Now that we’ve wrestled with all of chapter 7, we need to summarize:
1. Marriage is not a legal relationship. It is a relationship that derives from Eden — a time before sin, before government, and before churches and preachers. Marriage is a covenant to be united and to be one flesh. This includes consenting to sexual relations — except “for a season” and even then “only by consent.”
2. A modern legal separation violates the marriage covenant and, indeed, ends the marriage. It is an utter fiction to suppose that one can stay married (in the Biblical sense) and not live with and be united with one’s spouse. Of course, a trial separation may be considered a separation “for a season” permitted by Paul.
3. The word translated “divorce” in chapter 7 does not have a legalistic meaning. It means to violate the marriage covenant so as to end the bond of unity. Exactly when or how this happens is sometimes beyond human wisdom. It will bother many for me not to lay down nice and easy rules, but human relationships don’t lend themselves to nice and easy rules. After all, do I have the wisdom to divine whether someone has really repented? Or can I say whether someone else has so rejected Jesus as Lord as to have fallen away (Hebrews 10:26)? Or to be beyond repentance (Hebrews 6:4-6)? Some of the most central questions — who’s saved? who’s lost? — don’t lend themselves to easy answers when applied to particular people, because they are fundamentally questions of the heart. God knows the heart — I don’t. Just so, whether someone has so violated the marriage covenant that the spouses are no longer united is sometimes not easy for an outsider to judge. Of course, sometimes it’s obvious.
4. Christians are commended to remain single in order to better serve the Lord. This is true of virgins, the divorced, and widows. But Paul is always clear that marrying and remarrying is not sin.
5. Married couples who are converted to Christ don’t need to be divorced to become Christians, even if the present marriage followed a divorce.
6. There is no sin in a second marriage following a divorce, even if the person marrying for the second time was guilty of fornication or no fornication was involved. (As we’ll cover later, however, making the second marriage is sin if the divorce was obtained in order to make the second marriage.)