Divorce and Remarriage

Paul shared two concerns about those who are considering marriage. First, believers should not marry unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). He argues that the righteous have nothing in common with the unrighteous. They would be unequally yoked with different values, standards and direction in life. Spiritually, they are incompatible. Second, “It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each women her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).

Once a Christian couple is married, they are not to withhold themselves from each other sexually (1 Cor. 7:3f). Their bodies not only belong to themselves but also to each other for the purpose of mutual satisfaction. On the other hand, no spouse can satisfy the other person’s lust. That can only be resolved in their relationship with God. Neither spouse has the right to violate the other person’s conscience or defile them physically in any way since their bodies are the temples of God. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). Sexual intimacy and fulfillment in marriage can only happen in the context of mutually shared love and trust.

Paul advises Christian couples not to separate, but if they do, they must remain unmarried and work toward reconciliation. There are times when a relationship can be so strained that separation may be necessary for the good of the family. Ideally, they should stay together and work it out, but if one spouse becomes physically or mentally abusive, it may be advisable to separate, but not divorce. Scripture teaches that wives and children should be submissive, but Scripture also teaches that governing authorities have the right to punish wrongdoers (Romans 13:4). Husbands have no right to abuse their wives, and parents have no right to abuse their children. To do so is a double offense. Those who are in authority have the responsibility to provide and protect. When they become the abusers, their subjects not only suffer from the abuse but also lose their protection. The state has the responsibility to enforce laws that protect battered wives and abused children and the authority to prosecute the offenders.

Should a couple be unequally yoked, the believer must stay committed to the marriage for the purpose of their spouse’s salvation. The unbeliever can leave and if they do, the believer is no longer bound to the marriage (vs. 15). There are only two grounds for divorce and remarriage. The first is abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. The second is adultery. Under the Law, the adulterer would have been stoned to death, so obviously the remaining spouse would be free to remarry due to death. Under grace, forgiveness and reconciliation should be attempted, but if not successful, the faithful spouse has the right to divorce and remarry.

Dr. Neil

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