This letter was written in response to a question about staying in an abusive situation within a marriage:
I am so sorry about your daughter's problems. Her situation happens often in today's world, I am afraid, and I know there are others wanting to know God's answer to the question you have posed. I pray that this answer does the Word of God justice, and that if it is not right, that the Lord will show all of us otherwise.
We know, first of all, that we are told to "rightly divide the word of truth". When we do this, we find that Paul is the apostle for this dispensation and his writings contain the doctrine we are to live by today.
In Paul's writings, there is only one passage that directly addresses your question. It is found in I Corinthians. 1 Cor. 7:10-20 tells us:
10 "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let
not the wife depart from her husband:
11 "But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
12 "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
13 "And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
14 "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
15 "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
16 "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
17 "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
18 "Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
19 "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
20 "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called."
There are some things that a study of words from the above passage will show us. The first thing is that the phrase, "Put her away", has to do with divorce. We find this in a number of passages, among which is Lev. 21:7 & 14, the first mention of the phrase, "put away" in the context of marriage. The verses read:
7 "They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God."
And, 14 "A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife."
The passage shows that "put away" and "divorced" are synonyms. We find the same thing in Matthew 5:
Matt. 5:32: "But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."
The above passages prove that divorce is the subject of the passage in I Corinthians.
Now concerning the question you asked, in the passage we find that the Lord seems to allow, in certain circumstances, for a woman to leave her husband. He says in verse 10, "Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled..."
My belief as well as that of many grace preachers is that the Lord gives a little bit of lenience here. He seems to allow separation under restricted conditions. Because the passage as a whole does not condone divorce, or separation, it is believed that the reasons would have to be extremely serious, for a woman to be allowed to leave her husband. She most certainly must not consider this action for most of the excuses used today. Today's society takes such a flippant attitude toward marriage and the marriage vows.
People offer many excuses yet very few are valid reasons. My personal belief is that physical abuse of the spouse or children is one of the valid reasons. I believe the Lord would not have a wife remain with her husband under these circumstances. This is why I believe the Lord has included the phrase, "But and if she depart..."
However, a wife who believes the Lord allows her to leave her husband because of verse 11, must also accept the rest of the verse, "But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband..." In actuality, the verse does not allow for divorce, only separation (in our modern day language). This is seen when the verse is taken as a whole, "But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." Plainly put, he is not to divorce her, even if she has left him. She is not to ever marry again. She may only be reconciled to her husband or remain separated.
We must also note that the above passage is written to two saved people. When Paul writes his epistles, or letters, he addresses them to churches, and specifically to the saved within those churches. So we see that there is really no divorce allowed for couples who are saved, within the church, the body of Christ. I believe the Lord makes NO provision for divorce among saved people, in this age in which we live.
However, in verse 12, the Lord goes on to address, "But to the rest...", speaking to couples where one partner is saved and the other is not.
This is a different case altogether. There are different rules for these cases. The passage is very plain and does not leave us wondering about the Lord's will. It says, "If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him...But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases..."
The believer is never allowed to seek separation or divorce, whether he is a man or a woman. If the unbeliever departs or seeks divorce, then the believer is to give it to him and is no longer bound by any laws or restrictions. I believe this means he or she is then free to remarry.
"Bondage" means laws or restrictions. The Lord places no restrictions on the believer whose unbelieving spouse has departed from him. However we must note that the Lord gives specific instructions to the believer if the unbeliever chooses to remain in the union. The believer is not allowed by the Lord to leave or divorce the unbelieving spouse, as can be clearly seen in the passage.
Verse 17 goes on to say, "...as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk." This reiterates that if a person is married to an unbeliever he is not to seek a divorce but is to remain with his spouse. The instructions are always the same for the saved person. The saved person is never to seek or ask for a divorce. This is very plain to anyone who lets the scriptures say what they say.
Lastly, may I say, that we see through this passage, a wonderful picture of Christ and the church. He will not "put us away" no matter what we do. It is not "allowed". It is so precious to me to know that Christ shed his blood and died for me, the sinner that I am. He will never leave me nor forsake me. I am sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise! There is no sin that can separate me from the love of Christ Jesus, my Lord! Praise be to God!
I think one more thing needs to be said. Only the Lord knows your daughter's circumstances within her marriage. I, nor anyone else can ever judge her or what she does. If she is the Lord's, then she only has to answer to Him.
Rom. 14:4 says,"Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand."
And Rom 14:12-13 says,"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."
We are in the wonderful period of time, called "the dispensation of the grace of God". God sees us and accepts us by grace. We can do no less for our "sisters" in the Lord.
My prayers are with you and your daughter. I hope this helps her and anyone else in similar circumstances.