The controversy about divorce and remarry among Christian

Some Christian agreed that God hates divorce and remarry is a no go unless the spouse died. Some Christian disagree with that.

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There are three instances in which some Christians believe a Biblical case for remarriage after a divorce can be justified.

The first is in Matthew 19:9, where Jesus tells His disciples, “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.”

This is not an absolute command to divorce an unfaithful wife - forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration of the marriage would be preferred. But if a wife is persisitently adulterous, the violated husband may consider the union intolerable. To end it, he would have two options: have the adulteress stoned to death, or divorce her.

To say that he could not remarry if he divorced her (as he could if he became a widower by her execution) would seem to encourage the harsher choice. Jesus’ words essentially state that the more merciful option would not be penalized. If he chooses to divorce her he is just as free to remarry as if she had been stoned.

Why does Jesus make the woman the villain in His case study? Probably because the Law of Moses made no provision for a wife to divorce a husband. Later Jewish lawyers made rules whereby an offended woman could have a divorce court compel her husband to divorce her.

The second instance is in I Corinthians 7 where Paul is discussing situations where a Christian is married to a lost spouse. He’s been telling them that the Christian should not divorce a lost spouse. But in verse 15 he says that if the lost person departs, let him depart - a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. The phrase, let him depart, describes how in ancient Rome, divorces were very informal - no courts were involved. A spouse simply walked out and called it quits - case closed.

So Paul says that if a lost spouse abandons a Christian, the Christian is no longer in bondage to the marriage - hence, free to remarry.

The third case claims that if the divorce happened before salvation, then it’s “under the blood”, and remarriage is allowable. There’s no specific scripture for this one, and I think it is a weak argument.

I hope this helps with what you were looking for.

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Thanks. So what is your stand on this?

Because the first two cases actually have a scriptural basis, I could not dispute a divorcee in either of those instances pursuing remarriage.

I believe that forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration is always the better choice, but if every attempt at this has failed, then I would not subject the divorced Christian seeking remarriage to church discipline.

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Hi @htdaniel,

Thanks for this great question. I agree with the 2 biblical points that @jlyons . Those are the only 2 standards in the Bible we are given.

I would like to give a bit of a context on Matt 19:8-9 where it says: (I will post from the AMP version, as it is explained from the original language Jesus spoke, Aramaic)

“ He said to them, Because of the hardness (stubbornness and perversity) of your hearts Moses permitted you to dismiss and repudiate and divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not beenso [ordained].
(9) I say to you: whoever dismisses (repudiates, divorces) his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery,and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

A lot of people I know who remarried, and not so long ago a Christian former-governor in Jakarta that many people look up to remarries, all on the ground of this verse: because my spouse had adultery so it is ok for me to divorce her and remarry.

But seeing the original word and the AMP translation, the caveat Jesus gave translates to sexual immorality or unchastity(AMP), not specifically adultery. Even though adultery falls under immorality. But why this seemingly general term? It feels as if any form of sexual immorality is a good enough excuse to divorce.

So let’s study from the Luke 16:18 version:
Whoever divorces (dismisses and repudiates) his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Luke totally omits the caveat: except for unchastity. The reason for this is, we have to take in mind that Matthew was understood to write generally to the Jews and Luke to the Gentiles.

Understanding from the Jewish culture of betrothal involved the man pouring a cup of wine and offer it to the woman. By drinking from it, the woman indicated that she had accepted this proposal and the couple were then betrothed. This betrothal was legally binding and was the same as being married only without sexual consummation of the marriage. They could not refuse to marry unless they got a certificate of divorce. The couple would then separate to begin to make preparation for the wedding day. They were not permitted to see each other during this process. The betrothal period would usually last between 12 to 18 months. (This was mirrored by Jesus offering his disciples the cup on Matt 26:27-29)
Source: Understanding Jesus by Joe Amaral (p83) and the Seven Festivals of the Messiah by Edward Chumney (p112)

So could it be, that Luke omits the caveat because this practice doesn’t apply to the Gentiles culture?

But to the Jews, it could mean that if the woman did not guard her chastity during this legally binding betrothal period (which is already considered as legally married, though unconsummated), hence the use of the term unchastity, then they are allowed to get the divorce certificate so they don’t have to go through with the marriage.

So my point is, if this is true, then Jesus is actually saying the marriage bond is to be unbroken in anyway once it is consummated. Because that is the original design of God and no man should do otherwise.

So it would not have pleased God. But because of the hardness of the heart of the people (read: they adamantly want to do what they want regardless of what God has to say about it), then Moses gave them the divorce cert. So it was permitted with reluctance, but not endorsed or encouraged in any way.

Today’s context: I would leave it to the church, usually they have a policy and a stance on this, as long as they are able to give the right biblical understanding.

And for remarried couple, I would rather they do their best to be committed with the new marriage then to give it up again for another reset. And the Church in this case should do their utmost to equip them to do well in the current marriage.

But if they are planning to remarry, I would hope they will consider strongly what God has to say about the design of marriage. At the end, it’s their choice to go through with it or not. I won’t be judging, I don’t know what they have to go through, but I know I’m not perfect either in all my sins, that’s basically what I do. Whatever God says, I still go ahead with my sin anyway (whatever the sin is). If I had obeyed, I wouldn’t have sinned in the first place. But God is still gracious to me. So should we be to other sinners.

I hope what I shared has been at least somewhat educative and you get to learn something anyway. Let’s whatever we do always reflect Christ as best as possible.

Blessings

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Thank you @RoySujanto - I cannot dispute your observation that many Bible teachers hold that the divorce for fornication clause may only refer to the betrothal period.

If I seemed to hedge in my thoughts on this question, it was because of that issue. I cannot prove that the exception extends beyond the betrothal, but neither can I prove that it doesn’t. The point you made is a valid one.

But also valid is the point that if divorce is not an option after the consummation, and the wife turns out to be a Jezebel, then the husband’s only escape is to stone her. I’m pretty sure even the offending wife would beg to be divorced if confronted with that sentence.

Now some might argue that she should be stoned. Well, okay - but then so should the woman taken in adultery in John 8:3-11, for that matter.

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Thanks James and Roy.

May I ask two of you and others about this verse?

“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.”
I Corinthians 7:10‭-‬11 NKJV

‘Depart’ is divorce or just separation? And about the ‘remain unmarried or reconciled to her husband’, only two options is provided.

In today’s circular context, after separation for a numbers of years and then the marriage is annulled, ie divorced.

And the wife and husband role is interchangeable in today’s circular context.

And marriage is not a contract between men and women but is a convenant between God, men and women in the biblical context.

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Hi @htdaniel,

In Jesus’ time, like James pointed out, the wife cannot divorce the man. So if she finds the husband unbearable, she will just “depart” or leave him. And thus she can come back to resume the marriage by reconciling with the husband, without remarrying him.

In 1 Cor 7:11, it goes further to say the husband is not to “send her away”, this is a term for properly divorcing her, or permitting her to leave with a divorce certificate.

So, Paul was responding to the them within the legal confines of their normal practice during those times.

But today’s time, both the husband and wife can propose the divorce legally.So answering your question, it is most equivalent to divorce, I guess. But I don’t see anything wrong with it applying to normal separation too, as that was the context then, since the wife was unable to divorce the husband.

For role, I believe the Bible is clear that the man is to be the Spiritual Leader of the household, and the wife is to help (ezer) him live out this role. But the tasks are interchangeable for today’s context. A man could wash the laundry, while the lady repairs the car if she’s into cars. But major, especially spiritual decision, in the household, it is still good practice to let the man make the final decision and take responsibility for it. It is the burden of the spiritual head. Of course the wife could chip in with inputs and feedback, but she should practice submission if there is disagreement, and the man to practice sacrificing for the sake of the family as the Bible commands. But if the man is intending to beat up or physically abuse or harm the family, then the wife has all rights to defend (This isn’t about the wife’s submission, this is subjugation by the husband).

And you are right, marriage was a sacred covenant between God, man and woman.

Hope that helps. Blessings.

As we mentioned in the second case above, in the Roman world, either spouse could abandon the other effectively divorcing them in the process - divorce was a very informal affair.

And you’re right - a Christian marriage is a triune covenant.

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