March 21, 2010 pm
STUDIES IN 1 CORINTHIANS (23)
Keep Your Vows
1 Corinthians 7:10-16
In our last lesson we talked about some things required of husbands and wives toward one another to preserve the marriage bond. Now Paul deals the marriage vows themselves.
Marriage: Before we actually
examine the text of our lesson, let us be briefly reminded of the
sacredness of marriage.
Hebrews 13:4 tells us that marriage is honorable and the bed undefiled. But fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Marriage was instituted by God in the beginning. In Genesis 2:21-24 when woman was created for man’s side, she was designed as a help mate. Moses summarizes based upon this event (which preceded the Law of Moses) that the two shall become one flesh. FROM THE BEGINNING, they were joined together.
Matthew 19:3-6 Jesus was asked if it was lawful to divorce for any reason to which Jesus appealed to Genesis 2:24. Based upon that text, He concludes, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”(19:6) NOTE how they are joined together by God!
The conclusion from these verses is that MARRIAGE IS FOR LIFE! There is NO text that nullifies this truth!
b. Divorce: HOWEVER, God has allowed one exception for sundering a marriage. Continuing in Matthew 19:7-9 we find the Pharisees asking Jesus, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” Jesus answered them by saying, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
Remarriage: In this text we
find that if one commits adultery (i.e. he/she is unfaithful to the
covenant he made with his spouse before God) then the offended
(innocent) party has the right to put away (divorce) his spouse and
Every other example of a second marriage (with the exception of the death of the spouse – Romans 7:1-6) constitutes adultery (cf. Matthew 5:31-32, 19:9, Rom. 7:3, etc.)
d. In all of this let us not forget passages like Malachi 2:16 which says, “For the Lord God of Israel says that He hated divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence.” There are reasons why divorce is sinful.
what is plainly taught in scripture.
It is UNPOPULAR and hard to accept, but it is the sure pattern
that God has presented which we dare not tamper with (1 Cor. 4:6, Rev.
22:18, 19, 2 John 9, etc.).
AS we study our text tonight, let us keep these passages in mind.
II. The Text
Command of the Lord –
Paul begins by noting that this statement comes directly from the Lord. The word “command” is a word that means, “to announce what must be done – to order, to command.” (Louw & Nida, 33.327)
b. A wife is NOT to depart from her husband. But if she does, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.
command? A wife is NOT to depart from he husband.
A husband is NOT to divorce his wife.
The word depart means to separate or depart from.
That it is dealing with divorce is implied by what he says next,
“IF she does depart, let her remain
The word divorce means to dismiss or let go of.
IF they divorce for whatever reason (keep in mind the scriptural
exception), they are to remain unmarried. I.e – they CANNOT remarry!
This is the RULE to be respected!
The exception here is NOT an implication that divorce is acceptable, provided one does not remarry. But there is a realization that at times it does happen. And when it does, one’s options are LIMITED! ONE example of it happening is given in the verses that follow.
iii. NOTE how Paul approaches both sides of the relationship
c. Concerning “mixed” marriages (12-16)– i.e. a believing and an unbelieving spouse
the rest I, not the Lord, say:”
– Is this a statement that says Paul is pronouncing his opinion.
I believe these words to be just as much inspired as any other.
Later in this passage Paul will say, “I have no commandment from
the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made
trustworthy” (vs. 25) and “and I think I also have the Spirit of God.”
Paul’s point is perhaps that he had not received a direct statement from the Lord, but what he said was his inspired conclusion based upon his inspired knowledge. In this chapter Paul is dealing with event very personal to him in his ministry, not anything that applies to everyone. You could say, “IF THIS CIRCUMSTANCE exists then this is what must be done.”
IF a believing husband or wife has
an unbelieving spouse they are to stay with that spouse if that spouse
is willing to live with them! (The
probability here is that one spouse was converted after marriage, though
this is NOT stated).
NOTE how this accords with what Jesus said in Matthew 19:3-9. This is what God wants!
believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving spouse (14) -
This is not teaching salvation by proxy (i.e. the husband’s righteousness saves the unrighteous wife and vice-versa.) That is contrary to scripture!
But there are favors as a result of one living a godly life – whatever blessing the family receives will be enjoyed by both. Prayers offered by the godly spouse will be heard.
Plus this is the BEST opportunity for the godly to teach the lost spouse. Consider 1 Peter 3:1-2 where the wife may win her husband by her chaste conduct.
Also, there is opportunity for the godly to teach their children in this circumstance. A possible example of this would be Timothy who in 2 Tim. 1:5, 3:15 was taught the truth by his mother and grandmother. There is NO indication in that text that Timothy’s father was a believer.
ANOTHER POSSIBILITY: The marriage is STILL SACRED in God’s eyes – which would accord with Matthew 19:5-6.
iv. IF the unbeliever departs, the believer is not under bondage. (15)
1. This is treated by some as another exception to the divorce and remarriage rule of Matthew 19:9. Some teach that if the unbeliever departs that it dissolves the marriage to the point that both parties can remarry. This reasoning would nullify the sacredness of marriages outside of Christ (i.e. the unbeliever is not bound by these laws, the annulments of the Catholic church, etc.). But the text does NOT say that! You have to READ such conclusions into the text while setting aside Matthew 19:9.
“bondage” is defined as “the condition of being a slave” (Vine’s).
The word is found some 8 times in the New Testament and it always
refers to being enslaved to something.
The texts include: 1 Cor. 9:19, “For
though I am free from all men, I have
made myself a servant to all,
that I might win the more.”
Thus Paul’s point here is (in my estimation), that if the unbeliever departs, you are not obligated to fulfill you duties in that relationship. Consider this in CONTRAST WITH our last lesson where we noted that the husband and wife are obligated to consider the needs of their spouse AND that each spouse does NOT have authority over their own body (1 Cor. 7:3-4); AND coming up in THE NEXT SECTION of this chapter dealing with physical slaves Paul calls for one to remain as they are (7:20-24).
ANOTHER possibility (that does not set aside the rest of the Bible on this subject) is that Paul is actually speaking of our bondage in Christ which takes precedence over bondage to anyone else. In other words, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). Thus if the unbeliever departs, since you are bound to God first, you will follow God instead of your mate! Thus you are “not under bondage” to follow your spouse away from God.
3. NOTE how it is the unbeliever that does the departing. Why? He doesn’t respect God’s laws including His marriage laws. It is just that simple! The godly have responsibility to obey God, even in less than ideal circumstances.
v. Vs. 16 – the goal – to save the unbelieving spouseIII.
a. These verses are the subject of much debate. In every circumstance, broadening the conditions for scriptural divorce and remarriage involve manipulating the text and contexts of scripture. For example it is said that Matthew 19 applied only to the Law of Moses, but Jesus was teaching of the law to come, as He did often.
b. Notice how remarriage is NEVER mentioned in this text. Bondage would mean being obligated to remain married. “Not under bondage” means you are no longer in THAT relationship, but says NOTHING of remarriage. Consider vs. 11 – the ONLY thing in this context that speaks of life after divorce – remain unmarried.
Marrying an unbeliever is unwise!
We noted some possibilities in vs. 14 where the godly can
influence the rest of the family toward godliness.
But know that this is NOT always successful.
In fact, as often as the faithful influences the unfaithful the opposite happens as well. Paul knew what he was saying when he later wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 6:14 when he said, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever.”
In all probability, many of the cases Paul referenced in our text were converted to Christ with an unfaithful spouse. That is totally different from one who willfully and knowingly marries an unbeliever. Just remember that if you marry an unbeliever you WILL have problems with your spiritual father-in-law!
d. Marriage is to be taken seriously. If there is no other lesson you glean from this study – remember this. It is not a game or something to be entered into for less than ideal reasons. We need to clearly understand that when we enter into marriage, IT IS FOR LIFE!!!!!!! Divorce should not even be a considered option as you face difficulties or as you marriage settles over time. There is a reason to reject divorce for any cause. It CHEAPENS the marriage relationship. IF we will respect God’s rules we can make ANY marriage work!