Ichthys Acronym Image

Home             Site Links

Marriage and the Bible

Word RTF

Question #1:

Hi Robert,

With respect to the advanced theology of the assumed "Pauline Privilege" regarding 1 Cor. 7:15, I ask for your kind scholarly input attentive to this sincere matter.

If the said Pauline Privilege is indeed true, then according to Paul's own admission in 1 Cor. 7:12 whereby he states that he is speaking from his own personal opinion and not that of the Lord's regarding 1 Cor. 7:15, then why and by what authority, if as stated the Pauline Privilege is actually true, would Paul have taken the liberty to 'Amend/Augument' Jesus' direct commandment regarding the insisted Fornication only EXCEPTION for Divorce and subsequent Remarriage (Matt. 5:32, 19:9)?

Likewise, why would Jesus not have advanced the additional Pauline Privilege exception as well...seeing the extreme importance of such a legitimate concern?

Response #1:

In 1st Corinthians 7:12, Paul's statement is not inconsistent with anything the Lord said. Indeed, since the scripture is the "mind of Christ" and "the Word of God", he could have said nothing in scripture that was inconsistent with the truth – that is the doctrine of divine inspiration. I have often seen claims about various inconsistencies – especially between the two testaments – but whenever I have studied and pondered these things, the same thing always results: I find the Bible to be 100% consistent from front to back.

In terms of this particular comment, it seems to me that Paul is actually taking things a step further. Divorce of unbelievers is of course precedented in the Old Testament (e.g., Ezra 10:11), but for his gentile audience Paul gives instructions not to divorce even so – no doubt as the principle of maintaining the integrity of the Jewish race as a community is no longer an issue during the calling out of the wider Church. So there is no contradiction at all, merely a proper application of the same divine truths to somewhat different circumstances.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Robert,

Thank you for your kind and scholarly input to my question.

I completely agree that Scripture cannot be inconsistent between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Paul.

My concern is this...why would God shortly thereafter the Crucifixion of Jesus EXPAND the direct commandment/teaching of Jesus regarding Divorce/Remarriage (Matt. 5:32, 19:9) to include 'abandonment' (Pauline Privilege), respective of the teaching of Paul in 1st Cor. 7:15 - if indeed that is the correct interpretation of 1st Cor. 7:15?

As a Jew Jesus came under the Mosaic Law and was well aware of Ezra 10:11, but mentioned no such exclusion for an Unbeliever's abandonment of a Believer as a legitimate grounds for Divorce and subsequent Remarriage. Jesus declared his teaching on Divorce/Remarriage to WHOSOEVER (Jew/Gentile - Saved/Unsaved alike) and only permitted the singular EXCEPTION of Fornication - but abandonment (Pauline Privilege) is never once mentioned.

Why would Jesus so narrowly have constrained his legitimacy for Divorce to ONLY one EXCEPTION - Fornication, if it was God's intended will to shortly afterwards include the Pauline Privilege as well?

That being the case, are we then to assume that Paul's teachings are to supersede the teachings of Jesus as the final word for Scriptural authority?

Response #2:

I don't see Paul's statements as superseding anything Jesus taught, merely explaining and expanding, and putting things into a context suitable for gentiles as well as Jews. After all, the Jewish people and, even more particularly, the Jewish nation was supposed to be a believing nation, and so much so that it should have been the case that there was no such thing as a believer finding him or herself married to an unbeliever. The only way that such a thing could happen (again, ideally, and so in the way the OT scripture approaches things) would be in the case of marriage to a non-Jew. If a person married someone who turned out to be an enemy of the Lord (for it surely wouldn't be the case that someone had never heard of the Lord in Israel), then the marriage troubles would be the least of the problems. When the gospel was being given to gentiles who were married but who had never heard about Jesus before, the situation undoubtedly came up often where one party would believe and the other would not. Our Lord was sent to "the lost sheep of Israel", and so this was not a situation Jesus needed to address to His contemporaries (since even though many were in fact unbelievers, they certainly knew they were in error on this score, a matter of greater importance than marriage status).

Also, our Lord's purpose in taking the marriage question back to the Genesis example was to show how misguided it was to parse the Law to the point of reversing its true meaning. This was the same sort of attitude that was leading His contemporaries to reject Him as their Savior. That is to say, the true purpose of Jesus' statements on marriage were not to cover each and every possible situation in a very complicated question, but to put the issue of God's will first and foremost, and to bring the question back around to "are you willing to believe God, or not?" Paul's purpose is very much different, namely, to deal with the practicalities of the marriage question, and in a mixed gentile and Jewish environment at that. So he expands but does not supersede or contradict.

Finally, even Paul does not answer all of our questions, and the topic of marriage, divorce and remarriage is one of the most difficult in scripture to explain from all possible angles (only people who have never been married or separated or divorced are tempted to think "it's actually quite simple"). For instance, Paul does not actually say outright that if an unbelieving spouse separates, the believer may remarry. I think the answer is, yes, they are allowed to do so, but he doesn't actually say it.

For more on all this, please see the following study which contains other links at Ichthys too:

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your excellent response to such a difficult and personally sensitive question.

If we accept the fact that Jesus was teaching, not just the Jews only, under the Mosaic Law, but the world/Church at large on this particular subject of Divorce/Remarriage (WHOMSOEVER), then we must answer the compelling concern: When Jesus declared that "Except for the Cause of Fornication" Divorce was not permissible - seeing that his EXCEPTION only covers one specific CAUSE and that being FORNICATION, and Jesus was the absolute authoritative FINAL WORD of God...if then shortly thereafter God ENLARGED the Jesus EXCEPTION to include the Pauline Privilege, etc., then God had indeed changed his critical ruling on Divorce/Remarriage in midstream - by changing his own mind.

In summary, a commanding declaration of EXCEPT for one specific CAUSE leaves no room for ENLARGEMENT if spoken by someone of ABSOLUTE authority - Jesus himself.

Are we to assume then that God changed his mind regarding Divorce/Remarriage from the brief time of the teaching of Jesus to the time of the teaching of Paul?

Did God truly ENLARGE his one and only EXCEPTION regarding Adam and Eve and their permission to "FREELY Eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden but (EXCEPT) the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil"?

Why would Jesus not have included the Pauline Privilege in addition to his one and only EXCEPTION of Fornication?

The teaching of Jesus and Paul cannot be inconsistent.

Response #3:

I believe I have already answered this question. However, if a person takes the position that the Matthew and 1st Corinthians passages are inconsistent, then the Bible would have to be fallible (and that is not the case). If a person wishes to take the gospel as having precedent over the epistles, then, in my view, that person has terribly misunderstood how the Bible must be interpreted. In that event, we might also have to throw out Matthew. After all, while Matthew 19:9 says "except for porneia", at Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18 there is no exception whatsoever. So the same question would have to be posed for Mark and Luke. Why was Matthew privileged to add an exception which does not occur in the other two synoptic gospels? The answer, of course, is that the two are not at all contradictory. Jesus is speaking with hard-hearted men who were using the Law incorrectly as a tool to serve their own lusts no matter whom it hurt. Leaving out the exception makes the point more emphatically. Adding it in one of the gospels reminds us that the full picture is more complicated – yet the point is simple enough: marriage is serious business, and a person does not have the right to abrogate it for inconsequential personal reasons.

Scripture must be interpreted on the basis of the totality of the evidence. The entire Bible is the "mind of Christ", and fastening onto one verse to the exclusion of other verses may lead to misinterpretation. The truth has always been the truth, and the Bible contains all the truth we will ever need – rightly interpreted. As explained before, therefore, I do not see any "change" in the rules when it comes to Paul's explanations. Jesus was addressing a particular question: "Is it permissible for a man to just up and divorce his wife whenever he feels like it?" The answer is a resounding "no!" That is what the gospel passages mean. Divorcing them from their context can lead to building a theology of marriage which is in some measure incorrect. The fact that Paul's explanation of the rules in a different context – i.e., not speaking with men who want to dump their wives and be justified by the Law in so doing, but to gentile believers with legitimate questions not answered in the gospels – proves that very point.

In Jesus our dear Lord who is the truth,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Good morning Bob

If a woman professes to know Christ, is counseled and married by a pastor, then divorces because of differences, and remarries again, acknowledged in the presence of God (at a town justice), is she guilty of adultery?

I am seeking guidance, finding myself too close to the situation, and I am looking you as one more knowledgeable of the scriptures.

Thanks again,

Response #4:

I note that in a subsequent email you mention you have "found peace" on this one. It is often the case that in difficult questions if we continue to read the Word, seek guidance, and of course listen to the counsel of the Spirit that the answer comes, sometimes even before we expect it to come. I would be loath to pronounce anyone "guilty" of anything in an actual real-life situation, even if I were personally very close to that situation. That is because in situations such as this one involving "disputable matters" (there are many biblical ins and outs on this issue), what is going on in the person in question's heart is often the key point. Also, when it comes to other people's lives and the interaction between people in marriage, there is often much we do not know. It is always best to leave such judgments to the Lord, even as it is also often prudent to distance ourselves from problematic situations and individuals, yet never abandoning mercy and compassion in the process – in other words, how we react to such situations and how we comport ourselves requires mature spiritual judgment.

And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling [them] out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Jude 1:22-23 KJV

When it comes to the complicated issue of marriage-divorce-remarriage, the details are critical (and these are often situational and internal, therefore unknown and unknowable to outsiders, at least in part). You might want to look at this Ichthys posting which is on this very subject (and which will have many links for you to other relevant treatments): Marriage "Matters".

Yours in the One who died for all of our sins, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Bob L.

Question #5:

Good Morning Bob.

I just wanted to re visit my 'adultery dilemma' for a moment, just for clarity on my selfish interest. This is not to justify. [personal details omitted]

Response #5:

I guess this proves my main point – I would never have guessed any of this from your previous emails (any of which would have made any specific judgment on my part all the more off-center). Clearly, if someone is living under our roof, they have to follow our rules, and all the more so if we are acting in loco parentis. If we have a particular relationship of this sort with someone, our mandate to advise – and their obligation to respond – is clearly greater than would be the case with mere acquaintances or other church members. What you say about life-witness is also certainly very true. It is one thing for individual members who are not involved in any sort of prominent activity in the church to be erring in obviously compromised ways if they are not making any issue of it to the church generally; it is quite another for someone in a position of prominence to act in unbecoming ways even after it becomes known to the church. This is the one area where "church discipline" actually is supposed to play a role, and for what it is worth your approach seems to me to have been wonderfully well calibrated. In such matters it is easy for some to bury their heads in the sand and for others to come on like "gang-busters", both of which extremes have their problems in a situation like this. But to send just the right message and still act in love and mercy, keeping the lines of communication open, requires a good deal of mature spiritual discernment.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

I read your responses to questions about divorce and a few questions arose as a result.

a) Firstly, could you please clarify the meaning of Matthew 19:9: But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except for adultery and marries another commits adultery against her.

b)Linked to it is the question about the following part of your response: And the fact that an additional stricture is given here only against remarriage when the exception is not met means, ipso facto, that divorce is sometimes permissible even where there is no adultery (even if it is being discouraged as a regular practice), and that it is instead remarriage that is the problem (i.e., that is when and how "he commits adultery against her"; cf. Mk.10:11-12; Lk.16:18).

I didn't know that divorce was permissible even when there is no adultery, as I thought, based on my understanding of Matthew 19:9, that only when the exception applies, is the divorce allowed.

c) Could you also clarify: For we should understand by now that the Matt.19:8-9 exception, adultery, is directed not towards divorce (which is not being prohibited at all), but towards re-marriage.

d) Could you clarify the circumstances when one is and is not allowed to remarry?

e) Luke 16:18 says ' Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery', without specifying circumstances when that would be permissible.

Response #6:

Marriage, divorce, and remarriage is one of the knottiest sets of problems in scripture. If you have read my posted responses on these issues you know that simple answers are sometimes not possible. What I always try to point out to anyone asking questions about these matters is that scripture does allow me to give some general advice, even if it is not what people want to hear:

1) Are you single? Stay single.

2) Are you married? Stay married.

3) Are you divorced? Stay single

4) Have you remarried? Stay married.

This is not to say that if a person violates the above that they are committing sins. That really is the nub of the issue. People generally want to be able to do what they want to do and be told that what they have done is OK and not sinful. Alternatively, after the fact people sometimes develop a guilty conscience about what they have done even if it is not truly sinful and may seek "solutions" which are devastating for themselves and others. Problems occur because people "do what they do", and, being people, will continue to "do what they do" in all matters romantic as long as they have a free hand to do so (i.e., in some cultures, especially in the past, it was not so easy to divorce or remarry as it is today – I believe the Anglican church owes its existence primarily to this point). Without question, the devil is heavily involved in everything having to do with sex and relationships precisely because it is such fertile ground for leading Christians into sin, compromising and complicating their lives, and confusing the issue as to what we are here to do.

Regardless of the sinfulness of the action or not, marrying when one is not meant to marry or marrying the wrong person or marrying a person whom one should not marry (i.e., a divorced person who had no right to remarry or an unbeliever) brings problems. Likewise divorcing when one does not really have legitimate biblical grounds (see below) or when staying married might have been possible can also bring problems. Remarrying after divorce is often problematic, and attempting to end a marriage on the grounds that one or the other parties really didn't have the right to marry or remarry is almost always wrong and will bring great heartache for all. But regardless, as I say, of the sinfulness of marrying or divorcing or remarrying etc., it always amazes me that Christians seem to be greatly concerned about sin in this area far more than in other areas, and more concerned after the fact than before (where such concern might have made a difference). It is no wonder that this is one of Satan's prime target areas for stirring up trouble and attempting to disrupt Christian lives. One thing that should be born in mind in all this is that in the modern world, for better or for worse, getting married, divorced and remarried is a fairly easy proposition (at least by historical standards). While that does not in the least trivialize the institution in God's eyes, it does mean that even if a person wants to stay married, he/she may find him/herself divorced against his/her will with little that can be done about it. It is in that context that I would wish to consider the two fundamental statements in scripture about marriage:

The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
Genesis 2:18

Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.
1st Corinthians 7:1-2

These two passages do not justify unauthorized remarriage by divorced persons, but they certainly indicate that, given a divorce taking place, staying single may result in greater spiritual turmoil and greater sin than remarrying. To be honest, I am always happy to fall back upon my "four points" of advice above and let individual Christians make their own decisions. As a teacher, it is incumbent upon me to point out that there are consequences for violating God's rules (both in terms of divine discipline and also in the natural consequences that flow from such things), but I really do feel it to be a mistake for Christians to become overly and neurotically fixated upon personal love, romance, sex, marriage, divorce, remarriage, and all of the issues related thereto. It doesn't take a genius to observe from human experience that a good marriage and a good family are blessings, but that a bad marriage resulting in divorce is a great heartache and the beginning of much trouble. Therefore if contemplating any "move" in this area, it is extremely important to pay careful attention to what we know very clearly from scripture is right and what is wrong, and to seek God's guidance carefully in any case, especially if the matter is in any way disputable.

What I suppose I would most want any Christian reading this to take away from it are the following key points: 1) there are more important things in the Christian life than marital issues however defined (we are here to serve Jesus Christ); 2) even if we have loneliness through being single or divorced, or heartache because of an unhappy or failed marriage, or discipline and trouble because of some violation of God's ground rules in these things, it most certainly does not mean that our lives are over as far as Jesus is concerned. The worst thing we can do if we are not in the number of that small happy few who have blissful first marriages is to allow our worldly unhappiness to detract from our main mission in this life: spiritual growth, progress and service in the cause of the Church of Jesus Christ.

As to your specifics:

a) In Matthew 19:9, Jesus states that a man who divorces his wife and marries another woman has committed adultery against his first wife – unless wife #1 was divorced for adultery on her part. These words are very straightforward but they do not cover every possible situation. Apparently the man could divorce his wife for no reason and not be guilty of adultery as long as he didn't remarry (Matt.5:32 assumes remarriage as is clear both from Matt.19:9 and the second half of Matt.5:32). It is important to understand the purpose of our Lord's comment here, namely, calling to account the hypocrisy of the legalists of His day who used the Law to get what they wanted even though it violated a sacred obligation to the great detriment of the party wronged. A woman divorced in those days was shamed for life and would have little recourse but to go back to the household of her family – if they would have her. She had done nothing wrong (absent adultery) but had her life destroyed because the man wished to have a new wife – and used the Law to proclaim that what he was doing was absolutely legitimate!

It's pretty clear that in the West at least most divorces do not have this effect today and so are not rooted in the same hypocrisy, so attempting to make our Lord's words mean more than they say here is not appropriate. That does not mean that a man (or woman) who tires of partner #1 and divorces them in order to marry partner #2 is not dreadfully in the wrong (and will no doubt be disciplined for such behavior if said person is a Christian), but in my observation of such matters such cases are relatively rare even though divorce is frequent. As I say, the best advice is to follow the "four points", for, to be sure, even though a divorce and remarriage may not be for the reasons the Pharisees and company were entertaining or have at all the same consequences and may not even have a wronged party (sometimes couples split amicably for any number of reasons), nevertheless violating God's ground rules has its negative results.

Still and all, it is still "better to marry than to burn" (1Cor.7:9), so that in many cases of divorce, a person getting remarried while problematic is better than staying single and being plunged into all manner of spirituality-destroying behaviors and gross sin as a result of trying to avoid the particular sin of (possibly) unauthorized remarriage. It is often the case in life that when we make a mistake if we are not careful (and sometimes even if we are) we will find ourselves in a position of weakness that necessitates us choosing "the lesser of two evils". When David told Achish at 1st Samuel 28:2 "you shall know what your servant can do" and found himself on the point of going into battle against God's people, this was certainly a case of being forced into a bad decision by the prior bad decision of seeking security in Gath instead of continuing to elude Saul in the wilderness as he should have done (cf. his rationalizations at 1Sam.27:1). God "bailed David out" on that occasion; He did not "bail out" Paul when he went to Jerusalem against orders and was pressured into sponsoring a group of young men taking a Jewish vow in the temple. In all things, if we make bad decisions, especially in an area like marriage where long-term obligations, responsibilities, and other people's welfare and interests are concerned, we are going to find ourselves at least from time to time in similar "positions of weakness" where there will be no "good" answer.

b) Matthew 19:9 is speaking only of male action. But what about female action? Surely, if a man commits adultery a woman can divorce and remarry too. Jesus does not say she cannot – it is just that this is not the point of the legalistic hypocrisy He is in the context castigating (and this certainly illustrates the point that our Lord's purpose was not at all to lay out all the possible permutations). Also, what about a case where the individual has no choice? There are plenty of occasions, especially nowadays, when the initiative to divorce is not only not justified but comes from the other party. In such cases there would seem to be the right to remarry. Finally (not to exhaust the issue but just to add one last point), what about situations of extreme mental cruelty or abuse? There are ways of effectively ending a marriage in fact even if no legal papers have been served. A man (and more rarely a woman) can drive the spouse out of the house in many ways – or can leave and not return. These are just some of the considerations for divorce and remarriage that in my view an honest reading of Matthew 19:9 cannot be made to absolutely prohibit.

c) I think I have covered this: the man is told not to remarry, not that he cannot divorce (which apparently he can for any "hard-hearted" reason, though with His further comments our Lord makes it abundantly clear what He thinks about that).

d and e) Remarriage is perhaps the most difficult of the marriage questions and because of the subjective nature of some of the arguments that must be made to explore it fully I would prefer to leave it with what has already been said. There are certainly very clear cases where remarriage would be wrong, namely, anything closely resembling what our Lord condemns in Matthew 19:9 where one party dumps the other merely so as to marry someone else even though there is no real reason to end the marriage except for gratifying the lust of the moment. Cases of abandonment, abuse, being unwillingly divorced by the other party, relatively amicable divorce all beg the question of "whether or not it is legitimate to remarry". That is a question which – after stating the "four points" – I think best left to the individual in question (and he/she would be well advised to listen carefully to what God is saying on the matter both in the Bible and too their conscience before proceeding).

People being people, no doubt many remarriages are "wrong" to one degree or another. Whether they are "more wrong" than the consequences for many of trying to remain single amid the temptations of this world is genuine question (sometimes because of past errors we are all put into the position of having to "lie to Achish" rather than to "die in place"). The most important point to emphasize about remarriage, however, is that once married, even though it is a second marriage, all of the strictures and responsibilities of marriage now apply anew (including the advice "stay married now"). It is a bad thing to wrongly remarry (a perspective which I counsel should be considered before the fact of remarriage – but dropped from consideration after the deed is done) and, depending upon "how wrong" it is, it can also be a very painful thing. In most cases, however, there are "worse things" (this is the perspective I counsel which must be adopted after the fact of having taken on the new responsibility and set of serious obligations). We all load ourselves down with much unnecessary baggage in this life, and marriage, especially a bad or a wrong one, is a particularly heavy load. I counsel all to avoid such, but if they have not managed to do so, I encourage all to make the best of their situation as they find it (cf. 1Cor.7:20), and get re-focused on why we are here: to grow spiritually and help others do the same. God is certainly capable of disciplining whomever needs to be punished to just the right degree, and also of helping us through even when we have put ourselves in a weak situation through our own sins and mistakes.

Marriage "Matters"

No Grounds for Divorce?

A Conversation about Divorce and Remarriage

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Christian Divorce and Remarriage

What about Christians who Remarry?

Divorce and Remarriage: What does the Bible say?

Question #7:

Could you please clarify 1 Corinthians 7:36:

But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.

What is the meaning and context of the passage? What is its application to today, if any?

Response #7:

This passage is talking about arranged marriages and I note that the word "daughter" is in italics meaning that the NASB has supplied this as an interpretation – wrongly: the passage is actually addressing not the father but the man to whom the young woman has been pledged in marriage. What this passage is saying is that becoming a believer trumps all prior obligations and contracts, but in a righteous and responsible way. Arranged marriage was by far the most common sort of marriage in the ancient world, not only in Israel but also in Greece and Rome. Paul is addressing a situation where a man became a believer but had previously been pledged/committed/betrothed/engaged to a woman ("virgin" means here essentially a young girl who was subject to her father/family's decision in binding her to the young man in question). Often these arrangements were made while the two were both infants, although it was also not uncommon for the engagement to be made between an adult male and an infant girl. But what happens if the man in question becomes a believer before the marriage is consummated? Is he still obligated? Paul, as we have seen, commends remaining single for any and all who can handle it (although he commends marriage for any and all who cannot be continent – and that is the category to which the vast majority of human beings belong). He therefore gives it as his opinion that such a person has free will as to whether or not to proceed with the arranged marriage. He does not say that the person can abrogate the contract and marry someone else. He merely says that marrying in such cases is not a sin (even, apparently, if the person is an unbeliever), and that not marrying is the better decision, at least theoretically (though he allows as to how that might not be practicable for unstated reasons – i.e., the woman is getting to be "past her prime" so that we may assume that Paul envisions a situation where the man would rather not get married but feels it to be unfair to the woman for whatever reason not to marry her – but he does not have to marry her).

There are still large parts of the world where arranged marriages are more the rule than the exception, so that in those areas the passage would apply as is. For us in the West, it might possibly be concluded that if we have made a commitment before becoming Christian that we should weigh after the fact whether it is best to honor the commitment by getting married or to refrain. The situations are not precisely comparable (e.g., the options for women and the meaning and significance of marriage contracts then and now are quite different), and there may be other circumstances which make the comparison even more inexact (e.g., what if it is not a question of a previous pair of unbelievers but rather of two marginal believers where one now has become serious about Jesus?). In general, I think this passage can be taken to mean in almost all circumstances that worldly commitments are important, should not be abrogated for light and insubstantial reasons, and should definitely be given full and careful consideration before departing from them on "Christian grounds", but that Christians are not absolutely obligated to follow all prior worldly commitments after salvation when such arrangements seriously complicate their efforts to serve Jesus Christ as they have been called to do (and when such commitments can be honorably and legally discharged in another fashion). The things to avoid in such circumstances are on the one hand not to so minimize the importance of following Jesus Christ as the entire point to our lives that we allow the way we were positioned in the world prior to salvation (or spiritual revival) to continue to dominate our whole approach afterwards, and on the other hand not to use our new (or newly revived) relationship with Jesus as a "hammer of rationalization" to break up anything we now find uncomfortable or hard or disagreeable, claiming that we are doing so "to honor Christ" whereas in fact we are only using Him as an excuse to pass on our responsibilities.

Question #8:

Q&A regarding divorce and remarriage: You wrote: For we should understand by now that the Matt.19:8-9 exception, adultery, is directed not towards divorce (which is not being prohibited at all), but towards re-marriage . . . and . . . I think I have covered this: the man is told not to remarry, not that he cannot divorce (which apparently he can for any "hard-hearted" reason, though with His further comments our Lord makes it abundantly clear what He thinks about that).

Matthew 19:9 (NASB) And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

I am still not clear as to why you interpret the exception of adultery as referring to re-marriage and not divorce?

Response #8:

It's in the logic of the language. The divorce part is in the protasis (i.e., the "if" clause) of the conditional along with remarriage, but with remarriage coming second. Both things have to be true for the adultery to occur, namely, divorce (for an insubstantial reason) and remarriage. If a man divorces his wife for an insubstantial reason, it may be wrong, it may be sinful, but it does not constitute the adultery our Lord mentions here unless it is accompanied by remarriage. Moreover, it is the act of remarrying when divorce was not legitimate is what amounts to committing adultery (an important point to see inasmuch as there are some groups out there who vilely wish to say that remarrieds are "committing adultery" whenever they have conjugal relations).

As I say, really, this passage is all about our Lord calling out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. The only reason they were not just out-and-out engaging in normal adultery was for appearances sake. They misused and abused the Law in order to preserve the fig-leaf of propriety and still get what they wanted, namely, a different woman. Our Lord makes it clear that what they are doing under legal pretense is really just the same as if they had used no pretense at all.

Question #9:

You wrote: For us in the West, it might be possibly be concluded that if we have made a commitment before becoming Christian that we should weigh after the fact whether it is best to honor the commitment by getting married or to refrain.

I'm not sure I understand you correctly here - could you clarify this thought?

Response #9:

My point is that one application of the passage dealing with early-life betrothal is to analogous situations in modern life. If a person was engaged to an unbeliever (or otherwise committed in some way), then is saved, that would seem to change the calculus in the same way Paul says it does for those in the ancient world who are committed to someone before they became Christians. The analogy is not exact, but, as I (tried to) say, this is something that it would be proper to weigh, namely, the critical change of circumstance to being a believer before the marriage was officially consummated. As in the analogy, the believer must do what seems right in his/her heart after due and proper consideration of every aspect of the new situation.

Question #10:

[details omitted by request]

Response #10:

Good to make your acquaintance. Let me begin by saying that 1) there are quite a number of posts at Ichthys which deal the with difficult issues of marriage and divorce (for a key link which will lead you to others see: Marriage "Matters"); and that 2) what I have tried to provide in all of these answers to readers' questions is positive, scriptural guidance. That is to say, it has never been my purpose to lay out a detailed and comprehensive set of "rules" meant to cover all possible eventualities.

Paul's treatment of the issue in 1st Corinthians chapter seven shows among other things that the list of possible circumstantial variations is quite long. I think it would be impossible to produce a comprehensive "law of marriage" that would be both all-encompassing and absolutely doctrinally correct. For one thing, God knows what is in the heart of each person, and in many cases that is the critical factor. As I often remark in these exchanges, the best situation is to stay single; but because of the temptations of this world and the need for most of us "not to be alone" marriage is the God-given alternative to single status. Once married, we should, as Christians, stay married. Divorce, however, does happen, and is especially prevalent in our day and age for a variety of reasons (not least of which are the legal and societal permissiveness in this regard) – and it is certainly possible, after all, for a Christian to be divorced by his/her spouse against his/her will and for not fault of his/her own. So while Christians should stay married, if a Christian finds him/herself divorced, then that person is "back to square one" and should now stay single if possible. Etc. There are all types of marriages, good, bad, ill-advised, and scripturally forbidden. There are all types of divorces, necessary, unnecessary, ill-advised, and scripturally forbidden. The same can be true of remarriage as well (one of the more difficult subjects in this regard because of the obvious multiplication of variables since original single status). My point in going through this litany at the start is to make it clear that while I am always willing to answer questions on this subject, the last thing I would wish to do is to give the impression that all this is a matter of "finding out the rules" and then "playing the game". Marriage is not a game. It is a very serious responsibility and one which is quite difficult to fulfill in every respect under the best of circumstances. Hence my continual harping on the basic principles: 1) better not to marry; 2) if you do, don't divorce; 3) if you do divorce don't remarry; 4) if you do . . . (etc.).

As to your first comment, I don't find anything to disagree with here, and don't find your comment inconsistent with what I have previously written. What I would add is that the "willing to [continue to] live with him" part of verse twelve of 1st Corinthians seven has to be interpreted in the context of "carrying out all marital duties in an honorable way". Just for example, if the unbelieving husband "wishes to stay married" but is unfaithful, or is bigamous (a larger problem in the ancient world), or abuses the wife, these factors would all have to be considered: I don't believe that the scripture is saying that a woman would have to remain in such a marriage.

As to infidelity, it is important to not that our Lord's exception in Matthew 19:9 (Gr.: me epi porneia), is included by Him not to lay out all the possibilities of divorce et al., but to reprove the Pharisees who were divorcing their spouses willy-nilly precisely so that they might then marry someone else. That is primarily what our Lord is criticizing, namely, the abuse of defenseless woman by powerful men. This is a spiritual criticism, but marriage is a legal institution. So it seems best for Christians to acknowledge the difference and cleave unto the spirit of our Lord's words in a way that does not defeat their whole purpose – as the Pharisees were doing in twisting Moses' words. If we are acting honorably and if we are putting the Lord and His will for our life in first place, such questions and complications rarely come up. However, if we are looking for an "out" (or an "in"), that is, for a scriptural justification for what we already want to do and are probably going to do anyway, we risk being no better than the Pharisees.

What I mean to say is that there are legitimate reasons for separation which may not be delineated directly in scripture. Physical abuse is one example. In such instances, should a women remain under the same roof with a man who is harming her (and risk physical or emotional or spiritual destruction)? To teach that scripture "says so" would not only be incorrect (since it says nothing whatsoever about that subject) but also completely contrary to the whole tone and tenor of the Bible. And if a woman separates to preserve her life, should she be prohibited from putting a legal end to what has in all reality ended? Is she required to endure legal limbo to possible great personal disadvantage for the sake of a fiction which exists only in civil law? I am very sure that this is not what our Lord had in mind and even more confident that this is not all what His words mean. As I say, they are addressed to prevent abuse on the part of some powerful, hypocritical, self-righteous men who were destroying the lives of defenseless women – to do as some would do with these passages turns this purpose completely on its head.

As to your last comment, I hope I have already addressed it above, but I will add that my advice to a woman who is enduring physical and mental abuse in any relationship is always the same: get out from under the same roof with the abuser immediately, and end the relationship as soon as possible (the link given at the outset has more about this).

I do promise not to publish your part of this email without your prior permission. When I do publish emails, I always do so anonymously and with identifying information removed. I do hope you will reconsider about your part, as this is a question which is very important to very many Christians, many in the same situation. It often takes a year or so before these end up on the website in any case.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hello,

I have a question. My mother is married to a horrible man. He has driven her son away and now is driving me away from my mother. My mother is a good Christian and thinks that she can save him and being miserable with him is what God wants. She puts scripture to me as an excuse to stay with this man. I'm having a hard time believing that God would want her to suffer with the "games and spitefulness" he plays. This man uses people to his satisfaction and when people don't comply to his wishes he tries everything he can to make them suffer. Other then pray for this individual which I have done, I cannot see a way out of the grief he causes my family. He's like a horrible seed. He says he's a Christian, however his actions highly indicate otherwise. He states that because he's a baptist and has been baptized he is forgiven his sins. I tell him that's like an alcoholic completing AA groups and then goes drinking. It's your actions beyond the acceptance if god that make you a good person. Please give me some references that I can better understand and help my family thru this situation.

Sincerely,

Response #11:

I certainly sympathize with your situation and must say that from what you have shared with me I would tend to agree with your position in this matter. For one thing, a person who deliberately sets out to destroy loving family relationships is by no means living in a Christian manner, and that certainly calls begs the question  of how someone who behaves in the way you describe could truly be a Christian (at least not a good one who is walking with Jesus as he/she should). I hasten to add that one of the main reasons I am always loathe to give advice in specific personal situations such as this is that as a third party there will inevitably be details of which I am unaware. So I can only talk about what I believe scripture has to say about these things. As you have probably read at the site, I always counsel women who are suffering physical and/or mental abuse to separate (see the link: Marriage "matters"). Of course that is a decision they still have to make for themselves, and it is usually a difficult one, even when it is clear that they have been giving the matter serious consideration even before receiving that advice. In this case, it seems that your mother is not even considering the possibility. We all have free will, and in my observation and personal experience there are few things as frustrating and worrying as when family members we love are in dire spiritual or physical danger but are unwilling to take the steps necessary to be safe. All we can do in such cases is to continue to offer them our love and understanding, continue to give them the best advice we can (taking care not to alienate them by being too vociferous but also not being shy about the truth – it is a fine line to walk sometimes) – and continue to pray for them.

I do promise to say a prayer for your mother – and also for you that the Lord will give you the patience and the wisdom to continue to approach this difficult situation in a godly, Christian way.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12:

Dear Dr Luginbill,

Ah much appreciated Sir all glory to Christ. I'm truly grateful and happy to hear that his son will be Fine and that Our Sovereign Lord truly is in Control its humbling.

Also thank you for the opportunity to ask you my question; it's a little less 'Theological', but . . . [details withheld].

But my main goal as well as this is to please God and prepare for marriage, I need guidance and Advice.

But I hope you could assist me kindly

In Christ

Response #12:

Romance is a difficult topic – and one that is little considered by scripture. In Bible times (both testaments), arranged marriages were the rule (not much romance there), and of course Paul tells us that staying single is the best way to be able to serve the Lord in this life (1Cor.7). Of course, few of us are capable of that, so that marriage is certainly not forbidden to Christians and is in most cases necessary: not only is it "not good" for most of us to be alone, but also there is the issue of . . . "[to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband" (1Cor.7:2 KJV). How we get from "point A to point B" is something not discussed in scripture, at all as far as I am aware, and there certainly has to be a reason for that. Believe me when I say that I very much do understand that this issue can easily become the dominant one in a person's life – indeed it takes a good deal of willpower and a close walk with the Lord to keep it from becoming such for those who are unmarried. I would only ask you to remember that we are here in this world to serve the Lord, something we do through growing in Him, walking with Him, and producing for Him. Marriage and family, if it happens, is not our spiritual purpose even though it is an often necessary part of life – just like having a job is part of life. But just as we would be making a big mistake if we felt that our job was more important than doing what Jesus wanted us to do, the same would be true of marriage and family. Christians are responsible for being faithful to their boss and to their family – but first and foremost for being faithful to their Boss and their Family. God helping us we will do it all and well too to the glory of the One who bought us with His blood. But especially when we are contemplating something like marriage, keeping the priorities straight in our heads and our hearts is very important to do. The minute we start putting a "nice life" over "a life pleasing to Jesus" we are likely to get neither.

I think your determination to be patient and trust the Lord is exactly the right approach. No human being can tell you who the "right one" is for you or "when is the right time", and as you report this is often not within our power to effect the way we would most like to do so. But as far as preparing is concerned, I would only wish to point out that preparing to do anything well in life is best accomplished by Christians in the same manner: by growing in the truth of the Word, walking closer with Jesus day by day, and helping others do the same in the ministries to which we have been called. If we do this consistently, we will be surprised at how everything else will take care of itself:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ who is our love of loves,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Dr Luginbill,

Amen, your godly advice was very helpful and truly Sound and I am most grateful and appreciate your response.

Its true what you said, one of the things you highlighted "I very much do understand that this issue can easily become the dominant one in a person's life – indeed it takes a good deal of willpower and a close walk with the Lord to keep it from becoming such"

That is my current battle and from the beginning my desire has been to place God first and to follow his plan for my Life. But as the more things haven't gone the way I want them to, its gotten more discouraging and sort of left me feeling Sad too, when I know that God is the only one I can turn to.

Please keep me in your Prayers; my prayer is that the Lord strengthens and disciplines me that I also continue pursuing him.

God bless you sir.

In Christ

Response #13:

You're very welcome.

I will keep you in prayer, and please know that if you keep to this course the Lord will train you up the way He desires, not only to grow up in Him, but also to grow closer to Him and to serve Him better in whatever capacity He has destined for you. I would also encourage you not to be discouraged. We know by faith that He is "working everything out for the good for those who love Him" (Rom.8:28), but it often does take a large measure of faith to remember this and hold fast to this principle when things are going in an unexpected or unwanted direction. I can tell you from the scriptures and also from personal observation and experience, that even though it may take longer than we want (and it often takes longer than we want), the Lord is always faithful and always delivers those who take refuge in Him. Indeed, a large measure of the training up we receive comes from "waiting on the Lord". If all prayer was answered instantaneously and if no trial or tribulation lasted more than a few days, there wouldn't be much opportunity for us to learn to trust Him nor to demonstrate to the world of men and angels both that we do in fact trust Him more than what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears and feel with our feelings, and that we love and esteem Him far more even than the things we think we need and know we want.

Keep running the race, my friend! There is great reward ahead for all those who keep on to the goal, refusing to weary, refusing to leave the course, never looking back, but seeing the crowns of that glorious day through the darkness of this present, temporary storm.

In the Lord who died for us – for all of our sins – that we might rule with Him in life forevermore.

Bob L.

Question #14:

Robert, before reading your last email I just wanted to thank you for all the correspondence you have provided me and the wealth of help and material. I have now fully printed off 9 binders worth of your material and am working my way through it. I really appreciate your 'fleshed out' translations which clarify the text because I know you are quite knowledgeable with the original Hebrew and Greek texts.

I have some questions:

What are your thoughts on OCD? I assume you are familiar with it.

Where do you take communion?

I read somewhere that as long as a person remains in a second marriage he/she guilty of perpetual adultery and God won't forgive that because it is unrepented of. King David was forgiven with his marriage to Bathsheba because Uriah was dead.

Does this mean someone in this situation must divorce their spouse in order to be considered repentant of this second, unbiblical marriage?

The Greek theologian Spiros Zodhiates said the same thing based on the Greek as far as I remember. That the Lord considers it perpetual adultery.

Please keep me in prayer and I will continue to pray for you and your ministry.

Response #14:

You are most welcome, and I will certainly continue to keep you in prayer.

As to "OCD", I am not trained in this area, so I only have a layman's knowledge of such matters. In my view, most of these psychological conditions constitute extremes of behavior quirks that in milder iterations most of us manifest from time to time. In other words, since anyone can be "a bit paranoid" about something at some time, we can all sympathize with and imagine what full blown paranoia might be like. I have actually received a good many emails from believers on the question of mental sins and preoccupations. I think every believer runs into this sort of thing from time to time, especially after coming to recognize that what we think may be sinful. I generally tell people to relax about it and adopt the mind-set that whatever bad thought may present itself is "something I disagree with", dismiss it as best one can, and move on. If it is felt that the bad thought / bad thinking was accepted or cultivated or "entertained" (which is really where thinking involves the will and sin results; cf. Jas.1:13-15; cf. Ps.7:14), then my advice is to confess it and follow the same procedure. Clearly, doing something bad to someone is worse than talking about it which is worse than thinking about it, so if these battles are being fought on the "thought" level, that is at least early on in the process. Also, if it is a question of wrestling with / battling thoughts which are not really ones a person wants or desires, this is merely another venue where temptation must be resisted. Only if we conjure up bad thoughts deliberately or "own them" by entertaining them are we definitely wading into sinful territory. The evil one is happy to plague us with assuming more, but there is a difference between temptation and sin. What the eyes see and what the flesh lusts for also tempt us considerably, but until we begin to stop rejecting these temptations, entertain them instead, and then start to act on them, it is wrong and dangerous to blame ourselves for having sinful natures which as a matter of course will flare into "temptation mode" whenever any sort of stimulus gains our attention. Our part is to learn how this works, learn what constitutes our more vulnerable areas, and do what we can to avoid the stimulus, recognize the pattern of temptation when it does occur, and shut it down cold whenever tempted. Failing to do these things is what leads to trouble.

Everyone is tempted by his own lust, being dragged away [by it] and enticed [by it]. Then, should lust conceive (i.e., should the person give in to it), it gives birth to sin. And sin, should it be fully carried out to the end (i.e., should the person give in to a life of sin), produces death (i.e., spiritual death, the death of faith).
James 1:14-15

I explain the above verses mainly in terms of longstanding patterns, but the verse "works" on the individual temptation-leading-to-sin and loss of fellowship level as well. In addition to BB 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin, please also see "Who controls our thoughts and emotions" and "The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle" for more on these matters.

On the question of marriage, I have written quite a lot about these things (it's a very "popular" topic, as you may imagine), so let me say right from the start that these fears and worries are incredibly common-place among Christians today, and there are any number of "theologians" out there who are more than happy to give pat, "simple" answers to these complicated issues – no doubt because they are not divorced and did not marry someone who is. I will give you the links below where these issues are treated in detail, however I feel the need to make a few of the points anew because of the nature of your questions:

1) A marriage is a marriage. If a Christian contracts a legal marriage, that person is married henceforth (absent its lawful termination), and has taken on all of the legal and moral responsibilities thereto – point being that just because today I feel guilty or uncomfortable with my marriage for whatever reason is no excuse in the eyes of the law or, much more importantly, in the eyes of the Lord for ending it or evading my responsibilities regarding it. Now the law, especially in this country, gives me a number of avenues for terminating my marriage if I am unhappy, conflicted, or whatever; but the Bible says that the Lord hates divorce (Mal.2:16), so it is incredible to me that so many Christians can be "guilted" into thinking that if they or their spouse is divorced that the solution to what they now have been told is a "problem" is another divorce! When you add the cruelty to the other party that a self-righteous, self-inflicted wound like this will have, and also the collateral damage to children and other family members, one would think that any Christian with a modicum of spiritual common sense would realize that trying to unscramble this sort of omelet is folly. It also happens to be wrong. There is no scripture which even suggests that married believers need to divorce if either was married previously. Whatever "wrong" was done in divorcing the first time or marrying the second time, that is water under the bridge when it comes to the present situation – because a marriage is a marriage. Adding another divorce is about the worst thing a person could do at that point, however the matter is considered.

2) There is also no such thing as "perpetual adultery". Let us remember the context of our Lord's strictures on the subject of divorce. Jesus was remonstrating with the Pharisees who used a loophole (really, a false interpretation) of the Law to divorce their wives whenever they saw fit to marry next whomever they wanted. Given the precarious position of women in that culture and divorced women especially, this was a particularly evil practice. All a woman had to do "wrong" was grow older and have her husband lust for someone younger, and she might find herself thrown out into the cold with no money, no resources, no way of making a living (outside of remarriage or prostitution), and shunned by relatives – through absolutely no fault of her own. In other words, this was a horrible thing to do, so the main point of these passages in the gospels in our Lord's defense of marriage is His pointing out of the hypocrisy of the men who were doing this. Remarriage by the man, not the divorce itself, is the "commission of adultery", because getting married to another woman – which puts the divorced woman into a situation of having no other options – is what the hypocritical man really wants.

I note also here that our Lord never suggests that those who have been remarried should divorce their present wives and remarry their former wives (who would no doubt have to divorce their new husbands in many cases in order to remarry their previous husbands). A marriage is a marriage, so that whether a person was wrong and sinful to contract it or chaste and pure in their actions is of no practical consequence when it comes to the fundamental truth that we ought to stick with the marriage we are in, regardless. And if we are in the marriage, we are required by scripture not to deprive our opposite number (1Cor.7:4-5) – it is cruel and contrary to scripture to deny the spouse on the grounds that normal marriage relations are "adultery", perpetual or otherwise (and, really, such a refusal would only be a type of mental and physical cruelty designed to precipitate the other party's departure).

3) David and Bathsheba are actually a good example of the above. David couldn't have been more wrong than he was in the case of Bathsheba: he committed actual adultery with her, got her pregnant, then had her husband murdered to cover his tracks. And then he married her. But God did not tell him to divorce her. The idea that the latter was fine because Uriah was dead seems to me so ridiculous as to require no comment – except that I hear this over and over again from guilt-ridden Christians who have been sold this bill of good by hyper-self-righteous "theologians". No. It is not alright to marry a man's widow if I murder him first so as to make her a widow. David received fourteen years of the most horrific divine discipline as a result of these sins and crimes, but I note that God did bless the marriage in any case. God did not order it dissolved nor did He curse it for not being dissolved. A marriage is a marriage, and in the case of believers who confess their sins and get back to walking with the Lord, there is likewise every hope and prospect of blessing instead of cursing going forward.

4) According to scripture, the best thing is not to get married in the first place, but since most of us are not capable of living single and staying out of trouble, a proper marriage is the next best thing (1Cor.7:7-9). If we marry the wrong person, we will have trouble – but we are not for that reason allowed to divorce (1Cor.7:10; 7:28). If we marry an unbeliever, we are out of line with scripture – but even so we commended to stick with it if the other party is willing (1Cor.7:). If we marry a divorced person or if we are divorced and remarry or if both have previously divorced, we can argue and debate forever about "whether we should or shouldn't have", but the point is that NOW the parties are married to each other and that line has been crossed. NOW we are talking about a marriage, not hypothesizing about a potential marriage.

5) Once again, the mercy and the forgiveness of the Lord have to be taken into account as well. We do make mistakes in this life. With all the freedom we have in this country and in this modern technological age, it would be the very rare Christian who can look back in middle age and not be able to say "I sure wish I hadn't done XYZ!", and often these regrets center around marriages. The fact is that we all sin. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are striving to put away the "old man" of sin, our sin nature, and we should be growing in sanctification day by day. Looking backward to past sins which we have confessed and which have been forgiven – and, much more importantly, which have been atoned for by the blood of Christ – is counter-productive in the extreme and contrary to our biblical mandate to grow, progress and come into the ministries wherein we may help fellow Christians do likewise. If we committed some crime in the past, if we committed some horrific sin or engaged in some horrible pattern of sinning, if we wronged this or that person terribly, if we did things that now make us blush and worse, we may thank God that He delivered us from such things and that we now walk in a sanctified way close to Jesus Christ – provided we do so – and may make a mental note to stay as far from such things in future as is humanly possible (that is the only value of such circumspection, and should even so only be engaged in very infrequently so as to avoid such "detours" in the future). And if we have married wrongly, or divorced, or divorced and remarried, and if we are convicted by the Spirit that in so doing we sinned, we can add these transgressions to the list of offenses in regard to which we praise God for the forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ. What we cannot rightfully do, what we must not do, is to turn our life and the lives of everyone else around us upside-down for the sake of gratifying some self-righteous guilt trip by divorcing our current spouse. This is not justified by the Bible, nor does it make any sort of spiritual sense since it conflicts with so many other biblical principles. If we have done something deserving of discipline, God will provide. In the meantime, staying true to the obligations we have undertaken and attempting to do the best we can to walk in an honorable Christian way is a good and noble thing that will not lack its reward, regardless of the pangs we have caused to ourselves in the process. It may also result in blessing rising out of cursing. Just ask David.

Here are those links:

Marriage "Matters"

No Grounds for Divorce?

A Conversation about Divorce and Remarriage

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Christian Divorce and Remarriage

What about Christians who Remarry?

Divorce and Remarriage: What does the Bible say?

Finally, on communion, our Lord tells us to "remember Him whenever we drink [the cup]" (1Cor.11:25), and that is what I try to do. I am happy to take traditional communion whenever I find myself (for whatever reason) in a church where this is taking place, but I do have to add that most churches get something wrong about the process. Formalized communion in a group of believers is certainly authorized, but there is nothing that says we can't remember the Lord in this way by ourselves or outside of a church building after all.

Church: The biblical ideal

Communion and the Blood of Christ

The Communion Ceremony outside of the local church.

In the One who died to take away all of sins so that we might be saved through the cleansing of His blood, Jesus Christ our dear, holy Bridegroom,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Thanks Robert. I actually read most of the links on marriage you provide earlier on your site yesterday.

What I'm actually concerned about (and you would know) is whether the Greek indicates a continual state. Meaning if it's not repented of by dissolving the marriage it's considered an unrepented of sin and so is not fogiven. I'm not sure but I'm almost sure Spiros Zodhiates says this in his book on Divorce and he is the author of the Hebrew/Greek key study bible (which only means he knows his Greek as well). There is also a pastor in La Vista Church in California who advises all that they need to divorce whether they have kids or not because their second marriage for unbiblical reasons is adulterous and will not be forgiven. I can't imagine the fallout from that. He has a website "La vista church of Christ". I would not want to get to heaven and find out I repented from all my sins but this one, so I'm doomed.

Anyway, I tried to find the reference in Peter but couldn't find it - perhaps I was mistaken as to where I saw it. If I find it I will let you know.

Thanks Robert,

Response #15:

I don't know of Mr. Zodhiates, but this book is not on my radar as anything of particular scholarship. People publish books all the time which are wrong about many things. Commercial publishing is a business motivated by sales rather than a pure calling motivated by a search for the truth.

As to "whether the Greek indicates a continual state", here is what I read in Matthew:

"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
Matthew 19:9 NASB

The action which constitutes the adultery is not having relations with the new spouse or being married / in a state of marriage with the new spouse but in the act of actually "marrying" the new spouse. So in all cases of second marriage where the marriage was not legitimate (and this question can be somewhat complex for a variety of reasons as the links given previously will show), and where our Lord's words above apply as a result, the "sin" is in actually contracting the wrongful marriage. Like all sins, it cannot be undone once done (not even a subsequent divorce could do that). Blessedly, however, like all sin it can be confessed and forgiven. The practical question is whether or not dissolving the marriage thereafter is indicated by scripture, and in my reading of the Bible I have yet to find any verse where that is said or even implied (whereas it seems to me to violate all manner of scriptural guidance).

Jesus' words above are directed towards 1) condemning after the fact the self-righteous Pharisees who had been engaging in frivolous divorce, and 2) warning against doing so before the fact those who might be tempted to contract a wrongful marriage on the grounds that it constitutes committing adultery. What our Lord does not say is for those who have already been wrongfully married in such a fashion to now divorce anew. Nowhere in scripture do we find this. Given all of the other scriptural evidence that argues forcefully against divorce and the additional wrongs that would be committed in doing so, it amazes me that any pastor would have the temerity to tell someone else to engage in this practice. But then cult leaders tell person X to divorce person Y and marry person Z instead all the time. It's a control measure. But it is not biblical.

As I say, there appear to me to be circumstances where divorce is permissible and remarriage acceptable "without sin" (e.g., the "except for sexual immorality" in the verse above). For this reason, when it comes to actual situations it would seem prudent for all third parties – including pastors – to leave these questions of "rightful divorce / wrongful remarriage" to the persons in question. For example, how can I determine if person A really was the victim of abuse or betrayal at the hands of spouse B so that the marriage was put to death and no reasonable solution existed except for separation and divorce? If A (or B) then remarries person C, how can I say it is absolutely right or absolutely wrong, not knowing the intimate histories of all parties? If it is wrong, and either A (or B) know that ahead of time, is C guilty? Even if all parties are absolutely guilty and everyone agrees, including them, that they "committed adultery" against the previous spouse by marrying, after the fact there is nothing to be done but to confess so as to be forgiven. If there is divine discipline coming, the parties will have to weather it, but if they are good Christians who pursue their relationship with the Lord, they can expect what we all can expect, namely, to be blessed in our spiritual growth, progress and production – just as we are after recovering from any other sin.

Given the temptations of this world and the inability of most people to live in celibacy, it seems to me that Paul's words "it is better to marry than to burn" (1Cor.7:9) are universally applicable to all Christians who are not married, regardless of past history. It may seem, then, that for divorced persons there is "no perfect way forward", but that is a common thing in this world. We Christians ought to live in perfect sanctification, but when we fail, and particularly when we fail in spectacular ways, we often paint ourselves into corners where there is no perfectly "clean" way forward and as a result we have to make the best of several bad choices. To remember David again, when Saul had come close to catching him in the desert, he very wrongfully lost heart, didn't trust the Lord as he should have done, and went back to Gath to shelter under Achish' protection (1Sam.27:1-2) – whereas God was his true Rock of deliverance. This bad move resulted in David having to live a lie for some long time thereafter, and when the Philistines mustered to go to war against Saul, David came very close to having to fight against Saul as a result – even after he had refused to lay a hand upon him previously. God "bailed him out" by causing the rulers of the Philistines to distrust him and send him back, but not before David had to speak and behave in a most uncomfortable and duplicitous way – and of course Ziklag was sacked while he and his men were away (and this dire situation also only recovered by the mercy and grace of the Lord). We all paint ourselves into corners like this from time to time, and usually for the same cause: failing to trust the Lord for His solution to our problems and pushing forward with our own instead.

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.
1st Corinthians 7:27-28 NKJV

Finally, there is only one sin for which a person is "doomed", namely, the unpardonable sin of rejecting Jesus Christ. By definition believers cannot commit this sin (unless they deliberately stop being believers). And no one who gets to heaven is "doomed". The worst that can happen to believers in eternity is to be embarrassed before the bema of Christ for having produced nothing in this life except worthless "wood, hay and stubble" absent any legitimate production and the eternal crowns that appertain thereto. So how can all of these sins, worries and preoccupations harm us? Only if fail to repent of them, if we fail to confess them, if we fail to move on from them, if we fail to do what we are here as Christians to do, namely, grow up spiritually through believing the truth of God's Word, progress in our walk with Jesus through applying what we have believed to the tests that come our way, and helping others to do the same through the ministries or Lord Jesus calls us to.

In hopes of cheering you and your reward at the judgment seat of Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob.

If I may, why was John the baptist hammering so hard on Herod and Herodias then saying he should not have her if the idea was that they should absolve their adulterous relationship?

Response #16:

This is another parallel often adduced (wrongly) in defense of excusing or mandating divorce for remarried couples. Herod was the putative ruler of Israel, and as such set an example (for good or ill) for the whole nation of Israel which was, after all, supposed to be following the Law as a collective whole (it is a common mistake of interpretation not to understand this principle when dealing with OT passages). John doesn't call it adultery. What it was was a type of incest. Under the Law, it was an abomination for a man to marry his brother's wife if he were still alive (just as it was forbidden to marry his niece or his aunt or two sisters, etc.) – it was a type of incest as the Law defined it (Lev.18:1ff.). We can all certainly be against incest and yet not endorse the destruction of lawfully contracted marriages undertaken in the sight of God (even if the latter were not perfect by everyone's standards).

Hope this helps!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #17:

But she was his niece as well.

Hey Robert, just as a completely unrelated side question, if someone asked you to explain why you believed what would your response be? I know why I believe but I would like to know how you would answer that.

Response #17:

Thanks for that.

As to why I believe, I suppose because I am not good at ignoring the truth and not strong enough to try. From a very early age I saw what all of us see – the problem of death (when my beloved grandfather passed away). And I was overjoyed when the Lord removed that fear – through confidence in Him, that He would make it all alright in the end. The universe is emblazoned with the truth about God and His goodness, with the dire facts about our sinfulness and mortality, and all this leads to the inevitable conclusion what without Him we are lost. To all who accept these undeniable truths, the good news of Jesus Christ having died for our sins and having risen for us that we might live with Him in resurrection forever is worth more than rubies or any pearl however great the price. So I guess I would say I believe because it's all true and it's undeniable by any honest person that it's all true – and oh so wonderful too! What is amazing is not that you and I believe. What is truly amazing is that most people refuse to do so, preferring their own fantasy to the truth – because of their preference of their own will over the gracious and beneficent will of God.

[God] who wants all men to be saved and come to accept the truth.
1st Timothy 2:4

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Robert,

Please read this when you can and comment. This is the sort of explanation that has me bothered on this subject. I would not want to be wrong on the day of judgment.

Thanks,

(Sorry about the length)

Adultery in Remarriage: An Act or a State?

Is the adultery a one time act that occurs only on the day of remarriage or is the adultery the sexual union of the remarried man and woman throughout their marriage? This question is often phrased: "Is it (the sin of adultery) an act or a state?" Many would like to view the adultery in remarriage as a one time act because then the remarried couple can repent of their one time act and continue in their remarried state without separating or making any other changes. But is the adultery in remarriage only a one time act?

The term "commiteth" (adultery) in Matt. 19:9; and Matt. 5:32 is in the present indicative. Spiros Zodhiates states that "The present tense represents contemporaneous action, as opposed to action in the past or the future. It normally refers to continuous or repeated action. However, in the indicative mood, it may represent punctiliar action. The indicative mood is the only mood in which distinctions can regularly be made about the time when an action occurs. Examples: he will go, they had said, she saw."1 Therefore, the phrase "commits adultery" may refer to a specific time when adultery occurs but it may also refer to continuous or repeated action of adultery. Some have used the present indicative definition to state that the adultery only occurs one time at marriage and does not occur after that. However that conclusion cannot be decisively made from the present indicative. Every act of adultery (sexual relations in remarriage) occurs at a specific point in time and all repeated acts of adultery occur at specific points in time. At the same time the present indicative does not indicate that the act of adultery cannot or does not occur again. There is the possibility with the present indicative that continuous or repeated action of adultery does occur.

God states that the sexual intercourse of a divorced and remarried couple is adultery. Therefore each time they have sexual intercourse they commit an act of adultery. As they continue to have sexual relations and there is no repentance, it becomes a state of adultery. Therefore, adultery in remarriage is both an act each time it occurs, and a continuing state of sinning. The action of remarriage is not adultery.

Both an act or a state of adultery, is sin. Either one bars one from fellowship with Jesus and from entering Heaven. One is guilty of sin before God until they have repented of the sin and stopped the sin. One cannot repent of the "act" adultery but continue in it and expect God to ignore the fact that they are continuing to commit adultery.

What is clarified about divorce and remarriage by the example of God and Israel's divorce?

Neither divorce or remarriage ends the first marriage. God said to Israel after He had given her a certificate of divorce, "For I am married to you" (Jer. 3:14) Therefore, in remarriage adultery occurs as if there had been no divorce.

God indicates, and Jesus confirms, that Moses' command allowing divorce and remarriage and prohibiting the returning to the first spouse after remarriage, was not a command that God gave to Moses. It is was something that Moses permitted because of the hardness of people's hearts, and is not one we are to follow, nor can we use it to justify divorce and remarriage. It was never God's will from the beginning. Matt. 19:8 "He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so."

God's desire is that the first marriage partners leave all other marriage partners, return, and be reconciled to each other. God said, "Yet return to me" (Jer. 3:1)

One must never give up hope that a wayward spouse will return.

How Divorce Removes One From Fellowship With God --The need for Forgiveness and Reconciliation

God tells us that divorce removes one from fellowship with Him. In Malachi 2:13 He says, "And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. 14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant."

In a divorce situation there is a lot of hurt, anger, and bitterness that occurs between the couple, the children, the extended families of the couple (their parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins) and friends. These deep wounds of a divorce affects those impacted by the divorce for the rest of their lives. God makes it clear that these wrongs and offenses need to be repented of and reconciliation needs to occur.

Matt. 5:23,24 "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."

God also makes it clear that one needs to forgive any offenses that the other spouse has committed. All bitterness, anger, and hatred need to be repented of and put away. This is what God says:

Mk. 11:25,26" And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses." (The last sentence has been removed from the NIV!)

Matt. 6:14,15 "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Matt. 18:35" So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." ("his trespasses" has been removed from the NIV. Immediately following this verse is Jesus teaching on divorce and remarriage.)

I John 2:9-11 "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."

I John 4:20,21" If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also."

Because divorce removes a Christian from fellowship with God, that person needs to be sorry, repent of the sin of divorcing their spouse, and ask God to forgive them. That person also needs to go to all the family members and tell them that they are sorry for the hurts and offenses that they have caused them through the divorce and ask for their forgiveness. In addition, that person needs to forgive all the offenses that brought about the divorce and the offenses that occurred in the divorce process, whether the other spouse is sorry and asks forgiveness or not.

How the marriage vow of a remarried couple does not supersede God's law

The question is sometimes asked, "What about the vow that the remarried couple has made?" God has told us that we are to keep the vows that we make. The first marriage vow is still in effect and they are still obligated to fulfill that vow. Making a second vow does not nullify the first vow. A person cannot have two covenants in effect at the same time that promises the same thing to two different people. The vow that a person makes in a remarrage situation will never nullify the way God's law applies to his life. If we say that a remarried couple should continue to live together and have sexual relations together because of their marriage vows in the remarriage, then we are saying that their remarriage vows have precedence over God's law. God's law about divorce and remarriage no longer applies to them. This is wrong.

The Pharisees used this same line of reasoning, that making a vow changed what God says is sin in the issue of Corban in Mark 7:9-13. " And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye." The Pharisees said a man no longer had to follow God's law in honoring his parents by supporting them in their old age if he made the vow of Corban. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this teaching because they were nullifying God's law. Jesus told them that they made the Word of God of no effect through their tradition (see v.13)

In remarriage the marriage vow that a man and woman make, does not nullify what Jesus said that whoever marries a divorced person commits adultery. The marriage vow cannot nullify the sin of adultery in remarriage. If it did it would supersede God's Law.

The marriage vow of Herod and Herodias did not supersede God's law that a man was not to marry his brother's wife. John the Baptist spoke out strongly after their marriage that it was sin, and indicated that the marriage needed to end. Even though Herodias had divorced her husband and made other marriage vows, the second marriage was sin.

How grace does not stop remarriage from being sin

The topic of the church granting a remarried couple grace often comes up with the subject of divorce and remarriage. The argument that the church can grant a remarried couple grace to continue in their remarriage relationship has become a stumblingblock for many.

To understand grace better, I did an in-depth study of grace in the Bible. I found some interesting facts. The main fact is that grace is from God. Most of the verses in the New Testament that use the word grace also state that it is from God or Jesus. Nowhere is there any verse that the church has any authority to grant another grace for their sins. We can bless another with God's grace, but not from us. When the church grants another person grace in a sin area so that the sin is no longer viewed as sin, the church is setting themselves up as God and making the church equal with God. This line of thinking has occurred before in Jeremiah 7:9,10: "Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; (10) And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?" They thought they had received grace to continue in their sins but they had not.

Grace is not an allowance to sin a little more than what the Bible says. Grace is not a license from God or the church for one to continue in sin as many would lead us to believe. Grace is not God overlooking our sin as we continue to sin after we know better. Romans 6:1-2 "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Romans 6:15 "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid."

There is no grace for those who willfully continue to sin and don't want to stop or change because it would be "too difficult". God's grace is not a license to do what is right in one's own eyes, and follow one's own beliefs, even if it is contrary to Scripture.

Who forgives sin? Can Christians grant forgiveness for sin against God? No. We can only grant forgiveness for offences to us. We cannot grant a person grace for offences that they are committing against God when they have not repented to God and stopped their sin.

When Jesus through grace forgave the woman caught in adultery, He also told her to do something. He said "go and sin no more!" Jesus did not give the woman grace so that she could continue to commit adultery. Jesus told her she had to stop committing adultery. When a divorced and remarried couple repents and receives forgiveness from God for the adultery that they have committed, they must change so that they can also obey Jesus' command to go and sin no more. If they go on sinning and committing adultery they will not receive God's grace but rather incur His judgment. There cannot be grace and mercy without justice.

When a person realizes that they have sinned by divorcing their spouse and remarrying another, and they go to God and confess their sin and forsake the sin of remarriage, God forgives them. It is only through the grace of God that they receive forgiveness. Without God's grace none of us would be saved because we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.

What if the Remarried Couple has Children by the Second Marriage?

The question arises: should a remarried couple separate if they have had children by the second marriage? The fact that a couple has children in the second marriage does not end the first marriage. The responsibilities that they have to their children in their second marriage does not change the fact that if they continue in the remarriage situation it is adultery. In addition, the responsibilities they have to the children in the second marriage are not more important than the vows and covenant that they made in their first marriage and the responsibilities they have to any children in the first marriage.

God gives us some examples where children from a wrong relationship had to be sent away:

Abraham did his own thing rather than following the Lord, and took Hagar and had a son by her. After Isaac was weaned, because of Ishmael's scoffing, Sarah asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. Sarah did not feel that Ishmael deserved to receive an inheritance with Isaac. Abraham was very displeased by Sarah's request because Ishmael was his son. However, God told him to not let it be displeasing to him and to send Hagar and Ishmael away. Abraham arose early the next morning and obeyed God's command promptly and sent them away. Gen. 21:8-21

Another account is in Ezra 9:1-15 and 10:1-44, where many of the Israelites were involved in wrong marriages. They had married foreign wives and many had children by those wives. They recognized that they had sinned against God (10:2). The solution to the situation of the wrong marriages was that they needed to put away the wives and the children that they had by those wives. It was a difficult situation and one that was very difficult to have the courage to deal with. It was so difficult that the Godly Ezra had to be prodded to take his responsibility as spiritual leader and deal with the situation. In Ezra 10:4 he was told, "Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it" (See also Neh. 13:23-31)

Ezra 10:1-4 "Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore. 2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, [one] of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. 3 Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. 4 Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it."

Parents have a responsibility to provide for every child that they bring into the world, regardless of the marriage situation when they were conceived. We are told in I Timothy 5:8 "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." Not only are they responsible to provide for their physical needs, they are also responsible to train all their children in the ways of the Lord. A parent can not teach their children to keep all of God's commands, if the parent has willfully chosen to continue to live in sin in an adulterous remarriage relationship. More is caught than taught, and the children will not learn to keep all of God's commands as they should.

The children receive a greater spiritual training if they see their parents willing to make whatever sacrifices and hard, hard decisions that are necessary to be in a right relationship with Jesus Christ. Remaining in a remarriage situation for the sake of the children, and living in sin, will not in the long run be a benefit for their children. The children will grow up with the perception that one can do what is right in their own eyes.

Why a remarried couple needs to separate

Jesus' command to the woman caught in adultery after He forgave her was "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Because remarriage is the living of one or two married persons with someone other than their spouse (in God's judgment), the remarried couple needs to separate. They need to repent of their sin and they need to remove themselves from their sinful adulterous situation if they are to obey God's command to go and sin no more. To look at it from a different perspective, it would be wrong for a man to live with and care for another man's wife while the other man is still alive. A man has no business making commitments to another man's wife and providing for her needs. It would be a violation of her marriage covenant to her husband to live with and care for another man even though they did not have sexual intercourse.

Because in divorce and remarriage the first marriage is not dissolved, the remarried couple needs to dissolve their remarriage situation and separate.

The role of Grace in Remarriage situations

Many Christians advocate that the Church should grant remarried couples grace rather than say they must separate and stop sinning. The church frequently misapplies the term grace to mean a catch all license that the church gives a person that allows them to acknowledge something is not God's ideal, but if it is difficult or inconvenient to follow God's way in that area, to disregard it (do what is right in their own eyes). This wrong application of the term grace is used in many areas of the Christian life, not just divorce and remarriage. This philosophy has been very harmful to the church. Statistics show the beliefs and practices of many Christians are basically the same as those of non-Christians. The Church does not have authority to grant grace to a person in an area of sin and grant them permission/freedom to continue to sin. Over and over the Bible states "grace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ"

Jesus called remarriage sin. Therefore as Christians we do not have authority to grant a remarried couple grace to continue to live together. To grant grace to a remarried couple is rebellion against God. In granting grace, the church sets itself up as equal with God.

God grants grace in a divorce and remarriage situation when a person repents of their sin to God and to others, asks their spouse and others involved to forgive them, and forsakes the adulterous remarriage relationship. God totally forgives them. They do not have to earn "brownie points" or do a certain amount of good deeds to receive God's forgiveness. They are freed from eternal punishment in hell and are granted eternity with Jesus in heaven. That is God's grace, not a license to continue in sin or to do what is right in one's own eyes.

We can believe whatever we want on divorce and remarriage, but...

on the Great Judgment Day, we will be judged by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for what we have done and what we have encouraged others to do. Each person is entitled to have an opinion on divorce and remarriage. However, having an opinion, even a very strong opinion does not make it truth or make it right. Even if there are millions of people who have the same opinion, as were Israel and the prophets of Baal in the days of Elijah, it does not make the opinion truth. There is only one thing that is truth, and it is what God says is truth. If we bring an opinion on the doctrine of marriage, divorce and remarriage to Scripture and find verses to back up and prove our opinion, we will not discern God's truth and God's judgment. We will lead ourselves and others into sin.

We must ask God what His judgment is on divorce and remarriage, and search the Bible so that we know what the truth is. All of Scripture needs to agree. We dare not reinterpret the Scriptures to make it line up with our opinion. If someone brings a new interpretation that you have not heard before, be like the Bereans, and check it out in the Scriptures. If it is correct, receive it. If it does not line up with the rest of Scripture, reject it as heresy

Response #18:

I think I anticipated all this when I said that the Greek (clear in English translations) specifies the new marriage as the act of adultery. This is not dependent on "tense or mood" in the statement "he commits adultery". Since our Lord's statement is in the form of a present general condition, the use of the present tense "commits" is precisely what is indicated. Meaning: "If any person does A (whatever A is), that person does B (in the process of doing A). This is how this sort of condition is constructed and this is what it means (contrary to the impressions of these folks you quote).

There are good reasons why there can be no "perpetual adultery" after the marriage and why our Lord focuses on the marriage. Once married, the man and woman in question 1) are married to each other according to civil law and in God's eyes (in which state they are not even allowed to deprive each other), and 2) they are at that point not married to anyone else (except if one of the parties didn't bother to divorce legally and is thus committing bigamy). So a marriage is a marriage, and those who are lawfully married are required to abide by the legal and spiritual dictates that apply. This is why, for example, the Lord can tell the Samaritan woman, "you have had five husbands and the one you are with now is not your husband", namely, because "a marriage is a marriage", even though she was a serial monogamist, and we can all recognize who is married and who is not because it is a legal, civil institution (so there is a clear difference between living with someone and being married to them – one would hope that would be as obvious to these people you quote as it was in our Lord's day). So the sin is in divorcing for inconsequential and selfish reasons and then in the act of contracting a marriage afterwards when the first marriage was ended in an inappropriate way. That is the only interpretation which fits all the facts, despite the verbal gymnastics in the article forwarded.

In my view, the incorrect exegesis of Zodhiates (which I had anticipated) is the only thing that really needs to be addressed here as the rest of the article is merely a heap of pronouncements based upon this incorrect understanding of Matthew 5:32. For example, under "Why a remarried couple needs to separate", the only additional scripture the individual who writes this can offer is John 8:11. Besides the fact that there is huge logical jump here, it is important to note that the pericope of the adulterous woman and casting the first stone is a very late addition and is not part of scripture (see the link). It is interesting to me that whenever I find myself critiquing a graceless, purportedly "biblical" screed such as this which is clearly contrary to scripture, non-biblical passages of this sort and other interpolations often surface in the "proof". Even more significantly, this person doesn't even understand anything about salvation and the evaluation of believer's lives. Jesus Christ died for our sins. They will not be mentioned in our evaluation before the judgment seat of Christ. That is also true of unbelievers who are judged for their failure to accept God's Substitute. When someone doesn't even understand the basics of the gospel and the essentials of what we are here to do and how we will be judged for it, it strikes me that everything else ought to be looked at with at least a grain or two of salt.

I am happy to address any of the other specific mis-statements here if you wish. Merely stating something that feels good in one's self-righteousness, however, is not an argument, and really doesn't require much attention, in my considered view.

In hopes of your peace of mind on this subject in the Lord Jesus who is our peace,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Dear Bob,

Some time ago, in my search of knowledge and wisdom pertaining to living as God intended us to, I came across more than one topic which was a heavy debate between if state-based marriage certificates/licenses count, and some have argued that they're even wrong. I wish to ask what your opinion of this is, since I have yet to read the portion of your website that refers to marriage. Obviously, the Church wedding is the 'real' ceremony, whereas the courthouse joining would only be so the government would have use registered as a married couple (unless I'm wrong in this assumption?). My question is, since the state-courthouse wedding ceremony isn't the important one, is it even necessary?

Some states, for some reason, have the state be a third party in the marriage, which I will not have no matter what (I do not know if California is one such state), but even in the state marriage certificates which do not condone this practice, is it still 'wrong' to do so? Or am I wrong in my assumption and the courthouse marriage matters? Up until this point, I believed only the Church ceremony is what matters, because of all of the witnesses and the public declaration of the union. I hope to here from you soon,

PS: I just now thought of this, and I'm sorry if I've been doing it this whole time, but do you mind 'Bob' or do you prefer another way of introduction?

Response #19:

Good to hear from you as always (Bob is just fine). In my view of these matters, marriage is a civil institutions, not a religious one. That is because marriage is something God designed for the entire human race regardless of their spiritual status, not just for believers. Marriage and the family unit it anchors are the fundamental building block of all human society, so that the marriage bond exists in God's eyes wherever and however men and women come together in a life-long partnership to raise a family (Gen.2:18; 2:22-24). For that reason, it is not wrong for the state to regulate marriage in some ways – in fact it is salutary inasmuch as every state has to have some sort of legal basis for property contracts which marriage always affects. So in my view, being married is being married, regardless of whether or not it happens in a church. Because civil authority is what it is, this part of the marriage contract should not be overlooked by a responsible Christian. That is to say, it is better to be married in a courtroom by a justice of the peace in a legal ceremony than in a church by a pastor who is not licensed to perform marriages. The former is necessary; the latter is not. I don't have anything against church weddings, but I would not wish to endow them with some sort of special magical powers they do not in fact possess (let alone legal ones). In my experience and observation, character and commitment are the two factors which determine whether or not a marriage will be successful, that is, the respective character of the two parties and the degree of actual heart-commitment they make and maintain for the union's continuation.

Here are a couple of places where I speak (briefly) about this issue:

Marriage is a civil matter I

Marriage is a civil matter II

Marriage "Matters"

In Jesus Christ whose Bride we are,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Dear Bob,

I was wondering if it would be alright if I ask you about marriage again? See, I've done some fairly extensive research on this topic in the past, and so far the general consensus I've seen is that the church wedding is important, some have even argued it's all that "counts" in terms of it being in the eyes of God. There's also the fact that all authority is in-place because it's God's will, such as our government, Canadian government, English, etc. Is there any way we can be sure 'marriage is marriage' be it in the church or from someone in the government? I don't know if I've brought this up before, but some states (not sure which ones) I've heard of trying to make the state a 'third party' in the marriage, which sounds kind of hard to believe but what if some states are actually doing this?

I guess my other question would be: is it permissible/wrong/should we avoid doing both versions of the wedding? The church wedding is more important to us as a ceremony, and my mind keeps shifting over towards it being the 'real' event/ceremony that matters. I'm not entirely sure one way or another, and we had planned on doing both anyway, but I guess before doing so I wished to know if there is anything 'wrong' with going forth with both? I read the links you've provided to me on Ichthys, but I don't recall any of the stories/emails recorded on their pertaining to this exact situation. I just want to make sure that whatever we decide, it's the right course of action and that we're not doing anything wrong or making any bad/wrong decisions.

Response #20:

As I think I wrote you before (and have put on the website), marriage is an institution designed by God for the entire human race – not just for believers. The legal trappings which accompany "getting married" are ancient but not original. It is certainly right and proper, in my opinion, for the state to recognize and regulate the institution (as long as it does not pervert what God has instituted), inasmuch as there are questions of legitimacy and property rights which cannot be separated from the institution of marriage. So it is without much argument a necessary part of a basic structure of law to define marriage, the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage, and, perhaps most importantly, who is married and who is not. For these reasons, it is necessary for Christians who get married to abide by the legal requirements of the state/government wherein they get married. Most U.S. states license pastors and many other self-described religious leaders as authorized to conduct legal marriage ceremonies. Thus the "marriage license" is the key document which states that a couple have been legally married by a duly licensed individual. Whether that ceremony takes place in a church or a city hall or a beach is of no spiritual import (nor of course who conducts the ceremony). Personally, I think it would be a grave mistake for anyone to assume that because a wedding takes place in a church it is a "better wedding". My parents were happily married for many decades until my father passed; they were married in a civil ceremony by a Justice of the Peace. I know of many "church weddings", on the other hand, which have not lasted. It is all the same in God's eyes – with the exception that, in my view, He probably doesn't take kindly to the idea that a church building is more important than the heart-commitment made by the couple in question. After all, marriage is a pledge, a vow, a life-long commitment. It is only as good and as strong as the honor and character of the two people who make it. If they are good Christians of honorable and noble character, then, God willing the marriage will last. These are difficult times we live in, and many factors militate against having a successful marriage in ways they did not do so before (in my view), but I don't see how having a church wedding would be of any help. There is no problem with being married in a church, of course; that is, unless one is endowing it with some magical significance that it does not have in fact.

In any case, my friend, I do wish for you for your impending nuptials to be happy and for your marriage to be blessed in every way! May the Lord grant you His guidance in this as in all other things.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Dear Bob,

So, having two 'weddings' essentially is a mistake? Alright, then we should pick where to have it, and then maybe have the reception/after party at another time or location afterwards. The whole thing with immigration and the border is throwing a damper on things, but as long as a wedding before the court/in city hall/before a justice of the peace is good and acceptable, we may just do that. I of course will make no decisions for her, and we will both discuss what to do.

I know I can ask this of anyone, or even just use google to seek out the answer, but since I'm emailing again anyway, would it be alright to ask what a marriage ceremony requires? I realize the rings are of unimportance/a secular invention (though we'll still use them since have one of hem anyway). If I recall, all that's required is the one who is licensed to perform the marriage ceremony, the appropriate documents and paperwork... and a witness? I think this is what I a asking: how many witnesses are need, or are there any needed at all, since God himself is a witness to the union?

Response #21:

Please don't take my answers as directive in any way – this is your and your fiancι's decision (and there are a lot more important things to consider when it comes to getting married). I can't personally see anything wrong with having two ceremonies, if that is what you and your fiancι want to do. Witnesses are usually plural, and I would imagine it would be hard to find a person/place that does marriages which can't scare up two witnesses. Talking all this over with your fiancι is obviously the thing to do. Adam and Eve didn't have a license or a JP or any witnesses – besides the Lord (as you rightly note).

Best wishes for all this!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

 

Ichthys Home
 

Bible Options
Bible Study Software