Surprised by Joy – 2 Corinthians chapter 7

Just added to our series on 2 Corinthians, a new message preached by Dr J Stewart Gillespie from chapter 7 verses 11 to 16:


2 Corinthians chp 7 vs 11 to 16 – Surprised by Joy – JS Gillespie -12122017


Who’s Sorry Now? – 2 Corinthians chapter 7

Just added, a new message preached by J Stewart Gillespie, in our series on 2 Corinthians:


2 Corinthians chp 7 vs 8 to 12 – Whos Sorry Now – JS Gillespie – 05122017


The Cost of Comfort – 2 Corinthians chp 7

Just added, a new message preached by Dr J Stewart Gillespie from 2 Corinthians chapter 7:


2 Corinthians chp 7 vs 2 to 7 – The Cost of Comfort – JS Gillespie 28112017


2 Corinthians chapter 7 verse 1 – Logical Holiness

Just added, a new message preached by Dr J Stewart Gillespie in our series on 2 Corinthians:


2 Corinthians chp 7 vs 1 – Logical Holiness – Dr J Stewart Gillespie – 12112017


1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 25 to 31 – When Time is Short

Just added to our series on 1 Corinthians, a new message preached by J Stewart Gillespie:


1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 25 to 31 – When Time is Short – J Stewart Gillespie – 30122014

Service in Any Circumstances – 1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 17 to 24

Just added: a new message preached from 1 Corinthians chapter 7:

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 17 to 24 – Service in any Circumstances – JS Gillespie


Notes are available from this message:


We leave the section on marriage (7:1-15)
To return eventually to a section on engagement (7:25ff)
Between the 2 we have this section here (7:16-24) which seems on the surface to speak about quite unrelated subjects:

Circumcision (7:18-19)
Slavery (7:20-24)

Maybe this would indicate a bit of an aside?
Maybe this is a bit of a tangent?
More to it than that?
There is in 7:16-24 a principle already worked out and made explicit through the ministry Paul has given on marriage, this is then extended to other areas of the Christian life.
There has been evident a consistent way of dealing with the marriage related issues:

Unmarried – stay as you are (v8-9) with a “but if…” (v9)
Married – stay as you are (v10) with a “but if…” (v11)
Mixed marriage – stay as you are (v12-13) with a “but if…” (v15)

So stay as you are has been the ministry
Going to see this principle applied to:

1. Marital Status – Relationships – Marriage (7:8-17)
2. Circumcision – Religious / Social rights (7:18-19)
3. Service – Economic circumstances – Occupation (7:21-23)

There are many attitudes which are profoundly destructive in the service of God; few are more destructive than the attitude of heart which sees:

No opportunity in the circumstances into which God has placed us
No opening through the door which God has opened
No gifts in the abilities God has bestowed upon us

There is an outlook which perceives our:

Social circumstances as a mere hindrance
Personal circumstance as a burden
Our occupation as a distraction
Our marriage as a problem

The only positive you can get from some believers is that if only they were:

somewhere else
with someone else
with some other gift

Then every thing would be so much better
Or maybe like Elijah in the wilderness we get it into our head that the only prospect of a positive career move in the Christian life is promotion to glory by means of death. In so doing of course we:

neglect every gift God gives
ignore every open door
miss every opportunity

The reply of the apostle to that mindset is interesting:

‘who do you think God is?’

What is your view of God?

Is God someone who gives you a wee helping hand with that heavy load you carry, that heavy burden that hinders your higher service? Or do we perceive that Gods highest service is to take His yolk upon you and bear that load He has given with Himself? It is His load! It is His service! It is His burden!

Is it God to whom we pray asking for pleasant / congenial / improved circumstances? Is God the God who ‘distributes to every man’ and who ‘called every one’ in those very circumstance?

Is it to God I appeal to bring me into more pleasant paths? Or do I recognise this path as the path He has set me on with the instruction; “so let him walk” (7:17)? “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Psa 40:2).

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Pro 4:25-27)

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Pro 3:5-6)

In 1 Corinthians7:17 it is God who:

1. Distributes the gifts we have – The Provision
2. Calls us in the circumstances we are in – The Purpose
3. Sets the path upon which we walk – The Path

Don’t have a narrow view of God!
He is:

1. The Giver of Gifts
2. The Caller in all Circumstances
3. The Setter of Paths

Our disappointments are Gods appointments.

1. The Provision

‘as God hath distributed to every man…’ (v17)
God gifts the abilities
We have already had an indication that the circumstances and abilities of the Christian life exist by Divine appointment: “every man hath his proper gift of God” (7:7); the gift of maintaining a single life or of living a married life.
‘distributed’: ‘merizo’:3307
Just as the Lord ‘divided’ the fishes amongst the 5000 (Mk6:41) and each received something, so too us.
We have all that we need for His service.
“every man” – each has his gift – a theme picked up in 1 Co12:7,11.
On the path for a few months – what is your gift?
How long have you been using that gift?

2. The Purpose

‘as the Lord hath called every one…’ (v17)
God calls to the opportunities
God deliberately calls us in the circumstances of life in which we are found, rather than in spite of those circumstances

3. The Path
The path before us, with all of its problems is the one God has set us to walk for Him.

David – Status against him

Some can only see the giant looming before the shepherd boy, to conclude:

“Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” (1Sa 17:33)

they can perceive the absence of:


others see it as DESIGN (1 Sam 17) as the circumstances ordained to demonstrate that:

“This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”
(1Sa 17:46)

Joseph – Slavery and Service against him

There is an outlook on the Christian life which sees a man:

Betrayed by your family
Sold into slavery
Taken into Egypt
Thrown into prison
Joseph you are a slave – Joseph are not even a person; you are a possession; you are only worth what someone is willing to pay for you!
Potiphar bought you, he can choice to do as he pleases with you.
You are a nobody

And asks; ‘Joseph how can you possibly serve God in those circumstances?’
You you have the view that service for God is spiritual activity in congenial circumstances you’ll miss Joseph!
Your ministry to Joseph will be; Joseph the first thing you must do is get out of that slavery, get out of Egypt, get out of Potiphars household, get out of prison and get back home; then you can serve God.
If only you were:

Somewhere else
with someone else
doing something else
then you could really be somebody for God Joseph!

You would have missed it – the plan and purpose of God in raising up Joseph through the path of:


to “Zaphnathpaaneah”

Moses: Circumcision against him

There is an outlook which is only able to perceive:

The persecution of Pharaoh
The slaughter of the children
Vulnerability of the boy born in a Jewish household
The slavery of a nation
The edict of Pharoah

Yet here is a unique, carefully ordained set of adverse circumstances in which Gods power will be shown:

“And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exo 3:17)

“Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:” (Exo 6:6)

“And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.” (Exo 6:8)

“And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” (Exo 9:16)

These adverse circumstance deliberately ordained for the Glory of His name.
Even the circumcision of Moses; a Hebrew boy who had to be hidden, and who thus in his hiding was smuggled in to overthrow Pharaohs household.

Don’t tell me that you are not:

Young enough
Fit enough
Old enough
Mature enough
Smart enough
Free enough
Happy enough
Rich enough
Gifted enough
Able enough

to serve God
God doesn’t buy it!
Because what you are really saying is that God isn’t great enough to use someone who isn’t:

Young enough
Fit enough
Old enough
Mature enough
Smart enough
Free enough
Happy enough
Rich enough
Gifted enough
Able enough

That makes you a Christian Atheist!
There are in the purposes of God no circumstances adverse to Gods servants, only servants who are adverse to Gods circumstances.

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 12 to 16 – Difficult Questions and Divided Homes

Just added to our series on 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 12 to 16 – Difficult Questions and Divided Homes – JS Gillespie – 16122014


Notes from this Message:

Questions from last week:

1. Betrothal

The Betrothal theory of Matthew chapter 19 has many notable strengths
It has been adopted over the years by a number of very able students of the Word of God: John Heading in his commentary on Matthews Gospel, and Jack Hunter
It answers or rises above the 9 objections we gave last week to the exception clause theory of Matthew 19:9
It has the added strength of having some background in Matthews Gospel in the events of Mary and Joseph, wishing to put Mary away privately due to her conception during the Betrothal period.

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Mat 1:19)
“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,” (Mat 1:24)

The theory has to my mind 2 weaknesses however:
The context of Matthew chp 19 is that of marriage, it is a question and answer session over marriage, therefore to answer the Pharisee questions about marriage with an answer about Betrothal seems to be a bit off subject. In response to this it is generally asserted with great confidence that Jewish Betrothal went way beyond our Western ideas of engagement and that a betrothed couple had the leak rights of a married couple.

This takes us to the second problem as to the exact character of Betrothal. Despite the confidence of the advocates of this idea that betrothal was so close to marriage that the terms could be used interchangeably, there is really a paucity of biblical evidence for this. We do know that in Deuteronomy 22 When it came to rape that the rights of a betrothed woman were the same as the rights of a married woman rather than being the same as the rights of a single woman. The AV versions also refers to Mary as Joseph’s wife in Matthew chapter 1; although the fact that the Greek words for Man and husband, woman and wife are the same can lead us to overly read into the terminology here. Luke will refer to Mary as Joseph’s espoused wife. We also know that Joseph sought to put Mary away privately during the betrothal period, something, which so far as I can see would have been impossible under marriage.
In the AV Joseph and Mary are referred to as husband and wife during the betrothal period. This seems on the surface fairly strong evidence for marriage and betrothal being synonymous, however consider:
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Mat 1:20)
ie Mary is not yet his wife!
However in Luke we have a distinction:
“To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” (Luk 2:5)

Considering the history which we have from the OT scriptures on pre marital practices we really are left somewhat in the dark regarding the precise nature of betrothal in a biblical context:
Abraham and Sarah – we know very little
Isaac and Rebecca seem to have nothing in the way of betrothal per se, marriage being arranged by a 3rd party followed by what seems like a more or less immediate marriage
Jacob and Rachel and Leah – any betrothal here seems to have been pretty perfunctory in so far as Laban felt free to substitute Leah for Rachel.
David obtained Michal as a reward for services rendered and Abigail as a consequence of the death of her husband and Bathsheba by a circuitous route
So little authoritative biblical help here.
Our knowledge of what betrothal meant to the Jews therefore appears to rely on extra biblical sources and I personally would hesitate to be dogmatic about that.
Encylopaedia Judiaca: “Shiddukhin as such has no immediate effect on the personal status of the parties – it being only a promise to create a different personal status in the future (Resp. Rosh 34:1; Beit Yosef EH 55). Nor does the promise give either party the right to claim specific performance from the other – since a marriage celebrated in pursuance of a judgment requiring the defendant to marry the plaintiff is repugnant to the basic principle that a marriage requires the free will and consent of both the parties thereto.”
Alfred Edersheim: “ From that moment Mary was the betrothed wife of Joseph; their relationship as sacred, as if they had already been wedded. Any breach ot it would be treated as adultery; nor could the band be dissolved except, as after marriage, by regular divorce.” (p106)


2. Marital Violence
Having considered what you have said about the absence of any exception clauses in Matthew chapter 19 and 1 Corinthians chapter 7, what about the case of marital violence. Is a woman (or man) expected then to stay in an abusive relationship? The simple answer here is of course no. The important issue though is surely, is there any indication in scripture that the Lord does not expect us to stay in those kind of relationships?

If I could highlight however 1 Co 7:10-11 which whilst instructing us not to leave our spouse, Paul then in an uncharacteristic fashion proceeds to tell us what to do if we do leave our spouse; “but and if she depart” (7:11), in other words 1 Corinthians chp 7 combines the biblical and creatorial ideal of marriage; that it is not to be broken with a down to earth realism and appreciation of the true nature of fallen man – that it will not always be possible to stay in a relationship and for a variety of reasons unspecified in the text we may be forced to leave.
Our commitment is to marriage and to the Lord, not to being perpetually abused.
Importantly however, just as the laws of men cannot break the marriage bond neither can the lawlessness of men, we have the liberty to leave but no liberty to try again for someone a bit better than the last one (7:11).


3. Is the believer under Deuteronomy 22?
In Matthew 19:9 you interpret it in the light of Deuteronomy chapter 22 and see that under OT law marriage was effectively annulled by pre marital fornication. Does that mean that you are saying that believers are now under the law of Deuteronomy chp 22?
There are 2 ways you could take this:
a) Either as a NT endorsement of an OT text presenting it’s abiding relevance to all believers at all times, in the same sense as we have the re-echoe of the 10 commandments in 1 Co 6:9-10., not so much as a legal exception clause but as the abiding standard expected by God of those entering into marriage.
We can certainly be assured that as with the law Gods standards have not changed.
(b) It becomes clear however from subsequent texts (Rom 6:14; Gal 2:21; 5:4) that the believer is no longer under law and so whilst the Lord highlights to the Pharisee the only legitimate basis for the annulment of a marriage in the OT we cannot claim this today as a legal right; as a Divine standard, certainly but not as a legal right, because under Grace we no longer have legal rights. I would judge then that whilst Deuteronomy chp 22 continues to reflect the Divine standard of Righteousness, as with all law the NT believer is not under it and would not claim it as a legal right. I would judge that this lies at the root of its omission from Mark and Luke.



4. What about divorced and remarried people?
We have spent a considerable amount of time looking at why marriage is indissoluble and at the absence of any credible exception clauses, so what about when divorce and remarriage is a fait a compli? What is the status of people who have previously been divorced and remarried? Can they be accepted into fellowship or as some have indicated is divorce and remarriage effectively the unforgiveable sin?
Pragmatically I do believe that whilst divorce and remarriage is wrong it is no less the recipient of Divine Grace and restoration than any other sin. I believe that there is very good evidence in the NT that amongst Gods people there were those who had been divorced and remarried:
i. John 4 – The Samaritan woman at the well became the first missionary to the Samaritan, and yet married 5 times! Is it feasible that she would have been excluded from the church which which resulted from her evangelism?
ii. 1 Timothy chp 3 – the elder was to be the husband of 1 wife
iii. In 1 Corinthians chp 7 almost all possible permutations of marriage which the Corinthians would have encountered, are addressed by the apostle Paul, except one; that of those who were previously divorced and remarried! Were such conditions acceptable to the Corinthians; undoubtedly they were (1 Co 5:1ff). A believer coming then to 1 Co 7 who had previously been divorced and remarried would have only 1 section applicable to them (1 Co7:17-24).


3 scenarios presented in this section:
1. Unmarried (v8-9)
2. Married (v10-11)
3. Mixed Married (v12-16)
v12 – There is nothing said in Matthew / Mark / Luke or John about this scenario; “but to the rest speak I, not the Lord.”
Some were obviously entertaining the idea that if they were married to an unbeliever they ought to put that unbeliever away (v12) or leave him (v13).
Why would they have though like this?
For a commendable reason: v14 – Sanctification and holiness
Paul has already taught the defiling nature of relationships with prostitutes in 1Co 6:15-17 and will give teaching on unequal yolk in 2 Co 6:14ff.
Consider through the Word of God the damage done and dangers encountered with an unbelieving spouse:
Solomon and pagan wives
David and Michal – discouraged him
Job and his wife; ‘curse God and die.’
Moses and Zipporah (Ex 4)
Hosea and Gomer (Hosea 1:3ff) – a heart break if thre ever was one
Samson and the Philistine woman and Delilah


What is interesting is the argument which Paul will use to to assure them that it is alright to stay together (v14)
If we are saying that union with an unbelieving partner is defiling then to be consistent we would need to affirm that the fruit of that union is also defiled, that is the child and if we are compelled to put away our spouse we would also be compelled to put away our child, to be consistent; since that is unthinkable, then it must be legitimate to maintain both our relationship with our child and with our spouse.


V15 – The 3rd NT text sited as evidence for freedom to remarry after divorce
‘let him depart’ – permission to depart
‘bondage’ : 1402: ‘douloo’ : to make a slave or servant – never used of the marriage bond
Does this imply the right to remarry?
Problems with seeing a Pauline Privilege in 7:15:
1. Contradiction with 1 Co 7:10-11: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”
2. Contradiction with 1 Co 7:39; “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” (1Co 7:39)
3. The problem of missing scenarios. What about an unbeliever putting away his wife? Why is this not spoken of in verse 15? Technically remarriage would seem only explicitly permitted where the unbeliever leaves? If it is desertion which justifies the remarriage then why is it only desertion by an unbeliever? Why should a believer abandoned by an unbeliever be able to remarry and yet a believer abandoned by a professing believer is not (7:10-11)? What about a woman ‘forced to leave.’ She is not technically abandoned, she has left and yet it may be under threat of violence or her life. If anyone deserves to marry it is surely her. Yet this scenario is not dealt with!
4. The problem of legality again. We fall into the same problems as before with exception clauses. Where we have exception clauses we have exceptions to what? Exceptions are to rules and regulations; this is the language of legality or legalism! We often link legalism with a strict and austere form of Christianity; one with many do nots and thou shalt nots. That can certainly be true. Remember however that the masters of legality themselves; the Pharisees, often used it as a tool for liberalism and immorality where it suited them (cf. Matt 19:3; Mark 7:11); not to impose regulations but to find ways around them!
So who left who? Not as straightforward as you might think! Bear in mind that property and often the children belonged to the husband in Roman law! The husband could ‘leave’ with everything and thus put the woman out – so she physically left the home! Who left who?
When Samson left his Philistine wife; who in reality left who? Samson got up and left certainly and yet was that not as a consequence of his wife in heart leaving him first? Did she not betray his trust and her loyalty to his enemies the Philistines? I’m sure a good lawyer would have a field day with that one. That is sadly what we become when we start to acknowledge exception clauses; lawyers!
You may well say that is just splitting hairs, actually its defining rules and laws and exceptions; for if we have exception clauses that is where we are – under laws and rules!
What about a man / woman leaving the unbeliever?

5. ‘bondage’ : ‘douloo’ : 1402 : to be a slave; this is never used of the mariage bond. It is used of:

Slavery in Egypt (Acts 7:6)
Slavery to Righteousness (Rom 6:18)
Slavery to God (Rom 6:22)
Slavery to man (1 Co 9:19)
Slavery to the world (Gal 4:3)
Slavery to alcohol (Titus 2:3)
Slavery to corruption (2 Peter 2:19)

V15 does not set out to give permission to remarry at all and in fact there is no mention of remarriage, v15 gives permission to the believer to; ‘let them depart’ (v15); permission to acquiesce to the demands of an unbelieving partner who wishes to leave; this is different from permission to divorce and remarry.
Verse 15 is not permission to remarry, it is permission to let them go.
Permission to let them go is only relevant if they are going and thus this is the only scenario dealt with.
Verse 15 is written to diffuse an intolerable tension between a believer trying their very best to be obedient to the ministry of 1 Co7:10; 20-24 and an unbelieving partner who is pulling in the opposite direction.

1 Corinthians chapter 7 verses 8 and 9 – To the Unmarried and Widows

Just added; a new message preached from 1 Corinthians chapter 7, by J Stewart Gillespie:


1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 8 and 9 – To the Unmarried and Widows – JS Gillespie – 02122014




Notes from this message:


I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.” (1Co 7:8)

Verse 8 seems straightforward enough, I would believe that it seems straightforward enough because it is straightforward.

This is teaching given against the backdrop of the ministry already given by the Lord (1Co7:10)

So we come to 1 Corinthians chp 7 with the knowledge which we have gleaned from Matthew 19, Mark chp 10, Luke 16 and Romans chp 7.


Who are the ‘unmarried’ here?


The natural reading, which would need no special redefinition of words from later on in the chapter yet to come is to see this statement as consistent and compatible with the NT teachings on marriage which had already been given to us; namely that in the New Testament there have up until now only been 2 groups of people who can be married:


  1. Those who have never been married (Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18)
  2. Those who have been widowed (Rom 7:2-3)


This simple and straightforward understanding of the verse seems confirmed as we read on through the chapter; in particular this word ‘unmarried’ is simply the word “agamos” : “ἄγαμος” – not married or without marriage. It has no technical meaning. It is a general word, the precise meaning of which, or the group to which it refers must be judged by the context:

  • unmarried” (v8) – unmarried people in general
  • unmarried” (v11) – the state following divorce or separation
  • unmarried” (v32) – unmarried people in general as contrasted to those who are married
  • unmarried” (v34) – the never married virgin


Some here have tried to read into the word, “ἄγαμος” a very specific meaning; that of ‘previously married’ or divorced people.

John MacArthur, who in a quite uncharacteristic lapse, in his exposition ,  claims that verses 8 and 9, is the answer to the question; ‘what about the situation of those who have been divorced or widowed and then become Christians?’

‘The McArthur New Testament Commentary : 1 Corinthians : John McArthur p162’

‘These verses answer the question, ‘should those who were married and divorced before becoming Christians remarry?’ No doubt that was a key question in the Corinthian church. Formerly married people came to salvation in Christ and asked if they now had the right to marry someone else. Pauls response here is uniquely fitted to those who want to know their options’

To give credit to MacArthur he does spend some time subsequently attempting to justify his translation of ‘agamos’ as divorced :

He does this by reading forward in the passage; inferring a specific meaning to “ἄγαμος” which you would not initially suspect as a reader fresh to the chapter and then reading that specific meaning back into the verse here in verse 8. That is a doubtful expositional technique. It makes little sense that the beginning of the message cannot be understood until the end of the message; or that the meaning of the beginning doesn’t come till the end; which means that the message starts at the beginning and the meaning comes at the end!



MacArthur correctly notes that “ἄγαμος” is used 4 times in 1 Corinthians chp 7, the only 4 times it is used in the NT, it’s usage here should define it’s meaning argues MacArthur :

  • ἄγαμος” appears in verse 11 and there it does indeed refer to either a divorced or separated person, although the use of “ἄγαμος” in verse 11 probably causes him more problems than it solves because in verse 11 it is joined with an injunction preventing remarriage!
  • ἄγαμος” appears again in verse 32 and here it inconveniently for MacArthur refers to unmarried people in general, not fitting his translation, he passes swiftly over its usage here; ‘verse 32 uses it in a way that gives little hint as to its specific meaning; it simply refers to a person who is not married.’ (p162), a tacit acknowledgement that “ἄγαμος” really won’t hold the kind of meaning that McArthur would like it to have.
  • MacArthur is left to bolster his theory with the useage of “ἄγαμος” in verse 34, one of the most difficult to translate verses in 1 Corinthians. There is for this verse 3 alternative Greek texts, and at least 5 ways of translating the verse, with one of the main areas of debate lieing over the precise meaning of “ἄγαμος”, so in looking to verse 34 to support his interpretation, MacArthur is relying on a question to support an answer!
  • There are 3 main textual traditions for this verse:
  1. The Received Text and Majority Text, reflected in the translation of the AV, RV, Darby, Youngs Literal Translation, Bible in Basic English, EMTV , in which it is clear that the unmarried refers to virgins.
  1. More modern critical texts of Nestlé-Aland and UBS reflected in the NIV, Holmans CSB, ASV; ‘but he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife and is divided. So also the woman that is unmarried and the virgin is careful for the things of the Lord.’ Also the NRSV; ‘but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit.’ 


    Interestingly one of the newer critical translations the ESV, draws the newer critical texts into harmony with the older English translations with : ‘but the married man is anxious about worldly things how to please his wife and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.’ A translation which seems to do justice to both the newer critical texts as well as the context of this section beginning in verse 25, ‘now concerning virgins’


The interpretation of “ἄγαμος” as being a divorcee is thus based upon one possible translation of verse 34.

Irrespective of how we translate v34 “ἄγαμος” here in verse 8 cannot mean divorced people; for it causes 3 contradictions within the chapter and at least 5 out with the chapter in the rest of the NT:


  1. In verse 11 the use of “ἄγαμος” referring to a divorced or separated person seems to bolster the interpretation of verse 8 as also referring to divorced people, but if we take the meaning of “ἄγαμος” from verse 11 we shoot ourselves in the foot because those who are unmarried because of divorce in verse 11 are not allowed to remarry! We cannot have the same group being referred to in verse 8 and verse 11 because the opposite instructions are given to them!
  2. There is a conflict with the general instruction of 7:18-24
  1. Permission in verse 8 for divorcees to remarry contradicts verse 39; “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” (1Co 7:39)
  1. Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.(Luk 16:18)
  1. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” (Mar 10:11-12)
  1. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Mat 5:32)
  1. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.(Mat 19:9) of all of these Matthew 19 is the most complex and the most interesting generally going hand in hand with the interpretation of 1 Co 7:8 that marriage is permissible after divorce is the interpretation of Matthew 19:9 that there was in the teachings of Christ already acknowledged an exception to the indissolubly of marriage. For those who see an exception clause in Matthew 19:9 and permission for all divorcees to remarry in 1 Co 7:8 we face a problem; why was it necessary to spell out an exception to no remarriage after divorce in Matthew 19 if all divorcees can remarry anyway by 1 Co 7:8?
  1. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” (Rom 7:2-3)


Perhaps the greatest weakness in MacArthurs argument lies in what he fails to say rather in what he does say. Whilst he spends some considerable time in trying to justify his contention that ἄγαμος” means divorced, MacArthur gives absolutely no space whatsoever to justifying his contention that verse 8 and 9 is the answer to the question :

”should those who were married and divorced before becoming Christians remarry?’ No doubt that was a key question in the Corinthian church…’

MacArthur is of course unable to prove this contention for it is purely conjectural. This verse could equally be the answer to a number of questions :

  • What about divorced or married slaves who become Christians?
  • What about those who once were living together but were never officially married?


Whilst it might be hypothetically advisable or desirable to have an answer to the question, ‘what about those who were divorced before they became Christians?’ It is difficult not only to imagine how conversion makes a difference here and even more so it would seem very difficult to imagine how clarification on pre conversion widowhood is required? What possible unique scenario do we ascribe to widowhood within and without of conversion? It is difficult to see why a specific injunction is required for pre conversion widowhood as opposed to post conversion widowhood.


In an attempt to make sense of this confusion some would say in verse 8 you are allowed to get remarried if you were divorced before you were saved but in verse 11 if you are divorced after you get saved you are not allowed to get remarried. Apart from this being incredibly unfair and requiring 2 separate standards of ethics and morality; which is a non starter; this all suffers from an utterly fatal flaw; we have just turned the clock back 1500 years for the Corinthians, 3500 years for the Christian today, and we have done with marriage what Lord condemned in Matthew 19. We have legalised it. We have subjected it to rules and laws of divorce. We have taken the:

  • Divine Priority in marriage “He which made them at the beginning” (Matt 19:4)
  • Divine Purpose in marriage “male and female”
  • Divine Prohibition in marriage; “let not man put asunder” (Matt 19:6)

We have gone back to the dealings of the Pharisees, trumping Gods work with rules and law and lop holes and regulations.

This is not the way it was meant to be.


Bad – 1 Corinthians Chapter 7

Just added a new message from 1 Corinthians chapter 7 verses 1 to 7:


1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 1 to 7 – Whats so bad About Fornication – JS Gillespie – 28102014


Notes from this message:


In response to the Corinthians questions about marriage; Paul appears to agree with their suggestion that ‘it is good for a man to touch a woman,’ but only good for those so gifted and not everyone is (7:7).
Sometimes we don’t see gift as gift!
Some people are naturally fitted for a particular life of service:

  • Jacob – the father of 12 boys; you need your wits about you for that job, you would need eyes in the back of your internet router; Jacob the schemer; the wheeler and dealer. Jacob could spot a made up story when he heard one; how a wild beast had ripped his youngest son to shreds, devoured him whole without leaving so much as a finger nail, having carefully first removed only his outer coat of many colours!! – Jacob was suspicious.
  • Moses 40 years with the grumbling nation of Israel in the wilderness, you would need a lot of patience! Moses is peculiarly fitted for the task as the meekest man in all the earth; “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Num 12:3)
  • Samson and his strength
  • David – “the sweet psalmist of Israel,” (2Sa 23:1), a man of deep emotions and reflection is also a man after Gods own heart; nothing superficial about him.
  • Paul – the Theologian and thinker, taught by Gamaliel, a Pharisee, a man peculiarly suited to expounding the Word of God.

Each individual is a unique mixture of grace, gifts and abilities.

‘To avoid fornication’ (7:2)

What’s so bad about fornication?
Does the media of our day, the stars of the day, the films of the day, the celebrities of the day not attempt to normalise / glorify these extramarital relationships?

Notice how prevalent a sin fornication is in the bible; how often it is recorded:

  • Judah and Tamar
  • Dinah and Shechem (Gen 34)
  • Reuben and Bilhah (Gen 35:22)
  • Lot and his 2 daughters
  • Israel in the wilderness
  • Samson and the Harlot from Gaza
  • Samson and Delilah
  • David and Bathsheba
  • Absalom and Davids concubines
  • Tamar and Amnon


If we include the polygamies there are even more cases of fornication.
A sin affecting not only the ungodly Canaanites but equally the great and the good: Judah, Lot, David, Samson and not just the carnal Absalom, Amnon and Herod.
It was frequently through fornication / sexual immorality that the great and the good blotted an otherwise unsullied copy book.
What’s so bad about fornication?

1. Frequent / common problem affecting both the great and the good and the godless alike.

2. It is a problem with spiritual consequences:

  • 1 Corinthians chp 6:15ff : the physical affects the spiritual
  • David Psalm 51:1-12,17
  • Solomon (1 Kings 11:4) – cuts across the spiritual strata and the generations; ‘It came to pass when Solomon was old…” (1 kings 11:4)

3. It is the corruption of Gods creatorial order

‘let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.’ (1 Co 7:2)
One man and one woman – the original creatorial order and pattern
‘for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and these twain shall be one flesh.’ (Gen 2:24) – word spoken by Adam? From Matthew 19:5 it becomes clear that these are actually words spoken by God and quoted by Christ. Whilst it might appear from the text of Genesis 2:23-24 that Genesis 2:24 are the words of Adam, according to Matthew 19:5; the are in all probability the Words of God Himself, drawing a conclusion from from the creatorial work of Genesis 2. In other words, because of what I have done with Adam and Eve this is henceforth how the whole of human society will be organised and arranged. Marital relationships are a reflection / consequence of Gods creatorial work. Genesis 2:24 is a reliable commentary to read on the Word of God; it is Gods commentary on His own work! All subsequent marital relationships, the structure of society would be patterned after Gods creatorial work.
Marriage is one of the few remnants of Eden. No wonder it is under such attack.

It is important to see that the Divine ordinance of marriage in Genesis 2:24 for all subsequent humanity is patterned on the creatorial order of God in Genesis 2:23-24. This is important for our understanding of 1 Corinthians chp 7. Some will suggest that there is a difference in the ministry of chp 7 depending upon wither or not a marriage or divorce was pre conversion or post conversion. It is quite clear that the nature of marriage / validity of marriage is not altered by conversion. It is quite clear that marriage is a creatorial ordinance and as such is not materially altered by conversion; any more than your chronological age is altered by conversion or your health status is altered by conversion.

A conjugal ordinance rests on a creatorial order.


4. It is an attack on Gods character

To understand this you must appreciate what is so special about the creatorial order.
Man looks at creation and considers; wow isn’t that nice:

Fruit for me to eat
Water for me to drink
Flowers for me to see
Beaches for me to go on holiday to.

Well here is a shocker, creation is not all about me!
Creation is all about God.
From our studies in Romans chp 1:18-23 we are aware that creation is and was Gods first means of communication to mankind.
Of significance in Creation Gods character is revealed: His eternal power (Rom 1:20) and Godhead (1:20) and His Glory (1:23).
Creation is Gods first means of revealing His character.
You will have noticed, as you read through Genesis chapter 1 how the character of God, is subsequently progressively revealed in the Word of God and finally and fully revealed in Christ. The seed plot is here in Genesis chapter 1:

‘let there be light’ – a reflection of the nature and character of God; ‘I Am the light of the world’ – Gods creation is infused with light because of His Character. Life can exist deep in the Marianna Trench, 10km deep, in total darkness, at 1000 atmospheres of pressure, but this is not good enough for the God who is Light!

‘God saw that it was good,’ (1:4,10,12,18) – Gods creation is a reflection of Himself – Good.

‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed and fruit tree yielding fruit.’ God is the source of all fruitfulness; ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; because apart from Me you can do nothing.’ (Joh 15:5)

‘Let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years’ (Gen 1:14) – God is a God of order; ‘declaring the end from the beginning,’ and ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:’ (Ecc 3:1)

‘Let the waters bring forth abundantly, the moving creature that ahth life,’ – He is the God of Living waters; ‘He that believeth in me as the scriptures have said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’

‘let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing and beast…’ (Gen 1:24) God gives life. ‘In him is life and that life was the light of men.’

‘let them have dominion…’ (1:26) – God is a God of order; ‘The most High God ruleth in the Kingdoms of men and giveth them to whomsoever He choseth.’

So too in marriage – a creatorial order; Gods character is seen; God is faithful; ‘yet He abideth faithful’ (2 Tim 2:13); God is reliable; ‘I change not.’

God is a God of union and communion; Christ and the Church (Eph 5).

God likes what He is. God is what He likes. There is no sin in Him.

God hates what He is not – Sin
v2 “let every man have his own wife and let every woman have her own husband” – By implication if I am going to hold to this and respect this I am going to also reject ‘divorce and remarriage’ – no adultery; this is my wife, this is your life.


V3 “due benevolence” – favour, goodwill, notice there is an equality of favour and a difference of function.
In NT times marital rights were very much skewed in favour of the man, with Roman and Jewish men able to have multiple wives. Jewish laws on adultery differed for the man and the woman. A woman who had a relationship out with her marriage was guilty of adultery. A married man was only guilty of adultery if he had a relationship with a married woman. This perhaps answers the question often posed from John chapter 8 – what about the man taken in the act of adultery? He may not have been guilty of adultery!
Biblical recognition to the sexual needs of both husband and wife.
V5 ‘That Satan tempt you not for your incontinence’

think of those times in the Word of God when men failed, when women failed too.
Those episodes were not totally unpredictable:

Judah and Tamar (Gen 38:12ff)

Judah left widowed – unmet sexual needs
Tamar left without husband – unmet needs
This fall does not occur in a vacuum but in a setting in which Judah and Tamar are open to temptation, to some extent the scenario is predictable.
If predictable then it is preventable.

David and Bathsheba

Occurs when Bathshebas husband is away from home

Samson (Judges 14ff)

Consider Samson, the character perhaps more than any other in the OT we might associate with sexual immorality and fornication.

Samson had a series of illicit relationships; Judges 16 – Harlot from Gaza and Delilah

It was ultimately that final relationship with Delilah which would destroy him.

We have drawn many a lesson from Samson over the years – a story replete with lessons and teachings for us today – lessons on the attack of Satan, on the restoring Grace of God, lessons on final recovery, lessons on the slippery slope of compromise – Samson is drawn deeper and deeper into the trap of Judges 16; physical, emotional and ultimately spiritual.

Consider the background to Samsons downfall – his first relationship; his first marriage, whilst it was to a Philistine woman, which would ultimately be its undoing, yet in other respects every ting was done properly and above board:
i. Judges 14:1 ‘and saw a woman’
ii. Judges 14:2 – goes to his father and mother
iii. Judges 14:7 – Talked with the woman
iv. Judges 14:10 – marriage ceremony
v. Judges 14:15 – legitimate marriage ‘husband’

After the marriage and riddle – Samson leaves (Judges 14:19), but naively – maybe child like returns for his wife (15:1-2) whom he fully expects to be waiting for him!

He even respects his father in laws instruction (Judges 15:1)

His wife, having been taken by another is now burned to death by the Philistines

It is against this backdrop that we can / ought to appreciate the failings of Samson:
A broken marriage
A wife taken by another
An adulterous wife
Ending in the violent and cruel death of his wife
Yet Samson did seem to love her:
‘she pleaseth me well’ (14:3)
‘she pleased Samson well’ (14:7)
Returned for her in Judges 15:1
Samson was the big man with the soft heart, a broken heart
Note how his final downfall unfolds – with words re-echoeing of his first love; Judges 14:16; 16:15


“lest Satan tempt you for your incontinence”
Samson failed in the testing and tempting
Yet the temptation did not occur in a vacuum