CR News

Let Them Not Divorce (1)

We have seen in recent issues of the News that I Corinthians 7:1-9 teaches: (1) if you have the gift of sexual self-control, you should remain single; (2) if you have not—the position of the vast majority—you should get married; (3) if you are married, sexual intercourse is a debt you owe your spouse.

Divorce is spoken of five times in verses 10-13 with three different English words (and two different Greek words). "Depart" occurs in verses 10 and 11, "put away" in verses 11 and 12, and "leave" in verse 13. In these verses, divorce is opposed in Christian marriages (10-11) and in mixed marriages between a believer and an unbeliever (12-13).

Many abuse verses 10-12 to deny parts of the Bible as God’s Word: "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 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." "You see," they say, "the Lord speaks some things and Paul merely (and not the Lord) says others." Thus verses 12 and following are not inspired; they are merely Paul’s personal opinion: "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord." If this is granted, maybe there are other uninspired bits in Paul’s writings. What about a wife’s submission to her husband or "I suffer not a woman to teach" (I Tim. 2:12) or Paul’s teaching on creation (which excludes evolution) or Romans 9 on unconditional election and reprobation? Maybe, then, there are uninspired bits in the writing of John or Isaiah or Matthew, etc.?

Such views are contradicted even by Paul’s testimony in I Corinthians. He is a God appointed teacher writing by the Spirit of God (7:17, 40). "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge thatthe things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 14:37). Moreover, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (II Tim. 3:16). Since I Corinthians is Scripture, I Corinthians is given by inspiration of God.

Here is the true explanation. In I Corinthians 7:10-11, the apostle is summarizing the teaching of the Lord Jesus while He was on earth: "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." In other words, this is what Jesus taught in His public ministry concerning marriage between professing believers.

In I Corinthians 7:12-13, Paul addresses a situation which did not arise during Christ’s ministry in Palestine. What about a mixed marriage (in the Gentile world)? By now the gospel had gone out to many Gentile nations, and sometimes one spouse was converted but not the other. Jesus did not have occasion to speak to this subject during His earthly ministry. Thus the apostle writes, "But to the rest [i.e., Gentile believers married to unbelievers] 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" (12).

It is not just in I Corinthians 7:10-11 that Paul cites Christ’s teaching during His public ministry. The apostle writes, "The labourer is worthy of his reward" (I Tim. 5:18) citing Luke 10:7. In Acts 20:35, Paul urges theEphesian elders "to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." In I Corinthians 9:14, Paul summarizes Christ’s teaching: "Even so hath the Lord ordained [i.e., commanded] that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." Strikingly in all three places, Paul refers to Christ’s teaching on giving to help gospel ministers and needy believers.

Below are three quotations from our Lord on divorce, one from each of the first three gospel accounts: "I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery" (Matt. 5:32). "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" (Mark 10:11-12). "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husbandcommitteth adultery" (Luke 16:18).

The apostle summarizes Christ’s teachings. First, do not divorce: "Let not the wife depart from her husband … and let not the husband put away his wife" (I Cor. 7:10-11). Second, what if your spouse leaves you and obtains a divorce (on the biblical ground of fornication [ Matt. 5:32 ] or otherwise)? The Word of God gives you two options: either "remain unmarried" (legally before the civil magistrate) or "be reconciled" to your husband or wife (for you are still "one flesh" with him or her). Sacred Scripture does not permit a third option. "But and if she depart," either "let her remain unmarried" or "be reconciled to her husband" (11). Remarriage while one’s spouse is living is not an option.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 10
  • Issue: 5
Stewart, Angus

Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)

Ordained - 2001

Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001

Website: www.cprf.co.uk/

Contact Details

  • Address
    7 Lislunnan Road
  • City
    Ballymena
  • State or Province
    Co.Antrim
  • Zip Code
    BT42 3NR
  • Country
    Ireland
  • Telephone
    (01144) 28 25 891851

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