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.


Christ Jesus Came into the World to Save Sinners

Just added; a new Gospel message preached by Mr William Houston from 1 Timothy chapter 1 verse 15:


1 Timothy chp 1 vs 15 – Christ Jesus Came into the World to Save Sinners – William Houston – 30112014

Remembrance and Reflection – 2 Peter Chapter 1

Just added; a new message preached by Mr Hamilton Welsh from 2 Peter chapter 1:


2 Peter chp 1 vs 1 to 21 – Remembrance and Reflection – Hamilton Welsh – 04112014

Luke chapter 1 verses 1 to 25 – When Doubts Set in

Just added a new message preached by  Dr J Stewart Gillespie from the Gospel according to Luke:


Luke chp 1 vs 1 to 25 – When Doubts Set in – JS Gillespie – 02112014

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

Freedom to Be Free – 1 Corinthians Chapter 7 verse 1

Just added to our series of messages from 1 Corinthians, a new message preached by J Stewart Gillespie from 1 Corinthians chapter 7 verse 1:


1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 1 – Freedom to be Free – J Stewart Gillespie