15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. 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? (1 Corinthians 7:15–16, NKJV)
What if the unbelieving spouse of verses 12-13 is unwilling to be married to a Christian? What if the unbeliever is not willing to accept the trials brought upon the home by the Christian’s faith (1 Cor. 7:26)? Should the Christian yield to the will of the unbelieving spouse and sacrifice faith for the sake of a peaceful marriage? No. We must obey God rather than any person, including a spouse (Acts 5:29). Verse 15 does not give another cause for divorce and remarriage (even though many use it to justify desertion as a cause for divorce and remarriage). Remarriage is not even in this passage. (The married have already been warned against divorce in verses 10-11.) Here, Paul affirms the Christian is not now and never has been in bondage to (a slave to) the unbeliever. God has called us to peace, but not by compromising one’s faith. The unbeliever who demands the believer abandon faith for peace in the marriage demands a price for peace that cannot be paid. If that demand occurs, then “let him (the unbeliever) depart.” You cannot yield your faith and become a slave of men (1 Cor. 7:23). Do you think the unbeliever will be saved by yielding your faith? Resolute faith influences an unbelieving spouse toward salvation (1 Peter 3:1-2).
10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10–11, NKJV)
Paul now addresses “the married” with a command that is mandated by and agrees with what Jesus commanded in Matthew 19:6, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate (“put asunder,” KJV).” Marriage is for life and must be entered with solemn commitment and earnest resolution (Matthew 19:4-6). God does not merely excuse ending a marriage He has joined together. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 7:12 does not give permission to do the very thing prohibited in verse 11 (i.e., to depart from the one to whom God joined you). In verse 11 Paul applies the principle of verse 10 to a marriage that ends without God’s approval (see Matthew 19:9 for God’s permission to put away a spouse “for the cause of fornication” and marry another without sin). To avoid adding sin upon sin when a marriage is sundered one must “remain unmarried” (because remarriage would be adultery, Luke 16:18) or else “be reconciled” to one’s rightful spouse (the one to whom God obligated you for life, Romans 7:2). The command and its consequences apply equally to husband and wife (v. 11). We sin against God when we end our marriage for any and every reason (Matthew 19:3). Let us uphold the honor of marriage by not separating what God has joined together.
3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians 7:3–4, NKJV)
One of the biggest sources of marital problems is selfishness. Marriage establishes a moral obligation to deliver (render) to one’s mate the good will of sexual fulfillment which he or she is due. To use the marriage bed as an incentive for good behavior or a punishment for bad behavior is not the will of God. Such selfish treatment of the marriage bed chips away at the emotional and spiritual stability and security it is designed to provide. To be even more emphatic, the apostle explains that in marriage your body belongs to your spouse, not to yourself (verse 4). Each one has authority (right, privilege, jurisdiction) over the other’s body. Such authority is not tyrannical, oppressive or abusive, but respectful and affectionate. When a husband or wife says their body is nobody’s business but their own, they reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of marriage as a hedge against sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2). In marriage, your body belongs to your spouse. The marriage bed binds two souls together in unselfish fulfillment, and thereby gives protection from the moral defilement of sexual immorality.
1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1–2, NKJV)
The Corinthians sent a letter to the apostle Paul with questions about several matters, to which he replied as one who was inspired of God (1 Corinthians 7:40). Their first questions concerned marriage. Paul began by addressing the virtue of not touching a woman (a euphemism for sexual relations). He was not issuing a divine directive that celibacy is superior to marriage. (Nor does verse 2 demand everyone must marry.) Instead, Paul recognizes God’s clarion call to sexual purity. Given the present trials and pressures upon their faith, he will advise the Corinthians of the advantages of being single (1 Corinthians 7:26, 28, 32, 35). Marriage is designed as a guard against sexual immorality. The marriage bed is honorable, but the bed of fornication is defiled (Hebrews 13:4). The apostle explained that how designed marriage so that “each man” has “his own wife” and “each woman” has “her own husband” (verse 2). Marriage is between man and woman. More specifically, it is between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:4-6). Polygamy, same-sex marriages, and every other marriage distortion is of human origin and is a sin against God and His will concerning marriage.
34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ (Matthew 10:34–36, NKJV)
The Prince of Peace brought spiritual warfare to the earth (Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, 1 John 3:8). His gospel marks the dividing line between truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong. Truth has that effect; it divides the closest of relatives. Our adversary the devil uses our earthly relations (parents, children and spouses) to slander our loyalty to Jesus and tempt us to choose family over faith. Will you compromise truth and abandon your faith for the sake of your father, mother, child, spouse or in-law? Not everyone the Christian loves will love God. Borrowing from Micah 7:6, Jesus strips away the illusion that we can follow Him without fighting the good fight of faith. Your faith must not be in other people, no matter how closely related you are to them. Your first allegiance is to Jesus and His truth. He is our means of peace with God and with those who follow Him (Ephesians 2:14). Jesus preached peace, but every day He battled the forces of unbelief. He expects you, dear Christian, to wage the same fight (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; 1 Timothy 6:12; 1 John 5:3-4).
To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16, NKJV)
With these words He spoke to Eve, God not only increased her pain and sorrow in conception and childbirth, He also permanently confirmed the relation of the wife to her husband as one of desire, dependence, and deferential submissiveness. The word “desire” means “to run, to have a vehement longing for a thing” (Pulpit Commentary). Thus, God gave distinct, definable roles to women and men. The husband has the role of leader, and the wife has the role of willing follower (Ephesians 5:22-25; 1 Peter 3:1-6). The reversal of these roles led to sin: “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’…” (Genesis 3:17). The wife’s submissiveness to her husband’s leadership brings definable stability to the family, and to society. The husband is to lead his wife with love, and the wife is to defer to his leadership with devotion. Husbands must honor their wives, not oppress them (1 Peter 3:7). And, wives are to be submissive to their own husbands (1 Peter 3:1). God challenges wives to be sure your desire is for your husband, and not for another man, or for the man’s role in your marriage.
Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, NKJV)
Marriage is a figure of the relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-32). Under this figure, we learn how to conduct ourselves toward Christ. And, we learn how God expects us to conduct ourselves in our marriages. Jesus Christ loved the church and sacrificed His life to cleanse and sanctify her (Eph. 5:25-27). His sacrificial love compels the church to eagerly submit to Christ (“the head of the church”) in everything (Eph. 5:23-24). Like Christ, the husband is the “head of the wife,” and is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:23, 25). And, “just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:24). Jesus is the great Servant-Leader, who died so His bride, the church, could live. As a husband, you must be a Servant-Leader, serving the best interests of your wife with sacrificial love. And, just as the church adores and honors Christ by following His leadership, the wife is to respect and honor her husband by following his leadership in all things. Such unity of mind and purpose between Christ and His church produces a fulfilled, holy, and eternal relationship (Eph. 5:27). Likewise, marriage thrives when God’s will is followed by the husband and the wife. Husband, love your wife and be the leader God wants you to be in your home. Wife, honor your husband with loving respect.