Who May Divorce???
By Mark J. Ward
(Editor's Note: This is a slighty edited version of the article that appears in the September 1998 issue)
Strictly speaking, did you know that there are only 2 scriptural reasons for divorce for those of us living today (#1 mentioned below is "optional" and #2 found further below is "mandatory")? There are too many divorces! This causes only more problems in the home for those involved: parents and children alike, not to mention the relatives concerned.
God hates "divorce" or "putting away" (Malachi 2:16). There is much diversity of belief on the subject of Marriage, Divorce and Re-marriage (MDR) today. We should be agreed upon God's Word on any religious topic and this is certainly no exception. If we ignore the matter, what are we doing toward obtaining unity of belief, teaching and practice? Please consider the following teaching given with love for all and a concern for souls.
I believe the following is truth: "The Bible teaches that there are only two scriptural reasons for divorce for people living today." In this article, we are only discussing "who" may scripturally "divorce". Other studies, Lord willing, will discuss "who" may scripturally "marry" and "who" may scripturally have more than one marriage in a lifetime. God's Word is where we make our appeal. Let us study and learn HIS Will for us, and obey it.
Please take special note of how the terms "divorced" and "married" are used in the Bible in different passages of Scripture. One may be said to be "married" to a person that they really have no right to be married to (Mark 6:17,18; Romans 7:3a). Another may get a "divorce" from their mate, and not have scriptural grounds to obtain the divorce that they actually received from the courts of the land (Mark 10:11). In other passages, we read of those who are married to those that they do have a scriptural right to be married to (Romans 7:3b). Remember, that in this study we will only study reasons for divorce. Respecting the silence of the scriptures, we must not go beyond the doctrine of Christ and believe, teach, or practice otherwise (2 John 9).
1. The Scriptures teach that...DIVORCING YOUR SPOUSE
FOR THE CAUSE OF FORNICATION...is authorized.
1) Putting a mate away for the cause of fornication (Matt. 19:9; 5:32) is one of God's reasons for scripturally obtaining a divorce for people living today. The Bible verses cited above read as follows:
Matthew 19:9 "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it
be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and
whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."
Matthew 5:32 "But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife,
saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery:
and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."
Getting a divorce "for the cause of fornication" is an "optional" putting away. We do not read where God has demanded such to occur! (The passages above also include instruction concerning marrying after a divorce occurs. Please note that it is crucial to obey God's Word in this matter! We need to be extremely careful if we are divorced and are thinking of marrying "another".)
Again, God does NOT demand that a man or woman put away their mate for the cause of fornication, but rather it is a choice that must be made if the occasion arises in a marriage. One can decide to keep their spouse, or, choose to divorce them for the cause of fornication.
2. The Scriptures teach that...DIVORCING YOUR SPOUSE
BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO SCRIPTURAL RIGHT TO BE MARRIED TO THEM... is authorized.
2) Putting a mate away because you found out that you were unscripturally "married" to them (Luke 13:3; Ezra 10; Mk. 6:17,18; I Cor. 6:9) is the other scriptural reason the Bible gives for obtaining a divorce today. This, however, is "mandatory". One MUST divorce a living spouse that they had no scriptural right to marry. This is necessary in truly "repenting" of the sin of marrying someone that a person has no scriptural right to marry. Please read carefully the following passages:
Luke 13:3 "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
Ezra 10:10 "And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have
transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass
of Israel. 11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your
fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people
of the land, and from the strange wives.12 Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do."
Ezra 10:19 "And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives;
and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass. 44 All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children."
Mark 6:17 "For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and
bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for
he had married her. 18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have
thy brother's wife."
I Corinthians 6:9 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom
of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."
The above passages clearly teach that:
1. Repentance of sin is demanded,
2. When people marry spouses that they have no scriptural right to marry that they are to "put away" or "divorce" them in making things right with God,
3. Herod had "married" Herodias, his brother Philip's "wife" and "it was not lawful" for him to have her as his wife, and
4. Fornicators and adulterers shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
An inescapable conclusion from these and other passages in God's Word on repentance, adultery, fornication, divorce and marriage teaches us that we may not stay married to someone whom it was not lawful for us to marry. No matter how "hard" this may seem, this is God's Way. This necessitates divorcing the person you have no right to be married to. Study for yourself and obey God's Word.
Please note that if you are in your very first marriage (and your present mate is in their very first marriage) that you do not have God's permission to divorce them unless they commit fornication (for the reason listed as #2 above would not apply to you). There are many people getting divorces today without God's authority! This is sinful and we need to warn, speak out, and teach against this unlawful practice. God wants man and woman to be together for life. That is His desire. If you know of other reasons for divorce for people living today mentioned in God's Word than the two we have mentioned above, please write and point to the scriptures, and we will be glad to consider them.
Study God's Word and ONLY believe, teach, and practice what we read and properly discern therein. May brotherly love continue.
Email the Editor at email@example.com
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