DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

Divorce and Remarriage

The state of marriage within the church is being bombarded by world values and many marriages within the church end with the same divorce rates as in the world. Believers are swayed to and fro, making allowances and exceptions for divorce for just about every situation. The exceptions have become the standard until there is no standard.

The church is being conformed to the world. Today fewer and fewer people of this generation are submitting themselves to the vows of marriage. Too many of them have felt the pain of divorce as children and are reluctant to commit. Why has marriage lost its strength? What are the ways that need to change for these destructive forces to stop? How can the church think differently about the standard that Christ sets for marriage? Is there a way for the church to “reboot,” and be radically transformed? This is going to need more than a couple of 5 point sermons, followed by a trip to Golden Corral. It will require the church to understand that they have been conformed to the ways of the world and been blind to what Jesus taught about marriage. If the church is not willing to change and repent then the state of marriage and sexual purity in the church will continue to spiral downward.

There are many differing viewpoints on divorce and remarriage ranging from one being able to remarry indefinitely for any reason at all without consequence, to believing that one will end up in the Lake of Fire if they divorce and remarry. I venture to say that many Christians are unclear as to the exact consequences of these actions and just hope for the best for themselves and others.

I know this is a sensitive topic; it can stir up hurts, anger and shame that often run deep and wide. My intent is to bring healing to those areas and not to point the finger or condemn. We must let the scriptures guide us.

So let’s look at some ways that the church’s view on marriage is more like the world than what Jesus has to say. It has become evident with the recent rulings on gay marriage, that our government is the entity which defines what marriage is in our country, not the church. Our political leadership is opposed to the biblical view of what marriage is. We see this in other realms, in particular with abortion where the state mandates that the killing of the unborn is not only legal but should be paid for and subsidized through government funding. Over time generations will see homosexual marriage and abortion to be the norm unless there is a concerted effort to resist these mandates.

Let me pinpoint a key aspect how the government has been undercutting biblical marriage that you may not be aware of. How many times can one get divorced and remarried in our country? The answer is unlimited because the divorce papers make null and void the marriage vows that were made. Even though a marriage vow is pronounced before witnesses as “until death do us part,” the state disregards these words and pronounces the marriage vow null and void when they say it is……..and it’s not based on the “until death do us part.” It is based on their judgment that “a no-fault divorce” usurps “until death do us part.” Their interpretation is that one is married until divorce does them part, not death. The government’s mandate is clear if one party wants the marriage annulled for virtually any reason, it is granted, period. The government makes the rules on civil ceremonies, so the ruling on “gay marriage” should come as no surprise.

So even though the “until death do us part” is still a part of nearly every wedding ceremony, few understand how the government has usurped this clear biblical instruction for believers related to marriage. California was the first state to adopt the “no-faultdivorce” in 1969 and the last state to adopt this was New York in 2010. Unless we acknowledge this significant shift in the law of marriage our discussion is lacking. This slow and subtle shift from Christian nuptial agreements to secular divorce law has had a clear influence on marriage and families but few see the root of the problem.

The following comes from Wikipedia- “The earliest precedent in no-fault divorce laws was originally enacted in Russia shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. They were legislated in the series of decrees that issued in early 1918. The decrees included non-judicial dissolution of marriage by either party and mandatory provision of child-support.[2] The purpose of the Soviet no-fault divorce laws was ideological, intended to revolutionize society at every level.[3]  In the 1925 Soviet conference to draft the Family Law of 1926, people debated whether marriages should even be registered. Nikolai Krylenko, a chief architect of the Soviet law of marriage and leading theorist of “socialist legality” in the 1920s and 1930s, described the purpose of divorce without restraint as a step toward the ultimate goal of the abolition of marriage, thereby establishing the socialist transformation of society.”

So let us agree that within our country, as beautiful and inspiring as the “until death does us part” sounds, we must agree it has no legal basis, what so ever. So are these five words a relic from the past, of a by-gone era?

“Until death do us part” is the essence of what a loving marriage covenant is. God created woman for man and man for woman, he created the covenant of marriage, He created the ability for man and woman to have children and that they would be nurtured and loved in this covenant. The enemy seeks to destroy and nullify all that God calls good and so it is today. The destruction of the marriage covenant continues with the institution of homosexual marriage which mocks and defiles what God calls to be pure and holy. We can anticipate that the courts continue this trend by allowing polygamy in every imaginable form, bestiality,etc. until the marriage covenant is devoid of its original intent of being God’s demonstration of pure intimate love between a man and a woman.

We need to press into frank and honest discussions to restore the family. What will be required to turn the tide? If we do not acknowledge how we have maligned the covenant of marriage, then there will be no change and things will continue to get worse. We will need to let the Word convict and awaken us from spiritual blindness, and I pray that happens over the following pages. We need a renewed, clear biblical understanding of marriage and the courage to repent and to declare to the next generation the truth of Gods intention.

So where do we begin, where can we start? What is something that we can agree on? How about that a man is free to remarry after the death of a spouse?

That seems pretty basic yet, bible believing, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his 700 Club viewers that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justifiable because the disease is “a kind of death.”

This may be more difficult than we thought, J let’s look at the scripture.

Romans 7:2-32For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

There is a misconception that remarrying makes the original marriage null and void. In fact, the scripture is clear that it is when one marries for the second time when their spouse is alive then they have committed adultery. Adultery does not stop with a new marriage; it begins with a new marriage. It is clear that the act of adultery is ongoing until the original spouse dies. That’s what it says; I am not making this up. We are so influenced by civil law that many may need to take a second look at the above scripture.

If your wife is dead you are not bound to her, if she is alive, you are bound to her. This is black and white, life and death. One might say, “He’s nearly dead” or “He’s been barely alive sitting on that sofa for the last 20 years, but technically he’s still alive”.

Now I know that a burning question that many have regarding the scripture above is that the scripture doesn’t have the “exception clause” in it, that is in Matt. 5:32 or Matt. 19:9.

Matthew 5:32 NASB – 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

First I want to assure you that we will spend time on the exception clause. By the way the scripture is clear there is just one exception! We will spend time looking at the Greek word “porneia” which will give us clarity as to what Jesus was talking about. I know I am getting ahead of myself, but be patient and we will get to that discussion shortly.

The reason I bring this up is that there is a tendency when talking about marriage that the exception clause even though it is not mentioned in all texts needs to be subjugated with other text that does not include the exception clause. To put it another way, the exception clause is the exception, it is by definition not what happens the majority of the time, so most people who divorce and remarry commit adultery. Many times the exception clause, which is subject to interpretation, can override other components of biblical marriage that are quite clear and well-established, such as “until death do us part”. So let us take a look at some foundational aspects of marriage that I hope we can agree on and then see how the exception clause fits in, instead of starting with the “exception clause” and aligning the scripture to it.

Let’s look at the following:

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

If there is separation (divorce is included in this) then one is to remain single or be reconciled. This harmonizes with our vow of “until death do us part”. This scripture shows that a believer is ready to forsake all others for his spouse. This straightforward instruction could mean hardship, suffering, celibacy etc. for many years, potentially. Can this be why Paul is exhorting the body to count the cost and that you might seriously consider being single?

This simple advice of remaining single or being reconciled if there is a separation is totally disregarded and relegated to the back shelf within the church.

How many have been separated from their wife and have found another “soul mate” to fulfill their longing to be loved? How many feel they have a right to get their “needs” met and “get on” with life? So many reconciliation opportunities have been lost because the simple advice of “remain single or be reconciled” was not even on the radar. The world has no problem with remarriage, they are bold about it, yet the scripture concerning “remain single or be reconciled,” is just a whisper.

What would the declaration of “remain single or be reconciled” do to the state of marriage? Would we see a marked change in making efforts towards reconciliation?

If ever was a time where men, women, and children need to have their hearts restored, it is now. Our society has been devastated by the breakdown of the family unit. The faith of children is shaken when they experience the divorce of the people they love most. How can a child respond to the persistent accusations of one parent against another, but be broken hearted or bitter? The negative effects of divorce on children are seen across the board in our families and in our nation. The full burden placed on the children is rarely realized when a divorce decision is made. I again want to make a clear exception for those children taken out of abusive situations. As believers, we will be held to account for having unforgiveness, bitterness and slander in our life but also the effect it has on others. As we have seen the consequences of judging, calling someone a fool or unforgiveness is hell. The Lord requires much to those He has given much.

If we understand how far we have fallen and how hard our hearts have become and repent, He will restore us.

Ezekiel 11:19 – I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

The “Exception Clause”

Now let’s tackle the “exception clause” which allows for divorce and remarriage without it being called adultery.

This will require perseverance to get through yet it holds the key to understanding God’s intention for marriage. I pray for open eyes, strength, and discernment as we move on.

Let’s look closely at the Greek words for adultery and sexual immorality in this verse; it’s essential to know the distinctions of these words if we are to interpret this correctly.

Matthew 5:31-32 NKJV 31 Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality (porneia) causes her to commit adultery (moicho); and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery (moicho).

First let’s look at Greek word for adultery (3429) moicho which is defined as:

To have unlawful intercourse with another’s wife, to commit adultery with

Now let’s look at the Greek word for sexual immorality (4202) which is porneia which is defined as:

illicit sexual intercourse

adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals, etc.

So both of these words have to do with illicit sexual activity but are distinct. Jesus knew the distinctions when He used them both in the same sentence.

Now porneia is defined as general illicit sex. As the definition above shows, it can include fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, adultery, incest, bestiality, etc. Now, this is important, it can include adultery, but only in that, it comes under the umbrella of general illicit sex. It is never used specifically just for adultery.

Moicho is specifically defined as adultery which is sex where one or more of the persons are married. You might note that there are multiple texts where moicho and porneia are in the same sentence translated separately as adultery and fornication respectively. As in:

Matthew 15:19 NKJV – 19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries (moicho), fornications (porneia), thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

The point is that they are not interchangeable and have very specific meanings, especially when they are in the same verse. Make a note that the above scripture is between the Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19:9 the “exception clause” scriptures.

So moicho is translated as adultery and porneia as fornication. Fornication is sex between people who are not married. This small point is crucial to understand exactly what Jesus was trying to communicate.

We can reason that the exception for being able to divorce and remarry and it not being adultery is not for committing adultery since moicho would have been used, especially considering that moicho is used two times already in the passage. Again from a grammatical standpoint porneia is never used or translated as adultery in the same sentence with moicho. And in fact there is not one bible translation that interprets porneia as adultery within the exception verse.

So what sexual act could happen between a husband and wife that would not be adultery??? Hold that thought.

There is something here that we are not seeing yet and yet when the disciples heard the porneia exception for remarriage they immediately responded in Matt. 19:10 … That if that be the case, it is better not to marry. So what is the new standard that Jesus was proclaiming that differs from the old ways?

Let’s put this Matt 5: 27-32 in context with the preceding scriptures related to murder and adultery. We will be looking at the similarity of style and the patterns of writing.

Matthew 5: 27-28NKJV 27You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:31-32NKJV – 31 Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 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.

Verse 27 starts with “it has been said” or “it has been said of old, ” and then an Old Testament verse is given, and the Jews know exactly where these scriptures are located.

Exodus 20:14 NKJV – “You shall not commit adultery.

Jesus is noting the Old Covenant standard but then adding the New Covenant standard.

Now something interesting happens with the divorce scripture, Jesus only uses part of the Old Testament scripture, but remember the Jews know the scripture that He is referring to…

Matthew 5:31NKJV – Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’

This is the full scripture He is referring to.

Deuteronomy 24:1 NKJV – When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts [it] in her hand, and sends her out of his house,

Now “some uncleanness” may show us what porneia means since we will see that this uncleanness has to do primarily with nakedness and sexual indecency implied.

The word for uncleanness in this scripture is ervah which means

-nakedness, nudity, shame, pudenda

-pudenda (implying shameful exposure)

-nakedness of a thing, indecency, improper behavior

-exposed, undefended (fig.)

Here is an example of (sexual) “uncleanness” that precedes the certificate of divorce scripture in Deuteronomy 24:1

13If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her 14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,15 then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin.16 Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. 17 Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, 18 and the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.

20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

Virginity was an incredibly important aspect of Jewish Law; violations could lead to death. Virginity was one not having sexual relations before marriage. One was considered chaste if they were a virgin and unchaste is when they were not. This concept is so foreign to our culture that we must press to understand the context of what is being said in that time and place. The only vestige of the importance of chastity in marriage today is the white wedding dress, which represents purity or virginity.

David Guzik Commentary states, “a Jewish woman would first be intimate with her husband upon a special cloth, which would collect the small drops of blood which were accepted as evidence of the young woman’s virginity. This blood-stained cloth would then become the property of the married woman’s parents, who kept it as the evidence of the young woman’s virginity.

The first act of sexual intercourse for a woman would cause the hymen to break, and there would be an issuance of blood. This is not a fail-safe test, but it was the one used at the time. A part of the wedding celebration was when the cloth would be raised by the brides’ parents and there would be great rejoicing.

Now we need to understand that the Jews knew these laws forwards and backward. Jewish children were drilled with these laws because these were life and death decrees. Take a read through Deuteronomy, there are more laws and ordinances there than you’ll find in your subdivisions’ Homeowners Association Covenants. They saw stonings, they may have participated in them, they probably knew people who were stoned, the family honor was at stake. They heard these scriptures being argued with passion; they knew them chapter and verse. “Son, you might want to write this verse down (Deut. 21:18-21), about stoning a rebellious child”. Can you imagine the horror of seeing your 14-year-old daughter stoned to death, at your doorway (Deut. 22:21).

At that time there was a great discussion as to what it meant for a woman to be “unclean” to justify a certificate of divorce. The standard had been whether one was chaste (virgin) or not, which is why the cloth at the wedding was practiced. Very quickly the definition of uncleanness was interpreted as “not being tidy,” “being a bad cook,” “not sexually attractive” or whatever the whim of a husband to get a certificate of divorce. The Jews were divorcing their wives and using the law as a justification of their rampant sin. Jesus saw it for exactly what it was….adultery.

It was the sexual act during the wedding ceremony that consummated the wedding. If a man found that his wife was not a virgin, then the marriage could be nullified. The couple would need to divorce because their betrothal to one another was legally binding. The man would be free to marry at that point and it would not be adultery. Now the pieces are coming together; the Jews could divorce if there was illicit sex before the wedding which is specifically why Jesus used porneia.

So our question earlier was what is the illicit sexual activity that is not adultery?

The answer is :sex before marriage.

Again porneia is used for fornication and moicho is used for adultery. What was crystal clear to the Jews was that Jesus was declaring that even adultery (mochio) was not a justification for divorce, only unchastity (porneia).

Now, where in the New Testament is there an example of porneia that had to be dealt with between a couple pledged to be married? Think about it?

Matthew 1:  18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Now let’s go over this, although Joseph was not married to Mary he had to give her a certificate of divorce because she was betrothed (or pledged in this translation) to Joseph. The betrothal was legally binding and had to be broken legally, and since Mary was pregnant, it was clear proof that she was not chaste and had committed sexual immorality.

Now watch this, she had seemed to have committed porneia (sexual immorality) not mochio (adultery) because she wasn’t married yet and couldn’t thus commit adultery. So let’s use the example of Joseph and Mary as it relates to Matt 5:32 which states that divorce/remarriage is adultery except for porneia. Jesus is saying that in cases like Joseph and Mary, it seemed that Mary had committed porneia, had sexual relations before marriage since obviously, she was pregnant. In that case, Joseph would be free to marry another and not be committing adultery, even though he had to give Mary a certificate of divorce. Again Joseph and Mary were technically not married yet, there was a need for a divorce because the Jewish betrothal agreement was legally binding. What Jesus is saying is hidden unless you know the context of a Jewish wedding! Within our culture, a divorce is only possible after the actual wedding is performed. The engagement proposal with the giving of the ring is not legally binding. The divorce Jesus is talking about concerning remarriage is before the actual wedding, not after which is foreign to most believers! When the Pharisees ask Jesus is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason, Jesus states His intention for marriage and states that divorce and remarriage is adultery except for porneia (unchastity).  Doesn’t that make sense?

Let’s look at the various biblical translations for porneia.

-KJV, ASV, DBY- fornication

-NKJV,HNV, ESV- sexual immorality

-NIV- marital unfaithfulness

-NASV, RSV- for the reason of unchastity (sexual relations before marriage)

 

When modern Bibles translate porneia in Matt. 5:32 as “marital unfaithfulness,” it is misleading since many contemporary Christians take it to mean adultery. Even the translation into “sexual immorality” will be understood as adultery. Ask someone how they would understand the translation of “fornication” in the context of this scripture and the vast majority of believers won’t understand it as sex before marriage but as adultery. Would many understand “acts of unchastity”? Unchastity is “having sexual relations before marriage,” which would make a bride unchaste or no longer a virgin.

 

There is not one bible that translates (porneia) as adultery. The understanding of many churchgoers is they are free to remarry if their spouse commits adultery. Now we know that the sexual sin which allows someone to divorce and remarry without it being adultery is for unchastity.

This prominent verse holds incredible weight for validating the legitimacy of divorce and remarriage and is misinterpreted by many, including prominent scholars. Many who are misguided allow all manner of exceptions to divorce and remarriage as a way of extending the grace of God to others, when in fact the opposite is true. For if God calls divorce and remarriage, adultery and you say its okay, well we will get the final answer on that. Has modern man conformed this scripture for his own pleasure? Is not the present state of marriage in the church the fruit of “hardness of heart”? Is not the present day church using scripture to justify their adulteries in the same way that the Jews interpreted “unclean” for their benefit?

You will note that the “exception clause” is only spoken by Jesus in Matthew 5 and Matt 19.

In Matthew 5, Jesus was comparing the old covenant to the new covenant, he was specifically talking to the disciples who were Jews and knew the law.

In Matthew. 19 we see that the Pharisees and the disciples are together when Jesus is talking about divorce and remarriage.

In the other gospels, the “exception clause” is left out.

Mark 10:11- 12 He answered, Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Luke 16:18 Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Paul makes no mention of the “exception clause” in 1Corinthians 7 when he talks extensively about marriage and divorce. These references are talking primarily to the Gentiles who were unfamiliar with what porneia meant in the context of the Old Covenant law relating to Jewish marriage and the need for a certificate of divorce to break a betrothal agreement.

His intention; one man, one woman until death do them part, no exceptions.

I would suggest that the passage in Romans 7:2-3 not only does not have an exception clause in it but within its context in the scripture proves without question that there is no exception other than death that can release one from their marriage vows. Let’s read this in context.

Romans 7:1-6 NKJV – 1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?

2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to [her] husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of [her] husband. 3 So then if, while [her] husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not [in] the oldness of the letter.

Now we must look at this closely. Paul is giving an example of when the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives and he gives an example of the marriage covenant. He repeats himself very purposefully in order to communicate that there is no question that a man or woman is bound by law to their spouse as long as they are living. If one would marry while the other spouse is living it would be adultery and it would be adultery until the other spouse died at which point it would not be considered adultery. There is no consideration as to whether there is a guilty party or not, it has to do with life and death. He is using this as an example in order for the readers to understand that when one believes in Christ they become dead to the law, so that they can “serve in the newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter”.

Paul is making a parallel that just as the death of a spouse frees one from a marriage vow so dying with Christ frees us from the law. For Paul this is black and white, death and life. The comparison he makes would be meaningless if he believed there were exceptions for divorce and remarriage other than death, especially considering the 20-25% divorce rate among Christians today. Would he be saying that sometimes when you die to Christ you are free from the law under certain conditions? Or is he making a crystal clear statement that only the death of a spouse frees one from a marriage vow? The scriptures are emphatic in calling people adulterers who divorce and remarry with their previous spouse still living yet few believers would state this truth boldly in our present culture.

The Lord divorces Israel

Some would say, didn’t the Lord divorce Israel? If the Lord does it why can’t we? We will see that the following scriptures show that the Lord was betrothed to Israel, which is again a covenant to marry, like an engagement; the actual marriage comes in the age to come.

Hosea 2:19-20 NKJV – 19 “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, lovingkindness and mercy; 20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD.

Then the Lord divorces Israel because of her adulteries and even though Judah is playing the harlot the Lord does not divorce her. Just to clarify, at this time the 12 tribes were split into two groups Israel and Judah.

Jeremiah 3:8 NKJV – 8 “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.

So we see that the Lord divorces Israel for (porneia) not adultery (mochio) since they are not married.

We saw the judgment that happened in the Parable of the Ten Virgins remembering that the virgins represent believers. 5 had oil and were ready and went into the wedding feast, while 5 had no oil and were refused entry into the wedding. We were betrothed to Christ when we came to Christ and the wedding is at the end of this age. It is an inheritance we have a legal right to but, adultery, idolatry and not being ready can disqualify us from becoming the bride of Christ. Remember it was Israel’s actions that justified the Lord to exercise His lawful right to divorce her.

Hebrews 12 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or [f]profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

What does it mean when someone makes a vow that includes “until death do us part”? If you make an exception other than death to remarry, then it’s not “until death do us part,” it’s until something else happens. Now it’s okay to make any vow you want to make for marriage, many have made their own prenuptial agreements, Hollywood does it all the time. But it is disingenuous to say “until death do us part” on your second marriage if your first wife is still alive. This is not just an opinion; it is the definition of breaking a vow.

Matthew 19:6 (NKJV) “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

And woe unto those who do such a thing and usurp God’s divine intention!

If we are going to make headway in how to decrease the divorce rate in the church, we have to begin by looking at some hard facts and make real changes. Listen, you don’t have to agree with my interpretation of scripture. You may say “Hey, we are going to have to agree to disagree, I honestly believe there are certain conditions that one can get remarried other than if my spouse dies.” If you are a pastor, could you honestly commit to making vows that reflect those beliefs? If you really, really believe in the exception clauses then it is not by definition “until death do us part”. So if the parties agree with the exception clauses let’s list the exceptions and vow to it. Maybe “until adultery do us part,” or “until I stop forgiving you,” “until physical abuse,” “until I stop loving you,” “until I’ve done the best I could” or whatever is the standard that one wants to vow to.

Would anyone make a marriage vow with any of these exceptions? Does any exception ring true? Is that Gods’ way? When the exceptions are brought into the light and proclaimed in a vow, they are seen for what they are, and that is, falling short of Gods intention for the marriage of a man and woman. If you made a vow with the exceptions, at least you would be honest about your beliefs. Understanding exactly what you mean when you make a vow is essential. For us to be clear and honest with what our vows mean, we have to be painfully specific since being vague has made the vows lose their intended effect, so that “until death do us part” has become meaningless. Since all exceptions require a divorce to remarry, might it be better to say “until divorce do us part?” Now as painful as it is to hear such a vow, we have seen earlier that this is precisely how the state views the marriage vow. It is essential for the church to bring clarity to the marriage vows so that couples are clear from the start.

I’ve included a vow for easy modification. What would you change?

I__________ take_________ to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love, to honor and to cherish for all the days of our lives, until death do us part

Many say these vows lightly, without fully understanding all of its potential consequences. Through good times and bad, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, can include almost anything. This is a statement of faith in declaring faithfulness no matter what life brings. This is a tremendously powerful proclamation, which causes women to weep and men’s knees to shake. It strengthens the hearts and souls of those who hear love proclaimed so boldly in public. The yes and amen of God is mirrored in the yes and amen of family and friends who witness this covenant of love. This is the mysterious testimony of God’s faithfulness to His bride.

Matthew 5:33 – Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’

Unfortunately, in times of distress, the vow gets broken, and the exceptions provide the way out. I would ask you to write down an exception other than death that would nullify your wedding vows.

I remember when I was dealing with divorce/remarriage issues in our church years ago, and it became a whirlwind of emotions, opinions and extenuating circumstances. One day I came to the simple conclusion that no matter what anybody would do or could do concerning the exemption clause, I was going to be married only to my wife for as long as she lived. I knew it was the right thing to do and I set to tell my wife and pre-teens about my decision, especially since there was so much discussion about the topic in our household. So in the middle of dinner, I stood up and said “I have something to say, before my family. I want to reaffirm my vows to you, Janie. I want to reaffirm that I will be married to you for as long as you live. I don’t care if you get remarried, I don’t care if you become a drug addict, I don’t care if you run away, I don’t care if have a terminal disease or anything else. I will love you all the days of my life. My wife, Janie said, “Well that’s very nice Honey …but didn’t we already agree to that.” I said, “We did, I just wanted to affirm that” and I looked at my three kids. My son then said, “That’s great Dad, could you pass the potatoes.” Now on the outside, it didn’t seem to be a pinnacle event, but something was declared that day that put resolve in me, and it also further established (whether I could see it or not) to my wife and kids my faithfulness to my covenant.

When Cortez came to the New World, he had his men burn the ships when they landed. They had a goal of conquest, and there was no retreat, no exit plan. They were resolved to complete their mission, and they would rather die than fail. As believers, we are armed with the gifts of the spirit to tear down strongholds, to repent, to intercede, to persevere, to love with a pure love. Can our enemy prevail if we persist? The power of God in the Holy Spirit is at our disposal. How many times should we forgive? Always. Can we forgive adultery? Yes. Drug abuse? Yes. Depression? Yes. We will be judged the same way we judge. Christ will judge His bride (us) the same way we judge our bride. If we don’t forgive, we won’t be forgiven. If we want/need to have Christ forgive our adulteries, then we need to forgive others their gross sins. We are in a battle for our marriages; it will require a resolve to endure suffering to the end.

1Corinthians 13:4-8 NKJV – 4 Love suffers long [and] is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never fails…

Unfortunately, the church is becoming more adept at building boats to escape rather than compelling its members to fight until death (do us part).

As we press further regarding divorce and remarriage, it seems essential that we understand not only Jesus’ view of it but the consequences of ignoring His view. The following scripture outlines the transition of old covenant to new covenant, it illustrates that Jesus will be judging the heart and clearly warns of the ramifications of being found in various sins.

Matthew 5:27-32 RSV 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.[d] 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery

Does the church take seriously the words of Jesus? Can they even be understood without understanding the gospel of the kingdom?

Believers will be judged just as Christ has spoken. It is his mercy that warns us of our condition so that we might repent and be ready for his coming.

Now, I want to look at the exchange Jesus had with Pharisees and his disciples in Matthew 19

Matthew 19:9-10 (RSV) 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.”

As we can see here, Jesus clearly showed His disciples that the only exception was unchastity(porneia). This caused the disciples to say it was better to not marry. They knew exactly what He was saying. His words included the thought that even if your wife committed adultery, you still could not lawfully divorce her and marry another. This was an appalling idea to the disciples.

Matthew 19:11-12 (RSV) 11 But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

Jesus responded to the disciples, telling them of three different types of eunuchs. What is a eunuch? A eunuch is a man who has been castrated and cannot, therefore reproduce. Jesus said there are eunuchs that are born that way ( meaning that some have a congenital defect that makes them eunuchs).

There is another type of eunuch, one that is made that way by man. In Israel, some servants were purposely made eunachs and then to set to watch over the king’s harem. It was thought that they would be more submissive to their rulers as eunuchs.

Then there are some who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was saying that it would be better to make yourself a eunuch than to divorce and remarry. If one divorced and remarried, they would be found in adultery at the Judgment Seat of Christ and therefore would miss the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is analogous to Matthew 5:29 where Jesus warned the disciples that it would be better for them to pluck out their eye (which speaks of lusting) or to cut off their hand (which represents pointing in judgment at someone or actually striking them) than to be found in sin and end up in Hell(Gehenna). Jesus was using these vivid examples, not to promote self-mutilation,but to drive home the severity of the judgment that will come to those who disobey.

In our study on the Kingdom, we have seen that a believer will judged as to whether they go into the kingdom of heaven or to hell(Gehenna), and we see that these two scriptures confirm what we propose will happen at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Jesus was clearly showing His new covenant standards for marriage to His disgruntled disciples.

We are so immersed in our culture that the world’s standards have become our standards. God’s standards have been relegated as being archaic and unkind. Are God’s words offensive and need to be modified to conform to our modern culture?

It is God who is love, who created man and woman, created sexuality and created the union of marriage. He is the definer of what the marriage covenant is and what the consequences are for breaking it. He is calling us to see it His way. He is drawing us to repentance so that that judgment will be averted.

Now, the big question to those who have divorced and remarried would be: what should you do now? First of all, Jesus spoke very directly about our sin, not to condemn us, but to cause us to turn to Him. It is His mercy to warn us of His righteous judgment that is coming. So don’t try to justify what you’ve done. Acknowledge that your ways are not His ways, that you have done what you thought was right in your own sight. Confess your sin of adultery to the living God, and be confident that He will forgive you.

Knowing you should ask for forgiveness and actually doing it are two different things, and the two have starkly different consequences. Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart. Take time to do this.

Remember what you did was legal to do, but it was contrary to God’s view on marriage. I have personally disregarded God’s standard and I have married people who were divorced. I know now that I gave them bad counsel and have repented for doing that. But, no matter what we do Jesus will forgive us, if we confess our sins to Him. After you repent, listen to what else God would have you to do.

Jesus protected a woman caught in adultery and spoke to her accusers. “He who is without sin, “ He said, “Throw the first stone”:

John 8:10-11 (RSV) 10 Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”

This is the New Covenant standard for dealing with the sin of adultery (no more stoning).

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church to give counsel to the new believers who were in a variety of situations. They were new believers who were married to unbelievers, and they were asking what they should do. They were slaves asking if they could go free. There were those who were separated from their spouses asking if they could remarry. Paul gave them some sage advice:

1 Corinthians 7:24, 26-27 (RSV) 24 So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage.

There will be many who are divorced and remarried who will understand for the first time what God‘s true intention for marriage is. I believe that those were divorced and remarried should be bound to the wife they have now and not seek to be loosed. Those who are divorced and who have a living spouse should not seek another wife.

As we noted above, Jesus told the adulterous woman to “sin no more“, and I believe that means to stay with the one that you are with “until death do you part“. It seems that this is how God would respond to those who repent. It seems also a way to keep families together, families who have already felt the brokenness that comes with divorce. There are hosts of the varying circumstances that individuals have been through which will require that each one seek the Lord and be convinced in their own heart as to what they should do. Ultimately, each one will stand before God alone and be judged.

As we discussed earlier, there is a lot of pain that comes with divorce. This pain is experienced, not only by the spouses, but also the children and the extended family. The task is to bring healing to every aspect of the divorce.

We saw, in the Parables of the Unforgiving Servant, how much Jesus was angered by unforgiveness. He hates divorce because of the devastation it causes to the family of God. He will break the curse of adultery off of those who repent. He wants to set you free from every accusation, bitterness, hopelessness, anger and depression. There is no justification for holding resentment and/or harboring bitterness. The Lord will take off all shame and guilt. Love will flourish in relationships which have been devoid of it.

Children will need to be disciplined so that they take no sides and are not allowed to dishonor their parents for the bad choices they have made. Instead, they should be taught to pray for each parent earnestly (despite their shortcomings) and expect to see the glory of the Lord bring restoration and deliverance.

The Lord calls us to pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us. This is not a suggestion; it is a command. He has also given us the ministry of reconciliation. This will provide a great opportunity to share the gospel and see hearts healed. It is imperative that your heart be pure toward your ex spouse.

1 Corinthians 7:16 (RSV) Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

God can make a stony hard into a heart of flesh. Remember, we will all be judged in the same way we judge others. The coming revival will bring restoration to broken families so that the following scriptural promise will be fulfilled:

Malachi 4:6 (RSV) And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”

I desire only good for you and your family and pray you are found perfect at His coming.