What About Divorce? Part 2 - 7:15-16

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1 Corinthians   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:42
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Tik Tok Video about how he has everyone’s dream day?

Marriage is not perfect. Yet with all the faults and foibles that come with marriage, I would not trade it for anything.

Last week we began by reading a description of marriage in Paul’s day.

They had 4 different kinds of marriage.

Marriage was not honored.

Some in Corinth had been married up to 20 times.

This is the context in which Paul is writing.

These are the difficulties he is striving to address.

Much of what they experienced seems to have a parallel in today’s society.

This means that what Paul is about to say is extremely relevant for us.

We saw the first one and a half key elements last week.

Today we will finish the section.

Let’s review for just a moment.

Key element #1…

1. Know The Heart Of God vv. 10-11

The heart of God is the most important piece of information we can have about any given topic.

God is not unclear in His opinion about marriage and divorce.

Last week we read the whole section in Malachi 2:13-16.

Today we will just do verse 16.

Malachi 2:16 NKJV

16 “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.”

God hates divorce.

That is the clear message here.

That is the heart of God.

It is serious business to break the covenant of marriage.

God hates divorce.

That is the truth that underlies Paul’s words in these verses.

The heart of God is seen here in two directives.

Directive #1…

a. Do not depart vv. 10, 11b

1 Corinthians 7:10 (NKJV)

10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.

Now look at the end of verse 11.

1 Corinthians 7:11 (NKJV)

11 And a husband is not to divorce his wife.

Don’t break up the marriage!

Don’t depart. Don’t divorce.

That is His heart.

We see the heart of God here in two directives.

Directive #1. Do not depart.

Directive #2…

b. Pursue reconciliation v. 11a

1 Corinthians 7:11 (NKJV)

11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.

Marriage is one of the primary institutions through which God has chosen to bless the world.


It shouldn’t be surprising that it would be an area where the enemy of our souls attacks so strongly!

Reconciliation is the heart of God.

Reconciliation is the goal.

We see the heart of God in these two directives.

Directive #1. Do not depart.

Directive #2. Pursue reconciliation.

We are learning three key elements that help us understand what Scripture teaches about divorce and remarriage.

Key element #1. Know the heart of God.

Key element #2…

2. Know The Biblical Exceptions vv. 12-15a

In our passage, Paul addresses a few reasons why some people would argue that divorce is okay.

We are going to deal with what Paul says and also the passage in Matthew where Jesus mentions divorce.

One of the most important things we need to understand here is that Exceptions are allowances not mandates.

I will explain that more clearly as we go.

There are three possible exceptions we are going to address.

Exception #1…

a. When you marry an unbeliever vv. 12-13

One of the issues faced by the Corinthian church was the idea that if a spouse came to Christ, the best thing to do was to leave their unbelieving spouse.

That is what Paul addresses here.

1 Corinthians 7:12–13 NKJV

12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.

13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.

The key here is willingness.

If you are married to an unbeliever, and they want to remain married, don’t get a divorce.

I want to stress as I did last week that this is not permission for a believer to marry an unbeliever.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 makes it clear that a Christian should never marry someone who does not believe in Jesus.

If you are a believer, and you are not married. Do not marry an unbeliever.

If you are a believer, and you are married to an unbeliever, do not seek a divorce.

That’s the lesson here.

A believer is never to pursue divorce.

Three possible exceptions.

Exception #1. When you marry and unbeliever.

This is not a Biblical exception.

Exception #2…

b. When you have children v. 14

Another reason some people say they should get divorced is for the kids.

Their spouse is an unbeliever, and they are convinced that their kids need a believing father or mother.

1 Corinthians 7:14 NKJV

14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.

In the grace of God, the Christian has a sanctifying effect on the unbelieving spouse.

There is a sanctifying effect on children when there is a believing parent in the home.

When a believer remains in marriage with an unbeliever, God is at work.

There is extra grace, extra strength, and an extra measure of God’s activity on their behalf.

The idea is for their spouse to have a better life because they are married to a believer.

The idea is for their children to have a better parent because of Christ’s work in the life of the believer.

This requires submission to the holy Spirit.

The believer in a mixed spiritual marriage experiences a unique work of God’s grace.

To seek to leave the marriage is to reject the grace of God.

To remain will not be easy, but it will be worth it.


Because God’s work in your life will be all the more apparent.

He is going to sustain you, strengthen you, and lift you up.

He is going to pour His grace out on you!

He is going to pour His grace out on your children!

He is going to work on the heart of your spouse.

Three possible exceptions.

Exception #1. When you marry and unbeliever.

This is not a Biblical exception.

Exception #2. When you have children.

God will work to protect and preserve them.

Exception #3…

c. When the unbeliever leaves v. 15a

The question naturally arises, what do we do when the unbeliever simply refuses to remain in the marriage?

1 Corinthians 7:15 (NKJV)

15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.

You cannot force someone to stay.

The unbeliever does not have the Holy Spirit.

If they leave, this passage is telling us to let them go.

However, there are a few clarifications we need to make.

First, who is doing the leaving?

The unbeliever.

As a child of God, blood bought and sanctified, you don’t get the option to leave.

I realize that is hard to hear.

But it’s true.

Paul just said that if they want to stay married, you stay married.

Second, what does it mean to depart?

They yell, scream, and run out the door.

Now you can pack your bags?


The word “depart” is the same one used in v. 10 and is paralleled by the word “divorce” in v. 11.

That’s the idea here.

If the unbeliever files for divorce, let them go.

The second time the word “depart” is used in this verse it is a passive imperative.

We are commanded by God to let them go.

Why? We’ll get to that in just a minute.

When an unbelieving spouse departs, we are not in bondage.

The idea is that the departure of the unbeliever brings freedom to the believer.

There is no sin involved in this situation.

I believe, based on what Paul has already said, that reconciliation should be pursued.

However, if the unbeliever remarries, the covenant has been irrevocably broken, this means the believer would be free to remarry.

However, there is another kind of leaving.

We need to talk about the Matthew passage.

Look with me at Matthew 5:31-32.

Matthew 5:31–32 NKJV

31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’

32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

This is a form of leaving.

Sexual immorality breaks the covenant.

Why is this important?

The issue from 1 Corinthians 7 seems to be reconciliation.

As long as reconciliation is possible, we are to pursue it.

However, Scripture is clear that once a divorced spouse marries someone else, reconciliation with the original spouse is impossible.

Hopefully this graphic helps.

Briefly address 7:39-40.

If he marries someone else, he is no longer her husband.

The impossibility of reconciliation leaves her free.

This comes from 7:8-9, the unmarried (divorced) and widow can be remarried.

Back to Matthew 5.

We already discussed how God hates divorce.

Therefore, a Christian should not get a divorce.

There is only one exception to this.

That exception is sexual immorality.

This is an exception because sexual immorality breaks the marriage covenant.

When there has been sexual immorality, divorce is permissible.

However, an important point needs to be made.

Permission is not a demand.

Marriages can be restored even after infidelity.

Just because there has been infidelity, doesn’t mean there must be divorce.

The Biblical model is that reconciliation is still to be pursued.

If there is unrepentant and unchanging sin, then divorce may need to be considered.

Why? To get the sinners attention. Never for selfish reasons.

What about cases of abuse?

Scripture is largely silent on this issue.

That doesn’t mean we ignore it, it simply means we apply Biblical truths to the issue.

The first thing to do in cases of abuse is seek safety.

Always communicate with the authorities.

Someone who is abusive is not going to change without consequences.

We need to take it seriously.

All that being said, abuse does not give Biblical grounds for divorce.

Though I believe it does give Biblical grounds for separation.

The goal is to see the person repent, get help, and begin walking in obedience to Christ.

To be crystal clear. Do not remain in an abusive situation.

Get to safety and contact the authorities.

After those steps are taken, pursue reconciliation with the help of local church leadership.

We want reconciliation!

We want hearts and lives to be changed.

That is actually where Paul ends this section.

Three possible exceptions.

Exception #1. When you marry and unbeliever.

This is not a Biblical exception.

Exception #2. When you have children.

God will work to protect and preserve them.

Exception #3. When the unbeliever leaves.

If they are determined to end the marriage, we let them.

The only Biblical exception is sexual immorality.

In that case divorce is permissible but not commanded.

We are learning three key elements that help us understand what Scripture teaches about divorce and remarriage.

Key element #1. Know the heart of God.

Key element #2. Know the Biblical exceptions.

Key element #3…

3. Know The Proper Attitude vv. 15b-16

Far too often in our society divorce is pursued as an escape.

Marriage is hard.

People get married and they don’t do the work necessary to have a good marriage.

They have hard times and they don’t feel like they used to feel.

Instead of seeking the Lord and seeking to be a better spouse, people seek escape.

This is not the attitude we are to have.

Paul has made it clear that for believers our attitude is to be the preservation and reconciliation of our marriages.

Even when there are Biblical grounds that make divorce permissible, the heart of God is always reconciliation.

If there is an unbeliever involved, we are still never to pursue divorce.

However, if it happens, we let them go.


At the end of this section Paul gives two reasons why we allow an unbeliever to depart.

Reason #1. Because…

a. Peace is our calling v. 15b

1 Corinthians 7:15 (NKJV)

15 But God has called us to peace.

If we have an unbelieving spouse, and they divorce us, we let them go.


Because we are called to peace.

“Called” here has the idea of a demand from God.

God demands that we pursue peace.

Peace - harmonious relationships and freedom from disputes.

We let the unbelieving spouse go because God has demanded that we pursue harmony in relationships and freedom from disputes.

Now. To be clear. This is only in the case of an unbeliever willingly and deliberately divorcing a believer.

The believer is not the one seeking the divorce.

There have been attempts to reconcile.

There have been attempts to make this work.

The unbeliever wants out.

In the pursuit of peace, we let them depart.

This is the attitude we are to have.

Peace is primary.


We’ll get to that in the next verse.

I want to make a quick note about the role of the body of Christ in these situations.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, if this were to happen to someone we know, our role is the support and blessing of the believer.

Galatians 6:2 says

Galatians 6:2 NKJV

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This is not the time for judgment or condemnation.

This is the time for support and encouragement.

Part of this idea is tied to what Paul wrote in Romans 12:18.

Romans 12:18 NKJV

18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

This is our calling as believers.

Two reasons why we allow an unbeliever to depart.

Reason #1. Because peace is our calling.

Reason #2. Because…

b. Salvation is our goal v. 16

1 Corinthians 7:16 NKJV

16 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?

The word “save” used here is in the future tense.

Paul is reminding the Corinthians of something important here.

With an unbeliever, the goal is not preservation of the marriage but the conversion of the spouse.

We don’t know what God has planned.

It is possible that through our release of them, they may come to Christ.

It is also possible that God will draw them to Himself through staying together.

This is why we pursue peace.

If an unbelieving spouse is content to dwell with us, we do that.

We strive to be an example of Christ for them.

If they want to depart, we let them.

We pursue peace, praying and hoping for their conversion.

Our primary goal is to see unbelievers come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

In some situations, seeking to preserve the marriage is not profitable for the cause of Christ.

In other situations it may be our tenacity that brings them to Christ.

Either way, we must bear in mind that the goal is their salvation.

If that comes through preservation of the marriage, great.

If it comes through divorce, so be it.

That is the attitude we are to have.

The proper attitude is one of peace and a desire to see people saved.


What about divorce?

Scripture reveals only three reasons for a marriage to end.


The departure of an unbelieving spouse.

Sexual immorality.

Divorce is never mandated.

It is allowed under certain conditions and only after reconciliation has been sought.

How does this passage impact us today?

We need to carefully guard our attitude toward those who are divorced.

Divorce is not an unpardonable sin.

Divorces that happen before salvation are forgiven as are all sins.

After Salvation, divorces that violate Scripture are to be confessed as sin and repented of.

When that happens, we are forgiven.

Remarriage can occur only in the following instances.

1 - When the spouse or former spouse dies.

2 - When the former spouse is remarried.

3 - When marrying the original spouse with no marriages in between.

God hates divorce.

This doesn’t mean God hates those who get divorced.

As Christians we are to marry believers.

If, however, we are married to an unbeliever, we are not to seek divorce.

God gives an extra measure of grace to those in this situation and to their children.



Will you make these commitments?

The heart of God is for marriage to be permanent.

Biblical allowances for divorce are not commands.


Peace with others is to be sought whenever possible.

Our desire ought to be the salvation of unbelievers.


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