*** This page was developed to counter a Roman Catholic teaching adopted by most Baptists and other pastors (particularly in the south), who believe once divorced, a Christian is doomed to a life of loneliness. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the very beginning of the Bible God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone." He has not changed his mind or repented. While God in no way favors divorce, he does not relegate everyone who has suffered this heartbreaking event to remain celibate for the rest of their earthly sojourn.
Many today have suffered in this matter of divorce. It is a heart rending experience. For new believers or those whose knowledge of the Scriptures is weak, but who in heart truly desire the Lord's will the problem is even tougher. Can I, a person who has never been divorced, marry someone who has been (and vice versa)? Or: can I, a divorced person, marry someone else who has been divorced? Could someone who feels called to the ministry marry a divorced person. The list of questions goes on with one common denominator. Is marriage only for those persons who have never divorced? If I have been divorced, am I then consigned to being alone the rest of my life?
The typical answer from fundamental pastors is that once divorced remarriage is out of the question, and that if you remarry, you or your spouse is living in adultery. Usually the Scriptures quoted are: Ro 7:2,3 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
From this passage the answer given is that, once divorced there are no other options. The woman that has been divorced cannot remarry. But, in the passage in Deuteronomy, Which Paul refers to in this passage in Romans, the Bible is not talking about a divorced woman, but rather an adulteress woman. An Old Testament woman had no divorce options. The Old Testament woman was bound by the law as long as he was alive. If she "stepped" out on him, or left and married another man, she was an adulteress. (Which is the definition of adultery - a married person being unfaithful to their spouse). The LAW says the woman cannot marry another man until her husband is dead. (Our present day civil laws say the same thing!) We will show why this scripture does not teach what many believe it does, and then show that although Paul does not recommend divorce or remarriage, it is permitted, and even encouraged in some cases. So, what does the Bible say, and why have so many bought into the "no re-marriage" teaching?
Look at the passage above. It sounds pretty convincing, doesn't it! "The law says . . !". The problem is that the whole quotation is taken out of context. "What is the context?", you say. Let's look. I will add emphasis is some places by using underline
Ro 7:1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Notice what was missed! One, the passage is written to them that "know the law". Notice also that it has "dominion" over the man as long as he lives. These are Hebrew Christians - in other words, Hebrew Christians who know " the law" that Paul is addressing. They are still confused as to their complete deliverance from the law. Paul is teaching them that It no longer has DOMINION over them! (If it does - now - we are all still under bondage to every jot and tittle of it!) What "law" is he talking about? He is referring to the Mosaic Law given to Israel, and it was gracious compared to today's modern understanding.
Notice: De 24:1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. De 24:2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.
She could re-marry here even if she were the cause of the divorce! So then, what is the Scripture saying and what is it not saying here in Romans 7? Under the Old Testament system there is no situation in which a woman could divorce her husband. When he was dead she was then free. Paul was simply using this Old Testament truth to illustrate our death to the law and how that frees us to be "married" unto Christ. We, praise God, are NOT under that law. Paul is simply illustrating our relationship under grace to the Lord Jesus Christ, to a bunch of Jewish Believers who know the law. Their familiarity with the law was confusing them. He says that in the same way an old testament woman who's husband was dead was free to remarry, believers are now DEAD to the law , and free to "Marry" Christ. Romans seven is not teaching anything in particular about divorce and remarriage, and It was not meant to bind Christians to an old testament rule. Rather it teaches the opposite! We are free from the law!
The woman in the passage in Deuteronomy was an adulteress because she was fornicating with another man while still married(!) to her husband. That definition of adultery stands today! She was "stepping out" on him. She was not divorced. She could not divorce her husband, and if he divorced her she could remarry! If she married another while still married to a husband, she was an adulteress. Some will say that couldn't happen. That is naive. It happens all the time.
Christ ministered under the law while teaching Israel the rules under which his millennial kingdom would be administered. That is what, for instance, the book of Matthew is all about. It is about the one who was the King of the Jews. It opens in chapter 2 with wise men asking:
"Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" Matthew preaches a kingdom gospel. It is quite a bit different from what Paul teaches us. When Christ healed people, he often instructed them to offer the sacrifice that Moses commanded to the priest. His ministry was primarily to Israel." Mt 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
We can gain understand by placing the books in their "rightly divided" proper dispensational places. When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:9 and told them:
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. He was not speaking to church age saints. Our instructions come from Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Jesus spoke to those still under the mosaic law, and gave them instructions on what the rule would be in the millennial kingdom (which was the "gospel" He and John the Baptist were preaching) [I know that will generate questions. Remember that he was born KING of the Jews - hence he was preaching a "kingdom gospel". There is not space in this discourse on divorce to go into that.] NOW, what was he saying? Pay close attention here. It will clear up a LOT of misunderstanding. He was telling them that in the Kingdom, (Millennium when he is KING of KINGS) the Old Testament standard of "because he hath found some uncleanness in her" will no longer hold. The only grounds for divorce in that age will be fornication. Fornication has been mis-defined in our modern times. It's meaning is any kind of illicit sexual activity, including bestiality (and I might add, pornography). The kingdom rules are not in effect for YOU doctrinally. You are not under bondage.
That does not mean that we cannot gain understanding from what he said, it only means that we must be careful applying the Old Testament standards to our lives under the grace of God. Paul says, " Ro 15:16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. . ." If then we are going to look for instruction in this vital area, we should go where Paul deals with it directly, and not where he uses Old Testament law in an illustrative manner. Let's look at 1Corintians chapter 7. I suggest you view the remainder of this page with your King James Bible open to the chapter. We will print selected portions here, but want you to be able to see the complete context.
Let's start: 1Co 7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 1Co 7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 1Co 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The chapter starts here because marriage is always a better option than fornication, and God knows some folk have a difficult time of it. Paul starts this way to lay a groundwork for all he is about to say. He is going to make room for the way God made us, to need companionship and love, at the same time telling us that it is better if we can remain unmarried. It should be clear that in verse 2 he includes every man and every woman. That takes in just about every one.
Now he writes to different groups within the “every man every woman” paradigm. First group, “unmarried and widows”.
1Co 7:8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. In order to understand the passage, you must: (1) believe the Book as it stands. (2) leave the meaning of the English words as they stand. What do they say?
Vrs 8 - say therefore to the unmarried and widows ... Is a divorced person married? Not according to the word of God. In the Old Testament example, when the husband gave the wife a divorce, she was no longer married. She could then become another man's wife. There is a peculiar line of thinking that makes the "unmarried person" in the verse a "never married person". While it is true that someone who has never married is "unmarried", it is equally true that someone who has been divorced is "unmarried". What then saith the scriptures? 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. What does the word burn mean? Go to hell? Of course not, it means to "burn" with longing or with lust! Paul simply says that if you can handle being single that's good, but if you can't, for heaven's sake, get married! That is the instruction given to an "unmarried" person, and there is no gender mentioned. In Christ "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female. . ." Galatians 3:28
The second thing to understand, that is in this chapter is that Paul gives the direct will of God and the permissive will of God. You will notice that in verse 10 he says "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11: but if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband". This is our second “Group” within the “all men and all women” heading. "The married."
It will become clear as we proceed with this important study, that Paul is not advocating divorce. Paul gives us inspired scripture to show that while remaining single or reconciling in the given instances is best,it is sometimes impossible. Either the spouce is unwilling for a reconciliation, or the single, unmarried person is continually temped to fornication, in which case the rules for the "unmarried" group apply. it in no way consigns the divorced to perpetual lonliness. If you are contemplating divorce, Paul's admonitions are not given to justify your self will. Please read the remainder of this study as God's care for those whose lives are deviod of the companionship of a Godly mate.
Is what Paul writes in this chapter as much Holy Scripture as what he quotes the Lord saying? Absolutely! But the Lord says the wife should not depart from her husband, and if she does (verse 11) she should remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. Undoubtedly that is the best option, if it can be done. However is that final? No, for several reasons.
First, remember Paul started this whole thing out with every man and every woman. When he then gives further instruction, it should be clear that it is given under the blanket of verses 1-3. It does not give anyone a carnal reason to divorce, and it recommends, if you can, staying single. That is your best option. But, God knows your heart, Clear reasoning within the scripture gives us direction. The Lord understands a lot more than you think he does! A spouse can be unfaithful in more than just fornication or adultery. They can abuse the other partner, both physically and mentally. No man or woman should be expected to, although they may, stay with an abusive spouse. Since God knows what you are experiencing, you need to be careful. Don’t let your heart deceive you into thinking your situation is intolerable when you just want out. Verse 15 gives us an important principle illuminating the whole process. 1Co 7:15 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. God hath called us to peace, and says the departing spouse leaves the believing spouse free to re-marry.
Now, for illustration, suppose a brother wants to marry a divorced Christian lady who was abused and battered by her former husband. He is nervous about it. He wants to do the right thing. She divorced him for personal safety reasons. He was abusive and adulterous. Question: Did she leave her husband or did he leave her? On first sight it would appear she left him, but man looketh on the outward appearance, and God looketh on the heart. When Israel departed from the Lord, she did not leave physically, but in her heart. When this woman's husband abused her mentally and physically, he was the one who left her. His heart was somewhere else. She is free in Christ to marry whomsoever she will, only in the Lord, and in her case by two reasons in the chapter. (1) verse 9, (look at it again!) and secondly verse 15.
To summarize for the “Unto the married group”, the best thing you can do is stay together. If your cannot stay together, then remain unmarried or be reconciled. If that is impossible, by reason of abuse, ( which has many forms), then verse 7-9 would apply.
Now let's go a little further: " 1Co 7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
What do the above verses teach? Paul concludes this theme saying (I am going to paraphrase here) Are you married? Don't seek divorce. Are you divorced? Don't seek to get married. BUT if you are divorced, and you re-marry, YOU HAVE NOT SINNED. AND if a divorced man marries a virgin, he has not sinned. In other words, God is not making a way for your wicked heart to do it’s own will. Trying to keep it together is the best option. If your find yourself divorced, the best option is to stay single. In some cases that is impossible if the man or woman is constantly tempted to fornication. If that is so, then get married. This takes us back to verse 2. Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.
Now, last of all, some people come away from the whole chapter confused because Paul concluded the chapter with the verse we started with in Romans 7: 1Co 7:39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God. Is he contradicting everything he just said? Obviously not. He is simply saying that the law God gave in the old testament was not without practical value. She should stay with her husband. It should be "till death do us part". BUT we are not under the law, and the entire chapter was written to deal with this problem. Read it carefully, and if you have been through this heartrending experience, and remarry or have already remarried. Re-read verses 27 and 28, and don't let well meaning believers put you in bondage again to the law that Christ nailed to his cross. Please take the time to read the entire chapter carefully. If something I have written here is unclear, please email me and we can discuss it with an open heart and an open Bible. It is only my desire to help.