Divorce & Remarriage (4)
The Teachings Of Paul – 1 Co 7: 10-15:
Pauline’s teaching is prominent; here, it is clear that if husband and wife have been separated, they must remain unmarried or be reconciled. But the relevance of this rule to the case of divorce for fornication is by no means apparent. The text bears upon the question of divorce for fornication, and such divorce is forbidden, be it noted not only in the sense of separation from bed and board. Such a conclusion, however, cannot be admitted. Matt 5: 32; 19:9 establish the right of divorce for fornication.
Paul is not dealing with the case of fornication or adultery. In the preceding verses, the significant burden of Paul’s exhortation is the means God has provided to prevent fornication. He stresses the ordinance of marriage and the conjugal debt owed within the married relationship as the divine provisions for preventing sexual uncleanness. The case of adultery is outside the universe of discourse in this passage. In Matthew, the exceptive clause propounds a right which is the one exception to the wrong of putting away; in 1 Co 7:11, no right of separation or dismissal is propounded. Hence any appeal to 1 Co 7: 11 to defend the right of separation without the right of dissolution is a distortion of the apostle’s teaching.
Paul recognizes that human nature is perverse, and notwithstanding the wrong of separation or dismissal, the parties to a marriage may violate right and perpetrate wrong. It is for that evil contingency that the parenthesis provides – “but if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.” Failing that, under no conditions, may another marriage be undertaken. Paul is analyzing unequal yoking as in a marriage of believer and unbeliever. In verses 12 & 13, Paul is very decisive that the believer should not leave or send away the unbeliever in a case of a mixed marriage; he uses the imperative in both instances.
This imperative is distinctly mandatory in verse 15. In this instance, the imperative is permissive. It is slightly different from the imperatives of verses 12 & 13: “let him depart,” bearing not so much upon the unbelieving spouse, who is deserted or has deserted as upon the believing spouse who has been deserted. There is both decisiveness and severity in the injunction; the believer is not under any obligation to pursue the deserting spouse and is freed from all marital debts and duties. But the question is whether it also implies more, namely the dissolution of the marriage bond and liberty for the believer to marry another. Jesus dealt with the question of “putting away.” On the other hand, Paul is not dealing with putting away but with willful desertion on the part of the unbeliever. Conflict in the matter of Faith gives no ground for divorce. The believer does not “put away” the unbeliever but the unbeliever “goes away” of their own accord.
Paul deals from v12 onwards with cases that did not come within the purview of our Lord’s teaching. This difference should caution us and should constrain us to hesitate, at least before concluding that what our Lord said concerning that which came within his purview has the same direct relevance to what Paul says concerning a very different situation. Our Lord’s statements fell into the case dealt with in verses 10 and 11 and not unto the case category dealt with in verse 15. Hence, if we interpret 1 Co 7:15 as legitimating the dissolution of the marriage bond, it is most necessary to restrict this liberty to conditions and circumstances analogous to those of the situation dealt with by the apostle Paul.
Paul in Romans 7: 1-3 is not dealing expressly with the question of marriage and separation as he is in 1 Co 7: 10-15. The subject with which Paul is here dealing is the expansion and valuation of what he had stated in Romans 6:14; the allusion to the marriage law is incidental to Paul’s primary purpose. An appeal to Romans 7: 2 & 3 is inconsistent; it is an inconsistency demonstrated by the logic inherent in the necessity of appeal to tradition and the importance fully acknowledged by Romanists. Romans acknowledge the concession in 1 Co 7: 15 is a warrant for the dissolution of the marriage bond, comport with Romans 7: 2, 3, so Romans should have to admit that when Romans 7: 2, 3 is cited to support the indissolubility of the bond of consummated marriage, there is the tacit understanding that one exception holds good namely the case of 1 Co 7:15. It, therefore, follows that on these premises the principle of Romans 7: 2, 3 is asserted. And if it admits of one exception, why may it not also admit of another? John Murray’s thesis is that divorce for adultery does not interfere with the relentless obligation and unrelenting principle to which Paul gives expression in Romans 7: 2, 3.
Paul is stressing here the binding law that governs marriage. The woman must always recognize that she is under the law of her husband and that deviation from conjugal fidelity will mean the sin and disgrace of adultery for her. This obligation to conjugal fidelity continues throughout the whole life of her husband, and the very suggestion of an exception to such a law would be an ethical abomination. Suppose adultery gives the innocent spouse the right to divorce and remarriage. In that case, it means acting on the part of the guilty spouse radically affects the relationship. The release is thereby secured from the law that previously bound the innocent party. Paul is looking at the marital relationship from the standpoint of the principles and provisions that are permanently operative and binding in the Christian economy. It is more feasible to regard Romans 7: 2, 3 as parallel in this respect to 1 Co 7:39 and that both passages will have to be interpreted and applied in the same way about the question of divorce.
Divorce & Remarriage:
Jesus said Moses permitted divorce due to the Israelites’ heart’s hardness. That is saying that certain freedom in divorce was tolerated, and a civil or ecclesiastical penalty was not incurred when that freedom was exercised. This freedom conceded under the Mosaic economy is removed under the gospel dispensation. In the very act of divorce, there is an intrinsically wrong not compatible with the absolute standard of right. There is no need for divorce; it was not legitimated, sanctioned, or encouraged. The apodosis, the penal sanction in Deut 24:4, is a witness to the unalterable irregularity in the divorce. The remarriage on the part of the divorced woman is not expressly stated to be defilement irrespective of return to the first husband. The second marriage was not placed in the category of adultery. Nor was the woman regarded as an adulteress in the Pentateuchal legislation. No one put the woman and her second husband to death as the Pentateuch required in the case of adultery. The moment she returns to her first husband, the woman is said to have been defiled; this restoration is called an abomination. In the vision of Prophet Ezekiel, where God gave him guidelines for the priests to live above reproach so they could carry out their responsibility to teach the people in Ezekiel 44:22,23, divorced women are classified along with widows. It means divorce is the death of a conjugal bond.
The ineradicable distinction established in creation and exemplified in the divine ordinance is fully recognized and is applied in many concrete situations. Yet, in several respects, contrary to the Old Testament, there is no longer male or female, as there is no longer Jew or Gentile. In respect of marital relationships, the same rights and liberties are granted to the woman as are granted to the man when they violate conjugal fidelity. The indication given in Mark 10:12 and the apparent equality expressed in 1 Co 7:15 are to be interpreted in the light of this more general principle. These passages verify the legitimacy of applying the general principle to this situation. The right of remarriage, the exceptive clause in Matt 19: 9, applies to remarriage as well as putting away. This privilege belongs to men and women who put away a spouse for fornication or adultery. The question that arises is the status of the guilty spouse in the case of divorce for adultery. The innocent spouse is free to remarry. What about the guilty spouse? Exegetically this is essentially the question of the interpretation of Matt 5:32b; Luke 16: 18b; (cf Matt 19:9b).
Matt 5: 32b & Luke 16: 8b have the same meaning and effect; the question is: does this apply to every divorced woman and, by implication, mutatis mutandis, to every divorced man, whether divorced with or without the legitimate reason? It is because when spouses are divorced without reasonable cause, they are still man and wife in the sight of God. Consequently, other conjugal relationships by either are adultery as if the divorce had never occurred. We must remember that the main thrust of all the passages is not the legitimacy of divorce for adultery but the illegitimacy of divorce for other reasons. Allowance is made for the exception only by the analogy of Matt 5:32; 19: 9. If this inference is correct, the woman divorced for adultery would not be in view when it is said, “whoever marries her who has been put away commits adultery” – Matt 5:32b. Reference to Matt 5:32a favors this conclusion “everyone who puts away his wife except for the cause of fornication makes her suffer adultery.”
The woman put away for the cause of fornication already committed adultery before her being put away. Hence when we look at the later verse, “whoever marries her who has been put away commits adultery,” we should reasonably infer that the divorced woman in mind is the woman who has been made to suffer adultery. And not the woman who had previously committed adultery and had been legitimately divorced by her husband. Possibly, the woman who has been divorced for adultery is not to be regarded as committing another act of adultery after divorce. She contracts another marriage, and the man who marries her is not to be regarded as thereby committing adultery. Another consideration is the event of divorce for adultery; the marriage has been dissolved so that the innocent spouse may remarry. It is, therefore, difficult to see on what ground the contracting of another marriage on the part of the guilty divorcee could be considered adultery.
What constituted the prior act of infidelity, an act of adultery, was the fact that the marriage was still inviolate. We must therefore remember that in the case of divorce for adultery, it is by a divine warrant that the marriage is dissolved. The parties are no longer man and wife; if so, it is difficult to discover any biblical ground to conclude that the remarriage of the guilty divorcee is considered adultery and constitutes an adulterous relation. Church discipline must take such sin and anomaly into its purview to preserve the honor of Christ and the purity of the Church. But the Church, in the exercise of discipline, must not go beyond the warrant of Scripture. To categorize the second marriage as an act of adultery and to discipline accordingly do not appear to rest upon the requisite evidence.
Separation without dissolution 1 Co 7: 11 provides an example of this kind of separation by which the spouses may mutually agree to separate from one another or by which one spouse may properly leave the other. 1 Co 7: 11 indeed envisages de facto separation, but the separation in view is not considered legitimate (Vss 10, 11). The statement in verse 11 – “but if she departs, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband,” provides that if separation occurs contrary to this commandment, another marriage must not be contracted. God’s Word in this passage or elsewhere provides no sanctions separation apart from the dissolution of the marriage bond.
Divorce for fornication or adultery is by divine sanction; it is a divinely instituted provision for a particular situation and dissolves the bond of marriage. But there is no such divine provision for mere separation. The divine instruction is that those united in the marriage bond are bound to the mutual discharge of all marital debts until the bond is severed by death or dissolution on a proper ground. In most cases, all that the Church is called upon to determine is whether or not a divorce granted by the Court is proper and to decide the issue of discipline, as it may arise, accordingly. We must note the strange occurrence not envisaged but has become part of societal life today. Most marriages contracted nowadays are between men and women that are not sexually pure (having been disvirgined by other people). Mistakes are part of the lives of every person living. The solution, therefore, for past sexual sin is reclamation by desisting from further sexual impurity. Virginity is both physical and mental. Jesus affirmed on new creations; all old things have passed away and replaced with new when one accepts LORD Jesus as Lord and Saviour; Repentance, Forgiveness, and Sexual fidelity save such situations.
***read Divorce & Remarriage (5) on Saturday, July 30, 2022