STATEMENT ON DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE
© Dr John Bond
In view of the fact that God established marriage as a permanent partnership and that it is an earthly copy of the relationship between God and His people, it is to be kept inviolate. However, because of the fallenness of human nature, the Scriptures permit divorce in the following cases as an accommodation to human sin for the protection of the innocent party:
1. Divorce for the cause of immorality – with the understanding that the obligation to maintain or reinstate the marriage may not be imposed upon the innocent spouse.
2. Divorce for desertion – desertion being defined as behaviour equivalent to the abandonment of the marriage relationship and the actions of an unbeliever.
In such cases, the innocent spouse is not bound. He or she is free to remarry in the Lord (though the seeking of repentance and reconciliation should always be the first recourse).
THE REMARRIAGE OF BELIEVERS MAY NOT BE APPROVED WHEN:
1. Divorce is being used as a vehicle to seek a different mate, since such pre-intent makes the divorce adulterous.
2. There is no evident of repentance and brokenness over the circumstances that caused the divorce.
3. Restoration of the original marriage remains a viable option.
It is understood that the concerns above do not apply to divorces that have occurred before conversion.
Each case of divorce or remarriage has to be dealt with on an individual basis from the perspective of God’s inexhaustible capacity to forgive human sin and to restore broken lives.
Biblical scholars who accept the authority of Scripture differ in their understanding of Scripture on this subject. Wherever this is the case it is reasonable to deduct that the subject is not totally clear in Scripture.
Another conclusion must be drawn if this is the case. We must be dogmatic only where the scriptures are very clear and cautious, maybe even tentative where they are not! We seem to have little tolerance for ambiguity so we warn you that that in this article we will not answer all your questions.
SOME CLEAR BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES THAT WE HAVE SOUGHT TO KEEP IN MIND
1. DIVORCE IS NOT WITHIN GOD’S IDEAL PLAN
Genesis 2:24. The word “cleave” is very strong implies permanence in the relationship.
Matthew 19:6, Malachi 2:15,16. These Scriptures make it very clear as to God’s ideal plan.
2. SIN INTERFERED WITH GOD’S IDEAL PLAN
Sin has affected God’s ideal plan in this area of life as well! God has allowed divorce because of sin’s existence in the world.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4. We assume that this wasn’t for adultery because that was punishable by death (e.g., Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22). Matthew 19:1-9 speaks of marital unfaithfulness – this is not clearly defined. (E.g., 1 Corinthians 5:1 refers to incest; Acts 15:20,29, refers to a wide variety of sexual sins)
It seems to me that when it comes to sin generally, each of us is judged specifically. Each of us is held responsible for personal actions. In marriage though, one partner may be involved more specifically in sin than the other, leading to a very difficult situation for the partner who really wants the marriage to work.
If a partner does all he or she can to keep the relationship together, but cannot, it appears that he or she is permitted by God to participate in a divorce without being condemned.
3. THE BLOOD OF CHRIST ATONES FOR ALL SIN
This is a certainty in Scripture. This is a non-negotiable! (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 John 1:9)
2 good examples
* David who according to the law (Leviticus 20:10), should have been executed (Psalm 51, he was forgiven).
* Jesus – Woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11).
4. SIN RESULTS IN SUFFERING
We cannot sin and sin alone, that is why the biblical warnings are so clear about the marriage sins, because potentially of its greater affect. God told Israel that it would affect future generations. (Exodus 20:5).
God doesn’t promise total disentanglement from the natural consequences and effects of our sin.
These are some biblical certainties. We now have to try and apply them to the 21st Century. They are the principles we must always keep in mind as we evaluate each individual situation.
The following is a tentative, not dogmatic answer to the variety of situations that are likely to arrive.
a] What if marriage problems occur before a person becomes a Christian?
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
The clear inference is that all sin is forgiven and the slate wiped clean.
b] What if one mate is unfaithful?
God’s desired will is that the relationship not be severed. We are to forgive (Colossians 3:13). God is aware that some situations are impossible! For example, where there is no repentance, no desire from one party God has allowed for divorce for the one that has made every effort to restore the marriage (Matthew 5:32 & 19:9).
c] Under these circumstances can the one who remained faithful remarry?
The implication is that the divorce frees such a person for remarriage.
d] What about the situation where there is no marital unfaithfulness but the couple want to divorce because of incompatibility?
1 Corinthians 7:10,11. Divorce and remarriage under these circumstances is doubly wrong! If a couple cannot be reconciled then divorce is permitted, though certainly not encouraged, but remarriage is forbidden.
e] What if one of the partners tries to reconcile, but the other won’t respond? Can such a person remarry or are they sentenced to a life of singleness?
Matthew 18:15-17. The person who does not respond positively to God’s will should be regarded as a non-believer. Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 about an unbelieving partner then comes into view.
f] What if a believer is married to an unbeliever who wants a divorce?
1 Peter 3:1-7, & 1 Corinthians 7:12-15. It appears that the believing person is free to remarry if the unbelieving partner leaves and will not be reconciled.
g] What if a Christian has violated all of God’s commands regarding marriage, but now is a committed Christian? Are they able to remarry?
Forgiveness is the real issue (refer earlier points for detail). Very few would try to prove from Scripture that a person who was a fornicator prior to marriage could not get married. How then can we insist that God will not forgive marriage sin of the same nature?
For any remarriage of divorced or widowed people we believe there needs to be lengthy and specific counsel given to the spiritual, psychological, social and sexual areas to see that past hurts, bitterness, expectations are being approached from a sound mature biblical framework.
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