Paul's Instruction on Divorce

1 Corinthians 7:10–16

Posted by Brian Sayers on July 16, 2023
Paul's Instruction on Divorce
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“God hates divorce” correction: Malachi 2:16, Ezra 9 and 10, and Jeremiah 3:6–10

v. 10: “… not I, but the Lord, …”

v. 12: “… I say, not the Lord, …”

Main idea: Paul outlines two ways the true sanctity of marriage should impact our understanding and choices about marriage and divorce.

1. When you should stay together: Two believers should worship and reflect God through a biblical marriage (v. 10–11).

  • No “exception clause” needed, but is implied

2. When it is permissible to separate: Divorce in cases of abandonment or abject neglect of marriage vows by an unbeliever is not wrong (v. 12–16).

  • God’s ideals for marriage never change (v. 12–13)!
  • Your Christian presence in the marriage makes it blessed and purposeful for the Lord (v. 14, 16).
  • What does “consents to live with” mean?
  • There is a kind of “departure” from God’s ideal that makes marriage so “unsanctified” that Paul implies they have functionally abandoned—separated themselves—from the commitments of marriage in general.
    Exodus 21:7-11
    Exodus 21:26-27

Examples of not “consenting to live with” in the commitment of marital love and companionship:

  • Automated Transcription
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    Well, good morning. I so wish that I would have the privilege of sharing with you all the glories. And the goodness, that is marriage today. But I got a different task to talk about the topic of divorce. So, having spent the morning already talking about it, it's painful. But here it is in the text of Scripture. And we need to deal with this very important topic and we need to deal with it biblically. And so we're going to dive in together, I would ask you to stand and I'll read our text for this morning, from First Corinthians seven just picking up right where we left off last week in our study of First Corinthians. I'm gonna read first Corinthians seven, verses 10 through 16. But to the married, I give instructions, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband. But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or else become reconciled to her husband, and that the husband should not divorce his wife. But to the rest. I say not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who has an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her. She must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband, for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave, the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace, for how to you know, oh wife, whether you will save your husband or how to you know, husband, whether you will save your wife, this is the word of the Lord. God help us this morning as we dig into this passage to have proper sadness and lament, as we have expressed together over this sad situation of divorce help us to grow in wisdom and knowledge, from your word, it's a necessary topic or you would not have addressed it. In such objective terms. Help us to grow in our wisdom, and know how to compassionately love and, and serve and counsel those around us or our own hearts. We ask God in Christ's name, Amen. You may be seated.

    I think this is the longest passage in scripture giving instruction about divorce. And I think the issue of divorce in the evangelical church is one, that we have a tendency to want to put in the category of right or wrong black and white. We either can or can't. And there are many that like it that way. But as somebody who works with people in messy situations in the counseling center, I can assure you that situations are rarely so easily assessed, especially ones where questions remain or circumstances are on certain. And yet, it's often true, I think, broadly, in the evangelical world, that people who experienced divorce who have been through divorces are sometimes made to feel ostracized or, or judged in the church, no matter what those circumstances are, and often by people who don't even know the circumstances. I'm actually very thankful I did a membership interview just about a month or two ago, was someone who had been through a divorce. And they related to me that they had experienced just the opposite at Faith Bible Church as they they came here and got to know people just warm and welcoming and compassionate. And so I'm extremely thankful for that, but broadly in evangelicalism. I think there is this notion that is often related in this term, which I think most of us have probably heard at some point somewhere. God hates divorce, especially the older generation. I think you've all heard that phrase at some point. God hates divorce. Now, the Bible is a sacred relationship. It's a relationship that God Himself ratifies and mysteriously and and spiritually joins together. Jesus said, What God has joined together, let not man separate so it's a divinely ratified union and we shouldn't be quick to pursue breaking that and we shouldn't be eager to counsel others to do so. either. But for some this idea of God hating Divorce has become kind of a trump card. I've even seen it used by those who are trying to manipulate their spouse into staying married with them. But that statement is not always correct. It is not always true that divorce is a morally reprehensible act that in some absolute sense God hates. We're gonna look quickly at a few passages of Scripture that will make that clear to us. The first one is MLK chapter two verse 16. And this is actually the passage where that phrase God hates divorce is somewhat adapted from, and it really flows out of a mistranslation of it in the King James Version, and it's just kind of trickled down in the history of translations. In the New King James, very similar. It says, The Lord God of Israel says that he hates divorce, for it covers one garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts, therefore, take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously in my New American Standard. It says I hate divorce and what's happening in this passage and Mal Kai's. There are people that are treating their wives unjustly and treacherously and pursuing divorces that are that are not merited. But in the in the text of the, the Hebrew, the grammar doesn't have God's saying, I hate divorce. And, oddly enough, batting one out of 1000 is the NIV. Which bunch, which actually translates it literally, in if you no translation philosophy, you'd be like, Huh. But anyway, it says, in the NIV, the man who hates and divorces his wife, does violence to the one he should protect. So do not be unfaithful, captures the essence of that and the original, very, very clearly, and that that alone helps us see that it's, it's the phrase itself, it's just not in the Bible. It's kind of like God helps those who help themselves, right? Sounds biblical. It's not in there. Okay, that phrase is actually not in there. In fact, in Ezra, chapters, nine and 10, a portion of the history of Israel is related, where God commands people to divorce their wives who they had married out of the pagan, abominable, false God worship. Ezra is confessing the sins of the people in that context. And then God instructs him to call the people to repentance in chapter 10. And so he calls the people together. And he says to them, and Ezra 10, verse 11, and following, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will and separate yourself from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives. And all the assembly replied with a loud voice. That's right, as you have said, so it is our duty to do and they and they did they divorced those those foreign wives not not because of their race, but because of their religion. All right, so you got to be careful. That was a unique dynamic that existed in the nation of Israel, a physical political kingdom over which God was king. We're not going to handle situations like that. Similar today, but the point I'm making is simple, that God wouldn't have commanded them to divorce their wives in that unique situation. If it was always true, that divorce is wrong, and that quote, unquote, God hates divorce. That's not just what God commanded. Jeremiah, chapter three also relates that is what God Himself has done. In relationship to his people Israel and Jeremiah, chapter three, God describes his relational response to the nation of Israel enter her unfaithfulness as giving the nation a certificate of divorce. Jeremiah chapter three, starting verse six, it says, The Lord said to Jeremiah, in the days of Josiah the king, have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on a on a high mount evergreen tree and she was a harlot there. I thought after she has done all these things, she will return to me but she did not return. And I saw that for all her adult trees, of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ or a certificate of divorce. Now, it would be completely inappropriate for God to speak of divorcing faithless and adulterous Israel if doing so was always morally wrong. God divorced the nation, because it was a morally just and righteous response to their own moral and religious treachery against their divine husband by their spiritual harlotry. They had a say essentially declared their own intention, their own desire to be separated from him, though they were continuing to fake it for their own reasons. So God's seeing that hypocrisy and harlotry he gives them a certificate of divorce. So for those, those three reasons, the Bible doesn't actually say God hates divorce, God commanded His people to divorce, to protect Israel from religious defilement and moral defilement. And third got himself divorced Israel, in response to their spiritual harlotry. For those reasons alone, we can't think of and talk about divorce, as though God is always absolutely displeased with every divorce. In fact, I would say in many situations, it is actually God's will.

    That righteousness and justice is known through a process of divorce that exposes sin, and protects others from immorality or harm or oppression, or relational, treachery and evil. From unbelieving spouses. And I think that's largely what Paul has in mind, as he begins to give the instructions in verses 12 and 13, about men and women who are married to unbelievers. But the first two verses and 10 and 11, I believe he's talking very specifically to marriages where there are two believing people. So when he uses that phrase, I give instructions, not I but the Lord. He uses that phrase, not I but the Lord to highlight that I'm repeating or summarizing what Jesus has already taught you. And then in verse 12, when he says to the rest, I say, not the Lord. He says, Now I'm going to address a topic that Jesus never talked about. And that topic that Jesus never talked about, is a believer who's married to an unbeliever, Jesus was always an only addressing situations with two believers or two members of the Covenant community to people who were both equally committed to living their life under the law of God. So broadly, he, he wants to underscore the sanctity of marriage, and address these their kind of unique cultural, religious context in Corinth. And then we're going to draw out some general principles for us and arc, our context. So our big idea, if you're tracking with the notes, is Paul's going to outline two ways that the true sanctity of marriage should impact our understanding, and choices about marriage, and divorce. Now remember, Paul's been talking about immorality in the church. And he's he's been talking about our bodies as a sacred temple. And this whole context is about marriage and, and marital responsibilities and morality. And even last week, seeing that long term singleness that could actually be a fruitful way to serve the Lord, if it doesn't cause you greater temptation. Though, though, most people don't really want or have the moral strength to live like a life of singleness, like that. So the most typical situation is going to be that Christians are married and that they're married to fellow believers. But now here in the early church, we've encountered a situation where the gospel is being spread throughout the Gentile world, and people are coming to faith in Christ, and their spouses are not. And so you have what is really kind of a unique new situation for God through the apostles to address and now for us. So that is kind of the transition that Paul is making here. So let's talk first 10 and 11, about the relationship of two believers. Paul's answering really the question when we should stay together? And the answer is two believers should stay together. That's so very clear. And what he says in verse 10, and 11. Two believers should stay together and worship and reflect God through a biblical marriage. Now, this seems like a really foreign situation to our ears, because the idea that a Christian might be tempted to divorce a believing spouse, in order to be more devoted to Christian service. Has anyone ever had that thought? Anyone in modern day America ever had that thought? Probably not. I see no hands. I've never had that thought. Because we kind of live in a hedonistic society. We're pretty selfish, but they had threads and tones of monastic thinking back then were like, sacrifice and serve and, you know, beat yourself make every sacrifice and so they were actually tempted to do that. And so Paul kind of clarifies No, that's not what you're, that's not what you're supposed to be thinking, not what you're supposed to be doing. In fact, he says in verse 24, each one is to remain with God in that condition, in which he was called and I think he's talking about whether you're married or unmarried or whether you're a slave or whatever. However God calls you stay that way, don't take drastic measures undistracted devotion can be a wonderful thing. He's going to clarify that later, in verses 32, through through 35. He's saying there's a proper sense in which married people have to be concerned about how to please their spouse, and that could be a distraction to pleasing and serving the Lord. But the general principle is, stay as you are. So that's what he says in verse 1011. If you're a believer, your spouse is believer, here's the instruction, you shouldn't leave your husband, you shouldn't divorce your wife, that's the very clear instruction. Notice, he says, perhaps you've already made the mistake. Perhaps you've already divorced, he says, if that's the case, you should remain unmarried or be reconciled. And I think that's the unique situation that he's addressing. Through that phrase. I, I want to point out as well, that these sound like very absolute statements, right? Husbands, don't leave your wife, wives don't divorce your husbands. But Paul is not addressing situations where you have an immoral, unbelieving spouse. He's only addressing situations where there's two believers married together in verses 10 and 11. So if you try to take that absolute statement, the wife should not leave her husband, the husband should not divorce his wife, and you try to apply it in a situation where you don't have two Christians trying to be married, you're gonna make a mistake. Because the context is I'm only addressing situations that Jesus talked about, and that's to members of the Covenant community. The other thing Paul doesn't do here is he's only summarizing what Jesus taught. Jesus said more than that, didn't he? He actually said you shouldn't divorce except for the cause of sexual immorality. So if you're familiar with Matthew 19, and Mark chapter 10, when Jesus was talking about divorce, he gives an exception. He says, if you if you have a spouse who's committed sexual immorality, that is potentially grounds for a sanction to God's sanctioned divorce. But Paul doesn't give that exception here, because he doesn't really need to, when he says in verse 10, that he's repeating the instructions of the Lord, it's implied that all of his other instructions are underneath there. And so he gives the the ideal and the absolute without giving the exceptions in the same way that I might say, it's illegal to carry a gun in the city of Chicago. I don't need to say unless you're a police officer, right? Because you all know that it's an understood exception to the rule. And I think that's underneath what Paul is saying, here. He's wanting the general principle to be known and embrace. He's not trying to address every possible scenario that could happen in the lives of two believers in a sacred commitment, trying to put on display this ideal of permanent lifelong companionship, and partnership. So he said, Don't leave your believing spouse for some false pursuit of sanctimonious devotion. Again, a temptation that maybe isn't, is a little bit foreign to us. But again, he's he's in this context, where he's talking about our bodies being a temple and about being wholly devoted to the Lord. And earlier, remember, he had pointed out the horror of making your your members and the members of Christ joined to a harlot. And he's he's calling the people to flee immorality and in this cultural context of being saved out of paganism, and saved out of idolatry. And given Paul's strong language, it could have been easy for someone who was married to an unbeliever to begin to think, oh, maybe I should just get rid of my unbelieving spouse. Right? And so this becomes a temptation for them.

    You might even imagine someone reading Ezra, right. And concluding that what was called for in the theocracy of Israel, well, maybe that's required in the governance of the New Testament church. So we've pointed out that those are very two different dispensations, two very different situations. And that certainly wasn't Paul's point, as he's now going to make clear as he answers the second question, when is it permissible to separate and again, he's only talking about separation divorce in situations where a believer is married to an unbeliever. Notice he says that in verse 12, and 13 If any brother has a wife, who is an unbeliever, verse 13, or a woman who has an unbelieving heart husband. And here's how he answers that question if you tracking with me in the notes, divorce in cases of abandonment or abject neglect of marriage vows by an unbeliever is not wrong. divorcing cases of abandonment or abject neglect of marriage vows by an unbeliever is not wrong again, they're they're probably asking this weird question, could it actually be a Christian duty? to divorce my, my pagan spouse, I've heard a few stories I've not had to counsel someone personally. But I have heard a few stories of Christians who did divorce their unbelieving spouse just because they were unbelievers, and it was devastating for their families. And I think that would be wrong. And Paul makes it clear, I think, here why that would be wrong. The first clarification He gives us because God's ideals for marriage never change. If they're willing to dwell with you together as a spouse, he says, Don't Don't leave him. Like put the beauty of marriage on display as best you can. And what will potentially be a difficult situation being being married to an unbeliever. But if that unbelieving spouse gives agreement to live peaceably as a married couple, and they're reasonably willing to pursue that Paul says, very clearly, remain married to them. And and do your part in holding up the picture, that marriage is supposed to be love that person like Jesus, put the righteousness and the plan of God on display for them and as much as you can on display for other with with all of the affection and all the self sacrifice and all the humility that the Spirit of God can enable in you. And that may be a very hard thing. Right? I think Peter gives some instructions about that in first Peter chapter three, when he says, Wives, husband who's disobedient to the word, right? He says, fulfill your role, be submissive to them, love them gentle and quiet spirit, so that they may be one without a word by the behavior of their wives. And when he gives instructions, the husband's done a verse seven he says, likewise, like I think he's saying, likewise, husbands if you have a wife, who's disobedient to the word, honor her, dwell with her in an understanding way, again, put the character of Christ on display for them. So yes, I think he's calling us to stay with them, and put Christian truth and put Christian virtue on display for them to see and to seek to win. Your unbelieving spouse. That's the second reason why it'd be wrong to divorce them. Just because they're an unbeliever is notice verse 14 and 16. He's talking about how you your presence in the marriage, verse 14, sanctifies, that unbelieving person and sanctifies, the children, it doesn't mean they're like, literally an absolutely holy. It means that you being there, putting your lifestyle in an inviting, or adding your worldview, adding your values, bringing bringing the truth into your home, that is inevitably going to impact your unbelieving husband, and it's going to have an inevitable influence on your, on your children. That's the sense in which the unbelieving husband is sanctified through the wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her husband. Now, again, he's not trying to paint a picture of every possible scenario, and that's going to be happening in varying degrees in different relationships. But He's appealing to two believers who who find themselves in a situation where they're married to an unbeliever to continue to try to have that sanctifying influence in their home. Verse 16, says that may actually extend all the way to the unbelieving spouse coming to faith in Christ, verse 16, how do you know Oh, wife, whether you'll save your husband? How do you know, oh, husband, whether you'll save your wife, he's not saying you're literally going to save them, but that you're going to be the means that God uses to bring his saving grace into their, their life. And so he says, Don't don't just divorce your spouse because of their unbelieving state, you don't know how fully your life will impact them and how much the fruit of the gospel in your own life is going to influence and praise God. We've seen examples of that right here and waters of baptism at Faith Bible Church at the Adams and the Al Carr's families where unbelieving spouse is just loved and served or believing spouses loved and served their unbelieving spouses and eventually, they came aim to faith in Christ. So in Paul's instruction, when is it permissible to separate he essentially says, Don't separate, don't divorce, as long as your unbelieving spouse is willing to live together and pursue that relationship with the mutuality and companionship of marriage. Now the phrase that Paul uses to express that is translated consents to live with. What does that phrase, if your unbelieving spouse consents to live with you, then you should stay with them. I think this is another phrase that's been overlooked as it relates to divorce and in the history of the church and, and how the evangelical church has viewed divorce, this phrase has often been been viewed in kind of a very reductionistic way, want to reduce it down to the simplest way to understand it. And I'm just going to believe that that's everything. And so not living with would be a very simple way to understand it. And so some have said, well, if they leave you, if they if they abandon you, then you can divorce them. And so many Bible believing churches and this clearly be the majority view in the world today. And I would say Bible believing churches, they talk about two biblical grounds for divorce, sexual immorality, and abandonment. And we and I say that meaning the elders basically agree with those two broad categories. And that's reflected in our statement, which you can find online. I think your growth guides this week, have a link to where you can find that information. If you want more details, I'm giving you the jet tour here today. But we basically agree with those two broad categories. We just believe that this phrase defines abandonment or departure as something different than just leaving the physical address. Okay, Paul's not talking about location with consents to live with, he's talking about relationship. And, and here's why not to be fair, verse 15, uses words like leaves, and the New King James translates it departs. It does make it sound like he's talking about just location, and not relationship. But you actually have to set aside what this word literally means in order to think it narrowly only means location. Paul's not talking about a change of address, but more, something much more significant. What does it mean? The term is so new to Cabo. And if you break the pieces down, you might say that it means this, to think well about it together. To think well about it together. Now, what are you thinking well, about together, marriage, living with each other, if you're thinking well together about the marriage relationship you're consenting to live with. That's the the idea here, that prefix soon on the front end of that word, really does indicate mutuality of thought and mutuality, of intention. Cooperation in the marriage is the idea. And he's saying consent to live with means to have a wholehearted intent to dwell together, and to really relate to you in the bond of marriage a wholehearted intent to dwell together with your spouse, and to work together in the marriage relationship. When you look at how this word is used, the three other cases where it's used in Scripture, you see this idea of wholehearted agreement and desire to participate.

    Jesus use the term and Luke 1148, about the Pharisees who approved the deeds of their fathers who killed the prophets. He's basically saying if the prophets were still here, and your fathers were still killing him, you would be all in. You would not only agree with it, you would say like, let me cast the next stone. That's what he's saying. You're giving wholehearted approval to the stoning of the prophets and Romans one, Paul uses the word when he's talking about God giving people over to the lust of their flesh and doing improper things men with men and women with women and and kind of like our culture, right? He says, those who practice such things are worthy of death. They not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. It's that same word that hearty approval. Like that translation. And in Acts chapter eight, the situation where Stephen was being stoned. And Saul who would become Paul was standing there guarding the coats and the cloaks of those who are literally casting stones at Stephen. It says Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death, hearty agreement. So there, there you see this element of hearty agreement and a desire to participate in, in the activity. So when you apply that to what Paul's saying here in verses 12 and 13, if an unbelieving spouse has hearty agreement and desire to engage in the marriage relationship, don't leave them. That that's the simple instruction. But But man, what does it really mean? And what does it really look like? And maybe more importantly, not look like when someone doesn't have that consent to live with? doesn't have that hearty agreement and desire to actively participate in the marriage relationship? What does it look like, in practical terms, because we know this right? Unbelievers, they're probably not going to be the best spouse. I mean, maybe that's an understatement of the century, right? They're probably not going to be the best spouse, they maybe don't even understand God's ideals for marriage, right. And they don't have the Spirit of God to really know what what it's like to love and to serve and to sacrifice for another so that they're probably not going to be the best spouse. But even an unbelieving spouse can actually be decent. And we, every single person in this room knows some unbeliever who's actually a loving husband, or a loving wife. We all know those people exist, and they're actively participating in the marriage. But there are a lot of situations where the reality is that the unbelieving spouse is not committed. And that way, we're going to look at a couple of biblical examples. And then maybe talk about some practical examples that that that we've seen, but know in your notes. Paul is not talking about location, he's talking about relationship. And given that concept, there is a kind of departure from God's ideal that makes marriage so unsanctified, that Paul implies they, their unbelieving partner has functionally abandoned the marriage they have functionally separated themselves from the commitment of marriage. In general, kind of like I said, with the people of Israel, through their adultery and false religion, they had declared their intention to not be obediently follow following the Lord and some people through their immorality or their lack of commitment to the marriage functionally declare their commitment to not be consenting to live with or actively participating in the marriage. Two examples, inscription I think we referenced this a few weeks ago. One is in Exodus 21, where you see an example of a slave woman who is taken as a wife, the master gives the slave to his son as a wife. And it says in Exodus 21, verse nine, if, if he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. She's no longer a slave. She's part of the family. She's his daughter in law, no. Well, son, I guess, gets discontent beyond the scope of our discussion this morning. But first tenant says he takes to himself another wife. And if he does, so, he may not reduce her food or clothing, or her conjugal rights. That's the physical affections of marriage. If he will not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing. without payment of money. She's released from her marriage covenant, because of neglect on the part of her husband. She's not to be put back into slavery, she can't be sold to someone else, as she is allowed to go free free from the legal commitment of marriage as a result of her husband's neglect. Later in this chapter, so again, a husband is not giving his wife food and clothing and the physical affections of marriage. He is functionally declaring, I have no desire to live together with you. Has a spouse, as a husband, a provider, a protector, a lover or leader right? later in the chapter. There's another example of a slave in this case just specifically mentioned as a slave, but a slave who's whose master strikes the eye of his slave and destroys it, it says, He shall go free on account of his eye, if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female sleeve, slave shall let him go free on account of his tooth. And so you see another example where violence, physical violence becomes, under God's law, legitimate grounds for being freed from your legal obligation as as a slave, and a free Israelite woman, who would have suffered violence from her husband would not have had fewer legal rights than a slave under the law. And indeed, that was exactly how it was practiced. So I think those are biblical examples that you see neglect abject neglect, and physical violence, where, where essentially, you have the same category, that that spouse, the violent spouse, or the neglectful spouse is not consenting to live with them, is not in wholehearted agreement, and wants to participate in the relationship as a loving spouse. So, on a practical level, I think there are all types of behaviors and patterns that might expose the reality of an unbelieving spouse, who's not truly consenting to live with in this biblical sense, in addition to neglect and physical violence, what about a spouse who is content to, to live in the same home, who maybe even refuse to move out, but separate sleeping arrangements, no intimacy, maybe even very little interest in the spouse's feelings or life in general, it could be a husband, who's just happy to have someone who cooks and cleans and does his laundry, but he doesn't really want to have a relationship with her. Or it could be the wife, who wants a man to pay the bills and, and to keep the house from falling over, maybe even pay for her her hobbies and interests, but she doesn't really express her, or even have the kinds of affections that are that a married person ought to have for their spouse. It could be a spouse who is characterized by harsh words, criticism, degrading and demeaning speech, that attacks or accuses or blames their spouse, for everything, just constantly hurling hurtful, sinful words at their spouse, but they will leave. They're happy to live there and get whatever benefits they can as they live this life of harsh cruelty. How about a situation where your spouse starts cross dressing on weekends? I wish I was making this stuff up. You won't hear a story I haven't dealt with. They start cross dressing on weekends. Does does a spouse have to live with someone? Are they really saying I want to be a husband to you? If they're wearing your clothes on Saturday? I know it's hard not to laugh. But it's a real situation. I've encountered it twice now. How about a spouse who commits crimes and just ends up in jail. It wasn't intentional neglect. But it was certainly by their actions they've completely and utterly have failed to provide and protect. And it's even worse, if it were sex crimes, or child porn, or abusing the children. Maybe a spouse who's constantly battling substance abuse, that they're lying to you almost daily. Maybe they're draining the finances, bills can't be paid, all for the sake of their habit.

    Maybe the financial situation is a result of gambling the money away. Can a person be consenting to live with like wholeheartedly want to participate in being the provider when they're taking all the provision and basically flushing it down the toilet out at Northern quest? Maybe it's not gambling, maybe it's speculative investments, maybe it's just total lack of wisdom and how they handle finances and and the the spouse is struggling from week to week wondering how they're gonna pay the bills, how are they going to feed the kids? What about it just an ongoing continuous pornography problem? Just ongoing and it affects your spouse's expectations of you on almost a daily basis because is a topic of conversation and you're always wondering is that underneath what is being said here, maybe it even affects their desire for you. That's a sad one too. They spend so much time on the porn and pleasuring themselves, they have no interest in you. That's, that's extremely sad. For some, it actually affects their ability, not just their desire, but their ability to be intimate with their spouse. That could be an unbiblical, subjugation of a spouse, they're demanding submission, and some harsh way a husband, that could happen, they might even be using the Bible to either justify what they're doing, or manipulating a spouse to believe that it would be disrespectful or wrong, to tell others about what's going on in the home, but they're just manipulating using scripture for their own selfish ends. And it could be a demanding wife, who is just so beaten their husband down with her expectations, that he's he's lost what it really means to be masculine anymore. We have some somewhat liberal friends who had a bumper sticker on their car we saw yesterday, like, make husbands masculine again, like she's a feminist. I mean, this is happening in our culture, right? And here's what makes all of this so confusing and difficult to apply is that in so many of these situations that we encounter, the other person is a professing Christian. It looks like to believers, but the lifestyle is betraying what Paul talked about in First Corinthians five, right, that they're just a so called brother. There's the brother in name only. Right? And they should be under the the faithful discipline of the church. And can I just cast that out there? Beloved, if you're in a relationship where you're, you're experiencing things like this, and your spouse is not wholeheartedly committed to, to dwelling with you in that holy bond of marriage with all the affections and the commitments and the relational dynamics, that God's called them to get help. We want to help you it is it is not sin or wrong or disrespectful for you to come to a shepherd of the flock, your growth group Shepherd are one of the elders and say, my marriage is a mess. I need help. We're all we've all got messages. That one's really personal. And maybe it feels scary. But we've all got messages and sin that we need help with, please let us help you and care for you. Let the church do its job, which is either come alongside that, that disobedient spouse and call them to repentance and faith in Christ and love for you. Or let us bring the weight of discipline into their lives as a means of humbling them and bringing them to repentance. I also want to point out these situations, I'm gonna go back to the beginning, the stuff I just talked about, it's not black and white, is it. It's confusing. It's hard, it's hard to sort out, it's hard to discern what, how to think what to do in these situations. They're not always black and white. And so I think you would need help, just like I would need help. If I were emotionally involved in a relationship like that, I'm not going to be very objective. I need someone to come along side me with wisdom and discernment and help me be objective and help bring the truth of God's word to bear on that have also been really, really careful to not use worldly terms. The cultures terms, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, spirit abuse, the word abuse, narcissism, I avoid those categories and labels because if you start using labels and categories that have grown out of worldly philosophy, you're going to find solutions and answers to how to respond to it on the internet that also flow out of that worldly philosophy that's not going to be Biblical answers to your to your problems and questions. And so I've kind of avoided those things. But that is the kind of stuff that we're talking about. Don't don't go down that road of seeking answers from places that that aren't grounded in truth. Let us help you and care for you and think through these things. Biblically. Going back to First Corinthians seven Re.

    He says in verse 15, I failed to address his first hour but if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave and Paul is really saying, Look, you got an unbelieving spouse, and they're not consenting to live with you. And it's awful and they want to leave, don't fight that. Don't fight that God can use this sorrowful sad situation that we just lamented for good because he can cause all things to work together for good for those who love him, don't kick against the goads of that you're not under bondage. In such cases, he really gives liberty of conscience. They're in situations where believing spouses are abandoned by awful spouses. And don't miss that comfort. My expectation to you is, beloved, as Christians, let's uphold and live out the sanctity of marriage, and not be confused about that. And, and let's also be discerning and helpful and compassionate and caring toward those who have maybe already suffered divorce or are going through divorces. Let's be the kind of people that that we lamented we ought to be to show that kind of care and concern. And then perhaps some wrestling through these questions. Let's, let's bring wise compassionate discerning counsel to them as we think through situations that are just not going to be as black and white as we might want them to be. Let's do that for the glory of God. Let's pray. God, we thank You for Your word it is. It's sad that we have these confusing questions and situations that we need to think through but we are so very thankful that you've given us even just this wisdom from your servant Paul to think through very difficult things help us to be to be wise and ever informed and controlled by the Word and the Spirit. As we navigate these waters and God we pray that you'd glorify yourself, even in the worst of circumstances, because we know that's your your intention, and we ask it in Christ's name, Amen.


Brian Sayers

Brian is the Pastor of Counseling & Equipping at Faith Bible Church. He is passionate about the local church, and equipping the saints to effectively serve one another. Before coming to Spokane, he spent 14 years serving God's people as a pastor in rural New England (Vermont & New Hampshire).

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