Marriage - Divorce & Remarriage

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Part Sixteen - Divorce & Remarriage Overview

I  God created marriage to be a life time commitment (Gen. 2:22-25) and this desire of God was confirmed by our Lord

1a This was the position of our Lord: When asked what grounds were legitimate for divorce and remarriage Jesus stunned the Pharisees by stating that God from creation has given no grounds for divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19:4-6)

Matt 19:4-6, “And He answered and said, "Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,' For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh'? "Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate." (NAS)

2a This understanding of Matt 19:4-6 is substantiated by:

1b The Pharisees’ question (7) about the exception clause Moses “commanded” in Deut. 24:1-2 – this would not have been raised if Jesus had given an exception; note Jesus returns to his earlier premise about the origins of marriage (v. 8)

Matt 19:6-8, “They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.” (NAS)

2b Paul’s understanding of our Lord’s position – that separation or divorce does not grant grounds to remarry (1 Cor. 7:10-11, 39)

1 Cor 7:10-12, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not send his wife away.” (NAS)

1 Cor 7:39, “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” (NAS)

II Divorce is a product of sin (Matt. 19:8 "hardness of your heart,"), is thus hated by God (Malachi 2:16), and is a sin that mars' a man's ability to serve God as elder and deacon without exception (1 Tim. 3:2, 12; Titus 6)

III God permits the separation of a married couple under certain circumstances but it is never grounds for remarriage: 

1a Paul taught that the separated couple should remain unmarried or be reconciled to their mate (1 Cor. 7:10-11, 39)

2a The Lord taught that divorce followed by remarriage involves adultery (Mk 10:11-12; Lk. 16:18; Matt. 5:32)

3a The Lord taught that the only person with the authority to break the marriage covenant is God (Matt. 19:6, 8) and this is only accomplished through death (Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39)

4a Though separation may occur, the covenant made by the couple (“till death due us part”) is to be kept regardless what the circumstances - God expects all men to keep their covenants and oaths (Deut. 23:21-23; Zech. 8:17; Matt. 5:32-33)

IV The divorce Exception given by Moses (Deut. 24:1-4) and restated by the Lord (Matt. 19:7-9) covered only the breaking up of the Espousal, not the marriage.

1a The grounds for divorce in Deut. 24:1 is the "uncleanness" of the bride that causes her to be "distasteful" to the groom. 

1b Many take this to mean sexual unfaithfulness after marriage (adultery) in light of Matt. 19:7-9 (NIV “marital unfaithfulness”) however sexual unfaithfulness is not a possibility here. 

2b If sexual unfaithfulness during the espousal is the "distasteful" thing, the husband is not to divorce his wife but to bring her before the elders, and if she is found guilty she is to be stoned but if she is innocent, the husband may never divorce her (Deut. 22:13-27). If sexual unfaithfulness during the marriage is the "distasteful" thing, the husband is not to divorce her but rather to have her stoned (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10).

2a It is thus apparent that the only grounds for divorce was when a groom discovered that his bride to be was not a virgin when they were espoused because she was carrying a child, and thus she is "distasteful" in his eyes. He may divorce her before the marriage is consummated and both are free to marry someone else. The reason is that pre-marital sex does not involve the violation of the marriage covenant and therefore does not carry the death penalty (Deut. 22:28-29). This situation is seen with Joseph and Mary in Matt. 1:18-20.

V The divorce "exception" of Matt. 19:9 is a restatement of this law given by Moses and grants no grounds for remarriage after a divorce.

1a Jesus statement in verse 9 was to clarify and bring back into practice what God had intended when He gave the Deut. 24:1-2 exception

1b Jesus uses the term “fornication” (porneia) as the grounds for divorce, not “adultery” (moichao). If Jesus had in mind “marital unfaithfulness” he would have used the term for “adultery” (moichao). Instead Jesus uses the term “fornication” (porneia) which when used in the same context as “adultery” (moichao), speaks of sexual immorality involving non married participants. In other words pre-marital sex.

2b Jesus narrows the interpretation of Deut. 24:1-2 (no grounds for divorce and remarriage) is supported by the reaction of his disciples who grew up in a very permissive society (10-12). Their concern is that if a man is bound to his wife for a lifetime and cannot divorce her for another, he might be happier never marring. Jesus response was not every man can live as an eunuch (1 Cor. 7:1-9)

3b This is Paul's understanding of this teaching of our Lord when he writes, "Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord" 1 Cor. 7:10-11.)

2a The discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees has to do with OT law that does not pertain to the NT age. Therefore in all other references in the NT, there is no exception given for remarriage after divorce in the Age of Grace.

3a The discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees has to do with Jewish marriage customs, which have never been practiced among the Gentiles and have no present application.

4a Note also in the parallel account in Matt. 5:32, that the cause for divorce can not be adultery because adultery only enters the scene after she is divorced – when she is forced to remarry in order to survive. 

VI Divorce of an unbelieving spouse is not grounds for remarriage 1 Cor. 7:13-16

1a Paul speaks of an unbelieving spouse leaving a believing spouse. Paul says the believing spouse is not “under bondage in such cases”. Some have taken this to mean that the believing spouse is free to marry however the context seems to suggest otherwise

2a “Bondage” is followed up with “peace.” In other words the believer is not under bondage or required by God to fight with the unbelieving mate to keep the marriage in tact. By taking a peace approach, they may still win their mate to the Lord.

3a Nothing is mentioned here about remarriage If this is to be an exception, it would drastically restrict remarriage after divorce in Christian circles

4a How does this pertain to the innocent party who did not seek the divorce and whose wife has gone out and remarried? Is he or she still bound to the relationship?

1b The Scriptures clearly teach that death is recognized by God as ending marriage

1c Romans 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39;

2c In OT Law of the Kinsmen redeemer that death ended marriage (Deut. 25:5-6)

3c Words of the Lord in Matthew 19:4-6 – “from the beginning…what God has put together let no man put asunder” – God is the one who determines when we die!

2b However does not God recognize remarriage as the breaking of the marriage covenant and thus frees the innocent party to marry? The unfaithful one has broken the covenant through sin – they violate God’s sovereignty in the marriage and broken their vows and made it impossible for them to return back to that relationship?

1c The example of God and his relationship with Israel

1d God’s relationship with Israel was compared to that of the husband and wife (Isa. 54:5-6)

2d Israel committed adultery toward her husband yet as the innocent party God determined His side of the covenant must be kept (Jer. 3:20)

1e Though Israel had broken their covenant with God, God would not break His covenant with her (Jer. 31:31-33)

2e She will gave of herself to other gods like a prostitute yet without charging for the service (Ezek. 16:32; 44-47 with 60;

3d God even said that she had gone so far as to no longer be in a marriage relationship with him

1e No longer married (Hosea 2:2)

2e More than one husband (Hosea 2:7)

3e However God does not give up His covenant too her: (Hosea 2:14-21)

4e God is indicating that a divorce has taken place and it is nothing to do on His but totally on hers (Isa. 50:1-2) however because He is omnipotent He can still redeem her

5e God goes so far as too say He has divorced Israel and Judah but the day will come when He will redeem her (Jer. 3:8-10; 16-17)

2c The example God sets of for Israel, His wife is that those she has married other husbands and divorced God, yet God has not given up on His promises to her and will eventually restore through a new betrothal and establish a new covenant that will never end.

VII Divorce like any sin should be confessed: When individuals are divorced and remarried, they should seek forgiveness from the Lord for their sin and seek to make their present marriage glorifying unto God. They thus should go forth to serve the Lord as long as there are no Scriptural restrictions.

VIII The effects of Divorce and Remarriage on the elder or deacon?

1a One woman man” is not specific enough to rule or rule out a divorced man serving – If we take this to the ultimate conclusion then we would have to say a widower can not serve either. Likewise we would also have to say that the pastor must be married and have children

2a As it pertains to the pastor, Lev. 21:7-8 might lend some direction for the individuals who held a similar role in OT Israel, priests, were to be free from divorce both themselves and their wife (Note: restrictions on High Priest – Lev. 21:13-14 and restrictions of the Millennial priest hood Ezek. 44:20-22) – this may have been for setting the example

IX Remarriage and the divorced

1a Many argue that it is unfair if a Christian finds themselves divorced, relatively young, and their mate has remarried, that they are not allowed to marry. Surely God would not require them to remain single the rest of their life or as long as their first partner lives.

2a However some things need to be noted here.

1b This is an argument not based on Scripture but on emotions. “It is not fair” appeals to our sense of fairness and justice but has no precedence in the Scriptures

2b God sometimes calls us to accept the unfair things of life. What about the woman who looses her husband to war and never has an opportunity to remarry? What about the single person that is never able to find a mate? What about the Christian who serious injured in an auto accident and can never walk again? They are all unfair events that God has called the Christian to endure for the sake of Christ.

3b We focus only on the one who is divorced and their plight. What we do not focus on is how will their remarriage after divorce effect others. We do not live to ourselves nor die to ourselves (Rom. 14:7). The testimony of a Christian who remains true to their covenant and does not remarry sends a strong message to those thinking about getting married. It tells them that marriage must last a life time so be careful who you marry. It also sends a strong message to those who are thinking about getting divorced. If you divorce then you will have to accept the single life so it would be better to work out the difficulties rather than seek a divorce. It is the fact that so many Christians get divorced and remarried that so many others have followed in their footsteps. The divorced person must think of more than themselves in thinking of remarriage.