Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage – Part 3

Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

We receive so many calls and questions about what are the rules for getting in and out of a marriage relationship.

What does the Bible say?

Did Jesus speak on the topic?

For the next few weeks, we will be looking at what the New Testament says about this controversial topic.

DIVORCE AND RE-MARRIAGE:

The second allowance for divorce and subsequent right to re-marry: “Abandonment of a Christian by an unbeliever.”

The second manifestation of hardness of heart, which God states as the reason for divorce, is that of unbelief in Christ by one of the marriage partners and their abandonment of the believer.

The Apostle Paul writing to the Corinthian Church says,

“ …that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away (divorce).  And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away.  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.  Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.  For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife (I Corinthians 7:12b-16)?”

In this passage, we are dealing with marriages where one of the partners is not a Christian and the other one is a believer.

It is clear from II Corinthians 6:14-18, that Christians are to not marry unbelievers.

This is because a child of God who is holy in the eyes of God and walking according to Christ’s commands would be “yoking” himself or herself to someone who is unholy in God’s eyes and walking according to different goals, values and ideologies.

Instead of walking together in unity, there would be conflict and strife at every turn in the road.

Therefore, in the I Corinthians 7 text, the contextual backdrop would be that one of the marriage partners became a Christian after the couple was married as unbelievers.

What is the Christian partner to do as their newfound faith in Christ leads them to baptism, growth, church membership, new relationships, new goals and new values?

The key presupposition within this passage is that the Christian will naturally be growing,  become more holy and thus become different as opposed to staying at the maturity level of the unbeliever.

How should this kind of marriage problem be handled?

Paul’s answer is to let the unbeliever make the decision as to whether he or she wishes to stay with the Christian or not.

On one hand, the unbeliever may decide to stay married even thought they see their spouse growing in their new relationship to Christ.  Paul tells the Christian, “let him not send her away (v.7:12).” 

Perhaps they may end up becoming a Christian because of the influence of their mate.

This results then is a “waiting game” on the part of the believer in which they are not just cynically waiting for the partner to fall off the marriage platform, but rather trying to win them to Christ (II Peter 3:9).

On the other hand, the unbeliever may harden their heart to Christ and decide to leave the Christian.

Paul says, “let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace (I Corinthians 7:15).”

The word “bondage” in this verse is the word doulao and means, “to be enslaved or subject to” … or in the verb form found here, it means, “to be bound as a slave is bound to a master.” 6

So, as originally stated, Christian marriage is a permanent binding of one person to another, yet hardness of heart leading to unbelief in Christ and the subsequent rejection of a Christian as a marriage partner is the second Biblical reason why God allows divorce with the subsequent right to re-marry in Christ.

While this is difficult material to comprehend, we hope this begins to make clear how God thinks and what his opinions are on this important topic.

Toward the end of the series, we will be discussing some of the sensitive and practical issues surrounding this topic.

Love and blessings,
Milan & Kay

Next Week: “What are some conclusions and practical considerations?”