ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Christian Divorce and Remarriage, Episode I

Updated on March 31, 2014

Episode I, Words of Introduction

As we approach our topic there are some introductory remarks that must be made. These words are necessary before beginning the exposition of the several texts that are germane to this study.

At the very first, we must agree that divorce must never be seen as an Easy Fix to any marriage that is not perfect—for no marriage ever is. However, it must also be acknowledged that divorce is a biblical ordinance instituted and regulated by God in the Old Testament Law (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4); the teachings of Jesus that are found in Matthew 5:27-28; 31-32; 19:1-9, with the parallel passages of Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; and the instructions of the apostles which are represented in 1 Corinthians 7:1-40. Through these relevant texts it is demonstrated that Christ (and His Church) not only recognized the legitimacy of divorce, but extended its privilege beyond the parameters of the Old Testament (which limited the right of divorce to husbands), to include the wife within its prerogatives (see Mark 10:11 and 1 Corinthians 7:15).

Biblical marriage is a legal contract between a man and a woman, binding each to perform certain socially prescribed roles that are at once physical and spiritual in their reach. This contract covered the lifetime of the contracting parties.

However, it is equally as important to understand that the “Bill of Divorcement” is a legal instrument which removes the obligations of a marriage contract that is, essentially, a sociopolitical concept. The Christian teaching is that, religiously, divorce originally laid outside Godʼs will; but politically had to be allowed because sin entered into the human family. Therefore, in the tension between the religious high ground of an idealistic state of no divorce, and the practical reality of political necessity which allows it, there are two basic ethical questions asked by Christians:
1.) Is a Christian ever justified in seeking a divorce?
2.) Once divorced, may a Christian remarry?

When considering whether divorce is ever right, one must recognize that Yahweh, Himself, divorced Israel. I give the passages here for the readers’ consideration:

Isaiah 50:1 “Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your motherʼs divorcement, whom I have put away? ... and for your transgressions is your mother put away.”

Jeremiah 3:8 “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had her put away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.”

Having, as we do, these passages before us (where Yahweh engaged in divorce against an unfaithful wife) it must be admitted, if we are honest, by all concerned, that there is no unrighteousness with God. This is emphasized by the Psalmist when he writes: “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Psalms 145:17). We also know that the Holy One cannot commit sin. This truth is elucidated by the Beloved Apostle: “Whosoever committed sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. ... He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:4-5, 8).

So, then, the Lord God, Himself, divorced His wife because of unfaithfulness. Some say He divorced Israel to take the Gentile church for His new bride. Whether this is true, or not, is not really the point. The point is that most who teach against divorce and remarriage believe and accept it. Many see the story of Estherʼs replacement of Queen Vashti (see the Old Testament book of Esther) as a type of Israel being replaced by the Church. It is not our purpose to defend, or deny, the validity of these types, but only to show that most schools of thought accept the metaphor of divorce in Yahwehʼs relationship with His wife Israel. The fact, then, that Yahweh divorced His wife is proof that there is no intrinsic evil in divorce. Why? Because There Is No Evil in God! (See Psalms 145: 17 above.)

Because Of the Hardness of Your Heart: Jesus told the Pharisees that Moses (and, by association, God) allowed husbands to divorce their wives because of “... the hardness of your hearts” (Matthew 19:8). Here, the phrase “hardness of your hearts” references husbands who have stopped loving and caring for their wives. Moses allowed divorce in order to set the woman free to go to another man—who would love and care for her. The Words of Institution, written by Moses (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), makes this point clear (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). The law of First Mention (one of the laws of the Art and Science of Scriptural Interpretation) sets the scriptural tone, for divorce, that resounds throughout the Bible. That tone is Mercy. The Law of Moses instituted divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 to emancipate rejected wives from husbands whose hearts had grown hard toward them. One need only recall the words of Jesus: “... Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives” (Matthew 19:8).

We should not think, here, that God is catering to the sin-nature of the hardhearted Israelites; that would be unworthy of a holy deity. No! That the Almighty granted divorce is not a caving-in to the callousness of the husbands on Godʼs part; it was in consideration for the rejected and unloved wives.

When Chrysostom (lived A. D. 347-407, see video of his biography at the end of this article) wrote on this statement (i.e. “the hardness of your hearts”), he suggested that the Lord God allowed divorce for both moral and social reasons. It would be good to quote him at some length here:

“There was an ancient law made that he who hated his wife, for whatever kind of cause, should not be forbidden to cast her out, and to bring home another instead of her. The law, however, did not command him simply to do this, but after giving the woman a writing of divorcement, that it might not be in her power to return to him again; that so at least the figure of the marriage not remain.

“For if He had not enjoined this, but it were lawful first to cast her out, and take another, and afterwards to take back the former the confusion was sure to be great, all men continually taking each otherʼs wives; and the matter thenceforth would have been direct adultery. With a view to this He devised, as no small mitigation, the writing of divorcement.

“But these things were done by reasons of another, and far greater wickedness; I mean, had He made it necessary to keep in the house her even that was hated, the husband, hating, would have killed her. For such was the race of the Jews. For they who did not spare children, who slew prophets, and “shed blood as water,” (see Psalms 76:3), much more would they have shown no mercy to women. For this case He allowed the less, to remove the greater evil. For that it is not a primary law, hear Him saying, ʻMoses wrote these things according to the hardness of your heartsʼ that he might not slay them in the house, but rather put them out. But for as much as He had taken away all wrath, having forbidden not murder only, but even the mere feeling of anger, He with ease introduces this law likewise. With this view also He is ever bringing to mind the former words, to signify that His sayings are not contrary to them, but in agreement: that He is enforcing, not overthrowing them; perfecting, not doing them away.” (John Chrysostom, homily XXVII. On Matthew V. 27, 28).

According to the understanding of the great and noble Chrysostom, divorce was allowed and regulated, to discourage the hardness of the Jewsʼ hearts, also, to militate against wholesale adultery, and even murder.

While we must be quick to denounce the violence done to the holy institution of marriage by the easy button of divorce in our modern society, we must acknowledge the God-given right to a “bill of divorcement” as a testimony of Godʼs mercy and love for the one who is no longer loved, and is being held bound to an unmerciful master: namely, a husband with a hardened heart; or in our day, perhaps, even a wife.


Apostolically Speaking

☩ J L Hayes


Own this popular book by Bishop Jerry Hayes

Finding God's Grace in Divorce and Remarriage: Does the Bible Allow for a Christian to Divorce and Remarry?
Finding God's Grace in Divorce and Remarriage: Does the Bible Allow for a Christian to Divorce and Remarry?

"Finding God's Grace in Divorce and Remarriage" is an in-depth study of the subject of divorce and re-marriage. Bishop Hayes does a scholarly exegesis of virtually every passage of the New Testament that is germane to the topic. This treatise will attempt to draw back the curtains of misconception and stigma, and view with unprejudiced eyes the naked truths of Holy Scripture concerning divorce and re-marriage. The Christian teaching is that: religiously, divorce originally lay outside God's will, but politically had to be allowed because sin entered into the human family. Therefore, in the tension between the religious high ground of an idealistic state of no divorce, and the practical reality of political necessity which allows it, there are two basic ethical questions asked by Christians: 1,) Is a Christian ever justified in seeking a divorce? 2.) Once divorced, may a Christian re-marry? This is a book that declares the grace of God to be extravagant in its reach.

 

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Judah's Daughter profile image

      Judah's Daughter 3 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Hi Bishop -- My comment is a bit long because this subject is dear to my heart. I used to study with the Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage (MDR) 'cult' (and I came to the conclusion they are a wicked cult because they don't accept the whole counsel of God's Word).

      Here, I never had recognized the account of Xerxes simply banishing his wife Vashti (since there is no mention of her execution), thus according to God's holy Law, Esther would have violated God's Law to marry a divorced man whose "covenant spouse" still lives. This only strengthens the fact that God does not join, nor recognize all first marriages.

      We can look at Israel divorcing their pagan wives in Ezra 10, which was an act of repentance. It wasn't just about the fact they married foreigners, which was against God's Law, for Ruth was a foreigner that converted to Naomi's faith (Israel) and married Boaz, as ordained by God.

      Now, we do know that Israel is the 'betrothed' Bride of God, and in Mat 5:32 the Jews, who knew God's Law, were questioning Him about putting away their wives, speaking specifically about Deut 24:1-4 (for it is the cross-reference). Surely they had abused the reasons for divorce, so Jesus answered them that they were only allowed to divorce their 'wives' in the case of fornication (a different word than adultery). Betrothal fornication is what Israel was guilty of, and she is called an 'adulteress' because She is still considered the 'wife' of God (see Jer 3:8 and 14). Look at Judah, who "went and played the harlot also" (so Israel was committing harlotry, or fornication).

      We can see an example of this betrothal 'husband' and 'wife' scenario with Mary and Joseph in Mat 1:19-20. Because of what appeared to be betrothal fornication, Joseph could lawfully divorce (get out of the marriage contract already signed) his betrothed wife. However, according to Deut 22:20-21, she could be brought to the door of her father's house and stoned to death (the same punishment as an adulteress). I think this is what is referenced in Mat 1:19, in that Joseph did not want to make her a 'public example' by having her stoned.

      Now, Deut 24:1 uses the words 'taken a wife and married (baal) her', so we know we're talking about a full-blown marriage here. However, 'some uncleanness' is the Hebrew words 'erwah dabar' , which means 'the nakedness of a Word'. The 10 Commandments are called the Debarim (the 10 Words), so the commands regarding nakedness were the issue. So, erwah, in the majority of the passages where it is used, is directly related to incest. Therefore, a man could divorce his wife after marriage, if he or she found out they were too close of relatives, thus breaking the Law. For this reason, if she lawfully remarried and even if her second husband died so she was free to remarry, she was not to return to her first husband.

      The other interesting factor is Mat 19:6 - for only "what God has joined (yoked) together, no man is to put asunder (separate/divorce)". We see this applied in the marriage of Hosea and Gomer. Gomer was a Hebrewess and God told Hosea to marry, though she was a prostitute. She committed adultery and had two children by them; she abandoned Hosea and the three children (they had Jezreel together) and returned to prostitution. She was sold into slavery, but God told Hosea to go buy her back, which is exactly what Jesus did for His Bride, Israel.

      So, in 1 Cor 7:10 Paul speaks the Law of God to those who are equally yoked, for in vs. 12 he goes on to address "the rest of you" (the unequally yoked). In vs. 15 he give permission for a brother or sister in the Lord to allow their unbelieving spouse to 'depart', which is the Greek word 'chorizo' - the same word used for 'asunder' in Mat 19:6. And surely, that believer is not under bondage to the Law of the marriage bond, even if that unbeliever lives.

      The key is "what God has joined (yoked) together". We are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Paul tried to save those marriages, for the sake of their children (1 Cor 7:14), but he knew these Gentiles never had the Law of God or even know God before he came to preach the gospel to them.

      I believe, once a marriage is joined by God (knowingly so), there is absolutely no grounds for divorce. If a so-called brother beats his wife or molests their children, or comes out of the closet, that marriage was NOT joined by God. I'm talking about "Covenant" marriages, truly joined by God. The brother or sister is to remain 'without a spouse' until the spouse repents and is reconciled. For unequally yoked marriages, I will never declare if one gets saved and the unsaved leaves, that s/he is not to remarry or would be guilty of ongoing, non-repentant adultery, thus must remain single or return to the first spouse, as the cult of MDR teaches. THAT IS HERESY.

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile image
      Author

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 3 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      Judah's Daughter, I have read your above post with great interest. You have many opinions about a great many things that goes contrary to sound exegesis. I agree with you mostly on your end results, but have issues with the route you took to arrive there. LOL.

      This topic of Divorce and Remarriage is loaded with land mines and booby traps all along the way. I have done an in-depth study of the subject - taking many years. What I am about to lay out is a systematic approach to the issue. I have not the time to enter into a debate with you on every point but if you will follow the articles I believe you will be blessed. I will be happy to address any "particular" question or objection, you have to any particular article. I will attempt to keep the articles to the size of these or smaller - impossible. This series will be taken from my book, "Finding God's Grace in Divorce and Remarriage."

    • Judah's Daughter profile image

      Judah's Daughter 3 years ago from Roseville, CA

      You got it, Bishop. I will read your hubs and will no doubt, learn something more. This is what I learned in months of study, and some of the passages you quoted were the same as I referenced in my commentary. I appreciate that you are so gracious toward me and do consider my input, as I am greatly appreciative of you and the study you present so eloquently. Blessings, Bishop.

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile image
      Author

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 3 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      Sister I have learned from you over the short time we have been friends. I look foreword to the future.

    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 3 years ago from Southern Clime

      Many lonely people have not remarried because they believe to do so would be sin. I believe that many of them could have remarried lawfully but did not know it. For example, some that were "put away" figured that they were left in the cold because they could not prove adultery. So, they remain unmarried. The marriage issue can be a complicated one.

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile image
      Author

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 3 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      Lev, of course are correct. We, as Bible teachers own it to dig out truth and share it with God's people. Paul said he was a debtor to other who had not heard the gospel. Those who have been give the insight of truth have been given it to share.

      Thank you for your comment.

    • uzma shaheen profile image

      Uzma Shaheen Bhatti 2 years ago from Lahore,Pakistan

      Very informative and interesting hub, prior to this I knew that bible does not allow divorce and remarriage but you made it clear to me . Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge and wisdom.

      There is one thing I could not understand, what is yahweh divorcing israel? I mean in my little understanding Yahweh refers to GOD and Israel is the name of Prophet Jacob in the bible. Kindly explain it and forgive my little understanding.

      Love and Peace.

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile image
      Author

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 2 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      It is true that Jacob's name was changed to Israel. But his descentants took his name. Israel was also the name of the nation -- the children of Israel. So, when the Bible states that Yahweh divorced "Israel" it is saying that God rejected them (the nation) as His wife any longer.

      Thank you for your question and giving me a chance to answer it.

    • uzma shaheen profile image

      Uzma Shaheen Bhatti 2 years ago from Lahore,Pakistan

      Thank you so much for making it clear.

    Click to Rate This Article