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Divorce & Remarriage

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Divorce & Remarriage: 1 Cor 7:10-16

Maranatha Baptist Church. Sunday Feb. 19/2006 10:00 am


If you do any of the shopping, probably the strangest part is at the checkout. (No offence yvone). The magazine section there is perhaps the strangest collection in print. One favourite is the Hollywood marriage and divorce scene. Some of the comments on the circus include:

·        In Hollywood they get married early in the morning. That way, if it doesn't work out, you haven't wasted a whole day.

·        The hardest thing in Hollywood is to keep the marriage a secret until the divorce leaks out.

·        I was invited to a Hollywood wedding. Traffic was heavy, so I got there late -- just in time for the divorce.

·        One Hollywood kid has good reason to be proud: at the last PTA meeting, he won the prize for having the most parents there.

·        One actress is very sentimental: she always gets divorced in the dress her mother was married in.

·        A Hollywood bride looked around as the groom put her down after carrying her across the threshold. Puzzled, the Hollywood bride said, "This place looks familiar. Have we been married before?".

The stars themselves tend to be the most self-deprecating:

My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.
-- Rodney Dangerfield

"My wife loves to shop. Spends all my money. One week she was sick -- three stores went out of business. The woman will bring home anything marked down. Last week she brought home an escalator. She said she lost her purse and all her credit cards were in it. Did I report them stolen? No -- the thief spends less than she does. Take my wife -- please!"
-- Henny Youngman

What is so tragic, is that life now resembles art. The stuff of Hollywood yesteryear now can be seen in the everyday. This week, the supreme court heard a case involving no-fault spousal support. These days it is not uncommon to read of prenuppual agreements, messy custody battles, haggling over spousal support and the list goes on and on.

As we have seen over the past weeks, the situation in Corinth was no different. But the situation was different from when Jesus taught on the issue. When he taught the Jews, Divorce was rather rare. When Paul dealt with the Greek cities such as Athens and Corinth, and other Roman cities, divorce was a frequent thing. As you recall from our previous studies some in Corinth were saying it was better to remain single to be more spiritual. To avoid what some (Ascetics) considered sex carnal, not spiritual, and were divorcing their spouses. Others (the Hedionists) lived for pleasure and would divorce and remarry on the drop of a hat with only objective of selfish pleasure.


No one it seems has not been affected by the topic of Marriage and Divorce. We are either the participantschildren or friends of someone who is or has gone through this process. The statistics and effects from depression to crime almost seem meaningless. We all seem to know the technical impact. What we need is the solution and God’s guidance.

According to the last CENSUS DATA FOR Brant , with a total population of almost 120 000, of those 15 and older, about 25 000 have never been legally married, just over 50 000 are legally married and not separated, just over 4000 are separated but still legally married and about equal numbers (7000) are divorced and widowed.  Therefore in just Brant county, about 11 000 people are most directly dealing with the concept or separation and divorce, not counting children, in-laws, congregation members and friends in general.


I want to make it clear up front that I am not trying to pick on anyone. If you are divorced or remarried, it is not my intent to single you out or to embarrass you. I realize for many this issue is painful and this is not an academic exercise or an intellectual pursuit. It is a very personal and painful experience that has touched your lives. I hope we can all have a greater biblical understanding and know how to go forward as well as counsel others and consider the issue for those who may encounter the problem, both as a personal choice as well as with those they care about.

1 Cor. 7 gives a message today with 1) Guidelines for Christians Married to Other Christians 2) Christians Married to Unbelievers Who Want to Stay Married 3) Christians Married to Unbelievers Who Want to Leave

1) Guidelines for Christians Married to Other Christians

1Co 7:10  To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 1Co 7:11  (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife

Please turn to Mt. 19

In order to establish the background on this issue, I will spend just about all my time on this first point.

No distinction is made as to the type of marriage involved. As seen in the last chapter, at least four marital arrangements were practiced in that day—ranging from the common–law usus to the noble confarreatio. To the married covers every type. That both partners of the marriage in view here were Christians is clear from Paul’s giving them  This Charge//instruction (which he never gave to unbelievers) and from the fact that in verses 12–16 he deals specifically with marriages in which only one partner is a believer.

Lest there be any doubt as to the source of the teaching here, the apostle adds, not I, but the Lord. Jesus had taught the truth during His earthly ministry.

Mat 19:3  And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" Mat 19:4  He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

The Pharisees wanted to see if Jesus would side with the teachings of Rabbi Shammai, who took a very strict view on divorce (divorce only for adultery), or if he would side with Rabbi Hillel, who took a very liberal view on divorce (divorce for any reason).

Jesus told them God’s intent for marriage:

Quoting Genesis 2:24, Jesus said,

Mat 19:5  and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh'? Mat 19:6  So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." Mat 19:7  They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?" Mat 19:8  He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. Mat 19:9  And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."

And now back to Chapter 5

We have examined the nature of the one flesh. Adam Clark said on what we have just read that:

“they should be considered as one body, but also as two souls in one body, with a complete union of interests, and an indissoluble partnership of life and fortune, comfort and support, desires and inclinations, joys and sorrows.”


Mat 5:31  "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' Mat 5:32  But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Look back again one book to Malachi chapter 2

·        Do you notice in Mt. 5 that the only legitimate ground here is Sexuality immorality.

Mal 2:13  And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Mal 2:14  But you say, "Why does he not?" Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Mal 2:15  Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. Mal 2:16  "For the man who hates and divorces, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless." Mal 2:17  You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them." Or by asking, "Where is the God of justice?"

This is the permissive will of God: It is God permitting what he hates.

Finally, please turn to Dt. 24

In answer to the disciples’ question, Jesus explained that God allowed Moses to permit divorce only because of His peoples’ “hardness of heart” (vv. 7–8), and that it was permissible only in the case of adultery (Matt. 5:31–32).

Deu 24:1  "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, Deu 24:2  and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, Deu 24:3  and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, Deu 24:4  then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

The Pharisees misunderstood Dt. 24. Moses didn’t command the Jews to divorce one another, he simply regulated a practice already in existence.

Divorce is contrary to God’s plan for mankind, and when allowed in cases of adultery is only a gracious concession to the innocent party in an irreconcilable case of unfaithfulness. Where there is repentance, there can be restoration.

The word for marital unfaithfulness is the Greek word proneia or sexual immorality. This is a general term that encompasses an array of sexual sins-including fornication (during betrothal), incest, adultery (moichea), homosexuality and lesbianism. In the Old Covenant the penalty was death (Ex. 20:10). Therefore, the innocent spouse was clearly free to remarry.

Divorce is therefore not God’s ideal, but His concession. It is not commanded, but permitted, and it is not the first option but a last resort.

We do not know why some of the Corinthians wanted to divorce their partners. In light of verses 1–7 it is likely some church members thought they could live holier and more dedicated lives as celibates and wanted to divorce for that reason. Some probably wanted to leave their mates because they saw someone more desirable, or simply because they felt unfulfilled with them. Whatever the reasons, however, they were not to divorce.

the wife should not separate from her husband 1Co 7:11  (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife

Paul was not discussing divorce based on adultery, for which Jesus specifically affirmed provision (Matt. 5:32; 19:8–9). He was talking about divorce for other reasons, even supposedly spiritual ones.

As an aside, there are no biblical grounds for our common understanding of Separation. There is reasonable action of physical removal for a short time to allow counseling. But to have an indeterminable time of physical separation, goes against the instruction we have already seen of coming together often, lest you be tempted. It is too easy to divorce, when physically separated.

If there is physical or mental cruelty, it is the role of the Church to intervene and discipline accordingly (Mt. 18, 1 Cor. 5).  Therefore if you are not a member of a local church that believes in the process of discipline, then you are not availing yourself of the God ordained protection that he created in the Church. You are living common law with God. Christ died for his bride.

Some of the believers in Corinth had already divorced each other or were in motion to that end. To those persons the apostle says, but if she does leave, she should remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband. If a Christian does divorce another Christian, except for adultery, neither partner is free to marry another. They must stay single or rejoin their former mate. In God’s eyes that union has never been broken. These are not a counselor’s suggestions, but the Lord’s commands.

Why would this be so? Perhaps some of you know the story of Isobel Kuhn. She was a popular author and missionary to China, was married to John, a man just as strong willed and stubborn as she was. The two had many conflicts. John, for example, had a cook in China to whom he was devoted but whom Isobel couldn’t stand. Tensions grew, and Isobel sulked and stewed and finally exploded. She and John had a blazing argument.

Stuffing her hat on her head, Isobel stalked from the house, through town, and onto the plain boiling with rage. She said to herself, “I am not going to live with a man who gives a lazy servant preference over his wife.” She walked for hours, enraged, not caring where she went. She finally returned home, but the situation remained tense although John told Isobel she could dismiss the servant. When the local church leaders visiting wanting to know why the cook had been fired, John wouldn’t back Isobel. And he didn’t hire anyone else, sending all the domestic duties on her.

Other issues soon arose. For a long time the marriage was painful and stressed. But John and Isobel were committed to the Master. They were committed to personal spiritual maturity and to working and maintaining the relationship, however difficult it seemed. Furthermore, Isobel admitted that she had nowhere to go. She often walked out on John, but in that remote region on the Chinese-Thai border, there was nowhere for her to go. The two finally built a satisfying, fulfilling marriage.

Near the end of her life, Isobel wrote these words: I feel many modern marriages are wrecked on just sharp shoals as this. A human weakness is pointed out. The correction is resented. Argument grows bitter. Young people are not ready to forgive, not willing to endure. Divorce is too quickly seized upon as the way out. [But] to pray God to awaken the other person, to be patient until he does so—this is God’s way out. And it molds the two opposite natures into one invincible whole.

Legally in Ontario, all the law requires for divorce is separation for one year, adultery or treatment with “intolerable mental or physical crueltyFor God, when two Christians who make a covenant with Him in marriage, He forbids remarriage (save for sexual adultery) because the point is covenant faithfulness: allowing an opportunity for reconciliation.

Something may be legally right but morally wrong.

1) Guidelines for Christians Married to Other Christians

2) Guidelines for Christians Married to Unbelievers Who Want to Stay Married

1 Cor. 7:12  To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 1Co 7:13  If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.  1Co 7:14  For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

What were Christians to do who were already married to unbelievers, possibly even to immoral and idolatrous pagans? Were they free to divorce the one to whom they were unequally yoked and then free either to live singly or marry a believer? Those were honest questions. In light of Paul’s teaching that their bodies were members of Christ and were temples of the Holy Spirit (6:15–20), the Corinthian Christians were justifiably concerned about whether or not to maintain marital union with an unbeliever. Some may have thought that such a union joined Christ to Satan, defiling the believer and the children and dishonoring the Lord. The desire for a Christian partner would be very strong.

Jesus had not taught directly about that problem, and so Paul says, to the rest say I, not the Lord. That is not a denial of inspiration or an indication that Paul is only giving his own human opinion. It is only to say that God had not given any previous revelation on the subject, but Paul was now setting it forth. If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.

Christians married to unbelievers were not to worry that they themselves, their marriage, or their children would be defiled by the unbelieving spouse. On the contrary, the very opposite was the case. Both the children and the unbelieving spouse would be made holy//sanctified  because of  the believing wife or husband.

Being unequally yoked, one flesh with an unbeliever, can be frustrating, discouraging, and even costly. But it need not be defiling because one believer can sanctify a home. In this sense sanctify does not refer to salvation; otherwise the spouse would not be spoken of as unbelieving. It refers to being set apart, the basic meaning of sanctify and holy, terms that are from the same Greek root. The sanctification is matrimonial and familial, not personal or spiritual. God’s indwelling that believer and all the blessings and graces that flow into the believer’s life from heaven will spill over to enrich all who are near.

In addition, although the believer’s faith cannot suffice for the salvation of anyone but himself, he is often the means of other family members coming to the Lord by the power of his testimony.

Many of you can testify of the power of a spouse in your faith and sanctification. There are in a position of truth and we can see genuine lives as to the power and transformation the God can do.

Timothy himself is an example of this: Having an unbelieving father, but believing mother Lois and grandmother Eunice, he became an apostle. (Acts 16:1. Phil 2:19-22, Heb. 6:4-6).

Think of the situation when God was about to destroy Sodom, Abraham pleaded with Him to spare the city if fifty righteous people lived there.

Gen 18:26  And the LORD said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake."

When that many could not be found, the patriarch reduced the number to forty–five, then to forty, thirty, twenty, and finally ten. In each case the Lord agreed to spare the city, but not even ten righteous could be found. But God was willing to bless many wicked people for the sake even of a few of His own people in their midst.

·        This in many ways is like the concept of your spouse receiving an inheritance: you have nothing to do with it, yet you benefit.

The Christian need not fear that the children will be unclean, defiled by the unbelieving father or mother. God promises that the opposite is true. They would otherwise be unclean if both parents were unbelievers. But the Lord guarantees that the presence of just one Christian parent will protect the children. It is not that their salvation is assured but that they are protected from undue spiritual harm and that they will receive spiritual blessing. Because they share in the spiritual benefits of their believing parent, they are holy. Often the testimony of the believing parent in this situation is especially effective, because the children see a clear contrast to the unbelieving parent’s life, and that leads them to salvation.

1) Guidelines for Christians Married to Other Christians 2) Guidelines for Christians Married to Unbelievers Who Want to Stay Married

3) Guidelines for Christians Married to Unbelievers Who Want to Leave

1Co 7:15  But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 1 Co 7:16  Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

Tertullian (160–230 a.d.), the theologian of Carthage, wrote about heathen husbands being angry with their Christian wives because they wanted to kiss martyrs’ bonds, embrace Christians, and visit the cottages of the poor. Often when an unbelieving spouse wants to leave the marriage the believer has no control over the outcome. But Paul says that Christians should not even try to insist on the spouse’s staying if he or she is determined to go. If the unbelieving partner separants//leaves, let it be so///let him leave. If the unbeliever begins divorce proceedings, the Christian partner is not to contest. Again the word leave (chōrizō) refers to divorce.

The brother or the sister is not enslaved//under bondage in such cases. In God’s sight the bond between a husband and wife is dissolved only by death (Rom. 7:2), adultery (Matt. 19:9), and an unbeliever’s leaving. When the bond, or bondage, is broken in any of those ways, a Christian is free to remarry.

By implication, the permission given for a widow or widower to remarry (Rom. 7:3; because the person is no longer “joined,” or bound, to the dead partner) can extend to the present case, where a believer is also no longer bound, not enslaves//under bondage.

Please turn to Romans 12

God allows divorce in such a case of desertion because He has called us to peace. If the unbelieving husband or wife cannot tolerate the spouse’s faith and desires to be free from the union, it is better that the marriage be dissolved in order to preserve the peace of His child. Fighting, turmoil, bickering, criticism, and frustration disrupt the harmony and peace that God wants His children to have. Again, it is a concession.

Rom 12:17  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Rom 12:18  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

The Christian is called to act as Salt and Light: Salt has a preservative function and we properly reflect the light of peace:

Mark 9:50  Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

Let him leave is not permission but it is an aorist imperative: a command.

·        This is in the middle voice: meaning that the unbeliever is the one who initiated the divorce.

A wife has no assurance that she will save her husband, and a husband has no assurance that he will save his wife. Regardless of a Christian’s motives and hopes, the likelihood of leading the partner to Christ is minimal. If the partner stays in the marriage unwillingly or reluctantly, the likelihood is even less, and the disruption of family peace is assured. The Lord therefore allows no option.

In closing, please turn to 1 Peter 3

Evangelism is not cause enough to maintain a marriage, especially if the unbelieving partner wants to leave. The believer should let God follow that spouse’s soul with the message of salvation, and use whomever He will to take up the call to faith. Yet if  the unbelieving spouse remains, there is a specific instruction with the opportunity.

 1Pe 3:1  Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- 1Pe 3:2  when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

For those who now suffer or regret, there is hope. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin: Just listen

2Co 2:4  For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.  2Co 2:5  Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure--not to put it too severely--to all of you. 2Co 2:6  For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 2Co 2:7  so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 2Co 2:8  So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 2Co 2:9  For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 2Co 2:10  Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ,

Closing Hymn:

-201 Grace Greater than Our Sin.

-438/439 Cleanse Me.


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