The husband should not divorce his wife
1 Corinthians 7:1-24 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
17 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. 18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. 20 Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.
21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
In today’s text Paul touches on another controversial topic, one which is almost completely overlooked in the world, but still remains a matter which divides in the church. It says: But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. Divorce has become widely accepted, even normal in our culture and society. Even in much of the church divorce is common, it is however still a divisive issue, particularly as it pertains to divorce and remarriage. Today’s text only touches briefly on the matter of divorce. The primary scripture references against divorce are Jesus words in Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18 which all say something like: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Malachi 2:16 is also often quoted concerning divorce: For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel. The issue of divorce is a divisive issue within the church as a whole and also within some denominations and local bodies. I know, because I myself have been divorced and remarried. This year, Lord willing, my wife and I will celebrate thirty years of marriage. We began our lives together as two prodigals and our journey has been amazing, though at times difficult. We have experienced both grace and judgment in and from the church. There are places where we would not be accepted as qualified to minister. We have even had our eternal salvation questioned by some who held fast to these verses of scripture.
Let me be clear, while I have been divorced, I do not dispute the fact that God hates divorce and that it is sin in His eyes. I also do not overlook these scriptures in order to make allowance for myself, while holding others to a different standard. I don’t have any ill feeling toward those who question me or limit me because of divorce, although I find it ironic that many who hold fast against divorce would show more grace to a murderer than to someone who is divorced and remarried. My view is this, divorce is one of the issues where it is critical that we apply the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. So rather than viewing divorce, like any sin, only through the lens of a few scriptures, we should view it through the whole word of God. The primary sin of divorce and remarriage that those who stand firmly against it point to is the idea that it leads to or is considered adultery, and by Jesus own words, that is true. But Jesus also says: “You have heard that it was said to those of old,‘You shall not commit adultery. ’But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28) So do we then apply the same standard of judgment to any who have committed this adultery in their heart? After all, it is the heart that God judges. More than that though, I look at the example of David, a man God said was a man after His own heart. In 2 Samuel 11 we see the account of David and Bathsheba. David sinned and committed adultery with Bathsheba and while neither was divorced, David was guilty of killing Bathsheba’s husband Uriah. Because of the consequences of David’s sin, the child born out of the adultery died. David repented and did not blame God for the consequences of his sin, instead he praised Him. Because of God’s grace, Solomon, the second child born of the union of David and Bathsheba, was the one chosen to continue on David’s throne and is also the son through whom Jesus genealogy is traced. The one who redeems every sin born from one born of sin; is there any greater picture or example of God’s grace, redemption and restoration in all of scripture?
In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus says: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” That’s all we can ask or expect, that others would judge us not by our mistakes or our sins, but rather by the fruit of our lives, whether it is good or bad. Again I do not overlook or take lightly the fact that God hates divorce and that He views it as sin. I do though hold tightly to the fact that: Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. (1 Peter 3:18) Like David, there are consequences for every sin, even for divorce and adultery. Like David, although I live my life with the consequences of my sin, many difficulties and challenges, a child and grandchild I have no contact with, another from whom I am separated by 2000 miles; I don’t blame God for the consequences of sin, I praise Him instead. Because of God’s grace, forgiveness, redemption and restoration, I am blessed. I have a wonderful marriage. I have been given additional children and precious grandchildren. I have been privileged to share the good news of the gospel and the kingdom of God and will continue as long as I have breath.
Jesus died, once for all. He paid the price for my sin and yours. I do not take lightly my sin while judging others. In yesterday’s text in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 it says: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Regardless of what you may have been, through Jesus Christ, by grace you can be washed, sanctified, justified, forgiven, redeemed and restored.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for Your word which reveals Your truth. From Genesis to Revelation, Your word reveals Your will and desire to redeem us from sin by grace, through the cross. Thank You for that grace, redemption and restoration in my life. By Your Spirit may I produce good fruit for Your kingdom. Amen.