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Divorce and the Bible
Divorce Not Part of God's Plan for Humanity
Divorce is clearly not part of God's original plan for humanity. In the beginning the Lord created man and woman, and the marital relationship was the first human institution. Indeed marriage and the family is the foundation upon which society itself is based. In Genesis 2:23 Adam states concerning Eve, his wife:
"This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."
We further see in the next verse that marriage was meant to be permanent. It states:
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (2:24).
While the man leaving his parents and being united to his spouse does not end his responsibility to honor them, it does indicate a new loyalty and a new and primary responsibility. The word "joined" here carries the sense of a permanent and indissoluble union.
And the idea of "one flesh" implies a complete unity of parts making a whole. So the marital union was complete and whole with the two people coming together. This also implies their sexual completeness. One man and one woman constitute a pair to reproduce another person created in the image of God.
Not only is divorce not part of the original plan for humanity, the Bible says that God Himself hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). And our Lord Jesus has this to say regarding a married couple:
"So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matthew 19:6).
Also, we see in the writings of the Apostle Paul that marriage has a further design as a picture of Christ and His Church. Jesus will never divorce us, leave us nor forsake us (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Despite all of this, the Bible is realistic in it understanding that, since we are dealing with two sinful human beings, divorce could occur. And it gives reasons as to when God allows for divorce and remarriage.
I. Marital unfaithfulness.
One reason that is given by our Lord Jesus Himself is found in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. They tell us:
"But I say to you that whosoever shall put away ( i.e. divorce) his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery" (5:32).
"And I say to you, whoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery" (19:9).
Sexual relations are an important part of the one flesh marital bond. They are a seal of the marriage covenant (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31) Fornication breaks the covenant.
The Greek word translated 'fornication' here is a word which can mean any form of sexual immorality. It can refer to such things as adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, or any number of sexual sins. In any case, it is an exception to the general rule of no divorce, and allows for it. But this is not a command. The spouse could choose to stay with the offending partner and work things out, if he or she is repentant.
II. Desertion by An Unbelieving Spouse
The Apostle Paul gives another possible exception to the no divorce and no remarriage commands in the Bible. I Corinthians 7:15 talks about an unbelieving spouse who deserts the believer. He states:
"But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace."
While there is nothing that specifically says that the believer is free to remarry here, it seems to be implied in the phrase that he or she is "not under bondage in such cases."
III. Things Not Mentioned in Scripture
It is interesting that marital unfaithfulness and desertion by an unbelieving spouse are the only possible exceptions given in Scripture for divorce and remarriage. We wish that God had covered such things as desertion by a person who claims to be a believer, and spousal abuse.
Though I can never be dogmatic where the Bible is silent, I personally believe that these two fall under the second exception of desertion. I Timothy 5:8 tells us that:
"If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
Any Christian who deserts his family is certainly not providing for them. He is acting like an unbeliever in this case. The same is true of a spousal abuser. In that case he, if it is a man, is abandoning or deserting his marital duties to love, cherish and protect his wife.
Although this may be a stretch in the case of wife abuse, the Bible in no way forces a person to remain in such a relationship that could lead to their death or maiming. At the very least, this couple needs to separate until the other is repentant and goes through intensive counseling and possible incarceration.
The sad thing is that many Christians don't seem to take marriage any more seriously than the non-believing world. The divorce rate among Christians today is nearly as high as those who don't profess the name of Christ. Even though God does recognize that divorce may occur in this sin-cursed world, believers should be those who are characterized by love, forgiveness and reconciliation. The Lord Jesus Christ can bring hope to even the most hopeless situation, if we will but allow Him to do so. If divorce has occurred, and there is still a chance of reconciliation, then believers should seek it.
And what of those who are already divorced and have no hope of reconciling due to the fact that one or both of you have remarried? Those who have been divorced shouldn't look upon this as the end of life, or as the unpardonable sin. It is not. Rather, God can take your situation as well, and make it into something that can honor and glorify His name. We first need to accept by faith the salvation that the Lord Jesus Christ offers us. If we have done this then we have the ability to start afresh. If it is a believer who has sinned by divorcing, then I John 1:9 applies here:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Our God is the God of second chances. He will take what was evil and bring good out of it. We need simply to turn our lives and our new marriages over to Him. He can use this for His purposes and bring beauty from the ashes of a dissolved relationship. What a wonderful God we serve!