MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE
VOLUME 2 by John Calvin
9. But I say to you. Mark relates that this was spoken to the disciples apart, when they had come into the house; but Matthew, leaving out this circumstance, gives it as a part of the discourse, as the Evangelists frequently leave out some intermediate occurrence, because they reckon it enough to sum up the leading points. There is therefore no difference, except that the one explains the matter more distinctly than the other. The substance of it is: though the Law does not punish divorces, which are at variance with God’s first institution, yet he is an adulterer who rejects his wife and takes another. For it is not in the power of a man to dissolve the engagement of marriage, which the Lord wishes to remain inviolate; and so the woman who occupies the bed of a lawful wife is a concubine.
But an exception is added; for the woman, by fornication, cuts herself off, as a rotten member, from her husband, and sets him at liberty. Those who search for other reasons ought justly to be set at nought, because they choose to be wise above the heavenly teacher. They say that leprosy is a proper ground for divorce, because the contagion of the disease affects not only the husband, but likewise the children. For my own part, while I advise a religious man not to touch a woman afflicted with leprosy, I do not pronounce him to be at liberty to divorce her. If it be objected, that they who cannot live unmarried need a remedy, that they may not be burned, I answer, that what is sought in opposition to the word of God is not a remedy. I add too, that if they give themselves up to be guided by the Lord, they will never want continence, for they follow what he has prescribed. One man shall contract such a dislike of his wife, that he cannot endure to keep company with her: will polygamy cure this evil? Another man’s wife shall fall into palsy or apoplexy, or be afflicted with some other incurable disease, shall the husband reject her under the pretense of incontinency? We know, on the contrary, that none of those who walk in their ways are ever left destitute of the assistance of the Spirit.
For the sake of avoiding fornication, says Paul, let every man marry a wife, (1 Corinthians 7:2.) He who has done so, though he may not succeed to his wish, has done his duty; and, therefore, if any thing be wanting, he will be supported by divine aid. To go beyond this is nothing else than to tempt God. When Paul mentions another reason, namely, that when, through a dislike of godliness, wives happen to be rejected by unbelievers, a godly brother or sister is not, in such a case, liable to bondage, (1 Corinthians 7:12,15,) this is not inconsistent with Christ’s meaning. For he does not there inquire into the proper grounds of divorce, but only whether a woman continues to be bound to an unbelieving husband, after that, through hatred of God, she has been wickedly rejected, and cannot be reconciled to him in any other way than by forsaking God; and therefore we need not wonder if Paul think it better that she should part with a mortal man than that she should be at variance with God.
But the exception which Christ states appears to be superfluous. For, if the adulteress deserve to be punished with death, what purpose does it serve to talk of divorces? But as it was the duty of the husband to prosecute his wife for adultery, in order to purge his house from infamy, whatever might be the result, the husband, who convicts his wife of uncleanness, is here freed by Christ from the bond. It is even possible that, among a corrupt and degenerate people, this crime remained to a great extent unpunished; as, in our own day, the wicked forbearance of magistrates makes it necessary for husbands to put away unchaste wives, because adulterers are not punished. It must also be observed, that the right belongs equally and mutually to both sides, as there is a mutual and equal obligation to fidelity. For, though in other matters the husband holds the superiority, as to the marriage bed, the wife has an equal right: for he is not the lord of his body; and therefore when, by committing adultery, he has dissolved the marriage, the wife is set at liberty.
And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced. This clause has been very ill explained by many commentators; for they have thought that generally, and without exception, celibacy is enjoined in all cases when a divorce has taken place; and, therefore, if a husband should put away an adulteress, both would be laid under the necessity of remaining unmarried. As if this liberty of divorce meant only not to lie with his wife; and as if Christ did not evidently grant permission in this case to do what the Jews were wont indiscriminately to do at their pleasure. It was therefore a gross error; for, though Christ condemns as an adulterer the man who shall marry a wife that has been divorced, this is undoubtedly restricted to unlawful and frivolous divorces. In like manner, Paul enjoins those who have been so dismissed to remain unmarried, or to be reconciled to their husbands, (1 Corinthians 7:11;) that is, because quarrels and differences do not dissolve a marriage.
This is clearly made out from the passage in Mark, where express mention
is made of the wife who has left her husband: and if the wife shall divorce
her husband. Not that wives were permitted to give their husbands a letter
of divorcement, unless so far as the Jews had been contaminated by foreign
customs; but Mark intended to show that our Lord condemned the corruption
which was at that time universal, that, after voluntary divorces, they
entered on both sides into new marriages; and therefore he makes no mention
THE GOSPELS OF
MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, AND JOHN,
BY REV. W. B. GODBEY, A.M.
Matthew: “But I say unto you that whosoever may put away his wife, not for fornication, and may marry another, committeth adultery; and the one having married her who is put away, committeth adultery.” The E.V. in Matthew 5:31, says, “Whosoever marrieth a divorced woman committeth adultery.”
There is a great popular illusion and misunderstanding arising from the above erroneous translation in the E.V. The word apolelumenen does not mean the divorced woman, but simply, as R.V. has it, “the cast-off woman.” The truth of it is, she has no right to a divorce, and her husband has run her off for some unjustifiable cause. Consequently she is still his wife, and will be so as long as they both live. Therefore the reason why the man marrying her commits adultery, is because he has married the other man’s wife. Instead of there being a prohibition on the marrying of divorced people, the truth is diametrically opposite — a Scriptural divorce liberating the parties for another marriage, “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39)
a. The Divine, Edenic institution of matrimony unifies husband and wife, so they are “no longer twain, but one flesh;” not one spirit, as the spiritual unity is with God alone. Consequently no man has a right to interfere with the religious liberty of his wife, nec contra.
b. There is absolutely but one justifiable cause of divorce, and that is the dark sin of adultery, which in its very nature destroys the conjugal unity, and thus nullifies the matrimonial covenant, making them twain again, the divorcement being but a recognition of the fact that their matrimonial unity, being destroyed, is now null and void.
c. Apostasion, “divorcement,” is the word which, slightly modified, has been transferred to the English language; i.e., apostasy. Consequently you readily apprehend the meaning of a divorce. Just as, apostasy takes the soul out of the kingdom of God back into the dominion of Satan, so the Scriptural divorce takes your body out of the matrimonial covenant and puts it back in the realm of celibacy; i.e., the divorce so utterly rescinds the nuptial alliance as to return both parties into celibacy.
d. The States are all filled up with unlawful divorces, the civil government granting them for a diversity of causes other than the one specified by the Savior. Of course, all such divorces are null and void, the parties standing in the sight of God as if they had never been given.
e. Of course, the design of the divorce is the relief and protection of the innocent party. But as you can not have a marriage without two, the same is true in reference to divorcement. Consequently the legal divorce affects the guilty along with the innocent. You say it is not right, as he is in no way entitled to it. The admission of your premise does not change the conclusion. Many dark sins never receive their just retribution in this life. The man who overtly violates the matrimonial covenant in order to get a divorce, must meet God, and account for the dark crime, not only of adultery, but perjury. Turn him over to God. He is certain to give him justice.
f . We should be very careful not to grieve those whom God has not grieved. I find the Lord’s people, in many localities in my travels, grieved, afflicted, snubbed, ostracized, and in some cases publicly denounced, on the charge of having two living wives or two living husbands, when really the parties have been Scripturally divorced from their former consorts before marrying the latter. This is unjust. If you are Scripturally divorced, she is no longer your wife, or he is no longer your husband. Consequently it is not true that he has two living wives, or that she has two living husbands.
g . In my extensive travels I meet all sorts of matrimonial complexities, which bring me to my knees before God, that He may give me-light to answer the complicated questions propounded by the good and sincere people, who are anxious to do the will of God and get to heaven: e.g., men and women who during the unsaved period of their lives, got married and separated, receiving civil, but unscriptural, divorcement; then, marrying others, have families of children, homes, and a diversity of domestic interests. Meanwhile they have been converted to God, are Church members, and frequently professors of sanctification. I have found them much disturbed over this problem, preachers and prominent saints having told them that they ought to separate. now, before God and the judgment bar, let me warn you to slowly, lest the last error be worse than the first. If it is your duty to administer temporal support to a former companion from whom you illegally separated, be sure that you satisfy your conscience when, on your knees, you tell God all about it. You see in these Scriptures that Moses granted a divorcement on account of the hardness of their hearts; i.e., when they fell out, and could not live together in peace. Under the new dispensation of-entire sanctification, the normal attitude of the gospel Church contemplates the removal of all of these evil tempers, so there is no need of a divorce.
h. Though we are not under the dispensation of Moses, I am sorry to say that the rank and file of the Church, both clergy and laity, are there to-day. This is evinced in the fact that they neither preach, seek, nor enjoy full salvation, which is the standard of the New Testament Church. Now, I assure you the Mosaic dispensation is a million times better than that of the devil. Therefore, if your matrimonial relations are not fully up to the New Testament standard, you can fall back and live in the dispensation of Moses. But be sure that you go on your knees, and settle all this matter before God, who, in infinite mercy, requires no impossibilities. Perhaps there are matters in your past life which it is impossible for you to rectify. Then turn it all over to God, and put it under the blood. Do the best you can, and where impossibilities intervene, your blessed Heavenly Father will take the will for the deed, and in the end say, “Well done.” Be sure you do nothing rashly, and without the triple illumination of heaven through God’s Word, Spirit, and providence.
COMMENTARY ON THE
by Matthew Henry
MATTHEW 19:3-12 THE LAW OF DIVORCE
We have here the law of Christ in the case of divorce, occasioned, as some other declarations of his will, by a dispute with the Pharisees. So patiently did he endure the contradiction of sinners, that he turned it into instructions to his own disciples! Observe, here
I. The case proposed by the Pharisees (v. 3); Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? This they asked, tempting him, not desiring to be taught by him. Some time ago, he had, in Galilee, declared his mind in this matter, against that which was the common practice (Matthew 5:31, 32); and if he would, in like manner, declare himself now against divorce, they would make use of it for the prejudicing and incensing of the people of this country against him, who would look with a jealous eye upon one that attempted to cut them short in a liberty they were fond of. They hoped he would lose himself in the affections of the people as much by this as by any of his precepts. Or, the temptation might be designed this: If he should say that divorces were not lawful, they would reflect upon him as an enemy to the law of Moses, which allowed them; if he should say that they were, they would represent his doctrine as not having that perfection in it which was expected in the doctrine of the Messiah; since, though divorces were tolerated, they were looked upon by the stricter sort of people as not of good report. Some think, that, though the law of Moses did permit divorce, yet, in assigning the just causes for it, there was a controversy between the Pharisees among themselves, and they desired to know what Christ said to it. Matrimonial cases have been numerous, and sometimes intricate and perplexed; made so not by the law of God, but by the lusts and follies of men; and often in these cases people resolve, before they ask, what they will do.
Their question is, Whether a man may put away his wife for every cause. That it might be done for some cause, even for that of fornication, was granted; but may it be done, as now it commonly was done, by the looser sort of people, for every cause; for any cause that a man shall think fit to assign, though ever so frivolous; upon every dislike or displeasure? The toleration, in this case, permitted it, in case she found no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her, Deuteronomy 24:1. This they interpreted so largely as to make any disgust, though causeless, the ground of a divorce.
II. Christ's answer to this question; though it was proposed to tempt him, yet, being a case of conscience, and a weighty one, he gave a full answer to it, not a direct one, but an effectual one; laying down such principles as undeniably prove that such arbitrary divorces as were then in use, which made the matrimonial bond so very precarious, were by no means lawful. Christ himself would not give the rule without a reason, nor lay down his judgment without scripture proof to support it. Now his argument is this; “If husband and wife are by the will and appointment of God joined together in the strictest and closest union, then they are not to be lightly, and upon every occasion, separated; if the know be sacred, it cannot be easily untied.” Now, to prove that there is such a union between man and wife, he urges three things.
1. The creation of Adam and Eve, concerning which he appeals to their own knowledge of the scriptures; Have ye not read? It is some advantage in arguing, to deal with those that own, and have read, the scriptures; Ye have read (but have not considered) that he which made them at the beginning, made them male and female,Genesis 1:27; 5:2. Note, It will be of great use to us often to think of our creation, how and by whom, what and for what, we were created. He made them male and female, one female for one male; so that Adam could not divorce his wife, and take another, for there was no other to take. It likewise intimated an inseparable union between them; Eve was a rib out of Adam's side, so that he could not put her away, but he must put away a piece of himself, and contradict the manifest indications of her creation. Christ hints briefly at this, but, in appealing to what they had read, he refers them to the original record, where it is observable, that, though the rest of the living creatures were made male and female, yet it is not said so concerning any of them, but only concerning mankind; because between man and woman the conjunction is rational, and intended for nobler purposes than merely the pleasing of sense and the preserving of a seed; and it is therefore more close and firm than that between male and female among the brutes, who were not capable of being such help-meets for one another as Adam and Ever were. Hence the manner of expression is somewhat singular (Genesis 1:27), In the image of God created he him, male and female created he them; him and them are used promiscuously; being one by creation before they were two, when they became one again by marriage covenant, that oneness could not but be closer and indissoluble.
2. The fundamental law of marriage, which is, that a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, v. 5. The relation between husband and wife is nearer than that between parents and children; now, if the filial relation may not easily be violated, much less may the marriage union be broken. May a child desert his parents, or may a parent abandon his children, for any cause, for every cause? No, by no means. Much less may a husband put away his wife, betwixt whom, though not by nature, yet by divine appointment, the relation is nearer, and the bond of union stronger, than between parents and children; for that is in a great measure superseded by marriage, when a man must leave his parents, to cleave to his wife. See here the power of a divine institution, that the result of it is a union stronger than that which results from the highest obligations of nature.
3. The nature of the marriage contract; it is a union of persons; They twain shall be one flesh, so that (v. 6) they are no more twain, but one flesh. A man's children are pieces of himself, but his wife is himself. As the conjugal union is closer than that between parents and children, so it is in a manner equivalent to that between one member and another in the natural body. As this is a reason why husbands should love their wives, so it is a reason why they should not put away their wives, for no man ever yet hated his own flesh, or cut it off, but nourishes and cherishes it, and does all he can to preserve it. They two shall be one, therefore there must be but one wife, for God made but one Eve for one Adam, Malachi 2:15.
From hence he infers, What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Note,
(1.) Husband and wife are of God's joining together; synezeuxen — he hath yoked them together, so the word is, and it is very significant. God himself instituted the relation between husband and wife in the state of innocence. Marriage and the sabbath are the most ancient of divine ordinances. Though marriage be not peculiar to the church, but common to the world, yet, being stamped with a divine institution, and here ratified by our Lord Jesus, it ought to be managed after a godly sort, and sanctified by the word of God, and prayer. A conscientious regard to God in this ordinance would have a good influence upon the duty, and consequently upon the comfort, of the relation.
(2.) Husband and wife, being joined together by the ordinance of God, are not to be put asunder by any ordinance of man. Let not man put them asunder; not the husband himself, nor any one for him; not the magistrate, God never gave him authority to do it. The God of Israel hath said, that he hateth putting away, Malachi 2:16. It is a general rule that man must not go about to put asunder what God hath joined together.
III. An objection started by the Pharisees against this; an objection not destitute of colour and plausibility (v. 7); “Why did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, in case a man did put away his wife?” He urged scripture reason against divorce; they allege scripture authority for it. Note, The seeming contradictions that are in the word of God are great stumbling-blocks to men of corrupt minds. It is true, Moses was faithful to him that appointed him, and commanded nothing but what he received from the Lord; but as to the thing itself, what they call a command was only as allowance (Deuteronomy 24:1), and designed rather to restrain the exorbitances of it than to give countenance to the thing itself. The Jewish doctors themselves observe such limitations in that law, that it could not be done without great deliberation. A particular reason must be assigned, the bill of divorce must be written, and, as a judicial act, must have all the solemnities of a deed, executed and enrolled. It must be given into the hands of the wife herself, and (which would oblige men, if they had any consideration in them, to consider) they were expressly forbidden ever to come together again.
IV. Christ's answer to this objection, in which,
1. He rectifies their mistake concerning the law of Moses; they called it a command, Christ calls it but a permission, a toleration. Carnal hearts will take an ell if but an inch be given them. The law of Moses, in this case, was a political law, which God gave, as the Governor of that people; and it was for reasons of state, that divorces were tolerated. The strictness of the marriage union being the result, not of a natural, but of a positive law, the wisdom of God dispensed with divorces in some cases, without any impeachment of his holiness. But Christ tells them there was a reason for this toleration, not at all for their credit; It was because of the hardness of your hearts, that you were permitted to put away your wives. Moses complained of the people of Israel in his time, that their hearts were hardened (Deuteronomy 9:6; 31:27), hardened against God; this is here meant of their being hardened against their relations; they were generally violent and outrageous, which way soever they took, both in their appetites and in their passions; and therefore if they had not been allowed to put away their wives, when they had conceived a dislike of them, they would have used them cruelly, would have beaten and abused them, and perhaps have murdered them. Note, There is not a greater piece of hard-heartedness in the world, than for a man to be harsh and severe with his own wife. The Jews, it seems, were infamous for this, and therefore were allowed to put them away; better divorce them than do worse, than that the altar of the Lord should be covered with tears,Malachi 2:13. A little compliance, to humour a madman, or a man in a frenzy, may prevent a greater mischief. Positive laws may be dispensed with for the preservation of the law of nature, for God will have mercy and not sacrifice; but then those are hard-hearted wretches, who have made it necessary; and none can wish to have the liberty of divorce, without virtually owning the hardness of their hearts. Observe, He saith, It is for the hardness of your hearts, not only theirs who lived then, but all their seed. Note, God not only sees, but foresees, the hardness of men's hearts; he suited both the ordinances and providences of the Old Testament to the temper of that people, both in terror. Further observe, The law of Moses considered the hardness of men's hearts, but the gospel of Christ cures it; and his grace takes away the heart of stone, and gives a heart of flesh. By the law was the knowledge of sin, but by the gospel was the conquest of it.
2. He reduces them to the original institution; But from the beginning it was not so. Note, Corruptions that are crept into any ordinance of God must be purged out by having recourse to the primitive institution. If the copy be vicious, it must be examined and corrected by the original. Thus, when St. Paul would redress the grievances in the church of Corinth about the Lord's supper, he appealed to the appointment (1 Corinthians 11:23), So and so I received from the Lord. Truth was from the beginning; we must therefore enquire for the good old way (Jeremiah 6:16), and must reform, mot by later patterns, but by ancient rules.
3. He settles the point by an express law; I say unto you (v. 9); and it agrees with what he said before (Matthew 5:32); there it was said in preaching, here in dispute, but it is the same, for Christ is constant to himself. Now, in both these places,
(1.) He allows divorce, in case of adultery; the reason of the law against divorce being this, They two shall be one flesh. If the wife play the harlot, and make herself one flesh with an adulterer, the reason of the law ceases, and so does the law. By the law of Moses adultery was punished with death, Deuteronomy 22:22. Now our Saviour mitigates the rigour of that, and appoints divorce to be the penalty. Dr. Whitby understands this, not of adultery, but (because our Saviour uses the word porneia — fornication) of uncleanness committed before marriage, but discovered afterward; because, if it were committed after, it was a capital crime, and there needed no divorce.
(2.) He disallows it in all other cases: Whosoever puts away his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery. This is a direct answer to their query, that it is not lawful. In this, as in other things, gospel times are times of reformation,Hebrews 9:10. The law of Christ tends to reinstate man in his primitive integrity; the law of love, conjugal love, is no new commandment, but was from the beginning. If we consider what mischiefs to families and states, what confusions and disorders, would follow upon arbitrary divorces, we shall see how much this law of Christ is for our own benefit, and what a friend Christianity is to our secular interests.
The law of Moses allowing divorce for the hardness of men's hearts, and the law of Christ forbidding it, intimate, that Christians being under a dispensation of love and liberty, tenderness of heart may justly be expected among them, that they will not be hard-hearted, like Jews, for God has called us to peace. There will be no occasion for divorces, if we forbear one another, and forgive one another, in love, as those that are, and hope to be, forgiven, and have found God not forward to put us away, Isaiah 50:1. No need of divorces, if husbands love their wives, and wives be obedient to their husbands, and they live together as heirs of the grace of life: and these are the laws of Christ, such as we find not in all the law of Moses.
V. Here is a suggestion of the disciples against this law of Christ (v. 10); If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is better not to marry. It seems, the disciples themselves were loth to give up the liberty of divorce, thinking it a good expedient for preserving comfort in the married state; and therefore, like sullen children, if they have not what they would have, they will throw away what they have. If they may not be allowed to put away their wives when they please, they will have no wives at all; though, from the beginning, when no divorce was allowed, God said, It is not good for man to be alone, and blessed them, pronounced them blessed who were thus strictly joined together; yet, unless they may have a liberty of divorce, they think it is good for a man not to marry. Note,
1. Corrupt nature is impatient of restraint, and would fain break Christ's bonds in sunder, and have a liberty for its own lusts.
2. It is a foolish, peevish thing for men to abandon the comforts of this life, because of the crosses that are commonly woven in with them, as if we must needs go out of the world, because we have not every thing to our mind in the world; or must enter into no useful calling or condition, because it is made our duty to abide in it. No, whatever our condition is, we must bring our minds to it, be thankful for its comforts, submissive to its crosses, and, as God has done, set the one over against the other, and make the best of that which is, Ecclesiastes 7:14. If the yoke of marriage may not be thrown off at pleasure, it does not follow that therefore we must not come under it; but therefore, when we do come under it, we must resolve to comport with it, by love, and meekness, and patience, which will make divorce the most unnecessary undesirable thing that can be.
VI. Christ's answer to this suggestion (v. 11, 12), in which,
1. He allows it good for some not to marry; He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. Christ allowed what the disciples said, It is good not to marry; not as an objection against the prohibition of divorce, as they intended it, but as giving them a rule (perhaps no less unpleasing to them), that they who have the gift of continence, and are not under any necessity of marrying, do best if they continue single (1 Corinthians 7:1); for they that are unmarried have opportunity, if they have but a heart, to care more for the things of the Lord, how they may please the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). being less encumbered with the cares of this life, and having a greater vacancy of thought and time to mind better things. The increase of grace is better than the increase of the family, and fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ is to be preferred before any other fellowship.
2. He disallows it, as utterly mischievous, to forbid marriage, because all men cannot receive this saying; indeed few can, and therefore the crosses of the married state must be borne, rather than that men should run themselves into temptation, to avoid them; better marry than burn. Christ speaks here of a twofold unaptness to marriage.
(1.) That which is a calamity by the providence of God; such as those labour under who are born eunuchs, or made so by men, who, being incapable of answering one great end of marriage, ought not to marry. But to that calamity let them oppose the opportunity that there is in the single state of serving God better, to balance it.
(2.) That which is a virtue by the grace of God; such is theirs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. This is meant of an unaptness for marriage, not in body (which some, through mistake of this scripture, have foolishly and wickedly brought upon themselves), but in mind. Those have thus made themselves eunuchs who have attained a holy indifference to all the delights of the married state, have a fixed resolution, in the strength of God's grace, wholly to abstain from them; and by fasting, and other instances of mortification, have subdued all desires toward them. These are they that can receive this saying; and yet these are not to bind themselves by a vow that they will never marry, only that, in the mind they are now in, they purpose not to marry.
[1.] This affection to the single state must be given of God; for none can receive it, save they to whom it is given. Note, Continence is a special gift of God to some, and not to others; and when a man, in the single state, finds by experience that he has this gift, he may determine with himself, and (as the apostle speaks, 1 Corinthians 7:37), stand steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but having power over his own will, that he will keep himself so. But men, in this case, must take heed lest they boast of a false gift, Proverbs 25:14.
[2.] The single state must be chosen for the kingdom of heaven's sake; in those who resolve never to marry, only that they may save charges, or may gratify a morose selfish humour, or have a greater liberty to serve other lusts and pleasures, it is so far from being a virtue, that it is an ill-natured vice; but when it is for religion's sake, not as in itself a meritorious act (which papists make it), but only as a means to keep our minds more entire for, and more intent upon, the services of religion, and that, having no families to provide for, we may do the more works of charity, then it is approved and accepted of God. Note, That condition is best for us, and to be chosen and stuck to accordingly, which is best for our souls, and tends most to the preparing of us for, and the preserving of us to, the kingdom of heaven.
A.T.ROBERTSON’S WORD PICTURES:
Matthew 19:8 For your hardness of heart (pros teen skleerokardianh–moon). The word is apparently one of the few Biblical words (LXX and the N.T.). It is a heart dried up (skleeros), hard and tough.
But from the beginning it hath not been so (ap’ archees de ouk gegonen houtoos). The present perfect active of ginomai to emphasize the permanence of the divine ideal.
“The original ordinance has never been abrogated nor superseded, but continues in force” (Vincent). “How small the Pharisaic disputants must have felt in presence of such holy teaching, which soars above the partisan view of
controversialists into the serene region of ideal, universal, eternal truth” (Bruce).
Matthew 19:9 Except for fornication (parektos logou porneias).
This is the marginal reading in Westcott and Hort which also adds “maketh her an adulteress” (poiei auteen oicheutheenai) and also these words:
“and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery” (kaiho apolelumeneen gameesas moichatai). There seems to be a certain amount of assimilation in various manuscripts between this verse and the words in Matthew 5:32. But, whatever reading is accepted here, even the short one in Westcott and Hort (mee epi porneiƒi, not for fornication), it is plain that Matthew represents Jesus in both places as allowing divorce for fornication as a general term (porneia) which is technically adultery (moicheia from moichaoo or moicheuoo). Here, as in Matthew 5:31f., a group of scholars deny the genuineness of the exception given by Matthew alone.
McNeile holds that “the addition of the saving clause is, in fact, opposed to the spirit of the whole context, and must have been made at a time when the practice of divorce for adultery had already grown up.”
That in my opinion is gratuitous criticism which is unwilling to accept Matthew’s report because it disagrees with one’s views on the subject of divorce. He adds: “It cannot be supposed that Matthew wished to represent Jesus as siding with the school of Shammai.” Why not, if Shammai on this point agreed with Jesus? Those who deny Matthew’s report are those who are opposed to remarriage at all. Jesus by implication, as in Matthew 5:31, does allow remarriage of the innocent party, but not of the guilty one. Certainly Jesus has lifted the whole subject of marriage and divorce to a new level, far beyond the petty contentions of the schools of Hillel and Shammai.
Unbelieving Spouse “pleased to dwell”
“1 Corinthians 7:12-13 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.”^The following are different commentaries upon 1 Corinthians 7:12-13…
Matthew Henry 1 Corinthians 7:12-15
II. He brings the general advice home to the case of such as had an unbelieving mate (v. 12): But to the rest speak I, not the Lord; that is, the Lord had not so expressly spoken to this case as to the former divorce. It does not mean that the apostle spoke without authority from the Lord, or decided this case by his own wisdom, without the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. He closes this subject with a declaration to the contrary (v. 40), I think also that I have the Spirit of God. But, having thus prefaced his advice, we may attend,
1. To the advice itself, which is that if an unbelieving husband or
wife were pleased to dwell with a Christian relative, the other should
not separate. The husband should not put away an unbelieving wife, nor
the wife leave an unbelieving husband, v. 12, 13. The Christian calling
did not dissolve the marriage covenant, but bind it the faster, by bringing
it back to the original institution, limiting it to two persons, and binding
them together for life. The believer is not by faith in Christ loosed from
matrimonial bonds to an unbeliever, but is at once bound and made apt to be a better relative. But, though a believing wife or husband should not separate from an unbelieving mate, yet if the unbelieving relative desert the believer, and no means can reconcile to a cohabitation, in such a case a brother or sister is not in bondage (v. 15), not tied up to the unreasonable humour, and bound servilely to follow or cleave to the malicious deserter, or not bound to live unmarried after all proper means for reconciliation have been tried, at least of the deserter contract another marriage or be guilty of adultery, which was a very easy supposition, because a very common instance among the heathen inhabitants of Corinth. In such a case the deserted person must be free to marry again, and it is granted on all hands. And some think that such a malicious desertion is as much a dissolution of the marriage-covenant as death itself.
For how is it possible that the two shall be one flesh when the one
is maliciously bent to part from or put away the other? Indeed, the deserter
seems still bound by the matrimonial contract; and therefore the apostle
says (v. 11), If the woman depart from her husband upon the account of
his infidelity, let her remain unmarried. But the deserted party seems
to be left more at liberty (I mean supposing all the proper means have
been used to reclaim the deserter, and other circumstances make it necessary)
to marry another person. It does not seem reasonable that they should be
still bound, when it is rendered impossible to perform conjugal duties
conjugal comforts, through the mere fault of their mate: in such a case marriage would be a state of servitude indeed. But, whatever liberty be indulged Christians in such a case as this, they are not allowed, for the mere infidelity of a husband or wife, to separate; but, if the unbeliever be willing, they should continue in the relation, and cohabit as those who are thus related. This is the apostle's general direction.
2. We have here the reasons of this advice.
(1.) Because the relation or state is sanctified
by the holiness of either party: For the unbelieving husband is sanctified
by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband (v. 14), or hath been
sanctified. The relation itself, and the conjugal use of each other, are
sanctified to the believer. To the pure all things are pure, Titus 1:15.
Marriage is a divine institution; it is a compact for life, by God's appointment.
Had converse and congress with unbelievers in that relation defiled the
believer, or rendered him or her offensive to God, the ends of marriage would have been defeated, and the comforts of it in a manner destroyed, in the circumstances in which Christians then were. But the apostle tells them that, though they were yoked with unbelievers, yet, if they themselves were holy, marriage was to them a holy state, and marriage comforts, even with an unbelieving relative, were sanctified enjoyments. It was no more displeasing to God for them to continue to live as they did before, with their unbelieving or heathen relation, than if they had become converts together. If one of the relatives had become holy, nothing of the
duties or lawful comforts of the married state could defile them, and render them displeasing to God, though the other were a heathen. He is sanctified for the wife's sake. She is sanctified for the husband's sake. Both are one flesh. He is to be reputed clean who is one flesh with her that is holy, and vice verse: Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy (v. 14), that is, they would be heathen, out of the pale of the church and covenant of God. They would not be of the holy seed (as the Jews are called, Isaiah 6:13), but common and unclean, in the same sense as heathens in general were styled in the apostle's vision, Acts 10:28.
This way of speaking is according to the dialect of the Jews, among
whom a child begotten by parents yet heathens, was said to be begotten
out of holiness; and a child begotten by parents made proselytes was said
to be begotten intra sanctitatem - within the holy enclosure. Thus Christians
are called commonly saints; such they are by profession, separated to be
a peculiar people of God, and as such distinguished from the world; and
therefore the children born to Christians, though married to unbelievers,
are not to be reckoned as part of the world, but of the church, a holy,
not a common and unclean seed. "Continue therefore to live even with
unbelieving relatives; for, if you are holy, the relation is so, the state is so, you may make a holy use even of an unbelieving relative, in conjugal duties, and your seed will be holy too." What a comfort is this, where both relatives are believers!
(2.) Another reason is that God hath called Christians to peace, v. 15. The Christian religion obliges us to act peaceably in all relations, natural and civil. We are bound, as much as in us lies, to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18), and therefore surely to promote the peace and comfort of our nearest relatives, those with whom we are one flesh, nay, though they should be infidels. Note, It should be the labour and study of those who are married to make each other as easy and happy as possible.
(3.) A third reason is that it is possible for the believing relative to be an instrument of the other's salvation (v. 16): What knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Note, It is the plain duty of those in so near a relation to seek the salvation of those to whom they are related. "Do not separate. There is other duty now called for. The conjugal relation calls for the most close and endeared affection; it is a contract for life. And should a Christian desert a mate, when an opportunity offers to give the most glorious proof of love? Stay, and labour heartily for the conversion of thy relative. Endeavour to save a soul. Who knows but this may be the event? It is not impossible. And, though there be no great probability, saving a soul is so good and glorious a service that the bare possibility should put one on exerting one's self." Note, Mere possibility of success should be a sufficient motive with us to use our diligent endeavours for saving the souls of our relations. "What know I but I may save his soul? should move me to attempt it."
1 Corinthians 7:10. And unto the married This verse commences the SECOND subject of inquiry; to wit, whether it was proper, in the existing state of things, for those who WERE married to continue this relation, or whether they ought to separate. The REASONS why any may have supposed that it was best to separate, may have been:
(1) That their troubles and persecutions might be such that they might judge it best that families should be broken up; and,
(2) Probably many supposed that it was unlawful for a Christian wife or husband to be connected at all with a pagan and an idolater. I command, yet not I, but the Lord Not I so much as the Lord. This injunction is not to be understood as ADVICE merely, but as a solemn, divine command, from which you are not at liberty to depart. Paul here professes to utter the language of inspiration, and demands obedience. The express command of "the Lord" to which he refers, is probably the precept recorded in Matthew 5:32, and 19:3-10. These precepts of Christ asserted that the marriage tie was sacred and inviolable. Let not the wife depart ... Let her not prove faithless to her marriage vows; let her not, on any pretence, desert her husband. Though she is a Christian, and he is not, yet let her not seek, on that account, to be separate from him - The law of Moses did not permit a wife to divorce herself from her husband, though it was sometimes done (compare Matthew 10:12); but the Greek and Roman laws allowed it - Grotius.
But Paul here refers to a formal and legal separation before the magistrates,
and not to a voluntary separation, without intending to be formally divorced.
The reasons for this opinion are:
(1) That such divorces were known and practiced among both Jews and pagans.
(2) It was important to settle the question whether they were to be allowed in the Christian church.
(3) The claim would be set up, probably, that it might be done.
(4) The question whether a "voluntary separation" might not be proper, where one party was a Christian, and the other not, he discusses in the following verses, 1 Corinthians 7:12-17.
Here, therefore, he solemnly repeats the law of Christ, that DIVORCE,
under the Christian economy, was not to be in the power either of the husband
1 Corinthians 7:11. But and if she depart If she have withdrawn by a rash and foolish act; if she has attempted to dissolve the marriage vow, she is to remain unmarried, or be reconciled. She is not at liberty to marry another. This may refer, I suppose, to instances where wives, ignorant of the rule of Christ, and supposing that they had a right to separate themselves from their husbands, had rashly left them, and had supposed that the marriage contract was dissolved. Paul tells them that this was impossible; and that IF they had so separated from their husbands, the pure laws of Christianity, did not recognize this right, and they must either be reconciled to their husbands, or remain alone. The marriage tie was so sacred that it could not be dissolved by the will of either party.
Let her remain unmarried That is, let her not marry another. Or be reconciled to her husband Let this be done, if possible. If it cannot be, let her remain unmarried. It was a DUTY to be reconciled if it was possible. If not, she should not violate her vows to her husband so far as to marry another. It is evident that this rule is still binding, and that no one who has separated from her husband, whatever be the cause, unless there be a regular divorce, according to the law of Christ (Matthew 5:32), can be at liberty to marry again.
And let not the husband See the note at Matthew 5:32. This right, granted under the Jewish law, and practiced among all the pagan, was to be taken away wholly under the gospel. The marriage tie was to be regarded as sacred; and the tyranny of man over woman was to cease. 1 Corinthians 7:12. But to the rest "I have spoken in regard to the duties of the unmarried, and the question whether it is right and advisable that they should marry, 1 Corinthians 7:1-9. I have also uttered the command of the Lord in regard to those who are married, and the question whether separation and divorce were proper. Now in regard to "the rest of the person's and cases" referred to, I will deliver my opinion." "The rest," or remainder, here referred to, relates particularly to the cases in which one party was a Christian and the other not. In the previous verses he had delivered the solemn, explicit law of Christ, that DIVORCE was to take place on neither side, and in no instance, except agreeably to the law of Christ; Matthew 5:32. That was settled by divine authority. In the subsequent verses he discusses a different question; whether a "voluntary separation" was not advisable and proper when the one party was a Christian and the other not. The word "rest" refers to these instances, and the questions which would arise under this inquiry.
Not the Lord See the note at 1 Corinthians 7:6. "I do not claim, in
this advice, to be under the influence of inspiration; I have no express
on the subject from the Lord; but I deliver my opinion as a servant of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:40), and as having a right to offer advice, even when I have no express command from God, to a church which I have founded, and which has consulted me on the subject." This was a case in which both he and they were to follow the principles of Christian prudence and propriety, when there was no express commandment. Many such cases may occur. But few, perhaps none, can occur, in which some Christian principle shall not be found, that will be sufficient to direct the anxious inquirer after truth and duty.
If any brother Any Christian, that believeth not That is not a Christian;
one who is a pagan. And if she be pleased If it seems best to her; if she
consents; approves of
living together still. There might be many cases where the wife or the husband, that was not a Christian, would be so opposed to Christianity, and so violent in their opposition, that they would not be willing to live with a Christian. When this was the case, the Christian husband or wife could not prevent the separation. When this was not the case, they were not to seek a separation themselves.
To dwell with him To remain in connection with him as his wife, though they differed on the subject of religion. Let him not put her away Though she is a pagan, though opposed to his religion, yet the marriage vow is sacred and inviolable. It is not to be sundered by any change which can take place in the opinions of either party. It is evident that if a man were at liberty to dissolve the marriage tie, or to discard his wife when his own opinions were changed on the subject of religion, that it would at once destroy all the sacredness of the marriage union, and render it a nullity. Even, herefore, when there is a difference of opinion on the vital subject of religion, the tie is not dissolved; but the only effect of religion should be, to make the converted husband or wife more tender, kind, affectionate, and faithful than they were before; and all the more so as their partners are without the hopes of the gospel, and as they may be won to love the Saviour, 1 Corinthians 7:16.
1 Corinthians 7:13. Let her not leave him. A change of phraseology from
the last verse, to suit the circumstances. The wife did not have power
to "put away" the husband, and expel him from his own home; but she might
think it her duty to be separated from him. The apostle counsels her not
to do this; and this advice should still be followed. She should still
love her husband and seek his welfare; she should be still a kind, affectionate,
and faithful wife; and all the more so that she may show him the excellence
of religion, and win him to love it. She should even bear much, and bear
it long; nor should she leave him unless her life is rendered miserable,
or in danger; or unless he wholly neglects to make provision for her, and
leaves her to suffering, to want, and to tears. In such a case no precept
of religion forbids her to return to her father's house, or to seek a place
of safety and of comfort. But even then it is not to be a separation on
account of a difference of religious sentiment, but for brutal treatment.
Even then the marriage tie is not dissolved, and neither party is at liberty
to marry again.
Christian Counselor's Commentary
by Jay E. Adams; pg 50; 1 Corinthians 7:15
"May the believing partner instigate the divorce? It would seem so. The Greek of verse 15 reads, literally, 'if the unbeliever is separarating,' that is, if he is in the process of breaking up the marriage. Certainly it would refer to actions (or lack of actions) on his part that would indicate he no longer wishes to be married and probably also pertains to a failure to assume the obligations of marriage. According to Exodus 21:10, minimal requirements for a marriage on the husband's part are food, clothing (or shelter) and sexual relations. When these are not provided by neglect or refusal, the marriage my be terminated by the other party. At any rate, the overarching principle is that failure on the part of a marriage partner to maintain the semblance of a home, in such a way that it is constantly upset by such failure, provides opportunity for divorce, leading to 'peace' for the Christian partner."
[compiler's note: ]
The wife's minimal requirements are...
Old Testament Numbers 5:19 sexual fidelity
New Testament additions are...
1 Corinthians 7 establishes that the wife's duty is to give her body to her husband.
Ephesians 5:22 among many others i.e. 1 Peter 3, reestabishes-Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
Therefore it is rightly concluded that the partner failing has already divorced and the legal filing is not the actual divorce but the official recognition that divorce exists.
various excerpts from Jay Adams' Marriage, Divorce and ReMarriage, and The Christian Counselor's Commentary 1 Corinthians 7:15 and my recall of our conversations...[ I do Not speak for nor imply I represent Dr. Adams' thoughts or our conversations].
1 Corinthians 7:13-16 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. 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?
There were these major points made:
1. The Elders of a Biblical Church are to hear evidence, weigh the facts, and pronounce their judgments at each step of the discipline process.
2. "Pleased to dwell" means the unbelieving spouse must at least keep the minimum duties as a spouse. Failure to keep their duties/responsibilities means the unbelieving spouse "wants to depart"...so the believing spouse is required to "let them depart".
Within marriage there are obligations. The great principal in
verses 1 Corinthians 7: 3 and 4 is critical to all marriage counseling.
Sexual relations are an equal obligation of both parties (v. 3). But in
fulfilling the obligation one do so lovingly. Love is giving; lust is demanding
something for one's self. Neither marriage partner has authority over his
own body; the other person does (v. 4). That means one must not seek his
or her own sexual satisfaction, but the satisfaction of one's partner.
In a variety of ways, this important principle solves problems. One party says, "I don't get any pleasure out of sexual relations." The answer? "Well, that shouldn't be your goal. It should be to satisfy your partner. And incidentally, that which gives the most pleasure, as a sort of reflex, is knowing you have done so." In verse 5, Paul observes that it is wrong to withhold sexual satisfaction from one another, except when both agree to it, briefly, in some emergency, to devote themselves to
prayer. But even then, at the end of the season of prayer they must come together quickly in sexual relations to avoid any temptation. Withholding sexual intercourse, for whatever other reasons, is sin.
found in Genesis 2:18:
It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper who approximates [or corresponds to] him. In other words, the reason for marriage is to solve the problem of loneliness. Marriage was established because Adam was alone, and that was not good. Companionship, therefore, is the essence of marriage. We shall see that the Bible explicitly speaks of marriage as The Covenant of Companionship.
God made most of us so that we would be lonely without an intimate companion with whom to live. God provided Eve not only (or even primarily) as Adam's helper (though help is also one dimension of companionship), but as his companion. He too, as all other husbands since (we shall see), is to provide companionship for her.
In the Bible marriage is described in terms of companionship. In Proverbs
2:17, for example, we are told that "the strange woman . forsakes the companion
of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God. "5 The word translated
companion in this verse has in it the idea of "one that is tamed" (it is
used in speaking of tame animals), or "one that has a close, intimate relationship
to another. " It is hard to establish a close relationship with a wild
animal, but one can be on close terms with a
domesticated (or tame) animal. The core meaning has to do with a close, intimate relationship. And that is exactly what marriage companionship is: the close, intimate. relationship of a husband and wife to one another. "Wild" attitudes or actions on the part of either destroy companionship; "tame" (warm, willing to be close) actions and attitudes foster it. Companionship, then (at least in part), involves closeness.
Now, the word here translated "companion" has as its kernel idea that of union or association. A companion, therefore, is one with whom one enters into a close union (or relationship). In putting the two terms together, we come to a full sense of the idea of companionship. A companion is one with whom you are intimately united in thoughts, goals, plans, efforts (and, in the case of marriage, in bodies).
The two passages, together, make it clear that for both the husband and for the wife, companionship is the ideal. In Proverbs, the husband is called the companion (showing that he too provides companionship for his wife); in Malachi, it is the wife who is so designated. For both, then, entrance into marriage should mean the desire to meet each other's need for companionship. Love, in marriage, focuses upon giving one's spouse the companionship he/she needs to eliminate loneliness.
Genesis 2:18, 24 tell us much. The word helpmeet, which has come into
the English language, is a hybrid-word. When a husband says, "Meet my helpmeet,
" he says two things. In 1611, when the King James Version of the Bible
was translated, verse 18 read, "I will make him a help meet for him. "
The words help and meet were written separately as two distinct terms.
Later, in popular parlance, there was an eliding of the two into one word.
In 1611, help meant exactly what our
present-day word helper means; meet meant appropriate to, corresponding to or approximating at every point. So, God says, I will make him a helper who is
appropriate to him. Meet, appropriate to, suitable for, etc., are all translations of a Hebrew word that has in it the notion of over against or approximating. We might appropriately speak of Eve as Adam's other half (not better half), which in the covenantal union of marriage makes a complete whole. This other half approximates Adam at every point.
As his counterpart, the woman completes or fills out the man's life, making him a larger person than he could have been alone, bringing into his frame of reference a new feminine dimension from which to view life that he could have known in no other way. Then, too, he also brings to his wife a masculine perspective that enlarges her life, making her a fuller, more complete person than she could have been apart from him. This marriage union by covenant solves the problem of loneliness not merely by filling a gap, but by overfilling it. More than mere presence is involved. The loneliness of mere masculinity or femininity is likewise met.
Helping, mentioned in the verse, is another aspect of companionship. The two are united as companions in effort (cf. the woman's orientation toward her husband's work in Prov. 31). Some of the richest joys of companionship stem from working side by side with one's spouse. Whatever one does, he needs an interested helper by his side. Ultimately, they work together for the Lord (this is the fundamental unifying factor in marriage-they marry "in the Lord") whatever the specific tasks at hand may be at any given point. There is someone with whom he (she) can talk things over, someone to counsel, someone to care; to share joys, perplexities, ideas, fears, sorrows and disappointments: a helper. A marriage companion is someone with whom one can let down his/her hair!
This fact comes out even more fully in Genesis 2:24, 25 where marriage is described as a cleaving (clinging or adhering) in which a man and his wife become "one flesh," and in which they were able to be naked in each other's presence without shame.
The phrase "one flesh" needs explanation since it is frequently misunderstood. It does not refer (primarily) to sexual union (though that is included in it). The words closely parallel our English compound word, everybody. When we say everybody we do not think of bodies only. Rather, we mean everyone, every person. Hebrew usage was similar: "all flesh," for instance, means everyone (everybody, every person: cf. Genesis. 6:17; 7:22; 8:21). When God speaks of destroying all flesh, He doesn't mean flesh in distinction from bones. What He means is "I shall destroy every person." When Joel (also quoted in Acts 2 by Peter at Pentecost) wrote of God pouring out His Spirit on "all flesh," again, what he had in mind was every sort of person (Jew, Gentile, old, young, male, female). So, here, in Genesis 2:24, to "become one flesh" means to become one person.
The marriage union is the closest, most intimate of all human relationships. Two persons may begin to think, act, feel as one. They are able to so interpenetrate one another's lives that they become one, a functioning unit. Paul, quoting this verse in Ephesians 5:28-31, says that the relationship is to be so intimate that whatever a man does (good or evil) for his wife, he also does for himself since the two have become one flesh (person).
Even in I Corinthians 6, where, at first, one might think of the use
of the verse as confirming the sexual aspect of marriage, a more careful
reading shows otherwise. Paul distinguishes three sorts of unions:
I . one body (v. 16)-sexual relation with a harlot=a close union
2. one flesh (v. 16)-the marriage union=a closer union
3. one spirit (v. 17)-union with Christ=the closest union It is not possible here to develop this important passage further.
God's revealed goal for a husband and wife is to become one in all areas of their relationship-intellectually, emotionally, physically. The Covenant of Companionship was designed to fill this need.
3. Should the unbelieving spouse wish to physically stay in the house but fail/neglect in these minimal responsibilities and duties is evidence of NOT truthfully wishing to stay-but in fact are demonstrating (actions/behaviors of empty words) they are in the process/act of departing, therefore physical presence and/or the failure to communicate by the unbelieving spouse wanting a divorce yet stubbornly act "unmarried" IS not only grounds for divorce, but the believing spouse who files for the divorce is Biblically sound-should the elders judge so. Beyond "may" divorce the believing spouse is required to divorce since it is a public declaration of the truth that the unbelieving spouse has already departed the marriage covenant and there is no peace in the relationship.
"May the believing partner instigate the divorce? It would seem
so. The Greek of verse 15 reads, literally, 'if the unbeliever is
separarating,' that is, if he is in the process of breaking up the
marriage. Certainly it would refer to actions (or lack of actions)
on his part that would indicate he no longer wishes to be married and probably
also pertains to a failure to assume the obligations of marriage.
According to Exodus 21:10, minimal requirements for a marriage on the husband's
part are food, clothing (or shelter) and sexual relations. When these
are not provided by neglect or refusal, the marriage may be terminated
by the other party. At any rate, the overarching principle is that failure on the part of a marriage partner to maintain the semblance of a home, in such a way that it is constantly upset by such failure, provides opportunity for divorce, leading to 'peace' for the Christian partner."
It is one thing to contemplate divorce with a believer (cf. chap. 7): there are resources (the Word and the Spirit) of which both parties may avail themselves, there is a mutually basic commitment to obey Christ and there is the process of church discipline that (in the last resort) may be activated if either one or the other (or both) refuses to deal with problems. There is, therefore, hope for that marriage and every reason for insisting upon reconciliation.
But here is an entirely different situation-a believer contemplating divorce with his/her unbelieving spouse. None of the resources mentioned above are available to the unbeliever except the third, and the third resource (church discipline) is not available to the believer. Thus, there cannot be the same insistence on reconciliation; the same sort of hope does not exist. And, indeed, we do not see Paul requiring it.
Rather than commanding the believer not to divorce his unsaved partner regardless of what happens, he requires something less: he (or she) must not divorce a partner who is willing to make a go of their marriage. Indeed, the believer is told to do all he/she can to hold the marriage together for the sake of the unbelieving partner (hoping he/she will come to know Christ through continued association with the believer') and for the sake of the children (who if taken out of the believer's care would be counted and treated as pagans-i.e., "unclean"4). But if, after all has been done by the believer to prevent it, the unbeliever does not agree to go on with the marriage, divorce is an acceptable alternative (v. 15).
Now, I have said all of this quickly and in a summary way, but let us go back over it again looking at several points more closely as we do.
In an earlier chapter, I have shown scripturally that, though permitted,
divorce is never desirable. All divorces stem from sin, though not all
divorces are sinful. Here too, in I Corinthians 7:12-16, divorce is not
the ideal. Even for a mixed marriage, the goal is to continue the marriage
if at all possible (what makes it not possible to do so I shall come to
presently). Paul marshals powerful arguments (mentioned above) to convince
believers that they must not divorces their unbelieving partners, if
their spouses wish to continue living with them. To these arguments he adds the flat statement that the believer must not divorce the unbeliever who consents to live with him. In accordance with the General principle in Romans 12:18, "if possible," the
To be "sanctified" by the believer (v. 14) means that the unbelieving partner is "set aside" to a "unique" position where he/she is exposed regularly to the gospel and the Holy Spirit's influences. It does not mean saved.
To be "holy" rather than "unclean" (v. 14) means that the child of a believer is "separated" from others by being placed under the care and discipline of God's church and is subject to many influences that others who are "unclean" (a word referring to Gentiles or pagans) are not. God's care and discipline of these little ones in the flock truly sets them aside from others who are not in this privileged position. The child is not said to be saved.
The word used in vv. 12, 13 is aphiemi. which means, "to send away, divorce, leave." Either of the two basic senses is applicable: the believer is to do nothing to break up the marriage, but everything to preserve it.
But, what if it isn't possible for the Christian (after doing all he/she can) to hold the marriage together? Suppose the unbeliever wants a divorce? Perhaps he says, "I didn't bargain for a wife like this when I married her. She won't lie for me any more, won't participate in any more wife-swapping parties, won't get drunk, reads her Bible . . . I've had it! I want out of this marriage!"'
Under circumstances where the unbeliever wants to get out of the marriage, Paul says, "let him separate" (v. 15). The clause (literally) reads, "if the unbeliever is separating [chorizo = to separate by divorce], let him separate [chorizo]. " The words "is separating" (or, possibly, "separates") show not only that the unbeliever has divorce in mind, but (at the very least) has taken the step of plainly declaring that he/she wants to dissolve the marriage. The words indicate that there is some movement in that direction. (Today, steps like seeing a lawyer,' etc., might also be included). The Berkeley version catches the idea in the words when it translates,
In case the unbeliever wants to separate, let there be separation.
Here, the idea is that if the unbeliever is expressly desirous of separating (by divorce), the believer must not try to hinder him. There is no limitation of this passage to divorce after desertion, although (clearly) desertion would be an act evidencing a strong desire to separate. It would plainly imply lack of consent over continuing the marriage (vv. 12, 13).
But not only on such grounds. Paul gives no reasons for the unbeliever's desire to break up the marriage. The Christian is not restricted to certain grounds only. The permissive imperative "let him depart" applies to any case in which the unbeliever no longer wishes (or "agrees") to "live with" the believer (cf. vv. 12, 13)-regardless of what that reason may be (so long as the believer has not provoked him/her to it instead of trying to hold the marriage together).
So then, the General principle seems clear enough: where there is no consent (agreement) by the unbeliever to continue the marriage (vv. 12, 13) but (on the contrary) there is a desire to dissolve it, the Christian must not stand in the way of the separation. Paul uses a permissive imperative: "let him separate. " This is a command; it is the one instance in which divorce is required.
There is in verse 15 both a description of the state of the believer after the divorce, and a reason appended to the command to "let him separate." Let us examine both.
1. The state in which the believer finds himself following such a divorce is defined: "Under these circumstances the brother or sister is not bound."
All the bonds of marriage have been removed. He is released entirely
from every marriage obligation, and is a totally free person. Nor is there
any obligation to be reconciled in marriage. 10 Paul expresses this
idea later on in verse 27b when he speaks about being "released from a
wife. " The word released is luo, "to loose," which in verse 27 is set
over against deo "to bind (which is used of being bound to a wife). The
word deo again appears in verse 39 with the same meaning."
However, in verse 15 the word translated "bound" is douloo, an even stronger term that means "to enslave. " The idea is that when the bonds of marriage are broken, the believer is released from his marriage obligations to the unbeliever and from the burden of trying to maintain a marriage that the unbeliever doesn't want. He is released from this slavery.
2. The reason appended to the command is: "God has called you to peace."
This important consideration has been overlooked by a number of commentators. We must not do so, since it reaches to the bottom of the problem that Paul has in view. God doesn't want any loose ends dangling about a Christian's marriage; He wants problems in marriage resolved. He wants peace. Either there is to be a marriage or there isn't; God will not settle for something in-between. That simply will not do. The matter must be set to rest one way or the other so that there will be peace.
Clearly, the believer could not remarry the unbelieving partner (unless he/she should become a Christian) since to do so would violate another biblical command to marry "only in the Lord" (v. 39). A believer must not marry an unbeliever, even if the unbeliever is a former spouse!
Too often Christians, on bad advice, have settled for the in-between. Let me describe it. Believing (wrongly) that she must remain married to her unbelieving husband, no matter what, a Christian woman holds on even when her husband wants to end their marriage. He, then, may begin running around with other women (if he hasn't been doing so already) and at length may even desert her. Yet, urged on by bad counsel, she will not agree to a divorce. He may stay away from home for six month periods at a time, occasionally showing up for a week or so. This upsets the kids and the life of the home (hopes are aroused and shattered). His wife may get pregnant (if married, she must agree to sex if he seeks it), and so it goes on and on. She is always hoping against hope, yet there is no evidence at all of a desire on his part to consent to a marriage. She may hang on for years; for life!
There is nothing peaceful about that! Everything is constantly being upset; nothing is settled. There is nothing but loose ends. God wants the matter to be concluded so that (in one way or the other) there will be peace-the resolution of the matter. This is an important principle.
Today's view of separation-rather-than-divorce is patently unbiblical because it violates this principle. It settles nothing, but keeps everything up in the air, and militates against true peace.12 This wicked substitute for the biblical solution (peace by reconciliation or by divorce) fights against true peace. All is held in limbo. It deceives by its temporary sense of relief, (often mistaken for peace). But nothing is settled (made truly peaceful) by it.
Christians frequently have resorted to separation rather than divorce thinking it to be the lesser of two evils. But, because it is a human substitute for the biblical options, separation-instead-of-divorce does more harm than good. Counselors will tell you that in most instances where separation has occurred, it is much harder to effect a reconciliation than when it has not. It isn't easy to bring people together again when you have encouraged (or permitted) them to separate; in separation not only do they experience a false sense of peace, but they learn not to face and deal with problems in order to solve them. God wants resolution of difficulties, not the avoidance of them.
Modern separation is often described as a "cooling off period. " There is an initial release of tension that gives a temporary false sense of peace, and that makes the parties reluctant to come together again. Unless one has in mind a couple of hours or (at most) a couple of days for cooling off in order to face more coolly and resolve difficulties, he is talking about something utterly unbiblical.
So, we have seen that there is only one case in which, when all else has failed, a believer is required to separate by divorce from his unbelieving spouse. We must turn now to the one instance when a believer may separate by divorce from another believer. But, unlike this present instance, he is never required to do so.
The problem remains, however, as to what must be done when two professing Christians fail to keep their marriage together and reconciliation does not take place. Let us say that a husband who is a professing Christian refuses to be reconciled to his wife. If she continues to insist upon reconciliation (according to Matthew 18), but fails in her attempts at private confrontation, she must take one or two others from the church and confront her husband. Suppose she does and that he also refuses to hear them. In that case she is required to submit the problem officially to the church, which ultimately may be forced, by his adamant refusal to be reconciled, to excommunicate him for contumacy. Excommunication, Christ says, changes his status to that of a heathen and a publican, i.e., someone outside of the church (Matthew 18:17). Now he must be treated "as a heathen and a publican. "15 That means, for instance, that after reasonable attempts to reconcile him to the church and to his wife, he may be taken to court (I Corinthians 6:1-8 forbids brethren to go to law against one another) to sue for a divorce (only, of course, if the excommunicated one deserts his partner).
By following the reconciliation dynamic, hopefully there will be reconciliation in most cases. Whenever the principles of biblical reconciliation are followed faithfully, discipline rarely reaches the highest level of excommunication. Most marriages not only can be saved, but by proper help may be changed radically for good. But in those few cases where reconciliation is refused, the believer who seeks it is not left in a state of limbo. He has a course of action to pursue, and if it leads to excommunication and desertion he is no longer obligated to remain married indefinitely. This is true only if the believer's marriage partner during the whole process of discipline has failed to demonstrate evidence of repentance and faith, if that partner has been excommunicated, and if he (or she) wishes to dissolve the marriage. Continued rejection of the help and authority of Christ and His church finally leads to excommunication.
An excommunicated party who continues to be unrepentant must be looked
upon and treated as a heathen and publican. He shows no signs of a work
of grace. When he has been put outside of the church and still evidences
no signs of salvation, the believing partner may deal with him as with
an unbeliever. This means that if he leaves the believer under those circumstances,
the latter is no longer under "bondage." The word in I Corinthians 7:21ff.
governing the relationship of a believer to an unbelieving marriage partner
then comes into effect. By plugging in the reconciliation/discipline dynamic
to the marriage-divorce-remarriage problem, the solution to ninety-nine
percent of these cases that heretofore may have seemed unsolvable immediately
may be seen. Most parties hopefully will come to reconciliation, but those
who will not repent and be reconciled should be disciplined. Either way,
matters are not left at loose ends.