As we pick up in 1 Corinthians 7, remember that Paul is answering questions concerning marriage, divorce, and singleness. This week, we’ll read his answers to questions on divorce. There is hardly one person who has not been affected by this subject. It hits close to home. Divorce is painful! As we look at what Scripture says, know that this post is not intended to add to the hurt in any way, but to offer healing and hope.
God Concerning Divorce
Paul says, “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (v. 10-11). Paul says that these are the words of Jesus. Jesus addressed the subject of divorce in Matthew 19. When Jesus was asked about divorce for any reason in Matthew 19:3-6, he quoted from Genesis 2:24 and spoke about the permanence of marriage. Marriage is designed and defined by God. Only God can make marriage and only God can break marriage. To know what God says about divorce you have to read Malachi 2:16. Here we see God’s heart. He hates divorce. He did not say he hates divorced people. He hates what divorce does to people. He hates the pain it causes. Ask anyone who has been affected by divorce and they would say they hate it too!
Guidelines About Divorce
When we read further in Matthew 19 (v.7-9), we will see that God did make an allowance for divorce. In the Old Testament it was because of the hardness of the human heart (see Deut. 24:1-2). Sin makes us stupid! In the New Testament (Matt. 19:9), we read that God allows divorce in the case of adultery. Adultery is a serious offense against God (see 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Heb. 13:4, Rev. 21:8). In my devotions last week, I read Jeremiah 3:8, “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.” Divorce is possible but because of the gospel it is not certain. God divorced Israel but He also took Israel back. The prophet Hosea took his adulterous wife back as an example of the unconditional love of God.
Picking back up in 1 Corinthians, Paul transitions in verse 12 to say, “…I, not the Lord, say…” and then he addresses when an unbelieving spouse leaves the relationship. This does not question the inspiration of Scripture. Paul is just saying the Lord did not address abandonment. Jesus had not given any previous revelation on the subject. Paul says you don’t have to fight it if an unbeliever leaves a believer, and that remarriage is permissible for the offended spouse. Jesus said adultery is grounds for divorce. Paul gives us one other ground for divorce, abandonment. These are the only two.
Grace for Divorce
In verse 16 Paul says, “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” God gives wisdom to know when to hang on and when to let go. God gives grace for the joy and difficulties of marriage. God gives grace for the sadness and sorrow of divorce. God gives grace to restore the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). In verses 20 and 24 Paul says to remain where you are. Whether you are married, divorced, or single, it is hard for God to bless your present season when all you are doing is trying to get out of it. If you are married and thinking about divorce, run to the church before you run to the court. Call a pastor before you call a lawyer. Get in a group and experience authentic biblical community. The church should support married couples and help them fight for their marriage. If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, start watering your own grass! If you don’t love and have an ongoing affair with your spouse, someone else will. What happens in Vegas (or the gym, the office, the business trip, etc.) does not stay in Vegas! Look past the pleasure to the pain. Don’t believe the lie that divorce is the answer. If you are considering divorce, remember the power of the gospel. Even if you have grounds for biblical divorce, you can be reconciled and restored through the power of the cross. If you are divorced for a biblical reason, serve Jesus and seek Him about remarriage. If you are divorced for an unbiblical reason, repent and stay in your current marriage. If you divorced for the wrong reason, nowhere in Scripture does it teach you should divorce again to make it right. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Whether you are married, divorced, or single, if you know Jesus, you are part of His bride, the church. He will never leave you or abandon you. Jesus is the lover of our soul. He is gracious, merciful, and makes all things new.