That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Divorce and Re-Marriage: The Contradiction

No one left any nasty comments, so I guess I can post part 2 :].  
(Read part 1 here)

Actually I got 6 likes and 3 goods on that last post!!!  That's the most I've ever had!  Then I thought, maybe someone is clicking like over and over just because they want me to post the next part.  Hmmmm.... I asked my Mom if she did that, but she didn't.  Although, she was one of the likes.  Thanks Mom.

Who knows?  If no one leaves any nasty comments this time, maybe I'll even write a part 3.  I would like to add, that if you do want to leave a comment, I don't mind at all. I'm not going to bite your head off if you disagree with me.  I don't mind if people have genuine questions, concerns and/or want to discuss things in a reasonable way.  Just stay away from the name-calling and rudeness.  That's all I ask.

Initially I didn't plan on continuing this discussion, but I've been doing some more study. I've been reading some commentaries, articles, and Scripture.  I still have a lot of questions, but I am finding answers.  I know God is not in favour of divorce.  The priests in the Old Testament were forbidden to marry a divorced woman (Lev. 21:7,14).  Jesus said that a re-marriage to or of a divorced person is adultery (Luke 16:18; Matt. 5:32; 19:9), and we know adultery is sin (Ex. 20:14, Deut. 5:18).

So here's my problem.  The Bible says divorce and re-marriage is adultery. Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery (Luke 16:18). However, I Corinthians 7:15 seems to give an out. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.  The phrase "not under bondage" is interpreted by many is meaning "free to re-marry." But, if that's what it means, doesn't that go exactly against Jesus' teaching in Luke 16 (and also Matthew 5 and 19)?  Jesus calls a divorce and re-marriage adultery.  Why would this suddenly change in I Corinthians 7? 

I've been thinking and thinking about this, and really trying to come to a valid conclusion.  I know there's no contradictions in the Bible, and I know everything in it is true.  I'm going to give my take on what this means.  I could be way off. I seem to be in disagreement with a lot of commentators, pastors, and scholars who agree that I Corinthians allows for re-marriage in some cases, but I'm going to throw my views out there anyways for whatever they are worth.  I think to assume that I Corinthians 7:15 allows re-marriage is reading something into the text that absolutely is not there.  It can't be there because it contradicts Luke 16, Matthew 5 and 19, and Mark 10. The text does not say "free to re-marry."  It's just 'interpreted' as free to re-marry, and the reason I think many interpret it that way is because of preconceived ideas, and because they want the Bible to justify their desire for re-marriage. 

Divorce was allowable under Old Testament law.  Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  We are not under the law anymore.  When Jesus came He fulfilled the law.  It's important to remember that He did not nullify or do away with the law.  He actually completed it.  Jesus also raised the bar when it comes to how we are to live under grace. Grace is not a licence to sin or do as we please.  It's actually an obligation to live more for our Lord and Saviour. The Sermon on the Mount is often cited as an example how Jesus raised the standard for holy living.  It just so happens Jesus deals with divorce in that very passage. Matthew 5:31-32, It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 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. The "it hath been said" is referring directly back to Deuteronomy 24.  This passage contains the "exception clause" of fornication; however, not all of Jesus' other teachings on divorce have this clause, which to me strengthens the case that re-marriage is forbidden.  Personally, I think we need to be very careful how we define fornication.  If we use the idea that fornication is any type of sexual immorality, then a man looking at a woman is just cause for his wife to divorce him. Jesus just said in Matthew 5:23 that such a thing constitutes adultery in the man's heart. That would actually make it easier to divorce someone than it was in the Old Testament! Remember, the Sermon on the Mount was all about raising the standard.  It was about the heart, not just an outward conformity, but an inward holiness as well.  Thus, I see some problems with defining fornication in this case as any type of sexual immorality.  It doesn't fit with the pattern of a higher standard already established in this chapter.

I know people disagree with me on this.  Fornication may allow for a divorce, but Jesus still said in the next part of that verse that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  Fornication only applies to the "put away" not the the marrying.  This fits with the other passages in the gospels that deal with divorce and re-marriage.  All say that marrying a divorced person is adultery.

In order to be consistent, I Corinthians 7:15 must be interpreted in light of these other teachings.  When a principle is established in the Scriptures, we must follow it consistently all the way through the Bible.  When we come to a difficult passage we must compare Scripture with Scripture, and interpret based on what we know, not what we "feel" the passage is saying.  We know that re-marriage is adultery, and that is sin.  Does I Corinthians 7 imply that there are some cases when re-marriage after a divorce is not sin?  I don't think so.  I think people who believe that are reading into the text something that is not there.  

The verse says that the believing wife or husband is no longer "in bondage" to the unbelieving husband or wife.  One of the first things I did when studying this was ask myself, "What does bondage mean?"  Bondage means slavery.  It means being subject to another.  We know from other teachings in Scripture that in a marriage the wife serves the husband and the husband serves the wife.  We know that marriage takes sacrifice.  We know the husband is to provide for the physical well-being of his wife, and the wife for her husband.  However, a marriage is not slavery of one spouse to another, but instead, a partnership where each equally serves the other in their given role. Realizing that the word "bondage" carries the idea of subjection and slavery, perhaps the meaning in I Corinthians is that the spouse is free from his or her obligation to fulfill their role of provision in the marriage when the unbelieving spouse leaves them.  The husband would be free of his duty to work to provide food, clothing, and shelter to his wife, and the wife would be free of her duty to care and provide the comforts of home to her husband.  When one partner in the marriage is not fulfilling their role, then perhaps it becomes "bondage" for the other partner to continue in their role. If this is the sense of this passage, then it's not talking about re-marriage at all.

Another thought I had was this.  Earlier in I Corinthians 7 Paul addresses the issue of a husband and wife defrauding each other, and the fact that neither has power of their own body.  Without going into unnecessary detail, Paul is referring to intimacy within the marriage.  If verse 15 is interpreted in the context of the passage, "not under bondage" could refer to the fact that the forsaken spouse is no longer under the obligation to "render due benevolence" to the spouse who has left.   If they were supposed to continue on in this manner after the spouse left it would indeed seem to be bondage!  

Long ago, I made the decision that I would never date a man who was divorced.  Doing this study has re-inforced that decision.  I've also decided that if I ever do marry, divorce simply will not be an option, no matter how difficult things get in the marriage.  Perhaps some think I'm naive to make statements like that. I've never been in a difficult marriage, so how would I know how I'd react in such a situation?  I look at it in the same way I look at any other command God has given in the Scripture.  The only option is obedience.  If I determine beforehand that I'm going to live for God, then when I'm faced with a difficult situation or temptation, disobeying or giving in to my flesh won't be such an issue.  Making the decision to obey before the difficulty arises always makes facing the difficulty in a godly way easier.  

Hopefully, I'll never be faced with a marriage that I'll want to get out of, but I realize no marriage is easy all the time, and it could happen.  I've taken steps in the past to avoid that, and I will continue to take steps to avoid such a thing in the future. I believe it's better to be single than marry someone you have doubts about! God sees divorce and re-marriage as sin. I know that may seem blunt and distasteful, but that's what it is. It's wrong, and it's something Christians need to stay away from.

I read the following article while doing this study, and I've linked to them for your reference.  While I do not endorse or agree everything on these websites, these articles did bring up some good points, and they made me think.


  1. Good thoughts - you are not the only one "out there" to come to what I believe are Scriptural conclusions. The book "The Divorce Myth" by J. Carl Laney takes a somewhat detailed look at the Scriptural passages relating to the issue and I believe makes the Biblical position clear. I think you would find the book refreshing and supportive - although it has been a few years since I read it.

    Just one thought - When Christ said "it hath been said" was He referring to the text of Deut. or the "interpretation" (by scribes and Pharisees) of Deut. The NT formula for OT reference is so often "it is written" or something similar. Perhaps Jesus wasn't "raising the bar" but explaining what was originally given yet had been twisted and perverted by the "Bible teachers" of the day... Food for thought... Lord bless. ~the Hoyles

  2. Thanks for the book suggestion. Definitely agree with you on the "it hath been said." That's cool because I never thought of it that way before. It's kind of like the way people still try to "interpret" the Bible to make re-marriage ok.

  3. Just last night, Keith preached the hardest sermon he ever preached on this very subject. Most of our congregation has been touched by divorce.

    You are very right. God acknowledges that divorce is going to happen because of the sinfulness of men, but he does not okay it and re-marriage is out of the question. Keith made a point I had never noticed before. God says to marry a divorced person or to remarry after divorce is to commit adultery. How can that be unless God still views the first marriage as valid when adultery in the Bible is sexual sin against a marriage?

    This is a very tough subject and a very touchy one. God bless you for taking such a truly Biblical stand!

  4. Thanks Julie,

    The point you made about adultery is the very thing that got me about this study too. If God said it's adultery to marry a divorced person then that's what it is! Period. We can't start re-interpreting other Scriptures into saying that re-marriage isn't adultery, just because that's what we want them to say.

    It is a hard subject because it is so prevalent in our society and so many people have been affected by it. It's also very sad to see a family break up and have to go through so much heart ache! But, God can heal those families if they seek Him!

  5. Just now reading some of your back posts... You would seem to be Biblically sound (not that that's surprising :) ). It's definitely a difficult subject because it affects so many people. We personally know several families who have been through a divorce and remarriage and God is blessing their "new" families, but there are always consequences.
    I am not completely certain there are no exceptions, but I don't think they are the exceptions that most people claim. For example, I am friends with a lady who divorced her husband (after attempting to reconcile) and took a lot of criticism for it. However, he abused (not just physically) their children. She had people telling her that she needed to let him come back as though nothing had ever happened, which she did once, but he ran off on them with another woman and further (for lack of a better word) traumatized the children. It is an extreme case, but for her, I do think divorce was an acceptable thing to do, based on the fact that in a Biblically based society, he would have been put to death for what he did, and she would have been "free." (Incidentally, she has not remarried and it's been over 10 years). Not disagreeing with you per se, just "thinking out loud."

  6. Hi Bethany,
    I agree that there are some situations where divorce may be the only option left. The situation you described certainly seems to be one of them. I don't believe God would have a woman stay in an abusive relationship that's harmful to herself or her children. It seems that this woman followed the Scriptures and tried her best to reconcile. Unfortunately she cannot force her husband to obey God. However, SHE can choose to follow God, and it seems like that's what she's doing. God will bless her faithfulness to Him, and who knows, maybe someday her husband will genuinely repent. Her testimony may be reaching him more than she even knows! God ALWAYS blesses obedience. Thank you for sharing this story, and I will pray for this lady and her children!

  7. I studied the "Abandonment" OK to remarry verse.
    I Cor 7:15 “ But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. God has called us to peace.

    “A brother or sister is not in bondage “

    Is the marriage bond broken when the unbeliever departs? In 1 Cor 7:15, bondage is the English translation of DOULOO, the Greek word denoting servitude, or enslavement, and is not the same as the legal term, DEO, used for the legal marriage bond.

    “Bondage”: dedoulootai is the Perfect Passive Indicative of douloo. PERFECT, as having been completed in the past, once for all, PASSIVE voice means the subject is the recipient of action (every act of separation is passive, not proactive on the Christian’s behalf), INDICATIVE, statement of fact. Since the negative (ou) is employed, “not under bondage” grammatically reads, the bondage was NOT completed in the past, and is NOT occurring in the present. The believer is not under bondage nor servitude in the past or present. If bondage (servitude) means marriage bond (deo), then the marriage was NOT completed in the past and NOT occurring in the present. Is this interpretation logical or even possible? Grammatically, bondage cannot refer to the marriage or the marriage bond.

    In verse 21, douloo is translated “slave,” not marriage bond. “Were you called [being] a slave [δοῦλος – cp verse 15]. Douloo means servitude or slave and Deo is used for marriage bond. In other words, a slave, is not a marriage bond.

  8. Hello Anonymous,
    I had to read your comment twice, because it's pretty technical :). However, I find it to be very interesting. It confirms what I already believed the verse was referring to. Thank you for your insight. God bless.