DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE
No marriage ever begins with
thoughts of divorce. Yet, as a result of many sins and offenses, divorce
happens. No divorce is a good divorce. It always leaves scars and grief.
Divorce is the inevitable final step of a series of destructive moves
made by people who conclude there is no other way.
What does the Bible say about
divorce and remarriage?
There are four common categories
1. No Divorce, No Remarriage
2. Divorce, No Remarriage
3. Divorce and Remarriage
under certain conditions-- adultery or desertion
4. Divorce and Remarriage
under a variety of circumstances.
Rather than trying to fit
man-made categories, we should seek a Biblical response to divorce and
remarriage. We should ask, "What do the Scriptures say?",
then purpose to follow the Scriptures.
I. God's permanent design
for marriage is permanence.
And said, For this cause
shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and
they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God
hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Matthew 19:5,6
Christ quoted from Genesis
2:24, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall
cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. "Leave...Cleave...
one flesh.... What God hath joined together..." God hasn't changed
His plan just because man messed things up. The question to consider
is, "Should we follow God's plan for man or man's plan for man?"
God's idea of love is wrapped up in one word– covenant. In Ezekiel
16 we see the imagery of Israel as a baby girl–growing up into
woman-hood. God reminded Jerusalem that he raised her from a lowly state
to great glory. She betrayed God and prostituted herself by seeking
alliances with pagan nations and adopting their worldly lifestyles.
The application is clear: Anything, anything that comes between us and
our Lord is an abomination.
Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was
the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness:
yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith
the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.
II. Divorce became man's
means of dealing with the sin problem.
In Deuteronomy 24 we find
that divorce was not approved, but regulated. The main intention was
to protect the forsaken wife. The divorce actually protected the woman
from a husband taking her dowry and leaving her with nothing.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 When a
man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she
find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in
her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her
hand, and send her out of his house.
And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another
man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill
of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his
house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;
her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be
his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before
the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy
God giveth thee for an inheritance."It is crucial to understand
that this passage does not institute or approve divorce, but merely
treats it as a practice already known and existing." [House, p.21]
Remarriage after the divorce was assumed. The entire purpose of the
divorce was to protect the helpless woman who was put away with no means
of livelihood. Deuteronomy 24:2 is very clear regarding this point.
Arguments have been made to the contrary. One has to twist the language
and give meanings beyond the obvious, to come to the conclusion that
remarriage did not follow a divorce. Remember that God came to the conclusion
that, "It was not good that man should be alone."
III. God hates divorce.
God hates putting away--the act of a divorce.
For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away:
for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts:
therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
Why would God make such strong
statement about his feelings on divorce?
Two obvious reasons exist:
****The pain it causes the
couple. God understands what happens when a marriage breaks up.
****The character of God.
Divorce is totally contrary to God's character of faithfulness and integrity.
Some ask, "What about Jeremiah 3:8? Didn't God divorce Israel?"
Jeremiah 3:8, "And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding
Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of
divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played
the harlot also." The context clearly shows God in His patience
waited for her to return to Him, but Israel refused and continued in
her idolatry. God let her have what she wanted. God wasn't doing the
divorcing. God gave her the divorce she wanted. He also will take her
We need to have the mind of God on the matter of divorce. God hates
IV. Christ drastically narrowed
the application of divorce in the New Testament.
The Old Testament Hebrew
application of divorce could be very broadly interpreted. However, Christ
narrowed the application of divorce while reemphasizing God's permanent
plan for marriage.
It hath been said, Whosoever
shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
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. Matthew 5:31,32
Christ narrowed the Biblical application of divorce to one exception--fornication,
meaning immoral unfaithfulness in the marriage. He made minor allowance
for divorce while emphasizing that divorce shouldn't happen. This was
a new teaching for the Jews because the Jews had accepted divorce with
no question. However, they did question what qualified a person for
a divorce. Two groups of Hebrew scholars had differing viewpoints on
divorce. The Hillel accepted divorce for any reason with the emphasis
on ANY. Shammai taught divorce only on the grounds of adultery.
In Matthew 19:3 (Mark 10:1) Christ is in the region of Perea where Herod
Antipas, known for his incest, is in control. The scribes test Christ
putting Him in a political hot seat! "What side are you on?"
Christ's response shows great wisdom:
1. Divorce isn't part of God's plan. It is a man-made solution.
2. Marriage is permanent
3. God is the one who joins
The main point Christ is
making is, "Stop severing marriage unions which God has permanently
In Matthew 5 and 19 Christ didn't say a person who's had an unfaithful
mate SHOULD get a divorce. He said that's the one area of exception
if unfaithfulness did occur. Christ does command to FORGIVE [Matthew
6:14]! Forgiveness is hard--much harder than getting a divorce. If we
are to demonstrate the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT we must learn to forgive
even major offenses.
Christ clearly narrowed the application of divorce for the Jews. He
did not command divorce. He recognized out of the hardness of man's
heart that divorce would happen. He taught emphatically that God's design
for marriage was permanence, not divorce.
V. Paul narrowed the teaching
on divorce even more by confining divorce only to an unbeliever's action.
And unto the married I command,
yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But
and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her
husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 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. 1 Corinthians
In I Corinthians 7 we have
an admonition NOT TO DIVORCE and NOT TO REMARRY IF THE CHRISTIAN DOES
PURSUE A DIVORCE.
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.
1 Corinthians 7:15
To DEPART means to leave, divide, separate, or divorce. To PUT AWAY
means to send away, dismiss, or forsake.
We can draw three conclusions from I Corinthians 7:12-16:
1. It prohibits divorce action for the believer.
2. The possibility that the
unbeliever might eventually trust Christ takes top priority.
3. It allows the release
of the unbeliever to divorce creating a situation where the believing
spouse is under NO BONDAGE.
The only unconditional basis
for remarriage for a believer then is if an unbelieving mate forces
Based on the previous scriptures, seeing how the outlook on divorce
narrows through the dispensations, It is improper for a believer to
consider a divorce, though an unbelieving mate may divorce the believer.
When we take things into our own hands we limit the hand of God! People
don't see that fact that God is a miracle–working, grace–
VI. The church has a responsibility to uphold the representation of
Christ's faithfulness to the church.
Ephesians 5:25 "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also
loved the church, and gave himself for it." Ephesians 5:32 "This
is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."
The picture of Christ's marriage to the church is one of absolute permanence;
we have the seal of redemption which is the Holy Spirit. Christ will
never never divorce his bride the church. Anyone who has truly trusted
in Christ alone for his eternal salvation has become a part of the body
of the Church.
KEY QUESTIONS ANSWERED...
1. Is it right for people
under the exception clause or those forsaken by their mates to remarry?
Bible scholars debate this issue. One can think of many dangers in remarriage
if they do. However, remarriage did follow divorce in the Old Testament
and on a limited basis in the New Testament [I Corinthians 7]. Many
will remarry after divorce out of loneliness. Statistically, many of
those who remarry will divorce again. Be careful! Be biblical!
2. What if an individual
has already divorced and remarried?
Is God standing in continuous
judgement of you? No. Is a person living in continuous adultery if they've
committed adultery by remarrying after a divorce? No. The main passage
in question is Luke 16:18. Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth
another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put
away from her husband committeth adultery.
J. Carl Laney, one of the most conservative of any of the writers writes,
"It has been argued that the present tense of the verb moichao,
"commit adultery" indicates that divorce and remarriage involves
acts of repeated adultery and that the only way to cease sinning and
demonstrate genuine repentance is to end the "adulterous marriage."
While the present tense of moichao can be interpreted in this way, it
is also possible that the present tense, "commits adultery,"
may be used in an aoristic sense expressing the idea of a present fact
without reference to progress. The aoristic present sets forth an event
as now occurring. So interpreted, the adultery would involve one punctiliar
action at the time of the remarriage." [House, p.39]
Remember, two wrongs don't make a right. Is there any sin God will not
forgive? What is the unpardonable sin? Not divorce.
3. Will I as pastor at Shannon
Baptist church ever marry an individual who has been divorced before?
1. Our responsibility as
a church to represent to true lasting relationship the church as bride
has with Christ the bridegroom [Eph. 5]. Christ will never divorce His
church. A Church wedding is a picture of the permanence we have in our
relationship to Christ. To conduct church remarriages would distract
from the beautiful assuring picture of permanence with Christ.
2. Our responsibility to
the marriages in our church.
Couples are struggling. Most marriages are struggling or have struggled,
or will struggle. What would be the overall result if we routinely conducted
second marriages? We do not want to be a stumbling block to any established
marriages working out [Romans 14:13].
3. If in doubt don't.
*It is not cut and dried in Scripture. Those saying divorce and remarriage
is acceptable might be wrong.
What if the one seeking remarriage really is not the "innocent
party?" What if there are problems the church does not know about?
What if the remarriage doesn't work. Statistics are not in its favor.
Possible solutions are:
* There are Bible--believing
pastors who will conduct the ceremony, if you fit the Biblical exceptions.
* The Justice of the Peace
has governmental authority just as a pastor would have. A couple is
no less married in God's eyes than if a pastor conducts the ceremony.
4. What kind of ministry
can divorced people expect to have?
In I Timothy 3:2, 12 the requirements for a pastor or deacon primarily
revolve around being blameless so no one can point a finger. Part of
that blamelessness is that he is the "husband of one wife."
He must be consistent in marriage. Scripture shows no other limitations.
Other areas of ministry should be open to anyone, including folks devastated
by a previous divorce. Christ consistently used people previously marred
by sin who found the grace of God. What an example of God's grace! God
can and wants to use anyone!
5. How should our church
handle a situation of divorce within our church family?
Patience is the key element
a church must present regarding a church member caught up in sin [Galatians
6:1]. Clearly there must be church discipline for unrepentant immorality
[I Corinthians 5]. There must be church discipline for a believer seeking
a divorce who is involved in another relationship. In situations involving
proven unfaithfulness or abuse, if the wronged mate wants a divorce,
we must respond very carefully. There would not be church discipline
for the "wronged mate".
6. How should our church
handle divorce in people who are not a part of our church family?
Two considerations are paramount.
****People haven't been taught.
Most people do not know what the Bible says. Our responsibility then
is to teach compassionately the Scriptures and help them to "forget
the things which are behind and press on to the things which are before."
****People are hurting.
We need to understand the devastation of a divorce and for years afterward
the lasting scars.
Two statements by divorced
people express well the feelings. "I felt so guilty. The unthinkable
had happened. My marriage had failed. Now my children were going to
grow up in a divorced home; I had breached my own value system in getting
divorced; I wondered if God could ever accept me. I even felt guilty
about looking forward to a new lease on life" [Splinter, p. 93].
"I was so confused. I felt so far away from God. My church was
telling me I was damned. My Christian friends just pulled away from
me. I really hurt. Had I committed the "unforgivable sin?"
And what about remarriage? For a while I thought perhaps I should just
give up and go live with somebody" [Splinter, p. 185]
Our church needs to be a place representing everlasting hope: Hope right
now for those who are devastated and hope for eternity. Our church has
a major responsibility of encouraging hurting people. We must show people
that they are not second class--citizens with God. God can strengthen
them, bless them, and use them for His glory!
Sources quoted in this
Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views, H. Wayne House, Editor
The Complete Divorce Recovery Handbook, John P. Splinter