I Corinthians 7 is the great chapter in the Bible on Christian singleness and marriage. But who is to decide whether a single person or a widow or a widower should marry or not?
For a widower (a man whose wife has died), the decision lies with him. It is likewise for a single, young man, though, of course, he needs advice. Our heavenly Father teaches us that a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife (Gen. 2:24). Thus leaving and cleaving, that is, marrying, is an act of his determination and will, under Almighty God. And so parents must train their sons for leaving home one day and leading a godly wife.
But what about women? Who has the final decision whether virgins or widows marry or not? I Corinthians 7:36-38 address the case of virgins and verses 39-40 deal with widows. I Corinthians 7:39 also provides us with the key criterion for choosing a spouse: marry "only in the Lord." This is a very brief saying but it contains a lot, as we shall see in the next issue of the News.
The Bible gives us instruction concerning a father’s authority over his daughter. Numbers 30:3-16 teaches that a father can annul his daughter’s vow (when he first hears of it). According to Deuteronomy 22:13-21, if a husband in Israel accused his wife of fornicating with another man prior to their marriage, her father was to "bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city" (15). Thus it was the father’s calling to ensure that his daughter remained a virgin prior to marriage. If his daughter had "played the whore," she would be stoned by the door of her father’s house (21), thus indicating his guilt and shame also. Exodus 22:16 tells us that a man who seduces an unmarried girl is bound to offer to marry her. But her father has the right to refuse to give her away (17) and no one can stop him from doing this. Why? Because he has this authority from God. This instruction from Numbers 30, Deuteronomy 22 and Exodus 22 on the father’s authority is presupposed in I Corinthians 7:36-38.
The father, as the head of the house, has the say-so whether his daughter may or may not marry. It is not simply a matter of romance or of his daughter’s decision or of her boyfriend’s insistence. Her father’s approval is required, for he has the God-given authority, and hence the responsibility, for his daughter’s marrying or not. Thus the Scriptures speak of sons as marrying but of daughters as being given in marriage (e.g., Ps. 78:63; Matt. 24:38; Luke 20:34). Accordingly, in the marriage ceremony, the minister asks, "Who gives this woman to this man in marriage?" "Her mother and I," replies her father. There is no such question nor answer concerning the groom. A father’s giving of his daughter to the groom at a wedding is a transfer of authority. Her husband is now her head; her father no longer possesses this authority over her. Thus Numbers 30 teaches that just as a father has the authority to disannul his daughter’s vow, so a husband has the authority to disannul his wife’s vow.
Moreover, the father also has authority over his daughter’s courtship. Imagine the ludicrous situation in which a father has no say over whom his daughter may date, but he has authority only over marriage, and so he steps in to stop the wedding after they had been courting for, say, two years! Deuteronomy 22:13-21, in referring to a father’s bringing the tokens of his daughter’s virginity, indicates his authority over her courtship. What does such fatherly authority involve? Whom she may court—this man but not that one. When she may court—when her father believes her to be ready. The father should also see to it to that she dresses modestly, as God’s Word requires (Isa. 3:16-23; I Peter 3:3-5). Father’s role is not merely sitting at home with Mum, worried and fretting and praying about what their daughter and her boyfriend will get up to on their date.
The ungodly world, the evil demons and the raging feminists hate the biblical truth of the spiritual authority of faithful fathers over their daughters—as do some immature daughters. "Father is an idiot. What would he know?" "Romance and wisdom in courtship lie with the young." So many think. Thus there is the strong tendency to rebellion or foolishly sneaking out with some good-for-nothing on a date without parental consent. Your parents could have saved you from the heartache which is coming, but you wouldn’t listen!
This opposition to parental (especially father’s) supervision is probably stronger in our modern, western world than ever before. The sexual revolution in the 1960s made promiscuity and rebellion more widespread and "normal." The vast proliferation of foolish books and girls’ magazines on male-female relationships teach a "love" from below which is thoroughly earthly, sensual and devilish (cf. James 3:15). TV, movies, popular songs and chat shows promote this way of thinking and living. "Recreational dating is the norm. Why not date merely for fun? Everyone else does." This can be a serious temptation for Christian girls: conforming to the ungodly world with its lascivious and foolish ideas of dating and "love" … and rebelling against their father’s authority and protection, contrary to the fifth commandment and the holy life of gratitude required of all those redeemed by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Volume: 10
- Issue: 22
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851