Remarriage, homosexual "marriage", and burning passion

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Now to the unmarried [footnote: Or widowers] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

1 Corinthians 7:8-9 (TNIV)

Does this passage have anything to say to us about the issues of remarriage and homosexual practice which I have been discussing? I think it does.

Now I am sure that you will say to me that these verses are not about remarriage or homosexual “marriage”. And no doubt you would be right about the latter. As for the former, I would not be so sure, especially because in verse 15 Paul writes that a brother or sister deserted by their unbelieving spouse is “not bound”, more literally “not enslaved” (ou dedoulotai), presumably meaning that they are free to marry again, as they would be if the spouse had died (verse 39). So Paul would have held that a deserted partner like that should remarry rather than “burn with passion”. Nevertheless, Paul teaches that the best thing for them, as for all unmarried people, is “to stay unmarried, as I do”.

Paul would not of course accept that a Christian person could simply choose to divorce and remarry. He makes this clear in verses 10 to 13. So this is a serious restriction on divorce and remarriage among Christians, one which should continue to be respected. He does not deal explicitly with the issue of those who are divorced, or divorced and remarried, before they become Christians. But the principle of 6:11 suggests that in such cases Paul would let bygones be bygones.

So let’s look back to 6:11 in context:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practising homosexuals 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (TNIV)

So, some of the Corinthian believers were “adulterers [or] male prostitutes [or] practising homosexuals” before they became Christians. (Yes, there is some dispute about the exact meanings of the words for “male prostitutes” and “practising homosexuals” here, but the latter word certainly included in its meaning practising homosexuals even if its full sense was wider.) Among these people were surely some who were remarried after divorce and so living in technically adulterous relationships. It may well also have included some people living in stable long term gay or lesbian partnerships, even if these were not the commonest forms of homosexuality in Corinth.

Let’s look next at Paul’s instructions to new Christians in Corinth. Here there is a bit of a surprise. These people were living in a city notorious for its sinful ways. So one might expect Paul to tell new believers to flee from their old evil entanglements and as far as possible cut themselves off from the world. No, he writes this to them:

Each of you should remain in the situation you were in when God called you.

1 Corinthians 7:20 (TNIV)

As examples of this principle he mentions not only circumcision (verses 18-19) and slavery (verses 21-22), but also engagement to be married (verse 27), and, apparently from the broader context, marriage itself (verses 10-13). He makes no exception for technically adulterous second marriages, nor for homosexual partnerships. So one can easily argue from this chapter that Paul expected gay and lesbian couples who became Christians, as well as divorced and remarried couples, to continue their relationships. He could, of course, have insisted that they split up. But if he had done, they would very likely have been in the position he outlined in verse 9.

On this basis I would suggest that Paul, while not approving of homosexual relationships or of remarriage after divorce, would have considered that, for couples who “cannot control themselves” and remain single as he himself did, either of these is better “than to burn with passion”.

23 thoughts on “Remarriage, homosexual "marriage", and burning passion

  1. Peter,

    Your points on this topic are well-taken, and I agree with most everything you say, but I would like to point out that you have appear to have conflated to similar ideas by referring to “homosexual ‘marriage.'” To the best of my knowledge, there is no government that outlaws nor any religious teaching that condemns homosexuals marrying or even marrying one another. There are regulations about persons of the same sex marrying one another, though. While this division may seem like sheer semantics or nit-picking, the distinction is a legitimate one in a small minority of cases and is really the crux of the matter, in my mind.

    -JAK

  2. Yes, of course I have no problem with a gay man marrying a woman, or a lesbian woman marrying a man, as long as it is not a sham marriage. By “homosexual “marriage”” I was of course referring to same-sex “marriage”, and perhaps I should have said that. But then I don’t want to encourage spam traps by using words like “sex” too much.

  3. serious restriction on divorce and remarriage among Christians, one which should continue to be respected. He does not deal explicitly with the issue of those who are divorced, or divorced and remarried, before they become Christians. But the principle of 6:11 suggests that in such cases Paul would let bygones be bygones.

    CONSIDER : matt 19:11-12

    11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage[c]because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

    not everyone is given the word of a man woman one flesh relationship. only those who have been given it should accept it. but even those who are given it, if they cannot accept it……………they should not do so.

    do you think that jesuswasis making another law that we are to die to?

    Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practising homosexuals 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (TNIV)

    CONSIDER:

    the greek word that the word “homosexual” is transposed for is the compound word “malebed”. “malebed” is an inanimate object. how can an animate object be tranposed for an inanimate object.

    any human bonding that is about a one flesh relationship(homosexual or heterosexual) is done thru and motivated by mutual love, attraction, respect, devotion, and trust for a shared committed life together.

    look at the list of those things of the sin nature:sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers.

    all of these OBVIOUSLY come against the fruit of the spirit of gal5…….love, joy, peace, gentleness, self- control,faithfulness,patience,goodness, and kindness, as well as loving your neighbor your neighbor as yourself (the summation of all the law).

    how does homosexuality come against these?

    CONSIDER : that even in relationships of cohabitaion or ones that are precursors to eventual marriage. if they embrace the fruit of the spirit in their relationship……………….how do they come against the fruit of the spirit and loving ones neighbor as oneself. ”

    in fact it is my personal belief that reason that churched marriages have the same percentage of divorce as those who would use a vegas marital drive- in or a justice of the peace. is that both are done because of the social and church stigma that sex outside of marriage is a sin, which comes from tradition and inference of the written word, but not the written word specifically. in both cases , both are concerned with social acceptance and social guilt, as well as attempting to create a social environment of security.

    “. The one who can accept this should accept it” what about the one cannot………………….are they not given the dispensation of not having to accept it.

    do we truely believe that 2 seperate individuals is better than, 2 individuals who are sexually intimate and embrace the fruit of their spirit in their relationship, but remain unmarried. what is accomplished in the spirit. how does it come against loving ones neighbor as oneself.

    was jesus really chastising the woman in john 4 for living with a man who was not her husband.

    if he was. then in essence he was affirming or creating another law that we are to die to.

    why would jesus do that?

  4. Thanks for this. This topic is very hot on the Mozambique/Malawi border. Refugees fled to Malawi during the war and became believers in a church that permitted polygamy. After the war, they returned to Mozambique but were rejected by the church there that does not permit polygamy. So of course this causes all sorts of trouble.

    The point for me in 1 Cor. is that the Corinthians came to Christ within their culture. We can’t blame them for living as Corinthians. Young people in America are being brought up in a culture permissive of homosexuality which is different from the culture I grew up in. I expect the result is more Americans coming to Christ with a past including homosexual behavior. It is essentially no different from the previous generation that had been affected by a prevailing acceptance of fornication. I don’t think homosexual practice and fornication are any different from burning your children in a fire to Molech. They’re all things that we set aside when we come to Christ. But again, as you’ve pointed out in your post homosexual (and polygamous) unions put us in a fuzzy region that needs to be looked at on a case by case basis rather than theoretically by a couple of straight males!

  5. John, thanks for bringing Matthew 19:11-12 into this discussion. It is indeed relevant. I suppose that Paul and those who take up his suggestion not to marry are Jesus’ ones who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, whereas those who marry rather than burn with passion are those who cannot accept this saying. But verses 3-10 of this chapter make it very clear that Jesus was not condoning extra-marital sex.

    As for 1 Corinthians 6:9. since Paul was clearly not saying that the Corinthians used to be beds of any gender, what do you think he did mean by arsenokoitai? He clearly meant something! And the experts in Greek suggest two possible meanings: practising homosexuals; or, more generally, sexually promiscuous men whether homosexual or heterosexual.

  6. David, thanks for your comment. Of course polygamy is a whole different issue which I have not touched on, because it is not a hot one here in England, even if it is in Mozambique and in Texas.

    You make a good point that all of this is “a fuzzy region that needs to be looked at on a case by case basis”, and with the heart of a pastor rather than of a legalist. I have come across pastors who have dealt with cases of divorce and remarriage as if according to a book of rules, without sensitivity to the individual situation, leading to pastoral disasters. Meanwhile other pastors have been sensitive and flexible, upholding the principle of monogamous marriage but accepting that in a real sinful world exceptions sometimes need to be made. The result has been sinners not repelled from the church but won for Christ. The same sensitive approach is needed if homosexuals, among others who do not conform to the strictest norms, are to find a welcome in the church.

  7. Peter:

    First, I wanted to say that I never thought that you were earlier implying that marriage, divorce, then remarriage was something good or something to be applauded. I think that it’s clear that those who got that assumption only skimmed your posts.

    Second, I found this (http://onenewsnow.com/Education/Default.aspx?id=83470) and thought of your recent posts. It’s an article about how a Wheaton professor is resigning to avoid getting fired because he is getting a divorce.

  8. Rhea, thanks for the comment and link. I sympathise with Prof Gramm, and his desire not to have his private life subjected to the judgment of his employers at what must be a personally very difficult time. Also the biblical teaching mentioned is not about divorce but about divorce and remarriage. The appropriate time for the employers’ intervention, in this case and probably also in the case of the Bishop of St David’s, is not at the painful time of marriage breakup and divorce, but when a remarriage is being contemplated.

  9. what ever paul was referring had to do 2 things. (1) come againstloving your neighbor as yourself. (2) come against the fruit of the spirit.

    gentile men as opposed to gentile women(considered property) were given unlimited license for sexual expression as long as it not violate property rights

    pederasty and pediphilia were socially acceptable.what ever it was it was obvious, and was self evident by its very essence.

    the fact that the majority of christendom believe that paul and christ spoke either to make new laws or affirm old ones, makes me believe it still has one foot firmly implanted in the old covenant.

    why would either of them make more laws for us to die to.

    we have 3 commandments of love. what more is needed? if david had loved his neighbor he would have never have stepped into what he did.

    paul never taught thru the law, but instead thru understamdings of the spirit which he said we now under the new covenant are led by.

    anyone can follow a code motivated by anything other than love. but 1corinthinians 13 says anything done without love is nothing and gains nothing.

    somethings have multiple understandings ” dying to the law ” also may mean stop the obsession of mentally making everything into a law, but instead be concerned with the spirit in your life and thru what spirit you are living?

  10. Peter Kirk wrote “Paul expected gay and lesbian couples who became Christians, as well as divorced and remarried couples, to continue their relationships. This does not seem correct to me.

    All that come to Christ have to repent (turn away from sin and true repentance is a change of heart and mind) as in Acts 2:38 when sinners were told by the Apostle Peter to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and in Acts 3:19 Peter said Repent that your sins may be wiped away. Christ tells us that unless we repent we will perish (Luke 13:3

    Homosexuality was called an abomination in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Paul condemns it in Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:10 and it is condemned in 1 Corinthians 6:9. Rather, Paul is telling us these Corinthians were in sin when they became Christians, 1 Corinthians 6:11 And such WERE SOME OF YOU. But you were washed, you were sanctified; you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (ESV translation).

    Those that were told that they should remain in their situations were Christians (they had repented and turned away from their sins) and thus they should remain as widows, married, or single when they were called to Christ, not in homosexual sin. Paul is clear when he condemns homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10, and Romans 1:26-27 and sin separates us from God Isaiah 59:1-2.

    Peter Kirk also wrote “He could, of course, have insisted that they split up”. Well in my opinion he already told them that homosexuals cannot inherit the kingdom of God in verse 10. Paul did not need to tell them that they had to split up; he just told them they could not go to heaven if they practiced such. Remember they already had turned to Christ and Paul was describing their sinful condition in verses 9-10 before they were converted as he described in verse 11.

  11. John and Ken, thanks for your comments.

    Ken, you did leave out “So one can easily argue from this chapter that …” from your quote from my post, and so gave the impression that this was my definite position. It is not. My point is that this is a possible argument.

    I’m not sure I get your point about those who should remain in their situations. Surely it is clear that these are new Christians who should remain in the situations they were in before they were Christians, including remaining in marriages, and no exception is made for technically adulterous marriages – although adultery is called an abomination in Ezekiel 22:11 and by implication many times in chapter 16, same word as in Leviticus 18:22, 20:13. Did Paul expect new Christians to abandon their spouses and children just because this was a remarriage after divorce? Surely not. Would he have expected them to abandon same-sex “marriages” or their equivalent? There is no easy answer to that question.

  12. Peter thanks for your additional comments. In these verses Paul never said any of these Corinthians were homosexual couples or if they were remarried when they became Christians. I don’t see how we can assume something that is not stated by Paul. Also notice in 1 Cor 6:18 Paul said to flee sexual immorality. I would think that this statement would include homosexuality because that is exactly what Paul previous mentions in 1 Cor 6:9-10 so he emphasizes the point again when he says to flee sexual immorality.

    In 1 Cor 7 Paul writes about a man and a wife having sexual relations in marriage and says in verse 2 each man should have his own wife and each women her own husband. To me this excludes homosexual marriage as Paul never says a man should take a man or a woman a woman. Unless I am mistaken there is not one verse in the bible that gives an example of a homosexual couple.

    Now, if some of these Corinthians did have to split up when they became a Christian, then the Christian would still be responsible to care for his children and family (in my opinion), 1 Tim 5:8 (ESV) But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

  13. Ken, I agree that 1 Corinthians 7 is about heterosexual marriage and not about homosexual couples. But surely verses 10-13 must apply to those, probably very many, who had remarried after divorce before becoming Christians. If they did not, Paul would surely have said so. So the immorality he is telling them to flee does not include marriage which might be technically adulterous.

    Also the word for “sexual immorality” in 6:18, porneia, refers primarily to relationships with prostitutes, which clearly fits the context here. It is by no means clear that a committed homosexual relationship would be counted as porneia any more than a remarriage after divorce.

  14. Peter thanks for the post and that is a good point about porneia in the context of sexual immorality with prostitutes. We can speculate for hours if the Corinthians remarried after divorce before becoming Christians and how Paul would have handled this situation and it is entirely possible that fornication was involved, thus some could get married again in a scriptual manner. I think the bible teaches that the only scriptual basis for divorce and remarriage is if fornication is involved, Matthew 19:9 see also MT 5:19.

  15. I think the bible teaches that the only scriptual basis for divorce and remarriage is if fornication is involved, Matthew 19:9 see also MT 5:19.

    No, Ken. 1 Corinthians 7:15 clearly teaches that desertion is grounds for divorce and remarriage. I don’t see what else “not bound” can mean.

    I accept that in most cases of divorce and remarriage in Corinth there would have been some adultery to give grounds for remarriage. Of course the remarriage itself would imply adultery allowing divorce, and thus legitimating the remarriage – and the original adultery which ended the first marriage, as a sin committed before the person became a Christian, would be forgiven. Yes, we could argue about possible situations for hours. But Paul doesn’t, he simply says that new Christians should not separate from their unbelieving partners, no exceptions. Thank God that he didn’t require of Christians the kind of grilling which Kent Gramm would have had to undergo, from Christians who don’t have a clue about the biblical teaching on divorce, to keep his job.

  16. Peter, this is how I view 1 Corinthians 7. Let me know what you think (I apologize if it is a bit long). I used the ESV Bible.

    In 7:8-15 Paul is writing concerning two groups:
    1) Married believers in verses 8-11
    2) A believer married to an unbeliever in verses 12-15
    I believe this is so because in verse 12, Paul says, TO THE REST I say that if any brother has a wife as an unbeliever, verses 8-11 is concerning married Christians because of the change to the rest (not Christians) in verse 12. Also Paul did not start using the word unbeliever until verse 12 and he uses unbeliever in 12-15.

    In verses 10-11 (applies to Christians), Paul’s gives this charge
    10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain UNMARRIED or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband SHOULD not divorce his wife. Paul’s tells us they must remain unmarried or be reconciled.

    Now verse 15 says, But if the UNBELIEVING partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. Paul does not say the believer can be remarried. I don’t see how Paul can give different terms for remarriage than what Christ did in Matthew 19:9, Christ only gave one exception when he said EXCEPT for adultery. Also consider Romans 7:1-4, Paul tells us that a married man or woman is bound to their spouse as long as they are alive.

  17. what i do not hear is any accounting for spirit. in other words does the act come against the fruit of the spirit or whether it is an obvious indication of not loving ones neighbor as oneself.

    surely you are aware of what hebrews 8 says about the old covenant, and that ethnic slavery was supported under the old testament and the covenant of moses. and though condoned by the new testament, it was found under the new covenant to be an untolerable evil.

    its interesting that the old testament gives explanation for why jews cannot enslave one another but gives no explanation why in contrast ethnic slavery is acceptable.

    its also intereresting that it took john newton 30 years after witnessing all the horrors of the institution,and while engaged in a very sucessful pastorage,it was another believer who explained to him it was against the spirit of christ.

    “But since there is so much immorality” that is such an incredible reason for marriage. it is so unique. what pulpit has made this explanation for supporting the marriage between 2 people. what immorality was paul speaking about among singles.

    he didnt say, in order to have unsinful sex you should be married. paul makes no comment about sex among singles.

    again what paul is talking about? is it another law that we are to die for. no, he is accentuating those things that are against the fruit of the spirit and is against loving your neighbor as yourself.

    not out of rule , but essence of spirit?

    what comes against the fruit of the spirit in cohabitation? what is against loving ypour neighbor as yourself in premarital sexual intimacy.

    what is it in being one with a prostitute that comes against loving your neighbor as your self?

    if your explanation is the rule? then you are being led by the rule and are speaking out of the old covenant.

    if your explanation is essence of spirit. then you are being led by the spirit and are affirming “the true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth.”

    i cannot support the translation of malebed into homosexual, because apart from malebed being an inanimate object and a homosexual being an animate person, i see no evidence that the spirit of human bonding of homosexuals is any different than the spirit of heterosexual bonding. both are motivated by mutual love, attraction, respect devotion, and trust.

  18. Ken, I agree with your separation of 1 Corinthians 7:8-11 and 12-15. But are you saying that the words of Jesus are inspired Scripture but not the words of Paul? Romans 7:1-4 is an illustration in which, for simplicity, divorce is ignored. But, in 1 Corinthians 7:15, “not bound” is meaningless, since the unbeliever has already left, if it does not imply freedom to remarry.

    John, I’m not quite sure what you are trying to say. Paul doesn’t mention sex among singles because, as is clear from 6:16, he regarded a heterosexual pair of singles who had sex as already married – and indeed the culture did if this was public, as there was no need for an explicit wedding ceremony in ancient times.

  19. I agree that Paul’s writings are scripture inspired from the Holy Spirit. I think we both agree that
    1 Corinthians 7:8-11 applies to Christians? If this is true then divorced Christians can’t remarry except for adultery Matthew 19:9, because in verse 10 and 11 Paul says a couple should not divorce and to remain unmarried or else be reconciled.

  20. Yes, I agree that a Christian divorced from a Christian cannot remarry, except where there has been adultery. But if one of a Christian couple refuses to obey the apostolic command of 1 Corinthians 7 and remarries, adultery is presumed and so the other party is free; or more or less equivalently, the one remarrying first should be under church discipline meaning they are treated as an unbeliever (Matthew 18:17) and so by implication the other party becomes someone deserted by an unbeliever who is free to remarry.

    See also my comments on the Kent Gramm case on Jim West’s blog.

  21. to what extent are you saying is matthew 19:11-12 is applicable to marriage and divorce.

    and from you discussion i infer that you believe jesus is establishing a new law that we are to die to. since in romans paul says that in romans that in christ we died to the law.

    the words of jesus were an eternal message for all time…………what is the point of limiting it thru legalizations that are without any acknowledgement of spirit……………….the fruit of the spirit(gal5), and how it allies with loving ones neighbor as oneself(the summation of all the law.)

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