The Bible and Divorce

Posted on December 16, 2013 by


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It is my desire to uphold God’s Word – not to add to it or subtract from it.  His Word is the authority – not me or any person.  I am not a pastor, counselor, theologian or expert. I hope to point us to God’s Word as the only source of truth. I don’t EVER want to mis-speak even one word.  I know that I am accountable to God for each and every single word I say and write and that I am held to a stricter standard as I seek to fulfill God’s mission for me to teach women according to Titus 2:3-5.  This gives me great cause to seek to be completely humble before you and before God. How I pray God will always speak through me.  This has to be ALL about Him and not about me or my thoughts or my opinions at all.  May God greatly increase and may I greatly decrease.

I hope to clearly lay out God’s truth about divorce in this post – even though it is EXTREMELY counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, painful to hear and most definitely against our own sin nature.  
  • God is not concerned about saying things that will conform to our standards and our desires and our feelings.
  • He does not submit to us.  We submit to Him.
  • He is concerned about what is right in His eyes.
  • He has infinitely higher wisdom than we do.
  • When He gives us commands, it is always in OUR best interests and for our greatest good.
  • It is our job to conform ourselves to His standards of holiness even if what He has to say is not what we want to hear – and even if it is painful to have to see our sin – even if we have to completely change the way we live.

Divorce is a tender and excruciatingly painful topic, to be sure.  Almost everyone in our culture today has been touched personally by divorce in one way or another.

  • What I don’t want to do is heap condemnation or guilt on people who have divorced whether for biblical reasons or apart from the instructions of Scripture.

There is forgiveness and much grace at the foot of the cross when we repent of any and every sin – turning away from our own way, humbling ourselves before God, agreeing with God that our sin is wrong and turning to Christ.  The blood of Jesus is completely adequate to cover all of our sin, no matter what it is.  I don’t see divorce or remarriage as being “unforgivable sins” listed anywhere in the Bible.  God’s Spirit and His Word are able to give us wisdom about what to do from this moment on to live in obedience to Christ.  He can fill us with His spirit so that we can soar on wings like eagles and live lives that are pleasing to Him no matter what our background.

This post is primarily directed towards wives who have not divorced but who may be contemplating it and toward divorced wives in specific situations who may be contemplating remarriage. How I long for us all to be found faithful in the eyes of Christ when we stand before Him in heaven.

Avoiding and preventing sin is so much better than trying to fix things after the fact.  Even if God’s ways are not what I want to do.  This is when I can trust Him and not lean on my own understanding, realizing that my heart is deceitful above all things and without cure – apart from Christ.

God HATES divorce. (Malachi 2)

There are a few sins God talks about hating.   This is one of them.  Obviously, God hates all sin – but if He brings particular attention to one – I want to really hear His heart about it! I don’t think we even realize that divorce is sin in many cases in our culture.   It has become so “normal” we just accept that it has to happen like that and don’t even question it anymore.

In many cases, divorce is sin.  In all cases, divorce is a result of sin.  (David Platt – Secret Church – Marriage, Family, Sex and the Gospel)

Divorce is NOT God’s design or His perfect will for marriage or for families.  There are only a few situations where God allows divorce and divorce may be part of His permissive will.  God NEVER commands divorce.  He permits it – in some (hopefully) rare and extreme situations.  Marriage is a COVENANT that we have with our husbands and with God.  Our holy God is a Covenant Keeper.  He never breaks His covenants with us.  He doesn’t want us to break our covenants with Him or other people either.  (For more on the seriousness and meaning of “covenant,” click here.)

SEPARATION

Separation is not necessarily labeled as sin in the Bible.  It is ideal if we are able to stay and honor and obey Christ and our husbands and function as a godly family. There can be times separation may be necessary (I Corinthians 7). God desires us all to honor the covenant of marriage, prayerfully seeking reconciliation and trusting God to heal and work in our marriages.  If you have serious problems in your marriage (addictions, abuse, infidelity, uncontrolled mental illness, etc)  please seek godly, wise, biblical counsel and pray and fast on your face before God, desiring to obey and please Him above all else.   ALWAYS compare what any person says to God’s Word!  Obey God’s Word over people!

If you are not safe, please get help ASAP!  Get out if you can safely get out. I do not believe God commands women to stay in dangerous situations. If you are in danger, please find a qualified, godly counselor, pastor or shelter or contact the Salvation Army.  I am not qualified to counsel women with severe problems. Please do not read my blog if you have serious abuse in your marriage.

DIVORCE

  • Divorce is a concession in cases of a certain type of physical adultery – but it is not commanded by God (Matthew 19:1-12).  In fact, many times, God can and does heal marriages even after physical infidelity has been committed.  I can’t even count how many Christian couples I know whose marriages God has healed from adultery and who have much stronger and more godly marriages now than ever.  It is important for us to recognize that in Old Testament times, any man or woman who committed adultery was to be stoned to death In accordance with God’s Laws.  But today, we can find grace, mercy, forgiveness and new life in Christ.
  • If an unbelieving spouse leaves – I Corinthians 7 says to let him leave and not to try to force him to stay.  A believing spouse is not told to initiate a divorce in such a situation.

I am not offering legal advice here.  I am not qualified to do that – it is not my purpose.  My heart is for us as women of God to know God’s Word and to obey Him and honor Him in everything we do – that we might bring the greatest glory to His Name.  That has to be our goal as followers of Christ – to glorify God with our lives, to seek to obey and please Him alone.  Nothing else matters if Christ is our LORD.

Divorce is VERY serious in God’s eyes.   Our society makes divorce so easy and treats it very casually – but this does not honor God.  I know it is hard to wrap our minds around this in our culture – but unbiblical divorce is significant sin that deeply grieves God’s heart and deeply wounds many other people

HERE IS MY UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT SCRIPTURE TEACHES ABOUT DIVORCE – PLEASE READ THE VERSES FOR YOURSELF PRAYERFULLY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST

  • I want to encourage those wives who are considering divorce but who have not divorced yet to STOP and truly seek to honor and obey God and to seek His healing in their marriages and to pray for reconciliation and God’s power and wisdom and not to turn to divorce if there is any way in Christ to avoid it (see Matthew 19 below). Let’s commit to not using the word “divorce” when we talk to or about our husbands.  This really may not have to be an option in most cases.  I pray we will regard divorce with extreme caution and seek to uphold the marriage covenant as far as it depends on us in obedience to and reverence for God.   Our God is able to heal.  Perhaps He might heal your marriage for His glory? I have seen Him do this many times!
  • If you have already divorced your husband, but have not remarried.  I encourage you to repent if your divorce was not honoring to God’s Word and then… according to Scripture (I Corinthians 7) do not seek to remarry – but study God’s Word,  seek God’s wisdom, pray about reconciliation with your husband or seek to remain as you are.
  • If your husband leaves you – Scripture says not to try to make him stay.  But – prayerfully consider waiting for him to initiate divorce, praying for reconciliation and not initiating divorce yourself.    It is one thing if your husband leaves you and divorces you.  You may not be able to stop him.  Your job is to be the godly wife and woman God desires you to be.  You cannot control your husband.  He will give an account of his life to God.  You will give an account for your thoughts, motives, behavior, words, sin and obedience to God.  You are only responsible for yourself – to love and obey God and to seek to love, honor, respect and bless your husband.  I pray God will give you wisdom!
  • If you divorced your first husband and are already married to another husband – you can repent to God and your ex-husband if you sinned by divorcing him and seek to understand what God’s Word instructs you to do at this point.  Search the scripture and seek to honor Christ and obey His Word.  If this is your situation, study God’s Word – seek wise, trusted, biblical counsel and move toward obedience to God in every possible way.  Forgiveness is available!  We can repent and begin to live in obedience to God from this point on.  We can “go and sin no more” as Jesus told the woman caught in adultery.I pray God will give you and your husband wisdom.

OUR POWERFUL INFLUENCE OVER OUR GIRLFRIENDS, SISTERS AND COWORKERS:

If you have a Christian girl friend who is talking about divorce – PLEASE, PLEASE use your godly influence to direct her to the truth of God’s Word and to exhort her to honor her marriage covenant and to seek God’s healing, hope, power and His face in her own life and in her marriage.  We cannot change people.  But God can!  We can point our sisters and friends to Christ and towards obedience to God’s Word!  How many marriages might be saved if all of us encourage grace, forgiveness, mercy, repentance to God and obedience to His Word instead of encouraging divorce??  Let’s uphold God’s authority and the authority of His Word.  Let’s encourage other women to honor and respect their husbands and to affectionately love them and to be true to their wedding vows. (Eph 5:22-33, Titus 2:3-5)

GOD’S AUTHORITY

I have no authority to tell anyone what to do with her life.  God’s Word DOES have the authority to command us what to do.  God designed us.  He made men and women.  He designed marriage.  It is completely within His rights and authority to dictate how we are to behave in every area of life.  What He commands us to do is ALWAYS impossible in our own power or in our sinful nature.  But – He is able to give us His Spirit to empower us to obey the commands He gives to us if we will completely submit to Him and trust Him and lay our lives before Him daily as living sacrifices.

JOHN 15

23Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

RELATED:

WHEN MY SPOUSE IS WRONG

A Wife Finds God’s Peace Even As Her Husband Divorces Her – on Nina Roesner’s Blog today

John Piper on Divorce and Remarriage

John Piper at www.desiringgod.org and search for “fornication,” “divorce,” “remarriage”

David Platt at www.radical.net

MY OWN REPENTANCE FROM A RECENT POST

I am not a pastor.  I am not a theologian.  I haven’t spent months or years studying the doctrines involved with divorce and remarriage.  And, most importantly, I am not God.  I am woefully inadequate to begin to try to make any kind of blanket statements about what people in these complicated divorce situations “should” do.  I implore you to research the issue, seek God’s face and do what you believe is most honoring and obedient to Him!

WHAT DOES GOD’S WORD SAY ABOUT DIVORCE?

If your husband is far from God – God’s prescription for you is I Peter 3:1-6

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

MALACHI 2

13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with  favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.

16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.

So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

Another version (GNT) of verse 16:

1I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel. “I hate it when one of you does such a cruel thing to his wife. Make sure that you do not break your promise to be faithful to your wife.”

MATTHEW 5

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

LUKE 16:18

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

MATTHEW 19

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

I CORINTHIANS 7

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?…

39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

DEUTERONOMY 22 and 24 contain details about God’s laws to Israel concerning divorce in the Old Testament which are quite eye-opening.

HOSEA

The entire book of Hosea is about the faithful love of God as a Husband to His faithless people Israel – portrayed vividly in the marriage of Hosea ,the prophet, to the prostitute, Gomer.

God does not divorce His people.  Even though they deserved it time and time again because of their idolatry – which is like adultery in God’s sight – a heinous breaking of their covenant relationship with Him.

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