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Marriage
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Does Paul Answer for Us Two Big Questions Regarding Getting Married and Staying Married?

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Should I get married?... Should I stay married to this person? 

Have you ever asked yourself either of these questions? Have you ever wondered what God’s will was for you when it comes to marriage in general or marriage to a specific person—whether it’s getting married or staying married?

Several years ago I wrote a book called The Four Wills of God, in which I addressed what I called the four universal wills of God (the four times that Scripture says, “This is the will of God…”) and what they mean for God’s unique will for each of us. For anyone who has ever wondered, “What is God’s will for my life?” including God’s will for you concerning marriage, I would highly recommend this easy read.

However, I can also point you to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, specifically chapter 7, in which he answers for believers the questions above: Should I get married? Should I stay married to this person? What the apostle had to say applied not only to the Corinthian believers but to all of us, even two thousand years later.

Should I get married?

Yes, you should, if you have not been given the gift of celibacy. Verse 2 tells us, “Because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.” Verse 9 adds on, “If they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” 

Let’s be clear: sex is a good thing that God created, and He intends it to bring us pleasure. For a few people, like Paul, God has given the gift of celibacy. That does not mean they are not tempted or that they are disgusted by just the idea of sexual intimacy. But with the gift of celibacy, you might say God has given them an extra dose of self-control, which is why Paul wrote in verses 8-9, “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I [celibate]. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry.”

If this is not you, then yes, God intends you to marry. And it’s important to remember, celibacy is a gift, not a curse. So just because you may have been down on your luck in dating does not mean God wills for you to remain celibate for the rest of your life. In verse 5 Paul wrote of needs we have that must not be deprived. Since marriage can prevent such deprivations, God intends to provide for you what you need so that you are not deprived of those essentials and also so that Satan does not tempt you. For unless you have been given the gift of celibacy, then you lack the self-control to live the unmarried life, which Satan will undoubtedly use to tempt you.

But on the gift of celibacy, Paul wrote, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and one in that.” God still hands out this gift today. Has He given it to you? If so, then your answer is, no, He does not intend you to marry, because He has given you another gift instead.

If your question is, “Should I get married to this particular person?” I would direct you again to my book The Four Wills of God. Here I discuss in detail the four universal wills of God. Depending on our obedience to these four universal wills of God, which He intends for all of His children, it just may be that He is giving you the freedom to choose your own path concerning marriage to a particular person.

Should I stay married to this person?

Yes, you should, unless your spouse is set on leaving. On this Paul wrote, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” But outside of this, God’s Word is clear: you should stay married.

In verses 10-11, Paul tells us, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband . . . and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” The married have been given the gift of marriage, not celibacy; therefore they are to remain married, or “bound” to each other. Verse 27 says, “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released.” Verse 39 continues this thought: “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives.”

But what if I’m a believer in Christ but my spouse does not share my belief? Do I still have to remain married? Paul does not forget you either. “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. . . . For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” (vv. 12-16).

In short, if your unbelieving spouse wants to remain married, then you are not to leave them. For who knows how God plans to use you in their salvation story? And the reverse is also applicable: If you as the believer leaves your unbelieving spouse, who knows how detrimental that could be for their hopeful salvation? Stay married, God says, “as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24).

As well, Paul even addresses those who ignore God’s Word on remaining married and tells a wife who has left her husband, “if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband” (v. 11). Though this woman has clearly been given the gift of marriage and not the gift of celibacy, God values the marriage covenant so highly that He commands her to remain unmarried, unless she returns to her husband.

Of course Scripture provides exceptions, specifically when there is adultery and abuse. But even in these God is not saying He desires us to divorce, but rather that He allows it. He is clear that His intention for us is reconciliation, as what happened with my parents after they separated for many years. His will for us as believers is to remain married. If separation is necessary for a time, He then wills for us to be reconciled at a later time. 

God created marriage, and minus those He has gifted with celibacy, He intends you to marry. It is His gift to you! And if you are currently married, He is for your marriage! He intends reconciliation. Will you believe Him in this? Will you put Him to the test on this?

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. Has God given you the gift of celibacy or the gift of marriage? How do you know? 
  2. What are some needs, other than sexual, we have that God intends to provide for us by way of marriage?
  3. Why does Paul say that a believing spouse should not leave an unbelieving spouse who desires to remain married?
  4. If you are currently married, how would you now answer the question, “Should I stay married?” Why?