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Divorce and Remarriage

God instituted marriage for the human race before the Fall (Genesis 2:18-25) and the Lord Jesus blessed the institution of marriage by performing His first miracle at a wedding (John 2:1-11). Marriage should be held in honor by all, and the marriage bed should be kept free from all defilement (Hebrews 13:4 NASB).

God’s will is that a person should have one and only one living partner in marriage (Ephesians 5:33). The relationship should not be severed by man (Matthew 19:3-9), but should continue until the death of one partner (Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39).

Divorce was never God’s intention for His people. In fact, He hates unscriptural divorce (Malachi 2:16). However, under the Law of Moses, divorce was permitted for almost any reason as long as a man gave his wife a certificate showing that she was put away legally (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). This permission was granted because of the hardness of the people’s hearts (Matthew 19:7-8).

When Jesus came, He tightened the divorce law: “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 5:32).

This means that marriage is indissoluble except when one partner is unfaithful. In that case, the innocent party is free to obtain a divorce. However, he does not have to obtain it; grace is able to triumph over his partner’s sin. God is able to make even this work together for good (Romans 8:28). But if the innocent party chooses to divorce his mate, he is free to remarry; otherwise a divorce would be no different than separation.

If an unbeliever deserts a believer, the believer is not under bondage (1 Corinthians 7:15). This may mean that desertion is also a Scriptural ground for divorce. We believe, however, that it assumes that the unbeliever leaves to live in a sinful relationship, in which case the divorce would be permitted on the ground of sexual immorality (Matthew 5:32). In this instance, as in all instances, God’s ideal is reconciliation.

Many people have already contracted unscriptural divorces and remarriages before their conversion. When they are born again, all such sins are covered by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). The sins are forgiven and the new believer is expected to continue in whatever marriage relationship he is in at the time. If he is divorced without Scriptural cause and neither he nor his wife are remarried, he may be reconciled to his spouse or remain unmarried.

If a Christian is divorced for an unscriptural reason and then remarries, he commits adultery. This calls for his excommunication from the local church. Fellowship may also be denied to anyone who deliberately contracts an unscriptural divorce. However, even in such cases, if a man genuinely repents and confesses his sin, he is restored to fellowship with God’s people.

Many complicated marital problems arise which are too involved to cover in a paper like this. Ultimately the elders will have to investigate thoroughly, try to hear all sides of the problem, then make a decision in the fear of God. The rest of the saints are obligated to abide by the decision of the elders and not create any disunity by taking sides against them.

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