Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

In 1 Corinthians 7:1-40, Paul answers 7 questions the Corinthians had about marriage, divorce, and remarriage coming out of paganism and prevalent sexual immorality.

  1. Should I marry? 1 Cor. 7:1-7
  2. Should those formerly married marry again? 1 Cor. 7:8-9
  3. What if two Christians get a divorce? 1 Cor. 7:10-11
  4. What if my spouse is an unbeliever and wants to stay married? 1 Cor. 7:12-14
  5. What if my spouse is an unbeliever and does not want to stay married? 1 Cor. 7:15-16
  6. Does my salvation change my calling? 1 Cor. 7:17-24
  7. Should I remain single if God has called me to be single? 1 Cor. 7:25-40

Also there are 6 categories of people in chapter 7: celibate, married, unmarried, mixed married, widows or widowers, and virgins.

1. The Celibate (7:1-7).

Question– Should I marry or is celibacy more spiritual than marriage?

Answer– Celibacy is good but if you can’t control then marry. Seems that because of rampant sexual immorality, there was a group in Corinth that went to the other extreme and thought singleness was more superior to marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-2).

Some at Corinth practiced sexual abstinence within their marriage (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).

Celibacy is good, but is not superior to marriage. Celibacy was a gift from God for service to the Lord and not for all believers. If God has called you to be single for His service, then remain single, otherwise marry (1 Corinthians 7:6-7).

2. The Unmarried and Widows/Widowers (7:8-9).

Question– Should those who were married and divorced before getting saved remarry? What if I got saved after my divorce, can I remarry?

Answer– Those divorced or who had a spouse to die are the unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:8a).

The definition of the unmarried is made clear in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. They are the divorced but not the virgins (1 Corinthians 7:25).

Paul says it is good to remain as him (unmarried) but this is an option (1 Corinthians 7:8b).

If they can’t control themselves they should marry, but only in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:9, 39; Rom. 7:1-3; 1 Tim. 5:14).

So Paul says to the unmarried and widows/widowers, it is better to remain unmarried; but if you can’t, remarry in the Lord.

3. The Married (7:10-11).

Question– What if two Christians get a divorce?

Answer– Paul makes it plain that these instructions are for believers from the Lord, these are a command and not optional (1 Corinthians 7:10a; Matt. 19:5-6).

Divorce is permissible only in the case of sexual immorality, but reconciliation is to be pursued first (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:9).

Jesus taught the married were not to get a divorce, but if they did, remain unmarried if they can’t be reconciled (Matt. 19:11). “Remain unmarried” in the Greek tense speaks of a permanent state.

They were free to remarry after the death of the spouse (Rom. 7:1-3; 1 Cor. 7:39).

4. The Mixed Marriage (7:12-16).

Question– What if the unbeliever wants to stay married? What if I got saved and my spouse did not? Since I was unequally yoked, could I divorce and marry a believer? (1 Corinthians 7:12-14).

Answer– “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord,” means that Jesus did not teach on this but Paul does through inspiration (1 Corinthians 7:11a).

If the unbelieving spouse wants to stay married, then they are to stay married and not divorce (1 Corinthians 7:12b-13)–stay married for the sake of the unbelieving spouse and the children (1 Corinthians 7:14).

They could be “sanctified” through the believing spouse. The home is “set apart” to God when one spouse is a believer. There is a possibility the unbeliever and children will get saved.

The Scripture teaches to remain married. The context is where one spouse got saved after both unbelievers married.

Question– What if my spouse is an unbeliever and does not want to stay married but divorce? (1 Corinthians 7:15-16).

Answer– The unbeliever is to initiate the divorce (1 Corinthians 7:15a). The divine standard is not imposed on an unbeliever.

The believer is not under bondage in this case (1 Corinthians 7:15b). The marriage bond is broken. Are they free to remarry?

1. Paul does not say the believer is free to remarry as he does for the death of the spouse (Rom. 7:1-3; 1 Cor. 7:39), or in the case of the unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:8-9), which is an option.

2. Neither does Paul say they are to remain unmarried as in the case of the married (1 Corinthians 7:11), which is a command.

3. Others believe it is implied by the bond being broken.

To remain in a marriage with an unbeliever who wants out is to live a life of turmoil. We don’t marry an unbeliever or stay with an unbeliever to evangelize them (1 Cor. 7:16).

Excursion (7:17-24).

Question– Does my salvation affect my marital status or station in life? (1 Cor. 7:20, 24). Can I change my marital status after I got saved?

Answer– They were to remain in whatever condition (married or single) God called them (1 Cor. 7:17, 18, 20, 21-22, 24, 26). They were to “stay put”, because salvation did not affect their marital status.

A Christians vocational situation is a little matter, but what matters is that every Christian should realize he is Christ’s slave and needs to be obedient to Him (1 Cor. 7:18-24).

5. Virgins (7:25-40).

Question– Should I remain single if God has called me to be single?

Answer– Paul has made it plain that neither state–marriage nor singleness–is spiritually better than the other. But for the person to whom God has given the gift of singleness [1 Cor. 7:7], there are many advantages.

Paul gives the benefits for remaining single. He gives a judgment or counsel and not a command. Because of inspiration, his judgment was authoritative.

1. The World’s Situation [1 Cor. 7:25-27].

It is good for single men and women remain as they are–single. Paul’s statement here is inspired but his opinion.

1 Cor. 7:26: Evidently there was something happening at Corinth or was going to happen, that Paul called the “present distress.” There apparently was great persecution coming against believers.

Some believe Paul anticipated the persecution under Nero 10 years after he wrote this letter. For this reason Paul thought it would be best not to marry.

1 Cor. 7:27: Those already married should stay that way. Those not married should stay single because of the condition of persecution at Corinth.

2. Marriage brings more problems [1 Cor. 7:28].

Paul makes it clear that a single person does not sin by getting married, even the one’s with the gift of singleness.

What does trouble in the flesh mean? Two sinners make it harder than one sinner to live together. Marriage may solve some problems but create others.

Trouble means under pressure. In a marriage you have two personalities, different likes and dislikes, different temperaments, and wills.

3. The world is passing away [1 Cor. 7:29-31].

1 Cor. 7:31: “fashion” means manner of life or way of doings things. This world is temporary.

God has ordained and blessed marriage but it is not eternal.

Matthew 22:28-30: Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

1 Cor. 7:29: Time refers to a definite period, an appointed time that has been shortened. Human life is like a vapor that vanishes away.

Time is short for the Lord’s return and marriage should not cause us to be slack in the Lord’s work.

Paul is saying that marriage, sorrow, rejoicing, possessions, and pleasure, all have there proper place in the Christian life. These things are sinful when they dominate our lives and detract us from the Lord’s work.

We are not to overvalue these things knowing they are passing away.

4. The Preoccupations of Marriage [1 Cor. 7:32-35].

1 Cor. 7:32-33: The unmarried [divorced] can focus on full devotion to the Lord and the things of the Lord.

1 Cor. 7:34-35: The unmarried are able better to be set apart unto the Lord. They are able because of fewer demands and obligations, to be devoted to the Lord’s work.

This does not mean the married believer and the virgin are more righteous or divided loyalties, but practically the unmarried person is able to totally set themselves apart to the Lord’s work.

5. The Promises of the Fathers [1 Cor. 7:36-38].

Two Interpretations:

Interpretation # 1:

Fathers of virgins– Here is where we really need to understand the custom of the day. Fathers had a big role in deciding who their daughters would marry. Some of the fathers had dedicated their daughters to the Lord as permanent virgins.

When the daughters became of marriage age, many wanted to be married. Should the father break his vow they made to the girl? Answer, he was free to change his mind.

If the father wanted to keep his daughter single, he must meet two conditions:

1. He had a firm conviction she had the gift of celibacy.
2. He is not a slave and can make that decision.

Interpretation # 2:

Betrothed man– This view holds that this is a hypothetical situation in which a betrothed man was considering remaining single, not to a father who was debating marrying off his daughter.

(1). “any man” is probably someone who is unmarried in the context of 1 Cor. 7:25-35.
(2). “behaveth uncomely” referred to sexual misconduct in ancient times, making it unlikely a father’s deliberations.
(3). “pass the flower of her age” or “past her youth” is better translated “sexually awakened.”
(4). “she” is supposed to be “he” and not “she.”
(5). If the betrothed man can’t control himself, then have relations and then marry “do what he will.”
(6). “Let them marry” is based on a inferior manuscript and should be ‘let them marry.”

6. The Permanence of Marriage [1 Cor. 7:39-40].

Yes the believer is free to remarry in the Lord if the spouse dies, but this also speaks of the permanency of marriage [1 Cor. 7:8-9]. Single people should realize that marriage is for as long as the partner lives.

Paul said that she can abide as he was if this makes her happier (1 Cor. 7:26, 28, 32-35).

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