Marriage is God’s design for a man and wife to enjoy life together with him as their foundation. Christian marriage is a representation of the love that Jesus Christ has for the church. God’s love never fails or gives up. Likewise, Christian marriage is intended to last a lifetime. However, sin and unfaithfulness cause some couples to divorce. Paul’s letters in 1stand 2ndCorinthians and Ephesians shed light on these problems and instructions on how to deal with them. Although divorce happens in the church, God still loves his people and will guide them into the truth so that we can learn to love and recognize the blessing that marriage is to man.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul gives teaching and instruction on Christian marriage that answered vital questions for the Corinthians. In those times, their culture included religious prostitution and different forms of gross sexual immorality. “Corinth has been called the NY, LA, and Las Vegas of the ancient world because of its size, moral reputation, and other reasons” (McRay, 2007, p. 166). Paul began chapter 7 of Corinthians by encouraging the believers there not to even consider marriage because of the intense sexual temptations of their environment that influenced ungodliness within marriage. Today, we can read (7:1) and misinterpret it to mean that God told Paul to tell all believers to refrain from marriage. But Paul was just wanting the Corinthians to be content in their current marriages or singleness and trust God for personal direction for their relationships. We know that God loves and even commands marriage because it’s his perfect will that represents his love and populates the earth. Learning the background history of the Corinthians helps modern readers gain clarity and direction for our own lives.
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, Paul writes that husbands should not divorce their wives and wives shouldn’t divorce their husbands, but if they do, they ought to remain unmarried or remarry their former husbands. This is not a statement of judgment. God still loves his people that choose to end their commitments. It’s not his plan for them to separate (Mark 10:9) but he can bring them back together or bless them in another marriage or singleness. I think these verses are often taken out of context in the church because I’ve heard way too many stories of people being judged harshly by other believers because of their divorces and marriages to other people. I am sure that people in the Corinthian church times divorced their spouses for petty reasons that come from misunderstanding or lack of commitment. But today, people divorce for serious reasons such as abuse and infidelity because (in my opinion) God isn’t held at the same standard as the early church. But we have no right to judge others because we don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. I am a firm believer in Christian marriage. I know that God can heal and rebuild broken marriages, but I also believe that some marriages aren’t his will because some people simply marry the wrong person and God wants his people to be at peace and have unity.
The Bible states in 2 Corinthians 6:14 (New American Standard Bible), “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” I take this verse to mean that believers should intentionally seek Christian partners and they should be cautious of considering marriage with unbelievers. God made woman out of man and he said that a man shall leave his parents and be joined to his wife as one flesh (Gen. 2:24). I believe in soul ties. So, if a Christian is joined together with an unbeliever, I believe that they will be influenced negatively in some aspects by that person. I don’t think that marriage to an unbeliever is worth the havoc. But Paul said that the unbelieving partner is sanctified through the believing one (1 Cor. 7:14). However, it’s not guaranteed that the lost one will be saved. Those who do have unbelieving spouses shouldn’t get divorced because God requires commitment. I just think that the Bible suggests that we avoid it and if we’re in those marriages, we should continually seek his guidance and work it out.
The letters to the Corinthian church answer vital marital questions, but the most beautiful message on marriage lies in Ephesians 5. Paul wrote “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:22-23, NASB). Submission may seem old-school in our modern world. But it’s God plan for wives to be led by their husbands because they represent Christ’s love for his Bride, the church. In Paul’s day is seemed as if all women were “housewives” and subject to all men. So surely, this verse was readily accepted to the Christian women back then. I think that submission is better accepted today for us when we put our focus on Jesus Christ. He loved us and gave Himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God (5:2). When wives submit to their husbands, they give them the respect, honor, and love that they deserve. But unlike old times and religion, God wants husbands to submit to their wives too in a biblical way by respecting them, loving them (5:25-29), and having a partnership where the wife’s opinions and gifts are considered and valued, and she is regarded as holy and special.
Paul’s views on marriage shaped my understanding of how the Corinthian church dealt with marital issues and how we are to respond to them today. As a young married woman of God, I believe that my marriage is going to last our lifetimes because we love God and keep him first. Our love and commitment to each other is effortless because of our faithfulness to God. Of course, we weren’t always striving in our relationship, but we became solid as a rock once we learned how to love each other as Christ loves us. Paul’s beautifully written love letter in Ephesians teaches me biblical equality in marriage. He shows us that bothhusband and wife are to be imitators of Christ by walking in love. Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is also major because it breaks down what love truly looks like God’s way. Second to our personal relationships with Jesus (John 3:16, 17:3), marriage is man’s most precious gift (Gen. 2:18).
McRay, J. (2007). Paul: His life and teaching. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
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