And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Leviticus 20:26, NKJV)
Have you ever read Leviticus? It is a detailed record of many of the laws God gave Israel concerning the priesthood, sacrifices and offerings, purification and moral living. The overriding theme of the book is “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). The holiness of God is the compelling reason His people must be holy. Whether we speak of Israel under the Sinai law, or the whole world under the gospel of Christ, we cannot live unholy lives and then somehow demand that God accept us “as we are” and even reward us in our unholiness. Yet, that is the attitude of many toward God. The context of today’s verse commanded Israel to keep all the statutes and judgments of God “that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out” (Leviticus 20:22). Today, if God’s people neglect the salvation we have in Jesus Christ we will not escape an even worse punishment (Hebrews 2:1-3). Holiness demands we make a distinction between what is clean and unclean, what is sin and righteous, what is evil and good (Leviticus 20:25). God separated Israel so it would be holy before Him. We must separate ourselves from unholiness or we, like Israel, will be defiled and condemned (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
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.