"Divorce and Re-Marriage According to the Scriptures."
When you look at the world wide statistics on divorce, it’s almost beyond comprehension all the pain that has been generated from these broken relationships. And the world has become such that so many couple’s are now signing prenuptial agreements prior to marriage, as though they almost expect their relationship to fail. What is even more sad is that divorce is also touching Christian lives and families, because apparently there is a “clause” in the Bible that says it’s ok! Well, I had never given “divorce” much thought…..it hadn’t really touched my life at all, and when I was married, I just knew that it was “forever until death do us part”. And I knew it was time to test the Scriptures, and find out exactly where I stood and why. I studied this topic very diligently, independently and thoroughly, as I knew that either way, my findings were going to deeply impact my life. So if you desire to learn what the Scriptures really say about divorce, can and join me as we delve deeply into Bible passages of relevance.
Firstly, we need to look at the key verses in the New Testament that talk about “DIVORCE”…
MATTHEW 5:32 “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
MATTHEW 19:9 “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
MARK 10:11-12 “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.”
LUKE 16:18 “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”
ROMANS 7:2-3 “For the woman which hath a 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.”
1 CORINTHIANS 7:10-11 “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 with her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”
In all of these verses, there is one main similarity, and that is that God condemns divorce and remarriage. The only difference and inconsistency between these verses is found in the Gospel of Matthew. God never contradicts Himself, which forces us to look into the reasons why Matthew is the only one to include the so-called “exclusion clause”. What is it? That a man can put away his wife if she commits fornication. As we have said, because of the inconsistency, it is vital that we delve deeper, and find the true meaning and implications of what Christ is teaching.
First, look at the wording. The two words “fornication” and “adultery” are used in the same sentence, suggesting that they have two different meanings. When using the original translation of the Bible, we find that the Greek word for “adultery” is “moiceia”, and the Greek word for “fornication” is “porneia”. As with many words in the Bible, their meaning can change, depending on how they are used. Extensive study has shown us that when “fornication” is used on it’s own, it can include “adultery” in it’s meaning. But, when “fornication” and “adultery” are used in the same sentence, then they mean two different things. Just look for proof of that in the Scriptures…
1 CORINTHIANS 6:9 “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…”
GALATIONS 5:19 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery,
fornication, uncleaness, lasciviousness…”
When used together, “fornication” refers to pre-marital sex, and “adultery” refers to marital sex. This is indisputable. Let’s look at Matthew 5:32 again, now that we have clarified the meanings of these two important words. It implies that a man can put away his wife if she commits pre-marital sex. It doesn’t make sense, does it?
This is when we have to delve even deeper, and find out who the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking to, the time and setting. In Matthew 5:32, He is speaking to the multitudes at the Mount of Olives (ie; it was called the Sermon on the Mount); and in Matthew 19:9, the Lord was speaking to the Pharisees who were living under the law. In both occasions, the Lord Jesus Christ was addressing the Jews. The picture is starting to become clearer.
It is now necessary to look into the traditions and customs of the Jewish betrothal and marriage. Geoff and I have learnt so much on this topic. For the Jews living under the law (perhaps even today), a marriage actually began at the time when the man and woman were betrothed. Unlike engagements today, a Jewish couple’s betrothal was as binding as marriage. They were even referred to as “husband” and “wife”. But, they did not live together, or “sleep” together during this betrothal/engagement period. This period usually lasted for 1 whole year. During that period, whilst the preparations were made, the “wife’s” virginity was tested, questioned and observed. If it was proved that she wasn’t a virgin, and that she had committed “fornication” (pre-marital sex), the husband could “divorce” her, or end the engagement. In such a circumstance, the husband was free to find another wife, but the fornicated wife was not. Any man that slept with her, or married her after the “divorcement”, was committing adultery, and causing her to commit adultery. However, divorce was not allowed after the actual wedding ceremony, when the two were joined as one. How do we know that? Because the two verses in Matthew clearly spell out that “fornication” was the only acceptable reason for divorce…and not “adultery”…pre-marital sex, not marital sex. After the actual wedding ceremony, there was not exception at all for divorce.
So, you can plainly see that Matthew, Mark and Luke do not contradict each other. They all state that divorce and remarriage are not allowed. In Matthew, because the Lord is addressing the Jews, he sees it necessary to add the “exception clause”, allowing a Jewish man to divorce his betrothed wife if she isn’t found to be a virgin. If you are still having difficulty getting your head around this, there is a perfect illustration in God’s Word. It is found within the story of Joseph and Mary. They were betrothed to be married, and were referred to as “husband and wife”. During their engagement period, Mary was found to be pregnant. According to Jewish law, Joseph could now divorce her, as he was not obligated to marry a woman who was not a virgin. It says that Joseph did, in fact, consider this. Let’s
look at the story…
MATTHEW 1:18-20 “When, as His Mother, Mary was espoused (or engaged) to Joseph, before they came together (before the actual marriage ceremony) she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, (note his title even before the wedding) a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privaly (he was considering divorce, as was allowed under Jewish law). But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife (note Mary’s title, even before the wedding): for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost (the angel reassured him that his wife was still a virgin, and that he didn’t have to be ashamed to wed her).”
This is so simply an excellent verification of the Jewish customs of the time, and a very clear example of what was meant by allowable divorce. Clearly, Matthew’s exception clause is referring to the Jews, allowing the termination of a binding engagement, prior to the wedding, on the grounds of fornication…..and that alone. Unless we are Jews, still living under the law (as, indeed, there are those this day), then this exception clause does not refer to Christians today.
There is another so-called “exception clause”, found in …..
1 CORINTHIANS 7:10-15 “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath a husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 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.”
The main focal point of these verses is that if the unbelieving partner leaves, that the believer is not “bound” in such circumstances. What is the meaning of this verse? Many Christians argue that it means that the believer is not “bound” by the marriage vows, and is free to remarry.
To better understand this verse, it is necessary, again, to look at the original translation, and refer to the Greek for definitions of key words. What is the meaning of “bound”? The Greek word is “douloo”, which is translated as “slave” or “servant”. There is another verse in the Bible where “bound” is used…
ROMANS 7:2 “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.”
However, it is important to note that the word “bound” used here by Paul, is translated as “deo”, meaning “tied together”. This word “deo” was often used in the book of Acts, when referring to Paul’s actual bondage. Therefore, because “bound” has two different meanings, we cannot accept that one is released from marriage in 1 CORINTHIANS, as in ROMANS 7, when a spouse dies. We believe that 1 CORINTHIANS is simply saying that if the unbeliever is not willing to stay, then the believer is released, just as a slave from slavery. The believer is not asked to “force” their spouse to stay, if their reason for leaving is the believer’s Christianity. After all, God says that we should live peaceably with all men.
It is absolutely crucial to note that nowhere in 1 CORINTHIANS 7 is permission given for remarriage, not even in the circumstance of the unequally yoked marriage between an unbeliever and believer. It says…
1 CORINTHIANS 7:17 “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.”
That is all! There is a full stop! There is no more! To add to the Scriptures here is a sin. To add is to read into it something that is simply not there. Would God have left it out? Are we allowed to assume that remarriage is allowed? No! Only a few verses before this one, we see…
1 CORINTHIANS 7:10-11 “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.”
Remarriage of the innocent partner would run contrary to God’s entire teaching on divorce and remarriage. There are no exceptions. God recommends either reconciliation or that the two partners separate but remain unmarried. Look at this next verse for the perfect reason…
1 CORINTHIANS 7:16 “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”
For Christians today, God’s line is very clear in the Bible. According to the Scriptures…
· “Divorce” is only acceptable within the Jewish customs during the engagement period only.
· “Separation” is allowable when restoration and reunion fails.
· “Remarriage” is only ever allowed when a spouse dies.
Anyone who has been bound by the law of marriage, is in it for life. Divorce is out of the question, and is not recognised by God (outside of the Jewish customs in betrothal). To sleep with any one but your husband or wife is to commit adultery. To marry a divorcee, or for a divorcee to remarry, is to commit adultery, and to disobey the laws laid down by the Lord Jesus Christ.
We know that it is highly likely that yourselves, and other family members will not like our stand against divorce and remarriage. Further more, we understand that our letter and Bible Study guide into the matter will not be appreciated by most of you. Should we have done this? Yes, we believe that we have a responsibility to make this stand. We are 100% confident that we are Scripturally correct in this matter, and that it deserves more thought, prayer and Bible study than it appears to get amongst Christians today. Geoff and I have been convicted to the point where we believe it would be a sin for us ever to attend a divorcees’ remarriage ceremony. Furthermore, we believe that it would be a sin not to share the Truth regarding these important issues of divorce and remarriage with those directly related to the regrettable circumstances. We are not judging anyone, simply sharing the truth that we have found. It is God’s Word that judges, and is the standard for all to be judged by. Just look at this verse in God’s Word…
2 TIMOTHY 2:15-16 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”
GALATIONS 6:1 “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
There is the completion of my study into the reasons why divorce and remarriage are not allowed, according to the Word of God. I leave this in your hands now, and in the Hands of our God, Yahweh. It is my prayer that He will convict you, and not give you peace until you render all that is due unto Him, and apply His teachings to your lives. Scriptures are very clear on Yahweh’s stand regarding divorce.
Written by Lee Lambert