Saturday, April 13, 2024

Unlawful Divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)

"And a husband is not to divorce his wife" (1 Cor. 7:11).

Paul’s distinction in these verses between his commands and those of the Lord is not a distinction between what is inspired and what is not. The “Lord” here refers to Christ, and the distinction that Paul intends is between what Christ had taught while on earth and what Paul by His Spirit was inspired to teach. Paul’s teaching here is the inspired word of the Lord and, in the case of verses 10–11, is the teaching of Christ Himself when He was on earth (Matt. 5:32; 19:3–9; Mark 10:2–12; Luke 16:18).

Paul tells the Corinthians that they did not need further instruction from him on the matter of divorce because Christ had already dealt with the issue. Jesus taught his followers that the marriage bond could not be dissolved whenever either party had the whim. The wife had no right to leave her husband, and the husband had no right to put away his wife. This teaching is particularly applicable today as the divorce rate has skyrocketed. Marriage is treated today as a human institution that can be dissolved by human authority. But marriage is instituted by God and established by His authority; therefore, it can only be dissolved according to His laws. The main reason divorce is so prevalent today is because of this breakdown in authority. Our generation denies the authority of God and thus His authority over the marriage union.

According to the teaching of Christ, adultery annuls marriage because it is a breach of the specific contract involved in marriage. And so does, for the same reason, willful desertion, which Paul deals with in the following verse. “The plain doctrine of the passage before us, as well as other portions of the Word of God, is that marriage is an indissoluble covenant between one man and one woman for life, admitting neither of polygamy nor of divorce,” Hodge wrote. If the covenant be annulled, it can only be by adultery and willful desertion; nothing else is a legitimate ground of divorce.

If a person does leave their spouse, he or she must remained unmarried or be reconciled to his or her spouse. “There are cases undoubtedly which justify a woman in leaving her husband, which do not justify divorce,” Hodge wrote. “The apostle teaches, however, that in such cases of separation, the parties must remain unmarried.”

What is Jesus’ teaching about marriage and divorce? How does this go against the common practice not only of the world today but much of the church? If you have had wrong ideas about marriage and divorce, confess them today and conform your thinking to the instruction and laws of Christ.