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The Apostolic Church, On Divorce - Episode XI

Updated on April 1, 2014
First Century Christians
First Century Christians

The Church Speaks on Divorce and Remarriage

The teaching of the Lordʼs apostles became the fingerprints of truth, the minute Christ breathed upon them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. At that time, a special unction to interpret scripture was imparted unto them.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).

“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

Luke writes that the first century Church “continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Why did Luke mention this? Why was it even important?

As Jesus was preparing to return to the Father, He commissioned Simon, whom He called Peter, to be prime minister of His new Kingdom. Jesus actually said it this way: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). Thus, Peter was given the power to bind and to loose. Later, Jesus would commission all of His apostles to: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, ... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Lukeʼs statement, recorded in Acts 2:42, attests to the obedience of the apostles to the commission given to them by Jesus. Luke recorded: “And they” (the first century Church) “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine ...” (Acts 2:42).

So authoritative are the apostles teachings, that Paul could write: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). And to the Ephesians Paul could speak of “One Lord, one faith, and one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). Jude would write of a “... faith which was once for all” (time) “delivered to the saints” (Jude v3 NKJV). Therefore, the teachings of the apostles are to be taken as the seat of authority for the Lordʼs Church. This being true, we should pay the most earnest heed (Hebrews 2:1) to their writings on the subject of divorce and remarriage.

Although it is the apostle Paul who leaves us a corpus of his teachings on the subject directly, one must acknowledge that all four Gospel writers speak to the issue—through their witness to the teachings of Jesus.

In this episode we will look at two passages from the Apostle Paul. Paul addresses the issue of an unlawful marriage in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. And, then, in chapter 7, of the same book, he deals with the status of a believer who has been abandoned by his or her spouse. We will view these two issues in turn.

The Unlawful Marriage

The Unlawful Marriage: The case of an unlawful marriage has been briefly addressed in a previous episode which dealt with Biblical Grounds for Divorce and Remarriage; but, here we will examine Paulʼs words in particular. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his fatherʼs wife” (I Corinthians 5:1).

Paul can hardly hide his indignation at the Corinthian church for permitting a man to marry his fatherʼs wife. According to the Law of Moses, this was incest: “The nakedness of thy fatherʼs wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy fatherʼs nakedness” (Leviticus 18:8). And, “Cursed be he that lieth with his fatherʼs wife; because he uncovereth his fatherʼs skirt” (Deuteronomy 27:20). One, understands the Lawʼs point, when it is recognized that the wife becomes one flesh with her husband: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Therefore, to lie with the wife is the same as having sex with her husband: in this case, with his own father. Paul states that not even the Gentiles would allow such a relationship. The Roman orator Cicero informs us, through his writings (whether true or not), that incest was particularly unheard-of in Roman society. Therefore, this was a great blotch on the good name of the Church of Christ.

Paul instructs the church to put the man out of fellowship by excluding him from the eucharistic meal: “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (I Corinthians 5:11). ~ No doubt, the same instruction applied to the woman as well. Of course, the idea was to put the couple under church discipline until the situation was corrected. The only remedy for such an unlawful union would be its dissolution: namely, a divorce. Similarly, the scribe/priest, Ezra instructed the Jews to divorce wives they had taken from among the Gentiles (Ezra 10:2-3). In both cases (the incestuous marriage at Corinth, and the mixed marriages of Ezra chapter 10), the wives were unlawful. An unlawful spouse is to be divorced.

In the case of the man who was in an incestuous union with his stepmother, divorce would dissolve the unlawful marriage; thereby, granting each the right to remarry “in the Lord.”

The Pauline Privilege,

Abandonment: Secondly, in Paulʼs first letter to the Corinthians he addresses the question put to him concerning mixed marriages (see 1 Corinthians chapter 7).

A situation existed in the Corinthian church that, no doubt, existed wherever the Christian faith became established in the Roman world at the time. Namely this: The Christian faith had spread through the Roman communities rather quickly, and in many cases not everyone in the family converted. Consequently, one spouse became a Christian and the other did not. This presented a serious question; a question which the Corinthian church addressed to Paul: “Should the Christian spouses of mixed marriages continue to live with their unbelieving spouses, or should they divorce them?”

The Apostleʼs council was very clear and just as practical: “... If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away” (divorce her). “And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:12-15).

In the above text (which states “a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases”), the believer is freed from the bonds which bound him or her to the unbelieving spouse. Thus, the marriage contract may be dissolved by a “Bill of Divorcement,” and the believer set free to remarry (only in the Lord). Plainly, apostolic authority looses the bonds of matrimony in the case of abandonment.

(This, 1 Corinthians chapter 7 text - called the Pauline Privilege, will be addressed in a future article.)

Apostolically Speaking

☩ Jerry L Hayes

This book is a MUST read for every Christian.

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.


© 2014 Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr


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    • Bishop J L Hayes profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 

      5 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      I did not put that in because you are dead, DEAD, WRONG. Remember this is a series. I can not cover all points in one article. If you are in earnest you will read all the article to get the full picture.

      By the way: I see no name on the above post.Be informed that I will remove any post without a by-line.

    • profile image

      but you forgot to put in the part that says they can not remarry until the spouse is dead 

      5 years ago

      lets get one thing straight he also said not to re marry unless your spouce is dead why don't you put that part in

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 

      5 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      Graceinus, forgive me for the moment. I have not had any sleep for about 32 hrs. I am going to bed now. But ASAP I will post another hub that will deal directly with your concerns.

      Peace to your house.

    • profile image


      5 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

      Feel free to show me any where in the New Testament which uses the two word UNLAWFUL MARRIAGE where it applies to divorce and New Testament christian. Even Jesus never used the term unlawful when He spoke on the subject of marriage and divorce. 1 Cor: 5:11 has nothing to do with a so called UNLAWFUL MARRIAGE. Maybe you need to explain what exactly you mean by UNLAWFUL using the New Testament. Unlawful is used in only two places in the Bible which are Act 10:28 and 2 Pet: 2:8. These two verses mentions UNLAWFUL and have nothing to do with your subject.

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 

      5 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      LOL, graceinus, show me a little grace, lol, and tell me where you think I have taken the Scripture out of context. this would really interest me and those who may read these posts. (Although I do not think very many do.)

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 

      5 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      I am convinced the relationship in 1 Cor 5 is a marriage and not an affair. Notice that it was common knowledge that the whole church was allowing and sheltering, thus the rebuke from the apostle.

    • profile image


      5 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

      lifegate- The reason you may be confuse is the fact that the bishop is providing his church doctrine. And is taking verses out of context. This is normal in false churches.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I'm a little confused, so help me out. I don't see where the incest in I Cor. 5 was in a marriage relationship. I always thought it was a relationship of fornication rather than two adulterous relationships. Either way it's wrong- just wondering. Thanks.


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