56 - I disagree with the advice you gave to "Separated Wife"
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56.  Dear Dr. Smith  (Please see question 49 to understand what is coming next)
I have read your response to “Separated Wife”, (see question 49) and I appreciate your concern for this woman.  Nonetheless, I disagree with the advice that was given to her.  Two points came to my mind while reading the response:


1) While it is tragic that she has been separated from her husband, there is no place in the Bible that gives someone the right to divorce a spouse for any reason other than adultery. Jesus’ instruction on this matter is very clear (Matt. 5: 32; 19: 9).

How could we use 1 Cor. 7: 15 to disprove what Jesus said?  Did Paul contradict Jesus?  I would suggest he did not.  What Paul was actually saying in this verse was that if the unbelieving spouse wants a divorce, the believing spouse is under no obligation to try and hold the marriage together.

2) As far as subjecting a man to church discipline for “defrauding his spouse from her conjugal rights” (which technically is private, and not the church board’s business, but only the couple’s), this is certainly a new one to me.   1 Cor. 7: 5 does not command a man to grant his wife “conjugal rights”, since the next verse says, “I speak this by permission, and not of commandment” (v. 6). 

To argue that abstinence within a marriage is not a good idea is definitely true; to argue that it is a “sin” is going a little too far.
What he should be disciplined for (and maybe even dis-fellowshipped for) is for not financially supporting his wife.

I believe that this godly woman should rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to lead a Christ-centered life. If He’s done it for so many of His other faithful children, why wouldn’t He do it in this instance?  I will keep her in my prayers. (Please see question 49 to understand the context of these comments)

May God bless.

Someone Who Cares


Dear Someone who Cares,

I have read your response and wondered if you really did your research before responding the way you did. Let’s re-examine the points you have raised.

1. There is no place in the Bible that gives someone the right to divorce a spouse for any reason other than adultery. Jesus’ instruction on this matter is very clear (Matt. 5: 32; 19: 9).

Lets take an exegetical look at the passages you sited. “Save for the cause of fornication”. The Greek word “porneia” is translated in the KJV as fornication. But what is fornication? If we were to accept the commonly held definition, “fornication is sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons,” then, the passages Matt 5:32 & 19:9, would make no sense. How could someone put away his wife, “except for fornication” if fornication is committed only by unmarried people?

If you translate “porneia” as Adultery, then what is Adultery? If we were to accept the commonly held definition, “Adultery is sexual intercourse between two people who are married but not to each other,” the passage still would not make sense. What would it be, when married persons have sexual intercourse with unmarried persons? Besides, there are two distinct Greek words used for fornication and adultery (Porneia & Moicheia) respectively. Which one are you using?

Could it then be that you need to find a wider definition or meaning for the Greek word “porneia” found in 5:32 & 19:9 in order to understand the passage better? According to James T. Cox, retired professor at Loma Linda University, the word “porneia” has several meanings, eg. 1) Refusal to grant conjugal rights, 2) adultery, 3) incest and comparable sexual relationship, 4) any sexual deviation, 5) prostitution, and 6) pre-marital lapse of spouse which only comes to light after marriage.

You seemed to be taking a narrow view of the word “porneia”. If you do you will have problem with the passage. For there are other acts of fornication (porneia) such as “bestiality “incest” and pre-marital un-chastity.

If I am to take your interpretation of 1 Cor 7  (i.e) “if the unbelieving spouse wants a divorce, the believing spouse is under no obligation to try and hold the marriage together.” Then it makes it easier for me to explain my counsel to this believing woman. That is, she is under no obligation to try and hold the marriage together. The man wants to stay in the US, let him stay she should be free to move on with her life.

2.  You have put a greater emphasis on lack of financial commitment than on lack of sexual commitment. How ironic when the Bible makes it so clear that it’s the opposite. Isn’t it amazing how we see things thorough our own lenses rather than examining the facts. Where in the texts Matt 5:32 & 19:9 did finance appear? According to these texts the most binding part of marital relationship is intimacy yet you make it out to be finance. Your exegesis is laughable.

If refusal to give sex to a spouse is a couple’s private business and not that of the Church board, what makes having an affair not just the couple’s business and not that of the Church board? You are very inconsistent with your exegesis. And yes Paul did not command conjugal right he only demand it.

The theological issues and implications involving divorce and separation are quite deep and I would suggest that you do more careful exegetical research before entering the debate. Thanks and God bless.

Dr. Smith
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