"DIVORCE AND . . . YOUR
First Corinthians 7.10-16
1. Turn to First Corinthians chapter 7,
where we will look at two sets of instructions the apostle Paul gave to
the couples in the Corinthian congregation.
2. One set of instructions was given to
Christian couples, and the other set of instructions applies only to
mixed couples, Paul directing his remarks to the married spouse who was
a believer in the church.
1A. First, WE SEE PAULíS REMARKS TO
CHRISTIAN COUPLES (7.10-11)
10 And unto the married I
command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her
11 But and if she depart, let
her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let
not the husband put away his wife."
1B. How can we know that Paulís remarks
here are directed to Christian couples only?
1C. Look at verse 8: "I say
therefore to the unmarried and widows." This first phrase shows
that Paul is addressing those in the Church who are unmarried or
2C. Now look down to verse 12:
"But to the rest speak I, not the Lord." Here Paul
addresses those leftover couples not directly addressed in verse 10
and 11, who are married to non-Christians.
3C. Now look at verse 25, where Paul
directs his comments to virgins: "Now concerning virgins I have
no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment."
4C. Since the first group is unmarried
and widowed people, and the third group consists of couples where
one of the partners is unsaved, with the final group is composed of
virgins, what must the composition of the second group be?
5C. Paul must be writing to married
Christians, since married unbelievers would not be in the Corinthian
6C. Why is this important? Paul tells
us that this group, the one in which both the husband and the wife
are saved, is the group to which the Lordís teachings on divorce
7C. Folks, this is an extremely
important point that most commentators take no note of, so pay
careful attention. Christís teachings on divorce apply to
converted couples only!
2B. So, letís deal with the
position that the Lord Jesus and Paul take on Christians divorcing.
31 It hath been said,
Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of
32 But I say unto you, That
whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of
fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall
marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
1C. Here is the proper interpretation
of this statement made by the Lord Jesus Christ.
1D. First, Christís comments occur
within the context of God hating a husband "putting
away" his spouse, for whatever reason. Malachi 2.14-16 reads,
"the LORD hath been witness between
thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt
treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy
covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the
spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed.
Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal
treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD,
the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away."
2D. The prophet Malachi referred to
the creating of a schism and dividing two people who are one flesh
in marriage. Whenever such a thing occurs, whether it leads
directly to divorce or separation or whatever, there is personal
sin somewhere. So, what Jesus says in Matthew is to be understood
against the backdrop of Malachi chapter 2.
3D. Reminding you again that,
according to the apostle Paul, this statement by our Lord Jesus
Christ must be understood to apply directly to married Christian
couples, we recognize that these two verse do not apply to couples
who both merely profess to be Christians, but to those who
actually are both converted.
4D. Matthew 5.31 recognizes that the
putting away of wives exists, and that the Law of Moses mandated
that a man who puts away his wife do so along recognized and
established lines of procedure, complete with a legal divorce. A
legal document stating that the woman is no longer married must be
given to her at the time the putting away of the wife is
formalized by a divorce. That legal document is called a bill of
5D. Verse 32. Sexual sin is the only
Biblical grounds for divorce. If a man divorces his wife for any
other reason he causes her to commit adultery (assuming she
remarries, of course). And anyone who marries a divorced Christian
woman who was not guilty of adultery commits adultery by marrying
6D. This means that dire and severe
consequences fall upon any Christian who divorces for any reason
other than in response to the sexual sin of his or her mate. And
it doesnít matter whether it is wife beating, drug abuse,
drunkenness, stealing, profanity, or depriving you of your
self-esteem. You have no Biblical grounds for Scriptural divorce
except when sexual sin has been committed.
2C. Now please turn back to
First Corinthians 7.10-11.
1D. Remembering that the Lordís
statement and Paulís writing must harmonize (that is, they do
not in any way disagree), verse 10 admonishes the Christian woman
not to leave her husband.
2D. And, may I say, that the wife who
refuses to meet her husbandís physical needs, and the husband
who has met his wifeís physical needs, has effectively, and for
all intents and purposes, departed, as well? The denial of
intimacy is tantamount to putting away.
3D. Verse 11. Recognizing, however,
that sometimes Christians will commit sin without regard to divine
instructions, will commit sin without regard for the consequences
of such sin in the lives of their mates or their children, Paul
goes on to say that if you do leave the man, do not remarry!
The same thing is true for a husband.
4D. Christian man or woman who is
presently divorced from a Christian mate who has not remarried,
you have only two options open to you: You may be reconciled to
your still unmarried ex, which is both desirable and spiritual, or
you may remain unmarried for the rest of your life.
5D. And why not ever remarry? I
think, because Godís Holy Spirit will work on you the rest of
your life to reconcile you to that one who you should be married
to, and so long as you remain unmarried reconciliation is
6D. Remember, Paul is not speaking
directly to those who are married to adulterous mates. He is
speaking to those who might be considering divorce on such grounds
as abuse, drugs, incompatibility, nonsupport, gambling, drinking,
lying, stupidity or laziness.
7D. You are not to divorce. But if
you do divorce you must not ever remarry, except to remarry your
ex. That is the position of both Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2A. Then, PAULíS REMARKS TO
1B. In verses 12-14 Paul writes
about beginning a divorce.
12 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.
13 And the woman
which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to
dwell with her, let her not leave him.
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.
Two things to notice in these
verses written to the Christian who is married to a lost spouse:
1C. First, notice the
1D. 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 you hate to be married to? 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.
2D. 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 heís foul, pastor. He emotionally abuses me
and is a terrible influence on the children." So long as he
doesnít commit adultery donít divorce him.
3D. As well, folks, I think
the spirit of this passage would also bar us from driving away our
unsaved mates. Amen? A person can fool Church people into thinking
he is an innocent victim, but God knows where the fault really
4D. Do people really think
God is so ignorant that He is not aware of attempts sometimes 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 manís heart.
5D. The requirement, then,
is to stay married as long as the lost person wants to preserve
3C. And the reasoning behind
this is in verse 14
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.
1D. This passage does not
teach or imply or suggest that your unsaved mate and your unsaved
kids will go to heaven just because youíre going to heaven. No
one gets saved through your belief.
2D. 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.
3D. This means that though
they certainly do face the horrible consequences of damnation
should they die without knowing Christ, they are in a position to
see the Christian life lived before their very eyes.
4D. 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
5D. 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.
2B. In verses 15 & 16 Paul
writes about blocking a divorce.
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.
16 For what
knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or
how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy
Serving God can create
conflict with an unconverted spouse. Conflict between right and
wrong, conflict between light and darkness, conflict between
lasciviousness and living right. And compromising on some important
issues may hold the false promise of tranquility in the home.
But Paul writes to the child
of God who loves Jesus more than anything. He doesnít 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 mateís undying soul.
Writing for such a believer,
knowing that the unsaved husband or wife may not want to remain
married to a godly mate, Paul offers instruction when a breakup of
the marriage is faced.
1C. The requirement is stated
in verse 15
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.
1D. "Pastor, my
unsaved husband wants a divorce. What should I do?" Let him
go. Cooperate with his desire to get a divorce. "But he
isnít seeking a divorce, heís just leaving." Then you may
have to obtain a divorce. He may leave you no alternative.
2D. Christian wife, if your
lost husband threatens to divorce you for serving God, you serve
God. Let him leave if heís going to leave for that reason. What
if he tries to take you away from your place of ministry by moving
you away from your Church?
3D. Thatís just a
different, contemporary, version of him threatening to leave you
if you wonít 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.
4D. 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 will end up losing more by giving in to your
unsaved spouse than you will get by letting him or her go.
5D. Should he leave, let
him leave. Scripture has spoken. Letting the unsaved mate depart
is a requirement of Scripture.
2C. The reality is next
stated, also in verse 15
1D. Paul tells us that
"A brother or sister is not under bondage in such
2D. The word "under
bondage" translates the Greek word for word
"enslave." That means, if your unsaved mate leaves you,
you are not enslaved. You are free.
3D. 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. Thatís
4D. 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, itís over between the
two of you, forever, unless the lost one gets saved.
5D. 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 donít go. I promise
Iíll do better. Please donít leave me. What will we do without
you?" Life is hard, very hard, but Christ will look after His
3C. Why the requirement to
let your husband go without trying to stop him? Why let your wife
just walk out the door? Letís examine the reason (7.15c-16)
15 . . . but God
hath called us to peace.
16 For what
knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?
or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy
1D. 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.
2D. 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
3D. And since you cannot
compromise your stand as a Christian, assuming youíre not doing
wrong, let him go when he gets so frustrated he canít stand
being around you any longer . . . so you can maintain peace with
4D. Some couples get along
with each other better divorced than they do married, when anger
has subsided and the unconverted spouse begins to see the errors
of his ways.
5D. 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. The two points Paul makes with
the Christian married to an unsaved spouse may confuse you a bit:
Donít initiate a divorce with an unsaved mate, but donít interfere
with his efforts to divorce you?
2. Thatís 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. And why
is peace so important when so many marriages go for so many years
without any real peace?
3. Peace is important because
peace is the environment in which a Christian can do his best living for
Christ. Thatís why Paul charged Timothy to pray for kings and rulers
to let Christians live peaceably so we can serve God without hindrance
4. Before this morningís
sermon, brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song.
1. In our text for today we see
children mentioned in connection with divorce for the first time. But of
course, innocents who are severely traumatized by divorce are always
close to the heart of God, even when they are not directly mentioned in
connection with this particular tragedy.
2. To show the great love of God
for His creatures, let me quickly review the spiritual landscape of this
great evil, divorce.
1A. First, THERE IS THE GREAT
TRAGEDY OF DIVORCE
1B. Consider the perspective of
the husband or the wife who has been divorced.
1C. Dreams are shattered by
divorce. Hearts are broken. Lives are ruined. Values are debased.
Hopes are dashed. Expectations are disappointed. Plans are trashed.
Love is trampled. Affection is cast aside. Intimacy is destroyed.
The bed is defiled. Sensitivities are dulled. The heart is now
guarded. The feelings are more hidden. The vulnerabilities are now
callused. Toughness replaces tenderness and suspicion takes the
place of anticipation.
2C. The tragedy of divorce is
not in the pain that is felt when one once loved leaves and when one
once trusted has betrayed. Itís the damage thatís
done. Divorce damages people, harms them, crushes them with a
devastating blow. Does anyone deserve the drop hammer blow that
divorce delivers, or that the sin which causes a divorce delivers?
God says "No!"
2B. But what does divorce do to
1C. If divorce doesnít rob
the little child of the security and comfort of a motherís tender
care during illness or fear, then it robs that same child of a
fatherís strength and consolation, robs that same child of a hero
and a protector.
2C. A child without his
mother misses the sound of the maternal heartbeat thatís heard by
the tiny ear pressed against her bosom. But a child without her
fatherís approving nod and affectionate hug will forever search
for that which is not there from those who are not givers, but
3C. The children of divorce
seem to be doomed to lives filled with feelings of inferiority,
constantly seeking to compensate for a lack that cannot be
fulfilled, with deep-seated feelings that somehow the loss of mother
or father was their fault, when it was really quite beyond their
4C. But such is the curse and
damnation of divorce, ruining the lives of those too young to
understand, too young to adapt, and too confused to compensate. And
hard lessons have shown us all that the children of divorce are all
the more likely to divorce themselves, infecting yet another
generation with the plague of a familyís destruction and more
2A. But Following The Great
Tragedy That Comes With Divorce Are THE GREAT TEMPTATIONS FOLLOWING
There are many temptations that
arise following the great tragedy of divorce, but time limits me to
rehearsing three with you:
1B. First, the temptation to
conceal the damage and the heartache.
1C. Itís so hard for us to
be honest with each other, isnít it? I remember when my fiancť
dumped me just a few weeks before our wedding date. That was more
than 30 years ago, but the pain of it is real to me. Imagine how
much more pain is experienced from divorce.
2C. I went home from college
and sat down next to my mother and cried like a baby for what seemed
like an hour. How must the boys and girls whose moms and dads are
gone, how must the husbands and wives whose mates have left them,
feel the great need to just cry and cry.
3C. But the temptation,
because so few people care about the pain others are experiencing,
is to put on a courageous face and pretend everything is okay, to
pretend that your heart does not ache like it really does.
4C. And along with that
temptation is the temptation to conceal the damage that has been
done to you by divorce, by losing your mom or dad, or by losing your
spouse. And divorce is worse than a death, because when someone dies
they donít leave by choice, they havenít rejected the ones they
are supposed to love, they havenít voluntarily abandoned them.
5C. I wish kids didnít feel
like they have to pretend everything is good when they actually feel
like crying. I wish a young mother didnít have to put on the good
face and pretend everything was fine, when what she really feels
like doing is sitting down on the curb and bawling. Ecclesiastes 3
tells us that there is a time to break down, a time to cry, a time
to mourn, and a time to heal. I wish people who have been divorced
could feel that itís okay to break down, to cry, to mourn, so they
2B. Another temptation is the
temptation to contrast your kids with our kids.
1C. This is a tough one.
There are few things harder than marrying someone who has been
married before, or marrying someone when youíve been married
before. Someone who is wounded and gashed and scarred marrying
someone who isnít wounded and gashed and scarred is hard.
2C. But there are the kids to
consider, as well. His kids. Her kids. Their kids. The mind games
that kids play on the step dad and on the step mom. The mind games
step moms and step dads play on the stepchildren. The mind games
played by the kids and played on the kids during visitation rights.
And the using of the kids as pawns in power struggles between two
people who used to be married, but who are trying to get revenge
through a young child.
3C. Folks, how can a society
keep from unraveling with an ever increasing population of people
who have been misused and abused in this way while growing up? But
since it is very likely that a divorced mom or a divorced dad will
get married again, it is also very likely that they will be tempted
to run the children of divorce through the ringer in the process.
3B. Third, thereís the
temptation to continue without help.
1C. Let me just state what
seems obvious to me, but which seems to slip by a lot of people. If
you are a single mom or dad, if you are a kid in a single parent
home, you are making a terrible mistake if you even try to make it
through life without help.
2C. My two great friends in
the ministry were profoundly blessed by having pastors who acted as
surrogate fathers to them. Boys need men in their lives, men who
have not abandoned them, men who will love them and help them grow
into men, because women do not raise men.
3C. Girls need men in their
lives, men who will relate to them much like uncles and
grandfathers. Girls need to be around men to some degree to learn
how men really are, how men really behave, rather than adopt a
caricature and cartoon version of men from not ever being around
4C. I need to move on, but
first a comment about young men. Becoming a man is more complicated
for a boy than becoming a woman is for a girl. So it grieves me when
boys from single mom homes refuse the help, shun the subtle offers,
resist the gentle nudges from older men to reach out to them.
5C. Those big boys think they
donít need older men in their lives. But they are mistaken. They
are still little boys in grown up bodies, not yet really men. And
their reluctance to be "initiated" shows that they have
succumbed to the temptation to continue without the help thatís
much needed to be the kind of men they very much need to learn to
3A. Let Me Not Leave You With
The Misunderstanding That All Is Gloom And Doom, For God has Provided
For Us THE GREAT TRIUMPH OVER DIVORCE
Of course, there is no hope for
anyone who does not come to know Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinners.
This One Who is the Great Physician of souls, Who reconciles us to the
God of all comfort, Who mends broken hearts and puts joy where there
used to be only sorrow, Who replaces doom with hope, and Who satisfies
even the most broken hearted, has provided to us the means for triumph
By what means did the
Corinthians, did the Philippians, did the Ephesians and the
Colossians, did all the others in the early days whose lives were
ravaged by divorce, find relief, experience healing, find comfort for
their hurts and bruises?
1B. It was the community of the
My friends, for both new
Christians and for the unconverted who were welcomed into their
midst the community of the Church is the place where the hurting,
where the person who has been harmed, can learn and can love and
live with others have experienced in their own lives the healing
touch of the Great Physician, the heartís work of the indwelling
Spirit of God.
2B. In the church there is
cooperation with the children.
1C. Where do you find men and
women who have love for more than just their own kids? Church. Where
do you find men and women who know how to raise kids? Church. Where
do you find men and women who are protective of kids? Church. Where
do you find men and women who little boys and girls can emulate, can
imitate, can use as examples to model as they are growing up?
2C. Church is where young
couples learn how to be good parents. Church is where single parents
sometimes find a suitable spouse. Church is where boys without dads
can have a dozen uncles, numerous grandfathers, and as many boys as
they want to be their brother. And Church is where a young girl can
grow to the full flower of womanhood under the watchful eye of men
and women who will help her mom to protect her and guard her against
3B. But church is not only a
place for the immature. Itís also a place for the injured.
1C. Where can a man who has
been divorced go to take his time and heal from the wounds inflicted
upon him by the woman who abandoned him? Where can the woman go to
feel protected from those who would prey on the vulnerabilities of a
2C. Let me tell you that God,
the God of all comfort, "comforteth us in all our tribulation,
that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the
comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God," Second
3C. Church, the pillar and
ground of the truth, is not only the place where the Gospel is
preached and where sinners are guided to Christ. Itís also the
place where bruises and breaks can mend and heal, where tears can be
safely shed until the memories that cause the tears have had time to
fade, and where new life can be found and a new direction can be
1. I know this message has been
longer than normal, but youíre still going to eat sooner at our
potluck than if youíd gone home or to a restaurant.
2. And I wanted to give you a
glimpse not only of what I think our Church ought to be, as a place of
refuge and a safe harbor for weary and wounded souls, but also a vision
of what our Church really is, right now, by Godís grace. So, for you
and for your children, this Church and our Savior seek to be a blessing