Summary: Divorce between believers

1 Corinthians 7:10-16

When The Wrecking Ball Hits A Home (part 2)


According to the National Center for Health Statistics, last year—in 2003—there were 2,187,000 couples that got married in the United States. And the Center reports that there were 1 million couples that divorced last year in America. That means that for every 2 couples that got married, 1 couple got divorced.

Divorce is an issue that touches all of us. And last week in 1 Corinthians 7, we began to consider what the Bible teaches on the subject.

In 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, Paul is addressing 3 groups. The first group is found in verses 10 and 11. And it is Believers who are married to Unhappy Believers. The next group—in verses 12-14—is Believers who are married to Happy Unbelievers. And the third group in verses 15 and 16 is Believers who are married to Unhappy Unbelievers.

We began last week to look at this first group—Believers who are married to Unhappy Believers. And in 1 Corinthians 7:10 we read: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.”

You’ll remember last week we said that Paul is stating Christ’s teaching found in Matthew 19. So we looked at Matthew 19 and discovered that Christ was responding to a question the Pharisees asked him concerning Deuteronomy 24. So we looked at Deuteronomy 24 and discovered that Moses didn’t command divorce, he simply regulated an already existing widespread practice in Israel. And so we went back to Matthew 19 and saw that Jesus gives one of the grounds for divorce and remarriage—namely, sexual immorality. But God’s ideal has always been 1 man and 1 woman for life. That’s why Paul says in verse 10: “A wife must not separate from her husband.”

So, Paul is telling the Corinthians that Christ’s ideal for marriage is: a husband and wife leaving, cleaving, and weaving together for a lifetime.

Now, Paul doesn’t mention that Christ allowed for divorce and remarriage due to sexual immorality. Because here Paul is emphasizing the ideal. But Paul is a realist. And in verse 11 he states a concession.

Look at verses 10 and 11. Verse 10—the ideal: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.” Now, notice how verse 11 begins: “But—[the concession]—if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”

So, Paul says that ideally, believers should stay married. But if they divorce, they should remain single.

Based on verses 10 and 11, there are 3 basic questions on divorce and remarriage that I want to address this morning.

1. Why should divorced believers remain single? Why shouldn’t they just be allowed to go out and find someone else to marry?

Paul answers that in verse 11. “But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.” Remaining unmarried leaves the door open for reconciliation and remarriage to your ex.

Now, does that ever happen? And the answer to that is yes. I attended a wedding reception this year and I was seated next to a couple who had this experience. By the way, you don’t know them—they don’t live in Bloomsburg and they don’t attend Shiloh. So don’t try to figure out who they are. Anyway, the couple told me that they were both Christians when they married. And they began to experience marital difficulties. And it got to the point where they didn’t want to live with each other. So they got a divorce. But after a period of time, they sought counseling again, worked through their problem biblically, reconciled with each other, and remarried.

So, why should divorced believers remain single? Because it leaves the door open for reconciliation.

2. What did Paul have in mind when he granted this concession in verse 11? What situation would permit believers to divorce in the first place?

Well, I don’t think that Paul had trivial issues in mind. I don’t think he envisioned minor disagreements as justification for believers to divorce.

I was an interim pastor at a church in Northern Virginia for 2 years while I was teaching at Washington Bible College. One of the women in the church had been divorced for many years. She told me that she and her husband were both believers. But shortly after they were married they began to disagree about the family budget. She said they didn’t get into shouting matches or scream at each other. And the disagreements were over how to spend their discretionary, disposable income. And it wasn’t as if they were going into debt. But she said at that time in the 1970’s that it was somewhat fashionable to divorce and all her friends were doing it. So she and her husband got a divorce. And then they both went on to remarry others. She told me that she looks back on her divorce with regret. She said she can’t believe how immature and ridiculous it was to divorce over such a minor, trivial matter.

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