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The Bachelor Who Was Married Twice


The title of this article is an apparent paradox. It has reference to the Apostle Paul's personal spiritual life and experience.

In so far as the Biblical record goes we have nothing to indicate that the Apostle was ever married in a physical sense. For the purpose of this article, therefore, we will think of him as Bachelor Paul.

Paul was one of those few individuals for whom God has designed that single hood should be an advantage. Paul's own testimony verifies this fact (I Corinthians 7:7, 8, 32, 33). In addition, his experience of single hood was sufficiently satisfactory for him to recommend his way of life to others. He did indicate on one occasion that he would have a legitimate right to lead about a wife (I Corinthians 9:5), but he forewent that privilege for the sake of a more fruitful and satisfying life in union with and in unhindered service for Christ.

While Paul was not married to a wife in a physical sense, he did experience two other marriages of a symbolic nature. In Romans 7 and 8 these two marriages and their nature come into focus.

The first marriage was to a being of astounding glory (II Corinthians 3:7) whom we will call Law Perfection. This partner, Paul confesses, was holy, and just, and good (Romans 7:12) —a perfectionist indeed, calling for perfectionism in him; but this perfection he was utterly unable to produce. Through Law Perfection he was made to continuously see himself as carnal (Romans 7:14) and no good (Romans 7:18), doing the things he knew he should not do, and which he really did not want to do, while at the same time not being able to do the things which he knew he should do (Romans 7:19) until he cried out in desperation, “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24).

His sense of defeat and his failure to live up to Law Perfection's example and demands made him feel like he was tied to a dead decomposing body of a fellow-fiasco—a failure.  However, in spite of constant upbraiding and reminders of failure by Law Perfection (Hebrews 10:3), he had an intense love for and a captivating delight in, and close attachment to his faultfinding companion. In fact he was so captivated by the glory and perfection of his companion that he never once thought about the possibility of a death ever dissolving his marriage to Law Perfection.

But one day news reached Paul that One whom we will call Grace Perfection, who was far more glorious than Law Perfection, had appeared on the scene and had lived according to the wishes and in perfect compliance with Law Perfection's standards. In fact Grace Perfection had so completely fulfilled the desires of Law Perfection that they two proved to be an integral part of each other.

But on another day Grace Perfection's body had suddenly been slain on a cross by crucifixion. And alas! Law Perfection, being so close to Grace Perfection, had also been nailed to the same cross (Colossians 2:11-14).

But wonder of wonders! the body of Grace Perfection which had been taken down from the cross and buried, was raised from the dead. Since Law Perfection was now “dead... by the [dead] body” of Grace Perfection (Romans 7:4) and was not raised from the dead, but was destined to decay and vanish away (Hebrews 8:13); and since death cancels out the marriage bond (Romans 7:3, 4), Paul was now free to be married to another one. And wonder of wonders again! with all Paul's weaknesses and imperfections, Grace Perfection courted his love until Paul responded to the proposal for a new marriage.

The new marriage relationship was happy and satisfying on the part of both partners. Even though in a sense, Paul was still imperfect, Grace Perfection provided continuous spotless cleansing for him without the continual accusations, consequent guilt, and guilt complex as was the case in his previous marriage (Hebrews 9:9, 14). There was therefore now no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Grace Perfection's acceptance of Paul as a specially treasured companion was a constant source of motivation, inspiration, and rest to him. The marriage was a song of songs (Song of Solomon 1:1). It was a marvelous success.

Since Paul's new companion, Grace Perfection, was all glorious, and Law Perfection now had “no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth” (II Corinthians 5:10) in Grace Perfection, the days of Paul's mourning over the departure of Law Perfection were over. He lived happily ever after in the gracious presence and loving companionship of Grace Perfection.

We recall that when Paul wrote about these two marriages, he was already living in his second and most satisfying relationship. However, the problems he had with Law Perfection and with himself are written in the present tense as though they were continuing problems, which in a sense, they were.

While Law Perfection, the law of the Old Testament, and the law of sin and the flesh are direct opposites in character, there are some striking similarities in the two laws as they relate to our sense of need for deliverance from sin, so that they actually become typical one of the other.

In Galatians 4:22-31 Paul presents an allegory of the Old and New Covenants, and of our old and new natures by using two Old Testament mothers and their two sons. Hagar, the bond woman, is said to represent the law which gendereth to bondage. Her son, Ishmael, represents the aggravating and pestiferous flesh which wars against us seeking to bring us into captivity to the laws of sin.

Sarah, the free woman, represents grace which is from above. Her supernaturally born son, Isaac, represents our new birth from above into the glorious liberty and freedom of Christ. Paul declares that as be that was born of the bond woman, representing the law and the flesh, persecuted him that was born supernaturally, even so it is now (Galatians 4:28). The message is clear. The law with all its demanding ceremonies and sacrifices continues to be against our new man in the Spirit (Galatians 5:17). Our members which are upon the earth, which we will have as long as we are on the earth, must be continually mortified (Colossians 1:5).

If we who have been married to another, even to Jesus Christ (Romans 7:4) , go back to be married to Law Perfection, we are fallen from Grace Perfection (Galatians 5:1-4) ; and if we who have come into the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus go back and live after the flesh, the law of sin and death, we shall die (Romans 8:13).

In summary, the law which was fulfilled only by Christ and then destined to decay and vanish away was a rigid school master (Galatians 3:24) and faultfinding companion to make sin become exceeding sinful, and to show us our need of Christ and of a marriage covenant with Him. In a similar way our flesh in which dwelleth no good thing - this old body of stench and death - shows us our condition and leads us to cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

Both the law which was good and holy and the flesh which is no good show us our need of the supernatural provision and a satisfying relationship with Christ.

With deep appreciation we thank God through our Lord Jesus Christ that we are now free from the body of cumbersome Old Testament laws and ordinances and from “the body of this death.” We can now rest in the experience of no condemnation in union with our Grace Perfection as we walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. As we walk in this new relationship, this new Spirit will guide us into all truth and bring us ultimately, “without spot or wrinkle,” into an eternal marriage union with our Grace Perfection spouse.

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4).

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints”(Revelation 19:7, 8). Amen! 

Aaron M. Shank

September 1978