Know Your Bible

VOL. 14                                                                                                                         June 7, 2015                                                                                                                            NO. 13



Marital separation is a situation to avoid, generally. Like divorce (Matthew 19:9), there is limited exemption from the prohibition. Paul taught married couples, “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Do not deprive one another…” Marriage provides for the satisfaction of sexual need in the only manner consistent with God’s will (Hebrews 13:4). Thus, deprivation occurs when husband and wife are parted. Immediately prior to issuing limited permission for separation, the apostle asserted, “Let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.  Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:2-4). Obstacles to conjugal fulfillment should be dismissed, usually.

Except with consent…” God sternly disfavors one withholding bodily satisfaction from the other, so if separation transpires it must be agreed to by both spouses. Mutual approval is consistent with the doctrine enjoined upon all Christians to be “like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2-4). If this should be so in the brotherhood, it should certainly hold true in matrimony.

For a time…” On the odd occasion that husband and wife are apart, the removal should be temporary. Marriage was intended from the beginning to solve the problem of loneliness, Jehovah having said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18); therefore, solitude ought not to be perpetuated within wedlock any longer than necessary.

That you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer…”  Separation in marriage should occur only to fast and to pray. Fasting and prayer alike are individual activities. Jesus taught, “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place” (Matthew 6:6), and “When you fast… do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place” (17-18). It was the Master’s own habit to pray in solitude; “He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Any reason besides this very particular purpose, which is expressly spiritual in nature, is without divine sanction.  

And come together again…” Reunion must be the intention of each spouse when parting from one another. It would be wise to set a specific date for getting back together because an indefinite separation might otherwise become permanent. When questioned about divorce, Jesus explained, “They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). The apostle Paul declared, “A wife is not to depart from her husband… And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).

So that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” As noted previously, marriage is the only channel though which sexual satisfaction should be achieved (1 Corinthians 7:2-4; Hebrews 13:4). If spouses do not soon rejoin one another, then they expose their counterparts to the temptation of fulfilling fleshly needs outside marriage. The Lord addressed this concern when He warned, “Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery” (Matthew 5:32). Those who cause others to sin will be held accountable (Matthew 18:6).

—Bryan Matthew Dockens




Some brethren insist that I Cor. 7:10-11 gives married couples permission to divorce. Those verses say, "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." (KJV) Thus, the Lord very plainly says that a wife is not to depart from her husband. Paul was showing that the Lord had already commanded such during His personal ministry. He said, "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."(Matt. 19:6). The same word "chorizo" (put asunder, separate, depart) is used in both Matt. 19:6 and 1 Cor. 7:10-11.

Please let me ask a very simple but important question: “If I Cor. 7:10-11 is giving permission for the wife to depart, upon what

conditions can she depart?" If her husband does not take out the garbage, can she depart? If he does not constantly say, "I love you" can she depart? If he spends money on himself rather than on her, can she depart? The only reason for departing which the Lord gave was: “except

for fornication.” (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). No one has the right to devise other conditions for departing which the Lord did not give.

Some say that verse 11 of 1 Cor. 7 gives the wife permission to depart. It does no such thing. It only shows what to do if there is a departing. In other words, it is the Lord's will that they do not depart, but if they do depart, they are to either to be reconciled or remain unmarried. A father may say to his teenager, “You cannot wreck the family car, but if you do wreck it, here''s what you need to do." Since he gave instruction on what to do if he wrecked the car, does that give the teenager permission to wreck the car? Certainly not! Likewise, it is against the Lord's will (sinful) for them to depart to begin with. If and when some do depart, they are not to compound their sins; e.g., by remarrying. Thus, the verse is not giving permission to depart without sinning, but is showing that one is not to make matters worse if they do depart.

It is helpful to view I John 2:1-2 as a parallel to 1 Cor. 7:10-11. Those verses say, "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." The parallel is obvious. God commanded: “A wife is not to depart from her

husband" and "These things I write to you that you may not sin." Since God added further instructions, it does not give liberty in either case. In other words, since God added, "if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband," it does not give her permission to depart, any more than "if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father" gives one permission to sin.

The action of departing (by means of legal action or whatever) violates several other divine principles: 

(1) The sacred marriage covenant made before God and man ("till death do us part," etc.) has been broken. (Mal. 2:14-16; James 5:12

(2) It destroys one's influence and/or example.(1 Tim. 5:14; Titus 2:3-8) For example, if one Christian couple can divorce without sinning, why can't all Christians couples divorce without sinning? 

(3) It is a disregard for the Christian principle of doing good for evil.(Rom. 12:14,17,21; 1 Pet 3:9; Matt. 5:44). 

(4) It promotes adultery.(Matt. 5:31-32) One or both of the divorced parties may commit adultery. 

(5) Action has been taken which brings about disobedience to a host of commands. For example, they are to love each other (Eph. 5:25; Titus 2:4), they are to fulfill sexual desires of their partner (1 Cor. 7:2-5), the wife is to submit to her husband (Eph. 5:23-24; 1 Pet. 3:1-5), the husband is to be the head of his wife and dwell with her with understanding(1 Pet. 3:7), etc.

Let all married couples strive to make their marriage pleasing to God rather than twisting the Scriptures to allow a separation. "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matt. 19:6).

—David Riggs



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