Marriage And Divorce
By William E. Geurin
Divorce is always the result of sin. If sin had not entered, there never would have been a broken home, no divorce, and no abandoned children. Behind every divorce, therefore, there is a great monster of sin, sin on the part of at least one of the parties involved, and too often sin on both sides. Divorce is a sin against God, a sin against society, a sin against the family, and a sin against one’s self. The growing evil of divorce has left a sordid trail of broken homes, juvenile delinquency, and moral corruption in its wake. In an effort to stem the tide, and prevent the tragedy from being repeated in the lives of others before it is too late we bring this scriptural lesson.
The bible recognizes only one single ground for divorce among professing believers: fornication, or adultery. The two terms, fornication and adultery, are used interchangeably, to describe unfaithfulness on the part of either one of the married couple. There is no other ground for divorce given in the scriptures anywhere. The Bible knows absolutely nothing about divorce on the ground of incompatibility, mental cruelty, and the like. Except for those questionable cases of prenuptial impediment or deliberate fraud (of such a character as to make the relationship of husband and wife utterly impossible, so that there has in reality never been a marriage), the Bible countenances no dissolution of the marriage relationship other than on the ground of unfaithfulness. Even then divorce is not commanded, but permitted. If the innocent party has sufficient grace, forgiveness, and the love of God in his or her heart, and is spiritual enough to forgive and seek to save the home in spite of justifiable ground for divorce, so much the better, and so much to the credit of the mate, who like Jesus who could forgive and forget.
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (I Corinthians 7:1-2)
A very serious question had arisen in the church at Corinth, and members of the Church had written a letter to Paul concerning this question, as indicated by verse 1: Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me.
There seemed to be some ascetically inclined persons at Corinth, who intimated that marriage was sinful; or if not exactly sinful, there was at least an added, additional virtue in remaining single, and leading a celibate life. To this Paul answers, that neither state is more holy than the other. Let each man (and woman) be persuaded in their own mind, and so he says: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
It is entirely a personal matter, as far as Paul is concerned, and we are accountable to God alone in this decision. But there was another matter which, in the mind of Paul, was far more serious. It was the matter of divorce and the remarriage of divorced people. He says, therefore, in verse 10: And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. (I Corinthians 7:10-11).
You will notice that two things are stated in this passage. First of all, there should be no divorce. The language is crystal-clear, when Paul says, “Let not the wife depart from her husband.” “Let not the husband put away his wife.” Divorce then is an evil which should never even be thought of or mentioned among believers. But the fact is that it does come up; and Scripture, taking this into consideration, because of the weakness of human nature, has permitted divorce on one ground only, and that is marital unfaithfulness of one party in the marriage … and that naturally brings up the second matter. When divorce on this Scriptural ground is obtained, what about the question of remarriage of the parties concerned? To this Paul replies: But and if she depart, LET HER REMAIN UNMARRIED, or be reconciled to her husband. (I Corinthians 7:11)
This seems to sum up clearly, as briefly as possible, the teaching on this hotly debated question. Is remarriage of divorced persons sanctioned in the Bible? Before we look at the New Testament passages, bearing on this subject, may I state here that I bring these passages without any desire to add to the heartaches and the burdens and the sorrows of those who have been unfortunately enmeshed and ensnared in this tragedy, whether innocent or guilty. I bring them with only a desire to help, and to especially to prevent the tragedy from occurring where it still can be prevented. I have nothing but sympathy and forgiveness in my heart. Condemnation, therefore, is the farthest from my heart, and what I say is first of all a firm and sincere conviction from the word of God, and second, from a sincere desire to help in this matter which is, as all will agree, one of the most serious and most pressing problems of society today. And then too, what I say is especially for those who are believers and want to know, and to do the will of the Lord, in all things.
Now for the burning question: What do the Scriptures teach concerning the remarriage of divorced individuals? There are only six passages in the New Testament directly dealing with this subject, so it should not be too difficult to ascertain the teaching of the Scriptures in the matter.
Four of these passages occur in the Gospels and are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself: (Matthew 5:31, 32; Matthew 19:3, 9; Mark 10:11-12; and Luke 16:18). There are two additional passages found in the epistles of Paul: (Romans 7:2-3; and I Corinthians 7:39-40). To arrive at the Scriptural answer we must take all these passages together and not base any interpretation on one single passage to the exclusion of the others. The first two passages are found in Matthew.
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, SAVING FOR THE CAUSE OF FORNICATION, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts SUFFERED you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I SAY unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her that is put away cloth commit adultery. (Matthew 19:8-9).
You will notice that two things are clearly stated here. One is crystal-clear, of course, and the other is one which raises a question. The clear teaching is that Jesus recognized only one ground for divorce: fornication, marital unfaithfulness of either party. This is clear, and was in answer to the question of the pharisees in verse 3: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for EVERY cause? (Matthew 19:3).
The thing we must note is the last three words of that verse: FOR EVERY CAUSE? FOR EVERY CAUSE? These Pharisees recognized that fornication was a Scriptural ground for divorce, but what they wanted to know was the opinion of our Lord about other causes, beside unfaithfulness. That is the key to this passage, and Jesus’ answer to this question is NO. To the question, “Is a man allowed to put away woman for any cause? He answers “Absolutely NO!” There is only one ground for separation. This answered the question, but then Jesus adds another truth when he says in both Matthew 5 and Matthew 19: Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:32)
Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. (Matthew 19:9)
This is something the Pharisees had not asked of the Lord, but Jesus felt it important enough to add to his answer concerning the one cause of divorce.
There are two schools of thought in regard to the interpretation of these verses. There are those who claim that the phrase “except for fornication” gives only the ground for divorce, but does not give the privilege of remarriage of either divorced person. They point out that the answer was in reply to the question concerning the GROUND for separation, and not remarriage. Unfaithfulness, then, is not a ground for remarriage of either party according to this opinion:
However, there are others who claim that Jesus implies that the innocent” party is free to remarry again. But who is the innocent party, and who is the guilty one? This is the important question. In all the years of our ministry we have seldom found one who would admit that they were the guilty party. They are all innocent, according to their testimony, and to hear their side of the story. If these were the only two Scriptures, therefore, there might be some doubt as to which of these views is correct. There are, however, four other passages bearing on this same subject which should settle the question beyond dispute. We shall take them in the order in which they occur.
First in order is Mark 10:11-12, in which the Lord Jesus Christ speaks as follows: And He saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. (Mark 10:11-12)
Here, you will notice, Jesus states in simple terms that divorce gives neither party the right to remarry. No cause for divorce is stated whatsoever, since it is implied that the only Scriptural cause is unfaithfulness, and is understood by all. No mention therefore is made, or any difference put between the innocent or the guilty parties. This again is repeated by the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke’s Gospel.
Whosoever putteth away his wife, (no cause stated) it is again assumed that it was for the one Scriptural cause) and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. (Luke 16:18)
Notice very carefully in this passage again, that the man who put away his wife, (presuming it was for the only Scriptural cause, for no other cause is recognized) and remarries, is just as guilty of transgression as the guilty one is.
But there is still more. In Romans 7 Paul, in illustrating the relationship of the believer to Christ under grace, uses the figure of the marriage relationship, and says: For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he liveth; but if the husband is dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. (Romans 7:2-3)
Again in this instance there is no mention made whatsoever of the cause for divorce, and no distinction made between the guilty or innocent parties. But to clinch it all, we have one more passage in I Corinthians 7: And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart .from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. (I Corinthians 7:10-11)
This is in perfect harmony with this passage found in verse 39: The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; ONLY IN THE LORD. (I Corinthians 7:39)
Notice carefully that the last four words of this verse are ONLY IN THE LORD. Paul here intimates that this party is, of course, a believer — the innocent believer, and is to be remarried only after the death of the first mate, and only to a believer.
By following the only correct method of Bible study, I have done my best to allow the Scriptures to harmonize on the subject. I present this message only because I fear God and do not want the blood of some precious soul on my hands in the day when we stand before the judge of all people. Again, this is not to condemn, nor to try to win an argument, but to help prevent some soul from a terrible sin. I realize a few other Scriptures can be gathered piecemeal, and with a slight twist, and a lesson taught to the contrary, but we do not follow that system. If we teach water Baptism or one God, we delight to base our belief on all of the Scriptures on the subject. We will not change our method of study on something as important as MARRIAGE & DIVORCE.
This article “Marriage And Divorce” written by William E. Geurin is presented by William E. Geurin.