Concerning Marriage - RR274F11b
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Oh God, our heavenly Father we give thanks that Thou who art on the throne of glory has chosen also to mindful of Thy creatures. We thank Thee that day after day Thy mercies are new every morning for we need Thee. Every hour we need Thee. We come to Thee with all our hopes, our fears, our doubts, our discouragements, knowing that Thou art able to take us and make us more than conquerors in Christ. Knowing that Thy grace which has redeemed us will preserve us unto eternity and throughout all eternity. And we shall forever rejoice in Thy grace, mercy and victory. How great Thou art oh Lord and we praise Thee. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Our scripture this morning is First Corinthians 7:25-40. And our subject: Concerning Marriage.
“Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. 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. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.”
As we have seen, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is a most remarkable document. [00:05:50]
The problem very early as it had been in Israel and
The problem very early as it had been in Israel and Judea and it has been the same thing over the centuries throughout the church is a strange doctrine to which the Middle Ages gave a name. Favorable name: [unknown spelling]. That man’s life is a good and a rich and a fine one, man is fine as he is. But he needs something more, and this grace supplies. Now what this means is that the faith has been reduced to salvation from hell to heaven. Not a way of life here and now. Not the kingdom of God, not a faith that commands every area of life and thought. So Paul as he deals with this begins as he saw by attacking the wisdom of Greeks and that of the Jews as well. Their wisdom is one that bypassed the law word of God! He indicts the Corinthian church and then he proceeds to answer one of the charges that he has made after another by saying ‘here is the law of God, obey it’. Now, we are concluding a chapter, the seventh, which is the subject of no small misinterpretation especially among liberals who assume that Paul is anti-marriage, anti- sex, anti-women, you name it! Why? Because he says it may not be in your situation the best thing to marry but it is better to marry then to burn and that there is no sin either in staying single or in getting married. Why? [00:09:07]
And this is the context that is usually overlooked
And this is the context that is usually overlooked. Verse twenty six: “I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress.” This is the key phrase that conditions everything in Corinthians. They were facing a potential persecution, potential death. It was very near. Now, history says nothing about such a thing having taken place. But that means nothing. A great deal in history is not in the history books. Many persecutions went unrecorded, especially those that were local ones. As apparently this was going to be, because Paul in no other epistle gives such council. For the present distress. Now Paul in verse twenty five ‘now concerning virgins’ is responding to a specific question raised by the Jewish members of the Corinthian church. The congregation, Acts 18:7 following tells us was formed in the home of Justine, whose home was next to the synagogue. Paul had apparently given his council on marriage during a crisis of persecution earlier and now the Jewish believers ask ‘but what about virgins’. God’s law tells us that virginity is required prior to marriage, but what about the virgins in the church who may be deprived of an opportunity to marry because of the coming distress. For Jews, permanent celibacy was not desirable. The goal in life unless one had a special calling otherwise was marriage. [00:12:04]
Premarital chastity was prized as was marriage, and
Premarital chastity was prized as was marriage, and it was the goal of chastity that there be honorable marriage. The Corinthians apparently had some hint of Paul’s council and so the question of virgins was raised. Should virgins be actually deprived of the privilege of marriage? Paul at once tells them that God has given no commandment on the matter of whether or not when facing persecution and death marriage should be made. He has no commandment but he does have godly judgment, he believes. He is speaking on his own, but he says I believe I have the Spirit. God’s mercy has enabled Paul to be faithful to his law word and Paul is giving a godly judgment. There is no sin; he makes clear, in marrying or in remaining single. It is not a matter of sin but rather for thoughtful judgment. Either course must be made a matter of prayer and thought. Can one remain single without temptation? IF married one should be content with marriage, if single and able to remain single, well and good he says in verses twenty six through twenty eight. The matter is not a moral question but a personal one. The time, Paul says, is short. Now that’s like a red flag to many people so some see twenty nine and thirty as referring to the second coming. [00:14:28]
This is nonsense
This is nonsense. Paul would not have spoken of it as a time of distress! Nor he would have had any limitation on his warning to the Corinthians; it would have been a warning to all believers everywhere! But it is not a warning, it has nothing to do with the second coming, it is a wild misreading to so interpret it. The Corinthian focus had to be on Christ, not on themselves. Could they better be faithful married or single? In either case their priority must be faithfulness to their Lord in terms of which their marriage would be of small account. The world and the fashion thereof is passing away, they may soon be martyred. Paul’s goal is that they be without anxiety and for some this may be easier if they are unmarried. Paul does not express a moral preference for either marriage or virginity; rather he calls attention to the problems they potentially face. The focus of a married woman’s life is quite naturally her husband whereas the unmarried woman will care more for the things of the Lord. How can they best face the necessity of a brutal testing by persecution if burdened by concern for a spouse? As I said we have no record of such a persecution but that means little. Our records of the early church are very definitely incomplete. As a young man I was told of a massacre of Armenians in a remote area prior to the general massacre of 1915. But this event is unrecorded and here it is in this century. But it is no less real. The same is true with respect to Corinth. [00:17:40]
Paul is insistent
Paul is insistent: I speak, he says, for your profit to help you, not to complicate your lives. He does not their future complicated by marriages that will distort and distract their vision. Every man must decide which course is wisest for him, he says in verse forty five. For some it will be difficult to live in the congregation close to their virgin bride to be without marriage. Paul councils them in verse thirty six, go ahead, get married, such a person does no wrong by marrying. He who can remain single hoping to survive the coming distress and can do so without temptation, sexual temptation, doeth well, verse thirty seven. Both those who marry and those who remain single are in the Lord by so doing. Paul in verse thirty seven through thirty eight speaks not of the groom but of the father of the bride who has a part of course in the matter. By keeping his daughter unmarried, Paul says, he doeth well. Sparing her great grief, in fact, his course is perhaps the better one, not morally but practically. There is no sin in marrying nor in remaining single although Paul says singleness as less likely to cause greater grief might be better for many. Paul clearly has the present distress in mind, not sacerdotal celibacy. Attempt by many scholars to see Paul as anti-marriage and even anti-woman are not only fallacious, they are dishonest. [00:20:20]
Marriage, however blessed an estate, still establishes
Marriage, however blessed an estate, still establishes a bondage of sorts. This is a bondage in the Lord, and therefore also of potential blessing. This must be recognized. Given the present crisis it is better and happier for the woman to await its coming and it’s going before marrying. This is Paul’s judgment and he adds ‘I think also I have the spirit of the Lord’. What Paul says in First Corinthians seven is not a doctrine of marriage but rather devote council to those contemplating marriage in a crisis. We know that in the persecutions which follow throughout the Roman Empire, mass executions of Christian men occurred. Their wives were raped and then executed and virgins, their daughters, sentenced to serve in houses of prostitutions. The Roman love of cruelty and brutality was given full expression against the Christians. It is ironic that in my lifetime those documented accounts of martyrdom are now called myths. And somehow all the deaths in the Roman arena which books are written somehow were to people other than Christians. The dishonesty of historians are very evil and ugly facts. Across the centuries the horrors of those persecutions echo with undimmed violence and evil. Paul’s council could not undo the coming horror. It was intended to minimize it. Our faith requires us at time to undergo grim trials. Paul’s council was intended to minimize the horrors. Paul spoke of a man much persecuted and tortured out of love for the Corinthian believers. To see his council in any other light is contemptible. Let us pray. [00:23:45]
Our Lord and our God we thank Thee for Thy word
Our Lord and our God we thank Thee for Thy word. We thank Thee that it speaks to every condition, to our every need. Thy word is a lamp unto our feet and a light upon our way. Teach us so to live that day by day in the light of Thy word that we may serve Thee with grace and in thanksgiving. Grant us this in Christ’s name, Amen.
Now are there any questions about our lesson? Yes?
[Man speaking] In the world today there are Christians being persecuted and even in this country, when Christians find themselves in similar present distresses Paul’s judgment should be applied to those who remain virgins and still single.
[Rushdoony] This text has had use through the centuries, where very often the church has misinterpreted it, people in times of crisis have turned to it in the knowledge that this is the word of God and God is speaking here to me. And they have been greatly helped and blessed. Are there any other questions, yes?
[Man speaking] I noticed that when Paul is drawing attention to the unmarried man, verse thirty two, he sees that the men may please the Lord in being single, but in verse thirty four he adds a very unusual phrase when he describes an unmarried woman’s estate, he says an unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord so that she will be holy both in body and in spirit, that’s an extra clause, is that a- a few people take that in the sense that when she’s married she loses holiness in her body and spirit..or? [00:26:12]
[Rushdoony] If they do they are very wrong
[Rushdoony] If they do they are very wrong. It has been taken that way. What Paul is simply saying is given the situation in those days and in much of history the man would be tied up in his calling, his vocation, the unmarried virgin would be in her father’s house. And she could thus give herself more directly to the things of the Lord. And the man would be tied up with an oh, eight hour day, or for men in those day from sun up till sun down. Yes?
[Man speaking] Was it unusual for scripture to contain a passage in itself that directs attention that it’s not from God but it’s very good advice for the moment?
[Rushdoony] This is unique. Yes. And it’s because of what Paul calls the present distress. It’s not a normal situation. Unhappily, it has become in some periods of history almost normal. Now, those of you who were with me in Sacramento, for our conference there, recognize that the conditions that Peter Hammond was describing are very abnormal for the Christians in Africa. And they are going through incredible persecution and torment and in Sudan, since the sixties. Think of that. Well, this is why for some the whole issue is so relevant. And there had been those who’ve had to decide there in Africa whether to marry or remain single. Consider the fact that in Sudan the women there are kidnapped or taken, rounded up, by the Muslims to be sold to harems, the small boys to be made eunuchs for the harems and the men literally crucified. So they are going through a very present distress. I don’t know whether he say it in conference or last night when we were eating but he said the church of which he was a member wanted to try him, did you hear that? He gave more details last night, yes, for disobeying the laws of the United Nations and he said I had to disobey them to obey God. And that stopped them. [00:30:12]
Any other questions or comments? Yes?...
Any other questions or comments? Yes?
[Man speaking] Just a final one, in verse twenty seven Paul asks: “Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.” How would that even be legitimate, to seek to be loosed from a wife under biblical law?
[Rushdoony] Yes, very good question. They were confronted with a situation that was unusual in which Paul dealt with earlier, in that they were converted as mature people. Now what happened was that sometimes the man or the woman was converted but not the other. So Paul had to deal with that question and he’s referring to that again. In the days of Nehemiah Nehemiah compelled those who had taken pagan wives to divorce them or else to leave because they were covenant breakers. But that was because as believers ostensibly that had so married. So the question that the Corinthians had raised, does this apply to us? What Nehemiah did, should we divest ourselves from husbands or wives that are unbelievers? And he says no, you remain, but if they leave then you are free, divorced, and able to remarry. But in this context what he is saying, if your partner is not a believer this is going to complicate things when the persecution comes, no, that’s not a ground for divorce. Yes? [00:32:30]
[Man speaking] Could you discuss the genesis of the
[Man speaking] Could you discuss the genesis of the kind of hate that it takes to commit genocide against any group, whether it be Christian or other, because it seems to me that throughout history it takes considerable resources, time and dedication to commit genocide against any group. What is it that spans that kind of hate that makes people go to that much effort?
[Rushdoony] Well, outside of the Islamic heritage with its concept of holy war against all infidels, no such genocide has been practiced in history for the sake of eliminating a people. This does not that in times of total war some people have not been virtually eliminated. But what we see in this century has been a relatively new thing. [unintelligible name] has dealt with it in his book on leftism, it’s been a product of Charles Darwin. What is rarely included in some of the modern reprints of Darwin’s two books, Origin of Species and what was the other…at any rate, his first two works on evolution was that he gave it totally racist interpretation. And the subtitle was How the Higher Races Developed and so on and so forth. So Darwin was a total racist. Now, very, very quickly that idea caught on throughout the scientific world and the world of the left to mean that some races were inferior and that in time they should be eliminated. Now Andrew Carnegie was a kind and thoughtful person but a total Darwinian and therefore to him the working men in his plant were nothing, they were trying to stand in the way of capitalistic progress. So he was all for any kind of ruthless behavior towards them. Now, this kind of thinking led step by step in the last century after Darwin to racist philosophies and a belief that certain peoples had to be eliminated. [00:36:11]
Among the quickest to apply this were some of the Muslims
Among the quickest to apply this were some of the Muslims. Now it is interesting that since World War Two racism has become anathema to the left because of the Nazis. But in every other thing they have retained the Nazi program. The worship of nature and the green revolution, which was totally a Nazi idea. Abortion, euthanasia, selective breeding, eugenics, all these things were a part of the national socialist program. And if you go back to the very early years of Hitler it’s surprising how many people in this country, in Britain and elsewhere thought Hitler was a great leader, because they liked his ideas. It was only later that they dropped all of that. One particular woman maintained them to the last and founded an organization to further them, Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger. And she believed that the blacks should be eliminated from this country. She was very pro-Nazi all her life. So genocide is a modern idea. And it is a product of modern science. Yes? [00:38:19]
[Man speaking] Some rebel critics have charged that
[Man speaking] Some rebel critics have charged that this genocide commanded in scripture, particularly the invasion of Canaan they see in terms of a gross offense. They gloss over the humanistic genocides of the last few centuries.
[Rushdoony] That’s right, well of course the order to execute the Canaanites which was never carried out had as its basis the moral depravity and one very prominent doctor told me that it was his belief that there were rampant disease and that the Canaanite population was a physical, a moral and religious threat. Now that’s the only occasion, it was not a law, it was a specific case. These people are under my sentence of death, I waited for four hundred years for their repentance and now it’s a time of judgment for them. So that was not genocide, we have to recognize that in terms of biblical law these people did deserve the death penalty because among the legitimate practices at the Canaanite temples was sodomy and bestiality. And survivals of those practices have been traced, practiced religiously, into the twentieth century. Well if there are no further questions let us conclude with prayer. [00:40:34]
Our Father we give thanks unto Thee for Thy word
Our Father we give thanks unto Thee for Thy word. For Thy plain speaking, for the sure light Thou dost give us for our daily walk so that we are without excuse. Give us grace to hear and to obey. And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, Amen.