Thanks for asking for a recap on our teachings on divorce and remarriage in the church today here in the west. Let’s take a quick look at a real life true situation to help us begin.
A church-going, sexually faithful, but demonically angry husband as a perpetrator is regularly shooting a pistol at his wife, and has missed thus far. The wife as a victim appeals to the church elders for her safety. The elders refuse to believe the wife, and order her to go home and submit more since there is no adultery. The next week the husband’s aim improves and he kills his wife.
What would you personally have advised this wife prior to her final victimization of first-degree premeditated murder and why? As early church father Origen also stated, was it not right to divorce your wife if she was poisoning you, her husband?
Marriage as designed by God is a covenant, and a covenant is a contract. Contracts have stipulations, or conditions, and can be broken. The only covenant-contract in the Bible with no conditions is the Abrahamic contract. All others God Himself could break for the unfaithfulness of the other party. Just witness the nation of Israel.
There seems to be several major camps on this vital doctrine of divorce and remarriage these days:
Camp 1) No divorce except for adultery, and no remarriage,
Camp 2) No divorce except for adultery, and remarriage,
Camp 3) Divorce for any reason, and remarriage to anyone,
Camp 4) Divorce for victims of abuse, and remarriage.
We, of course, subscribe to Camp 4, and teach it accordingly. Let’s take a look at the major points of divorce and remarriage in the Word of God. We have included David Instone-Brewer’s excellent work as we can. We start at the heart of the matter: preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4.3
If a person will not pursue this Biblical approach, i.e. to agree to agree, then you may just want to move on and do not cast your pearls before swine. Yes, that’s right, dear one. It’s a command from our dear Lord Jesus Christ. This is also how He taught us how to deal with His disobedient church member’s sin, through church discipline.
- Believers are commanded to search together and agree on everything. 1 Cor. 1.10, Acts 15, Eph. 4.3
- People who will not work toward unity are irreconcilable are to be avoided. 2 Tim. 3.1-5
- Factious, sectarian, disunified people causing strife by being irreconcilable are thrown into the lake of fire. Gal. 5.20
- The Bible is God’s word to all generations which we have to translate from the language of an ancient civilization. 2 Tim. 3.16
- Rightly dividing the Word is paramount to be approved and not disapproved by God, and warnings are given to teachers. 2 Tim. 2.15, James 3.1
- Unless the Bible in the New Testament negates, amplifies, or changes the Old Testament, the Old Testament is still in effect. Acts 10.15, Matt. 5.38-48
- God’s Bible teaches minimums and assumes we have a brain to figure out more advanced and even complicated situations. Exodus 21.10-11, 1 Cor. 9.9
- The only marriage vows in the entire Bible of over 31,000 verses are in the Old Testament. Exodus 21.10-11
- Besides abstaining from adultery, minimum marriage vows (food, clothing, sex) describing three basic provisions exist clearly only in the Old Testament (OT), and describe a 2nd wife, probably a slave, taken by a free Jewish husband with another current wife. Exodus 21.10-11
- When any of the three minimum vows are perpetually unfulfilled in any way by aggression, neglect, abandonment, or even more serious problems, the wife may leave with no financial penalty, even if there is no adultery on the part of the husband. Exodus 21.10-11
- The first mention of divorce in the OT pertains to ‘uncleanness,’ pertaining to adultery. Duet. 24.1-4
- An OT Certificate of Divorce, unique in antiquity, was mandatory in Israel thereby protecting the woman and giving her the right to remarry, even if she was rightly divorced for her adultery or other abuse toward her husband. Duet. 24.1-4
- Once a divorced person was remarried, they were not allowed to return to the first spouse. Duet. 24.1-4
- God is a divorcee, and first divorced the northern tribes of the nation of Israel for their perpetual disobedience (abuse), metaphorically called “adultery,” and later on divorced Judah too after His many dismissed warnings. Jeremiah 3, Hosea 2.1-2, 2.9-13, 5.7, Ezekiel 16.13, 16.44-45, Romans 9-11
- God is remarried to the Israel of God, the Body & Bride of Christ, comprised of both gentiles and Jews. Galatians 6.16, Rev. 19.7, Rev. 21.2,9
- Jesus outlawed a specific Jewish type of divorce called the ‘Any Cause’ divorce in response to a specific question, and similar to the ‘No Fault’ divorce of today. Matt. 19.3-8
- Jesus affirmed that only adultery was allowed in that specific text of Duet. 24.1-4, and not for ‘Any Cause’ thus validating and fulfilling the law of Moses. Duet. 24.1-4, Matt. 19.4-8
- Jesus did not intend to teach all about divorce and remarriage in His ‘Any Cause’ response as shown by Paul’s continued explanations and allowances of marriage and divorce in his epistles. 1 Cor. 7
- Likewise, Paul did not intend to teach all about divorce and remarriage in Romans 7.1-3 for he was teaching just about the Law and only giving an illustrative example. Romans 7.1-3, 1 Cor. 7
- Paul alludes to the confirmation of the three minimum marriage vows of Exodus 21.10-11. Ephesians 5.28, 1 Cor. 7.1-5
- Since Adam, it is not good for a man to be alone, and he needs a help meet. Genesis 2.18
- It is better to marry than to burn with sexual passion as a single person. 1 Cor. 7.9
- If an unbeliever decides to stay married to the believer, the believer is to remain in the marriage unless abused and then they may leave. 1 Cor. 7.12-14, 21-22, 24
- Divorce itself is not sinful, but breaking your marriage vows is sinful, so if the unbeliever leaves, God has called us to peace. 1 Cor. 7.15
- If a believer divorces a spouse for the wrong reason, they are to wait to remarry and be reconciled to the spouse unless the spouse remarries first. 1 Cor. 7.11
- Only the victim of broken marriage vows may decide to divorce. 1 Cor. 7.15
- Paul allowed remarriage if someone was divorced against their will. 1 Cor. 7.28
Now, let us take a look at several actual situations and how God may view them. Remember a believer often has the right to divorce in an abusive situation but may choose to stay even when the apostle Paul says to be free. A marriage may be dissolved in the courts of heaven long before it is in the civil court system.
Situation 1: Mike is an unbeliever married to another unbeliever named Lucy. Mike divorces Lucy for various legitimate neglect and abuse. Mike gets saved, and Lucy never remarries. Mike is free to marry another believer named Abagail. This is a biblical marriage. Many in the church wrongly accuse him of now living in adultery.
Situation 2: Sylvia is a believer who wrongly married an unbeliever named Sam. She divorces Sam for no valid reason. Sam moves in to live with another female unbeliever. Sylvia is repentant over her mistake with Sam, and marries a believer named Joe. This is a biblical marriage. Some so-called Christian family members are hateful to them and refuse any fellowship. These family members are irreconcilable.
Situation 3: Mary is a believer married to an severe alcoholic named Bill who claims to be a believer. She endures years of neglect and other abuse. There is no physical violence. She is free to divorce Bill but decides to stay for varied reasons including the children. Bill dies prematurely. Mary marries a fine Christian man who has been divorced twice for Biblical reasons. Their new marriage is a Biblical marriage.
Situation 4: Peter is an believer who is married to another believer named Camille. Peter is neglected sexually and is emotionally abused for years. She refuses to submit in even the simplest things she disagrees with in her daily life with Peter. The church is no help, and exhorts him to just ‘love her more.’ In frustration and desperation, he commits adultery. Camille divorces him. Peter is repentant and waits for Camille but Camille commits adultery too. Peter still waits while fasting and praying. Camille repents, and they are remarried. Soon thereafter, Camille returns to her lover and is unrepentant. Peter divorces her and marries Janet after two years. Peter and Janet’s new marriage is Biblical and has God’s blessing. Camille walks away from the Lord in practice but hides her sin in the church.
Certainly, there are myriads of other examples that can be told. But hopefully in these few examples we get a feel for the gracious mercy of our Creator God and His Son, King Jesus!
Send us any other examples if you would. And your questions and comments on this too. Grace to you all this day.
To view our definition of all types of abuse, click here. To view David Instone-Brewer’s excellent videos and resources, click here. To view our helpful teaching on Biblical interpretation and hermeneutics, click here.
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Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
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Marc White, Director, Walk Worthy Ministries, www.WalkWorthy.org