When we read Chapter seven, Paul is deep into a topic he is continuing from Chapter six – how the Law tends to stimulate sin and incite rebellion against God.
Before Paul can bring in the concept of the sanctified life through the Spirit in Chapter eight, he must answer the question “Why the Law?”
Paul uses a well-established covenant, the covenant of marriage, to prove his point. Paul is not speaking of marriage in an attempt to establish marriage as valuable, for it was an established law for centuries that couples mate for life. He uses the illustration of marriage because it is the most accepted form of a bonding, uncontestable, earthly union which is established by God Himself.
By using the strong illustration of marriage as a long-established and universal principle, he seals his argument. If marriage was a trivial thing in God’s sight, why are saints called to “the marriage supper of the Lamb?”
Note that Paul isn’t dealing with divorce here; but death. (Read Mathew 5:32, 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, and Luke 16:18) Divorces can involve stipulations, pre-nuptial agreements, court battles, child-custody, alimony, etc. But not so with death. Only death cancels all obligations in a marriage although humans attempt to say otherwise.
Holding marriage up as a standard, Paul shows that the Law also holds control over a person until death (verse 2). Just like the law, marriage holds legal obligations that are binding until one dies. Paul uses the powerful illustration of a woman being bound to her husband, legally connected to him, until the day he dies. Only then is she free to re-marry.
The “death of the first husband” which Paul refers to is the crucifixion of one’s old nature, a spiritual death. We sever the connection to our old life, our “former husband” as we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross for us. Only after that “death” is one free to “marry another.” And that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Paul’s illustration proves God values life-long marriage. This passage is where the marriage vows get their authority to state “till death do us part.”
It is God’s will for us to stay with our spouse for life.