Marry Only in the Lord; 1 Cor. 7:39

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Hard Verses Episode 12: Marry only in the Lord; 1 Cor. 7:39

Wanted to thank everyone for sharing and all the positive response.  Wanted to thank everyone for all the new suggestions. Wanted to thank Larry White for the suggestion.

The Problem.

1Co 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.

What does it mean to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord?

Can she only marry another Christian man?

Can she only marry in a Christian manner?

The Solution.

The issue is what does “in the Lord” mean and then modify?

  1. Earlier “in the Lord” is apparent to mean a Christian in Paul’s other writings.

Rom 16:11  Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord

                The NIV actually translates this passage this way.

39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.

Looking at other verses that may have to do with this, like being unequally yoked.

2Co 6:14  Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

2Co 6:15  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

2Co 6:16  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

2Co 6:17  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

                Is this discussing marriage?  Not specifically.

The Greek does not seem to indicate this.

I had two peer reviewed articles that I received from a search and neither dealt with the issue of verse 39.

I went through my commentaries and almost all said that the man has to be a Christian without explaining why.

  1. Did a google search and came up with several church of Christ websites and one Jehovah Witness site (which did not explain the verse, just made an assertion).

The issue is that if this forbidding of marriage to unbelievers is to be taken from this verse 39 then it would be the only verse forbidding this.

There is also the issue of how to rectify the situation if this is a sinful act.  Will the woman now need to divorce?

According to Matthew 19:9, there is only one reason for divorce.

Mat 19:9  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.

                Prior verses speak to woman staying married to their unbelieving husbands so that they may be converted.

All this would be to point to the “in the Lord” as modifying the act of marrying.

The woman would have to be married in a scriptural way.  They would not need to be married to someone with several wives.  They would also not need to marry someone that would require them to go to Pagan worship.

This seems to be the way this is modified.  When looking at a very similar passage using “in the Lord,” The modified object is a little easier to spot.

Eph 6:1  Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

Is “in the Lord” modifying Children, parents or the act of obeying?

It seems obvious that this means the obedience is to be complete unless it requires a child to go against God’s law.


  1. There is one other argument. This passage only applies because of the upcoming, eminent distress. This would mean that this verse is no longer applicable to us today.  Because there will be massive heart ache one needs to find a Christian spouse.  I personally don’t see this view.  That would make sense to those debating whether to marry or not.  Since taking a spouse is an added burden in a time of hardship.

The lesson for us today.

We need to be living our lives “in the Lord.”

Tools I Used


Modules Barnes, Burton Coffman, Clarke, JFB.


Call to action.

Youtube is up.  “Hard Verses.”


If you have an Iphone or ipad, then you have Itunes.  Go to ITunes to the top right to the search box.  What is a search box?  It is a white rectangle with a magnifying glass on the left and a powder blue border around the box.  Put “Hard Verses” in the search. Hit enter.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page until to see the podcast section.  I should be the number one square picture. It has a picture of me with my parrot coffee cup.  Click on that. That is my show page. Underneath my picture is my subscribe button.  Hit that and all your dreams will come true.

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