Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Questions and Answers
Studying and teaching through the "Socratic process" of questions and answers is usually productive. Jesus often used question and answer situations to convey spiritual truths (cp. Matt. 21: 28-32). In fact, it was in a question and answer circumstance involving Jesus that Jesus presented his most detailed teaching on marriage, divorce, and marriage to another (Matt. 19: 3-12). During the many years that I have preached, I have been asked many questions pertaining to marriage, divorce, and remarriage (later mentioned as MDR). Beginning in the seventies, I tried to always have one sermon in a meeting circumstance on MDR and sometimes there would be an open question and answer forum to follow in which the audience could ask me questions. In our Bible Questions Web site generated work, we have received about 20, 000 questions and a significant number pertain to MDR. The following questions and answers are taken from the foregoing as well as other sources. While in the aggregate they may not be totally definitive, I believe they do cover the spectrum of MDR.
Since the early 1970's, MDR has gained momentum as a troubling issue. In this writer's observation, MDR became an epidemic among churches of Christ beginning in the latter nineties and started reaching pandemic levels at the turn of the century. One reason for MDR becoming such a divisive issue among churches of Christ is because of its rampant status in American society. Compounding the MDR problem is now the added circumstance of so many not practicing traditional marriage, as we have known it (license, civil record and protocol, etc.). Confusion and even contumacy have now entered the circumstance of the MDR controversy on no small scale. This condition combined with the always emotional reactions prompted by family members being caught up in divorce, more professing Christians involved in divorce, and even more preachers and elders going through the divorce experience, make the MDR matter one of the hottest and most explosive problems the church has ever faced. As with sin in general, some push their manufactured agendas to justify friends and family members without regard to the scriptures and serious adverse consequences attending their false positions. Such claims as, "All men have the right to marriage," simplistically advance the cause for all manner of divorce and marriage situations. Marriage, divorce, and marriage to another issues are literally destroying the family, America, and even the church for which Jesus shed his precious blood (Acts 20: 28). Some preachers in the church adamantly refuse to even preach on MDR, knowing if they do, there will probably be forthcoming problems.
The following fifty questions do not always involve gradation and sequence. There is also much material in Bible Truths located in the Archives and Polemic Exchange sections that pertain to and expand the subsequent questions and answers. I shall endeavor to keep the answers as brief as possible. I shall attempt to answer the questions without prejudice. Rest assured that it would be greatly to my personal benefit to believe and teach some of the MDR views that are raging as wild fire today. Hence, I am certainly not just determined to oppose them out of personal interest. Also, when I am not sure as to an answer, I shall so state. Some pertinent scriptures involved in our questions and answers are: Genesis 2: 21-25; Deuteronomy 24: 1-4; Jeremiah 3: 1, 8; Malachi 2: 14, 15; 2: 16; Matthew 19: 3-12; Mark 10: 11, 12; Luke 16: 18; Romans 7: 2, 3; I Corinthians 7.
Question 1: Does God really care about particulars and detail regarding marriage and divorce or does he just consider the big picture, a happy family?
Answer: I recall one elder in the church explaining, "It does not matter who committed the fornication, the fact is fornication was the cause of the divorce." It just so happened that the person whom they (the eldership) was defending was the one who committed fornication and was put away by his wife (Matt. 19: 9). When I questioned his rationale based on Matthew 19: 9 that the innocent mate may put away the guilty mate based on the fornication committed by the guilty mate and marry another and that there was no such provision for the guilty mate, he charged me with being given to too much detail. Yes, detail does matter, or it would not be present. Jesus listed fornication as the only reason for justified divorce and marriage to another (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9).
Question 2: Are we not becoming legalists when we apply and bind the scriptures regarding any subject, especially MDR?
Answer: To believe, accept, and apply the scriptures is not legalism. In fact, love of God necessarily involves the commandment of God (I Jn. 5: 3). No, it is not necessarily legalism to apply the scriptures to MDR. In fact, it is sinful not to apply the scriptures to MDR and all subjects (cp. Gal. 2: 14).
Question 3: How can any teaching pertaining to MDR be right if it divides families and churches, resulting in children being without mother and father?
Answer: This question is indicative of the emotionalism that reigns relative to MDR. Emotionalism precludes a study and application of the scriptures. One could discount any Bible subject by emotionally reasoning. Jesus himself said that his teaching would divide families (Matt. 10: 34-38). Division, alas, is often part of pristine Christianity (cp. I Cor. 11: 19). It is also the case that the innocent suffers due to the sins of others.
Question 4: What is biblical marriage?
Answer: Biblical marriage involves two eligible people coming together in a special union. It all began with Adam and Eve (Gen. 2: 23-25). Notice that there was more than the sexual act, Adam made a commitment. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh," says the inspired record. Hence, there is intent and declaration seen. There was no civil law at the time of the marriage of Adam and Eve or any other people. Therefore, the case of Adam of Eve is unique in this respect. As man multiplied and society developed as well as civil structure, it appears there were public declarations to announce to others marital intent both in the parental marriage arrangements among the Jews as well as marriage feasts and vows (Gen. 24, Matt. 22: 2ff., Mal. 2: 14). Cultures have varied, but there have always been specific acts that declared and exemplified marital intent as opposed to simple fornication and prostitution. People within these cultures conform to the applicable protocol. Civil record has, for the most part, recorded the fact of marriage and has usually activated certain appropriate laws pertaining to the marriage state and forthcoming responsibilities. Christians are taught to move within these civil structures (cp. I Pet. 2: 13, Acts 5: 29). A society without civil involvement and recognition of marriage would be a society in chaos. Yet, more brethren are advocating doctrines that exclude civil law and record. Hence, biblical marriage is intent, proper declaration of this marital intent, and conformity to the germane civil protocol. (Perhaps of interest is, "Polygamy and the Bible")
Question 5: What is biblical divorce?
Answer: If biblical marriage is intent, declaration of this intent, and conformity to the applicable societal and civil protocol, then divorcement, the converse of marriage, would be intent, declaration, and conformity to civil protocol regarding the dissolution of the marriage (the marriage bond will be later examined).
"Oh, but, preacher," someone interrupts, "how about righteous Josephs intention to privately put away Mary?" The case of Josephs decision to privately put away Mary is used as an example of a case of a private, mental divorcement. Alfred Edersheim, considered by many as the foremost authority on first century Jewish customs and practices, maintains that the private putting away of Matthew 1:19 was a regular divorce. He wrote: "...Resolve to put her away, which could only be done by regular divorce; this one determination only standing out clearly, that, if it must be, her letter of divorce shall be handed to her privately, only in the presence of two witnesses .It was a relief that he could legally divorce her either publicly or privately" (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, book 2, pg. 154). The difference, then, in the "public" and "private" divorce was Josephs decision not to charge Mary, but to put her away without charge.
Question 6: Do biblical marriage and divorce involve applicable civil procedure?
Answer: There is a big movement today to advocate the absence of civil involvement in both the act of biblical marriage and divorcement. As seen, though, Christians are considerate of the civil system in which they live and function. Civil law attempts to record the actuality of marriage and divorce for a number of necessary reasons. Pandemonium would develop in the absence of such record. Who is married, who is divorced, what name do children wear, the list would go on in the absence of civil record. Society and civil practice has admittedly not been static or across the board. However, all civilized societies have some protocol. Even in the case of civilly declared common-law marriage, if there is the intent to be married, then the couple is married. If not, why not? I do not recommend such "marriages" but I do not see how I can deny that such constitutes marriage. Again, there is intent, declaration, and civil procedure. However, when two people are just shacking up with no intention of being married, such is simply fornication (Heb. 13: 4).
Some who advocate that scriptural divorcement or putting away is realized short of civil procedure maintain that civil law does not require a civil procedure in order for the marriage relationship to be severed. Henry V. Poor, Associate Dean, Yale University Law School, wrote the following in legally differentiating between annulment and divorcement: "A divorce decree, on the other hand, says that your marriage is ended from the time the decree becomes final. It does not look back; it does not say there was no valid marriage. It says there is no marriage from a stated time on" (You and the Law, pg. 402). Beloved, according to civil law, two people remain married (I am not discussing the bond) until there is a civil decree of divorcement.
Question 7: When is a person married or divorced?
Answer: The terms "married" and "divorced" are terms that are used in the scriptures without any particular reference to the marriage bond being either in place or absent (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9, Rom. 7: 2, 3). Two people are married when they have intent, make known this intent, and comply with pertinent societal and civil procedure. The same would be true regarding the converse situation of divorce. For this reason, I do not consider the divorce process, either viewed biblically or civilly, as complete until the actual civil dissolution has occurred.
The question of whether or not the conjugal act is necessary for the state of marriage (biblical marriage and bond) is somewhat elusive, at least, to this writer. Does "cleave" and "one flesh" simply denote the sexual act of intercourse (Gen. 2: 24, Matt. 19: 6)? Please do not misunderstand me, I know the sex act is part of marriage, but is it necessary in order to effect the marriage state? If "one flesh" denotes the marriage state, then how about the commission of the sex act with the harlot (I Cor. 6: 16)? Would sexual intercourse with a harlot with no intention of marriage thus constitute marriage because of the "one flesh" situation? I am not sure that the sex act is necessary in order to constitute the marriage state, biblically considered. I say this being conversant with the arguments both pro and con.
Question 8: May a marriage annulment be obtained especially in the case of the absence of sexual intercourse?
Answer: Those who contend that sexual intercourse is necessary in order to effect the state of marriage, biblically considered, would have to consistently say that since there is no biblical marriage or bond in the absence of the conjugal act, then the couple may elect to use the civil provision of annulment to civilly terminate the marriage. (Let it be understood that this question is only being addressed from the standpoint of no sexual intercourse. The teaching that two may seek annulment even in view of sexual intercourse is blatantly false doctrine.) Again, I am simply not sure, therefore, I cannot bind the matter either way. This is an area that learned and sincere students of the Bible have differed and, I suppose, will continue to not agree. Again, the Bible knows nothing of "marriage annulment," therefore, such would have to be approached as aforementioned simply as a civil provision.
Question 9: What is the difference in shacking up and biblical marriage?
Answer: The essential difference is intent. In biblical marriage, the sex act is not fornication, all things equal and understood. However, in the absence of marriage, the "bed is defiled" (Heb. 13: 4).
Question 10: If the state declares a common-law marriage, but the couple has no intent to be married, are they biblically married?
Answer: The simple answer is, no. Again, there must be intent. However, all states with which I am familiar have as basic criteria to the determination of the common-law marriage also the matter of intent.
Question 11: Are two people biblically married when they have the intent and the state in which they reside pronounces a common-law marriage status?
Answer: If there is intent, declaration, and the applicable civil protocol has been satisfied; I must deem their status as biblical marriage, all things equal and understood. Having said this, I must inject two matters. First, why would two people, especially Christians, want or even allow common-law marriage status over what we Americans consider a traditional marriage? The second matter is even though there can be civil record regarding common-law marriage status, such a status can be much more difficult to establish and to substantiate than the traditional marriage that involves a license, etc. Also, there is the matter of whether or not fornication was committed prior to the state declaration of common-law marriage status. It must be realized, though, that some states that offer common-law marriage require that the couple not to have cohabited (fornication) prior to the common-law state.
Question 12: Can one put away another without civil involvement?
Answer: There is some redundancy regarding this question, but much focus should be placed on the nuance involved in this question. If divorcement consists of intent, the appropriate making known of this intent, and working within civil protocol, how can one obtain a divorce outside of and short of civil involvement? In the setting of Jesus' famous teaching on marriage, divorcement, and marriage to another, there is civil procedure (the Law of Moses in which setting Jesus issued his teaching) involved a theocracy. Hence, there was civil procedure.) I think the King James Translators wisely translated apoluo divorced in Matthew 5: 32 b. The doctrine of "put away in one's heart" as opposed to outside action involving civil authority has led to several strange, to say the least, views.
Question 13: Is a basic understanding of applicable civil procedure important in determining biblical marriage and divorcement?
Answer: Yes, such an understanding is important. For instance, those who believe that the first to petition the court in a no-fault divorce circumstance is automatically the putting away party (plaintiff) and the other mate is the put away (defendant) err regarding the very nature of civil no-fault divorce. The court in such cases, has no interest in guilt or, even, which one is seeking the dissolution of the marriage. The court's interest lies only in the fact that there is a desire to have the marriage terminated and that, without the assignment of fault. Attorney William Blue wrote thus:
"Nowadays no one 'gets' a judgment. A decree is entered separating the two. It used to be, before no fault divorce, that someone was sued for divorce in much the same way that someone sues because of personal injury. There were parties at fault, 'guilty' parties so to speak. Today, however, divorce is almost non- adversarial from the court's perspective. In fact, if you mistakenly designate the party filing first as 'plaintiff' or "petitioner" and the other spouse as 'defendant' or 'respondent,' the court will make you change the designation to husband and wife or ex-husband and ex-wife .."
It is my understanding that twenty-three states out of the fifty still allow the circumstance of a fault divorce (perhaps others will also if the lawyer knows how to approach the state). In the fault divorce situation, the defendant is allowed to "answer" the charges brought against him by the plaintiff. In some instances, the court has heard and based on evidence presented by the defendant, has denied the charges brought by the plaintiff and has even granted the fault divorce to the defendant. There are three common charges or faults allowed for the most part and one is the fault of adultery. In all cases involving divorcement in which I have been indirectly involved, we have managed to obtain a civil divorce based on adultery (such was either directly or in code stated in the civil document).
Question 14: What should the innocent mate do if their mate seeks divorce?
Answer: The innocent mate must decide if they want to put away in view of the fornication of their mate. If so, they should make such a desire known (preacher, elders, to the mate, etc.), and proceed with civil action. The more active they are, the more certain it is that it is they who are putting away their mate and that the cause is fornication (Matt. 19: 9). If their mate has already petitioned the court in a no-fault situation, the innocent should do all within their power to be active as opposed to passive before the final dissolution of the marriage, this should include determining what they can do even civilly to have some documents in which it is apparent that they are active. In the case of fault divorce, the innocent can "answer" and again do all they can to prove that they are actively seeking to put away.
Question 15: Can the innocent mate be put away and not allowed marriage to another?
Answer: Jesus said that the innocent mate could be put away and not allowed marriage to another (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9).
Question 16: How can the innocent mate end up the put away mate and forbidden marriage to another?
Answer: If the innocent mate is passive and does not want the marriage to end, thus allowing the other mate to be the only active mate in seeking the termination of the marriage until and including the civil dissolution, then the innocent mate is put away.
Question 17: How can the innocent mate be forbidden the right to put away when Jesus said that they could put away?
Answer: To the innocent mate, Jesus gave the right to put away, but the innocent mate must put away before they themselves become the put away person of Matthew 19: 9.
Question 18: Is the marriage bond still in place in the event of an unscriptural marriage, even after the putting away mate marries another?
Answer: It is evident that the marriage bond remains in view of the putting away mate committing adultery when he marries another (Matt. 19: 9).
Question 19: Does not marriage imply bond?
Answer: No, one can be bound to one and married to another (Rom. 7: 2, 3).
Question 20: Why cannot the put away innocent mate put away the other mate in cases of post divorce fornication?
Answer: The fornication that is mentioned thus allowing the innocent mate to put away is fornication that is considered before the putting away act occurs (Matt. 19: 9). Besides, the scriptures know nothing about a put away person putting away.
Question 21: How can God approve of a putting away that is not based on fornication?
Answer: God does not "approve" of such divorcements. In fact, God hates such (Mal. 2: 16, cp. Matt. 5: 31, 32). However, God does "recognize" the unscriptural act of putting away (Matt. 5: 32).
Question 22: Since some believe pertinent civil protocol is involved in biblical putting away, would not this involve the race-to-the-court-house belief.
Answer: As mentioned, biblical divorcement is not decided simply by who first petitions the court. Another matter to be understood is that while germane civil procedure is involved, biblical divorcement is not tantamount or synonymous to civil divorce. Civil divorce may and often does vary from culture to culture and within time frames.
Question 23: Since Jesus mentioned adultery in the heart, would not this serve as cause for divorcement?
Answer: It is true that Jesus taught that to look on a woman to lust after her is adultery in the heart (Matt. 5: 28). However, there is no evidence that such lust is automatically the fornication of Matthew 19: 9. How could one ever establish such an intangible matter as "adultery in the heart," anyway? Nonetheless, such adultery in the heart usually leads to overt adultery.
Question 24: How can a mate prove their mate is guilty of fornication?
Answer: There are many ways such proof can be obtained. I have always cautioned others to possess proof before they take action. I have personally assisted others in securing such proof. There must be more involved than suspicion.
Question 25: Does the innocent mate have the option of forgiving their mate of their fornication?
Answer: Yes, and in fact, if the mate seeks forgiveness, the innocent mate must forgive (Lk. 17: 3, 4, Matt. 6: 14, 15).
Question 26: When forgiveness is granted, does this mean that the innocent mate cannot put away?
Answer: If the innocent mate forgives and takes back the guilty mate, the matter should be closed. However, I do not believe forgiveness within itself necessarily means that the innocent mate must take back the forgiven mate. I believe these are two different matters. I say this especially in cases involving multiple instances of infidelity over years.
Question 27: How about the mate who took back the guilty mate and then found another, can they then put away their mate, based on their original fornication?
Answer: No, to advocate such is to ignore the mentioned circumstances presented in such verses as Matthew 19: 9. Many views being presently advocated do not match the circumstances discussed in the scriptures; therefore, they are aberrant in nature and patently false.
Question 28: How about the average no-fault divorce today in which both parties simply want out and there is no fornication?
Answer: Such divorcements are unscriptural and neither person is allowed marriage to another, even when the other marries another, such does not then allow the remaining mate to put away and marry another. Again, such constitutes an aberrant circumstance. Their only choice is to be reconciled (I Cor. 7: 10, 11).
Question 29: Does not a couple have the option of divorce without the right to marry another?
Answer: No, there are certain marital duties that are to be performed and in the absence of such, there is sin (I Cor. 7: 2ff.). I Corinthians 7: 10, 11 is not granting mutual divorcement or even one party wanting out, Paul is simply attempting to show the undesirable consequences of an unscriptural divorcement.
Question 30: How about non-Christians, does such teaching as Matthew 19: 9 apply to them?
Answer: God's marriage law was not and is not limited to the Jewish Nation or Christians today. Genesis 2 was given in such a way as to universally apply to all men, nations, and peoples. "Whosoever" means just what it says, all, any, and everybody (cp. Matt. 5: 31, 32). Ignorance is not justification, men, all men are required to know of God, including God's marriage laws (cp. Acts. 17: 30, 31).
Question 31: Since baptism washes away all sin, would not fornication and adultery also be forgiven; hence, a new marriage that was adulterous would be made pure and right?
Answer: Yes, adultery and fornication are forgiven in the act of scriptural baptism (Acts 2: 38). Paul mentioned that some of the Corinthians had been fornicators and adulterers, but they had been "washed" (I Cor. 6: 9-11). However, one must not return to fornication. The present tense is used when Jesus talked about adultery. The man keeps on committing adultery (moichatai, third person, singular, present tense, and in the indicative mood, The Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 272). Thus, if a sinful relationship is continued, sin is continued. Baptism washes away sin, not sinful relationships.
Question 32: Is Jesus just explaining Deuteronomy 24: 1-5 in such verses as Matthew 5: 31, 32 and 19: 9 and, thus, there is no cause for putting away in this dispensation?
Answer: In the case of Jesus' teaching about divorcement, it is not a part of the Law of Moses, but of the original moral law given by God in Genesis two (compare Matthew 19: 4-9 with Genesis 2: 23-25). Jesus' teaching is not the concession of Deuteronomy 24, that which was granted because of "the hardness of their (Jews) hearts, but the restoration of the original marriage law. Jesus' teaching and the original law stood opposed to the concession.
If we say Jesus is only explaining the Law of Moses in Matthew 5: 32 and 19: 9, we must of necessity say that the particular nuance of the law being explained is the concession provision found in Deuteronomy 24 (see Matt. 19: 9, 3-7). Hence, "uncleanness" (ervah, matter of offense, Hebrew) is fornication (Deut. 24: 1).
The position that uncleanness only means fornication is replete with many irreconcilable problems. In the first place, there was not a problem regarding what a mate could do with their adulterous spouse (regarding the divorce and remarriage issue). This is because the adulterer was to be put to death (Lev. 20: 10). It is the height of folly to imagine God allowing a concession (divorce for adultery only) when the law demanded the death of the adulterer! In the second place, God himself practiced divorce on grounds of adultery (the spiritual nature of the marriage matters not, Jere. 3: 8, 14). Would God practice something that was only granted because of the hardness of the practitioner's heart (in this case, God, Matt. 19: 8)? Hence, the position that Jesus' teaching regarding divorce and remarriage must be limited to the Law of Moses not only creates a situation of contradiction, but even degrades God himself!
Question 33: Why cannot the exception phrase equally apply to clause B in Matthew 5: 32 and 19: 9?
are those who believe that in a divorce even involving fornication, both the innocent and
guilty mate are free to marry again. They base their reasoning on what they call the
"floating exception phrase." Matthew 5: 32 teaches that the innocent mate may
put away the guilty mate without sin, the exception phrase (parekktos logou porneias)
shows this to be the case. Matthew 19: 9 adds the scenario of the subsequent allowed
marriage to another, as far as the innocent putting away mate is concerned. The exception
phrase me epi porneia is for the innocent mate and not the guilty mate. To apply the
phrase to the guilty mate is to allow the same rights to the guilty as Jesus extends to
the innocent. Thus, such argumentation takes away any intended grammatical advantage the
exception phrase offers to the godly or innocent and strips, grammatically speaking, the
exception phrase of all intended meaning.
Here is the second reason why the exception phrase of clause A of Matthew 19: 9 does not belong in clause B. The exception phrase modifies the verb "shall put away" and thus serves as adverbial in purpose. In clause B, the subject is "man," which is modified by the definite article, which is masculine gender. The man keeps on committing adultery (moichatai, third person, singular, present tense, and in the indicative mood, The Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 272). The man who keeps on committing adultery is the man who marries the "having-been-put-away" woman. "Put away" in clause B in the King James is from apolelumenen, which is accusative case, singular, feminine in gender, participle, perfect, passive, The Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 44). To attempt to force "except it be for fornication" into clause B is to make it grammatically modify a participle, the having been put away woman. Moreover, if the "except it be for fornication" of clause A is forced into clause B of Matthew 19: 9, you then have the phrase which modified the verb "shall put away" of clause A modifying the having been put away woman of clause B (a substantive) ; thus, making it adjectival instead of adverbial. This constitutes another grammatically "awkward situation," to say the least, and further suggests that the Lord did not mean for the reader to view the exception phrase as floating from clause A to clause B of Matthew 19: 9, thus also freeing the guilty put away to marry another.
Question 34: If one is freed regarding the marriage bond (the innocent), why would not the other also be freed of the bond (the put away guilty mate)?
Answer: We must remember that there are three, if you will, involved in the marriage bond circumstance. There is the couple and then there is God (cp. Mal. 2: 14). Based on the teaching of the scriptures, the innocent mate is free of the bond, but the guilty mate remains bound by God (Matt. 19: 9).
Question 35: Do you believe there is sequence involved in the teaching of Matthew 19: 9?
Answer: The simple answer is, yes. The Greek kai ("and") joins the clauses and obviously shows continuity. Consider the first "and," " and shall marry another, committeth adultery ." (Matt. 19: 9). The man puts away "and" marries another, thus commits adultery. The second "and" then says, " and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." I view it untenable to agree that the first "and" is used in the sense of "next," but deny the "next" idea in the same word occurring six words later in basically the same type syntax. Hence, the order: (1). A man puts away his wife, (2) he marries another and is in adultery, (3). The woman whom he put away is also in adultery when she marries another (inferred based on what is said regarding the man who marries her).
Question 36: If you say Matthew 19: 9 contains sequence, then the put away woman is in adultery even after the putting away mate marries another, is this not the case?
Answer: Yes, this would be the case. The teaching is that if the putting away is not for the cause of fornication, all that follows, involving all parties is wrong. Subsequent time, circumstance, and situationalism do not alter this fact.
Question 37: Are you sure that "put away" does not only apply to the guilty mate?
Answer: The put away person is both the innocent put away and the guilty put away (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). Neither the innocent or guilty put away are seen later putting away and being able to marry another.
Question 38: Why would Jesus forbid the innocent put away mate from being able to later put away when the putting away mate marries another and thus commits adultery?
Answer: We cannot always say "why" a particular teaching was issued, only the fact of its issuance. I should think, though, that the reason such a circumstance as mentioned in the question is precluded is because Jesus wanted to eliminate even the circumstance for the waiting game practices. By waiting game practices I mean, " the divorce can be for some cause other than fornication and the first to marry another, frees the remaining mate to scripturally be able to marry."
Question 39: Does not I Corinthians 7: 10, 11 prove that a put away person can marry?
Answer: I do believe that putting away action has occurred in the circumstance of I Corinthians 7: 10, 11. However, the putting away mate who put away not for the cause of fornication may only marry or be reconciled to the mate whom they put away and not another. All other put away persons, whether innocent or guilty of fornication, are not allowed a "second putting away" and marriage to another.
Question 40: What is fornication and adultery?
Answer: The Greek word translated "fornication" is porneia. Porneia is found 26 times in the Greek New Testament. W. E. Vine states porneia (fornication) "is used of illicit sexual intercourse ." (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Henry Thayer defines "fornication" as "illicit sexual intercourse in general distinguished from adultery (moicheia) in Matt. 15: 19 used of adultery in Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9 (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 532). The granddaddy Greek work says of fornication, "The N. T. is characterized by an unconditional repudiation of all extra-marital and unnatural intercourse" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 6, pg. 590). Fornication includes homosexual acts (oral and anal sex, cp. Jude 7, Gen. 19).
Adultery (moichos) "denotes one who has unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another (Lk. 18: 11, I Cor. 6: 9 )" (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Therefore, in the strict sense, fornication may include adultery but is often used of sexual intercourse involving those not married and adultery refers to unlawful sexual intercourse involving a married person.
Question 41: What do you think of a translation that renders porneia in such verses as Matthew 19: 9, "sexual immorality"?
Answer: I prefer porneia be rendered fornication or illicit sexual intercourse. "Sexual immorality" is a little vague and perhaps too inclusive, in my judgment. Certain embracing, kissing, etc., could be considered sexual immorality when it involves a married person and one not his mate (such could be lasciviousness, Gal. 5: 19). However, such would not necessarily constitute fornication or adultery.
Question 42: Do you believe fornication in Matthew 19: 9 can include pre-marital sexual intercourse?
Answer: There are those who believe if one is not a virgin that their husband may put them away upon such a discovery (marriage night). Indeed, the Law of Moses required capital punishment in the case of pre-marital sexual intercourse (Deut. 22: 13-21). Virginity is a matter to be cherished and protected. However, I do not find sufficient evidence to prove that porneia stands for or includes pre-marital sexual intercourse in the climate of Matthew 19: 9. Besides, the action depicted in such verses as Matthew 19: 9 presents the couple as maritally bound when the fornication takes place.
Question 43: May a guilty put away person marry another after the death of the putting away mate?
Answer: Brethren are often divided in providing an answer to this question. However, most brethren believe that the death of the putting away person severs the marriage bond, based on Romans 7: 2, 3.
Question 44: Do elders have any right to inquire regarding a marriage status?
Answer: Elders oversee and maintain the purity of the local church (Heb. 13: 17, cp. I Jn. 1: 7). Elders, then, have the right and even obligation to inquire relative to any matter that could be a scriptural issue, including marriage status.
Question 45: What is the status of a person who has married one who was not eligible for marriage, could they possibly marry another?
Answer: There have been cases where one has lied about their marriage status. Perhaps years later, the person discovers that their husband or wife was previously married and that the divorce was unscriptural. While civil law says they are legitimately married, they are not bound in God's sight (cp. Matt. 19: 9). Therefore, the wife of the man, lets say, who lied about a previous marriage is guilty of fornication but is not maritally bound, in God's sight, to the man. She can repent of her sin of fornication, remove herself from the sinful relationship, and perhaps be able to subsequently marry another. The divorce would be simply and only civil, to satisfy civil requirements.
Question 46: Would not desertion be another cause for putting away and marriage to another, based on I Corinthians 7: 15?
Answer: The expression "not under bondage" in I Corinthians 7: 15 cannot mean the marriage bond for a number of reasons. "Is not under bondage" is from the Greek dedoulotai. Dedoulotai is third person, singular, perfect tense, indicative mood, and passive voice. "Not in the past with the result continuing into the present time" is the meaning. Whatever "bondage" meant, it was a bondage that did not exist in the past regarding the believer. Paul had just labored to prove the believer and unbeliever were indeed maritally bound and he certainly is not now saying they had not in the past with the result continuing to the present been maritally bound. The bondage, I am convinced, refers to being reduced to slavery by man (see vs. 23, "unbeliever" usually meant a determined pagan). The unbeliever has not departed, but is in the process (present tense, vs. 15). I see the action being that the unbeliever is threatening to leave if the believer will not renounce Christ. The believer has not in the past and is not in the present under such bondage. There is only one cause for divorce and remarriage when there is a living mate, the cause of fornication (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). Paul is not contradicting Jesus' teaching.
Question 47: Is it a sin and the marriage not recognized when a Christian marries a non-Christian?
Answer: Sinful relationships must not be continued (I Cor. 6: 9-11). Paul taught that the believer was to continue in the marriage relationship with the believer (I Cor. 7: 12-14). Therefore, it is not necessarily a sin for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. Having said this, I must inject that the Christian marrying a non-Christian is very dangerous and often results in marriage failure. There are also often child rearing problems as the result of different values. The believing wife can be especially at a disadvantage in view of headship that involves a non-Christian (Eph. 5: 22ff.).
Question 48: How about the widow who marries a non-Christian, in view of I Corinthians 7: 39?
Answer: Does the
expression "only in the Lord" (monon en kurio) only apply to a widow? Also, does
"only in the Lord" mean she must marry a Christian? If Paul had wanted to teach
that the widow is to marry a Christian, why did not he simply say so instead of employing
an expression that does not flow with the action. Paul would literally be saying,
"marry in the church." How does one "marry in the church?" The
language is awkward. However, the nuance "according to the will of the Lord"
smoothly flows and is in harmony with the context. Remember that Paul taught in verses
12-14 that the believer was to remain married to the unbeliever. Why would he now, in the
same context, issue a command that the widow must only marry "in the church"
(whatever that means) or marry a Christian, as some like to arbitrarily inject. Does it
not make more sense to say that Paul is evidently teaching by the phrase "only in the
Lord" that the widow (inclusive of all) must not marry one who has no right to marry,
for instance? (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9.)
Even though I do all I can to encourage Christians to marry Christians, I become rather upset when I hear I Corinthians 7: 39 used to teach that a Christian must marry a Christian. Do not we realize that if this is the case, the Christian who marries a non-Christian is in fornication and is producing illegitimate children? Such "marriages" must be dissolved, to be consistent. Yet, Paul said the believer and unbeliever are to remain together. Remain in fornication, certainly not.
I have witnessed the above view encourage such false doctrines as are rampant today that involve laxity toward the unscripturally married. "Yes, it is automatically a sin for a Christian to marry a non-Christian," some say, "but they can repent and remain together." Such views pervert and make a mockery out of repentance!
Question 49: Are you saying that a wife and mother has to remain married to an abusive drug addict?
Answer: We can only speak as the scriptures and respect the silence (I Pet. 4: 11). There is only one stated reason for divorce (cp. Matt. 5: 32, I Cor. 7: 2ff.). There is also only one stated reason for divorce and marriage to another (Matt. 19: 9). That stated reason is fornication or a mate committing sexual intercourse with another to whom they are not married. Once we open the door to another reason, such as abuse, why not to another, such as neglect, mental cruelty, or not providing? Saying this does not mean that the mate must passively stand by while a child is abused. There are recourses, in such cases, but divorce is not one of them.
Question 50: Is biblical marriage only for the producing of children?
Answer: In addition to producing children, marriage is designed to meet the sexual needs of the couple (I Cor. 7: 1ff.). Therefore, it is not wrong for a married couple to engage in sexual intercourse without any special intent to have a child. As a result, birth control that prevents fertilization is not wrong. In determining the various forms of foreplay and sexual intercourse, matters such as physical injury and the conscience of each mate must be considered.
In conclusion, it is my sincere desire that the foregoing fifty questions and answers will be of help to you in your study of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Perhaps they will help you to decide regarding your own marriage status and what you should or should not do. God instituted marriage for the happiness of man and woman and for the structured family for children. The marriage failures so common today do not reflect on God's goodness and arrangement, but rather on how we humans reject God's plan.