Posted by: SandreS | April 21, 2010

When the Vow Breaks

Divorce and Remarriage

For centuries Christendom has done great damage by its doctrines concerning divorce and remarriage. Broken marriages are a scar on the human heart, and Christendom’s self-righteous hypocrisy has greatly compounded its suffering … adding shame and rejection.

According to some spheres of Christendom there is no such thing as divorce; to them it is “once married, always married.” They teach that you can only be married once in a lifetime. Others say that you may remarry only if your mate dies. Then there are those who teach that if you were divorced before you were a believer that it is alright, while others say that “you are living in adultery.” Some say that you may divorce for “fornication” but that you cannot remarry. There are those who teach that in a divorce there is “no innocent party.” Some even go so far as to require those who have remarried to divorce their current spouse and remarry their former spouse, or remain unmarried.

What is not understood by religion is that there is a compassionate side of divorce. When a marriage becomes worse than divorce, it is a grace of God that provides for the release from a bondage that does not bring glory to God.

Divorce Is an End of a Marriage

One thing is certain: regardless of what religionists assert to the contrary, divorce is the end of a marriage; otherwise it would be a separation, not a divorce. Noah Webster’s original 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines divorce as “the ending of a marriage.”

Many Christians would say, “Why, the Bible condemns divorce from Genesis to Revelation.” Many have simply never taken the time to “prove all things” (I Thessalonians 5:21). What does the Bible really have to say about divorce? In this brief study we will seek to uncover what the Bible itself actually teaches regarding this important topic.

There are only two situations mentioned in the Bible in which a man could not divorce his wife, and they were both under the Law of Moses:

1) If a man slandered his wife concerning her virginity (Deuteronomy 22:13-19) the right of divorce was lost.

2) If a man forced an unengaged virgin to lie with him, he was to marry her and never divorce (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

These are indeed strange “penalties” if they already applied to everyone. These passages are totally meaningless if divorce was forbidden across the board – in all cases – as some religionists would have us believe.

Since some believe that the Bible condemns divorce from Genesis to Revelation, let’s look through the Bible to see what it really has to say concerning divorce.

Exodus

In the book of Exodus a neglected wife may leave her husband (21:11). One should take special notice about how divorce is regulated by the law while the practice was taken for granted. Would some then suggest to us that God is regulating sin? Certainly not.

Although this book is filled with rules and regulations, there is nothing at all prohibiting divorce and remarriage.

Leviticus

In the book of Leviticus the priest was not to marry a divorced woman. Much is often made of this passage but it should also be noted that they were also forbidden to marry widows (21:7, 14). It is important to recognize that these rules applied only to the priests and not to everyone in I

There is nothing at all prohibiting divorce and remarriage in the book of Leviticus.

Numbers

Numbers 30:9 lists the divorced women right along with the widows (in the same class), and not with the outcast and abominable of Israel.

There is nothing at all in the book of Numbers prohibiting divorce and remarriage.

Deuteronomy

In Deuteronomy a man who divorces his wife was to “Let her go … and be another man’s wife” (24:2). The reason for the divorce, according to the passage, is that there was “no favor” and “some uncleanness.” These could not have been supposed “sexual impurities” because these were dealt with by death, not divorce (adultery 22:22; fornication 22:13-21).

It should be noted that according to 24:1-4, God recognized divorce papers. In fact, God so recognizes the divorce and remarriage that former mates are forbidden to remarry (although that is actually what some counsel people to do: divorce their present mate and remarry their former). The simple fact is that they are not, as some would say, “Still married in God’s sight.”

There is nothing in Deuteronomy prohibiting divorce and remarriage.

Jeremiah

Although all divorce is a result of sin, not all divorce is sinful. In Jeremiah 3:8 God divorced His wife (the sin here was on Israel’s part). That is indeed a strange thing for God to do if it was forbidden for one to put away his wife for any cause. Some folks would have a hard time recognizing the fact that God is a divorcee. Where does this leave the “no innocent party” doctrine?

Along these lines, it is also interesting to note that Matthew 1:19 tells us that Joseph was minded to “put away” his wife Mary while at the same time being called a “just man.”

Malachi

The religious legalist will often quote from Malachi 2:16.

For the Lord, the God of Israel, says that He hates putting away.

What they fail to recognize is the context of this statement. Israel had forsaken their wives and married daughters of strange gods. To quote this verse for all divorce, as many do, is just as much private Bible interpretation as quoting Deuteronomy 7:3 and Ezra 10:11 to prove that God is against all marriage. In Deuteronomy 7, God is against marriage because of the kind of marriage it was. In Malachi, God was against divorce because of the kind of divorce it was.

Matthew

Matthew is a Jewish book concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. In Matthew 5:32 and 19:3-12, Christ is (don’t forget the rest of the Sermon on the Mount) establishing the “constitution” for Israel’s Kingdom on earth (i.e, the Millennial reign of Christ). These passages (as do their parallels in Mark 10 and Luke 16) are in view of the fact that God has actually joined couples together. Not ALL couples are joined by God. Adam and Eve were. Men and women will be during the Millennium. Today most men and women are joined together by “preachers,” “priests” and “justices of the peace,” but not by God as it were.

Romans

Romans chapter 7 is usually a key passage used by those who promote the religious doctrine of “once married, always married.” This passage has nothing to do with divorce. There is no divorce mentioned in the entire passage. In fact, that is exactly the problem! There had been no divorce papers given! The woman, while married, marries another.

If, as some teach, the woman was “divorced,” and remarriage is adultery, why do you think that God would have given Moses authority to tell a woman it was permissible to become an adulteress?

It should be remembered that this passage is written to “those who know the law”! In other words, one can’t really understand this passage unless they first understand what was taught in the Law of Moses. The whole idea of God giving a woman permission (in Deuteronomy 24) to commit adultery and recognizing her marriage as lawful is completely absurd. Some would accuse us of “explaining away the Bible,” but a text out of context is a pretext.

I Corinthians 7

This is a chapter written by Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13), by whose (Paul’s) writings we will be measured (Romans 2:16). This chapter is dealing with marriage, divorce and remarriage. It reveals simple grace principles about marriage. Let us take a very brief view of the verses which pertain to the subject of this article.

–   The widows and unmarried can marry (:8-9, 39; a divorced person is unmarried – see :11).

–   Wives should not leave (separate from) their husbands (:10, 13).

–   Wives who separate should await reconciliation (:11).

–   Husbands should not put away (divorce) their wives (:11).

–   There is no marital bond (“bondage”[1]) for one whose unbelieving spouse leaves them (:15).

–   The whole point of marriage is that “God has called us to peace” (:15) This is the key (Amos 3:3).

–   Do not seek divorce (:27).[2]

I Timothy

According to I Timothy 4:1-3 “forbidding to marry” is a doctrine, not of Paul, but of devils.

God said that is was not good that man should be alone (Genesis 2:18). Now suppose, if you would, just for a moment, that Eve had left Adam for some other man. Could some “evil” that Eve did change that which was “good” for Adam? Does God have a system whereby the divorced must live in “celibacy?” That is a religious doctrine, not a doctrine of God!

Notes of Interest

−  Did you know that a woman could be a widow and her husband still be alive? (c.f. II Samuel 14:5; 20:3; Isaiah 54:4-5.)

−  It doesn’t take a literal death to end a marriage (I Timothy 5:6).

−  Did you know that it was possible for a man to have a wife and not be married? (See Deuteronomy 24:1; Matthew 1:20; I Corinthians 7:36; Isaiah 54:1.)

David had Bathsheba’s husband killed and married her. God forgave him and continued to use him. Could God forgive a man for marrying a divorced woman (if it were a sin) if he does not kill her former husband? When God forgives, He forgives fully. There are no second-class believers. Not of works lest any man should boast! If God could do this for David “under the law,” surely He could do no less “under grace.”

Conclusion

This article is not intended to promote divorce, but to steer the believer away from the influence of religion’s view regarding marriage as a sacrament. A couple should do all within their power to stay together. Let them not depart. Divorce is never pleasant. Divorce is painful. Paul even warns the Corinthians,

Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

The key to a successful marriage is laid forth in Ephesians 5:22-33. A man is to love his wife even as Christ loved the church” (II Timothy 2:13), and the wife is to submit to the God given headship of her husband.

May each reader who has the blessing of a godly and supportive spouse give true thanksgiving unto God. May we each work to make our marital relationship bring honor and glory to our wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! May we also show forth God’s wonderful grace to those who have not been so blessed with our lot. If their journey leads to divorce and remarriage, let us say with Paul,

But and if you marry, you have not sinned (I Corinthians 7:28).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 1992, 2010


[1]If one’s partner leaves, there is nothing the saved can do but let them go. Therefore the remaining partner is not under bondage.” “Bondage is a reference to the marriage “bond” (see Romans 7:2; I Corinthians 7:27).

[2]“Loosed” is a reference to divorce – i.e., loosed from the marriage. There are only two things which can loose the bonds of marriage: death and divorce. The “loose” in this verse cannot mean “death;” for, obviously, one shouldn’t try to kill their mate.

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