GENERAL AND UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES
- Marriage is permanent–until death. Marriages of both believers and unbelievers are binding.
- Divorce is forbidden.
- Incorrigible adultery might end a marriage and free the innocent partner, but this should be proven by a prayerful inquiry by church leaders. Where this is not possible to ascertain, the case should be handled as stated later under the category of “Unclear and Uncertain Situations.”
- The spouse guilty of causing the divorce is not free to remarry.
ADDITIONAL IMPLIED PRINCIPLES
- Counsel of the church must be sought and cannot safely be rejected.
- One seeking to end a marriage requires counsel before deciding.
- One seeking remarriage requires counsel before deciding.
QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED AND PROBLEMS TO BE FACED
- What is the difference in status between (a) A new-comer who already divorced without this church’s counsel, and (b) One who had this church’s counsel and went contrary to it?
Answer: “a” must go back to spouse or plead that the situation is Biblically allowable exception* or remain unwed as 1 Corinthians 7:11 indicates.
“b” must go back to spouse or remain unwed.
- How is the “exception” to be evaluated and proven when the critical situation took place some distance away and the other spouse is not available? These and many other type cases will be encountered that simply do not have clear Biblical evidence indicating freedom for remarriage. What is to be done? (below)
UNCLEAR AND UNCERTAIN SITUATIONS
- When the case is doubtful, remaining unmarried should be encouraged.
- Where there is a lack of objective information that would prove that remarriage is not permitted. but at the same time there is not positive assurance that remarriage would be allowable by Scripture, the church must not promote a second marriage. When such a marriage is entered upon, it surely ought to be a private wedding. If the church is unable to sanction definitely a marriage, the wedding service should not be a “church wedding.” Furthermore, if the uncertainty surrounding the union is of the nature just mentioned, the proposed marriage will have neither official sanction nor judgment. The responsibility before God for the decision will be born by those who had the facts and shared in the decision.
PLACING DIVORCED PERSONS IN OUR SUNDAY SCHOOL AND GROUPS
One problem arises from the matter that the term “single” no longer means “never married.” In our modern society, “single” simply means “going it alone.” Separated, divorced, and never-married all now make up the singles in most places. The church that encourages this mingling must take the responsibility for the obvious problems that must, and surely will, arise. It would be unrealistic to think that young people, hungry for companionship and encouraged to mingle in church social occasions, would not seek out private dates from their church acquaintances.
1. Separated persons will be treated as married individuals who have a problem marriage. Restorative help will be offered.
2. Divorced persons with children will be directed to the marrieds’ class. Restorative help should be offered.
3. Those without children should be offered restorative help and urged to make every effort at reconciliation if their legitimate partner has never remarried. Where that is not possible, they shall be encouraged to remain single — especially where the responsibility for the divorce is uncertain.
4. Unclear and uncertain cases should be handled in the manner already proposed. Then if they are permitted to be a part of the singles functions, the church’s position should be made clear to them. If a remarriage begins to emerge, it will not be encouraged and the church will not participate in it where there is no clear evidence of Scriptural grounds for exception. In these uncertain cases, any remarriage must be done apart from the church and should be a private matter.
5. The policy of the church will be to encourage the single young adults not to be involved in such relationships that might well represent a serious compromise on their part.
Married couples within this fellowship with its clearly enunciated standards and who are faithfully taught the permanence of marriage and helped to maintain their union and warned against breaking it up, will not be permitted to remarry (except on assured Scriptural grounds), on pain of excommunication.
Those entering our fellowship who have already divorced will be given our counsel but we cannot take the responsibility of either prohibiting their remarriage or of condoning it unless all of the facts are available to us.
VERSES RELATED TO SUBJECT OF DIVORCE
Leviticus 20:10: If man commits adultery with another man’s wife both shall be put to death (same penalty seen in 20:11-16 if man lies with father’s wife, son’s wife, another man, a wife and her mother, a beast.
Leviticus 21:7: Priest not to marry a harlot, a fallen woman, or a divorced woman.
Leviticus 21:13-14: High Priest – same as above, but widow added – (anyone not a virgin).
Numbers 5: The law of jealousy – when husband suspects wife of unfaithfulness, but she is not caught in act. If guilty her body swells – her thigh falls away.
Numbers 30:9: God accepts a vow of both a widow and a divorced woman.
Deuteronomy 22:13-21: If a man discovers his bride is not a virgin and this is proved, she is put to death. If the charge was false, he may never divorce her, (though he hate her).
Deuteronomy 22-27: Death penalty if a man lies with married woman, with betrothed virgin. (If he forces her, only he is put to death).
Deuteronomy 22:28-30: If man lies with unbetrothed virgin, she shall be his wife. He may never divorce her.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4: When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, 2 when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 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, 4 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, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Ezra 10: The putting away of foreign wives and the children of these mixed marriages. A great number involved in this.
Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:8: Bill of divorcement is used in symbolic sense of Israel’s relationship to God.
Ezekiel 44:22 Priests not to marry a divorced woman or a widow (except widow of a priest).
Malachi 2:14-16: God hates putting away.
Matthew 5:31-32: Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
Matthew 19:3-9: The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said,‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.
Use of word “fornication” (porneia)
- Sometimes distinguished from adultery – Matthew 15:19
- Sometimes refers to adultery – I Corinthians 5:1
- Word includes sexual relationships with anyone not your wife. Hence it is used of idolatry – John 8:41
- “Every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse”. Hence it may be this would include homosexuality and beastiality. Leviticus 20:10-16
Mark 10:5, 9, 11-12: And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. 11 So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.
Speaks not only of man divorcing wife but of wife divorcing husband.
Luke 3:19: John the Baptist reproved unsaved Herod for having his brother’s wife.
Luke 16:18: Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.
John 8:3-11: Woman taken in very act of adultery. Under Mosaic law she would be stoned to death. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee; go your way; From henceforth sin no more.” (Jesus did not act as a judge. Cf 12:47).
Romans 7:2-3: 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. 3 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.
This is the general rule.
I Corinthians 7:2: Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
This is the general rule – exceptions given in Matthew 19:11-12 and I Corinthians 7:7.
1 Corinthians 7:10-15: Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14 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. 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
Verses 10-11 apply to married believers.
Verses 12-15 apply to mixed marriages — a believer and an unbeliever.
I Corinthians 7:39: A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
View 1 (Westminster Confession of Faith)
(1) “Willful desertion as can in no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate” is a cause for divorce.
Adultery is the other.
(2) I Corinthians 7:12-15 parallels Romans 7:2. Willful desertion annuls the marriage bond even as death does. This desertion must be deliberate and final.
(3) I Corinthians 7:15 If the unbeliever is departing, let him be departing (he must be departing). (The harshness of the expression shows the severity of the judgment.
(4) I Corinthians 7:15 views the subject in a wider aspect than Matthew 19:9 which views it in a wider aspect than Mark 10:11-12.
(5) To sanction permanent separation while the marriage remains unbroken is alien to the general tenor of Scripture (John Murray).
View 2 (Christian Reformed Church)
(1) Matthew 19:3-9 deals with marriage, adultery and divorce. Only one ground for divorce is taught. Those who teach “separations” as a second ground of divorce are in conflict with the teaching “except for fornication.”
(2) I Corinthians 7:12-15 allows separation, but not divorce. The “bondage” spoken of is that of preserving the home.
(3) Since God’s principle is that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established (II Corinthians 13:1), it is strange that so important a thing as a ground for divorce would be mentioned only once.
(1) Chorizo is used in the active voice in Matthew 19:6 (…let not man be putting asunder). In I Corinthians 7:10-11 it is used in the aorist passive twice. The idea behind this departing or separation seems to be divorce for she must be remaining “unmarried” (agamos). Both times it is applied to the wife. (A different word is used of the husband (aphiemi). Cf 7:12-14. In I Corinthians 7:15, present passive is used twice. If the unbeliever is being separated or is departing let him be being separated.
(2) The brother or sister has not been enslaved or subjected in such cases. Douloo is in Perfect Passive. It means to enslave, to become a slave.
(3) Thus I Corinthians 7:10-11 could refer to an unlawful divorce among believers. There can be no remarriage in such a case, only reconciliation.
(4) I Corinthians 7:12-15 would refer to a home where one member became a believer, the other did not. Don’t think you have to leave the unbeliever. But if he is getting a divorce, let him be doing this. The believer is not in bondage then. (Would this be somewhat like Ezra 10? Do we think all would remain unmarried after foreign mates put away)?
(1) For believers the rule is no separation (vio) — this is the teaching of Christ. If an unauthorized divorce is granted, no remarriage.
(2) For a mixed home, the rule again is no separation (v. 13). (This is a situation not spoken of by Christ – v. 12). Reason 1 is that the marriage is not unclean in God’s sight. Reason 2 is that marriage should be kept if at all possible for God called us in peace. Reason 3 is that believer may even, win other one to Lord.
Nothing is said about a second marriage for the believer if the unbeliever should depart.
1 Timothy 3:2: The bishop therefore must be…the husband of one wife. (Cf v. 12).