1 Corinthians Chapter 7: Paul on Marriage, Separation and Divorce

Key verses: (1 Corinthians 7:10–16)

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Daily Message

These are somewhat confusing words from Paul on marriage, separation and divorce. Let’s dissect the text and try to make sense of it in its historical context. Paul recognizes that there are those in Corinth who don’t believe nonbelievers may be married to believers in this young church community. And there may also be a natural tendency to separate when one of the two in a married couple is a non-believer and one is a believer. In verses 10 and 11, he quotes the Lord in saying that a wife must not separate from her husband and a husband must not separate from his wife, but if they separate, they should not remarry but rather attempt to reconcile their differences.

In verses 12 through 14, Paul speaks for himself in saying that if one of the members of the marriage is a non-believer but is willing to live with the other, then the couple should not divorce but rather remain together. This is because Paul believes that the believing spouse can have a transformative effect on the non-believing spouse; the reconciliation may naturally occur as they remain together.

A Moment to Reflect

Of course, today’s reality is that there are horrendous situations of emotional and/or physical spousal abuse that certainly justify divorce. I think Paul would agree, even though in this passage he doesn’t seem to address that issue.

Not counting the abusive-spouse situation, how do you feel about Paul’s view that after a separation, married couples should work hard at reconciliation and that in marriages in which one of the couples is a believer and the other is not, that their mutual agreement to remain together may result in the non-believer coming to know Jesus? Do you have examples you can share of such situations?

3 Comments

Julie Bautista Balong-angey 4.5.17

I am married for 34 years. I decided not share a room with him because I feel so nauseated/loathe/nandidiri. Am I committing sin?

Precilla A. Walchli 4.5.17

I’m a believer for more than 30 years, and raised in a Baptist Church that condemns believer who married to unbeliever, and the result of the kind of teaching, made me too much self righteous and judgemental. However…I see a lot of both believers and they even went to Bible seminaries, but at the end they separated and having an affair both. But there are also believer, who courted an unbeliever and they were condemn by the Church. The girl becomes believer, but the Pastor and all Church members still condemning them. They fought and stand firm together for their love. They got married, and now wife becomes more useful in the service of God. She is a High School teacher…and despite of the Church humiliation to her, she approach the Church to conduct Bible study in her school, and many students get saved. Until now, she mightily used by the Lord for the salvation of students.

I am tired of hypocrisy, too much self righteousness, judgemental, condemnations and etc. And usually, its many Baptist practices, and it’s not different from hypocrite Pharisees. I did not say, that marrying unbelievers are advisable. But we suppose to love unlovable people. We are saved by grace and grace is love.

Eddie Boy 4.5.17

Thank you for the word of God.God Bless you


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