Life, the Universe, and Everything, from the Outside In

May the Divorced Remarry?

with 7 comments

divorce trauma3
This question has plagued people now for centuries. The consensus in many “Bible-believing churches (should this be redundant?)” is that Jesus said it was an absolute no-no because God has decreed that every marriage is forever, end of discussion. But is this the case?

Before going farther, there is no intent here to encourage anyone to take the marriage vows any less seriously. “Til death do us part” still means the same thing and, as many of us know, divorce can be even worse than death for those so-affected. If you are married, then unless your life is in real danger, that is, if at all possible, make it work, please! Many go running out that “back door” only to find themselves slammed through the brick wall on the other side of the doorway.

If Jesus said that divorce is a sin, and that those divorced must stay single, then we have an interpretation problem. In the Sermon on the Mount He had said that He would not be changing “one jot or one tittle” of the Law of Moses, but to fulfill it. As a body, it is “fulfilled” when every figure and prediction has come to pass. At present count, the 2/3 which covers the Second Coming and the Kingdom Age is yet to happen. The Law, then, including the parts in which God gave the statutes for divorce as well as the parts for honoring parents, respecting others’ property, and loving God with our all, are still in effect.

“Giving divorce?” Yes, before the Giving of the Law divorce did not exist. A man had all rights in the marriage, including to expect a deserted wife to wait for him indefinitely in case he wanted to come back in a few years and sell her and her children on the auction block. God, through Moses, changed this for His people. “For the hardness of your hearts it was given” Jesus said. To protect the injured party from continued neglect, abuse, or infidelity the Law allowed a clean break, with a certificate to show that person was free to remarry or, as Moses wrote it, “free to go where she will.” Marriage, even remarriage, was the norm because of God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” and the male-driven economy which made it nigh-to-impossible for a woman to strike out on her own. This would have been the exception, not the rule.

If we but recognise that Jesus is, Himself, the Word, the Logos, of God, then we see that for Him to change course with any detail of the Law would be for Him to contradict Himself as the Law-Giver. It was not His purpose to outlaw divorce, or any other detail of the Law. As much as it can hurt, and yes it can be about like an amputation, if the amputation takes years to complete and the anesthetic is in short supply. But like an amputation it is not done for cosmetic purposes unless one is either incredibly dense or psychotic, but to save a life. In like manner, for the Church to marginalise the divorced would be like a handicapped parking spot being open for all but amputees.

Is this the whole story? Not by a long shot. There is more- We have yet to touch on Jesus actual words on the subject, or the implications in the Church for leadership, or the charge given to modern pastors and leaders for dealing with the situation as it stands. But this is a good spot to stop for questions. What’s yours?


Written by Robert Easter

Wednesday, 9 September, 2009 at 20:21

7 Responses

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  1. It’s my understanding, solely from reading the scriptures, that adultery constitutes grounds for divorce before the Lord. And being that it is God himself who acknowledges the dissolution of the marriage, the parties are no longer married in His eyes.

    The commission of adultery is the only reason given by Jesus to forbid remarriage, due to having divorced for the wrong motive, which in God’s eyes is no divorce at all.

    Therefore, no scriptural case can be made to forbid those actually divorced in His eyes from remarriage.

    As to the law, two points. Jesus fulfilled it and we are not bound by it. To think otherwise is contrary to the message that Paul was given for the churches. Secondly, Gentile believers were never required to observe Jewish traditions.

    God is far more merciful than our religious ideas of Him.


    Wednesday, 9 September, 2009 at 21:58

  2. Now here’s where it gets interesting. Some say that Jesus fulfilled all the Law, so we are no longer bound to it. If this is a true, blanket, statement, then the bulk of the Sermon on the Mount, which is the basis for all Christian teaching / New Testament perspective, is null and void not three years after it was preached. Jesus did not nullify the Law, but pointed out that it was not merely the outward observances but the inward which may or may not ever be acted out that God is concerned with. If God is concerned with our inward obedience to His moral precepts, then how do we get the idea that they’re “fulfilled” and no longer applicable to our lives as Christians?

    To answer the “adultery only” question, the question He was answering was whether a divorce was permitted for “any cause” and also “for uncleanness” or only for adultery, in reading Deut. 24:1. Some “liberal” Pharisees had split the verse to allow what we read as “any cause of uncleanness” as two different things. Jesus told them that there was only one mentioned in that verse. He did not nullify Exodus 25, which lists three other grounds, which, when taken together, give us the wedding vows / marriage covenant we still use to this day. A married couple is bound under covenant to feed, clothe, give “duty of marriage,” and remain faithful. Does that mean that physical abuse or endangerment is not sufficient? Only for someone who has a whole lot greater fixation of rule books than a love for God and those God loves. Maybe that wasn’t listed, because there was enough involvement from the broader family and village that such things were sorted out before they ever reached the judge.

    Robert Easter

    Wednesday, 9 September, 2009 at 22:37

  3. I almost spoke to the issue of Moral vs. Mosaic. I should have. I agree, the moral law is not fulfilled. Rather it is inscribed on our hearts now, rather than tablets of stone. As to the Mosaic (not ten commandments), Jesus is our keeping of the law.


    Thursday, 10 September, 2009 at 10:17

  4. So, is it inscribed on our hearts, or is it a work in progress, or a promise in our lives yet, in many at least, to be fulfilled? Does having a new heart mean living a new life out of that heart, or is it merely an invisible religious ornament? Not really on-topic, but questions that need to be dealt with. Also, what does, “Jesus is our keeping of the law” really mean?

    Robert Easter

    Thursday, 10 September, 2009 at 10:31

    • Sorry that it has taken me so long to respond, but I’ve been ill.

      I believe that once a person is regenerated by the coming of the Holy Spirit into the temple at the new birth, He brings with Him the moral law and writes it upon the heart. How could it be otherwise, as He Himself is morality? It is not a progressive work, but instantaneous, as is the new birth (not to be confused with the “labor pains” leading up to it).

      Yes, it does mean living out of the new heart, or “new man”, as Paul’s writings put it. As we grow in grace, we find ourselves doing it on an almost sub-concious level, as we yield more and more to “Jesus in us, the hope of glory.” It becomes who we are, not just what we do.

      To answer the last question, scripture says it best, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to everyone who believes”. Our need for righteousness before God is totally and for all time, found in Jesus and Him alone. We can do nothing to achieve it in any way, apart from placing our faith in Him.


      Tuesday, 24 November, 2009 at 13:55

  5. Glad you’re feeling better!

    So, to understand your last- Are you saying that if any we love Christ, then obedience is not necessarily part of the relationship, or that being free in Christ means being free to disobey / blatantly sin against Him? I’m sure you’re not, but I’m having a hard time reading what you did say without seeing that as part of the package.

    Robert Easter

    Tuesday, 24 November, 2009 at 14:05

    • Jesus did what we could never do. He kept the Law perfectly, thus fulfilling it. Done deal.

      As to obedience, yes it is required, if we are to enjoy the blessed life that God has destined us for. But it needs to be understood, that we don’t earn favor with God by it. Jesus did that for us. It contributes nothing to our salvation, as that is totally founded in the work of Christ. “So then, it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Romans 9:16

      We need to allow God to examine our motives. If we are attempting to keep His commands in order to qualify, we are missing it. When Paul wrote about finishing faithful, lest he be disqualified, he was speaking of finishing with his faith totally and immovably in Jesus and His work alone, not in his (Paul’s) ability to measure up by how obedient he had been. Our obedience pleases God when it comes out of one motive alone: that we love Him and desire His pleasure.


      Wednesday, 25 November, 2009 at 12:48

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