What does 1 Cor. 6:15-16 teach us about marriage?

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by timfost, Aug 30, 2017.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    1 Cor. 6:15-16:

    Someone I know uses this verse to promote the idea that it is sex itself that makes a marriage. Not that there is nothing more to marriage than sex, but he believes that if you have sex with someone outside of marriage, you actually become married to them.

    Therefore, according to this view, if someone has sex outside of marriage and at a later point becomes converted, he/she should go back to that person and seek to reconcile the marriage, regardless as to the confession of the other person (1 Cor. 7:12-16). If they do not reconcile, it is abandonment and they are no longer under the marriage.


    1. Is this view historical?
    2. What are you best arguments for or against it?

    At this point, I am fairly solidly against it, but I'll refrain from posting my arguments so that I can hear your thoughts.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    I asked a similar question while in seminary many aeons ago, and under the care of some learned professors, from theology and church history backgrounds, came to these answers for your questions:
    1. No, I found no evidence to support it. The early church appears to have had a clearer understanding of the answer to #2 than we appear to.
    2. The best argument against it is the marriage covenant. Sex in covenantal marriage is a consummation, historically displaced by a period of time between the giving of the vows and the honeymoon. The Gospel of Matthew indicates sex outside of marriage looks like fornication and adultery; fornication being prior to covenant, and grounds for divorce, or what we would call today the breaking off of the engagement (ref. Joseph & Mary). Adultery is sex while in a consummated covenant, and is not grounds for divorce ... or else Christ would be just in divorcing the church. Hence the disciples conclusion that it would be better not to marry. The simple statement is that sex in a covenant is a consummation, but not all sex is covenantal.

    We're going through Matthew presently at Grace Hill, and I recently preached on Sex & Marriage from the book of Matthew, which is the strongest of the gospels on this issue, beginning in 1:18.
  3. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior


    Thanks for your helpful response.

    Do you believe adultery is not grounds for divorce in this statement?

    Would you disagree with WCF 24.5?

    Thanks again for your help and clarification.
  4. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    Tim, yes I would. [Which is okay as I do not adhere to the WCF, I adhere to the LBCF.] My plainest support for this position is if the covenant of marriage is a metaphor for Christ's covenant with His Bride, the Church, then divorce would only be permissible in the metaphor if divorce were permissible between Christ and His Church. I look to the P in TULIP and all the other texts that indicate the covenant with the elect is unbreakable, and must conclude that the covenant of marriage is likewise. I could give numerous cases as anecdotal evidence of what God does when divorce is not an option for a married couple, and they are forced to rely upon him alone by grace through faith.
  5. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Rob, thanks for the clarification. I'm not technically subscribing to the Westminster either (rather 3FU), though I would completely agree with what it says in 24.5. I think your comparison with "P" does not properly account for the picture/archetype relationship, nor other biblical data.

    I do appreciate your comments about marriage being a covenant and not all sex is inside the covenant of marriage.

    In the interest of focus, I won't argue the point about grounds for divorce.

    Thanks again!
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2017
  6. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Any other thoughts on the OP, anyone?
  7. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I'd say the passage isn't giving marriage commands, but drawing from the marriage example to make a point: the separateness of the Christian.

    The context is: "be different from the world." That thought is combined with the particular issue of fornication, starting at least in Chapter 5.

    Paul addresses disorderliness among the Corinthians--tolerance of fornication, taking brothers to court, fellowshipping with openly sinning so-called Christians.

    When he gets to 6:15-16, he's giving us a double entendre, causing to reflect on two closely related concepts at once:

    1. Don't fornicate. Remember, you are Christians.
    2. Mixing with the sinners is like a married person going with a harlot.

    Paul draws upon what should be obvious: if you are married, don't mess around with people who lead you astray.

    You are married, because Christ is your bride-groom. So act like it.
  8. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    I wonder if you could unpack the "the covenant of marriage is a metaphor for Christ's covenant with His Bride, the Church" statement a wee bit. It is an interesting argument that I have not run across vis-à-vis covenantalism. Is this a particularism of Baptist covenantal doctrine? Could a Presbyterian make this same argument from the fundamental Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace perspectives? What exactly is the covenant of Our Lord with His church as you define it to be? By church here are you distinguishing between the church invisible or the church militant?

    I hope I am not pestering you too much with the questions of late. I genuinely appreciate your irenic demeanor and am glad you made your way to PB.
  9. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    In the OT, the penalty for pre-marital sex was, at least sometimes, marriage between the two sinning parties, without the possibility of divorce. I am NOT saying that the sex constituted a marriage, but that marriage was the penalty.

    Deuteronomy 22:
    28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
    29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • List
  10. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    Certainly; Ephesians 5:22-32 is a primary text for the metaphoric position. It is not a position of doctrine or confession, and is indeed a minority but growing position amongst reformed Baptists who might more closely hold to the WCF on that issue. The most commonly referenced contemporary Elder who vocalizes this position is John Piper.

    Other references to consider is the betrothal language in the Last Supper with the institution of the New Covenant, the betrothal language in the farewell to go and prepare a place and return, the parables of the virgins, the reference to the future marriage feast of the Lamb, all of which suggest the covenant between Christ and His Church is a covenant of marriage. An OT reference to consider is Hosea, whose marriage is an intentional metaphor for God's relationship to Israel, and His faithfulness to the covenant despite her serial adultery.
  11. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks for admitting that it is a minority opinion. I would heartily agree that the opposite is the majority opinion among Reformed Baptists. Could you please cite where the LBCF concurs with your opinion on this matter?
    For what it's worth, I believe that because God justly could divorce His people, but doesn't, is a testament to His forgiving grace. "Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement?" --He could lawfully divorce, but hasn't. He could lawfully damn all mankind, but doesn't. There's grace for you. Your view seems to imply that He's stuck with a bad marriage whether He wants to be in it or not.
  12. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    The LBCF does not speak to the matter and therefore cannot be said to support any view and we are free to proceed accordingly. And indeed God is stuck in a horrific marriage, far worse than any we might experience, and yet does not divorce his bride, which as you note is a testimony of his forgiving grace. Having been so forgiven, we are likewise called to forgive in kind. Are you saying we who have been given such grace are not called to do the same in our earthly relationships?
  13. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I would never put it this way. Christ loves the Church NOW -- not just sometime in the future when we will be made new. He even takes pleasure in us with an eye towards the consummation. "I am [now] black, but comely," Song 1:5

    But perhaps I misunderstood your post. I have not read some of the previous posts. Pardon me if I have.
  14. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    Truly God loves His bride, though we persevere in adultery and fornication - a marriage most humans would consider horrific. And yet He does not divorce us, and instead finds us beautiful. That beauty is not our own, but given as we ourselves are filthy. If that is the standard of marriage that he portrays for us, I find it difficult to justify divorce on any grounds. WCF allows it, LBCF is silent, and I've identified the schools of thought above.
  15. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    I think that the PRC will not countenance divorce, on the grounds that the marriage of Christ to His bride cannot be broken and so binds human marriage to the same faithfulness.
  16. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    But no metaphor is perfect: there is never a 1:1 relationship between the real thing and the sign of it. To say that a man must remain with an unfaithful wife who remains unrepentant, and whom he will never be able to present to himself spotless is laying a yoke heavy beyond what the Scriptures require (if any put away his wife EXCEPT for fornication...). A covenant between fallen humans IS breakable, though it be painting an imperfect picture of a Perfect thing. But God's Covenant of Grace is NOT breakable, because God has decreed it will not be so. There is no warrant to suggest that earthly pictures of heavenly realities must portray the Heavenly with perfection.
    It is in the difference between the earthly and the heavenly that the better-ness of the heavenly is seen.
    • Like Like x 2
    • Amen Amen x 1
    • List
  17. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    As you say, the yoke is heavy ... as the disciples responded, it is better not to marry at all. For those that officiate weddings, the burden is placed to preach the highest standards; for those that counsel marital relationships, the burden is placed to encourage forgiveness and a reliance upon Christ. We are called to preach the high standards of the law, and the grace of the gospel, even when things are hard.

    I would recommend that anyone interested in studying further consider why we only see "except for fornication" in Matthew.
  18. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    I thought that was one of the strongest arguments against your position... As if to say, "don't divorce except for this reason."
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page