BIBLICAL SUMMARY ON DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE

Up front the first thing that injects confusion into the divorce subject is the “sacrament” theory, which was issued by the Roman Catholic Council of Trent in the middle of the 16th century. Some writers seem to hold a mixture of that theory and some Biblical passages and it is confusing. The Council decreed that marriage is a sacrament and therefore unbreakable until death. That led to the conclusion that if a couple gets a divorce it is only valid in human courts and God sees them as still married. That, in turn, leads to the conclusion that the “adultery” involved is in the sexual activity in the following marriage for the person is living with somone who is not their mate in God’s eyes. This whole idea disagrees with many Biblical facts and inserts man’s opinion where only the decrees of God should stand. We need to return to the scriptures as the only information source about what is God’s will.
 
Start with Matthew chapter 19. In verses 3-12, Jesus stated several facts clearly. First He said that marriage is of God, that it is to be a “one flesh” relationship, and that man must not put it asunder. The Pharisees, evidently thinking this was an inconsistency, asked “Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce and put her away?” (vs. 7) Jesus replied, “For the hardness of your hearts Moses suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Looking back at what Moses said in Deut. 24:1-3 we find that what was commanded there was the paper work, the “bill of divorce.” It was not a command to put her away but rather a command that in the event you were putting her away you must give her the written release or bill of divorcement. The “hardness of heart” or cruelty, was in putting her away without actually releasing her, the formal release. 
 
To the Pharisees’ this seemed to imply an approval of marriage breaking. But at verse 8 Jesus said that from the beginning it was “not so,” i.e. not God’s will that marriages break up. Then He said if a man does put away his wife and she is not guilty of fornication, and marries another, he “commits adultery.” This is not a present infinitive verb. It does not denote an ongoing, continuous or repetitious action, as some have said. It is present indicative. It points to an action that happens when he puts away one and marries another, two punctiliar actions, not later in the sexual cohabitation in another marriage.
 
So the scriptures tell us clearly what the sin in question is. The words of Jesus are clear. The sin occurs when two things are done, (1) the man puts away his innocent wife and (2) marries another. In Mark 10:11 Jesus clarified this matter further. He said that the man who does this “commits adultery against her,” i.e.the wife put away. The adultery then is against the first wife, not with the second wife. It is a betrayal of his vows and obligations to the original wife. This fact is not altered one way or the other by what he does after that, whether he marries again or not. The fact is he has committed a sin against the wife and in so doing has violated the will of God.
 
One significant thing is not in the Biblical text. Jesus did not legislate a disciplinary procedure. He said it is sin but did not specify the penalty, what must be done about it. As Foy Wallace Jr. said, “We cannot make one without human legislation.” (Sermon on the Mt. & the civil state. Pg. 41)
 
In later years human legislation did prescribe the penalty at the Council of Trent. They said their intention was “to curb the abuse of marriage.” That is a good thing. But the problem is they acted according to human theories, not according to Bible prescriptions. Their theology was traditional Catholic teaching so the “sacrament” theory of marriage was a natural conclusion. Their interpretation of this text changes “do not” to “cannot.” Believing that marriage is not breakable leads to the conclusion that the divorced and remarried man is not living with the one who is his wife in God’s sight and is living with a woman who is not his wife in God’s sight. So they put the label “adultery” there instead of back at the breaking of marriage where Jesus put it.
 
So this line of reasoning causes them to move the sin. Instead of the two acts of putting away and marrying another being the sin it becomes the sexual activity in the subsequent marriage. That sets aside the specification Jesus gave, that unscriptural divorce and remarriage is adultery. Then they declare that “adultery is a sex act.” And so it is that from this source, the human theories of the council of Trent, we have what is called “the traditional view” on divorce and remarriage, i.e. that sinfully divorced people lose their “eligibility” to participate in marriage.
 
This theory damages lives by requiring many people to live an abnormal life, (without a mate) It opposes one of the first fundamentals of God’s way. When God created the first man He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Marriage is God’s appointed way of preventing “immorality.” (1 Cor. 7:2) “Let them marry, for it is better to marry then to burn.” (Vs. 9) Forbidding marriage is not the solution to anything. So if we strip away the human theories, even though well intentioned, what we have left is the fact that a sin was committed and we need to apply the Bible way of dealing with sin. Repentance, of course, is the Biblical way. When we have been doing something that is contrary to God’s will, such as breaking marriage, we must stop doing that and start doing what is according to God’s will, be faithful in marriage. God’s will is one man and one woman, committed for life in a marriage. Whether it is the first marriage or the third or fourth or what, the prescription is the same, one man for one woman for life. Marriage breakers must change their practice. Stop being unfaithful in marriage and start being faithful in marriage. Forgiveness of the past is available in the blood of Jesus.
Bottom line: Repentance stops the sin so it doesn’t happen again and the cleansing blood of Jesus forgives the sin so it no longer exists. This is the simple solution of the Bible way. Man’s way only compounds it.
 
Share

Filed under: