First Corinthians 7.36-40


1. Letís stand, as we read First Corinthians 7.36-40 together: "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 stedfast 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."

2. Folks, the passage before us has proved to be a difficult one for many people to handle. And, in part, the difficulties many people have with this passage stem from a basic misunderstanding of just who it is that Paul is addressing.

3. Is Paul addressing a young man concerning the woman he intends to marry, perhaps informing him that he is prolonging the engagement too long? And does he then go on to address the young woman about the permanency of marriage and being happy in marriage?

4. Because it is so essential to our development of the text, letís spend a few moments trying to establish just who it is Paul is dealing with in this passage.

5. The real confusion about who Paul is writing to stems from just a few pronouns. In verse 36 he writes, "he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin,...." Then, in verse 37 he writes, "...decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well."

6. There is more evidence that I could show you, but what we have seen is more than sufficient to establish who Paul is writing to. Think about it for a moment. What one person in the world can properly refer to a young woman, who is a virgin, as "his virgin?"

7. Can a fiancť refer to his betrothed, the woman that he is about to marry, as "his virgin?" No. What one man, then, can use this possessive pronoun with all propriety? Only her father, my friends.

8. Remembering that the Bible is the Word of God, and that for that reason particular attention must be paid to the specific words that are used, we can positively state who Paul is addressing here.

9. The only appropriate and accurate interpretation possible requires that we understand Paul to be referring to the father of the virgin, when the phrase "his virgin" is used.

10. Think about what we have just discovered. Up until this portion of First Corinthians chapter 7, when Paul dealt with a specific groupís problems associated with marriage, he addressed that particular group. What we have in this text, however, is quite different.

11. Let this sink in deeply mom, dad, girls. If we properly understand that this passage is directed to the fathers of virgins about the marriage plans of their daughters, then the passage we looked at last week was addressed to virgins. But not all virgins. Only male virgins.

12. Unless Paul deals with female virgins in two different sections of this chapter, which breaks the pattern he seems to have established, then we have to understand that verses 25-35 talks to male virgins, even though it talks about female virgins in verse 34.

13. Do you realize the implications of this to young women contemplating marriage? The way God would have it, the father of a young virgin plays an influential and key role in determining the status with which his daughter will serve God.

14. According to Godís plan, I am supposed to play a powerfully influential role in Sarahís life as she asks the question and then seeks the answer to the question, "Shall I serve God as a single woman or as a married woman?"

15. In our text for today, three concerns stated by the apostle Paul to the effect that fathers would understand and then act upon their heavy responsibility in the lives of their virgin daughters.


"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."

My friends, like it or not, the Word of God maintains a fatherís right and a fatherís authority, as well as a fatherís responsibility, in either granting or denying his virgin daughter permission to marry. And though this role that God gives a father is debated, it isnít really debatable. There are four factors every father needs to consider when deciding whether or not to grant his daughterís hand in marriage.

1B. First, A Fatherís Decision Is Related To His Concern

"But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin...."

1C. What Paul is referring to here is love. But not a young womanís love for a young man, or visa versa. In First Corinthians 13.5, Paul describes genuine love as not behaving "unseemly."

2C. And the word "uncomely" here translates the same Greek word that "unseemly" translates in chapter 13 and verse 5.

3C. Paul is speaking to the fact that a father has awesome authority in his virgin daughterís life, and any decision which dad makes, which will affect the rest of his daughterís life, had better be the result of profound concern, had better be the result of a genuine and abiding love for that girl.

2B. Next, A Fatherís Decision Is Related To Her Age

"...if she pass the flower of her age...."

1C. When that young man asks for permission to court your daughter with a view to marriage, and as you weigh his request with great love toward your daughter, with a concern for whatís best for her, think about your daughterís age.

2C. Consider the possibility that if you tell this young man "No," she may be of an age when fewer and fewer men are interested in her. The simple fact is, there are a lot more men looking for 25 year old women to marry than are looking for 35 year old women to marry.

3C. Such considerations as this ought to be a factor in your decision, dad.

3B. Third, A Fatherís Decision Should Be Related To Her Need

"...and need so require...."

1C. Folks, this refers to the legitimate physical needs and sexual appetite of a manís virgin daughter. Dad, your daughter has needs and desires, whether you want to face the fact of it or not.

2C. Do you guys with daughters ever discuss whether your daughterís appetites are desires, or whether they are profound physical needs?

3C. Why do I get the impression, over my years in the ministry, that fathers never discuss such things with their daughters? Itís an almost taboo subject between dads and daughters.

4C. Dad, how can you fulfill your God-given responsibilities, and how will your daughter have any confidence in the decisions you render, if the two of you have not openly and honestly discussed this subject? Or if you have not at least gotten the word from your wife about the matter?

5C. You see, dad, you need to know whether your daughter desires to marry because sex in marriage is something she wants, or because sex in marriage is something she needs.

6C. If sex in marriage is simply a want, you owe it to both your daughter and to any interested young man to be man enough to tell any suitor who comes her way that she is not the woman for him. Donít assassinate your daughterís character. Just let the guy know that your daughter isnít available to him.

7C. Such a thing happened when David Brainerd asked Jonathan Edwards for the hand of his daughter. After prayer Edwards said "No." When Brainerd asked what it was about him that didnít measure up Jonathan Edwards confided to him that it wasnít that he wasnít fit for his daughter, but that his daughter wasnít fit for Brainerd.

8C. Iíd like to think we will grow some fathers like that over the years as Godís grace is showered on our Church, although most dads will be convinced that the young man isnít good enough for his daughter, rather than his daughter not being good enough for the young man.

4B. Finally, A Fatherís Decision Is Related To His Sovereignty

"...let him do what he will...."

1C. Dad, this little phrase is most profound. You see, this little phrase shows us that the question of who your daughter marries, the question of whether your daughter marries, is your decision.

2C. Seek all the counsel you want. Get as much input from your daughter, your wife, your pastor, your friends, the young man who wants to court her, as you want.

3C. Hey, I guarantee you that all of your unsaved friends, and most of your "Christian" friends, wonít think you have any authority in this matter. And so far as the government and social custom is concerned, you donít.

4C. But what matters is God and His Word. He says the decision is yours. Let her court and then marry if you want to. Thatís not wrong. You commit no sin by permitting your daughter to marry. But the decision, whatever that decision is, is yours alone.


"Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast 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."

Understand, a father is perfectly within his God-given rights to grant his daughter permission to marry. But if he denies his permission for her to marry, again, his decision is properly made in light of certain considerations. Three things a fatherís decision to prohibit a virgin daughterís marriage should properly be related to:

1B. First, It Should Be Related To His Heart

"Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast in his heart . . . and hath so decreed in his heart that he will...."

1C. Dad, donít bother denying your daughter permission to court and then marry if there is any chance that her crying and pleading will wear you down, break your heart, and you will end up changing whatever your mind is.

2C. If there is any chance that a father will change his mind once a decision is handed down on this matter, then youíve made your decision to soon.

3C. What kind of respect can a daughter have for her father if he makes decisions that she can typically plead or cry or talk him out of?

4C. Before we continue on, let me say that I am death on allowing a subject to be discussed once a decision has been made. You fathers of younger girls, need to make sure your daughter is not allowed to change your mind once itís made up. It sets a terrible precedent.

5C. To be sure, every father should allow his daughter, or anyone for that matter, to make a Biblical appeal on a decision he has made. But to plead or beg or cry to get me to change my mind? Never! Make your appeal, but do not try to change my mind.

6C. Of course, I think most dads have graduate degrees in wimpology and let their daughters push them all over the house. But you do that girl no favors by being that way, dad. Amen?

2B. Second, A Fatherís Prohibition Should Be Related To His Finances

"...having no necessity . . . and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin...."

1C. This is referring to money. Dad, when you deny your daughter permission to marry youíd better consider this: Godís plan does not involve you keeping your daughter at home and then having her get a job to pay her own way.

2C. Godís plan for you, should you choose to prohibit your daughterís courtship by this nice young man, is for you to support her, not send her out to work for some other man. And if you wish for her to work, she needs to work for you.

3C. Now, when a father understands that his daughterís material needs will be provided for out of his own pocket, and when he and everyone else understands that saying "No" to her suitor will be an expensive decision for him, then dadís motives are far less likely to be called into question by his daughter, or by anyone else.

3B. Finally, A Fatherís Prohibition Is Related To His Head

"...but hath power over his own will...."

1C. See the word "power" in this verse? It refers to the freedom of oneís will, or the authority to make a decision.

2C. Dad, the decision is yours. But will you stick to your decision? You have prepared your heart so that your daughter will not be able to change your mind by her emotional pleadings, but will you become filled with self-doubt and questions later on?

3C. The decision is yours, but this is a critical decision. Such things as your pocket book, your heart, and your head should all be considered before you render a decision.

4C. Once you make up your mind and then give in to reasoning, to finances, or to emotion, you terribly weaken your position, your ministry, and the respect your daughter will have for you as her father.

5C. And although there is nothing whatsoever wrong with allowing your daughter to get married, if you honestly and before God believe that God would have you to say "No," and if your considerations are godly and proper and in her long term best interest, you do well by saying "No."


1B. As To Prerogative (7.38)

"So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better."

1C. We must remember that the historical setting in which this text is written has in view impending persecution. For that reason, I believe, Paul indicates that the father who permits his daughter to marry does well, while indicating that the father who denies permission does better.

2C. But how does this verse apply to us today? It applies in this way: Though we do not seem to be living in a climate where severe persecution is impending, the fact that it is the father of a virgin daughter who decides whether or not she is to marry is the issue we should not overlook.

3C. This means that it is a dadís prerogative. Not the daughterís. Not the prospective groomís. Not the motherís. The decision, Paul is showing us for at least the third time in this text, is dadís.

4C. And we should probably grant that most of the time, with no imminent persecution on the horizon, permission should be granted by the father for his daughter to be courted, unless he has some strong reasons that compel him otherwise.

2B. As To Permanency (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."

1C. Folks, Paulís concept of marriage is one man and one woman for a lifetime, or until the groom dies. But the context indicates that he is writing these things directly to the virginís father. Why?

2C. How many of you in this room have observed young couples supposedly fall in love and marry, knowing of a certainty in your heart that he was not a guy she would marry and stay with for the rest of her life? I have seen that type of scenario play out many times. It saddens me that I am right as often as I am.

3C. The fact is, when young people become entangled with each other they usually do not consider, ponder and weigh the critical factors that determine the success or the failure of a marriage.

4C. And if anyone in this room is so naive as to think that "being in love" has anything to do with the long term success of a marriage, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might want to consider buying.

5C. Who, then, is most likely to consider and ponder the factors that really make for a successful marriage? Who has this girlís best interests at heart and has the vantage point of spiritual leadership to look at her situation from? And who has access to the infinite wisdom of a holy God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in rendering a decision like this? The virginís father.

6C. Now, should her husband die she is free to make up her own mind who she wants to marry, should she decide to remarry. But by that time she would be a great deal wiser than when first contemplating marriage as a young girl just off her daddyís knee, no matter how old or wise she thinks herself to be.

7C. All that she must be cautious of as a widow about to get married is her prospective husbandís relationship with Christ. It is not Godís will for a Christian woman, any Christian woman, to marry a lost man.

3B. As To Preference (7.40)

"But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God."

1C. Here we have Paul indicating his personal opinion in the matter of a virgin daughter marrying, in view of great persecution around the corner.

2C. And his opinion must be understood to apply in the context in which it was written.


1. There is much to consider and evaluate in this passage. Amen? And there are many implications that spin off of what Paul has written.

2. To be sure, there is no daughter in America who can be forced to submit to her father. And no daughter has to trust God to make His divine will for her life evident through the life and leadership of her dad. She can be self-willed and make her own decisions if she wants to.

3. But if God indicates that He will protect and guide a precious young woman to the man He wants for her, or to the life He wants for her, by taking certain steps of faith . . . is He likely to provide the same protection and guidance if she chooses another path? I donít think so.

4. Dads, can you actually imagine your daughter asking permission to marry a boy she knows and is desperately in love with, and accepting your decision to not marry him and never see him again? If you say to yourself, "My daughter would tell me to get lost if I ever told her she couldnít marry who she wanted," then you are experiencing difficulty as a father.

5. Why? Because it is your responsibility to raise and to train your child to trust the plan God has worked out for her, and to prepare her for this most critical time in her life. And if youíve not done your best to train or teach your daughter how Godís man for her life is chosen then tragedy may be in store for you and your daughter.

6. Folks, in our present world there are no forces of society which reinforce the authority of a parent, of a father. Quite the contrary, oftentimes it is quite legal and easy to do that which is morally wrong . . . such as marrying against your fatherís will.

7. Once each of us realizes how significant is the role that a father plays in the marital success of his daughter, how important it will be that she voluntarily yield to the wisdom of her father, then the whole subject of training children to submit to parental authority now becomes so much more important.

8. How does a parent insure that the virgin daughter cooperates in the midst of an entire world thatís in rebellion? Dad, you must commune with the Lord as a basis for establishing genuine communion with your precious little girl. And you must faithfully submit to the authority of Christ as Lord so that your daughter will faithfully submit to you as she sees a godly example.

9. Wife? As your daughter sees your meekness and quietness and responsiveness to your husband, coupled with a deep and abiding faith in Christ, you are preparing her for that possible time in the future when your husbandís weighty authority must come into play and your daughter will respond to him as you have taught her to respond by your own example.

10. And you virgin daughters? You must not so much trust your dadís wisdom when that crucial time comes. Rather, you must trust the living God to work out His Own will through your dad to give you the man He wants you to have.

11. "But pastor, what if my dad sins and interferes with my marriage to a man God wants me to have?" The Author of life can withhold breath as easily as give it. Do you actually think God will allow anyone to interfere with His divine plans for your life, including your father? If he is the man for you, God will either change your dadís mind or move your dad out of the way, so you can properly, humbly, spiritually, marry the man God wants for you.

12. And why does Paul address such remarks as these to fathers of daughters who are virgins? Why does he not comment to daughters who are not virgins?

13. An opinion. The act of fornication, whereby a daughter is no longer a virgin, is such a rebellion against the authority of her father that it is not likely that she will submit to her fatherís decision on such an important matter as who she will marry.

14. And although I havenít had much pastoral experience dealing with such matters, I would find it a very pleasant surprise for a young lady who was not a virgin to repent of her sin and humble herself to her father in such a way that his decisions regarding who she kept company with and, finally, who she ended up marrying, were obeyed without having to quite forceful.

15. So, here is where we stand: Dad, youíd better get ready, and youíd better get your daughter ready for that decision. And properly prepare her to accept your decision. Of course, your going to have to be an exceptionally spiritual, wise and loving dad to expect her to go along with a decision she might not like.

16. Mom, youíd better get your daughter ready for that decision. And you do that by your own responsiveness to your husbandís decisions, as well as your faith in God to work through your husband to lead and guide you. Your daughter will do what you do.

17. And young lady, donít think God is being cruel in working things out this way. He knows what He is doing. If you can't submit to your daddy in something like this, you're going to have a terrible time doing what God wants you to do as a wife. And if you get a husband any other way, you'll never be sure that the man you married is the right man. Of course, this is only a problem if Godís will for your life is important. Amen?

18. And finally, to the young lady who has sinned. Your life is not, by any means, over. You are not a second class citizen of heaven, or this Church. You must realize, however, that submission to your father has now been made far more difficult by your sin. Not impossible . . . harder. So, you work and you pray and you prepare for the time of your father's decision. So that you will graciously abide by your father's will in the matter.

19. This is a tough issue. But it boils down to just trusting Godís plan for finding the right man for a girl to marry. Do you trust God to work in this way?

20. Dad? Are you willing to become the kind of man that a virgin daughter will respond to?

21. Mom? Are willing to become the kind of example that will result in your daughter doing Godís will?

22. Young lady?  Are you of a mind to trust God to work through your daddy's life to make His will known to you?

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