Translations: Chinese GB Big5
Basic Principles
How to Think About Remarriage After Divorce
Excuses
Does Sex Engender a Marriage?
Applications
Singleness

Some Basic Biblical Principles of 
Marriage, Divorce, & Adultery

Marriage in General

Mark 10:6-9 "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
The mystery of marriage is that God made it to be in the likeness of the relationship between Christ and the Church
Eph 5:31,32 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-- but I am talking about Christ and the church."
As such, the husband's love for his wife is to be in the image of Christ's love for the church

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

And in particular to help her overcome sin

Eph 5:26-27 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

(but considerately)

Divorce & Adultery

Marriage to Believers

Marriage to Unbelievers


How to Think About Remarriage After Divorce

While the former spouse is alive, remarriage to someone else after divorce can be liken to a serial form of polygamy. Many of the same kind of issues come up as with polygamy.  You might end up with children from difference marriages. What should a polygamist do if they want to then follow God's ideal? Should they divorce or what? And if so, who should they divorce? What about the children from their different wives? People get themselves entangled in all kinds of messy situations. But as you would advise the polygamist, so you should advise those remarried after divorce.

I infer that polygamists were limited in their official roles in the church, as their lifestyle was not in keeping with the ideal.

1 Timothy 3:2  Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
1 Timothy 3:12  A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.
Titus 1:6  An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.
However, these seem also to indicate that polygamy was tolerated in the Christian community, not being treated in the same manner as the more overt forms of adultery. This is in keeping with the spirit of the Law, in that while the more overt forms of adultery were punishable by death under the law of Moses, remarriage after divorce had no penalty associated with it, even though Jesus later revealed it to also be in the same category of "adultery".

However it is interesting that under the Law of Moses, priests were not allowed to marry the divorced. (Lev 21:7) And thus leaders in the church are especially restricted in this sense, but best if all Christians observe this. I have heard arguments of there being church leaders who remarried or married the divorced whom nonetheless "the Lord has blessed" in one way or another. But what often fails to be understood is that such church leaders as well as other Christians in such situations end up validating such remarriages, causing other Christians to fall into sin. In fact it would come as no surprise to me if such ministers become popular. For their own adulterous remarriages validate the popular opinion. Beware of popular ideas! Now in contrast to this, consider the effect of having a pastor or teacher who is divorced even for reasons of the adultery of their spouse, but who refuses to remarry for conscience sake, based on these concepts I've mentioned above. Such a person by their very life communicates conviction of sin. Rather than causing Christians to fall into sin, they lead them to repentance. But then again I would suspect that such a person may not become all that popular.

See also an anabaptist perspective on divorce and remarriage
and a brief opinion as to what should polygamists do.


Marriage Vows

Deut 23:21-23 "If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth."

So if you vowed before God "till death do us part", are you not obligated to keep that vow, else you'll be guilty of sin?

This is yet another reason why it's death and not divorce which nullifies a marriage.


Excuses

What about the exception clause in Matt 5:32?

"But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery." (NIV)
The question is: What situations does the "marital unfaithfulness" (or "fornication") refer to?

What can we infer from the fact that Jesus doesn't elaborate upon this phrase, nor is this exception clause found in the Mark and Luke passages on divorce? (Though it is found again in Matt 19:3-9)  I would infer that the meaning is obvious enough as to not require elaboration. Notice that neither here nor in Matt 19 did the disciples ask further his meaning concerning this exception clause. The word being used is "porneia". Let's consider possibilities.

1. One idea is that one can divorce and remarry if their spouse commits any act of fornication. But this doesn't explain why the exception clause is missing in the Mark and Luke passages, nor is is mentioned in Paul's writings. In fact in 1Cor 7:2 Paul gives fornication not as a reason for divorce, but rather a reason for marriage. Furthermore if this is the interpretation, then the statement begs a number of questions, and as such the lack of elaboration makes such an interpretation suspect.
For example, does the legitimacy of remarriages hinge only upon whether or not a prior divorced had been on the grounds of fornication?

Let's say a man divorces his wife because she complains alot or some stupid reason. That is, the exception clause does not apply.  She goes on to marry someone else and can blame her first husband for causing her to become an adulteress. But if she's an adulteress that means that her second marriage is illegitimate and that she is really still married to her first husband. The first husband who had caused her to become an adulterous then feels he can now seek a second marriage because the exception clause has been fulfilled. But was it fulfilled if in fact the basis for the original divorce was not fornication? Who is the "innocent party"? And what is the status of the woman afterwards? Is her second marriage now legitimate?
Many questions arise which seem counter-intuitive to brevity of the phrase, lack of any elaboration, and the fact it's missing elsewhere. Nonetheless even given this interpretation it can be proven that divorce itself does not nullify a marriage.

2. What if Jesus was just stating the obvious, simply reinforcing the rest of his statement. Consider his statement in Mark 10:11,12 "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." But what if they are divorcing out of a situation which Jesus was just now characterizing as a marriage of fornication?  The exception clause could be interpreted to mean that regardless of the "reason" for divorce, the particular case of divorce that this exception clause is dealing with is a situation in which the marriage itself is illegitimate to begin with. In order words he's saying, "But I tell you that anyone who divorces his legitimate wife, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery." Thus he's saying that the principle doesn't apply when divorcing out of illegitimate marriages. An explanation as to why Mark and Luke don't have the exception clause could be that what constitutes "legitimate" can be logically deduced from the passage, and thus it would be just redundant to mention it. This interpretation most conveniently fits the passage without introducing unncessary complications.

3. Another possibility is that he was speaking of something in the Law of Moses which the Jews may have commonly understood as he was addressing them, but which may seem unclear to us Gentiles. Interesting that in the Matt 5:32 passage that it literally says, "except the word of fornication" - perhaps speaking of a Bible passage.

Here and Matt 19:3-9 Jesus was perhaps speaking with reference to the Mosaic Law, which is why the exception clause is not found in the Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18 passages as Matthew was written for Jews in particular and the exception clause is relevant to them, but not so much to Gentiles. What Matthew is referring to is to the time period in which one is pledged to be married, but not yet married. In the Mosaic law, this corresponds to Deut 22:13-21. Admittedly, the penalty was death and not divorce from the law, however the Jews generally interpreted this to be the allowable limit of the punishment rather than the necessary punishment. Such a case was true of Mary and Joseph. While they were only pledged to be married, Mary was found to be pregnant.

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." Matt 1:18,19
So in applying the law in Deut 22, Joseph was considering divorce rather than death. Notice also that though only pledged to be married, Joseph is reckoned a husband. However, if he had divorced her at that time under those circumstances and married another, such would not constitute adultery. But had he gone ahead and married her and then divorced and remarried another, such would constitute adultery from Jesus' point of view.

However the weakness of this view is that it may appear too narrow and perhaps not to the point as it deals with a betrothal rather than a recognized consummated marriage. But then again perhaps that's why it's not mentioned in Mark or Luke. But another problem is that it implies that engagements cannot be broken up for any other reason than for fornication. But perhaps that was Jesus' position and such betrothals should be viewed essentially as binding as marriage vows, but the fornication exception could be understandable in that the marriage was not consummated. This would place betrothal in a special case or category, which may explain why it's an exception, and being a minor exception, why it's not mentioned elsewhere.

Furthermore, while even the Gentile culture did practice engagements, yet the Jewish betrothal may have been more serious. I perceive it certainly was more serious than what is called "engagement" in modern Western culture, where there is no such thing as a "divorce" from an engagement. Thus this could explain why the exception clause is found in Matthew, but not in Mark and Luke which were geared towards Gentiles.

Matthew 19:3-12

Was Jesus' justifying a Category of Divorce under the Law?

There are those who say that Jesus' reply to the Pharisees in this passage was simply an interpretation of the Mosaic law and that it does not go beyond what the Law says, but simply interprets the Law, and as such they say he is justfying a category of divorce already in the Law. But notice Jesus' actual response:
Some Pharisees came to him to test him.
They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

"Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

(Why is it that Jesus spoke of singleness here? Just to repeat "The one who can accept this should accept it." It is because if you correctly apply what he says there may end up being alot of divorced people out there who must remain single.)

Jesus first calls into question the whole idea of divorce. He does not justify one category of divorce over another. And logically the Pharisees saw this as calling into question the Law of Moses, as there is a contingency in the Law for divorce. Jesus then declares that the contingency for divorce found in the Law of Moses was put there because God decided to tolerate a degree of sinful adulterous behavior of the Jews because of their hardness of heart. For if he made the law too strict, as for example reflected in the beatitudes of Matthew 5, it would have been overbearing considering how sinful people are. But now Jesus was revealing the spirit behind the law. Thus he classifies all divorces (from legitimate marriages) as illegitimate. This interpretation is also affirmed by the disciples' shock and surprise at Jesus' teaching here, just as many Christians today may be shock and surprised at this interpretation. And Jesus affirmed that they did not misunderstand him.

In applying these to the Christian community, let us also follow the spirit of the law. For what God tolerated under the Law, even though it was sinful and due to the hardness of people's heart, we should also tolerate. But realize also that under the Law priests were not allowed to marry the divorced and thus comes the restrictions found in 1Timothy and Titus limiting the appointment of church authorities just to non-polygamists, be they the parallel or series variety.


What about 1Cor 7:28?

"Now concerning virgins [Both male and female]
I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment,
as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.
I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress,
[Paul's advice to virgin men]: I say, that it is good for a man so to be. [that is, remain single] But and if thou [male virgin] marry, thou hast not sinned;
and if a virgin [female virgin] marry, she hath not sinned. This is an example where the interpretation is somewhat a matter of the translation.
For example in the NIV, the transition from vs 27-28 goes: First of all, "unmarried" is not a very good translation, for literally it says "have you been loosed from a wife" with "loosed" in the perfect tense, indicating that the person had been married before, as opposed to being a virgin. Furthermore it seems he's not referring to widows (or widowers), but to the divorced. I conclude this for two reasons: The problem is that translation implies that the "you" in vs 28 is the same "you" as in 27, referring the divorced. But this is incorrect. The "you" in vs 28 is referring to the "you" in vs 26 (male virgins), who along with female virgins were the main subjects of this section as he mentions in vs 25 "Now about virgins", not to the divorced of vs 27, which is merely a parenthetical thought.
Furthermore, if the "you" of vs 28 are the divorced, then he would be contradicting himself, for he already said And Jesus had already made this clear as well in the gospels as I mentioned above.
Therefore, Paul is merely saying that, though he advises virgins to stay single, yet it is fine if they marry.
They don't sin in doing so. However, in contrast to this, such is not true of those who are divorced.

I therefore find it strange that divorced Christians would use Paul's parenthetical idea in vs 27 to justifying remarrying, when such was just the opposite of what he meant.

Paraphrase of 1Cor 7:25-28:
Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord:
yet I give my judgment, as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy.
In view of the present necessity (the urgent need of communicating the gospel in view of Christ's return)
I think it is best that male virgins remain single.
However, as the Lord has already commanded,
if you are married you must not take initiative in seeking a divorce.
And if you are divorced, you must not seek a wife
(though you can be reconciled to your former spouse as I mentioned in vs 11)
On the other hand, if you male virgins marry, you do not sin, and the same is true of female virgins.
Unlike those who are divorced, you are free to marry.
However, you'll be facing many troubles as a result, and I would spare you from such.

Another possible interpretation of the verse "Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed.Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.", given that he's speaking to virgins, could be "Are you a virgin man who is married? If so then don't be seeking a divorce just because you became a Christian. Are you a virgin man who just got divorced? I would advise not to seek for a new wife, but if you do that is not sin." For since he was still a virgin the marriage had not been consummated and therefore the divorce annulled it, since the marriage union had never really been formed. While this interpretation is more consistent with the flow of his argument and not inconsistent with Biblical theology, verse 34 poses a problem which in the AV says, "There is difference also between a wife and a virgin." But we'd be interpreting verse 27 to refer to essentially a wife or husband who is a virgin. If that's what he meant then you would think he was say instead "There is difference also between a married woman and an unmarried woman" rather than making the contrast with a virgin. So I'd say it's a possible but unlikely interpretation.


What about 1Cor 7:15?

This deals with a situation in which a believer is married to an unbeliever.
12  But to the rest I—not the Lord—say,
if any brother has an unbelieving wife,
and she is content to live with him, let him not leave her.
13  The woman who has an unbelieving husband,
and he is content to live with her, let her not leave her husband.
14  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife,
and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband.
Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now are they holy.
15  Yet if the unbeliever departs, let there be separation.
The brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases,
but God has called us in peace.
16  For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?
Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
In this case if the unbeliever is willing to live together peaceably then the believer is bound to not separate, but to continue to dwell together with the unbeliever. Technically he's not using the word for divorce or "put away" which would be "apoluo" as it is used in the gospels when speaking of divorce. But rather he is using the word "aphiemi" meaning "to send away or to leave". He's speaking of a separation, desertion or abandonment as opposed to a divorce. Jesus uses the word "aphiemi" in the gospels for example to say,  "Most assuredly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for the Kingdom of God’s sake, ..." Luke 18:29 Even though it mentions "wife" there, it would be difficult to substitute "divorced" for "has left".

Deference here is given to the unsaved. The believer is under obligation and cannot decide to just walk away from the marriage simply because their spouse is an unbeliever. And I suspect the reason why he deals with this is the same reason why you find many Christians today divorcing their non-Christian spouses simply on the basis of their being non-Christians. The Lord is teaching that the marriage bed is holy regardless of whether one's spouse is a Christian. Else if such marriages are illegitimate simply because of one spouse not being a Christian, then divorce would not only be optional but necessary. And such marriages would be reckoned null and void when one spouse becomes a Christian! There are those who have divorced and remarried on such a basis (to remarry a Christian, that is). And they complain that those who hold convictions such as those stated in this study are guilty of judging them, yet they fail to see that they themselves are judging all the legitimate mixed marriages. And while they may complain that such studies as this are divisive and may cause conflicts in such remarriages, yet their illegitimate divorces and remarriages can also provoke Christians to seek to divorce their legitimate non-Christian spouses. They may refer to their spouses contemptuously as "Canaanites" and refer to passages in Nehemiah and Ezra to justify divorce and remarriage, of which I deal with later on. By doing so they are speaking contemptuously of every Christian's non-Christian spouse.

Continuing on with the passage, there is some debate as to what constitutes the willingness to live in peace. I don't think that would extend to physical spousal abuse, for instance. But then neither can the unbeliever be expected to behave as a child of God. So the believer must have a degree of toleration of the other's sinfulness, above what might be expected in the relationship between Christians.

Verse 15 speaks of freedom from "bondage". But freedom of "bondage" to what? The situation of bondage is when one is physically living with a non-Christian who refuses to live in peace. The two separating from that situation is freedom. A Christian is then free to remain single, or to be reconciled to their spouse (vs 11) sometime in the future.

But being bound not to separate is not the same idea as being bound to not remarry.  Here Paul is talking about dwelling together in the same house. The word "live with" is "oikeo", the noun form being "oikos" which means "the inmates of a house". We see it used in a spiritual sense in Romans 7-8 where for example Paul speaks of sin "dwelling" in him - that is in his flesh. A couple can even be married and yet not live together in this sense. Paul is speaking of being in the physical presence of one another. If the unbeliever leaves, then the believer is freed up from being in the physical presence of the other. Paul speaks of a physical separation, not necessarily a legal separation. But to further infer a justification for remarriage to someone else based upon this one verse alone goes beyond the context. For a number of times in that chapter Paul makes indications contrary to that idea - such as in verse 11 and verse 39. And again, of course we have Jesus' explicit teaching of Luke 16:18"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery." First marriages are holy in the eyes of God, regardless of whether the spouses be believers or unbelievers.


What about 1Cor 7:8-9 ?

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

There are those who propose that "unmarried" here refers to the divorced, giving them freedom to remarry. They futher claim that such an interpretation is affirmed by the word "unmarried" being associated with the divorced woman of verse 10-12 "A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband." But in fact this does not follow for three reasons.

First of all notice that the divorced woman of verse 12 is explicitly not allowed to remarry, which would contradict the idea that the remarriage is optional for the divorced.

Secondly  it doesn't follow the flow of Paul's argument. Paul is directing his instructions to different categories of people as follows:

 
Category
Men
Women
vs 8-9  Spouses died "Unmarried"
(Widowers)
Widows
vs 10-11 Married considering divorce Wife Husband
vs 12-17
Married with non-Christian spouse any brother 
hath a wife that believeth not
And the woman 
which hath an husband that believeth not
vs 25-38 Virgins if thou (masculine) marry, 
thou hast not sinned; 
if a virgin (feminine) marry, 
she hath not sinned.

In each case he mentions both male and female. In the case of verse 8-9 the female is termed "widow" and the male is termed "unmarried" (yes,  masculine in Greek here)- that is, a widower. For there is not other term explicit to a widower to use in the Greek.

And thirdly when he referred to the divorced man of verse 27 he used a completely different Greek word - probably to explicitly distinguish such a person from a widower, since he views widowers and the divorced in much different categories when it comes to the question of remarriage.


What about Ezra and Nehemiah commanding the Jews to divorce their wives?

A detailed analysis can be found in the Malachi study. Where I show that Ezra and Nehemiah (who were not prophets, by the way) were being racist in demanding such, and God sent Malachi the prophet to rebuke them concerning this and why He has sent judgment on them: Furthermore in 1Corinthians 7 concerning marriage to unbelievers, Paul affirms that such marriages are legitimate in the eyes of God and advises couples not to separate if they can live together in peace.

What about Deut 24:2-4?

"when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD."

Simply stated according to the Law of Moses if the divorced remarry, then even if they divorce from their second husband they cannot go back and remarry the first.

1. But notice how God applies this law through the prophet Jeremiah concerning his own divorce status, "If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers— would you now return to me?" declares the LORD." Jer 3:1 Thus God views the remarriage to another man following a divorce to be not a legitimate marriage, but an act of prostitution, and indeed he implies that Israel did even worst by living as a prostitute with many lovers. It was for that reason that God divorced Israel. Jer 3:8 "I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries."

Under a literal application of the law of Moses God would certainly not marry Israel again. But notice just a few verses later in verse 14"Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband." (NIV) or in the (NKJV) "Return, O backsliding children," says the LORD; "for I am married to you."

So here God is divorced and yet he says he reckons himself a husband and married to them. And that despite their behavior being worst than that of the Deut 24 situation, he urges them to reconcile with them and doesn't view his marriage to Israel as nullified.

Thus Christians should do the same.

But then why give that Law to Moses to begin with? What is defiling about reconciliation with the first husband? The Law implies that if she hadn't remarried another guy she could be reconciled with her first husband without the land being defiled. Her remarriage to another guy was an adulterous sin against the first husband. Jesus said, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her."Mark 10:11, but in this case the wife that remarries another commits adultery against her first husband.

The way God applies this verse in Deut 24 is that the society is corrupt if husbands accepts back an unrepentant adulterous ex-wife. Notice his requirement in Jer 3:14 of repentance. Notice also his application is Jer 3:1 implies that they are returning not with a repentant attitude, but casually as if they've done nothing wrong. Elsewhere He also warns of such an attitude saying, "Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe"— safe to do all these detestable things?" Jer 7:9,10

How should a Christian apply this? For example a Christian man should not consider "reconciling" with his ex-wife who had remarried and divorced another guy until she repents and acknowledges that her remarriage was an adulterous act. But given what God reveals in Jer 3:1 about the nature of the defiling, I don't think that the spirit of the Law is speaking without exception. Granted of course that the Jews were under the letter, but Christians under the spirit of the Law. Thus it is important for us to understand God's intention. For the letter doesn't always apply. The spirit of this law is similar to that in 1Cor 5:11,12 concerning disfellowship.

2. Realize furthermore that Jesus now revealed this more explicitly, namely that these second marriages are not legitimate marriages. Even though they go through the ceremony, say their vows and are given a marriage certificate Jesus revealed that it is not a legitimate marriage but an adulterous relationship. Therefore it is as a HOSEA SITUATION, of which God found Himself in and had Hosea act out, in the end instructing Hosea, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress." Hos 3:1 But he bought her from slavery and said, "You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you." Hos 3:3, which was to be symbolic of Israel's repentance following it's chastisement. Was God breaking the Law of Deut 24? He was rather fulfilling the spirit of it.

3. 1Cor 7:11,12 recognizes only two options for the divorced, namely singleness or reconciliation. For remarriage to another party would simply be an adulterous relationship. Even if such an adulterous relationship were established, reconciliation must be allowed for if the spouse repents. In context "reconciliation" implies remarriage to the first spouse since it is being contrasted with "remaining single". To not allow such reconciliation is to reckon the spouse as having committed an unpardonable sin.

In fact this Law in Deut was to allegorically illustrate the unpardonable sin. That is, divorcing God and marrying another god. It is a change of commitment, but it goes beyond just having an affair with another god. It is a final and willful decision. However as with much of the Law this too in only acted out in symbolic form in a marriage to a second husband, and just as Jesus revoked the dietary restrictions of the Law as the shadows pass away and the true light shines, so also Jesus revoked the laws concerning divorce and remarriage.


Does the Forgiveness of Sins Legitimize Adulterous Remarriages?

This is a common misconception in the Evangelical community today. If  a couple recognizes that their marriage, due to a remarriage after divorce,  is adulterous, and acknowledges that fact to God does that legitimize their marriage? Well, consider the woman of John 8 caught in adultery. Jesus forgave her and told her to sin no more. Do you think he had in mind that since he forgave her then she should feel free to go on committing adultery? Or that she should no longer consider her acts of adultery sinful? So if one acknowledges to God that their relationship with a person is adulterous should they then feel free to go on committing adultery, or reckon that their acts of adultery are no longer considered sinful? Well Duh?! Forgiveness involves repentance, and repentance a change of behavior, resulting in this case potentially with the reconciliation with the former spouse.

People come up with bizzare theological defenses over such an issue. One guy, grasping at straws, liken the situation to Joshua 9 where Israel established a covenant with the Hivites, which they we not supposed to do and yet God honored that covenant. But even if you make that analogy the covenant with the Hivites did not nullify their previous covenant with God. That analogy would be more appropriate to justify the legitimacy of marriages made with nominal Christians, not remarriages. It is death, not divorce, that nullifies the previous marriage covenant, as Paul indicates in Romans 7

"Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?  For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man." Rom 7:1-3
So what do I call women who remarry while their former spouse is alive? I call them adulteresses.


Does Sex Engender a Marriage?

There are some of the opinion that having sex with someone automatically makes one married to that person. They may reference 1 Corinthians 6:16  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." Which makes reference to Genesis 2:24 which states "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." This verse is often used in speaking about marriage such as:
Matthew 19:5  and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?
Mark 10:8,7  'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one.
Ephesians 5:31  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
And thus they conclude that even though 1Cor 6:16 is referring to having sex with a prostitute, a marriage is formed in God's eyes since "The two will become one flesh". However what they fail to observe is that the condition for a marriage to be formed given in Genesis 2:24 has only partly been fulfilled in 1Cor 6:16. For the verse has two parts:

1. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife"
2. "and they will become one flesh."

But sex alone only fulfills one part. And thus sex alone does not engender a marriage.

The first part of the verse speaks of leaving and cleaving. This is not an attitude reflected in promiscuity. There is commitment and public acknowledgement. Just as Genesis 2:24 is a Biblical pattern of marriage so also is marriage reflected in the relationship between Christ and the Church as the Ephesians 5 section indicates.

Eph 5:31,32 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery— but I am talking about Christ and the church.
The idea of a wedding or marriage banquet is not simply a cultural thing, although there are culture aspects of such things. Jesus often speaks of marriage banquets in his parables even speaking of a wedding banquet that God will give, and which we find later mentioned in Revelation. Revelation 19:7-9 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, "Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’"

Thus this idea of a public acknowledgement of the establishment of this marriage covenant is consistent with the pattern of marriage we see in the Bible and thus necessary to engender a marriage union in the eyes of God. Interesting to note also that cultures throughout the world and throughout recorded history even those having no knowledge of the Bible have nonetheless embraced this idea that sex alone does not engender a marriage.

We also note Deuteronomy 22:23-25  "If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death- the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man's wife. You must purge the evil from among you. But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die." But if "pledged to be married" has no significance, then the rape would constitute marriage. Therefore it is not only sex, but the pledge has significance in establishing a marriage. And even consider the case of Deut 22:28-29"If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives." Notice it says, "He must marry" rather than "He is married". After he had sex with her he was not considered married to her. But rather he is required to go through a ceremony to marry her.

I would also reference John 4, the woman at the well. Where Jesus says, "The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband." Was Jesus saying that she is living with a man with whom she is not having sex? I suppose that's possible, but I would doubt it. Notice he speaks of "having" that man in a similar sense as "having" her previous five husbands, implying being involved in illicit sexual activity with the man. But if that is the case then Jesus is implying that sex does not engender marriage. For here would be a woman having sex with a man, but Jesus says that he doesn't recognize that man as her husband. And indeed even the woman herself acknowledges that the fornication hasn't created a marriage.

This also nullifies the popular idea of cohabitation engendering a marriage. And given all of the above, these concepts also nullify the idea that one can get married secretly but deny being married publicly. Marriage is a public matter encapsulated in the phrase "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother" and put into practice through the wedding ceremony or wedding banquet.

Another way of analyzing this issue is to recognize that if sex alone engenders a marriage, then there would be no such thing as fornication or adultery. For such activities would be reckoned within the context of a legitimate marriage. And how can it be sinful to have sex with your own wife, for example?


Applications

As it is written that "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."James 4:17, the following section is only for those who agree that the perspective I've given on marriage, divorce, and adultery is Biblical, but need just a statement of the obvious applications.
Since divorce does not nullify a marriage, a single person who is divorced should reckon themselves married in God's eyes to their "ex-spouse" while that spouse lives, and as such be open to potential reconciliation.

But what if their "ex-spouse" remarries? The ex-spouse is committing adultery and thus this new marriage is adulterous and a "marriage" in name only. Furthermore as adultery is forgivable, it should not be considered irreconcilable. If the spouse repents they should be allowed to reconcile with their original partner. (Hosea 3:1, Jer 3:8, Isaiah 54:6, 1Cor 7:11)

What if a man who had never been married, marries a divorced woman whose ex still lives? They commit adultery and as such the marriage is illegitimate. If they repent then the man is free to seek a legitimate marriage partner, but the woman either must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her legitimate spouse. (1Cor 7:11)

What should a couple do if they realize that their marriage is adulterous, but they have children? Wouldn't divorce "hurt" the children? Consider the harm done if a divorce doesn't take place! By your example you've already taught them to commit adultery. By not taking action you'll be teaching them that it's OK to consciously live in sin. You'll be teaching them hypocrisy. Furthermore, a divorce from such a situation is logically covered under the Matt 19 exception clause.

If a Christian is legitimately married to a non-Christian, does the difference in salvation status nullify the marriage or justify a divorce? Certainly not. "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband, otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy." 1Cor 7:14 (But illegitimate marriages result in illegitimate children)

Given that a "divorce" from a legitimate spouse is really only a separation, yet are there legitimate reasons to separate other than adultery? In applying 1Cor 5:11,12, there is a different application if your spouse calls themselves a "Christian" or not. If they call themselves a "Christian", then they are subject to 1Corinthians 5:11 which says, "I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner——not even to eat with such a person." Given of course that Paul is referring to an overt lifestyle, as it is applied in 1Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, what if your "Christian" spouse falls into one or more of these categories? Don't keep company with them nor eat with them. (Eating with them is more generally referring to fellowship). A separation MUST occur. It is not optional. However, given 1Cor 5:12, if your spouse doesn't call themselves a Christian, then such a separation may not be called for. Let me also clarify here that this distinction is not between what a person "really is", that is whether a person really is born of God, or whether you think that they "really are a Christian", but rather what they call themselves.

Does premarital sex itself create a marriage bond? No. Neither fornication nor adultery make or break a marriage bond in God's eyes.

Does becoming a Christian nullify a previous divorced status, or nullify a previous marriage? If a person had been legitimately married as a non-Christian, their marriage is still legitimate as a Christian. If a person had been divorced as a non-Christian, they are still divorced as a Christian and are subject to the same restrictions.


Singleness

After speaking on divorce and adultery, Jesus' disciples had this reaction in Matthew 19:
10  The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."
11  Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.
12  For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

First of all some of the exegetical issues here is the fact that "can" as in "can accept this word" is not actually in the Greek, but is a possible inference from the context. And "accept" is not quite accurate. The word literally means to have space or room for receiving or holding something. Therefore with respect to this word it should say,

"Not everyone has room to accept this word ... The one who can make room should make room to accept it" (The translators may not have themselves "made room" for such a translation)

We notice that Paul made room for such an idea in 1Corinthians 7 saying, "I wish that all men were even as I myself (namely single). But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.  But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am;" and "I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord——how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world——how he may please his wife."

By why do many not make room for this idea? In Mark 2:2 it says, "Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them." which is the same greek word as is translated "accept" in Matthew 19. Some have no room because their room of ideas is already filled up with other things.

John 8:37  "I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place  in you." Again "has no place" is that same greek word. In this case they have no room for the word because they are not of Christ. Or it may be an issue of spiritual maturity as Paul writes, though on a different subject, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you." Php 3:15

How does one know whether they have the "gift" of singleness?

Why not look at the text? Why not just see what Jesus said? Jesus said that there are three ways of receiving this gift.

1. One may naturally feel like not getting married
2. Or the circumstances may dictate one's singleness
3. Or one may willfully chose singleness, as in a 1Corinthians 7:32-35 sense, to serve God free from unnecessary distractions inherent in the state of marriage.

I propose that the second case is true for those who have divorced out of a legitimate marriage. The circumstances have dictated that they remain single - for the life of their spouse. It may not be their choice, but as Jesus said, "others were made that way by men;".

But of course not everyone has room for this idea.


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources
Oct 15,2012