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.


10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

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 widowed.

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 Church.

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 apply.

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.

Matthew 5.31-32:

31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

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 divorcement.

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 her.

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 possible.

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.


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 requirement

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 lies.

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 the marriage.

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 avoidable divorce.

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 wife?"

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 cases."

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 understood.

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 Own.

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 wife?"

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 try.

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 him.

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 and interference.

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.


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 children?

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 takers.

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 control.

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 lives ruined.

2A. But Following The Great Tragedy That Comes With Divorce Are THE GREAT TEMPTATIONS FOLLOWING DIVORCE

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 could heal.

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 them.

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 be.

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 over divorce.

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 church.

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? Church.

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 lifeís pitfalls.

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 divorced woman?

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 Corinthians 1.4.

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 charted.


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 to you.

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