The apostle Paul is still addressing the same problems that the Corinthians had with sex and marriage being “unspiritual”, and believing perhaps that they should leave their marriages in order to be spiritual. But Paul embraces marriage and lifts it up the same way as Jesus. Paul shows that this is teaching from Jesus (v.10 – ‘not I, but the Lord’).
The Greek/Roman culture had a very low view of commitment and a very liberal view of divorce. However, the Christian view on these matters is clear – ‘the wife should not separate from her husband. . .and the husband should not divorce his wife’ (v.10).
To understand marriage and divorce we need to go back to Jesus’ teaching on it in Matthew 19:3-9. Jesus quote from the beginning of Genesis – going right back to when God created man and woman and there was the first marriage.
- A couple become one when they are married – that is what they are.
- It is a sacred, miraculous thing that reflects the mystery of the Trinity (one God in three Persons).
- It is so profound and therefore should never be taken lightly.
- Our culture teaches that love and marriage is built purely on romantic love, but this does not make a marriage work. Romantic love is indeed a gift from God and should definitely be a part of a marriage, but it is not the foundation on which to build a marriage. We need to get our idea of love from the Bible.
- Covenant love – choosing to love someone, choosing to commit yourself to them – is what makes a marriage work. Reflected in wedding vows – “Will you love” not “Do you love”.
- The phrase ‘hold fast’ in this passage is key (v.5).
- God loves us with covenant love – we look to reflect that love in our marriages.
- Jeremiah 3 – God experiences divorce and betrayal personally, and that is why He hates it. The rules that allowed divorce were made because of sin and the hardness of the human heart – but it was never God’s intentions. He wants covenant love on display.
God understands human sinfulness and has compassion for victims, and so there are cases where divorce may be acceptable:
- v.9 – sexual immorality is grounds for divorce. The bond of covenant love has been broken, and the victim is spiritually “widowed” so free from that bond.
- Desertion can be grounds.
- These things are never black and white though and must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the elders of the church. Reconciliation should always be explored because it is God’s intentions to restore.
- If divorce was legitimate there are also grounds for remarriage – again not a black and white issue, and needs to be brought to the elders.
- Incompatibility? This is a myth. A marriage is made up of 2 sinners! There is always going to be incompatibility, and there will also be seasons of hardship.
- Married the “wrong person”? v.20 – remain in the condition you are in.
We need to work at our marriages:
- Jesus came to give us a new heart so we can do things like commitment and covenant love.
- Commit to physical love – safeguard your marriage from temptation.
- Make your marriage holy – make it the thing you refuse to give up on.
- Model Jesus & the gospel – beautify your spouse.