But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches (1 Corinthians 7:17, NKJV).
In a context discussing privileges and prohibitions of marriage, Paul reviews a foundational principle that he appointed as an apostle of Christ in all the churches. Three times in this paragraph (1 Cor. 7:17-24), the apostle teaches Christians to “remain in the same calling” in which God had called them (into fellowship with His Son, Jesus, 1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24; 1:9). Some brethren have wildly abused this passage by advising people they may remain in unholy marriages after becoming Christians. Such counsel is a gross violation of this context and the broader will of God toward repentance of sin. This passage describes remaining faithful to Christ (“keeping the commandments of God,” v. 19) in non-sinful conditions and relationships (circumcised or uncircumcised, vv. 18-19; bond or free, vv. 21-22). It does not sanction continuing in sinful conditions and relationships such as unlawful remarriages (Matt. 19:9-12; Mark 6:17-18). (May the polygamist remain in adultery upon becoming a Christian? Of course not, Rom. 7:2-3; Heb. 13:4.) Yet, in an attempt at consistency, those who distort today’s passage to approve sinful remarriages have even said God allows Christians to remain in polygamy after conversion. This shameful error gives sinners confidence to stay in sin instead of repenting and ending every sinful action and relation (Rom. 6:1-2; Acts 17:30; 18:8; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). We must “remain with God” in our marriages instead of enslaving ourselves to the sinful will and errors of men (1 Cor. 7:23-24; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9). This means an unlawful marriage must end because one is not remaining with God while remaining in it (Ezra 10:1-4, 10-11).
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 (Matthew 5:31–32, NKJV).”
God created, arranged, and sanctified marriage for man and woman (Gen. 2:21-25). Over time, people failed to honor marriage by introducing all kinds of corruption that defiled this holy union, including polygamy (Gen. 4:19), homosexuality (Gen. 19:5), adultery (2 Sam. 11:2-4), and divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). God restrained man’s cheapened disregard for marriage through the Law of Moses, placing restrictions on plural wives, divorce, and remarriage (Exod. 21:10; Deut. 21:15-17; 24:1-4). Yet, in the days of Christ, marriage continued to be minimized as a relationship easily discarded and replaced with a legal document (Matt. 5:31; 19:7-8). Jesus applied His authority over marriage, affirming its sanctity and exclusivity. The person who divorces his (or her) spouse for “any reason except sexual immorality (fornication) bears responsibility for the sin of separating what God joined, and the future sin remarriage produces (Matt. 5:32; 19:6). Only the reason of sexual immorality (fornication) suffices to put away a spouse without causing her to commit adultery through remarriage (Matt. 5:32). And, the person who marries one who has been divorced (put away) also commits adultery (Matt. 19:9). Jesus calls on everyone to honor marriage as God gave it instead of dishonoring it and losing our souls (Heb. 13:4).
17 For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. 18 Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:17–18, NKJV).
Marriage is a stabilizing force of society. Any society cannot long endure when it devalues and distorts the marriage relationship between man and woman. God inaugurated marriage as a blessing for humanity in Eden (Gen. 2:18-25). It is not the product of the cultural development of societies through the ages. Jesus acknowledged the abiding truth that marriage is from God and for life (Mark 10:6-8). The divine arrangement of marriage is one man and one woman for life (Matt. 19:4-5; Rom. 7:2-3). History records marriage’s disfigurement and destruction by such sins as polygamy, concubinage, divorce for every cause, and cohabiting without marriage (Gen. 4:19; Mal. 2:13-16; Matt. 19:3, 6-8; Rom. 1:24-29). Today’s passage reminds us that not every marriage is lawful and good in God’s sight. Herod’s marriage to Herodias (his brother Philip’s wife) was unlawful. Herod and Herodias had divorced their spouses to enter this unholy union (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.5.1; 18.5.4). John would be beheaded because he rebuked their sin (Mark 6:19-29). Marriage is a commitment for life (Rom. 7:2-3). God gives one cause for ending a marriage with approval to remarry (Matt. 19:9). Let us uphold God-approved marriages but never approve relationships God’s word defines as sin (Matt. 5:32; Heb. 13:4).
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.