First Corinthians 7:10–16 brings us to one of the most heart-wrenching passages in Scripture. As it deals with marriage, divorce, and remarriage, it gives counsel to Christian marriages (vv. 10–11) and “mixed marriage” (vv. 12–16) that are looking into the teeth of divorce. In the context of a horribly sad week (#AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastille, and #DallasPoliceShooting), I bookended this sermon with the gospel truth that God comforts those who are broken by sin. My prayer is that as God’s truth is declared, it brings clarity and comfort.
You can listen to the audio from Sunday’s message or peruse the sermon notes here. For those who want to go deeper, there are discussion questions below and resources explaining the Majority and Minority position on divorce and remarriage.
1 Corinthians 7:10–16 (ESV)
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
- How does the brokenness of our human condition, and especially of recent events, prepare us to read 1 Corinthians 7?
- What does it mean to be married for God? Can divorce ever be called ‘good’?
- What is Paul’s instruction to Christian marriages (see vv. 10–11)? Why is this instruction different than what he says to “mixed marriages” (vv. 12–16)?
- What concession does Paul make regarding divorce?
- What does the Old Testament teach about marriage, divorce, and remarriage (see Genesis 2:18–25; Deuteronomy 24:1–4; Malachi 2:10–16)?
- What does Jesus say about divorce? (Matthew 5:32; 19:1–12; Mark 10:1–12; Luke 16:18)
- Are the reasons for permitting remarriage convincing? (See sermon notes, pp. 12–14).
- The Majority Position among evangelicals is to permit remarriage when the divorce is legitimate. What makes a divorce legitimate? What counsel would you give to someone contemplating marriage (with regards to divorce)? Or divorce? Or remarriage?
For Further Study
Majority View (remarriage is permissible after a legitimate divorce)
- John Murray, Divorce (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1961).
- The elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church, “A Statement on Divorce & Remarriage in the Life of Bethlehem Baptist Church” (1989)
- Craig Keener, And Marries Another: Divorce and Remarriage in the Teaching of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991)
- William Heth, “Jesus on Divorce: How My Mind Has Changed,” SBJT 6/1 (Spring 2002): 4–29.** — Heth rescinds his previous view and explains why he changed his mind; this shows both sides of the issues and how someone committed to Scripture wrestled through this knotty issue.
- “Divorce and Remarriage,” PCA Position Paper (2012)
- John Frame, “Recent Reflections on Divorce,” Frame-Poythress.Org (2012) — With a short treatment concerning abuse.
You may also find help on this subject in three posts I’ve written:
- A Gospel-Centered Approach to Divorce
- What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?
- What Makes a Divorce ‘Biblical’?
Minority View (no remarriage after divorce)
- John Piper, “Divorce and Remarriage: A Position Paper.” (1989)** — N.B. Piper’s view was not and is not practiced at Bethlehem Baptist Church (see above).
- Gordon J. Wenham and William E. Heth, Jesus and Divorce (Paternoster, 2002; repr. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010) — N.B. After being one of the leading academic proponents of the Minority View, William Heth changed his position (see below).
- Gordon J. Wenham, “Does the New Testament Approve Remarriage after Divorce?” SBJT 6/1 (Spring 2002): 30–45.
- Jim Elliff, et al., Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence View (Kansas City, MO: Christian Communicators Worldwide, 2014)
On Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage
- David Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002)
- Ken M. Campbell (ed.), Marriage and Family in the Biblical World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003).
- Andreas Köstenberger with David Jones, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Foundations, 2nd Ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010).
- Mark L. Strauss (ed.), Remarriage after Divorce in Today’s Church: Three Views (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006). — The three contributors are Gordon J. Wenham, William Heth, and Craig Keener.
Father in heaven, may marriages be strengthened and saved by the truths presented in these resources. May those whose marriages have been devastated by sin find grace in your gospel and healing in your presence. And may those who are wondering what to do next — in marriage, divorce, or remarriage — find wisdom in Scripture and biblical aid from godly, Spirit-filled counselors in their local church.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds