|Vol. 16 No. 5 May 2014||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Is unscriptural divorce and remarriage adultery if there is no sexual intercourse? Instead of divorcing again and living apart, this couple decides not to have any physical contact that involves intercourse. Thank you.
The lone reason provided in the New Testament for divorce and remarriage was provided by Jesus Christ Himself. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9 NKJV). The singular instruction for spouses who have divorced for any other reason is provided by the apostle Paul, who affirms that He is conveying what Jesus Christ taught. “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
What the questioner asks essentially is whether persons divorced for a reason other than adultery and who contract a civilly approved marriage that God does not recognize as a valid marriage may pretend to be married in the eyes of God. Put that way, it appears to me to be an iffy scenario at best. The clearer and certain course of action would be not to pretend to be married. That does not diminish moral responsibility for any children already brought into this world through such a union, and it would not lessen financial responsibility owed the woman with whom one may have fathered children. Living apart would not have to negate a morally upright friendship.
I have heard from a highly regarded, conservative Gospel preacher who did advise a couple as described in the question above that they could continue to live together, appearing to be husband and wife, but without the physical relationship otherwise one of the benefits of marriage. In the case he cited, at the death of one of the spouses years later, the survivor claimed that they had maintained their pledge through the years of not having sexual intercourse.
Personally, I am aware of another occasion when a young couple were advised by congregational leadership that such an arrangement would be satisfactory. The couple became incensed later when asked about any difficulties they may be experiencing under those circumstances. However, the introduction of another child into that home answered that question regarding them.
There are other considerations, too, in addition to whether it may be permissible and workable for a man and a woman to pretend to be married without the benefits of sex. Is it publicly known (or may it come to light later) that the couple do not have a biblical right to be married? If so, it generally appears to fellow Christians that they are living in adultery. I know for a fact that adulterous relationships permitted to persist within a congregation engender more fornication and adultery among its members. This was also clearly taught in 1 Corinthians 5. Furthermore, how would this situation unfold in our efforts to reach non-Christians in the community if they are aware that members of the church are permitted to live together, apparently in adultery?
There is a way that cannot be wrong, regarding this type of relationship. There is always a way that certainly is in harmony with God’s teaching for us in the New Testament. The alternative plan is not as certain, and who dares risk his or her eternal future on a doubtful course?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
A brother has been divorced and remarried 10 years ago. Does the reason for his divorce effect whether he is allowed to preach and participate with his new wife at the Lord’s Supper? Are there any restrictions on his ministry?
The sole permission in the New Testament for divorce and remarriage is Matthew 19:9, where our Lord taught that only for the reason of adultery may the innocent party divorce and remarry. Jesus clearly stated that every other divorce and remarriage is adultery, irrespective of whether the law of the land sanctions such a marriage. If a man’s divorce and remarriage are scriptural, there is no biblical reason for prohibiting him from serving in any capacity for which he may be qualified in the Lord’s church, including preaching. However, as it is with elders, in order to serve effectively, a man must be held in esteem by fellow Christians and to some extent by community members (1 Timothy 3:7). Congregations choose for themselves their own preachers who instruct them in God’s Word, and they have the discretion, as long as biblical doctrine is not violated, to decide who will serve in that capacity.
Louis Rushmore, Editor
What are the considerations to consider in the choice and selection of a life-partner for marriage? How does one go about finding a godly mate in the Lord in today’s perverse and crooked world? What place should religious convictions and denominational affiliations have in the selection of mate for marriage for life? Are there Bible guidelines on marriage and family life matters like contraception, family planning, child spacing, parenting teenagers and adoption in case of infertility?
The questioner is to be commended for inquiring thoughtfully about important matters concerning a future marriage. Few decisions in life are more important than choosing a spouse. That choice affects not only earthly happiness but may affect favorably or unfavorably the eternal destiny of both spouses and any children born into the family. Therefore, one ought to choose a mate who will help him or her get to heaven.
One must look carefully and patiently “in today’s perverse and crooked world” before selecting a mate. In the process, one must not compromise Christian convictions, which are based upon the Word of God (and for people living today, particularly the New Testament). Morally good persons, who may esteem the Bible highly, may be found in denominations, but it is important to genuinely convert such a candidate for marriage before deciding on such a one for a lifelong marriage partner. Otherwise, there will be not only conflict in the home, but there will be diverse directions pursued in rearing children, Christian living and worship. While one may marry a non-Christian, it is not advisable.
‘Contraception (as long as it does not involve aborting the joined egg and sperm), family planning, child spacing and adoption in the case of infertility’ are not directly addressed in the Bible, and more narrowly in the New Testament. I am not aware of any prohibitions in the Bible respecting non-abortive contraception, family planning, child spacing or adoption.
The Bible in both testaments, though, does teach about rearing children properly. Here are just some of those passages. “Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14 NKJV). “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). “[O]ne who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence” (1 Timothy 3:4). “[I]f a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination” (Titus 1:6). “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well” (1 Timothy 3:12).
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
Parenting is a mission to which both parents need to be wholly devoted. Ideally, children will cooperate with their parents in their own upbringing; however, often, especially teenagers resist their parents. Therefore, it is crucial to begin training children from a very early age and to consistently train them. This should mitigate some of the difficulties of rearing adolescents. All parenting, even with the help of the Bible and tapping the experience of others who have successfully reared their children, is a learning experience populated with much trial and error.