Here is the beginning of something that became, for Paul, a very important idea. A widow may be weak and poor, but she can become strong in her relationship with God. She may be too weak to do most jobs, but there was important work for her to do in the church.
However, Paul began with instructions for married women. A married woman must remain loyal to her husband while he is alive. She should not leave him to marry another man. However, if he dies before her, she is free to marry again.
A Christian woman should marry a Christian man. The widow should choose someone who is ‘in the Lord’. In other words, her new husband should be a Christian as she is. They should both have the same kind of relationship with God. As they serve God together, they will both become stronger in their relationship with him.
Those instructions for married women are commands that God has given in the Bible. But in 1 Corinthians 7:40, Paul adds his own opinion about a widow. He believes that it would be better for her not to marry again. He says that she would be ‘happier’ without a husband. Really, he is referring back to his words in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34. He means that the widow can serve God better without a husband. If she has a husband, she must give her time and energy to him. But without a husband, she can give all her time and energy to God’s work.
We can see how this idea developed in 1 Timothy 5:3-16. The churches provided for older widows, if they had no families to look after them. And those widows gave all their time for prayer, good works, and to teach younger women.
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© 2013, Keith Simons.