In the last essay we noticed that Paul speaks of the last class of persons to be noticed under the matters of marriage and its related problems. He emphasizes that in regard to this matter he has no particular command from Christ. Thus he did have in regard to the matter of those married. Any one who is married must remain in the marriage state. The ordinance of God from creation, as reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:1-12 stands! What Paul gives here is his “opinion.” It is an opinion, a judgment of one who has received mercy to be faithful! When he, therefore, gives his opinion he surely gives a ripe judgment, based on a wide experience; it is an opinion in which we see wisdom of one who has not merely observed much of life, but who himself lives by the principles here enunciated! One cannot take the opinion of such lightly. It should further be once more observed that Paul is giving a very considered opinion here. He gives this judgment by keeping in mind, on the one hand, what our liberty is in Christ to enter into the marriage state, since it is an ordinance of God. Celibacy is not a higher or holier form of life and morality than the marriage state. On the other hand, Paul knows that not all can sanctify God in the marriage state. Each is to work out his salvation with fear and trembling. There are special temptations in the marriage state for our flesh in which dwells no good. Hence, there is, from this viewpoint, a distinction, between the interests of the married woman and of the virgin. Certain temptations are present in the marriage state, both for the husband and for the wife. That Paul points out these difficulties in the marriage state is not that he would place a snare upon the believers, limit them once more with a false dualism between good and evil, that is, as if he would advocate celibacy as something necessarily good and the marriage state as something necessarily evil. God forbid. He is only interested that the church, whether in the marriage state or outside of wedlock, live with undivided attention upon the Lord! Here too there is a certain indulgency. Not a hard and fast rule for every case. Nor do we have here enunciated the principle of casuistry, the determining of duty in doubtful cases. The latter is the application of the principle of being under law, with its distinction of a separate “law” for every particular case and contingency! Rather the rule here is: let every man work out his own salvation with a free and good conscience in his life, fighting against sin and the devil and afterwards reigning with Christ over all creatures. Paul will not put a noose about the neck of the Christians. He will not rob them of their liberty.’ He strives to have them walk at liberty by avoiding license! Hence, Paul introduces two possible and different instances, in which he demonstrates the principle of walking so as to be in good spiritual decorum in relationship to Christ. Also here Paul does not lay down a “rule,” but he does give two “case studies” in which he demonstrates the proper motivation which must enter into a given decision in connection with either “allowing a daughter to be married,” or “not to give in marriage” a virgin daughter!
The text here in question is as follows: “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. Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast 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. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well: but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.” Verses 36-38.
In this passage Paul keeps the following factors in view.
In the first place marriage is not outlawed. It is maintained as holy ordinance of God. If such were not the case Paul could not write, “So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well.” Verse 38. It is only because of the “present need” and the presence of sin in our members that his advice is as it is.
In the second place, Paul gives permission to a woman or man to remarry only after the death of one of the parties. Even then it is this time to be “only in the Lord?
Thirdly, it is even then true, that the one who marries not, “even in the Lord,” is happier than one who marries in the Lord!
Let us look at each of these factors a bit more closely.
We notice in the two “cases” cited by Paul, that in each of these cases it is presupposed that the father or the guardian has the authority over his virgin daughter in respect to her entering into the marriage state. Marriage in the argument of Paul, and as a factor in his “opinion” is not simply a personal agreement; it is more than a mutual agreement between a given young man and the virgin whose hand he seeks. No marriage was legal or could be solemnized without the consent of the father or guardian.
In passing we may observe that this is too often forgotten in our day of loose morals, a day when it is “marriage often in haste and a repentance at leisure!” Too often marriage is viewed as a personalagreement, which can be enacted and broken at the will of the parties in marriage. However, this is not only contrary to the accepted standards of Paul’s day, but it is also in conflict with the expressed view and accepted standards of the Statutes of the land in which we live. The writer of these lines happens to have studied the Statutes of the State of Colorado in the matter of Marriage, Divorce, etc. It is expressly stated by these Statutes and taught by competent authorities that marriage is a civil contract, in which the State is always a third and interested party. When we keep in mind that all authority is basically that of the father in the family, it is not difficult to see why the State as the outgrowth of the family, would be a third and interested party.
It should be more than a mere formality at a “nice wedding” that the father publicly states that he gives his daughter in marriage!
This is sound decorum in God’s church and it is according to Statute Law!
Now it is left to the Christian discretion of a believing father or guardian whether he will give his virgin daughter in marriage or not. Is there a hard and fast rule here given by Paul? Not at all!
It all depends upon the circumstances, and what a father is assured in his heart is for the real, lasting and spiritual well-being of his daughter. Paul presupposes that the father is a wise man; that he has spiritual wisdom to deal according to the facts in the case.
In case number one, of which Paul speaks in verse 36, the facts are postulated as being as follows:
1. The virgin daughter is no longer a young girl. She is one who has passed the bloom and spring time of her life. She desires marriage. If she waits longer she will have passed the time of life that it is proper for marriage, and will fall into a new temptation on that account. To prevent her to marry will drive her possibly to give in to the approaches of her lover. This poses a new problem in such a case of sin and shame!
2. The father, a wise man, sees this very real temptation. He is convinced in his heart, that, in spite of the present political urgency of the times and the affliction which married life then entails; it is the part of spiritual wisdom and prudence that “it ought to be marriage” for his virgin. Surely such a man “sins not” when he allows the virgin daughter, who is well eligible and ripe for marriage to have her desire. Let them marry!
Such is Paul’s judgment in such cases!
In case number two the conditions and facts are different. Here the facts are as follows, with the correspondingly different judgment:
1. There is here no “need,” that is, the daughter has not passed the bloom of life. Hence, the “necessity” of case number one is not present. 2. The father, who is also a wise man, having spiritual wisdom, and having the spiritual and eternal well-being of his daughter at heart, is fully persuaded in his own heart that he should not give his virgin daughter in marriage under the existing political circumstances of the times.
3. There is nothing in the circumstances which makes it impossible or spiritually indiscreet not to give his daughter in marriage. He has power over his own will. In his own (idiai kardiai) heart he is fully persuaded that such is the proper course.
4. Such a parent or guardian does well in so deciding. It is a wise decision under the existing circumstances in the world and in the life of his virgin!
Forsooth this is not a “rule” in the church, but rather an “opinion” of Paul in which he applies the wisdom of grace to a particular circumstance of life! What a far cry this is from a rule for monarchism in every form!
Paul ends this chapter by reflecting on the “case” of a woman whose husband has died. Of course, the rule is that what God has joined together let no man put asunder. This dissolving the tie of matrimony is solely the prerogative of God. When he has cut the tie in the death of a husband, the wife is free to marry another. But not until or unless God had dissolved the tie.
That is the rule! That is the command of Christ.
But even though all things are permissible yet all things are not convenient or wise.
It is the judgment of Paul that even when a husband has died, a woman is more happy and blessed in the Lord if she remain unmarried, and be a widow indeed! Let no one take this advice lightly! There is a saying: no fool like an old fool. Paul’s advice is here no, mere practical wisdom from the viewpoint of utility. It is spiritual wisdom. He too thinks to have received the Holy Spirit.
Then too there is a limitation added. It is that when a woman remarries: it is to be in the Lord! This was not the case with the Corinthians in the case of the first marriage. Both were quite likely outside of the Lord. The Kingdom of God was not in their thoughts.
But now they must not marry a non-Christian. Shall they put their feet under the kitchen table together, it must be that they have first sat around the same table of the Lord, whether they be Jew or Gentile, bond or free. Let no one be a profane person as was Esau. The first marriage was not a mixed marriage. Let this one not become such!
Let it be remembered: to the pure all things are pure, but to the defiled all things are impure, they are reprobate to every good word.
Let these things sink deeply into our hearts!