Turbulent days were coming to the church. Persecution, which saw Jews dispersed through the Roman Empire, was coming to Christians too. It might be necessary for the believers in Corinth to leave at a moment's notice and that would be easiest for those with fewer personal ties or commitments. Deep emotional relationships make it difficult to be objective about change; and so unmarried people or widows were in a better position to be instantly mobile.
However, unrestrained passion is a bad advertisement for the gospel. A believing man and woman whose relationship is at risk of becoming immoral, should commit themselves to each other publically in marriage, and then work through the challenges of their lives together. That was not an absolute instruction from the Lord but Paul gives it as godly and practical wisdom.
But Paul knew the Lord was quite firm about those who are married: they should not separate. The marriage bond is precious to Him (Genesis 2:24); and whatever the difficulties, He sees the couple as one and not two. If their situation should demand a temporary separation then the two people should remain married to each other and not divorce in order to marry other people. Despite the permission Moses gave for a man to divorce his wife for any reason (Matthew 19:3-9), Paul knew that the Lord hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that problems are best resolved through reconciliation.
Whatever our situation, we cannot fail to be impressed that these verses underline how seriously God views marriage. After all, it was His idea; a wonderfully practical way to contain and express the gift of physical intimacy between a man and woman. It is God who makes two people to be one flesh. Those principles still stand and are overwhelmingly honoured throughout the world even by people who do not yet believe in Jesus. Although some personal circumstances are heart-breaking and a marriage cannot continue (Matthew 19:9) we do well to value the Creator's loving wisdom rather than try to rewrite the basis of human relationship.
© Dr Paul Adams