Dear Brother Beebe: Will you or some of your able correspondents be so kind as to give your views through the “Signs of the Times,” on I Corinthians 7:5, 14-16, and much oblige your professed brother,
Reply: Corinth, where this church was located, was one of the most magnificent cities of Greece, and famous for its refinement, literature and wealth, but like all the cities of the Gentile world, at that day, sunk deep in pagan idolatry. Among those pagans there were however, as elsewhere among the Gentiles, many Jewish proselytes long before the gospel was introduced among them or any gospel church organized among them. When the apostles and other primitive preachers of the gospel were driven out of Judea by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the word, and some of them found their way into Corinth; and under their ministry God was pleased to gather and organize a church. The Corinthian constituents of that church having been brought up and educated principally in paganism, and now called to ignore it, were perplexed in regard to the different teachings of the Jews and Christians. The Jews holding that all who embraced Judaism should put away their pagan wives; as in the ritual of Moses it was unlawful for a Jew to have a Gentile or pagan wife. The apostles of Christ had taught those who professed the Christian faith, that they were not by the laws of Christ required to adhere to Jewish rites, but being under law to Christ they were required to regard their marriage most sacredly binding. The Corinthian church, we infer from the context, had written to Paul to enlighten them on this subject. In reply to their written enquiry, as we understand, the apostle shows that the gospel does not require that the disciples shall be married; and on his own responsibility Paul suggests that the unmarried state would be preferable; but that those who were married, or even betrothed, had no right to disregard their solemn engagements. Parties, either married or betrothed, were no longer independent of each other, and therefore to ignore their solemn pledges, and separate from each other, would be to defraud the forsaken party. This he charges them not to do, except it be with mutual consent for a time, and for devotional purposes, and then to come together again. A Christian husband, having a pagan wife, cannot worship together; and if the pagan desires to go to her idol’s temple, and the Christian to the sanctuary of the Lord, let this temporary separation be by mutual consent, and for a limited time. To go beyond this limitation would be fraudulent, for neither the husband nor the wife has power, that is proprietorship, or the independent right of his or her own body; for they twain are one. It would be fraudulent, therefore, to desert each other, as it would be to deprive the injured party of his or her lawful rights, and thus would give Satan an advantage and bring dishonor upon the Christian profession. “If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, [that is a pagan] and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath a husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.” Why? Because they are legally bound to each other. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband.” That is, sanctified by espousal and marriage; consecrated, set apart exclusively to and for each other, legally; forsaking all others in that relation till separated by death. Else were your children unclean, or illegitimate, born out of wedlock, and therefore illegal or bastards; but in this marriage consecration or sanctification they are holy, or lawful children. The Christian husband does not know but that he may convince his pagan wife of the absurdity and abomination of idolatry, nor does the Christian wife know that her pagan husband may not yet become a follower of Christ; hence the impropriety of ignoring the relation of husband and wife, on account of religious differences.
September 1, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 482 – 484