MARRIAGE, DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

Written by Ron Hutchison

Posted May 29, 2007- Revised October 1, 2007

One of the greatest needs in the world today is for people to recognize and abide by the law of God concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage. There are very few families who are not affected by divorce.  This is just as true of families in the church of Christ as it is of those who are in the world.

One of the reasons this is so, is that we are not teaching on this subject as we should.  Some elderships will not allow this subject to be studied from their pulpits.  Some preachers will not preach on it because they don't want to deal with "controversial" subjects.  Some will not preach on it because they don't want to lose their paychecks.  Some won't preach on it, because they have never studied it and don't really know what they believe about it. Some preach on it and shouldn't because they believe and teach false doctrine on the subject.

There are some preachers and elders and other members in the church who say they have "restudied" this subject because either they or someone close to them have been divorced and remarried.  Because of who is involved, they now take a different view than they did before. However, no matter who may change their minds, God's word has not changed.  It still teaches what it taught when it was first written.  God's attitude toward divorce has not changed.  His attitude is still the same as it was in Malachi's day. 

With these things in mind I would like to study with you the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage. I would like to begin by asking a question:

HOW LONG IS YOUR FIRST MARRIAGE TO LAST?

The Bible is very clear in it's teaching concerning how long God wants you to stay married to the first person you marry. The inspired apostle Paul wrote, "A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39). Isn't this clear?  When you marry, you are bound by God's law to be married to your spouse as long as both of you are living. According to God's law you are free to marry someone else ONLY AFTER your spouse dies.

Paul again addresses this subject in the book of Romans. "For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man" (Romans 7:1-2).  This passage teaches the same thing that First Corinthians 7:39 teaches but in addition tells us that the woman who marries someone else while her husband is living is guilty of adultery.  You are bound by God's law to your spouse as long as he/she lives.  If you marry someone else while your spouse is living you are guilty of adultery.  If your spouse dies, you are free to marry someone else and will not be guilty of adultery (provided the person you marry can scripturally marry).

So, according to these two passages, God's law is that you remain married to the first person you marry, and only that person, "as long as you both shall live."  These two passages give no exception to this rule. Thus, when you enter in to marriage, you must do so with the intent of it being a lifelong commitment and relationship. It is "in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, so long as you both shall live." 

There is another thing that we learn from these passages.  God's will is that a MAN and a WOMAN marry each other.  This means that the two people who enter into a marriage must be mature enough to be considered a man and a woman. In other words, children are not to be marrying.  Too many marriages end in divorce because those people who enter into it are just too immature to handle the responsibilities.  So, you young people who are reading this and considering marriage: Be sure you are mature enough to handle the responsibilities!  If you are not, then put that marriage off for a while. Give yourself time to "grow up" so that you can deal with the various problems and joys of marriage.  

There is one more thing we need to point out: God's law specifies that marriage is to be between a male and a female (Matthew 19:4-5).  God's law does not recognize homosexual marriages. Those marriages are an abomination to Him. Paul shows God's disapproval of homosexuality in First Corinthians 6:9-10.  He wrote, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."  Here, the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality does not please God.  In fact, you can see the terrible sins it is listed with and the terrible consequences of it's practice. Homosexuality will keep one out of heaven.  It's just that simple.  The Holy Spirit through Paul clearly describes homosexuality in Romans 1:24-27Then in verse thirty one he says, "who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."  If those who practice such things as homosexuality are worthy of death, do you think God would approve of homosexuals marrying each other?  Of course not!  According to God's law, marriage is to take place between two adults, one of which is male and the other a female.

GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD DIVORCE

We have seen that God's law teaches that when we enter into marriage it is to be for as long as both people in that marriage live.  The next question is this: If it is God's law that two people remain married for their lifetime, is there ever a situation where God allows divorce to take place and for those who are divorced to remarry?

Before we see what the Bible teaches about this question, I would like to look at a passage that sets forth God's attitude toward divorce. That passage is Malachi 2:16.  This verse is in the context of God explaining to the people of Israel why He did not accept their sacrifices.  They asked Him why He did not accept them and He said, "Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant." They had done something to deal treacherously with their wives. Verse 16 tells us what that was.  "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."  What is God's attitude toward divorce?  He hates it!  We must ever keep this in mind as we study this subject. GOD HATES DIVORCE! He did not approve of it under the Old Testament dispensation (although He allowed it under certain circumstances because of the hardness of the Jews hearts [Matthew 19:3-9]), and He does not approve of it today, with ONE exception, which we will discuss below.

WHAT DOES JESUS TEACH
ABOUT MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE?

What Jesus teaches about any subject is of utmost importance. Jesus' words about marriage are first recorded by Matthew. Here is what He says: 

"Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery." (Matthew 5:31-32).

The phrase "sexual immorality" in the NKJV is translated in other translations by the word "fornication." The Greek word means "all kinds of unlawful sexual intercourse" (See Thayer).  This is not just talking about general sexual immorality, but intercourse. Now when I read the words "sexual immorality" I think of sexual intercourse, but that may be because I know what the original word means.  This is one of the places where I would have liked for the NKJV translators to have stuck with the KJV translation of "fornication." 

These words are pretty straightforward.  If you are married and you divorce your wife for any reason, other than that she has had sexual intercourse with someone other than you,  you cause your wife to commit adultery.  If someone marries a woman who is divorced he commits adultery. Why does he commit adultery? Because he marries someone else's wife.  Let's look at it by leaving out the exception: "Whoever divorces his wife for any reason ... causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery." This is the rule. I know Jesus gives an exception here, but the rule is: if you divorce your wife for any reason, you cause her to commit adultery and whoever marries her commits adultery.  If the woman remains unmarried, she is not committing adultery. It is when she marries someone else that she is guilty of adultery. How does the husband cause her to commit adultery? The divorce encourages the wife to marry someone else. That is stated in the last phrase, "and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. The woman who is divorced is the wife that was put away in the first phrase. 

Luke records Jesus saying this: "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery (Luke 16:18). In Matthew's record it is the wife who is divorced who is caused to commit adultery.  In Luke's record it is the person who divorces his wife and marries another who commits adultery. Thus, both are guilty of adultery when they remarry if they were divorced for a reason other than unlawful sexual intercourse. In both Matthew and Luke's record the man who marries the divorced woman commits adultery in doing so. Notice that the divorce is not what constitutes adultery. It is marrying someone else that constitutes adultery.  The divorce taking place is what contributes to these people  remarrying and that remarriage is why they are guilty of adultery. This doesn't mean there is no sin that takes place before remarriage. The husband who divorced his wife sinned, because he divorced her for a cause other than her having sexual intercourse with someone else. The woman may be innocent in the matter, but the fact that she may be innocent does not give her the right to remarry. Unless her husband was guilty of having sexual intercourse with someone else while they were married, she is not free to divorce him and remarry. If she does remarry, having been divorced for a reason other than fornication, she commits adultery.  Let's sum it up like this:

Summation of Matthew 5:31-32 and Luke 16:18

  • The man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.

  • The woman who is divorced and marries another commits adultery.

  • The man who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

  • The exception to this is if the man divorces his wife because she has had sexual intercourse with someone else. Then he is free to remarry.

Matthew  19:3-9

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' "and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."

I believe it is interesting that in dealing with the Pharisees question Jesus went back to the very beginning of marriage.  He points out that when two people are joined together in marriage they become one flesh. They are inseparably joined together.  Notice, that it is not just what they did or what the civil law does, it is what God does.  God is the One who joins two people together in marriage! And that is why He said, "What God has joined together, let not man separate." Anytime there is a divorce there is sin!  It is sin that causes divorce.  And the one or one's who are responsible for that divorce have sinned because they are separating what God has joined together!

It is also interesting that Jesus said that Moses had permitted the men of Israel to divorce their wives, but that He did so because of their hard hearts.  But He points out that "from the beginning it was not so." It was never God's intention or will that divorce take place.  We can understand this when we remember that God hates divorce.

Then, He teaches the same thing He taught in the other passages we have looked at: "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."  The man who divorces his wife for any other reason than fornication (unlawful sexual intercourse) and marries another commits adultery.  The man who marries the wife who was divorced commits adultery.

If you are considering marrying someone who has been divorced, you better be sure that the person you are considering marrying was divorced because that persons' spouse was unfaithful. If that person was divorced for any other reason, you will be guilty of adultery if you marry that person.

What if the man divorced his wife because she committed fornication? Is he free to remarry? Yes, provided he himself is innocent. Is she free to remarry? No. If she remarries, because she did not put away her husband because he committed fornication, she will be guilty of adultery and the man who marries her will be guilty of adultery.   The phrase "except for fornication" only applies to the situation of the man who divorces his wife because she has committed fornication. It does not apply to the woman who was put away because she committed fornication.  Someone might say, "well, if the innocent party is free to remarry that means that they must be loosed from each other." I would agree, they are loosed from each other. They are no longer married. And someone might say, "well, if they are loosed from each other, both should be free to remarry."  But we need to understand that they may be loosed from each other, but neither one of them is loosed from God's will. It doesn't matter which one you are talking about, both still have an obligation to God, whether they recognize it or not. So, even though the marriage bond between those two people has been loosed because they are divorced, and the innocent party can remarry, the one who is guilty of fornication is still bound by the law of God, and the law of God no where gives that person the right to remarry.  If she does remarry, both she and the person she marries will be guilty of adultery.

There is another thing we need to deal with.  It seems that some are teaching that it is acceptable to God to get a divorce for any reason if you intend to remain unmarried.  But Jesus said that the only reason he allows divorce is for fornication. It is a sin to divorce if you do not divorce because your mate cheated on you. The only cause for divorce that God gives is fornication. We have specific teaching that we are not to separate what God has joined together.  The separation there is divorce.  When a person separates a marriage (divorces), except for the cause Jesus gives, he sins.  Divorce is wrong! It doesn't matter if you intend to remarry or not. Divorce is wrong unless it is because of fornication. We need to stop advising people that just because they don't get along they ought to get a divorce; just because they have been deserted or abused, they ought to get a divorce. The Bible doesn't give you that right!  Not only that, but if you get a divorce fully intending to remain unmarried, what about your spouse? Do these passages not teach that you are causing them to commit adultery? You would be guilty of a double sin.  The divorce itself and causing your spouse to sin if he/she remarries.

CAN ONE LIVE IN ADULTERY?

I know there has been a lot of discussion about living in adultery.  The person who divorces his mate for a reason other than fornication and marries another is living in an adulterous marriage and the woman who has been divorced for a reason other than fornication and marries someone else is living in adultery. The person who marries her is living in adultery.  

There are some who deny that you can live in adultery. They say that adultery is an act. I realize that adultery is an act, but the Bible teaches that you can live in adultery. Paul asks the question, "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:2). Can a person live in sin? Well, the Holy Spirit taught that you can.  This does not mean that every moment you live you are committing a sinful act.  It means you are living in a state of sin.  You are living separated from God. Paul wrote, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them" (emphasis mine - Colossians 3:5-7).  Paul here says that the Colossians once lived in fornication.  Fornication is a generic term used for "all kinds of unlawful sexual intercourse" (See Thayer).  One form of unlawful sexual intercourse is adultery. So, if it is possible to live in fornication it is possible to live in adultery.  That does not mean that you are continually involved in the act, it means you are living in a sinful relationship. The sin of adultery is separating you from God.  Until you turn from that sinful relationship you are living in sin.  In order to quit living in adultery, you must seek God's forgiveness. In seeking God's forgiveness you must meet His conditions of forgiveness. One of His conditions of forgiveness is repentance. You must turn away from your sin. When you do that, you are  no longer living in sin. 

ARE ALL PEOPLE OBLIGATED TO OBEY
JESUS' TEACHING ON MARRIAGE?

This question is asked because there are some who are teaching that Jesus' marriage laws do not apply to people until they become Christians.  They take the view that a person can marry, divorce and remarry multiple times, and then when he hears the gospel and obeys it, he can stay with the person he is married to at the time. They take the view that since baptism washes away past sins, then it washes away the sins of adultery that were committed when this person divorced and remarried.

There are two questions we need to consider: First, are all people held accountable for failing to obey God's law as taught in the New Testament or, are just Christians held accountable?  And second, is everyone who enters into a marriage relationship governed by God's marriage laws or, are just Christians governed by His marriage laws?

The answer to these two questions is really settled by one answer. If we can show that all men everywhere are obligated to obey God's law as taught in the New Testament (the gospel), then we have proven that all men everywhere are obligated to obey all the laws in the gospel (New Testament) including God's marriage laws. Would you deny that God's marriage laws are a part of the New Testament?

Jesus told the apostles to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."  Why was it necessary for the apostles to preach the gospel?  They had to do this in order for folks to believe in Jesus and be saved.  What did they need to be saved from?  Their sins. What is sin?  Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). John tells us that sin is lawlessness.  What is lawlessness?  It is breaking the law. The King James Version says that "sin is a transgression of God's law." A transgression is a violation.  One cannot sin unless he violates or transgresses God's law. Paul wrote, "For where there is no law there is no transgression" (Romans 4:15). Without law, sin cannot exist. Paul also teaches, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Now if all people sin, that means there must be a law that all people violate.  "All have sinned" is not limited to Christians.  Everyone who lives on this earth, who has reached an accountable age, sins.  That means non-Christians as well as Christians are under or subject to the law of Christ which is the New Testament. If you do not believe that, then answer this question: what law do non-Christians violate when they sin? Remember sin cannot take place unless God's law is violated. Which law is violated? The Patriarchal Law?  The Law of Moses? The law of nature? No, none of those. The law that people violate today when they sin is the "law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).  James calls it the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25).  It is the New Testament or New Covenant.  Included in the New Testament is Jesus' teaching on marriage. 

This means that whether a person is a Christian or not, he sins if he does not obey Jesus' teaching on marriage.  He violates God's marriage laws. It does not make any difference if he is ignorant of those laws. He is still in violation because he is obligated to obey God's marriage laws.  You might think that this is unfair, but remember the same thing is true of the civil laws we live under in the United States.  If you violate civil law, even though you are ignorant of what the law says, you have no excuse.  The rule is: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

If non-Christians are not obligated to obey the New Testament, then they cannot be guilty of sin. Yet the Bible clearly teaches that "all have sinned."  Thus, everyone living today is obligated to obey the teaching of the New Testament including what it teaches about marriage, divorce and remarriage.  In other words, it would be impossible for anyone to sin today if they are not obligated to obey the New Testament. 

Let's sum it up like this:

1. If non-Christians are not obligated to obey the New Testament, then they cannot be guilty of sin.
2. Yet, the Bible teaches that "all have sinned."
3. Thus, non-Christians are obligated to obey the New Testament.

Now, let's ask another question: What is involved in receiving forgiveness of sins?  Here are the steps necessary to receive forgiveness of sins and be saved:

  • One must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (John 8:24).

  • One must repent of sin (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38);

  • One must confess Jesus before men (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10);

  • One must be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). 

  • One must live a faithful Christian life (Revelation 2:10).

Now those Christians who believe that one can stay with their present marriage partner after being divorced and remarried multiple times admit that sin is washed away when one is baptized? (Acts 22:16).  But what about the other steps that one must take BEFORE he is baptized? What about the step of repentance?  

What is Repentance?

It is turning away from sin.  It is turning away from a sinful lifestyle and turning to a godly lifestyle. The question is this: Is living with the present spouse in an adulterous marriage a sinful relationship? Are they living in adultery? Are they violating God's marriage laws? The answer is yes. If they truly repent, they must give up that sinful marriage relationship.

Is there a passage that teaches such?  Yes. Paul writes about this in First Corinthians six: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).   Here Paul teaches that there were some people in Corinth who had obeyed the gospel.  They had been washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.  They had become Christians. In becoming Christians they had to give up their sinful lifestyles.  The phrase "and such were some of you" shows that they gave these sinful lifestyles up.  Paul uses the past tense "were." They no longer lived in those lifestyles as they had before they became Christians.  They had REPENTED!  Those who had lived a lifestyle of fornication had given up fornication.  Those who had lived a lifestyle of worshipping idols no longer worshiped idols.  Those who had lived in adultery no longer lived in adultery. Those who had lived the homosexual lifestyle no longer lived as homosexuals etc... 

Now, let me ask a question: If those who were homosexuals had continued to live a lifestyle of homosexuality after they were baptized could it be said "and such were some of you?"  We all know the answer to that question. By no stretch of the imagination could it be said "and such were some of you" if they had continued to practice homosexuality after they were baptized.  They had to give up homosexuality before it could be said to them "and such were some of you"! 

But notice that right along with fornicators, idolaters, and homosexuals is listed "adulterers."  When a person divorces his spouse for a reason other than fornication and then remarries, he is an adulterer. Can he have that sin of adultery washed away? He can.  But what must he do before he is baptized and has that sin washed away? He must repent!  If he does not repent, he will perish (Luke 13:3). Repentance must take place before baptism. Repentance must take place before one can be forgiven of sin.  If that person truly repents of adultery, he will have to leave his present spouse and live single. Only then could it be said of him, "and such were some of you." All of the sins listed in First Corinthians six must be given up before one can receive forgiveness of them. This includes the sin of adultery. 

But someone might ask, "what about the grace of God?" We need to understand that God's grace covers (forgives) sin. But God's grace cannot forgive sin until man has acted in an obedient faith by repenting of that sin. In Ephesians 2:8 and 9 Paul wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." It has often been said, and I agree with the truth of the statement, that "grace is God's part and faith is man's part." God saves us by His grace, but not until we have exercised our faith in obedience to His will.  Included in our faith is the act of repentance. Thus, in order for God's grace to forgive any sin including the sin of adultery, one must give that sin up or repent.  Paul deals with this in Romans 6. Notice what he asks the Romans, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1).  In regard to the subject at hand this question needs to be ask: "Shall we continue in an unscriptural marriage relationship (the sin of adultery) in order that God's grace may abound?"  And the answer is the same as Paul's.  "Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Roman 6:2). How can we expect that we can continue to live in adultery after we have become Christians?  How can we who died to sin live any longer in it?

I fully realize what I am saying. Some folks did not know the truth about marriage, divorce and remarriage until they were taught it many years after they had been involved in an unscriptural marriage. Yet, their situation does not change God's word. As we stated earlier in this study, "ignorance is no excuse." Paul said, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent..." (Acts 17:30)  God does not accept ignorance as an excuse today.  There was a time when He did, but not now. Just because you may have been ignorant of God's will when you were divorced and remarried does not excuse you of your responsibility to repent.  The fact that you may have been in an unscriptural marriage for years and that children are a part of the equation etc... does not change God's law or the fact that you must repent. I know how hard that sounds, but obeying God is not always easy. It sometimes requires great sacrifice. Yet, the rewards for doing God's will are far greater than anything we can imagine and than any sacrifice we may have to make while we live on this earth (Romans 8:18). 

Just as the homosexual must leave his homosexual relationships (even though he may love his partner very much; even though there may be children involved) so the adulterer must leave that adulterous relationship (no matter what the circumstances). If he does not, he has not repented. If he does not repent of every sin in his life, he cannot be saved. As hard as it might be, that's the way it is. If you desire to please God more than anything else in the world, you will have to make these hard decisions and live by them. 

You might just as well affirm that repentance is not required for salvation as to say that you do not have to leave your adulterous relationship.  In reality, that is exactly what you are saying. You might as well affirm that the homosexual, the idolater, the fornicator, and the sodomite may continue in their sin after they are baptized as to affirm you can continue in an adulterous relationship after baptism.  Baptism washes away sin, but it does not wash away sinful relationships if we persist in those relationships. 

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

  1. If a homosexual tells you that he intends to continue having homosexual relationships after he is baptized, would you affirm that he has truly repented and is qualified to be baptized?

  2. If the thief says that he is going to continue to steal after he is baptized, would you affirm that he has truly repented and is qualified to be baptized?

  3. If the drunkard affirms that he will continue his drunkenness after he is baptized, would you affirm that he has truly repented and is qualified to be baptized? 

If we understand the Bible's teaching about the necessity of repentance, we know the answer to these questions.  And the same truth applies to those who are living in adultery.  An adulterer cannot continue in an adulterous marriage if he truly repents of his sins.  Baptism does not change an adulterous marriage into an acceptable marriage. What was sin before baptism is sin after baptism.

I once heard a preacher dealing with the idea that you can stay with your present mate (even though you have been un-scripturally divorced and remarried) when you are baptized, and he said this: "Baptism washes away sins, but it doesn't wash away wives."  When one who has been un-scripturally divorced and remarried comes to a knowledge of the truth and desires to be baptized, something has to be done about committing adultery. What is the only thing that can be done that would constitute repentance?  That marriage must be given up!  Just as baptism would not allow a homosexual to continue in a homosexual relationship, so baptism will not allow the person living in adultery to continue in an adulterous relationship.

If you affirm that a person who has been divorced and remarried un-scripturally can stay with their present mate when they are baptized, then here is what you are saying:

You are saying:
  • the fornicator may continue committing fornication after baptism;
  • the idolater may continue to worship idols after baptism;
  • the homosexual may continue in his homosexuality after baptism;
  • the sodomite may continue to commit sodomy after baptism;
  • the thief may continue to steal after baptism;
  • the covetous person may continue to covet after baptism;
  • the drunkard may continue his drunkenness after baptism;
  • The reviler may continue in his reviling after baptism;
  • the extortioner may continue to practice extortion after baptism;

With God's approval!

IS THIS WHAT YOU ARE WILLING TO AFFIRM?

WHERE IS THE REPENTANCE IF THESE THINGS CAN CONTINUE?

Is God a respecter of persons? Is He going to overlook one sin (because of certain circumstances) and continue to let you live in it while requiring people who are guilty of other sins to turn from them? I think you know the answer to that question. God now "commands all men everywhere to repent."  There are no exceptions!

I know of people who have heard the truth concerning the need to repent of unscriptural relationships, and yet they will not repent.  If one preacher won't baptize them, then they will usually be able to find another preacher who will baptize them with no questions asked.  Those same people are attending services, working in the congregation that accepted them and doing everything a faithful Christian might do thinking that in the end, God will overlook their sin and let them go to heaven.  They are living under a false sense of security. My heart goes out to them, but if God's word is true they are just as lost as the worst unrepentant sinner who ever lived.

You may ask, "do you always ask about people's marriage relationships before you baptize them?"  Yes I do, if I don't already know. People may not accept what the Bible teaches about marriage, divorce and remarriage and the need to repent of unscriptural relationships, but I have a responsibility to let them know what the Bible teaches about it. If you don't ask, and they are in an unscriptural relationship, not only are they going to be held responsible, but so will you (Ezekiel 33:8).  If you don't ask, they may never know the truth about the need for them to repent. They will have a false sense of security. They will not have the opportunity to truly repent.

When I emphasize what the Bible teaches about repentance, I better be sure that I cover all the bases so people are not misled. These are some of the things that those who teach others struggle with, but we must do what is right in this matter because souls are at stake. Not only those we teach, but our own. Too many times we get in such a big hurry to baptize people that we don't take the time to fully teach them what they need to know so they can make the decision to become a Christian. People need to know what sin is, what they are doing, and what they are willing to give up before they become Christians. People need to be taught enough so that they can "count the cost" (Luke 14:26-33).  Remember, Jesus said, "whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).

WHAT ABOUT 1 CORINTHIANS 7:15?

There are some today who are taking the position that 1 Corinthians 7:15 gives an additional reason for divorce and remarriage.

"But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace."

The argument goes like this:

  • "Your husband leaves, he deserts you."

  • "You are no longer under bondage, you can divorce him and remarry."

The problem with this "reasoning" is that the "you can divorce him and remarry" is not found in this passage. God said he departs and you're not under bondage, but where does He say you can divorce the unbeliever and remarry?

The word "bondage" is used 134 times in the New Testament. It is never used to refer to the marriage bond unless 1 Corinthians 7:15 is the exception. It is used in other passages to refer to a servant-master relationship.

The Complete Word Study Dictionary defines the word like this:

"douloō; contracted doulṓ, future doulṓsō, perfect passive. dedoulōmai with the present tense meaning to be a slave, to serve, from doulos (G1401), slave. To make a slave or servant, to subject, subjugate (Acts 7:6; 1Corinthians 9:19; Sept.: Genesis 15:13); in the passive, to be subjugated, subdued (Romans 6:18, 22); in the perfect tense, to be dependent (Galatians 4:3). It denotes not so much a relation of service as primarily one of dependence upon, or bondage to, something (Titus 2:3; 2 Peter 2:19). In 1Corinthians 7:15 the verb refers to a brother or sister being bound by law."

In 1 Corinthians 7:15 the word "bondage" is a perfect, passive, verb.  The basic thought of the perfect tense is that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on, in full effect. In other words, the progress of the action has reached its culmination and the finished results are now in existence. In the case of the word bondage it indicates that the person ceased being in bondage in the past at some point (when the unbeliever departed) and remains free at the present time.  The passive indicates that the subject is the recipient of the action. So, the believer is the one who is not under bondage. Thus, when the unbeliever departs, the believer is no longer under obligation to the unbeliever. The believer is no longer dependent upon the unbeliever.  In other words, God is not going to hold the believer accountable for the fact that he is no longer fulfilling his marriage responsibilities to the unbeliever. God never has expected us to do the impossible.  He will not hold you accountable to fulfill your responsibilities to your spouse if that spouse deserts you. However, no where does the fact that your spouse deserted you give you the right to divorce him and remarry.

If we take the view that the phrase "not under bondage" is referring to the marriage bond and it gives the believer the right to divorce and remarry, we take the position that what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is not true. Remember, the question that Jesus was asked was, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" His words indicated that the answer to this question was "no." Then He said "except for fornication."  He gave one exception. Not for just any reason, but for one reason. Would Paul contradict Jesus? Would the Holy Spirit contradict Jesus?  Jesus gave one exception and only one. Paul's teaching does not contradict Jesus' teaching!

Those who desert their spouse will answer to God for their failure, but no where does desertion give grounds for divorce and remarriage of the one who is deserted.

WHAT ABOUT ABUSE?

Someone might ask, "what about abuse?" Is that grounds for divorce and remarriage?  There is nothing more evil or terrible than a husband who abuses his wife and/or children. What kind of man would do such a thing? But the Bible no where gives the wife the option of divorce and remarriage under those circumstances. That wife may not have to live with the abusive husband. She may have to separate from him to protect herself and/or her children. But the Bible just does not give divorce and remarriage as an option under these circumstances.

We would hope that such a husband would get help to overcome his problem. He needs a good dose of teaching from the New Testament concerning his responsibilities to love his wife as Christ loves the church. He may need professional help. We would hope that the marriage could be saved. But that's not always the case. Sometimes the husband is an unbeliever and could care less what the Bible teaches. Sometimes he's an alcoholic or drug abuser and can not be helped because he doesn't want to be helped.  But God allows separation under certain circumstances. Paul wrote, "Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). It is not God's will that a wife separate from her husband. But notice what the passage says: "But even if she does depart..." The Holy Spirit recognized and gave provision for separation.  He recognized that there would be some cases where separation would be necessary. Certainly, it seems to me that abuse would be one of those situations. But notice further what it says, "if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband." If she separates from her husband because of abuse then she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. You see, divorce and remarriage is not an option.

WHO MAY MARRY?

Now, let us close our study with answering the above question.  From all the information we have gathered from the Bible in this study, let's answer the question: Who May Marry?

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR MARRIAGE?

  • A male or female adult who has never been married before.

  • A male or female adult  who has had a mate die.

  • A male or female adult who has divorced their spouse because their spouse had sexual intercourse with someone else.

My friends, that's it.  No one in any other situation is eligible for marriage according to the teaching of the Bible.

CONCLUSION

If we will just keep in mind that the only reason Christ gives for divorce and remarriage is fornication on the part of your spouse, then all other matters that people raise can be answered and dealt with in the right way and in harmony with God's will. 

This is a serious matter. Our salvation may very well depend on how successful we are in following God's will for marriage. Marriage is for life! The only exception to this rule is if your spouse has sexual intercourse with someone other than you. In that case you may (although you are not commanded to) divorce your spouse and marry someone else. That is the only exception!

One thing we did not point out that we should before we close is this: Although God allows you to divorce your spouse and marry someone else if they are guilty of fornication, He does not command such to take place. God's will is that you try to hold that marriage together -- that you forgive your spouse for their unfaithfulness, if that is possible, and that you try your best to work things out.

If you have any comments to make about this article or any questions concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage please write me at the email address given on the main page.

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