Can We Know The Truth About Divorce And Remarriage?
by Dennis Gresham
It is sad and sinful when non-Christians teach something which contradicts
what God teaches. It is sadder still, when Christians engage in false
teaching. God warned his people that from among his own children false
teaching would arise (Acts 20:30).
He also told us the time would come when some brothers in Christ would no
longer “endure” the truth and, therefore, they would only listen to men who
would teach them what they wanted to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
This is why Christ warned his church with these strong words in 2
Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test
yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?; unless
indeed you are disqualified.” (cf., 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Later, he inspired another apostle to say in 1 John 4:1: “Beloved, do not
believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because
many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Therefore, like Paul the
apostle, we are not amazed at the appearance of false doctrine, but at its
acceptance (Galatians 1:6-9)!
It should not surprise us then that false teaching occurs in the area of
marriage, divorce and remarriage. What is surprising, however, is that it
seems to be widely accepted. Nevertheless, the acceptance of a doctrine as
true does not make it true. Biblical support, not popular support, is what is
needed in accepting a teaching as true.
Our Master knew the powers of the age would challenge the power of the
ages! Indeed, we thank God today that the Word is unalterable (cf. Matthew
24:35), that the Scripture cannot be broken (cf. John 10:35), that it is still
the truth (cf. John 17:17) and still prevails (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:8).
THE RANGE OF RELIGIOUS ERROR
This list is in no certain order, and we do not have the time to exhaust a
complete listing of them, but note these errors now being taught:
1. The deserted “believer” of 1 Corinthians 7:15 is free to remarry, and
that with God’s approval.
2. The “guilty party” of Matthew 19:9 may, with God’s approval, form
3. The teaching of the Lord in Matthew 19:9 applies only to a Christian
married to a Christian (covenant passage).
4. Every person may continue in the particular marriage situation in which
he happens to be at the time he is immersed,
5. The non-Christian is not under, that is, amenable to the law of Christ
6. Repentance means, if one says “I’m sorry, and I do not intend to do it
again,” that he is free to live in that particular
relationship (God-sanctioned and God-approved).
7. The “sin” if there be such, is in the “divorcing”, not in the
8. The “sin” is not in the divorcing, but in the “remarriage.”
9. The teaching of Christ in Matthew 5 and 19 is, in reality, a fuller
explanation of the Law of Moses.
10. Unless you can find the teaching of Matthew 5 and 19 reiterated after
the day of Pentecost, it is not a part of the New
Testament and we are not bound by it.
11. Death constitutes the only Biblical cause for remarriage.
12. Divorce and remarriage can take place without cause.
13. Divorce and remarriage can be for any legal or justifiable cause.
14. Divorce and remarriage if before baptism is okay because sins are
washed away in baptism (the idea that baptism makes an
“unholy” union to be a “holy” union).
15. If a person is unhappy in his marriage, he can divorce and remarry, as
it would be an “unreasonable” thing if he had to stay
in it and we know, (Romans 12:1), our service to God is reasonable.
16. If a person “lusts in his heart” (Matthew 5:28), he has committed
adultery, therefore, can divorce and remarry.
17. If a person commits “spiritual adultery”, the innocent has the right to
divorce and remarry.
18. If a person commits “fornication before marriage” (note not “after” the
marriage), then he can divorce and remarry.
19. It is no longer valid to restrict the meaning of “adultery” to the
teaching of Matthew 19:9, that is, we need a new
definition to the word “adultery.”
20. When either marriage partner fails to “function in the marriage, it is
no longer a marriage, therefore there is a right to
divorce and remarry.
21. Not a one of us can keep God’s laws. When you break one you have broken
them all - including the marriage
(James 2:20)... God is a Father, not a Lawyer!
22. The “unbeliever” of 1 Corinthians 7:15 is the “believer” who becomes an
“unbeliever, unfaithful to the church.” Because
that one has become an “unbeliever” and departed, you are no longer under
bondage, that is, no longer “bound.”
23. The word “depart” (choridzo) as used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
means “divorce,” and in the “technical” sense.
24. Either spouse can “up and separate,” by any legal means available and
there is “no sin” in the separation, even if it is
25. “Let every man have his own wife...” teaches that one hundred percent
of men and women today have the right to remarry (marry).
Is It Lawful to Put Away a Mate For Every Cause?
Ancient people of lascivious lifestyles answered with adamant affirmatives.
Thirty-five centuries ago Moses wrote out divorce edicts for Physical Israel
(Deuteronomy 24:1ff). Jesus looked back on such legislation as linked with
hardness of human hearts (Matthew 19:7-8).
Men in Malachi’s era favoured the divorce system. They were dealing
treacherously against the wives of their youth.
Jehovah thundered against such husbands of hardness. He thundered His
hatred toward such devilish dissolutions of unions he had bound together
(Malachi 2:14-16). Preceding Christ by only a few years Hillel and other
liberal Jewish rabbis taught marriage could be dissolved on the most flimsy of
grounds such as burning the bread, seeing and wanting a more desirable mate,
etc. Misguided Pharisees with loose links toward matrimonial loyalty asked the
Lord this very question in Matthew 19:3.
Multiple-mate seekers today are just as liberal and loose as the ancients
were with one exception. Today, they do not even ask such queries; they just
proceed to divorce at the drop of a hat and remarry at will (theirs - not
Jehovah’s)! They repeat the process when tired of a mate and a more exciting
one appears on their horizon.
Jesus said one cause and one cause only would permit the innocent one to
put away the guilty party and to enter marriage with another who is eligible.
Men and women who ignore the Divine directive are flirting with eternal
damnation in hell.
Heaven’s door is not ajar for people who enter into, remain in and die in
fornicating frameworks or adulterous entanglements. Many passages teach this
(I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-5; Revelation 21:8;
Does Matthew 19:9 Apply After Pentecost?
Some among us have so contended and upon the flimsy argument that this
verse is not found repeated anywhere in Acts, the epistles or the book of
Revelation. What a reckless view!
Where is the golden rule of Matthew 7:12 (“Therefore, whatever you want men
to do to you, do also to them...”) repeated in Acts, the epistles or
Revelation? Is it therefore not binding? What about Matthew 18:15-18
(instructions on how to deal with a brother who sins against you)? Does it
have no binding power today? Where is Matthew 23:8-11 listed in the final 23
books of the New Testament? Does this then mean we are free to call a Roman
Catholic priest “Father?”
If Matthew 19:9 is not applicable during the Christian Age, just when was
it ever applicable or ever will be applicable? It could not have had
application under Judaism for Moses and his law held authoritative sway and
Jesus honoured it, defended it, accepted it and taught others to be of similar
attitude and action. It obviously cannot apply in heavenly habitations for
there will be no marriage there (Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:34-36).
Gospel legislation was given before Calvary as well as after Calvary. We
are amenable to both. This is why Matthew 19:9 is binding now upon all
Does the Guilty Party Have Remarriage Rights to Another?
A growing number of our brethren answer in the affirmative.
Who has the right, (Matthew 19:9) to initiate divorce? The one who has a
fornicating mate. Who has the right to contract remarriage with another
eligible person? The one who has put away a mate due to his/her fornication.
Provided that he/she is not guilty his/her self, in which case could not put
away their mate.
Why may the innocent party remarry? God allows it. Why cannot the guilty
party remarry another? He/she cannot qualify in the except clause. He/she has
no fornicating party to put away. This person is not in a position to put away
a fornicating mate because they are not the innocent mate.
Does I Corinthians 7:15 Allow Another Ground For Remarriage?
Prominent names among us, Burton Coffman, James D. Bales, and Neil
Lightfoot, have contended this is the case. This has been called the “Pauline
Privilege.” Basically, it adds another ground to Matthew 19:9. It amounts to
an apostolic countermanding of what Christ taught.
If desertion of the believer by the unbeliever provides another ground for
divorce and remarriage, then the grammatical force of “except it be for
fornication” is shattered forevermore.
Paul is not discussing divorce and remarriage in this context. The Greek
word for divorce, “apoluo”, is significantly avoided in 1 Corinthians 7:10-15.
Paul does not favour separation but if said parties are determined to
separate, he counsels continuing celibacy or a reconciliation should occur.
In mixed marriages, a Christian and non-Christian, if the unbeliever
departs, the believer is to allow the departure. In reality there is no other
course open to the believer. Marriage is not a forced union. Two are required
to enter it; two are required to continue it. This Pauline passage does not
establish another ground for divorce and remarriage, Balesism to the contrary
Does Baptism Wash Away Adulterous Marriages?
Some say yes and use 1 Corinthians 7:20ff as justification. They claim Paul
is telling people to abide in the calling wherein they were called. The theory
is that a man keeps his mate, regardless of how many he has had in the past,
at the time of his conversion.
What if two homosexuals or two lesbians are converted? May they keep their
mates? Someone may say, “But homosexuality and lesbianism are wrong per se.”
So are adulterous marriages! What about a polygamist with 12 wives at
conversion time? He lives in Africa. May he keep all dozen wives? If baptism
sanctifies adulterous marriages, why would it not sanctify homosexual, lesbian
or polygamous liaisons?
There is a fruit to repentance per Matthew 3:8. Where is such an exhibited
fruit when one keeps a present adulterous mate, a homosexual mate, a lesbian
mate or an entire harem of 12 wives?
All sinful relationships have to be dissolved. Hard? Yes! But the way of
transgressors is always hard (Proverbs 13:15). One preacher expressed it
graphically and yet so very correctly, “Baptism does not wash away husbands!”
And it does not!
What About Repentance And Adulterous Marriages?
Repentance is a change of Mind. Godly sorrow precedes it; and a mended life
mate follows it. If one keeps an adulterous, homosexual or lesbian
relationship, or an entire harem, wherein is there a change of mind, godly
sorrow or an amended life?
In Matthew 14 and Mark 6 we have John, Herod Antipas and Herodias
considered. John said their marriage was not lawful in God’s sight. She
belonged to Philip - not Herod. Could they have repented and stayed together?
If so, wherein would there have been a change of mind, any godly sorrow or any
amendment of life for these two Herods - Herod Antipas and Herodias?
Are Adulterous Marriages Subject to Church Discipline?
Is adultery right or wrong? Will its wilful and persistent practitioners be
saved at last in heaven or be lost at last in Eternal Gehenna?
If saved, then Paul misled us in Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10;
Ephesians 5:3,5 and Hebrews 13:4. John misled us in Revelation 21:8 and 22:15.
Are we willing to take the position that these sacred scribes, both led by the
Holy Spirit, led us astray by these apostolic declarations? Surely not!
Are adulterers and adulteresses walking orderly or disorderly? If orderly
then they deserve our commendation. If disorderly, we have Pauline counsel
teaching what should be done in 2 Thessalonians 3:6: “But we command you,
brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every
brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he
received from us.”
Can we know the truth about divorce and remarriage? The answer is an
1 Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not the author of confusion...”
John 8:32: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you