The 1 Corinthians 7:10,11 (1 Cor 7 ) Misunderstanding of a "Marriage Separation" versus a "Divorce Separation."
In 1 Corinthians 7 a "marriage separation" is different than a "divorce separation." When a spouse is "separated" from their husband or wife they STILL have a husband or wife. When there is a divorce and the spouses "separate" they do not have a husband or wife to go back to. Hence, a "separation" is defined by the preceding word (marriage or divorce) that gives it it's proper definition.
When Man Separates, It Can Be Temporary
Divorce or separation can be either temporary or permanent, depending on who the initiator is. If it’s man, the divorce or separation can be temporary, but when it’s God, the divorce is permanent.
First, let’s look at the initiator being man. This is when the desire for a divorce flows out of a spouse’s own selfish heart, not from God’s heart to the spouse.
Suppose a marriage partner initiates a divorce (not a separation):
he Bible says, “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that ...he has found some uncleanness in her, and HE WRITES her a certificate of divorce ...sends her out of his house ...and goes and BECOMES ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE, if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, THEN her former husband who divorced her MUST NOT TAKE HER BACK to be his wife...” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). When WE have divorced our spouse from our own selfish heart, we can take them back — remarry them, if they have not already remarried. However, if they have already married someone else and their spouse divorced them or died, we are not allowed to marry them again. And if we do, it’s an abomination to God, for it brings sin on our home and country (See Deuteronomy 24:4).
Now let’s look at one of the marriage partners initiating a separation (not a divorce):
“...A wife is not to DEPART from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried OR BE RECONCILED TO HER HUSBAND. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1Corinthians 7:10-11).
This Scripture is NOT referring to a finalized legal divorce, but a “separation” only. The Greek word used for “depart” is chorizo, and it means “to place room between, to separate.” This is clearly seen because the husband and wife before the separation are STILL husband and wife AFTER the separation. For the wife is to “...be reconciled to HER HUSBAND” (1Corinthians 7:11), not, “...HER FORMER HUSBAND who divorced her...” (Deuteronomy 24:4a). If she were divorced, she wouldn’t have a husband. But when you’re just separated, you still have a husband.
Using the husband and wife example in this Scripture, let me explain what is happening, and what regularly happens in relationships.
The wife says to the husband, “I’m leaving you!” That statement immediately starts the husband to pursue after his wife who is leaving. “Oh, no, you’re not,” he says. This constant chasing may go on for some time. But after awhile the husband gives up the pursuit, then the wife starts to draw back to her husband. As long as the husband seems to go away from his wife, or not to display to her a pursuing heart, she will return in many cases. “...A wife is not to depart [separate] from her husband. But even if she does depart [separate] let her remain unmarried or BE RECONCILED TO HER HUSBAND. And a husband is not to [spitefully] DIVORCE HIS WIFE" (1Corinthians 7:10-11).
At this point the wife returns and they both come to an agreement to reconcile. However, because now the wife is pursuing the husband, the husband’s heart somehow feels justified to let his wife feel some pain. So he says, “forget the reconciliation, I want a divorce!” And so is the case in the above Scripture. If your spouse is willing to have a godly reconciliation, don’t divorce them.
There is one last thing in this Scripture I would like to point out that’s very important. It says, “A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her REMAIN UNMARRIED...” (1Cor 7:11). The Greek work translated “unmarried” is agamos. It’s the negative form of gamos, which means, “no nuptials” — no relationship of or having to do with mating. To remain “unmarried” DOES NOT mean you cannot get remarried, but you should not have a “marriage relationship” (sex) with anyone else, but to be “...reconciled to your husband [or wife]” (1Corinthians 7:11a). When a separation occurs, we’re to be abstinent. Sexual relations dictate union in God’s eyes. When the husband and wife are joined together in sex, “...the two shall become ONE FLESH” (Matthew 19:5).
There are many critical keys in this book regarding divorce, remarriage, submission, interracial marriage and relationships. Click on Divorce: God's Will? to order.