Relevant Scriptures continued:
9. 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. Paul responds to a letter the Corinthians had written, asking for his advice on various matters including marriage (v. 1). He states in v. 2 that marriage is to be monogamous, between a man and a woman; sexual relations are confined to the marriage relationship, and sexual activity in any other context constitutes immorality. He further affirms that the marriage bond is for life (v. 39). “Now to the married…” (vv. 10-11) is in contrast to the unmarried (v. 8), applicable to the general state of marriage.1 Paul can give an apostolic directive (paraggéllō) because the Lord himself gave general marriage instruction during his earthly ministry (see Part 2). A wife is not to chōrízō = “depart from” (NKJ), “separate from” (RSV) or “leave” (NAS) her husband (v. 10b). This could be synonymous with divorce,2 as the separated state is described as “unmarried” (v. 11). The parallel admonition to the husband is to not “send away” or “divorce” (aphíēmi) his wife (v. 11), while “abandon” is also a possible nuance (cf. Mark 14:50). “But even if she does depart” (i.e. ignore the injunction) or ‘if she is separated’ (i.e. already in this state), there are only two scriptural options: (a) remain unmarried, or (b) be reconciled to her husband (v. 11, cf. v. 39). The husband likewise is not to “send away” or “divorce” or “abandon” his wife (v. 11c).
If for sexual infidelity, divorce is a divinely-granted dissolution of marital obligations for the one who has been cheated on, thus freeing him/her to marry another eligible person. On the other hand, divorce is a human innovation if for any reason other than sexual unfaithfulness; it is void of divine sanction and therefore terminates none of the marital responsibilities of either husband or wife.4 The sexual sin of adultery is therefore committed when one so divorced enters into a marital union with someone else.
--Kevin L. Moore
1 Because of what follows, many commentators try to limit this instruction to a marriage in which both partners are Christians. However, to reach that conclusion one must read further down in the text, draw this conclusion, then go back to vv. 10-11 and make that application (no doubt very confusing to those who first heard this passage publicly read!). Since it would be more natural for a writer to specify a particular type of marriage if that were his point (as in vv. 12 ff.), the general phrase “to the married” is most obviously inclusive of all marriages.
2 In Mark’s account of the Lord’s teaching, the woman as well as the man may initiate the divorce (10:11-12), which is consistent with Roman law. At Corinth some may have been considering divorcing their spouses in order to live a celibate life.
3 Or “bound” (NIV, N/RSV, REB), “under no compulsion” (NEB) or “obligation” (McCord).
4 Edwin S. Jones, “The Biblical Definition of Divorce,” in Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage, ed. Jim Laws (Memphis, TN: Getwell Church of Christ, 1992): 254-67.
Related Posts: Divorce & Remarriage Part 1, Part 2, Preventing Divorce, Premarital Decisions About Non-optional Matters