Apostle Paul: Passionate Discipleship
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Sermon on the Mount
7. Marriage and Divorce at the End of the Age (1 Corinthians 7)by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Terentius Neo, the baker, and his wife, from the atrium of a house in Pompeii (AD 55-79 AD), fresco on plaster, 58x52 cm. The husband wears a toga, probably indicating the rank of a magistrate and carries a papyrus scroll. The woman has a hairstyle typical of the Neronian period (54-68 AD). She is holding a stylus and a diptych containing wax tablets. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, Italy.
In chapters 5 and 6, Paul has condemned sexual sin in no uncertain terms. Now he lays out a practical framework for a Christian theology of marriage and the place of sex within that framework.
This begins the second part of the letter, that consists primarily of Paul's responses to a letter he received. You'll see Paul's responses to various questions they had asked:
"Now for the matters you wrote about...."
"Now about virgins...." (7:25)
"Now about food sacrificed to idols...." (8:1)
"So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols...." (8:4)
"Now about spiritual gifts...." (12:1)
"Now about the collection for God's people...." (16:1)
"Now about our brother Apollos...." (16:12)
Their questions don't seem to have been their asking for spiritual advice. Rather, the Corinthians seem to be responding to Paul's instructions in a previous letter, and asking with a, "Why can't we?" attitude.186
Some, who haven't pondered this chapter deeply, conclude that Paul has a low, rather cynical view of marriage. That's a mistake. You can observe his exalted view of marriage, for example, in Ephesians 5:21-33.
When we read between the lines of Paul's comments in chapter 7 we begin to see the problem that he is responding to in Corinth. Apparently, a group of people in Corinth -- not the ones who are trying to justify going to prostitutes -- are teaching that marriage and sexual intercourse within marriage are somehow unspiritual for those who are in the Spirit and already like angels.187 Apparently, some of this super-spiritual group thought it more spiritual to separate from one's spouse, than engage in common sexual intercourse. So, instead of teaching a cynical view of marriage, Paul is trying to respond to a wrong and twisted view of marriage that is held by some in Corinth.
Paul begins this chapter by agreeing (theoretically) with those who suggest that celibacy is best. Then he begins to bring them back into a healthy balance.
"Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry." (7:1)
"Not to marry" (NIV), "not to touch" (NRSV, KJV) is the negative particle and the verb haptō, "touch," here, "to touch intimately, have sexual contact" with a woman.188
Paul affirms that celibacy is "good." There's nothing wrong with it. After all, Paul himself at this point is living a celibate life (7:7).189 He could scarcely have fulfilled the kind of itinerant apostolic ministry God had called him to if he had a family. And, as he comments to the unmarried a bit later, celibacy spares a person many troubles (7:26-28).
But now Paul talks frankly with these so-called "spiritual" people who think they're too spiritual for marriage. It's kind of like taking the hand of an idealistic adolescent and saying, yes, dear, but we need to be practical.
"But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband." (7:2)
Celibacy just isn't practical for most people. God created us as sexual beings, with a strong sex drive that is likely to find expression in immorality, if it can't be fulfilled in marriage. Paul isn't trying to excuse immorality. He's just realistic about the fact that the natural sex drive will seek expression. Marriage is the arena for this, not prostitution.
Now we come to one of the most revealing passages on marriage rights and marital sex in ancient literature. Most secular documents of this era are written from the man's perspective -- his rights, his pleasure, his domain, his authority. But Paul goes out of his way here to teach a true mutuality and sharing of sex within marriage.
"3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty190 to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife." (7:3-4)
The implication is clear. The woman is not just there to meet her husband's sexual needs, but he is there to meet hers as well. The wife is not chattel to be bought and sold. Just the opposite! The husband's body "belongs to," literally, is "under the authority of"191 the wife just as much as the wife's body belongs to the husband.
"5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command." (7:5-6)
The implication of this mutual sexual authority is that neither the husband nor wife is to "deprive" (NIV, NRSV) or "defraud" (KJV) the other except if they both agree. The verb is apostereō, "rob." Here it has the connotation "to prevent someone from having the benefit of something, deprive." We see the same idea expressed back in the Pentateuch to protect wives from being deprived of their husbands' sexual attention (Exodus 21:10).
The implications of this are rather clear. Sex is not to be used as a bargaining chip in a marriage. "If you do this, then I'll have sex with you." To do so is to defraud the spouse of what is already his or hers by right.
The spouse might relent: "Oh, I'll have sex with you, then, but I don't have to like it!" But that isn't the spirit of this passage at all! Sex should be much more than a duty, it is a joy, a celebration of being one-flesh, an expression of love, the means of bringing forth new life. The best sex is found in the mutual, self-giving love outlined in 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 5:21-33.
What is each spouse entitled to?
- The pleasure of sex and intimacy. Different people are "wired" differently. For one, the pleasure may be the joy of holding your loved one in your arms. For another, it may be sexual release. If you are a husband, are you selfish sexually, concerned only about your own pleasure? Putting your spouse's pleasure before your own is part of the command to "love your wife" (Ephesians 5:25, 28). Our culture tends to think that sex is about pleasure only. Not so. Clearly implied is a second right.
- The opportunity to beget or conceive progeny. Think about the intense rivalry between Jacob's various wives concerning which would get to spend the night with him. The issue here was not pleasure, but an opportunity to conceive. In our age, the availability of fairly effective birth control may seem like a "right." But what about the right implied by one's marital rights taught in the passage? They seem to involve the right to beget/conceive. At the very least, they include at least the trio of rights spelled out for a wife in the Pentateuch: "food, clothing and marital rights192" (Exodus 21:10).
Paul does allow an exception to regular sexual relations: a mutually agreed upon193 period of prayer -- a kind of sexual fast so that they might have more time for prayer.194 In the Old Testament, there was occasional abstinence from sex for a short time of purification (Exodus 19:15; 1 Samuel 21:4-5). But this is to be the exception, not the so-called "spiritual" norm.
Paul is being practical. Enforced abstinence from sex often results in severe temptations from Satan.
Paul concludes these words with something of a disclaimer:
"I say this as a concession197, not as a command." (7:6)
Paul seems to be dealing with a group that is pushing for abstinence from sex within marriage. So, though he allows for a short period of abstinence for prayer (7:5), he isn't commanding such a period of abstinence. Permission is granted to abstain for a limited time, but Paul is not issuing a command to do so.
Q1. (1 Corinthians 7:1-6) Why does Paul concede that "it
is good for a man not to touch a woman"? What does he teach about sexual
intercourse within marriage? How does he teach mutual rights within marriage,
not just a man's right? What does this passage teach about using sex as a
bargaining chip within marriage?
Now Paul refers to his own celibacy. Many scholars think it likely that Paul was once married, since as a young rabbi he would be expected to marry and bear children, as part of the command to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28; 9:7). That was one of the 613 traditional Old Testament commands incumbent upon devout Jews. But if he had once been married, he was not married now, nor does he ever allude to children. He was probably a widower who had chosen not to remarry.
"I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that." (7:7)
Perhaps the sexual abstinence promoters in Corinth were using Paul's celibacy as proof of their position that only those who abstain from sex were spiritual. Paul concedes that celibacy might have its advantages for people in saving them from the hassles of marriage and responsibilities for a family (7:28), but immediately concludes that this isn't the way God made most people. Paul sees celibacy as a "gift (charisma) from God" that not all have. Because of this verse, some scholars include celibacy as one of the spiritual gifts mentioned in Scripture.198
Sometimes 1 Corinthians 7 is misunderstood as Paul trying to promote celibacy in Corinth. Rather, he is trying to reason with a group in Corinth that is trying to promote celibacy there. Paul had run across groups that forbid marriage (1 Timothy 4:3). He doesn't want them to use his situation to prove their position. Celibacy is not wrong -- but it is a gift not given to most. Jesus told his disciples:
"Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." (Matthew 19:11-12, NRSV)
The Roman Catholic Church is struggling in our day with a long tradition of requiring all priests to take a vow of celibacy, rather than viewing celibacy as a unique gift given only to some.
Paul began chapter 7 discussing the normalcy of sex within marriage. Now he turns to questions that may have been raised about those who are not married at present. Notice that he prefaces his words with, "I say...." -- his own advice, not covered in Jesus' direct teaching.
"8 Now to the unmarried199 and the widows200 I say: It is good for them to stay201 unmarried, as I am. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." (7:8-9)
Paul puts himself in this category. He affirms the goodness of the unmarried state, since it simplifies one's life (7:28). But he comes back to the realities of the human sex drive. "If they are not practicing self-control..." (NRSV).202 The word "cannot" is not in the Greek text. Paul isn't saying that some just cannot control themselves (as the NIV and KJV), but that they are not controlling themselves -- and therefore committing immorality, either with prostitutes or with their boyfriend/girlfriend. Notice here that some people just aren't cut out to be single. If they remain single they "burn with passion,"203 with sexual desire. If a person struggles with constant sexual desire, of course, marriage is best. Some people are just wired that way. Paul is quite practical here.204
Q2. (1 Corinthians 7: 9 and 37) What do verses 9 and 37
teach about sex between couples who are engaged but not married? What counsel
does Paul give to engaged couples who do not control themselves sexually?
Now Paul addresses married men and women believers who might consider divorce.
The context of divorce in Corinth wasn't Rabbinic Judaism as it was in Jesus' day. Rather, the law of divorce in Greek and Roman cities was that if one's partner decided to break the marriage, he or she could do so by leaving, or if, he/she owned the house, insist that the partner leave. It was "divorce by separation," the no-fault, no-contest divorce of the first century. There was no bill of divorce protecting the woman as required in Judaism. If the couple went to court at all, it was to determine distribution of property, not to determine whether or not they could divorce. And when there was a divorce, the society saw each partner free to remarry.205
But what about believers? Should they divorce? That's the question Paul is discussing here. Though God hates divorce (Malachi 2:14-16) and was the one who created marriage for a man and a woman (Genesis 2:18, 24), there was a provision in the Pentateuch for divorce in case of "some uncleanness" (KJV, literally, "nakedness, shame"), probably meaning adultery, the view held by the followers of Rabbi Shammai (50 BC to 30 AD). By Jesus' day, this had been interpreted by the followers of Rabbi Hillel (110 BC to 10 AD) as allowing divorce for "any cause" that bothered the husband. When asked about this, Jesus had disallowed the broad interpretation that allowed divorce for "any cause," and limited the cause for divorce to sexual immorality only (porneia, Matthew 5:32; 19:6-9).206
Now Paul interprets Jesus' own words to the Corinthian believers who are married.
"10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate (chōrizō) from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife."
"Divorce" (NIV, NRSV), "put away" (KJV) in verse 11 is aphiēmi, "to dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one's presence," in a legal sense, "divorce."207 This was just one of the Greek words for divorce found in documents of the period.208
In this Greco-Roman context, Paul seems to be speaking to married people where both spouses are believers, just as Jesus was addressing couples within the Jewish context. "Separate" (NIV, NRSV), "depart" (KJV) in verse 10 is chōrizō, "divide, separate," here, "to separate by departing from someone, separate, leave."209 Jesus uses the same word in the conclusion to his words about marriage and divorce.
"Haven't you read ... that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together210, let man not separate (chōrizō)." (Matthew 19:4-6)
Later in our passage, Paul, too, affirms that the marriage bond continues until death (7:39; also Romans 7:2).
In our day there is much pain due to divorce -- even among Christians. And there are many questions: Now that my ex-husband has a live-in girlfriend, does that qualify as "marital unfaithfulness" (porneia, "sexual immorality"; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:9) that breaks whatever relationship existed between us? Am I free to remarry? Or only if my husband actually remarries and there is no chance of reconciliation? How do I know whether my spouse is really "born again"? He/she shows no evidence of conversion. The questions are numerous.
Here is the command211 Paul passes on to us from Jesus in verses 10 and 11.
- Believers should not separate from their believing spouses.
- If there is a separation of believing spouses, the believers should:
- EITHER remain unmarried.
- OR seek to reconcile their marriage.
We don't want to get into Christian legalism, on the one hand, but we must be obedient to Scripture. Are there exceptions to this command? Certainly there are exceptions to the principle not to separate; sadly, protection of the spouse and children requires this in some cases. But are there other exceptions, besides the exception for sexual immorality Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:32; 19:6-9?
Though we'll discuss some of these questions further, I can't answer all these questions for you -- nor do I do counseling via e-mail. I encourage you to explore these questions with your pastor (and I realize that Christian churches disagree on some of these matters).
Paul has instructed believing couples about divorce. Now he turns to "the rest,"212 the bulk of the Corinthian believers whose spouses aren't yet Christians. Note that Paul qualifies his comments ("I, not the Lord"). He speaks on his own authority as an apostle; he is not passing on direct commands of Jesus as in verses 10 and 11.
"12 To the rest I say this (I, not
the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing
to live with him, he must not divorce (aphiēmi) her.
13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce (aphiēmi) him." (7:12-13)
Notice that Paul qualifies mixed marriages (believer with unbeliever) with the condition, "If ... he/she is willing to live with her/him." The verb is syneudokeō, "to join in approval, agree with, approve of, consent to, sympathize with."213 He commands the believing spouse not to divorce the unbelieving spouse, so long as the unbelieving spouse wants to continue the marriage. To be practical, according to prevailing law in Corinth, there was nothing the believing spouse could do to prevent a divorce if the unbelieving spouse insisted on ending the marriage. But Paul does command a believing spouse not to initiate "divorce by separation."
Now Paul gives a reason for maintaining the marriage insofar as it is possible:
"For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." (7:14)
Verse 14 is notoriously difficult to interpret with confidence. What does Paul mean by saying that the unbelieving spouse and children are "sanctified" by the believer. In what sense are the offspring of the marriage of a believer with an unbeliever "clean" and "holy"? The verb "sanctified" (NIV, KJV), "made holy" (NRSV) is hagiazō, "make holy," here, "consecrate, sanctify" by contact with what is holy.214 Does this mean that the unbelieving spouse is somehow converted by osmosis? Verse 16 excludes this explanation. So what does it mean?
It probably means that, with the Christian spouse in the picture, there is a strong possibility that the children will become believers and that the non-Christian spouse will come to faith. There is no guarantee of this, as verse 16 indicates. But there is the hope, and this is a good reason to continue the marriage, if possible. The believer is not defiled by such a marriage, as some of the Corinthians may have maintained. Rather, the unbeliever is in a sense sanctified by the relationship, and the children will be profoundly influenced towards Christ by living in a household with a Christian parent.
In Malachi, as an argument against divorce, we read:
"Has not [the Lord] made them one? ... And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth." (Malachi 2:15)
The chance that "godly offspring" will result from a mixed marriage goes way up when the Christian does not leave the marriage.
However, Paul is a realist. Sometimes the unbelieving spouse refuses to live with a Christian spouse and just leaves.
"15 But if the unbeliever leaves215, let him do so.216 A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?" (7:15-16)
The believing spouse should work to maintain the marriage, but if the unbelieving spouse divorces the believer, be willing to let the unbeliever go, says Paul, for there is no guarantee that you would have saved the unbelieving husband if he had stayed in the marriage.
Paul makes a interesting statement in verse 15b.
"A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace." (7:15b)
"Bound" (NIV, NRSV), "under bondage" (KJV) is douloō, "to make someone a slave," here figuratively, "to make one subservient to one's interests, cause to be like a slave." Here, passively, "to be bound (as a slave)."217 In what sense is the believing spouse free? Commentators have suggested three possibilities:
- Free to separate or remain separate (that is, not be required to seek reconciliation). In the Greco-Roman world there was nothing the believer could do to reverse the separation, except to pester the spouse to return, so this interpretation doesn't really say anything. Of course, if it were the believer who left the marriage, the church could exert pressure to be reconciled and work out any problems.
- Free to divorce. In the Greco-Roman world, to separate was to divorce. Instone-Brewer notes that even if the dowry was not returned, a couple was still considered to be legally divorced, though the wife might have to take her ex-husband to court for the return of the dowry.218
- Free to remarry. This is the only possibility that makes sense to me in the context. Instone-Brewer comments, "All Jewish divorce certificates and most Greco-Roman ones contained the words 'you are free to marry any man you wish,' or something very similar. Clearly, the words, 'you are not bound' -- in other words, 'free' -- would be understood by first-century readers as freedom to remarry."219
Based on a great deal of research about marriage and divorce and the teaching of Jewish rabbis, David Instone-Brewer sees the instance in 7:15 as a parallel to a passage in the Pentateuch cited by Rabbis as a basis for divorce.
"If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money." (Exodus 21:10-11)
The Exodus passage relates to the rights of a slave who becomes the wife of a free Israelite man. He cannot deprive her "of her food, clothing and marital rights." The rabbis argued that if these rights were true of a slave wife, how much more of a free wife. Indeed, a wife could force a divorce if her husband did not provide these things. Though rarely used as a basis for divorce in Jesus' day (when the "divorce for any cause," based on a liberal interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:5 was the main basis for a divorce), a Jewish woman could force a divorce on the basis of Exodus 21:10-11. Though Paul is referring to the Greco-Roman "divorce by separation" common in Corinth by an unbelieving spouse, based on this passage one could argue that abandonment would deprive a woman of food, clothing, and marital rights, which were legal grounds for divorce under Jewish law.220
Note: Sincere Christians disagree about allowable grounds for divorce. In your discussion, be sure to show love even when you might disagree.
Q3. (1 Corinthians 7:10-16) What do these verses teach
about divorce for married believers? What about divorce where one spouse isn't
a believer? What about remarriage?
Despite the freedom such Christian spouses have to remarry, described in verses 12-16 above, Paul isn't urging this. His theme throughout the rest of the chapter is, in general: Don't make radical changes in your status in life -- unless those changes are forced upon you (7:17, 20, 24, 40). Verse 17 serves as the theme verse for this section.
"Assigned" (NIV, NRSV), "distributed" (KJV) reflects the verb merizō, "divide (out)," here, "deal out, assign, apportion something to someone."223 The idea here is that God has set you in your life circumstances; don't be so quick to change them. Seek what God wants for you, not just what you can obtain by jockeying for a new position. This concept is more intuitive where there is a caste system long established by tradition, such as in India and the UK. It is more difficult for Americans, who imagine that they can be anything they set their minds to be. But the issue is the same. Let God lead you; don't just forge out on your own!
Now Paul gives an example of remaining in one's position -- male circumcision -- which would be an issue for Jews or former Jews.
"18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. 20 Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him." (7:18-20)
It was not uncommon in the Roman and Hellenistic world, in which men often bathed together, for Jewish men to seek surgical treament to restore their foreskin, and so blend into the dominant culture. There was also the pressure from Jews to induce Christians to become circumcised like true Jews. Paul says: Don't do either. Circumcision is a trivial thing; it's obeying the Lord that is important. Remain in the situation in which God called you.
Many in the church at Corinth were probably slaves -- an extremely common situation in the Greco-Roman world. Christianity offered powerful hope to the oppressed, so first century churches often had many slaves among their membership. Paul uses slavery as an example of his guideline to remain in the situation God called you to.
"Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble224 you -- although if you can gain your freedom, do so." (7:21)
A century or two following the end of legalized slavery in the West, we have trouble with Paul's suggestion that people should be content to remain as slaves. We need to understand the social context. Perhaps a quarter or more of the population were slaves in some areas of Paul's world. If setting free the slaves were Paul's primary goal, the truth of the Gospel would have been lost in the social turmoil Christianity would have caused.
Paul speaks to encourage or comfort slaves in their condition. But he does say, "If you can gain your freedom, do so." Sometimes slaves were able to purchase their freedom from masters with money they had been given. Slaves were sometimes freed upon the death of a master. Occasionally, a slave might be freed by a master out of the goodness of his heart (see Philemon 14-19). If that opportunity comes, Paul is saying, don't turn it down.
"For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price." (7:22-23a)
To encourage slaves who might read his letter, he reminds them that they are "the Lord's freedman225" (7:22a) -- Christ sets us free. But he also reminds the non-slaves in the congregation that each of them is Christ's slave (doulos, 7:22b), purchased by Christ's own blood (see 6:20 and 1 Peter 1:18-19). In other words, slavery and freedom are relative.
But this doesn't mean that somehow Paul approves of the institution of slavery. He doesn't. Paul commands the believers:
"Do not become slaves of men." (7:23b)
It may seem unnatural to even suggest that a person would voluntarily become a slave, but it did happen sometimes due to debt or extreme poverty. Don't become a slave, says Paul. You already have been purchased by God. He concludes with the principle he is illustrating:
"Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to." (7:24)
The NIV's "as responsible to God" seems over-translated; a better rendering might be, "before God."226 Fee makes two points that need to be understood by Western culture where upward mobility seems almost like a sacred duty:
- Status of any kind is ultimately irrelevant to God.
- Our lives are determined by God's call, so it is our responsibility to live out that calling in whatever situation we find ourselves.227
We should be waiting on God for his will for our lives, not just rushing forward with our own plans.
Now Paul begins to discuss some of their questions about virgins -- that is, young women who have never been married. Should they consider getting married? We examine these verses with a considerable amount of care, since there is some disagreement about various verses. There are four issues we need to consider in this passage:228
- The meaning of the term "virgins."
- The nature of the problem in Corinth. What was going on? What did the Corinthians say in their letter to Paul? How does this relate to the previous issues about marriage and divorce in verses 1-24?
- The structure of the argument. Is this a general guide or a special case?
- The intent and meaning of Paul's central argument in verses 29-35.
In interpreting the passage, we see this as one argument about advice concerning virgins that begins with verse 25 and concludes with verse 38. We'll discuss the nature of the argument later, but let's look first at the meaning of "virgins" and the nature of the problem Paul is facing in Corinth.
First, the meaning of the term "virgins." "Virgin" is parthenos, "one who has never engaged in sexual intercourse, virgin, chaste person," here, a female of marriageable age with focus on virginity.229 Paul seems to be talking about virgins who are betrothed to be married, who are wondering if they should go ahead and get married, since in verse 36 he says, "If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to..." (literally, "his virgin").
Second, the nature of the problem. Paul seems to have a dilemma on his hands. On the one hand he personally tends to favor celibacy, but he totally disagrees with the ascetic reasons that seem to drive this group of people in Corinth. In their letter to him they probably expressed this asceticism in terms like, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (7:1) and considered marriage of a betrothed couple a sin (7:36). He has suggested that Christians shouldn't be quick to change their status. But in the case of a betrothed virgin, she can't stay perpetually engaged. She needs to either get married or call off the marriage.
Historically, this passage has been taken three ways by the church.
- Whether a father should give his virgin daughter in marriage. On 7:38 the KJV "giveth in marriage" is based on the Textus Receptus or majority Greek text which uses the Greek verb ekgamizō, "give in marriage." "Marries" (NIV, NRSV), however, reflects the earliest Greek texts that contain the related verb gamizō, which should be translated here, "to take as spouse, marry."230
- Whether men and women are living in a "spiritual marriage" without sexual relations (New English Bible: "partner in celibacy," 7:36), but there is no evidence in the text or in secular literature that supports such a situation.
- Whether men and women who are engaged are being pressured by the ascetic "spiritual" elite of the church to refrain from getting married, pushing their agenda, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman," that Paul had dealt with in 7:1-7.231 This is the view of most modern translations.
So in this passage Paul is trying to affirm celibacy without affirming their asceticism -- a difficult task.
Let's begin now with verse 25:
"Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy." (7:25)
Note that Paul isn't relating a command232 or teaching of Jesus here, but giving his own advice233 on the matter. Throughout this section Paul is trying hard not to have his words interpreted as a new law. The passage is filled not so much with imperatives as laced with qualifying words such as "opinion" (7:25), "I think" (7:40), "I am sparing you" (7:28), "I wish" (7:32), "I say this for your good" (7:35), "let him do as he wishes" (7:36), and "he shall do well" (7:38).
"Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are." (7:26)
What is the "present crisis" Paul refers to? "Crisis" (NIV, NRSV), "distress" (KJV) is anankē, "a state of distress or trouble, distress, calamity, pressure."234 Though this word is usually employed to describe eschatological woes -- the troubles right before Christ's coming -- here it is used to describe some kind of present crisis that the church is experiencing.235 We can see two possibilities:
- Disruption due to sickness and death, experienced because of misuse of the Lord's Supper (11:30), or
- General troubles and persecutions the church is going through, in the sense that Paul had written to the Thessalonian church:
"... So that no one would be unsettled by these trials (thlipsis236). You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know." (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4)
Now Paul sums up his general counsel thus far to various groups of people in the church.
"27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned." (7:27-28a)
The ascetics in Corinth seemed to be suggesting that sex in marriage was unspiritual, that to desire to marry was sinful. Paul disagrees, though he encourages celibacy where it seems practical. In the next several verses, he explains why.
"28b But those who marry will face many troubles (thlipsis) in this life, and I want to spare you this. 29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. (7:28b-31)
Paul's thought is summed up:
Because of the shortness of time in these last days, we don't have time to just live as pagans do as if they had all the time in the world -- like they did in Noah's day, for example. Paul may be recalling Jesus' own words about his soon return.
"For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:38-39)
Paul's words are designed to help his readers understand that they shouldn't be caught up in mere human life and pleasures.
The key idea for these verses is found in 7:31, to "use" (chraomai, "use, employ") the things of the world, without becoming "engrossed" (katachraomai) in them. "Engrossed" (NIV), "have no dealings" (NRSV), "abusing" (KJV) is katachraomai, "use up, use to the full."241 If we enter fully into the world without reference to Christ's coming and the end of the age, we get distracted from serving Christ with all our heart.
It's important to understand that in verses 29-30, Paul is speaking hyperbolically -- overstating to make a point. Verse 29 gives husbands no scriptural basis to ignore their wives' needs, or to be constantly unhappy.
"Those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep242" (NIV) says it pretty well. Though, of course, we need to make purchases and have a place to live, we are not to hold onto these things tightly. " As Job said,
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
As the old gospel song goes,
"This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through...."243
Paul's second argument for considering celibacy is the potential distraction of domestic affairs. Paul's ideal is for people to be, so far as possible, free from worldly concerns244 that having a spouse and family entail.
"32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned245 about the Lord's affairs -- how he can please246 the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world -- how he can please his wife -- 34 and his interests are divided.247 An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted248 to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world -- how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good,249 not to restrict250 you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." (7:32-35)
It is appropriate for a husband and wife to seek to please each other, says Paul. It's not sinful. But the celibate person is able to devote more time and energy to seeking to please the Lord -- it just stands to reason. Paul concludes this section with an assurance that he is not trying to create a law of celibacy for them to follow, but to encourage "undivided251 devotion to the Lord" (7:35). "Devotion" (NIV, NRSV, ESV) is an interesting word, euparedros, "pertaining to being in constant attendance, constantly in service."252 The word picture is of a person sitting alongside, ready to help in any way that is needed. One example might be "Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said" (Luke 10:39), though the idea is more of an attendant, rather than a student.
One example of this kind of devotion can be seen in monks and nuns who are in religious orders, who take a vow of celibacy. Not everyone has this gift or calling, Paul would be quick to say. But for those who do, it can be a wonderful life of devotion, not without distraction, of course, but without the predictable responsibilities and distractions of a spouse and family.
Q4. (1 Corinthians 7:25-35) The disadvantages of
remaining unmarried include being deprived of sexual relations. What are the
advantages of celibacy that Paul discusses in these verses? How can
married believers maximize "full devotion" to the Lord?
After a digression about the distractions of marriage and a family, Paul returns to giving counsel to virgins. As mentioned above, "his virgin" (literal, KJV) is not a believer's virgin daughter, as suggested by the KJV translation of 7:38 -- "giveth her in marriage." It is rather one's "fiancée" (NRSV) or "betrothed" (ESV).
"If anyone thinks253 he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married." (7:36)
Paul suggests possible ways for a couple to decide that they really ought to get married.
- Improper behavior. "Acting improperly" (NIV), "not behaving properly" (NRSV), "behaveth himself uncomely" (KJV) is the verb aschēmoneō, "behave disgracefully, dishonorably, indecently."254 In 7:9 Paul suggested that some of the unmarried members of the congregation were not controlling their sexual urges, and for them he counseled marriage.
- Passion or Age. The adjective hyperakmos could be translated two ways. (1) The translations, "getting along in years" (NIV), "if she pass the flower of her age" (KJV) understand the word temporally and as a status term applied to a woman: 'past one's prime, past marriageable age, past the bloom of youth.'" If the woman is getting to a point that she will no longer be of marriageable age, they should consider marriage. However, (2) "if passions are strong" (NRSV, ESV) is another possibility, with precedents in classical Greek also -- "at one's sexual peak" or "with strong passions," giving more force to hyper, "exceedingly" in this compound verb.255 Perhaps "with strong passions" is a better translation here in light of Paul's previous words.
"But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." (7:9, NRSV)
- Desire. If the man and his fiancee have their hearts set on getting married.256
These are good indications that the couple ought to get married. And Paul says quite directly to the ascetics in the congregation who thought of sex in marriage as unspiritual and unworthy of a Christian:
"He is not sinning. They should get married." (7:36d)
On the other hand, says Paul,
"37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin -- this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better." (7:37-38)
Notice the four factors in the man who has decided to keep his fiancée a virgin and not marry her:
- Firmness of decision.257
- Lack of necessity.258 She isn't pregnant and he isn't under a moral constraint to follow through on a binding promise.
- Mastery over his desires.259
- A thoughtful decision-making process.260
Paul is describing a solid, reasoned decision for celibacy, not an immature reaction to the pressure of the "spiritual" ascetics in Corinth. Whether or not you agree with priestly celibacy, the Roman Catholic Church does require its candidates for the holy orders to give full consideration over time to the vows they are making. Unfortunately, I believe, the choice is not for celibacy itself, but being celibate as the only route to becoming a priest, monk, or nun.
Now Paul concludes the entire chapter on marriage, divorce, and celibacy with a reiteration of the principles.
"39 A woman is bound261 to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free262 to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.263 40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is -- and I think that I too have the Spirit of God." (7:39-40)
Paul reiterates Jesus' teaching that marriage within the covenant community (that is, between believers) should be life-long. And that when her husband dies, she is free to remarry -- but only a believer. Of course, there are other considerations, outlined above, but this is the main focus -- stay together if at all possible, and not be quick to divorce.
This has been a long and complex chapter. By way of review, Paul has discussed (in the face of the ascetics in Corinth):
- The appropriate sexual duties of married couples (7:1-7),
- An encouragement to the celibate (7:8-9),
- Direction concerning divorce to believing couples (16:10-11) and mixed couples (7:12-16),
- Counsel not to be quick to change one's station in life (7:17-24),
- Counsel for those engaged to be married (7:25-38),
- Summary (7:39-40).
Available as a book in paperback, PDF, and Kindle formats.
Instead of viewing chapter 7 as a New Testament Law of Marriage and Divorce, we should view it in the context it is given -- Paul's direction and counsel to men and women believers who are being pressured to stop having sex in marriage, get a divorce, or remain single.
The pressure to marry or remain single varies from one culture to another, and one era to another. Instead of listening to your culture, says Paul, listen to the Lord. Be practical about your sexual needs -- don't ignore them -- but don't rush to make a decision before considering all the factors and asking God to guide you.
Father, I ask your help for the thousands who are seeking answers for what is right and proper in your eyes concerning their own marriages, divorces, or decisions to marry. We are children. Guide us, loving Father, so that we might live before you with full devotion and a clear conscience. We thank you for your grace -- we need plenty of that, O Lord. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife." (1 Corinthians 7:3-4)
"Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
"The unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." (1 Corinthians 7:14)
"I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." (1 Corinthians 7:35)
186. Fee, 1 Corinthians, pp. 266-267.
187. Some have speculated that these are "eschatological women," who think of themselves as having already realized "the resurrection of the dead" (15:12), thus being in spirit and already like the angels (11:2-16; 13:1), neither marrying or giving in marriage (Luke 20:35). See Fee, 1 Corinthians, p. 269.
188. Haptō, BDAG 126, 4.
189. Most scholars think that Paul had been married -- as was expected of all young Jewish men to fulfill the command to "be fruitful and multiply" -- but that his wife had died, and he hadn't remarried. However, there are no ancient documents that tell us his marital history.
190. "Fulfill ... marital duty" (NIV), "give ... conjugal rights" (NRSV), "render ... due benevolence" (KJV) is two words. The verb is apodidōmi, generally, "give out" something, here, "to meet a contractual or other obligation, pay, pay out, fulfill," specifically in this context, "fulfill one's duty to someone" (BDAG 110, 2c). The noun is opheilē, "obligation, debt," here, "that which one ought to do, duty" (BDAG 743, 2a).
191. "Belong" (NIV), "have authority" (NRSV), "have power" (KJV) is exousiazō, "to have the right of control, have the right or power for something or over someone." (BDAG 353).
192. The Hebrew noun is ʿōnâ, "cohabitation" (Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (eds.), A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907), p. 773), "marital intercourse" (others: "right to motherhood"; William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, based on the Lexical work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans / Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988), p. 278). See also, John I. Durham, Exodus (Word Biblical Commentary; Nelson, 1987), p. 322.
193. "Mutual consent" (NIV), "agreement" (NRSV), "consent" (KJV) is symphōnos (from which we get our word "symphony"), literally, "harmonious," here, "pertaining to being in agreement, agreeing" (BDAG 962).
194. "Devote yourselves" (NIV, NRSV), "give yourselves" (KJV) is scholazō, which, in classical Greek refers to release from routine or pressing obligation. Here is means, "to have time or leisure for, busy oneself with, devote oneself to, give one's time to someone or something" (BDAG 982, 1).
195. "Come together again" is three words, literally "be together again." The verb is eimi, "to be." "Together" uses the Greek idiom epi ho autos, literally, "upon the self," meaning, "at the same place, together " (BDAG 363, 1cβ; Thayer 234, CI1d).
196. "Lack of self-control" (NIV) is akrasia, "lack of self-control, self-indulgence" (BDAG 38).
197. "Concession" (NIV, NRSV), "permission" (KJV) is syngnōmē, "permission to do something, concession, indulgence, pardon" (BDAG 950).
198. C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1979).
199. Agamos, "an unmarried man/woman" (BDAG 5). Used in verses 8, 11, and 34.
200. Chēra, "a woman whose husband has died, widow" (BDAG 1084, a).
201. "Stay" (NIV), "remain" (NRSV), "abide" (KJV) is menō, "remain, stay," here, of a person or thing continues in the same state (BDAG 632, 1b).
202. "Control themselves" (NIV), "practicing self-control" (NRSV), "contain" (KJV) is enkrateuomai, "to keep one's emotions, impulses, or desires under control, control oneself, abstain" (BDAG 274). The word is used twice in the New Testament, here and at 1 Corinthians 9:25, where he alludes to athletes exercising self-control. The word is derived from the noun enkrateia, "self control," basically, "dominion over the self or something." W. Grundmann, enkrateia, ktl. TDNT 2:339-42.
203. "Burn with passion" (NIV), "be aflame with passion" (NRSV), "burn" (KJV) is pyroō, "burn" (from which we get our English words "pyrotechnics" and "pyromaniac"). Here it is used figuratively of sexual desire. Another alternative suggested is to burn in the fires of judgment, but 11:29 seems to suggest the idea of burning with inner passion.
204. Fee (1 Corinthians, p. 289) sees this as figurative as in 11:29. He says, "In this case, Paul is not so much offering marriage as the remedy for the sexual desire of 'enflamed youth,' which is the most common way of viewing the text, but as the proper alternative for those who are already consumed by that desire and are sinning."
205. The topic of divorce practices in the Greco-Roman world is thoroughly researched by David Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context (Eerdmans, 2002), chapter 7.
206. David Instone-Brewer, a New Testament scholar who has carefully researched Jewish marriage and divorce practices in Jesus' day, concludes that Jesus' prohibition on divorce "for any cause" dealt with his interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1 only, not the provision of Exodus 21:10-11, generally accepted in Jesus' day, which allowed for divorce in cases where a spouse was deprived of food, clothing, and marital rights. See David Instone-Brewer, "What God Has Joined," Christianity Today, October 2007, pp. 26-29; Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities (InterVarsity Press, 2006); Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context (Eerdmans, 2002).
207. Aphiēmi, BDAG 156, 1c.
208. Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, chapter 7.
209. Chōrizō, BDAG 1095, 2a.
210. The question generally comes up: How do I know God has joined us together? I don't think Jesus is addressing predestination here, but becoming one in marriage as God had planned from the beginning.
211. "Command" is parangellō, "to make an announcement about something that must be done, give orders, command, instruct, direct," of all kinds of persons in authority (BDAG 760).
212. "Rest" is loipos, "remaining," here, "pertaining to being one not previously cited or included, other, rest of" BDAG 602, 2bα.
213. Syneudokeō, BDAG 970.
214. Hagiazō, BDAG 10, 2.
215. "Leaves" (NIV), "separates" (NRSV), "depart" (KJV) is chōrizō, which we saw in verse 10 above. It means, "to separate by departing from someone, separate, leave ... separate oneself" (of divorce) (BDAG 1095, 2a).
216. This clause uses the verb chōrizō in the imperative -- "Let him depart."
217. Douloō, BDAG 260, 2. Fee (1 Corinthians, p. 302, fn. 33) notes that Paul's normal word for being bound in marriage is deō (7:39; Romans 7:2).
218. Instone-Brewer (Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, chapter 5) cites Oxyrhynchus Papyri 11.281 as an example.
219. This section relies on Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, chapter 5. The so-called "Pauline privilege" is defined by Canon law in the Roman Catholic Church as follows: "A marriage entered into by two non-baptized persons is dissolved by means of the Pauline Privilege in favor of the faith of the party who has received baptism by the very fact that a new marriage is contracted by the same party, provided that the non-baptized party departs" (Code of Canon Law, Canon Law Society of America, Washington, DC, 1999, Can. 1143).
220. Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, chapter 5. Upon reflection, I believe that Instone-Brewer makes his case that neglect of food, clothing, and marital rights constitute grounds for divorce. However, when he extends these in terms of "physical affection" and "emotional abuse," I think he goes beyond the basis provided in Exodus 21:10-11 and rabinical writings (David Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Church [Inter-Varsity Press, 2003], p. 37). In ancient times marriage was usually decided by parents rather than on the basis of love between the couple. That love often grew into affection, but, unfortunately, not always. That's why the law requires a minimum of rights that a husband was obligated to provide, even for a second wife.
221. "Retain the place in life" (NIV), "lead the life" (NRSV), "let him walk" (KJV) uses the verb peripateō, "walk," here figuratively, "to conduct one's life, comport oneself, behave, live as habit of conduct" (BDAG 803, 2aγ).
222. "The rule I lay down" (NIV), "my rule" (NRSV), "so ordain I" (KJV) uses the verb diatassō, "arrange," here, "to give (detailed) instructions as to what must be done, order" (BDAG 237, 2).
223. Merizō, BDAG 632, 2b. Paul uses the verb in this sense in two other contexts: "... Think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" (Romans 12:3, NRSV). "We, however, will not boast beyond limits, but will keep within the field that God has assigned to us, to reach out even as far as you" (2 Corinthians 10:13).
224. "Trouble" (NIV), "be concerned" (NRSV), "care for it" (KJV) is the verb melei, "be a source of concern" (BDAG 627, 2).
225. "Freedman" (NIV), "freeman" (KJV) is apeleutheros, "a manumitted slave, a freedman" (Thayer 56).
226. The NRSV, ESV, and KJV translation it "with God". The preposition is para, "with," probably, "marker of a relationship with a narrow focus, among, before" (BDAG 757, 5).
227. Fee, 1 Corinthians, pp. 321-322.
228. Fee, 1 Corinthians, pp. 322-324.
229. Parthenos, BDAG 777, a.
230. Gamizō, BDAG 188, 2; but see Liddell Scott, "give a daughter in marriage," where it is used in parallel with the more common verb gameō, "to take another person as spouse, marry" (BDAG 187), in verses 28, 34, 36, and 39.
231. Fee, 1 Corinthians, pp. 325-327.
232. "Command/ment" is epitagē, "authoritative directive, command, order, injunction" (BDAG 383, 1).
233. "Judgment" (NIV, KJV), "opinion" (NRSV) is gnōmē, "a viewpoint or way of thinking about a matter, opinion, judgment, way of thinking" (BDAG 202, 2).
234. Anankē, BDAG 61, 2.
235. "Present" (NIV, KJV), "impending" (NRSV) is enistēmi, "to be present as condition or thing at the time of speaking, be now, happen now" (BDAG 337, 2). The NRSV's translation "impending" doesn't have a basis in the text.
236. Thlipsis, "trouble that inflicts distress, oppression, affliction, tribulation" (BDAG 457, 1).
237. "Time" here is kairos, "time, period" here, "a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time" (BDAG 493, 3b).
238. "Short" is the verb systellō, "to draw together so as to be less extended, limit, shorten" (BDAG 978, 1).
239. "Present form" (NIV, NRSV), "fashion" (KJV) is schēma, "outward appearance, form, shape," here, "the functional aspect of something, way of life" (BDAG 982, 2).
240. "Passing away" is paragō, "go away," here, "to go out of existence, pass away, disappear" (BDAG 762, 4a).
241. Katachraomai, Robertson, Word Studies; Thayer 338, 2 and 3. It is derived from kata (intensifying the verb) + chraomai, "make use of, employ."
242. "Not theirs to keep" (NIV), "had no possessions" (NRSV), "possessed not" (KJV) uses the verb katechō, "hold fast," here, "to keep in one's possession, possess." (BDAG 533, 3).
243. Albert E. Brumley, "This World Is Not My Home" (© 1937).
244. "Free from concern/anxieties" (NIV, NRSV), "without carefulness" (KJV) is amerimnos, "free from care," from a-, "not" + merimna, "anxiety, worry, care" (BDAG 53, a).
245. "Is concerned" (NIV), "is anxious" (NRSV), "careth" (KJV) in verses 32-34 is merimnaō, which can mean, "to be apprehensive, have anxiety, be anxious, be (unduly) concerned," which moves into "to attend to, care for, be concerned about" the affairs of the Lord in verse 34 (BDAG 632, 2).
246. "Please" in these verses is areskō, "to give pleasure/satisfaction, please, accommodate" (BDAG 129, a and b).
247. "Divided" (NIV, NRSV), "difference" (KJV) is merizō, "to separate into parts, divide" (BDAG 632, 1bα).
248. "Devoted" (NIV), "holy" (NRSV, KJV) is hagios, "holy, dedicated to God, holy, sacred," that is, reserved for God and God's service, of people, "consecrated to God, holy, pure, reverent" (BDAG 10, 1aβAleph).
249. The phrase, "for your own good" (NIV), "to promote good order" (NRSV), "that which is comely" (KJV), has a preposition (pros, "with respect to") and a noun, euschēmōn, "pertaining to being appropriate for display, proper, presentable," here, "good order" (BDAG 414, 1).
250. "Restrict" (NIV), "put restraint on" (NRSV), "cast a snare upon" (KJV) is two words: brochos, "noose," like we might hobble or tie up a horse (BDAG 184); and epiballō, "throw over" (BDAG 367, 1a).
251. The adverb is aperispastōs, "without distraction" (BDAG 102).
252. Euparedros, BDAG 412. The word is a compound word, from eu-, "good" + paredros, "sitting beside."
253. "Thinks" is nomizō, "to form an idea about something but with some suggestion of tentativeness or refraining from a definitive statement, think, believe, hold, consider" (BDAG 675, 2). Paul leaves the question of marriage to a person's own conscience.
254. Aschēmoneō, BDAG 147. The word is also used in 1 Corinthians 13:5, where love is said not to be "rude" (NIV, NRSV), "behaveth itself unseemly" (KJV). It is a compound verb from a-, "not" + schēma, "something that has a pattern or form, frequently of a type that the public considers standard or laudable," thus the verb means "to act contrary to the standard."
255. Hyperakmos, BDAG 1032, 1and 2.
256. The verb is thelō, "wish, desire, want ," here, "to have something in mind for oneself, of purpose, resolve, will, wish, want, be ready" (BDAG 448, 2).
257. "Has settled the matter in his own mind" (NIV), "stands firm in his resolve" (NRSV), "standeth steadfast in his heart" (KJV) is a combination of words including the adjective hedraios, "pertaining to being firmly or solidly in place, firm, steadfast" (BDAG 276).
258. "Compulsion" (NIV), "necessity" (NRSV, KJV) is anankē, "necessity or constraint as inherent in the nature of things, necessity, pressure of any kind" (BDAG 60, 1).
259. "Control" (NIV, NRSV), "power" (KJV) is exousia, "a state of control over something, freedom of choice, right" (BDAG 352, 1).
260. "Made up his mind" (NIV), "determined in his mind" (NRSV), "hath so decreed in his heart" (KJV) is a combination of the noun kardia, "heart, mind" and krinō, "select," here, "to come to a conclusion after a cognitive process, reach a decision, decide, propose, intend" (BDAG 568, 4).
261. "Bound" is deō, "bind, tie," here figuratively, "to constrain by law and duty, bind" (BDAG 222, 3). The word is used here and at Romans 7:2 to describe the legal requirement to remain married. This is a different word from "bound" in 7:15, which is douloō, "to be enslaved."
262. The opposite of "bind" is "free," eleutheros, here, "pertaining to being free from control or obligation, independent, not bound" (BDAG 317, 2).
263. This restriction to marrying within the faith is a carry-over from the requirements of Judaism.
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