Marriage and Divorce
A. If You Have Never Married
For you who have never married, God’s instructions are simply to control the lusts of your flesh, keep yourself morally pure, and to marry if you desire to do so. For those among us who “have power over their own will” and are determined to remain single, permission – indeed, encouragement – is given to remain unmarried (1Cor. 7:7-9). But this is a choice which must be made in your own heart (1Cor. 7:37). God may call a man or woman to a celibate life, but it is a very rare calling. And religious leaders who impose celibacy on others are bluntly condemned by Paul, who associates such religious oppression with “doctrines of demons” (1Tim. 4:1-3).
Although you are permitted to marry, you must remember that you are to marry “only in the Lord” (1Cor. 7:39); that is, you may marry only someone else who believes in Christ. The prohibition of marriage to an unbeliever is one of the clearest and most consistent commandments for God’s people found in Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New:
You must not intermarry with them, neither giving your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor receiving their daughters for your sons. . . . For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God, the Lord your God having chosen you out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth to be a people of His very own.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what is there in common between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What harmony exists between Christ and Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: “I will live and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
So, the prohibition of marriage between an unbeliever and a believer is an issue that has always been non-negotiable with the Almighty. This is one issue upon which every man who truly serves God will agree. Would to God that this warning were sounded from every housetop:
Another point of universal agreement should be God’s demand that His unmarried children keep themselves morally pure. King David earnestly warned his young son Solomon (unfortunately, to no avail) to avoid entanglements with ungodly women. David’s wise words to his son are ancient, but are as relevant as ever to young saints:
The commandment is a lamp, and the law is light; and the reproofs of instruction are the way of life. To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in your heart, neither let her take you with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread, and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life.
Let not your heart decline to her ways; go not astray in her paths. For she has cast down many wounded. Yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers [bedrooms] of death.
A foolish woman is clamorous. She is simple, and knows nothing. For she sits at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city, to call passengers who go right on their ways. Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither. And as for him that lacks understanding, she says to him, “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell.
excerpts from Prov. 6, 7, 9
Keep yourself pure, dear friend. The penalties in God's kingdom for immorality are severe. Accordingly, the warnings against immorality are stern. The death penalty was imposed for fornication (Deut. 22:20-21; cp. 1Cor. 6:9-10), adultery (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22-24), whoredom (Lev. 21:9; Eph. 5:5), rape (Deut. 22:25-27), incest (Lev. 18:6-18, 29; 20:11-12; Deut. 27:20, 22, 23), homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Deut. 23:17-18), bestiality (Ex. 22:19; Lev. 20:15-16; 18:23; Deut. 27:21).Those who commit such sins will not inherit the kingdom of God. The Lord issued this famous exhortation to His people: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” You should take that exhortation seriously. The salvation of your soul depends upon it.
As for the unmarried saints who wanted to marry, Paul advised them to consider the spiritual consequences of marriage. “I want you to live without anxiety” he wrote. “The unmarried man is concerned for things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord, but the man who has married is anxious about things of the world, how he may please the wife, and he is divided” (1Cor. 7:32-33). And to the women, he wrote, “The unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit, but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband” (1Cor. 7:34).
So, Paul rightly felt that an unmarried person is in a better position to give full attention to the work of the Lord than is a married person. However, Paul quickly and wisely lets the saints know that he is not commanding anyone either to marry or to remain unmarried. That is altogether a decision for the individual to make in his or her own heart.
Your liberty either to marry or not to marry is an unalienable privilege in Christ. As mentioned above, Paul prophesied of Christian ministers who would come, forbidding some to marry (1Tim. 4:1-3). Such teachers are believers in Christ who “depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” Let no one pressure you either way, dear brother or sister. You are absolutely free to choose whatever you will, concerning marriage. The only restriction God places upon you is that if you decide to marry, you must marry another believer.