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Married for Life

1 Corinthians 7:39-40
A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is – and I think that I too have the Spirit of God. (NIVUK)

The wide variety of issues Paul has addressed in this chapter about marriage and human intimacy gives a clue to the grossly disturbed state of relationships in Corinth. And yet Paul's patient explanations have helped many other believers and churches in equally dysfunctional cultures.
On the issue of divorce, the apostle makes clear that marriage is designed to be for life. It is God's great social stabiliser but it is permanent only until the death of one spouse. After that the obligations of marriage cease and the physical and emotional binding is released (although bereaved people often feel that the memory of the bond is so strong that they still feel married).
Paul deals with this apparent contradiction in a gentle and pastoral way. As far as God is concerned, the marriage is over and therefore the widow is free to marry again – but with one proviso, that the new spouse is committed to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 6:14). Believers belong first to the Lord; and if they are to marry they should only marry another believer, so that the married unit belongs to the Lord. On the other hand, emotionally, the widow may be happier relying on the Lord and not complicating her life with another relationship.
The principles are no different to those which apply to a young engaged couple who are contemplating marriage. A believer should only marry another believer so that they can pray and work together in the Lord. They belong to Him (their 'ownership' of each other is temporary but the Lord's ownership is eternal): and they might not marry at all if the Lord gives them the gift of singleness so that they can serve Him better.

Faithful God. Thank You for Your love, of which all human love is a pale reflection. Forgive me for following the world and forgetting that I belong to You for eternity and so I must make my relationship choices to please You. Help me and others I know to learn how to choose the temporal lifestyle which You have selected for me so that I will serve You effectively. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams