The Divorce Question
Somebody asked me this question concerning divorce, “If a person was divorced once before, is the person allowed to marry again in the eyes of God?” To some of us that may be an easy question to answer, but from scripture, is it that easy to answer? This is a very touchy subject and one where, if you are not careful, you may cause a lot of heartache and unhappiness, but for us who want to please God, we must advise people with well grounded scriptural background on this subject of marriage, divorce and re-marrying; so let us look at this subject.
Notice! This article is for the unmarried only, and not to the divorced, or people with second marriages.
First and foremost, we must accept that from God’s perspective, there is no place for divorce and therefore re-marrying should never be an option. In other words, there is no place for making a mistake with choosing your wife or husband because if you are married, you are married for life in the eyes of God. In fact the Bible says that God hates divorce, (Mal 2v 16 NIV) "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith”. However since divorces do take place, what does the Bible say on the subject?
What is striking in this study is that there is a difference between what the Old and New Testaments say on the subject. It is not contradictory, but rather the Old Testament’s law being scraped in favor of what God intended with marriage in the first place. What happened was, divorce were allowed in the Law of Moses and a man was able to write his wife a letter of divorce for whatever the reason might have been. The husband and the wife appeared before a counsel and then they were divorced. If it were found that the man were lying about the reasons for divorce, then he had to take his wife back and had to pay the woman’s father a ‘penalty’ because then he had profaned the good name of that woman’s family if he had accused the woman of something falsely. He could no longer divorce the woman anymore. The reason the man had to write a letter of divorce was that the woman had to have proof that she was divorced before she could marry again. It is not showed in the Old Testament that a woman divorced her husband, but it is very clear in the New Testament that it also did occur.
In the New Testament, Jesus is the person who changes the rules about marriage and divorce. Jesus refers to the original reasons for marriage. That is the reasons before the Law of Moses. Which if you thought about it were what God would have intended with marriage in the first place. The original reason for marriage is that the two shall become one, Genesis 2v 24. From that basis, you will never get domination from a man or undermining from a woman, but agreement before anything is tackled. It goes without saying that God and His Word should also be the principle source of counsel. Jesus wants the marriages in His Church to run like that. If the marriages in His church are ran like that, then there should be no divorce, because the counsel of God and His Word will never be; you should get a divorce.
The teaching of Jesus and the New Testament is this; if you get married, it is for life and you should never get divorced. If you get divorced you may never re-marry, you can get together with your spouse again but not with somebody else. Mathew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7.
Therefore, the principal differences between the Old and New Testaments are; you may divorce in the Old Testament Law, but you may not in the New Testament. However, there is one reason given which allows you to divorce but that we will discuss later. It is astounding to think that the New Testament says, if there is a divorce because there is still the will of man to account for, that those who get divorced should not marry again, the position is that you either get together again and work on your marriage or stay unmarried for the rest of your life.
That I would never have written if I did not make a study of this subject, because those who are divorced are subject to what Jesus said. I know many will not agree with what I say, the fact is that I also felt awkward writing it, but it is the position of our Lord and we cannot go against Him, if we honor His Word. It is a hard stance from the Bible is it not, but I cannot teach something that is not in the Bible.
There is no room for making a mistake when you choose your husband or wife. Living together to see if marriage will be a possibility is not in God’s plan for you and you cannot use excuses for divorce like “we were to young to marry in the first place or to say we did not know what we were doing or we did not know what we let ourselves into. You may not divorce, is the standard which God sets.
To use a bad illustration, marriage is like putting a gun to your head and pulling the trigger, there can be no turning back. If we realize that marriage is that big an issue in the eyes of God, then we will never go into marriage with blinkers on thinking if it does not work, then we can just get a quick divorce and be done with it. I just want to labor the point; marriage is not something to get into because you think it is a good idea at the time. It should be prayerfully entered into, by both parties because as we will quote from the Bible later on, we will find out that marriage is until death do us part and not something to do just to spite your parents.
After discussing the topic of marriage, this was the conclusion of Jesus’ disciples, (Mat 19v 10 NIV) “The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” And Paul said, (1 Cor 7v 8 NIV) “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” I do not want to speculate on why the disciples thought the way they did, but we must remember they were brought up with the system that if your wife becomes displeasing to you, then you may divorce her and move on, but Jesus came and changed all that. By the time, Jesus walked the earth; the Mosaic Law was so tilted towards the will of man, by which several things were added to it that it allowed a man to divorce his wife for menial, even ridiculous reasons. Thereby making a mockery of what God intended with marriage.
So, when the Pharisees asked Jesus a question on the topic of marriage, He took the opportunity to rectify the mess that people made of the holy state of marriage. What were Jesus’ thoughts on marriage? First, I have to say that it seems harsh, especially to those who were married, divorced and then remarried. Nevertheless, I will quote and discuss the real state of marriage as Jesus our Holy Lord wants it to be.
We will mainly quote Jesus on marriage; there could be no one better to quote can there? However, the reason is that Jesus, by the statements He made, made the Law of Moses of no effect when it came to the issue of marriage. Therefore, the Law of Moses will not be an avenue to follow for us who are born again in relation to the issue of marriage.
The Statements of Jesus on Marriage:
(Mat 5v 31-32 NIV) “It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” This verse comes from the Sermon on the Mount. It was Jesus giving a teaching session to the people following Him and to His disciples. The words here are ‘harsh’ and straight and are not complicated.
It also sounds like it is only the woman who will be the adulterer, but Jesus says clearly in another place that both parties will be called adulterers.
Will you accept these words today?
(Mat 19v 3-11 NIV) “Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven't you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.” Here we read a question asked by Pharisees, which we would like to ask Jesus if we had the chance. Can a man or woman for that matter divorce for any reason? The answer; haven’t you read the Bible? Let no man separate what God joined. Therefore, you may not divorce for any reason. Although the one reason given for divorce is adultery. Note the shock almost of the disciples; even they were surprised at Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees. Note also that Jesus said that not everybody would accept what He said.
(Mark 10v 2-12 NIV) “Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
Can you accept these words of Jesus?
Another person who was speaking on the topic of marriage was the apostle Paul. What did Paul say on the topic of marriage?
(1Cor 7v 8-16 NIV) “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” You will notice that Paul brakes people up in three categories unmarried, married where both are saved and then married where one of the spouses are not yet born again. With the first category, Paul seem to echo the disciples of Jesus where he states that it would be better for them not to marry, but of course if the unmarried status could cause you to sin then it would be better for you to marry.
In the second group it is as Jesus put it, you may not divorce, but Paul adds something and he says distinctly that it is the Lord, and therefore Jesus that prompted him to add this on, if there is a divorce, which would be sin, then those who are divorced should not marry someone else. The reason is then obvious, it is to stop the divorcees to commit adultery as Jesus put it, if they marry someone else except their first husband or wife.
In the third instance, Paul then says distinctly that he now adds something to the discussion, in the case of one spouse that is not born again yet. The command is that in the case where one spouse in the family gives his life to Jesus, he must not go and divorce his/her wife or husband. Therefore, ungodliness of a spouse does not give us permission to divorce. Then he goes and bring something up that people does not agree upon. It sounds like he gives permission to divorce if a non-believing spouse deserts his/her mate or want to separate probably on the account that the born again believer does not have the same spiritual beliefs as they do. Therefore adding desertion to adultery as a basis for divorce. However, as I read this portion of scripture repeatedly, it became clear to me that Paul was not adding desertion as another reason for divorce. Rather that he was saying that if the unbelieving partner in the marriage wants to separate most probably on account of religious reasons, the believing party would be in no position to force an unbeliever to stay. How do you reconcile faith and unbelief in holy union before God? The aspect we need to remember here is that the believing party, should never initiate divorce proceedings if the unbeliever has no problem with their spiritual beliefs. Remember that your born again behavior may just cause the unbelieving party to give their lives to Jesus.
To bring emotions into the discussion of marriage and divorce would not be productive or Biblical. I am sure there are very valid reasons we can think of whereby divorce and re-marriage can have a place, but in God’s eyes and through the way the Bible sees the topic it is rather plain, there is no place for divorce except in the case of adultery. No one less than Jesus Christ said that, so how can we annul what He said. He is the Word of God after all.
I just want to emphasize why I wrote this message, it was because of someone who wanted to know what is God’s view of marrying a person who was divorced. The person specifically asked, “What is the Bible’s view” and therefore God’s view on marriage in such circumstances. Therefore, I wrote this message not to the divorced or to people in a second or third marriage, ‘but to unmarried people’. Being divorced is bad enough and I do not want to add to people’s misery.
For those who find themselves in the situation of being divorced or in a new marriage, I have no quibbles with you nor did I write this message to confuse or judge you, this message came out only to highlight God’s view on marriage and that is all. If you know God, would you not think that He wants marriages to last and not to brake up? Think of God’s own ‘marriage’, this would be to the nation of Israel, (Jer 31v 32-33 KJV) “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” How many times did Israel, broke covenant with God? Still He did not ‘divorce’ them in a manner of speaking. He did not write them off and took another nation to bring forth Jesus. He persevered and will rather make new covenants with them in stead of breaking His oath of faithfulness to them.
I am married for about eight years now (2004) and have three children; I know marriage is not easy. It is wonderfully hard sometimes and even more wonderfully good. Nevertheless, not easy. My advice to the unmarried is this; do not go into marriage with divorce in the back of your mind as a way out when things get hard. This would be like giving up even before you started.
Here is a fact, there will be hard times sooner or later, but then you must remember that you promised to stay together for better or for worse. It might seem that it was for worse most of the time, but believe me it does get better.
Warnings against marriage in the Bible:
(1 Cor 7v 27-28 NIV) “Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”
(1 Cor 7v 36-40 NIV) “If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin--this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better. A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is--and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.”
(1 Cor 7v 1-2 NIV) “Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.”
Your walk with your wife/ husband influences your walk with God:
(Mal 2v 13-16 NIV) “Another thing you do: You flood the Lord's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit, they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” That was hard admonition from God to the priests of Israel, who wanted to be priests and be blessed, but also were unfaithful husbands.
(1 Pet 3:7 KJV) “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” You want God to hear your prayers, be one with your wife when you get married. He will make you one as He said.
Finally, we must realize that marriage is not child’s play, nor is it an experiment to try to see if it will work out. IT IS HOLY UNTO GOD AND SHOULD BE HOLY TO YOU TOO. I want to agree with Paul when he said that you should rather stay unmarried. “It is better to be alone and unmarried than to be alone and married someone said.” Do not get married if God was not part of the decision, it can and sometimes will destroy your life, the life of your spouse and even worse the lives of your children.
Marriage is not a game to play, and that we learnt from the Bible and we can see in our society where divorces brakes up families all that is gained from it is misery and not the promise of freedom that the person or persons hoped it would give.
I hope you have a sober view of marriage now and I hope that this message will help those who were looking for some answers from God.
Copyright 2007 Richard D Kloosman. All rights reserved
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