A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, as long as he belongs to the Lord.
I. MARRIAGE IS NOT TO BE INSISTED UPON. It too commonly is in many circles, especially in the case of daughters, and thus becomes prolific of evils. The apostle rather commends the father who does not give his daughter in marriage (ver. 38). Doubtless with an eye to the "present distress," but assuredly in opposition to any forcing of the inclination, and to any notion that marriage is universally desirable. It is not the parent's wish so much as the child's which should be consulted. Spheres should be opened for unmarried females. This has been done largely of late years, but a greater extension is one urgent need of the times.
II. CONSENT TO MARRIAGE IS NOT TO BE CAPRICIOUSLY WITHHELD. (Ver. 36.) The dread of refusal of consent has often led to rash acts involving much subsequent suffering. Parents often blame their children for marrying without consent when they should blame themselves for withholding it. Some parents seem to think that their convenience and predilections are the chief things concerned, as though it were their marriage and not their child's.
III. THE CHILD'S WISHES SHOULD BE CONSULTED. This seems to be involved in "Let them marry," as though a specific attachment was supposed. "Having no necessity" (ver. 37) and "behaveth himself uncomely" (ver. 36) bear also upon this point. Certainly obtains in case of widows (ver. 39). The child's wish, not only as to marriage itself, but as to the one with whom a union is proposed should never be left out of account. Parental counsel and guidance are wise and well; parental compulsion is gross folly. Consent to marriage may be withheld, and must be, if there are sufficient grounds, but to in any way force a union is to pave the way for misery, if not for something worse. Modern usages much more favour consultation of the child's wish than ancient, but in some circles there seems to be a tendency to revert to barbaric customs. In the land where there are no slaves, daughters are in many cases as truly sold to the highest bidder as was ever an African upon an American auction block. When parental selfishness and folly run to such lengths, divorce courts are likely to be in great request and never to lack causes.
IV. CHRISTIAN PARENTS SHOULD DESIRE T. HE MARRIAGE OF THEIR CHILDREN "ONLY IN THE LORD." Alas! how many professedly Christian parents seem to have but little regard for this! Position, wealth, influence, titles, - if these, or any one of them, can be attained, there is not only satisfaction but jubilation. Yet what possible joy should there be to a Christian parent in giving his child to be the lifelong companion of an enemy of Christ? He may not be able to prevent such a union, but to rejoice in it is quite another matter. A suitor's spiritual position should be weighed as well as his temporal. A union with an unbeliever may promise much, as men judge, for this world, but it promises very little for the next. Such marriages are not "made in heaven," nor can they be expected to lead thither. But a godly husband wonderfully aids the spiritual life of a godly wife, and vice versa; and they walk well together, because they are "agreed." Mixed marriages seem generally to end in an "agreement" to give up attendance at the house of God on the sabbath, and to care nothing for the God of the house during the week. Yet many parents scarcely consider for a moment whether they are giving their daughter to a child of God or to a child of the devil. And sons are congratulated if they succeed in making "a good match," which is very possibly one of the worst matches they could have made. Parents should give the supreme place to the spiritual interests of their children. - H.
She is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
I. EXPLAIN AND JUSTIFY THE RULE LAID DOWN IN THE TEXT.
1. To be in the Lord is to be a believer in Christ, to be united to Him by a living faith, and to be interested by reason of that, in all the blessings of His great salvation. In short, believers in Christ should marry believers, and none other. Now, this law does not require —(1) Perfect unanimity in religious sentiment. Creeds may differ, but hearts may be the same.(2) That both should be members of the same religious society. This is, however, exceedingly desirable, for it is unseemly, indeed, when they who are together in all the most endearing intercourse of life, go as solitary individuals to the sanctuary.(3) That both or either of the parties should be in full communion with any Christian Church. Now, I believe that a man who lives in the neglect of such communion lives in the violation of a positive command, and in the abandonment of a precious privilege, and, by so doing, subjects his Christianity to suspicion by the Church, and to animadversion from the world. Yet still, there are some who, notwithstanding this serious drawback, we are compelled to believe love the Saviour.
2. Having thus ascertained the rule, we proceed to justify it by an appeal —(1) To the reasonings of Scripture (Joshua 23:11, &c.; Ezra 9:1, 2; Deuteronomy 7:1-4). Now, if such a principle as this was thus established under a dispensation comparatively lax and dim, how much more reasonable and binding must it appear as a law of Christianity (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).(2) To history, observation, and experience. With all the excuses persons have made, and all the disinterested motives they have assigned for their conduct, did you ever know any good come of it? Scripture and the Church are big with examples of domestic misery and spiritual ruin, the result of these monstrous and unnatural connections. What became of the daughters of Lot, who preferred the sons of Sodom to the sons of God? Was there ever a greater monster, a more fearful prodigy of vice than Ahab? (see also Nehemiah 13:23-27).
3. To analogy. If you wished for a commercial partner, would you choose a man utterly averse to, or totally ignorant of, trade? Would you choose for the companion of a long journey a man whose disposition and principles were opposite to your own? Would you, as a man of taste and of education, prefer being shut up for weeks in a carriage with a fool or a clown?
4. To acknowledged obligation (1 Corinthians 6:20). And how is such a marriage to promote the glory of God?
5. To conscience — whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Now, is this of faith, the union of a believer with an infidel? — of a friend of Jesus with an enemy?
II. CONSIDER AND EXPOSE SOME OF THE MOST OBVIOUS TEMPTATIONS TO ITS VIOLATION AND THE MOST COMMON EXCUSES FOR IT.
1. Fortune. It is this which constitutes a good match.
2. Rank and station.
3. Parental advice.
4. An ill-directed but sincere attachment.
5. But some are ready to say, the object of my attachment has everything but real religion. Well, and wanting that, everything is wanting.
III. SOME HINTS OF CAUTION AND ADVICE.
1. There may be marriages within the letter of the apostolic rule, which yet are neither lovely nor of good report. There may be piety in both parties, yet —(1) Such discrepancies of age as to render the union odious.(2) Such an evident impropriety in the connection as to render it a subject of grief to the Church, and animadversion to the world.(3) Such indecorous haste in the formation of a new alliance, immediately after the dissolution of an old one, as to excite the grievest censure.
2. There may be marriages in which the law of Scripture is observed with regard to piety, but the dictates of prudence utterly disregarded. There may be marriages where there is neither strength of affection, suitableness of character, adaptation of temper, or similarity of views, sufficient to ensure permanent happiness and domestic harmony.
3. There may be cases in which it is difficult to apply the rule of Scripture, and to determine in what way to act. There may be a most distressing ambiguity about a character. It is impossible to tell how far the influence of circumstances, so peculiarly interesting, may give a more favourable appearance than actual principle would warrant: the mind perpetually alternates between hope and fear, and dares not to decide. In such a case it were well to wait and watch, and, after all, if there should be error, to err on the side of conscience and of safety. Finally, let the husband and wife, who neither of them fear God, think how terrible a thing it is to walk hand in hand to hell. Let the pious husband who has an unbelieving wife, or the pious wife who has an unbelieving husband, strive by all means, by meekness, gentleness, and affection, to win the unbelieving party to the truth (ver. 16).
(T. Raffles, LL. D.)
Essex Congregational Remembrancer.I. THIS COMMAND MUST BE EXPLAINED.
1. In what respects it allows freedom. A believer may marry —(1) A second time. This is the particular case here referred to.(2) Under various circumstances of inequality. If he marry "in the Lord," he "is at liberty to marry whom he will." There may be inequality of mind, age, station in life. Marrying "in the Lord" is of such infinite importance that in comparison with it every other consideration is almost trivial. Yet it should be seriously considered that any great inequality, though not expressly forbidden, is yet very undesirable. The God of grace is also the God of nature — the God of order, too, and not of confusion. "All these things are lawful for me, but all these things are not expedient."
2. In what respect it binds. "Only in the Lord."(1) Only to a Christian. For a believer to marry an unconverted person may be to marry in carnality, or in covetousness, or in pride, or in the world; but certainly not in the Lord. It is against the Lord; in opposition to one of His plainest commandments, and also to all reason and propriety. Such a junction (for union it cannot be) partakes of the monstrous. For the difference between a regenerate and an unregenerate person is next to infinite (2 Corinthians 6:14-16).(2) Only as a Christian — religiously and with the fear of God. They, there-fore, who anxiously desire to marry only in the Lord, will remember that "a prudent wife (or husband) cometh from Him"; they will, therefore, by prayer seek this good gift from the only Giver.
II. THIS COMMAND MUST BE ENFORCED. Obedience here —
1. Tends to the glory of God. God is glorified in this world by the visible holiness of His people. When professors marry persons "of the world," for money, or connection, or personal attraction, how is the mouth of the ungodly opened, the Church scandalised, and the cause of Christ dishonoured!
2. Prevents many most deplorable evils. He who obeys this precept will be saved from the shame of inconsistency before the world, from the loss of the esteem of holy persons, and from the remorse of his own conscience. Even in those cases of mixed marriages where the professing partner is not drawn aside by the other into apostacy; usually, he suffers great spiritual loss, and loses all zeal in doing good. And should there be children, the mischief spreads.
3. Promotes the true interest and happiness of those who obey it. The advantages that attend the spiritual and holy union of two believing persons are inestimable. They walk together, for they are agreed. They are helpers of each other's faith and joy, being made, through grace, the instruments of each other's spiritual growth in fruitfulness and happiness. They have their sorrows; but these they lessen by dividing them, bearing each other's burden. They have their faults; but these "they confess, the one to the other, and pray one for another, that they may be healed." But among all the changing scenes of life, they have a look that penetrates "within the veil," where their union will be perfected, and crowned with immortality. Hence they habitually walk, "as being heirs together of the grace of life." If children are given to them, they cordially unite in the work of bringing them up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Exhortations:
1. To Christians who are yet free to obey this command. You see what the will of the Lord is. Regard with horror the thought of being united to an unconverted person.
2. To those who have already transgressed this command. If, by having married inconsistently, you have awakened in your partner's mind the suspicion that your religion is all a delusion, now seek to dislodge that suspicion, and to implant in its stead the conviction that religion is a great reality.
3. To those who have married in accordance with this precept. "Happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you."
(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment.I. IS CONDITIONAL.
1. Upon her union with Christ.
2. Upon times and circumstances.
II. CONSISTS IN —
1. Freedom and care.
2. Holy service.
3. The assurance of the Divine protection and blessing.
III. IS CONFIRMED BY —
1. Apostolic judgment.
2. Enlightened by the Spirit of God.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)
And I think also that I have the Spirit of God.1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Corinthians 7:17). And if he thus expresses himself in connection with simple directions about public worship or Christian practice, how much more conscious was he of being the organ of a Divine revelation of a wholly personal kind when the matter in question was the very essence of "his gospel"! We are led, therefore, to distinguish three degrees of authority.
I. THE DIRECT COMMANDS OF THE LORD, which He gave during His sojourn on earth, and which Paul merely quotes without discussing their grounds (ver. 10).
II. THE APOSTOLIC COMMANDS OF THE APOSTLE, which are imposed on Churches subject to his jurisdiction, and which he gives them as the organ of a higher illumination attached to his special mission. As to these he is careful to expound their reasons, being unwilling to ask his brethren to give a blind obedience (vers. 12-17, cf 10:15).
III. THE DIRECTIONS WHICH HE GIVES AS A SIMPLE CHRISTIAN, which he himself declares to be optional, and which he leaves to the judgment of every believer (ver. 25). In the text there is a vein of irony. "Now, I hope, however, even if my apostolic authority is disputed among you, that you will not deny to me the possession of the Divine Spirit, such as you recognise in all Christians, and specially in the numerous spiritual guides to whom you give your confidence."
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