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TITLE: DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE
Subtitle: A Touchy Subject Examined In Light Of The Scriptures
A reader asked if we had any articles dealing with what they characterized as "marriage--divorce--remarriage." In other words, teaching concerning the increasingly common tendency of ministries to minimize the serious nature of divorce and its spiritual implications. My reply was that we had never approached the subject, but probably should. So lest I be accused of being "chicken," I will stick my head in the lion's den and offer some opinions.
Apparently divorce was rampant among the Jews at the time of Christ and on at least two separate occasions He was asked to give an opinion on the subject. His replies are recorded in Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:1-9; Mark 10:2-12; and Luke 16:18. In each case, the Lord makes it clear that fornication by either party is the only permissable grounds for divorce--the inference being that the innocent spouse has the right to divorce and remarry in such cases. But if divorce takes place without fornication being committed, both parties will be guilty of adultery if they remarry. In other words, a new sexual union--even within the bonds of a "legal" marriage--will still constitute fornication in the sight of God.
This all seems so "cut and dried" that one might wonder what all the fuss is about! But human nature being what it is, we often find ourselves confronted with related problems that would test the wisdom of Solomon. Preachers are continually approached by heart-broken individuals asking advice about their particular case. Just recently I talked by phone with a man totally convinced he is called to preach, yet was divorced and remarried prior to his salvation--a situation among preachers that is not all that uncommon. Does that render him unfit for the ministry? Many others--innocent victims of divorce--understandably desire love and happiness in their lives, but are guilt-ridden because they have remarried and are "living in adultery." While yet others ask about extenuating circumstances--"loopholes"--which may absolve them of guilt. Is there any possible validity to these "extenuating circumstances" in light of a subject seemingly defined in such narrow terms? I believe there is and will attempt to explain what I mean.
But before we look at the various situations in which guilt may, or may not, be involved, I want to speak to those Christians who have definitely made a major mistake. Both partners were saved when they married and for whatever reason(s) they just could not resolve their differences and hearts wound up overruling heads, resulting in dissolution of the marriage. Both have now remarried and there is no question but that sin has been committed. More often than not, there is a feeling of guilt that lies just beneath the surface and Satan just loves to stir it up and bring it to mind. Right? Well, to those whose feet fit into these shoes my advice is to claim 1 John 1:9 and get on with your lives! Did you sin in getting a divorce? Yes! Will God forgive that sin if you truly repent and ask for it? Yes! If God forgives (and He says He will, according to1 John 1:9), should the specter of "living in adultery" hang over your head as long as you live? NO!!! The fact of being an adulterer cannot be changed any more than the fact of being a murderer, or a liar, or a thief, or..........whatever, but once God forgives the sin--He forgets it as we see in the following verses:
"I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins" Isaiah 43:25 (KJV)
"And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" Jeremiah 31:34 (KJV).
So once the sin has been forgiven and God has forgotten it, so should you. But for those who are likely to disagree and say this is all too easy and encourages people to do wrong because they can sin and not be punished, allow me to point out God chastens those whom He loves, as we see in the following verses:
"For the Lord corrects and disciplines every one whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes.  You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline. God is dealing with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline?  Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all [of God's children] share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons [at all]. Hebrews 12:6-8 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary.
So if you are truly one of His own--sin will result in punishment during this life and you can count on it. The point is that you should not spend the rest of your life plagued by guilt, after the sin has been forgiven.
Is divorce always a sin regardless of circumstances? When both parties were born-again Christians at the time of the marriage, there appears to be no question about it. The vows they took were a binding covenant, breakable only by death. They were joined together by God in the bonds of holy matrimony, as we see from the Lord's statement:
" He replied, Have you never read that He Who made them from the beginning made them male and female,  And said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be united firmly (joined inseparably) to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?  So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder (separate)" Matthew 19:4-6 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
But I believe Scripture allows an exception where "mixed marriages" are concerned--in which one of the individuals is not a Christian. We find this teaching by the Apostle Paul in these verses:
" To the rest I declare, I, not the Lord [for Jesus did not discuss this], that if any brother has a wife who does not believe [on Christ], and she consents to live with him, he should not leave or divorce her.  And if any woman has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she should not leave or divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband is set apart (separated, withdrawn from heathen contamination and affiliated with the Christian people) by union with his consecrated (set-apart) wife; and the unbelieving wife is set apart and separated through union with her consecrated husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean [unblessed heathen, outside the Christian covenant], but as it is they are prepared for God--pure and clean.  But if the unbelieving partner [actually] leaves, let him do so; in such [cases the remaining] brother or sister is not morally bound. But God has called us to peace" 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary, emphasis mine).
A Christian should never knowingly marry an unbeliever. The Bible refers to this as an unequal yoke (2 Cor.6:14) and it must be avoided because of the obvious problems it will bring to the marriage. Imagine, if you can, a farmer trying to plow a field with an ox and a donkey yoked together. The result would be comical if it were not so serious! And unfortunately, great numbers of broken-hearted Christians can testify to the havoc created because of the unequal spiritual values of such a partnership. If you are a Christian and presently unmarried, please spare yourself this agony of soul by backing away from anyone who does not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If you are in love, it will hurt--but not nearly as much as it will later on if you wind up marrying them! If you doubt the truth of this assertion, just talk with those who have already been there. Yet many find themselves in this exact situation. Their husband/wife is not a born-again Christian and the marriage is unbearable. What should they do? Well, the verses cited above teach that the Christian partner should make every effort to keep the marriage together, but if the other person is determined to get a divorce--let them go. The marriage covenant under God's divine standard can not be forced upon an unregenerate person. If they file for divorce, most conservative preachers--based on verse 15 above--believe that the Christian is clear in the matter and may remarry without committing adultery.
But what about a situation in which the Christian is being abused (verbally or physically) by the unsaved partner and there is no indication that the abusive spouse wants to end the marriage? Should the Christian have to passively endure the torture, or is there any possible alternative? This scenario hits very close to home with me, because my oldest daughter experienced it. When she took her vows it was with the firm belief that her fiance was not only a born-again child of God, but one called to the ministry as well. She met him at a Christian University and was convinced that the marriage was God's will for her life--after having prayed for years that He would lead her to His choice for a husband. So imagine the shock and horror she experinced on the honeymoon when the verbal abuse began! Over the next five years--and after the birth of one child--the abuse became physical as shouting, pushing and shoving ensued. But the "straw that broke the camel's back" was when she discovered hard-core pornography in his briefcase and confronted him with it. Only at this point was I made aware of the problem, because my daughter had been determined to work things out and kept it from me. The situation was made infinitely worse, by the fact that I had been using the son-in-law in my Church as a youth pastor. Only later did I learn that he had attempted to touch one of the teen girls in a totally inappropriate manner and had used profanity in the presence of some of the boys. I immediately fired him, but because of the total lack of repentance after repeated counselling--some in the presence of his parents--I was forced to bring the matter before the Church as per the Lord's instructions in Matthew 18:17. But even after such dire measures, his conduct did not change and the marriage was intolerable for my daughter. She came to me in tears and asked for my advice. By that time his attitude and actions made it painfully obvious to all concerned that he was a counterfeit Christian--a tare among the wheat. So my counsel to her--and to anyone else trapped in a similar situation--is that a legal separation and restraining order be sought through the courts. This provides a degree of protection for the abused, without severing the bonds of matrimony--thereby leaving the door open for reconciliation. In this particular case, his immediate response was to sue for divorce and, under the circumstances, we did not contest it. He has since remarried and divorced twice and is presently living with another! My daughter's vows were made in good faith, but she was intentionally deceived by a tool of the devil into marrying someone other than whom he presented himself to be. For these reasons, I believe my daughter's subsequent (and very happy) remarriage is not adulterous. Her new Christian husband experienced a similar situation in his first marriage, in that the wife proved herself to be counterfeit by her actions. But even though I sincerely believe both are free of guilt, I strongly urged them to pray and ask God for forgiveness for any possible sin involved and then never look back! They have since been blessed with twins (boy and girl) and are faithfully serving the Lord. Could I be wrong and the possibility exist that both have committed adultery? Certainly! But if so, is that sin forgiveable? You know the answer.
And lest I forget it, I want to touch on the subject of the man called to preach who was divorced before he was saved. Does that divorce and remarriage--even if it is viewed by God as being adultery--render him unfit for the ministry? Beloved, if sin rendered men unfit for service, there would be no preachers! We are all sinners by nature and by practice--and that includes each and every Christian. Salvation does not put an end to sin in this life--it just averts the penalty. We cannot be sinless in actualy practice (even though God views us as such because we have been justified and declared righteous in His sight), but we must earnestly strive to sin less as a testimony to what Christ has done for us. So even though most conservative preachers believe and teach that a divorced man cannot hold the office of "Bishop" or pastor, because of "the husband of one wife" requirement of 1 Timothy 3:2 (which others see as meaning "one wife at a time"--a prohibition against polygamy), this in no way prohibits a man from preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ! At the very worst, it would only mean that he is disqualified to serve as a pastor of a Church. The office of evangelist has no such prohibition and missionaries are not necessarily pastors. If God has called you to preach and you are concerned about a divorce and remarriage--get it under the blood of Christ and then start proclaiming His "good news" to everyone who will listen.
Finally, there are those who are innocent victims of divorce--the spouses who, through no fault of their own, are thrown aside for someone else. Are they considered adulterers if they remarry? Let's look at what the Lord says in Matthew chapter 5:
"But I tell you, Whoever dismisses and repudiates and divorces his wife, except on the grounds of unfaithfulness (sexual immorality), causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who has been divorced commits adultery" Matthew 5:32 (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
The phrase "causes her to commit adultery" is taken by many to mean if the innocent woman (or man) remarries--something almost necessary for survival for women in those days--adultery would be committed. But I believe, as do many others, that what the Lord is saying has to do with public perception. The responsibility for divorce is clearly laid upon the one initiating it and in doing so, that individual would cause their innocent spouse to be perceived by others as having been unfaithful. That perception of unfaithfulness would then extend to anyone marrying her and brand them as an adulterer as well. But we do not want to overlook the probability of the initiator remarrying first--the most common reason for divorce in the first place--thereby being unfaithful and committing fornication/adultery themselves. This then gives the innocent party unquestionable grounds for divorce and as I understand the Scriptures, adultery is not the result of their remarriage.
Committing adultery is a sin and we must not take it lightly. Marriage is an institution ordained of God and intended that one man and one woman live together in love and harmony for one lifetime. When any society begins to degenerate, it always begins to disintegrate--with marriages and families literally falling apart, causing great misery for all concerned. So if you are considering marriage, please do yourself a huge favor and make sure your love interest is truly your best friend. If your courtship is a stormy one, the likelihood of marriage calming the wind and smoothing the crashing waves is slim and none! Marriage always strains a relationship because two wills must be blended into one, in order that it work as it must for both to be happy, content, and fulfilled. Unrealistic expectations and love spelled L U S T are the two main culprits behind failed marriages. Look long and hard before you take the plunge, because there may not be any water in the pool.
If you have been born again and received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
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