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December 25
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Marriage – Divorce - Marriage

by aymon de albatrus

“1 ¶ Or are you ignorant, brothers, (for I speak to those knowing law), that the law lords it over the man for as long a time as he lives? 2 For the married woman was bound by law to the living husband; but if the husband dies, she is set free from the law of the husband. 3 So then, [if] the husband [is] living, she will be called an adulteress if she becomes another man’s. But if the husband dies, she is free from the law, [so as for] her not to be an adulteress [by] becoming another man’s.” (Rom 7:1-3 )

“The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth. But if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will, but only in the Lord.” (1Co 7:39 )

“31 "It hath been said, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.’ 32 But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Mat 5:31-32 )

“But if the unbelieving spouse depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases, for God hath called us to peace.” (1Co 7:15 )

Marriage and Divorce are subjects rather difficult to handle for they generate much emotional responses.

Every case has its own peculiarity, it is wise to treat each case individually. What renders things even the more difficult is that there are myriads of interpretation on the matter, even between believers.  Moreover, the gravity of the situation in our days is that the church has adapted herself to the ways of the world, and, in effect, often there is no distinction between what the church preaches and what the world says.  We are living in those days that the Bible compares to those before the Flood: “They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luk 17:27 KJ21)

In this message i shall strictly keep to what i think is truly Biblical, as always, hoping to avoid contestations.  i do believe that the Lord has granted a little "apostolic" gift and it is best for me to live according to what i believe to have received, the Lord help me.

To properly understand anything we must firstly go to the source.  Rom 7:1-3 presents the context between the Law and man, here Paul takes a practical example, a real thing known by all, the relation between man and woman.  The principle is then repeated in 1Co 7:39 and therefore this cannot be negated nor rejected.  The background is thus:

  • The first thing to recognise is that marriage has been instituted by God.  The Creator has established a very close relationship, a covenant,  between a man and a woman, and not between man-man or woman-woman, as legalised in these evil times by human institutions.  May the Lord have pity on us.

  • The second very important thing to recognise and accept is that woman exists in function of the man: “And the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet for him."” (Gen 2:18 ) The word for "helper" in the Hebrews is ezer with meaning of: "helper, one that helps, a support", the implication here is that this "helper" is not superior nor equal but a suitable helper.

  • Therefore the woman has been made for the need of the man and not vice versa: “8 For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. 9 Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.” (1Co 11:8-9) But in our evil days we see a turning upside down of the roles prescribed by God. Feminists and modernists do note that the logical conclusion of this is that without the man there would be no reason for the woman to exist.

  • Now that we have defined the relationship between the man and the woman, we also understand the meaning of this verse: “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth;"   Moreover this same principle is incorporated in the 10th Commandment when it lists the wife as a property of her husband: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male slave, or his slave-girl, or his ox, or his ass, or anything which belongs to your neighbor.” (Exo 20:17These days this reference is usually passed over in line with the world's thinking.

  • God has made the woman for the need of the man and has provided Marriage as a stable union whereby legitimate children (not bastards) can be raised in fear and admonition of the Lord. The matrimony has only meaning in a lawful relationship between man and woman (none else) where the two become one.  This union is intended for life.  To note that even though the two are one, in marriage there is a hierarchical order, similar to the one of the Father and the Son who are one: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman [is] the man; and the head of Christ [is] God.” (1Co 11:3)

The woman in a marriage is bound by Law to her husband until he lives.  But for the hardness of man's heart God has permitted to the man to repudiate (divorce) the wife in specific cases.  To note that in the Biblical economy it is not permitted to the woman to divorce, this would make no sense at all given that the woman was created for the man and the man is her head.  Also the 10th Commandment Exo 20:17 certifying the belonging of the wife to the man.

The Greeks and the Romans (the basis of our culture) did permit the wife to divorce her husband, but not so in the Biblical system.  However in some extreme cases of excesses, the Hebrew woman could appeal to the Elders at the Gate, and if they judged the case grave enough would force the husband to divorce the wife.  In any case it was the husband that divorced.

In the OT God permitted the divorce with precise rules, whereby the husband could not repudiate the wife and send her away for any motives, but only for impurities found in her.  He also was required to give her a bill of divorcement attesting that the wife did not run away for the marriage but she was estranged with a proper divorce paper.  Do note that no lawyers were involved but a divorce paper from her husband was sufficient: “1 ¶ When a man has taken a wife and married her, and it happens that she finds no favour in his eyes, because he has found some uncleanness in her, then let him write her a bill of divorce and put [it] in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she has departed from his house, she goes and becomes another man’s;” (Deu 24:1-2) With the divorce certificate the woman could legally be the wife of another man, otherwise with only the estrangement, without written evidence, the woman would have been considered adulterous (risking death) also the new man and the first husband, had he married again. Without proper bill of divorce a definite breakage of that marriage could not be proven Joh 4:18.

We note that the procedure of divorce required two actions from the man: Pronouncing the estrangement and the issuing of a bill of divorce.

In the NT, Jesus does not break or revoke this concession of the OT or divorce permit, He only frees it from the false interpretations that the Pharisees had made: “And the Pharisees came to Him, tempting Him and saying to Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (Mat 19:3) but He brings it in the ordinary sense, i. e. that the divorce was not justified under "any motive" but only in the sense of fornication/adultery.  To their insistence Jesus specifies: “7 They said to Him, Why did Moses then command to give a bill of divorce and to put her away? 8 He said to them, Because of your hard-heartedness Moses allowed you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her [who is] put away commits adultery.” (Mat 19:7-9)

Nevertheless that specification was not welcome by the Disciples that said: “His disciples said to Him, If this is the case of the man with [his] wife, it is not good to marry.” (Mat 19:10)

Jesus effectively explains: "it is no good to estrange the wife for any motive, but only for fornication/adultery and estrangement under that reason is still no good for she would not be able to remarry for she would commit adultery, she must also have a bill of divorcement".  Do note that Jesus did not say that a divorcee cannot remarry but only that an estranged wife without the bill of divorce cannot do it for she would commit adultery and also who marries her.

At that time there were two school of thought on this subject. The school of Hillel admitted divorce for any reason and the of Shammai that permitted the man to estrange (divorce) his wife only in the case of fornication/adultery in line with Jesus. According to Jesus, who divorced his wife for any reason beside fornication was not divorcing her at all for fornication is the only reason allowed for divorce. Thus this divorce was not valid and therefore if the man or the woman married someone else they would commit adultery because, in effect, that marriage had not terminated.

The term "fornication" includes: adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest and any other form of illicit copulation, and also adoration of idols, eating food sacrificed to idols, etc.  For some of these fornications the death penalty was prescribed, and the thing ended there, but was not always carried out.  In our times death for fornication is not prescribed by human laws, but the church must not be negligent of this matter and should consider fornicators as if they were dead, thus, in effect, that marriage was terminated and the innocent completely free to remarry.

In some cases the husband, for compassion towards the wife, or for pride, did not make the thing public and estranged the wife privately giving her a bill of divorcement.  As we see in the case of righteous Joseph, that did not want to expose Mary to public shame that would have ended in lapidating: “But Joseph, her husband [to be], being just, and not willing to make her a public example, he purposed to put her away secretly.” (Mat 1:19)

Jesus did not annul the divorce of Moses given to man for hardness of heart, but qualified it as a thing not intended originally and limited it only to fornication, saying: but from the beginning it was not so  Meaning that in perfection no divorce is permitted, nor is fornication.

In the first book of disciple of the Presbyterian church compiled by John Know and other divines it says this: Marriage once lawfully contracted, may not be dissolved at man's pleasure, as our master Christ Jesus does witness, unless adultery is committed; which, being sufficiently proven in presence of the civil magistrate, the innocent (if they so require) ought to be pronounced free, and the offender ought to suffer the death as God has commanded. If the civil sword foolishly spares the life of the offender, yet the church may not be negligent in their office, which is to excommunicate the wicked, and to repute them as dead members, and to pronounce the innocent party to be at freedom, be they never so honourable before the world. If the life is spared (as it ought not to be) to the offenders, and if the fruits of repentance of long time appear in them, and if they earnestly desire to be reconciled with the church, we judge that they may be received to participation of the sacraments, and of the other benefits of the church (for we would not that the church should hold those excommunicate whom God absolved, that is, the penitent).

The Westminster Confession, the most complete that exists, in Chapter 24 says this: V. Adultery or fornication, committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce, and after the divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

God's Law prescribes death for adultery or fornication, but if the magistrates are negligent in carrying out God's ordinances, the church must not be negligent about God's Laws and must consider adulterers of fornicators as if they were dead. The church has nothing to do with that person, unless repentance of long time is evidenced.

There is another permission for divorce, and it is the one Paul writes: “But if the unbelieving one separates, let [them] be separated. A brother or a sister is not in bondage in such [cases], but God has called us in peace.” (1Co 7:15 )

If the unbeliever separates and leaves the believer for reason of religion and hate towards it and does not want to live with the believer because the believer does not want to repudiate Christ, nor negate the Gospel, nor want to neglect the assembly with other believers; the unbeliever can leave without the believer making recourse to any legitimate means to keep the unbeliever.  The deserted believer should consider himself without guilt, the brother or the sister is not under obligation to keep that marriage, he is free to remarry.

In that case the believer is not obliged to remain single, but is free to remarry another person, in the Lord.  After all the believer has tried all the possible methods to keep that marriage alive, and in that case the desertion, for reason of Christ, is sufficient reason to terminate that marriage contract, thus dissolving that bondage.  That way the believer is free to remarry, otherwise the believer would be subject and submitted to the unbeliever.

Naturally the believer must do all he can to preserve that marriage, but if the reality is that after all possible avenues have expired, the part in Christ is in fact free of that bondage and can remarry even though Paul advises to remain single, if one can without burning, otherwise, remarry: “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.” (1Co 7:9)

There are some denominations that in absolute forbid divorce and logically also remarrying. We have seen above, that God gives liberty, for the stated specific reasons, to divorce and remarrying for the innocent part. Every one is responsible for his own sins and it makes no justice sense at all that our just God would consider the innocent guilty and punishes him for the sins of another and condemns him to a life of loneliness and frustration as a single person, even to burn of desire and exposes him to fall in sin. How certain churches justify the condemnation to a life of desolation an innocent party for the sin of the other, i do not understand, at all.

Let us remember that God Himself is divorced: “And I saw, when for all the causes [for] which backsliding Israel committed adultery, I sent her away and gave a bill of divorce to her, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she went and whored, she also.” (Jer 3:8)

Having diligently considered al these things, i am convinced that the Christian that had to suffer the pain of fornication of another and/or has been abandoned for reasons of Christ is free to remarry, but only in the Lord. This is better than burn and be continually tempted to fall in sin and even to do it.

If we are in the Lord we must obey His commandments, otherwise we delude ourselves and we are not His.

In Conclusion:

  1. Woman was extracted from the man Adam, for the need of man: “And the LORD God said, [It is] not good that the man should be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen 2:18)

  2. The woman was made for man and not vice versa: “Nor was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.” (1Co 11:9)

  3. God created Marriage: “And the LORD God made the rib (which He had taken from the man) into a woman. And He brought her to the man.” (Gen 2:22)

  4. In Marriage the two are no more two but one, with the man the head of the woman and the head of the union  (1Co 11:3)

  5. Marriage is indissoluble: "Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Mat 19:6)

  6. However, for the hardness of man's heart God has permitted the divorce for only two reasons:
    1.  Fornication of all types (as He has done with Israel)
    2.  If the unbeliever abandons the believer for reason of Christ

  7. In only these two cases the believer is free from the bondage of that marriage, he can divorce legally and can remarry, but only with a believer in the Lord.