Divorce... or misery?

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Richard King

Puritan Board Senior
My heart is breaking for someone who is in a disastrous marriage. Neither of them are happy. The hatred and resentment is undeniable. The husband is very much hated by the wife. It looks unfixable. He has lasted longer than I would have. She has lasted longer with him than most women would have.

What do I advise. In my heart I think they are hurting each other more than a divorce would...but I don't want to counsel anyone to divorce. Any advise? I know miracles can happen but this would be on the level of Lazarus coming back to life.
 

LawrenceU

Puritan Board Doctor
The Bible is very clear about marriage and divorce. Unhappiness or unwise choice is not a clause for legititmate divorce. And, God did raise Lazarus.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Originally posted by LawrenceU
The Bible is very clear about marriage and divorce. Unhappiness or unwise choice is not a clause for legititmate divorce. And, God did raise Lazarus.

Amen to Lawrence. God commands us to love our enemies. I bet this would apply to them.

I was in that very situation about 5 years ago. My wife proved to be an unbelieving departer. She wanted a divorce. The Church worked very hard on our behalf. I would recommend they do nothing outside of the Church. If one proves to be an unbeliever and departs there is nothing that can be done after that.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
It is better for them to be married and miserable than divorced and happy.
The problem isn't the union of the two people. The problem is the two people themselves. They need to die to themselves.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I would liken it to a person with a painful and even killing disease. We can't just say, "I think death is preferable to living like this, so suicide is the way to go." God says he will give grace to meet in time of need. He promises never to give us more than we are able to bear with his aid. We always have the option of pleasing God, no matter what circumstances (or another person) is doing to us.
 

BJClark

Puritan Board Doctor
Richard,

I'm sorry your friends are going through this, I know how painful it can be, been there done that.

The thing that helped me the most was having friends offer to pray with me and for me about the situation. He eventually choose to leave the marriage, and continues to live the life of an unbeliever, and I continue to pray for his salvation.

but it gave me comfort, and brought me peace knowing my friends cared enough about me, my marriage and my then husbands salvation to pray for our situation.

So first and foremost PRAY for them, and ask if you can pray WITH them together, and then do it.

Are these people Christians? If so, then as their brother in Christ, you have the authority to go and talk to Him about how he is treating his bride. I'm sure he will make excuses for his behaviors and probably even blame her actions on why he acts the way he does, but you can call him on that. Because he is supposed to be the Leader, He cand and should set the example and step up the plate and lead the way out of that mess. (remember Adam, he blamed everyone but himself for his choice to sin)

If it means they seek counseling, then encourage him to step up to the plate and make the call.

Do they belong to a local church body? If so, you could contact the pastor of their church and let Him know whats going on, so that HE can address the situation with them.

If you hear him or her bad mouthing the other in front of you, CALL THEM ON IT! Let them know it's inappropriate, let them know you don't like hearing them tear each other down and maybe others will begin to do the same, or it just might get their attention to make changes in their marriage.

Start holding HIM accountable. He will either begin to change or he will back away from his relationship with you.

[Edited on 12-2-2005 by BJClark]

[Edited on 12-2-2005 by BJClark]
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Lots of good advice here, I've nothing to add except to point out that 'divorce or misery' is a false dichotomy. Abortion or misery would be a similar comparison. 26 years ago our marriage was Lazurus in the tomb. There are no marriages that can't be saved with WORK and a God-ward motivation. Committing myself to my wife became the means of my sanctification to the praise and honor of Christ.
 

Richard King

Puritan Board Senior
This is all great and encouraging advice that I will pass on.

I have been watching this for years and like any marriage they have a multitude of issues. Your comments have helped keep me from telling him to run for his life and try to start anew.

Their beliefs are different now. They started out as two charismatics who "God told to marry at a young age." As he moves toward examining reformed thought and realities she digs in her heels and insists on her way.

The man is NOT blameless, he has done some immature things that have caused economic uncertainty and turmoil that would make a woman looking for security feel a lot of panic... but the woman is completely against submission to a husband. She definitely wears the pants in the family.

There is considerable daily HEAVY influence and input from her parents.
All of her siblings are already divorced and her dad is a sweet man but meek and weak subordinate to her mom. That is her model for marriage and some of the problems may stem from that.

The worst part in all of this is there are children involved and I have often wondered if it is worse for kids to hear their dad cursed at and verbally castrated daily or to just endure the pain of divorced parents.

I will just try to help him die to self, grow strong in the Lord and pray for miracles.

[Edited on 12-2-2005 by Richard King]
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
You might turn you friend on to Dave Ramsey. He's a financial counselor with a daily radio program (can also be heard on the net). He's saved many a marriage with his old fashioned biblical principles. Financial problems contribute to most marital problems.

The first interpretation of 'the man is the head of the household' is, the man is RESPONSIBLE for his wife and family. Whatever problem this couple is having, God holds the man responsible. We are responsible for the good and the bad that comes into the family. God has left no room for the husband to point his finger at anyone else, the man cannot blame anyone else. We, husbands, are responsible. Your friend needs to understand that. He's need to confess and repent of those things that brought them to where they are now. He needs to apologize to his wife regardless of her attitude and response. This will lay the foundation for rebuilding and 'replacing what the locusts have destroyed'.
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by maxdetail
The first interpretation of 'the man is the head of the household' is, the man is RESPONSIBLE for his wife and family. Whatever problem this couple is having, God holds the man responsible. We are responsible for the good and the bad that comes into the family. God has left no room for the husband to point his finger at anyone else, the man cannot blame anyone else. We, husbands, are responsible. Your friend needs to understand that. He's need to confess and repent of those things that brought them to where they are now. He needs to apologize to his wife regardless of her attitude and response. This will lay the foundation for rebuilding and 'replacing what the locusts have destroyed'.

:amen:

Those are tough words, but right on target!
 

Richard King

Puritan Board Senior
bob V. wrote:
" I've nothing to add except to point out that 'divorce or misery' is a false dichotomy. Abortion or misery would be a similar comparison. "

***Man that is a powerful thought! As is this one by Mr. Buchanan:


"I would liken it to a person with a painful and even killing disease. We can't just say, "I think death is preferable to living like this, so suicide is the way to go."

*** I really appreciate everyone's input. It has caused me to rethink my feeling total pity for the man. This a chance to glorify God and the disaster I was seeing was viewed through the eyes of a mere man.
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
While 'divorce or misery' is a false dichotomy, 'separation or misery' is not. Considering the children is foremost in choosing whether or not to separate. The best solution might involve having separate homes very near to each other. Obviously remarriage on either side would be adultery.

:2cents:
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by non dignus
While 'divorce or misery' is a false dichotomy, 'separation or misery' is not. Considering the children is foremost in choosing whether or not to separate. The best solution might involve having separate homes very near to each other. Obviously remarriage on either side would be adultery.


Seperation is a sin, just as divorce is a sin.

In fact, if I remember correctly, Scripture doesn't even make a distinction between the two. For example, 1 Cor. 7:10 simply commands that "A wife is not to depart from her husband."

Scriptures such as this one outlaw seperation, just as much as divorce.



Furthermore, I totally disagree that "Considering the children is foremost in choosing whether or not to separate."

On the contrary, the "foremost" thing to consider is the clear and direct command of God.

Also, if God's command is rejected, what does that teach the children? Thus, even in the context of considering the children, divorce/seperation is not an option.

If the two people were to seperate, they would be teaching their children by example that God's commands may be safely ignored.




[Edited on 12-2-2005 by biblelighthouse]
 

JLCraven

Inactive User
One of my closer relatives is in an abusive relationship, where I have actually wrestled with counseling for divorce. Yet, I have learned time and time again that my 'afffections' and 'emotions' are not always the guiding principle in situations like these. What necessarily feels appropriate is not always the biblical solution.

The commitment to a biblical marriage in our generation is not easy. Anything that has such a great potential to show the wonderous love of God/Church, will definitely be a frontline for the enemies assault. The pastoring solution is maintain the biblical standard, but then to nurture/pray/nurture.

A pastor that will neglect personal relationships and hours of reconciliation, but stand pious in the corner quoting scripture neglects a his role.


JLCraven
Husband of one.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
As much as that 'sounds' harsh Joseph. I believe your right. This is a case where psychology and biblical principle are 180 degrees out of sync. Separations and divorce will happen because of our hardness of heart but I'm not sure I would recommend either.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
True words indeed John. To hack my own advice offered to a newly engaged fellow from another thread -

"Remember, in marrying this lady you are making a solemn covenant before God to HONOR God in this new union. It's not about you and it's not about her, it's all about glorifying the Father. Emotional, physical/sexual love is a great bonus but not necessary for a good marriage; it's the love of Christ for the church that defines your role and her submission to you that defines hers.

Christ glorified his Father by loving the church. You will be making a commitment to show a skeptical world and a perverse generation that there is a covenant that cannot be broken, the covenant between God and His people. You will work and commit to make your marriage a model, an illustration of that covenant that God makes with man. It cannot be broken. What God has joined together let no man tear asunder."
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by biblelighthouse
Originally posted by non dignus
While 'divorce or misery' is a false dichotomy, 'separation or misery' is not. Considering the children is foremost in choosing whether or not to separate. The best solution might involve having separate homes very near to each other. Obviously remarriage on either side would be adultery.


Seperation is a sin, just as divorce is a sin.

In fact, if I remember correctly, Scripture doesn't even make a distinction between the two. For example, 1 Cor. 7:10 simply commands that "A wife is not to depart from her husband."

Scriptures such as this one outlaw seperation, just as much as divorce.



Furthermore, I totally disagree that "Considering the children is foremost in choosing whether or not to separate."

On the contrary, the "foremost" thing to consider is the clear and direct command of God.

Also, if God's command is rejected, what does that teach the children? Thus, even in the context of considering the children, divorce/seperation is not an option.

If the two people were to seperate, they would be teaching their children by example that God's commands may be safely ignored.




[Edited on 12-2-2005 by biblelighthouse]

Thanks for your response. Considering the children foremost would always mean obeying the law. Lawless consideration is no good consideration.

Is separation a sin? What defines separation? Not sleeping together? Living at separate ends of the house? Living next door? I quess I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that 1 Cor 7:10 meant departing to another spouse.

I think you would agree that separation is NOT a sin under certain circumstances such as abuse, or that separation is certainly ethical when cohabiting with an abusive person.

A marital fast should only be undertaken in order to be edified towards coming back together.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
My dad destroyed everything we owned. He took a sledge hammer and destroyed the TV, Stereo, Dining Room set, end tables, lamps. We ate on a picnic table for years. Obviously in the presense of physical abuse separation must happen but this is because sin is compounding. Sin always destroys and sometimes it can destroy physical life. Where the sins of the flesh have become so overpowering that physical danger is brought into the mix then separation must happen.

[Edited on 12-2-2005 by maxdetail]
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by maxdetail
My dad destroyed everything we owned. He took a sledge hammer and destroyed the TV, Stereo, Dining Room set, end tables, lamps. We ate on a picnic table for years. Obviously in the presense of physical abuse separation must happen but this is because sin is compounding. Sin always destroys and sometimes it can destroy physical life. Where the sins of the flesh have become so overpowering that physical danger is brought into the mix then separation must happen.

[Edited on 12-2-2005 by maxdetail]

Thus obedience to the command, Thou shalt not kill as interpreted by the Larger Catechism involving self defense and preservation of life is to be obeyed. Think Rahab's lie. Not bearing false witness is no excuse to allow someone to break the commandment against killing.
 

BJClark

Puritan Board Doctor
Richard,

If her parents have influence in their marriage, this is a sign she did not 'leave' her parents behind when she married.

Leaving is not just about physically moving away from your parents home, it's also about leaving them emotionally, and financially and then 'cleaving' to your spouse. Putting your spouse before your parents, before your brothers and sisters, even before your children.

There is a book "Boundaries in Marriage" By Cloud and Townsend, it's a really good book for teaching Biblical Boundaries within a marriage. it covers everything from setting Boundaries with spouses, parents, children, friends even employers. It uses scripture to teach us all about how we should set up our boundaries against outside forces within our marriages. It is one I would recommend for your friend and his wife to read to get an understanding of how to apply these biblical priniciples within their marriage.

And as far as her not being submitted to her husband, the real issue there is NOT that she is not submitted to him, but that she's NOT submitting to God.

The thing God has taught me over the years is that submission in it's truest biblical form is not about me as a wife being submitted to my husband, but about me as a person being Submitted to God Himself.

It's not about me as a wife trusting my husband to provide, but about me as a person trusting God to provide.

If I keep my eye's focused on what my husband is doing or not doing, I'm taking my eyes off Jesus, and basically putting my husband BEFORE God, as if He could do anything without God's help. He would not even have life if it were not for God. As a Christian, that is what I have to keep my focus on, lest I get contentious towards my husband.

I stand in agreement with the man who said your friend must go to his wife and apologize for the economic hardships he's caused in their marriage, and with that, he could also work with a financial counselor (another good program is Crown Ministries) to get a budget plan together. Where he and his wife sit down together and work it out, He should also get an accountablity partner (which is why using one of the ministries would be helpful) to keep them on track.

I would disagree that the worst part is that there are children involved, the children are NOT involved in the marriage, at least they shouldn't be, but the children are a Blessing from God, the worst part is that they as individuals are not submitting to God.

[Edited on 12-2-2005 by BJClark]
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
"Remember, in marrying this lady you are making a solemn covenant before God to HONOR God in this new union. It's not about you and it's not about her, it's all about glorifying the Father. Emotional, physical/sexual love is a great bonus but not necessary for a good marriage; it's the love of Christ for the church that defines your role and her submission to you that defines hers.

Christ glorified his Father by loving the church. You will be making a commitment to show a skeptical world and a perverse generation that there is a covenant that cannot be broken, the covenant between God and His people. You will work and commit to make your marriage a model, an illustration of that covenant that God makes with man. It cannot be broken. What God has joined together let no man tear asunder." [/quote]

Max, you raise a great issue in that the marriage ought to give glory to God. Granted their limitations, would there conceivably be a situation where in order to prevent the 'gentiles from blaspheming' the name of the Lord, it would be better for the two of them to separate?

What if I kept the commandment to not depart but as a result left a long trail of sins that wouldn't have been committed had I been solo in the marriage? To wit I am not modeling Christ; she is not modeling the church, at what point do I stop dragging His name through the mud?

What then would give God more glory, staying or leaving?

And again, I'm not arguing for remarriage and adultery but for chaste separation.
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by non dignus
"Remember, in marrying this lady you are making a solemn covenant before God to HONOR God in this new union. It's not about you and it's not about her, it's all about glorifying the Father. Emotional, physical/sexual love is a great bonus but not necessary for a good marriage; it's the love of Christ for the church that defines your role and her submission to you that defines hers.

Christ glorified his Father by loving the church. You will be making a commitment to show a skeptical world and a perverse generation that there is a covenant that cannot be broken, the covenant between God and His people. You will work and commit to make your marriage a model, an illustration of that covenant that God makes with man. It cannot be broken. What God has joined together let no man tear asunder."

Max, you raise a great issue in that the marriage ought to give glory to God. Granted their limitations, would there conceivably be a situation where in order to prevent the 'gentiles from blaspheming' the name of the Lord, it would be better for the two of them to separate?

What if I kept the commandment to not depart but as a result left a long trail of sins that wouldn't have been committed had I been solo in the marriage? To wit I am not modeling Christ; she is not modeling the church, at what point do I stop dragging His name through the mud?

What then would give God more glory, staying or leaving?

And again, I'm not arguing for remarriage and adultery but for chaste separation. [/quote]

How did Christ love the church? That he gave his life. He was beaten, bruised, stricken and hung on a cross. He didn't separate and take an easy route. A husband is called to go under whatever trials to model that love to Christ.

What would a husband's retort be to a wife later on when submission came up? If she is to submit then he would have to model Christ. that would give the wife the opportunity to say that Jesus would never leave or forsake and then why did he?
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Should they separate?
Only in the case of physical violence. The hypothetical that you set up reminds me of the pharisees and their practice of dedicating their wealth to the temple assets in order to avoid providing for their parents. (Corban) To some it may have sounded noble and justified but what they were doing was still evil. Christ will defend his own glory and we will reap the wages of dragging his name in the mud. Our obligation is to repent and glorify God again.

[Edited on 12-2-2005 by maxdetail]
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
'or the threat of physical violence.

I just see it as a trade off. In this cursed world we give glory by loving God and our neighbor as well as possible. I think the Pharisee would not see the trade off and would stick to the letter.
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Physical violence and abuse are NOT Biblical reasons for divorce. No Scripture allows divorce on those grounds.

And as I already said, seperation is the same as divorce. I don't see Scripture making any distinction between a man and wife getting a divorce, or just "seperating" into seperate houses. They are the same thing.

However, that does not mean that the abused person just has to sit back and take it. On the contrary, it should first be taken to the church, Matthew 18 style. Then, if nothing changes, then take it to the police. Some "tough love" can be just what the doctor ordered in cases like this. -- In fact, my pastor had to deal with a situation like this once. And you know what? The same day he and the elders were going to excommunicate one particular guy, the guy finally humbled himself and repented.



NOTE: It is certainly not "easy" for me to write what I am writing. I grew up in an abusive home, and my own mom was abused. So I have experienced this junk first-hand. But the bottom line is still that Scripture makes NO provision for seperation/divorce for abuse. God's standards are different than man's standards, especially in cases like this where the *right* thing to do is *extremely difficult* to do.






[Edited on 12-2-2005 by biblelighthouse]
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by biblelighthouse
Physical violence and abuse are NOT Biblical reasons for divorce. No Scripture allows divorce on those grounds.

And as I already said, seperation is the same as divorce. I don't see Scripture making any distinction between a man and wife getting a divorce, or just "seperating" into seperate houses. They are the same thing.

However, that does not mean that the abused person just has to sit back and take it. On the contrary, it should first be taken to the church, Matthew 18 style. Then, if nothing changes, then take it to the police. Some "tough love" can be just what the doctor ordered in cases like this. -- In fact, my pastor had to deal with a situation like this once. And you know what? The same day he and the elders were going to excommunicate one particular guy, the guy finally humbled himself and repented.



NOTE: It is certainly not "easy" for me to write what I am writing. I grew up in an abusive home, and my own mom was abused. So I have experienced this junk first-hand. But the bottom line is still that Scripture makes NO provision for seperation/divorce for abuse. God's standards are different than man's standards, especially in cases like this where the *right* thing to do is *extremely difficult* to do.

[Edited on 12-2-2005 by biblelighthouse]
I empathize with you.
Young Hebrew men were to enjoy a year long honeymoon in order "to cheer up" their young brides (I love that). Then, in war time, they were separated to defend the nation. I assume the 12 month period was in order to enable them to produce two children. My point being that marriage is for the benefit of lonely individuals and the community for procreation. If procreation is taken off the table let them glorify God through chaste separation. This example shows that real separation is a state of mind.

Paul's argument hinged on joining ourselves unlawfully (adultery) not on unjoining ourselves.
(but should she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband);
1 Cor 7:11.

Isn't it silly to force two people to live together physically when in actuallity they will be living separate lives under the same roof? What's the difference if they have two houses next door to each other?

Do they need to construct a hallway between the houses in order to approach the table?
 

BrianBowman

Posting Priviledges Revoked
Joe,

You know I love and respect you ... but I don't think your arguments stand up to those of the late Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen. Please here him:

 
Theses on Divorce and Spousal Abuse
By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

PE058 [written for Special Committee of Presbytery] 1984 © Covenant Media Foundation, 800/553-3938


A. At the beginning of human history, prior to man's sinful condition, there was no just ground for divorce.

1. "He said to them, With reference to your hard-heartedness Moses authorized you to divorce your wives, but it has not been so from the beginning" (Matthew 19:8).

2. "From the beginning" (Matt. 19:8) alludes to man's situation when God "made them male and female" (Matt. 19:4) - when God instituted marriage with the words of Genesis 2:24 (Matt. 19:5).

3. "Hard-heartedness" (Matt. 19:8) is a Biblical figure of speech for man's fallen or unregenerate nature which does not believe or obey God (see LXX for Deut. 10:16; Prov. 17:20; Jer. 4:4; Ezek. 3:7; and in the NT, Mark 16:14). Regeneration is described as God taking away the "stony heart" and replacing it with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).

B. Ideally there should be no divorce; it is contrary to what God desires most.

1. "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6).

2. "For I hate divorce, says Jehovah, the God of Israel" (Malachi 2:16).

3. These words state the ideal, for God Himself makes provision for putting marriage asunder (Matt. 19:8-9; cf. Deut. 24:1) and practices divorce Himself (Jer. 3:8).

4. Similarly, death and killing are contrary to the divine ideal (and would not have come into the picture "from the beginning"), but due to man's sinful condition God gives orders regarding them (e.g., Gen. 9:6; Deut. 21:23).

C. Between two regenerate believers, there should be no divorce whatsoever, even for the cause of fornication.

1. For believers redeemed from sin, the original creation ordinance (A) and God's highest desire for marriage (B) will be their guide. Sinful behavior and attitudes between husband and wife will be dealt with apart from recourse to divorce - according to redemptive principles (analogous to the relation between Christ and the church, Eph. 5:22-33).

2. "But unto the married I give charge (not I, but the Lord) that the wife not depart from her husband..., and that the husband leave not his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:10, 12).

3. Fornication is not the unforgiveable sin (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11; Mark 3:28; 1 John 1:7).

4. A regenerate believer who falls into the sin of adultery will offer genuine repentance for it (Ps. 51; Jas. 4:8-10; I John 1:9; Matt. 5:23-24) and do the works appropriate for turning from it (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20). Refusal to repent in this way must be taken as a sign that the person is not truly a believer (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Prov. 28:13; Luke 13:3, 5) - eventuating in excommunication, if need be.

5. A regenerate believer who has an adulterous, but repentant, spouse will forgive the spouse and seek a restored relationship, imitating God's gracious reaction to the sinner (Matt. 6:12-15; 18:15, 21-35; Eph. 4:32). Forgiveness necessitates reconciliation and precludes divorce, for God does not forgive the sinner and then say "Depart from Me into everlasting darkness"! (Matt. 25:21, 30, 34, 41; Ps. 85:2-3; 103:12; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:21-22; cf. 2 Cor. 2:7-9) Refusal to forgive in this way must be taken as a sign that the person is not truly a believer (Matt. 6:15; 18:34-35; 1 John 3:14-16) - eventuating in excommunication, if need be.

D. Where a marriage involves an unbeliever, the only just ground for divorce is "fornication."

1. The situation now envisioned is that at least one partner to the marriage is an unbeliever, one who refuses to live by the principles stated in the above points (whether professing to be a follower of Christ or not).

2. "Is it permitted [lawful] for a man to divorce his wife according to every reason [upon any ground]?... But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife not upon [the ground of] fornication and marries another commits adultery" (Matthew 19:3, 9). Christ here censures any divorce which is not "for fornication," thus leaving one and only one just ground for divorce - viz., "fornication."

3. This is clear from Matthew 5:32, "Everyone divorcing his wife apart from a matter of fornication...." The Greek term means "except for" (e.g., Acts 26:29) or "outside" (e.g., 2 Cor. 11:28). Jesus spoke quite categorically: any reason outside the category of "fornication" is a sinful basis for divorce. Fornication is the only "exception" to this censure against divorce.

4. Jesus was also speaking categorically in the sense that His principle was meant to be applied universally - to all men. He stated that "everyone" (pas, Matt. 5:32) or "whoever" (hos an, Matt. 19:9) divorces apart from the ground of fornication was doing wrong - whether believer or unbeliever, Jew or Gentile. Note that Christ's teaching was based upon factors which apply to all men in general: (1) the creation ordinance, and (2) the condition of man's sinful heart. God does not have a double standard for marriage: the only proper ground upon which a believer or unbeliever may divorce his/her spouse is "fornication."

5. Although Paul deals with a particular case in 1 Corinthians 7:12-17 which was not directly addressed during Christ's earthly ministry ("To the rest I say, not the Lord," v. 12), it would be fallacious to assume that the general moral principle which he applied to that case was contrary to the teaching of the Lord - namely, that only fornication is grounds for divorce. In saying that, Jesus did not give any hint of restricting His moral principle, as though He were speaking only for the case of believers. (In fact, what He addressed was the problem of hard-heartedness - those who are unregenerate.) Rather, He explicitly directed His principle to "everyone" and "whoever" pursues divorce.

E. The scope of "fornication" in Biblical usage is broader than adultery and even broader than illicit sexual intercourse.

1. In Matthew 19:9 Christ clearly uses two distinct Greek terms for fornication and adultery; they are not identical. If "fornication" is not the reason for the divorce, He says, "adultery" will be the consequence. [Cf. the distinct use of the two terms in 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19; Heb. 13:4] (Note that the Hebrew terms for "fornication" and "adultery" are also distinct.)

2. In Scripture (LXX & NT) "fornication" can refer specifically to sexual sin of all sorts - whether pre-marital unchastity (Ezek. 23:11-19; John 8:41), sex outside of marriage by a widow (Gen. 38:24), returning to a divorced spouse after an intervening union (Jer. 3:2), adultery (Jer. 13:27; Hos. 2:2), prostitution (Deut. 23:18; Micah 1:7; 1 Cor. 6:16-18), incest (1 Cor. 5:1), homosexuality (Jude 7), marrying foreign wives (Heb. 12:16; cf. Gen. 26:34-35), or inter-religious sexual union (1 Cor. 10:8; cf. Num. 25:1-9).

3. It should be noted that "sexual sin" (=fornication) need not involve genital intercourse. Imagine a wife who engages in romantic kissing, undressing, caressing, fondling, mutual masturbation, or oral sex with someone not her husband. It would be ridiculous to defend her against the charge of "fornication" by appealing to the absence of genital intercourse. The Song of Songs presents the kind of activities mentioned here as appropriate to the state of marriage.

4. In Scripture "fornication" can also be used more generally for moral rebellion and unfaithfulness, when there is no figurative suggestion of intercourse (as with idols) - for instance: arrogance (Isa. 47:10), disbelieving God (Num. 14:11, 33), or departure from God's standards of righteousness (Isa. 1:21; 57:3; 2 Kings 9:22). "Fornication" appears to be part of a synecdoche for all sins in Ezek. 43:9 and Hos. 6:10. In Paul's epistles "fornication" is sometimes run together with uncleanness, covetousness and idolatry as a way of covering all forms of immoral conduct (e.g., Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3-7) - which explains why many translations render the Greek word generally as "impurity" or "immorality." "Fornication" covers all of the defilements and abominations represented by ungodly Rome (Rev. 17:4; 19:2) as well as the teaching and idolatrous associations of heresy in the church (Rev. 2:21). Accordingly, the whole of sanctification can be typified as abstaining from "fornication" (1 Thess. 4:3; cf. Heb. 12:14, 16). [Cf. Westminster Larger Catechism #99]

5. In addition to the specific and general uses of "fornication" for moral rebellion, we can observe the figurative use of the term (against the background of sexual looseness) for religious unfaithfulness (Jer. 2:20; Hos. 4:11-12) - apostasy (Ezek. 6:9; 23:35; Ps. 73:27), idolatry (Isa. 57:9; 1 Chron. 5:25; Ezek. 16:15, 25) and foreign allegiance (Ezek. 23:11-19).

6. Thus "fornication" need not connote sinful sexual intercourse. This is most clearly demonstrated by the fact that desertion of a marriage (apart from any issue of adultery) counts as fornication in Biblical teaching: "But if the unbelieving [spouse] separates him/herself, let him/her be separated; in such cases the brother or the sister do not remain bound" (1 Cor. 7:15). Yet on the authority of Christ we may recognize only one just ground for divorce, namely "fornication" (D). Therefore, unless Paul be pitted against Christ, the Pauline permission of divorce for desertion must imply that desertion is a form of fornication in God's evaluation, regardless of any accompanying issue of illicit sexual intercourse.

7. In Judges 19:2 the desertion of the Levite's concubine from him is described with the distinct Hebrew term for "fornication" zahnah, confirming the above observation. (The use of zahnah in the text does not suggest that the concubine literally became a harlot for a while and then went home to her father - a very unlikely course of events. The Levite, then, would not have been permitted to pursue her tenderly to remain his wife [Judges 19:3; cf. Lev. 21:7; Deut. 22:20-21].)

8. Therefore, in order to understand properly the teaching of Scripture on the grounds for divorce, we will of necessity need to engage in more than lexical studies. What will be needed is a broader, theological understanding of the nature of marriage and the rationale which lies behind whatever grounds for divorce are set forth. We need to approach the question in such a way that we can account for (a) the narrowness of grounds for divorce, (b) the harmony of Paul and Jesus in giving grounds for divorce, (c) the full Biblical evidence on the subject of divorce, and (d) the reason why certain offenses are legitimate grounds for divorce, while others are not. A simple appeal to the word "fornication" cannot accomplish these ends.

F. The only forms of "fornication" which provide just grounds for divorce are those which violate the essential commitments of the marriage covenant.

1. "Fornication" can cover a wide scope of sins, but Jesus intended to restrict and narrow the just grounds for divorce when He rejected the notion that one may put away his wife for just any reason (Matt. 19:3, 9). In contrast to less rigorous schools of the rabbis, Jesus did not espouse divorce as a remedy for just any sin whatever. Accordingly, we would expect that Jesus was referring to "fornication" in some restricted, but non-arbitrary, sense - that is, is some way which follows a principle (rationale) for narrow delineation.

2. However this sense cannot be so restricted that it pertains only to illicit sexual intercourse (cf. E.3,6).

3. Therefore, we must pursue Biblical reasoning to determine just what forms of "fornication" constitute proper grounds for divorce. [Those who want to adhere strictly and literally to the Westminster Confession's statement that "nothing but adultery" and irremedial desertion are sufficient cause for divorce (XXIV.6) will be under a similar necessity, for the Westminster Standards go on to define "adultery" so broadly as to include things which are not reasonably taken as grounds for divorce, such as intemperance, immodest apparel, idleness and drunkenness (Larger Catechism #138, 139). Scripture too uses "adultery" in a broad fashion (e.g., Jas. 4:4).]

4. Marriage is a covenant: e.g., "Jehovah has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have broken faith, though she is your companion and the wife of your covenant" (Mal. 2:14; cf. also Prov. 2:17). Marriage is a legal contract with moral stipulations and obligations to which the Lord is witness (e.g., Gen. 31:50).

5. In the case of the legal obligations of other covenant relations, one party is not released from the obligations of the covenanted commitment unless the second party has violated the mutual contract by acting contrary to its terms. For instance, when Zedekiah broke his covenant of loyalty, Nebuchadnezzar was no longer bound by that covenant to protect Zedekiah as king in Jerusalem (Ezek. 17:12-21; cf. 2 Chr. 36:13; 2 Kings 24:20-25:7; Jer. 39:4-8). Likewise in the case of God's own covenant with Israel as a nation: "For thus says the Lord Jehovah: I will also deal with you as you have done, who has despised the oath in breaking the covenant" (Ezek. 16:59). "They did not continue in My covenant, so I disregarded them" (Heb. 8:9). When the Jews confessed their transgressions, their only plea was accordingly: "Do not abhor us...break not Your covenant with us" (Jer. 14:21). Cf. Ex. 19:5; Lev. 26:15ff.; Deut. 31:20, 29; Jer. 11:10-11; 22:5-9; Hos. 6:7; 7:13; 8:1, 4; Rom. 11:20-22.

6. Likewise, in the case of the marriage covenant, the only thing which provides a just ground for one party to be released from the covenant (i.e., to pursue divorce) would be the violation of that covenant's essential obligations by the other party - the breaking of the covenant. Accordingly, such things as (1) constant bickering over money, (2) refusal to repent for rude behavior, telling lies, taking God's name in vain, dishonesty, etc., or (3) breaking a promise (even if stated along with one's wedding vows) not to move out of state do not illustrate grounds for divorce because none of them violates what is essential to the covenant of marriage.

7. Because marriage was ordained by God (Gen. 2:24), it is God's revealed will - not man's wisdom or desire - which defines the nature and essential obligations of the marriage covenant: "What God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6).

G. The obligations of the marriage covenant include at least [1] "leaving father and mother," [2] "cleaving" to one's spouse, and [3] becoming "one flesh."

1. These three aspects of the marriage covenant are explicitly mentioned when God originally ordained the institution: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24).

2. These three aspects of the marriage covenant are not distinctive to one dispensation of God's dealing with men, but are repeated throughout Scripture: for instance, at Matthew 19:5 and Ephesians 5:31.

3. It may be that there are other integral aspects of the marriage covenant in addition to these three mentioned. To legitimately assert them would require Scriptural warrant of some sort (e.g., Biblical teaching on the essential meaning of marriage, or on accepted grounds for divorce, etc.).

H. In light of the vow to be "one flesh," we can understand that sexual infidelity breaks the marriage covenant and is, as such, grounds for divorce.

1. The expression "to be one flesh" denotes sexual intercourse, thus being applied even to relations with a harlot: "Don't you realize that he who is joined to a harlot is one body? for 'the two,' He said, 'shall become one flesh'" (1 Cor. 6:16). Note how "marriage" is treated in parallel to "the bed" in Hebrews 13:4.

2. One of the divine purposes for marriage is to provide the proper outlet for the sex drive, thereby avoiding fornication: "Because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.... It is better to marry than to burn (with passion)" (1 Cor. 7:2, 9). Outside of the marriage bed is fornication and adultery (Heb. 13:4).

3. Refusal of sexual relations is contrary to one of the very purposes for marriage, then, and illegally subjects the marriage partner to fornication - having a marriage, not in substance, but only in name.

4. Engaging in sexual relations is a "debt" which must be "paid (rendered)" to one's spouse (1 Cor. 7:3; cf. the use of the same two words in Rom. 13:7, "render to all their dues"). It is a contractual obligation of marriage.

5. Willful refusal of sexual relations with one's marriage partner is thus explicitly called "defrauding" (or stealing his/her rights) in 1 Corinthians 7:5. (The word is used of defrauding workers of the pay which is due to them in James 5:4; cf. Mark 10:19; 1 Cor. 6:8, referring to matters settled by court [vv. 1, 6].) It is a breaking of the contractual obligations of marriage. Paul's use of this kind of language is noteworthy for understanding the covenantal nature of the marriage bond as well as how it is dissolved.

6. This is confirmed by the law at Exodus 21:10-11, which stipulates that a wife who has been deprived of "her conjugal right" becomes free of the marriage commitment, being released from her husband. (It would make little sense to say that "she shall go out from him" pertains only to her slavery, leaving her bound to the marriage, when it is her conjugal rights [which have nothing to do with the institution of slavery] that are not being observed.)

7. Since the marriage vow is (among other things) a public commitment to be sexually faithful to one's spouse, sexual relations apart from with one's spouse is a violation of the marriage covenant. Thus, as is commonly recognized, Scripture teaches that when a wife commits adultery, she may be put away and given a bill of divorcement (Jer. 3:8; cf. Deut. 24:1, noting that the Hebrew term "indecency" refers to illicit cohabitation, e.g., Ezek. 16:36; 23:29; throughout Lev. 18; 20:10ff.). Adultery "defiles" the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4).

I. In light of the vow to "leave father and mother," we can understand that desertion of one's spouse breaks the marriage covenant and is, as such, grounds for divorce.

1. By leaving one's father and mother to become married, one puts behind one social grouping and forms a new social unit - a new family nucleus. (This may be done, by the way, whether or not one separates from the vacinity or house of his parents. Spatial location is not the point here.)

2. "Leaving father and mother" is thus for the purpose of creating a new bond, now with one's spouse (cf. the following words in Gen. 2:24, "and cleave to his wife"). The "leaving" is just the other side of the coin of the commitment to live with one's marriage partner.

3. Abandoning one's spouse and returning to one's parents is thus denominated "fornication" in Judges 19:2. Deserting the spouse is a violation of that marriage commitment implied by one's "leaving father and mother" - whether the deserting partner literally returns to the parents' home or not.

4. Confirmation of this is found in 1 Corinthians 7:12, 13, where Paul describes the state of marriage in terms of "consenting to dwell with" each other - that is, living together.

5. When an unbelieving spouse refuses to live with his/her marriage partner, the covenant between them is broken. In such a case, when the unbeliever "separates him/herself" (by divorce, cf. v. 10), Paul declares that the believing party is "not bound" any longer (1 Cor. 7:15).

6. The fact that the believer is not bound to the marriage commitment any longer - unlike the case of an improper divorce (v. 10), where Paul holds that the deserting party is indeed morally bound to remain unmarried and pursue reconciliation with the divorced spouse (v. 11) - shows that we find here legitimate grounds for the dissolution of the marriage covenant, not merely "consent" to the evil desire of an unbeliever. The wickedness of others does not release Christians from their own moral obligations! Paul's words show that this particular form of evil violates a contractual obligation, and (only) in that way releases the Christian from former obligations.

J. In light of the vow to "cling (cleave) to" each other, we can understand why attempting to destroy the life of one's spouse breaks the marriage covenant and is, as such, grounds for divorce.

1. The verb "to cling (cleave)" in Genesis 2:24 (Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:31) stands between and complements the ideas of [1] leaving father and mother (to cleave to one's spouse) and [2] becoming one flesh (cf. the verb's use in 1 Cor. 6:16-17). Nevertheless it adds something to both notions. It denotes more than living together and going to bed together.

2. This is evident from the use of the verb elsewhere in Scripture. In Hebrew and Greek it can apply to a physical joining of things together (e.g., Job 19:20; Ps. 22:15; 2 Sam. 23:10; Lk. 10:11; Acts 8:29). However, in terms of human relationships, it means "to join with," "enter into a close relation with," "associate with on intimate terms," "make common cause with," "be committed to in loyalty." For instance, it denotes clinging to someone in affection and loyalty: e.g., Ruth to Naomi (Ruth 1:14), the men of Judah to David during Sheba's rebellion (2 Sam. 20:2), Shechem to Dinah (Gen. 34:3, "speaking to her heart"), Solomon to his foreign wives (I Kings 11:2, "in love"), the prodigal making common cause with his employer by being "joined to" him (Lk. 15:15); it was unlawful to have this kind of relationship - to adhere - to a foreigner (Acts 10:28).

3. Thus we see what is entailed by the word when it is used in the Old Testament for Israel adhering to the Lord in love and submission (e.g., Deut. 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; 30:20; Jos. 22:5; 23:8; Jer. 13:11). When the Psalmist says that he "clings" to God's testimonies (Ps. 118 [119:31] LXX), he refers to his support and commitment to them - not somehow to a physical relation with them. Likewise, Paul bids us to "cleave to that which is good" (Rom. 12:9) - the other side of abhoring evil. New converts "cleaved" to Paul (Acts 17:34) by taking up his cause. Believers are described as "joined to" the church (Acts 5:13; 9:26), which obviously speaks of their making common cause, supporting, and being loyal to the perspectives and purposes of God's people.

4. Likewise, a husband and wife are to "cleave" to each other by being committed to and seeking to do what is in each other's best interests; they are to be united, not simply in body, but in loyal support of each other's lives. They are positively to adhere to the genuine needs of each other. This is the diametric opposite of abhorring each other's life and trying to kill each other.

5. Accordingly, if we examine the husband's marriage obligations, Scripture teaches us that he is to "dwell together with" his wife "as a weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7). He is obligated to show consideration and protection for his wife in light of her physical vulnerability, treating her as a fragile container. Failure to supply the necessities and protections of life, not to mention physical abuse of this "weaker vessel," is clearly forbidden.

6. The gravity of a man refusing to supply what is necessary for the physical life and protection of his wife is made evident by the stern words of Paul: "if anyone does not provide especially for his family, he is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8). When one remembers the evaluation and destiny of unbelievers according to the theology of Paul, these words have incredible intensity and severity. Someone who exposes his wife and family to physical harm by deprivation of their basic necessities is (somehow!) in a worse moral condition or under greater condemnation than an unbeliever. If this sin of omission brings someone into such a dreadful evaluation, one can imagine how much more positive abuse - or sins of commission against the physical life and well-being of his wife and family - would do so.

7. Rather than taking steps to kill their wives, husbands are morally bound by their marriage covenant to give up their lives for the sake of their wives: "Husbands, love your wives, even as also Christ loved the church gave himself up on behalf of it" (Eph. 5:25).

8. The obligation entailed here has very obvious outward and physical manifestation. Husbands are required by their marriage covenant to love their own wives "as their own bodies" (Eph. 5:28). Just as they would not do anything detrimental to their own physical well-being or life, so they have strict moral orders not to do so to their own wives. They are forbidden to "hate their flesh" (Eph. 5:29), which clearly rules out depriving them of sustenance and protection or showing them physical violence. By direct contrast, Paul teaches in the same verse that it is the duty of husbands to "nourish and cherish" their wives' flesh.

9. Accordingly, when a husband deprives his wife of nourishment, physical covering and protection, or (more) when he actually beats her and threatens her life, he has done far more than fall short of "an ideal mate" - like someone who lies to his wife or sins in other ways. This kind of sin has a special intensity. He has violated an essential obligation of the marriage covenant, refusing to adhere or cleave loyally to his wife's well-being and life.

10. If in the other two cases of covenanted obligations of marriage (sexual fidelity, living together) violation of the terms of the covenant grants the offended party the moral right to seek dissolution of the legal bond (by divorce), we should reason that it does so also in the case of the covenanted obligation of "cleaving to" each other. To deny that implication without sound and Biblical reasons for doing so would be to indulge special pleading and preconceived notions - a kind of arbitrariness which must not characterize Christian theological thinking. (But doesn't the Biblical teaching that "only fornication" is grounds for divorce argue against this implication? See again D,E,F above.)

K. The above conclusion is explicitly substantiated by the law of God at Exodus 21:10-11, demonstrating (a fortiori) that spousal abuse violates the marriage covenant and, is such, grounds for divorce.

1. God's law stipulates in the case of a slave who is taken as a wife, her husband "shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her conjugal rights." This refers to the obligations of the marriage covenant, as we have seen above (G, H, I, J, K). So then, "if he does not provide these three things unto her, then she shall go out for nothing, without money" (Ex. 21:10-11).

2. Her "going out" denotes an end of all legal obligation to him. She has the right to dissolve the legal bond of marriage (as should be clear from what we have seen above), but she also has the right to dissolve the bond of her slavery - thus leaving "without money" for manumission. To suggest that her relief is the dissolution of only the marriage (remaining his slave) or only the slavery (remaining his wife) would be to trivialize the provision, for in that case she is not given relief from her offender after all. She must either continue in relation to him as a neglected wife or slave - which is contrary to the aim of providing her with a resolution and redress of the situation.

3. That aspect of this provision in God's law which deals with deprivation of conjugal rights has already been discussed above (see H.1-6). It "defrauds" the marriage covenant to refuse sexual relations to one's spouse. What this portion of God's law also reveals is that, likewise it defrauds the marriage covenant to deprive one's wife of her food and clothing - the nourishment and protection necessary to life (see J). Both offenses are thus grounds for divorce.

4. This is not merely a matter of inference. God explicitly says this in His law, thereby informing us that these offenses strike at the heart of the marriage covenant and must be deemed "fornication" or "indecency" (see E and H.7 above) - the only ground for divorce (see D above). If God is satisfied that it is morally appropriate for a wife to divorce her husband on the basis of deprivation of her physical sustenance and protection, we must be morally satisfied as well. (The suggestion that God tolerated this as evil in the Old Covenant, but does not do so now, is reasoning which is exegetically and logically faulty as well as theologically and ethically dangerous; cf. A above, the holiness of God and His law, and the implications of a double standard or a culturally relativized one in morality.)

5. Scripture should be interpreted in such a way that principles which apply to lesser cases are understood to be all the more applicable to greater cases. For instance, if God requires proper support of one's ox, how much more of one's pastor (1 Cor. 9:9-10). If one did not escape when refusing God's word spoken on earth, how much more of God's word spoken from heaven (Heb. 12:25). If we are to do good to all men in general, how much more to those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). This hermeneutical principle is especially to be acknowledged in interpreting the laws of God, many of which are stated in terms of lesser circumstances so that we might not only (1) see how much more they apply to greater circumstances, but also (2) see just how far the protections and provisions of God's moral order extend (over against our all too sinful tendency to minimize moral obligations and not see the ethical significance of those lesser cases). For instance, a mother bird is not to be killed along with her young (Deut. 22:6-7). Is this a special protection for birds, or are we to apply the underlying principle to even greater cases? Scripture itself shows us that we are to apply it all the more to more significance animals, like ox and sheep (Lev. 22:28). It would be obstinate to say, now, well this protection applies only to birds, oxen, and sheep (since they alone are mentioned).

6. If the sin of omission which threatens the life of one's wife (depriving her of food and clothing) is grounds for divorce according to God's word, then how much more would the sin of commission - physical abuse of one's wife - qualify as a legitimate ground for divorce. In this case the a fortiori thrust of the inference should be readily acceptable.

7. It should also be acceptable in terms of the slave-wife status of the person protected in Exodus 21:10-11. If in the lesser case (a wife with the lower status of a slave) spousal abuse is grounds for divorce, how much more would it be in the greater case (a wife with the higher status of a non-slave). This is the normal way in which we would treat the law's provisions (cf. supporting oxen and supporting the preacher). It is a fact that slaves had less privileges and protections within society than did free men and women. This being the case, we should reason that, if even slave-wives went out free from the marriage due to physical deprivation (or abuse), then surely the same privilege and protection was afforded to non-slave wives.

8. It is clear that Paul did not consider the requirement of Exodus 21:10 to have been narrowly restricted to slave-wives. In terms of the "conjugal right" which is provided for the slave-wife, we can readily see that Paul deemed it more broadly as the right of all wives (1 Cor. 7:3). It would be arbitrary special pleading to say that, however, the other provisions of Exodus 21:10 are only sanctioned (in terms of the marriage covenant) for slave-wives, not all wives in general.

9. Our human tendency might easily be to think that husbands are strictly required to provide food, clothing and sexual relations to their non-slave wives, but that in the case of slave-wives, they may treated in a less fashion. The effect of Scriptural teaching is that even slave-wives have the right to divorce, if they are deprived or abused. The law shows us just how far the divinely intended legal protection of wives extends - even as far as slave-wives.


Questions and Answers on Divorce & Remarriage from The Place of God's Law by Dr Greg Bahnsen
(c) Covenant Media Foundation Used by Permission

Question (Related from the audience from Randy Booth to Dr. Bahnsen):

"Ok this is a rather broad question so go ahead if you like and narrow it to address the particular concern - What does the Bible say about Divorce and is Remarriage lawful?"

Answer by Bahnsen:

This is another one like the Sabbath [a previously addressed question] commandment, although maybe not a difficult or complex as the Sabbath one - but there is a lot of dispute and disagreement within the Christian community on this ... and I just want to honor my Christian brothers and tell you that you should read what they have to say and consider it; and judge everything, including what I'm telling you by the Word of God.

My own conviction about divorce (and I have a paper, a long position paper that I've written on this that you can get from Covenant Media (referring to http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pe058.htm), if you want to look at it more. My own position is that marriage is a covenant, in terms of which husband and wife publicly vow that they will leave father and mother, which is to say form a new social unit - not desert each other. Secondly, cleave to each other and therefore do that which is in the best interest of one another, living self-sacrificially for each other. Paul puts it this way "the wife is to live for her husband; the husband is to be willing to die for the wife". Thirdly, that they are to become one flesh, and express fidelity in their sexual relations toward each other.

Since that is what marriage is, the grounds for divorce will be only the violation of the marriage covenant. When the covenant has been broken, it no longer holds. And they in which people can violate the covenant then is either by sexual immorality (starting at the third point) - becoming one flesh is violated when there is adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, OR this may surprise you, when there is a refusal of sexual relations between husband and wife. That defrauds the marriage Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7.

So sexual infidelity, either of the overt sort, where you are having sex with somebody, or something that you should not - OR of the other sort where you are not having sex with the one you promised regular relations with. That would be grounds for divorce.

Secondly, there would be grounds for divorce if there is desertion between the parties, leaving father and mother means that you are now loyal to each other and form a new [family] unit. When someone deserts, they don't always "run back to moma" I realize, but that is in a sense the same category - deserting the marriage. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that when the unbeliever (knocks on the pulpit) deserts, the believer is no longer bound.

So when this happens within the Christian Church, between a couple where the couple are professing believer, it is important that Church discipline be applied first that in the eyes of the Church, the deserting believer is considered an unbeliever now. Sometimes people desert marriages and think that they still are Christians, but that's not the issue. When the Church declares that they are unrepentant (knocks on the pulpit) in their sin, what the Church has bound or loosed on earth is bound or loosed in Heaven. And so the deserting party being excommunicated, is therefore legally treated as an unbeliever - may be divorced by the party that is faithful and remaining.

Thirdly, and not everyone will agree with this, but I [Bahnsen] think the Law of God teaches it, with the respect of cleaving to each other and seeking each other's good, if there is physical spousal abuse of the sort that we would consider life threatening, and persistent, I believe that is grounds for divorce. It's a violation of the covenant made.

The Old Testament Law says that a slave wife [Exodus 21:10-11] - even a slave wife, if she is deprived by her husband of her food, clothing, or conjugal rights, has the right to go out free from that husband. That is not a husband who abuses her in the positive way, but abuses her negatively, refuses those things that are necessary to her and so 'A Fortiori' - to the greater case, how much more would a wife who is beat by her husband ( sometimes it's the other way around, I know you find that hard to believe but it does happen), when the spouse is beat by the other spouse in a life-threatening way, or threatened in that way, I believe that that's grounds for divorce. NOT, (taps the pulpit) everyone would agree with that, but that's something that has to be studied out.

At this point Randy Booth interjects to restate the second part of the original question:

... and remarriage?

Answer by Bahnsen:

Remarriage, the thing that has confused Christians about remarriage - I think Jay Adams is right about this. We get all messed up with this because we use this expression "married in the eyes of God, though not married in the eyes of men". There's no such thing in the Bible as married in the eyes of God, though unmarried in the eyes of men. I know that sounds, you know, strong, but it's true. There is NO such concept in the Bible. Now there is in the Bible, however, a concept, well it's not just a concept, it's the definite teaching, that sometimes divorces are immoral.

And so, when someone pursues a divorce, which is not sanctioned by the Bible, then that divorce is displeasing to God. See, we should not say, you are still married in the eyes of God, even though you're divorced in the eyes of men. We oughta say YOU ARE DIVORCED IN THE EYES OF GOD, AND THAT IS WHY (pounds the pulpit) HE IS ANGRY WITH YOU. What happens when people pursue an unBiblical divorce? There obligation is to repent and do the works meet for repentance. And what would the works appropriate to repentance mean? It means you remarry [the spouse you have divorced].

That's why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that the wife is not to desert her husband, and the husband is not to desert the wife. But if she does so, it says (taps the pulpit) let her remain unmarried. She does not have the right to go and form another marriage union, because it is an immoral divorce for which she is to repent and get back to her husband. And the Law of God says after someone's divorced, if they do remarry, the cannot remarry the first part ever again [see Deut 24:1-4].

Now, if you are the innocent party in a divorce, the Bible says "you are no longer bound". You are not sinfully divorced, because you did not pursue that divorce - and the party that is innocent in a divorce is truly divorced, and as such free to remarry.
 

non dignus

Puritan Board Sophomore
Bahnsen: 4. A regenerate believer who falls into the sin of adultery will offer genuine repentance for it (Ps. 51; Jas. 4:8-10; I John 1:9; Matt. 5:23-24) and do the works appropriate for turning from it (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20). Refusal to repent in this way must be taken as a sign that the person is not truly a believer (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Prov. 28:13; Luke 13:3, 5) - eventuating in excommunication, if need be.


No. It must be taken as a sign that the person is not repentant.
 

BrianBowman

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Originally posted by non dignus
Bahnsen: 4. A regenerate believer who falls into the sin of adultery will offer genuine repentance for it (Ps. 51; Jas. 4:8-10; I John 1:9; Matt. 5:23-24) and do the works appropriate for turning from it (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20). Refusal to repent in this way must be taken as a sign that the person is not truly a believer (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Prov. 28:13; Luke 13:3, 5) - eventuating in excommunication, if need be.


No. It must be taken as a sign that the person is not repentant.

David, this is another "big red-hot debate" that intersects with Church discipline, etc. Clearly someone who can continue to live headlong in adultery without repentance *may* not be regenerate as in "you shall know a tree by its fruit". No Church Session, Elder, Pastor, etc. can pronounce that a "professing believer" is ultimately reprobate, however they can, based upon their office, exercise excommincation after sufficent exhortation to repentance has been given with no results.

[Edited on 12-2-2005 by BrianBowman]
 
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