1 Corinthians Chapter 7: Courtship, Marriage and Divorce, Circumcision

Feb 13th, 2010 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Corinthians Chapter 7: Courtship, Marriage and Divorce, Circumcision

1 Cor. 7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

In chapters 1-6, Paul spoke on certain conditions in the class, but he was not necessarily responding to formal questions that had been addressed to him. For example, 1 Corinthians 5:1 reads, “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you.” Evidently, the class did not ask Paul about this situation; rather, he heard about it from others. And 1 Corinthians 1:11 states, “It hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.” Paul heard about the divisions; the Corinthian brethren did not ask his advice on the matter. Then, feeling the problem was important, he wrote several chapters to straighten it out. In other words, of his own volition, he introduced and answered the subjects that he felt were important. Chapter 7, however, is different in that it was a response to a letter the Corinthian brethren had written to him: “Now concerning the things [plural] whereof ye wrote unto me.” Apparently, the class had written about problems that were disturbing them, and Paul now began to address these problems.

“It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” What question would have prompted this statement? Paul was asked about familiarity between the sexes, about the association of a man with a woman, before marriage. The question was something like, “In the single state, where should the line be drawn in Christian behavior?” The word “touch” needs to be defined as used in the New Testament and in this context.

Comment: According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, it is the Greek word haptomai, meaning to “touch, hold on, or embrace.”

Comment: Greeting one another with a holy kiss might have led to a little too much intimacy with the opposite sex, resulting in an embrace.

Reply: Yes, and this practice of greeting one another with a holy kiss would have been misunderstood. Paul intended the “holy kiss” to be man with man and woman with woman.

Especially in the same age group, a kiss from the opposite sex is not advisable.

Comment: Even a prolonged handshake could lead to unholy thoughts.

Reply: Undue intimacy is to be avoided.

As in Corinth in Paul’s time, the married state does not mean too much today. Not only are there common law marriages, but living together is considered acceptable in the world. The general attitude is, Who can tell us what to do? Since the Bible is not regarded as the standard, loose living is common today, just as it was back in Corinth.

The brethren were asking Paul’s opinion. His reply was that it is not good for an unmarried Christian man to touch a woman. Various parameters should govern the behavior of one who has committed himself to the Lord. Although the practice of “touching” a woman is not good for the development of the Christlike life, verse 1 was only the beginning of Paul’s advice. To stop with this statement would lead to all kinds of radical conclusions, for example, that one should not get married or that there should be no intimacies in marriage.

1 Cor. 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

The words “nevertheless, to avoid fornication” show what “touching” could lead to. Notice that Paul stated marriage both ways, for it applies equally to male and female: “Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” In other words, Paul advised marriage under certain circumstances—to avoid fornication and lest a person “burn” (1 Cor. 7:9). Marriage was permissible to one wife. A natural desire for intimacy is implanted in the very organism of man and woman, and to suppress that desire becomes a problem. Therefore, the Corinthian brethren were asking, from several standpoints, how to handle the desire.

In Paul’s day, some of the brothers had extra wives who were obtained prior to consecration, but a requirement of eldership is for a brother to have only one wife (1 Tim. 3:2). As time passed, that problem ceased to exist.

1 Cor. 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

1 Cor. 7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

Verses 3 and 4 are also worded both ways, so that there is no misunderstanding. The husband is to render due benevolence to the wife and vice versa, with neither having “power” over his (or her) own body. In other words, the conjugal rights of each should be respected, and the other should submit with due consideration. One should not get married and then refrain and try to live a celibate life. However, it is permissible for husband and wife to decide to mutually refrain for a time.

With regard to “due benevolence,” why do people marry in the first place? Tender affections are the responsibilities of the man toward the woman and the woman toward the man. Elsewhere Paul recommended having children.

Comment: Under the Law, if a man took another wife, he still had an obligation to the first wife for her food, clothing, and due benevolence.

Reply: Yes, this was a principle and fair play. With no Social Security in those days, providing necessities became a family responsibility: the husband to the wife and/or children, a son to the elderly mother, etc. In other words, marriage entails certain responsibilities.

1 Cor. 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

If one wishes to refrain from intimacy for a while for prayer and fasting because of some problem or because, spiritually speaking, the prayer and fasting would have a purifying effect, the time limit for abstinence should not be too long. Moreover, the refraining should be with the agreement of the other party. Both should manifest, one way or another, their feelings on the matter.

“And come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” If the scriptural advice is not followed, Satan can enter the situation and cause a breach, a problem, where bitterness develops. The thought of “incontinency” is that one party is defrauded, or deprived, and then looks elsewhere for physical satisfaction.

Notice that the Apostle Paul, who never married, was giving this advice. Normally, one in the single state would not be able to give such balanced advice. The Pastor gave valuable advice with regard to marital rights, but it is not as perfect as that of the apostle. He admitted he made a mistake in that both parties vowed to remain chaste throughout their married life. Without meaning to, such a vow destroys the basis, or reason, for getting married in the first place. By not marrying, Paul expended his energy 100 percent in service for the Lord except for such

activities as making tents, eating, and providing for other brethren through his tent making.

His sole purpose was to glorify Christ, and he would like all brethren to do the same where possible. Nevertheless, Paul also said, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed [is] undefiled,” so he was not trying to degrade the marital relationship (Heb. 13:4). However, if one could contain himself and refrain from marriage like him, the single state was better. Paul recognized that the desire for intimacy exists, and he gave advice accordingly.

Comment: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent” is wise counsel, especially for those who are unequally yoked. The unconsecrated partner might not understand the reason for prayer and fasting, and refraining from intimacy could unnecessarily cause a problem in a marriage. The consecrated individual might better fast in other areas.

Comment: Bringing forth children is a natural expectation.

Reply: Yes. Problems do exist in marriage, and intimacy is one of the most delicate subjects.

1 Cor. 7:6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

The Revised Standard reads, “I say this by way of concession, not of command.” The theoretical ideal of the Lord is to remain in the single state, as Paul did in regard to his whole attitude, but not all can do so. It is desirable for the Christian not to marry, but the Lord has made a concession in realizing the problems and inabilities of certain people. Therefore, the advice on marrying is like a concession.

In chapter 7, Paul condensed a huge amount of information on married life. He used concise, terse statements to show what the Lord’s mind is on the subject. The Christian has to make a practical evaluation of the advice to know how to follow it. Jesus’ advice on marriage, plus this chapter and a comment Paul made in another epistle, provides a rounded-out understanding of the subject, generally speaking. In some cases, Paul said his advice was from the Lord, and at other times, the advice was his own personal recommendation.

Comment: Paul kept the marriage standard so high that if his advice were followed, many problems would be eliminated.

Reply: Yes, what “God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).

1 Cor. 7:7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift  of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

Paul preferred that all men be single like him, but “every man hath his proper gift of God.” In other words, some are born without feeling the need for intimate physical relationships, and Paul considered being one of these a “gift,” for having this “gift” eliminated a problem in his life. For such individuals, marriage does not make sense. However, for those who need intimacy, and thus would be in distress if they remained in the single state, it is better “to marry than to burn” (verse 9). Incidentally, in some well-intentioned marriages, both the man and the woman take a vow to remain virgins, but the vow does not make sense. It would have been better for them not to get married.

Jesus spoke about those who are born “eunuchs”—that is, lacking desire—because of some malfunction. Man was created to have this desire, so in perfection, Adam felt the need for Eve.

The desire was implanted in the human nature so that there would be procreation. However, some do not have to fight that issue because they are born without it.

Comment: As brethren, we should not busybody or try matchmaking when we do not know what an individual’s situation is, what stand he might be trying to take, or even what his desires are.

Reply: That would depend on the degree of association. Some brethren express their feelings and are even looking for a mate. However, trying to help should be done prayerfully.

Comment: Jesus said, “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matt. 19:12).

Reply: Yes, Paul came under the third category. He made himself a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven and the gospel so that he would not be hindered in service. In that day, slaves were sometimes castrated by their masters, hence were “made eunuchs of [by] men.”  And some are born eunuchs.

Verse 7 is presented from the man’s standpoint because a woman would have more difficulty following the course of the Apostle Paul in doing missionary service, going from house to house throughout the country and facing the perils of land and sea. The woman has her place and other multiple opportunities of service.

The statement “every man hath his proper gift of God” applies here particularly to being able to contain oneself, but it also applies to other matters. Paul’s ability to keep his mind on the Lord was a “gift,” for some just cannot contain themselves.

Comment: In addition to being able to contain himself, Paul was better able to pursue his great desire and hunger to please God.

Reply: Yes, and the fact that his mind was constantly on the Lord helped him to contain himself. However, if the natural desire is too strong, one cannot blot it out, and it is advisable to find a wife or a husband.

Comment: The combined thoughts of chapters 6 and 7 indicate that anyone who is effeminate or homosexual must become a eunuch for Christ’s sake.

Reply: Yes, that could be read into the account. One who is born with that weakness has a great fight to become a eunuch as part of his Christian warfare. Others can become effeminate by social fraternization (environment). Either way, one must commit to this fight for the Lord lest an abomination occur of man with man, woman with woman, or man (or woman) with beast.

Paul was saying, in effect, that marriage is honorable, but those who can contain themselves and remain single do better. In any case, one should stay occupied in the Lord’s service because an idle mind can be filled with thoughts that displease the Lord.

1 Cor. 7:8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

1 Cor. 7:9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

The “unmarried” (widowers or widows) could still have the problem of burning. If they “cannot contain,” it is better for them to marry than to burn. However, it is preferable for them to remain unmarried.

Verse 1 applied to those in the single state, so Paul already covered the subject of the “unmarried” from the single standpoint. Therefore, the “unmarried” in verse 8 pertains to being unmarried through death—and hence widowers and widows, who are bereft of their spouse. In other words, Paul covered in order (1) the single state, (2) the married state, and (3) the unmarried state.

1 Cor. 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

1 Cor. 7:11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

“Let not the wife depart from her husband” is a new subject. From the standpoint of the Holy Spirit, the Lord, generally speaking, frowns on separation and divorce, but exceptions and unbearable circumstances need to be considered. Verse 10 reads as follows in the Revised Standard: “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband.” Of course divorce is usually a more permanent rupture. If a marital situation is unbearable, separation is permissible. However, when two decide to separate because their spirituality is being jeopardized by staying together, it must be understood that they cannot be intimate with others to satisfy their desires. Therefore, intensity of desire should be considered before two decide to separate. “If she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.” There are cases where a husband and wife have separated, and some years later they come back together again.

In other words, “But and if she [the wife] depart” shows there are exceptions where separation occurs. If the husband and the wife find that separation is necessary, they are to remain unmarried or be reconciled. We should keep in mind that Paul was giving general advice here, for remarriage is permissible under certain circumstances.

“Let not the husband put away his wife.” The term “put away” usually means divorce, but it can include physical separation. Especially in the days of the early Church, to abandon a wife was cruel because society did not recognize the woman for getting employment and supporting herself. Thus marriage was a form of security for women. This advice was directed to the husband because as the head of the household, he is more in the decision-making capacity that affects their mutual welfare. He cannot just break the marriage relationship by a whim and divorce his wife.

Comment: A husband can live under the same roof with his wife and yet effectively put her away in the sense of having no intimacy with her. There should be a mutual understanding. And one who habitually travels for long periods of time, such as on business trips, without the consent of the wife is also effectively separating from his wife.

Paul carefully phrased his words so that 95 percent of the advice applied down through the age, and the general tenor in which the advice was given is that the husband should have only one wife. However, in Paul’s day, when Christianity was being introduced, some men who already had several wives subsequently consecrated and became Christians. In that circumstance, where multiple wives were dependent upon the man for temporal reasons, he was not to put away any previous wife. However, from henceforth (that is, after consecration) no more than one wife was to be obtained by any man who was single. Elsewhere Paul said that an elder should be the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2), so any brothers who had more than one wife—even if the wives were obtained prior to consecration—were barred from eldership.

Q: With regard to conditions today, if a man were divorced prior to consecration and then remarried after consecration, would that bar him from eldership?

A: No. However, with regard to eldership, the Scriptures tell us to examine a man’s family. For example, if his house is unruly and his children misbehave, that situation might bar him from eldership. Also, if a person manifested certain glaring weaknesses prior to consecration, then after consecration, if those prior proclivities are still evident, we might ask, Is it necessary for him to be an elder?

Q: An elder may have family difficulties through no fault of his own. Should such a brother decline eldership, at least temporarily, lest a stigma attach to the truth?

A: Yes, it would be advisable to decline, at least until the situation is clarified as to who is responsible. It is harder to judge situations dispassionately when one is in the middle of them.

1 Cor. 7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

1 Cor. 7:13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

Verse 12 and following verses apply “to the rest,” that is, to those who are unequally yoked in marriage. A believing husband was not to put away an unbelieving wife. Paul was asked, If one consecrates after marriage, what should be the attitude toward the unconsecrated spouse?

Wouldn’t one’s spiritual development be inhibited? Paul replied that if the unconsecrated party is agreeable and wants to retain the married relationship, let it be so, but if the unconsecrated spouse departs, the consecrated party should not fight, or obstruct, the departure.

Verses 10 and 11 are what God commanded “unto the married [in the Lord],” that is, where both husband and wife are consecrated. In verses 12-16, Paul began to speak to the unequally yoked, the advice being for the consecrated brother or sister who is married to an unconsecrated individual. The Apostle Paul was giving his personal advice, and when doing so, that advice was really from the Lord but on a less affirmative basis.

Verse 13 is similar to verse 12, except that it states the matter from the perspective of the consecrated wife in a mixed marriage.

1 Cor. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

In what way is the unbelieving spouse or are the children “sanctified”? Of course the unbelieving husband or wife has to remain with the consecrated one in order to be sanctified, and even then, he or she is sanctified only if minor children are involved. In a mixed marriage, the children are favored in certain respects because of the consecrated parent, or else they would be unholy, in which case the Lord would view them just like any other children in the world—no better, no worse. But considering the product of that marriage “holy” means the children are partially and tentatively justified, and the unbelieving spouse is partially sanctified by the consecrated spouse.

The ideal situation is where the conduct of the consecrated spouse persuades the unconsecrated partner to consecrate. However, there may be degrees in which a person tries to please the Lord without actually taking the full step of consecration. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” is the principle (James 4:8). For each step one takes toward the Lord, the Lord takes a step toward that individual. Thus there are degrees of recognition, and justification and sanctification can be both partial and tentative.

The Tabernacle provides an illustration of the degrees of holiness, justification, righteousness, and sanctification. The Court, the Holy, and the Most Holy are all called holy but in progressive degrees. One who walked or stood in the Court could not touch the Brazen Altar because it was holy. Accordingly, the “sanctified” husband and child(ren) are not on the same level as the consecrated wife.

Comment: The unconsecrated spouse and/or children may not be in a holy attitude at all.

Reply: Then they would be pictured by the rest of the Jewish nation, who were outside in the Camp, beyond the Court of the Tabernacle, yet they were justified. Their justification is shown in the New Testament where Jesus gave the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). Both went into the Temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men … or even as this publican.” And the publican stood afar off, beating his breast and saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” In explaining the parable, Jesus said that the repentant, humble publican, who was sorry and felt he was far from the Lord, was more justified than the Pharisee, but both were justified. Thus those of the Jewish nation were recognized, even though they were reprobates. A certain degree of favor was extended to them so that when Jesus came at his First Advent, there was a mixture. Some were walking in an opposite direction, but being Jews, they were favored with his presence.

As stated in the Old Testament, God “married” the Jewish nation, and even though the nation sinned, they were still favored (Jer. 31:32). In the Tabernacle arrangement, all conditions of holiness were pictured. The Most Holy represented a condition of perfection of body as well as of character. The Holy represented a consecrated condition of development in character and the covering of Christ’s righteousness. The Court represented tentative justification through a measure of faith. The Camp represented those who were born as Jews, some of whom might not even be believers, yet they were favored. The point is that if there are various degrees of justification, why shouldn’t there be various degrees of sanctification. For instance, some feel one cannot even pray unless he is fully consecrated and justified. It is true that such individuals do not have the right to expect an answer to prayers, but nevertheless, God does hear the prayers of the unconsecrated. He may answer those prayers, but He is not obligated to do so.

Sanctification of the unbelieving spouse and the children is shown in the type in that anything the priesthood touched was considered holy—even a vessel or an animal, for example. And in the past, God demonstrated the principle of providing a measure of justification even where there was not a hearing ear. When prophets were sent to the Jewish nation over a period of almost 2,000 years, all of the people were favored with the message, even though the vast majority rejected it. And so, when one in a family is consecrated, a providential favor is extended over the home. The promises are first made “unto you, and to your children” (Acts 2:39). In other words, some partiality is shown to a child of a consecrated parent in that when he comes of age, he is given an opportunity to respond if there is a vacancy. Of course a minor’s sanctification lapses when the Lord feels he has reached the age of discretion and responsibility. When a child reaches that state—the state of a more mature mind—he has to exercise his own judgment of whether or not to follow the Lord.

Unbelieving Jews are under the Law Covenant, yet other pictures show they are of their father the devil (John 8:44). Stated another way, the unbelieving element who are being favored are really of the devil because of a wrong heart condition, but if they do an about-face, God will grant them forgiveness.

The point is that there are degrees of justification and sanctification. Abraham was justified by faith, which is a different justification than that of the Church. Abraham’s faith justification to friendship with God occurred before the age of Spirit begettal, or the high calling. Justification to sonship during the Gospel Age is the same principle but on a higher plane—just as both a son and a servant are favored, but the former is more highly favored. Justification and sanctification are a process. There is usually a definite beginning; a period of activity, favorable or unfavorable; and a termination. Thus another way of saying “degrees of justification” is “progressive justification.”

To be honored at all with knowing some of the truth is a favor from God. In this case here in chapter 7, truth comes because God is dealing with the believing spouse. As a person responds and obeys, he comes into more and more fullness of favor.

There are two dangers in seeing full justification only. (1) The view that only the consecrated have a right to pray is too narrow. God may or may not answer prayers of the unconsecrated, but they have a right to pray. Incidentally, it is entirely in order for anyone to ask a blessing on a meal, but it would be wrong to ask someone unconsecrated to pray at a meeting. (2) Calling everyone “brother” and “sister” in the Lord—and thus not observing the difference between the consecrated and the unconsecrated—is too broad. There must be some discrimination with regard to how justification is viewed in the various stages of development.

1 Cor. 7:15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

The Apostle Paul was giving his personal advice that in certain circumstances, a split would be advisable. Normally, it is better to try to keep the marriage together, as long as the unconsecrated party is agreeable, but the consecrated one would not be sinning if the unbelieving spouse departed.

Comment: If the unbelieving one wants to depart from an unequally yoked marriage, the consecrated individual should do some soul-searching to make sure he or she has tried to fulfill the scriptural marital obligations in every way and is not just grasping a way out.

Reply: Yes, that is true, especially since the Lord gave such strong advice in verse 11 to those who are equally yoked, saying they should do everything possible to remain together. With regard to a mixed marital relationship, Paul was saying the Lord’s desire is that they also remain together, although an exception is where the differences are serious. In other words, verse 15 should not be used as a loophole or an excuse for leaving an unhappy situation.

“God hath called us to peace.” Sometimes the consecrated try to make the unconsecrated do things that the consecrated should do. However, the unconsecrated spouse should be just and fair-minded and allow the consecrated one to attend meetings up to a certain point. There should be a give-and-take—and thus peace as far as possible in the marriage relationship.

Paul’s advice in verse 15 is very helpful, for an unreasonable consecrated spouse can cause unnecessary trouble in the home by imposing his (or her) tender conscience on the unconsecrated partner. Of course with some matters, a definite stand has to be taken. Each consecrated person has to decide where to draw the line and where to compromise. If the unbelieving partner sees and appreciates fair-mindedness, he may consecrate himself.

“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.” If the unbelieving spouse seeks (initiates) a divorce, so be it. However, the believing spouse cannot remarry unless (or until) the unbelieving one remarries or commits fornication. In other words, if a husband and wife are divorced and one of them remarries, the remarriage allows the other spouse to remarry, for the original marriage vow was to be faithful unto death. Stated another way, if one party breaks the original vow and either remarries or lives with someone else, the innocent party is free to remarry. Of course what happens before consecration is different from what happens after consecration. When one consecrates, he or she starts a new life.

Comment: The consecrated individual is not under bondage to keep the unbelieving spouse in the house if the unbelieving one wants to depart.

1 Cor. 7:16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

The hope is that the conduct of the consecrated spouse will persuade the unconsecrated partner to consecrate.

1 Cor. 7:17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

Verse 17 is like a fundamental law, or general principle, with regard to one’s situation in life; namely, one should walk in the same circumstances in which he was called. However, definite steps have to be taken in certain cases. For instance, if a bartender is called, he must change his profession, but if one is married when called, he should stay married, all things being equal.

1 Cor. 7:18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

1 Cor. 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

1 Cor. 7:20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

Verses 18-21 are very practical advice, for many were troubled after consecration in knowing what the Lord wanted them to do. A general principle is that everyone is to remain in the state in which he was called.

Comment: For verse 18, the Amplified reads, “Was anyone at the time of his summons [from God] already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the evidence of circumcision.”

Reply: In olden times, there was a procedure to stretch the skin so that the incision was not seen.

Comment: Paul was saying, “If you are a Jewish Christian, do not try to cover up the evidence, and if you are a Gentile Christian, it is not necessary to follow the Jewish Law.”

A Jewish Christian might wonder about circumcision, which is required by birth under the Mosaic Law. The advice was that he should not become uncircumcised in the sense of throwing all restraint to the wind and living and talking indiscriminately like a Gentile, for in so doing, he would be creating an unnecessary offense on Christianity. Other Jews would think he was unruly, irresponsible, and irreverent. In other words, a Jewish Christian residing in a Jewish home should not try to live like a Gentile by, for example, downgrading Jewish customs and holy days. Friction should not be raised unnecessarily. Another example is not working on a certain day. The Jewish Christian should be respectful of that custom, for it certainly is not sinful. The point is not to unduly create problems on issues that are not really that important, but if other Jews try to compel a Jewish (or Gentile) Christian to observe these customs, he should refuse. Voluntary observance of certain customs is much different from compulsory obedience to the Law.

If an uncircumcised Gentile Christian was called, he did not have to be circumcised, for he was not under the Law—not yoked to it—regardless of what Jewish Christians might urge. The ritual was not necessary or obligatory from a religious standpoint. When Jews wanted Titus, a Greek, to be circumcised, Paul took a vehement stand against the ritual lest circumcision seem obligatory for all Christians (Gal. 2:3-5). A principle was involved.

Timothy was another situation, for he was the product of a mixed marriage, his mother being Jewish. For appearance’ sake and as an expediency, Paul had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:1-3).

However, the circumcision was done voluntarily and privately and not under compulsion or commandment. Then, when Timothy preached the gospel message to the Jews, who knew that one parent was Jewish, a barrier was eliminated. Technically, Timothy did not have to be circumcised, but voluntary circumcision was a sacrifice for the truth’s sake. Wisdom and prudence were used here.

Paul advised Titus one way because of principle and Timothy the other way because of discretion and the fact that his ministry would be less hampered. Thus there are exceptions to the general rule of verse 20.

1 Cor. 7:21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

Verse 21 pertains to a servant. The issue of slave and slave master was very touchy. For example, a master and a servant might be in the same class. The temptation would be for the servant to reason, “We are all equal brothers in the Lord, so it would be unjust not to free me.”

The Christian master was thus put in an embarrassing situation. Of course Paul said elsewhere that with Christians, there is neither male nor female, bond nor free, etc., but that statement applied in the meeting and was not to be carried outside the ecclesia (Gal. 3:28). In other words, outside the ecclesia, the servant-master relationship was to be maintained unless the master voluntarily freed the servant. The servant was not to seek or pressure the master for freedom lest the ministry, the truth, be blamed, but if the master, of his own volition, granted freedom, the servant should take it. Those who became Christians were to magnify the spirit of the Law.

Otherwise, the danger was that one’s motivation in becoming a Christian might be freedom from servitude. True Christians are not political; they should not promote social issues, for example, but should abide by the general tenor of the situation, circumstances, and age in which they are living. Any issues that are raised should be religious. The Christian takes a stand for God or His Word but is not a rebel in other areas of thinking. Unfortunately, many have been diverted from the gospel into other ostensibly good works, but they are not Christian works. These other areas may have a degree of soundness, but they are deceptions and sidetracks for the Christian.

1 Cor. 7:22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

1 Cor. 7:23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

1 Cor. 7:24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

The point is that in the ecclesia, all are brethren and equal, but they are not equal outside the ecclesia. In Paul’s day, having servants was a common practice, so if freeing Christian servants became a public issue that disrupted the societal arrangement, the Christian religion would be distorted. Therefore, one was to abide in the situation in which he was called lest he brought a bad name on the movement. Under the Jewish Law, there were also servants.

Paul was saying, “Consider yourselves. Aren’t you bond servants of Jesus Christ? Therefore, even if you are not a servant in society, you are a servant under Christ. If you are satisfied and happy to be a servant of Christ, then follow my advice to remain in the circumstance in which you are called.” In recent centuries, conditions have changed, and slavery is being abolished worldwide, generally speaking.

Comment: The Christian had to so abide only for a while, for if faithful, he would become a son.

Reply: The master may be demoted in the final analysis and the servant promoted.

1 Timothy 5:9-14 reads, “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” The early Church had a form of relief. Since there was no Social Security (or equivalent), widows who were over 60 years of age and consecrated were supported by the brethren so that they would have the necessities of life. However, the brethren had to guard against freeloaders who might attend meetings to take advantage of this new, unheard-of type of relief from the brotherhood.

Therefore, certain stipulations, or conditions, had to be met for widows to receive support, as follows: (1) They had to be age 60 or older. (2) The sincerity of their consecration had to be evidenced by actively being engaged in the truth in one way or another.

Paul advised the younger widows to remarry—those who were under 60, especially those who were middle aged—because in their idleness, they would be tempted to create mischief through being busybodies. This advice was particularly applicable to widows who were left with an income. Since inquisitiveness would lead to involvement in matters that were not their concern, remarriage and, depending on age, even having children were advisable, for the responsibility would help to keep them from being busybodies. Older widows were advised not to marry, but marriage would keep the younger widows from burning.

Q: Part of Paul’s advice to Timothy was that “when they [the younger widows] have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry,” yet he told them that they should marry. What is the thought?

A: If the younger widows felt they were not permitted to remarry and then remarried anyway, they would be violating conscience. However, younger widows did not have to feel conscience-stricken about remarriage, for they were permitted to remarry. Earlier Paul had given the general advice not to remarry—“I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I”—but if the widows were young, full-blooded, and desirous of intimacy, it was better for them to remarry and even have children (1 Cor. 7:8).

However, where there was no trouble of that nature, the widows should remain single. In other words, there were exceptions to the general rule, but one should try to remain single if possible. And widows 60 or older who met the criteria should be provided for.

Paul gave additional advice about older widows to the effect that, where possible, the family should assume the financial responsibility. “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed” (1 Tim. 5:16). If the family was unable to provide support, the Church was obligated to help as long as the stipulations were met.

1 Timothy 5:15 states, “For some [widows] are already turned aside after Satan.” This condition would occur if widows remarried in violation of conscience and/or were busybodies. By so doing, they would receive condemnation “because they have cast off their first faith.” In other words, the chances of being members of the Little Flock would be very slight unless they repented and were unusually zealous for the remainder of their Christian walk. Life is one thing; the high calling is another.

Other Scriptures About Marriage

Matthew 19:6 - “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Malachi 2:16 - “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” The power of this verse is lost in the King James translation. The Revised Standard states, “For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.” By combining the first two Scriptures, we see the divine intent with regard to marriage: “God hath joined together”; “I hate divorce.” Therefore, before one meditates the possibility of divorce, he should have in mind this general attitude of God on marriage.

Mark 10:11,12 - “And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away [divorce] his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away [divorce] her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” Verse 11 states the position from the woman’s standpoint; verse 12, from the man’s standpoint. Thus there is a reciprocal responsibility. The one who puts away his or her partner and marries another commits adultery.

Matthew 5:32 - “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away [divorce] his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Here Jesus gave the one exception for divorce— fornication. Whoever divorces his wife except for fornication causes her to commit adultery. In other words, by depriving a wife of her marital rights through divorce, the husband is more or less causing her to look elsewhere. Stated another way, it is wrong for the husband to divorce his wife for any reason other than fornication.

This situation is also reciprocal, although it is not stated from the woman’s standpoint because at the time the gospel was introduced, women did not have the rights that they have today. Not only did the man have more liberty in divorce, but he could marry more than one wife.

Had this verse been worded the other way, the gospel would have become a political issue. The issue of slavery was similar. The Bible does not command a Christian master to liberate his Christian slave. Instead the master is told to be just to his servant, and the servant is not to pressure his master for freedom. However, the Bible is hinting that, where possible, a servant should be given his freedom, and a good Christian master would probably liberate a Christian servant. The advice was wisely stated lest the issues of divorce and slavery be seized upon and associated with the gospel and thus prejudice the public mind against hearing even the kernel of the gospel, which is the confession of sin and the acceptance of Jesus as Savior.

Comment: The spiritual reason for stating divorce from the man’s standpoint is that it would always be proper for the Lord to set aside the Church if she is not faithful, whereas she must be subservient to her Master.

Reply: That is true. And Mark 10:12 can be treated spiritually too: “If a woman [the Church] shall put away [divorce] her husband [Christ], and be married to another, she committeth adultery.”

Luke 16:18 - “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” Now a third party is involved. (The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have to be read to get the whole truth.) Whoever divorces his wife for a reason other than fornication and remarries commits adultery. And the outsider who marries a woman not scripturally divorced commits adultery. However, if a fornicating partner divorces an innocent partner, the innocent one can remarry. In other words, Luke 16:18 states a general principle, but the exception of fornication, stated elsewhere, must be included in the reasoning.

Comment: If husband and wife are both consecrated and they get a divorce, the class should be informed of the grounds for the divorce so that it would be known if either party had the right to remarry. Otherwise, years later a remarriage might occur, and the brethren would not know whether it was recognized in the eyes of the Lord.

Reply: Yes, it is the duty of a divorced consecrated person who remarries to reveal to the brethren the circumstances under which he (or she) felt the liberty to remarry. Of course if the reason is already public, it would not have to be disclosed again. For instance, suppose a husband divorces his consecrated wife and marries another. There may be no ostensible reason why he divorced his wife. However, the marriage to another party would be a public proof of his having committed adultery, and the woman, therefore, would not have to prove her case to the brethren—if she is innocent. In other words, if he did not get the divorce on the grounds of her having committed adultery, the presumption would be that she is innocent and that he broke the marriage contract. If the husband divorces his wife because she committed adultery, he would be free to marry another.

These questions should be studied and discussed in the ecclesias so that when a situation occurs, it will be analyzed according to the Word. The Bible is not studied sufficiently, just the Volumes.

Divorce seldom occurred in the Pastor’s day; in fact, divorce was scandalous. Now the ratio of divorce is one out of every two marriages, so the picture is completely different. If these issues were thrashed out, the answers to many questions would be self-evident.

In matters of divorce, the brethren should know the grounds. It is the responsibility of each ecclesia where a problem exists to ascertain the situation and then to inform the other brethren accordingly. Otherwise, the brotherhood at large can become contaminated. The ecclesia that does not bring up the problem and settle it is responsible for having failed to make the situation clear to the brotherhood. If each ecclesia did its own part, the Church as a whole would be cleansed, and brethren would know where they stand. The attitude “ignorance is bliss” will not get one into the Little Flock.

Comment: If one refuses to fulfill marital obligations, the only alternative the other party might have is separation.

Reply: Yes, that problem was covered by 1 Corinthians 7:11, “But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband” and vice versa.

If a Christian husband or wife dies, the surviving party has the liberty of remarriage, for the marriage contract lasts only “until death do us part.” Paul said that if a person can contain himself or herself without a problem, it is advisable to remain single, although he advised young women to remarry. Either way, however, one has the liberty of remarriage.

A qualification of an elder that is sometimes misunderstood is that he “must be … the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2). In at least one case, a brother was not re-elected elder because he had remarried after his wife died. But Paul was not referring to such a case in giving the qualifications of an elder. He simply meant that an elder should be the husband of one wife at a time. If the partner dies, the survivor can remarry and still be elder. However, if a brother divorces his wife and remarries, the divorce must be on scriptural (fornication) grounds for him to be elected as an elder.

If a consecrated one is divorced (whether equally or unequally yoked), the ecclesia should ask bluntly,  “What were the grounds? Was fornication involved?” To not know would defile the conscience of those in the ecclesia in voting, as well as in fellowship and fraternization at conventions, for example.

Comment: Anyone considered for eldership should be more than willing to furnish those details. In fact, without being asked, a brother should know it is improper to expect fellowship without clarifying his position. Any deception with regard to eldership would be wrong.

Reply: Many brethren feel these items are too sensitive to discuss, but they are treated in Scripture. The grounds of a divorce need to be told but not the details.

Q: If a brother divorced his wife on grounds other than fornication and then remarried years later, he would be committing adultery in the eyes of the Lord. Should that issue be brought up before the ecclesia as a “1 Corinthians 5” situation? Or should a class trial be reserved for a current situation?

A: With regard to eldership, we should keep in mind, even years later, if a brother divorced his wife for reasons other than fornication and then remarried. He should not be elected elder. A newcomer to an ecclesia might not know for some time about a past situation, but concerning an elder, he should get the facts of the matter. Sometimes the ones originally involved with the matter have deceased or left the ecclesia, so that the great majority are unaware of the situation. In such a case, we can go directly to the party involved and ask him bluntly as an individual. That way we will know where we stand with him. Such questioning does not make us popular, but it is necessary.

1 Cor. 7:25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

1 Cor. 7:26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

Verses 25 and 26 review the earlier statements of verses 6 and 7. Paul said, “I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment.” “I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” In other words, Paul was giving his advice. A virgin can be either male or female, meaning single and unsullied. If it is possible for an individual to contain himself, he should commit his life to the Lord and serve like the Apostle Paul. But Paul had already explained earlier that it is better to marry than to burn. He himself gave up having a wife; that is, he sacrificed certain comforts and joys for the Lord. Although some distress was involved, he was able to contain himself and, evidently, remained celibate for the rest of his life.

With regard to Arius, the messenger to the church of Pergamos, many sisters became so dedicated to Christ that they remained virgins and cooperated with Arius in his ministry, helping him in every way possible. What is striking is that no one found fault with Arius or questioned him, whereas today people would consider the situation to be a cult and would imagine all kinds of evil. Also, in addition to the apostles, many women accompanied Jesus at his First Advent. Jesus walked in front with the apostles, but certain accounts show that women followed behind.

1 Cor. 7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

1 Cor. 7:28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

General rule: If married, the husband (or wife) should not seek to be loosed. And if loosed, it is better to remain single if possible (whether male or female). Of course the circumstances that would result in being loosed from a wife are death and fornication.

If one who is single can contain himself, he should remain single. If one previously married finds himself (or herself) single through death or fornication, the individual should also remain single. However, if such a one marries, he (or she) has not sinned. And a virgin who marries has not sinned. The general rule is to abide by the circumstances one is in—if possible. Paul was giving advice here, not a commandment.

Comment: “Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.” Any who marry will have “trouble,” whereas for those in the single state, the desire is to please the Lord only. When married, even if both are consecrated, there is still a divided desire.

Reply: Yes, marriage is a sharing of opinions, and with the give-and-take, there is sometimes a little discomfiture because of the difference of opinions, even in a consecrated union. Hence some problems occur even in a happy married life. Also, marriage entails certain responsibilities. Occasionally, opportunity for service increases through marriage, but that would be the exception.

1 Cor. 7:29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

1 Cor. 7:30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;

It is true that “time is short,” but from a practical standpoint, even the present life itself is short. The vanity and brevity of life are usually seen in later years, for those who are young find it hard to think of life that way.

Individuals who are married should be as though they were not, and those who weep, rejoice, and buy should be as though they did not. In other words, life is short, so whatever experiences one has in the present life—whether weeping, rejoicing, or obtaining possessions— he will be awakened from the tomb in a completely new circumstance. Especially with the next life being eternal, having no end, as that life expands and goes on and on, the past life will seem like only a moment. A life of 70 or 80 years, when contrasted with 80 million years, is a mere point in time. And so the perspective will change. The experiences of the present life have their effect for good or ill, but in the time reference of the new life, the present life is short and as nothing compared with the eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). Paul was a giant in character to be able to take this standpoint. He was taken in vision way into the future and allowed to see things that were unlawful for him to utter. The Lord evidently saw that the experience was needed for two reasons: (1) In wording prophecies and giving explanations, Paul was able to use the right adjectives, power, and reasoning. (2) His personal faith was helped. The reality of the future kept Paul from becoming discouraged as he was buffeted, persecuted, and forsaken.

Comment: Earlier Paul said that for the consecrated, all things are theirs. They can have things without possessing them (1 Cor. 3:21).

“Both they that have wives be as though they had none.” One who is consecrated can love his wife, but a million years from now, the situation will be very different, even in the earthly Kingdom. Jesus said that those of mankind who live on into the ages of ages will be as the angels and no longer marry (Luke 20:34-36). With regard to the Little Flock, we do not really know what the new association will be. Of course Jesus will have a personal relationship with each of the Little Flock, but each one may deal with a particular universe, for example, and a current spouse may be appointed to something else. Marriage has its blessing for good or bad in the present life, but when measured against eternity, the relationship may be completely different. With no need for sexual relations, each spouse may have honors in different directions according to what the Lord may have in mind.

1 Cor. 7:31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

The Revised Standard reads, “And those who deal with the world [should be] as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.” Verse 31 harmonizes with verses 29 and 30.

Comment: Another way of expressing verse 31 is to use the words of a hymn, “Touch lightly the things of this earth,” for we are to love the Lord more than mother, father, son, home, etc.

Of course we must take care of our mortgages and obligations, but while doing so, we must keep them in perspective.

Reply: Paul was saying, “Do not become too attached to this world and its goods and properties, for you cannot take them with you. When you entered the world, you did not have goods and properties, so if you have them temporarily now, be thankful and be satisfied, for godliness with contentment is great gain.

Comment: The Diaglott translation reads, “For the scene of this world is passing away.” Then a footnote states, “Probably a reference to the shifting scenes in the theatre.”

1 Cor. 7:32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

The Revised Standard reads, “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord.” Paul was saying, “Do not be full of cares”; that is, one should be without cares or special anxieties.

1 Cor. 7:33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

His affections being divided, the one who is married is in continual danger.

1 Cor. 7:34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

Those who sacrifice by staying single will be rewarded with proportionately more if they are faithful.

1 Cor. 7:35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

“And this I speak for your own profit [not to bring you under bondage]; not that I may cast a snare upon you [not to restrain you from exercising your liberties], but for that which is comely [most favorable to you as new creatures], and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” Paul did not want to snare the brethren by urging them to make vows to remain celibate. A voluntary vow made after considerable thought is a different matter.

1 Cor. 7:36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

“If any man think [by remaining unmarried] that he behaveth himself uncomely [improperly] toward his virgin [his female friend whom he has courted], if she pass the flower of her age [so as to have lost other matrimonial opportunities], and need so require [that she have a supporter or protector], let him do what he will [marry or not], he sinneth not: let them marry [if necessity dictates].” What is the thought behind a man behaving himself “uncomely toward his virgin”? In this situation, two unmarried close companions are keeping company, and no illicit sex is involved. Then the man gets the truth and consecrates. The woman may or may not be consecrated, but because he has been keeping company with her for several years, she is past the “flower of her age.” In other words, because of her age now, it is not so easy for her to marry another. Therefore, if the man wants to have her as his wife, it would not be improper to marry her. Because of their long-time companionship, the woman is probably expecting the relationship to be consummated in marriage. Being past “the flower of her age” can signify being not only beyond youth but also beyond childbearing age. For one who is consecrated to marry under that circumstance is an exception to the earlier general advice to remain in the state in which one was called. To marry her is not a violation of conscience.

In other words, if a man is already keeping company with a woman and then consecrates, he may feel that she is past the age of matrimony and that if he stays single to serve the Lord, who will marry her? Without this advice from Paul, a man who consecrates might feel it would be disobedient to marry the unconsecrated woman he has been keeping company with, but in this unusual circumstance, marriage would be permissible.

Comment: This advice is good for the man, but if the woman is the one who consecrates, she should not feel obligated to marry the unconsecrated man. To withdraw from the relationship and not marry would perhaps be better for her spiritually.

Reply: The decision would be hers, and in the final analysis, even the man who consecrates has a choice. The consecrated woman could just refrain from marriage, for the unconsecrated man could more easily marry someone else. Also, in those days, an unconsecrated woman was more apt to need protection and financial support—hence the apostle’s advice.

As we consider the depth and the extensiveness of Paul’s advice to the Corinthians, we are reminded of his statement that daily “the care of all the churches” was upon him (2 Cor. 11:28).

That statement was not just words, for he felt a very heavy burden and concern. Marriage is a touchy subject with a lot of variables, and Paul was trying his best to explain in simple

language, with repetition at times, the general principles that should guide a Christian.

1 Cor. 7:37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

The word “virgin” in verse 37 means “virginity.” The man who can contain himself and thus purposes to keep his virginity by remaining single and not marrying so that he can serve the Lord does well. However, to hastily make vows to remain celibate without studying the matter would be foolish.

Paul repeated the same advice several times, changing the phraseology slightly. Here he said, “Having no necessity.” He felt that such repetition was not vain, for Christians needed assurance and reassurance in understanding what he was trying to say.

1 Cor. 7:38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

The Revised Standard reads, “So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.” Stated simply, the man who marries does well, but the man who does not marry does better.

1 Cor. 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.

Paul recommended the single state. If the husband dies, the general advice for the widow is not to remarry, but there are exceptions. Although refraining from remarriage is not mandatory, the requirement is to marry “in the Lord.” Now one is in a different situation in which no strings are attached, as they were in the previous case with two who were keeping company.

Therefore, remarriage should be to a consecrated individual.

Comment: Once a woman has found the truth and loves it and has consecrated her life to the Lord, if she marries, she should marry one who is consecrated.

Comment: The scriptural advice is, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).

A woman is bound to her husband (whether or not he is consecrated) as long as he lives, unless he has committed fornication. Here Paul advised widows to remain single, but elsewhere he advised young widows to remarry so that they would not become busybodies and a charge to the Church. Today young widows are often able to support themselves, so they should consider remaining single—unless they burn. The point is that all scriptural advice on marriage should be studied in order to have an answer for any problem that arises. Unfortunately, many violations of Scripture occur today with regard to marriage because of a lack of knowledge on the subject. Situations in families and ecclesias become needlessly entwined and confused because the Scriptures are not known and followed.

For example, when all of the Gospel citations on marriage are combined, we learn certain things. They all say, “Whosoever shall put away his wife,” but each citation gives another clue, something to consider further. Only Matthew states (and twice for the second witness), “except it be for fornication,” the thought being that whoever puts away his wife except for fornication and marries another commits adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). In other words, a person who gets a divorce without scriptural grounds and remarries commits adultery. Why did Matthew use that wording? Suppose a person got a divorce on an improper basis and did not remarry but had an illicit relationship. This hypothetical case is obvious fornication, but it has to be proven as such, whereas remarriage would be evidence of fornication. Therefore, when a consecrated party is divorced, the grounds for the divorce have to be declared publicly. Otherwise, remarriage is ostensible adultery. Stated another way, if the circumstances of a divorce are not made known, then when the consecrated individual remarries, we should assume he (or she) is committing adultery.

Another lesson is provided here. The husband who divorces his wife for reasons other than fornication causes her to commit adultery if she remarries. The wife is thus put in a precarious position. Those in the ecclesia must know the grounds for the divorce so that they will know how to vote at election time and also whom they can fraternize with.

Mark is the only Gospel to make the situation reciprocal with a woman. “And if a woman shall put away her husband [not for adultery], and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:12). Thus, unless the case and grounds are known, remarriage by either the consecrated husband or the consecrated wife is considered prima facie evidence of adultery, and the ecclesia should conduct itself accordingly. When the grounds are hidden and not made public, the consciences of brethren throughout the whole country are affected. Brethren are not in a position to play detective around the country, yet they are meeting divorced parties at conventions and do not know how to greet them. Should brethren shake their hands and greet them as “brother” and “sister”? Was adultery committed, and if so, by whom? If the local ecclesia does not make the circumstances known, the brotherhood at large does not know how to treat the divorced parties. To repeat, the grounds of a divorce should be made manifest, for otherwise, the leaven spreads throughout the entire nation. Brethren who are not aware of the advice in 1 Corinthians 7 will re-elect divorced parties to class office without knowing the grounds. They reason, “It is okay, for so-and-so got a divorce,” when the divorce may be a proof of fornication.

Comment: We are not to fraternize with consecrated adulterers.

Reply: The perplexity of a situation that has not been handled properly by an ecclesia erodes our own character because we cannot act in an affirmative manner except in our immediate neighborhood. Brethren must study the Bible to know how to handle these issues. The Apostle Paul provided a tremendous amount of information in this one chapter. Adding what Jesus said in the Gospels gives a rounded-out picture of how the Bible views marriage and divorce.

And we read in Malachi 2:16 that God hates divorce.

Comment: Many brethren think it is evil speaking to expose these matters. Instead, by their secrecy, they are being more loving than God.

Reply: Yes, many erroneously think that love overlooks grievous sin. The whole Jewish nation was under covenant relationship with God. Under the Law, if a crime was committed and those who saw it did not report the crime, those witnesses were just as guilty as the perpetrator. The same principle applies to Christians, that is, in the Church. Grievous sin is supposed to be known. Following Paul’s advice strengthens the brethren—ourselves as well as others—and disobedience erodes. A little leaven leavens the whole lump is the principle (1 Cor. 5:6).

Comment: Children tend to view such sins with a gentle eye, for they do not understand the depths of the sin. They may even admire those who have been unfaithful to the Lord and regard those who have been obedient as faultfinders.

Reply: Yes, the wrong concept of love becomes a philosophy. Love cannot be more generous than the Lord. Those who stand up for principle are often viewed as hypercritical and unloving.

Comment: Being misunderstood is part of our sufferings for the Lord.

Reply: If brethren do not study and discuss these subjects in depth, how will they make proper decisions? They certainly will not make their calling and election sure, for one must know and grow to become a member of the Little Flock. Ignorance is not bliss! In fact, those who keep quiet and do not discuss these subjects in depth jeopardize not only themselves but also those who are associated with them.

Comment: The one who committed the grievous sin might be retrieved through proper repentance if the matter is handled correctly. The individual would be more likely to recognize the sin in time and repent and become part of the Great Company. The opportunity for repentance is practically cut off when an individual is accepted in his (or her) sin.

Reply: On the one hand, if brethren live in a Great Company atmosphere of thinking and then slide, they fall into Second Death. On the other hand, if those slide who have the objectives and goals of the Little Flock and are striving for the high calling, truly endeavoring to know their responsibilities, they are more apt to fall back into the Great Company.

In almost any area—doctrine, morals, or behavior—many brethren would rather not have controversy, and thus they do not investigate the subject. They feel one is more Christ-like in character if he does not delve into a matter too deeply, for doing so will lead to turmoil. Therefore, they would rather evade the issue in discourses and studies.

Romans 7:1-4, which pertains to covenants, reads as follows: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” The marriage Paul was speaking of here in Romans is a marriage to Jesus Christ. When Jews, who previously were under the Law, consecrated and followed Jesus, they no longer had to keep the Law and all of its requirements. Some Jews erroneously accused Jewish Christians of breaking the Law of Moses and committing spiritual adultery by following Christ. Certain Jews used this argument to disparage the ministry of the apostles, who were espousing the cause of Christ. However, Paul used this same argument for the truth. Those who come to Christ and become his disciples have, in a sense, remarried, but they have not committed adultery because a woman can remarry if her husband dies. Paul was saying that the “husband” (the Law) had died. From another standpoint, Christ is the “husband,” for he fulfilled the Law and died as a man on the Cross, nailing the Law to the Cross for the believer. Christians, those in the body of Christ, are represented in Jesus in the death of his flesh on the Cross. Those who consecrate become dead to sin, their flesh being crucified, and now they are alive as new creatures. “Yea, though we have known Christ after [according to] the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him [as such] no more” (2 Cor. 5:16). In this new relationship, it is as if the flesh did die. “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:19,20). In other words, in reckoning our identity with Jesus’ death on the Cross, we, too, have died. Therefore, whether we think of Christ dying or the Law dying, the result is the same.

The following Scriptures are also helpful. “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Gal. 5:18). “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; … that he might reconcile both [Jew and Gentile] unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:15,16). We are crucified with Christ; we are in his body (Gal. 2:20).

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).

The last text, 1 Peter 2:24, is deep reasoning. On the Cross, Jesus bore our sins in his own body so that we, being dead to sins, can live unto righteousness. By being members of Christ, spiritually speaking, we become dead to sins and now walk in newness of life. We are walking after the spirit, for the flesh has been crucified. With regard to the death of Christ and the Law, by changing from Moses over to Christ, Jews can marry Christ in this new relationship without being disobedient to God or committing adultery. Paul used the argument of death one way, whereas the enemies of truth used it the other way, failing to see the deep reasoning.

Comment: We follow a living Savior.

Reply: Yes, henceforth we know Christ no more after the flesh. Of course we follow his example in the flesh to know how to walk in the present life, but he is alive. We are married to the living Savior.

1 Cor. 7:40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

“But she [the wife whose husband dies] is happier if she so abide [and does not remarry], after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God [the mind of the Lord on this subject].“ The phrase “after my judgment” means that Paul gave advice, not a commandment.

However, he thinks he has the mind of the Lord on these matters pertaining to marriage. Therefore, we should carefully consider his suggestions before marrying or remarrying.

(1979, 1997, and 2001 Studies)

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