1 Corinthians 7:12
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If a brother has an unbelieving wife and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.
Sermons
Celibacy and MarriageH. Bremner, B. D.1 Corinthians 7:1-17
MarriageJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 7:1-17
MarriageM. Dods, D. D.1 Corinthians 7:1-17
Paul's Conception of MarriageD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 7:1-17
Paul's View of CelibacyDean Stanley.1 Corinthians 7:1-17
Celibacy and MarriageE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 7:1, 2, 7-9, 25-35
Marriage: its Nature and DutiesE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 7:2-6, 10-17
The Marriage TieR. Tuck 1 Corinthians 7:8-16
Divorce: Mixed MarriagesH. Bremner 1 Corinthians 7:10-16
Christian CasuistryF. W. Robertson, M. A.1 Corinthians 7:10-17
DivorceJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 7:10-17
Divorce: Mixed MarriagesH. Bremner, B. D.1 Corinthians 7:10-17
Paul's InspirationPrincipal Edwards.1 Corinthians 7:10-17
The Marriage UnionJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 7:10-17
Unity in Marriage1 Corinthians 7:10-17
Mixed MarriagesC. Lipscomb 1 Corinthians 7:12-28
To the rest, those cases in which one party was a believer and the other not (mixed marriages), "speak I, not the Lord." Yet, while St. Paul does not claim to expound and apply a formal law, he must not be considered as abnegating for the time his apostolic office and giving an opinion simply personal. The decision pronounced here is a very weighty one, and obviously it is an utterance of God's will. "If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, what shall he do? That depends on the wife herself. The initiative step is not with the husband: "If she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away." So of the wife with respect to her husband. Obviously, then, personal will is contemplated, and the difference between marriage where both parties are Christians, and marriage where only one party is a Christian, lies in the fact that, in the latter instance (mixed marriages), the continuance of the relationship is contingent on the adaptiveness of the parties each to the other and their ready disposition to be a mutual source of happiness. The will of the Lord is that they keep together, and they should endeavour to fulfil this will, but if controversies exist and the true ends of marriage are not only not met, but cannot be met, then at the option of the wife, the husband may put her away. The converse holds good, so that in the case of either party, individual will may interpose a bar to the continued union. "God hath called us to peace." In such a solemn act, no wilfulness, no passion, no worldly and selfish motives, must have place. "Peace," and "peace" only, can warrant the step. And in connection with "peace" he presents two views, one antecedent, the other subsequent, to the statement, that "a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases." A Christian husband or wife sanctifies the marriage tie, and accordingly it was pleasing to God that the relationship should be perpetuated. "I am not the rose," says a Persian proverb, "but I live with the rose, and am therefore sweet" What grace comes to us through the tender associations of life, much of it unconscious, silent and secret, asking no leave, provoking no resistance, floating into us on the air and mingling with our blood, sweetening and purifying we know not how, and all the more precious because our agency is for a while quietly set aside, and the Spirit of the blessed Jesus asserts his Divine supremacy! "Children" too! The declaration is strong and unequivocal: "They are holy" Age was before the Fall; childhood came after; and childhood had net been possible but for the promise of the "Seed of the woman" antedating her other offspring. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven. Baptism does not create this holiness, but acknowledges its existence, and testifies, on the part of God and on behalf of the Church, that "your children" are in Christ and therefore "holy." What a motive this, that the marriage relation in these "mixed marriages" should be maintained! What an appeal to instinct, to memory and hope, to all the truest and noblest sentiments which are the strength and stay of home! All the grandest influences of Christianity come from the heart of Christ to our hearts; and whenever intellect is perplexed and doubts arise and logic confesses its weakness, we fall back on the great, sure, primal instincts of the heart, and work thence and upward into light and assurance. "Your heart shall live forever," and because it shall "live forever," it lives now amidst intellectual conflicts and bewildering questions with an inherent testimony to Christ and his truth such as could only spring from the immovable consciousness of its mortal birthright. Turn now to the subsequent statement contained in the sixteenth verse. Hatred and contentions may arise; if incurable, "peace" must be had by separation. But St. Paul is exceedingly anxious to prevent a severance of the marriage tie, and hence appeals to the believing husband or wife to continue in the holy relationship in view of the possible salvation of the unbelieving partner. By some learned men this interpretation is contested. According to their view, St. Paul meant to express uncertainty, to throw doubt on the sacred utility of the marriage union with regard to its prospective bearing on the salvation of the unbelieving party, and virtually to advise the believer to look after his or her own spiritual interest. This is not like St. Paul. It is not in accord with his generous solicitude to impress upon the parties the sanctity of their union. It is at variance with the declaration that Christianity recognizes the sanctification of the unbelieving party by the believing. It conflicts with his statement concerning the "holy" children, or at least abates much of its force as a reason why the marriage should not he disrupted. Congruity must be maintained, and congruity in this instance - so it seems to us - demands that this verse, "What knowest thou," etc., should be construed in close sympathy with the context. A break here would not only be at the expense of the general argument, but a violation of unity at its most essential point, viz. as a nexus between what precedes and what follows. Understand what the time was. Outwardly the sceptre of Rome ruled, tranquillity was maintained, and the disturbances which came on some years later scarcely gave a threatening sign of their approach. But, notwithstanding this condition of things, the foundations of society were undermined, and the instincts of men, though unable to foresee the changes that were to occur, were conscious of impending revolutions. Unrest was common, and unrest never appears alone. A host of apprehensions, an undefinable dread, a disposition to exaggerate dangers, never fail to attend it. St. Paul's disciples could not escape this atmospheric feverishness, and consequently one of his solicitudes was to keep them contented with their allotments in life. If Christianity proposed to regenerate human society, one of the conditions on which this vast result rested was: "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called" to be a Christian. Whether circumcised or uncircumcised, let him remain satisfied. Was he a servant? "Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather." Providence that had the past on its side was the best providence for them. "Therein abide with God," Was not this contentment one of the elements of that sanctification in marriage, and one of the means of holiness in children, and again one of the agencies for the furtherance of the Spirit's work in the unbelieving husband or wife? To this one point all the lines of his thought converge, viz. let peace be your object, and, in order to attain it, be contented with your position. Beyond question, St. Paul ardently desired to see certain of these positions changed, but he would not have his disciples to be agitators and revolutionizers. Is this a plea for blind conservatism, for an Oriental lethargy, for an unaspiring and unhoping slavishness to things as they were? Does the argument forestall progress? Nay, at that very moment a mighty revolution was going on in society. Christianity guarded all rights and interests; Christianity protected the marriage institution; Christianity, in due time, would make the slave a freedman. But "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," and Christianity must be left to do its work according to God's method. - L.







And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband.
I. IF BOTH PARTIES ARE BELIEVERS — according to our Lord's command.

1. Not by divorce.

2. But by mutual conciliation.

II. IF ONE PARTY IS AN UNBELIEVER — according to apostolic prescription.

1. Not by divorce.

2. But by patience in the believing party, .that by example, &c., the unbelieving party and the children may be saved.

III. IF THE UNBELIEVING PARTY BRINGS ABOUT A SEPARATION.

1. By submission, love to God must predominate.

2. God can overrule it for good.

3. Everyone must content himself with the appointments of Providence.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

The Cherokee marriage ceremony is very expressive. The man and woman join hands over running water, to indicate that their lives are thenceforth to flow in one stream.

is —

I. A SAD EVIDENCE OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY. Except in the case of confirmed lunacy —

1. It originates —

(1)In marrying out of impure motives.

(2)In the loss of affection,

(3)In the unfaithfulness of one or both parties.

2. Is opposed —(1) To the express command of our Lord (Matthew 5:31; Matthew 19:1-12), which is founded on the deep significance of the marriage bond (Matthew 19:6; Ephesians 5:32).(2) To the diffusion of the kingdom of God, as exerting a deleterious influence on the general welfare of mankind.

II. CANNOT BE ENTIRELY DISALLOWED.

1. The Lord permits it in certain instances (Matthew 5:39), and the apostle extends the permission m an exceptional case (ver. 15).

2. Yet so long as there is hope of reconciliation, every means must be used to maintain an unbroken union.

3. Separation is therefore allowable when it is evident that a perpetuated union will only be a source of sin, or that it will prove perilous to the salvation of the innocent party.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Having spoken of celibacy and marriage, the apostle now deals with the case of those already married.

I. WHERE BOTH PARTIES ARE CHRISTIAN. In this case Christ has decided, and Paul refers them to His words (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9).

1. The marriage bond is indissoluble. This arises from the relationship itself, as well as from the Divine appointment. Husband and wife are ideally one; the bond has no parallel in the world; God has made the union sacred by blessing it.

2. Separation is not to be final. The cause of separation (ill-treatment, &c.) may or may not be sufficient to justify it, but it must not be regarded as severing the tie. The wife must remain unmarried, or she must be reconciled to her husband. The latter is the desirable course, inasmuch as husband and wife cannot go apart without scandal to the Christian name. Let them reconsider their position, and remove every barrier to union.

II. WHERE ONE PARTY IS CHRISTIAN AND THE OTHER HEATHEN. Christ had given no utterance on mixed marriages, and therefore Paul gives his inspired judgment regarding them. Consider the case where —

1. The unbelieving partner is content to remain. The Christian spouse is not to seek a separation as if the marriage were unholy (ver. 14). The apostle does not mean that an unbeliever by conjugal union with a believer becomes personally holy; but that he or she is consecrated. As the altar sanctifies the gift (Matthew 23:19), so the Christian reflects something of his character on everything connected with him. His property, business, family, are all in a sense holy as belonging to one who is in covenant with God, and are under His special protection. Hence the pagan partner is a privileged person on the ground of union with a Christian. The reason is significant (ver. 14). It was an accepted maxim that the children of such marriages were born within the Church. This principle was recognised among the Jews, as the case of Timothy shows (Acts 16:1-3). If, then, the children of such marriage are reckoned holy, the marriage from which they spring cannot be inconsistent with the law of God (Romans 11:6 and conversely). The children take their standing from the Christian parent, who is regarded as the nobler of the two.

2. The unbelieving partner refuses to remain. In this case the Christian is to acquiesce. For —(1) He or she "is not under bondage" (ver. 15). The marriage is not to be dissolved at the instance of the believing partner; but if the other refuses to remain, the contract is no longer binding. It would be a case of bondage if the one were held to a union which the other has wilfully broken up.(2) "God hath called us in peace." The gospel is not intended to produce strife; but if this be the result of the heathen partner continuing to dwell with the Christian, it were better to let him have his wish.(3) The Christian partner is not to prevent the departure of the other in the hope of being instrumental to conversion. This is at best uncertain, and peace is not to be hazarded therefore. And if such a union is not to be maintained for the sake of a possible conversion, much less is it to be contracted with that view. Conclusion:

1. This passage is generally adduced as the Bible warrant for the view that wilful desertion is a sufficient reason for divorce. Such desertion is a de facto rupture of the marriage bond, and stands on the same footing as adultery.

2. The evil of mixed marriages. They —

(1)Render the complete fellowship of husband and wife impossible.

(2)Break up domestic peace.

(3)Prevent family religion.

(4)Interfere with the religious training of children.

(H. Bremner, B. D.)

1. St. Paul makes a distinction between those things which he speaks by commandment and by permission; between what he says as being taught of God, and that which he speaks only as a servant, "called of the Lord and faithful."

2. It is plain that there are many questions in which right and wrong are fixed; while there are others where these terms depend on circumstances, e.g., there may be circumstances in which it is the duty of a Christian to be married, and others remain unmarried. In the case of a missionary it may be right to be married; in the case of a pauper, unable to maintain a family, it may be proper to remain unmarried. No fixed law can be laid down upon this subject.

3. These, therefore, are questions of casuistry, which depend upon the particular case: from which "casuistry" is derived. On these points the apostle speaks not by commandment, but by permission. This distinction is not between inspired and uninspired, but between a decision in matters of Christian duty, and advice in matters of Christian prudence. God cannot give advice; He can only issue a command. When we come to advice the human element is introduced.

4. There are three main questions on which the apostle here gives his inspired decision.

I. CONCERNING THE SANCTITY OF THE MARRIAGE BOND BETWEEN TWO CHRISTIANS (ver. 10).

1. Of all earthly unions almost this is the only one permitting of no change but that of death. It is that engagement in which man exerts his most awful and solemn power — that of parting with his freedom. And yet it is perhaps that relationship which is spoken of and entered into most carelessly. It is not an union merely between two creature, but between two spirits; and the intention of that bond is to perfect the nature of both, by giving to each sex those excellences in which it is naturally deficient.

2. There is no earthly relationship which has so much power to ennoble (ver. 16). The very power of saving belongs to it, and that of ruin too. For there are two rocks on which the soul must either anchor or be wrecked. The one is the "Rock of Ages," on which if the human soul anchors, it lives the blessed life of faith; against which if the soul be dashed, there ensues atheism — the worst ruin of the soul. The other rock is of another character. Blessed is the man or woman whose life-experience has taught a confiding belief in the excellences of the sex opposite to their own. And the ruin is second only to perdition. And it is the worst of these alternatives which the young risk when they form an inconsiderate union, and which parents risk when they bring up their children with no higher view than that of a rich and honourable marriage.

II. THE SANCTITY OF THE MARRIAGE BOND BETWEEN A CHRISTIAN AND A HEATHEN.

1. The question arose, Is not the marriage null and void? As if it were an union between one dead and one living. And that perpetual contact with a heathen, and therefore an enemy of God, is not that defilement? The apostle decides this with his usual inspired wisdom — the marriage bond is sacred still (vers. 12, 13).

2. Now for us the decision is not of so much importance as the reason in support of it, which amounts to this: If this were no marriage, but an unhallowed alliance, it would follow that the offspring could not be the children of God; but it is the instinctive conviction of every Christian parent, "My child is a child of God," or, in the Jewish form of expression, "My child is clean" (ver. 14). It follows if the children are holy in this sense of dedicated to God, then the marriage relation was not unhallowed, but sacred and indissoluble. The value of this argument in the present day depends on its relation to baptism. This question is whether we are baptized because we are the children of God, or, whether we are the children of God because we are baptized. Here the apostle's argument is unanswerable. He does not say that these children were Christian, or clean, because they were baptized, but because they were the children of one Christian parent.

3. Observe also the important truth which comes out collaterally from this argument — namely, the sacredness of impression, which arises from the close connection between parent and child. Possibly from the very first moments of consciousness we begin to impress ourselves on our children. There is scarcely one here who cannot trace back his religious character to some impression from one or other of his parents — a tone, a look, a word, a habit, or even, it may be, a bitter exclamation of remorse.

III. EXISTING RELATIONS (vers. 17, 20, 24). Christian men were to remain in them, and in them to develop the Christian life. Paul applies this principle in two ways.

1. Ecclesiastically (ver. 18). The Jews, after their conversion, were to continue Jews, if they would. Christianity required no change in these outward things. Paul circumcised Timothy, and used Jewish customs. It was not the duty of a Christian to overthrow the Jewish system, but to throw into it a Christian feeling. Let us apply this to modern duties. The great desire among men now appears to be to alter, and so have perfect institutions, as if they would make perfect men. Mark the difference between this feeling and that of the apostle (ver. 20). No man will get true rest for his soul in these days of controversy, until he has learned the significance of these wise words.

2. Civilly — to that relationship which, of all others, was the most difficult to harmonise with Christianity — slavery (ver. 21). Recollect —(1) That Christianity had made much way among slaves. No wonder that they embraced with joy a religion which taught the dignity of the human soul, and declared that rich and poor, master and slave, were equal in the sight of God. And yet it was to be feared lest men should be tempted to compel their masters and oppressors to do them right.(2) That all this occurred in an age in which slavery had reached its worst and most fearful form. And yet fearful as it was, the apostle says, "Care not for it." And hence we understand the way in which Christianity was to work. No doubt it will at length abolish slavery, war, &c., but there is not one case where we find Christianity interfering with institutions, as such: Onesimus Paul sent back to his master, but he told him of a higher feeling that would make him free with the shackle upon his arm. And so it was possible for the Christian then, as it is now, to be possessed of the highest liberty even under tyranny. It many times occurred that Christian men found themselves placed under an unjust government, and compelled to pay unjust taxes. The Son of Man showed His freedom not by refusing, but by paying them. His glorious liberty could do so without any feeling of degradation. Conclusion: It is possible from all this to draw a most inaccurate conclusion. Some men have spoken of Christianity as if it was entirely indifferent about public questions. This indifference is not to be found in the Apostle Paul. While he asserts that inward liberty is the only true liberty, he still goes on to say, "If thou mayest be free use it rather." Christianity gave to the slave the feeling of his dignity as a man, at the same time it gave to the Christian master a new view of his relation to his slave, and taught him to regard him "not now as a servant, but a brother beloved." And so by degrees slavery passed into freed servitude, and freed servitude, under God's blessing, may pass into something else.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord.
The distinction here is not between his uninspired and inspired commands. If we say that he usually writes under Divine inspiration, but that when he speaks about celibacy it fails him, to return suddenly when he enters on the question of divorce, again to desert him when he writes on the case of mixed marriages, inspiration becomes at once(1) arbitrary, because there is nothing in the nature of the subjects to account for the difference; and(2) mechanical, because it comes and goes independently of the writer's mental activity. The explanation is that on the question of divorce Christ had legislated (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9); but on the other questions gave no direct decision. The question of divorce touches the inmost nature of marriage, as it was instituted by God at the beginning, and afterwards connected by Christianity with the union between Christ and the Church. For this reason Christ, as the Divine lawgiver, rescinded the Mosaic permission to divorce for other causes than adultery, and restored the original idea of marriage. Paul never dared to rescind a law of Moses. Yet the apostle draws various inferences from the words of Christ. One distinction between the teaching of Christ and of His apostles must necessarily be that Christ always commands. He never arrived at a conclusion through a process of reasoning, much less discussed a question and left it unanswered. This absolute certitude is essential in the revelation of central principles. But it would be destructive of all that is valuable in human effort if it extended to the minute details of life; if it decided beforehand every possible case of conscience, and reduced our moral activity to a mechanical conformity with unswerving and merely authoritative regulations. The danger attaches to all books of casuistry; but in a book accepted by the doubting conscience as containing Divinely-inspired casuistry, the effect is fatal. The writings of the apostles abound, on the other hand, in argument and inference, which sometimes end in practical decisions, sometimes only in the expression of an opinion. The decision is often left to the enlightened conscience of the spiritual man (cf. ver. 25). But apart from the teaching of Christ, the fons et origo of revelation, the inspiration of the apostles would have been an altogether different thing from what it is. We need not suppose that Christ gave the apostle an immediate revelation on the question of divorce. The general tradition of the Early Church and the narrative in the Acts points to an intimate connection between Paul and Luke. Indeed, our Lord's doctrine on that subject was in that age singular, and cannot fail to have been known among Christians throughout the world.

(Principal Edwards.)

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