Summary: Christian couples have an obligation to Christ, and to His body the church to make sure they get all of the marriage counseling available to avoid divorce.
I got a kick out of the story I heard the other day. This man had gone to a psychiatrist, and after a
great deal of examination he asked the doctor, "What is wrong with me?" The doctor replied, "I
think you are crazy." "I demand a second opinion," the man insisted. "Very well," said the doctor,
"I also think you are ugly." The only relevance of the story to our theme is that we are also looking
for a second opinion on this issue of divorce and remarriage. We have looked at what the Old
Testament said, and now we want to look at what the Apostle Paul said.
The Corinthians had just about every problem known to man, and so we have their problems
being dealt with in Paul's letter to them. This becomes our blessing, for because of their problems
we have authoritative counsel on how to handle them. What we get from Paul confirms what we
studied before. Divorce is not God's best, and it is never His primary will. However, sometimes it is
inevitable in a world where everyone has a sinful nature. The principle we are seeking to establish is
that whenever divorce is legitimate the right to remarry is assumed. Moses and Jesus both assumed
that divorced people would remarry, and both gave assurance that it was proper and acceptable to do
so when the divorce was valid.
Paul confirms this in verse 15 by telling the Christian who has been divorced and deserted by a
non-Christian mate that the marriage has been dissolved, and they are no longer bound. Those who
do not like this conclusion go to verse 39 where Paul says, "A wife is bound to her husband as long
as he lives." They say this has to apply to the one that Paul says that is not bound in verse 15. It
cannot be both ways. You can't be bound an unbound to a mate at the same time, and so they say
this principle is superior to the words of Paul in verse 15. The confusion is the result of carelessness
with terms. Everyone agrees that a wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. That is an
absolute principle, and I have never heard or read of anyone even trying to find an exception to it.
There are no exceptions.
When you introduce the subject of divorce, however, you are dealing with different terms and
relationships. When a wife is divorced from her husband for adultery, as Jesus said, or for desertion,
as Paul says in verse 15, she is no longer his wife, and he is no longer her husband. If they were still
husband and wife, they would still be married in the sight of God, and, therefore, bound to each
other. Paul could only say to the wife in verse 15 that she is not bound, because the divorce from
her non-Christian husband made her no longer his wife. Everywhere that a true divorce takes place
the terms husband and wife no longer apply. We saw in part 1 in our study of Deut. 24:1-4 where
divorce changed the husband to a former husband, and set the wife free to remarry. Paul is not
saying in verse 39 that a former wife is bound to her former husband as long as he lives. That is the
very thing we are establishing that is not true to Scripture, and that is why Paul says in verse 15 that
a mate properly divorced is not bound.
We want to look now at what appears to be an exception to the principle we are expounding. In
verse 11 Paul tells the Christian wife who has divorced her Christian husband that she is to remain
single and not remarry, but rather seek to be reconciled. Here is a divorce where remarriage is
clearly forbidden. Why? Because in verse 10 Paul says this kind of divorce is forbidden. It is not
acceptable for two Christians to get divorced. Paul does not get into the exception of adultery being
a valid cause. He is just dealing with divorce in general. The kind of divorce he is dealing with here
is not valid, and so in God's eyes it does not break the marriage bond. Neither mate has the right to
remarry in such circumstances. One only has the right when the marriage bond is broken.
This is really not an exception then to the principle we are expounding. Forbidden divorce
naturally does not give the right to remarry. If you are married it cannot be legitimate to remarry,
for this would be bigamy. The point of the principle we are seeking to establish as being consistent
with all of Scripture is that God expects all unmarried people to have the right to marry. If you are