From Marriage to
Has A Remarried
Christian Committed An
1997, Timothy S. Morton, All Rights Reserved
quotations and references are from the
is not yet available in a printed version. All questions or comments
be directed to Morton Publications, 2101 Morton Road, Sutton, WV 26601
or the author, Timothy S.
Should A Christian Marry?
Act of Marriage
"Commitments" "Betrothed" and
"The Cause Of
Her Husband Be Dead" "If The
"The Husband Of One Wife" A
Marriage to Remarriage
The subjects of
marriage, divorce, and remarriage are some of the most
contentious and controversial subjects among Fundamentalists today.
are such hotly disputed topics that some of the brethren will
themselves from others who hold even a slightly different view. Some
a rather generous position and condone divorce and remarriage for more
reasons than the Scriptures allow, while others are so strict and
they will not permit a man who has been divorced or remarried under any
circumstances to have any type of ministry. His divorce and remarriage
are for all practical purposes unpardonable. In this study we will try
to find what the Scriptures alone (AV 1611) say about these matters
from any bias for or against so-called "traditional" or "historic"
a duty to search and be true to the Scriptures (Acts
17:11) as his absolute, final
authority for ALL matters
of what may be popular or considered "accepted teaching" among his
believers. The author very well realizes the position promoted in this
booklet is not the commonly accepted teaching on this subject and many
will reject it for this reason. But, again, every Christian's duty is
God and his word and not to a preconceived bias no matter how
it sounds. Early in his ministry the author naively accepted several
Fundamentalist doctrines as his own because he admired the men,
or schools that promoted them, but he later had to renounce some of
teachings because he found the Scriptures simply didn't support them.
issue of what the Bible says about marriage and divorce is one of those
doctrines. We challenge the reader to consider the position presented
and see if it is consistent with the Scriptures.
Should A Christian Marry?
Before we look at
what the Bible says about marriage, divorce, and remarriage,
we should first realize that the Scriptures recommend a Christian not
at all if he can avoid it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:1 "...it is
good for a man not to touch a woman...," that is, touch her in the
marriage sense. He goes on to say in verse seven, "For I would that
all men were even as myself (single). But every man hath his proper
gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that." In verse
8 he continues, "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is
good for them if they abide even as I" (single). In verse 20 he says,
"Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called,"
that is, if he was called (saved) when he was unmarried, let him remain
unmarried. In verse 27 he is very clear, "...Art thou loosed from a
wife? seek not a wife." (See also verses 24, 28, 35, 38.)
What Paul says in
Corinthians 7 just attests to what the Lord says
in Matthew 19:11-12, "But he said unto them, All men cannot receive
this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs,
which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some
which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made
eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive
let him receive it." A "eunuch" is a man who is physically unable
or simply unwilling to marry in the biblical sense. Christ said this in
response to the disciples statement, "...it is good not to marry"
So the first
recommendation and admonition of the Lord is for an unmarried
Christian NOT to marry. This should be clear. The reason is an
person is less likely to be encumbered with the cares of the world,
he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he
may please his wife" (1 Cor. 7:33), and to "spare" him "trouble
in the flesh" (1 Cor. 7:28).
who feel they need to marry and are unduly burdened
by not having a spouse, the Bible makes an allowance for them and says
in 1 Corinthians 7:9, "But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for
it is better to marry than to burn." The Bible is very practical; it
knows some Christians would be greatly burdened and unduly tempted to
if they couldn't marry. Verse 2 says, "Nevertheless, to avoid
let every man have his own wife...." So before we even get into what
constitutes the act of marriage, we need to realize that the first will
of God in this matter is a believer stay single, but if he can't bear
it is perfectly proper and even "honorable" (Heb. 13:4) to marry,
"But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned" (1 Cor. 7:28).
The Act of Marriage
Most people in
America when they think of a man and woman getting married
envision a ceremony where the two people stand before a minister or
official, make vows to each other (and sometimes to God), exchange
the man kisses the bride, and then the minister pronounces them husband
and wife. After this they are considered married—the ceremony
act. But what does the Bible say is the act? It is understandable why
Americans, Christian or not, think the ceremony or vow is the act of
because American culture and law leads them to that conclusion. But a
or vow is not the act of marriage in the Bible. In fact, in the Bible
can be married apart from any ceremony, vows, minister, rings, ritual,
commitment, or even love. The Scriptures are clear: the ACT of marriage
is solely a PHYSICAL act.
That the essence
act of marriage is the physical union of the two
parties should be an indisputable fact to any believer who believes the
Scriptures as they stand. The matter is so clearly presented in the
that one would have to be highly prejudiced and biased against it not
see it. The idea that the essence of marriage is a vow or ceremony is
a Roman Catholic
idea. Catholics believe marriage is one of the
sacraments the church can grant to a couple. And since they believe the
church can grant a marriage, they also believe it can annul one. Since
to them the act of marriage is a decree of the church and not the
union of the man and woman, the church can easily dissolve a marriage
if it never existed by simply decreeing it. As unbiblical as this
is, many Fundamentalists have been swept away by tradition and agree
the Catholics in insisting the act of marriage is essentially a
ceremony God uses to join a man to his wife.
of a marriage in the Bible is, of course, the union
of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:23-24 Adam makes a prophetic statement:
Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she
be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a
leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and
shall be one flesh." Adam says a man is to leave his father and mother
(Adam had neither in the common sense) and cleave unto his wife, and
would make them "one flesh." Ephesians 5:28-29 states that the one
flesh is the man's flesh: "So ought men to love their wives as their own
He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever
yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the
Lord the church."
So, from the very
beginning it is clear God declares the defining act
of marriage as the physical
union. There is no vow,
ritual even hinted. Nearly all marriages in the Bible would be today
"common law" marriages. The two parties simply agree to live together
man and wife and join as "one flesh." According to the World
Book Encyclopedia, some states
still recognize common law marriage
as a valid, legal marriage and treat the couple as "husband and wife"
from any ceremony or "vows." Throughout history, and in nearly every
the physical union of a man and woman has been considered the act of
which shows the act of marriage is physical is the account
of Abram and Hagar in Genesis 16:3-4: "And Sarai Abram's wife took
her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of
and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. And he went in unto
and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her
was despised in her eyes." Here Sarai simply gives Hagar to Abram to
be his wife and Hagar becomes such when Abram "went in unto" her.
No vow, no ceremony, not even any love or affection is mentioned or
but nonetheless, the physical union made Hagar Abram's wife.
Isaac and Rebekah
are another example. Genesis 24:67 says, "And Isaac
brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she
his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's
death." After Isaac took Rebekah into his mother's tent, she became
his wife. No vows, ceremony, giving away the bride, etc., they simply
together and became husband and wife.
Genesis 38:8 is
clear on what constitutes marriage. Here, Judah
tells his son Onan to "Go in unto thy brothers wife and MARRY her...."
How much plainer could it be? The going in unto her is the marriage! No
vow or anything else is hinted or implied.
Probably the most
obvious passage showing the act of marriage as the
physical union is the account of Jacob and Leah in Genesis 29:23-28,
it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and
her to him; and he went in unto her. And Laban gave unto his daughter
Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. And it came to pass, that in the
behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done
unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou
beguiled me? And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to
give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfill her week, and we will
thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven
other years. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him
Rachel his daughter to wife also."
Even if Jacob did
make a vow in marriage he would have made it to Rachel,
not Leah. But Leah is the one he was deceived into marrying. If Jacob
have discovered "it was Leah" before he "went in unto her,"
he would not have been married; but he didn't discover that until after
he was married. Nevertheless, since he did go in unto her, all of the
involved knew they were married (notice the "also" in vs. 28). So
one can be married in the Biblical sense even if he is deceived into
This proves beyond any doubt that the act and essence of marriage is
Jacob went "in unto" Rachel's handmaid, Bilhah,
he married her (Gen. 30:3-4). The same is true with Leah's handmaid,
(Gen. 30:9). Jacob likely didn't consider these two handmaids wives in
the same sense as Leah and Rachel, (he may have considered them concubines.
A concubine is a "secondary wife") but, nevertheless, morally and
they were his wives. Deuteronomy 21:13 is another passage that clearly
shows marriage is physical, "...and after that thou shalt go in unto
her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife." See also
also, clearly states the act of marriage is the physical
union. Paul bluntly says when a man goes in unto a harlot he
marries her, "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?
shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of
harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an
is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is
unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man
is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against
his own body" (1 Cor. 6:15-18).
Who could miss
The man and the harlot are "one flesh" just
like Adam and Eve were in the garden. This is why Paul says one is to
fornication." If a man is already married and fornicates with a harlot,
he is sinning against his own body—his wife. And if he is not
he still sins against his body because he has no intention of remaining
with the harlot and treating her as a wife even though he has in
married her and made his body "members" with hers. The thought that
a man would make a marriage vow to a harlot is absurd. The whole
of whoredom or harlotry is based on the assumption that a man can go in
unto one with "no commitments." Judah, one of Jacob's sons, thought his
daughter-in-law, Tamar, was a harlot, and he "came in unto her, and
she conceived by him" (Gen. 38:18). One of the sons born, Pharez, was
an ancestor of Jesus Christ (vs. 29).
In Matthew 19:4-6
Christ Himself says the two become man and wife when
they become "one flesh," "And he answered and said unto them, Have ye
not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall
cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?" Paul again
says the same in Ephesians 5:31, "For this cause shall a man leave his
father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two
be one flesh." The facts are indisputable, the act of marriage is the
physical union of a man and woman where they become "one body" and
"one flesh" and whether there is or isn't a vow,
engagement, exchange of rings, etc.,
Now as soon as we
say this we know some will jump to conclusions and
ask, "Do you mean to say that a Christian who marries doesn't have to
a license or go through a ceremony?" No, this is not what we are saying
at all. What we are trying to make clear is what constitutes the
act of marriage in God's eyes as found in the Scriptures, not what is
for one to be married under state or governmental law. A Christian is
obey the laws of the land (Rom. 13:1-5) and live honestly, openly, and
above reproach before all men (2 Cor. 8:21). Thus he is to go through
legal ceremony of marriage so no one can bring an accusation against
(1 Tim. 3:7), but the ceremony is only a marriage in the eyes of the
In some countries
and among some peoples (the Eskimos, for example)
yet today there is still no accepted, standard
The man just takes the woman as his wife and they come together as such
and are considered married by their peers. Those who insist marriage is
a vow or ceremony have a hard time explaining marriage in cultures
they have neither. The Bible, however, has no problem, it simply says
is when they become "one flesh."
"Vows" and "Commitments"
Those who insist
marriage is a ceremony claim the physical union is not
a marriage since no marriage "vow" or commitment was made. But as we
seen, in the Bible one can be married apart from any vow, commitment,
even love. Biblically, a couple can be married without "vows," or they
can make vows and not be fully married. Those who say otherwise have
a foreign concept of marriage at the expense of the Scriptures. Nowhere
in the Scriptures is a "vow" ever linked with marriage. The term "vow,"
or forms of it, is found in 68 verses and not one time is it associated
with marriage. When these facts are presented to one of these
the author has found they often become very insecure. They realize,
to what they have been taught, the Bible doesn't support their
The Scriptures have torn down the basis of their entire belief system
This is not to
person is not obligated to keep a vow or promise
made before the Lord whether it concerns marriage or anything else
30), but only that vows are not the essence of marriage. Of course,
is an implied commitment between a couple when they by mutual consent
come together as husband and wife. By doing so they have made a
with each other that they will live as such ("wife of thy covenant,"
Mal 2:14). Most will agree a loving, sacrificial commitment of both
is essential for a marriage to be fruitful and lasting, but, again,
commitment is not what actually caused the marriage. In the Bible if a
man "slept with" a woman, in essence marrying her, he was expected and
required to continue
the marriage by making a public covenant or
commitment to her (Deut. 22:28-29). In short, a commitment or covenant
may continue or make a marriage last, but it is not the initial cause
one. Those today who "put the cart before the horse" by treating the
or covenant as the act of marriage fail to realize they are
and weakening the very concept of marriage with their position.
the marriage, then anytime those vows are broken
the marriage is dissolved. Furthermore, there are no standard "wedding
vows" for those who even make them. The Bible sure doesn't list any.
ceremonies vary considerably in the United States (not to mention other
countries) and many today even write their own vows. Does this mean the
marriage stands or falls on whether the particular vows in a given
are broken, no matter how vague or "anemic" they may be? Some wedding
with "prenuptial agreements" and self-written vows express very little
if any true marital commitment on either party and only reflect a
of the "traditional vows." Does this mean if they have nonspecific
differences, "or break their self-made vows, that this is grounds for
Maybe with today's twisted mentality it is grounds, but not according
the Scriptures. But if vows are the marriage, this reasoning must be
The modern no-fault divorce is a fruit of this mentality. Until the
1970s, in most states legitimate grounds had to be proven in court
a divorce could be granted.
On the other
what about the Fundamentalist Christians who make
the traditional vows to each other, promising to "love, honor, and
until death do you part," etc.? Are they always consistent with their
The author has heard men who have been married several years boast of
they kept their vows to their wives, but have they really? Have they
loved their wives as a Christian is commanded to (as Christ loved the
Eph. 5:25) since the day they made their vows? Have they without
honored and cherished their bride in every way as Christ honors and
the church? Any honest man (or woman) will admit there have been times
he has not met this high ideal and has been less than loving or
towards his wife, thus admitting he has broken his vows. As with any
or covenant, if one party breaks their part the other party is no
obligated to keep theirs. Therefore, if vows are the marriage, then
men's wives have legitimate grounds to divorce them.
promote the marriage-is-a-ceremony view have not
considered the implications and inconsistencies their position brings.
With the scriptural view, however, all the complications vanish. Since
a vow or ceremony doesn't constitute the act of marriage, neither can
breaking of a vow, in itself, dissolve it. The Bible allows three
for the breaking of a marriage; they will be examined in the next
It appears one
reason the Bible definition of marriage is so repulsive
to some people is believing it causes them to contradict what they have
taught in the past. For instance: if the physical union is the act of
then all the "affairs," "rendezvous," "carousing," "sowing wild oats,"
etc., some of them have done in the past (whether saved or not) were
And if marriages, then by their own teachings on marriage
and divorce they have condemned
themselves as "perpetual
They conveniently protect themselves, though, by insisting fornication
and adultery are not marriages in any sense and hide behind the flimsy
excuse they have gone through only one ceremony.
though, will reject a man for Christian service who
has never committed fornication and was true to his wife but remarries
after his first wife commits adultery and/or leaves him. He remained
but has had two ceremonies.
They, however, may have fornicated with
a dozen different women, but since they have only gone through one
they remain "qualified" for Christian service. They reason fornication
and adultery can be forgiven as long as they have only one marriage
but a second ceremony cannot. This is at the least gross ignorance of
Scriptures, or at the most gross hypocrisy. It reminds one of Christ's
words, "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel"
Some of the most
extreme of them will insist a man is not qualified
for any ministry if he or his
wife was divorced and remarried
either was saved! Yet the "indiscretions" some of them have committed
only fall short of marriage in the modern sense) are of no consequence.
They claim the blood of Christ has cleansed them. What hypocrisy! What
legalistic, Pharisaical "paper-counters"! No wonder some leading
won't allow the physical union to be the act of marriage, because if
do, they condemn themselves (or their buddies) with their own
In essence they
saying "If any man be in Christ, he is a new
creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become
(2 Cor. 5:17) except for the "unpardonable sins" of divorce and
These a believer carries over from his past and becomes in their eyes
unforgiven, "perpetual adulterer"—unfit to preach, minister,
and in some
cases even join a church! They act
(though they won't say
it) as if the blood of Christ that cleansed them cannot purge away
two "heinous sins." This pious attitude often leaves their divorced
feeling like tainted, second-class Christians. Unfortunately, by
a sacramental, Catholic mentality, many Fundamentalists have
become bigoted, legalistic, unforgiving Pharisees (Mark 7:8-9).
"Betrothed" and "Espoused"
Before we end this
section on marriage, we need to look at betrothal or
espousal. There are some "interpretations" floating around in
on this subject in relation to marriage that the Bible doesn't support.
To be "espoused" or "betrothed" is very much like the contemporary
term to be "engaged." "Betrothed" means "engaged to be married,"
and "espouse(d)" is defined as "to take as a spouse." In the Bible
these terms refer to a contractual agreement between a man and woman
their families) that they intend to become husband and wife. Some teach
that Deuteronomy 24:1-4 refers to people who were only betrothed and
not yet come together, but look at verse 1, "When a man HATH TAKEN a
wife, and MARRIED HER, and it come to pass...." Obviously, the two
are fully married. The man "hath taken" her, "married her," and
lived with her for a while ("and it come to pass"). To say otherwise
is to "wrest the scriptures" to support a pet teaching. Both the
Pharisees and the disciples knew this passage referred to truly married
people (Matt. 19:3, 10).
Some will point
how Joseph and Mary were called "husband"
and "wife" in Matthew 1 before they came together, but the Bible
is only speaking of them in an espousal or betrothal sense, not as
married. They were promised to each other as husband and wife, and only
in that sense could they be referred to as such. Remember how Jacob
Laban "Give me my wife" (Gen. 29:21), that is, Rachel? But she really
wasn't his wife, it turned out to be Leah. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 speaks
of this also, "If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an
he hath humbled his neighbor's wife...." Notice the "betrothed"
"damsel" is a "virgin," she is not yet married. Since she is
"betrothed unto a husband," she is considered "his...wife,"
even though they are not yet married. As we have seen, to marry, a man
must "go in unto" his wife (Gen. 38:8). Concerning the way the Bible
uses terms, it even speaks of a dead man being a "husband" (Deut.
25:5). By no means, however, is the woman still married to a corpse.
Scriptures often speak this way. So in the Bible a betrothed or
couple may be referred to as husband and wife before they are actually
married. Today, we often say "husband-to-be" or "wife-to-be" in
to similar circumstances.
What About Divorce?
Since the essence
marriage is flesh joining flesh as we have seen,
the essence of divorce is simply when flesh leaves flesh with no
of returning. As any good dictionary will tell, the basic meaning of
is a "separation or disunion."
These matters are not nearly as difficult
as many make them out to be. The modern notion that divorce doesn't
until there is a decree from a court is only valid in the civil, legal
sense. The real divorce occurs before the papers are ever signed.
we need to understand and emphasize that the Bible
doesn't in any way recommend or encourage divorce. In fact, God says He
"hateth putting away" (Mal. 2:16). The Scriptures basically allow
for it to keep a greater evil from happening, and then, only under
circumstances. Divorce (and the problems that cause it) is a tragic and
terrible thing. It divides a home and family, alienates people,
children, and often adversely affects the relatives and friends of both
parties. But as terrible as it is, under certain circumstances divorce
can be preffered as the lesser of evils.
Though He hates
divorce, the Lord at one time even divorced His Wife—Israel.
In a sense the Lord was married to Israel (Jer. 3:14, 20), but after
broke the covenant God made with them (Ex. 19:5-8) by committing
with idols, God put her away with a bill of divorcement (Jer. 30:8). So
even though divorce is hated and discouraged by the Lord, there is a
for it when scriptural grounds are met—as the Lord's dealings
In the Old
the allowance for divorce was very generous ("because
of the hardness of your [man's] hearts"), and a man could put
away his wife for practically any reason, "When a man hath taken a
and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his
because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a
bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his
And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another
wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of
and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the
latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband,
which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that
she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt
not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an
(Deut. 24:1-4). The man only had to find some unspecified "uncleanness"
in her to put her away, and both were free to remarry. However if the
did remarry, she could not again marry her "former husband" even
if the "latter husband" died.
A good example of
marriage and divorce in essence can be found in
2 Samuel 13 with the account of Amnon and Tamar. Amnon thought he loved
his half-sister Tamar and said to her, "Come lie with me, my sister"
(vs. 11). Once Tamar understood his intentions, she told him to ask
father, David, and he would likely give her to him making the marriage
somewhat legal and proper (vs. 13, the marriage was actually unlawful
18:9]). But Amnon, driven only by his lusts, refused and "forced"
his sister—in essence marrying her (vs. 14).
22:28-29, if a man lies with an unbetrothed virgin,
he is to pay her father fifty shekels of silver; thus publicly
her as his wife. Furthermore, because he humbled her without going
the proper procedure of marriage, he could never lawfully divorce her.
But Amnon had no desire for the law and put Tamar away as quickly as he
took her (vs. 15). Tamar protested knowing that if he put her out
her), she would be ruined because she was no longer a virgin and could
not be legally divorced. She rightly says the divorce is a greater sin
than the rape (marriage, vs. 16), but Amnon put her away nevertheless
17). Though not a legal marriage and divorce in the modern sense, Amnon
and Tamar were morally and biblically married and divorced in one day.
Again, marriage is when flesh joins flesh; divorce is when flesh
In the New
Testament, however, grounds for divorce are not so generous.
Though there are several passages in the gospels where Christ mentions
divorce, the definitive passage is Matthew 19:1-9. Some will quote one
of the other passages where the Lord doesn't mention any grounds for
(Mk. 10:11-12; Luke 16:18;) and insist there are no grounds. But this
Christ to contradict himself in Matthew 19 where He does mention
None of the other passages add anything to what is recorded in Matthew
19, so this is the passage we will concentrate on.
The Pharisees on
previous occasions had heard Christ make statements
about divorce that were contrary to what they believed about the law of
Moses (Matt. 5:31-32; Mk. 10:11-12; Luke 16:18). Christ would purposely
make these blunt, incomplete statements in the hearing of the Pharisees
(Matt. 5:20; Luke 16:14) because He knew they were heavily abusing the
allowance for divorce God had granted, thus making light of marriage.
would flatly tell them words like "Whosoever putteth away his wife,
and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her
is put away from her husband committeth adultery" (Luke 16:18) without
mentioning any grounds for divorce because he knew their hearts (Jn.
and guilt (Matt. 5:28).
on this is the account of the woman taken in adultery
in John 8. Here, the Pharisees bring before Christ a woman they claim
taken in adultery, in the very act" (vs. 4), and bring up Moses's law
saying "that such should be stoned" (vs. 5). But Christ, knowing
their hearts and guilt in this area, did an amazing thing, He "stooped
down, and with his finger wrote on the ground..." (vs 6). Now, what
did he write? Though the Scriptures do not say, it would not be
to believe he wrote the passage from Moses's law that was pertinent to
the situation—Leviticus 20:10, "And the man that committeth
with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his
wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."
This verse plainly says that the "adulterer and the adulteress shall
surely be put to death." If the Pharisees caught the woman in the "very
act," how could they not catch the man?
was one of them and all of the others were guilty
of the same because when Christ said "He that is without sin (the sin
of adultery) among you let him first cast a stone at her" (vs. 7),
they were "convicted by their own conscience" and "went out one
by one." Since the woman now had no accusers, the law could not condemn
her and the Lord let her go with a warning. The point we want to
here, however, is many of the Pharisees were guilty of taking the
of marriage much too lightly, abusing the allowance for divorce, and
adultery. This is the reason for Christ's sharp, blunt, but also
statements about divorce. Again, the definitive passage is Matthew 19
Christ's statements are complete.
"The Cause Of Fornication"
Christ made about divorce caused the Pharisees to tempt
Him with questions. In Matthew 19:3 the question they ask is not if one
could be divorced at all, but "Is it lawful for a man to put away his
wife for EVERY CAUSE." That is, can a man divorce his wife for any
reason as the law of Moses indicates. Christ replies with a rebuke by
"Have ye not read..." (vs. 3) and then answers with Scripture, "And
he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made
at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause
a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they
shall be one flesh?" (vs. 4-5). He refers them to the marriage of Adam
and Eve before the fall and again declares marriage as a physical act.
In verse 6 Christ
continues by saying, "they are no more twain, but
one flesh," and then makes a statement that has been the basis of much
confusion and debate ever since, "What therefore God hath joined
let not man put asunder." Remember, the context of these words is with
the prophetic statement of Adam found in Genesis 2:24. Adam was not
speaking for himself when he said this, he was mainly speaking of
itself as an institution. Some will insist that "What therefore God
hath joined together..." refers to God in some mystical manner
and permanently joining a couple who make "vows" at an altar and come
in marriage, but this view has some problems and inconsistencies.
in the Bible does God "join" two lost people in
marriage? Unsaved people are "dead," "lost," and "without hope
and without God" yet God "joins" them together as husband and wife?
Hardly. Sure, their marriage is a valid marriage since flesh has joined
flesh, but where do the Scriptures say God is the one who joined them?
How about a saved person marrying a lost person? Does God join them
after He forbids the union (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14-18)? They have
to join themselves in an institution God has established, but to say
is the one who is actually joining them is really stretching the verse.
What Christ is referring to in verse 6 is the institution of marriage
the beginning—the joining of man (Adam) and woman (Eve) in
the bond of
marriage—not to every individual case of marriage since then.
If the verse
refers to individual cases today, then Christ contradicts Himself in
9 for there He says a "man" CAN "put asunder" his wife!
Verse 6 speaks of
the innocent state of man before the fall and thus
of an ideal marriage situation. God never desired, planned, or
anything about divorce while Adam was in this state, but since his
He now allows for it in certain situations as apparently the lesser of
evils. Of course, no man (or woman) should "put asunder" any marriage
if it can be salvaged, but this verse speaks of an ideal marriage "in
the beginning..." (vs. 8), and God knows man has since become much
less than "ideal." This is why He has made allowances for divorce.
In verse 7 the
Pharisees understand that Christ was saying God never
originally intended for a couple to divorce, so they say trying to
and trap Him, "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of
and to put her away?" They are trying to make Christ's words contradict
Moses'. Christ replies, "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts
suffered you to put away your wives:" and then adds, "but from the
beginning it was not so." God, through the law of Moses, "suffered"
a man to put away his wife because since "the beginning" the fall
occurred where man became a sinner and acquired an evil nature. This
in man's nature made him incapable of always adhering to the ideal
of marriage before the fall, thus God allowed divorce to keep a worse
from happening if the husband and wife were forced to stay together.
knows the stubbornness of man and the hardness of his heart (Jer. 17:9;
Acts 7:51) and also that if he grew to "hate" (Deut. 24:3) his wife,
it was best for them to separate than risk the physical harm or death
either. So, even though "from the beginning [divorce] was not so,"
and God never originally intended for a man to "put asunder" any
He does allow for it today "because of the hardness of [man's] heart."
In verse 9 Christ
greatly restricts Moses's allowance of initiating
a divorce down to only one ground—fornication, "And I say
Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and
marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put
away doth commit adultery." He says man should no longer "put away"
his wife for "every cause" but only "for fornication." So
"fornication" is the only ground which a believer can initiate divorce
proceedings. The believer actually doesn't cause the divorce because
spouse must fornicate with another before the believer can scripturally
put her away. Thus the fornicator causes the divorce by joining to
from her husband in the process. In this case the one innocent of
can initiate divorce proceedings even if the fornicator wants to remain
allow a man (or woman) to "put away" his
wife because of fornication, however, doesn't mean he has to do it. The
best thing to do would be to forgive the offending spouse and receive
back (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13), but if he believes that would only make
worse or cause undue strife, contention, hatred, violence, and other
feelings, he can put her away. If he puts her away for any other reason
and remarries, he commits adultery, but if he remarries because she was
put away because of fornication, he doesn't commit adultery (we will
more with remarriage in the next chapter). The exception to the
being adultery is fornication. Read the verse carefully. Remarriage is
in the context.
On the other
the passage indicates a man who marries a woman who
was scripturally put away because she committed fornication also
adultery. The reason is he is marrying someone who is already guilty of
fornication and was "put away" for it. They become "one flesh"
and consequently share the guilt. If a man unscripturally puts away his
wife, many today will insist the woman, who has NOT committed
can't remarry without her and her new husband both committing adultery
and use this verse as a "proof text," but Christ is here referring to
the guilty party in both cases. The man who remarries after causing an
unscriptural divorce is an adulterer and his new wife an adulteress,
the guilty woman who was put away because of fornication commits
with the one she marries. Only the guilty are considered adulterers or
adulteresses; the innocent are not "under bondage" (1 Cor. 7:15).
When a woman who
unscripturally been put away remarries, she is
no adulteress because she has been essentially deserted by her husband
(we will examine "desertion" shortly), but when the man who put her
remarries, he commits adultery. God only condemns the guilty; the
(innocent as far as grounds for divorce are concerned) are not guilty
24:16; Matt 12:7).
"If Her Husband Be Dead"
found in the Bible is one people today don't usually think
of as a divorce, but it is nonetheless, that is, death. Since divorce
when flesh permanently leaves flesh, then death is clearly a divorce.
we mentioned, any good dictionary will show that the term divorce
means to sever or separate. The Merriam Webster Collegiate, Tenth
defines it as "the action or
an instance of legally dissolving a marriage"
and also as "separation; severance."
The Webster's New International
Dictionary (1927) adds "To
dissolve a (marriage or union)".
death is the ultimate of physical separation, it is a divorce under all
these definitions. Clearly, when one's spouse dies the two are no
married because of the legal separation (divorce) of death.
nearly all will agree after one's spouse dies he is free to remarry
The Bible also is
clear that death dissolves a marriage, leaving the
one remaining free to remarry (1 Cor. 7:39). If the spouse still alive
has not been divorced by death from his wife and is still in some way
to his dead companion, then he couldn't remarry without being an
and a bigamist! Divorce is anything that dissolves a marriage, and if
doesn't dissolve a marriage, what else could? Many who believe marriage
is a vow have trouble realizing death in a marriage is a divorce
they believe vows must be broken before a divorce can occur, but the
of the words as well as the Scriptures insist that it is.
In relation to
one of the most heavily abused passages of Scripture
by some Fundamentalists dealing with death in a marriage is Romans
"Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how
that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the
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
So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man,
shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free
from that law; so then she is no adulteress, though she be married to
man." Some will "interpret" this passage to the point it is nearly
unrecognizable and teach it says things it clearly doesn't say.
If we were to
this passage as many of the brethren treat it, it
would read something like: "For the woman which had
a husband she
was once married to but now divorced from,
is bound by the law to her former
husband as long as he liveth; but if her former
be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while
husband liveth, she be married to another man, she is called
an adulteress: but if her former
husband be dead, she is free from
These people read
divorce into the passage that is simply not there.
Notice the tense of the word "hath," it is present tense! "The
woman which HATH a husband...," that is, the husband she is married
to at the present time, not a former husband she is divorced from. The
only divorce mentioned is that of death ("loosed"). There is no
indication the woman was ever divorced or that she was ever married
Those who insist the "husband" is a former, divorced husband are
so biased in their opinions that they will wrest and sacrifice the
of this passage to protect their treasured position that a divorced
cannot remarry until their former spouse dies. But anyone who reads the
passage objectively will see that it says no such thing. If the woman
marry another man while still married to her present husband, she would
be both an adulteress and a bigamist, but it says nothing about her
so if she had a former
From the way
sacramentalists interpret this passage, they are
saying even though a person can be divorced, they are actually still
to their former spouse as long as they are alive! They believe a person
can be divorced from and yet still married to the same person at the
time! This is inconsistent, irrational, and a contradiction in terms.
every sense and definition a "former husband" (Deut. 24:4) is not
a present husband. "Former" means, "having
been previously: onetime,"
it clearly refers to the past. The Bible doesn't talk the way these
talk. Notice in John 4:18 how the Lord tells the woman at the well
"thou hast had
five husbands." He doesn't say she presently HAS five
husbands. What these legalists can't seem to understand is that a
or "ex" spouse is not a present spouse. When people are divorced they
simply no longer married, neither from the Bible's standpoint or the
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is very clear on this. It speaks of "latter husband"
and "former husband" and doesn't confuse the two.
believe divorced people are still "joined together
by God" because of their vows, some have concluded a person who has
divorced and remarried should leave
his present spouse and return to
his former before he can "be
right with God." This is completely ridiculous.
Even in the Old Testament where divorce and remarriage was permitted
basically any reason, a person was forbidden to go back to his former
if he remarried. These legalists, with their codes, standards, and
of men," in the name of keeping the Scriptures have reasoned themselves
into breaking it.
Can you imagine
scene if these men applied this "teaching" to themselves
concerning the truth about the act of marriage? They would have to
their present wives and return and remarry (publicaly) the first woman
they "slept with"! See the problems man-made traditions get one into?
fellows have trapped themselves in a logic-tight belief system that
little room for escape. Furthermore, some of them will never concede
physical union is the act of marriage because of the price; it is much
more than their egos are willing to pay.
Paul is not
about divorce and remarriage in Romans 7, anyway.
He is using death in a marriage as a picture of how a believer in
is dead to and free from the law. He is giving an illustration from the
law to those who "know the law." So to understand what Paul is saying
one has to have some knowledge of what the law says.
If one takes the
passage as it stands and believes what he reads, the
correct reading will be, "For the woman which hath an husband (present
tense, married to a man now) is bound by the law to her husband
(the man she is now married to) so long as he liveth; but if the
(her present husband) be dead, she is loosed (divorced, separated)
from the law of her husband (and she is free to remarry). So
then if, while her husband liveth (her present husband, not a former,
divorced husband), she be married to another man, she shall be called
an adulteress...." Unless someone has an ulterior motive or is biased
to a prejudiced "opinion," this passage is clear as crystal.
"If The Unbelieving Depart"
The third and final
grounds for divorce is found in 1 Cor. 7. As mentioned
earlier, this chapter highly recommends that a single Christian not
(vs. 1, 7, 8, 11, 20, 27, etc.), but it also deals with marriage and
of its problems. In verses 10-11 we find a principle that is used
times in the Bible: the Lord's directive and desired will is listed
but an allowed, permissive action is addressed second. In verse 10 Paul
says, "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let
not the wife depart from her husband" It is not God's desire that the
woman depart from her husband. But verse 11 continues with, "But and
if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her
and let not the husband put away his wife." The Lord very well realizes
that man (including Christians) is not always capable of living up to
ideal concept of marriage ("because of the hardness of your hearts"),
so instead of ignoring his weaknesses, He addresses it. His perfect
and will are not intended to destroy people, the law was made for man
man for the law (Matt. 12:1-8).
In verse 12 Paul
continues his discourse with, "But to the rest speak
I, not the Lord...," which leads some to believe that the following
verses are only Paul's opinion and not the will or words of the Lord.
all of Paul's words, here, and in the rest of the Bible are "scripture"
and "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. 3:16).
At the time Paul said these words he had no direct statement from the
dealing with the circumstances he was addressing, so he wrote what he
the Lord's will would be. Since these words are recorded in the
this proves that they are God's very words.
Verses 12-15 deal
with a Christian being married to an unbeliever, "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 an
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
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
hath called us to peace." Clearly, a Christian is not to initiate a
divorce with his lost spouse just because she is lost. If "she be
to dwell with him" he is to remain with her.
One reason is the
unbeliever is "sanctified" by being married
to a believer, and their children are in a sense "holy" by having
a Christian parent. This doesn't mean that unbelievers are saved by
being related to a believer, but that they are "set apart" to the
and the Lord through an immediate relative who is a Christian. Paul
it for granted that a believer will influence his lost family members
the Lord, so every believer is to remain with his lost spouse in the
of saving her, "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save
thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy
In verse 15,
however, we come across another "But." The Lord
knows in some "unequally yoked" marriage situations the unbeliever will
not be content to remain married to a believer and will break the
In cases like this the believer is simply to "let him depart." No
individual can guarantee another's actions and neither can they force
to do what they want or what is even right. Every individual, whether
or not, has a free will, so a believer cannot force his spouse to stay
in a marriage if she is determined to go. Again, the Scriptures say
him depart." The believer is not "bound" in such a marriage. In some
cases if the believer insisted to stay with the unbeliever and followed
him when he departed, violence may result; but "God hath called us to
peace." Strife, contention, and violence are not conducive to peace,
so "let him depart." Though by no means God's desire "from the
beginning," it will likely be best for all concerned if he (or she)
The Bible often
refers to married people as being "bound" (Rom.
7:2; 1 Cor. 7:27, 39) or in "bondage" (vs. 15) and divorced people
as "free" (Rom. 7:3) or "loosed" (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:27),
so it is only reasonable to conclude that in a chapter that deals with
marriage, the "bondage" of verse 15 is the bondage of marriage.
Therefore, when an unbeliever departs a divorce occurs and the
believer is no longer bound in the marriage. They are simply no longer
married. The unbeliever deserts his wife, causing a divorce, leaving
believer no longer "under bondage." Thus the third legitimate
divorce is desertion.
desertion does not only occur in lost/saved marriages,
they also occur when both parties claim to be saved. Though the
don't address two Christians divorcing (unless verses 10-11 do), when
do at least one of them is acting like an unbeliever. If a backslidden
believer deserts a more spiritual believing spouse, how is the more
to stop him? Again, a person cannot control another's actions. Though
above all, should be able to work out all their problems with the
help, if one is determined to leave, divorcing his spouse, how can the
spouse stop him? "God hath called us to peace." Desertion is desertion
whether the one who leaves is a believer or not, so it is only
that verse 15 applies in these situations also. The same can be said of
fornication. Though it should be unthinkable that a Christian would
fornication against the Lord and his spouse, if he does his spouse has
grounds for divorce.
From the passages
listed above, it should be clear to any believer that
the Bible gives three grounds of legal, scriptural divorce.
as found in Matthew 5 and 19; death
as seen in Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians
7; and desertion
found also in 1 Corinthians 7. The Scriptures mention
no more or less for a New Testament believer. Furthermore, in every
of divorce, the two parties are no longer bound to each other in any
sense. Notice in 1 Corinthians 7:11 how the woman who leaves (divorces)
her husband is considered "unmarried." Some who adhere to the legalist
position insist that "unmarried" in verse 8 means "never married,"
but the Bible has a way of correcting biased, "private
The simple fact is when two people are divorced (even if it is
the Bible doesn't treat them as still married in any way. They are both
"unmarried" until they rejoin or marry another.
Now we come
upon the highly controversial topic of remarriage for a
divorced person. As we have seen many who hold the so-called
view" vehemently insist a divorced person should never remarry as long
as his former spouse is alive or else they live in "perpetual
But who ever heard of such a thing as "perpetual adultery" when reading
the Bible? A person may commit an act of adultery, but to commit
adultery he would have to have a different "partner" every time! In an
unscriptural remarriage the first "going in unto her" may be adultery
after that it wouldn't be because with the first time he essentially
her. As we have stated before, the reason the sacramentalists talk like
this is they really believe a man (or woman) is actually still married
to his divorced spouse until death. Remnants of Roman Catholicism. The King
however, says different. For every grounds of
legal, legitimate scriptural divorce one will find a legal, legitimate,
scriptural allowance for remarriage in the context.
In the case of
divorce caused by death, there is no controversy. Practically
all will agree the remaining spouse can remarry, and the Bible says the
same (Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39). The Scriptures also insist, however,
a believer marry "only in the Lord." It is with the remaining two
scriptural divorces that the controversy begins.
mentioned fornication as a grounds for divorce in Matthew
19, He placed a remarriage right in the middle of the verse, "...and
shall marry another...." The man who put his wife away for any reason
other than fornication commits adultery when he remarries. But the flip
side is if he does scripturally put her away because of fornication and
remarries, he doesn't commit adultery. Notice the "except" in the
verse. Fornication is the exception to the remarriage being adultery.
realize the Pharisees ignore the exception and claim that any divorced
person who remarries commits adultery, but we are weary of their
interpretation(s)." Clearly, when a divorce is caused by fornication,
remarriage is in the context.
desertion, one will also find remarriage in the context.
In 1 Cor. 7:11 Paul directs a divorced person to remain "unmarried"
or return to their former spouse. In verses 17-20 he tells the deserted
believer to remain in the "calling wherein he was called." In verse
27 he tells those who are "bound (married) to a wife, seek not
to be loosed (divorced)" and to those "loosed from a wife,
seek not a wife." But in verse 28 Paul says a terrible thing in the
eyes of the legalists, "But and if thou marry, thou hast not
The familiar pattern is obvious: the Lord's gives His directive desire
first, and then His permission for those who can't endure the former.
Scriptures are not near the stickler for legalistic codes as many
day Pharisees are. It allows the innocent party in a divorce to remarry
WITHOUT committing adultery. "But and if thou marry, thou hast NOT
such clear allowances for remarriage as these,
the legalists will sheepishly insist that "loosed" doesn't refer
to a divorced person but only to a "never married" person. Nonsense.
could a person who has never been married be loosed
from the bond
of marriage? These people will without hesitation sacrifice the
their integrity, and common sense to protect their "traditional
They think because "Dr. So-and-so" taught it that way and he is a
godly man," it must be right; so they won't even reconsider their
when the Scriptures indicate otherwise.
means loosed from the bond of marriage, and
for those who have "Greekitis" (habitually going to "the Greek" to
an English word), why don't you look up the last occurrence of "loosed"
in verse 27 in a Greek dictionary? We believe the Authorized
of 1611 is the inerrant word of God in English and don't see any need
consult a dead language God abandoned centuries ago to supposedly
or confirm it; but we realize some reading this booklet may take
in "the Greek," so what does the Greek say here? Strongs says the Greek
word "lusis" (#3080) means, "a
loosing, setting free...of the bond of
marriage, divorce...," and
Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament
Words adds, "...in 1 Cor.
7:27, of divorce, is translated `to be loosed.'"
So in both Greek and English "loosed" in verse 27 is in reference
to a divorce.
But even with
proof, many of these characters still will not concede
to the Scriptures. When confronted with the above some of them will
"Yes, `loosed' does mean "divorced," but the reference to marriage
in verse 28 doesn't refer to the divorced man in verse 27." How biased
and prejudiced can people get? They will believe anything but the text,
and "a text without a context is a pretext." To any rational, objective
person the "thou" of verse 28 corresponds to the "thou(s)"
in verse 27. "But and if THOU marry, thou hast not sinned;" who
is the "thou"? "Art THOU loosed from a wife...." Who could miss
it except someone who is playing word games to circumvent the truth?
addresses the never married "virgin" later
in the verse, "...and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned." All
is obvious, the first part of the verse refers to divorced people
and the next part refers to the never married marrying. He is not
the same thing twice.
Before we leave
examination of remarriage, we need to look at a
passage that has been the cause of much concern to believers who have
through a divorce—Matthew 5:32, "But I say unto you, That
shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth
to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced
adultery." The words "causeth her to commit adultery" are the words
of difficulty. The modern day Pharisees are quick to use this verse to
condemn an innocent, divorced Christian as an adulterer; but as we
earlier, this passage is incomplete in regards to all the Bible says
divorce and remarriage. Again, Christ used blunt but often incomplete
like this to warn the Pharisees and other Jews who were treating
lightly (vs. 5:20), and to convict their hearts of sin.
the verse. In what biblical sense could a man merely
divorcing his wife cause her to commit adultery? Would she not have to
remarry first? The verse says nothing about remarriage. What if the man
died before the woman remarried, would she then be an adulteress? Not
to the "traditional view." To use this verse to condemn the unfortunate
and make them feel dirty, tainted, and unclean if they remarry is
The Bible says believers are to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal.
6:2), but some act like it is their calling to increase a brother's
with Pharisaical rhetoric (Matt. 23:4).
is more to the subject of divorce and remarriage
than this verse says, and also this verse is part of the "Sermon on the
Mount" which is a message to Jews about a Jewish Messiah, who is going
to set up a Jewish kingdom. Verse 32 is no more the last word on
than the "beatitudes" (vs. 1-11) are the last word on the plan of
Look at verse 39 where Christ says "resist not evil." Does this
mean a person is not to "resist the Devil" (James 4:7; 2 Pet. 5:9)
or sin (Heb. 12:4)? Verse 32 has to be read with all the other passages
that deal with divorce just like verse 39 must be read with those that
speak of resisting things. The man could in a sense cause his wife to
adultery if he divorced her unscriptually and she then remarried
like him who also divorced his wife unscriptually. These are the type
abuses Christ was dealing with.
"The Husband Of One Wife"
Another passage we
need to examine is in 1 Timothy 3 where the phrase "the
husband of one wife" is found in connection with "bishop(s)"
and "deacons." More inconsistencies of the legalistic crowd can
easily be seen with their "interpretation" of this phrase. The author
heard several who insist that the phrase "the husband of one wife"
means "married only once." They are very dogmatic on this matter and
it is a "firm conviction" and are certain it doesn't mean anything
They vehemently insist a preacher (the passage only addresses bishops,
however) or deacon must have been married only one time or else he is
qualified for the ministry. When questioned some of them will even go
far as saying, "The passage definitely doesn't mean `to have one wife
a time.'" As the old saying goes, "give a horse enough rope and he will
hang himself," and those who talk like this hang themselves with their
will show that these people are not being honest
or are, at least, ignorant and just repeating what they have been
without studying the subject. Just ask them, "If `the husband of one
wife' means `married only once,' what if the man's wife dies, can he
remarry?" They will say without hesitation something like, "Of course
can remarry, his wife died," completely oblivious to the fact that they
have flatly contradicted themselves. They are either ignorant that they
have contradicted themselves or know it and simply don't care. If a man
for whatever reason, he has been married at least TWICE,
and this clearly violates their "firm conviction" that a "preacher" be
"married only once."
realize the inconsistency but continue in it, we
are familiar with their hypocritical and self-serving tactics. They
the passage to mean "married only once" when it best suits their
and "one wife at a time" when that best suits them. They reason like a
Jesuit Priest "explaining" the inquisition. The phrase can mean one or
the other, but it can't consistently mean both. This, however, means
to the legalists. Their precious position must stand at all costs and
who questions it is branded as liberal.
everything we have examined from the Bible concerning divorce
and remarriage, the phrase "the husband of one wife" can only
mean "one wife at a time." That is, a bishop (as every other Christian)
should have only one wife and be true to her. If he looses his wife by
any of the three Scriptural grounds of divorce, he is free to remarry,
and while remaining true to his present wife, continue his ministry.
is "heresy" to the legalists, but it remains the most sensible and
understanding of the passage. If a man can remarry because of one
divorce (death), why can't he remarry because of the others? There is
biblical reason he can't. To say otherwise is to "...bind (upon
him) heavy burdens and grievous to be borne..." (Matt. 23:4).
qualifications of a bishop or deacon, what honest pastor
or deacon can stand before God, man, or themselves and claim he
ALL the qualifications ALL the time? Not one can. If He wanted to, God
could show ANY man where he has failed or violated ALL of these
at one time or another in either thought, word, or deed. Any honest man
will admit as much. These qualifications speak of the ideal, like "one
man; one woman; for one lifetime" is the ideal. But, again, God knows
is less than ideal and allows men to be pastors who may only have half
of the qualifications. Many good pastors are not very "apt to teach,"
"vigilant," or "sober," etc., and least of all "blameless,"
but God allows them to pastor, and their churches are glad to have
The sad thing,
though, is some of these same pastors God has shown grace
to will not extend grace to a brother they feel has broken the "married
only once" qualification. They will break fellowship with him and claim
he is "not qualified for the ministry" for the rest of his life because
they think he has broken one qualification. However, if the truth were
known about some of them, as they and the Lord know it, they have
some of the qualifications themselves. Some pastors are somewhat
and "covetous," while others are not "patient," "given to hospitality,"
nor do they "ruleth well his own house" or "have a good report
of them which are without." The children of some pastors are anything
but "in subjection with all gravity." But we understand their
the terrible "sins" of divorce and remarriage are unforgivable even if
they occur under scriptural grounds, while their "failings" or
are forgivable even though unscriptural. They remind one of Job's
who self-righteously condemned a brother who is innocent (Job 42:7).
Some of the most
extreme of these legalists will not even allow a "once
married" man to preach or be a deacon if only his
wife has been
married before! He is "the husband of one wife" by even their "married
only once" definition, yet he is still not qualified because they feel
he is in some way "tainted" by being married to a scripturally divorced
woman. Some of the same will not even allow them to join their church.
They consider them "living in adultery." Though this position is
by the overall teaching of the Scriptures, it is, at least, consistent
with their extreme view. If a man is considered an open adulterer, then
he shouldn't be received as a church member until his sin is confessed
and forsaken; but if he isn't considered an adulterer, then why can't
not only become a member but also preach or be a deacon? Many churches
compromise on this issue by allowing a divorced and remarried man to be
a member but refuse him any type of ministry. Others may allow him to
but not to preach. This mentality is inconsistent and compromising.
the man is "qualified" or he isn't. If he isn't he should be rejected
the church (1 Cor. 5:1-8); if he is he shouldn't be barred from a
the Lord has ("without repentance," Rom. 11:29) called him to do.
To all but the
jaded of minds, the Bible is clear; for every one
of the three grounds of scriptural divorce there is an allowance for
in the context for the innocent or living party. But even if the
stated in this booklet is not as clear to some as we believe it to be,
they should at least admit that our position is based on Scripture and
not "baseless and unscriptural" as they often claim. We believe we have
taken the Scriptures as they stand and not twisted one word to conform
it to our position. We looked at practically every passage that deals
the subject, and we produced Scripture for the basis of every argument
we presented. It is up to the reader to decide through study and prayer
if "those things are so" (Acts 17:11).
A Final Word
In this study we
have only looked at marriage and remarriage from a strict
biblical perspective. That is, we only considered grounds for divorce
remarriage the Bible clearly presented. But there are severe problems
some marriages that the Bible doesn't address.Nearly all have heard
stories about people who have been subjected to heavily abusive and
treatment from their spouses; what about them? What about a woman who
married to a man who routinely beats her or sexually abuses her and her
children? Is she compelled to stay with him and endure such treatment
the risk of her and her children's lives even if he has not "cheated"
her or deserted her? There are no clear, biblical answers, but there
some general principles in the Scriptures that a person can prayerfully
consider when he finds himself in these type of situations. One is, the
Lord has "called us to peace" (1 Cor. 7:15) and, "If it be possible,
as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18).
The Bible acknowledges some people can be impossible to live with, and
allows an escape from these situations, but each person must be sure he
has tried to live peaceably "as much as lieth in you."
liberal divorce laws and the selfish mentality of
the average American, divorce is much too common in the United States.
But on the other hand, since some people can be nearly impossible to
with, some Christians have unfortunately found themselves in miserable,
abusive marriages. The believer often prays for their spouse to get
or repent (if they claim to be saved) and they try their best to make
marriage work, but sometimes it still fails. Some Christians are quick
to judge their brethren who have suffered through a failed marriage and
say hurtful things like "If you are a failure in marriage, you are a
in life," but the Scriptures say believers are to "bear one another's
burdens" and not "think himself to be something when he is nothing"
(Gal. 6:2-3). Every Christian (divorced or not) should be given the
of the doubt and not treated in a condescending manner as if he or she
is "tainted." Every believer is to "esteem other better than
even if they are divorced (or remarried)!
- The Bible
recommends a believer remain in whatever marital
state he is in when he gets saved. If unmarried, he should consider
so; if married, he should not seek a divorce.
- However, if
unmarried believer is burdened and tempted
by being single, it is perfectly proper and even "honorable" to
- In the Bible
the act or essence of marriage is the physical
union of the man and woman—when they become "one flesh."
- Marriage is
a ceremony or vow, though these can accompany
- Betrothal and
Espousal as used in the Bible refer to a promise
or contract to marry—an engagement. They do not refer to the
- The Bible in
way encourages or recommends divorce, in
fact God hates it. The Scriptures only ALLOW for it under certain
when flesh leaves flesh with no intention
of returning or because of death.
- In the Old
Testament one could divorce his wife for practically
"every cause," but in the New Testament it is limited to three
fornication, and desertion.
- Death in a
marriage causes a divorce, and the remaining party
is free to remarry.
- Fornication is
the only grounds under which a believer can
initiate divorce proceedings even if his spouse wishes to remain. Also,
the innocent party can remarry without committing adultery.
- Desertion is
divorce caused by a departing spouse, and
the remaining believer in this case also is free to remarry.
- The phrase
husband of one wife" refers to a
man being true to the "one wife" he presently has.