Topic Article #16: Marriage Divorce & Remarriage
by Dr. Eugene Clingman, Executive Administrator
Copyright 2006, International Church Council Project
(This article may be freely distributed so long as it is not altered
and the above information remains intact.)
God’s Purpose in Marriage
A corn plant has in itself both “male” and “female” reproductive organs; one part of the corn plant pollinates the other part; one corn plant in a field all to itself is capable of pollinating itself. Like corn, God could have created man as a sexless creature. But instead, he made male and female. The Bible reveals that God’s primary intention for creating the sexes is to bring male and female together in marriage: 1) to be a picture of Christ and his people, 2) to form the family and, 3) to produce godly children. God says through Adam, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Mat. 19:4, 5). God says through Malachi, “Did he not make them [man and wife] one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring…” (Malachi 2:15 (ESV)). For family and for godly children God made male and female.
A Great Reproach!
World Net Daily (www.WorldNetDaily.com) carried an article by Jerry Fallwell in which he writes, “The Ventura, Calif.-based Barna Group has released a distressing report showing that marriages between born-again Christians are just as likely to end in divorce as those who do not profess to be born-again. The divorce rate within the church is comparable to the divorce rate outside the church!” This being the case, are we not giving “occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14)? And, are we not, by our hardness of heart (Matt. 19:8) and disobedience, causing great reproach to the Lord, and stacking up shame and misery for ourselves and our descendants?
Are You Living in the Real World?
Human beings need revelation in order to know what is real. The Bible is God’s clearest revelation; it is the Christian’s map of reality. The serpent in the Garden led our first parents into a fantasy world of their own creating. The serpent led them out of reality into a world in which they said it is more important for us to discover for ourselves what reality is than to listen to what God says about it. God had told them, “In the day you eat you will surely die.” The serpent said, “You will not surely die.” Our parents had two options – the first being to hold to the words spoken by the One who created the reality in which they lived and who alone was capable of knowing what would happen if they eat from the God created Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their second option was to reject God’s revelation to them by choosing an alternate path in an attempt to assert that another reality was possible, a reality of their own choosing and making. They rejected the revealed for the path of personal discovery. They rejected God’s revelation that told them that eating from the forbidden tree was evil, and chose for themselves the option of DECIDING FOR THEMSELVES what is good and evil.
Today, as in that day, in the measure we live outside God’s revealed Word we too live in a fantasy world. To whatever extent we do not “bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” the Creator (2 Cor. 10:5) we live in a world of our own making that does not comport with the reality God created. God made the world and all things. He is the only One in a position to tell us what life is about, what the things around us really mean, why they are there, and what the consequences are of one action or another.
Much of the human race has lived in unreality since the fall. The Bible calls this unreality “darkness” (Acts 26:18 & Col. 1:13). Christians in principle are delivered from darkness and have Jesus who is the light. But to whatever extent we Christians continue to live outside God’s revealed Word, the Bible, we continue to be darkened (Isaiah 8:20). Jesus and his apostles admonish us to “walk in the light” (Jn. 12:35; Eph. 4:17, 18; 1 Jn. 1:7). As in any other area of life, when it comes to “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage,” we must have God’s Word to orient us to reality so we do not live in darkness.
God Said You Can Divorce!
The fact is God said you can divorce! However there are only two possible instances in which God allows it. ICCP Topic 16, Concerning Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage, Article XV reads, –
“We affirm that there are no more than two biblical grounds for divorce: (1) fornication, narrowly defined as to include nothing more than sexual sin outside of marriage, and (2) the desertion of a believing spouse by an unbelieving partner or desertion by a partner living in such a state of unrepentant sin as qualify him or her to be viewed as an unbeliever in the eyes of the Lord and the Church.
We deny that spouses may scripturally divorce for any reason other than those stated by Christ in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 and by St. Paul in I Corinthians 7:15 (as rendered in the original Greek, certain modern translations being unreliable).”
Divorced People May Remarry!
According to the Bible, divorced people may remarry, but only when they have divorced for one of the two biblically acceptable reasons. Jesus calls remarriage in all other cases “adultery!” (Matt. 5:32). See also Paul’s exception in I Cor. 7:15. Adultery is a breaking of God’s law (Exodus 20).
Godly Children – What About the Kids!
God says, “I hate divorce!” The passage in which this statement appears is the one in which God explains that he created marriage for the purpose of raising godly children (Mal. 2:14-16). The implication is that divorce thwarts the successful raising of the kind of children God wants – godly children. I scanned the internet a bit to discover what is being said about how divorce affects children. An article I found at the Ohio State University site says, “The overall result of this analysis was that children from divorced families are on “average” somewhat worse off than children who have lived in intact families. These children have more difficulty in school, more behavior problems, more negative self-concepts, more problems with peers, and more trouble getting along with their parents.” As important as these things might be, I would go on to ask – are these the right criteria to measure the damage divorce can bring to the children? Ohio State overlooks the reality of God’s world when they limit their study to such things. Remember, we live in a world whose reality God has created, and to ignore that reality is to ask the wrong questions, to get the wrong answers, and to continue to live in darkness. What factors then should we consider? Well, what about the fact that parents who divorce for unbiblical reasons have broken covenant? Does this set up the children for the likelihood of treating covenants as optional; the most significant of which are covenant with God and covenant with spouse? What about the fact that in the illegitimate divorce parents are setting God’s Word aside in favor of disobedience for the sake of their feelings and desires? Doesn’t this predispose the children to follow in the same pattern of rejecting God’s Word when it doesn’t suite their desires, and isn’t such a course the road to hell? What about the fact that the husband who unrighteously divorces his wife is rejecting his responsibility to love his wife as Christ loves his church? Doesn’t that tell the daughters that the love of a husband should not be counted on, and that she should not seek refuge and security in marriage partnership with a godly man? Doesn’t it tell sons that they also do not need to love their wives as Christ loves his church? And doesn’t it also convey the message to both daughter and son that just as father has broken covenant with wife and family it is likely God also is not in the business of keeping covenant? Does it predispose the children to believe that just as they were treated as unimportant, so their own children are not of much value? The truth is that divorce sets children up for these things and more. God hates divorce, and so should we!
Have You Divorced?
Have you violated God’s Word in divorcing unbiblically? You need to repent! That does NOT mean you divorce your current spouse and go back to your past. It does however mean at least this – that you fully acknowledge and confess your sin to God whose mercy and grace are abundant in Christ to all who do so. Also humbly confess your sin to your current spouse, if possible to your previous spouse, to your children, and to any others directly affected by your sin. Then do what you can to repair the damage done by your sin. King David committed grievous sin – adultery and murder. Yet he was forgiven because he humbled himself, confessed and repented. But remember, David suffered for a lifetime because of his sin (2 Samuel 12:10). Sin is forgivable, but the consequences for sin are too high to make sin worth it. If you are contemplating divorce, don’t make yourself and your family, pay this high price. Humble yourself before God. God gives grace to the humble. Ask God to deliver you from hardness of heart. He has promised to put a new heart into those who love him, a heart that has power to obey.
We invite you to read and study the ICCP document on this topic, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage. We encourage you to stand for the truth of the Bible. Don’t be a child of the culture that surrounds you. Stand for the truth in your own life and marriage. Encourage your pastor to clearly preach the truth of God’s Word about marriage, divorce, and remarriage; give him a copy of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage. When you are around a friend or family member contemplating divorce or in the midst of divorce proceedings, admonish them to obey the Lord; encourage them to receive the grace God gives those who obey him; show them that in the end, obedience will be joy and the blessing of God for themselves and for their children. Remind them that if they divorce for unbiblical reasons and then remarry, they will be committing adultery. Teach your own children what the Bible says about marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Let us not be as Israel of old who forsook the covenant of their God and were finally cast out to be trampled under foot of men. Let us live like Christians, and admonish our brothers and sisters in Christ to do so too.
Go to the official ICCP document, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.