Single? Divorced? Married? Widowed? – What Does The Bible Teach About Each?
Paul, the handpicked Apostle of Jesus, addressed the concerns that the church at Corinth had concerning staying single or getting married.
1 Corinthians 7 – Paul said, in verse 1-“Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.” It is Paul’s opinion that it is good for a man not to get married if he (or she) can handle being single. One can serve the lord better if they can concentrate on serving the Lord, rather than serving the Lord and diluting that service with a spouse and probably children. Family life causes a person to devote far more time to other things than to God, so in that context, Paul prefers to stay single because he chose to serve the Lord totally, fully – completely.
2 ”But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.”
Paul knew of the lust that man and woman had for the opposite sex (and in this church and elsewhere, and that there were homosexuals as well), so he told the church at Corinth that they would be better off being married, rather than to have lust in their hearts and minds toward another.
To be married, in this context, was better than committing fornication…a sin. Paul also wrote the Book of Hebrews. In it, we discover this: “Hebrews 13:4 –“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
Jesus told all of us, in Matthew 5:28, "but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Therefore, these Christians were guilty of fornication if single and adultery if married, if they even thought about having sexual relations with another. Therefore, ALL Christians are guilty of either fornication or adultery, and God will judge both.
Either is sin. God will punish sin...including fornication and adultery. If we are human, we will have sexual thoughts. God, however, forgives ALL sins...past, present and future, for all who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior.
The Christians in the church at Corinth were having sexual relationships outside of marriage. Paul recognized that this is sin, the sin of fornication, and he realized that to prevent the sin of fornication,the way these Christians would be able to satisfy their "luistful desires", which are natural, is to get lawfully married.
Paul is stating that the marriage bed cannot be defiled.
Marriage makes sex undefiled. To understand “defiled”, we need to simply go to the first use of the word found in Genesis 34:2 –“When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her.” Here, we discover that the word “defiled” is to be sexually violated. Whether both parties are willing or not, God views sex outside of marriage as sin in the form of sexual immorality, fornication, adultery…violated…defiled.
Paul told us in Hebrews 13:4 that when two people are lawfully married, sex is not sinful. If they are having sex outside of marriage, it is considered adulterous if with another and you are the married one, or fornication if you engage in illicit sex. Paul further states that, outside of marriage, God will judge you for it. Illicit sex carries with it consequences. It may be in the form of contracting disease that can lead to physical problems or death, or the consequence may end up in broken homes.
3-“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” Paul is telling the husband and his wife that they have “marital duties” to each other. We read further for clarification as to what those duties are.
4-"The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Clearly, Paul is telling the wives in the church at Corinth…intending to mean all wives everywhere and in every generation to come, that they should not withhold sex from their husbands…their body belongs to him as well as to her. The same thing holds true for the husband. When the wife desires to have sexual intercourse for the pleasure it produces, he should not withhold that desire from her. Again, the marriage bed is not defiled, so sex between this couple is not sinful in any way, shape or manner. He tells the married couples “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a specific time period.” This may suggest that either party can opt out for a day…maybe more, depending on their emotional or physical state at the time. A man may be exhausted. A woman may be having her period, or may be exhausted from caring for family activities all day. That said, both should communicate to each other the reason they wish to not have sex for that time of urge. When honest communication is developed, doubts, anger, rejection and other emotional harm is not committed. When someone simply says, “No…I have a headache”, it could mean a host of wrong interpretations goes out to the other party. “Does she not love me anymore?”, is one thought that the man might have without communication as to the real reason why his wife does not want to have sex at that time.
Paul then suggests that this time – maybe a day or a week, depending on the issue for not having sex, that the couple spends time in prayer. He does not suggest why the prayer time, but one can guess that it could be twofold: First, when the couple goes to God in prayer, they will pray with each other and for each other. This keeps their bond together. Secondly, they stay in fellowship (a close relationship) with God.
When this time has passed, Paul tells the married couples to reinstate their love through sexual intercourse once again. By doing this, the couple will keep Satan out of their marriage. Satan’s battlefield with Christians is the mind of individuals. If he can plant seeds of doubts as to why sex is withheld, without honest communication – and without having this prayer time together (and this prayer time should be daily, by the way), then he can disrupt or cause division in the marriage. This division can lead one party to start looking for love in all the wrong places!
6 “I say this as a concession, not as a command.” In verse 7, Paul is telling the couples that the above are his suggestions, and not a commandment of God.
7 ”I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that”. Paul, a single man who desires to serve God 100% of the time, wishes that everyone else could do the same because serving God is the most important thing to him. He realizes, however, that his gift of full-time service and ministry is not necessarily the same gift that others get from God. Some will want to have children and raise a family. Children are also a gift from God. Parents learn from God’s Word…the Bible, how to be a parent, and they learn from raising children how they can serve God better. When our children come to us wanting to be loved and nurtured, it is the same as when God wants us (his children) to come to him and be loved and nurtured. If children become disobedient, some correction or chastisement done in love, and for instructional purposes, is metered out. This reflects how God tells us that he will chastise us when we drift away from His precepts and instructions, and He demonstrates to us – as we do to our children, that there are always consequences for our actions – good and bad.
8 ”Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9-But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. “
If one is unmarried…like him, or they are widowed or divorced (single, in other words), it is good for them to serve the Lord exclusively as he does.
Paul has come to know Christ personally, through revelation and his faith, and he has learned that Jesus is all he needs as a companion for the rest of his life. His desire was to serve God all the day long through his ministry. His family was all of those with whom he came into contact with in the ministry. His churches were his family, his bride…his brothers, sisters; his father and mother.
On the other hand, Paul remembers that others have a passion to be with the opposite sex, and they need companionship with people…and they have the desire to make love with another human being.
In this case, they should marry…”because it is better for them to marry someone where the marriage bed is not defiled, than to have these urges of sexual fulfillment outside of marriage.
By having a spouse and "soul-mate" – a lifelong companion, it will satisfy their sexual human desires, and they will be able to help each other througout life by being companions. "It is not good for man to be alone", says God. He knows that humankind needs companionship and love.
To the Already Married:
10 ”To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.” In this instance, Paul tells of a commandment of God, and it is not a suggestion.
This statement by Paul tells married couples not to separate. We will dwell on separation and divorce later.
If they do decide to separate, they must remain separated…unless they decide to reconcile and stay married. Separated…does not mean divorced. Paul is telling us (and the church at Corinth) that the couple must remain separated, but neither should get a divorce…except for cause, which Jesus brings up elsewhere.
At first, Paul uses the word “separation”. He then uses the word “divorce”. “A husband must not divorce his wife.” That is the commandment of God. One must then ask, what about divorced people? Can Christians get a divorce – scripturally? The answer is yes, but we shall learn more before we dwell at length on that brief answer. We will address that after we cover Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth.
12 ”To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any (Christian) brother has a wife who is NOT A BELIEVER and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.”
Paul, from his own heart, tells the husband not to file a “Writ of Divorcement” if his wife is willing to live with him. If she is not willing to live with him, Paul saying it IS OKAY TO FILE A Writ of Divorcement. We will discuss this later. His point is that if an unsaved (non-believer) wishes to live with a saved man in marriage, the man must agree not to divorce her, although the Old Testament Laws of Moses allowed this, and in fact, it was commanded of the Israelite men (Ezra 10) to divorce their non-believing, pagan wives – and their children.
Paul believes, and he is right, that an UNBELIEVING SPOUSE may come to salvation through the believing spouse.
13 ”And if a woman has a husband who is NOT A BELIEVER and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.”
Here, the reverse takes place. If the husband is not a Christian, and is still willing to live with his believing wife, she must not divorce him either.
Paul tells us next why this unbeliever who is willing to stay with his Christian wife is good.
14 ”For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”
Because the above needs further clarification, I am going to insert the AMPLIFIED Bible version here:
14 ”For the unbelieving husband is set apart (separated, withdrawn from heathen contamination, and affiliated with the Christian people) by union with his consecrated (set-apart) wife, and the unbelieving wife is set apart and separated through union with her consecrated husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean (unblessed heathen, outside the Christian covenant), but as it is they are prepared for God [pure and clean].”
This interpretation seems to clear up the mystery of the words from other versions of the Bible. Children are an heritage of the Lord. When a marriage (covenant) is consummated, the man and women, in God’s eyes, becomes “one flesh”…one entity. “But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female. 7 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." God instituted marriage.
That said, many men in the Old Testament have "married" several women, and they had "concubines" as well. Solomon, a man after God's own heart and one whom God blessed with wisdom and riches, had several wives and concubines numbering over seven hundred!
Jesus Himself said those words in Mark 10. Jesus tells us that when God unites two people in holy matrimony (what God Himself joins together), they become considered as one flesh – one entity, and man should then not separate or divorce.
The question then becomes, “Did God put your marriage together –or did you put it together?” If God joined you and your spouse together, you are considered as “one flesh” - if God has sanctioned the marriage. Did God put the marriage together – or did you impregnate your girlfriend and decide to get married? One would have to believe that man put this marriage together, and God was neither sought after through prayer to consolidate this union, nor can we blame Him for a less than stellar outcome of it should it fail.
Was it truly a holy marriage? Did you and your spouse go before the Almighty and ask Him for His blessing on the marriage…or did you just “do it”?
This is where we break here, but we will revisit this later.
I am of the persuasion, however, that if people make a vow to each other, and to God in front of a preacher, it may be that you two have become “one flesh”, but it was united by man, and not of God.
Numbers 30:2 tells us that we had better keep a vow made unto God. “If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.”
Paul, however, is speaking of an unbeliever being married to a believer, and it is okay. Neither should divorce their spouse If one of the couple is a Christian, and the other a non-believer. Both parties are treated as though they are sanctified or clean before the Lord.
The unbeliever is still not a Christian - which is to say a “born again believer” - saved from the punishment of rejecting what Christ did on the cross, and not caring that He paid for their sins.
But, the unbeliever, while married to the believer, is still viewed as clean before the Lord because he/she is married to a believer, and God sees them as one entity while they are in this state of matrimony.
From this, we can assume that God would not have sanctioned this marriage because He wants believers to marry believers (“Do not be unequally yoked together”), but they are still considered in God’s eyes as being “one flesh”. Paul believes that the unbeliever might become a believer at some point int he marriage. But, if the unbeliever leaves the marriage, it is okay that the marriage contract is broken.
God tells us not to be “unequally yoked together” in the first place. That is to say that a believer should not marry an unbeliever because it will have consequences, and create multiple problems throughout the marriage…unless the unbeliever, through the testimony of the believer, is converted at some point in their life.
2 Corinthians 6:14 ”Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Satan? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. 17 Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. 18 I will be Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
It is clear that God does NOT want a believer to marry a non-believer. When you choose to marry an unbeliever (an infidel), God has not put the marriage together. In fact, in Ezra 10:10, God instructed the believers…the Israelite men, to give their heathen wives and their children a “Writ of Divorcement”, and to send them back to their pagan lands. The Writ of Divorcement given to the unbelievers was so they could be free to remarry in their own land. Ezra 10:10 – “Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, You have been unfaithful; you have married (unbelieving) foreign women, adding to Israel's guilt. 11 Now make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”
Back to 1 Corinthians 7:15. Paul says, ”But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman IS NOT BOUND in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”
This suggests that if one is married to an unbeliever…as in the Old Testament Ezra illustration, THE TWO ARE NOT BOUND BY THE MARRIAGE.
Mosaic Law dictated that a man could separate or “put away” his wife if she was a non-believer. Paul wanted to give his opinion on this Law, and did so here in 1 Corinthians. Two unbelievers in a marriage is not a marriage that God put together…unless the two made a vow to each other and to God. Then, they are “one flesh”.
What about two Christians who marry…then divorce? We will get to that.
Verse 16 –Paul goes on to ask, ”How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”
Paul is suggesting that a saved (born again believer) cannot know that their spouse will be saved (converted), so this is why they should not get married in the first place. It’s playing Christian “Russian roulette”.
17 ”Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.” For further clarification of Paul’s’ meaning of verse 17, we shall add the verse taken from The Message version of the Bible: 17 ”And don't be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don't think I'm being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches.”
Paul is telling us (the churches everywhere) that if you are single, and that is God’s calling on your life…stay single. If you have chosen to be married, don’t marry an unbeliever. If you are two believers and want to marry, and have sought God’s blessing on it, then marry. Your marital status has no bearing with God. It does not define who you are with God, as long as you are serving Him and have the right relationship with Him.
18 ”Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. 20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.”
Here, we revisit the Message version of the Bible for clarification. “Were you Jewish at the time God called you? Don't try to remove the evidence. Were you non-Jewish at the time of your call? Don't become a Jew. Being Jewish isn't the point. The really important thing is obeying God's call, following his commands”.
We can clearly see that Paul is instructing us that our marital status is of no consequence to God. What is important is that we obey God’s words found in the entire Bible. God has called each of us for a specific plan and purpose for our lives. Many of us do things our way…then cry out to God to get us back on track. We should learn to do things God’s way…including taking on a spouse.
Did we bring God into our marriage by asking Him to bless it, or did we simply lust after our partner or marry them for some other emotional reason or need? If we did anything other than search out a mate while constantly seeking God’s blessing on it, we united ourselves in an unholy matrimony. ..unless we vowed a vow to God. Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 reads, “If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” I’d say that God takes seriously a vow made to Him.
If you did not vow a vow before a preacher, Rabbi, Clergy, and God, then, although it cannot be a marriage union sanctioned by God, it still does not give anyone an excuse to separate or divorce. There are consequences for getting married to the wrong person for the wrong reasons without inviting God into the quest for marriage. The consequences are life-long consequences…not a punishment, but a consequence. With children involved, it becomes a consequence passed down to them, and they did not sign up for your failure to seek God out in your marriage.
21 ”Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.”
The clarification of The Message version of the Bible states it clearer: “Stay where you were when God called your name. Were you a slave? Slavery is no roadblock to obeying and believing. I don't mean you're stuck and can't leave. If you have a chance at freedom, go ahead and take it. I'm simply trying to point out that under your new Master you're going to experience a marvelous freedom you would never have dreamed of. On the other hand, if you were free when Christ called you, you'll experience a delightful "enslavement to God" you would never have dreamed of.”
If you have been a Christian for any length of time, I think you get the point of Paul’s message.
We are free of sin because Jesus has taken all of our sin upon Himself on the cross, and he exchanged it for his righteousness. When we call upon His name, we become righteous, and all of our sins are “cast into the sea to be remembered no more against us.” Micah 7:19. In that case, God frees us. When we become Christians, we then become willing to be a slave to Christ…willing to follow His instructions….willing to develop a relationship with Him….a very close relationship…regardless of our marital status when we sought Him out, and He saved us.
25 ”Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.” Paul says virgins are to stay virgins…stay unmarried if you can and wish to serve the Lord full time…as he has chosen to.
27 ”Are you married? Do not seek a divorce.”
Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28But if you (the unmarried) do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” Paul states that we should never file for a divorce. Jesus clarifies that there are grounds for filing a Writ of Divorcement, and we will get to that concerning Christian married couples later.
Why is it not a sin to marry or remarry? Paul just got finished telling the folks at Corinth that they are no longer regarded as sinners in the eyes of God once they are “saved”. You are free from the punishment of sin. You become a saved person who has inherited the righteousness of Christ, yet you will still sin. Once saved, you are not a “sinner condemned by the law”.
I must continue with this dialogue because it is true that divorced people are not condemned for their sins of the past, nor the present, nor the future. Paul established this in Romans 8:1-4 - ”There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Before you have to guess what Paul just said, let’s clarify it in English using the NIV version of the Bible.
This is so important to grasp. In The Message, it reads as follows - Romans 8:1- ”Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” Paul, the same apostle who penned Corinthians, penned Romans. Let’s break it down by verse.
1. Whoever has accepted Christ and vice-versa, they are not condemned under the law. All sin…past, present and future is forgiven them. All sin. Bad marriages, lust, lying, murder, adultery, fornication, stealing….all sin is forgiven, and this is the freedom in Christ that Paul has addressed earlier. Lest you say to yourself, “Goodie, I can sin all I want, and I am forgiven”, let’s read what else Paul said about that right here and now. Romans 6:1-2 – “1 ”What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” The clear answer is NO…we should not continue sinning as a saved person. When we do, there will be no punishment for it, but there will be consequences. The consequence of divorce is monumental…it causes lots of problems for you, your ex, the extended families of both, the children…the friends of both sides of a divorce, and bitterness springs up between families, and a host of other things happen as the consequences of divorce. But, know this: You are forgiven. You are free. If you remarry as a non-virgin, it is not sin…so says Paul, the anointed apostle of Christ.
29 ”What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.”
The Message version of the Bible seems to have the best clarification of the above: “I do want to point out, friends that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don't complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, and joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.”
Paul is telling us to treat our marital status as it is.
Give it the time and energy required, but because the world is going to come to an end at some point, keep your eyes upon Jesus first and foremost. Deal with Him first, and give the other the time it needs as the world and daily problems encompass you. “Husbands love your wives. Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands”…and this is your reasonable service to each other and to the Lord. While single or married, focus on the teachings of Christ to improve your life, and to do the will of the Father, and that is to make sure that all of the people you know hear the gospel message. “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and be saved.”
Paul continues his letter to us and those at the church of Corinth. 32 ”I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord.” If you are single (divorced, single or widowed), it is better that you not be bogged down with the concerns of married life. It is better to spend your waking moments doing the will of God, and serving Him.
33 ”But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34and his interests are divided.”
If you are a married man, your concerns are now divided between serving God and taking care of your family. The word “husband” is a derivative of husbandry. This is to say that husband means caretaker of a family. Animal husbandry is a caretaker of animals. Caretakers of a vineyard is called crop husbandry.
Verse 34 continues…”An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
This exhortation in 1 Corinthians is Paul’s belief that being single affords one the ability to give their undivided attention to the Lord. In his observation, it is better to serve the Lord with undivided attention that to restrict that service by getting married. He stated that it is his opinion, and not the law of God to be single.
36 ”If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.”
If a man starts getting “excited” while dating a virgin, and begins to act improperly toward her by making sexual advances or thinking about enjoying the pleasures of sex with her, he needs to marry – then do as his desires lead him, and then it will not be considered as a sin of fornication. Outside of getting married, it is fornication…a sin. If he is saved, it is still a sin, and will have consequences. The consequence, first and foremost, is that he will be out of the will of God…estranged from God. He will be putting the sin of fornication ahead of God.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before you.” Another consequence of fornication can be the herpes virus…aids…poor health or even death, so do it right….get married. Seek God out in prayer over your marriage plans. Do things His way. If you made a mistake and did it your way first, do it His way now.
37 ”But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing.” If the man brings his bodily compulsions under subjection and control, and has made up his mind not to marry the virgin, he chooses the right way to serve God with all of his being. He will be a celibate servant of God – probably in full-time ministry somewhere.
38 ”So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.” If, however, this same man chooses to marry a virgin, it is fine with God. If he chooses to stay single and not marry and serve God…all the better, in Paul’s view.
39 ”A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” Paul tells us that as long as a spouse lives, the couple should stay together. If one dies, the other is free, under the Law, to re-marry…but this spouse MUST also be saved – born-again…a believer. If not, the marriage will have consequences and both will likely end up miserable, and surely it will not be a marriage put together by God. 40In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is (single and serving God fully and totally, not dividing her time between God and a husband and subsequent family)—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.”
The Message gives deeper meaning to Paul’s writing: “The wife must stay with her husband as long as he lives. If he dies, she is free to marry anyone she chooses. She will, of course, want to marry a believer and have the blessing of the Master. By now you know that I think she'll be better off staying single. The Master, in my opinion, thinks so, too.”
And that concludes what the apostle Paul has written to the churches concerning single vs married lives.
Now, concerning Christians who divorce. Can or should they become married again?
This is my opinion now, and not that of Paul, the Apostle, and my credentials pale in comparison to his.
That said, Here is what a “Writ of Divorcement” is and how it came about.
The religious leaders of Israel called Pharisees, tested Jesus with this question: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” This is the question of the ages since the New Testament was written.
They asked the question because it was their practice to marry a woman, then, if she wasn’t their “cup of tea” for any reason whatsoever, they would separate from her…and go and marry another woman. Sometimes, they would have several wives – meaning they may have had four wives; let’s say, but they discarded three of them in favor of a newer model. They would Separate from their wives, which is also exchanged with “put away” or “to set loose” the woman. They separated, but failed to give them a “Writ of Divorcement”. This separation or “putting away” without a legal Divorce Decree was permitted until Moses came on the scene. Then, Laws were adopted to rectify this wrong.
Moses told them that they must allow their separated wives the option to remarry another, but not having a Writ of Divorcement prevented this from happening, so these separated wives were not free to marry…but the male was.
Jesus addressed the issue head-on. “Mark 10”3 - "What did Moses command you?" Jesus replied. 4 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."
Jesus answered them saying, 5"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female. 7'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Once Jesus went back into the home where He was staying, and His apostles were there, they wanted further clarification about divorce.
10 - "When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this” - Mark 10:10.
To interpret correctly what Jesus said, I refer to the King James Version (KJV) as this is the literal translation from Greek and Hebrew. Other versions now use the word “divorce” instead of the original words “put away”. This will be a key to scriptural interpretation for us to go forward.
11And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.”
If one substitutes the actual words that Jesus used - “put away” with the words other Bible versions have used – which is the man-made word “divorce”, the entire meaning is lost and one could only conclude that giving a “Writ of Divorcement” is a Biblical taboo and it causes the man to force his wife into an adulterous situation should she remarry, and it cause the man to become an adulterer as well…even if he decides to remarry.
So, we need to scrutinize with clarity these words that Jesus specifically used. If you put away your wife, and you marry another, you and she are adulterers…except for specific other causes spoken of later.
If this is true, that putting away (separating) or divorcing a spouse and remarrying is forcing opposing spouses into adultery, and adultery is certainly a sin, know this: As a Christian, you are forgiven for all sins, and you are not condemned by Christ for any sin.
Becoming an “adulterer” for life may leave you in a state of mind that will be detrimental to your service to the Lord. You may feel that you will always be in slavery to the notion that you are a horrible adulterer. How can you then serve Christ in the future if you are labeling yourself an “ADULTERER?”
Your sin-guilt will not allow you to ever forgive yourself for your sins. You are never going to be FREE, yet Christ told us to be saved is to be free indeed. If Jesus died on the cross for your sins and mine, and he tells us that He paid the price for all of your sins…all of them, and He gave us His righteousness and permission to speak directly to His Father, God….then either He told us the truth, or He lied to us.Can Jesus lie?
Can Satan deceive us? So, can Satan plant the seeds of deceit in your mind and separate you from God’s love? Yep. But, our sins are forgiven. So, what happens if we remarry? All is well, and we can continue to serve the Lord because He paid for our sins on that horrible cross. You are not a horrible, life-long sinning adulterer….you are forever forgiven of all your sins, and they shall be “remembered no more against you.”
Jesus was pretty clear on the marriage issue. If you marry, stay married. Except for one spouse committing fornication with another person, you can stay married, try to work out forgiveness, or get a divorce. According to scripture, the married person who does not commit the sin of “pornea” – sexual immorality – fornication…with another is free to remarry.
The “guilty party” is not supposed to remarry. If he does, he is committing adultery with his new wife…or is he?
Is the adultery forgiven? Yes. Is there a consequence if a married Christian man marries another after he has committed fornication with that someone else - and his first wife was granted a divorce? Yes, it is forgiven if repented of.
This is the rule promoted by Jesus in the New Testament. That said, could God ever use a Christian who is divorced, and who gets married – knowing he is considered to be committing adultery…even though the sin of adultery is forgiven? Of course, but let’s continue.
One has to believe that God forgives sin that is repented…1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” If the sin is forgiven…to be remembered no more against the one who committed the sin, then God will use that Christian in His service, but there will be consequences of that divorce. As stated earlier, families on both sides will e affected. Tensions will be there. Disdain will be there. These are sins of unforgiveness, but not everyone’s family and extended families are all born-again believers…so you will suffer those consequences and many more.
Some men who are divorced Christians, like Dr. Charles Stanley, stayed single and God is still blessing their ministry. He never remarried.
But, let’s go back and revisit Matthew 19 for a moment…perhaps we missed something? Matthew 19:7 –“They (The Pharisees – Jewish lawyers) say unto Jesus, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? Please note that there were two things in play here…a “putting away” and a “Writing of Divorcement”.
“To “put away” comes from the Greek word “apoluo”. Apoluo means “send away” or to “let loose”. In Matt. 15: 32, Jesus said regarding the multitude, "I will not send them away –“apoluo”.
What happened in the case of the Jewish Laws, men were summarily dismissing…”putting away” or “sending away” or “Letting loose” their wives for any cause whatsoever. If they did not like their cooking….they put them away….separated from. They did not give them a “Writ of Divorcement.”
Then, these same men married another woman. If they did not like them, they separated from them, but did not give them a Writ of Divorcement, which would have lawfully freed them to marry another.
So, it would make sense that if they separated from their wives, but did not give them a lawful Writ of Divorcement, they were still married.
If a married man is separated, but not divorced, and “shacks up” with another woman, he is, in fact, an adulterer. If he marries the “shack up”, he’s still an adulterer, and in our current society in the United States, he is a also a bigamist. This is illegal.
Moses was wise to what was going on, and because of “the hardness of men’s hearts”…especially toward wives they no longer wanted, he decided it was time to rectify this – using civil laws to do it right. The civil laws enacted – Mosaic Laws – addressed this subject by dividing the dissolution of marriage into two parts – SEPARATION and DIVORCE.
Separation was an agreement to live apart between two married people. Divorce would be the legal remedy for lawful dissolution of the marriage…freeing both parties from the “one flesh” marriage.
Today, the civil laws are much the same. One must first be separated for a period of time…generally three months. This is to give both parties time to reflect…to really make sure they cannot live with each other any longer, or to reconcile. The second stage of this civil law is for the judge then to issue a “Writ of Divorcement” or “Certificate of Divorce”
The Bible says we must “Submit ourselves to every ordinance of man" 1 Pet. 2: 13. This has not changed. In today’s system of laws, at least in the United States, civil laws allow for separation -(apoluo - putting away) and the final dissolution of a marriage – Writ of Divorcement - Divorce.
Moses declared that the Jewish men of his day would also be allowed to put away or separate, but they could not remarry until they gave a Writ of Divorcement so as to lawfully free both parties to marry.
Now let’s put Matthew 19 into context: - 3 ” Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to “put away” or separate from his wife for any and every reason?"
You must use the KJV to read the words “put away” – or “apoulo – or separate. Other versions use the word divorce…this is why I use the KJV for truth of a meaning first. This question demonstrates that men would simply put away or separate from their wives…but not give them a Writ of Divorcement.
4 ”And Jesus answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Jesus wants to make sure that These Jewish lawyers knew that when God joins a male and female together in holy matrimony, marriage…done through a civil law using a “Certificate of Marriage”, they become as one. If they are as one, they can decide to separate, but legally, they are one flesh until they legally become “two fleshes” again…using the opposite of a Certificate of Marriage…the Certificate of Divorce. Jesus further stipulates that when God joins two together in holy matrimony, and vows to God are exchanged, He does not want man to pull the one into two parts again.
7 ”The Pharisees said to Jesus, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away – a Separation?
8 ”He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away (separate from) your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away (get a Separation from) his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away (in a state of separation and not having a Writ of Divorcement) doth commit adultery.”
It can be taken either way. “Whosever separates from his wife – except if his wife has committed fornication with another man, and then that man marries another woman, he is not legally divorced.
Therefore he commits adultery with the second woman because he is not lawfully divorced, but only separated. And the guy who marries your not legally divorced wife also causes her to commit adultery because she is not lawfully divorced.”
In today’s vernacular, if a man separates from his wife, and never gets a divorce, but shacks up with another female, he is an adulterer because he is still married to the first wife. If his wife finds another mate as well, they will likely fall in love, commit fornication and adultery, because the wife is not legally divorced without the lawful Writ of Divorcement.
10 ”His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 1 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
Translated from The Message version of the Bible to give further clarification of those last verses, we read it this way: 10 ”Jesus' disciples objected, ‘If those are the terms of marriage, we're stuck. Why get married? 11-12 But Jesus said, "Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn't for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you're capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it."
I cannot make any conclusions other than my own. Readers are on their own as well. My conclusions include those of Paul, the Apostle’s: Stay single if you plan on serving God full-time. Devote your life to Him. If you are mature enough to get married, take on a wife and the responsibility of children and all else that goes along with raising a family (husbandry in case of the man), and you are mature enough to seek God out first, and then marry. If God joins two people together, you will become as one flesh in His eyes.
What God joins, man should not un-join or pull apart. If you are incompatible, reconcile. If you can’t reconcile, separate or put away…turn loose. If you commit fornication with another, and your spouse wishes to get a divorce, that spouse is innocent and is entitled to remarry.
There are grounds for divorce, which is to say that the Bible stipulates that this “unity of one flesh” can be pulled apart by man in a civil court, and a Writ of Divorcement should be granted if certain criteria is met.
If the offended spouse remarries, she is innocent, but can then become “one flesh” with another man. This tells me that the “one flesh” does not mean that the original “one flesh” is always bound to each other until the day they die. It tells me that God recognizes that man can become “one flesh” several times, and under several circumstances, including death of the other half of the “one flesh”.
That said, I believe that two who become one flesh lawfully through a marriage certificate, can also become “two fleshes” again either through a Writ of Divorcement, or a Death Certificate.
Now, what shall the new “two fleshes” do? Shall they marry again to another? I believe that they should remarry because God said, way back in Genesis, “It is not good for man to be alone” - Genesis 2:18.
If there is any sin committed that leads to “one flesh” becoming two, and it is repented…then God is obligated to forgive those sins and let you move on with life. God also wants us to have a close relationship with Him. This is of paramount importance to Him. He wants us to willingly obey Him, serve Him, and praise Him. He will give us the tools…the resources….to do His will, which is to see that others we know come to repentance and be saved, too.
If you are fortunate to find another Christian for your spouse, and God does not think it is good for man to live alone, and you can both become “one flesh” and serve Him together….how can God condemn you? Romans 8:1 needs to come into play as I wind this up. “1 ”Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
John Tyler, Author
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