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CHRISTIAN DIVORCE ADVICE
VERSE 1. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
It appears that the Corinthians had written to Paul having a question concerning the relationship between a man and a woman. And this is Paul’s answer to them, and of course even to us concerning these matters. He starts by saying that it is good for a man not to touch a woman. This does not mean that it is wrong for a man to do so, but there is an advantage a man has in serving God if a man or woman remains single. Which of course is not every persons calling as we can see in Matt 19:10-12. And later in this chapter. Generally speaking most will need to marry, as we will see in the next verse.
VERSE 2. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
For the most part men and women will need a partner to avoid fornication, but there are those who are physically incapable of s-xual relations. There are also those who have decided to remain single (as the apostle Paul) for the work of God. The latter of these two are a chosen few with a gift and calling from God to do so. It would be nice to be able to say that all others may marry in order to avoid fornication. We could use verse 9 and say it is better to marry than to burn. But unfortunately this is not the case, because there are also those who are forbidden to marry even though they might burn with desire because they have already been married before and God's word says if they marry whilst their former partner is still alive they commit adultery. There is no sense in committing adultery to avoid fornication. Unfortunately many pastors today would suggest that people do just that. Sure we are human, sure we all burn with desire, and these are God given desires, which are natural; but should we all act out our every desire? Imagine the chaos the world would be in if people were allowed to do as they desire. But even the ungodly have laws to maintain some sort of order. Before we marry, although we may desire to fornicate, we are all expected to restrain ourselves and show some self-control. I understand that some people may have to restrain themselves for many years and perhaps even the rest of their lives due to a broken marriage, but God's Word is the final word and is not to be compromised. God's love does not compromise His Word, nor does His grace but His grace strengthens us to obey His Word.
Romans 6:14 for sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Verse 3. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
As we have discussed in verse 2 most will need to marry due to our natural desire. Furthermore we see from verse 3 that we are to satisfy each other’s desires as a husband and wife.
Verse 4+5 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
We are to give of ourselves to please our partner so much so, that our body is not our own. We should of course be understanding if one is sick etc. But we are not to leave our partners desires unfulfilled. As we can see that Satan may tempt us for our incontinence, or in a time of weakness. The only time we are to be apart would be as was said in a time of sickness or in a time of fasting and prayer. And even then He says that we should come straight back together that Satan does not tempt us. We may survive without all the s-x we would like and as we have discussed we should be able to have some self-control which is part of the fruit of the spirit. That being said it is also important that we obey the Word of God, by being sensitive to our partner's needs and give of ourselves unselfishly. Because our bodies are not our own, we belong to God.
1Co 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore
glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are
And if God says our body also belongs to our partner then we must accept this and give freely of ourselves to our spouses.
Verse 6. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
Paul now says that, although he said we may separate for a time to give ourselves to fasting and prayer, he does not command that we do so.
Verse 7. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
(For) Paul says it would be good if all men could remain as he is, being able to give themselves totally to serve God, not needing a physical relationship. But he says all have their own gift from God, which differ one from another. Therefore because we should not allow Satan to tempt us for our incontinence, He does not command that we abstain from s-xual relations during a time of fasting and prayer, although it may be beneficial. It is therefore an individual's decision which depends on how your partner feels about the matter and on your individual gift from God.
Verse 8+9 I say therefore unto the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
These two verses are very widely misinterpreted to mean that basically all who find it difficult to contain their s-xual urges are free to marry because it is better to marry than to burn. There are three reasons why these two verses do not include those who have partners from a prior marriage who are still alive.
1. The first reason is that it is clearly understood from verse 8 that the apostle Paul is addressing the unmarried and widows, not all that walk the face of the earth. You may argue that those that have been divorced are currently unmarried. This is the way the world looks at these things. But God looks at things differently. For a start God hates divorce Mal 2:16 For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away. We will look at this in more detail at a later stage, but the fact is that a divorce does not annul anything. The covenant between a husband and wife is unbreakable. Once we are married it is until death do we part. Secondly, in verse 2 it says in order to avoid fornication let EVERY man have his own wife and EVERY woman have her own husband. Now does this mean EVERY? No it does not! For clearly there are those as Paul who remain single for the work of God and other reasons. Not every thing written is to be taken 100% literally. I do not mean that we can compromise the Word of God, but we need to come to understand how the Word of God speaks and what it is really saying.
3. Thirdly if this does apply to basically everyone what do we do with all the other scriptures like Mk 10:11+12 Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. This verse was written for a reason, and it would be difficult to read it and not know what it means, it would be even more difficult to explain how it means something other than what it says. Even if you thought there should be exceptions to this, we must agree that at least some that divorce and remarry are guilty of adultery according to this verse. So the question must be asked, where are they? The pastors of today would be hard pressed to find one. But obviously there are at least some. This is not being judgmental, but merely accepting the Word of God. So if there are at least some people who have been divorced and remarried, and are to be considered as living in adultery, then not all who burn should marry.
Verse 10 And unto the married I command; yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband.
Paul again addresses the married, and says that not he, but the LORD COMMANDS that the wife is not to depart from the husband. Once again very clear and simple teaching which today is basically ignored. If a Christian couple cannot work out their differences, there is something wrong. And it is a command from God himself that we are not to separate, which includes men departing from their wives. Divorce is not an option, God hates divorce and Jesus calls it hard-heartedness in Matt 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. Divorce was allowed under the law due to peoples hard hearts. Whereas from the beginning it was not so. So what makes people think that they can do it now under the law of liberty?
Verse 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
Once again we can see clearly from the latter part of this verse that divorce is wrong, as it is clearly stated that a husband is NOT to put away his wife. Now concerning the first part of this verse, there are buts and ifs. I don't believe God would have a husband or wife stay with a partner who is physically abusing them, even emotionally if it becomes unbearable. We must also consider any children who may be involved in all this. So this is something that (for the most part) only that person can decide for themselves. Although we must not forget that it says in verse 10 that we should not separate and this should not be taken lightly. But and if she depart let her remain unmarried. This does not say divorce, but depart or separate, so she is not unmarried as such but separated. The word of God has his own way of speaking which is different to how we speak. Not all things are, as they seem. But it is clear that unmarried in this case doesn't mean unmarried but separated as it says let her remain unmarried OR be reconciled to her husband. (Note that her husband is still her husband). So she is to remain alone by herself or return to her husband. She is NOT to marry another.
Verse 12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
Verse 13 And the woman, which hath an husband that, believeth not and he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
He spoke to the married couples in the Lord, now he speaks to the rest, or mixed couples. These are mixed, as we will see, because they were married before one of the two became a Christian. Some people believe that marriage vows made before we become a Christian do not count. If this was so surely the apostle Paul would have told us. This would be a very important piece of information that he would have left out, don't you think? So now we can see the apostle Paul's thoughts on this matter. Paul says that if a non-believer is married to a believer, they should, if at all possible, remain as they are. So it would seem that he recognised a mixed couples vows as legitimate. We can see that at least most of these couples were married before they became Christians, for these reasons.
1. We can see from Vs 39 that we are to marry only in the Lord, another instruction which is being foolishly ignored today. But especially in those days with Paul as their teacher, it would have been unheard of for someone to marry an unbeliever. Therefore (at least for the most part) Paul was speaking to couples who were married before they came to the Lord, because they would not have married the unbeliever after they became a Christian.
2. And as we will see from verse 17 to verse 24 that Paul says to these couples that they should remain as they were when God called them. That is married to whomever they were married to BEFORE they became a Christian. So if a marriage made before a couple became Christians did not count then surely Paul would tell us. But as we will see, he encourages those in this situation to remain as they were when God called them, that is married to the unbeliever. If we were to say that these marriages did not count, then this would mean that all who were married before they became a Christian would have to remarry, which apparently some actually do. This would be good news for some who would rather trade in their wives for a younger model, leaving half a dozen children fatherless. Good plan, AY! It would also mean that everyone besides Christians who were married after they became Christians have not actually been married, but have been living in sin all those years, and most people are bastards. So we can see from this verse that Paul does not recommend these couples remarry, nor does he suggest that they separate, but rather that they should remain as they are. If a brother has a wife who doesn't believe, and she is happy to stay with him, let him not put her away.
3. And last of all there is no point in even arguing over whether these couples were married before or after, because either way one of the two making these vows was an unbeliever and Paul's advice is that if it is possible they should remain as they are, an unbeliever with the believer. Which means that Paul recognises that an unbeliever's vows does count or else he would have advised separation. And if people truly believed that vows made before one becomes a Christian were not legitimate, then why do they allow Christians to marry unbelievers if their vows do not count?
Verse 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now they are holy.
The believer sanctifies the unbelieving partner. This does not mean that they are saved but that to an extent they have found favor with God, for their partner’s sake. Salvation is obtained by a personal decision, and a walk with God. Nobody else can do this for us. But now the unsaved partner has more of an opportunity to come to know the Lord, as Christ has now been brought into the home. The children also benefit and now have opportunity to receive a godly upbringing, hopefully enabling them to grow up to be godly people. They will also be clean and holy in the sense that they will be a complete family, having both mother and father.
Verse 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let them depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
We have seen that if one has a husband or wife who is not saved, Paul does not say that their marriage doesn't count nor does he say they should separate. But rather if the unbelieving is pleased to dwell with them, all is well and good; the children will have a mother and a father and all unbelievers will have more opportunity to come to know Christ. He has instructed the believer to stay with the unbeliever, but Paul now says if the unbelieving departs, let them depart. Unfortunately, Paul cannot command them to stay; if they are happy to stay, good. If not, Paul says let them depart. We are not under bondage in such cases. This does not say marriage bond, but simply bondage (doo-lo-o) from the Greek which means “to enslave (lit or fig): - bring into (be under) bondage, become (make) servant.” Which has nothing to do with a marriage bond and can in no way describe it. And every where else this word has been used, it has meant bondage in the same negative sense (bondage as a slave). In fact, this word bondage comes from a total of 11 different Greek words which have been translated into bondage a total of 39 times and has (ALWAYS) meant it in that same negative sense. So with the weight of scripture clearly condemning divorce and remarriage it would be extremely foolish to read anything more into this verse other than what it says, which is (bondage). (See verse 27 for further details on bound). “A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases.” Or in other words they are not bound to chase after them. Even though Paul says they are to remain together, this partner is not saved and cannot be told what to do. If they want to go, let them go. You are not bound to drag them back, but rather God has called us to peace.
Verse 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, Whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
We don't know if the unbelieving partner will come to the Lord or not, we cannot guarantee this, so let them go, we cannot force someone to be saved. All we can do is to hope and pray, so seek peace and let them go.
Verse 17 But as God has distributed to every man, as the Lord has called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all the churches.
As I said, it really does not matter when someone gets married (i.e. before or after they come to the Lord). But for those who may still think that it does matter then this verse and the next few do further prove my second point on verse 12 that these couples were married BEFORE one of them was saved. Because Paul, when discussing mixed marriages then continues to advise them, saying, but as God has distributed to them, to be content with the position that they were already in when God called them. That is, married to this person who did not become a Christian and, in some cases, then left alone because the unbeliever has departed. Does Paul say that their marriage doesn't count? No! But rather if possible to stay with the unbelieving partner and to be content with their lot in life. If the unbelieving depart then let them; the believer is not under bondage in such cases, (or is not bound to chase after them) but God has called us to peace. Then he says we cannot know if they will be saved; then finally, in verse 17, that we should be content in the position into which God has called us. This in no way allows anyone to divorce and remarry even if they were married before they became a Christian, and not even if they have been deserted by an unbelieving partner. In this case they would have to remain unmarried or be reconciled to their partner.
VERSES 18-24 These next few verses are concerned with the same teaching: that a man (or woman) ought to abide even as they were when God called them. This, of course, would not include any sinful ways. God would not, for instance, want us to remain a bank robber.
Verse 18 Is any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. 19 circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. 21 Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. 22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lords free man: likewise also him that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. 23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. 24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
PAUL NOW ADDRESSES VIRGINS
Verse 25 Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of Lord to be faithful.
God had not given Paul any commandments for him to convey to virgins at this time. Yet Paul did have something to say to them of his own judgment, as someone who had obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. It seems to me that Paul here is saying that he has, by the mercy of God, been able to faithfully keep his virginity. Although the advice he is now giving them is not a command of God, I think it is good for us to listen to, and respect, what he has to say as an apostle of God.
Verse 26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
Paul says that it is good for a man so to be (a virgin), at this present time of distress. They were obviously going through very difficult times. And although it is not sinful for a virgin to marry, he says that it is good for a man so to be; that is, a virgin and unmarried.
Verse 27 Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.
This word (bound) comes from the Greek (deh’-o) and means “to bind (in various applications, lit or fig.): - bind, be in bonds, knit, tie, wind.” Unlike bondage which means to be enslaved. This word bound, can and in fact, as we now see, is being used to describe a marriage bond. It is also used in Vs 39 and Rom 7:2 Which says that a woman is (bound) by the law to her husband. So we can see that a woman is bound – not enslaved, but bound (or tied) to her husband as long as he lives. But we must remember that here Paul is talking to virgins (not married couples) when he asks are you (bound) to a wife. As we have discussed according to Jewish custom of old, the betrothal bond was made a long time before the marriage ceremony, in fact commonly a year before. Their betrothal vow was a covenant equal to the covenant that we make at the altar. It was carried out differently to the way we do, just as there are different ways all over the world. Nevertheless, it was a covenant and it was made a long time before the marriage ceremony. So a virgin man betrothed to a virgin woman – as in this case – were, in fact, in a covenant relationship and were bound to each other even though they had not as yet consummated the marriage. So back to the question Paul is asking, “Are you bound to a wife? Seek not to be loosed.” This does not mean that one can so easily be loosed, as we have seen. But rather, as Paul has been recommending, that it is good for a virgin so to be. He would now balance this up by saying that if a man is betrothed or bound to a wife that he should not seek to be loosed. For he has already committed himself, and Paul was in no way telling them that they should put away their wives. “Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.” Although there is one exception that a man may put away, it is only during the betrothal period that is if the woman is unfaithful, and this unfaithfulness is called fornication. These cases would have been few and far between and this is not what Paul meant when he said, “Art thou loosed from a wife?”. What he is saying is, “art thou loosed” in the sense that you are not as yet bound to a wife. In this case Paul says, “seek not a wife”. He does not command, but merely recommends that he that is single should remain so, as we will see from the next verse.
Verse 28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
But if you marry, you have not sinned. Just as Paul has been saying, he would like to spare people the problems that they would inevitably have to face if they were to marry. But of course, to remain single is also a difficult task. And he in no way commands that a virgin should remain so, but rather says that if a virgin is to marry they have not sinned. To say that if a virgin marry she hath not sinned is 99.9% true, but if a man were to enter into covenant with her, and then put her away for fornication, she would be sinning if she were to marry another. Of course, she would not be a virgin, but what if she was wrongly judged? What if she was put away for committing fornication, yet she was innocent? She would then be a virgin in a covenant relationship with someone who had put her away, but not for fornication because she is innocent of these charges. He then would commit adultery if he married another because he can only put away for fornication. And she is still, after all, in a covenant relationship with her husband. Therefore she would, in fact, be committing adultery if she were to marry another though she is a virgin. This to some may seem a little irrelevant but these things can and do happen and it is important to those few that it may effect. I have heard of a case where a woman unknowingly married a homos-xual and although he took her and married her he did not consummate the marriage because he was only interested in using her as a smoke screen. So where does this virgin stand? This is a very important question for her! And if we cannot give her the right advice we could cause her to do something sinful and therefore this sin will rest on our head as well.
PAUL’S REASONS FOR RECOMMENDING THAT WE STAY SINGLE.
But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; 30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not. 31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away . 32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34 There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that, which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.
He says that because time is short, those that have wives should be as though they had none. In other words he is saying that when we marry and have children, much of our time and effort is then directed into family life. But he would have us to give of ourselves to God's work as if we had no family. That being said, he also acknowledges that there is a difference between a married person and a single person. That an unmarried person can attend upon the Lord without distraction, but a married person cares for the things of the world and how they may please their partner. This is, of course, inevitable; someone has to look after the family. We all need to eat, have somewhere to sleep, and children have an endless list of needs. Married life is a busy life. Especially when it involves children, as it should. And even though Paul said we should put God first and work for Him as if we had no family, I am sure he also recognizes the importance of looking after the family as well. It is a big responsibility to raise a family and this is an important work for God as well. God would not have us neglect the family, but He wants us to be a good husband and wife, a good mother and father. It is our responsibility to raise up godly children, to teach them God's ways so that one day they may be used of God.
Verse 36 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 them do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.
If a couple who are betrothed to each other have been waiting and keeping themselves to serve God for a long time so that the woman comes close to passing the flower of her age and the man begins to think that this is unfair to the woman who has been waiting so long and is also perhaps running out of child bearing years, Paul says if they want to marry let them; they are not sinning.
Verse 37 Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast 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.
Verse 38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.
So he that marries does well; nevertheless if the man has power over his will and has decided to keep his virgin (or not to marry her), he does even better. This to us, in our culture, would be unheard of. The woman would be furious and rightly so, it would seem to us. But in those days this is the way it was, and of course the woman would have been aware of this before they were betrothed. And as we can see from verse 36 that her thoughts on the matter would be taken into account as well.
Verse 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.
It seems as if Paul just tacked this last verse on, about married couples, to remind us of the basics of it all; that a woman is bound by the law as long as her husband lives. But is he speaking to married couples only? I think not. I am not saying that he was not speaking to them, because it definitely applies to them. But I think it also very much includes, and is basically for, those he has been speaking to from Vs 25-38. That is, to virgins, who are also bound by this same law. So this verse is not out of place as it may have seemed, but is further proof that a betrothal vow is basically a marriage vow. And as we have discussed, only if her husband is dead can she marry another, and Paul adds to this (only) in the Lord. 2 Cor 6:14-18 says not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
Verse 40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the spirit of God.