Remarriage can be a controversial subject in the church with views ranging from no remarriage while the former spouse lives to remarriage not being an issue at all. This past Sunday, we looked at Mark 10 and 1 Corinthians 7 and talked about remarriage. Here is where I stand.
1 Corinthians 7.8-40 is divided up into 4 groups: unmarried and widows, Christian marriages, missed marriages (a Christian to a non Christian) and virgins. This becomes very important to understanding the text.
Unmarried and widows: Paul teaches us that it is better not to marry (this will be explained in more detail in verses 25-40) but if they are unable to control themselves, they ought to marry. The question is who are the unmarried Paul is referring to in these verses? I hold while they may include virgins (never married), it must also include those who have once before been married. Paul deals specifically with virgins later in verses 25-40. So, the other category of unmarried would have to include those who were previously married. Those virgins, previously married and widows have allowance of remarriage. As well, unmarried is a broad term that would include those previously married.
Christian marriages (verses 10-11): Paul says if two Christians are married, they must remain married. If trouble enters the marriage and one wants a divorce, there are two options: reconciliation or separation with no possibility of remarriage. In other words, if two Christians are married - you have all the tools you need in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit to work out your marriage and reconcile. If you cannot reconcile, you cannot remarry. Therefore, the Christian is not able to say This marriage is not working out - I will go and marry that person. Marriage is for life with no possibility of remarriage if separated as long as the other former spouse lives.
Mixed marriages (a believer who is married to an unbeliever (presumably saved after marriage took place and the spouse remains unsaved) (verses 12-16): Paul tells the believer that if the unbeliever wants to remain married, do not divorce - stay in the marriage. That, I believe, is the essential meaning of the difficult verse 14 - do not leave your spouse because your relationship and your children are holy - they are set apart by God.
However, if your spouse leaves, do not stop him. Notice in these verses, Paul says that they are no longer bound and Paul nowhere gives the command that they are not allowed to remarry. The command not to remarry is made to two believers, not a believer who is married to an unbeliever who will leave. The Christian in this relationship, no longer bound to the unbeliever, is then free to remarry (verses 8-9).
Virgins (verses 25-40): what does Paul say to virgins? He says many things but two that I want to point out: 1. Paul says that a Christian virgin must marry another Christian (verse 39) and 2. when they get married, they are bound as long as he lives. In other words, we fall under the same category as 2 Christians getting married - there is no room for remarriage - they are bound for as long as they live. And if they do marry another, they commit adultery (see Jesus' words in Mark 10). So, the command not to remarry in the context of 1 Corinthians 7 falls under the specific headings of Christian marriages and two Christians virgins who will marry. It is here Paul speaks of the two commanded not to remarry.
(Incidentally, Paul's words not I but the Lord (verse 10) and I, not the Lord (verse 12) become important. Paul is not saying that his words are less important. He is saying that the Lord dealt with 2 Christians being married when he walked on the earth (the commit adultery if they remarry another) but he did not deal specifically with a Christian who is married to a non Christian.)
So, as a pastor, would I remarry a couple? I would not remarry a man(or woman) who is a Christian and has divorced his Christian wife. He must reconcile with his wife or remain unmarried. I would remarry a Christian who was married to a non Christian and the non Christian left her. If she found another Christian man, she is free to remarry as she is no longer bound to her non Christian husband. And when I do premarital counseling, I would emphasize to the two being married - they must both be Christian and when they do get married, they are bound for life.
Understanding that these are broad categories, we will need Biblical wisdom and love to deal with the specifics of relationships.