|Volume 19 Number 10 October 2017||
Gary C. Hampton
Jesus set forth the only exception to God’s law for marriage when He included “except for sexual immorality.” The word Jesus used includes any sexual sin. God only intended such intimacy for the two companions within a marriage. Jesus was speaking to “Jews who knew nothing of a woman divorcing her husband” (Lenski, The Interpretation of Matthew’s Gospel 230). The rule applies to both men and women who divorce their spouses (Mark 10:12). [Mark was writing to non-Jews, and therefore, by inspiration, he made sure that his readers understood that our Lord’s teaching applied to both men and women. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
Part of 1 Corinthians was written in response to questions. One question seems to have been, “Should a Christian, who is joined to Christ, separate from the union of marriage?” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). The Lord answered this, likely in the verses we have already examined. The general rule was that they should not even separate. “If she and her husband cannot live harmoniously together let her remain unmarried. She is not permitted to marry again. That would be adulterous” (Lipscomb, First Corinthians, Gospel Advocate 98). “The Christian woman who has separated from her husband, but found that she cannot live the single life and remain pure has only one path open to her. She is to be reconciled to the husband whom she has injured” (Lipscomb).
Paul spoke regarding “the rest,” which seems to involve the marriage of a “believer and an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). Paul, as an inspired apostle, gave his divine instruction in reference to a situation not addressed by the Lord in His personal ministry. If the brother married to an unbelieving wife is pleased to dwell with her, he is free to do so; he is not to put… her away” (Woodson, The Problem of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage 3).
Verse 15 contains instructions for a believing companion when the spouse chooses to depart. “The only terms on which he will continue the marriage is for the Christian to leave the Lord and become a pagan. The Christian has-not-been-and-is-not-bound-to-leave-the-Lord ‘in such cases’… to preserve a marriage the price of which is for her to” leave the Lord. The Christian “is not bound.… The Christian is called… in peace, to be in peace with God whatever the difficulty imposed by impossible demands by another, husband or not” (Woodson). We might say the Christian is not enslaved to the unbeliever to whom he or she is married.
The Christian should allow the unbeliever to depart in lieu of surrendering his or her relationship to the Lord. Doing such in the most peaceful way possible may ultimately lead to the salvation of the spouse (1 Corinthians 7:16).
Praise of Men or Praise of God?
Our attitudes are very important. They will either help us to be pleasing to God, or they will keep us from pleasing Him. Scripture says, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).
These men knew the truth, but knowing is not enough. They were unwilling to live the truth, and stand for the truth, because they were afraid of others. Or, perhaps more correctly, they were afraid of being rejected and persecuted by others.
Statistics reveal that, for the second year in a row, Christians are the most persecuted group in the world. This survey considers everyone who identifies with Christ and suffers for doing so as a Christian. Radical Islam is also identified as the leading source of persecution against Christianity. While this may be true elsewhere in the world, we tend to believe such is not possible here. However, the president for International Christian Concern recently stated, “Persecution in the US isn’t comparable to overseas. Yet there have been too many Christians fired or sued, and too many negative court cases and laws, to miss a clear trend. Most governments don’t publicly declare their hostility toward religion; they use laws like zoning or employment to push it out of the public square. Religious freedom in the US is being pushed toward private expression.” If history reveals anything, Satan will not be content with the Gospel being expressed privately, either.
This begs the question we each should ask ourselves: Which do we esteem more highly, the praise of God or the praise of men? The answer to that question will be answered by how we live our lives. Do we live for God according to His will, or do we live in the shadows? Are we the light of the world, or are we being assimilated into the world? The message of the Gospel and the life it calls us to live might bring shame to some, but not to the genuine follower of Christ. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17). The choices we make today will have eternal consequences. “Here is the perseverance of the saints, who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
Let us put God’s will first in our lives, no matter what. Let us commit ourselves to Him who judges righteously, come what may. Let us put our trust in God, for all to see. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).