"GROUP MARRIAGE COUNSELING" Part 2
1. First Corinthians 7, please. I suppose the last few weeks have been either unsettling or surprising when you consider the subjects we've studied together and the terminology we've used. Amen?
2. At the tail end of First Corinthians chapter six I dealt with Paul's comments about fornication and harlotry and our bodies being the temples of the Holy Spirit of God.
3. Then we learned about the legitimate meeting of sexual needs and desires in marriage, in First Corinthians 7.1-7; how we ought to seek to meet our mate's needs instead of being selfish in the pursuit of our own agendas and desires.
4. I've already talked more about sex, sin and marriage in the last three weeks than was probably ever shared with most of you by your parents. How many of you would agree?
5. Then, last week, we studied Paul's counsel to two groups of people: Christian couples and those Christians who were formerly sexually active but are now inactive since their conversion, such as widows and unmarried believers.
6. What I have sought to show you, then, as well as what I will show you this evening, is that God has a plan for meeting your sexual needs in marriage, those of you who God wants to marry.
7. And how do you fit into God's plan? Well, first of all, it depends on whether God's plan is for you to marry at all, or for you to remain single. But if you are a Christian married to an unsaved spouse, this question will be answered today.
8. Before we turn to Paul's instructions, let's review some Biblical truths with which Paul's comments must be understood to harmonize.
9. Truth #1 - Your first priority must always be to serve and to glorify God. Matthew 6.33 directs us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. And "all these things" includes your physical needs. So, serve and glorify God, #1.
10. Truth #2 - You must submit to your mate in the fear of the Lord, according to Ephesians 5.21, and ladies must be subject to their husbands, even if he happens to be carnal or unsaved, First Peter 3.1-6. Many Christians married to unsaved people would find their marriages dramatically improved if they simply obeyed these straightforward commands.
11. Truth #3 - Whenever that inescapable decision must be made as to whether to submit to God or to your spouse, the Scripture speaks loudly. "We ought to obey God rather than men." Do not be so foolish as to look for these kinds of situations. But when these situations come your way, as well they might if your unsaved spouse is determined to make an issue of it, do not compromise your position as a child of God.
12. To illustrate: When some unsaved husband stands up and yells at his wife, "You have to obey me because you are a Christian," what he says is not always true. When some unsaved husband tells his wife, "You can't leave me because you are a Christian," what he says is not always true. Because he is lost, and his understanding of spiritual truths is darkened by his spiritual deadness, he will never completely understand God's will for your life.
13. These three truths I've rehearsed to you, then, are universally applicable. Therefore, as we approach our text this evening, let us keep in mind that what Paul teaches us should be taken to heart within the context of these three truths I have shared with you.
14. Beginning at First Corinthians 7.12, then, let us stand as we read through verse 16: "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 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. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"
14. Christian married to a nonbeliever? God has a specific application of His plan for meeting needs which applies to you. Two guidelines shows this to be true:
1A. IN VERSES 12-14 PAUL WRITES ON BEGINNING THE DIVORCE
"But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."
There are three things to notice in these three verses:
1B. First, Notice The Reminder
1C. We saw, last week, that Paul's instruction in verse 10 and 11 was directed specifically to married couples, both of whom knew Jesus Christ as their Savior.
2C. Further, we were given clear indication that it was these couples to whom all the Lord's teachings on the subject of divorce applied in the Gospels.
3C. Now, however, Paul writes to the rest of the couples. Namely, he writes to those of you who find yourselves married to an unsaved mate.
4C. And though it is "only Paul" and not the Lord Jesus Christ who teaches people in this situation, Second Timothy 3.16 shows us that Paul's words are just as authoritative as are the words of the Lord Jesus, because "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God."
2B. Next, Notice The Requirement
1C. In verse 12, Paul forbids the divorcing of an unsaved woman by a Christian husband, if the unsaved wife wants to remain married to him. Sir, are you married to a lost woman who cusses and drinks, but who doesn't commit adultery, who doesn't cheat on you? So long as that woman wants to continue as your wife, no matter how nasty you think her personality is, you are forbidden to divorce her.
2C. Then, in verse 13, the same command is issued to a Christian woman married to an unsaved man. Do not leave your husband so long as he wants to stay married to you. "But he's foul, pastor. He drinks and cusses and is a terrible influence on the children." So long as he doesn't commit adultery (and if he drinks he probably does commit adultery, since booze and sexual sin are oftentimes found keeping company) don't divorce him.
3C. As well, folks, I think the spirit of this passage would also bar us from driving away our unsaved mates. Amen? You can fool Church people into thinking you are an innocent victim, but God knows where the fault really lies.
4C. Do people really think God is so ignorant that He is not aware of attempts made by Christians to make life unbearable for their non-Christian spouses, in an effort to drive them away? Sometimes we forget that God knows man's heart. Amen?
5C. The requirement, then, is to stay married as long as the lost person wants to preserve the marriage.
3B. And The Reasoning Behind This Is In Verse 14
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."
1C. This passage does not teach or imply or suggest that your unsaved mate and your unsaved kids will go to heaven just because you're going to heaven. They will not be saved through your belief.
2C. But this verse does teach that your mate and kids occupy a very special position, by virtue of being married to or being the child of a Christian. How is this so? This is because the word "sanctified" and the word "holy" literally refer to being set apart.
3C. This means that though they certainly do face the horrible consequences of damnation should they die without knowing Christ, they are in a tremendously advantageous position to see the Christian life lived before their very eyes.
4C. And that great advantage, that the Holy Spirit will use if you will sincerely live for Christ, Christian mom, Christian grandmother, Christian father . . . that great advantage should not be taken away by an avoidable divorce.
5C. Therefore, because of the unique opportunity for an unsaved mate to see Biblical Christianity lived day in and day out in the life of a Spirit-filled believer, the Christian must not ever initiate divorce with an unsaved mate who desires to preserve the marriage.
6C. The reminder, the requirement, and the reasoning convince us that this is what Paul has taught, when the unsaved mate desires to remain married to the believer.
2A. IN VERSES 15 & 16, PAUL WRITES ON BLOCKING A DIVORCE
" 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. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"
When a believer is married to an unbeliever the Christian is faced with a choice. If the Christian serves God there can possibly be significant conflict in the home. Conflict between right and wrong, conflict between light and darkness, conflict between lasciviousness and living right. Now, if the Christian compromises things will seem to go easier, at least on the surface.
But Paul writes to the child of God who loves Jesus more than anything. He doesn't even acknowledge the compromiser; that one who would give Christ less than his best; that one who would trade some tranquillity in the home for the salvation of his mate's undying soul. And as he writes to such a believer as this, knowing that the unsaved husband or wife may not want to remain married to a godly mate, knowing that the conviction of sin that is brought on by the spouse's testimony may result in that lost one wanting a divorce, Paul offers instruction to the one who wants to know what the right thing to do is when a breakup of the marriage is faced.
1B. The Requirement Is Stated In Verse 15
"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."
1C. "Pastor, my unsaved husband wants a divorce. What should I do?" Let him go. Cooperate with his desires to get a divorce. "But he isn't seeking a divorce, he's just leaving." Then you may have to obtain a divorce. He may leave you no alternative.
2C. Generally, I advise Christians not to do the unsaved spouse's dirty work. But there are times, such as when the departing spouse wishes to take the kids, or when there is a risk of financial ruin, that I strongly advise you to take action when the lost spouse has departed.
3C. Christian wife, if you lost husband threatens to divorce you for serving God, you serve God. Let him leave if he's going to leave for that reason. And what if he tries to take you away from your place of ministry, by moving you away from here? That's just a different, contemporary, version of him threatening to leave you if you won't stop serving God. His goal in moving is to prevent you from serving God. Scripture instructs you to serve God no matter what the consequences, so my advice is to stay put and do not move with him.
4C. If you compromise to keep your unsaved spouse, he or she will lose all respect for you and your Savior. Once respect for you is lost, then your opportunities to bring your spouse to Christ are all but evaporated. So, you may very well end up losing more by giving in to your unsaved spouse than you will get by letting him or her go.
5C. Should he leave, let him leave. Scripture has spoken. Letting the unsaved mate depart is a requirement of Scripture.
2B. The Reality Is Stated, Also In Verse 15
1C. Paul tells us that "A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases."
2C. The word "in under bondage" comes from the Greek word for word "enslave." That means, if your unsaved mate leaves you, you are not enslaved. You are free.
3C. What does it mean to not be "under bondage?" Well, since it is already established that divorce ends your responsibilities as a spouse, I think it is unlikely that Paul is telling us that divorce means you are free from your marriage. You see, his readers, and we, already know that divorce frees a woman from marriage. That's understood.
4C. My personal belief, which is not universally held by the way, is that you Christian wives are not bound to remain unmarried should your unsaved spouse divorce you. I am of the opinion that you are free to remarry if your unsaved spouse has divorced you. But you cannot remarry him so long as he remains unsaved, since Scripture forbids marrying an unsaved person. So, the unsaved mate who leaves needs to understand that once the divorce is final, it's over between the two of you, forever, unless the lost one gets saved.
5C. But this is a side issue. The main thrust of what Paul says in this verse is this: Should your unsaved mate want a divorce, let him or her go without encumbrance. None of this "Oh, please don't go. I promise I'll do better. Please don't leave me. What will we do without you?" Life is hard, very hard, but Christ will look after His Own. Amen?
3B. Why The Requirement To Let Your Husband Go Without Trying To Stop Him? Why Let Your Wife Just Walk Out The Door? Let's Examine The Reason (7.15c-16)
"but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"
1C. Folks, one of the worst climates in a home is a climate of tension, a climate of anxiety, or an undercurrent of bitterness.
2C. You see, as an unsaved husband or wife is deciding that he or she will not live with a dedicated Christian any longer, warfare may begin to break out in the home. That unsaved mate may do things to provoke arguments and fights with the Christian. But the Christian should not argue, should not fight, should not fuss.
3C. Why? Because God hath called us to peace. Romans 12.18 reads, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." Now, peace is not always possible, but you should give it your best try.
4C. And since you cannot modify your stand as a Christian, assuming you're not doing wrong, let him go when he gets so frustrated he can't stand being around you any longer . . . so you can maintain peace with him.
5C. Perhaps, with peace between you as a divorced couple, you can win that former spouse to Christ. As husband and wife, with endless strifes between the two of you, and with the constant temptation for you to compromise as a Christian, you might only have discredited the cause of Christ had you tried to persuade your spouse to stay.
6C. Let the unsaved spouse know that you love him, and that you want him to stay. But do not, under any circumstances, plead with him or beg him to stay.
1. These two points may confuse you: Don't initiate a divorce with an unsaved mate, but don't interfere with his efforts to divorce you?
2. That's right. You see, the goal is peace. To divorce someone who wants to stay married to you, or to hold onto someone who wants to leave you, disrupts the peace.
3. And why is peace so important when so many marriages go for so many years without any real peace?
4. Peace is important because peace is the environment in which a Christian can do his best witnessing. Paul invited Timothy to pray for kings and rulers to let Christians live peaceably so Christians could serve God without hindrance and interference.
5. And the same principle applies in the home. In an atmosphere of peace an unsaved mate can see, firsthand, the life and the joy that comes from knowing and serving Christ in the life of his or her Christian mate.
6. And folks, the salvation of your mate is your top priority.
7. Do you really want your mate saved? Then you need to show your mate that Christ is worthy. Worthy of your love. Worthy of your devotion. Worthy of your service.
8. And as you serve Christ maintain peace at home. Not the false peace of compromise and accommodation to sin, but real peace . . . harmony.
9. You do your part. If your spouse stays, hallelujah. He or she will get great exposure to genuine Christianity. If your spouse leaves . . . okay. Your spouse will see the strength of your conviction to serve Christ without compromise as you let him or her walk out the door, making no attempt to interfere or persuade him to stay.
10. In either case, you have earned his or her respect as a believer. You've magnified Christ and you will be able to share Christ with that loved one sometime soon.