MDR: 1 Corinthians 7, Summary

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.)

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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7 Responses to MDR: 1 Corinthians 7, Summary

  1. sobern90 says:

    I would be very interested in your views of what my personal study on this topic found for me. Would you be so kind as to read what I wrote on the tpoic of MDR and share youor thoughts please.

    hugs and blessings,

  2. sobern90 says:

    Oh I forgot … my blog is at

  3. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for your work in this area. We are in agreement as to the meaning of 1 Cor 7:27-28. I come at the Gospel passages differently, but the end result is much the same.

    Many routinely overly focus on the Gospel passages and ignore what Paul wrote to the church after Jesus spoke, as though Paul were not a reliable expositor of Jesus’ words. I think Paul understood Jesus much better than we often do.

  4. Gary Cummings says:

    You say that Paul understood Jesus better than we do and I think you are right. Paul was an inspired apostle of Jesus, and the writings of Paul are inspired and inerrant. When Jesus spoke to the Jews and His followers in His earthly ministry, He did not cover every aspect of what Paul would face as a minister and an apostle. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write all of what he said (except in 1 place where he said it was his opinion). LUO does mean a divorce, and Paul said that it is not a sin to get remarried for those who have gone through it.

  5. nick gill says:

    I don’t believe that, in the “his opinion” passage, Paul is saying that his words suddenly stopped being inspired for a line or two.

    Rather, I believe he is simply contrasting his quotation of the teaching of Jesus with his exposition of that teaching to a particular situation not directly addressed by the Lord.

    This specific idea comes from my more general understanding of inspiration as a partnership between Spirit and apostle. I believe inspiration to be a much more dynamic concept than I used to think.

  6. Kenneth says:

    Was Paul married?

  7. Jay Guin says:

    Kenneth asked,

    “Was Paul married?”


    (Phi 3:3-7 ESV) 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh– 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

    A Jewish male was supposed to marry by age 20 or so. To not marry was generally considered sin by the rabbis. It seems unlikely that Paul would call himself “blameless” and a Pharisee and a Hebrew of Hebrews without having married. But Paul plainly says that he was single in 1 Cor 7:8. Therefore, many believe that he married and was a widower. Death in childbirth was very common in those days. Or his wife might have left him over his Christian conversion.

    But this is far from a clinched case. We only know that by the time he wrote 1 Cor, he was single.

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