Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 21, 1951

"Only In The Lord"

L. W. Mayo, Portersville, California

In 1 Cor. 7:39 we have this reading "A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." Some years past brother G. C, Brewer wrote rather at length on this passage and went about to try to show that the expression "only in he Lord' did not mean that a Christian widow must marry a Christian man, if she marries at all. Without going about to refute the premise upon which he argued the point I shall present what a few commentaries declare upon the passage and then give some translations of the language its self. It has never been mine to accept a thing just because a list of commentaries agree on the point but when the translations set a matter forth in a certain way it has quite a bearing on the argument. First, however, we give some commentaries.

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown: "Only in the Lord—Let her marry only a Christian.'

Adam Clarke: "Only in the Lord; 'that is, she must not marry a heathen nor an irreligious man; and she should not only marry a genuine Christian, but one of her own religious sentiments; for, in reference to domestic peace, much depends on this'.' Just where Clarke learned that a genuine Christian woman and a genuine Christian man could differ in sentiments I do not know but he, at least, saw in the verse the importance of a Christian woman's marrying a Christian man—if in deed she married at all.

H. A. Meyer: "Only in the Lord, Not apart from Christ as the specifically determined element of the new union; only in a Christian way i.e. only to a Christian, sc. Let her be married. So among the early interpreters, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrosister, Jerome, Theodoret, Grotius—'

B. W. Johnson: "She must marry in the Lord; that is, a Christian. An alien marriage is prohibited."

J. W. McGarvey and P. Y. Pendleton: "Only in the Lord. (i.e., to a Christian.)"

I offer these commentaries for what they are worth nor have I checked one that fails to give it as a candid conviction that this passage forbids a widowed Christian from marrying a man who is not a Christian.

Having seen some comments on the passage under discussion we turn to the translations. This is the way that we prove that "for the remission of sins' in Acts 2:38 means "in order to obtain the remission of sins—or with a view to the forgiveness of sins.' It is the way that we prove that "for' has a prospective view and not a retrospective view. It is also how one can prove that 1 Peter 3:21 means that "baptism now saves us.' Hence, it is the best way to show just what "only in the Lord" means.

From the book "The Life and Epistles of Paul' by Conybeare and Howson we have this rendering. 1 Cor. 7:39 "The wife is bound by the law of wedlock so long as her husband lives; but after his death she is free to marry whom she will, provided that she chooses one of the brethren in Christ."

Helen B. Montgomery: "A wife is bound to her husband during his life time; but if her husband dies, she is free to marry whomever she will, provided it be in the Lord.."

The Berkeley Translation by Dr. Gerrit Verkuyl: "She is free to marry whom she pleases, —only in a Christian way."

Ronald Knox Translation: "She is free to marry whom she will, so long as she marries in the Lord."

Goodspeed: "She is free to marry anyone she pleases so long as he is a Christian.'

Weymouth—Second Edition: "She is at liberty to marry whom she will, provided that he is a Christian."

James Moffatt: "A woman is bound to her husband during his lifetime; but if he dies she is free to marry anyone she please--ONLY HE MUST BE A CHRISTIAN."

Charles B. Williams Translation: "A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives, if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she pleases—ONLY HE MUST BE A CHRISTIAN." (Emphasis on all above translations mine. — L.W.M.)

At this writing these are eighteen of the best translations before the writer. These eight that have been sighted point out beyond a doubt that a widowed Christian must, if she marries at all, marry a Christian; and the other ten concur with the expression "only in the Lord." Thus the commentaries and translations agree on this matter. This doctrine is bound upon marriage today as well as at any time. It is not possible to overturn this argument. Hence, we must take heed how we hear.