March 4, 2024

Divorce and the Believer – I Corithians 7:10-17, 39-40: Separation, Divorce, and Can the Believer Remarry?

Where Does Paul Derive His Instruction on Divorce and Remarriage?

First, from the law—Paul infers that the husband is more able/likely to divorce the wife than vice versa, choosing to use the term separate more than divorce in this passage (1 usage of wife divorcing). Second from Jesus in the Gospels—Jesus was clear in the Gospels that marriage was for life, and though He may/may not have allowed an exception for pornea, the position still was very clear.

There is some clarification to the book of Ezra in the sense that Paul tells the believers to stay married to unbelievers.

What are the commands in this passage?

  • A wife should not separate from her husband—if she does, she is to remain single or be reconciled and a husband should not divorce his wife.
  • If an unbelieving spouse is willing to remain married, they should stay married.
  • If an unbelieving spouse chooses to separate from the believing spouse, the remaining spouse is not enslaved.
  • A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives, she may remarry after he dies, but should marry a believer, though Paul believes she would be happier single.

Does the Passage Leave Any Room for Christians to Get Divorced?

I would argue that the passage is even stronger than that. I would argue that the wife should not separate from her husband—and if she does she either needs to remain single or be reconciled to him—and that a husband is not to divorce his wife. Paul labels this as a commandment of the Lord.

Who is Paul Addressing when He Says, “To the rest”?

One could think he’s talking to singles, but the context states that he’s grouped people into believing couples and mixed couples.

Explain How an Unbelieving Spouse Can Be Holy?

This needs to be understood in context of the entire passage. Paul has just finished stating that it was wrong for a believer to join themselves with a prostitute or commit sexual immorality. However, in the case of this joining, where one finds themselves married to an unbelieving spouse, it is still considered righteous to continue in that one flesh relationship, and not something that is wrong (i.e. Ezra).

Is Marriage of a Believer to an Unbeliever Covered Here?

No, because that’s not something that Paul would permit.

When Can a Person Remarry Under These Commands?

They can remarry when their spouse has died. The enslavement of verse 15 is not marriage, but of having to live with them and continued presence and relations with them. No need to try to reconcile.

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