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Commitment in Marriage

(1 Corinthians 7:1-15)

Lesson 5 -- first quarter 2006
July 2, 2006

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2006

Free to Remarry?

As the twentieth century closed, divorce rates in the United States remained staggeringly high. Statistics for that era indicate that close to half of all new marriages would end in divorce. A rate that high means that even professing Christians succumbed to this social blight. But what does such a cultural catastrophe have to do with you?

I and my generation find this one of the hot issues to deal with as we attempt to provide Biblical answers to practical puzzles related to divorce and remarriage. I believe the next generation will have to battle with this even more.

One of the hardest angles in this whole disaster is this: Do we find in 1 Corinthians 7 a Pauline exception that makes room for remarriage after divorce? This is hard because of the human factors involved. With remarriage so common, if the answer to the question is no, then we complicate things for thousands of couples and families. This is also hard because of the divine factor involved. We cannot afford to say no if God answers yes anymore than we can afford to say yes if God answers no.

A pivotal verse in this chapter doesn't apply to all remarriage cases, but it does to many of them: "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace" (15). Many take this verse to mean that in this kind of circumstance, remarriage is permissible. On the basis of another seventh chapter, I disagree: "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband" (Romans 7:2).

Then what does 1 Corinthians 7:15 mean?

In my estimation, the issue hinges on the fact that God has bound the husband and his wife. Included in that binding is a God-given command to please, satisfy and serve each other physically (verses 3-5). Defying God by defrauding one another brings huge consequences. Note that the physical "obligations" to the spouse have spiritual ramifications.

It seems to me that the key here is the unalterable fact that this is a command given by God. Who would dare go against God's commands? Yet, if a husband departs, the wife is freed from God's command in this area. Though she no longer meets the sexual needs of her husband (how could she when he's gone?), she is not in disobedience to God's command. In other words, she is not under bondage to that specific command.

Make no mistake though. The marriage union stands as long as both spouses live. Does this mean that the abandoned spouse must remain single, even if the other spouse remarries? I don't see the Word making room for divorce and remarriage in any situation. I see no Biblical stand to take but this: "No remarriage so long as the spouse yet lives."

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