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For Believers: Reconcile or Remain Unmarried. Why?

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Reconcile or Remain Unmarried. Why?

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The apostle Paul recognized and repeated God’s command for married couples who had God’s Spirit but were separated because they just could not reconcile. He wrote that they must remain unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 10 And to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
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), unless porneia was evident (Matthew 5:32 Matthew 5:32But I say to you, That whoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery.
American King James Version×
; 19:9).

Irreconcilable Differences?

In today’s world, where we read of upwards of 50 percent divorce rates, such a command seems old-fashioned and outdated. Many divorces are granted based on couples having irreconcilable differences. In other words, those couples cannot live in peace because of their different approaches to life.

The reasons for those differences may be many. Since we are all products of our environment and background, our views on issues may differ greatly. For example, growing up in fear of an abusive parent evokes a myriad of emotional characteristics.

When two converted people marry, they have high hopes their marriage will be eternally happy and tremendously successful. Often, despite major problems in the background of one or both, the marriage is a happy one (and both would admit it takes work). Once in a while, the two just cannot get along and have to separate. Reasons may be many.

“This marriage should never have been in the first place” is a common expression used, after the fact. Or “the marriage was broken when she/he could not live up to the standards God requires in a marriage.” Or, “his/her past was so bad, he/she could never be a good husband/wife.”

And yet we don’t hear such expressions coming from God’s Word. Why doesn’t Paul state, “the members must reconcile or remain unmarried unless the problems were caused by… [you fill in the reason]”? No doubt in Paul’s age some of the same problems and abusive backgrounds existed. After all, he called it “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
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).

But still the bottom line when two members could not get along was-if they cannot reconcile, they must remain unmarried.

Why?

On the surface this seems like a cruel judgment. God doesn’t even give hope for the party that might be trying the hardest. If just one member is trying and the other member refuses to reconcile, the judgment remains the same-both must remain unmarried. Does God want two people to live alone for the rest of their lives without hope of remarrying someone else? Is this judgment a fair one from our merciful Father?

What if one member has had a terribly abusive past? The reality of scars from the past can affect a marriage deeply. The challenges that can face married couples can be discouraging and at times almost overwhelming. It can seem like giving up and having a fresh start would be easier and more likely to succeed.

But God does not want us to give up. He doesn’t give up on us in our struggle to overcome our past in our baptismal covenant. And He doesn’t want us to give up on each other in our marital covenant.

In order to understand God’s judgment, it’s important to comprehend that reconciling a marriage between two believers who have God’s Spirit is not impossible! God nowhere uses the term “irreconcilable marriage” when speaking of “believers.” If a marriage were truly not reconcilable and God’s judgment stood, we might question His wisdom and mercy. However, God gives believers a tremendous advantage over nonbelievers.

At the heart of God’s judgment is the fact of a transformation experienced by all believers. It’s called conversion.

Before considering this transformation, let’s read how God considers all of us just before our conversion. It’s necessary to consider this factor because some feel one’s background, especially an abusive one, is justification for invalidating a marriage if one or both members fail in a marriage.

Consider Our Covenant With God

In considering whether an abusive past negates a marriage covenant, why not start by considering whether an abusive past negates our baptismal covenant with God? Will Christ refuse to marry any Christian at the resurrection because we have not overcome all our problems?

Or does He put us away because we haven’t overcome the reactions stemming from our abusive past completely?

Thankfully He does not. In His love and mercy He gives us the chance to reconcile with Him. We are grateful that God gives us every chance to keep our covenant with Him-all the way to death. We know our past. We want time to overcome it.

While our individual pasts may seem harder or easier to us, God sees things differently. In Ephesians 2:1-6 Ephesians 2:1-6 1 And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;) 6 And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
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, God describes our past. He says every single one of us has been dead in our sins, living in lust according to Satan’s way. He says we were by nature children of wrath.

None of us are exceptions.

Let’s make God’s description very clear. Every man and woman entering into a marriage covenant came out of a background that caused him or her to have a wrathful nature. It’s interesting that the Greek for “wrath” is orge and is also defined as “anger, indignation, vengeance, wrath.”

Paul makes it evident in Romans 3:9-19 Romans 3:9-19 9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law said, it said to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
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, that both Israelites and gentiles are wicked before God. Truly, all of us have come from a background causing us to have a heart that “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
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).

In order to have a happy, successful marriage, we need a new foundation, a new background. Otherwise the problems generated from our past will cause irreconcilable marriage impasses. All believers have equal pasts to God. None come to the baptismal waters with a greater chance of displaying the fruits of God’s Spirit than anyone else. We are all worthy of death. None are good.

Upon repentance, baptism and receiving God’s Holy Spirit, every believer has been transformed. No exceptions! Former sexual offenders, alcoholics, recipients of abuse, haters of God, antagonists-all are transformed (converted) in the process of time with God’s Spirit.

Note through the following scriptures what happens to the believer:

We are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13 Colossians 1:13 Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
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).

We are a new creation in Christ. Old things have passed away, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17 2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
American King James Version×
). “New” is not a “repairing of damages,” but rather a “new existence.”

We have died with Christ, but now Christ lives in us and we live by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
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). The mystery of the ages is revealed in our life-Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:26-27 Colossians 1:26-27 26 Even the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
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).

Christ is magnified in believers (Philippians 1:20 Philippians 1:20According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
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). The life of Christ is to be seen in us (2 Corinthians 4:11 2 Corinthians 4:11For we which live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
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). Christ is being formed in us (Galatians 4:19 Galatians 4:19My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
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).

Newness of Life

Do we grasp the great meaning and hope that these scriptures hold? In reality, believers have a new start. Our former background of deceit, wrath, etc., has been buried. We walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4 Romans 6:4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
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). All this because we have been given by God, not a spirit of fear or any other dysfunctional emotion, but the Spirit of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
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). Stirring up the Spirit of love through prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation yields the fruits of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
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).

God provides the way and means for us to reconcile the problems in marriage. We are admonished to “put off the old man ” and “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:9-10 Colossians 3:9-10 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
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).

If we are raised with Christ (in baptism, Romans 6:4 Romans 6:4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
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) we are to seek those things that are above (Colossians 3:1 Colossians 3:1 If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.
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). That which is from above solves all marriage problems between believers: pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17 James 3:17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
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).

The fruit of righteousness between believers in their marriages is sown in peace by those who make peace (verse 18). It is the responsibility of believers to let Christ’s mind of humility be in them (Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
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). Because we are newborn babes, we lay aside malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking (1 Peter 2:1-2 1 Peter 2:1-2 1 Why laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby:
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).

For believers who are having problems in marriage, there are only two options. “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 10 And to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
American King James Version×
).

For Paul to make any exception for believers other than that prescribed by Christ (porneia), would be to deny the very Spirit of God. Paul understood that one’s prebaptismal past must not influence judgments of binding and loosing believers’ marriages.

Believers are new creations in Christ. They have been enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift, have become partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6:4-6 Hebrews 6:4-6 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
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). It is vitally important that we not willfully deny that power working in our life, making the blood of the covenant something common and insulting the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29 Hebrews 10:29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace?
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).

There will always be difficulties in marriage. Many may be very severe and demand our all in coping! And to this world many would seem like more than reason enough to give up. There can always be reasons believers use to justify why they cannot get along and choose to separate. Yet there has never been a marriage broken by the actions of love, joy, peace-the mind of Christ in us. Conflict arises when we fail to put off and lay aside wicked ways and dysfunctional reactions from our past and put on and seek the righteous clothing of the Bride of Christ.

Allowing exceptions by judging what happened before conversion would open Pandora’s box. There would never be a time when marriages would ever be binding.

When the Church makes judgments concerning believers who have separated or divorced and desire a judgment as to whether their marriage is bound or not, the Church must base its determination on Scripture only. The following questions are asked:

•Was porneia involved-sexual misconduct (Matthew 5 and 19)?
•Was there fraud? (Fraud is always intentional.)
•Are both parties really believers?

Do you and your mate have God’s Spirit? Then, “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” God is fair and justified in His judgment. Marriage is holy, the very reflection of Christ’s marriage to the Church (Ephesians 5:32 Ephesians 5:32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
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). Just as the marriage between Christ and His Bride will never be broken, neither will the marriage between two believers who endure to the end. UN

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