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"The Sanctifying Bond"
1 Corinthians 7:10-16

Wednesday AM Bible Study
July 18, 2007

Theme: Paul gives instructions to Christians regarding divorce, remarriage, and marriage to an unbeliever.

In verses 1-9, the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians concerning questions they had about celibacy. He dealt with the needs of those who never married, and with those who are single because of divorce or the death of their spouse. Now, he deals with questions concerning Christians who are in a marriage. He touches here on the very relevant problems of divorce and remarriage, and of marriage of a Christian to a non-believer.

This passage can be divided up into . . .


A. Paul speaks these words to those who are married. He says that he issues a "command" or a "pronouncement" on yet another matter about which the Corinthians wrote to him. In the passage prior to this one, he dealt with those who were not yet in a marriage but ought to be in one. Now he speaks to those who are in a marriage and ought not to leave the one they're in.

B. Paul here says that he gives a command; "yet not I but the Lord". Here, he is drawing what he is about to say directly from the instructions concerning marriage that were spoken by our Lord during His earthly ministry (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:1-9; Mark 10:1- 12; Luke 16:18). Jesus taught very strongly and clearly about the sanctity of marriage and about the life-long bond it is to form. Paul summarizes the practical implication of the Lord's teaching in the phrase, "A wife is not to depart from her husband". In verse 10, he mentions the wife only; but the next verse clearly suggests that the same instructions apply to the husband. The reason that he speaks first of the wife may be because this was what the Corinthians had been asking about.

C. Paul—reflecting the words of Jesus—recognized that divorce may occur. It should always be stressed that God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16); yet it is not necessarily forbidden (Deut. 24:1-4). If a woman choses to "depart" from her husband, she is to remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband (except in those cases where sexual unfaithfulness has occurred—Matthew 5:32).


A. Paul speaks "to the rest"—probably best understood as referring to the remaining matters. Paul now says that it is he who is speaking—not the Lord. By this, he doesn't mean that his instructions have no authority (v. 25, 40). Rather, he means that he is not now drawing from the spoken instructions of the Lord during His earthly ministry.

B. He speaks concerning a problem that might have been common—two unbelievers who were married; and one of them later becomes a believer and the other does not. It may have been that the Corinthians had written to ask if the believer should divorce the unbeliever. Paul says that, if the unbelieving spouse wishes to stay with the Christian, then no divorce should occur (vv. 12-13). The reason is because the believer has a "sanctifying" impact on the non-believing spouse. This is not to say that they themselves make them "saved"; but it is to recognize that, so long as the non-believer is in the presence of the believer, the fragrance of Christ can be brought to them. Even the children can be blessed by the sanctifying connection to the believer.

C. But if the non-believer wishes to have nothing further to do with the Christian and wants to leave, the believer is not "under bondage". They are not to resist; but are to allow the unbeliever to leave. Paul stresses that "God has called us to peace". "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" This appears to mean that, in such cases, an abandoned believer is free to remarry.

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