Marriage, Divorce and the Church

Recently, I have taken upon myself to write about some common church problems. I have been using the church at Corinth as a foundation in addressing these issues. 

In Corinth, as in our day, people were getting saved through the power of Christ. Some who were getting saved were married, having married before their salvation. These new believers were hearing teaching that they should avoid entering into covenant relationships such as marriage with an unbeliever. Therefore, their question to Paul was basically this:

Now that we are believers, should we leave our unsaved spouses to comply with Biblical teachings of covenantal separation?

Paul does not give his entire teaching on marriage here but does give us great insight into the teaching of Christ regarding marriage. Let’s look at his answers to this question piece by piece.

Marriage is a biblical institution; a true blessing to those involved and an example of the relationship Christ has with His church (Eph. 5). Nevertheless, marriage is not the spiritual apex of life. Paul actually places the single life as equal and arguably superior in some ways to married life.

In this letter, Paul talks about virgins and spouses. In the original language, the word “virgin” might be better understood to mean one who is unmarried and celibate. Due to what is coming upon the world, Paul states that being unmarried could be preferable because the unmarried can focus their entire attention on service to the Lord. Married people have to think about pleasing spouses and in that, there are distractions. Paul is not devaluing marriage but teaches that even the married should live with Christ first; preparing for the day in which they meet Him face to face.

But, a person should be true to their “gift” or calling. If you are called to marry, then that is your gift from God. Also, if you have a desire to marry, then marry. It is better to marry than to live in sin due to unchecked desire.

Sexual expression was created by God to express the complete giving of oneself and to express the union and intimacy between Christ and His church and a man and his wife. Sex only has meaning and blessing within the marriage relationship between one man and one woman. If sex is entered into outside of that relationship, it loses its power to bless and becomes something that takes rather than gives.

Sex is not to be used as a weapon or a reward in marriage. If you’re married, you give up authority over your body in the area of sexual relations.

Now, Paul answers the question asked by the Corinthians:

Now that we are believers, should we leave our unsaved spouses to comply with Biblical teachings of covenantal separation?


Paul instructs the believers to stay in the situation they are in when God called them. God is able to work miracles in whatever is wrong in the situation. Paul tells them not to seek a divorce from the unbelieving spouse if the unbeliever is willing to stay in the marriage. He teaches them that the unbelieving spouse is “sanctified” by the believing spouse and that their children are holy.

The word “sanctified” as it is used here does not mean that the unbeliever is saved by the faith of the believer but that the union/marriage is sanctified by the believer’s presence. In other words, the union is sanctioned by the Spirit of God. And, the children are saved from the destruction of divorce. It also means that, because of the believer’s presence the unsaved spouse becomes an object of divine interest.

I know that there are many who are saved and married to an unbelieving spouse. The Word is also saying here that the power of the Spirit in you is much greater than the power of sin in the unbeliever. Trust that power to make changes.

The marriage may not have begun in the will of God but, after you are saved, it becomes the will of God for you!

God hates divorce. It was never His intention as a solution. Due to sin, it is often forced upon people.

“For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of Hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi 2:16

Divorce is always occasioned by someone’s sin.

Matthew 19:8: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Divorce is not caused by a sin but by a lack of repentance of sin.

Now, let’s finish up.

Under what circumstances is divorce allowed in the Bible?

  1. Adultery
  2. Abandonment

Divorce must be viewed from the basis of covenant and be entered into carefully and with counsel. Failure to be sober in these situations can cause further problems, even sin.

Matthew 19:9: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Since God is a relational Being then relationships are very important to Him. How we handle them is evidence of the strength and integrity of our relationship with God. Yet, divorce is not the unpardonable sin. The Word of God should be the standard for solving all relational needs and issues.



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