1 Corinthians 7:39
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.
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(39, 40) The wife.—The question of the re-marriage of widows is here considered. It was probably a matter in which his opinion had been asked, and, in any case, naturally completes the subject of marriage. The widow may be married again if she desire, but “only in the Lord”—i.e., not to a heathen. She, being a Christian, should marry a Christian.

The words “by the law” are not in the best MSS. The opening sentence, asserting the marriage union to be dissoluble only by death, is to guard against any married woman applying these words to herself, they having reference only to widows.

St. Paul explains that she is happier to continue a widow (her case coming under the same considerations as referred to the unmarried in the previous verses).

I think also that I have the Spirit of God.—This is no expression of doubt as to whether he had the Spirit of God, but an assurance of his confidence that he, as well as other teachers (who, perhaps, boast more about it), had the Spirit of God to guide him in cases where no direct command has been given by Christ.

1 Corinthians 7:39-40. The wife is bound by the law — See on Romans 7:2. Or the apostle may mean the law of the gospel, called the law of faith, and the law of liberty; or he may intend the law of marriage given to Adam and Eve in paradise: is bound to her husband so long as he liveth — This is the general rule, from which is excepted the case of fornication, (Matthew 5:32,) and desertion, 1 Corinthians 7:15. The apostle repeats what he had enjoined in the preceding part of the chapter, (1 Corinthians 7:10-13,) namely, that married Christian women were not to leave their husbands on account of the troubles which in that time of persecution attended the married state. But if her husband be dead — Or if he be justly divorced from her, or maliciously deserts her; she is at liberty to be married, but only in the Lord — That is, let Christians only marry Christians; or let the truly pious only marry the truly pious: a standing direction, and one of the utmost importance. But she is happier — Approaches nearer to the happiness of heaven, which consists in freely enjoying God, and uninterruptedly serving him; if she so abide — Remain a widow; after my judgment — See on 1 Corinthians 7:6; 1 Corinthians 7:25 : he speaks only modestly, not doubtingly. And I think that I also — As well as any of you, and no less than the other apostles; have the Spirit of God — Teaching me in all things that concern the religion of Jesus; or, that I am infallibly guided by God’s Spirit, and endued with knowledge and wisdom to determine matters of controversy in the church. The word δοκω, rendered I think, in this, as in many other passages, does not express doubting, but certainty, 1 Corinthians 4:9; Mark 10:42; Luke 8:18; 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Corinthians 14:32. From these, and many other examples which might be adduced, it is evident that the word in this verse does not imply that the apostle was in any doubt whether he was inspired in giving this judgment. It is only a soft way of expressing his certain knowledge of his own inspiration, and may have been used ironically in reference to, and reproof of, the false teachers and others who called his inspiration in question. Whoever therefore would conclude from hence that St. Paul was not certain he had the Spirit of Christ, neither understands the true import of the words, nor considers how expressly he lays claim to the Spirit, both in this epistle, 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 14:37; and in the other, 1 Corinthians 13:3.

7:36-40 The apostle is thought to give advice here about the disposal of children in marriage. In this view, the general meaning is plain. Children should seek and follow the directions of their parents as to marriage. And parents should consult their children's wishes; and not reckon they have power to do with them, and dictate just as they please, without reason. The whole is closed with advice to widows. Second marriages are not unlawful, so that it is kept in mind, to marry in the Lord. In our choice of relations, and change of conditions, we should always be guided by the fear of God, and the laws of God, and act in dependence on the providence of God. Change of condition ought only to be made after careful consideration, and on probable grounds, that it will be to advantage in our spiritual concerns.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.

39. bound by the law—The oldest manuscripts omit "by the law."

only in the Lord—Let her marry only a Christian (2Co 6:14).

The apostle all along this chapter hath been speaking to several cases, which the church of Corinth had put to him concerning marriage; some that concerned persons already married, others that concerned such as were single, having been never married; he shutteth up his discourse with advice which relateth to such as had lost their husbands, with reference to second marriages. As to this he determineth, that no woman might marry again while her first husband lived; that is, unless her husband, be legally divorced from her for adultery, or unless her husband, being a heathen, had voluntarily deserted her: but if her husband were dead, she might marry to whom she would; yet she was not at such liberty, as that she might marry an unbeliever. Unbelievers are either heathens, or Christians in name, but such as are idolaters, or profane persons, or heretics, who hold such tenets as are inconsistent with any true faith in Jesus Christ. This phrase,

only in the Lord, seemeth to oblige godly women, not only to avoid marrying with heathens, but with nominal Christians; that is, such who, although they have been baptized, and own Christ with their tongues, yet hold such damnable opinions, or live such profane lives, or worship God in such an idolatrous manner, as is inconsistent with any true faith in Christ. The reason of the precept holds as well to the latter as to the former.

The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth,.... That is, she is bound to her husband, by the law of marriage, during his life; nor can the bond of marriage between them be dissolved but by the death of one of them, except in the cases of adultery, and wilful desertion, see Romans 7:2.

But if her husband be dead; or "asleep", for so the word may be rendered; though it designs death: death is often expressed by sleeping in Scripture; for the dead will not always remain in such a state, but be raised from thence at the last day, just as persons are awaked out of sleep. The Alexandrian copy reads "dead"; and so seems the Ethiopic version to have read.

She is at liberty to marry whom she will: so that second marriages are lawful, though condemned by many of the ancients: the liberty of a widow is greater than that of a virgin, because a virgin is under the power, and at the dispose of her parents; but a widow is at her own dispose; and death having dissolved her former obligation, she is at entire liberty to marry, or not marry, and to marry whom she pleases, that is not forbidden by the laws of God:

only in the Lord; not that it is absolutely necessary that her husband should be in the Lord, a converted person, a believer in Christ; though such an one should be most desirable and eligible: but either that she should continue in the possession of her faith in Christ, and not relinquish it for the sake of an husband; or that she enter into this state in the fear of the Lord, calling upon him, and consulting him in such an important affair; and take care that whom she marries is not within the line prohibited by the Lord.

{18} The wife is bound by the {m} 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 {n} Lord.

(18) That which he spoke of a widower, he speaks now of a widow, that is, that she may marry again, but that she does it in the fear of God. And yet he does not hide the fact that if she still remains a widow, she will be free of many cares.

(m) By the law of marriage.

(n) Religiously, and in the fear of God.

1 Corinthians 7:39-40. An appended rule respecting second marriage on the part of women, occasioned probably by questions from the Corinthians.

δέδεται] sc[1274] τῷ ἀνδρί; she may not separate herself from him and marry another. Comp 1 Corinthians 7:27; Romans 7:2.

ᾯ ΘΈΛΕΙ ΓΑΜΗΘῆΝΑΙ] to whom she desires to be married. Comp Mark 10:12. ΓΑΜΕῖ ΜῈΝ ΓᾺΡ Ὁ ἈΝῊΡ, ΓΑΜΕῖΤΑΙ ΔῈ Ἡ ΓΥΝΉ, Schol. ad Eur. Med. 593. As regards the later form γαμηθῆναι, instead of the Attic ΓΑΜΕΘῆΝΑΙ, see Lobeck, a[1277] Phryn. p. 742.

ΜΌΝΟΝ ἘΝ ΚΥΡΊῼ] only in the Lord, not apart from Christ as the specifically determining element of the new union; only in a Christian way, i.e. only to a Christian, s.c. let her be married.[1278] So among the early interpreters, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrosiaster, Jerome, Theodoret, Grotius (who puts it happily: intra ecclesiam), Estius, al[1279], or also Olshausen and de Wette. This does not run counter to 1 Corinthians 7:12 ff., where, in fact, those mixed marriages are meant which date from the pre-Christian period, and in which only one spouse has become Christian. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Calvin, Beza, Calovius, Wolf, and others, including Pott, Flatt, Heydenreich, Billroth, Rückert, Osiander, Neander, Maier, Ewald, all understand the phrase to mean: in a Christian spirit, acting as a Christian should, in the fear of the Lord, etc. (several of the above-named interpreters, as Flatt, Rückert, Osiander, Neander, Maier, include also the point that the husband must be a Christian, or lay the chief stress upon this, as Hofmann and Weiss). But what we have here is plainly a limitation of the ᾧ θέλει so emphatically put first. Moreover, the wider and more general the meaning ascribed to ἘΝ ΚΥΡΊῼ, the more inappropriate it seems in connection with the foregoing definite rules, which all take for granted that the action is Christian.

ΜΑΚΑΡΙΩΤ.] more blessed, i.e. not merely more spared from troubles (1 Corinthians 7:26; 1 Corinthians 7:28), but, in accordance with the higher reference which μακάρ. invariably has in the N. T., enjoying the blessed relation, which arises out of withdrawal from worldly cares and self-surrender to Christ. See 1 Corinthians 7:32-34. As to greater blessedness in heaven, which some have dragged in here in the interests of celibacy (Ambrosiaster, Cornelius a Lapide, al[1280], including Hirscher, Moral, III. p. 502), there is not a word of that in the text, even if we should read ἔσται in place of ἘΣΤΊΝ.

] ἘΜΉΝ carries the emphasis of apostolic self-consciousness.

ΔΟΚῶ ΔῈ ΚἈΓῺ Κ.Τ.Λ[1281]] so that I therefore may expect you to regard my opinion, not as a mere individual judgment, but as arrived at under the influence of the Holy Spirit which is imparted (ἔχειν) to me also, and hence as worthy to be received and followed.

Respecting δοκῶ, mihi videor, the note of Estius may suffice: “minus dicit, plus volens intelligi.” Comp 1 Corinthians 4:9.

κἀγώ] like other teachers who have received His gifts.

In the two expressions coming together—of which δοκῶ has a touch of irony (comp Dissen, a[1284] Dem. de Cor. p. 230 f.)—there is implied a side-glance, but whether precisely to the Petrine party (Neander, Räbiger, al[1285]) may be doubted. It is safer to say generally: to opponents of his full standing as an apostle in Corinth. Comp Calvin.

[1274] c. scilicet.

[1277] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1278] Paul’s view, therefore, is not in accordance with the legislative permission of marriage between Christians and Jews.

[1279] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1280] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1281] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1284] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1285] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

1 Corinthians 7:39-40 dispose, by way of appendix to the case of the maiden and to the like effect, of the question of the remarriage of Christian widows. 1 Corinthians 7:39 is repeated in almost identical terms, for another purpose, in Romans 7:2.—On δέδεται and γαμηθῆναι (cl[1214] γαμεθῆναι), see 1 Corinthians 7:27 f.; κοιμηθῇ, the term for Christian death (see parls.).—“She is free to be married to whom she will,” while the maiden is disposed of by her father’s will (1 Corinthians 7:36 f.); μόνον ἐν Κυρίῳ (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14 ff., 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ff.) forbids union with a heathen; it also forbids any union formed with un-Christian motives and otherwise than under Christ’s sanction (cf. Thess. 1 Corinthians 4:4 f.—“But more blessed she is” (μακαριωτέρα δὲ: see parls.)—not merely happier by exemption from trouble (1 Corinthians 7:26 ff.), but religiously happier in her undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32 ff.)—“if she abide as she is”. This advice was largely followed in the Pauline Churches, so that before long widows came to be regularly enrolled for Church service (1 Timothy 5:3-16).—κατὰ τὴν ἐμὴν γνώμην (see note on 1 Corinthians 7:26): Paul’s advice, not command.—δοκῶ δὲ κἀγώ κ.τ.λ.: “However I think, for my own part (however others may deem of me), that I have (an inspiration of) God’s Spirit” (the anarthrous πνεῦμα Θεοῦ: cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3, etc.); see for Paul’s claim to Divine guidance, extending to his opinions as well as commands, 1 Corinthians 7:25, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, 1 Corinthians 4:1, 1 Corinthians 9:2, 1 Corinthians 14:37.—On δοκῶ, see note to 1 Corinthians 4:9; it is the language of modesty, not misgiving. The Ap. commends his advice in all these matters, conscious that it proceeds from the highest source and is not the outcome of mere human prudence or personal inclination.

[1214] classical.

DIVISION III. CONTACT WITH IDOLATRY, 8–10. We have traced in the previous chapters the disastrous reaction of the old leaven upon the new Christian kneading at Cor[1215] But Christian society had its external as well as its internal problems—a fact already evident in the discussion of ch. 6 respecting the carrying of disputes to the heathen law-courts. A much larger difficulty, involving the whole problem of social intercourse between Christians and their heathen neighbours, had been raised by the Church Letter—the question περὶ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων (1 Corinthians 8:1). Was it lawful for a Christian to eat flesh that had been offered in sacrifice to an idol? Social festivities commonly partook of a religious character, being conducted under the auspices of some deity, to whom libations were poured or to whom the animals consumed had been dedicated in sacrifice. The “idol’s house” (1 Corinthians 8:10) was a rendezvous for banquets. Much of the meat on sale in the markets and found on ordinary tables came from the temples; and without inquiry it was impossible to discriminate (1 Corinthians 10:25-28). Jewish rule was uncompromisingly strict upon this point; and the letter of the Jerusalem Council, addressed to the Churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, had directed “the brethren from among the Gentiles” to “abstain from idolothyta” (Acts 15:29). The Cor[1216] Church, in consulting Paul, had expressed its own leaning towards liberty in this matter (1 Corinthians 7:8); what will the Ap. say? It is a real dilemma for him. He has to vindicate the broad principles of spiritual religion; at the same time he must avoid wounding Jewish feeling, and must guard Gentile weakness against the seductions of heathen feasts and against the peril of relapsing into idolatry through intercourse with unconverted kindred and neighbours. In theory Paul is for freedom, but in practice for great restrictions upon the use of idolothyta. (1) He admits that the question is decided in principle by the fundamental truth of religion, viz., that God is one, from which it follows that the sacrifice to the idol is an invalid transaction (1 Corinthians 8:1 ff.; 1 Corinthians 10:19; 1 Corinthians 10:26). But (2) many have not grasped this inference, being still in some sense under the spell of the idol; for them to eat would be sin, and for their sake stronger-minded brethren should abstain (1 Corinthians 8:7-13; 1 Corinthians 10:23-30). To this effect (3) P. sets forth his own example, (a) in the abridgment of his personal liberty for the good of others (1 Corinthians 9:1-22; 1 Corinthians 10:33 to 1 Corinthians 11:1), and (b) in the jealous discipline of bodily appetite (1 Corinthians 9:23 ff.). The last consideration leads (4) to a solemn warning against contamination by idolatry, drawn (a) from the early history of Israel, and further (b) from the communion of the Lord’s Table, which utterly forbids participation in “the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:1-22). These instances show in a manner evident to the good sense of the readers (1 Corinthians 10:15), that to take part in a heathen sacrificial feast is in effect a recognition of idolatry and an apostasy from Christ.

[1215] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1216] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

39, 40. The Second Marriage of Women

39. The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth] Cf. Romans 7:2.

if her husband be dead] Literally, if her husband sleep, or rather, perhaps, be laid to sleep, the word generally used of the death of Christians, and even of the saints of the old covenant. See St Matthew 27:52; St John 11:11; Acts 7:60; Acts 13:36. St Paul uses it in ch. 1 Corinthians 11:30 and ch. 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:51, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15. The same idea is found in St Matthew 9:24, and in the parallel passages in St Mark and St Luke, but the word employed in the Greek is different. The writers of the Old Testament also described death thus, as, for instance, in Deuteronomy 31:16; 1 Kings 2:10; Daniel 12:2. Thus death is robbed of half its terrors. It is a condition of partially, not wholly, suspended consciousness; a waiting of the soul, in union with its Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:14) until the great awakening. Calvin remarks that to infer from this passage that the soul, separated from the body, was without sense or intelligence, would be to say that it was without life. See 2 Corinthians 12:2.

only in the Lord] Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14. The marriage of widows was discountenanced, but not forbidden. Under certain circumstances it was even enjoined. See 1 Timothy 5:9; 1 Timothy 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:14. But under all circumstances mixed marriages were to be avoided.

1 Corinthians 7:39. Ἐν Κυρίῳ, in the Lord) So that Christ is here also all things. Christians and unbelievers mixed in society and dwelt together. He therefore commands Christian men to many Christian women.

Verse 39. - Only in the Lord. The second marriage of the Christian widow must be a holy and a Christian marriage (2 Corinthians 6:14). 1 Corinthians 7:39Be dead (κοιμηθῇ)

Lit., have fallen asleep. See on Acts 7:60; see on 2 Peter 3:4; compare Romans 7:2, where the usual word for die, ἀποθάνῃ is used. In that passage Paul is discussing the abstract question. Here the inference is more personal, which is perhaps the reason for his using the more tender expression.

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