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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : 1 Corinthians 7:36

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Joined: 2008/10/30
Posts: 2145

 1 Corinthians 7:36

1 Corinthians 7:36-40

Duties of Parents to Children as to Marriage by E. Hurndall

1 Corinthians 7:36-40

But if any man think that he behaves himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require…

The apostle's words apply directly to daughters only. Among Jews and Greeks the disposal of the daughters of the family rested with the father. What is said, however, may extend very largely to sons as well.

I. MARRIAGE IS NOT TO BE INSISTED UPON. It too commonly is in many circles, especially in the case of daughters, and thus becomes prolific of evils. The apostle rather commends the father who does not give his daughter in marriage (ver. 38). Doubtless with an eye to the "present distress," but assuredly in opposition to any forcing of the inclination, and to any notion that marriage is universally desirable. It is not the parent's wish so much as the child's which should be consulted. Spheres should be opened for unmarried females. This has been done largely of late years, but a greater extension is one urgent need of the times.

II. CONSENT TO MARRIAGE IS NOT TO BE CAPRICIOUSLY WITHHELD. (Ver. 36.) The dread of refusal of consent has often led to rash acts involving much subsequent suffering. Parents often blame their children for marrying without consent when they should blame themselves for withholding it. Some parents seem to think that their convenience and predilections are the chief things concerned, as though it were their marriage and not their child's.

III. THE CHILD'S WISHES SHOULD BE CONSULTED. This seems to be involved in "Let them marry," as though a specific attachment was supposed. "Having no necessity" (ver. 37) and "behaveth himself uncomely" (ver. 36) bear also upon this point. Certainly obtains in case of widows (ver. 39). The child's wish, not only as to marriage itself, but as to the one with whom a union is proposed should never be left out of account. Parental counsel and guidance are wise and well; parental compulsion is gross folly. Consent to marriage may be withheld, and must be, if there are sufficient grounds, but to in any way force a union is to pave the way for misery, if not for something worse. Modern usages much more favour consultation of the child's wish than ancient, but in some circles there seems to be a tendency to revert to barbaric customs. In the land where there are no slaves, daughters are in many cases as truly sold to the highest bidder as was ever an African upon an American auction block. When parental selfishness and folly run to such lengths, divorce courts are likely to be in great request and never to lack causes.

IV. CHRISTIAN PARENTS SHOULD DESIRE T. HE MARRIAGE OF THEIR CHILDREN "ONLY IN THE LORD." Alas! how many professedly Christian parents seem to have but little regard for this! Position, wealth, influence, titles, - if these, or any one of them, can be attained, there is not only satisfaction but jubilation. Yet what possible joy should there be to a Christian parent in giving his child to be the lifelong companion of an enemy of Christ? He may not be able to prevent such a union, but to rejoice in it is quite another matter. A suitor's spiritual position should be weighed as well as his temporal. A union with an unbeliever may promise much, as men judge, for this world, but it promises very little for the next. Such marriages are not "made in heaven," nor can they be expected to lead thither. But a godly husband wonderfully aids the spiritual life of a godly wife, and vice versa; and they walk well together, because they are "agreed." Mixed marriages seem generally to end in an "agreement" to give up attendance at the house of God on the sabbath, and to care nothing for the God of the house during the week. Yet many parents scarcely consider for a moment whether they are giving their daughter to a child of God or to a child of the devil. And sons are congratulated if they succeed in making "a good match," which is very possibly one of the worst matches they could have made. Parents should give the supreme place to the spiritual interests of their children.

 2018/8/24 15:07Profile

Joined: 2008/10/30
Posts: 2145

 Re: 1 Corinthians 7:36

1 Cor 7:36-38

 "If any man" (1 Cor 7:36) = Here Paul addresses a man who is responsible for a virgin under his care. In
order to correctly identify this man, it may be best to begin with the verb in 1 Cor 7:38 -- gamizo = to give
in marriage, to permit to marry. The subject of this verb cannot be the groom, but the one who is giving
away the bride. It seems best to identify this man as the Christian father or guardian of a young
unmarried woman who is also a believer.

 "Thinks he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter" = What would lead a Christian father to
think he may be acting unfairly toward his virgin daughter? This may have been a father who wanted to keep is daughter at home in view of the benefit and service she was contributing to the household.

There may have been any of several selfish reasons for doing this, but this is not what a loving father
should do.

 Two characteristics of the virgin daughter:

1. She is "past her youth" = ripe and perhaps over-ripe (of marriageable age or even over-age).

2. "If it must be so" = if there is a present necessity; if the time has come to consider it seriously.

This implies that a potential groom has come into view!

 This presents a picture of a father who is questioning his decision to keep his virgin daughter at home
beyond the age at which she might have married. He now realizes that it may have been improper for
him to have done this, especially when she may have had a suitable prospect of marriage. Paul's
decision in this case is that the father should do what he wishes, he does not sin. Just as Paul did not
put any restraint on unmarried believers in his earlier instruction (1 Cor 7:35), so here he does not put
any restraint on a Christian father to keep his daughter in a state of singleness.

 "Let them marry" = the word them implies that there is a potential groom in view! The plural here refers
to the daughter and the man she wants to marry. Evidently the turning point in the father's thinking has
been brought about by the appearance of a suitable husband!

 "But he who stands firm in his heart" (1 Cor 7:37) = here Paul presents the contrasting point when the
father believes he has not treated his daughter unfairly by keeping her unmarried and at home. He still
thinks he is doing the right thing in keeping his daughter unmarried -- that she can serve the Lord better
by remaining single than by being married. The word keep (tereo) means to guard, watch over, keep
safe, and protect from harm. This is the primary focus of the father's efforts toward his daughter.

 "He will do well" (kalos) = in the previous case Paul had said that it was not a sin for the father to let the
couple get married (1 Cor 7:36), but in this case where the father keeps his daughter unmarried and
under his protection, Paul says the father is doing a good thing.

Then in 1 Cor 7:38 Paul reviewed both cases:

1. The father who gives his virgin daughter in marriage does well, and

2. The father who does not give her in marriage will do better.

Again Paul expressed his inspired opinion in view of the impending circumstances, that remaining
unmarried may be better under the circumstances. But it is not a matter of one decision being a sin
while the other decision is the right choice. Both decisions may be right and perfectly acceptable given a
prayerful evaluation of the circumstances in each specific case. - S. Lewis

 2018/8/26 8:35Profile

Joined: 2008/8/13
Posts: 687


I am also in a belief that it is not talking whether any decision on that matter is sinful or not.

But then we are facing or the'christian world' is living in a very different conditions and culture today. The youths are deciding haphazardly, many families, churches, and schools are dysfunctional, and being a single mom is a popular trend.

Dating, BGR in churches is being done with impunity. I wonder if we can still come back to the former traditions.

 2018/8/26 14:04Profile

Joined: 2008/10/30
Posts: 2145

 Re: former traditions

passerby writes,

"BGR in churches is being done with impunity. I wonder if we can still come back to the former traditions."

I'm not a pessimist, yet I'm not persuaded that the "former traditions" you refer to will ever return wholescale.

And forgive my ignorance, but what's "BGR" stand for?

 2018/8/28 4:13Profile

Joined: 2008/8/13
Posts: 687


BGR refers to boy-girl relationship.

I gives me a nostalgic feeling when the past comes to my recollection, it is just so different now. I want to go back to where it was, but then this is how the Lord is directing the times.

The precariousness of the future can be troubling except that we can cling hard to the Lord's promises according to His grace and mercy, and this keeps my heart in peace.

 2018/8/28 6:02Profile

Joined: 2008/10/30
Posts: 2145

 Re: 1 Corinthians 7:36

The key to understanding this is understanding three Greek phrases, translated “his virgin” and “past the bloom/flower” along with “needs require”. As you could see from the above translations, “his virgin” could have THREE possible meanings.

- It could refer to a man's daughter.

- It could refer to a man’s fiancé or

- It could refer to man’s own virginity. (Side note: when translations say “she” is “past bloom”, the gender is inferred from “virgin”, there is no gender assigned in the Greek. So it could be “his” virginity.)

Let’s look at the strength of each these interpretations: Darby sees this verse as a natural follow up to Paul’s whole conversation in chapter 7 about virginity where he promotes celibacy. This verse then, would be the “application portion” of that whole argument. So, if a man finds he is violating his own virginity (IE. experiencing the ‘burning with passion” Paul mentions 7:9) and he’s getting along in years, the man is free to marry.

This is probably weakest of the three because the possessive of virgin is almost never attached to one’s own virginity but to a person, usually (but not always) a woman whom you, in some sense, possess.

So the second idea is that “his virgin” is his fiancé. This is how most modern translations see it and your friend would agree. This is probably stronger than the first view, weaker than the last view. But even in this view, your Christian buddy has inserted two ideas that aren’t in the text and have never been inferred by any translators or commentators that I’ve read, ever. His assumptions are

- that behaving improperly means “having sex with” and

- that “let them marry” means “let them be considered married.”

Three things militate against this view. One is the question of why Paul would call premarital sex "behaving improperly" and then turn around and tell those engaging in it, "let them do as they please." This is very perplexing.

Two, is that the "behaving improperly" is connected to the “past bloom” in some way. The way early Christians did engagement” was through arranged marriages. Moderns assume that cohabitation was an option back then, but it was almost unheard of. Why? Because a man sleeping with a woman was always sleeping with someone else’s property. So no one willy nilly “shacked up” – a father wouldn’t allow it. It wasn’t just dishonorable, it was economically disastrous – unless he was paying for those services through prostitution. Yes, it was not unheard of (see John 4) but very rare, usually with widows (which precludes 'virgins' obviously).

So most men would be engaged to a woman, selected by their parents, sometimes for years ahead of matrimony. This implies that the “past bloom” comment is connected to not treating her marriage rights correctly, rather than “having sex” with her. The man in question is delaying marriage (because of Paul’s encouragement of celibacy) but he finds that his fiancé is getting older and “needs require” he do something. Again, why? Because she (or he) is not fit or suited for single life.

Therefore it needs to be said by Paul to such a man – you can go ahead and take her freely as your wife. Get married, it’s not a sin. The verb tense in Greek will not allow, “let them be considered married”. The context makes this obvious. He’s considering what a man WILL do, not renaming what someone has already done.

Third, your Friend has not understood other Scripture. There is no state of cohabitation that Paul ever endorsed as lawful sex. Widows were perhaps cohabitating with renegade elders in Ephesus (see 1 Timothy) and there he doesn’t say, “let them be considered married” if they want to make it right. He considers them fornicators, and calls them to repent, “settle down and get married” (1 Tim 5:14). The only other cohabitating we know of was the one that came under discipline when a man simply took his father’s wife (I Cor 5). If the marriage arrangement was so slippery to Paul that we could wave our wands over any two fornicators at will and say, voila, “married!”, then why not say that about the man who took his father’s wife and avoid the scandal? (We incorrectly assume that the scandal was that the father was still alive, in all likelihood he was not.)

After all is said and done, there's a strong case to be made that this isn't even about a man and his fiancé. It’s might be about a parent and “his virgin” which would be a daughter still under a father's authority. There's much to commend this view, since it takes historical context and all the language here into account. If a reference to a parent, the “behaving improperly” makes clear sense attached to “past bloom”. This would mean a Christian father has heard Paul extoll the benefits of celibacy, but the father knows this isn’t “proper” for his daughter. And seeing that she is moving past marrying age, this requires him to make a decision. And Paul then grants such a parent the freedom to do as he sees fit: Give her in marriage, let her be married to her affianced, despite the benefits of the single life.

Most early commentators saw this as the obvious meaning (Paul had talked to singles, marrieds and divorced, it makes sense that he apply his message to one final group: Parents!)

This isn’t even about engaged couples at all, but about fathers and daughters and reflects the authority in 1st century culture that father’s had over “their virgin daughters” until marriage and the responsibility they took in seeing them well wed in that culture – in conjunction with Paul’s encouragement of singleness. In any event “do as he please” cannot be referring to two unwed people continuing to sleep together and have it ‘considered’ marriage. This is a pretty blatant example of reading into the text what you want it to say, instead of letting it speak for itself.

 2018/8/29 9:16Profile

Joined: 2010/8/24
Posts: 1033


Without a doubt in my mind this text is referring to a man and his betrothed wife to be ( a marriage not yet consummated ). As in the case of Joseph and Mary.


 2018/8/29 13:15Profile

Joined: 2008/10/30
Posts: 2145

 Re: 1 Corinthians 7:38

1 Corinthians 7:38

So that both he who is giving in marriage doth well, and he who is not giving in marriage doth better.

The "he", "who is giving in marriage" is none other than the father. For there is none other than the father, that gives in marriage. In those days, and even today.

It is asked at the altar during the ceremony, "who gives this woman to this man." The father answers, "I do."

 2018/8/31 9:16Profile

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