1 Corinthians 7:6
But I speak this by permission, [and] not of commandment.
Note 9 at 1Co 7:6: There were three sections in this chapter where Paul specified that he was speaking without the direct authority of the Lord (see note 2 at 1Co 7:1). Why did Paul have to speak these things by permission? Surely the Apostle Paul had asked the Lord about these things. Why didn't the Lord just give Paul direct commands as to the exact conduct He demands from us in matters of marriage?
First, all but six verses of Paul's opinions apply to the matter of celibacy. Celibacy is a choice that the Lord only presents to a few individuals. He never demanded this of anyone; therefore, He would never give any commands demanding it.
The remaining six verses have to do with the possibility of divorce in a mixed marriage; i.e., where one of the married partners is a believer and the other isn't. It is possible that the Lord's failure to give Paul any further clarification about mixed marriages in the form of a command indicates that what He had already said was sufficient. The Lord gave Paul a very clear command in 1Co 7:10 that He does not want His people to divorce, and in 1Co 7:11, He said if they do, they are not to remarry. If people obeyed these commands, that would even cover mixed marriages.
Yet, in the Old Testament, the Lord gave the people an alternative to His perfect will concerning marriage because of the hardness of their hearts (Mr 10:2-9). It would appear that the Lord did a similar thing here by voicing an opinion through Paul instead of giving a direct command. By not giving a commandment that would allow divorce in a mixed marriage, He was showing that remaining in the marriage is His perfect will. However, by voicing an opinion through Paul that allowed divorce if the unbeliever wanted it, it would provide an out for those who were unable or unwilling to remain in the marriage.
It grieved the Lord to give commands that would provide alternatives to His plan of one man and one woman for life, so He didn't give any. Yet He gave permission to Paul to give these instructions (1Co 7:40) so that those who found themselves outside of God's best would have some direction about how to redeem the situation.
Therefore, the Lord not giving any definite commands in addition to Jesus' commands on divorce and remarriage (see note 1 at Mt 19:3, note 6 at Mt 19:9, note 14 at Mr 10:8, note 15 at Mr 10:9, and note 16 at Mr 10:10) could be viewed as a protest against anything but His best (i.e., one mate for life). Yet His condescension to permit exceptions shows His compassion for those who have missed that mark.
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