nothing and confessed the Lord Jesus before men. But she is here instructed and strengthened by the apostolic injunction. If her husband consented to dwell with her, spite of that confession, she was not called to quit or put away her unbelieving husband, for he was sanctified in her, as the children were holy. What a relief this must have been to godly but scrupulous souls, who had been brought to God by the gospel, after being married to Gentiles or Jews, with children brought up in Judaism or idolatry! Were they troubled when they read in the scriptures that of old the requirement was to abandon the ill-assorted wife and the children so born? The grace of the gospel, as the apostle shows, delivers from all uncertainty as to God's mind, and pronounces the unbeliever, whether husband or wife, to be sanctified in the believing correlative, and the children holy, not profane.
We have seen then the striking contrast between the gracious power of the gospel and the weakness of the law: under the one, the unbeliever sanctified in the believing relation and the fruit of their union holy; under the other, the Jew defiled and the children unclean.
But it may be well here to notice the use made of verse 14 by both the parties to the baptismal dispute. Thus writes Dr. Wall in his "History of Infant Baptism" (I. , 144, 5, Ed. 4,1819):
"Mr. Walker has taken the pains to produce quotations out of almost all the ancient writers, to show that this was a common phrase with them to say, an infant or other person sanctified, when they mean baptized; and I do, for brevity's sake, refer the reader to his book. The scripture also uses it so (1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26), which makes that explication of 1 Corinthians 7:14, 'Now are your children holy,' which is given by Tertullian, St. Austin, St. Hierom, Paulinus, Pelagius (chap. 19), and other ancients, and since by Dr. Hammond, Mr. Walker, etc., much the more probable; whereby they make the words (ἅγια) holy, and (ἡγίασται), has been sanctified, to refer to baptism. - Their explication is also the more probable, because there has no other sense of those words been yet given by expositors but what is liable to much contest; but especially that sense which some Antipaedo-baptists have endeavoured to affix to them (of legitimacy, in opposition to bastardy) seems the most forced and far-fetched of all. The words are ἡγίασται, κ. τ. λ. Τhe grammatical translation of which words is, 'For the unbelieving husband [or an unbelieving husband] has been sanctified by the wife;' . . . . and our translators altered the tense, and put is sanctified instead of has been sanctified; because they thought, it seems, the sense required it; but without any such alteration, the paraphrase given by many learned men is to this purpose: - For it has ordinarily come to pass, that an unbelieving husband has been brought to the faith, and so to baptism, by his wife; and likewise an unbelieving wife by her husband. If it were not so, and if the wickedness or infidelity of the unbelieving party did usually prevail, the children of such would be generally kept unbaptized, and so be unclean; but now we see, by the grace of God, a contrary effect, for they are generally baptized, and so become holy, or sanctified."
The intelligent Christian will see that, the ancient fathers notwithstanding, scripture does not warrant this usage. 1 Corinthians 6:11, and Ephesians 5:26, teach a truth as different from the bearing of 1 Corinthians 7:14 as from 1 Timothy 4:4-5, the cleansing power of the word as applied by the Spirit. The Christian, the assembly, is thus sanctified. It is a real divine work: cf. John 13, 15, and 1 John 5. Blood expiates, but water purifies; that is, the word, as the expression of the truth and the revelation of God in Christ, judges all contrary to God within and without. Thus are the saints, from first to last, formed morally to have part with Christ on high. His power will complete all at His return, as His first coming in love laid the foundation for all in the gift of Himself for us. It is ignorance of these scriptures to confound with them 1 Corinthians 7:14, as may yet be shown more fully. But the ancients, and those who build on them, are scarce darker as to this than the moderns, even if evangelical. Washing by the word is outside their traditions; it is perfectly certain in scripture, and most momentous for christian doctrine and practice.
But Dr. Wall's criticism is unsound. Our translators were far nearer the truth than he. His alteration of the tense not only is not required but falsifies the sense. The aorist would be the form, rather than the perfect, to convey his notion and bear his paraphrase. The perfect expresses a state consequent on an act, whether we say "is," or "has been, sanctified." But it means the permanent result of a completed action, and not what ordinarily comes to pass, a sense which the gnomic or iterative aorist may approach as in Jam 1:10; Jam 1:23; 1 Peter 1:24. Hence the teaching deduced is all wrong. The apostle means a sanctified, or holy, state, actually and always true of the husband and children of a believing wife, not of what generally becomes true. Not a hint is dropped in this verse of being converted or brought to baptism.
Must we then embrace the view which prevails among Baptists? Not so. Legitimacy is out of the question. The children are said to be ἅγια, not γνήσια, the danger was lest they should be ακάθαρτα, not νόθα. The marriage of believers is no more lawful than that of unbelievers. The question is as to God's sanction for the Christian's conscience of a mixed marriage, and its fruit; and, as to this, the apostle decides that the unbelieving partner is hallowed in the believing one, and the children holy, not unclean: the one being placed in that state of holiness by the faith of the other, and the children viewed as in it already. Of fitness for baptism, on the one hand, the text says nothing: if it did, it would be asserted for the unbelieving husband or wife, no less than for the children. On the other hand, it is a mean and untrue sense of ἡγίασται that it refers to the lawfulness or validity of the marriage, especially as all turns on the faith of at least one of the parties. So Mr. Booth's effort to render ἐν to, instead of "in," is futile. Luke 1:17, l Thessalonians 4: 7, and 2 Peter 1:5-7, give not the least warrant for it, any more than 1 Corinthians 7:15. The first is elliptic, and has a pregnant force. John was to turn disobedient ones not merely to, but so as to abide in, thoughts of just men. (2) God called us, says the apostle to the Thessalonians, not for uncleanness, but in sanctification, which similarly is far stronger than εἰς, to. (8) Peter calls on the christian Jews, in their faith to supply or have also virtue, in virtue, knowledge, etc.; as Paul reminds the Corinthians, God hath called us in peace.
It remains clear then that the unbelieving husband is sanctified in virtue of the christian wife, and the children holy, to the relief of those that were troubled by scruples from God's judgment of such a state of things among the Jews. God's grace in the gospel reverses the sentence of the law, to the pure making pure what had hitherto been unclean. Otherwise it might have seemed the duty of the believing husband to have put away his unbelieving wife and their children, as Gentile admixture was abhorrent to the law. Hence the apostle keeps up the language of the Jewish ceremonial, even where he determines the question by God's gracious and holy sanction of such marriages and their offspring, in contrast with the obligation of the Jews as shown in Ezra and Nehemiah.
We have now the question raised of separation on the part of the unbeliever. "But if the unbelieving separateth himself, let him be separated. The brother or the sister* is not in bondage in such [circumstances]: but God hath called us† in peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, if thou shalt save thy husband? or what knowest thou, O husband, if thou shalt save thy wife? Only** as the Lord†† divided‡ to each, as God†† hath called each, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the assemblies." (Ver. 15-17.) Thus, if the unbelieving party in the relationship were to sever himself from the other, the believer is released from bondage, be it the brother or the sister in the case. Not that such an act on the unbeliever's side gives to the believer thus abandoned licence to marry, but that the believer is thereby left the more free to serve the Lord by the other's separation. Such a union after all is apt to involve strife, the natural man hating the life of the Spirit. Not that this would justify anything on the believer's part to break the marriage tie: the unbeliever is supposed to have broken it of himself or even herself; and "in peace hath God called us," (or "you,") not to seek separation. On the contrary, whatever the trial involved in such a life, the brother or the sister must earnestly desire the salvation of the unbeliever; but this after all is in God's disposal. "For what knowest thou, woman, if thou shalt save the husband? or what knowest thou, husband, if thou shalt save the wife?" If it were so, what a joy! We have to acquiesce therefore in the ordering of the Lord and as we should on no account take the initiative into our own hands, so also to save the unbeliever is a question, and should not swamp everything else. Thus the apostle even here cautions by pressing the rule, whatever the issue: "Only as the Lord divided to each, as God hath called each, so let him walk." This was intended to guard against undue or excessive feeling. Our place is one of intelligent subjection, owning the Lord's allotment and God's call: the one at the time of conversion, the other the permanent condition. So was each to walk. If Judaism enfeebled, Christianity strengthened a sense of relationship, and meets every difficulty and complication in grace. Nor was the apostle laying down anything peculiar on the Corinthians because of their peculiar circumstances: "So I ordain in all the assemblies." There may be ever so many assemblies, but the order of all is one, and apostolic authority is universal. Nothing is more opposed to its true idea than ecclesiastical independency. The notion of different bodies, each with a distinct regimen, is a modern invention, while the assumption of a continual power of regulation in or over the church may be ancient but is no better. Neither the one nor the other was "from the beginning," when the foundation was laid by the apostles and prophets. There is no authoritative regulation now outside the word of God, though the Lord raises up those that guide and take the lead, but they, as all, are bound by scripture to which the Spirit answers in power.
* ἡ is omitted by p.m. F G P, etc.
† p.m. A C K, etc, have ὑμᾶς, "you."
** εἰ μή is in some cursives and ancient commentators changed into ἢ μή and joined with the foregoing, evidently to escape a difficulty. It appears to be really an elliptic phrase to the effect that there is no more to say except that, etc.; which we turn briefly by "But," or "Only "
†† In the first clause ὁ κύριος A B C D E F G, many cursives, versions, etc.; in the second ὁ θεός A B C D E F, and many cursives, versions, etc.
‡ p.m. B read μεμέρικεν "hath divided."
It will be seen that the authorised version following the common text inverts the true relationships here. It is God that has called, the Lord that divided, not the converse, as in what is known as the Received Text.
"Was any one called circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Hath any one been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping God's commandments. Let each abide in that calling in which he was called. Wast thou called [as] a bondman? Let it not be a care to thee; but if also thou canst be free, use [it] rather. For the bondman called in [the] Lord is [the] Lord's freedman: likewise he that was called free is Christ's bondman. Ye were bought with a price; become not bondmen of men. Brethren, wherein each was called, in this let him abide with God." (Vers. 18-24.) Christ thus raises the Christian superior to all circumstances. Hence, when called of God, it is not worth while to change. Why should the circumcised man care to disguise or obliterate the fact of his circumcision? Why should the uncircumcised seek or submit to it? It is no longer a question of distinctions in the flesh. What God values, and what the Christian should, is keeping His commandments, not forms of truth or schools of doctrine, which are an unquestionable danger. The believer is sanctified to obedience, and this, the obedience of Christ, not that of a Jew, as the apostle of the circumcision himself insists. (1 Peter 1:2.) So does the apostle of the uncircumcision here.
But we are led somewhat farther. "In the calling in which each was called, in this let him abide. Wast thou called a bondman? Let it" (that is, the bondage) "not be a care to thee. But if also thou canst be free, use it" (that is, the freedom) "rather." I am aware that many in ancient (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecum., Phot., etc.,) and in modern times (Bengel, De Wette, Estius, Meyer, etc.) take this last verse (21) quite differently, supposing it to mean, Even if thou canst be free, use it rather (that is, the bondage). Prefer to be a slave rather than a freeman. This however appears not only to be extravagant, but to make the human circumstances of too much weight, as if slavery were more favourable for christian walk than freedom. Yet even the Syriac so construed the words; and such is the view taken in one of the most recent of English versions. The true sense is given in the authorised Bible; and such was the conviction of the Reformers and of most since the Reformation.
It may be well to notice here the grounds of the question. The Dean of Canterbury thus argues for the sense of remaining rather in slavery: "This rendering .... is required by the usage of the particles, εἰ καί - by which, see Hartung, Partikel-lehre, i. 139, the καί, 'also' or 'even,' does not belong to the εἰ, as in καὶ εἰ, but is spread over the whole contents of the concessive clause. . . . It is also required by the context: for the burden of the whole passage is, 'Let each man remain in the state in which he was called.'" It is remarkable that the same commentator, in his note on, Mark 14:29, seems to reverse this statement, and says that the καί before εἰ intensifies the whole hypothesis; the καί after εἰ intensifies only that word which it introduces in the hypothesis, citing Klotz on Devar. p. 519 f. (I cite from the fifth edition of both vols.) Allowing however that the latter is incorrect, I maintain that the principle is quite consistent with the ordinary version and view. For the effect of καί following εἰ is in some cases simply to emphasize the verb that follows; whereas καὶ εἰ, were this the reading, would really be more in favour of the sense desired. For we should then translate it, Wert thou called, a slave? Let it not trouble thee; but even if thou canst become free, use it [that is, slavery] rather. But these very epistles to the Corinthians furnish plain instances, which prove what is just affirmed. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 4:7, the Dean gives (New Testament newly compared, 1870) "if thou didst receive." As Madvig observes, the καί is often best rendered by the emphatic present or past (do, did), or emphatic auxiliary. So 2 Corinthians 4:3; 2Co 4:16; 2 Corinthians 5:16; 2 Corinthians 7:8 (three times), 12; 2 Corinthians 11:6; 2Co 11:15; 2 Corinthians 12:11. In every case the right rendering is "if also" where an additional fact is intended; "if even" or "though" where it is not.
In the text under discussion then the apostle meets the question as to one called while a slave by the answer, Let it (that is, δουλεία, understood from the preceding δοῦλος) not be a care to thee; as he meets the added supposition, but if also thou canst be free, which of course might occasionally be, rather use it (that is, ἐλευθερίᾳ, understood from the preceding ἐλεύθερος). The context is in no way decisive against this; for as abiding in the marriage state has the exceptional provision for separation enforced by the unbeliever, so for the slave there is the analogous provision for the use and even preference of freedom. Manifestly too if the unmarried have an advantage in being less divided in caring for the things of the Lord, a similar remark tells perhaps as much in favour of the freeman compared with the slave. (See vers. 32-85.) The objections urged are null. Thus καί is in its right position here, not after δύνασαι. Again, ἀλλ᾽ εἰ is required rather than εἰ δέ as one may see by comparing 2 Corinthians 4:16, and Php 2:17. Nor is a demonstrative needed after χρῆσαι more than before μελέτω. The imputation of inconsistency with the general context and with verse 22 in particular has been already disposed of; the depreciation of the prevalent view of the apostolic precept as "worldly wisdom" is as unjust, as it seems important to rescue his teaching from the total absence of sobriety implied in the preference of slavery to freedom. Galatians 3:28, and 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, are quite consistent, and with one equally as the other. Nor is there any weight in the argument as to χράομαι, the import of which suits the use of freedom as a new thing no less than slavery as an old. Besides, it was meant to express not the act of entrance on freedom, implied in ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, but of using it when given. Indeed it is evident that, as the other view of slavery, μ. χρῆσαι is a hard or vague phrase, and thus differently understood by Bengel, etc., of late, as compared with Chrysostom of old.
The apostle explains, "For the bondman that was called in [the] Lord is [the] Lord's freedman." Such is the correct force, "freedman" rather than freeman. ἀπελεύθερος means one who was made free, not who was free-born. It is the accurate term here, and it is the more emphatic, because freeman or free-born (ἐλεύθερος) follows immediately. "Likewise he that was called [being] free is Christ's bondman." Christ alone puts every one in his place and true light: emancipation by human means cannot effect or approach it. The christian slave is the Lord's freeman; the christian freeman is Christ's slave. The Lord's authority breaks the fetters of the one to his faith; the grace of Christ reduces the other to slavery for his heart. "Ye were bought with a price." Whether it be the freeman or the bondman, all were bought. The saints are the purchase of Christ's blood: so indeed is all the world; but believers alone acknowledge it, and they are called to act on it. "Be [or become] not slaves of men:" an exhortation as incumbent on the free as on the slave. A single eye alone secures true service, and yet is perfect liberty. They were already serving the Lord Christ: only so can the Christian serve aright in any case.* Strange to say, none are so prone to slip into human bondage as those who profess the Lord's name: so the second Epistle to the Corinthians shows. But this was real forgetfulness of Christ and unfaithfulness to Him. Christianity in its true power brings into responsibility no less than into liberty, and as this is true in doctrine, so it is of all consequence to be remembered in practice. "Wherein each was called, brethren, in this let him abide with God." "The calling" appears to mean a man's providential condition when called of God, as here we see it applied to circumcision or uncircumcision, freedom or slavery, not earthly occupations, commonly supposed, some of which might involve not a little that would clash with God's word and offend a Christian's conscience. Here all pleas for continuance in evil, because one was converted by God's grace spite of them, is effectually cut off, for the believer is called to abide "with God." If one cannot continue with God, it is high time to ask His direction who assuredly never calls a saint to do evil but to cease from it at all cost.
* Whitby's idea is very poor: that the exhortation was to slaves who had been freed not to sell themselves into slavery again. Not only is it a word for all Christians bond or free, but it is a warning against a more subtle bondage into which the free might slip as much as the bond.
The apostle had spoken of the married relation, Christians on both sides or mixed. Now he takes up the unmarried. "Now concerning virgins command of [the] Lord have I none, but I give an opinion as having received mercy of [the] Lord to be faithful. I think therefore that this is good because of the present necessity that [it is] good for a man to be so. Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But if even thou shouldest have married, thou didst not sin; and if the virgin should have married, she did not sin. But such shall have tribulation in the flesh; but I am sparing you." (Vers. 25-28.)
In "virgins" or οἱ παρθένοι we see an usage of the word not exactly unknown in classical Greek (see Jacob's Index to the Anth. Gr.) but so unusual that most New Testament commentators seem indisposed to allow it. Of the ancients Theodore of Mopsuestia found no harshness in the language. " Ὁτ᾽ ἂν οὖν εἴπη περὶ τῶν παρθένων, δῆλον ὅτι περὶ τῆς παρθενίας λέγει, τὰ ὅμοια καὶ ἐπὶ τούτου περί τε τῶν ἀνδρῶν καὶ τῶν γυναικῶν φθεγγόμενος. As to its contextual propriety there ought to be no doubt. That it should be rarely said of males in ordinary Greek authors no one acquainted with the morality of the heathen can be surprised at. If therefore it were absolutely strange among their productions, I should not consider this a valid objection to its extension in christian or apostolic hands. What believer would limit ἀγάπη to its sense in classic Greek? We shall find a further use of the word, lower down, natural indeed yet uncommon, the admission of which appears to be essential to a due understanding of the closing verses, where it is used for a man's own state, not of his daughter; but of this more in its own place.
It is the general question of entering on the married relation by brother or sister; and this too the apostle solves, not on the Lord's authority as commanding, but by giving a judgment of his own grounded on the opposition of the age to Christianity. It is not the instant but the present necessity which makes it best to remain as one is: such is the force of the word everywhere else in the New Testament as in other writings. It was then existing, not impending merely; nor is there any reason that I know to think that it does not exist still, as it will till the Lord come. Men habitually deny, as Christians are too apt to forget, it; but the apostle had it ever before him and sets it before us. He never conceives of a truth, especially one so solemn, without a corresponding effect on practice. Till the day of the Lord the earth is a scene of wickedness, confusion, and misery: why act as one who likes a settled life there, if indeed you are a pilgrim and stranger? It is not the special time of tribulation or of apostasy before the Lord comes in judgment that he has before him, but that the gospel necessarily encounters enmity where in its purity the world discovers its own doom as unbelieving and already judged.
Yet the apostle guards the abuse of his commending a single life to the Christian ordinarily. The married should not seek its dissolution, any more than the single seek to be so bound; and again he would keep the conscience free for such as might marry. Neither man nor woman sins in being married, whatever may be its inexpediency to the christian judgment. For trouble in the flesh is inevitable for such, and the apostle desired that they should be spared this.
Next he recurs to the topic of faith's estimate of present things, not more constantly before him than needed by the Christian. "But this I say, brethren:* the season is straitened: henceforth† that both those that have wives be as having none, and those that weep as weeping not, and those that rejoice as rejoicing not, and those that buy as possessing not, and those that use the world‡ as not using [it] for themselves; for the fashion of the world passeth away." (Vers. 29-81.) It is no common-place on the brevity of time, but the solemn affirmation that the time is shortened henceforth (that is, as I suppose, since Christ's death and the call of the church) in order that the believer should hold all but Christ with a loose hand - all things in which men might rejoice, however sorrowful their lot may be. But the Saviour has changed all for the Christian, who looks on the earth as His place of rejection and follows Him in spirit into the heavens now opened, whence he in peace awaits Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. This world has really no more permanence than the shifting scenes of a theatre.
* ὅτι D E F G, many cursives, and versions (and so the Elzevir T. R., not R. S.), but A B K L P, thirty cursives, etc., reject it.
† F G and other authorities read ἐστίν λοιπόν ἐστιν. R. S. has τὸ λοιπόν ἐστιν. Elz and Griesbach without the colon.
‡ τὸυ κ. p.m. A B, Arm. Cop. Basm., changed into τῳ κ. τούτῳ in most uncials and cursives, and so in T. R. to accord with usual grammar. Alford is wrong however in denying the ace. in Xen. Αγ. xi. x., Π. viii. i. 1.
The construction here given of the opening clause seems to me the true one; others involve us in harshness and break the connection.
"But I would have you to be without care. The unmarried cares for the things of the Lord, how he shall please the Lord; but he that hath married careth for the things of the world how he shall please his wife. Divided also* is both the wife and the virgin: the unmarried careth for the things of the Lord that she may be holy both† in body and in spirit; but she that hath married careth for the things of the world how she shall please her husband. But this I say for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare [lit. a noose] over you, but for what [is] seemly and waiting on; the Lord undistractedly." (Vers. 32-35.) Here the apostle urges the greater exemption from earthly anxiety for serving and pleasing the Lord, which the single man or woman enjoys as compared with the married. There is less weight in the race and less distraction from the goal. Yet even here the apostle speaks with caution and delicacy. He would not entangle any, he sought their welfare with a view to seemliness and undistracted attendance on the Lord.
* καὶ μ. A B D P, many cursives and versions, omitted in T. R., following most authorities, as also before ἡ γ. which has overwhelming weight. Lachmann and Reiche point thus: γυναικί, καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ ἡ γ.,., κ.τ.λ..
† καὶ τῳ σ. B, F, G K L, etc.
‡ εὐπάρεδρον all the most ancient uncials and many cursives, etc.
Here however I must take the opportunity of protesting against the remarks of a late commentator. "Since he [the apostle] wrote, the unfolding of God's providence has taught us more of the interval before the coming of the Lord than it was given even to an inspired apostle to see. And as it would be perfectly reasonable and proper to urge on an apparently dying man the duty of abstaining from contracting new worldly obligations - but both unreasonable and improper should the same person recover his health, to insist on his abstinence any longer: so now, when God has manifested His will that nations should rise up and live and decay, and long centuries elapse, before the day of the coming of Christ, it would be manifestly unreasonable to urge - except in so far as every man's καιρός is συνεσταλμένος, and similar arguments are applicable - the considerations here enforced." This may sound plausible to men in Christendom who have let slip the view scripture gives of the total ruin of man and the world, and the imminence of that judgment of the quick on which all the inspired writings insist, just as truly as those of Paul. To my mind it is a lamentable pandering to unbelief and worldliness, as it springs from the lowest conception of the authority of God's word. Doubtless the truth was so revealed that none beforehand could know that God would lengthen out the interval which severs from us the coming of the Lord. But the moral grounds are increasingly strong, not weaker. The apparently dying man is now only a great deal nearer more evidently the moment of dissolution instead of his having recovered health and strength so as fittingly to enter on new obligations. The deepening darkness of Jew and Gentile, and not of Mahometanism only but of professing Christendom, warns every eye which can see that a crisis from God is at hand; while the bright hope of the Christian, independent though it be itself of all circumstances, and essentially of heaven with Christ, shines out but the more if possible as he sees the day approaching.
It is in the next section that we have ἡ παρθένος employed as equivalent to ἡ παρθενία. For there is no question here of a man's daughter but of his own state. The Lord deserves to have us wholly devoted to Himself. This is true christian reckoning. "But if any one thinketh that he is behaving unseemly to his virginity, if he be past his prime, and so it ought to be, let him do what he will: he is not sinning: let them marry. But he who standeth firm in his heart, having no necessity, and hath authority over his own will, and hath judged this in his own* heart to keep his own virginity shall do† well. So that he that marrieth‡ [his own virginity] doeth† well, and he that marrieth‡ not shall do better." (Vers. 86-38.) Apparently this, the plain key to the passage, was not seen before the well-known Locke observed it, and produced excellent reasons drawn from the context, which commend themselves to any dispassionate mind. The great emphasis given to the heart's purpose (for instance, "one's own will" and "one's own heart") suits perfectly if it be a question of one's own virginity, but how a daughter's? There they sound beyond measure arbitrary and inconsiderate. If it mean one's persevering unmarried himself, it is easy to see the force of all; as to a daughter or ward, it seems out of the way. The wonder is that Whitby should be among the few who follow Locke's interpretation. The phrase is no doubt peculiar; but the apostle may have been influenced by the Hebrew idiom which uses the plural for the abstract idea. The singular seems more suited to the Greek tongue, which allows sometimes of a secondary sense, as e.g. βίος life, and means of life.
* αὐτοῦ supported by the best MSS is wanting in T. R. in the first case, ἰδίᾳ, in the second.
† The fut. A B., etc.; the pres. most MSS, etc.; and so in the end of verse 38.
‡ γαμίζων in both places is sustained by the best witnesses, as is the addition of τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παρθένον, though the order is not always the same, and it may have been inserted.
"A wife is bound* as long as her husband liveth; but should the husband+ have fallen asleep, she is free to be married to whom she will, only in [the] Lord. But she is happier if she so remain according to my opinion, and I also think that I have God's Spirit." (Vers. 39, 40.)
* νόμῳ is added in Tex. Rec. with many excellent authorities, but the best omit it.
† αὐτῆς is added in T. R. following many witnesses, but not the highest.
The close of the chapter takes up widows especially and is a remarkable instance of opposition between the apostle's mind and the church councils which dared to treat a widow's marrying as so evil that the church had to refuse its sanction and prayers. The marriage tie of believers is for life. Death separates. Not only the widower but the widow becomes thus free to marry again. But the apostle gives his judgment against it: not on moral grounds, of which only superstition could raise a question, but as the happier state to abide in. Even here we have no such language as sprang up later when celibacy was cried up as the highest of christian virtues, and re-marriage was denounced as unchristian. On the contrary, even for the widow, the apostle qualifies her marrying again "only in the Lord:" a phrase which goes farther than the fact that both are Christians and demands that it be after a christian sort. Yet here again the apostle points out what he judged more expedient on spiritual grounds. Had others given a different opinion? He, if any man might, gives his judgment as one who thought he had God's Spirit. He was inspired to put it thus, not as if he were of doubtful mind, but as avoiding an express command from the Lord, and rather as a matter of apostolic counsel.
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
The 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.
Defraud 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.
But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
For 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.
I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
But 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.
Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
For 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.
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
Now 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.
I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
But 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.
But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;
And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
But 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 he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman 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.
And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.
But 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.
Nevertheless 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.
So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.
The 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.
But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.