continued from Part 1......
WE CAN CORRECTLY UNDERSTAND
1 CORINTHIANS 7
(Questions Concerning Marriage)
Joe R. Price
The immediate context of 1 Corinthians 7:15 is that of
legitimate marriage, one of several non-sinful conditions in which one might be when
called by God through the gospel to become a Christian. Other non-sinful conditions used
by Paul to illustrate his point are circumcision and slavery (1 Cor. 7:18-24). We know he
only refers to non-sinful conditions here because they are conditions in which one may
continue to walk (after becoming a Christian), remaining in fellowship with God and
keeping the commandments of God (1 Cor. 7:17, 19, 20, 24). One cannot continue to live in
sin after his conversion with Gods blessing (Rom. 6:1-4).
Paul's point is this: You were bought with a
price; do not become slaves (doulos) of men (1 Cor. 7:23). Verse 15 is a specific
application of this principle. We are confident the slavery of 7:23 means something other
than physical slavery (for Paul had just said to remain in that form of slavery, 7:21-22).
Verse 23 speaks of the bondage of enslavement. Even the slave who served an earthly master
had a prior allegiance to Christ. Likewise in marriage, we are not enslaved to men, we are
slaves of Christ (1 Cor. 7:15, 22).
So, having told the Christian who is married to an
unbeliever to remain in that marriage because it is legitimate, he then counsels the
Christian whose unbelieving mate departs because the Christian has a primary allegiance to
Christ. Pauls counsel is: Let him go, because you are not enslaved to the unbeliever
-- you are enslaved to Christ (7:23). 1 Corinthians 7:15 teaches Christians who are
married to unbelievers that their first allegiance is always to Christ and not man.
If Christians continue to make allowance for and have
fellowship with brethren who teach or practice what is not taught in 1 Corinthians 7:15,
we can only conclude that either (1) they do not believe the preceding hermeneutical
treatment of the passage is correct, (2) they hold to another hermeneutical treatment
which they accept as correct (and believe the foregoing to be faulty), or (3) that such a
treatment of the text cannot be correctly accomplished. Whatever the case, I fear that
more and more brethren are adopting a view of 1 Corinthians 7:15 which implies that
revealed truth cannot be correctly understood and obeyed. We must continue to deny that
proposition whenever it shows itself (Jno. 8:31-32; Eph. 3:3-4; 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Pet.
1:3-4; 3:16-18; Jude 3-4).
Walk As God Has Called You: 1 Corinthians 7:17-24
I have addressed this passage in the above discussion
concerning the context of 1 Corinthians 7:15. Suffice it to say that this passage
certainly does not authorize someone to remain in a remarriage which God defines as
adultery (even though some sincere, well-meaning brethren have reached that conclusion,
the Gods word reveals their error, 2 Jno. 9-11; Eph. 5:3-11). Must we let the false
explanations and applications of brethren go unchallenged (indeed, should we have
fellowship with them) in spite of their error? It is troubling to witness brethren
teaching and defending positions which lead to this conclusion and practice.
Concerning Virgins: 1 Corinthians 7:25-38
Paul now applies what he has already said about marriage
and remaining single (7:7-8) to those who have never been married. The present
distress bears directly upon the advice he gives to remain single (v. 26, 28, 32,
Bound in verse 27 is translated from deo (to
be under obligation to) and conveys a bound by law concept (cf. 1 Cor. 7:39;
Rom. 7:2, where the idea of divine law is noted). It is not synonymous with douloo (1 Cor.
Paul does not advise divorce to those who are obligated
by God's law to a mate. Nor does he counsel the Christian who is not under obligation to a
mate (not bound) to seek a mate. In fact, he says do not seek a mate (7:27).
If, however, the one who is not bound (loosed, not obligated by divine law to a mate) does
in fact marry, he has not sinned in doing so.
Although some brethren try to define loosed
as divorced, its clear contrast is to bound. Hence, the contrast
being made by the apostle is between one who is not obligated by God's law to another and
one who is obligated by God's law to another.
Summary: 1 Corinthians 7:39-40
The life-enduring nature of marriage is here
emphatically stated by the apostle, and that liberty from this obligation comes only upon
the death of one's mate (7:39) or the appropriate application of Matthew 19:9.
Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 has been in full
harmony with and by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Therefore, we can only consider
1 Corinthians 7 as authoritative instruction and counsel from the mind of God (1 Cor.
Brethren, shall we agree to disagree with men who teach
and practice error regarding 1 Corinthians 7 because they are men of sincerity, honesty,
integrity and scholarship? Or shall we try to rescue them from the clutches of error which
devours souls by keeping the truth of the gospel ever before them? (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
Are we able to say with certainty what the truth is
which is taught in 1 Corinthians 7? Are we able to say with certainty that many are now
teaching error on 1 Corinthians 7 rather than truth? (Sadly, many are choosing to remain
silent instead of speaking the truth.) Are we able to say with certainty that false
teaching, when taught and practiced, causes the soul to be lost? (Gal. 1:6-9)
If not, then what scriptural teaching is being followed which allows Christians to have fellowship with the sin of adultery (through sinful remarriages) and the false teachings which give false comfort to those who are committing adultery in those remarriages (Matt. 19:9)?