Mal 2:13-16 (KJV)
13) And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth [it] with good will at your hand. 14) Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet [is] she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 15) And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16) For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for [one] covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
As one of the most important institutions that the Lord established, marriage is a very important subject that Christians need to understand and honor. In this series we will be looking at:
- What we need to know about marriage to understand divorce.
- The definition, allowance and purpose of divorce and allowance of remarriage.
- The Biblical grounds for divorce (fornication).
- The Biblical grounds for divorce (loss of favour).
- The Biblical grounds for divorce (departure).
- A Summary Of Our Study and Closing Thoughts
As we continue our study on the Biblical grounds for divorce, keep in mind we have already seen that the Lord has taught us that “fornication” (the fulfilling of our fleshly, sinful desires resulting in acts of sin and the forsaking of God given responsibilities) was one ground of divorce.
We also saw that this teaching of Christ upheld the OT allowance for divorce given by Moses which is described as “loss of favour”, “hatred” or “hardheartedness”. We also saw in our study of Moses’ allowance that “loss of favour” was very closely related to the sin of fornication. It was either the same thing as fornication or, if not the same as, certainly one type of fornication.
Let us now turn or attention to the teachings of the Apostle Paul and what he tells us about the Biblical ground for divorce, “departure”…
1Cor 7:10-16, 39-40
And unto the married I command, [yet] not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from [her] husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [her] husband: and let not the husband put away [his] wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such [cases]: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save [thy] husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save [thy] wife?...
The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.
Deut 24 1-4; Mal 2:13-16; Matt 5:27-32; Matt 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18
1Cor 7:10-16; 1Cor 7:39-40
In 1 Cor 7:10-16 we find that the Apostle Paul explains that “departure” from the marital covenant is a Biblical ground for divorce. Let’s begin our study by coming to an understanding of the meaning of the term “depart”:
Let’s start our study of the term “depart” found in 1 Cor 7:. This term is translated from the Greek word “chorizo”.
“chorizo” is defined as:
1. to place space between
2. to part
3. to divide
4. to go away
5. to separate
“chorizo” is translated by the phrases:
1. “put asunder” – Mat 19:3-6; Mark 10:2-12
2. “to depart” – Act 1:4, Act 18:1-6, 1 Cor 7:10-16, Philemon 1:10-16
3. “shall separate” – Rom 8:31-39, Heb 7:22-28
4. This word is NEVER translated “divorce” nor “put away” in NT Scriptures.
“chorizo” is used to describe:
1. Sunder a marriage – Mat 19:3-6; Mar 10:2-12
2. Departure from a physical location – Acts 1:4; Acts 18:1-6
3. Separation from love – Rom 8:31-39
4. Departure from a marriage – 1 Cor 7:10-16
5. Depart from responsibilities / obligations– Philemon 1:10-16
6. Separation from sinners influences– Heb 7:22-28
To summarize our word study: “chorizo” can clearly designate 4 types of separation….
1. a physical separation of distance (Acts 1:4, 18:1-6, Philemon 1:10-16?)
2. a separation of parties once united by a covenant, obligation, or responsibilities (Mat 19:3-6, Mar 10:2-12, 1 Cor 7:10-16, Philemon 1:10-16)
3. a separation of parties united by emotions (Rom 8:31-39)
4. a separation from the influence of others (Heb 7:22-28)
Therefore, based on the above, chorizo can refer not only to a physical separation, but also to an emotional, influential or obligational separation. “Depart” is not obligated to mean physically separated. For example, when Onesimus physically “departed” from Philemon he was also refusing to submit to his responsibilities to serve Philemon. Christ was said to be “separate” (departed) from sinners while dwelling among them. If we understand this principle it is a tremendous aid in understanding Paul’s teachings.
In the context of the marital covenant, the phrase “depart” can be describing forsaking the responsibilities of the marital covenant. It is not limited to describing someone who has physically left the household to live elsewhere.
One way that a spouse can desert the marital covenant is by physically leaving the relationship, departing from the home and living elsewhere. However, a person can also depart from their covenantal responsibilities by choosing not to fulfill them. Although they are living under the same roof, they have still departed from their responsibilities. This is what we can learn from the meaning of “chorizo”
We will be applying these principles as we look at the 1 Cor 7 text…
1Cor 7:10-16, 39-40
10) And unto the married I command, [yet] not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from [her] husband:
11) But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [her] husband:
A woman is not to forsake her marital responsibilities (resulting in her divorce). If she does receive a divorce based upon her sinful departure out of the marriage, she is to remain unmarried to have the ability to reconcile to husband or actually return to her husband. This prohibition to remarry would exist as long as reconciliation was an option.
and let not the husband put away [his] wife.
Just as in the teachings of Christ, Paul then explains that these principles do not apply to only the female, but they also apply to the male of the marital relationship.
12) But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.13) And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
Paul will be instructing us in an area that Christ has not particularly addressed in detail. We are not to expect to look back at the teachings of Christ and find these same truths explicitly taught in the context of saved being married to a lost person.
In the case of a saved person being married to a lost person, the saved should not seek to separate themselves from the unbelieving spouse as long as the spouse desires to continue in the marital covenant with them. He is explaining this to refute any who may say that the principle of being “chosen out of this world” (John 15:19), “friendship with world” (James 4:4), “unequally yoked” (2 Cor 6:14), or Paul’s instructions to not “company” with unbelievers in (1 Cor 5:10) should result in divorce for the believer/unbeliever couple.
The reminder that this applies to both genders is once again stated.
14) For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
The reason for this prohibition to divorce the unbeliever is based on knowledge that the saved spouse will be a recipient of temporal blessings that can be shared with the lost spouse. Blessings of protection, finances, wisdom to lead family etc etc can be received by the saved and shared with the lost. Also, more importantly, the unbelieving spouse can be influenced by the believing spouse and come to spiritual salvation. In other words, the lost spouse has much to gain by remaining married to the saved spouse.
For the sake of the children, it is best for the couple to remain married if the lost continues to fulfill their marital responsibilities. The saved should not be concerned that the lost will be a bad influence before the child. Remember, the lost is keeping their marital vows, and therefore setting a good example for the child to follow. Also, the child will be sharing in the temporal blessings placed upon the believing parent. And finally, the child as they see the testimony of the believing parent before their eyes may come to a knowledge of Christ and be saved.
15) But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such [cases]: but God hath called us to peace.
Paul is acknowledging that a separation may take place, just as Christ had said (Matt 10:34-39). But this separation should not be initiated by the believing spouse.
If the unbeliever decides to no longer keep the covenant responsibilities and be divorced, their believing spouse is to allow the divorce to take place. It is for their protection that the unbeliever departs so that they will not suffer abuse. The Lord desires peace in a marital union not abuse, discord and hatred. In all three sections of our study (1 Cor 7, Matt 19, Deut 24, we see a harmony and agreement in the teachings of God:
Remember, this is the same basic principle taught by Christ concerning fornication. This lost person has chosen to forsake his marriage based upon the fulfilling of his fleshly desires (we are not told the specific desires involved in this case.) Since this fornication is a legitimate ground for divorce, the believer is to allow the unbeliever to depart. It will result in peace and will free them of their marital obligations. At that point they can be remarried or remain single based upon the Lord’s individual will for their lives.
It is also the basic principle of Deut 24 passage where the husband allows his heart to become hardened to the wife and therefore chooses to forsake his marital covenant, divorcing her. The divorced wife is then allowed to be remarried due as the innocent party that was treacherously divorced. This is the same sin of fornication that we have looked at previously.
What if a believer departs from the marital covenant? No one can know the spiritual condition of another person with any certainty. I believe it is very possible that Paul making the assumption that anyone who consistently, unrepentantly forsakes his marital covenant is to be assumed to be an unbeliever. When a professing believer forsakes his marital covenant they are to be dealt with under the rules of church discipline found in Matt 18:15-17. If the professing believer refuses to return to keeping the covenant after this process, he is to be assumed to be lost and these verses then apply. This is why Paul does not even bring up what to do in the case of a believing one that departs from the covenant.
Again, note that gender makes no difference in the applications of these principles.
16) For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save [thy] husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save [thy] wife?...
To help encourage and motivate those saved and married to the lost, keep in mind that through your testimony, the lost may come to a saving knowledge of Christ. At that point in time, you will have the believing spouse that you have so greatly desired. The answer to the issue is to live your life for Christ in the view of your lost spouse. The answer is not to divorce your lost spouse, who is faithful to their vows, for the sake of gaining a believing spouse.
39) The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
Paul is now explaining the very basic principle that when we are married the bonds of that marriage are to remain in effect. The marital covenant is to be until “death do us part”. Both parties are to enter into the covenant and live under the covenant with the intent that it should not be broken. It will only be after the death of the faithful spouse that we will be freed to marry a second time to a believer only.
However, this verse is not to be used to undo the teaching that although the marital covenant is to be permanent, it can be broken by acts of fornication which frees the innocent party from their marital responsibilities. This verse must be interpreted within the context of the entire Bible…
For example, note again Paul’s instruction in verse 15 of this same chapter. He clearly states that the spouse who had been deserted is now no longer under their covenantal responsibilities. This takes place at the time of the divorce not the death of the departing spouse. Likewise the Deut 24:1-4 passage that clearly allows the remarriage of the wife that has been divorced by her husband. Etc etc etc. We have seen these basic principles throughout this study.
40) But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.
Paul now gives his opinion that, in most instances, it is better for the one who enters a single state to remain single. It is easier to concentrate on the things of the Lord and to out from under the possibility of abuse and mistreatment. However, this decision must be made based upon the individual circumstances of each person. And above all else, must be based upon the specific will of God for our lives.
What we have seen so far can be summarized as follows:
In lesson #1:
1. Marriage is a covenant relationship
2. The parties of the covenant are the husband and wife
3. God is the witness to the making of the covenant, He is not a party in the covenant
4. God as witness will hold each party accountable to keep the promise they made to each other.
5. Marriage is described as a “cleaving” and a “one-flesh” relationship
6. Both of these descriptions imply a closeness, unity and intimacy between the couple
7. The marriage union SHOULD NOT BE broken by man but CAN BE broken by man.
8. Man’s responsibility in a marriage union can be summarized as “to love” and “to nourish” and “to cherish” the wife
9. Woman’s responsibility in a marriage union can be summarized as “to be a help meet” and “to be a companion” to the husband.
In lesson #2:
1. Divorce is the act of destroying, or removing the marital covenant resulting in the covenant being rendered void and going out of existence. The parties of the covenant are held responsible for the breaking of it.
2. Divorce is allowed in cases of “uncleanness”, “fornication”, or “departure
3. God allows divorce to protect the innocent party from abuse and mistreatment.
4. God allows for remarriage following divorce in the cases of “uncleanness”, “fornication” and “departure”
In lesson #3:
1. The Lord teaches us that divorce is allowed by God in the event that fornication takes place. 2. The Biblical definition of fornication is the fulfilling sinful desires resulting in unclean actions and forsaking of God given responsibilities.
3. In the context of our study this would include: following selfish desires resulting in the commission of unclean sexual unions or the fulfillment of other sinful desires resulting in the forsaking of the responsibilities of the marriage covenant.
4. There is no need to limit acts of fornication to sexually related acts.
5. The breaking of the marital covenant is a very serious offense. This offense is so severe if it is committed there is a reason to question the salvation of the individual committing the offense.
6. The grounds, effects, and judgments surrounding the sundering of the marriage covenant apply equally to both men and women. It is wrong to believe that either gender has a greater responsibility to remain faithful to the covenant of marriage.
In lesson #4:
1. Becoming hard-hearted towards a spouse is, in essence walking away from their marital responsibilities due to following of their fleshly desires following the uncovering of something shameful on the part of their mate.
2. Another type of “fornication” (a legitimate ground for divorce) is hard heartedness towards a spouse
3. When a spouse allows their heart to hardened against their spouse they are breaking their marital vows by not caring and treating them as they should.
4. This type of hardhearted attitude leads to physical, psychological or mental abuse of the spouse.
5. The divorce is allowed for the protection of the mate guilty of the uncleanness. It is an act that is done to eliminate the abuse that otherwise would be taking place.
6. If the “uncleanness” is a sin that breaks the marital covenant, then the one who committed the uncleanness is held guilty of the sundering of the marriage union. If the uncleanness does not rise to the level of breaking the marital vows, then the responsibility for breaking the covenant rests on the one harboring the hatred in their heart.
In lesson #5:
1. “Depart” can refer to a physical departing or a separation of parties joined by a covenant
2. A believing couple should realize that God desires marriage to be permanent.
3. When faithful to the covenant, only after the death of a spouse that remarriage is allowed
4. If a believer chooses to depart they must remain single or be reconciled to their partner.
5. The departing believer is looked upon as lost following efforts of church discipline.
6. Innocent party that is divorced is released from their bonds and allowed to remarry.
7. The divorcing unbeliever is allowed to depart for peace, avoidance of abuse, and freedom
8. Departing from the covenant (1 Cor 7) is fornication.
9. Sending away an unfavoured spouse (Deut 24) is fornication.
10. The teachings of Christ, Moses and Paul are harmonious.
With this entry our study is now made complete. In our next lesson we will review and summarize what we have seen.
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