March 7, 2010
Sermon on the Mound, #12.
This will be the last study on divorce. After this, we will deal with swearing, as our Lord taught in Matthew 5:33-37. Then the next will be mercy and justice.
But for today, we cannot deal with marriage and divorce without considering 1 Corinthians 7:10ff.
It is obvious that Paul is addressing some questions concerning marriage. To properly understand what he is saying, there are six things we need to consider.
First, this passage assumes that saved people are not marrying unsaved people. As we have already pointed out, the law against such inner marriage was made clear by the Lord God in both Testaments, by Moses and Paul. Anytime God deals with things that are contrary to what He has already established, He tells us so.
In other words, this passage does not deal with the situation of a saved person knowingly marrying an unsaved person or the Lord would tell us that He is overturning the Old Testament law in that area. Which He does not.
I have mentioned this before: We had woman in Linden who had been a cheerleader in highschool. She was saved, but she knowingly married an unsaved man, who was a nice young man at the time. He turned out to be a terrible husband and father, but she stuck with him. He was one of the first converts after I went to Linden. He was in the hospital for bypass surgery.
The youngest boy has been married several times, and when he is not married, he lives with any woman he can find. The middle boy had been married twice, and after his second marriage failed, he went to Alaska the last I heard, leaving his children behind. The oldest son was divorced once, and remarried. He was converted, and now he and his wife are trying to serve the Lord. Their four children are professed Christians.
Second, apparently Paul is speaking to a situation which saw a great moving of the Spirit of God in families. This movement called one spouse to salivation while leaving the other outside of salvation. This situation is not uncommon today.
Third, v. 12, Paul is speaking as a minister of the gospel, not as a law-giver. He still speaks with his apostolic authority, but he spoke in such a way so he would not draw fire from the Judaizers who felt he was teaching disrespect to God's law.
Fourth, as he does elsewhere, Paul is speaking in terms of the already established law of Moses. He certainly is not speaking in terms of traditions, feelings and emotions.
The issue in divorce is over the law of God, not over personal feelings and opinions.
Fifth, we must always keep the context of situations and time in mind when dealing with any subject from Scripture.
Sixth, God ordained marriage and the home. Throughout Scripture, he speaks of a young man's responsibility to marry, establish a godly home, and raise godly offspring that can and will go out into society as arrows into the heart of the enemy. It is through the godly family that man takes dominion of the earth.
God does not consider singleness a higher way of life, nor can we. His plan is for Christians to marry, and raise a Christian family that will take possession of the gates of the enemies of the cross.
The city of Corinth was among the most wicked, paganized cities of Paul's travels. Fornication, immorality, prostitution (both male and female), sodomy, licentiousness and lewdness were routinely accepted in this city. The pressure to continue in the surrounding evil was tremendous upon the new Christians here.
Of course, with all of this evil, the ideas of sex and marriage had become extremely corrupted.
The ones to whom Paul writes are now saved, and had been changed by the power of the gospel; they had a desire to live and do right. Paul preached to them the necessity of separation from their old paganism, and now problems and questions have arisen in the light of the law-word of God which Paul had taught. So the church writes to Paul with questions concerning sex, marriage and divorce.
The Corinthian church had asked several apparent, but we are only looking at Paul's instruction concerning marriage in chapter 7.
Did Christianity require a spouse who was saved inside the marriage bonds to separate from the unsaved spouse, as had been required in Ezra 10:1-5?
Vv. 1-5, the first question apparently was "Is sex proper, being a Christian?"
Because of the tremendous immorality and use of sex in the wicked society of Corinth, it would have been easy for the new Christians, not knowing the law, to consider all sex sin. Paul tells them that it is the misuse of sex outside of marriage that is sin.
We saw in Matthew 19:10-12, that the disciples understood the heavy responsibility on the husband, and said, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to merry. The Lord agreed, but said such a thing is not for all men, only to those few set apart by God for a unique purpose.
Marriage is from the beginning. Marriage relationship is not only accepted but created by God, and must be kept in the context of marriage, or there will be great troubles, 1 Corinthians 7:28.
1 Corinthians 7:4, the pastor's wife in MD in her lady's meetings, told the women how to get what they wanted from their husbands in the bedroom. That is just as much sin as is immorality, fornication and adultery.
Vv. 6-9, the second apparent question is "Should we even marry?"
Paul answers this question without direct command from God. Rather, God permits him to give his opinion on the matter.
Paul remained unmarried, so he speaks from his perspective to the unmarried and unto the widows. Marry if you need to, but marriage will hinder your total dedication to pleasing God. We will see more on this point in v. 29.
Vv. 10, 11, the third apparent question: We are married & both of us saved, but we can't seem to get along. There is no abusive action taking place on either part, and neither of us is hardened in sin; we simply are not compatible. We have tried everything, but we still cannot get along. Can we divorce?
The Lord commands that if at all possible, no divorce. Separate if you must, but remain single, with the hope of working things out, reconciliation and remarriage.
Observe: V 10 speaks to the wife first, and then speaks to the husband second. It implies that the husband is, in most cases, the one who is responsible for the marriage not working properly. Notice v. 3 tells us that normally the wife will respond to her husband. If he will treat her in a godly manner, she will respond in a godly manner.
The context was easy divorce, with the husband basically responsible for the problems.
Vv. 12-16, the fourth apparent question seems to be the heart of this passage: "We were unsaved when we were married. Now one is saved and the other is not. Now what? Are we to separate?"
Paul's answers from his understanding of the implications of the law in Exodus 21:10, 11 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4.
He says, "No separation unless the unsaved refuses to render unto the other their due benevolence, which includes submission to proper authority and proper action one toward another (love)." Ephesians 5:22-33.
If one spouse consistently refuses to follow the law of God toward the other spouse, and is hardened in that refusal, the innocent one is free to go. They are not under bondage in such a case because the law was not given to enforce bondage, but to protect freedom, V. 15.
But this separation and divorce is only as a last resort. Foremost in the mind is the fact that the Lord may see fit to use the godly action under the most trying of circumstances to reach the unsaved spouse. Peter speaks to this situation in 1 Peter 3.
There is a great amount of discussion about v. 14, which is not our present concern.
V. 17, Paul reminds them that it is not wise to compare themselves among themselves. 2 Corinthians 10:12. God works in each person differently. The only determining factor in separation or divorce must always be the word of God and not what others do, say or think.
We are told that some people have a higher level of toleration than do others. I suppose we could say that some have more grace to remain in an intolerable situation, so each person will be accountable to God according to the measure of grace give to him or her. Only the Lord knows what is that level of toleration. Each individual will not know his level until the time comes, and he will answer to God for how faithful he was compared to the grace he was given.
In vv. 18-24, Paul evidently addressing a spirit of discontent he picked up from their letter to him. We do know that the Judaizers were following him around, convincing the new converts that they had to be circumcised.
He tells them to be content in whatever situation they were in when they answered the call to the Lord.
Now his closing remarks about marriage, vv. 25-40:
Vv. 25-35, note what Paul said in v. 29, the time is short, so its best not to marry. Paul was not speaking by command, but from the way he saw things at his present point in time.
V. 26 this is good for the present distress...
V. 29, the time is short...
There are two possible meanings:
1) "Keep in mind that life is short, and there is a lot to do for the cause of Christ, so it is advisable to remain single for the cause of Christ. The only reason for marriage is to avoid fornication and marriage. However, if you are married, ignore your spouse, and get busy for the Lord." But this understanding cannot be according to God's instructions to Adam and Eve, and throughout his word, for he said, be fruitful and replenish the earth.
2) V. 26, present distress... If Paul wrote around AD 59, that was the time of Nero. Paul is thought to have been martyred in the tenth or eleventh year of Nero.
Nero was probably one of the harshest Caesars of all time against Christians. Persecution was rampant. Christianity under Nero is a study in itself.
Paul seems to be saying that during this present time of distress under Nero, it is better to remain unmarried, if possible.
V. 29, the time is short... The meaning that makes the most sense is that the end of the world is near. Not even Christ knew while he was here when he would return. Paul admits that he is not writing under inspiration at this point. Rather he is writing according to the way he saw things.
We know that "singleness" is not God's overall plan nor purpose. That is made clear in the very beginning as God provided a wife for Adam, so let us look at the situation from Paul's standpoint.
We know there were two ENDS defined in Scripture.
There is an END spoken of when every knee bows and confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The v. 29, time is short end:
In about 33 AD, Christ had told Caiaphas, the high priest, that he would see the Son of man in his glory coming in judgment within his life-time. Matthew 26:57, Mark 14:62.
Evidently, all of the Apostles, including Paul, expected Christ's words to Caiaphas to mean that Caiaphas would see Christ come in the final judgment at the end of time. They thus expected the end of time to take place very shortly, before Caiaphas died. Christ referred, however, to his coming in judgment against the Jews as foretold in Matthew 24, which happened in A.D. 70. Christ even pronounced woes upon those who had small children when that end-time came.
If Paul wrote in the late 50s, then the time was very short until this end came in just 10 to 15 years.
V. 29. The only way this passage can conform to God's command to Adam and Eve is to understand that Paul gives the instruction of 1 Corinthians 7 believing the end of time was very close at hand, according to Christ's promise to Caiaphas.
Jerusalem's destruction ended the Jewish world's 1,000 year time in history. It was replaced by the new nation of God, the Gospel Church.
V. 28, implies a fifth question: "How about marriage? Is it not a better life to remain single?"
Vv. 1, 2, Paul tells them that to avoid immorality, each should marry, and have his or her own spouse. So the answer to the question "Is it proper to marry" is, "Yes! It is God's plan, but His plan has restrictions."
The restrictions are listed by Paul:
First condition, vv. 20-28, we are to be content in whatever state we find ourselves and let God work out the details. In other words, don't let lust or anything else motivate marriage; God's word, will and calling alone must motivate marriage.
V. 27, because so many marriages are motivated by self-will and lust, we are seeing that when the lust wares off, divorce results.
Second condition, v. 39, marriage must be within the faith and according to God's established law.
Third condition, vv. 29, 30, marriage is not permitted to interfere with our responsibility to the Lord and His kingdom, and that responsibility starts at home. Matthew 6:33.There is a godly balance between the family responsibility and the Kingdom responsibility, and neither can be sacrificed for the other without the destruction of both.
Fourth condition, v. 25, 37, there are those who can remain single and pure in mind and body, but they are very few in number. It is a special calling and mercy from God. For a man to be complete, he needs a wife. For a woman to fulfill her purposes, she needs a husband.
The word of God is clear; starting in the garden with Adam, man cannot fulfill the dominion mandate without a godly wife. Therefore, single life is inferior to married life.
1 Corinthians 7:34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
Paul seems to say that a woman can better serve the Lord single than married. But that is not what he says in,
1 Timothy 5:11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; 12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. 13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. 14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some are already turned aside after Satan.
The context in chapter 5 above is widows. However, the word women in v. 14 is not the same word as widows in v. 11. Younger woman is just what it says, youthful, whereas, widow is just what it says, a widow. would not Paul have said widow in v. 14 if he had meant for his instruction to be restricted to widows? By using the word for younger women, he referred to women in general.
One last point in closing: 1 Timothy 3 & Titus 1, both tell us that a man who has been divorced is not permitted to retain any place of leadership in the congregation of the Lord. Those instructions, however, probably deal with divorce after salvation, and that divorce for other reasons that those reasons outlined by Paul.
Divorce before conversion are before conversion. We are told about the new life in Christ, which includes the seperation from our sins in an unconverted state.
(I am continually amazed at how people will go to marriage counselors who have been divorced. Counseling is considered no more than an occupation like being an electrician. Furthermore, we have an abundance of immoral and divorced people in places of authority over the families. We know a couple who considers their divorce their qualification to counsel.)
Paul tells us in this passage that as long as the unbelieving spouse is willing to stay with the believing spouse who is living for God in terms of the covenant (law), then there are no grounds to separate, vv. 12, 13, 24. Yet, if the unbelieving spouse cannot stand the pressure which the believer's righteous life brings and the unbelieving departs, the believer is free to remarry.
Paul clearly says that divorce cannot take place just because one spouse is an unbeliever. Everything which can be done within the Word of God must be attempted to reconcile any difference within a marriage or even within a broken marriage where neither ex-spouse has remarried.
Furthermore, patience must prevail as it did between Jehovah God and His wife, Israel, and her sister, Judah. Only the "whore's forehead", where the offending spouse refuses to be ashamed permits the bill of divorcement. And even then it can be only in terms of God's Word. Hardness and rebellion against GOD, and Him alone, permitted the putting apart of what He united as one.
The purpose of marriage lies within the purpose of God. It is for God's benefit and glory, in obedience to Him. Therefore, any divorce can only be in terms of His law, not in terms of how man feels about it.
Today we not only see marriages made almost exclusively in terms of what pleases the individual, but also the divorce is grounded in whatever pleases the individual.