Law of Marriage and Divorce

When God instituted the union of man and woman in marriage He meant for that union to be permanent. Divorce was never in His plan. Nevertheless, divorce was permitted under the leadership of Moses. This was because of the hard heartedness of the people (Matt. 19:8) being unable to forgive or be conciliatory. Thus began the trend of divorces that continues even today. However, it should not be this way in Christian marriages. We should honor God’s word by obeying the principles of commitment He established. By being obedient to His word we will be less likely to seek divorce and more willing to resolve what problems we may have in our marriage.

During the time when Jesus walked on earth, Jesus reminded us of the only justification for divorce, turning us back to God’s original principle of marriage.  When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees who had questioned Him about divorce, He said divorce was possible under one condition - sexual immorality (Mt. 19:9).   Generally speaking, this would mean adultery. Adulterous acts can also include immoralities such as incest, addictions to ography, and other perverse immoralities which we won't mention by name. All these acts are immoral and adulterous in nature especially when committed under the covenant of marriage. Some spouses may be forgiving of some of these immoralities especially if there is true remorse and an effort to overcome the sin or addiction by the offending spouse. Nevertheless, if anyone divorces their spouse for any reason other than these mentioned and remarries someone else they will be committing adultery. Furthermore, anyone who marries either of these spouses would essentially be committing adultery too (Mt 5:32). Jesus’ disciples seemed to think this was a hard principle to follow, even thinking that it would be better to never get married(vs. 10).  Here, the teaching wisdom of Jesus comes through once again. He explained to His disciples that eunuchs could accept never getting married (vs. 12). Eunuchs were emasculated men whether they voluntarily accepted this condition, were born in this manner, or were made so by the hands of man. In any manner, they ended up with no physical desire for a woman. The disciples understood about eunuchs. Hence, they knew what Jesus was implying.  In reality, Jesus was asking them which is harder to accept, to get married with commitment or never to have a desire for a woman? Certainly, we can reason that it is a minority of men who can accept never wanting a physical relationship with a wife. Choosing commitment to a marriage or celibacy may seem to strict of a choice, but it is God's principles. We must honor His word. He knows what is best for us and what produces more of the love that He wants in us.  We will understand and be blessed if we follow His principles.

The apostle Paul also taught us about commitment in marriage. Paul, speaking by the Spirit of God, gives us similar teaching in 1 Corinthians (7:10-16). Paul was addressing several questions of the church of Corinth concerning marriage and separation. Beginning in verse 10, Paul gives us the law about separation from your spouse. He tells us that a spouse is never to leave the marriage. If one does leave, they must be reconciled to their spouse or remain unmarried. A spouse would be committing adultery if they married someone else. This would support the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:32.   Paul goes on to answer another question for the church at Corinth. What if one spouse is an unbeliever?  Paul teaches that they too must remain together for the sanctity of the children and, since the two become one, even the sanctity of the unbelieving spouse. This is because God can and will work through the one who knows Him allowing the unbeliever to prosper with the believer.  Paul goes on to answer the church’s last question concerning marriage of an unequally yoked spouse.  What happens if the unbelieving spouse departs from the marriage?  Paul tells us we are not under (vs. 15). Does this mean we are not in to the marriage? No, because this would go against the teaching of Jesus and what Paul has already stated in verses 10-11. To understand his answer we must picture the likely condition of an unequally yoked marriage. An unbeliever is one who does not follow Christ nor likely or probably minimumly the righteousness of God.  Pair this one with a believing spouse and a constant struggle takes place between them.  As a result, there are contentions, escalating from rudeness to hatefulness as one buffets against the other. Therefore, what Paul means by being ‘not in ’ is that we are not servile to the wishes of the unbelieving spouse.  The believing spouse does not have to compromise their faith to keep peace and to try to save their marriage, nor should they force the unbelieving spouse to stay, only to lead to possibly greater contentions. Therefore, Paul says to let the unbeliever go to keep peace and civility (vs. 15).

  Now, to understand verse 16 which says; “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know , O husband, whether you will save your wife?” This verse seems that it might be telling us it is okay to give up on your spouse. However, this would go against what Jesus taught us and what Paul already stated in verse 10, a spouse is not to depart from the other.  This also goes against the nature of God.  We know He would not want us to give up on our spouse. He sent Jesus to die for us while we were yet sinners. He did not give up on us.  What Paul is saying applies to his last statement in verse 15, “But God has called us to peace.”  Where peace exists between the spouses there is hope of communication and reconciliation.  There is even hope that the unbelieving spouse can be converted. If a spouse does depart bringing them to God and back to the marriage will be more possible if they keep civil and peaceful conditions between them. Therefore, if we have an unbelieving spouse we should not give up on them. We should continue to serve God and through prayer and supplication we try to lead the unbelieving spouse toward God.  Or goal is their conversion and to try to save our marriage.

How long do we try to save our marriage? As long as it takes. We should wait on our spouse and let God keep working for us. In the interim each of us should always remain pure during the separation. Otherwise, we will compromise any chance of reconciliation likely through adultery or adulterous acts. For most people finding out that their spouse has committed adultery would altogether end their marriage.  Understandably, not many people can live comfortably again with a spouse when the marriage bed has been defiled. It can be humiliating, shameful, and demeaning to the offended spouse.  All kinds of ill feelings will surface too. This is why God permits divorce for this sin. In, Christian marriages the divorce will allow the offended spouse to heal and possibly avoid unrighteous responses.  The Bible compares adultery to Israel's impurity to God.  After seeing all God had done for them, experiencing the miracles, and knowing the promises He planned for them in the future, they sought other nation’s benefits and false gods to fulfill their needs and wants. God called this adultery.  It angered and saddened Him very much. These are some of the same feelings a spouse goes through when unfaithfulness or immorality has occurred against them.  Therefore, to reemphasize, it is wise and righteous to remain pure even in separation. One who seeks another or becomes involved with someone else during their separation will not concentrate on reconciling with their spouse.  They risk sin and may make it harder to reconcile. Furthermore, as wise advice to the single Christian, they should avoid courting anyone who is separated from their spouse for reason's other than sexual immorality. Any ‘dates’ can and will negatively influence that person's decisions concerning reconciliation of their marriage. As a rule of thumb, a Christian should do no more with another’s spouse than they would want someone to do with their spouse if they were in the same circumstance.

God’s principles on marriage and divorce can and should apply to all marriages, but especially to those who call themselves children of God. God intended marriage to be permanent between a man and woman. He has allowed divorce in cases of sexual immorality.  In cases of abuse, one does not have to stay with the abusive spouse.  You are not in to physical or mental harm. However, you should not seek divorce but remain prayerful and, under God’s guidance, seek help for your spouse. We should try to work out all problems in our marriages. Those not willing to work out their marriage are not under the guidance of God. Instead, they are seeking their own will. These people are more likely to fall into the hands of a third party and jeopardize any reconciliation. However, the Christian spouse should not give up or end the marriage by their choice unless God shows them that the other spouse has committed an adulterous act. This will allow the patience, forgiveness, and peace making characteristics that God wants us to have. “Who knows whether you may save your spouse?”


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