The verse is clearly about widows but I am most concerned with the hermeneutics of the phrase “only in the Lord”; considering Apostle Paul did not say for instance, only with another believer or disciple. Nor did he say with someone from the church, nor did he qualify it to mean a person who is baptized with the Holy Spirit or baptized in water. He specifically was inspired to use this expression. What does it mean exactly and does it have any OT or Hebrew holdover?

“A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:39‬ ‭

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    Their attitude towards their new spouse and marriage should be driven mainly or primarily by pious, rather than carnal, considerations.
    – Lucian
    Sep 22, 2019 at 22:45
  • How do you reconcile? “There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world*—how she may *please her husband.” ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭7:34‬ ‭ Sep 23, 2019 at 2:00
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    There is nothing there to reconcile; not unless you are (mis)reading verse 34 as somewhat implying that married people do not serve the Lord at all (!)
    – Lucian
    Sep 23, 2019 at 6:47
  • @Lucian your comments are off topic and do not address the question. If they do, it’s not obvious what you are trying to convey because “in the Lord” is in the context of choosing a spouse and is contrasted to virgins who have their earthly fathers choose for them. Please consider writing a response. Also my earlier comment in context says that spouses care for each other, service to the Lord is not involved when they care for each other. And while they do serve the Lord, clearly they don’t have the same amount of time as a single unmarried person does, especially when children come Oct 5, 2019 at 15:19
  • When in doubt, consult Chrysostom.
    – Lucian
    Oct 5, 2019 at 16:57

1 Answer 1


Paul said in another place :

He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. [I Corinthians 6:17 KJV.]

And in that context, Paul says that a physical union results in being :

one body with her. [I Corinthians 6:16 KJV.]

In I Corinthians 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, [KJV]

Paul is saying that a Christian woman is released, legally, from the marriage by the death of her husband and she is free to marry whomever else she chooses.

But, being a Christian woman, she is still 'joined' to the Lord in Spirit and so Paul's statement of her being 'at liberty' in her choice of future husband needs to be qualified in regard to her spiritual union with Christ, and the necessity of marrying appropriately within the body of Christ.

  • “Whomever else she chooses” is what you state And therefore place emphasis that it is her choice provided it in the Lord @NigelJ. This instruction that she may choose whomever she chooses in the Lord is only for widows and not found elsewhere for virgins. That would mean non-widows cannot choose whomever they choose in the Lord but another. True? Or are they too afforded the liberty to choose whomever they choose? Sep 23, 2019 at 18:22
  • @NihilSineDeo The context, yes, is about widows. But the fact is applicable universally. A statement is not exclusive, merely because of the context of the immediate argument. The point is that the lady concerned is 'in the Lord'. And she is to accept a marriage invitation only from a man who is 'in the Lord'. Marriage is a union. And compatibility is necessary for a true union.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 23, 2019 at 18:30
  • That’s an interesting statement @NigelJ because the very previous verse speaks of εκγαμιζων which is the English word for betroth, or an arranged marriage. So v39 is saying that a widow no longer needs her father to arrange her marriage partner, she is now free to marry without her father’s express agreement (in the Lord). Therefore it would follow that applying the conditions for a widow to a virgin is not Biblically sound teaching just because εκγαμιζων is not practiced in the West. Though one could argue that one should seek God’s agreement for εκγαμιζων and hence “in the Lord”. Sep 23, 2019 at 22:33
  • @NihilSineDeo Thayer states that ekgamizo is to give in marriage. The word does not convey 'arranged' marriage. Nor is that what the English word 'betroth' means. The text is dealing with marriage as such.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 23, 2019 at 23:44
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    The context of v38 specifies that the father of the girl can choose to marry her off or not. Hence she doesn’t have a choice to marry anyone she chooses, at least not in the eventuality that the father refuses to allow her to marry at all @NigelJ. Not sure how else you could read that verse.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Betrothal Sep 24, 2019 at 2:36

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