Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 2, No. 2 Page 13 February 2000

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles
By Louis Rushmore

Marriage, Divorce &
Remarriage Dilemmas

I have been a member of the Church for a long time.  I now live in California.  I have had close friends go through divorce.  If a man divorces his wife for adultery and commits adultery himself before the divorce is final, can he remarry and remain pure in God's sight?  If a woman commits adultery because her husband is verbally abuse and asks for a divorce from her husband: he wants to work things out, can either one of them remarry?  I think that I know the answers by reading the scriptures, could you please respond?  Thanks Will
Mankind appears to excel in putting himself into quandaries from which it seems nearly impossible to extricate himself.  Nowhere does he exemplify this unfortunate capacity more than pertaining to marriage, divorce and remarriage.  The two-fold question above demonstrates the intricate difficulties, aware of biblical jurisdiction, of desiring some relief from the ramifications of sinful conduct, while trying to be legally correct (perhaps barely so).  Questions of this sort regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage outnumber all other questions received.  It must be the signs of the times and the devastating affect of marriage, divorce and remarriage on society and even, regrettably, the Lord’s church.  This is not to say, of course, that the querist in the least wants to justify any biblical aberration.  His post intimates the opposite.

First, there is a course, in the case of either question above, that if pursued undoubtedly avoids the possibility of compounding the sins there indicated.  Biblically recognized marriages that, for whatever reason, cannot be resumed permit the estranged parties to remain celibate.

“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Only in marriages where the adulterous spouse has been divorced may the innocent spouse marry another biblically eligible person.  “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 19:9).  Scripture also permits widows and widowers to marry biblically eligible persons (Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39).

The first question is:  “If a man divorces his wife for adultery and commits adultery himself before the divorce is final, can he remarry and remain pure in God's sight?”  The phrase “before the divorce is final” is a misnomer.  Whereas mankind is biblically obligated to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-7) except where those laws conflict with God’s laws (Acts 5:20), God’s laws are not overshadowed by civil law.  Though one cannot enter marriage without complying with man’s laws, strictly speaking and from a biblical perspective, divorce may occur prior to a legal pronouncement.  Several Greek words appear in Scripture that possess shades of meaning and yet essentially refer to the biblical concept of divorce.

The Greek word apoluo appears as “put away” and “divorced” in Matthew 5:32.  In Matthew 1:19; 19:3, 7-9; Mark 10:2, 4, 11-12; Luke 16:18 apoluo also appears as ‘put away.’  The Greek word apostasion refers to divorce and appears as “a writing of divorcement” in Matthew 5:31; 19:7 and Mark 10:4.  It amounts to a certificate of divorce.  Still another Greek word used for divorce in the New Testament is chorizo.  It is translated “depart” (1 Corinthians 7:15) and “put asunder” (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9).  The Greek word lusis sometimes means loosing a marriage or divorce (1 Corinthians 7:27).  The Greek word aphiemi is used of divorce, translated “put away” and “leave” in 1 Corinthians 7:11, 13.

Hence, several Greek words referring to divorce and variously translated into English are used in the New Testament to refer to various stages of marital estrangement.  Biblically, divorce transpires when a couple separates irrespective of whether they pursue the matter to a legal “divorce” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).  Yet, a ‘legal technicality’ as the foregoing might suggest to some may do little to court the favor of God in the face of sexual sin by the otherwise presumed to be innocent party in the scenario of the query.  The safer route would be to purse celibacy in the absence of the ability to reconcile with one’s former spouse.  Doubts, questions and undisclosed details might otherwise jeopardize one’s eternal reward.

The second question is:  “If a woman commits adultery because her husband is verbally abuse and asks for a divorce from her husband: he wants to work things out, can either one of them remarry?”  As stated already, the New Testament provides only two reasons for which a previously married person may contract a new marriage:  (1) one’s spouse died (Romans 7:2-3), (2) the innocent party of a divorce brought about by adultery opts to remarry (Matthew 19:9).  However, the party to a marriage who drives his spouse into the arms of another is not guiltless.  For instance, biblically unlawful divorce “causeth” one to commit adultery.  “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” (Matthew 5:32).  Further, prolonged absence or withholding marital intimacy from one another contributes to the temptation to commit adultery (1 Corinthians 7:2-5).  If one drives his spouse away through abuse or neglect, then, he is not wholly innocent and may not actually court the favor of God when it comes to contracting a new marriage.

The New Testament teaching about marriage, divorce and remarriage seems to be relatively easy to understand.  However, the cloudy overlay of details interjected by human incidences provides sufficient confusion to the equation.  God, though, is not responsible for this confusion, man is.  Finally, God is not obligated to adopt as his own the supposed loopholes in his marriage law that men may claim to have discovered.  It is better to be safe than sorry!

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Gospel Gazette Online
Louis Rushmore, Editor
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