Affairs: What The Bible Says About Divorce And Remarriage
Well this week we will turn to the Bible expert to discuss divorce and remarriage. Milan is my personal bible answer man and few people know what a devout student of the bible he is. Following is a wonderful piece he wrote on this subject because it is such a common question.
DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE
The subject of divorce in the church is an issue that has reached the level of critical concern for a number of reasons.
The statistics for marriages ending in divorce among Christians now is virtually identical to those of non-Christians in our society. Our concern is for a church that resembles the world instead of being a light to the world.
- The number of married couples who are choosing to initiate divorce with no biblical grounds for their decisions and subsequent actions.
- The number of believers who are entering into re-marriage with no apparent understanding or consideration of biblical teaching on the matter.
- The concern that we are raising a present generation of children in the church who are growing up to think divorce is “normal” behavior for believers.
- The concern that this growing trend will continue to make an increasing and negative impact upon the family for future generations to come should the “chain” not be “broken.”
The purpose of this position paper is to clarify the Bible’s teaching on the subject of divorce and remarriage for Christians in the church. It is also to lay out a proposed process for ? church and discipline (when and where it is necessary) with an aim toward speaking the truth in love and restoration.
Let us not assume, however, that all divorce and remarriage is wrong. Clearly it is not – and where the Bible gives justification and freedom to do so we want to affirm those in their decision to live in the grace God extends to them. However, God’s Word gives us some strong guidelines to follow when dealing with divorce.
Matthew 5:32 – “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.” From this passage we see Jesus’ basic teaching on divorce. If you unjustly divorce your spouse you cause them to commit adultery and anyone who marries a divorced person becomes an adulterer also.
In today’s world where 50% of all marriage in the US end in divorce, these feel like very strong words. Jesus does allow an exception to his basic teaching in the case of marital unfaithfulness. Jesus’ position mirrors God’s original intention, upholding the sanctity of marriage with very strict guidelines. Jesus is saying divorce is not a part of God’s plan, he does not prescribe it and in Malachi 2:16, says “I hate divorce.”
Matthew 19: 1-12 – Here Jesus further elaborates his teaching on divorce. Jesus makes it clear that marriage was instituted by God and is intended to be a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman. God creates a special miracle in marriage making (2) people (1) flesh, a wonderful picture of intimacy and community. Jesus desires for His followers to be a model and testimony in our marriage relationships of God’s love for the world, and all he has done for us.
I Corinthians 7:10 – 15 – The context of this passage speaks about a believer being married to a non believer. When applying this passage we must clarify who is considered a non-believer. We consider (2) categories of people non-believers: 1) Those who by their own admission do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 2) Those who as an act of church discipline according to Matthew 18:15-18 are declared by the Board of Elders to be non-believers. There are many issues of disobedience that can and may lead the Board of Elders to take such action. These decisions are never made lightly, but only in the gravest of circumstances.
Paul gives us several points of direction applying to different circumstances. The first “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.” Here Paul permits separation and a case some scholars may even be made for divorce but in cases where there has not been marital unfaithfulness (through sexual intercourse with another), remarriage to another is not allowed for as long as their spouse is alive.
The second point relates to a Christian who finds themselves married to a non-believer.
1 Corinthians 7:12-16 – “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?” If you are married to a non-believer and they desire to stay in the marriage relationship, the fact that they are a non-believer is not grounds to end the marriage. In fact the passage says God may use you to help reach them for Christ. Thirdly, the passage says if you are a believer and married to a non-believer and the non-believer does not want to stay in the marriage, the believing spouse is not required to stay in the marriage. There again are many circumstances that could lead the Board of Elders to an understanding that the unbeliever wants out of the marriage relationship.
In conclusion, the issues of marital breakdown are always complicated. Scripture gives us some overarching principles, as well as addresses several specific situations, but in no way covers all of the possible issues that church leadership are faced with. Because of this, wisdom, discernment, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit must be strong in those who are in authority.
Scripture teaches that there are 2 grounds for divorce:
- Pornea or sexual unfaithfulness in a marriage relationship.
- Abandonment by a non-believing spouse.
In addition, the Bible does allow for marital separation as long as there is no remarriage to another, and the parties stay celibate.
We recognize many in the church today who are the victims of unwanted divorces that were perpetuated against them. It is not our intention to chastise these people or shoot the wounded, but rather, in their case, to provide a safe and welcome community for them to be healed and restored.
It is the other groups of Christians that this position paper more specifically purposes to address. Those who are initiating divorce proceedings with no biblical grounds, nor thoughts of consequences for their actions by the church, rather, the mere presumption of grace, which is no grace at all.
Our hope is always for reconciliation.
Thanks and blessings,
Milan & Kay
Next week: More Vital Relationhip Tips and Advice.