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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - 1CORINTHIANS 7
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    CHAPTER 7

    1Co 7:1-40. REPLY TO THEIR INQUIRIES AS TO MARRIAGE; THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE IN OTHER THINGS IS, ABIDE IN YOUR STATION, FOR THE TIME IS SHORT.

    1. The Corinthians in their letter had probably asked questions which tended to disparage marriage, and had implied that it was better to break it off when contracted with an unbeliever.
    - good--that is, "expedient," because of "the present distress"; that is, the unsettled state of the world, and the likelihood of persecutions tearing rudely asunder those bound by marriage ties. Heb 13:4, in opposition to ascetic and Romish notions of superior sanctity in celibacy, declares, "Marriage is HONORABLE IN ALL." Another reason why in some cases celibacy may be a matter of Christian expediency is stated in 1Co 7:34, 35, "that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." But these are exceptional cases, and in exceptional times, such as those of Paul.

    2. Here the general rule is given
    - to avoid fornication--More literally, "on account of fornications," to which as being very prevalent at Corinth, and not even counted sins among the heathen, unmarried persons might be tempted. The plural, "fornications," marks irregular lusts, as contrasted with the unity of the marriage relation [BENGEL].
    - let every man have--a positive command to all who have not the gift of continency, in fact to the great majority of the world (1Co 7:5). The dignity of marriage is set forth by Paul (Eph 5:25-32), in the fact that it signifies the mystical union between Christ and the Church.

    3, 4. The duty of cohabitation on the part of the married.
    - due benevolence--The oldest manuscripts read simply, "her due"; that is, the conjugal cohabitation due by the marriage contract (compare 1Co 7:4).

    4. A paradox. She hath not power over her body, and yet it is her own. The oneness of body in which marriage places husband and wife explains this. The one complements the other. Neither without the other realizes the perfect ideal of man.

    5. Defraud . . . not--namely, of the conjugal duty "due" (1Co 7:3; compare the Septuagint, Ex 21:10).
    - except it be--"unless perchance" [ALFORD].
    - give yourselves to--literally, "be at leisure for"; be free from interruptions for; namely, on some special "season," as the Greek for "time" means (compare Ex 19:15; Joe 2:16; Zec 7:3).
    - fasting and prayer--The oldest manuscripts omit "fasting and"; an interpolation, evidently, of ascetics.
    - come together--The oldest manuscripts read, "be together," namely, in the regular state of the married.
    - Satan--who often thrusts in his temptations to unholy thoughts amidst the holiest exercises.
    - for your incontinency--because of your inability to "contain" (1Co 7:9) your natural propensities, which Satan would take advantage of.

    6. by permission . . . not of commandment--not by God's permission to me to say it: but, "by way of permission to you, not as a commandment." "This" refers to the directions, 1Co 7:2-5.

    7. even as I--having tile gift of continence (Mt 19:11, 12). This wish does not hold good absolutely, else the extension of mankind and of the Church would cease; but relatively to "the present distress" (1Co 7:26).

    8. to the unmarried--in general, of both sexes (1Co 7:10, 11).
    - and widows--in particular.
    - even as I--unmarried (1Co 9:5).

    9. if they cannot contain--that is, "have not continency."
    - burn--with the secret flame of lust, which lays waste the whole inner man. (Compare AUGUSTINE [Holy Virginity]). The dew of God's grace is needed to stifle the flame, which otherwise would thrust men at last into hell-fire.

    10. not I, but the Lord--(Compare 1Co 7:12, 25, 40). In ordinary cases he writes on inspired apostolic authority (1Co 14:37); but here on the direct authority of the Lord Himself (Mr 10:11, 12). In both cases alike the things written are inspired by the Spirit of God "but not all for all time, nor all on the primary truths of the faith" [ALFORD].
    - Let not the wife depart--literally, "be separated from." Probably the separation on either side, whether owing to the husband or to the wife, is forbidden.

    11. But and if she depart--or "be separated." If the sin of separation has been committed, that of a new marriage is not to be added (Mt 5:32).
    - be reconciled--by appeasing her husband's displeasure, and recovering his good will.
    - let not . . . husband put away . . . wife--In Mt 5:32 the only exception allowed is, "saving for the cause of fornication."

    12. to the rest--the other classes (besides "the married," 1Co 7:10, where both husband and wife are believers) about whom the Corinthians had inquired, namely, those involved in mixed marriages with unbelievers.
    - not the Lord--by any direct command spoken by Him.
    - she be pleased--Greek, "consents": implying his wish in the first instance, with which hers concurs.

    13. the woman--a believer.
    - let her not leave him--"her husband," instead of "him," is the reading of the oldest manuscripts The Greek for "leave" is the same as in 1Co 7:12, "put away"; translate, "Let her not put away [that is, part with] her husband." The wife had the power of effecting a divorce by Greek and Roman law.

    14. sanctified--Those inseparably connected with the people of God are hallowed thereby, so that the latter may retain the connection without impairing their own sanctity (compare 1Ti 4:5); nay, rather imparting to the former externally some degree of their own hallowed character, and so preparing the way for the unbeliever becoming at last sanctified inwardly by faith.
    - by . . . by--rather, "in . . . in"; that is, in virtue of the marriage tie between them.
    - by the husband--The oldest manuscripts read, "by the brother." It is the fact of the husband being a "brother," that is, a Christian, though the wife is not so, that sanctifies or hallows the union.
    - else . . . children unclean--that is, beyond the hallowed pale of God's people: in contrast to "holy," that is, all that is within the consecrated limits [CONYBEARE and HOWSON]. The phraseology accords with that of the Jews, who regarded the heathen as "unclean," and all of the elect nation as "holy," that is, partakers of the holy covenant. Children were included in the covenant, as God made it not only with Abraham, but with his "seed after" him (Ge 17:7). So the faith of one Christian parent gives to the children a near relationship to the Church, just as if both parents were Christians (compare Ro 11:16). Timothy, the bearer of this Epistle, is an instance in point (Ac 16:1). Paul appeals to the Corinthians as recognizing the principle, that the infants of heathen parents would not be admissible to Christian baptism, because there is no faith on the part of the parents; but where one parent is a believer, the children are regarded as not aliens from, but admissible even in infancy as sharers in, the Christian covenant: for the Church presumes that the believing parent will rear the child in the Christian faith. Infant baptism tacitly superseded infant circumcision, just as the Christian Lord's day gradually superseded the Jewish sabbath, without our having any express command for, or record of, transference. The setting aside of circumcision and of sabbaths in the case of the Gentiles was indeed expressly commanded by the apostles and Paul, but the substitution of infant baptism and of the Lord's day were tacitly adopted, not expressly enacted. No explicit mention of it occurs till IRENÆUS in the third century; but no society of Christians that we read of disputed its propriety till fifteen hundred years after Christ. Anabaptists would have us defer baptism till maturity as the child cannot understand the nature of it. But a child may be made heir of an estate: it is his, though incapable at the time of using or comprehending its advantage; he is not hereafter to acquire the title and claim to it: he will hereafter understand his claim, and be capable of employing his wealth: he will then, moreover, become responsible for the use he makes of it [ARCHBISHOP WHATELY].

    15. if . . . depart--that is, wishes for separation. Translate, "separateth himself": offended with her Christianity, and refusing to live with her unless she renounce it.
    - brother or a sister is not under bondage--is not bound to renounce the faith for the sake of retaining her unbelieving husband [HAMMOND]. So De 13:6; Mt 10:35-37; Lu 14:26. The believer does not lie under the same obligation in the case of a union with an unbeliever, as in the case of one with a believer. In the former case he is not bound not to separate, if the unbeliever separate or "depart," in the latter nothing but "fornication" justifies separation [PHOTIUS in Æcumenius].
    - but God hath called us to peace--Our Christian calling is one that tends to "peace" (Ro 12:18), not quarrelling; therefore the believer should not ordinarily depart from the unbelieving consort (1Co 7:12-14), on the one hand; and on the other, in the exceptional case of the unbeliever desiring to depart, the believer is not bound to force the other party to stay in a state of continual discord (Mt 5:32). Better still it would be not to enter into such unequal alliances at all (1Co 7:40; 2Co 6:14).

    16. What knowest thou but that by staying with thy unbelieving partner thou mayest save him or her? Enforcing the precept to stay with the unbelieving consort (1Co 7:12-14). So Ruth the Moabitess became a convert to her husband's faith: and Joseph and Moses probably gained over their wives. So conversely the unbelieving husband may be won by the believing wife (1Pe 3:1) [CALVIN]. Or else (1Co 7:15), if thy unbelieving consort wishes to depart, let him go, so that thou mayest live "in peace": for thou canst not be sure of converting him, so as to make it obligatory on thee at all costs to stay with him against his will [MENOCHIUS and ALFORD].
    - save--be the instrument of salvation to (Jas 5:20).

    17. But--Greek, "If not." "Only." Caution that believers should not make this direction (1Co 7:16; as ALFORD explains it) a ground for separating "of themselves" (1Co 7:12-14). Or, But if there be no hope of gaining over the unbeliever, still let the general principle be maintained, "As the Lord hath allotted to each, as God hath called each, so let him walk" (so the Greek in the oldest reading); let him walk in the path allotted to him and wherein he was called. The heavenly calling does not set aside our earthly callings.
    - so ordain I in all churches--Ye also therefore should obey.

    18. not become uncircumcised--by surgical operation (1 Maccabees 1:15; JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 12.5.1]). Some Christians in excess of anti-Jewish feeling might be tempted to this.
    - let him not be circumcised--as the Judaizing Christians would have him (Ac 15:1, 5, 24; Ga 5:2).

    19. Circumcision . . . nothing, but . . . keeping of . . . commandments of God--namely, is all in all. In Ga 5:6 this "keeping of the commandments of God" is defined to be "faith which worketh by love"; and in Ga 6:15, "a new creature." Circumcision was a commandment of God: but not for ever, as "love."

    20. the same calling--that is, the condition from which he is called a Jew, a Greek, a slave, or a freeman.

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