Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
Is Divorce and Remarriage Biblical
A Biblical Exposition on The Authority of Scripture
by Tony Warren
IntroductionThe wedding ring was once a solemn token of the lifelong Covenant bond between a man and a woman, but in modern times it has literally become nothing more than a meaningless trinket. Ask pastors or theologians if it’s wrong for Christians to get an abortion, and you’ll pretty much get agreement across the board that it is. Ask them if a Christian is justified in robbing a bank if he is poor, and you’ll get total agreement again. But ask those same ministers if it is wrong for Christians to get a divorce from their spouse and you will get 5 different answers and 10 different qualifications. In our day like never before, there is no clear message from church against divorce, and that is a travesty. The devastating proliferation of divorce and remarriage has reached epidemic proportions. As unfortunately it is one of those subjects that most Christians would really rather not even deal with. It is much more convenient and palatable for them to sweep this controversy under a rug, rationalize its increase among Christians, or remain silent in tacit support.
There are basically only two views concerning divorce.
1. The Permanence view: There are no grounds for divorce.
2. The Permissive view: There is exception clauses permitting divorce.
The minority today (as myself) hold to the permanence view. All of the others fit somewhere in the many different layers of the permissive view. These can range from 1 exception for divorce to unlimited exceptions. I find that the church today to a large degree totally ignores what the bible actually teaches, that they may add their own addendum and call them biblical exceptions. With no-fault divorce as commonplace as grass in the world today, divorce has become a post-modern travesty in the church. And when we search for the reasons for this proliferation, it is really not so difficult to pinpoint. We live in an age of selfishness, narcissism, irresponsibility and experientialism. An era where divorce is just another symptom of this greater degradation of man. Indeed there are so many people either divorced (and/or remarried), seeking divorce, or who know someone who is in this situation, that it is extremely difficult for many to be Biblically objective about it. More than that, with the constant bombardment of the secular social teachings from the media, Christians tend to get a warped view of what is right and wrong. It becomes much easier to take the humanistic, popular, politically correct viewpoint that no one should stay in a marriage that they are unhappy in. As if happiness, or rather feelings, is the all prevailing deal breaker in marriage. The modern day philosophy is that it would be psychologically damaging, and people would suffer mental anguish if they were to stay in a marriage that they don't really feel good about. Others reason that a loving God really wouldn't want us to stay married (despite what His word says about Him hating divorce) in such situations. And the church has become more and more influenced by the world and the sad experiences related to them that tug on the heart strings. It is not difficult to discern why many look for an exception or escape clause in God's Covenant precept. And then there are the unfaithful or misguided Ministers and Pastors who give the people their own solutions and answers, rather than answer from God's word. It is easy to become distracted by these influences because (whether saved or unsaved) we all still dwell in this body of flesh. And therein lies man's weakness. In abandoning Biblical fortitude, Christians often mistake spiritual weaknesses (which results in a lack of wisdom and foresight) for Godly compassion. And in their weakness they reason that God really didn't mean for us to take His word so literally (seriously) in these particular situations. Often they are told by Ministers that, "in seeking to obey God's laws obediently in these instances, they become legalistic like the Pharisees." As if seeking to be obedient is synonymous with Pharisaical legalism. And so with this constant stream of rationalization, it is no wonder so many professing Christians find it easy to justify their weakness in forsaking the Covenant marriage relationship. Divorce seems a relatively simple solution to what is really a complex problem. Can Christians get divorced under certain circumstances? A simple yes "seems" to solve a multitude of problems. Nevertheless, in taking our eyes off the Word of God and focusing them on ourselves or upon others, what we fail to see is the larger picture.
The larger picture is that God already knew the end from the beginning, and His laws are timeless and immutable. They were not given to burden His people or to be grievous, as some surmise obedience to them would imply. They were instituted for our well being, both individually as well as corporately or collectively. And whether we understand this most basic truth or not does not change the fact that (contrary to popular opinion) the law of God is not subject to changing cultures, social variables or personal circumstances. It is indeed unfortunate that rather than receive what is plainly written, many professing Christians choose to practice situation ethics, where the understanding of God's word is mitigated and prescribed by the times in which they live. This is the great error of the post-modern church. In man's self-justification, he fails to comprehend that God is unchangeable and His law concerning marriage applied yesterday, today and tomorrow. For though we are dead to the law in that it cannot condemn us in Christ, it has not been done away with in the sense that we can ignore it or claim grace every time we decide to disobey it.
- "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
- Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:"
The law of God is what we should desire to meditate on day and night. As true Christians, we do not keep the law because we think keeping it will save us (legalism), we keep the law because we love the Lord and have been made a new creation with a new Spirit. And in this new birth, the spirit of God moves us that our desire is to "do His will," rather than our own. In other words, we are moved to have an earnest desire to faithfully obey His word. We don't follow the precepts that the world has established concerning the union of a man and woman, we understand that we are set apart from the world to follow what God has established. Thus we should be at enmity with arguing against, or disputing Biblical truth.
- "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
- God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
- Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
- Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
The earnest desire to obey God's laws is not legalism, it is God working within us. Those Theologians who look at God's commandments concerning divorce as having been cultural, outdated, or a burden to today's church, do not understand the nature of God's word or the Spirit of Christ within those holding to it. And it is this spiritual regeneration that gives us the desire to faithfully keep the marriage covenant when others are looking for ways and means to get around it. Yes, may will look upon God's servants moved of God to keep His commandments as somehow a legalist, unloving or un-compassionate. But blessed are those who are hated for Christ's sake. It is indeed a sign of the times that many look upon anyone holding to the permanence view of marriage or holding to the fundamental tenants of Scripture, as Pharisaic and judgmental. Subsequently they are frequently reviled and labeled hyper conservatives who take God's word far too narrowly. As if conservative (in relationship to Christianity) was a bad thing. By contrast, those who forsake God's laws in favor of experience, feelings, political correctness, or culture, are deemed progressive, charitable and compassionate Christians.
- "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
- Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
- That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"
Some have even charged that Christians holding this the no divorce view are attempting to appear more righteous and holy by maintaining this strict position. But that is an argument from a baseless presupposition, for they cannot possibly know the thoughts or motives of any Christian, whereby they could determine their inspiration. When we search the Scriptures, we find that the usual Biblical references of motivation to obedience to God's word, have traditionally been borne of the love of God, and not to appear righteous or Holy. On the contrary, those hypocrites who sought to appear righteous and Holy before men, never had an earnest desire to keep God's commandments faithfully. They had a desire to appear holy and were deluded into thinking they were good people by their works. That is an entirely different matter. It is those who truly are born of God that have the evidence of a desire to be faithful to God's holy word.
- "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
1st John 2:5
"Hereby," or in other words, "this is how we know" that we are truly in Christ. Our true love of God is evidenced by our earnest desire to keep or guard from loss, His Holy word. So God obviously has a totally opposite opinion of those who want to faithfully obey His commandments, than these professed Christians alleging them legalists.
- "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him."
Moreover, to claim that it is easy today for Christians to declare that advocating divorce is unlawful is ridiculous. Mere common sense would tell us that nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, it would be infinitely easier for us "not" to maintain a strict Biblical position against divorce. Because then we would all receive the commendations and the praises of both the world and of the vast majority of church leaders. No one receives praise for saying there is no reason for divorce, they receive reviling, condemnation and are spoken against. They are called ignorant, un-compassionate, primitive and legalists. The fact is, the smooth way is always easier on Christians. So it would be easier "not" supporting that which the majority of the church today disdains. It is self evident that this charge of taking the easy route is ridiculous even on the face of it. Declare that God says no one can divorce, and no no one will speak well of you.
It is not easy to hold the Biblical position against divorce in our day, because the mindset of modern Christians has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Those who speak out in declaring that God's word says there can be no Biblical divorce receive almost universal condemnation and rejection of these truths. Rather than being praised for holding to the tenets of the "one flesh undivided" theology prescribed in Holy Canon, they are ridiculed as naive, foolish and medieval. Rather than spoken of as the compassionate Christians who give witness to the unadulterated word directly from God, they are spoken against as being heartless and uncaring about the plight of women, and the loneliness of the innocent spouse. They receive all these false accusations simply because their desire is to be obedient to what the Holy Scriptures bear witness of regarding the unbreakable God ordained Covenant institution of marriage. But should we expect less? Not at all, we remain faithful and take up our cross and follow Christ, regardless of what the world says. For it is to Him that we answer, and not men.
- "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets."
Unless Christians are masochist, they receive no earthly or fleshly pleasure for testimony to the truth of the one flesh unbreakable union. God's word is the truth, not the rationalizations of today's pastors and Ministers. What we have all across the world today is the proliferation of the wisdom of man in the desire to serve a god created in his own image. He really hasn't surrendered his will to "the God of the Bible" wherein he would understand that he cannot do what is right "in his own eyes." Some do not seem to understand that it is God's laws faithfully kept, which keep our house in order, assuring that it is safely resting upon the solid foundation. It is the glue that holds the fabric together. When we chip away at God's laws and commandments, we chip away at that very fabric of the congregation. If we separate [Apostasion] or depart from the authority of the Word of God to do what is right in our own eyes, then we guarantee that our house will be left desolate. It is through the correction of the Word of God that we are kept on firm foundation.
- "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."
2nd Timothy 3:15-17
It is the word, not church leader's personal interpretations of the word, that is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness. The truth is, Marriage is the one of the most solemn and sacred of Covenants. For hundreds of years the question has been asked, "can marriage be dissolved by any action except death?" And in the churches the answer to this has ranged from an emphatic no, to a compromising maybe, to a few cases of an unprincipled and unbiblical, yes. Today most ministers would rather take the position of ignorance or tacit approval rather than offend those of the church who hold to even the most liberal and abominable views of divorce. This is how far the churches have fallen from where they once stood. And contrary to popular opinion, this forsaking God's word is a serious matter. God's word is not a salad bar, where you can take what you like, and leave the rest.
- "And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
- All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
- That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
Consequently, in this exposition of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, we hope to show by authority of the Scriptures alone, that God is very clear on the subject, and that it is only man himself who clouds the issue by his refusal to be subject to the authority of God's unadulterated word. Divorce and remarriage is not a legal way to escape from a troublesome marriage, it is the illicit, unrighteous breaking of the God overseen institution of a sacred Covenant between a man and a woman. As we glean through the divinely inspired texts of Scripture, we will see that things are not as clearly in favor of divorce as some theologians would have you believe. We are thus obligated to do as Christ instructed (when dealing with the Pharisees). We are to 'search the Scriptures and distinguish between what God's word actually says, and what is man's private or personal interpretations of that word (2nd Timothy 2:15). It is only in doing this that we will rightly divide the Word of truth.
- "But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken."
Can Christians divorce and remarry? We pray that in our study of the word we may be guided into God's most blessed truth of the permanence view of marriage, divorce and remarriage, that He grant us the 'humility' to both surrender to His authority, and with all readiness of mind receive what He has inspired written about this question.
The Weakening of the Foundations
Most Christians who support divorce are not even aware that there is not one single "explicit" passage in the entire New Testament that either says that a person may divorce, or that says anyone may remarry after a divorce. People are surprised to hear this 'fact' because they've been led to believe that the Scriptures clearly say that we may divorce under certain circumstances. The truth is, there are passages that many church leaders interpret to "imply" that you may divorce for one reason or another, and there are passages that some theologians declare are alluding to one being able to remarry after a divorce, but there is not one single New Testament Scripture that "actually says" you may ever divorce or remarry. There is a very good reason for this, and it is because the Lord has already given us the commandment that, "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." In simple terms, when two people are joined together in the institution of Covenant marriage before God, they have made a Promise or sacred vow between themselves and God that should never be broken by man. They have taken an oath they are no longer two separate individuals, but are sanctified before God and joined by Him into a one flesh union. This union God clearly and unambiguously demands not be pulled apart by man. Marriage is a covenant (Malachi 2:14; Proverbs. 2:17), and God fully expects a Covenant or Promise to be kept (Numbers 30:2). The two parties cannot dissolve this type Covenant by mutual consent, as if it were simply a non-binding contract. And this is exactly the portrait that God is painting by declaring that they are no more two, but one flesh that man cannot separate. The illustration of the two, now being one flesh before God signifies that there can be no more independence, but an inseparable union. The obvious law in this passage is that divorce is contrary to God's will (God hates Divorce) and the Covenant marriage cannot be abrogated by rescission. This "one flesh, inseparable" precept is not an ambiguous statement, nor is it a vague command. It is very concise, understandable, and not subject to man's private interpretation. The only people who cannot understand this very clear command that "no man could pull apart what God hath joined in marriage," are those who are predisposed to circumventing it.
In the marriage covenant we cleave or are joined together as one, for better or worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health, so long as the two people shall live. And that is how the vows in the churches once proclaimed it. The same as God plainly inspired it written, "till death." Generally, that is the way it was with Christian marriage vow was for hundreds of years. Not that non-canonical church history is any indicator of truth, but even the early church taught and believed that remarriage was expressly prohibited (Augustine, Hermas, Clement, Origen, Basil, Ambrose, Jerome), and that any spouse that obtained a divorce, "for any reason," must remain both single, and celibate, so long as their spouse lived. They believed that whosoever it was who married a divorced person, was committing adultery. This is in stark contrast to the theologians of our day with their rationalizations and compromises of the text of Scripture. The Christian concept of marriage was that it was as a sacrament, a sacred and holy union between man and women, which was nothing short of total commitment, an ordinance of God's own appointment. We are not joined until our spouse loses their temper and screamed at us, or until we fall out of infatuation (Christians are not to fall out of love), or until we are mistreated, neglected, or left alone. We're not joined so long as no real serious problems arise, or until our spouse sins against our person in some way. These are some of the addendums that men have added to the Word of God concerning marriage, but God has had no part in these attachments to His word. We're not joined only for the better, or just so long as we're happy together, we're joined in a Covenant / Promise relationship, to both love and cherish, in both sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for the rest of our lives.
This is exactly what most all of the churches would faithfully teach (and would declare in the marriage ceremony itself) up until the modern, liberal or progressive thinkers came into our churches oozing commiseration in what they deemed was compassion and love. And by these misapplied words they greased the proverbial 'slippery slope' that slid the churches into the degradation of the vow. They opened up a crack in the wall of faith, and that crack soon became the giant breach of divorce and remarriage that we have today. Still, prior to the divorce reforms of the 1970s, divorces were still mostly based upon the ground of "fault," wherein one had to be guilty of adultery. But when that ended, where once the wall stood strong and divorce was almost universally rejected and preached against in nearly all churches, Marriage became nothing more than a testing ground for compatibility. The teaching that divorce is permitted is no longer the exception in a few fringe churches, it is now become the rule in most, and not only for adultery or fornication. It has become a total reversal of the historical church position. Where once the faithful church of our fathers considered it a shame and a scandal to divorce, today the Pastor of any church himself is very likely to have been divorced. What objectivity or righteous counsel can a Pastor possibly give about the law of God against divorce, when he has been divorced himself? He has already shown his rebellion and bad judgment by rationalizing the divorce in his own wife?
Even though a respected Reformed document like the Westminster Confession of faith 'errantly' contained a couple clauses in it that allowed for divorce for fornication and desertion (more on this later), STILL divorce and remarriage remained a rarity in the churches throughout the years. By grace of God His people still shunned divorce for these reasons even in the face of this article. And Pastors continued to counsel against it. But with each change of the leadership in the churches over the last few decades, more and more of that wall of faith has been torn down. Each successive leader venturing a little farther than the last one, beyond the landmarks of Scripture, until we are in the situation with divorce and remarriage that we see prevailing among churches today. The prominent view among most church leaders now is one of absolution:
"..yes, you may divorce you poor soul, it is not unlawful in your case, because God is not legalistic, you are free from the law, and you are not bound to this sinner. Don't worry, you shall have Peace, for God is love and we know that He wouldn't want you to be unhappy in your marriage."
With this type of counseling, the leaders of the church have not pastored the flock, but rather have scattered them, causing them to stray. They are advising by what seems right in their own eyes, rather than by God's law. And in doing so, they are making a false god in their own humanistic image. They are not worshiping the God of law (The Bible), but one of their own devising.
- "The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit."
No, this is not something that is new in God's Congregation, and it is not something that goes unpunished. The horrible truth is, church leaders and seminary graduates today are more like shady 'lawyers' looking for loopholes in the law of God for their clients, rather than Pastors and Shepherds looking to uphold the truth for the flock. The irony is, they usually do it in the name Christian love and compassion for their fellow man. They advise against God's word, because they feel for the couple having problems--or so they say. But this is not the agape love of the brethren (1st John 5:1-3) required by God, it is in opposition to real Christian love. In the name of progressive enlightenment, they have really darkened the way of the church. In the name of caring for the family, they have played a significant role in devastating the family. In the name of union with Christ, they have planted the seeds of separation, not only of the 'One Flesh' theology, but also between man and the Word of God. Unfaithfulness to God's word is like a wicked planting that started out small, but has grown unto a great choking vine that is destroying or choking the life out of everything the church stands for. The modern congregations have actually deluded themselves into believing this has been a good thing for the people of our day, and that the church has actually progressed and gotten better because of this (alleged) compassion in allowing spouses to easily get divorced. They seem oblivious to the truth as they turn away from the facts of the devastation occurring in our church families. The question, "can Christians divorce," is answered today more for convenience sake, than to hold to what is the Biblical principle.
- "Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
- Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD."
It is astonishing how so many theologians think that virtually all churches (pre about 1935-40) who preached against divorce, must have basically all been unlearned people who were really ignorant about these Scripture passages, in which they have since discovered many reasons for divorce. In their eyes, the churches today are somehow more compassionate and wiser in church affairs and have figured something out that these great writers and thinkers of past church history obviously didn't comprehend.
The world has been going on for thousands of years and the marriage institution was protected by the Spirit and laws of the Bible, and it isn't until our generation that the marriage institution has become a shambles because of this plague of divorce. And this, in no small measure, due to this contemporary unfaithfulness in the church. You would think that this great catastrophe of divorce and remarriage that has come upon the Holy Temple would have them scratching their collective heads and wondering what went wrong. Or perhaps have them calling for a church committee meeting to figure out how we managed to get into this terrible situation of all these divorces--You would think. But it's been just the opposite in most churches. Rather than speak against it, they are making excuses for it. It's as if they cannot see what their deeds have done to the Covenant family, for they are blinded to their disobedience. They're deceived so that they generally don't even see what's wrong at all. They routinely justify divorce and claim that the historical and faithful church was just old fashioned in their thinking about either women or divorce, and that with changing times man's outlook must change. They claim God really said all along that we can divorce for all these diverse reasons, and that we shouldn't really worry about how the church of our fathers preached against it or be dissuaded by them seldom ever really allowing it in the past. They even turn it into a woman's rights issue, where it was only because men ruled, or only because the women of the past stayed married fearing lack of support. Which begs the question, what has that to do with what God says or does not say?
Christians today need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask "honestly," does the evidence show that the church today is more diligent and faithful to the Word of God than it was pre 1940? The only honest answer is, on the contrary! It shows just the opposite. The churches today are breaking law after law, forsaking rule after rule, promoting every abomination and rule change that you can think of. They are not becoming more faithful to the laws of God, but are departing from the faith. They have forgotten their 'First Love' for the love of themselves. The love of God is growing cold where they do not preserve it in their heart that they might not sin against Him. Keeping the word can be Biblically defined as, 'guarding it from loss.' But the church today is not a watchman to guard the word, they have strayed from its age old boundaries, which the fathers kept. They remember not the Old Proverb:
That's what the churches have done today. They have removed the ancient landmarks to go beyond the boundaries of the Word of God. Privately interpreting Scripture, they lay claim to teachings of separation and divorce which are foreign to the Bible. It is voice upon voice until those who are simply looking for an excuse to defend their deeds, feel justified in joining the chorus of the unfaithful. A chorus of voices today so deafening that nothing much else is heard over the unrighteousness regarding divorce. They make a mockery of the church that went before them, and trample under foot the Word of God that it faithfully relied upon.
- "remove not the ancient Landmark, which thy fathers have set.
These Problems have their root in Christians not dealing with the Scriptures honestly, as the more noble Bereans did. Since when does, "it is no longer two, but one flesh," today re-translate to, "It is not really one flesh inseparable, because it was never really joined by God." Since when does, "what God has joined, let no man pull apart," re-translate to, "we can pull apart what God joined together if our spouse sins against us." Since when does, "bound together by the law as long as we shall live," today re-translate to, "bound just until we find some unlawfulness or sin in our partners." The question is, since when, and the answer is, since the apostasy began to rear its ugly head in the churches and man decided to forsake God's word and rule by his own fiat in the Holy Temple. He is justifying any and everything that he wants, making his own principles and changing the laws of God. Whether Divorce, Remarriage, Abortions, Homosexuality, Women Pastors, Authorities over God, Rebellion, Modernism, or whatever is the flavor of the month, it all starts from the same seed of rationalization. That spirit of disobedience that has been man's downfall from the very beginning. It starts with the same question that the serpent asked Eve in the garden:
'..Hath God said?'
Satan knows that whenever man wants to do something forbidden, he begins to question whether God really 'meant' what He has said. But the faithful Christian will review God's word faithfully and answer the question of, "hath God said," with honesty (as the Bereans). The unfaithful Christian will either ignore what's written, deny it, or look for avenues where he can get around or rationalize it away. All the time while making it appear that he is not really in disobedience. That is the self deception manifest in the lack of reverential 'fear of God.' But the Lord is not mocked. This is the difference between guarding God's word from loss (keeping it) and the unfaithfulness of the (so called) carnal Christian who refuses to 'receive' what God says.
1st John 2:4-5
I am convinced and convicted by the word that it is the Holy Spirit of truth that will both guide God's servants into what is true, and steer them away from what is not. I would not be so deluded as to think that I am going to teach anyone anything from Scripture in this study. The Holy Spirit is the teacher, and He teaches through God's words, not mine. Therefore, if God doesn't say it, then you have no reason to have confidence that what follows in this study is true. However, as the Bereans clearly understood, if these things are written in the Word of God, then they are not only true, but we are bound to faithfully keep the testimony of that word.
- "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
- But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him."
With that in mind, we begin this study on the question of divorce and remarriage. My desire is that the faithful Christian will consider it in the light of what the Bible actually says. Not in light of what I say, or what Pastor Joe Smo says, or what Professor Ihavea Ph.d. declares, but what the Scriptures themselves actually have written within. That is to say, as opposed to what theologians claim the Scriptures really mean. To be sure, whatever it says, it has said it all along. What you read today, the fathers read yesterday, for there has been no change in Holy Canon to match the degradation of society. Let us then begin to examine the issue in the light of God's eternal word.
We begin this study at the law of Moses which Christ referred to in his explanation of marriage, in Matthew chapter 19.
The Old Testament Law that allowed for DivorceInevitably in any discussion of the subject of divorce, the passage in Matthew chapter 19 is referenced. I ask one thing in consideration of this study. That you suspend all that you have been taught that Matthew chapter 19 says, and 'actually read' what it really does say. Read it in context, with no preconceived ideas about it. If we do that honestly (which is the key word), and with all readiness of mind, I am convinced there can be no question about what it declares, and what it does not declare.
Jesus had come into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan, and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed many of them there. It was at this location that the Pharisees came to him deceitfully and asked if there was any reason where one could be lawfully divorced. And in verse 3 we read:
It is important to understand that this Greek word translated every [pas] in the KJV means any, or "all without exception." So what they are asking is can one lawfully get a divorce for any reason. They are asking this in order to snare Christ in his words, whereby they might accuse him of denying Moses. This word is better understood in this context as 'any,' as indeed it is translated in other places. Examples:
- "The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
We certainly wouldn't translate this "every" here, as the context illustrates he is talking about any one. Again:
- "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side."
Nor shall "any" heat, not "every" heat. This is the exact same word, in the exact same context of the question we find in Matthew chapter 19. A few more examples:
- "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat."
- "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
What is the difference between that word any, and the context of the word every in Matthew chapter 19? The 'truthful' answer is nothing. They are both the exact same Greek word [pas] in the exact same context. Can Peter be saying that He has never eaten 'every' thing that is unclean? No, Peter has never eaten 'any' thing the Jews considered unclean. Likewise, the Pharisees are asking Christ if it is lawful to divorce a woman for any reason, so that they might have cause to accuse Him by his answer.
- "But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean."
The word every [pas] in this context of Matthew 19 means any. If not, then we have confusion, because it would not be divorce for every reason. Divorce because she woke up 2 minutes later than usual? Divorce because she skipped rope? Divorce because she combed her hair to the left? It makes no sense as divorce for "every" reason. We should understand clearly that they are asking if there is any reason to allow for divorce, as that clearly fits the context. It should be self evident that the language 'for every cause' is awkward and doesn't fit the context, tense, and application, because the Pharisees are tempting/testing Jesus by asking Him if it is lawful to divorce, when they already know that the law of Moses said one could divorce for [porneia], or unlawful nakedness (fornication) of one who is espoused (married). They are 'testing' Christ, having an answer ready to confront Him with. If the question was of wanton divorce, Jesus could have very easily replied, "no, you can only divorce for fornication." That is 'obviously' not what Christ wanted to say as he proceeded to very clearly state that marriage an unbreakable bond. Three times (in Matthew, Luke and Mark) this episode is recorded, and though that answer would have been expected, concise, and very easy to say, not once does Christ ever say this. Not once does Jesus say in response to this question, "no, you can only divorce for fornication and desertion." And though few Theologians in our day will highlight this fact, note carefully that what He does reply in 'answer' to their question is just the opposite, and what would be expected if they had asked if there could be divorce for any reason. He unambiguously reaffirmed the lifelong marriage Covenant by directing them to God's creation law declaring that the joining of two into 'one flesh' meant that there isn't even anything that can be separated, because they are no longer two, but have been made one. Listen to Christ's answer to the question:
Christ here sets forth the fundamental Christian doctrine concerning marriage. Clearly God is 'answering' their question by basically retorting, 'don't you know the Scriptures declare that you can't pull apart what has been joined by the marriage Covenant before God?' Christ has been asked a question and He has answered it. There is no possibility of separation, because they are joined together by God and are become "one flesh" – that is to say, they were no longer two autonomous and separate individuals, but were as one (Genesis 2:24). In both verses 5 and 6 of Matthew chapter 19, God is illustrating that marriage is an indissoluble union before Him, and gives the warning, "let no man pull apart this union which God hath joined together." What could be clearer?
- "And He answered and said unto them, have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
- And said, for this reason shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they two shall be One Flesh
- Wherefore they are no more two, but one flesh. What Therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Sadly, in our day the clear meaning of these words have been totally ignored or redefined by the churches in their blatant rationalizing of separating what God has joined. This verse is literally made of 'non-effect' by the additions to the word by careless theologians. Most of the time these verses aren't even effectively addressed or even considered in their arguments for divorce, but are quickly brushed aside or discarded in favor of humanistic reasoning in defense of dissolving the marriage covenant. As if circumstances dictate whether or not we have to keep this commandment.
Another tactic that some theologians often use is that they will present a second verse in an attempt to contradict this one. In other words, to make this 'command' about no man pulling apart what has been joined by God in a Covenant marriage, void by man's own actions. But the most basic rule of sound fundamental exegesis is that, "you cannot use one Scripture to nullify another." All Scripture is true, so it must then be understood in harmony with itself, by comparing Scripture with Scripture. God's word of, "let no man pull apart what has been joined in marriage by Him," is true and trustworthy and cannot be made untrue by claiming another verse made it void. What part of that command is written ambiguously that Christians could misunderstand it? None.
So what do we have here? The Pharisees have asked Jesus, can there be lawful divorce for any reason, and Jesus has replied and made it abundantly clear to them that the answer is no. There cannot be divorce. And for emphasis, He directs them to the original design of marriage in the beginning of creation (Genesis 2:24). So according to the God's institution of the Covenant of marriage established in Genesis 2:18-25, what is joined together in marriage before God, makes the two one flesh. And the picture Christ paints is that the one flesh doctrine explicitly binds the two together inextricably. Can one person be divided and become two people? Of course not. So the point God is clearly making is that this separation of the two is impossible. If God be the arbiter of truth, declaring that a man and woman become one flesh in the unbreakable bond of marriage, then marriage is unalterable. So by Christ's own words we understand that the very nature of Covenant marriage prohibits either divorce or remarriage. Christ is teaching that this is the original design. And for the most part, for 2000 years the church generally abided by that design. Therefore divorce in the church was considered taboo or a scandalous action. God intends that Christians are to remain as one flesh through trials, tribulations, or any circumstances that may arise (Matthew 19:6; 1st Corinthians 7:10-11).
And to not put too fine a point on it, while Theologians today feign Christ was not saying this, the Pharisees themselves most certainly understood that this is indeed what Jesus was saying. And the disciples also clearly understood that this is what Jesus was saying. The context and their reactions to His words make it abundantly clear what He was saying regarding this matter. They were astounded by Christ's words against divorce, absolutely "shocked!" And we even read in the book of Mark that they even asked him "again" a second time to be sure they heard Him correctly. The disciples were flabbergasted that Christ would say you cannot divorce for any cause, claiming you simply cannot put asunder (pull apart) what God had joined together. It is wishful thinking to imagine that Jesus wasn't saying that they could not divorce. Even the Pharisees understood His answer perfectly. Take careful note that this is exactly why they asked in the very next verse:
Why would they be referencing this law of Moses to support divorce for illicit uncleanness or nakedness, if Christ was actually saying you can divorce only for illicit uncleanness or nakedness. The law of Moses covered that, so obviously Christ was teaching against that law. It makes no sense. This law of Moses didn't allow divorce for 'every' cause, it allowed divorce of the betrothed for immorality, the unlawful nakedness or illicit sexual behavior (fornication). The law for adultery required death. In fact, Jesus giving an answer like that to address a question of divorce for "every cause" is totally out of context. Their reply here would be meaningless if they had really asked if they could divorce for "every reason." Do not listen to self-serving theologians, listen to the word itself, and don't forget the question and Christ's answer. Their coming back at Christ with 'this Scripture' in support of divorce for "every reason" makes no sense. It reads logically and makes 'perfect sense' only when you understand that they were asking if there could be divorce for "any" reason, and why did Moses allow divorce for "this" reason. Because Moses never allowed divorce for "EVERY" Reason.
- "They say unto Him, why did Moses THEN command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
When we go to the Scriptures with no preconceived ideas about them, the truth shines through. When we go to these Scriptures looking for justification, it makes no sense when examined circumspectly. When we follow the content and the context, instead of listening to unfaithful shepherds attempting to lead the Scriptures, there can only be one conclusion. The Pharisees, knowing perfectly well that the law said one could divorce for certain immorality or some illicit nakedness (fornication) were testing/tempting Christ by asking if there can be divorce for any reason. Jesus replies directing them to the law of Moses that there is not to be divorce for any reason because "from the beginning" the original design of marriage was meant to be that man cannot pull apart what God hath joined together. And they (understanding this is what He was saying), think they have him trapped and immediately counter asking, why 'then' [oun] did the law of Moses say we could get a writing of divorce for unlawful uncleanness/nakedness? They are not playing the game the church today plays, they play a different game. They 'know' Jesus is telling them they cannot divorce for fornication or any other unlawful nakedness, and they are countering Christ's answer with the law of Moses in which it was written that they "could" divorce for fornication or that illicit immorality. In other words, they are protesting, 'if you say we can't divorce for any reason, why then did the law of Moses say we could divorce if we found some unlawful nakedness?' And also be aware that this is the law that allowed men to divorce their espoused wives for fornication. That is a 'very important' point which should not be overlooked or cast aside as insignificant. It usually is with today's theologians, but we should have this firmly settled in our minds. Yet Christ is not dissuaded by their question of Moses Law, and has the answer for this also:
God has declared here that it is adultery when the remarriage of either partner follows a divorce. And Christ explains that Moses allowed them to 'divorce' because they are hard hearted. Hard or obstinate hearts lead divorce because of an uncaring attitude that leads to marriage breakdown. And once again, note carefully that Christ did not say Moses allowed you to put away your wives for every/any reason, but the law of Moses allowed you to put away your wives because you were hard hearted. If in fact Christ was answering the question of if can they divorce for "every reason," why is He saying Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of their heart? Ergo, Moses never allowed divorce for 'every' cause. Again, such a reading of the text to pose this question makes no sense. If the law of Moses didn't allow for Divorce for every cause, then the whole modern way of understanding their questions falls flat on its face.
- "He said unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
- And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso is put away doth commit adultery.
Moreover, in this very passage that many Christians claim gives allowance not only for divorce, but remarriage, we see that the wife is prohibited from remarriage without herself entering into the sin of adultery. In other words, in verse 9 if the truth was that God allowed remarriage in the case of adultery, then why is the "left" wife prohibited from remarriage? Again, it makes no sense.
Christ says, Yes Moses reluctantly allowed it, but from the beginning, this divorce was never meant to be. So how is Christ's words condoning a divorce for fornication? The permanence of the Covenant marriage union is implied in the original design of the creation ordinance of a man and a woman, and this a lifetime union that Christ clearly reaffirmed by saying, they are now one flesh and what therefore God hath joined together let not man pull apart. Clearly, unmistakably, Christ is drawing us back to what was God's will for marriage:
So while there is ambiguity and faulty reasoning with man, there is no ambiguity with the Word of God, his will, or what Christ was telling them. This is God's permanence view of marriage. That a man should cleave to his wife so that it is as if the two are actually one flesh. This is what Christ points to when He declares God's will from the beginning. The problem is, man doesn't like God's will, he desires his own. But Christ was clear that this "is" God's design for marriage and it was only because of the hardness of Israel's heart that divorce for illicit nakedness or fornication was allowed. We'll come back to these verses, but again note carefully in the next verse that not only the Pharisees, but now the Apostles themselves (unlike the people of the churches today) also understood perfectly that Jesus was saying that there could "NOT" be divorce for acts of fornication or unlawful nakedness, which was allowed under the law of Moses. You see they were more 'noble' and thus dealt more honorably with the words that they were hearing. Indeed, they were devastated by them.
- "And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
- And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
- Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
The disciples are saying that if a man can't divorce his wife even for fornication (unlawful nakedness) or illicit immorality, then it's better that a man not even get married in the first place. They are simply astounded at Christ's very clear words against divorce.
- "His disciples say unto Him, if the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry!"
There are some theologians who delve into secular history in order to try and prove that Jesus said this because people were getting divorced for any little reason (as if this is divinely inspired truth), but that again is simply non-scriptural tradition and also a subtle form of self justification. It's not found anywhere in Scripture either explicitly or implicitly, and so is not a biblical justification. Moreover, Christ was addressing the actual law of Moses, not real or imagined erroneous or unjust uses of it. So that should be relegated to nothing more than private, secular, or personal interpretation. Also, why would the disciples be 'so horrified' that they couldn't divorce their wives for every little odd thing? To think this of these men is simply ridiculous. They were so shocked because Christ said that they couldn't divorce for 'any reason,' not that He said they could not divorce for every little cause. It is abject foolishness to think they wanted to divorce their wives for an issue of blood, her monthly, or some open sore as is one popular theory. The whole idea, once examined, is ludicrous when we read the text in context. Keep in mind, these disciples were men of God. They weren't sitting around thinking of ways to divorce their wives for every cause. Why then would they be flabbergasted at Christ's answer unless He forbade any divorce?
Why not reconcile these ideas with this teaching of Jesus as recorded in the book of Mark, where clearly Jesus prohibits divorce absolutely and gives no possible exceptions. A lot of Christians choose to ignore these passages in favor of ones which are more easily misunderstood or compromised. Nevertheless, these verses must be reconciled, and not by declaring that Jesus didn't mean what He said there, nor by forcing an exception clause into the text where there are none. Word for word Jesus declares in Mark that there is no possibility of divorce anymore. It was only because of the hardness of Israel's heart that Moses permitted it. And here we see that it is also clear the Pharisees were tempting or testing Christ by these questions. And it doesn't say they asked was it lawful to divorce for every cause, but "is it lawful to divorce!" It is understood they are asking if anyone can Divorce--Period. But don't take my word for it.
To cleave means to adhere, to stick with them. The unambiguous meaning of these verses is that they asked if it was lawful to divorce, and Christ explained the creation institution of an indissoluble Covenant marriage to 'one person,' and how that was always God's intention for man. He further commands that divorce, the tearing apart what God has joined together, is not to be permitted by man. And so striking is this statement that Christ makes that they cannot divorce for 'any' reason, after they get into the house away from the Pharisees, the Apostles asked Christ again of this (verse 10-11). But Jesus (unlike Pastors today) does not recant or rephrase in answer to their surprised queries. He plainly reiterates that whoever divorces his wife commits adultery against her. And likewise the woman to the man. In other words, it is a restatement of the fundamental law of covenant marriage, that God hates divorce and man cannot separate what God has joined together. So Mark 10:11-12 totally supports Matthew chapter 19 and disallows divorce for any reason. It gives the general admonition against any divorce, while Matthew 19 provides the reason for the law of Moses that had allowed for divorce. It was allowed because of the hardness of Israel's heart.
- "And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.
- And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
- And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
- And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
- And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
- But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
- For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
- And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
- What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
- And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
- And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
- And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."
A literal reading of all these gospels resolves the apparent difference between them, as being no difference at all. Because there is not an exception clause in Matthew chapter twenty four supporting divorce for fornication (which would make the whole chapter and all that Christ said before, nonsensical), there is the rescinding of divorce for any uncleanness or fornication that the law of Moses allowed, and there is the denial of divorce for any other reason besides (except) this fornication. The biblical definition of fornication [poreia], is any act of unfaithfulness or unlawful lust. That's why it's also used for idolatry, because it is unfaithfulness to God. The law of Moses permitted divorce for any illicit unfaithfulnesss, but that is not what God intended from the beginning. So the Pharisees question has been answered. Can God's people divorce for any reason? The answer is an unequivocal, No! That is indeed the very reason the Apostles were so perplexed about what Christ had said, because they understood that the law of Moses said people could get divorced for [poreia], or in the Hebrew [ervah], meaning illicit or unlawful nakedness/immorality (Deuteronomy 24:1), and Jesus said that this cannot be anymore and was never intended in the beginning. That verse in Deuteronomy is the law of Moses used for divorcing someone you were espoused to in the case of fornication. The disciples understand, and so they respond that if that's the way it is to be regarding marriage, then it's better if a man never get married at all. And we can understand this. They're thinking is that a wife could do any illicit thing, and the husband would be stuck with her regardless. And they are right, for Jesus is telling them this marriage arrangement is a lifelong bond. He doesn't retreat from this precept one bit, rather, He reiterates it. In Matthew He tells them yes, all cannot receive this, only to whom it is given. In other words, yes there are many who shouldn't get married because of this, and so don't get married if you cannot 'receive this command of God' and remain committed and bound to your spouse.
And it is given to those with the Spirit of Christ who can bear it because they will love their wives even as Christ loves the church. Jesus is saying, yes, you are right that for many it is better that they not get married. If only many faithful Christian Bachelors or Bachelorettes today would have considered these words circumspectly before marriage, and tried themselves to see if they were able to see it through till death do them part, before they entered into that Covenant marriage relationship. Then, as in the days of old, there would be no divorce. For if the Christian cannot receive this precept of Christ, then they shouldn't get marry. For there is no possibility of divorce before God. And that is the teaching put forth here by Jesus. To those who can receive it, it is not a burden. For when we are in Christ, all things are possible. We can forgive seven times seventy, and we can remain married in the face of any trial. If we make Christ our anchor, and keep our eyes on Him and not on ourselves, we will not drift from the safety of the harbor. We will faithfully hold to His commands if we are not feeling sorry for ourselves because of our spouse's sins. This exhortation is that if we can marry, and will remain married till death do us part, then we are those who can receive this. If we cannot, it is good for us to remain single. And indeed, there are many who will remain in the single state, and for many different reasons.
- "But He said unto them, all men cannot receive this saying, except to whom it is given."
In the new testament, the word eunuch is the Greek word [eunouchizo], which literally means to 'hold bed.' By implication it signifies a single, celibate, or castrated person. It's taken from the root Greek words [enue] meaning bed, and the verb tense [echo], meaning to hold. By extension a chamberlain or holder of the woman's bed chambers. Kings and rulers would often use castrated men or eunuchs as people charged with the management and care of the woman's chambers (for obvious reasons), since it would be impossible for them to have relations with the women under their care. In it's narrowest technical sense the word means an emasculated man as a chamberlain, but by extension it means one who remains unmarried or who is not with a woman. This is also illustrated in the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, which had charge of the Queen's Chamber. In this context of Matthew 19, it is referring to someone who doesn't have relations with women. i.e., an unmarried (celibate) man.
- "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him RECEIVE It."
And Christ says for some, there will be no marriage for many reasons. Some People will never get married or be with a woman at all because they were born that way (birth defects). Others will never get married because man has made it that way (medical or involuntary castration). Others will never get married because of the Kingdom of God. In other words, like Paul (Who wished that all were as he, unmarried - 1st Cor 7:7). And so Yes, Jesus says, it's not for everyone to get married that they have to keep this law. But to he who can receive this (He who is of God), let them receive it and marry. But if we do marry, then this law most surely applies. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Any divorce or any pulling asunder what God has joined together, is to break the original design of marriage that from the beginning was meant to be a lifetime bond.
So the question now becomes, how is it that so many today think that Matthew chapter 19 presents them with a 'legalistic escape clause' that allows for divorce for fornication? The answer is one of three reasons.#1. They are unaware that the law of Moses of divorce illicit immorality (fornication) is the law that Jesus is talking about in verse 8, and declares it is no more (and this is very possible since few Pastors will touch the verse with a 10 foot pole).
#2. Sloppy exegesis mixed with carnal or humanistic thinking or reasoning.
#3. They just don't care what the Word of God says, they want to allow divorce and remarriage and so they will not receive the truth in love, regardless of what these Scriptures actually declare.
#4. They get hung up on the one word "except" in verse 9.
With many, their whole argument for divorce hangs upon one word in the phrase, "except for fornication." They do not understand that this Greek word is a qualifying negation for the word fornication. Except is the Greek word [eime], literally "if not." Taken from it's root words [el] (IF), and [me] (NOT). It is used here in the context of saying, besides. Also note, I am not wresting the Scriptures here, I encourage anyone and everyone to check this out for themselves in the original Greek. In point of fact, it would be a contradiction if it really meant what some Theologians claim it does. The contradiction becomes obvious when we carefully examine the passage. Sloppy exegesis lends itself to conclusions that don't even make sense on the face of it (once examined). First of all, the law of Moses that Jesus was talking about is the very law that allowed them to divorce for fornication. Check that out yourself. There's no other law! Jesus said in verse 8 that it was allowed only for the hardness of their heart, but it's not to be so. Now think about just what Christ has said there. He's saying, 'Yes the law of Moses did allow for divorce for these immoralities,' but from the beginning it was not to be so. For what God intended 'from the beginning' is what we should hold to. Namely, we are one flesh which cannot be separated. The true reason that law was allowed was so that Israel could be divorced under that Old Testament law for the hardness of their heart (Mark 6:52, Mark 8:17, Mark 10:5, Mark 16:14, John 12:40, Hebrews 3:8, Hebrews 3:15, Hebrews 4:7), fulfilling the ultimate law that righteousness cannot be by the law. And so now Christ can have a New Covenant marriage to a wife with an eternal bond, and salvation go to the whole world. Christ is now the husband of the New Covenant church/Israel fulfilling what that law prefigured, that He might be bound forever and love us 'unconditionally.' A New Covenant Marriage wherein He can never divorce us. Even as it was to be "in the beginning," we are made one with Christ. Christ the Head, we the one body, inseparable as God always intended.
With Christ having answered their question about divorce for fornication being unlawful, He then says, and whosoever divorces his wife for anything besides [if not] for fornication, commits adultery. So you see, now He has covered all bases. First He has made it clear that the law of Moses for Divorce for fornication is to be no more, and then He declares that divorce for anything (besides/except) fornication is adultery. Christ has now covered everything. i.e., there can be no divorce for 'any' cause.
Many Christians will point to the articles of the 24th chapter of the Westminster Confession in defense of divorce, which states:
V. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract.(l) In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce:(m) and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.(n)
(l) Matt. 1:18, 19, 20.
(m) Matt. 5:31, 32.
(n) Matt. 19:9; Rom. 7:2, 3.
VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage:(o) wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills and discretion, in their own case.(p)
(o) Matt. 19:8, 9; I Cor. 7:15; Matt. 19:6.
(p) Deut. 24:1, 2, 3, 4.
Reading this they wistfully retort, "see, we can divorce for acts of fornication and for desertion." But there are three problems with this:
Number one: The Westminster confession, while in general an 'outstanding' synopsis of the beliefs of the faithful church, is NOT the Word of God. Sadly, some people who understand that intellectually, in practice do not really comprehend what that means. But we must never place church articles and traditions on a par with God's written Word.
Number two: nowhere does the Word of God say that, "Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract." Again, the Westminster confession says this, but God does not! What God actually says is that, what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder or dissolve. One is what God actually said, the other is an interpretation of what they think God means. We must be careful that we do not practice the same blind following of church traditions as the Roman Catholic church does. The final authority is the Word of God, not the Westminster confession. Sola Scriptura! God joines two together in an inseparable marriage covenant by witnessing this vow or oath that they make before Him. We cannot get away from that.
"Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant." -Malachi 2:14
The wife of thy Covenant (Promise, Vow and Oath) that you made, and before the God of heaven who bore witness to it. Man may not take vows seriously, but God most assuredly does.
Number three: The statement that, "nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage," is again totally irreconcilable with God's inerrant word. God says nothing about willful desertion that cannot be remedied, being grounds for divorce. It says God hates divorce. Nor could this be in the New Testament dispensation. We should never lose sight of the fact that these are the words of men regarding adultery and desertion, not God's word or Holy canon. If they were truly going by the Word of God in the Old Testament, fornication of the espoused was a cause for divorce, while Adultery required death by the law, not divorce. What Christ says about adultery demonstrates how man can never keep the whole law faithfully, and thus how we are to forgive our bride unconditionally, even as the bride of Christ is forgiven all her sins unconditionally.
Ergo, who could keep the whole law perfectly? The fact is, if man but glances at a woman with but a moment of lust after her, he has committed already committed adultery. And not a "pretend" adultery (as some would have you believe) but in God's sight, the punishable sin of adultery has been committed. Nowhere does God say that only physical adultery is "real" adultery. On the contrary, He has just declared that this is not the case. Who then under God's law would not have legitimate grounds for divorce, if indeed this doctrine of divorce for adultery was actually true? Without realizing it, what these theologians are saying is that God is wrong, and this lust is not REAL adultery that we could be divorced for. They have effectively said, this doesn't really constitute adultery before God. Who is right--God or man? To allow divorce for adultery is to imply that man is right, you have committed no adultery by lusting.
- "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
- But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
Is the lustful thought of man real adultery, or is God just toying with us? When we get right down to it, we're all on shaky ground using such logic. And that is 'precisely' what God is illustrating in Matthew chapter 5 with all these Old Testament laws illustrating how no one stands perfectly regarding them. To hate is murder, to lust is adultery, etc., etc. Without the Grace of God none of us can escape the judgment, no matter how faithfully 'he thinks' he is in keeping the law in relationship to his or her spouse. That is the whole point. Shall we divorce our wives for adultery, when we have looked upon a woman to lust after her? ..even for a micro second? For that too is adultery in God's sight. The righteous man humbly replies no, I'm guilty as charged. The arrogant and willful reply, no I'm not guilty and it's not the same thing.
- "God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged."
Can we reconcile Christ allowing divorce because of fornication or some immorality, and yet declaring that we are to forgive our spouse her sins seventy times seventy? Does Christ contradict Himself on our actions or is it man that is confused? We are to be forgiving and 'content' with our spouse, knowing that what we do, we do as unto the Lord. We live for the Lord and not for ourselves, and He is ever with us that we keep our eyes upon Him, and not ourselves where we play the victim.
- "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
- Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven."
- "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
- Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
It is not for us to condemn, judgment belongs to God. The grass is always greener on the other side, but this is the way of the world. Christians are not to look for a better, more perfect husband or wife, but to understand that forgiveness is the hallmark of true Christianity. God will judge the adulterer, while we must honor our covenant and show forgiveness. In all our pain and trial in this world, God is with us and will never forsake us, though we surely might well deserve it. As indeed we should be with our own wives and never leave nor forsake them.
In fact, this permanence view against divorce has historically always been the law of the faithful church. And the unmentionable 'remarriage of the divorced,' was something that happened only to the scandalous. The church started to go wrong when it started making certain exceptions. The truth is, there is no word 'remarriage' in the entire New Testament. I had someone tell me that verse 8 of Matthew chapter 19 in saying, 'except for fornication,' makes all the preceding verses null and void. What kind of theology or exegesis is that? God forbid we should handle His word so deceitfully. In point of fact, verses 6, 7, and 8 'conditions' verse 9. Verse 9 most certainly does not exist in a vacuum. You could not even understand verse 9 without understanding the verses preceding it. Context is always of importance.
It is redundant, but as conscientious Christians must go about this systematically. In verse 6 Jesus tells them that from the beginning of history people joined in marriage were not considered two anymore, but one flesh, meaning inseparable. And so what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. But the way Pastors and theologians understand this verse today makes Christ's statement absolutely meaningless. In verse 7 the Pharisees are amazed at this "permanence view" and ask, why then did Moses command we could give a writing of divorcement and to put women away if there cannot be divorce for any cause? They (both the Disciples and these Pharisees) understand that Christ is saying that there cannot be divorce. ELSE, why would they bring up the law that Moses that says there could divorce for illicit immorality/fornication to CHALLENGE what Jesus has just said? And in verse 8 Jesus explains to them why that law of divorce of a spouse for illicit nakedness or fornication was allowed. He says, it was Because of the hardness of their hearts that it was allowed, but in the Beginning it was not so.
How any person who is honest with himself, and dealing honorably with the pertinent Scriptures, can claim Jesus is instead saying, "Yes divorce using this law is still allowed," makes no sense. The whole idea is just beyond logic and reason. Jesus is clearly saying it's not to be anymore. Only one with their mind already set on divorce would claim Jesus is re-affirming the law of Moses for divorce for fornication or illicit nakedness in that verse. No, Jesus says that it was allowed because you were obstinate, but from the Beginning such divorce was not to be so. It was only because of the hardness of your heart (a teaching on the hardness of Israel's heart is a topic for another study).
And as an addendum to the answer He has given, He adds in verse 9 that he who puts away his wife for anything else beside fornication and marries another, commits adultery. Verse 9 is simply covering all "OTHER" bases. He's already talked about the law of divorce for fornication that Moses allowed, and said it's not to be. Now He adds that if you put away your wife for anything except [elme] meaning 'if not' (beside) for fornication, you are committing adultery. Jesus covers divorce for fornication first (it was for the harness of their heart and not to be), and then says divorce for anything except (besides) fornication is adultery. There we have Christ reiterating the original permanence view, that divorce for 'any' reason is not to be allowed. And that is exactly what the Pharisees originally had asked Him. "Can a man divorce his wife for any reason?" Jesus answers, you can't divorce for fornication, for that law was for the hardness of your hearts, and if you divorce for anything if not/except/besides fornication and marry another, you commit adultery. He has covered all reasons, and said there can be no divorce.
By far the weight of emphasis in the Bible is on the terrible sinful nature of divorce. It was from the beginning, not to be so as that the creation precept of the unbreakable bond of marriage was meant to be an indissoluble union [dabaq] (Cling or Cleave to.. -gen 2:24). It's only man today in his (implied) infinite wisdom who dares to tell the church that union can be dissolved, and that what God hath joined together man can pull apart, and more than that, after he pulls it apart, he can go remarry again in direct defiance of God's Holy Word not to marry a divorced person. Man then innocently wipes his mouth, looks at you in bewilderment saying, 'What evil hath I done, I'm a caring loving person.' Christ Jesus had the perfect opportunity here to tell the disciples, you surely can divorce for fornication. But far from it, He quotes 'the beginning' to confirm that marriage makes two, one flesh, and that it cannot be pulled apart, and declares that law that allowed for divorce for fornication was only because of the hardness of their heart. What's ambiguous? That's not a suggestion Jesus made about two, it's God's command that man not pull asunder marriage.
Remember when Joseph was mindful to put away (divorce) his wife Mary on the grounds of what he thought was fornication (Matthew 1:19). The law that allowed him to do that is the law of Moses that Jesus is making reference to. The phrase "put away" is the same in the first chapter of Matthew as here in the so-called exception clause. Joseph understood that the marriage between himself and Mary could be broken on the grounds of evidence of fornication (i.e., Mary's pregnancy). So then, it is tortuous of Scripture to declare Christ to be saying Moses allowed divorce for fornication, but from the beginning it was not so, and I say to you you cannot divorce except for fornication. It makes no sense. To base a whole new doctrine on the english translation of one word (except), which clearly can be translated 'if not' or 'beside,' and to completely ignore all the preceding verses content, and the context of the passage, so that one can feel justified in allowing divorce, is in my view unrighteousness of the highest order. Unfortunately, there are so many people today who are looking for a way 'around' the word rather than looking at the word, that they readily accept any explanation by theologians in order to do so. They have all their understanding of the four verses of Matthew 19 riding on their understanding (or lack thereof) of one single word. But we would do well to base our understanding on 'every' word, in context of the whole, the entire Bible being considered and not just a pet verse (or in this case, single word). This misunderstanding of Matthew chapter 19 "incredibly" has Jesus (in effect) saying:
"the law of Moses allowing divorce for fornication [pornea] was only given because of the hardness of your heart and it's not to be any longer. And I say to you (forget what I just said), this law is still valid and I support that you CAN use this to divorce for fornication."
It is a completely disheveled interpretation of the verses and makes no sense at all because Jesus never said what Theologians are claiming He did. How can Jesus say, the law of divorce for fornication was because of the hardness of your heart and not to be, and then turn right around and say, yes, this law is still a valid law for divorce for fornication? Yet that is what many theologians have these verses saying. And seemingly, without a hint of conscience in doing so.
I've had Theologians consider this, then admit, 'yes, you're right, but sin can break the marriage relationship.' But again, that is an erroneous conclusion. Sin cannot break the Marriage Covenant. This is the New Covenant age, and just as sin cannot break the marriage relationship between Christ and His Bride (the church), it cannot break the Covenant between us and our bride. What sin could a 'true' Christian sin that could separate or divorce him from the love of God? For the Lord says there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Have we learned nothing from this, so that dealing with our own covenanmt bride we neglect this? We are secure or sealed in Christ wherein He forgave us all our sins! Else we are bound for hell, because even one sin not forgiven will send us there. That's what God did for his bride. Forgave her all her sins. What sin should a husband not forgive his wife? None! Sin cannot break the Covenant between a man and his bride, for like Christ and His bride, we are one flesh, one body. Christ the head of the church, the man the head of the woman. How many times has Christ forgiven us (His bride) our sins? Seven, or seventy times seven, or always. Then how many sins should we forgive our wife or husband before we divorce them? Seven times seventy. And seven is the number of totality.
Lest we forget, it bears repeating. Jesus had already told us that if a man even lusts after a woman, he 'has' committed adultery. That means that his/her spouse had committed adultery by looking at another woman/man with lust in their heart even for a split second, and that is grounds for divorce under the fallacy that God says there can be divorce for adultery. The penalty for Adultery is being stoned to death. Not Divorce. Therefore, if the idea that many theologians teach was really true, almost any woman or man would have 'legitimate' Biblical grounds for divorce on that basis of lust. We would have Christ Himself knowingly giving word to allow nearly unlimited divorce for this sin of the heart. Because that's where sin starts. We should seriously think about that 'if' we have a mind to.
The Account in Matthew Chapter 5Some theologians say that since this passage (unlike Matthew chapter 19), does not previously condemn divorce for fornication, that it supports their contention that divorce for fornication is acceptable, and the permanence view of marriage, divorce and remarriage is unjustified. However, when we read the text circumspectly we see that by the recurring term "it hath been said," to identify Old Covenant laws, God is actually applying a stricter 'law' against divorce in the New Covenant dispensation. Those theologians who look at Matthew chapter 5 and insist that we have to twist this chapter in order to get a 'no divorce for fornication' rendering, are looking superficially at the verse. Indeed, are they not the ones who misinterpret what is stated here? In 'point of fact,' understanding this in the manner they want would leave it disjointed, and God is not the author of confusion. Since the law of Moses is the law that allowed for divorce for fornication, it would be 'abject confusion' for Christ to be contrasting or 'comparing' this law of divorce for fornication in verse 31 of Matthew chapter 5, with what He says in verse 32 of the same chapter. But that is exactly what He is doing. And carefully examining the text will show this.
In this sermon on the mount Jesus is encapsulating many deep principles of Scripture in a few lines. The 'whole chapter' of Matthew 5 is an example of Christ giving an synopsis in a line or two of different doctrines. You can't understand any of what Christ says here unless you go to other parts of the Bible. The fundamental Biblical principle always applies when studying Scripture, and that is that the Bible is it's own interpreter. Scripture interprets Scripture, man does not. Show me a man getting his interpretation from 'three lines of text' in Scripture, and I'll show you a man coming to false conclusions, and who doesn't understand sound hermeneutics.
Let's just look at a few examples. Verse 3 of Matthew chapter 5 says 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." How are the poor in spirit blessed? Is anyone who has low self esteem blessed of God? You see we can't understand what God means by that phrase without interpreting it by the 'rest' of Scripture. Verse 4 says, 'Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.' What does that mean? If we mourn when someone dies, does that mean we are blessed and will be comforted? Not at all, so again we can't understand that verse without going through the rest of the Bible which interprets it. Verse 8 says, 'Blessed are the pure in heart.' Who are the pure in heart? Is it Children, Priests or is it new born puppies without guile? Without the rest of Scripture as interpreter, you cannot say. That is, unless you choose to privately interpret these lines. Verse 9 says, 'blessed are the peace makers?' What does that mean? Is it a reference to people like Ghandi or perhaps diplomats who barter peace between countries? Again, we can't understand these things unless we search it out in the rest of the Bible. The whole chapter goes that way, 'encapsulating' Biblical precepts, which we understand "ONLY" by comparing Scripture with Scripture. If we don't understand these verses in the light of the 'rest of Scripture,' we are privately interpreting the chapter in a self-serving manner.
And we all know that this is something which every 'false Gospel' does to prove that they have truth. They take a select verse out of context, and then they use that small encapsulation of truth in defense of their false conclusions. Did not even Satan quote a Scripture to Christ in the desert, saying look here, 'it is written?' Indeed he did. But what was Christ's reply to the tempter? He replied, Yes, but 'It is written again,' or it is written more (Matthew 4:7). In other words, God is instructing us to consider the 'whole' of what is written in coming to conclusions of what Scripture means. Not just a few lines out of context.
Matthew chapter 5 in speaking about divorce is a small encapsulation of the same things Matthew chapter 19 speaks about. Note how in verse 31 of Matthew chapter 5 God points us to the law of Moses which allowed the people to divorce for fornication, saying, "it hath been said" (in the law of Moses), and then He goes on to show the 'true' of what this law meant. i.e., He is declaring that this you've heard in the law of Moses is no longer the case. The same thing He said in matthew chapter 19. When Christ says, 'ye have heard,' He is pointing a finger at Scripture (the law of Moses) that said divorce for fornication was permitted, and declaring it is not anymore. Else again, the whole thing makes no sense. Because if this is not the case, then He is bringing up the law of Moses saying this is what they've heard, for "no reason at all." Without understanding this honestly and correctly, verse 31 is out of place. Carefully go through the rest of the Chapter. When God says, 'You have heard,' what is he denoting? He is denoting that this is what is in the law, but then He is countering it saying I have something 'more to say' about it. This is so obvious when we read Scriptures in context. Exhibit A:
God is contrasting their understanding of the law, with TRUE keeping of the law, which is required for anyone to be Saved under God's terms. What does that mean, my wife is then free to divorce me under God's law because I've committed adultery? That would be true 'if' God really said that divorce for adultery was still permissible. But it's not true, and we can't understand what is being taught by that one small encapsulation, we have to search and consider the 'whole' of Scripture on the matter. i.e., by the terminology Christ uses of, "Ye have Heard said," He is illustrating that we should understand the TRUE law is much more strict, and that what 'you heard' (read in the law of Moses) about adultery was an encapsulation of the law of adultery. The law was our teacher, to instruct us of sin. But what we understand reading the law, and how God understands the law, is different. If we think we can escape judgment by strictly keeping the law, then we deceive ourselves for we must keep 'the whole law,' and no one can do that. This is the message here.
- "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
- But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
Likewise, when Christ said in this chapter, 'It hath been said,' Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement, He is again illustrating that law is passed away in Christ fulfilling the law of Grace or unconditional favor, despite our sins. We can't divorce our bride anymore than Christ would divorce His bride. We could never keep the law (as any lust over a woman is adultery clearly illustrates), and that law for fornication was for only the hardness of the heart. No divorce by this law, and if anyone put his wife away for any reason "besides" fornication causes her to commit adultery. And (contrary to popular opinion) He also reiterates that whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. Moreover, the general Christian teaching forgiveness most certainly does not support an innocent party separating from the a spouse who had fallen into this sin. On the contrary, unlike theologians today, it only supports forgibveness and reconciliation seven times seventy.
Christians know that no Scripture or passage stands on it's own. If we read that, "God shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone" in a vacuum, it means we can go out and not be concerned about danger, even cross the street without looking. ..that is, if we read it as Satan would have us, out of the context of 'the whole of Scripture' where it stands on it's own. But what many don't see is that no Scripture stands by itself. The Bible is an intricate picture painted by God. It is like a gigantic Spiritual picture puzzle, with each piece perfectly fitting alongside the other. When you have a piece that doesn't fit, we don't do as the Scribes and Pharisees and ignore it, we search the box for every single piece and find where it 'will fit PERFECTLY.'
On its own, the meaning of this statement, "and he cannot sin, because he is born of God," is clear and without argument. We will never commit a sin again. Of course in truth, we all know that we do commit sin, and that verse must be understood in light of all others. And this is the point which all false churches fail to grasp. On the other hand, those who know that God's Words are pure words, must understand this most basic of truths.
I have had theologians tell me that in Matthew chapter 5 Christ is not answering the question about the law in Deuteronomy, He's merely speaking about fornication. But in all honesty (nobility), conscience 'demands' that we acknowledge the "fact" that He is.
- "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:"
That is the law of Moses Christ is speaking about. To find some uncleanness [ervah] in her is literally 'unlawful nudity,' implying fornication, and is the very same law which allowed the Jews to divorce for this fornication. So then, let God be true, and every man a liar. This in fact 'is' what God is talking about in Matthew chapter 5 and contrasting. Else He brought it up there for absolutely no reason at all. The very same thing He was talking about in Matthew chapter 19. This law of Moses which allowed for divorce for fornication. From the language and context it seems pretty clear to me, but each man is led by his own spirit. We all have to decide for ourselves if what He is speaking about is that recorded in Deuteronomy.
- "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."
Again, some Christians protest that Christ is merely preaching, and unless either He or the Apostle Matthew was absent-minded and forgot to qualify that He was talking about deuteronomy, they refuse to connect the two. But the Scriptures are replete with statements without qualifiers in the local context. They are found throughout Scripture, and as workmen who needeth not to be ashamed, it's our 'duty' to search them out as the Bereans did. Is Matthew chapter 5 one of those cases? God is the only one who can reveal such truths to man. And each of these 'encapsulations' does just that.
Is Christ referencing the law in Deuteronomy and explaining to all how the law is really 'much more strict' than they imagined? Is He telling us how we are guilty of breaking the law of Moses for murder 'even' by our hatred? Would I be justified in any way to conclude, 'no, Christ is not talking about the law in Deuteronomy that says Thy shalt not kill?' It is so ridiculous to conclude this, that it's not even debatable.
- "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:"
- But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."
If the church today spent half the time they spend defending unbiblical practices like divorce, on defending Biblical ones, they wouldn't be in the dire straits as it is now. Unfortunately, this is the 'me generation,' and the will of man, foolish pride, and arrogance rules. The church is not reading the Scriptures, they are reading into the Scriptures, and are thus not hearing what it actually says, in context.
When the Woman was taken in adultery, and the law of Moses commanded that she be stoned to death, and the Pharisees (again) tempted or tested Jesus. But what did He say? Did He say, 'stone her, for that sin is one where God doesn't want you to forgive?' No, I have no doubt that is what a great many theologians today (who have had all their sins forgiven) would say, but not Christ. The New Testament has not done away with the law debt, but Christ has fulfilled it. Christ demonstrating this principle wrote on the ground as the finger of God writing in the earth. We don't know what He wrote but comparing Scripture with Scripture we can discern that He probably was writing out the law or commandments of God, just as the finger of God did with Moses on the mountain. Which laws have we broken? Remember the law of lusting being the same as adultery? The law of hating the same as murder. Christ has forgiven us, shall we forgive our wives? And then Jesus spoke and said:
I say, A M E N! When we are matched up against the finger of God, we all come up short, bar none. And they all, from the first to the last, being convicted of 'their own sin,' went away. Let that be a lesson to us about adultery. If we are without sin, then we can divorce our wife for her adultery. Yes, we can cast the first stone. But if we are convicted of our own sin, then we come to realize why Christ will never divorce His New Covenant bride as He did Old Testament Israel, though we are just as sinful as they were. Let us not boast or be proud, it is by Grace we stand. It was for the hardness of their heart that this law was, but that law has been fulfilled. Just as Jesus said of the law of a eye for a eye and a tooth for a tooth, it is to be no more, we now resist not evil. This Woman righteously by the law should have been stoned to death, but Jesus is illustrating that He came to Save us from the law. He did not condemn her for her sin of adultery to show us that if we believe in Christ, there is no condemnation. Likewise, He that is without sin can divorce their wives in condemnation of her. But in doing this, we label her sins grievous and claim for ourselves a higher righteousness. Or we make her sins worse than our own and guilty of death while ours is not. If not, then we are to forgive her as Christ forgave us. Not a 'pretend forgiveness' as we see so much today where people just mouth the words, and still divorce. But real forgiveness based in real love. And with the love of Christ in us, who could really divorce then?
- "..He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
Asking "Can Christians divorce" is really showing that we do not fully comprehend what marriage is. It's not a piece of paper, it's not a trial relationship, and it's not a simple sexual union. Marriage is a Covenant/Vow/Oath relationship. An unbreakable Promise (Covenant or contract) made between a man and a woman before God, who seals (secures) it, joining the two into one. It is a Biblically solemn binding agreement which is recorded by the presence of God who serves as witness and Judge. In Scripture we often see the word Covenant synonymous with the word 'promise' because it is a pledge, oath, or vow taken to do something. The Marriage Covenant is a 'promise' of lifetime commitment between a man and woman secured of God that should never be severed. God indeed 'hates' such abominable breaking or pulling asunder of that pledge before Him.
God hates divorce or the putting away of one's spouse, for God's perfect will is the natural (from the beginning) protection of Christian families and future generations through the preservation of the marriage Covenant. When God says He 'hates' divorce, these are strong words the import of which is seldom spoken in the natural strengths of their context. A covenant relationship witnessed before God, and New Covenant marriage witnessed before God is just as the Covenant between Christ and his bride, the church. As God divorced Israel in the old Covenant because she couldn't keep the law, but in the New she is an unconditional bride, signifying her sins are made pure in Christ, so in the New Covenant the law of Moses for divorce for fornication (which was for the hardness of Israel's Heart) is not to be so. Our unconditional love of our spouse is merely a hint of the deeper unconditional love that Christ has for His bride.
- "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
- And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
- 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."
Where is the latitude for Godly divorce in those words of Malachi? God Hates divorce, and that leaves no doubt as to His position on the matter. Clearly, the marriage relationship of husband and wife is representative of the "mystery" of the relationship of Christ to the church. There can be no putting away or divorce, it is a unconditional Covenant (Oath/Promise) relationship. When you take the marriage vow, God stands as witness to that Covenant or Promise. That makes it more than a mere human contract, it is a sacred oath taken before God that cannot be broken. That's what Christ means when He says, "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." God cannot be taken out of the equasion because He is a witness and therefore seal of the joining in marriage that you have made before Him. It is confirmed before Him as an image of His own covenant marriage He has with His bride, the church.
- "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
- " Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God."
- "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."
- "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body."
- "Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing."
- "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,"
- "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
- "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself."
- "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:"
- "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones."
- "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh."
Clearly, the marriage relationship between the husband and wife is an unconditional Covenant relationship representative of the "mystery" of the relationship of Christ to the church. Christ will never leave nor forsake the church, He will forgive "all" our sins, there can be no putting away or divorce because that Covenant relationship is an unconditional Covenant (Oath/Promise) relationship. This nonsense that the churches are teaching today that the unconditional marriage relationship is "just an ideal" and not actually the law of God, is an absolute travesty. If the church can say to their husband Christ, that it is without sin and immorality against Him that He shouldn't rightly divorce us, then we can 'righteously' advise divorce. But if we have sin, who are we to agree to a divorce because of some sin against us. For a Husband should love his wife as Christ loves the church. Which is unconditionally, and not by merited favor. The church sins against Christ, yet Christ is unconditionally wed to her. And the husbad should likewise love his wife that way. Not only if she doesn't sin, but love in spite of sin. It is a two way street.
- "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."
A non seperable love. A binding or tieing love where neither can be put asunder. We trust God completely and thus love our spouse unconditionally, not dependant upon how honorable they treat us. It is no accident that God uses the same word translated 'put asunder' [chorizo] in Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9 where it says 'What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder.' The word [chorizo] literally means to make space between. In other words, to separate or move apart from something. God says unambiguously, man must not do this in regards to his wife, but love her as Christ loves the church. And He uses this same word demonstrating this love for the church. How nothing at all can put His love for the church. This is how a man should love His wife.
- "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it."
Those words translated 'separate' is the exact same word [chorizo] translated 'put asunder' in Matthew and Mark. No one can separate us or put us asunder from the love of our husband Christ, and that is the relationship God has instituted for man and his wife. As He has declared, let not man put asunder [chorizo] what is joined by God is the marriage covenant. That's the type of love God requires of man for his wife. We don't just stick it out in good times when all is well, we love them in time of trouble and anguish just as Christ does us. Isn't it amazing how theologians and pastors today treat the passage where God commands us to love our wives as Christ loves the church, and these others, as if they were merely a suggestion. They're not, they are God's command.
- "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
- As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
- Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
- For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
- "Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
We love our wives as Christ loves us. As He forgave us all our sins, as He will never leave nor forsake us, as He will never divorce or put us away, as He laid down His life for us. That is the way it should be with us and our wives or husbands. As if they are part of the same body with us, even as we are one with Christ. The one flesh theology where God has joined and commanded that it not be put asunder by man. For God has the view of marriage that it is to be a lifetime comittment, not thought of as a convenience that when deemed inconvenient can be put asunder by man's law.
- "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
Divorce in the Old Covenant marriage was permitted for a season because of the hardness of the Jew's hearts. Thus God legally could divorced them by law, prefiguring Grace.
When we looked at Matthew 19 we saw that Jesus was informing the Pharisees that divorce was not to be. It was 'allowed' for a season because of the hardness of their heart, and now (with Christ's death) we are returning to God's original intent which is an unbreakable union of man and woman. This is why Moses suffered this bill of divorcement for fornication. The hardness of their heart. It allowed God to lawfully divorce Israel for her spiritual fornication. God does everything by the law. That's why not one will escape the judgment, and why not one sin will go undetected or missed. Because God's laws must be faithfully followed. Jesus came to fulfill the law. That's why He was the lamb of God that had to be slain, the sacrifice for our sins. He fulfilled the law. That's why He is the Temple of God, fulfilling the law of the Temple. The wages of Sin is death. It's the law. That's why Christ had to die, and he had to have our sins with Him. God couldn't just 'say' you are forgiven, and violate His law. For it was Law that the wages of sin is death, and that price had to be paid. And this is why Israel could be divorced for fornication. It was appropriate UNDER THE LAW because of the hardness of their hearts. But as I've said, that's a topic for a whole different study in itself.
- "Thus saith the Lord, where is the BILL of your mother's DIVORCEMENT, whom I HAVE PUT AWAY? or to which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you? behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and FOR YOUR TRANSGRESSIONS IS your mother put away!"
Divorce is one of those issues where so many many people are looking for an out, that they easily accept any false justification. Sometimes even subconsciously. To some, I've make a good point. And to others, it's not even a point worth considering. It's all a matter of who is hearing what Scripture says, and who doesn't want to hear it. If they have their mind made up that divorce is permissible, then it usually doesn't matter how much Scripture we present, in their eyes, we are still wrong. Humanism tells man that divorce is a better way, and this is really a good thing, a loving thing, a caring thing for the church to do. Not at all unlike the world rationalizing abortion where it is no longer deemed by society a bad thing, it's now looked at as a caring and loving thing to do for the child's sake. Likewise divorce is now looked at as this caring loving thing for the spouse's sake, and those who speak against it are looked upon as ignorant or cruel. This is the delusion of the master deceiver, the father of lies, Satan. The reality today is that the world and indeed the church has taken away the stigma that once accompanied divorce, and made this practice a necessity of life. They have destroyed the family structure and few even realize that these changing values are even connected.
The Marriage bond is as long as we liveRomans chapter 7 is another verse that man tends to ignore in order to hold onto doctrines that they admire. But the virtue of the true Christian is in surrendering his will to do the will of God. And His will in this is very clear.
(till Death do us part)
This of course confirms the very same things Jesus said in matthew chapter 19. When we compare Scriptures, it's exactly the same teaching concerning the marriage covenant. The churches today in their arrogance act as if they don't understand what the words 'bound by the law,' mean. They make God's Word of non-effect by asking, as the serpent did to eve, "..hath God said she's an adulteress? ..Hath God said she is bound as long as her husband lives?" and once the seed of doubt is planted, they proceed to tear down what God has said until one begins to wonder if 'bound' is really what God meant.
- "KNOW ye not brethren, for I speak to them that know the Law, how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband, so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband,
- so then, if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, SHE SHALL BE CALLED AN ADULTERESS: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man."
hath God said? Yes, the Serpent is still deceiving the woman, the church. Many theologians today want to lead the Word of God rather than to follow it. But Marriage is forever and a man and woman are bound together so long as they both shall live. Modern Pastors don't even want to say 'Till death do us part' in the marriage ceremony anymore, and hardly any couple take the words seriously. But the binding until death is an integral part of the covenant marriage vows. It is seen even as by Christ's 'death' on the cross we were set us free from the binding of the law, which was represented in Old Covenant Israel, that we could be married to Him.
- "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery."
With the death of Christ, the husband covenant relationship to national Israel (representing law) had ended. There is no argument that this ended the marriage relationship, and because of this the Lord could be married to another. And in this New Covenant marriage, He will NOT die again. Thus we as the spiritual Israel (as opposed to the representation in Old Covenant Israel) are eternally bound to Him and safe. And along with Christ's death, the law allowing divorce for the hardness of our hearts has been removed forever. Else when we sinned against Him, we too would be subject to divorce. And in both contexts, spiritual and ceremonial. The bottom line is that we are in Peace and Safety, and our New Covenant marriage union with God cannot be broken. And our New Covenant union with our spouse is unconditional lovce as well, and cannot be broken.
- "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
We can only do things one of two ways. We can be unfaithful to Scripture and go our own way in our own free will, or we can obey God's Word and take the path God has laid out for us in surrender to His will. We can forsake God's Word, or we can keep His Word.
As Our Lord hath said, many will protest on that Judgment day, "but didn't we do many great things in Thy Name?" And the Lord will say, depart from Me, I never knew you. These are people of the church who thought that they were Saved but will find out much to late that they were deluding themselves. They were doing their will, not God's will. How does Scripture tell us how we really know him? (1st John 2:3-5) ..HEREBY we know, if we keep God's word. Theologians today are doing just the opposite, and because of this are learning the ways of disobedience.
- "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and MANY there be which go in thereat:
- Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto Life, and few there be that find it.
- Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."
Unbiblical Pastoral Advice!I recently received a letter from a divorcee, who told of how he married when he was young and didn't know any better, and how his wife ran off with her employer one day. He told me how his life was changed from one of despair to hope when a young Pastor had compassion on him and told him that it was lawful for him to divorce and marry another, because God wouldn't want him to be alone, or unhappy. He said God wasn't interested in us keeping the letter of the law and went on to tell me how she had (supposedly) already divorced him (by leaving him), and how he thought this was great Christian love by his Pastor to tell him that he was not bound to her in such a case. He said to me that this Pastor spoke not from the Word, but from the heart and showed compassion for him in declaring, "I don't think God wants you to suffer the rest of your life in loneliness because of what your wife has done."
Needless to say, he took the Pastor's unbiblical advice and divorced and remarried. Note the telling phrase of his letter, "..This Pastor spoke not from the Word, but from the heart.." Those were his exact words! And in this phrase lies the major problem with the church today. They speak not from the Word, but from the heart.
I don't want to sound insensitive, as I feel for people as much (or more) than anyone else, but let me say, all divorcees have a sad story to tell. All! He is not unique. If we eliminated all divorcees who had a hard luck story to tell from observance of the laws of God, we'd make a mockery of the laws of God. What he was talking about was earthly pleasures. Do we want to enjoy earthly pleasures for a season while trampling the Word of God underfoot? The end of that kind of thinking is death. We could use that type argument to do anything that we wanted. He says his life was in despair, but someone could could just as easily say their life was in despair because they couldn't have a fine house, and so they'll trample God's Word 'not to steal' underfoot so that they can have fine things. It's the very same thing. Put ourselves first, and God's Word last. This is nothing more than situation ethics and carnal thinking. What ever happened to, "..My Grace is sufficient for thee?" Should we change it to, "Grace is not enough, we need a wife, or new furniture, or loving friends?"
- "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Who has deceived us in telling us that not being married was a cause for great despair? Rather than leaning on the words of our unrighteous Pastors or friends, or feeling sorry for ourselves, we should lean upon the Word of God, and He would have taken away that despair from us. Not only can He do it, He would do it.
To this man, his friend giving him unbiblical advice was 'Christian love' when in fact it wasn't love at all, nor was it Christian. It was unrighteous and unchristian.
1st John 5:2
Real friends won't tell us to divorce despite God's commandments not to. Real 'love' would never support our disobeying God's Words. Real Christian love would not tell us in effect, it was God's Word of no divorce that was keeping you in despair (and let's not play games, that's what the Pastor was telling him). Real Christian love would have told him God's commandments of 'No Divorce, and no remarriage,' though seemingly harsh at the moment, was really for his own good, and that God would sustain him. Real Christian love would have told him God's commandments are not grievous, and keeping them is a joy, not a cause for despair. He should have counseled him to fill up that empty space his wife left with Christ, who would turn his sorrow into joy. Christ will guide us through that bad times, and when we feel we can't make it, Christ would carry us. That's real Christian love of the brethren. It is in understanding that this is not our home. We are strangers and pilgrims here. We need to receive that truth, and to start living by it.
- "by this we Know that we love the children of God, when we LOVE GOD, and Keep His commandments.
- For this is the LOVE OF GOD, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are NOT GRIEVOUS."
Of course there are many theologians today who don't really like what I'm saying. Nevertheless, faith and trust in the Lord is underrated in the church. Had this man taken his eyes off himself and put then squarely on Christ, he would have known more love and comfort than any Pastor could ever give. Rather than feel sorry for ourselves, we must take all our heavy burdens, and lay them down at the feet of the Lord. People ask, "but what about happiness?" But happiness depends not on what is without, but what is within. It's a state of mind. If our happiness is based upon humans, then that happiness is a facade.
The fact that we know this world is temporal, and that we know we are doing it God's way should make us happy. Thus, accepting the two into one flesh law of God will suffice. The happiness of married life greatly depends on its indissolubility before God. Let us not confuse infactuation with happiness, laughter with joy, or the absence of strife with Peace. There is no real happiness in rejoicing for a season in the disregarding of the laws of the Lord. E.g., if Moses thought only of himself, his life, and his own happiness on this earth, he would have probably become ruler of Egypt as the Son of Pharaoh's Daughter. He would have gained the whole world, but lost his soul. But he chose instead to suffer and be among the Children of God. What would it really profit him to be king for a season, and lose his own soul? We wouldn't be surprised if the friends of his day were telling him that he's a fool to put his faith in God instead of enjoying the rich life on earth in Egypt. He's a human being, God made him so he could enjoy the pleasures of this world. Why be poor, driven out, persecuted, alone and in despair when you can be an earthly king?
- "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."
The treasure of keeping the Word of God is 'greater' than any earthly pleasure derived from forsaking the commandments of God. Divorce and remarriage for the temporal pleasures of this life for a season only last a minute in relationship to eternity. God says that is not love, and God assures us that His commandments are not grievous. The mutual comfort and happiness of the Christian husband and wife is the assured principal "in Christ!" Because true agape Love never fails. Love (in God's defining of it) is keeping His commandments faithfully. If we think that they are/were a grievous burden to bear, then perhaps the problem is deeper than we think.
- "By Faith Moses, when he was come to years, REFUSED to be called the Son of Pharaoh's Daughter;
- Choosing RATHER to SUFFER AFFLICTION with the people of God, than to enjoy the PLEASURES OF SIN FOR A SEASON."
If we think God's commandments are grievous and we can't keep them, and we don't have the God given earnest desire to 'do' the will of God rather than our own, then we don't have this evidence of true Salvation. No, it's not a cakewalk, but we overcome the world in Christ. For He strengthens us.
- "and hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His Commandments.
- He that saith I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a Liar, and the Truth is not in Him."
Calling this Pastor's advice to this man misguided is being charitable. When he said, "I don't think God intends for you to suffer loneliness the rest of your life because of what your wife has done," that's the only truthful thing that he stated. For God indeed doesn't intend us to suffer loneliness the rest of our life. God intends us to 'understand' that when we are in Christ, we are never alone. And when we forsake the Word of God for friend or foe, for mother or father, for love of Money, or for the love of ourselves, we indeed do walk alone.
I don't have to point out how misguided and unbiblical man is in his forsaking the Word of God and judging by what is right in his own eyes, for God does. If we will receive it. While the man in this letter seemed to take comfort in the fact that the unfaithful Pastor spoke from his heart and not from the Word, as faithful Christians we should always speak or witness from the Word of God. Then and only then have we truly spoken with a loving heart. Not in man's eyes perhaps, but in God's eyes. Instead of speaking from the heart of man (which is desperately wicked) let us do what is right in God's eyes, and speak the testimony of His Word. Let us examine 'the heart' in light of God's Word, not with the scales of our own.
- "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."
- in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
- be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil".
- "Blessed are they that KEEP His TESTIMONIES, and that seek Him with the whole HEART."
- "I will Praise Thee with uprightness of HEART, WHEN I shall have learned Thy Statutes!"
- "With my whole HEART have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from Thy COMMANDMENTS.
- "Thy WORD have I hid in my HEART, that I might not sin against Thee."
- "I will run the WAY of Thy COMMANDMENTS, when Thou shalt enlarge my HEART."
- "Give me understanding, and I shall KEEP Thy LAW; yea, I shall observe it with my whole HEART."
- "incline my HEART unto Thy TESTIMONIES, and NOT to covetousness."
- "The PROUD have forged a lie against me: but I will KEEP Thy PRECEPTS with my whole HEART."
- "Thy TESTIMONIES have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my HEART."
- "I have Inclined mine HEART to perform Thy STATUTES always, even unto the End."
Do we get the idea that a true Christian speaking from His heart, speaks from the Word of God? In truth we see how intimately they are related in those verses. A Christian who speaks with the love of God from the heart to us would exhort the faithfulness of keeping God's commandments, that are not grievous. He stands in awe of God's Word with Godly fear and reverence. Unfortunately, today the church seems to only stand in awe of it's own words that masquerade as God's precepts. How many times must we hear the old, "..I don't think God would want this, or ..I don't think that God would want that." What we should be hearing is, "Thus saith the Lord.." or "it is written.." It's the difference between leaning unto the Word of God, and leaning unto thine own understanding.
- "Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my HEART standeth in awe OF THY WORD."
What was most troubling in this letter was when he told me that this Pastor was guided by his faith, his compassion, and Scripture, that to the best of his ability he led him through a difficult time. But Faith? It was his faith in the sound of his own voice, because it certainly wasn't his faith in the Word of God. And his knowledge of the Scripture was to counsel this man to ignore it, because God wouldn't want him to be lonely.
1st Corinthians 7:10
Here we see God echos His the firm stance against divoce for any reason that He gave in Mark 10:11-12. But instead of receiving this, the Pastor counseled that, "She left you, forget about her, remarry." What form of wresting of God's laws is this? And he closed by telling me, "Real Life, it's hard to avoid." He's right about that. But It's always been. It didn't just start getting hard in our generation, or after divorce became so popular and so easy to get. No one promised us a rose garden. No one said it would be easy. But God did say it was till death do us part, and whosoever could not receive that should not marry. What God hath joined together has become one flesh and man in no wise should pull it apart.
- "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."
Let me say that contrary to what some might think, it would be so easy for me and other faithful Christians to sit here and be like everyone else and parrot the line that it was a loving Christian act and that this pastor did the right thing. Sure, I could follow what is right in my own eyes, and get pats on the back saying how sympathetic and caring I was, but that is not the Christian way. But there is no one who need worry about a lack of that kind of unbiblical counsel, for there are more than enough Pastors and churches who will tell anyone willing to listen "whatever they want to hear." But I cannot in good conscience tell anyone what I know is untrue. Those 12 verses of Psalms 119 explained what a Christian speaking from the heart really was. That was giving Biblical counsel, not humanistic reasoning.
I should also relate that when talking with this person, I got the impression that what the Word of God really said was 'immaterial' to the question. He might just as well have come right out and said, "..I don't care what GOD says, I'm going to do whatever I think is best." Friend, I am not judgmental but the Word of God is judgmental. It always has been. It's only the church of our day who wants to smooth the edges and make what has always been Hot and cold, a lukewarm compromise.
If we're looking for someone to speak to us things that aren't true and that are smooth so that we can feel good about unrighteousness, we won't lack for such theologians or teachers. For the truth is hard for the prideful to swallow, and few there be that want to hear it. But the righteous will light our paths with the Word of God, while the unrighteous will turn us to the right hand and to the left that we not stay on the straight and narrow. Satan has always been the great deceiver. Calling good evil and evil good and taking what God has said, and retorting, "hath God said," has always been the way of death. Even from the very beginning. Well hath Isaiah said,
If that's what we want, lying lips prophesying smooth things instead of the truth concerning divorce, then that is what we will get. There is no shortage of those calling themselves Christians who will tell us these things, saying, "Peace, Peace, when there is no Peace." But the truth is in obeying God's commandments that are not grievous.
- "Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a BOOK, that it may be for the time to come for EVER and EVER.
- That this is a rebellious people, Lying children, children that WILL NOT HEAR the Law of the Lord:
- Which say to the seers, SEE NOT; and to the prophets, PROPHESY NOT unto us RIGHT things, speak unto us SMOOTH THINGS, prophesy deceits:
- get you out of the way, turn aside out of the paths, cause the Holy one of Israel to CEASE from before us."
While I corresponded with this man extensively, I didn't personally know him, I didn't know his new wife, his children, his parents, his brothers and sisters or any of their life. And I didn't have to in order to counsel Him to follow God's word faithfully. Did I have to know him to know what the Word of God says? Would the Word of God change if I had known his circumstances personally? No, of course not! Knowing him is not the point, the point is, are we going to keep God's Word, or lean unto our own understanding depending upon circumstances. That's the point. Whether it's him, the guy down the street, the guy in Spain, or in Africa, is insignificant. If they transgress the law, it is sin to them. Not just for the 'other guy,' to all of us. We all think we're special and our situation is special, but God didn't make an exemption for the guy who put his hand forth to try and help steady the Ark when the Oxen stumbled. God struck him down 'dead' (1st Chrn 13:9). Because He, knowing God's Word not to touch it, did what was right in his own eyes anyway. He disobeyed God's Word, just like this man did. God's Word is not subject to 'situation ethics.' There are no grey areas. And let that be a lesson to all of US. God is not mocked in our justifying disobedience to what He has declared. The church has a lot of answers about divorce and remarriage today, but they don't have God's answer.
1. Divorce is obviously a violation of the perfect will of God.
2. Divorce is obviously putting asunder, what God said should not be.
3. Divorce fails to set the proper model in handling family conflict.
4. Divorce is a violation of the oath/vow made before God and man.
5. Divorce destroys the divine order of marriage.
6. Divorce places unnatural burdens on each parent.
7. Divorce makes God's word of non effect.
I condemn no one, I can only bear faithful testimony or witness to the word of God. Today's church doesn't want to hear it. The reaction to those few of us left teaching that "there should not be divorce at all," brings to mind righteous Micaiah the prophet. The people didn't want to listen to him as they wanted to listen to all the other prophets who all told them GOOD THINGS. And the King said, I HATE Micaiah (1st Kings 22:8) because he doesn't prophesy good things concerning me.
1st Kings 22:13
And what is righteous Micaiah's reply? Does he say, "you're right, since everyone else is LYING to you and telling you what you want to hear, I might as well do the same?" God Forbid! His reply was as every faithful Christian's should be.
- "And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare GOOD unto
- the king with ONE MOUTH: let thy word, I pray thee be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good."
1st King's 22:14
The fool says, "There is the intellectual world of words and ideas, and then there is life, the substance behind the words." But the truth is, the only life that is the substance behind the words is the Life in Christ. Not the life in this world. This is not our home, we're just passing through, as it were. Without Christ, we have no life. Just a miserable temporary existence before the judgment.
- "And Micaiah said, AS the Lord Liveth, what THE LORD SAITH unto me, that will I speak."
Did Jesus say, Hey guys, don't worry about God's will, don't worry that you have the Scriptures all wrong, you'll be Saved anyway? No, He told them to search the Scriptures, because they 'thought' that they had eternal life when obviously they were mistaken. Deadly mistaken. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. So then, I have no doubt that if Jesus was here today (which He is) he would tell the church, Search the Scriptures, for you think you are Saved, but you don't understand the Scriptures at all. Hereby know ye that you are saved, if you KEEP the Word of God.
- "SEARCH THE ScriptureS; for in them you THINK ye have eternal LIFE: and they are they which testify of Me."
ConclusionSo many Theologians are looking to Old Testament examples to justify New Testament realities. Their retort is most often, "in Deuteronomy, God allowed divorce in the Old testament by the law of Moses, and the law doesn't change, therefore we can divorce in the New Testament." However, they turn right around and refuse to make the same claim with other clear Old Testament laws. Example:
Will they say a person of a mixed race or born out of wedlock cannot be saved, or enter a congregation? Of course they won't, and this is just another proof that they are simply selectively enforcing Old Testament laws, 'as they see fit' and according to which ones they wish to claim are still valid. Rather, they should understand they are all valid, but fulfilled in Christ. They were to be observed literally temporarily, but now Christ commands us to go and preach the gospel to all nations, and peoples and tongues, to sinners and prostitutes, to Jews and Gentiles, baptizing them 'all' and teaching them of these truths. Everyone in the church realizes this about these verses, but some wish to ignore this principle when it suits their own purposes, such as Christ saying Moses gave this for the hardness of their heart, but is now not to be so. Christ lived and taught under the dispensation of the law (Gal. 4:4), and so He observed Old Testament ordinances such as the passover (a law of Moses), etc., but none of these theologians would dare claim we are to do so today. So it is obvious that their justification on those grounds is seriously flawed. The allowing for divorce was to 'signify' the divorcing of Old Testament Israel because of her sin, and that New Testament Israel could never be divorced, because we don't stand by law, but by Grace.
- "A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD."
So this brings us to the question of what to do if we are faced with the prospect of divorce? First of all, we as Christians should never seek or agree to a divorce.
1st Corinthians 7:27
If we are bound in marriage, we are commanded not to seek to be loosed (we are bound so long as we live - let not man pull asunder). Christ would be contradicting Himself if He said we can seek to be loosed in divorce. We should never as Christians seek a divorce, nor should we ever rationalize this because we are married to an unbelieving spouse, as God may save them through our witness. However, if we have an unbelieving spouse who insists on getting a divorce, there is nothing we can do but let him/her leave.
- "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife."
1st Corinthians 7:15-16
A few words about this verse as some Christians make the false claim that this verse 'implies' that Christians are no longer bound to the spouse. However you will note that they are using subterfuge because this word 'bondage' is a totally different word from the word used for the binding of marriage. For example, a few verses down we read:
- "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.
- For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"
1st Corinthians 7:39
This word bound is the Greek word [deo], meaning to bind or be tied together. That's the unbreakable binding or knitting together in marriage. By contrast, this word in 1st Corinthians 7:15 is 'bondage' meaning servitude, not bound, as in tied together. it is the Greek word [douloo] meaning to be a slave or a servant. So 1st Corinthians is not saying the marriage binding is broken, but is saying that the wife is not as a bond servant to cling to the unbelieving spouse (as a slave) when the unbeliever no longer wants her/him, but is called to peace. She is released from bondage, or from performing ‘wifely’ duties. The believer should let him/her go and should never attempt to divorce or remarry so long as the departed spouse lives (1st Corinthians 7:39). You can however be reconciled to that spouse so long as they have not taken another spouse in marriage. If they have married again, you may not remarry them, as that would be abomination (Deuteronomy 24:4).
- "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord."
If someone has gotten a divorce before they became a Christian, that does not change anything. The divorce was sin. If we have since become Saved, God has forgiven this sin along with all of his other sins, but we may not remarry so long as the spouse lives. There are several options here. If you or your spouse has not remarried, then you should seek to reconcile if possible, and if the spouse refuses, the only biblical option is to remain in your unmarried state, not thinking of remarriage, but service to the Lord.
1st Corinthians 7:20-22
As long as your spouse is still alive (married or unmarried), you may not remarry. For there is no divorce, and Scripture is clear that there were multiple marriages recognized (not condoned) 'as legitimate marriages' in the Bible. Therefore, you cannot remarry while your husband or wife lives even though they be married to another. But if they are dead, the spouse is free to remarry.
- "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
- Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
- For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant."
If you yourself have remarried, you may not divorce, but honor your most recent vow. For it is a legal marriage. A divorce of the second partner would only compound an already sinful situation. We should stay with our spouse, but submit ourselves before God in mourning and repentance in recognition of this sin of remarriage. We must confess this sin in humility rather than justification of it with self serving rationalizations. When we approach God acknowledging our sins rather than excusing them, God is faithful to forgive us these sins, just as with any other sin.
Finally, if we would take our eyes off ourselves, place them solely on Christ where we receive what the Scriptures say and stop rationalizing them away, we would come to understand that before a Holy God, marriage is a lifetime covenant relationship that should never be put asunder by man. In Malachi, God declares that He hates putting away (divorce, -Malachi 2:16). That's about as succinct, and yet as clear a statement as can be made. And so knowing that God hates divorce and permitted it only in the Old Covenant temporarily to put-away Israel, are we to conclude that now in the New Covenant period Jesus not only allows that which He hates, but that it is not a sin and He has strengthened the law allowing it. Does God hate that which is not a sin?
- "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
- Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
- Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
- Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
- Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."
Jesus said, from the beginning God never intended for man to divorce his wife. God's divine and perfect will was the preservation of Godly society and future generations by the preservation of this unbreakable bond of marriage. It is intended not only for our benefit, but also for the benefit of their common offspring. The problem today is that man can't see the forest for worrying about the trees. Marriage being until death do us part is part of His divine plan, which has been perverted in our day.
The excuses and reasons for abandonment of this divine plan are as numerous and as varied as dirt, but they all stem from a lack of security in Christ, and the secular idea that our ideals and strength is in ourselves. The true believer should seek contentment in the spouse God has assigned them. The truth is unpalatable to most people today, for life is not all about me, I, and my wants and needs. It's about serving God, and about the truth that God will give anyone His divine guidance and help in sustaining a marriage relationship, if they indeed want it. But there is the rub. Too many already have their mind made up, and are simply looking for an excuse to condone their actions. But God is the great restorer. He can both sustain us in a difficult marriage, or bring reconciliation of the estranged marriage partner. More often than not it's by His placing of humility within us, that we are delivered from sinful pride. Then are we led to the true understanding of, husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.
In conclusion, what picture is our marriage painting? God intended the marriage covenant to be a picture of His faithfulness. It is illustrating the Blessed intimate relationship between Christ and His bride the church. It is not an analogy which men make, but which God has made. Just as there is no intimacy with Christ before our eternal commitment, there is to be no intimacy before the marriage commitment. And just as the church is to be subject unto her husband Christ, who sacrificed of Himself for it, the wife is to be subject unto her husband, and he is to sacrifice of himself for her. He is to unequivocally love her 'unconditionally' wherein he will never divorce her no matter what trial may come. i.e., love her as Christ loves the church. These are not 'just words' they are commands.
- "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
- For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
- Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
- Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
This is what is missing today, true love that rises above our vain and selfish motives and pride of feeling hurt to the point of non-forgiveness. The Christ-like love wherein He will not divorce the church, though we transgress and sin against Him. He is faithful unto death, to not only 'truly' forgive us our sins, but that he will never leave us nor forsake us in life, though the good that we should do, we do not.
We cannot make excuses or use vain justifications. No matter under what circumstance our marriage relationship got started, or how well it is (or is not) progressing today, we are bound by our oath before God to honor the committment of our promise (covenant) of marriage. For it is a solemn vow to be Christ-like in loving unconditionally, and remaining together as one body. In our obedience to this covenant, we show our love for God, and our faith in His covenant marriage relatioinship with us. God has joined two together in marriage, therefore the two are bound to honor and show reverence for what God has done. In our unconditional committment to the marriage covenant, God blesses us with a better knowledge of ourselves, of Grace, and of sanctification. In other words, the illustration that the church, the bride of Christ, is an eternal Covenant relationship, an unbreakable bond in this life. Till death do us part. That use to be what the Minister would say at a marriage ceremoney. Because they understood that lifelong unbreakable Covenant bond. From the beginning it was so, that the two should be joined into one, and that no man was to pull that union apart.
Peace,Feel free to duplicate, display or distribute this publication to anyone who would like a copy, so long as the copyright notice remains intact and there are no changes made to the above article. This publication can be distributed only in it's original form, without cost, and unedited.
Copyright ©1995 Tony Warren
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Created 5/11/95 / Last Modified 1/25/03
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