10 “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”
Verses ten and eleven concern Christian married couples and the issue of divorce. Verses ten to sixteen are a call to commitment to marriage.
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord:
Paul makes it unequivocal that the next statement is a matter of revelation and not a matter of his personal opinion. In previous verses, he pointed out that he made a concessive statement as over against an absolute statement. Here he makes an absolute statement about the Lord’s teaching on divorce when He became incarnate on earth (Mt 5:31-32; 19:5-8; Mark 10:2-12).
A wife is not to depart from her husband.
The biblical overarching principles against divorce. The word “depart” means leave, send away, separated from. This term is a synonym for divorce. Some Corinthians were already divorced. In any case, the overarching principle is not to divorce a non-Christian partner if possible.
But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.
Christians are to remain unmarried after divorce except for biblically authorized reasons for divorce and remarriage, such as some sexual sin on the part of the spouse (Mt 19; 1 Co 7:15). Stability is an important prerequisite to getting a divorce, which should never be done on a whim or out of anger. Divorce is so serious that it takes a personal stability level to sort out true biblical grounds and is not justified over a spat or protracted disagreement.
And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
Some in the Corinthian church might have thought that if they had non-Christian spouses, they could summarily divorce them.
God’s ideal is for Christians to work through their marriage problems.
We do not help people by sympathizing with their miserable marriage state. People need truth, not friendship, in these situations. Good counsel is always free from bias and prejudice. There should be no bones to pick or fish to fry. If we go to the doctor, we want him to tell us the truth. The attitude “my friend, right or wrong,” is deadly counsel. In my marriage counseling, I have seen many so-called “hopeless” situations come around to a wholesome marriage.
Presuming that a Christian, spiritual couple begins to consider marriage, it is more important to think about mental compatibility, rather than spiritual compatibility, as the first concern. Physical compatibility follows mental compatibility. Non-Christians with mental compatibility have wonderful marriages. Christians without mental compatibility will struggle in marriage. The formation of biblical attitudes and choices will help the Christian couple’s mental incompatibility. The formation of biblical attitudes provides a certain basis for marital compatibility.
God’s ultimate goal for marriage is not happiness but the development of character – a character that is formed into the image of Christ. Love is something that can be learned.