About Jesus Steve Sweetman
My Side Of The Fence
was born on December 4th, 1951.
I would have died by the age of 7 but Jesus miraculously healed
me of Juvenile Diabetes.
The doctors at Sick Children's Hospital in
most 15 year old boys, my heart's desire was to have a girlfriend.
It was at our church's family camp in the summer of 1966 that I
first held hands with a girl.
It sent shockwaves throughout my body and soul.
She was pretty, attractive, and very cute.
She was the love of my life, but as they say, all good things
come to an end.
I'm far from convinced that all good things must come to and end,
but this one did.
When I heard she was sitting beside another boy in a church
meeting, I was devastated.
My heart was shredded to pieces.
Three days of ecstasy just didn't seem fair.
September, 1975, I was 23 years old and wondering if I'd ever be
Two major things happened to me that month.
I had entered my first year of Bible
College, and, despite the admonition by the dean of men to stay clear of the
girls on campus, I met the girl that 2 years later became my wife and
eventually the mother of our 2 wonderful sons.
Again, as they say, all good things come to an end.
Our marriage ended in a legal divorce in 1993.
This time it wasn't just my heart that was shredded to pieces.
My life was ripped to shreds.
am a Christian as defined in conservative Biblical terms.
I have handed my life over to the Lord Jesus Christ and He tells
me that if I live within the boundaries that He has set forth in the
Bible, He will look after me, and He has.
In March, 1994, He introduced me to whom you will later learn to
be known as "the lady from Eastern Canada."
She became my wife on May 13, 1995.
Jesus healed me of Juvenile Diabetes as a child He has yet to heal me of
my legally blind eyes.
I have never driven a car, something as a teen I wanted to do so
As I type these words on my computer with software that enlarges
the print, my nose is less than an inch from my monitor.
Therefore, even though I've tried my best to eliminate
grammatical and spelling errors in the following pages, you'll probably
It's just part of life for a legally blind guy that as you will
also learn later, can be problematic for a wife.
I dedicate the following to my two biological sons, whom I will forever love and cherish. The love of a parent, and in my case a father, is never understood or appreciated until one actually becomes a parent. The dawning of parenthood for me broke forth with the birth of my first son while living in Richmond, Virginia, in 1983. Moments after momma pushed him out into the hands of the doctor, I held him in my arms. Now here he was gazing up at me as if to say, "So you're the person who has been talking to me for of all these weeks?"
The emotions that showered
over me from the fountain of new life filled me with awe and joy that
I've seldom experienced in my life. Now years later, no matter the distance
apart, the frequency or infrequency of visits, the emails or lack of
emails, the love of a parent for a child is as close to being eternal as
you will ever find in this mortal world. For this reason, the
issues of life that I'm about to share are vitally important to the
eternal destiny of my boys and your children. Hopefully I can shed
some light on a dreadfully dark, painful, and difficult issue to think
about and especially to live through.
There is one thing I need to make perfectly clear before I say anything else. Please know that I hold no resentment, hostility, or ill will, towards anyone, including anyone alluded to in the following pages. I attempt to live as the Apostle Paul told us to live. He said that if it is at all possible, and as far as it depends on you and I, we should live at peace with everyone (Romans 14:18). I am sure that Paul understood that it wasn't possible to live in peace with everyone all of the time. Not everyone wants to live in peace. Not everyone seeks reconciliation when the peace is broken. Whatever the case, Paul certainly did everything within his power to maintain peace without compromising the truths of Scripture. I have attempted to do the same and can honestly say that I have done so with success.
It's sad to say, but broken relationships have shattered families ever since Adam and Eve shattered their relationship with God and each other in Genesis 3. That being said, even in the midst of brokenness there can be, and should be, some resemblance of peace and reconciliation. That has been my experience.
society is changing at a rapid pace, and some of the social trends that
accompany this change are disturbing.
For example, the increase of violence
can't be resolved with government legislation alone.
There's a more fundamental issue to think about than determining who can or who can't own a gun. The real
issue revolves around the families who comprise our ever-changing
redefining of family has resulted in many of our socially unsettling
trends. As a Christian, I
believe the foundation of any society is the traditional Biblical
family. The Genesis
account shows us that national communities find their roots in the husband and wife
relationship gives birth to family.
Family grows into the extended family which forms the foundation for
the national community in which we live.
can debate gun control, violent movies and video games until we're red
in the face with passion but unless we address the root cause of our
disturbing social trends, that being our broken families, we can expect
more sad news on our 24 hour a day news channels.
you will read in the following pages is a serious, yet sometimes light
hearted, conversational approach to a subject that is fundamental to the
good health of your family, your church community, and your nation.
all know the command. "Honour your father and your mother: that your days may be
long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you" (Exodus 20:12 KJV).
What is this
command really saying?
of all, this command presupposes that the generation of parents to be
honoured is worthy of the honour. The
wealth of knowledge honourable parents pass on to their children
provides the foundation for the next generation's good social well
being. When disrespect
trumps honour to whom honour is due, children learn the hard way, if they learn at all.
of all, the command doesn't say that if a child honours his parents
he'll live a long life. This
is a popular misunderstanding. The
command uses the pronoun "you," which in this Hebrew instance is
"you plural," not "you singular," as in one person.
This command is directed to a generation of
children, not to an individual child.
of all, the command speaks of land God gives the generation of children
who honours the previous generation.
The generation who honours its parents will inherit a land and
a social structure that lives through time and beyond.
It's not a matter of a child living a long healthy life.
It's a matter of a generation living a long and healthy life in a
land blessed by God because the younger generation has honoured the previous generation.
When there is no honour or respect for the prior generation, life's lessons concerning family and society aren't learned. The resulting broken families with broken children provide the atmosphere for gun violence, sexual promiscuity, and all of the rest. When disrespect replaces honour, God removes His blessing from the land the disrespectful generation lives in, as this command states, and, what appears to be the case in the western world today.
of what you will read in the following pages are real and personal
events which have not been embellished or dramatized to create a
sensational effect. Feelings
and emotions expressed are honest and from my heart.
Other parts of what you will read are a creation of my
imagination; dramatized accounts that I hope will help you understand
what I'm saying. Still,
other parts are by necessity, historical, cultural, and technical, and
this is where I'll probably lose some of you.
The neglect of these last three aspects to what I write has led
to much misunderstanding and confusion concerning this subject.
Without a little understanding of some Roman and Jewish history
and culture, and a bit of first century Greek grammar, I don't believe
you'll know what the Bible teaches about divorce and remarriage.
topic of divorce and remarriage as seen in the Bible is not easy to
understand. If you approach
this subject from a proper hermeneutical standpoint, as you should, it
will challenge your ability to systematically and logically think issues
through. You may feel like
taking a Tylenol pill to relieve the pressure on your brain.
wish there were a couple of chapters in the Bible solely dedicated to
this topic that would answer all of our questions.
There are no such chapters. Jesus
didn't even give an exhaustive teaching on the subject.
He only mentioned it in the context of broader issues, or when
the Pharisees attempted to trap Him in matters associated with the of Law of Moses and
their own rabbinical laws. So
to be clear right up front, the truth of the matter is that the Bible
will not answer every last question you have on this subject.
years of being relatively silent on this issue, especially from a
personal perspective, I've put my fingers to the keyboard.
I don't claim to have the last word on the issue, and I'm sure
some of you may disagree with me on certain points.
All that I can say is that you consider what I say and may the
Lord Jesus Christ give you the needed understanding.
We certainly need all the understanding we can get from Him.
Since much of Evangelical doctrine concerning divorce and remarriage has been based on the King James Version of the Bible, all quotes in the following pages are taken from the King James Bible. I will, however, change words like "putteth" to "puts" and "committeth" to "commits" to make for easier reading. I will also on occasion comment on the wording of newer translations like the New International Version of the Bible.
shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife:
and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
Old Testament was written in Hebrew.
The Hebrew word "dabaq" is translated into English as "cleave"
in the above verse. "Dabaq"
literally means "to glue."
So, God's original intention for man was for him to leave his
parents and be glued to one woman, his wife.
When you glue two things together, you do so in the hope that the
two things will stick together for good. That's
the purpose of glue. The
gluing spoken of here in Genesis 2:24 speaks of permanency in marriage,
something sadly lacking in marriages today.
I suggest that the reason for the gluing of husband to wife is because God created woman by removing part of man's side in the process of making her. When Adam saw Eve for the first time, in ecstasy he exclaimed, "Wow, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23). Okay, maybe he didn't exactly say "wow." Maybe he said "wow" in his own language. Think about it. Every aspect of his being was working perfectly. Adam was a healthy specimen of a man. His hormones, feelings, and emotions, had not yet been tainted by sin. For the first time in his life he was in the presence of the most beautiful, and I might add, naked woman imaginable. Admit it, he had to have been overwhelmed by what his eyes were fixated upon. Let's not be so spiritually minded that we overlook the obvious.
was essentially saying, "This beautiful woman that was taken from
me by surgery will now be returned to me through the gluing process of
It's clear from this verse that a man was to be glued to a woman, not to another man. Any variation from God's original intention undermines the reason why God created men and women in the first place. It destroys the meaning to marriage and in turn destroys the family, which is the cornerstone of our national and cultural communities. If our culture gets marriage wrong, as western culture is now doing, it will get everything else wrong. Thus, much of our social ills stem from forsaking the Biblical traditional family as seen in the Genesis account.
Divorce and remarriage is an often neglected topic in the local church. I can understand why the neglect. It's a hard and sad subject to think about, let alone talk about. It's even harder to experience, as many know only too well. When the local church finally addresses this issue, it's often in a counseling session, and by then it's often too late to make any difference.
Christians divorcing at the same rate as non-Christians isn't only a sad
commentary on Christians, it's a poor representation of the love of God
we claim to possess. In fact
it's one of many things that is destroying our Christian witness these
In past decades the Evangelical church has been rough on divorced Christians. Divorced Christians were pretty much relegated to the back pews. Worst still, those who were subsequently remarried were left out in the cold. Doors of ministry were slammed tight in their faces. Divorce was bad enough, but remarriage, or adultery as it was called, wasn't acceptable. That's no longer the case in many Evangelical circles. Those divorced and subsequently remarried can pick up exactly where they left off prior to being divorced. This change isn't necessarily due to any rethinking of Scripture concerning the issue. It's a concession based on present trends. Since so many Christians are divorced and remarried within the church, the church has had no choice but to embrace them and open the doors of ministry to them. In some respects I welcome this change, but if this change is based on a reaction to present trends and not Scripture, the foundation for change is faulty. Present trends should never determine Christian doctrine or practice as seems to be the case today.
If you've been devastated because of an unwanted divorce; and some statistics suggest that half of all divorced people didn't want the divorce, keep reading. If you feel guilty because you think you've committed adultery by remarrying, you should keep reading. If you're looking for an excuse to divorce, or ways to escape a marriage you're no longer interested in, you won't find that here. I won't repeat "The Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover" as singer songwriter Paul Simon put it years ago. What I hope you will find in the following pages is what I understand the Bible to say about divorce, remarriage, and God's original intention for men and women.
Christians have heard of the Greek word "agape." It's
one Greek word that is
translated as "love" in our English New Testament. This
word grew out of fashion in first century Roman culture, the era in
which the New Testament was written.
Maybe people weren't interested in agape style of selfless love.
They seemed more interested in "philos," another Greek
word meaning brotherly or reciprocal
love. That is to say, "I'll love you as you love me in return."
Then there was the Greek word "eros," meaning sensual
or erotic love. No matter
the culture or the historic setting, eros is always in fashion.
Since the Greek word "agape" grew out of use among the general public in the first century Roman Empire, the first generation Christians adopted the word to represent God's selfless love. Agape is thinking about, and doing for, others instead of yourself. It's the only kind of love the Bible really knows and teaches. It's the love that Jesus demonstrated to the world when He gave His life for us on the cross.
style love is more than saying "I love you."
In 1 John 3:17 the Apostle John taught that love must be
demonstrated "in action and in truth." Love
isn't love unless it's demonstrated in concrete and truthful actions.
in action is easy to understand, but what does love in truth mean?
Think of it this way. If
your son does something wrong, truth demands that you calmly confront
him, find out the truth of the situation so he can make things right. Love
doesn't protect him by covering up the truth of his wrong doing.
Even if it hurts his feelings and embarrasses him, you confront
him with the wrong in the hope of making him a better person.
Love must be acted upon within the confines of truth. You might say love is fenced in by truth, and if you jump over the fence of Biblical truth in the process of love, you no longer love. You don't love your friend by lying for him. You stand on the side of truth, even if it disrupts your relationship with your friend. In Biblical terms, love divorced from action and truth is not love.
Agape love is often
called "tough love." It's
tough on the one showing such love and it's tough on the one receiving
such love. For most of us,
we struggle with the tough part of love.
this point I need to remind you, and I hope it's evident in
all I say, that I hold no
hostility, resentment, or bitterness, towards anyone which I refer to in
the following pages. I believe this is evident in the way I
live. That being said, you may see hints of tough love in what you read
as I honestly and truthfully elate some events from my personal
experience. Don't misinterpret
that to be bitterness or resentment because it's not. I'm
simply telling my story from my side of the fence in order to help
explain what I understand the Bible teaches about divorce, remarriage,
and God's original intention for men and women.
While living in
Richmond, Virginia, in 1982, my friend read a little book to a couple of us over a few
lunch breaks. The book
provided us with some laughter as we gobbled down our sandwiches and
drank our Big Gulps purchased from the local 7-eleven store. "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche" was written by Bruce
Feirstein and Lee Lorenz, and was published in 1982 by Pocket Books.
The book was promoted as a guide to all things
masculine. If a guy wanted
to be a real man, he needed to know what manliness was all about, and
eating quiche in public is definitely not for real men.
Quiche is for wimps, and God forbid that any man be caught eating
such a wimpy food in public. It's
a disgraceful embarrassment to masculinity.
Real men are to be tough.
They idolize 300 pound fullbacks for the New York Jets,
Washington Red Skins, Dallas Cowboys, or the team of their choice.
They sit on their couches every Sunday afternoon and watch the
games. With remote in one
hand, beer in another hand, they demand yet another beer from "the
wife." Note, it's
"the wife," not "my wife."
"My wife" sounds way too tender hearted for real men.
Such a display of tenderness is avoided at all cost.
The emotion of choice for real men is displayed when they
explode with a monstrous roar sprinkled with a few vulgarities as their
team crosses into the end zone.
The book stated that when real men spit, they just
let it fly. They don't care
where it lands. It's fine if
it simply slobbers its way down their beards and onto their shirts.
If I were you, I'd be careful not to walk too close to a real
Real men are modern day cave men, equipped with all
of their high tech devices, or should I say vices.
They're tough, independent, stubborn, and are capable of fighting
their way to the top of any heap, and that they will do at the drop of a
Okay, so I'm not a real man. I
weigh 170 pounds less than a 300 pound fullback.
Although few have seen it, I have shed a few tears in my life,
and, when it comes to spitting, I try not to.
I've done things real men would never do, like talking to my unborn son while inside his mother. I'm sure he understood every last word I spoke to him. I'm also sure he liked my music I played for him. Well, maybe he liked my music back then, but not so much now. Within moments after entering this world, I held him in my arms. I looked down at him, and he looked up at me. I was ecstatic to finally meet this little guy, and I believe he was overjoyed to see the crazy guy who had been in a one way conversation with him for months on end.
I'm not sure how many real men feed babies, but I did. Because I'm legally blind, I have to get my face very close to all I do in order to see what I'm doing. On the odd occasion when my son would choose not to eat his food, he'd spit it out. I would then proceed directly to the nearest sink to wash my face.
I'm not sure how many real men change diapers either, but I did. Have you ever laid a naked little baby boy on his back on a changing table? I'm sure you've noticed that little watering hose sticking up from between his legs. Well, sometimes that little hose gets unexpectedly active while on the changing table, and when it did, this legally blind guy was on his way back to the sink to wash my face again.
I'm not sure how many real men rock their newborn babies to sleep. I almost wore out Van Morrison's "Avalon Sunset" CD that was quietly playing in the background while rocking my second baby son to sleep. To this day, whenever I listen to that CD I'm reminded of the meaningful quiet times we spent together in that rocking chair. So there you go. When it comes to babies, I've done it all, that is, except for breast feeding of course.
There's one big problem about not being a real man. When things go wrong with your children; when they hurt, you hurt. It can't be helped. At times it's like you've been thrown to the ground and crushed by that 300 pound fullback on your own 30 yard line. You're knocked unconscious. Everything goes black. When you wake, you're in the hospital wondering what went wrong. It can feel that bad when things go wrong, and things did go wrong.
I've hesitated and struggled over
including this chapter into my account because I don't want to hurt
anyone, especially the mother of my boys. We are friends.
That being said, I feel it necessary to share some things from my
perspective as I begin to address the confusing and complicated details
of Scripture. I seek no sympathy. My experience was
relatively easy compared to most and for that I am thankful. Just
be reminded, I hold no resentment, hostility, or bitterness, towards
"I suppose it's time," I quietly and
She quietly but soberly agreed that it was
I'm not sure why I thought it might not be time.
I knew it was time. Maybe
I had a lonely scrap of hope lingering somewhere in the recesses of my
saddened soul. I should have
known better. There was no
hope, and there was no time. I
had spent all the hope I had, and I gave time all the time it needed.
Like water under the proverbial bridge, both hope and time had
long since trickled their way into a foggy distant obscurity.
I entered their room.
With game controllers in their hands, they were desperately
attempting to defeat the bad guys on the TV screen.
They had no clue what was about to transpire.
Their lives were about to abruptly change for good.
Read carefully. I
said that I believed their lives were about to change "for good," not
"for the good." It
certainly wasn't their place to pay the price for this change, but
they'd pay part of the price anyway.
In modern vernacular, it really sucks when you've got to pay for
something you didn't want, didn't anticipate, and really couldn't
"Come on down stairs guys.
Your momma has something to talk to you about," I sadly said.
What supper I managed to eat was swirling around in
my stomach. My nerves were
shot and my digestive system was all messed up.
My father told me weeks later that he knew something was wrong.
My frequent trips to his bathroom on my visits clued him in.
Anxiety does that to me.
I knew it was time.
It was all planned out in advance.
Come Tuesday evening we'd sit down in the living room and have a
family meeting. We agreed that momma would do the talking; not me.
It was her decision to leave; not mine.
It was to be no one's fault, especially not theirs.
It was just a fact of modern life.
People want change, a chance for a better life.
I understood that. It
just sounded so normal, so routine, something we all do now and then.
Things would turn out for the best, or so it was said.
He was only eight years old.
He plopped himself down on a sofa chair, anxious to get back to
eliminating the bad guys from our planet.
His brother was only four years old.
I repeat, only four years old.
He sat on momma's lap in the middle of the floor, wondering what
was so important that he had to hit the pause button and leave the enemy
hanging in suspended animation.
I sat on the love seat. That
was my spot in the room. I
always sat on the west end of the love seat, right beside my stereo
system. Now, decades later, I still sit there.
I'll probably always sit there.
Who knows, I might even die there.
Whatever the case, at that moment in time, a couch we call a love seat seemed
ironically out of place.
"I'm going to be leaving home," she said.
"I'm getting a place of my own and you can come with me.
It'll be a good change for us all.
You'll have two places to live.
You can live with your dad and you can live with me.
We'll share. We'll
take turns. You'll have two
bedrooms, two living rooms, and two bathrooms - two of everything."
Two bathrooms did sound intriguing, especially with
my messed up digestive system, but of course, I'd never get to use the
She tried her best to soften the blow.
I'll grant her that. Two
of anything sounds better than one of anything.
Other than the two bathrooms, I didn't quite get the logic, but I
wasn't about to interrupt. There
was nothing I could say that would make any difference.
All that could have been said had been said.
It was over.
He was only four years old, but when he saw a couple
of tears sliding down his brother's cheek, he slipped off momma's lap
and climbed up onto his brother's lap.
Then, with his tiny little four year old fingers, he proceeded to
wipe the tears from his brother's face. Things
couldn't be sadder than that, or so I thought.
nine years later; also on a Tuesday and also planned out in advance, I
reluctantly uttered the words I had muttered to get our family gathering
"It's time mom."
The day after dad was buried, trying hard to hold back our tears,
my sister and I told mom it was time to move to the nursing home.
With one green garbage bag full of personal possessions, her
favourite chair, and a mind full of stroke stricken memories, mom left
her family home forever.
Home became a small room shared with a tormented screamer.
They gave mom an anti-psychotic drug.
They said she was a bit agitated.
Of course she was agitated.
Why wouldn't she be agitated?
All she ever knew was gone in one brief moment of time - never to
Helping mom walk out her back door for the last time in her life was painful for us all. It ranks as the second saddest moment of my life, but seeing those tiny little four year old fingers wiping his brother's tears, is undoubtedly, the saddest moment of my life to date.
She put a positive spin on it all.
There was no sense making this out to be the end of the universe.
Life would go on, and it does, and it did.
I know this moment was hard for her too, but she was the one
leaving, not me. They had to
hear the words from her lips, and they did.
They had to see her leave our family home, and they saw that as well.
Just one question was raised.
For an eight year old, it was an important question.
"Where will our toys live?"
If I wasn't sad enough, the thought of where toys,
as if they were human, would live, was hard to handle.
No child should have to worry about where his toys should live,
but of course, they do these days.
Momma was about to answer when a knock
as heard at the
front door. Our family
gathering unexpectedly ended.
"Momma is leaving home," he said to his
friend at the door. His
friend was silent.
After confirming his younger brother's announcement
to his friend at the door, he went into the kitchen and stood on a chair
to open the refrigerator freezer door.
"I'll help you,", I said.
He replied. "No poppa, I'll have to learn to do things on my
own now." I wondered
how many moments like this one heart could handle.
I just hated the thought of my boys living in a broken family.
I realize that there are two sides of a fence.
This was the view from "my side of the fence."
was no longer a hurricane that ripped other families apart. It
had just blown my family off the face of this earth. Despite
all of my hopes and prayers, I had joined the ranks of the divorced
Christian who in times past had been relegated to an ecclesiastical
corner to just sit and rot. The ecclesiastical
world can be boring enough for me at times, so sitting in one of its
corners twiddling my thumbs and watching from the sidelines was
unacceptable to me - not then and certainly not now.
it was my Evangelical background that caused me to hate divorce. Evangelicals
could be pretty rough on divorced Christians in times past. Maybe
it was the embarrassment of attending a Sunday meeting with my boys but
without my wife. That was a tough one for me. Maybe
it was the idea that my boys would no longer be living in a nuclear
family. I loved my boys, and the thought of them living in a
broken family just broke my heart. Maybe I figured married
life would never come my way again. What woman would want a
legally blind guy who would never be able to see the colour of her eyes. How
romantic is that?
you tomorrow. Have a good night at your mom's house," I
said as they gathered up their gaming systems and got into her car.
you tomorrow dad," they replied.
drove down the street and disappeared around the corner. I
had no desire for dinner. I just went to bed. That
first night without my boys was eerie. Not one shot was fired
at the video game bad guys in the next bedroom. The pursuit
of evil would return the next day and would become an every other
evening event. I just laid there, numb, silent, and still. I
felt that I had just been robbed of my own children, and that by my own wife.
It didn't seem fair. It made no sense. That 300
pound freight train of muscle and bone of a NFL fullback had flattened
me once again. If numbing silence could deafen a person, I'd
be deaf before the dawn of day. I just hated divorce.
had good reason to hate divorce. I was in good company. I
knew the most quoted Bible passage in history concerning the issue. God
made it clear in Malachi 2:16. In my 1978 version of the NIV
Bible He said "I hate divorce." You can't be any clearer than that. So,
whatever else the Bible says about divorce, the fact that God hates it
must form the basis for our thinking. I'll come back to this
verse later because what comes before and after Malachi 2:16 is just as
important but seldom addressed in our Biblically illiterate western
word "hate" is a strong word. I don't say the word
very often. Does God really hate anything? You
judge for yourself. In Psalm 101:3 God says that He hates the
deeds of faithless men. In Psalm 119:104 He says that He
hates every wrong path we take. In Psalm 119:163 He says that
He hates and even abhors falsehood and lies. Isaiah 61:8 says
that He hates robbery and iniquity. Amos 5:21 says that He
hates His people's religious feasts. He can no longer
appreciate their meetings. Zechariah 8:17 says that He hates
it when we plot against our neighbour and swear falsely. Revelation
2:6 says that God hates the practices of the Nicolatian cult who combine
worship of Jesus with worship of pagan gods. I could go on,
but I'll stop there. It's clear to me, and it should be clear
to you, that God hates and despises many things, not just divorce.
appeared to me while growing up in Evangelical circles that God hated
divorce so much, especially when accompanied with remarriage, that it
was the unforgivable sin. I just knew the unpardonable sin
had something to do with sex because no adult in our church wanted to
talk about sex or the unpardonable sin. So, both must go hand
in hand. I struggled over what the unforgivable sin was. No
one could or would explain it to me. Like many of my
generation, I struggled with the concept of forgiveness as a young
person. I didn't really know if God had forgiven me, even
after many trips to the altar to find forgiveness.
A Sunday school teacher once said that if we told a little tiny white lie, we'd go to hell if we didn't ask to be forgiven. It seemed to me that any little thing would shoot me to the doorstep of hell. My feet could feel the flames almost every evening and that sure didn't make me feel very good.
To make sure I didn't die in my sleep and wake in the flames of hell, each and every night I would pray; "Jesus, if I did anything bad today, please forgive me." I was hoping that vague prayer would keep me safe through the night. Such uncertainty left many of us in a dizzy state of doubt back then. We could never know for sure if we were forgiven. Forgiveness was, and still is, a misunderstood Biblical truth, especially when it comes to divorce. What is forgiveness anyway, and what significance, if any, does it have when a couple divorces? Can a divorced couple forgive one another? Can they forgive and still remain divorced?
"Did you forgive her? If you don't forgive her, bitterness will eat you alive," my friend fervently exclaimed.
"Do you equate forgiveness with relinquishing bitterness and resentment? A psychologist on CNN recently defined forgiveness that way," I replied.
"I don't watch CNN anymore. I missed that," my friend answered.
"You'll probably disagree with this, and that's okay. It's not a popular position to take, so try to think this through with me. Ridding yourself of resentment is important, but it's not Biblical forgiveness. The Greek word 'aphiemi' is translated as 'forgive' in our English New Testament. To understand Biblical forgiveness you must know what this word means and how Jesus, Paul, and others understood it. We can't impose our modern western concepts onto a first century Greek word as we often do. That's bad hermeneutics and does harm to both the Bible and to our understanding."
"Hermeneutics? What's that?"
"It is common sense rules on how to interpret the Bible. More fundamental than that, it's the art of common communication. It's understanding what others say as they understand it, not as we understand it," I replied. "If we define Biblical words and concepts based on our modern thinking we'll get the Bible all wrong. So when it comes to the Greek word 'aphiemi', we need to know its New Testament meaning."
"So what does that Greek word mean"?
"Aphiemi meant to get rid of or to cancel. It wasn't a religious word. It was an everyday street level word used throughout the Roman Empire in New Testament times."
"So the psychologist on CNN was right. You get rid of your resentment," my friend responded with confidence.
"No, he was not right. Forgiveness isn't getting rid of resentment. It's getting rid of, or cancelling, the offense that causes resentment. It's the offense that's canceled, not the resentment. Think of aphieni as an accounting term, as in, I aphiemi or cancel your bank loan."
"I like that kind of aphiemi."
"The Bible portrays God as having an accounting system where He records our good and bad deeds," I explained.
My friend nodded in agreement.
"God views our sin as a debt owed to Him. Jesus stepped into our indebtedness and paid the price to have our debt forgiven or deleted from God's spreadsheet. In order to complete this transaction we need to admit that we've been over our heads with this debt of sin and then walk away from a life of indebtedness. In Bible terms this is called repentance. So, forgiveness is the process by which God deletes, cancels, or forgives, our debt of sin from His books upon our genuine repentance."
"Okay, I get it so far."
"There's no forgiveness without repentance. Check out these verses: Luke 13:5 tells us to repent or we will perish. Luke 17:4 says that if someone says 'I repent' we must forgive him. Acts 2:38 and 3:19 says to repent so our sins can be forgiven. It's clear, repentance precedes forgiveness. One can't be forgiven unless he exhibits genuine repentance."
My friend nodded in agreement again.
"If God doesn't forgive or cancel an offender's sin without him repenting, does He expect us to forgive or cancel the offender's sin without him repenting? Does He require us to do something He Himself doesn't do?"
plead the fifth amendment on that one," my friend replied as he
shook his head in frustration.
"Then I'll move to America to escape the onslaught of your questions," he said with a chuckle.
"How about, you just plead ignorance."
"How about, you just keep explaining."
"Okay, first century Greek culture viewed repenting as changing one's mind about sin. Old Testament Hebrew culture viewed repenting as walking away from sin and destroying that which causes one to sin. Western culture tends to follow Greek thought on this issue. Although the New Testament was written in Greek, its roots are in the Old Testament Hebrew. So, Biblical repentance is more than changing our minds about sin, as we often think these days. More importantly, it's walking away from sin."
"I never thought about it that way."
"Most don't think of it that way because much of the western world church has based its concept of repentance on a pagan Greek culture," I said.
"I see your point," he answered.
"So, forgiveness isn't the relinquishing of bitterness, as important as that is. It's the cancelation of an offence once the offender exhibits genuine repentance," I exclaimed.
"Now think about this. In Matthew 9:6 the Pharisees blasted Jesus for thinking He was authorized to forgive sin. The Pharisees were right when in Luke 5:21 they said that only God could forgive sin. However, they were wrong in thinking God had not authorized Jesus to forgive sin. God did authorize Jesus to forgive sin, and in like manner, as Jesus' representatives, He authorizes us to forgive sin on His behalf. John 20:22 and 23 says that if you forgive anyone his sins, his sins are forgiven, but if you do not forgive his sins, his sins are not forgiven. Biblical forgiveness is all about us acting on the behalf of Jesus to forgive sin. When the sin has been repented of, we cancel the sin on earth while God cancels it in heaven," I explained.
My friend looked totally confused. That sounded way too Roman Catholic for his liking.
"That may sound Roman Catholic, but remember, Revelation 1:6 states that we are a kingdom of priests. Because all Christians are priests, we can all forgive or cancel sin on behalf of God."
My friend seemed bewildered. "But you still haven't answered my original question. Did you forgive her?"
"I can't forgive or cancel an offence if there's no acknowledgement and repentance of the offence. I can, however, demonstrate Biblical love."
"So you love but don't forgive? You've got more explaining to do, brother. Your “aphiemi” accounting practices don't add up on my theological calculator," my friend muttered as he sipped his coffee.
"Well, according to your view of forgiveness, I've forgiven her. What we both agree on is that I demonstrate Biblical love."
"Agreed, but what does loving the one who divorces you really look like in practical terms?" my friend asked.
"Maybe you're not understanding what I believe
is the Biblical concept of forgiveness because we've left love out of
the conversation. Remember,
Biblical love can't be divorced from Biblical truth.
When you fail to uphold truth in the process of love, you fail to
love. Then, Biblical truth
demands that forgiveness is only granted upon the offender repenting.
In Biblical terms, love and forgiveness are two separate and
Forgiveness is conditional upon repentance.
Love is unconditional. Jesus
tells us to extend love within the boundaries of truth to everyone
whether they repent or not. Love
can encourage repentance, and if there is repentance, the offense is
cancelled from God's records and reconciliation becomes possible.
The ultimate goal of repentance isn't forgiveness.
It's reconciliation. We
repent so we can be forgiven. We're
forgiven so we can be reconciled to God. Do
you get that?" I asked.
My friend hesitated.
"I guess so. Maybe
that's why people don't ask to be forgiven when they divorce.
That would suggest reconciliation might be possible," he
"You sound a bit unsure about what I've said.
Anyway, extending love is the way to get rid of hostility,
bitterness, and resentment, which you seem very concerned about, and for
"You're talking about love in the midst of
divorce," my friend said in an uncertain tone of voice.
"That sounds very weird. I don't quite
get this one."
"This might help
explain what I'm saying.
It took place on the sidewalk in front of my house.
On his way to school my son asked if my friend and I could help
his mom put a TV stand together after we moved her stuff out of our
house and into her new apartment. I
told him we'd help her."
My friend was surprised. "You
helped her move out, and then you helped her move into her new
"I did. I
guess if I was a real man I would have answered my son by saying, Hell
no! She can put the damn thing together herself', but I couldn't say
that. What signal would that
have sent my son? How
could he have seen the love of God in me?
For his sake, and the sake of his salvation, I had to demonstrate
love without violating truth, and I don't think helping her in this way
violated Biblical truth."
Hesitating again he said, "I guess."
divorce it makes it
hard for a child to find Jesus. They've
been taught to love, but they experience divorce.
That really troubles me. Children
learn more by what they experience and less by what we teach them.
If they experience divorce, they learn divorce.
If they learn divorce, they'll probably divorce as adults.
Relational stability will elude them, as I believe
is evident in our adult population today. It's hard for a child to find Jesus
in the midst of this mess," I exclaimed.
"So if some kind of love can be demonstrated
during and after divorce, that softens the blow for children," my
friend added in agreement.
"We're not talking about philos style
reciprocal love, and we're certainly not talking about eros style erotic love. We're talking about agape love, thinking of your children and
others instead of yourself, and that in one very rough time in one's
life. In a time when you think you
need all the love you can get is the time you should give all the love
you have. As
crazy as it sounds, expressing agape style love in the midst of divorce
will rid you of resentment, keep you sane, do wonders for your children,
and maybe keep things on an even keel.
To be honest, it's not easy, and your attempt to love is often
rejected. Jesus sure
experienced rejection. He demonstrated the
most definitive expression of love in history while on the cross and He
was still rejected and despised. It's
sad to think, but love doesn't fix every last problem."
"I hear what you're saying, but I still have to
think all this stuff through. You've
said a lot," my friend replied.
"I'd say that the majority of western world
Christians haven't thought this through.
They adopt worldly thinking when it comes to love and
forgiveness. Our Biblical
laziness has made us Biblically illiterate.
Extending forgiveness without repentance is not Biblical.
Loving the unrepentant is Biblical.
All this Biblical illiteracy, especially as it applies to divorce
and remarriage, makes me squirm in the pew, even though I seldom sit in
one any more."
committing adultery if you marry her after being divorced.
You'll be an adulterer forever, a sinner at best." The
old fashion fundamentalist preacher was adamant as he pounded away on
Amen! Preach it
congregation was in full fanatical agreement as they enthusiastically
cheered on their beloved preacher from their pews.
wondered why he had to be so boisterous, so loud.
"I might be legally blind but I'm not deaf.
Couldn't he get his point across without yelling at me?" I
committing adultery. Read
the Bible brother." He
shouted louder than ever as he peered down at me in disgust from his
lofty position on the platform. He
sounded so angry. I felt so
small as his beady little button eyes blasted their way into my personal
space on that hard old wooden pew.
congregational fans followed his lead.
Every eye was fixated on me, as if I was committing the
unpardonable sin; or worst still, as if I was committing adultery right
there in that old pew.
understood where he was coming from.
I was raised in an Evangelical congregation where adultery seemed
to be the unpardonable sin. Sunday
school teachers refused to answer my youthful questions about sex,
adultery, and the unforgivable sin.
Maybe they were too embarrassed to talk about sex in Sunday
school. Maybe they had no
clue to what the unforgivable sin really was.
Whatever the case, because they ignored my questions, I just knew
the unforgiveable sin had something to do with sex and it was probably adultery.
What else could it be? Neither
God, nor especially man, could ever forgive adultery.
old time fundamentalist preachers sure get riled up over this
issue," I thought as I squirmed uncomfortably in that hard old pew.
invented pews anyway? It
must have been
felt like sticking my tongue out at the couple sitting to my right, but
of course I didn't. I
wouldn't do such a thing, at least not in a gathering of people we call
church. I just knew what
they were thinking. Their
eyes gave their thoughts away. "You're
an adulterous sinner!" Their
thoughts screamed at me even louder as I glared back at them.
"Go to the altar or go to hell, you adulterer.
It's your choice."
then some guy with a nasty case of bad breath tapped me on the shoulder
and began to breathe down the back of my neck from the pew behind me.
The stench was sickening. In
a quiet deep sober voice he whispered into my ear.
"He's talking to you bro.
You're the adulterer."
man, I know he's talking to me. Cut
me some slack, and go home and wash your mouth," I replied in
no forgiveness for you bro," he answered back.
now the fingers were pointing at me from all corners of the sanctuary.
As if in some sort of weird style of worship they all shouted in
unison. "You're an
adulterer! You're an
adulterer! You're an
wasn't an adulterer. I'd
just been recently divorced. The
thought of another woman hadn't entered my mind.
Why were they picking on me?
I was innocent.
at what Jesus said", the preacher shouted.
"It's from the authorized Bible.
Mark 10:11 and 12 says it plainly.
Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marrieth another,
committeth adultery against her. And
if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she
committeth adultery. How
clear can you get? You're
going to be an adulterer."
did it for me. I barked back
at the guy. "You're
not telling the whole story preacher!"
snarled right back. "If
you don't like Mark's gospel, listen to Luke.
It's in the authorized Bible that you should start reading.
Get rid of that new fangled blasphemous version you've got on
your lap. Whosoever putteth
away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever
marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery.
There it is again. It's
in Luke 16:18. Are you blind
boy? Can't you see what
Jesus is telling you?"
was no longer brother. I was
now boy. "I may be
legally blind, but I'm certainly not spiritually blind," I shouted
couldn't take this abuse any longer.
"There's more to this", I shouted as I stood to my feet
in defiance. "There's
more to what the Bible says. It's
even in your authorized version. Read
it all preacher. Don't leave
anything out. Tell them
everything. Don't pull out
two passages to hang your doctrinal hat of divorce on."
words of defiance caused an uproar among his loyal congregational fans.
They were now furious with me.
in their eyes told me that they were ready to burn me at the
stake. I'd be burned to
a crisp here on earth long before Iwould burn in the Lake
With no hesitation, the fire filled fundamentalist preacher leapt from the platform. In his haste, his authorized Bible flew off the pulpit and onto the floor. It had been opened to Matthew 5:31 and 32. That was the next passage he was about to clobber me with. Like a vicious hungry lion, he was poised to pounce on me and rip me apart. I didn't know if he was going to cast a demon of divorce out of me or hang me from the oak tree out front. As his bony fingered hands reached for my neck, I knew I had to get out of there, and fast. The only way to escape the wrath of this preacher, his fans, and hell's fire, was to wake myself from this nasty nonsensical dream. Okay, so I have weird dreams!
I wonder what the old time preacher would have said about Deuteronomy 241 to 4. Even in his authorized version, divorce was permitted in the Law of Moses.
Testament teaching concerning divorce and remarriage presupposes that we
know and understand what the Old Testament says about this issue.
One fundamental passage we must begin with is Deuteronomy 24:1to 4. "When a man has
taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she finds no
favour in his eyes, because he has found some uncleanness in her; then
let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and
send her out of his house. And
when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's
wife. And if the latter
husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and gives it in
her hand, and sends her out of his house; or if the latter husband die,
which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away,
may not take her back again to be his wife, after that she is defiled;
for it is an abomination before the Lord …"
This is the law of divorce directed towards Israeli men as seen
in the Law of Moses.
the words "his house" in this passage.
It's not "their house."
Women didn't own or even co-own houses in Moses' day.
This gives us a glimpse into Israeli society back then.
Men were held on a higher social scale than women.
This is also seen in the fact that this law was directed towards
the husband and not the wife. A
husband was legally permitted to divorce his wife but a wife was not
legally permitted to divorce her husband.
the words "his house" in this passage.
It's not "their house."
Women didn't own or even co-own houses in Moses' day.
This gives us a glimpse into Israeli society back then.
Men were held on a higher social scale than women.
This is also seen in the fact that this law was directed towards
the husband and not the wife. A
husband was legally permitted to divorce his wife but a wife was not
legally permitted to divorce her husband.
to the law of divorce stated here, if a husband found something unclean
in his wife, he was permitted to divorce her, but only after he gave her
a legal divorce certificate. He
had to literally put it in her hand.
These certificates were written by the Levitical priesthood.
You might say that these priests were the lawyers of that day.
ground for a legal divorce was uncleanness in the wife, as stated by
the King James Bible. We're
not talking about a wife wearing dirty clothes.
The Hebrew word "ervah" is translated as
"unclean" in this passage.
"Ervah" means "shame, filthiness, or nakedness."
in this passage should be understood in terms of some kind of sexual
indecency that displeased the husband.
this point on in my book, when I refer to this passage, I will not use
the word "unclean." I
will use the word "indecent" instead.
I will also not use the words "find no favour in her."
Instead, I will use the words "displeased with her,"
which is in reference to the husband's displeasure with his wife's
"sexual indecency." The
words "indecent" and "displease" are words used in
modern versions of this passage and are extremely important words when
working our way through the Biblical record concerning divorce and
remarriage. I will return to
Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 when I address certain New Testament passages.
If the husband,
then, found something
passage does not define exactly what sexual indecency means.
For this reason, it became the social norm that the husband would
define sexual indecency. More
often than not, these definitions would vary from husband to husband.
They became flimsy legal excuses to get out of a marriage the
husband was no longer interested in. Beyond
that, it provided a legal way for the husband to find a new sex partner.
This may sound crude, but this is the historic reality.
We will see that these flimsy definitions of sexual
indecency become a major point of contention between Jesus and the
Jewish religious establishment.
the wife was legally divorced, she was permitted to marry another man.
There was no problem with remarriage according to this law.
If however, her second husband divorced her, her first husband
was not permitted to remarry her.
The reason why the first husband could not remarry the wife he had divorced is because she would have been deemed defiled. The word "defiled" means "polluted." This pollution is a Levitical ceremonial designation. Under certain conditions, both humans and animals were considered to be ceremonially defiled or unclean according to the Law of Moses.
believe this passage implies that in God's eyes it's not the certificate of divorce
that breaks the marriage covenant. It's
sexual indecency that splits the marriage apart.
The certificate was simply a legality to show that a woman had
been legally divorced. Many
Bible teachers suggest that this law was incorporated into the Law of
Moses as a means of protecting the wife from being unfairly kicked out
of the home by her husband. It was a legal document that
would permit her to marry another man.
you don't familiarize yourself with Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4
understand what Jesus said in Matthew 5:31 and 32, 19:1 to 13, Mark
10:1 to 12, and Luke 16:18. That's
why I started our Biblical tour here.
How this passage was understood in first century Israeli society is vital in understanding New Testament thinking concerning divorce and remarriage. We'll come back to this passage again. Until then, there are a few other things to think about, like being unequally yoked, as the old time fundamentalist preacher would have put it.
2 Corinthians 6:14 the Apostle Paul reminded us not to be unequally
yoked together with unbelievers. It
makes no Scriptural sense for a righteous person to be united with an
unrighteous person. In other
words, oil and water don't mix. Faith and
unbelief are just not compatible. Paul wasn't
speaking specifically about marriage here.
He certainly wasn't speaking about interracial marriage as my
Sunday school teachers taught us when I was a child.
Paul was simply stating the obvious.
In any walk of life, whether in marriage, business, or whatever,
believers and unbelievers are worlds apart in their thinking and the way
derived his thinking on this subject, and all subjects, from the Old
Testament. On a number of
occasions God commanded Old Testament Israelis not to unite themselves
with their pagan neighbors. Israeli
men seldom obeyed this command. They
joined into business partnerships with pagans, adopted pagan cultural
and religious practices, and married pagan women.
one spiritual revival in
passage has stumped Bible teachers for centuries.
Some suggest that these Israeli men didn't send their pagan wives
and children back to their pagan families.
Others say they did. There's
no hint in the text that suggests these men didn't do as they said, so I
believe most of them sent their wives and children away as they said
men were confessing that they had been unfaithful and disobedient to
their God. They were
anguishing over their sin of marrying pagan women.
To demonstrate genuine repentance as they understood it, they
felt it necessary to turn from their sin by sending their pagan wives
and children away to their pagan homeland.
fact that these men would send their wives home is disturbing enough,
but to send their children into paganism, is doubly disturbing.
Couldn't these men have repented by simply admitting to their
sin? Couldn't they have kept
their wives and children and love them to death?
Apparently that wasn't their thinking.
Do you remember what I said in an earlier chapter? The Hebrew understanding
of repentance was more than admitting to sin.
Repentance was walking away from sin; getting rid of sin, as in
getting rid of pagan wives and children.
event shows us the importance the Bible places on marrying a godly
spouse. Many Christians have
messed up their lives by marrying non-Christians.
The Bible does not permit such marriages.
This event also shows us how serious these men viewed repentance,
something I believe is lacking in today's post modern church.
Before you become too disturbed by this event, I will come back to it later when we see what the Apostle Paul said about such things in 1 Corinthians 7. He gives a New Testament perspective on such matters. Before we head over to the New Testament, let's take a closer look at Malachi 2 and see why God hates divorce. I touched on this chapter earlier. It's now time take a serious look at this chapter because it's often misunderstood and misappropriated.
I've already mentioned the most quoted Bible verse in history concerning divorce. Depending on what version of the Bible you read Malachi 2:16 says that God hates divorce. Few Bible teachers comment on the rest of Malachi 2 that tells us why God hates divorce. We do a disservice to God and the Bible by commenting on a verse apart from its context. Here's the context.
2:10 says, "Why do we deal treacherously every man against his
brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?"
I believe the covenant that Israelis were admitting profaning was the Law
of Moses, also called the Mosaic Covenant that Israel promised God it
would faithfully keep (Exodus 19:8, 24:3).
Hebrew word "chalal" is translated into English as
"profane" in the KJV. "Chalal"
means "to cut or to rip up."
In other words, Israelis were ripping up the Mosaic Covenant
they agreed to keep.
Hebrew word "bagad" is translated as "acting
treacherously" in the KJV, "breaking faith" the NIV, or
"faithless" in the RSV. "Bagad" means "to cover up, to act
covertly, or, to act hypocritically."
Israelis were acting hypocritically; claiming to live according
to the Mosaic Law when in fact they weren't.
2:11 tells us how Israel
ripped up God's covenant. Israeli
men desecrated the sanctuary of the Lord by marrying pagan women.
In other words, Israeli men appeared to be godly while
worshipping at the temple but their pagan influenced lives, which
included pagan wives, told a different story.
Their worship was a mockery. As
a result of this hypocrisy, God paid no attention to Israel
as stated in verse 13. He actually divorced
the Old Testament we see that God views Israel
as His wife. We especially
see this in the book of Hosea. In Hosea 2:2 the KJV states that God told
Hosea to "plead with his mother," or, "rebuke his
mother," as stated in the NIV. The
word "mother" refers to
The words "plead" in the KJV and
"rebuke" in the NIV are translated from the Hebrew word "riyb."
"Riyb" means to "contest, or plead for a cause, or
to argue your case, as in a court of law."
Hosea 2:2 is written in Hebrew legal language.
This verse tells us that God was in the process of legally
divorcing Israel and He
told Hosea to make this known to his mother Israel. The grounds for this
divorce was Israel's unfaithfulness.
was unfaithful because it had forsaken its God to follow pagan gods.
God viewed this as spiritual adultery.
In case you wonder why God would initiate divorce, you should remember that He instituted the law of divorce based on sexual indecency in Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4. He was following his own law. Of course, if you read all of Hosea's prophecy you'll see that God will eventually remarry Israel, even though the very same divorce law did not permit a remarriage to a former wife.
Getting back to Malachi 2, another legal word is seen in verse 14. God said that He was a "witness" between Israeli men and the wives of their youth. It's similar to our western world marriage laws that require two witnesses for a marriage to be legal. In this instance, God stood as a witness in the marriage of a Jewish couple.
The reason why God hates divorce is stated in Malachi 2:14. It's because Israeli men "broke faith" with the Israeli wives of their youth that led to divorce. God hates divorce because it breaks faith. It breaks trust that was verbalized in the marriage vows.
I suggest that God hates any kind of unfaithfulness, not just divorce.
He dislikes anything that we allow to put stress on our marriage
vows to love and cherish for life.
He hates nasty words, cruel looks, or a multitude of other things
seen between couples. In
this sense of the word, we're all guilty of unfaithfulness.
Many Christian couples who live together may have never committed
adultery but their unloving behaviour towards each other suggests
unfaithfulness to their vows to love and cherish for life. I don't
think God likes such unfaithfulness.
Solomon portrayed the mind of God on this matter when he said that it is
better not to make an agreement, a vow, a covenant, than to make one and
then break it (Ecclesiastics 5:5). It's
all about being faithful to our commitments, and in this case, being
faithful to love and cherish our spouse for life as stated in our
The very essence of God is faithfulness. It's impossible for Him to be unfaithful. He cannot break a vow, commitment, or a covenant. Any hint of unfaithfulness in you and I goes against His very nature.
Malachi 2:15 precedes verse 16 where we learn that God hates divorce. It refers back to Genesis 2:24 where God created a man to be glued to his wife for life in a state of oneness. Malachi adds to this by saying that being faithful to this oneness produces godly children. Godliness that is handed down from one generation to the next generation is what God really desires from a marriage. Unfaithfulness in marriage breaks the chain of generational godliness. Divorce inserts a genetic virus into the psyche of the generation that has experienced family break-ups, thus producing a godless society. This is where I began this study a number of chapters back. One major reason for our moral decline in the world is because of broken marriages that make the transmission of godliness from one generation to the next difficult, if not impossible.
concludes by encouraging a man to guard his spirit and remain faithful
to the wife of his youth.
Keeping a close eye on his heart is vital to remaining faithful.
The same applies to women.
We cannot allow our hearts to begin to look elsewhere.
It will end in divorce and generational ungodliness.
We must remain faithful until death as seen in Romans 7:2.
That's were we head next.
does hate divorce. He hates
it because it expresses an unfaithfulness that is foreign to whom He is.
Romans 7:2 the Apostle Paul tells us that by law a married woman is
bound to her husband as long as he is alive.
The law spoken of here is the Law of Moses.
Paul goes on to say that if her husband dies she is free from the
law of marriage. In other
words, she is free to remarry.
quotes the Law of Moses concerning marriage in this verse but marriage
isn't what he is addressing in Romans 7.
He's only using the law of marriage as an illustration to show
Jewish believers, that like a deceased husband, the Law of Moses has
died. Jews were now free to
marry another, which in this case is Jesus, as seen in Romans 7:4.
I would suspect that there were many reasons why an Israeli woman would
want to remarry upon her husband's death, we should realize that she
lived in constant insecurity while married.
A man could, and did, freely and easily divorce his wife for any
and every reason. As it has
been said, "If a wife burned her husband's toast, that was grounds
and easy divorces were the social norm of the day when the Pharisees
tried to trap Jesus in the legalities of marriage and divorce.
Even the Pharisees were split right down the middle on this
issue. Let's look at this split.
now time to return to Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 to see how the Jewish
religious leaders of Jesus' day understood this passage.
now time to return to Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 to see how the Jewish
religious leaders of Jesus' day understood this passage.
were two rabbinical trains of thought concerning divorce and remarriage
in first century Judaism. The
split was over the interpretation of certain words in Deuteronomy 24:1
to 4. If you remember, this
passage is the law of divorce that was given to Israeli men.
It stated that if a husband was "displeased" with his
wife because he discovered something "indecent" about her he
was permitted to divorce her. I
noted that the Hebrew word translated as "indecent" portrays
law also stated that the divorced wife was permitted to marry another
man but if that marriage ended in divorce, her first husband was not
permitted to remarry her.
law also stated that the divorced wife was permitted to marry another
man but if that marriage ended in divorce, her first husband was not
permitted to remarry her.
Jewish religious establishment was divided into two major schools of
in the Shammai
of thought majored on the word "indecent" in Deuteronomy 24:1
to 4. They interpreted
"indecent" to mean "sexual indecency."
They thus believed that sexual indecency was the only reason why
a husband could legally divorce his wife.
in the Hillel
sure you can guess what train of thought was more popular.
It doesn't really matter what culture or era in which you live,
fallen man will always be tempted to seek the easy way out.
come back to this bit of history later because it's important in
understanding what Jesus said about divorce and remarriage.
As I said earlier, you'll get Jesus wrong if you don't know a bit
Adultery seemed to be a thing of individual interpretation in Jesus' day. Things really haven't changed since those days. Men and women still hold to their personal views on the subject. So what is adultery?
sunny summer afternoon I found myself in conversation with a young man.
As often happens when talking with young men on sunny summer
afternoons the conversation turned from cars to girls.
would never cheat on my girlfriend," he said.
"That would be adultery."
hesitated to get entangled in this conversation, but after a brief pause
I replied. "Cheating on
your girlfriend isn't exactly adultery according to the Bible."
afraid to disappoint you, but the word adultery only applies to married
couples who have vowed before the Lord Jesus to love and cherish each
other for life. It doesn't
apply to boyfriends and girlfriends.
Have you two made such a vow to each other and to Jesus?"?
seemed a bit puzzled. He
is another Bible word. It's
a general word for all kinds of unbiblical sexual practices," I
I'd be fornicating if I had sex with a girl other than my
girlfriend?" he asked.
that would be sort of true, but there's more," I replied.
now seemed more confused than before.
is a general term which includes such sins as cheating on your wife,
homosexuality, and, sorry to say, having sex with your girlfriend."
The young man
remained uncomfortably silent.
a matter of fact," I continued, "in Matthew 5:28 Jesus said
something that condemns every man who has ever lived."
was that?" the young man nervously asked.
said that if a man simply looks at a woman lustfully he has committed
adultery with her in his heart. I
suppose you've never done such a thing, right?"
penetrated the airwaves once again.
The young man didn't want to talk about girls anymore. He didn't seem too excited about Biblical morality, but neither were Jewish men in Jesus' day. Let's take a closer look at those men.
and in this case Jewish history, is important in understanding the
Bible. The lack of
historical teaching in our post modern church has led to confusion over
this and other issues. Here
are two simple historical facts that are important in understanding what
the Bible has to say about divorce and remarriage. These
two facts are especially vital in understanding what Jesus had to say on
first century Jewish man would divorce his wife for any and every
reason. The Pharisees
acknowledged this fact in Matthew 19:3 when they asked Jesus if it was
lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason.
Their question was relevant because this was exactly what Jewish
men were doing. As the old
saying goes; "If a wife burned her husband's toast, she could
easily find herself in divorce court."
Of course, burnt toast was not the number one reason why a man
would divorce his wife. The
real reason was because the woman in the house across the street seemed
more appealing to him than his wife at home.
second historical fact is that in first century Judaism a woman was on a
lower social scale than a man. She
was a second class person. Like
many cultures (and many today), Judaism was a male dominated society.
Because of this, the wife was usually blamed for the divorce.
She was in fact stigmatized, or, seen as being an adulteress,
even if she wasn't. The word "stigmatized" is an important
word. We'll come back to
this word later when I discuss what Jesus said in Matthew 5:31 and 32.
The simple fact is that divorce was always seen as the fault of
the wife and not the husband. If
we don't understand this we will not understand what Jesus says about
History is important, but some knowledge of Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament, is even more important. Here is where I know I will loose many of you. In our dumbed-down world, few really like thinking about English grammar let alone an old style grammar from two thousand years ago. We should remember, the Bible is a book, and a book is the compilation of grammatical structures.
You can't get around that. The
little bit of Greek grammar that I will discuss in the next chapter is
the number one key to understanding Jesus concerning divorce and
remarriage. This is where
many Bible teachers have gone wrong and have confused us all.
So, take a deep breath, clear your head, and try to think this through with me.
you need to reread the next chapter a thousand times, please take the
time to do so. It's that important.
here's the grammar stuff. In
order to understand what Jesus said about divorce and remarriage, Greek
grammar cannot be avoided. I
believe that you can't really understand the Bible in detail without
having someone who knows about these things explain the text from its
original languages. It's not
that you have to be a linguistic scholar to be saved.
One can easily see the message of salvation in our English
Bibles. That being said,
hermeneutics (common sense rules to interpreting the Bible) demands that our Bible teachers teach from the original
text as best they can.
brush up on a bit of English grammar first.
A noun is a person place or thing.
It's also what is called the subject of a sentence.
That is, the person place or thing the sentence is about is the
subject of the sentence.
A verb is an action word. Verbs
tell us what action the person place or thing is doing or what action is
being done to it. Here's
an example. "The mouse
ate the cheese." The
word "mouse" is a noun because it's a thing.
It's also the subject of this sentence because the sentence
revolves around the mouse. The
word "ate" is a verb because it's an action word that
describes something the mouse, which is the subject of the sentence, is doing.
In grammar, there is a connection between the subject of the
sentence and the verb of the sentence.
Either the subject is doing the action, having the action done to
it, or, doing the action to itself.
You'll see this in the following Greek verbs.
Greek verbs have what is called the active voice, the passive voice, and
the middle voice. No, this
has nothing to do with hearing voices or seeing visions. These voices
concern how the subject, or the noun, of a sentence relates to the verb,
the action word of the sentence.
active voice is when the subject of the sentence is doing the action, as in this
example. "The mouse ate
the cheese." The noun "mouse" is the subject of the sentence and the
"mouse" is doing the action of "eating."
The mouse is the one "actively" eating.
passive voice is when the subject of the sentence is the recipient of the action, as in
this example. "The
cheese was eaten by the mouse."
The noun "cheese" is the subject in this sentence and
it's the recipient of the action of being "eaten."
The cheese is not actively doing anything.
It is "passively" sitting back and being eaten.
The action is being done to it.
middle voice is when the subject of the sentence is both doing the action and is the
recipient of the action. Here's
the example. "The mouse
ate himself." The noun "mouse" is the subject of the sentence.
He is the one doing the action of eating and he's also the
recipient of the action of being eaten. This
is the middle voice because it's in the middle between the active voice
and the passive voice. You
might say it's two voices wrapped up in one voice.
The most crucial part of this lesson for our present purpose is to understand the passive voice. As hard as this is to grasp, it's the essential key in understanding what Jesus and the New Testament teaches concerning remarriage after divorce. This bit of Greek grammar may end your confusion over this issue for ever, as it has for me. So here goes. Put your thinking caps on and exercise your brain. Let's check out what Jesus said about divorce and remarriage in Luke 16:18 first.
in the New Testament does Jesus systematically set forth an extensive
teaching concerning divorce and remarriage.
This doesn't mean He never addressed the subject on occasions,
because He did. What it does
mean is that we cannot derive our doctrinal positions from what Jesus
didn't say or the little He did say.
for Matthew 5:31 and 32, all that Jesus said about this issue was in
response to questions asked by the Pharisees in order to trap Him in
matters concerning the Law of Moses and rabbinical laws.
They figured that if they could trap Jesus in a legal mistake
they would have legal grounds to arrest Him.
of the four passages found in the gospel accounts where Jesus addressed
divorce and remarriage I begin with Luke 16:18 because it's only one
verse. One verse doesn't
constitute the totality of Biblical teaching on any subject, so we can't
build our doctrine of divorce on Luke 16:18 alone, as some have done in the
16:15 reads as follows. "Whosoever
puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery: and whosoever
marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery."
In other words, when a man divorces his wife to marry another
woman, he commits adultery, and, the man who marries this divorced wife
also commits adultery, or so the text appears to say to many readers.
Upon a superficial reading of this verse you may think you understand what Jesus said, but without a grasp of the context you'll surely misunderstand Him. Jesus didn't say what you are probably thinking He said. Let's put this verse in its contextual perspective.
context of what Jesus said here goes back to Luke 15:2 where the
Pharisees were angry with Jesus for associating with sinners, which
included prostitutes. These
prostitutes would have been the same prostitutes that these men secretly
associated with, but of course, for a different reason.
Jesus would often associate with the so-called undesirables of
His day. The self-righteous
Pharisees were furious about this. How
in all lawful honesty could Jesus associate with ceremonially polluted
prostitutes? They had
to find a way to silence Jesus and get Him off the streets.
Jesus responded to the Pharisees by pointing out their hypocrisy concerning legal matters that they claimed to uphold. In Luke 16:15 He said that the Pharisees justified themselves in the sight of men. The Pharisees were a mutual admiration society. They'd esteem each other in front of the general public in the hope that everyone would admire them and follow their teaching.
Jesus then said that God saw through the hypocrisy of these Pharisees. They could justify themselves all they wanted before man, but that meant nothing to God. Jesus told these hypocrites that what they highly valued was highly detestable in the eyes of God. Jesus blasted these guys for their hypocritical rabbinical laws that allowed them to circumvent the Law of Moses they arrogantly claimed to uphold.
specific point of hypocrisy Jesus zeroed in on was their legalized free
and easy divorce laws that He viewed as adulterous.
These laws were based on an incorrect interpretation of
Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4. This
tells me that Jesus was a good student of Biblical hermeneutics.
important to know to whom Jesus was specifically speaking to in Luke
16:18. He wasn't speaking to
men in general. He was
speaking directly to the hypocritical Jewish men who were challenging
Him at that very moment in time. They
were standing right in front of Him, condemning Him for His association
with prostitutes. This
contextual significance is often overlooked, resulting in us
misunderstanding what Jesus said on this particular occasion.
of the men opposing Jesus on this occasion would have been of
Based on the context and culture of the day, here's what I believe Jesus was saying to these guys in Luke 16:18. "Anyone of you hypocritical and lust filled men standing before me commits adultery when you freely and easily divorce your wives for the sole purpose of finding a new sex partner, and, you other lust filled men who marry that divorced woman to fulfill your sexual desires also commit adultery." This may sound crude, but the historical fact is that these men were that crude. These guys really were wife swappers.
I believe to be hermeneutically accurate we must know exactly and specifically to whom Jesus spoke on this occasion. He was speaking to guilty hypocritical wife swappers who were standing right in front of Him. He was not speaking to men who lawfully divorced their wives on the grounds of adultery as Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 permitted. Those men were few and far between. I believe a contextual analysis of Jesus' statement tells us that wife swappers committed adultery when they married after divorce. Those men who lawfully divorced their wives on the grounds of adultery did not commit adultery when they married another woman because they weren't those to whom Jesus was speaking.
thing we should note here is that this verse does not address the
divorced woman. It says nothing about her status. You cannot
build your doctrine of divorced women on this veers.
I won't comment on the Greek structure of this verse, as I will do in other passages where Jesus spoke to this issue, because the general consensus seems to be that the verb tense of the words "commits adultery" is obscure. Don't worry; the obscurity is resolved in Matthew 5:31 to 32.
5:31 and 32 are just two verses.
They aren't an exhaustive teaching on divorce and remarriage,
but, they are the pivotal verses in understanding divorce and remarriage
in Biblical terms. So, pour yourself a cup of coffee, relax, clear your
head, and try to think this through with me.
It will take some thought.
5:31 reads as follows.
"It has been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let
him give her a writing of divorcement."
Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 that permitted a man to
divorce his wife if he placed a divorce certificate in her hand. Then,
in verse 32 He said; "But I say unto you, whosoever shall put away
his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit
adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits
you understand these verses from a superficial reading of our English
texts you'll misunderstand Jesus.
Historical Jewish culture of the day and Greek grammar, are
essential if you want to understand this passage.
confirming the legality of the divorce certificate Jesus got to the heart of the issue by
addressing the culturally accepted practice of legalized wife swapping.
Free and easy divorces were the cultural norm.
said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of
fornication, causes her to commit adultery." Newer
translations don't say "saving for the cause of fornication."
They say, "except for marital unfaithfulness" or "except for
phrase is called "the exception clause."
This exception clause is important to the text because it
confirms Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 that states sexual indecency as being the
only legal grounds for divorce.
Jesus was admitting that there was a legally valid reason for
divorcing one's wife.
that Luke 16:18 that we studied in the last chapter does not include
this exception clause.
We are learning something from Matthew that we didn't learn from
Luke, that being, adultery is grounds for divorce. This
confirms the necessity to consider all Biblical passages when studying a
we omit one passage, we will get things wrong, as would be the case
next point is crucial.
It's the crux, the root, of this whole issue. How you understand "causes her to commit adultery"
"causes her to become an adulteress" will determine your
stance on divorce and remarriage.
Again, without any grammatical and cultural knowledge concerning
these words, you'll misunderstand Jesus, as many do.
majority opinion among New Testament Greek scholars about the words
"causes her to become an adulteress" is that this clause is in
the passive Greek voice, not the active voice as many English Bibles
translate this verse.
If you remember what I said about the passive voice you'll know
that the subject of the sentence is having an action done to it.
It's not doing any action.
The subject is passive, sitting back, and being acted upon.
My example was, "The cheese was eaten by the mouse."
The word "cheese" is the subject of the sentence and
it's being acted upon by being eaten.
active voice, however, is when the subject of the sentence is doing the action, as
in, "The mouse ate the cheese."
Many English Bibles
say that "she becomes an adulterous" in this verse. The
word "she" is doing the action of
becoming an adulterous in our English Bibles. That's not
what the Greek text is saying. The Greek text is passive, not
this in mind, the subject of this particular sentence is the wife who is
According to the passive voice, she is not doing the action of divorcing.
She is not doing the action of committing adultery. She is
in fact the recipient of the action of being divorced.
Here's the key to all I say in this book.
The passive voice in this verse means that the wife who is being divorced
is stigmatized as an adulteress, even if she isn't.
In other words, she is seen as an adulterous in the eyes of the
community when in fact she's not.
Being stigmatized as an adulteress is the action being done to
this innocent wife. As
I've said earlier, the word "stigmatized" is an important word
in this matter.
where Jewish culture comes into play.
When a man divorced his wife in first century Judaism, the
general consensus in that male dominated world was that the wife was an
adulteress, even if she wasn't.
She was to be blamed for the failure of the marriage.
The action done to her that the passive voice suggests was the
unfair stigmatization of her being an adulteress when she wasn't.
So, you can easily translate "causes her to become an
adulteress" as "causes her to be seen or stigmatized as an adulteress."
This clause is not saying she is an adulteress as many suggest.
English texts also says that the man who marries such a divorced woman
The words "commits adultery" here is also in the
So, in like manner, the man who marries a stigmatized divorce
woman is stigmatized as being an adulterer, albeit in the male dominated
culture that was no big deal.
was addressing the men of the day who divorced their wives for any and
He was addressing the sin of unfairly stigmatizing divorced women
and the men who would eventually marry them.
Jesus was not saying that a divorced wife who married another man
Neither was He saying the man who married this divorced woman was
sure I've lost many of you at this point, but the Biblical fact from
Greek grammar and Jewish culture makes it clear.
The man who divorces his wife for any reason other than adultery
commits adultery when he marries another woman.
He is the one sinning, not the innocent wife who marries another
man or the man she marries.
This gets to the heart of the problem Jesus was dealing with.
These Jewish men were wife swappers.
All they wanted were new sex partner which rabbinical law
we turn to Mark's account, we'll fast forward to 1992, and miracles in
the midst of misery.
was an elderly old style Pentecost
following afternoon our boys were dropped off at a friend's house.
Speechless and numb I sat in my usual spot on the love seat.
It was the west end of the love seat, right beside my stereo.
That was my spot to sit in the room.
I always sat there. I'll
probably always sit there. Who
knows, maybe I'll even die there. Every
fiber in my body seemed paralyzed. It
was like my body was beginning to shut down in preparation for death.
The world around me had come to a complete and sudden stop.
I was empty and void of any and all feelings.
The sad and final chapter of a fifteen year story entitled
"I'd Like You To Leave" was now being spoken to me from across
the room. I had only one
thing to say. "You may
leave our marriage but I won't leave our home."
time it was her turn to be silent. My
mind was made up. There was
no way that my boys would see me leaving the house
when I wasn't the one leaving the marriage.
They'd have to see her leave the family home, and that they did
a few hours later when my friend was leaving a Sunday evening service, a
frail faint voiced woman asked, "Are you Steve Sweetman's friend?"
knowing who she was, my friend replied.
"Yes I am Steve's friend."
tell him that I'm praying for him", she sincerely said. "I
haven't seen him for years but last night Jesus told me to open a box in
my attic. I found his
wedding invitation postmarked 1977.
Jesus told me to put the invitation on my mantle and pray for
him. Is he okay?"
at the timing my friend proceeded to explain why Jesus had her pray for
Of course, we shouldn't be too amazed at Jesus' timing.
He does all things on time and at the appropriate time.
days later I was sitting on a bench in our local mall.
While watching the world pass me by, as it had been doing for the
last year, a frail faint voice from behind me asked, "Are you
I replied as I turned to see to whom the frail faint voice belonged.
There she was. No,
she wasn't an angel, but she might as well have been one.
I hadn't seen her in years, and until she told me her name, I
didn't recognize her. I'm
sure you can guess who she was.
she said. "Jesus told
me to go to my attic and pull out one certain box.
There I found your wedding invitation you sent me back in 1977.
He told me to pray for you. He
also told me to tell you not to worry," she calmly said.
"He told me to tell you that you'll always have shoes on
your feet and a roof over your head.
I didn't know how I could ever pass Jesus' message on to you.
I had no clue where you lived these days.
The last I heard was that you moved to the
taken aback by the timing of
prayer warrior's prophetic word was realized again twenty years later
when $7,100.00 was needed for new shingles on the same house, money that
could only be obtained through another line of credit.
Again, another miracle
came by way of an unexpected personal check from a different source for
$7,100.00. You can be sure,
when Jesus tells you that you'll always have a roof over your head,
which obviously includes shingles, take Him at His word. He
literally means what He says.
weeks after hearing this miracle message in the mall
I heard another
miracle message. After the
speaker from Lexington, Kentucky, ended his message, without hesitation he walked over to me.
He laid his hand on my shoulder and began to prophesy and pray.
Immediately I was in the powerful presence of Jesus.
It felt like Jesus was sitting right beside me on His love seat
in His personal office. Speechless
again, I was overwhelmed by the word of the Lord.
This man from
message from these miracles was loud and clear.
If I would live within the Biblical boundaries Jesus sets forth
for us, He'd take care of me, even through a miserable and unwanted
divorce. However, if I
crossed those boundaries into a world of fallen morality, I would be on
my own. I didn't want to be
on my own, especially not after the Lord was so gracious and kind to
send these two special messengers my way. Thank the Lord for miracles in
the midst of misery. We all
need a few of these every so often.
Now let's get back to the Bible. We'll head over to the gospel of Mark next to see what we can learn from Jesus there.
10:1 to 12 records the Pharisees' attempt to trap Jesus in the
legalities concerning divorce.
Knowing very well what the Law of Moses said about this issue
these Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce his
wife. The Pharisees weren't stupid.
They knew that Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 permitted a man to divorce
referred these men back to the specific law that was in question.
He asked them what Moses said about divorce.
They answered by saying that the Law of Moses permitted a man to
divorce his wife if he gave her a certificate of divorce.
Both Jesus and the Pharisees would have agreed on that, but
Jesus added something that the Pharisees missed.
The Law of Moses did permit divorce but only as a
concession. God allowed a
man to divorce his wife because He knew the hardness of the human heart. He knew
it was unlikely that a couple would stay married for life so some kind
of civil law was needed to address this issue.
wanted the Pharisees to know that the divorce law was a concession on
God's part. It was not His
will. For this reason He
referred them back to Genesis 2:24. It
was God's original intention that a man should leave his parents, be
glued to his wife as the Hebrew text puts it, for life.
was not in favour of divorce.
knocked the fight out of the Pharisees with a verbal
blow to their
intellect in Mark 10:9. He
told them that what God has joined together no man should rip apart.
Jesus was pointing his finger at the Pharisees free and easy
divorce laws which were in contradiction to the law of God they claimed
vital to know to whom Jesus was speaking in this instance.
The specific men who were ripping up the marriage covenant were standing in front of Him at that
very moment. They were
the Pharisees, and they knew Jesus was talking about them. Their
practice of legalized wife swapping was ripping apart the very fabric of
marriage instituted by God at creation.
Their free and easy divorce laws were subverting the Law of Moses
as seen in Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4.
Pharisees interpreted the divorce law in such a way that it gave them
the freedom to divorce their wives for any and every reason.
That was not the intent of the law.
That's typical humanity; God
concedes to our fallen nature by instituting a divorce law and then we
take the law and misuse it for our own selfish purposes.
hearing Jesus' response, the Pharisees left in disgust.
Jesus then carried on the conversation with some of His
disciples. In Mark 10:11 He
said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marries another
commits adultery against he." The
phrase "commit adultery against her" here is most likely a passive voice
verb, although there are some scholars who suggest that it might be a
middle voice verb.
passive voice verb is when the subject of a sentence is having an
action done to it. In this
case the passive voice verb may be a bit harder to detect than it was in
Matthew 5:32 but it's still there. The
wife is the subject of the sentence who is having an action done to her.
The specific action done to her is that her husband is divorcing
her for no valid Biblical reason, thus stigmatizing her as an adulteress
when she isn't. Understanding the passive verb in light of
culture of the day clarifies what Jesus said.
As I said in the chapter on Matthew 5:31 – 32, Jesus was addressing the sin of the husband who was unlawfully divorcing his wife. He was not addressing a sin of the innocent divorced wife when she married another man, because such a marriage is not adulterous. Jesus was also not addressing a man who divorced his wife because she had committed adultery. Such a divorce is permitted, thus making remarriage to another woman lawful.
In Mark 10:12 Jesus continued by saying, "And if a woman shall put away her husband and be married to another, she commits adultery." If a wife divorced her husband for any reason other than his sexual indiscretion, she in fact commits adultery when she remarries, yet once again, the passive, or possibly the middle voice verb, clarifies the exact sin here. If the wife divorces her husband for any unbiblical reason, she stigmatizes him as being an adulterer when in fact he isn't. What applies to the husband in verse 11 also applies to the wife in verse 12.
Note that unlike Luke 16:18 and Matthew 5:31 to 32, Mark spoke about women divorcing their husbands. In Jewish culture, wives were not permitted to divorce their husbands. Mark probably mentioned this because he was writing primarily to Gentiles. Under Roman law a woman was permitted to divorce her husband.
believe Mark 10:11 and 12 is often poorly translated into English.
New Testament Greek scholars say that the phrases "commits adultery against her", and, "she commits
adultery", are either in the Greek passive voice or middle voice. The
problem arises because sometimes these clauses are hard to determine
what voice they are written in. Therefore,
the translator often translates these phrases based on his theology.
Bible translating isn't an easy task.
Translators feel it necessary at times to incorporate their
theology into the translated text, thus sometimes skewing the intent of
the author. As a matter of
fact, sometimes it's next to impossible not to incorporate one's
theology into the text. That
being said, whether passive voice or middle voice in this verse, the man
or woman who divorces his or her spouse for any reason other than
adultery commits adultery against their spouse when he or she remarries.
They also unfairly stigmatize their spouses as adulteresses or
adulterers when they're not. Clearly,
the innocent partner in the divorce does not commit
adultery when he or she remarries. Only
the guilty partner commits adultery when he or she marries another.
the Greek passive voice is crucial to this issue.
Many pastors today are not educated in Biblical Greek and thus
misread Jesus. This results
in our misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches about divorce and
There is one gospel account left to consider. It's the longest account we have. That's why I left it to the end. Let's now check out Matthew 19: 1 – 13 and then we'll move on to other New Testament passages.
Matthew 19:1to– 13 appears to be the same event as we read in Mark 10:1to 12, but with a few more details. In brief, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in legalities concerning the divorce law found in the Law of Moses. Knowing what the law said, they asked Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason. Note the words "for any and every reason." Mark's account omits these words but they are very important. The words "any and every reason" are key words because they express the culture of the day. It didn't take much of an excuse for a Jewish man to divorce his wife back then. The slightest irritation could have sent her out the door.
the Pharisees and Jesus agreed that Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 permitted
divorce, yet beyond that they agreed on nothing.
Jesus explained that God incorporated divorce into the Law of
Moses because of the sinful nature of men and women.
The divorce law was a concession on God's part.
It wasn't His will. God's
intention at creation was for a man to be glued, as the Hebrew text puts
it, to one female wife for life. The
question the Pharisees should have asked Jesus was how they could remain married, not how they could
they weren't interested in staying married.
They preferred their legalized wife swapping.
states, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except
it be for fornication, and shall marry commits adultery: and whoso
marries her that is put away commits adultery."
Note that the King James Bible differs from the New
International Version and other translations in how it translated this
passage. Some translations omit the idea that the man who marries the divorced
wife commits adultery because it's not found in some Greek manuscripts.
we see the exception clause in this verse.
Jesus recognized that adultery was lawful grounds for divorce as
Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 stated. A
husband didn't have to divorce his wife if she had committed adultery. He
was simply permitted to divorce her.
Repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and agape love, is
always the preferred option for the couple.
refer you again to the Greek passive voice.
The passive voice is when the subject of the sentence is the
recipient of some kind of action.
The subject is not doing the action in the sentence.
The example I used earlier is; "The cheese was eaten by the
mouse." The word
"cheese" is the subject of the sentence because the sentence
revolves around it.
The cheese is being acted upon.
It's the recipient of the action of being eaten.
words "commits adultery" in this passage are in the passive
voice. The wife is the
recipient of her husband's action of divorce.
When considering Jewish culture of the day the action done to her
was the unfair stigmatization of being an adulteress when she wasn't.
The passive voice tells us that the husband who divorces his wife
for no valid Biblical reason is the one committing adultery when he
remarries. The innocent
divorced wife who didn't commit adultery doesn't commit adultery when
this point in the narrative the Pharisees were outwitted by Jesus.
They left in disgust and Jesus finished the conversation with His
disciples who had been listening from the sidelines. They
were dumbfounded over the idea that they weren't lawfully permitted to
divorce their wives for any and every reason.
In Matthew 19:10 the disciples said that "if the case of the man be so with his wife, it is good not to marry." In other words, "If a guy is only permitted to divorce his wife on the grounds of adultery, it's not worth getting married." Remember, the disciples were raised in a society where many of their fathers freely and easily divorced their mothers for any and every reason. That's all most of these guys knew about these things, thus the reason for their struggle over what Jesus said. They couldn't imagine living with a woman that burned their toast, didn't sweep the floor twice a day, or irritated them from time to time.
Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 only permitted a man to divorce his wife if he found some kind of sexual indecency in her. Jewish men twisted the law and turned it into a license to lust. The law that discouraged free and easy divorce was used to encouraged free and easy divorce.
verse 11 Jesus said, "All men cannot receive this saying, save to
whom it is given." In
other words, "Not every man has the ability to accept this."
What every man couldn't accept refers to the disciples' remark
that it's better for a man to remain single than to get married and be stuck with
a wife he no longer wants.
elaborated on the single life when He said that some men are born
without the capability of being sexual; others castrate themselves for
various reasons; and, others remain single for the sake of the Kingdom
notion of remaining single scared many young men in my Bible college days
in the mid 1970's. They
feared God calling them to the single life.
Their fears were relieved when they understood that Jesus was
saying singleness is an exception to the rule.
God created men and women to be sexual within marriage.
If you have sexual desire, you haven't been called to a
life of singleness.
What Jesus said in Matthew 19:1 to 13 confirms what He said in Matthew 5:31 and 32, Mark 10 1 to 12, and Luke 16:18. Adultery is the only lawful grounds for divorce. If a husband or wife divorces his or her spouse for any reason other than adultery, he or she commits adultery when remarrying. He or she would also unfairly stigmatize his or her spouse as an adulterer or an adulteress when he or she wasn't. The innocent divorced spouse, or the innocent person who would marry the innocent divorced spouse, does not commit adultery by marrying. Beyond this, we learn that God's original intention for a man and a woman is marriage, not singleness, which I believe qualifies one to remarry after an unbiblical divorce.
Based on my hermeneutical approach to Scripture, Greek grammar, Jewish culture, and, the fact that marriage has been God's original intention from creation, I conclude that an unbiblical and unwelcomed divorce does not disqualify a man or a woman from remarrying.
we see what the Apostle Paul has to say about these
things, let me introduce you to the lady from eastern Canada.
in the day the reporter on the morning news program announced what
every guy in eastern
I was seated, a newcomer to our gathering sitting directly in front
of me was asked to introduce herself.
Ironically, or should I say miraculously, once stating her name,
she turned around, looked directly at me, and said, "And I'm from
caught completely off guard, I didn't know how to respond, or if I
should respond at all. I
simply said, "O no, what does that mean?"
I tried to involve myself in the Bible study that evening, but I
have to admit that the words "I'm from Eastern Canada" seemed a bit more intriguing to me than the words in
friend who had driven this attractive new addition to our Bible study
asked me if I would like a ride home.
I was more than willing to walk, but knowing "I'm from
Eastern Canada" would be in the car as well, I didn't hesitate to accept the
was obviously distracted as I walked out of the brightly lit
building and directly into a cement block wall in the darkened parking
lot. I couldn't believe I
actually walked into that wall, especially at that
impressionable moment. How
foolish I felt. Thankfully,
before I had time to be overly embarrassed our attractive new addition
asked me, "Are you blind or something?"
a matter of fact I am legally blind," I replied.
it was her turn to be embarrassed, but my casual response dispelled any anxiety, as she told me later.
attempted to sleep that night but with little success.
The lady from Eastern Canada
had captured both my attention and my imagination.
As I lay in bed, I wondered if I had captured her attention and
turned out that I had. Four
hundred and twenty two days later we were pronounced husband and wife.
An unwelcomed divorce didn’t nullify God's original intention
for me or for the lady from eastern Canada. Both of us had
experienced an unwelcomed divorce for no valid biblical reason.
We were free to remarry, so we did.
let's tackle an age old question. Was
the Apostle Paul ever married?
Over the centuries theologians have wondered, argued, and debated over whether the Apostle Paul had ever been married. According to 1 Corinthians 7:7 Paul was a single man when he wrote his letter to the Corinthian believers.
people suggest that Paul might not have been legally single. They
say he might have been married but living apart from his wife for the
sake of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 7:23 he said that the time is
short and that from now on those who have wives should live as if they
had no wives. Paul might have been following his own advice and
living as a single man, apart from his wife, for the sake of the gospel.
Maybe he left his wife at home while he was on his mission trips, even
though he had the right like Peter, to take a wife with him on these
trips (1 Corinthians 9:5).
say that Paul might have been married prior to his conversion. This
assumption is based on the culture in which he was raised. From
the earliest age it was ingrained into the Jewish male psyche that young
men must marry, have children, and carry on the family lineage. That
was important for Jews. That
would have been Paul's frame of reference concerning marriage and
reason why some believe Paul was once married is found in Philippians
3:4 to 6 where he said that when it came to being Jewish, he was
blameless. Part of being a blameless male Jew would have included
a wife. In verse 8 he said that he had lost all things for the
sake of Christ. Some suggest that one of the things he lost was
his wife who rejected his conversion.
tells us that Paul voted to persecute Christians.
Voting suggests that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the rulers
of Israel. This was possible
since he was a disciple of Gamaliel who was a leading member of the
Sanhedrin. Membership in
this select group of men required being married.
next argument is intriguing. Paul
was raised in
If Gamaliel was a liberal, and since Paul was thoroughly trained by him, this suggests that Paul might have been a liberal theologian prior to his conversion to Jesus. If this is so, Paul would have married and would have had no problem divorcing his wife on a whim. In fact he might have been married more than once, depending on his age at his conversion. That being said, in Acts 7:58 we see that Paul was a young man when he watched Stephen being stoned. He might have been too young to have more than one wife.
can't say for sure that Paul was ever married, but from my study to date
I tend to think he might have been married at one point in his life.
Whatever the case, he teaches on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.
Before we go there, some Corinthian cultural history is needed to help
us understand his teaching on this subject.
we delve into 1 Corinthians 7 we need to address the culture in which
the Corinthian believers lived and the reason why Paul wrote this 1
wrote 1 Corinthians 7 because of what he called "this present
crisis" (1 Corinthians 7:26). Part
of this present crisis was sexual immorality within the Christian
community at Corinth. One example of this was
the report of a man having sex with his step-mother (1
Corinthians 5:1). To help us
understand why such immorality existed in this Christian community we
need to look at the Corinthian culture these believers, and especially
the men, were raised in.
center of an immoral polytheistic paganism.
Its boast was the Temple
was also an accepted practice in
was the sexual preference for many, if not most men back then.
Fathers would teach their sons from 6 years of age that
the gay lifestyle should be their sexual expression of choice.
It was expected that when these boys reached puberty, they'd
begin to engage in homosexuality with other boys and with their father's
male friends. Homosexually was
just a way of life in the Greco-Roman world.
Gentile men in Corinth
grew up in this highly sexualized polytheistic paganism. They
would have routinely visited the Temple
1 Corinthians 7:2 Paul said that the husband should fulfill his marital
duty, meaning sexual intimacy, with his wife.
The wife should also not refuse sexual intimacy with her husband.
In verse 3 he gave the reason for this admonition.
The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her
husband. In like manner the husband's body doesn't belong to him alone, but also to his wife.
Simply put, a couple should not withhold sex from one another
because they belong to each other.
was to curve the temptation to look outside of
marriage to fulfill sexual desire.
Corinthian 7:3 in the King James Bible says that the husband should
"render unto his wife due benevolence."
Newer versions say something like "husbands should
fulfill their marital responsibilities to their wives."
The word "render" in the KJV or
"fulfill" in newer translations are translated from the Greek
word "apodidomi." "Apodidomi"
consists of "apo," meaning "from," and, "didomi,"
meaning "to give away." In
context "apodidomi" means "to give back or give
up." Sexual intimacy in
marriage is the act of "giving back or giving up" your body to
your spouse. It's
the ultimate expression of unity, trust, and love between a husband and wife.
Corinthian Christians were split over how to deal with the crisis of sexual
immorality in the church. Some
believed that married couples should abstain from sex altogether.
Paul obviously didn't agree with that.
You don't control sexual desire by forbidding sexual expression. Others gave up on the matter and lived a free and easy life of
sexual license. Paul
obviously didn't agree with that either, thus the reason for what
he wrote in 1 Corinthian 7.
see what he actually had to say about these things.
Paul didn't specifically address marriage after divorce in this chapter. He addressed specific questions the Corinthians asked about marriage and their present moral crisis. "Now concerning the things whereof you wrote me" (verse 1). Again, we have no complete and concise teaching on either divorce or marriage in one chapter.
underlying presupposition to what he wrote in this chapter was that he
preferred the single life over married life as seen in verse 8.
As Jesus said in Matthew 19:12, some men would forgo marriage for
the sake of the Kingdom
says that "it is good for a man
not to touch a woman." Newer
translations read something like "it's good for a man not to
marry." The words
"touch" and "marry" are translated from the
Greek word "haptomai," meaning "to attach or fasten." "Haptomai"
was often used in reference to fire fastening itself to something.
The analogy to fire is significant since sexual desire is like a
raging fire within the body that seeks to attach itself to another body.
Clearly, these words have an explicit sexual connotation which is reiterated in
verse 9 when Paul spoke of "burning with passion."
In verses 28 and 29 Paul addressed singleness when he said that the time is short and those who have wives should live as they none. His point is simple. The closer we get to the end of this age the more we must devote our lives to Jesus. This might mean that you live apart from your spouse to serve Jesus, as some believe Paul did. We're not talking about divorce here. We're talking about living apart for a time to do the work of the Lord. That being said, in verse 3 Paul told couples to come together for sexual intimacy in order to avoid sexual temptation while apart doing God's work.
spoke of trials families had to endure in verse 8.
These trials weren't all relational struggles.
They might have included problems relating to the anti-Christ
Roman culture in which these Christians lived.
A husband might have seen his wife raped and whipped for her faith in
wife might have seen her husband executed for his allegiance to the Lord
would be a major strain on anyone's faith.
Singleness would have limited these trials of faith.
Singleness would have limited these trials of faith.
Even though Paul preferred being single he couldn't deny God's original intention at creation for men and women to be married. So, in verses 10 and 11 he said that a wife must not separate from her husband, otherwise be reconciled to her husband. Paul gave the same instruction to the husband.
Paul understood the fallen nature of humanity. That's why he inserted the word "but" in verse 11. " But, and if she departs (divorce) let her remain unmarried." If couples were going to divorce, then Paul told them to stay single or else be reconciled. Remaining single made it easier to serve Jesus.
In verses 12 to 14 Paul admonished a believing spouse to remain married to an unbelieving spouse if that was the wish of the unbeliever. Hi's reason was that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified because of the believing spouse. Paul wasn't saying that an unbeliever is saved by the faith of a believer. The word "sanctified" means to "set apart." The unbelieving spouse would be set apart into a place where he or she might find Jesus because of the influence of the believing spouse. Paul repeats this in verse 16.
the words "or else your children would be unclean."
Uncleanness is something that is associated with the Law of
Moses. In Old Testament
context, if a Jewish man married a pagan woman the children would be
ceremonially unclean. Paul
says that this does not carry over to New Testament times.
The believing spouse causes the children to be ceremonially clean
or sanctified with the possibility of getting saved.
Verse 15 is important. It says, "but if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace." In other words, if your unbelieving spouse leaves or divorces you, just let him or her do so. Don't put up a fight. Don't try to win him or her back. Pleading and begging doesn't work anyway. It's better to live in peace on your own than to live in turmoil with an unbeliever. Letting go means letting go emotionally as well as physically and legally. Both are vital in maintaining personal peace and sanity through and after divorce.
In Romans 7:1 said us that the Law of Moses stated that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. In 1 Corinthians 7:39 to 40 he said that a widow would do better remaining single. He knew that wasn’t possible for everyone so he balanced his preference of singleness with God's original intention for men and women to be married. In verse 39 he said that a widow or a widower doesn't sin by remarrying, but they must marry someone who belongs to the Lord.
The Romans 7:1 quote states that a woman must remain with her husband as long as he lives. Allow me to suggest that if the woman has been divorced, then she is no longer married to her husband and therefore does not have to wait until he dies before she can remarry.
Previously I said that I would return to Ezra 10 where we saw Israeli men sending their pagan wives and the children born to these pagan wives away. This disturbing decision was meant to demonstrate true repentance on the part of these Israeli men. Here in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul said that a believer must not divorce his or her unbelieving spouse like the Israeli men did in Ezra 10. I suggest that Paul was putting a New Covenant spin on an Old Covenant mindset.
wasn't condoning marrying unbelievers. He was saying that if you
find yourself living with an unbeliever, you should do your best to stay
in the marriage. That being said, our best attempts to hang in
don't always keep the marriage together. If that's the case,
so be it. We let go of our spouse and we let go of our marriage.
never set forth a systematic teaching concerning marriage after divorce.
We have to admit that we don't know all of
on this subject. In 1
Corinthians 7 he addressed specific questions asked of him.
In the process of answering these questions he attempted to
balance the permanency of marriage with his preference for singleness.
would have been quite a balancing act for Paul.
He was convinced that singleness was the best way to live but he couldn't deny God's original intention for men and women to be
married. He didn't oppose
marriage. In verse 36 he
condoned marriage. "If anyone thinks he is acting
improperly toward his virgin, he should marry her." It's
not a sin to marry. It's
better to marry than to burn with passion, as he said in verse 9.
Paul's goal in life was to serve Jesus with as little hindrance as possible. In verses 31 to 33 we see that he wanted to free his readers from the concerns of married life so they too could serve Jesus without restraint. Paul knew that not everyone had the ability to be single. He, therefore, admitted that it is better to marry than to burn with passion. I suggest that divorced men and women burn with passion just as much as anyone else. I would also suggest that with great reluctance and hesitancy Paul would have conceded that a person who had experienced an unbiblical and unwanted divorce should remarry instead of burning with passion. His only instruction would be to marry someone who belonged to the Lord.
the Lord God commanded the man, saying,
'of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: but of the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat of it, for in the
day you eat thereof you shall surely die'" (Genesis 2:16 - 17). Note
the word "free" in God's command.
Freedom was what God wanted for man in the first place.
God gave Adam all kinds of freedom.
He only placed one restriction on him.
With this one command, Adam, and subsequently all of humanity, was given the
freedom to choose, albeit, our choices have consequences.
In theological terms this is called "free will."
my sorrow and anguish, day after day, I pleaded and pleaded.
"Please Jesus, don't let her leave.
You won't really let her go, will you"?
didn't need an audible voice from heaven to know the answer to my
pestering pleas. It became
progressively obvious that Jesus wasn't going to change her mind, and I
understood why. It boils
down to Genesis 2:16 and 17. Adam
was given freedom to choose and so was she.
Billy Preston's 1969 hit song put it this way.
"That's the way God planned it; that's the way God wants it
to be." God may, and
often does, twist our arms in an attempt to get us to obey Him, and He
did that with her. That
being said, He never violated her free will no matter how hard it was on
are some prayers that Jesus may not answer the way we hope He will.
This was one of those prayers. Even
though Jesus didn't answer my specific prayer to keep my wife with me,
He certainly did not leave me in despair and without hope. He made up
for my loss.
made it clear to me in no uncertain words.
He said, "If you live within the boundaries I've set forth
for you in Scripture, I'll take care of you."
I knew what He meant. Even
though it never crossed my mind, there'd be no trips to the local bars
in search of a lonely lady. There'd
be no nasty name calling. There'd
be no acts of revenge. There'd
be no evil spoken about her to our boys or anyone else.
There'd be no hostility, only attempts to live in peace.
There'd be no getting mad at God.
There'd be no withdrawing from the Body of Christ.
I knew that if I were to step beyond His boundaries, Jesus was
not obligated to look after me. As
I said earlier, I sure didn't want to be on my own, especially at this
place in my life. If I
wanted Jesus to stick with me, I'd have to stick with Him, and I did.
23:3 says it right. We may
"walk through the valley of the shadow of death," but each
step we take in the valley Jesus is with us.
There's no Scripture that says we won't go through the valleys. There are many that
say we will. This is a
certainty that I certainly experienced.
If you've been left behind by an unwanted divorce, it's up to you to choose; live responsibly as Scripture teaches and be blessed, or, go it alone and take your chances without the Lord. It's your choice. I certainly didn't want to take any chances and go it alone.
Greek word "lytroo" is translated into our English Bibles as
means "to release or to set free by the payment of a ransom."
When we speak of Jesus redeeming us, that means He paid the price
so we could be set free from the bondage and penalty of our sin.
Jesus thus stands at the door of our lives with the release
papers in His hands. Only
when we accept His redemption do we experience the freedom He purchased
The purpose of redemption is reconciliation and restoration of that which we've lost in our lives due to sin. In other words, Jesus redeemed us so we could be reconciled to God. Once reconciled, the process of restoration from a damaged life begins.
six weeks of living without her, an unexpected form of redemption and
restoration came to me in a very special way.
My love seat hadn't seen any love for quite some time, but that
was about to change. No, it
didn't change in the way you just thought.
usual, I sat on the west end of my love seat, right by my stereo and my
CD player. As
I've said before, that's my place in the room to sit.
Everyone knows I sit there. I
always sit there. I'll
probably always sit there, and who knows, I might even die there.
I slipped Phil Driscoll's, "Power Of Praise" C D into
my C D player expecting to be blessed by his music, as had been the case
for the past few miserable months. Driscoll's
C D, along with Amy Grant's, "The Collection" C D, had been a
major source of comfort and blessing for me during my months of misery.
With my heart wide open for another blessing, I sat back with
eager anticipation to visit with Jesus through worship and song.
an inside fastball bouncing off my head, I was unexpectedly and abruptly
sent for an emotional loop. I
couldn't believe it. I was
dumbfounded and confused. My
blessings had been hijacked by feelings of grief, sorrow, and sadness.
Each song tormented me with memories of misery from prior months.
What had been a blessing was now a curse.
could this be happening to me?" I asked myself.
"I'm on the road to getting my life back onto some kind of
even keel and now I'm slipping back into despair."
to music often creates an emotional response within me.
The music, especially songs from the past, doesn't just bring
back past memories; music and song often brings back the feelings and
emotions associated with the memories.
Some of you may recall "California Dreaming;" the 1966
hit song by the Mommas and Poppas. When I hear that song, a flood of feelings
saturate my soul.
It was the summer of 66 when I first held hands with a girl. What
a feeling that was. Music and song do stir up feelings but on this particular
occasion the feelings were far from pleasant.
cried out to the Lord. "Jesus,
how can this be? I've just
lost some good music. What
can be done about this? Can
you redeem this music for me," I feverishly asked.
"Can you please restore these songs to the blessing they
Call it intercession or call it pestering, the word
"please" was one warn out word when it came to my prayers.
response was immediate. "I'll sit with you, right here on this love
sea," He said. "We'll
experience the pain together as we listen to each and every last song on
these two C D's, and, when it's all over, both you and your music will
experience redemption and restoration."
might think it strange, but through the steady stream of my torrent of
tears and stomach convulsions, Jesus felt the pain along with me as we
listened to all 28 songs. At
times I glanced to my left, wondering if I'd actually see Him in person.
He felt that close. It
took some time, but when it was all said and done, the misery had been
flushed from my system forever, and just as Jesus promised, my music was
redeemed and restored to the blessing it once was.
clear to me that Jesus is capable of redeeming and restoring anything
and everything in our lives. He
paid the price for my redemption on the cross, and apparently He paid
the price to have these two C D's redeemed and restored as well.
He's that concerned for those of us who belong to Him.
No longer did the words "love seat" feel so strangely
out of place. The loss of
love that had saturated my soul with sorrow was replaced by the ultimate
love of God, and amazingly enough, it was right there on my lonely old
1 Corinthians 7:15 the Apostle Paul said that if your
"unbelieving" spouse wants to leave, just let him or her go.
Well, if your believing spouse who isn't exactly acting like a
good believer wants to leave, what then?
Do we let go or do we attempt to keep?
many respects when a believer acting like an unbeliever leaves the
marriage for no valid Biblical reason, he or she has often left the Lord
before leaving the home. I,
therefore, suggest that Paul's reasoning to let go of an unbelieving
spouse would apply to the believing spouse who is acting like an
unbeliever. For your own
peace of mind; once you know it's really over for good; you let go.
process of letting go isn't only for our own personal peace of mind,
although that's part of the process.
The renewed peace of mind that Paul said is the goal to letting
go in 1 Corinthians 7:15 is also meant to enable us to serve the Lord
Jesus as we should. Serving
Jesus whole heartedly in whatever situation we are in is the underlying
message in 1 Corinthians 7. This
should be our underlying goal in life as well, whether married, single,
widowed, divorced, or, even remarried after divorce.
The goal of whole heartedly serving Jesus can only be realized
with a heart and soul who is at peace with himself and Jesus.
I know what it's like to try to keep someone when that someone doesn't want to be kept. All the pleading in the world for her to stay didn't work. It never does work. It only makes one look weak. In the long run it backfires. Letting go is what Paul instructed and letting go is what we should do when a spouse leaves, but that is often easier said than done as we will now see.
My friend was sickened and heart broken this time. He loved his wife despite her past bouts of infidelity. Seeing her in their bed with another man, well, that was really hard to take. She eventually moved away to her new man's bed two hours away.
friend was desperate. He wanted his
wife back. "Let's
plan a covert operation," he said a few days after his wife left.
"We'll drive the two hours, pack up her stuff in the van and rescue
her from that guy." Like
everything else in his life, he had this mission of mercy meticulously
"What makes you think she'll come home?" I
"She will," he answered.
Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between faith
and foolishness. We decided
to call it faith. We
couldn't admit to being fools, not just yet anyway.
We and another friend agreed to take the trip.
We had the faith to pull "operation rescue" off.
Like well seasoned CIA agents, at the stroke of midnight we set
out on our mission. Two
hours later we backed the van up to the front door of the high rise
apartment building in the largest city in Canada. Even at 2 A M the streets
were busy. We had a two hour
window of opportunity to pack the van with her and her stuff before her
new found man arrived home from work.
The elevator door slid opened on the 18th
floor. We walked down the
hall and rang her door bell. Looking
sleepy, confused, and very irritated, she reluctantly let us in.
"What the hell are you doing here at 2 in the
morning?" she asked in
Clearly, things didn't start well, but that didn't detour
us from the mission at hand. This
was not only a rescue mission of mercy but a mission of faith.
While my friend was in negotiations with his wife, my other
friend and I hustled up and down the elevator until the van was packed.
Once we shut the back door tight we hopped into the van and
waited for the happy reconciled couple to bounce their way out the front
door of the high rise. We waited. We
waited some more, and we kept waiting.
"We're running out of time," my friend said as he
nervously glanced down at his watch for the millionth time.
"If they don't come down soon, her boyfriend will come home
and we'll be in a heap of trouble", he added as he squirmed in the
drivers seat of the van.
Her new found lover was one heavy duty dude of a truck
driver and none of us felt capable of messing around with him.
"Heap of trouble is an understatement," I
What a relief. There
they were, finally coming out the front glass door of the high rise.
"She doesn't look all that happy," my friend
They jumped into the van and we tore off down the street
with only moments to spare. We
did it. We actually pulled
this thing off. Feeling
proud of ourselves we figured our next midnight adventure would be to
CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. We were sure the CIA would
welcome us with open arms. They
could use guys like us in the Middle East, Central America, and other parts of the
world, especially after the Iran Contra Affair.
She was now home. Things
could return to normal. Things
did return to normal, but it was her style of normal, not my friend's
style of normal. Within two
days she was back in the high rise apartment and the night life of Canada's largest city.
For your information, none of us ever became
decades later, maybe I should just admit it.
Sometimes there's a fine line between faith and foolishness.
I guess we crossed that line somewhere on the highway that night.
My friend was heart broken.
He not only lost his wife, but like me, he feared losing any
ministry he might have had or ever would have.
He wondered if he'd ever be welcomed inside the door of a church
building again to participate in the work of His Lord .
welcome to attend our church," the pastor told my friend over
a brief moment my friend's countenance lit up.
"Wow, I'm actually welcomed in church!" he thought as a
bolt of excitement shot through his system.
"This is a miracle. Me,
a divorced Christian allowed in church?"
you're not welcome to serve in any kind of ministry," the pastor
went on to say.
friend's facial expressions displayed
pastor clearly saw the disappointment on my friend's face.
"Sorry to disappoint you."
why can't I serve the Lord in your church?"
a divorced Christian."
didn't want to be divorced. I
didn't initiate the divorce," my friend replied.
doesn't matter. You're a
divorced Christian. If you
had gotten divorced prior to becoming a Christian your sin would have
been forgiven when you came to Jesus. I'd
let you minister in that case, but I can't now.
Anyway, you're still welcome to sit in on our Sunday
thanks. For me, church is
more than sitting in a pew," my friend said as he shook his head in
The pastor was right when he said that any sin a person committed prior to his conversion is forgiven, and that would even include a divorce for no valid Biblical reason. Many Evangelicals would then say that after the person becomes a Christian it's okay to remarry and serve Jesus in some capacity in church.
Evangelicals differ on this next point. What if a Christian divorces for no valid Biblical reason? Can he or she remarry without committing adultery and then participate in church? In Matthew 5:31 to 32 and elsewhere Jesus said that such a remarriage, either before or after one becomes a Christian, is adulterous. Does that mean such a divorce and subsequent remarriage is unforgiveable? Does it mean the one so remarried can't participate in church?
I believe it all boils down to genuine repentance. If someone, including a Christian, genuinely repents of divorcing for no valid Biblical reason, that sin is genuinely forgiven. It's wiped out of God's records, as if it had never been committed. If a divorce for no valid Biblical reason no longer exists in the mind of God, logic tells me that remarriage and participation in church is permissible. Of course, the reason why remarriage after divorce is permissible is seen in the Greek grammatical construction, especially the verb tense, of Matthew 5:31 and 32. I recommend you reread my chapter on that passage.
emphasize the words "genuinely repents" in the last
paragraph. This is not repentance for convenience sake.
not divorcing with the notion that once the
dust settles you'll conveniently repent.
was truly sorry for his sin and thus turned away from it, which is the
meaning of repentance. If
your repentance is as genuine as David's, be assured, your sins no
longer exist in the mind of God.
Divorcing your spouse
for no valid Biblical reason is a sin, both against your spouse and Go.
We can never minimize that, although it's obvious that many do
being said, if
one genuinely repents of initiating an unbiblical divorce, he is genuinely forgiven. If
he is genuinely forgiven, his sin no longer exists in the mind of God.
If the sin no longer exists in the mind of God, I suggest that
both remarriage and church participation is permissible.
when it comes to divorce, what is meant by "no valid Biblical
when it comes to divorce, what is meant by "no valid Biblical
Throughout this study I've used the phrase "for no
valid Biblical reason" when it comes to divorce.
So what are the valid Biblical grounds for divorce?
In answering this question, let's do some review.
God's original intention for a man was for him to leave
his parents and be joined; glued or cemented as the Hebrew text puts it, to one female wife for
life (Genesis 2:24). Permanency
in marriage was, and still is, God's original intention for a man and a
woman. Polygamy was not, and
still isn't, an option. Singleness
is an exception to the rule as seen in Matthew 19:11 to 12.
Since mankind fell from the immediate presence of God in
Genesis 3, all subsequent human relationships suffer conflict, leading
to disruption in the relationships.
It's obvious that marriage relationships can't escape this
conflict. Therefore, because
of our hard hearts, God conceded to the fact that husbands and wives
would separate (Matthew 19:8). He
thus instituted divorce on the grounds of adultery into the Law of Moses
as seen in Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4. To
be clear, adultery is a valid Biblical reason for divorce according to
Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4. Jesus
confirmed this in Matthew 5:31 to 32.
This doesn't mean one must divorce a spouse if he or she commits
adultery. It only means
divorce is permissible. If
possible, reconciliation would be God's choice over divorce.
Malachi 2:16 tells us in no uncertain words that God hates
divorce. As Christians we
should follow God's lead on this issue.
We should hate divorce, and when we see a family destroyed by it,
our hearts should sink to the ground in sadness.
The reason why God hates divorce is because
it demonstrates unfaithfulness, which opposes every fabric of who He is.
It's impossible for Him to exhibit any slight hint of
unfaithfulness. That's why
He hates divorce so vehemently. Unfaithfulness
occurs when a couple divorce because they are ripping apart the covenant
that they agreed to keep when they spoke their wedding vows.
That's what the "God hates divorce" chapter of
Malachi 2 is all about.
I believe the context of God hating divorce as seen in
Malachi 2 shows us that God hates any kind of unfaithfulness, not just
adulterous unfaithfulness. In
other words, He's not happy with anything we do that puts stress on our
marriage vows. In this sense
of the word, we've all been unfaithful.
That being said, such lesser forms of unfaithfulness are not
valid grounds for divorce that God conceded to in Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4.
Malachi 2:15 states that God's will is to have godly
parents raise godly children. Godly
children would then propagate godliness across any given society.
Divorce disrupts this transition of godliness from one
generation to the next, making society progressively more ungodly as
time goes on. This
is evident in our world today.
The most fundamental aspect to marriage as seen in
The only valid reason found in the Old Testament for
divorcing your spouse is sexual unfaithfulness on the part of your
spouse. Does the New Testament adds any other valid reasons for divorcing your
If you read Matthew 5:31
to 32, Matthew 19:1 to 12, Mark
10:1 to 12, and Luke 16:18, you'll see that Jesus did not add any new
grounds for divorce. What
Jesus did do was confirm what the Old Testament stated.
In Matthew 5:31 to 32 Jesus said that anyone who divorces his
wife, except if she has committed adultery, commits adultery when he
remarries. The phrase
"except for marital unfaithfulness," known as the
"exception clause," tells us that Jesus viewed adultery as the
only valid grounds for divorce.
only other place in the New Testament where divorce is addressed is in Paul's writings, and like Jesus, he didn't add any other
valid Biblical reason for divorce.
He attempted to balance God's original intention for men and
women to be married with his preference of singleness for the sake of
the work of
The closest Paul came to permitting divorce is when
he said that if your unbelieving partner wants to leave let him leave (1
Corinthians 7:15). Paul was
not suggesting the believing partner should initiate divorce.
He said just the opposite. Let
the unbeliever leave. Let
the unbeliever be the one to initiate the divorce.
I believe the general rule would be for the believer to wait until the unbeliever initiates divorce, but that's not always possible. Some unbelievers could care less about getting a divorce. They'd be happy living common law with someone, forgoing the expense of a legal divorce. In such a case I believe the believer can initiate divorce in order to fulfill God's original intention for him or her to be married.
Biblical fact is that there is only one stated
valid Biblical reason for divorcing your spouse, and that is if he or she
commits adultery. I know as
soon as I say this, hands will be raised and questions will be asked.
What if my husband is beating me up?
What if he wants to kill me?
What if he's an alcoholic? What
if he's sexually abusing our daughter?
What if my wife refuses to have sex with me?
What if my spouse has severe mental issues?
What if my husband is in prison for life?
What if I have fallen out of love with my husband?
What if he wants me to do things that aren't Biblical? What
if we live under the same roof but she treats me as a roommate instead
of a husband? What if?
What if? What if? There are as many
"what ifs" as there are couples who ask "what if."
Biblical fact is what I said in the
beginning of this study. The
Bible does not fully and completely address every last aspect of
marriage, divorce, and remarriage. The
Bible does not answer all of our "what ifs"
This is one very difficult Biblical issue to work
through. That being said, I
can't leave us up in the air wondering about all the "what
ifs". In my
own feeble way I'll trty to attempt to address these "what
ifs". Not that I'm
comparing myself to the apostle Paul, but I have to repeat what he said
in 1 Corinthians 7:12. "This
is me speaking, not the Lord". I
also repeat Paul when he said, "Consider what I say and the Lord
give you the understanding in all things" (2 Timothy 2:7).
What I say next is the weakest part of this study because God's will is always marriage, not divorce. It is also weak because there is no specific chapter and verse in the Bible in defense of what I say. I'm forced to draw on what Evangelicals call our "God given common sense." I'll attempt to work through some of the "what ifs" with the understanding that our God given common sense is tainted by our depraved and fallen understanding.
The Apostle Paul said the following concerning marriage. "I have no commandment from the Lord, yet I give my judgment, as one who has obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful" (1 Corinthians 7:25). I believe this suggests that when God appears to be silent, Paul used his God given common sense, and so do I.
In Biblical terms, adultery is the only stated
reason for divorce, although the general consensus is that there are a
few unstated, but legitimate, reasons for divorce. The
most accepted of these reasons among Christians is when a spouse or a
child is in danger of physical or extreme mental harm. We're not
masochists. Escaping harm is
a reasonable consideration. Paul
escaped harm while in
Both the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul told wives to submit to their husbands (1 Peter 3:1, Ephesians 5:22). Biblical submission in its simplest form is a humble yielding to another within certain parameters. That being said, a wife or husband can't honestly submit to a spouse's demands that clearly violate God's will as seen in Scripture. In fact, both husband and wife must submit to the Lord Jesus before they can properly submit to one another. Therefore, if separation results because one is forced to choose between Jesus and a spouse, that can't be helped. In that circumstance you hang in as long as is humanly possible, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:12 to 15. When it becomes impossible, separation ends the marriage in failure.
These days when a spouse leaves for
someone else, he or she might care less about initiating divorce.
This puts the Christian who has been left in an awkward spot.
He or she can't legally remarry if he or she isn't legally
divorced. In this case, I
believe the Christian who has been left without being divorced can
initiate the divorce, especially since the spouse who has left is committing
If a spouse leaves you and he or she stays single and
never has sexual relations with another, that would mean he or she
hasn't committed adultery. Even
though that's unlikely these days; if he or she refuses to initiate
divorce, I suggest the Christian who has been left for no valid Biblical
reason is free to initiate divorce in order to remarry and fulfill God's
will as seen in creation.
Couples often split because they claim to have fallen out
of love. If you understand
Biblical love you know that you can't fall in or out of agape love. Biblical love is a
choice to actively put others before yourself.
If you claim to have fallen out of love; you haven't.
You have simply chosen not to love.
The word "love" is
one of the most spoken but
least practiced words in our English language. I
doubt if the Beatles had agape love in mind when they sang
"All You Need Is Love" (Magical Mystery Tour album, 1967).
Larry Norman was right when he sang, "the Beatles
sang all you need is love and then they broke up" (Reader's Digest,
Only Visiting This Planet
Falling out of hormonal style love has led to many
divorces. I don't believe falling out of such love is a valid reason for divorce.
Besides, marriage counselors say that in many cases, not all
cases, there are ways to regain lost feelings associated with love.
I can't address all the "what ifs."
I can only say that adultery is the only valid Biblically reason
for divorce. Escaping
physical and mental harm is a reasonable unstated Biblical reason.
If your spouse leaves for any reason and doesn't initiate
divorce, I believe the Christian can initiate legal divorce.
Beyond this, I realize things are debatable.
The western world is rapidly moving away from Biblical
morality, and so are those in that which is called church.
Divorce is one step in a line of steps away from God's will.
Our culture is now incorporating gay marriage and polygamy into
the legal definition of marriage. I
can't imagine what comes next, or maybe I can.
I was once in conversation with a young lady who in all
seriousness asked to have a wedding ceremony performed for her and her
dog. We're obviously on a
slick and slippery road to
Malachi 2:16 tells us that God hates divorce, but the previous verses tell us why He hates divorce. God hates all kinds of unfaithfulness in marriage, not just sexual unfaithfulness. Some Christian couples live together, don't commit adultery, but are unfaithful to their marriage vows in many other ways. There's no spiritual, physical, emotional, or social, intimacy. God can't be happy with such disregard to the marriage vows. He might well consider such a couple to be practically divorced even though they reside in the same house and aren't legally divorced. A marriage certificate means little when it's ripped up in the heart and is void of any practicalities of a real marriage. This should never be the case for Christian couples.
Malachi 2:15 tells us to guard our hearts in
matters of marriage because marriage is more than a matter of law.
It's a matter of the heart. I
cannot stress this enough in today's world of transience and temptation.
For any marriage to survive, our heart felt love for our spouse
must be guarded at all times from any intrusion that would stress out
Malachi 2:15 tells us to guard our hearts in
matters of marriage because marriage is more than a matter of law.
It's a matter of the heart. I
cannot stress this enough in today's world of transience and temptation.
For any marriage to survive, our heart felt love for our spouse
must be guarded at all times from any intrusion that would stress out
Besides God hating divorce, there are some
practical reasons why I believe He tells us not to break faith with the
spouse of our youth in Malachi 2. Let's
explore some of these reasons.
In Malachi 2:15 God told Israeli husbands not to break faith with the wives of their youth. Historically speaking, Israeli men were abandoning the Israeli wives of their youth to marry pagan women, something God specifically warned them never to do. Besides the fact that divorce is a form of unfaithfulness that opposes every fiber of who God is, marrying pagan women would introduce pagan ways into the community of God, thus destroying a people who had been solely set apart to serve Him.
the fact that God hates unfaithfulness as seen in divorce, there might
well be another reason for God's admonition to remain faithful to the
spouse of your youth. Biologically speaking, we were created to marry as young
adults. In today's world,
young adults haven't fully matured into the adults they will eventually
be. When a man and a woman
marry as young adults they mature into adulthood together.
During the process of mutual maturing, individuality is melted
into a certain oneness which I believe was God's original intention at
creation for a couple. It's
all about "the two becoming one" (Genesis 2:24).
One issue you face in a second marriage later in life that
you don't exactly face in a first marriage early in life is that you've
already matured into adulthood. Who
you have become is who you will be, and, much of who you have become is
a result of the melting into oneness that took place in the maturing
process with your previous spouse. In
other words, when you remarry, you're marrying someone who has been
molded by a former spouse. Like
it or not, things you've learned and who you've become from a former
relationship creep into the new relationship in many ways.
One might be asked why he sets the washing machine for a four
minute cycle instead of eight minute cycle.
Well, as the obedient husband I thought I was the first time
around, there's only one answer to such a question.
"My first wife told me four minutes." Of course, there are more serious issues than this light hearted
example that puts stress on your second marriage vows.
As an adult, it's not easy to unlearn what you've learned.
It may well be next to impossible to undo who you've become,
despite the well meaning attempts of your new spouse.
Such attempts seldom work and often backfire.
It's best to work on changing yourself instead of your spouse.
One thing is sure. When we marry a person who has been previously married,
were marrying a former spouse.
Malachi 2:15 asks, "Has not the Lord made them
one?" The answer is
this oneness in a second marriage is not only difficult; it wasn't God's
will for men and women at creation. Let's
now see another reason why Malachi says God hates
We know God hates divorce as seen in Malachi 2:16.
Malachi 2:15 is just as important as Malachi 2:16 but you'd never
know it by its lack of exposure from the pulpit.
I wish pastors would use a little more hermeneutical common sense
when they preach or teach. One
phrase should never determine your doctrinal position, especially on
Malachi 2:15 in the King James Bible reads; "And did
not He make one? Yet He has
the residue of the spirit. And
wherefore one? That He might
seek a godly seed. Therefore
take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the
wife of his youth." I
know this verse sounds very weird in the King James Bible. No
wonder it's so hard to understand.
the point to this verse.
God created a man to be united, or glued as the Hebrew text puts
it, to his wife for life. In
the process of uniting the two individuals in marriage they become one
in many respects. They don't
only become one in flesh but also in spirit.
There is a spiritual union between the husband and wife in a
godly marriage, but things don't end their.
The words "residue of the spirit" simply means that the
godly couple isn't just one with each other but one with the Lord.
The couple belongs to Jesus.
You might say that husband, wife, and Jesus, in the most pure
sense of the word are a holy threesome.
Malachi goes on to state why a godly couple shouldn't
divorce after becoming one. It's
because God "seeks a godly seed."
In other words, God is seeking children
from the marriage. Note who
is seeking godly children here. It's
not the parents. The text
specifically says that God is the one seeking godly offspring for
Himself. According to
Malachi, the children born from the godly couple belong to God.
The couple is simply entrusted with the care of God's children. Raising God's children
is a huge responsibility. It's not
something to take lightly. Raising
your children is one thing, but raising God's children is something
altogether different. When
we divorce, we not only break up the most pure and holy threesome, but
we default on the serious responsibility of raising God's children
As I began this study pages ago, I noted that family forms
the basis of any society. How
the family goes is how society goes.
The reason why God seeks godly children is so He'll have a godly
society. If the chain of
godliness can continue from one generation to the next God is assured
of a godly society, but when the chain of godliness breaks through divorce, society breaks as well.
Fractured families create a fractured culture.
Despite the general consensus, divorce does hurt children.
In Christian terms, children fail to see the love of God their
Christian parents claim to possess.
This makes it harder for them to come to Jesus and easier for
them to live an ungodly lifestyle. God
not only hates divorce because it expresses unfaithfulness; He hates it
because it destroys the sanctity of the family which in turn destroys
the sanctity of society. If you are serious about influencing both your children
and society for Jesus, you should not divorce.
you've said a lot about divorce and remarriage, but that Greek grammar
stuff you mentioned a while back won't excite many people," my
"You're probably right. I think Christians are becoming intellectually lazy when it comes to the Bible. Those who do exercise their God given intellectual capabilities are often viewed as being too intellectual to be of any practical use. It's a bit like what the Roman official Festus told Paul in Acts 26:24. 'You're out of your mind Paul. Your great learning is driving you insane.'"
"How about you give me the
twitterized version of all of this," my friend suggested. "We live in the world of Twitter now.
You can't expect people to stay focused beyond 140
Here goes. Mat.
5:32 - u divorce wife, not for adultery, she commits adultery when remarries. Greek
culture says she's viewed as adulteress.
She's not. She can remarry."
try," replied my friend with a smirk on his face.
"That made no
sense. We need to approach
the Bible from a proper hermeneutical, cultural, historical, and
original languages perspective. This
Twitterization of Biblical studies is defrauding us Biblical
agree," my friend replied.
"I'm not twitterizing Genesis 2:24 when
the Hebrew text states that a man is to be glued to one female wife for
life, and a woman to one male husband for life.
Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4 permitted a man to divorce his wife on the
grounds of sexual indecency.
According to Matthew 19:8 divorce was a concession on God's part due to our fallen nature.
Malachi 2:16 states that God hates divorce because it demonstrates
unfaithfulness, hurts children, and messes up society.
Jesus confirmed Genesis 2:24, Deuteronomy 24:1 to 4, and
Malachi 2. He also defied
cultural correctness in Matthew 5:32 by saying that an innocent wife is
stigmatized by society as an adulteress when her husband divorces her
for no valid Biblical reason. She
wasn't an adulteress. What most people miss in Matthew 5:32 is that
Jesus was exposing the unfair treatment of women in a male dominated
world. Jesus was in fact
exposing the sin of the husband, not the wife.
Some scholars suggest that it was for this reason that God
incorporated the divorce certificate into the Law of Moses in the first
place. It was a legal form
of protecting the innocent wife."
a bit more than a 140 characters."
but that doesn't tell the whole story either.
As I've said, the Bible doesn't speak to all aspects of this
issue. That's why we're
forced to use our God given, yet sin inflicted, common sense to figure it
all out," I replied.
the pivotal passage concerning all of this"?
Matthew 5:32. It says that if anyone divorces his wife, except on the grounds of
adultery, he causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries
this divorced woman commits adultery. The English text implies that a
wife who has been divorced for any reason other than adultery commits
adultery when she remarries. The
same applies to the guy who marries her.
Jesus didn't say that according to the verb tense of the Greek
text. Here's my paraphrase. 'Anyone
who divorces his wife for any reason other than adultery causes her to
be viewed as an adulteress, and the man who marries her to be viewed as an adulterer.'"
the wife isn't an adulteress."
she didn't commit adultery while being married, she doesn't become an adulteress
when she remarries. Culturally
speaking, the divorced wife was viewed as an adulteress back then, even
if she wasn't. Stigmatizing
her as an adulteress, as being the one at fault, shifted the rightful
blame away from the adulterous husband onto the innocent wife.
This made it socially acceptable for men to routinely divorce
their wives for the sole purpose of legally finding a new sex partner.
Yes, that's crude, but historically speaking, these men were that
crude. As It was
legalized wife swapping."
wife swapping sounds like our world today."
"Matthew 5:32 is all about Jesus exposing the husband's sin of
causing his wife to be seen as an adulteress when in fact she wasn't.
finally get it. Men
who freely and easily divorced their wives for any and every reason
stigmatized their wives as adulteresses, when in fact it was the men who
were adulterers. That's the
real sin here, isn't it," my friend proudly added.
right. If the innocent wife
isn't an adulteress; if she's simply stigmatized as one, she's free to
remarry without committing adultery.
I don't believe an innocent divorced spouse is deprived of God's
original intention for her to be married," I added.
said my friend. Well
say as I bring my study to an end is debatable.
I understand that. I'm
just thinking out loud, wondering how Christians should respond to an
anti-Christ culture that has massacred the Biblical definition of
marriage that it once based its marriage laws on.
law relationships have been culturally and legally acceptable for years. Such unions are now
creeping into Christian circles. Some
couples have no problem privately committing themselves to each other
before the Lord without a legal marriage certificate or a public ceremony.
This would have been considered adultery in Evangelical circles
in times past.
are a couple of things to consider here.
In the Hebrew culture where Christianity was birthed, marriage
vows were part of a public event that lasted for days.
So, when the Bible speaks of a wedding, this is its frame of
reference. Our 21st century
weddings have little similarity to a wedding we see in the Bible.
thing to consider is that God incorporated a divorce law into the Law of
Moses. That being the case,
if God views ending a marriage in legal terms He might view beginning a
marriage in legal terms. That
would support our western Christian idea of a marriage license as being
part of a Christian marriage.
However, our western world laws have little resemblance to the Law of
Moses or the News Testament these days and thus the reason to rethink things through.
legalities in mind, do Christians now face a dilemma when it comes to a
legal state sanctioned marriage? When
the state redefines marriage to include same sex couples and polygamy it departs from God's legal definition of marriage that
Christians are mandated to embrace.
When purchasing a marriage license, are we entering into an
unholy contractual alliance with the state? Are
we condoning the state's unbiblical stand on marriage?
pastors are beginning to think we're entering into an unholy alliance
with an unholy state by purchasing a marriage license.
They're considering performing Christian weddings before family,
friends, and the Lord, without a marriage license.
It's a public affair as the Bible understood a wedding ceremony
to be. I know this is a
departure from traditional Christian thinking, but we no longer live in
a Christian influenced culture. We
might want to think this through as we maneuver our way through an
anti-Christ culture. There
are many things we will have to rethink as our culture imposes its secular, even pagan, ideas
At some point we will have to decline to submit to its demands.
I've said a lot in the previous pages.
I also know that some, if not many, will disagree with me on some
points. Divorce and
remarriage is not an easy Biblical issue to work through, but in today's
world when Christian families are being destroyed at a record pace, we
can't hide our heads in the sand of Biblical illiteracy.
We also can't cave into our culture's demands to reject
Biblical morality. If are a Christian, you have no other choice than to base your
thinking and practice on the Constitution of Christianity, that being
the Bible. It supersedes all
other constitutions of men and nations.
Our allegiance is first to the Kingdom of God
and not to the kingdoms of men.
claim to have the answer to every last question concerning this issue.
I'm fallible, living in a fallen world, attempting
to understand God's infallible truth. That
being said, as one who has taken the time and effort to think these
things through, I suggest you consider what I've said as you exercise your God
given intellect in pursuit of Biblical truth.
have often been asked to write a short explanation on what the Bible
says about divorce and remarriage. The simplest way to do this is to
explain what Jesus said about the issue, which I've elaborated on in
more detail about. So here
is what Jesus said.
understand what Jesus taught about divorce and remarriage we must study
it from a balanced hermeneutical (the art of Biblical interpretation)
approach to Scripture. This
includes knowing some 1st century Jewish culture, some New Testament
Greek grammar, and the historical facts rooted in Genesis that He based
His teaching on.
2:24 says that a man will leave his parents and "cleave"
(KJV) or "be united" (NIV) to his wife.
The words "cleave" and "be united" are
translated from the Hebrew word "debaq" which means "to
glue." Before thinking
about divorce, we must know that God's intention from creation is for a
husband and wife to be glued to each other for life.
2:16 (NIV - © 1978) says that God hates divorce.
In context, He hates divorce because it demonstrates
unfaithfulness, something that is foreign to whom He is.
It's better not to make a vow than to make one and then break it
24:1 - 4 is the civil law of divorce instituted by God in the Law of
Moses. It states that if a
man is displeased with his wife because of any indecency (sexual
indecency) on her part he is permitted to divorce her after giving her a
divorce certificate. The law
does not permit a wife to divorce her husband.
century Jewish Culture was divided over how to interpret this law.
16:18 says that anyone who divorces his wife and remarries commits
adultery, and a man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
To be hermeneutically accurate we need to know that Jesus spoke
these words directly to the Pharisees who stood before Him at that very
moment. Based on their
liberal interpretation of the divorce law I call them legalized wife
swappers. Therefore, the
"anyone who divorces his wife," and, "the man who marries
a divorced woman," is in reference to the Pharisees.
Jesus was rebuking them for divorcing their wives for the sole
purpose of finding a new sex partner; violating the very law they were
twisting to fulfill their lusts. Jesus
was denouncing the cultural practice of legalized adultery.
10:1 - 12 is the account where the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was
lawful for them to divorce their wives.
Jesus referred them to Deuteronomy 24 that they were
misappropriating. Both Jesus
and the Pharisees agreed that the law permitted a man to divorce his
wife, but as Jesus pointed out, that was not God's will at creation.
Jesus then repeated what He said in Luke 16:18 by saying that if
anyone, as in, any one of you Pharisees, divorces his wife and remarries
commits adultery. Mark adds
something that Luke omits. The
wife who divorces her husband for no valid Biblical reason commits
adultery when she remarries. The
reason for this insertion is because Mark was writing to the Gentile
world where a wife was legally permitted to divorce her husband.
19:1 - 13 is Matthew's version of
Mark 10:1 - 12, with a few additions.
The Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful for them to divorce
their wives "for any and every reason," which they were doing
based on their view of the word "displeases" in the divorce
law. Jesus reminded them of
the law and then referred them back to God's original intention at
creation for a man and his wife to be glued to one another for life.
He added that the divorce law was a concession on God's part due
to man's corrupt hearts. Jesus
then said that if anyone, or, anyone of you Pharisees, divorces his
wife, except on the ground of adultery, commits adultery when he
remarries. Jesus was
speaking directly to the Pharisees and their culture of free and easy
5:31 and 32 is the crux of Jesus' teaching.
It reads. "Anyone
who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to
become an adulterous and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits
adultery" (NIV). Without
knowing the cultural setting and grammatical construction of this verse,
we will misunderstand what Jesus taught.
first century Koine Greek grammar a passive voice verb in a sentence
is when the subject of the sentence is the recipient of an action, as
in, "He was hit." The
subject "he" is the recipient of the action of being
"hit." The phrase
"causes her to become" an adulterous in Matthew 5:32 is a
passive voice verb. This
means the wife is the recipient of the unjust action of being divorced.
She is not doing the action of divorcing.
This, along with the Jewish culture that blamed the wife for the
divorce, stigmatized her as being an adulterous in her community, even
if she wasn't. The same is
true with the man who marries her, based on the passive voice verb
"who marries her." He
is stigmatized as an adulterer in the community, even if he wasn't.
Both the divorced wife and the man who subsequently marries her
have done nothing unlawful and therefore I believe are free to remarry.
verb tense in Luke 16:18 is obscure.
In Mark 10:11 it is either a middle or a passive voice verb.
Because of these uncertainties we cannot build a case based on
uncertain verb tenses. However,
the verb tense in Matthew 19:9 and 5:32 is commonly understood to be a
passive voice verb. We,
thus, can build the case that a divorced wife is a victim of an unjust
divorce. She is not a
violator of the law, and is therefore free to remarry, and, the man who
marries her is free to do so without violating the law.
is the only Biblical reason for divorce.
The Bible does not address every question we ask, like,
"What if my husband beats me up?"
We are left to our God given, Holy Spirit led, Biblically
literate, common sense to do what seems best.
In the final analysis, those who have been unjustly divorced are
free to remarry. Unless God
tells you otherwise, marriage has always been God's will.
Even if one divorces for no valid Biblical reason, genuine
repentance nullifies the offense. Remarriage
is logically permissible because there is no record of the offense.
been a faithful student of the Bible
Greek grammar, definition of words, commentary of Biblical passages, and
general input, some of the source material for this project I have
consulted is as follows.
Vines Expository of New Testament Words" (Fleming H. Revell
New Testament Greek For Beginners, by J. Gresham Machen.
(The MacMillen Company)
- Dr. Bob Utley
R. C. Lensky's commentary on the New Testament. (
topic of divorce and remarriage as understood in Biblical terms is a
topic that has been debated for years.
I won't end the debate. As
you study this topic for yourself, you will encounter varying opinions
that you will have to sift through.
I hope I have shed some light for you concerning divorce,
remarriage, and God's original intention "From My Side Of The