The Biblical guide to Marriage, divorce, and remarriage

Discussing marriage today is a touchy topic for some people, and others do not take the topic seriously enough. Many spiritual leaders in our world today have said that marriage is under attack (in America). However, the hope is Christ, for He can help resolve many problems in marriage and hopefully restore many marriages. The Biblical concept of marriage is interesting to explore, especially as we begin with Old Testament passages regarding Marriage.

The first Scripture to explore is Numbers 36:8, “And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers.” This is saying that it is good to marry in your own tribe/race; however, this was concerned primarily, at the time the Law was given, with avoiding women to marry outside of their tribe(s), because of preventing the transfer of land. (Quick note for Moses’ day in this situation: It was vital to give this law, because occasionally it would be found that a man of another tribe would entice another woman to their tribe to notice an inheritance, or vice-versa. This allowed the tribes to rob each other of inheritances, which Moses knew would cause excessively many problems, wars, conflict, etc.)

Another good Scripture from the Old Testament would be from Hosea 2:19-20, “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.” Hosea here is speaking on remarriage; however, he states something of influence when he bases it on God’s standards, and that it is maintained by his loving faithfulness to the marriage covenant. He truly wants his betrothed to know God, and that they will be inseparably united with Him. This Scripture is a “type and shadow” of the marriage of God’s People to Him, it appears.

We see another great Scripture from Malachi 2:13-16, “And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he 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. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”

This Scripture is saying to be mindful of your dealings with your mate. In this time in Israel, they had no problem breaking the marriage covenant ordained by God, to which they would marry idolatrous wives to show they have no real desire in having their children know God and be dedicated in service unto Him. These men had been unconcerned about what their former wives would be doing, to which they would go on and live lives of hardship without any concern from the man. The whole point of marriage is that she is the wife of thy covenant, and men should honor her, instead of “tossing her aside.”

In discussing marriage, it is interesting also to look at a few New Testament Scriptures. The first one is Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” This is saying that sexual relations are honorable only between a husband and wife, and that God will deal strictly with those that behave otherwise. Another good Scripture is 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.” This is saying that neither man nor woman can exist without the other, and with them united, they are united unto God (as one)!

As we saw in the Hosea Scripture of the Old Testament earlier, we got a glimpse that marriage is a picture of relationship with Christ in eternity, to which, we see another reference, but in the New Testament in Revelation 19:7-9, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” As God’s People are welcomed in, we see the wedding feast, where Christ will be united with His People!

Another great Scripture of the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 7:1-6, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” \

This describes the intimacy of marriage, for it is honorable and is the normal course God set for humanity. Husband and wife have obligations to each other, and sometimes need to pray for each other if they are not to have sexual relations for a time. This is to help avoid satan’s attacks of temptations to commit adultery, so that they may rest for a time. This describes Paul’s true heart on what marriage should be as he sees that intimacy is so highly important in marriage, and that sexual relations need to stay within the marriage to avoid conflict or the parting of something God ordained!

Paul had more to say in another Scripture, in 1 Corinthians 7:8-16, which was to the unmarried and widows, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”

In this Scripture, Paul recommends unmarried widows that sometimes it is good not to marry, unless sexual temptation becomes too much to bear. It is better to marry and be clean of sin than to invest into fornication. Christian husbands and wives should not separate, for they should make every effort to stay together (even if they need counseling or other help). If this fails, they should remain single.

He then speaks of one partner being an unbeliever and one being a believer, and vice-versa. He hopes they would bring honor to God in their relationship, by “marrying in the Lord.” He hopes that if an unbeliever, for example, marries a believer, that they will become a Christian (believer) as well. However, he does state clearly there that a union between a believer and unbeliever is not unclean, and neither is any child born of that union—for God considers it holy and lawful because of the believer. If the unbeliever rejects and decides to leave the believer, they should be let go and not provoked to quarrel. There is no point in forcing an unbeliever in continuing the marriage in hopes of making the person a believer. Nonetheless, there are many cases that an unbelieving partner will decide to become a believer and will make the marriage much stronger because of this!

The next good Scripture is in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, “But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin.

The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” Paul is saying here that you are not to act as if you don’t have a spouse. Since you do have a spouse, you should be acting always as if you do, and be faithful one to another to not offend each other from honor. Marriage is an honorable covenant, and one should be proud of whom they have married, for God has brought them together.

In discussing marriage, it is good to evaluate what the fifth chapter of Ephesians says about the role of a husband and of a wife, in Marriage. We see this in Ephesians 5:21-25, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Wives are to be submitting themselves to their husbands as they do unto the Lord. The husband then, is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church. Wives should be subject to their husbands, and husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the Church! If the husband will truly “love” the wife, it will not be difficult for her to honor him in submission, for his love will watch out for her and care for her, and also seek to please her. In this, we see a picture of the Church!

Discussing roles further, we see in the same chapter in verses 28-33, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” In this Scripture, we see that men should love their wives as their own bodies, for he that loves his wife loves himself. Because of the love the two of them share, they should part from their father and mother, and be joined together as one flesh. There is unity between a husband and wife just as Christ is with His Church! This unity forms the foundation of the relationship.

Divorce

In discussing marriage, we must see what the “any cause” clause means and why the New Testament threw out this clause. According to the Rabbinic Law, a woman may be divorced with or without her will; however, a man only with his will… Jesus was correcting them that you cannot just divorce for any reason (or no reason) just by giving a slip of paper; however, you must have a reason for divorce, and that is on the grounds of adultery only. Jesus stated the corrections in Matthew 5:31-32, “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Jesus said those who put away (separate) from their wives should give them a bill of divorcement. If they do separate and do not give a bill of divorcement, and then go and marry another woman, he is committing adultery (because the woman he separated from is still married).

Therefore, it is good to deliberate an entire discussion on the matter, since the Pharisees, in Matthew 19, challenged Jesus: 3-12, “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

The Pharisees presented a question about the legality of the Mosaic Dissolution for “every cause.” The real issue here is “divorce” for “every cause,” not divorce for fornication, which was lawful. Rabbis made void Deuteronomy 24:1-4, “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath 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 giveth it in her hand, and sendeth 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 again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”

He now permitted divorce on many frivolous grounds, such as careless seasoning of food, causing the husband to eat food which had not been tithed, going into the street with loose or uncombed hair, spinning industry, loud talk, or constant talking in the home, the husband finding one more beautiful than his wife, and many other things. However, Jesus took them back to the original Law of Marriage and the Creator’s intent and purpose of Marriage, which pointed them to the perfection in Eden. In that “perfection,” it is not good that man should be alone; however, sin marred the perfect plan (Genesis 2:18). The Pharisees had wondered why Moses would erect such a bill of divorcement; however, Jesus told them he did so with a right to remarry, and was permitted only because of hardness of heart.

Jesus gave his summation then, that whoever puts away his wife except for fornication and married another committed adultery. Jesus did allow a divorce; however, it was not so from the beginning. The New Testament threw out the “any cause” clause; because it was unscriptural, (it was rather something made up from the Jews). Jesus referred them back to the original way the ordinance was established, and told them what the actual grounds were. Jesus was showing them what that Law actually meant on divorce and on God’s establishment, because they had obviously interpreted something different based on some kind of confusion (possibly because their predecessors misaligned themselves). That is why Jesus states His correction on confusion on the Law to tell them that they have believed something, but what they believed is different from the actual meaning. He is kindly telling them what it actually means, trying to resolve the controversy between them. He states things: “You may have heard…” “…but I tell you now” to help them understand.

In discussing marriage, remarriage, and divorce, it is best then to see whether the Bible allows divorce, by looking at the Scripture. Repeating what Jesus has said, we should view Matthew 19:9, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” This is saying one is allowed to “put away” (separate from) his wife based only on fornication. Any other means is unlawful and will be considered sin. People were told to give a bill of divorcement if they were to put away their wives. This appears to mean that put away and divorce are two different things in the original Greek manuscripts and shall be considered different in interpretation, especially Matthew 5:31 – why would someone divorce someone and then give them a bill of divorcement right after that? It must be a difference that someone who separates from someone should give them a divorcement bill or reconcile.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:32 that someone may separate from their wife in the grounds of fornication only, and if that man who separated were to go and marry another, while still being separated but not divorced from another, would be committing adultery. If someone had entirely divorced another, and it was not sanctioned by the Bible (a reason for divorcing without it being considered sin), they would have committed sin in that divorce. However, if someone is to remarry after a divorce, this is not sin, but a legally binding and spiritually binding marriage – which means adultery would not be possible since the original marriage has been dissolved, and assuming you are not currently married to another. You may divorce and reenter marriage, but you may not invest into bigamy, polygamy, etc. Monogamy is the only Biblically lawful marriage. It appears many Greek texts have been misinterpreted (notably the Westcott Hort ones referenced), by defining put away and divorce as the same meaning when the Bible gives two entirely different words respectively. This means we can reasonably conclude Jesus drew a difference between put away and divorce.

This refers to the original Law in Deuteronomy 24:1-2, “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath 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.” This is saying it is legal to remarry after a divorce. Why would Jesus contradict the Law when He was trying to straighten the Pharisees on what the Law actually said.

On the topic of “putting away” versus “divorce,” we should see the differences in usage. If a man, in the Old Testament, did not divorce his wife, he would put her away. The Hebrew word for this is “shalach,” which means, “to send, send away, let go, stretch out.” It is different for the Hebrew word for “divorce,” which was “kerithuth,” which meant, “divorce.” Now, women were “put away” when their men married others, and it made them available if they were needed or wanted again, to become mere property, as slaves, or in total dismissal.

They were “put away” in favor of another, but not given a divorce and the right to marry again. God hated this “putting away,” as we see in Malachi 2:14-16, “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.  And did not he make one? Yet had he 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. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”

Translating the “putting away” in this Scripture, does not mean “divorce.” It is “shalach,” or “put away.” Since it was not divorce, it was counted as adultery for committing it. Jesus said this in Luke 16:17-18, because even if a woman is “put away,” she is still married. There must be a putting away only through a written bill of divorce. Therefore, the distinction between “put away” and “divorce” (apoluo, “put away” versus apostastion, “divorce”) is a critical one. Apostastion permitted divorce by written paper. Jesus always gave warning against “apoluo,” but never against “apostastion.” Nonetheless, divorce is caused by hardness of heart, and one may be cleansed from all unrighteousness through Jesus Christ (for divorce is not the unpardonable sin). Divorce and remarriage is something forgiven by the Lord!

Remarriage

In discussing remarriage, we must uncover evidence in the Bible that a divorced person may remarry. The best evidence is still Matthew 19:9, to which Jesus says, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Someone may put away his wife and remarry based upon only fornication. Those who are dealing with a spouse that is fornicating have the right to put her away, and remarry legally based upon what Jesus has said here. For any other reason, the man commits adultery against her for putting her away except for fornication. According to the lesson and Scripture, one properly divorced is released without obligation and is free to remarry in the Lord.

In discussing these things, we should evaluate whether organizations and churches should restrict divorced persons from service that Christ has commanded in the Great Commission. They should not, because the most important point is the person’s character, for even the Corinthian believers were saved out of sexually depraved corruption, but they had no apparent limitations on their service and gifts of Ministry. God does forgive divorce and remarriage including adultery, and therefore, the Laws of God are perfect, but people are not. People may falter in one way or another, and to rebuke someone from service for the Lord just because they have sinned is taking away God’s Will for their life that the leader would be held accountable for. Either the Church will accept imperfect people for its ministries or it will not have anyone at all. We are all sinners that are saved by His Grace. There is no reason for a divorced person to be a second-class Christian.

%d bloggers like this: