Category Archives: DIVORCE

Thwe teaching of Scripture on the subject of divorce is very clear. The problem is that our prejudices and inclinatioons often distract us from a calm consideration of the subject.

DIVORCE

 

DIVORCE

The Lord Jesus made it very clear that in His day there was only one ground of divorce, and that was for fornication. It would be worthwhile to set out His words as recorded in the three gospels that mention the subject, so that we understand what He meant by this:

Matthew 19:3-12
“The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?’ And He answered and said unto them, ‘Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ They say unto him, ‘Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?’ He saith unto them, ‘Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 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.’ His disciples say unto him, ‘If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.’ But He said unto them, ‘All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.'”

Mark 10:2-10
“And the Pharisees came to Him, and asked Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting Him.’ And He answered and said unto them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ And they said, ‘Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.’ And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘For the hardness of your heart He wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ And in the house His disciples asked Him again of the same matter. And He saith unto them, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.’

Luke 16:18
‘Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.’

Several matters should be noticed here:
1.   The Lord made a distinction between fornication and adultery. And the only ground of divorce He allowed was fornication. If one of a married couple is unfaithful, that is adultery. Therefore the teaching allowing divorce does not relate to married couples at all.

2. This “exception clause” as it is sometimes called, is only found in Matthew’s gospel. Now the truth of God is the same for every believer, yet in the early days of the church some believers might only have Mark’s gospel, some only Luke’s, some only Matthew’s. It cannot be that only the latter are allowed to divorce, whilst believers who only have Mark or Luke are not, for there is no exception clause in these two gospels. We are forced to the conclusion, therefore, that Matthew’s account has something distinctive about it. It must relate to a situation particular to Matthew’s gospel, or else those who had the other gospels would be governed by different principles.

3.  Those who have read as far as chapter 19 of Matthew’s gospel will have already come across the situation described in the first chapter, where Joseph was faced with the prospect of divorcing Mary, (for such is the force of “put away”). They have already been prepared, therefore, for the teaching of the Lord Jesus regarding divorce, and will be aware of what “except for fornication” means. It relates to the Jewish practice of betrothal being classed as a legal relationship, with the parties concerned being called man and wife, as we have seen in the case of Joseph and Mary. Such a situation did not pertain for those for whom Mark and Luke wrote, and so they do not mention the exception clause, thus showing it to be a matter distinctive for Jewish readers at that time.

So it is that the Lord Jesus reinforced the teaching of the book of Genesis with regard to marriage, which was that two shall be one flesh, so that their whole lives are inextricably linked together. To transgress against this order of things is to do something God hates, for He has said that He hates putting away, Malachi 2:16.

4.  The apostle Paul used the figure of marriage on two occasions to illustrate doctrine. In Romans 7 he used it to show that just as a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives, so those who are linked to Christ are linked as long as He lives, which, because He is raised from the dead, means for ever. Also, that only when a husband has died is a woman free to marry another man without risking being called an adulteress. Now if there are exceptions to the rules governing marriage, so that a woman may legitimately be divorced in certain circumstances, then the apostle’s use of the illustration falls down, for he used it as if there were no exceptions. Applying this to the teaching of Romans 7, we would have to conclude that Christ’s relationship with believers is not, after all, a permanent one, for He may divorce us if we are unfaithful. This cannot be, because in the next chapter we learn that believers are, as far as God is concerned, already glorified, Romans 8:30.

5.   The apostle also used the figure of marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church, in Ephesians 5:22-33. Now if there are certain circumstances in which it is allowable for divorce to take place, then the relationship between Christ and the church is possibly not a permanent one- He may divorce us at any time!

When confronted with the teaching the Lord gave about marriage, the disciples felt that the standard was so high that it would be best not to marry. But why should they think that the standard was too high, if there were easy exceptions to the marriage law, and it was not difficult to divorce? The truth is that they saw clearly that the standard was the same as it had ever been from the beginning, and man was not to put asunder what God had joined.

But what of those who are already divorced, whether believers or unbelievers? The word of the Lord Jesus was that “there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake”, Matthew 19:12. In other words, there are those who live as single persons, even though married, for the sake of the testimony. This would apply in the case of believers who are divorced and who then marry another. Once they see the truth of the Scriptures, they should live apart from their new partner. Although they will still have a responsibility to ensure they are provided fo

After all, the Lord Jesus taught that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her in his heart”, Matthew 5:28. Does that mean that every Christian woman whose husband has had a lustful thought about another woman has Scriptural grounds for divorce? This cannot be.

Further teaching on this matter is given in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, where the duty of believers to be pure in body and spirit is emphasised.

The following are the apostle’s words, and we should bear in mind that the things he wrote are the “commandments of the Lord”, 1 Corinthians 14:37.

1 Corinthains 6:12

6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
6:13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
6:14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
6:15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
6:16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith He, shall be one flesh.
6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Thoughts on the above words:

6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

ll things are lawful unto me- the apostle speaks of the believer’s attitude to eating meat as a lead-in to the subject of immorality. The connection being that some were suggesting that immorality was simply the satisfying of one sort of appetite, and eating meat was the satisfying of another sort of appetite. As far as meat-eating is concerned, the apostle was free, (even though brought up as a Jew in accordance with the Old Testament food laws), to now eat any sort of meat.
But all things are not expedient- some foods upset some people’s constitution; some foods are not advisable due to the environment in which the creature lives, for the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 were not an arbitrary way of making a distinction between Israel and the rest of the world. They had medical sense behind them, and we would do well to take heed of that fact. Our Creator knows best. All things are not expedient because those who had a conscience about eating meat might be hindered in their Christian lives if they saw the apostle eating such foods. As such, the foods would not be helpful to the other believer in his desire to walk with God.
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any- grace sets a believer free from legal restrictions, and allows him to move in line with the guidance of the Spirit of God. If Paul was bound by the dietary laws as a religious ordinance, (as opposed to good advice about what and what not to eat), he would be in bondage to that meat and what it represented. He refuses to be thus brought into bondage, for “ye have been called unto liberty”, Galatians 5:13. Peter and James had been brought under the power of meats when they started to refuse to eat with Gentiles, fearing they would have to eat meat. Paul had to rebuke Peter for this change of behaviour, for the truth of the gospel was in danger, see Galatians 2:11-21.

6:13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

Immorality is not a non-moral act like eating. The body is for the Lord, but immorality denies this.

The Lord does not sustain the body for immorality.

Meats for the belly- God allows man to eat meat now, as Genesis 9:3 explains. This is why the apostle could say in 1 Timothy 4:3-5 that food is sanctified by the word of God, meaning the word He gave about the rayer of thanksgiving that is spoken before it is eaten.subject in Genesis after the flood. It is also sanctified by the prayer of thanksgiving that should be spoken before it is eaten.
And the belly for meats- He has not only made the meat, but has also so constructed the stomach so that it can digest it for the benefit of the rest of the body. So meats for the body because that is why God made them; the belly for meats for that is how God made it.
But God shall destroy both it and them- exercising His rights as Creator, and after the purpose for which He made the present universe is done, God will bring to nothing all things material, in the sense that He will make all things new, and the need for meat and physical bodies will be gone. The believer anticipates that day, indeed looks for it and hastens unto it, 2 Peter 3:12, and therefore has a right appreciation of the relative importance of the spiritual things of eternity, and the relative unimportance of the natural things of time and sense. The believer is brought into the moral good of this by association with Christ in His resurrection, for in that sphere the spiritual is paramount.
Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord- we now have the application of the principles to do with meat-eating transferred to the moral sphere. Not just the belly, but the whole body, in every part, is for the Lord. He has purchased it for His use. He has certainly not done that so it can be abused by engaging in immoral practices.
The Lord is for the body- He preserves it so it can be used in service for Him, (hence He is given the title “Lord”).

6:14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee of the believer’s resurrection.

Things done in the body will be accounted for in resurrection.

And God hath both raised up the Lord- as Romans 14:9 says, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.” By His resurrection Christ has acquired rights as Lord over our entire person, body included.
And will also raise up us by His own power- since our bodies will be raised through Him, account will be taken of what we have done. God has the personal power to do this; He does not need another to assist Him. So things done in the body will be accounted for in resurrection; there is no escape from the recompense they deserve, whether good or ill. Some said, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die”, 1 Corinthians 15:32. They speak like this because they think that the things done now will not be taken account of after death. Those who think and speak like this are deceived.

6:15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

Our vital link with Christ forbids immorality.

Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? It might be thought that our spiritual link with Christ as believers has nothing to do with the physical body. This scripture assures us it is not so. This raises an interesting question, which is this. Our body is still indwelt by the sin-principle, and is therefore capable of sinning. It is a soulish body and not a spiritual body as it will be at the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:44,45. It is composed of atoms that are part of the creation that was cursed by God and made subject to vanity. Our body is in the bondage of corruption, so how can it be linked to Christ? The answer is found in the fact that dwelling within us is the Spirit of God, and one of His titles is “the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead”, Romans 8:11. His presence is the pledge that we shall share in the resurrection of the just, but it also means that God takes account of that in His dealings with us now. So we are linked to Christ even as to the body. Meanwhile the indwelling Spirit safeguards the honour of Christ, for He is the pledge that a spiritual body will certainly be ours, and God takes account of that, and not the fact that we have a physical body with its accompanying sin-principle.
Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid- this situation has serious consequences for us. If the members even of our body are united to Christ, then we must be very careful what other things or people we unite them to. Being a physical entity, our body can be united in sin with a prostitute. Is that acceptable behaviour for a believer? The apostle answers that question with a thunderous “God forbid!”, or “Let it not be!”.

6:16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith He, shall be one flesh.

What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? The apostle is outraged to think that they are not aware of the intimate physical relationship that is formed when a person is joined in an illicit relationship with a street-girl. As far as the physical act is concerned, they are joined as if they were formally married. This is as far as it goes, however, for they are simply joined in body. They are not joined in any other way. A man, even a believer, who consorts thus with a prostitute, has not entered into a life-long relationship until it is dissolved by death. It is an act no different to that which animals engage in, who have no moral sense.
For two, saith He, shall be one flesh- it might seem at first sight as if the apostle, by quoting this statement which has to do with marriage, is suggesting that to be joined to a harlot is to be in a marriage relationship. This cannot be the case, or else harlotry would not be condemned in Scripture. It is important to notice exactly what the apostle writes in this verse. The word “for” is not part of his quotation about marriage. No qotation in the new Testament of the words of Genesis 2:24 about the institution of marriag, whether in Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:8, or Ephesians 5:31, uses the word “for”, so this is the apostle’s word, and indicates the answer to an unspoken query by his readers. They might say to the apostle, “Why is it so sinful to be joined to a harlot?” The apostle answers by saying, in effect, “for (because) God has ordained that marriage should be a one-flesh arrangement, not a one-body one”.

The next word is “two”, which is the first word of the quotation. Then comes “saith He”, so some person is being referred to here. Then comes the remainder of the quotation, “shall be one flesh”. So the quotation is “two shall be one flesh”. The “for” is the apostle’s word. But who is the person referred to in the words, “Saith He”?

Since the apostle is referring to a Divine institution, we might assume the reference is to God as He speaks in Genesis 2. But the words there are, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”. Two things are noticeable here. First, that the exact expression “two shall be one flesh” is not in Genesis 2. And second, that the words about two being one flesh are not spoken by God, but are a comment by Moses on the situation when God brought the woman to Adam to be his wife. Adam made a comment in verse 23, and Moses made a comment in verse 24. This is not to say that the words are not God’s mind, for they are. But how do we know? We need to look for the answer in Matthew 19:5,6, and the parallel passage in Mark 10:8. where the Lord Jesus is speaking.

His words in Mark were, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then, they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined, let not man put asunder”. Now in Mark the Lord Jesus is speaking in conversation, and using these words. So it is He that the apostle refers to in the statement, “Two, saith He, shall be one flesh”.

Matthew, however, indicates that the Lord is quoting the book of Genesis. The words are, “And He answered and said unto them, ‘Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,” Matthew 19:4-6.

Notice that the Lord Jesus reckons that Moses’ words in Genesis 2:24, are God’s words, sanctioned by the inspiration of the Spirit. Notice too that the Lord quotes Genesis 2 using the expression “they twain shall be one flesh”, which give the substance of Genesis 2:24 but are not exactly the same as found there. The Lord is explaining the “they” as meaning the “twain” in question. These twain, (the word simply means “two”), are, on the one hand, the man who has left father and mother, and on the other hand the woman he is now going to cleave to in marriage.

It is only these, who leave and cleave, that are one flesh. A man who consorts with a harlot does not leave and cleave in this way. He does not formally leave the family unit he was brought up in and establish another. Nor does he become one flesh; he only becomes joined in body. It is significant that when the idea of being one flesh is presented, whether in the Old Testament Hebrew or New Testament Greek, the preposition is used which speaks of progress towards a goal. The idea is that “they two shall be set on a course towards being one flesh”. To be one flesh is much more than being one body, for flesh is used of the whole person, as in John 17:2, where “all flesh” means all men. Marriage is a sharing of everything; goals, ambitions, desires, hopes, experiences, joys, griefs. It is an ongoing process of two persons’ lives merging ever more closely. It is a relationship that is on a vastly higher plane, (even in the case of unbelievers), than an immoral and passing affair. So the moment that this process begins is when the man and woman are pronounced man and wife at the marriage ceremony. They are as truly married then as they will ever be, but they are not as closely married then as they will be at the end of their life together, for marriage is a process.

6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

Our links to Christ are spiritual, even though they include the body.

But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit- so there are four sorts of joining, and on four levels. The lowest level is the joining of a man with a harlot. This is purely on a physical and perhaps emotional level. There is the joining of a man and a woman in marriage. This is on a physical, emotional and, (in the case of believers), a spiritual level. There is the joining of the believer to Christ, which is on a spiritual level, but does not discount the body. And there is the joining of the church to Christ as the bride of Christ, to which the apostle alludes in Ephesians 5:31, and is modelled on the institution of marriage. This will be on a spiritual level, and will include the fact that we shall have changed and spiritual bodies. (It is interesting that the apostle quotes the words about marriage as the Lord quotes them, and not as found in Genesis 2:24).

The way in which the current joining takes place is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He it is who links us to Christ. This link is so strong that we can be said to be one spirit, such is the unity that has been made between the believer’s spirit and the Holy Spirit. So we are bonded to Christ in the same way as the persons of the Godhead are bonded together.

6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

Immorality disobeys the command of God.

Immorality is detrimental to the body.

Flee fornication- this is a command, which we disobey at our spiritual and physical peril. There is a stark contrast between the behaviour of Judah and Joseph in the Book of Genesis. In chapter 38 Judah is found consorting with a harlot, so he thinks, although in fact it was his own daughter in law. In the next chapters Joseph is found in Potiphar’s house, and his wife makes advances to him. The scripture pertinently and succinctly says, “He got him out”, 39:12. By fleeing fornication Joseph preserved his honour, and that of the God he worshipped. Subsequently, Judah was not given the full blessing that he might have had upon the default of Reuben, but was only given the right to rule. Joseph, however, was given the firstborn’s place because he was morally superior to Judah. So it was that Joseph’s action was vindicated.
Every sin that a man doeth is without the body- each and every sin, including fornication, is committed against others, whether God or men, and therefore has an external element to it. Even if a person, sadly, should commit suicide entirely at his own hand by fatally harming his own body, it is still a sin towards God, (who holds man’s breath in His hand, Daniel 5:23), and also against those who are left behind. Even a sin like jealousy, which seems to be only an inner feeling, will, sooner or later, express itself against others, and is certainly a sin against God.
But he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body- not only is the sin of fornication very personal, it is also harmful. This is not only because of the danger of the particular diseases that accompany such activity, but also because it is a gross abuse of the abilities of the body. Paul has already written in verse 13 that the body is not for fornication. God did not create it to be used in that way. So fornication violates God’s purpose for the body, and must expect His judgement.

6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

Immorality grieves the Spirit of God and profanes His temple.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you- the apostle expresses great surprise that the Corinthians are not aware of the character of the indwelling of the Spirit. He is essentially holy, and any place He dwells in becomes sanctified to God, a veritable temple where God makes His presence felt. If the sin of fornication, therefore, is not outside the body but against it, then it must be against the indwelling Spirit. The heathen temples of Corinth were occupied by temple priestesses who were in many cases little more than temple prostitutes. The Christian’s body has sunk to this level if fornication is committed.
Which ye have of God- the Holy Spirit is a gift from God. Shall we treat that precious gift with contempt in this way?
And ye are not your own? The presence of the Holy Spirit is a sure sign that the person involved is purchased; He is the guarantee of that, see Ephesians 1:13,14; 4:30. To commit fornication is to sin like an unbeliever who is in bondage to the sin-principle within. The believer is freed from obligation to sin, and that because he has been purchased, as the next verse says.

6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Immorality dishonours God.

For ye are bought with a price- the apostle now justifies his statement about us not being our own. The price of Christ’s blood has been paid for us; all of us, not just our spirits. Notice that although the ransom price has been paid, we are not yet redeemed as to the body, for that will not take place until the Lord comes, Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14; 4:30.
Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s- the exhortation in view of the fact that we have been bought, and also in view of the teaching of the whole chapter, is that we should glorify God. To commit fornication is to shame Him; to serve Him faithfully in spirit and body is to glorify Him. It ought not to be difficult for believer to decide between these two options.