Gods Plan One Man, One Woman
At the beginning of creation, according to Jesus Christ, God made mankind male and female. Part of the command from the beginning was to multiply, God said, and replenish the earth. Hence there is a built in attraction between the male and the female of the "species" or kind that is natural, and within Godís boundaries, a good thing. And this attraction does not die just because people become Christians. It is there; it is still good for a man to be attracted to his wife and for the wife to be attracted to her husband; but it must be managed. Therefore the word of God has all sorts of lessons in various ways scattered throughout its set of instruction. The followers of Christ would do well to hearken to those teachings, both in terms of Ďdoís" and in terms of "doníts."
- Do not touch - The brethren in Corinth had written Paul with some questions regarding husband-wife relationships. Those questions arise naturally as a person is moving either out of paganism or out of Judaism into a new way of life. "Now that Iím a new creation in Christ," the saint might ponder, "in what ways am I to conduct myself differently than I did in the past? What does the picture of this new life look like?" The apostle Paul responds in this epistle. "Now concerning the things about which you wrote," is his opening in this section of the letter, "it is good for a man not to touch a woman" (I Corinthians 7:1). While men tend to be visually stimulated, women tend to tactilely stimulated. The thrust of the use of the word "touch" here has to do with a touching or brushing that has sexual overtones, and women know the difference between that which does and that which does not. The instruction is: donít!
- A world of immoralities - Our modern world is awash in sexual immorality, coming at the brain of the saint from every imaginable source. The ancient world was also, but without the technology to bring it digitally. But that lack did not lessen its pull power over the individual who might have allowed himself to be weakened by circumstance. "But because of immoralities," answers the apostle, "let each man have his own wife, let each woman have her own husband" (I Corinthians 7:2). Desires for companionship and intimacy are real and normal among saints. The driving point in the discussion here is that if Christian men and women are married, they are less likely to be tempted by the sundry siren songs wafting the airways of the world. It is also clear that the basic teaching of the new covenant is not polygamous; each man is to have his wife, and each woman is to have her husband. As part of that general instruction, the husbands and wives are to be cooperative in their intimate relationships, so that the married partner doesnít feel driven to look elsewhere. "Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife," Paul affirms, "and likewise also the wife to her husband" (I Corinthians 7:3).
The battle between light and darkness as it is waged in the human soul is intense. Those who are of the world are on record as having lost the battle, and their only hope is the redemption found in Christ Jesus. For those who are redeemed, the warnings are consistently strong and pointed. Most saints will need to be married in order to maintain their holiness in Christ. "I wish all men were even as I myself am," Paul comments concerning his own ability to be single and remain focused on Christ. "However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that" (I Corinthians 7:7). Each saint has to be honest in his own assessment of himself and govern himself accordingly. "Because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband."
A Matter of Self-Control
Satan is indeed the roaring lion, prowling through the churches, seeking someone to destroy. And one of the key tools in his destruction chest has to do with sexual improprieties. It is pretty obvious from the figurines and carvings from the ancient world, as well as the continual barrage of images and celebrity news of the modern world, that the human race as a whole does not handle the intended intimacy of the husband/wife relationship very well. Fornication and adultery are prevalent, and the attendant destruction of relationships and accompanying heartache abound in modern society. People coming into the church from the world, as new Christians, often bring many of these issues with them. This, coupled with the temptation that just normally is hanging around, results in the churchís continually having to deal with immorality. Thus it is, and so it was!
- Whose body? - Most Christians, most of the time, should be married in order to handle companionship needs and sexual drives. A lonely lady or a single, driven man is usually easy prey for the roaring lion; hence marriage partners in Christ have certain obligations to their mates to help keep the lion at bay. "Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife," Paul states, "and likewise also the wife to her husband." Many scriptures and lots of instruction feed into that simple statement. Husbands need to live with their wives in an understanding manner in order to make this really work, and wives need to respect their husbands. "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does," asseverates Paul, "and likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (I Corinthians 7:4). Selfishness and sin are thrown out the door in this instruction, and this is a practical way to implement the dictum: "Do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13).
- Holiness in all things - Conflict can arise in Christian marriages; the key is to work out the conflict in a manner that is open and honorable. If couples are going to fight, they need to fight "fair." No manipulation techniques, such as temper tantrums or playing the "Iím just a bad person" card to get the discussion off topic. And no using the granting or withholding of sexual favors to get your own way! "Stop depriving one another," is Paulís straight-forward comment, "except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (I Corinthians 7:5). Clearly it is good to set aside a block of time for special prayer, maybe including fasting; and for this time the couple could put their intimate relationship on hold. But it has to be by mutual consent. The lonely lady or the deprived male is open to the temptations the wily Satan can send their way.
- Better to marry than to burn - Paul is not commanding that all disciples of Christ should be married. "But this I say by way of concession, not of command" he comments, noting that not all individuals in Christ are driven by companionship needs or sexual desires (I Corinthians 7:6). "Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am," he superadds, in regard to his being able to be single and totally devoted to the Lord. "However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn" (I Corinthians 7:7-9).
Most saints will need to be married in order to stay sexually pure, especially at younger ages. If a follower of Jesus can remain single and devoted to the cause of Christ, he should do so. But, if a person is burning with desire, it is better to marry, rather than ending up burning in the hellfire!
This side of glory, none of us lives in an ideal world. Ideally, every person becomes a Christian, husbands and wives are brothers and sisters in Christ, and the Christian family is one of harmony and peace. Until the Lord calls us to be absent from the body and at home with Him, we live in a place fraught with pain and sorrow, sickness and death. Part of that pain and sorrow often has to do with marriage relationships. Sometimes one of the marriage partners needs what the other is unable or unwilling to give at that time. Sometimes there is selfishness or obtuseness, which really get in the way of healthy communication and teamwork. Sometimes there are conflicting goals, or different priorities, or different ways of seeing things. This is partly why Paul said it would be better if everyone could stay single like he.
- Believersí marriage - It can be very frustrating for the husband if his wife just refuses to cooperate, or to give him the respect for the male role model as set forth in the scripture. And it can be very difficult for the wife if her husband is behaving like an unreasonable master and not really demonstrating the love of Christ toward her. "But to the married I give instructions," adverts the apostle, "not I, but the Lord [meaning he did not have a series of direct quotes from Jesus, but not indicating that this section is uninspired by the Holy Spirit], that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not send his wife away" (I Corinthians 7:10,11). God hates divorce, and He really wants Christian marriages to work. So He is making the point that if saint is really serious about breaking up the Christian marriage, then he or she needs to be committed to never marry again. This would be a decision that would need to be thought through carefully in the sight of the Lord!
- If one is not a believer - In an ideal world, everyone is a Christian, and husbands and wives live in peace and harmony. But sometimes a person will become a Christian, and the marriage partner does not. Then what? "But to the rest I say, not the Lord [no direct quote again], that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away" (I Corinthians 7:12). If she is willing to stay, make it work! What if the wife is a Christian? "And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away" (I Corinthians 7:13). If he is willing to stay, make it work! It is understood that the unbelieving husband or unbelieving wife in these cases is not hindering the pursuit of Christianity by the believing spouse. "Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace" (I Corinthians 7:15).
From a human perspective, things on earth seem to go very slow. Sometimes the saint grows impatient with the time it is taking for his spouse to "come around" to understanding and following the gospel. But God is the one who joined the particular husband to his particular wife, and it is important to give Godís plan time to work. "For how do you know, O wife," is the direct query of the apostle, "whether you will save your husband? Or how to do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" (I Corinthians 7:16). Ultimately, one of saintís major purposes while on earth is to save others. So, if his marriage is the vehicle God is using to save his marriage partner, is he not willing to make that marriage a high priority, and to do his best to make it a wonderful marriage? And if the saint really loves his spouse, wouldnít he want that spouse to be in eternity with him?
Old Testament holiness had a lot to do with certain itemsí being clean or unclean. But under the terms of the new covenant, holiness has much more to do with the heart of the child of God rather than whether the object itself could be regarded as holy or unholy. Old Testament foods for the Jew were clean or unclean depending on animal of origin; new covenant food is sanctified or made holy by the word of God and prayer. And just as the Jew had to be super conscious of whether or not his food was clean, so the Christian is to be super conscious that his food is made holy, so that nothing unholy or unclean enters his mouth. But more than that, the saint recognizes the teaching of Jesus that it is out of the heart that come the evil thoughts, fornications, murders, adulteries, etc. Hence it is that the true disciple of Christ wants to do his part in making sure that the circumcised heart he received in his immersion into Christ remains pure, and that he desires to be holy as his heavenly Father is holy.
- Holy intimacy? - So what happens to the intimate relationship between husband and wife if one is a Christian, and one is not? The saint recognizes the teachings of the scripture, as the apostle Paul would detail later in his second epistle to the Corinthian brethren: "For what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Ö or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?" (II Corinthians 6:14,15). So is the believerís unbelieving spouse untouchable? "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife," is Paulís inspired answer, "and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband" (I Corinthians 7:14). This does not mean that the unbeliever is somehow saved from his sins just because he is married to a Christian; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the unrighteousness of the unrighteous will be upon himself. What the apostle is gently bringing forward is that the sexual relationship between the believing spouse and the unbeliever is a sanctified relationship because of the one who is a saint. This allows the wife to fulfill her duty to her husband, and the husband to his wife, and to free the one who is godly in Christ Jesus from the temptations which might otherwise arise.
- Holy children - There is a sense in which all children in the world belong to the Lord. But children of Christians are special; they have the opportunity to grow up in an environment where they can know the living oracles in their total completeness, and where the answers to the great questions of life can be found. They have examples of righteousness and godliness around them, and have fellowship with those who truly walk with the Lord. So what about the children of those whose parents are mixed (that is, one is a saint and one is not)? Just as the companionship between husband and wife is sanctified by the believer, so also is the parental relationship with the children: "Otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy." Thus the whole family is a special, sanctified unit in the sight of the Lord, and the Christian can govern himself accordingly!
God used the physical clean/unclean aspects of the old covenant to set the stage for what He really wanted to accomplish under the terms of the new. The purpose of clean/unclean foods was to prepare for the new covenant people of God to be concerned about whether actions and/or attitudes are holy or unacceptable to God. The brethren in Corinth, with as many problems as they obviously had as a congregation, obviously still had a concern about holiness and sanctified relationships. May the brethren of modern times also have a concern about their personal holiness, and the sanctification of their relationships!
The Lord's Assignment
The great God over all is able to determine the boundaries and the times of the habitation of each nation on this planet. He is able to execute His will, while preserving the free will of each individual who will ever exist on earth. He who "stretches out the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth," also "forms the spirit of a man within him" (Zechariah 12:10). The point is that many of the circumstances surrounding a Christianís life have been pre-ordained, and the saint in all humility is to accept the will of the Lord. Why did Esther attain to royalty at exactly the right moment to preserve the remnant of the Jews as a basis for the coming Christ and His church? How is it that both Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth, or that Augustus Caesar issued the taxation decree at exactly the right time? How is it that the apostle Paul was born with Roman citizenship? God is working in our lives, even if we do not know the outcome. "For how do you know, O wife," is the apostle Paulís comment, "whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?"
- The directive - One of the huge challenges is for saints to maintain great attitudes when earthly circumstances do not turn out "favorably." The record concerning the men and women of faith is not good from an earthly perspective: "They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated Ö wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground" (Hebrews 11:37,38). Those were all circumstances which the Lord orchestrated in each of their cases, and the inspired record is there for the perusal of modern saints, that they might learn and respond in a godly fashion to their challenges. Thus Paul makes the application to the saints in Corinth: "Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And thus I direct in all the churches" (I Corinthians 7:17). The issues of husband/wife relationships, freedom/slavery, circumcision/uncircumcision, and general discontent were such that Paul stated that he had to write his directive for all the churches. The directive: "As God has called each, in this manner let him walk!"
- Circumcision as an example - Paul is laying the groundwork for the brethren to be content in their current marriage status. Therefore he brings to the foreground circumcision [born Jewish] as base point. "Was any man called already circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised" (I Corinthians 7:18). There would be no reason for a person of Israelite ancestry to repudiate that in becoming a Christian; rather it could be used to convert other Jews. Similarly, a person of Gentile background need not adopt the law and customs of the Jews at his coming out of darkness into Godís marvelous light. "Circumcision is nothing," says the apostle, "and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God" (I Corinthians 7:19). The message: "Let each man remain in that condition in which he was called" (I Corinthians 7:20).
Ultimately, this discussion has to do with the ability to trust God and to be content with what He has provided. The Lord has assigned each one, said Paul, a certain place and a certain set of circumstances at time of his immersion into Christ. The happy desire of the saint is to function in a manner worthy of the great name by which he was called. "What matters is the keeping of the commandments of God."
Contented Slaves and Singles
The word of God does not indicate that the Christian life is pain free or without work. Rather, Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29). The key for saints is to be able to learn from Jesus how to accept with humility the circumstances in which they find themselves, and do the right thing ó to keep the commandments of God. Even though our Lord prayed with great intensity amidst the olives of Gethsemane that the cup of suffering might be removed from Him, He humbly acceded to the will of the Father, and carried out His part of the plan set in motion before the foundation of the world. He was "tempted in all points as we," according to the inspired commentary; could He set aside normal desires for an earthly spouse and family, and focus on His mission? And can we, the saints of the Most High, likewise set aside our earthly desires, and focus on our purpose in the body of Christ, following in His footsteps?
- Slaves - The prospect of being a slave, frankly, bothers me. I like being free to go where I think I need to go when I think I need to go. But not all have been "born free"; in fact it is estimated that perhaps two-thirds of first century Christians were slaves. Slavery is an entrenched economic system, and it is not abrogated without major upheaval. So the slave of the first century was to understand that a Spartacus-style uprising was not where he was to set his mind. "Were you called while a slave?" queries Paul. "Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that" (I Corinthians 7:21). The Christian slave was to trust God in his circumstances; if the Lord set him free in the physical realm, he would have more options in his service to God. But to be contented as a slave requires some mental and spiritual adjustments. The apostle and the Holy Spirit have some helpful thoughts. "For he who was called while a slave is the Lordís freedman," is the encouraging perspective, "likewise he who was called while free is Christís slave" (I Corinthians 7:22). As usual, there is the great leveling process inside the body of Christ. "You were bought with a price," is the common currency of Christís blood, with the conclusion, "do not become slaves of men" (I Corinthians 7:23). Life on earth is a vapor, was the concept of Paulís contemporary, James, elder of the church in Jerusalem. Because earthly existence is so short and eternity is so long, saints can be content rather than agitated anarchists. "Brethren," says Paul in this regard, "let each man remain in that condition in which he was called" (I Corinthians 7:24).
- Singles - The contentment suggested toward slaves is used as a basis for encouraging the singles. "Now concerning virgins," is the track of the apostle, as he works on the general issue of Christian singles, "I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy" (I Corinthians 7:25). Again, he does not have a direct quote from Jesus, but his statements are still Spirit-inspired. And his point is that virgins are better off if they remain single in the Lord. Regarding men: "I think then in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife" (I Corinthians 7:26,27).
Spiritually, every Christian is the Lordís freedman; indwelt by the Spirit, he is in liberty. The goal is for every saint to be, as Paul exhorted the Philippian brethren, content in whatever set of circumstances he finds himself. It may take some education in the word and in experience, but each is to learn from Jesus, and in Him find rest for his soul.
Spouses and Spiritual Issues
"I wish that all men were even as I myself am," stated Paul in regard to his being single in the Lord. "However," he notes, "each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that" (I Corinthians 7:7). The thrust of his comments in this whole section of this letter to the church of God in Corinth is that if a saint can remain single and focused on the Lord, he is better off to do that. "But," he says, "if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn." As the apostle discusses this in some depth, he brings four issues to the forefront: circumcision, slaves, singles, and spouses. The issue of circumcision or uncircumcision was decided by someone else at birth; the individual did not have a choice in that, so "let him remain in that condition in which he was called." Similarly with a slave ó generally speaking, it was out of the control of the individual whether he was born free or enslaved, and once again, the exhortation is, "Let each man remain in the condition in which he was called." But marriage is a different issue, because someoneís choice is involved. Hence the apostle is giving some inspired advice to singles and spouses in the local congregation, noting, "And thus I direct in all the churches."
- Trouble in this life - "In view of the present distress," comments the apostle, he thought it would be "good for a man to remain as he is," just as he recommended with regard to circumcision and slavery. If the saint is married, he should stay married. If he is single, he should remain single. "But," he and the Holy Spirit add, "if you should marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin should marry, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you" (I Corinthians 7:28). It is important to know that it is permissible for male and female saints to marry. The apostleís concern is that the challenge of establishing a true marriage relationship is such that it can occupy a lot of time that could be spent in promoting the gospel and working with the local congregation.
- Shortened time for spouses - The apostle Paul is conscious of some pressing situations confronting or about to confront the congregations. "In view of the present distress Ö" was an expression he had just used. "But this I say, brethren," is his next comment, "the time has been shortened Ö" When Christians are thinking of marriage, they generally (and should) think of long-term goals. They are thinking of a family, a dwelling place, how to spend time together, and some plan for some sort of financial security. But when the time, as the apostle put it, "has been shortened," things change. "From now on those who have wives should be as though they had none," is his first exhortation, "and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of the world is passing away" (I Corinthians 7:29-31). It takes a marriage that is already stable for the men to be able to step into the action of "those who have wives should be as though they had none."
The church needs many people working together to continue to carry out the commission of the Lord to evangelize the neighborhood, as well as to continue to edify the saints. When the brethren are fully conscious that there is "present distress," that "the time has been shortened," and that "the form of this world is passing away," then they can realistically set their sights on what is important, and set the prospect of the felicities of domestic life on the back burner.
Brethren will make, by deliberation or by default, decisions about what is truly important to them. Basically, they will choose heaven as their priority, or they will choose earth. But choosing heaven is no easy matter; it may be a "no brainer," but it is not easy. Most people want to go to heaven, but they do not want to develop the belief system in their own lives that is necessary to enter the courts of glory, nor to undergo the sacrifices necessary in taking up their respective crosses and following Jesus. Hence, choosing heaven requires a continual persistent, daily mental effort to set aside things of this world and focus on the realm of the unseen as revealed in the scriptures. The requirements of survival ó feeding, clothing, sheltering the carcass ó can occupy enough space in the saintís thought processes so as to be somewhat of a distraction. But when the issue of marriage is added to the mix, then the challenge of fixing the spiritual gaze on the Lord in His glory can be greatly intensified.
- Divided interests - There are twenty-four hours per day, and the clock is an unbending marker of the passage of time. Thus what is done today is what is done, and what is left undone is left undone. Hence lesser priorities can prevent the highest priority items from getting done. "The form of this world is passing away," observes the apostle Paul. Earthly concerns should not then override heavenly priorities. "But I want you to be free from concern," is his added comment in regard to things of earth. "One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of this world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided" (I Corinthians 7:32-34). A truly caring Christian husband will do the work necessary to understand his wife, and take the time to meet her needs and satisfy her interests. "And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit," is the apostleís high affirmation of single female saints, "but the one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband." A Christian woman does want to please her husband, and the time occupied in helping him, raising a family, keeping house, etc., can be really overpower the ability to focus on spiritual things. The apostle is trying to help brothers and sisters in the Lord be realistic about what a marriage relationship requires.
- Not a matter of restriction - The apostle is making it clear that he is not opposing marriage, nor is he saying that marriage is forbidden. If fact, in another epistle, he comments generally on younger widows, noting that they begin to feel sensual desires, and slip into a lifestyle of going about from house to house being idle, gossips, and busybodies. "Therefore," he says, "I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach" (I Timothy 5:11-15). The concern, then, of the apostle, is that nothing come between the saint and his Lord, including marriage. "And this I say for your own benefit," he superadds, in reference to his comments on setting aside the option of marriage for better direct service to the Lord, "not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly, and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord" (I Corinthians 7:35).
Earthly life is so short and eternity is so long that earthly goals and desires can be shoved into the background. It is no secret that Satanís goal is to get the saint to focus away from heaven and drop the gaze of his affections to earth. The intense desire of the apostle Paul, in regard to the church in Corinth, is understandable. He wants to promote the appropriate regard for marriage and sexuality, and "secure undistracted devotion to the Lord."
Wrap Up on Virgins and Widows
Historically, women have not had many rights. Christianity has done much to elevate the status of women, in that women hold the status of "equal heir" in the spiritual realm, and that men are given some very specific instructions in terms of laying their lives down for their wives as Christ lay down His life for the church. The picture, then, is that the Christian husband, and thus the Christian dad, is not a tyrant, but one who carefully and prayerfully puts the interests of his wife and family ahead of his own. The saintly elder or bishop is one who "manages" his own household; he is thus involved in the thoughtful development and spiritual growth of each of his children, helping them to be all they can be within the scope of the scriptures. Dad is going to consider thoughtfully the desires of his virgin daughter.
- Virgins - Historically, women have had to be granted permission from their fathers or guardians to marry. While this could lead to bad situations in which daughters were used as bargaining tools as their fathers tried to accomplish certain objectives, it could have also been a means of protecting daughters against unwelcome suitors. A truly Christian father will have a good communication relationship with his daughter, and desire her happiness. That the virgin has a choice in these matters of the heart is implicit in one of the apostleís statements in this section on marriage, where he comments that "if a virgin should marry, she has not sinned." If it were not her choice, then it would not be a matter of her committing a sin. "But if any man thinks he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter," Paul begins to answer another marriage question, "if she should be of full age, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin, let her marry" (I Corinthians 7:36). [There are some complexities in the thrust of this passage; the New American Standard version chooses to translate these verses in this way because of what is in verse 38.] If a manís Christian daughter really wants to get married, the father does not sin if he lets them marry. "But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well" (I Corinthians 7:37). If the father has a really good reason that he is firm on, then he will do well to keep his daughter under his care. "So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well," Paul notes, and then in consideration of the points he has made earlier, he adds, "and he who does not give her in marriage will do better" (I Corinthians 7:38). Christian dads are not tyrants, and these decisions are carefully and prayerfully made.
- Widows - Women generally live longer than men, tend to be younger than their husbands, and their occupations are generally along the lines of less hazardous duty. Thus there are more widows than widowers, and the women are in a more dependent position. The word of God, therefore, across the board takes special note of widows, and gives specific instructions concerning their cares. "A wife is bound as long as her husband lives," reaffirms the apostle, "but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord" (I Corinthians 7:39). The restriction that widow marry a Christian man is really a sensible one, considering the difficulties that can arise if the spouse is not committed to the Lord. "But in my opinion," he adds, "she is happier is she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 7:40).
The overriding goal is to help the saints get to heaven. Many things, including marriage issues, can really cloud saintsí thinking, but the apostle is not going to be deterred in his purpose of getting as many as possible through the gates of glory. These instructions are given with that goal clearly in mind!