1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 54

By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998
Single women were divided into three groups: those who have been divorced, those who have been widowed and those who are virgins and had never married.

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1 Corinthians 7:35-38

Fathers and Daughters

You are going to find out in verses 3638 that you have to know the culture of Corinth to understand what Paul is talking about. In verse 36 he begins with the little word “but,” which in the Greek is the word de. When it is used it means he is changing gears. He is going to another subject. It sort of connects it to another thought train, you see. He has just come out of talking to single men, married men, single ladies, and married ladies.

Single women were divided into three groups: those who have been divorced, those who have been widowed and those who are virgins and had never married. The word “virgin” can mean those who have never had any sexual experience or it can be one of marriageable age or both.

The subject of the virgin girl now comes up again, but in the context of that virgin girl and her daddy, the father and the daughter. It appears that some concerned fathers of these virgin, single daughters really have some questions they need to ask the apostle Paul. I wish we had the questions. It would make it easier, but we don’t. We just have the answers.

Now, there is something to remember as we get into this. One of the problems of the Corinthian believers was their attachment to men. Remember back in 1:12, Paul says, “Now I mean this, that some of you are saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I am of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’” Of course, the ones who said, “I of Christ” have the right person but the wrong motive. These were all divisive kind of things.

The ones that were of Paul adopted his way of living as being a spiritual way of life. In other words, to be single must be spiritual. To be a virgin and to continue to be a virgin and be single must be what God really wants, because Paul is that way and we are of Paul. So therefore, in their warped, immature minds, they established this as a spiritual precedent among them.

This led to all kinds of confusion. As matter of fact, it even entered into the married people’s lives and they started equating the sexual intimacy in marriage with immorality of all things. That’s when Paul has to dig in chapter 7 and straighten out the mess that is in Corinth. Even their questions show their immaturity, and we know their questions only by the answers that Paul has given.

Well, this problem of being attached to Paul and being the single person and remaining virgin as being a spiritual thing seems to reappear in the text that we will read. Look at verses 3638. Verse 36 reads, “But if any man thinks he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she should be of full age, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.”

Now I know what’s going through many of your minds. You are thinking, “I’m thankful for a lot of things, but one of them is this, that you are having to deal with this and not me.” Have you ever gone fishing and you had a reel that wasn’t really a good reel; it didn’t have the proper balance in it? You know, the open casting, but you don’t have a good reel and you just don’t use your thumb on the line quite correctly. What happens? The pros call it a “professional override,” but in layman’s terms that means a backlash. Many times I have done that. Usually when I get a backlash, I just like to take a pair of scissors and cut the whole line off and put a new line on. It is a lot quicker.

When we see the backlash that’s in this verse, it looks like it is all tangled up. What in the world is he saying? The best thing for me would be to cut the three verses out and move on to the next passage. But, you know, you can get those backlashes out. If you fish long enough, you know what to do. You know that you sit there, take your time, follow that one little thread there and just take it out one at a time. It looks all confusing, but stay with it, stay with it, stay with it and finally it just untangles right in front of you. Now that’s what we are going to try to do.

Now some of you are going to go to sleep because you are going to say, “It has nothing to do with me, thank you!” But I want you to know ahead of time, it’s got a strong personal application to families today, but you are going to have to stay with me in order to catch it. If you go to sleep, you are going to miss it. You’ve got to stay with me. This is a culture thing. We’ve got to enter into it, we’ve got to understand it and see what Paul is saying, then let the Holy Spirit lift out the gem of personal application that we can take home with us.

The responsibility of the father

Now there are three things that I want to show you. First of all, the responsibility of the father in the culture of Corinth. You’ve got to understand the culture of Corinth and the role of the father. And really to do this, instead of looking at verse 36 or 37 first, let’s look over in verse 38, because he wraps up those two verses in verse 38. He says in verse 38, “So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.”

Now I want you to know this is not as easy as it looks. There are some people who translate this because of the way the Greek is constructed here, as if this is a man proposed to a single woman to marry. Obviously they have the pressure of immorality or whatever else and they choose not to marry. Then on the other hand, you’ve got others who say in verse 37, that they choose not to marry. So, they look at a betrothed couple.

But that’s not the issue, I don’t believe. I’m one who believes he is talking about fathers giving away their virgin daughter in marriage. Now, I believe the proof of this is found in the little phrase which is one word in Greek, “he that giveth in marriage.” There is word that covers that whole phrase, ekgamizo. It comes from the word ek, which means “out” and from the word gamizo, which means to give in marriage, to place out in marriage, to give in marriage as a father does with his daughter. Now that’s important because that’s a special word. There is another word for marriage. But when this word is used, it means to give in marriage.

Now look over in Matthew 22:30, and I think you can see the difference in the two words and why we come to the conclusion this is a father giving his daughter in marriage, not one who is betrothed to a single lady, either marrying or not. It is very, very important to see this because both words are used in this verse and they are translated very properly. Matthew 22:30 says, “For in the resurrection they neither marry [that’s one word] nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Now the word for marry is gamizo. But the word for “given in marriage” is our word which is ekgamizo. That’s the word that we are looking at, to be given in marriage. You see, it’s different from just being married.

Look over in Matthew 24:38 and you’ll find it again. “For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking ,they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark.” They were marrying, which is one word, and giving in marriage, which was the other word.

Therefore, we rest our case that what Paul is talking about by using that special word in verse 3638 is a father giving his daughter, his virgin daughter, in marriage. Now you begin to understand this in the culture of the day.

You’ve got to know the culture of the day. Parents, especially the father, played a dominant role in the marriage plans of the young people. Now I am sure there are many young people saying, “I am glad I didn’t live back then.” Mama and Daddy had a whole lot to do with it. As a matter of fact, they had arranged marriages. In the Jewish culture it was very much the same way, the father playing, as a matter of fact, the most dominant role in the marriage of his children. The same custom was in the ancient cultures around them, particularly Rome. Many people think that Rome began to fall and decline when the strength of the marriage setup was weakened in the family, when the parents stopped playing a role in their children’s marriages.

Well, from our context, if we understand the scriptures correctly, we see this is the culture in Corinth. The father was the autocratic ruler of the house. And one of his main responsibilities was to determine whether that girl would or wouldn’t marry.

Now, we will come back to verse 38, but we must see in this verse that the father had a right to decide if the daughter marries and he had a right by culture to decide if she didn’t marry. So verse 38 says, “So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.”

Now, let’s go back to verse 36 and find our second point. The first thing is to understand the father’s role in the culture of Corinth because the culture was, different than our day. The father played the dominant role and made the decision if that daughter was to marry or not to marry.

The father’s right to allow his daughter to marry

The second thing I want you to see is the father’s right to allow his daughter to marry. He had a right to allow her to marry. He made that decision. Verse 36, “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly towards his virgin daughter, if she should be of full age, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.” I mean, what did he say?

Now here is a good instance of where you’ve got to slow down and almost take it phrase by phrase to even understand what the apostle Paul is talking about. Let’s look at the first phrase, “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly towards his virgin daughter.” The word “thinks” is a key word. The word is not the normal word for “thinks.” It is the word nomizo, which means to make a supposition, an assumption. Maybe, maybe not; he supposed. As a matter of fact, this is why he asked the question to Paul. Undoubtedly he was confused, he didn’t know. But he supposed that he had done something wrong towards his daughter.

Even though he says “thinks,” in our English we only have one word. But in the original there are different words and you need to have a feel of that. Look over in Acts 7:25, just to show you how this word can be very iffy. You may suppose something to be so, but it may not be so, you see. And that’s why sometimes the questions come. This is what is happening here. Acts 7:25 reads, “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand.” See, that’s that same word. He made an assumption, a supposition there, but it wasn’t correct. The people didn’t, but he supposed they did and they didn’t.

Look over in Acts 8:20. We find it used then. Don’t worry, I’m only going to use three of these, but I just want you to see it. I could have taken you many other places to get a feel of this word. This is when the fellow wanted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit of God. So he comes to Simon Peter and says, “I want to purchase this power. How much money can I give you to get the power that I just saw witnessed in your life? In verse 20 it says, “But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought [there is the word nomizo] you could obtain the gift of God with money!’“ In other words, you thought it, but you are wrong. You see, that’s that, he assumed, he supposed something in his life.

Look in 1 Corinthians 7:26. Paul uses this word when he gives his sanctified opinion. Remember, any advice Paul gives may be advice and may be an opinion, but it is a sanctified opinion because the Holy Spirit of God is the author of Scripture. This is not as iffy. This is something that, even though he is single and understands it from that point of view, is something to look at, something to consider. It says in 1 Corinthians 7:26, “I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.” In other words, remain single like he is. That is something he needs to consider, but since it comes from the apostle Paul, it’s not like that supposition we read about in Acts.

So it can be very solid, or it can be very unsure. We see how the word is used. Well, verse 36 goes on, “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter.” Now what in the world does he mean? Well, the word “unbecomingly” is the word aschemoneo. It means to treat her badly. It can be used of something that is ugly, indecent, unseemly. But at the same time, it’s to treat someone wrongly. In no way is Paul suggesting that the father has had any kind of immoral relationship with her. No, that is not what he is saying at all. That word could be used in a context like that, but that is not what he is saying. He is saying he has treated her wrongly. He has not done her right. He thinks, he supposes this in his mind. That is why he is asking the question of the apostle Paul.

Now why would the father think he was treating his virgin daughter unbecomingly or wrongly? Well, look at verse 36 again. “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly towards his virgin daughter, if she should be of full age.” That’s a delicate word in a crowd like this. The word is huperakmos. Huper means above, and akmen means the high point or flower of age, particularly with respect for marriage, beyond or past the flower of one’s age, past the usual age for marriage. In other words, she is one of the unclaimed blessings of the church, okay? And she is getting a little old. I wouldn’t say an old maid, but she is single and she is past marriageable age. She is getting older now.

Evidently the father, exercising his right in their culture, has chosen not to let her get married. Now, that is the uniqueness of this situation. He has kept his virgin daughter at home, preventing her from marrying and now she is getting past marriageable age.

Now, he may have made a vow. Remember that whole mindset that developed out of “being of Paul”? Perhaps he was at a retreat and somebody told a story and he made a vow to make sure that his daughter never got married because he thought that was the spiritual thing to do. Sometimes in an emotional moment, especially with the immaturity of Corinth, you make those kinds of stupid vows. It could have been that he thought this would in some way be pleasing to God. Now he realizes that she is passing marriageable age and he is beginning to think, “You know, I might not have done right. I may have done her wrong.” So, here is a man under conviction. He has not done right for her.

Evidently she has protested to him. That is the only thing you can figure in this verse. If you are reading between the lines, that’s dangerous. But evidently something has caused him to ask this question. I suppose the daughters had a word in this whole thing. Evidently she has come to him and said, “Dad, I want to get married. I’ve got an opportunity to get married.” Now he doesn’t know what to do. So he writes to the apostle Paul.

Look over in 1 Corinthians 13:5. When a father loves his daughter, he wants to do what is best for her. But in 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul contrasts acting unbecomingly with what the other side of that is, when the Spirit of God is in control of your life. In 1 Corinthians 13:5 he is describing the agape love that God produces by His Holy Spirit in a person’s life.

He says in 1 Corinthians 13:5, “does not act unbecomingly [then he shows the contrast]; it does not seek its own.” Perhaps the father is getting under conviction and is saying, “You know, I’ve been selfish. I have been thinking of my own interest by keeping my precious daughter at home.” Every father loves his daughter, and no father likes to see those young men come knocking on the door. Maybe he has just made that decision. Now he realizes he has kept her at home and she is passing marriageable age. Perhaps she has come and protested, but he doesn’t know what to do. So he writes the apostle Paul, “What should I do? Should I allow her to marry?”

Well, go back to 7:36: “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly towards his virgin daughter, if she should be of full age [and look at the next phrase], and if it must be so.” Now that is an interesting translation. There are two key words in that. One word is opheilo, which means to be obligated to do something. The father is feeling the pressure now. He feels the obligation to do what’s right for the daughter.

The word ginomai means to bring something into being. She evidently has come to him and said, “Daddy, I’ve got an opportunity to be married. You have kept me at home. Now listen, let me marry.” And so he sees and feels the obligation to let this come about. He recognizes she needs to marry. He has done her wrong, and therefore, he needs to allow her to do that.

Well, Paul says that if the father believes he has done her wrong and she wants to be married, then so be it. Let her get married. Verse 36 says again, “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she should be of full age, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.” That little phrase there, “let her marry,” is not just a directive to him. It’s really “let them marry.” It is a directive to her and her fellow. In other words, “Hey, you are old enough and you’ve been to your father. Now, Dad, get it right and let her marry. And you two go on and get married. You haven’t sinned if you have married.” That is what Paul is saying.

So in their culture you see that father/daughter relationship and some of the confusion that can come from immaturity, not knowing what is spiritual and what isn’t spiritual with some of the odd things that they believed. Well, that’s the father’s right to allow his daughter to marry.

The father’s right to prevent his daughter from marrying

Now you come to the third thing and this is the father’s right to prevent his daughter from marrying. Paul balances the equation. Now you are thinking, “This has nothing to do with me. Why are you wasting my time?” I told you to stay with me. It is going to have something to do with you before you get out of here. Verse 37 reads, “But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well.”

Now what is he saying? Here’s a guy who is says, “I’m not in that boat. That’s his question. I’m over here. I haven’t got any conviction in my heart whatsoever I’ve done my daughter wrong by keeping her at home, exercising my authority as her father in my culture. I can do that. I did it and I don’t feel like there is anything wrong with it.” So, Paul addresses this.

He says in the first phrase, “But he who stands firm in his heart.” The word for “stand firm” is the same word used in Ephesians 6 when it talks about warfare. We are never to chase the devil. We are to stand firm. That is the same word, histemi, to place yourself and set yourself. It’s in the perfect tense, which means he made a decision back here and it has been a long, ongoing decision and nothing has changed his mind. He said, “I am standing firm.”

Evidently the father is standing firm because God led him in that decision. The word “firm” in the Greek is the word hedraios. It comes from a word that means moored like a ship, moored or tied to the right foundation. Now, what foundation would he be tied to that would be the right foundation in the Christian church at that time that would cause him to have that decision for that long? It had to have been that the Lord had led him to think that way. So he says, “I have no conviction to change my mind, none whatsoever.”

Apparently the daughter was part of this conviction. In other words, she had come to him and she said, “Daddy, I checked all the young men around here and I don’t see a single one I am inclined to marry. Now, will you protect me?” He was entering into a bond with her and was convicted to stay that way.

You see, the daughter had something to do with verse 36. Evidently she protested and the father had to write Paul and ask the question. Here, though, is a daughter who went the other way.

You say, how do you know that?” Look at the next phrase. Paul says, “being under no constraint.” “Under no constraint,” anagke, means no necessity or compelling force. Now where would this compelling force come from? I doubt very seriously that it would come from the Lord. The compelling force would probably come from the daughter. She evidently hadn’t come to him about anything and is not inclined to get married. And so the father, in agreement with her, says “I am perfectly convicted that I am doing the right thing.”

Verse 37 goes on. He says, “But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will.” Oh, you have to dig a little deeper here. The word “authority” means he has the power, the right and the might. The word for “will” is thelema. It means not just your intentions, but that which brings great pleasure to your life. Now every father wants to bring great pleasure to their daughter. And what he is saying is, “I’ve got the power, but I am also enjoying the pleasure of keeping my daughter at home. She is with me and I am with her and there is no constraint, there is nothing pulling on me. So therefore, I am moving the way that I move.”

Well, the verse continues, “and has decided this in his own heart.” The word for “decided” there means “I have determined to do this.” He is saying, “My daughter is with me and there is nothing wrong with it.” To one guy Paul says, “Let her marry;” and here’s another guy who says, “I am not going to let her marry.” That’s why verse 38 covers both sides there.

This father says, “I am determined to stay like I am. I have made a determination in my mind, and she’s not going to marry.” What has he determined? He has decided in his own heart to keep his own virgin daughter.

You’ve got to look at the word “keep.” The word “keep” doesn’t mean just to keep her at home. It has the idea of protecting his virgin daughter. You know, you’ve got to read between the lines here. The culture of Corinth didn’t have much out there. The church was totally immature. She comes to Daddy and she says, “Daddy, I don’t want to get married. They are knocking on the door. I don’t want to marry any of them. Will you protect me?” And that father steps forward and says, “By the authority of my culture and the role I have in this family and by the agreement of my daughter, I’m going to protect her. I’m determined I am not going to let her marry. We have worked that out together.” So he has decided to keep his own daughter.

Do you know what Paul says? Here is that single guy again. He says, “Now, he does well.” You see, it had to be with the agreement of the daughter or Paul couldn’t have written that. He does well. If he does well, then evidently he has taken into consideration the needs and the desires of his daughter. In verse 36, she protested because she wanted to get married. In verse 37, she didn’t protest and the father and the daughter evidently settled it. Now he is going to keep her from getting married.

No father really wants his daughter to get married anyway. I didn’t want my daughter to get married. I imagine this man is tickled to death. His daughter doesn’t want to get married. He doesn’t want her to get married anyway, so he is going to exercise his authority and is going to protect her and keep her at home. Both of them are happy.

The apostle Paul says, “You do well.” That is why in verse 28 he says, “But if you should marry, you have not sinned.” He wants to make sure you know that marriage is not sin. This is something that has got to be worked out in the family between a father and a daughter. Marriage is not sin. Verse 28 says, “and if a virgin should marry, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.”

So he warns them of the responsibility of marriage but says it is not sinful to marry. But to the father who has decided to keep her at home, Paul says, “You know, you do good.”

Verse 38 says, “So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.” Can’t you hear him say that? Remember, his main thought is eternity. His main thought is anything distracting you from your walk with Christ.

Well, one gives his daughter to be married and Paul says, “You haven’t done wrong.” One says, “I am not going to do it,” and Paul says, “You do better.” So evidently it had to be worked out in the family. Marriage was not the problem. The question was what does God want and how is this worked out between father and daughter.

Now you are saying, “I really do appreciate it, but I don’t see any application to me at all.” Oh, yes, yes, yes. We don’t live in the same culture where the fathers had the same authority, but the principle here is, daughters and sons, learn to let your believing mother and father have an influence in your life, especially when it comes to your marriage partner. Now there is your principle right there. Because you see, Mom and Dad can give insights to that young one who is blinded by love they can’t get anywhere else. They won’t get it from a neighbor, and they won’t get it from a friend, but Mom and Dad can give them that kind of wisdom.

Maybe it has changed culturally, but as far as father and daughter and mother and son and parents and children, remember Ephesians 5. There is the beautiful picture as it lays itself out. It tells the children to be submissive to the parents. And the word for “children” means as long as you are going to eat Mama and Daddy’s groceries, then you live up under their submission, of their authority. You be submissive to them.

So here is the principle, and the tiein is beautiful. I tell you, a woman can spot something in a woman that a man couldn’t see in a million years who is blinded by love. You think a daddy can’t see in a young man something that girl cannot see? I want to tell you something, friend, I can. There is radar built inside of us as fathers. You know what it is? We see what we used to be. No way! I know what you are thinking!!! How do you know? Well, don’t ask that. I know what you are thinking! You are not going out with my daughter.

The blessing that can come just from lifting the gem of application out of this. You know there is a tie there between a father and daughter. In verse 36 they worked it out. In verse 37 they worked it out. We ought to be working it out in our day and time. In Christian families, daughters and sons, listen to your mother and father because they can hear things from God and sense things about you that you cannot yet discern for yourself.

I want to tell you something. You always marry the other person’s family. If you don’t believe that, hang on. That’s why it is so important to have the blessing of both as you enter in to marriage. Now in some places, obviously, there is an exception to the rule, but we are talking about a principle here that we are lifting out. It is not the interpretation, it is an application to go home with.

That’s your principle. It’s application, not interpretation. You make your own choice, but I think that application is strong, young people. Go and let your parents be a part of your married life. It will pay off dividends for years and years and years to come.

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