Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Seriousness of the Sin of Remarriage after Divorce, part 5

This is a series of posts designed to convince people of the Biblical truth that remarriage after divorce is adultery and that the fact that the modern American Christian church has by-and-large rejected this teaching is proof that it is in a state of apostasy.  This article is the fifth in the series.  Click here to read the first article.

Real Exceptions to the Rule

Sure there are exceptions to the rule that remarriage after divorce is adultery.  But you cannot make up your own exceptions!  Only the ones mentioned in Scripture are acceptable.  If a man and a woman get a divorce and then he dies, then she is free to remarry (in the Lord) according to Romans 7:2-3 and I Corinthians 7:39. 

The second real exception is that a man can remarry if he divorced his wife because of her fornication.  I am assuming that Matthew 19:9 is a more complete version of the same statements found in Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18. And (I repeat) note that sexual immorality and fornication are the most correct translations of the Greek word used here.

The third exception is not so obvious.  This is because, technically, the case of a man abandoned by his wife is not an exception to a commandment, but it is simply territory that was never covered by the commandment to begin with.  It is very important to note that this has nothing to do with I Corinthians 7:15 (this passage will be discussed in the next section).  The only statement in the New Testament about a man remarrying after divorce is in Matthew 19:9 (NKJV):

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.

Focus on the “…who divorces his wife…” part for a minute. The verb divorce means to “put away” (in the King James Version) or “drive out”.  When a divorce occurs, it is sometimes the man who puts away his wife and sometimes it is the other way around.  Nothing is said in Scripture about a man remarrying after his wife put him away.   If a woman leaves her husband without his consent, then this could hardly be described as “he put away his wife”.  And if that happened, then how could it be said that “he causes her to commit adultery” (1984 NIV) or “makes her the victim of adultery” (Matthew 5:32, 2011 NIV)?  As with other exceptions, I am not saying that anyone in the situation could never sin by remarrying, but generally speaking, it is not sinful because the Bible does not address this specific case.

But it is always wrong for a woman remarry while the man she was married to is still alive.  All of that territory is covered by the commandments.  It doesn’t matter whether he was the one who put her away (Matthew 5:32, 19:9, and Luke 16:18) or vice versa (Mark 10:12, I Corinthians 7:10-11). Romans 7:2-3 and I Corinthians 7:39 also cover both cases and any other case that you might imagine (e.g. a mutual separation).  It doesn’t matter if the husband committed fornication because this exception is not mentioned.  As I said in the beginning, I take everything word in the Bible about this issue at face value.  Men and women are different.  This means you can’t generally interchange the words husband/man for wife/woman.  The resulting statement may not necessarily be true.  To assume otherwise would be to deny that women and men have different roles in marriage.

In the next two sections I will address in depth two false exceptions.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

The Seriousness of the Sin of Remarriage after Divorce, part 4

This is a series of posts designed to convince people of the Biblical truth that remarriage after divorce is adultery and that the fact that the modern American Christian church has by-and-large rejected this teaching is proof that it is in a state of apostasy.  This article is the fourth in the series.  Click here to read the first article.

Old Testament or New Testament Church?

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 says:
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

This seems to be saying that it is OK for a divorced woman to remarry as long as she does not return to a husband that she had before her last husband.  But if you want to use this or any other Old Testament passage to justify what Jesus calls adultery, you have just one problem in your argument.  We are not an Old Testament church under the old covenant, we are (at least supposed to be) a New Testament church under the new covenant.  If you want to use passages like these, then to be consistent, you must be circumcised, sacrifice animals for your sins, refrain from eating pork and shellfish and obey scores of other commandments.  Choose one or the other covenant.  You cannot build your own religion taking what parts of each Testament that you like and rejecting the rest.  Using Deuteronomy 24 to justify oneself is perhaps even more of foolish argument that the legalism one (Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16-19).  Even someone with cursory knowledge of the Bible should reject it immediately.  But if need some verses to prove this, start by reading Romans 4:14, Galatians 3:11, 5:4, and Ephesians 2:15.  Then you can read the entire book of Hebrews.

There are passages in the New Testament which speak of “fulfilling the Law (of the Old Testament)” (Matthew 5:17-18, Romans 13:10, Galatians 5:14). These do not contradict the above passages.  The Old Testament has a “surface meaning” or “letter of the Law” and a deeper “spiritual meaning” or “spirit of the Law”. There is no contradiction, it is just that in some sense we fulfill the “spirit” of Law of Moses by loving God and our neighbor.  But the letter of the Law is not for us (Romans 7:6).  (And that does not mean that there are no moral absolutes or that the loving thing to do is to turn a blind eye to adultery!)

Just because the Old Testament generally seems to be stricter as to rules for living than New Testament that does not mean that it is on every subject.  Acts 17:30 says, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…”

These things are explained even more fully in the context of some of the seven passages on remarriage after divorce.  Referring to Deuteronomy 24, the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Why then, did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” (Matthew 19:7)  Jesus’ answered, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.” (Matthew 19:8, Mark 10:5)  Therefore the escape clause of Deuteronomy 24 does not apply to us.  It is not that remarriage after divorce was any less dirty or degrading in the Old Testament era than it is now.  For Jesus says, “But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matthew 19:8)  It has always been immoral, but the Israelites of the Old Testament could not receive it because their hearts were hard.  “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given… The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Matthew 19:11-12)  The Old Testament teaches that the hearts of the Israelites were hard as stone, but in the future their hearts would be replaced with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).  Surely, Christ has fulfilled this passage in us (true believers) through the work of the Holy Spirit and we do not live by the inferior standard of Deuteronomy 24 which was preferred by the Pharisees.  By the power of Christ in us we can and must receive Jesus’ teaching and live by the higher standard.  Jesus says in Matthew 5:20,

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

And I Timothy 1:9 says,
 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers…

Jesus also said to the Pharisees in Luke 16:15,

You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

Then he contrasts the transient nature of the Law with the gospel of the kingdom in Luke 16:16,

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.

Matthew 11:12-13 says,
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.

This perfectly describes the situation.  Apostates and false converts have forced their way into positions of authority in the Church and have done violence to the institution of marriage by approving of adultery.  Their successors have largely followed suit because they were deceived by those who came before and continue to destroy what is left of the true Church.

Jesus continues in Luke 16:16,

It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

He may be talking about the “spirit of the law” concept mentioned earlier or the fact that He had to die on the cross to redeem us from the Law.  (Which would have been easier to do, the suffering of the cross or to move heaven and earth?)  Note that on the day of the crucifixion, the Sun was darkened (Luke 23:45) and afterward there was an earthquake (Matthew 27:54, 28:2).  Heaven and earth did not disappear, but they were at least moved.   All this talk of the inferiority and transient nature of the Law of Moses in Luke 16 builds up to the next verse (:18) which is the fourth of the seven passages condemning remarriage after divorce,

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

The sixth and seventh of the passages are in Corinthians who were noted for being rebellious and sexually immoral.  They were the only ones who needed any further convincing than what was already written. 

The fifth passage is Romans 7:2-3, but it is given in a very matter-of-fact manner.  (Unlike the Corinthians, the audience Paul is addressing here generally already knew and believed Jesus’ teachings concerning marriage and sexual immorality.)  The context (verses 1-7) reveals that Paul is merely using the fact that marriage is binding until death to symbolically illustrate another fact.  This fact just so happens to be the very thing that I am trying to convince you of in this section of this article!  You see, just as it is impossible for someone to be bound by both the old covenant and the new covenant at the same time, so too it is impossible for a woman to be bound to two husbands at the same time.  It is not possible for the new covenant to take effect in your life until the old covenant is dead to you.  So too it is impossible (without committing adultery) for a woman to marry a husband if another man that she already married has not yet passed away.  If you aren't convinced that this is an absolute statement, then it follows that you will also not believe that what it represents is absolute.

God knew all of the objections that people would have to this teaching.  It is very clear that He purposefully put answers to these objections in very convenient places. 

And besides all of the negative consequences of disobeying God’s Word there are many positives to taking the right position on the issue.  A biblically correct Christian may be asked why they don’t date or won’t marry a divorcee.  Or if the biblically correct Christian is a divorcée they may be asked why they don’t date at all.  These situations are perfect witnessing opportunities.   It is a way for Christians to stand out from the hard-hearted majority and show that God loves them enough to spare them from the dirtiness of sexual immorality.  It demonstrates the power of God to transform lives and shows that what was not possible under the inferior Law of Moses is possible when one is under the blood of Christ which is superior.  But to deny Jesus’ teaching on the subject makes harder to show that you are any different than someone you are trying to witness to.  It denies the power of God which is actually grounds for dis-fellowship (2 Timothy 3:5).  It makes it impossible to prove that you should take any other commandment or teaching in the Bible seriously.  There are still some people left who think critically and are hungry for holiness and consistency.  But they are not finding it in the modern American Christian churches.  Instead of trying to find arguments against Jesus’ teaching and trying to justify adultery under a particular set of circumstances, we should be thanking Jesus for giving us this special blessing of holiness and the ability to accept it.

Click here to read the next article in the series.

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