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God Hates Divorce
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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Now to the married [believers] I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband (1 Cor 7:10).
But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife [if he is a Christian] (7:11).
But to the rest [i.e. a converted spouse with an unconverted partner] I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her (7:12).
And a woman [believer] who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him (7:13).
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy [devoted to the Lord through your devotion to Him] (7:14).
But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace (1 Cor 7:15, NKJV).
Where Churches Get It Wrong
From The Bible Speaks, Vol 4, p 67 (originally written in 1991):
The New Testament does not support remarriage following casual or selfish separation (Mark 10:11-12, Matt. 19:9). The Bible condemns divorce – i.e. permanent separation with no chance of reconciliation (Mal. 2:16 RSV, Matt. 19:3-9). Notice in Matthew 19:6 Christ said, before ever there was a converted church, "What God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (KJV.) God, therefore, joins all marriage unions.
Currently [this was in 1991], the WCG claims there are certain unions God has not bound because one party is "converted" and the other party is not, basing this incorrect teaching on [a misunderstanding of] I Cor. 7. However, when I Cor. 7 is carefully examined with Christ's Teaching in mind it supports what our Saviour said, that ALL unions are bound in heaven.
Notice I Cor. 7:27 – "Are you bound (in marriage) to a wife? Seek not to be loosed" (KJV). Also I Cor. 7:39 – "The wife is bound by the Law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord (KJV)."
The WCG administration justifies its present incorrect teaching on divorce and remarriage by misappropriating the words "under bondage" in I Cor. 7:15, claiming they make the separated party free to remarry when the text, in context, says no such thing! It does not say the person is free to remarry, but free to separate, if the situation is just too intolerable because of the then "present distress" (v. 26).
The Greek word rendered in the KJV "under bondage" is "douloo", meaning "to enslave". It connotes a servitude never intended in marriage. It is not referring to the marriage union. "Bound", in I Cor. 7:27, referring to the marriage union, is a totally different word "deo".
It does not say the marriage was not bound in heaven – Christ said all unions are bound in heaven (Matt. 19:6). Paul is here saying that, although the marriage is consummated, the unconverted party is free to leave if he or she finds the situation intolerable. No unconverted brother or sister should ever feel restricted or trapped, for "God has called us to peace" (I Cor. 7:15). Christians should never impose their wishes or will on others.
But, if any Christian brother or sister depart, as tragic as that situation may be, they are commanded BY GOD ("not I, but the Lord" – I Cor. 7:10) to remain separate or be reconciled (v. 11).
Of course! That's what Christ said. Because, if any remarry following [casual] separation, THEY COMMIT ADULTERY (Matt. 19:9). The only exception Christ allowed for was "porneia" – i.e. prostitution or other sexual infidelity. If a wife [or husband] was unfaithful after being married, the man [or woman] was free to remarry. That is all! (Matt. 19:9).
So strict and so dogmatic was Christ about the sacrosanct nature of marriage that the disciples were aghast. They exclaimed that it would be better then not to get married in the first place! (Matt. 19:10).
The permissive, liberal approach towards divorce and remarriage today has now permeated the teaching of the WCG and is far removed from the original intent of the instructions of our Saviour. It is heresy!
Sanctity of The Union
Humans have foolishly questioned the sanctity of marriage and even whether it is ideal. But that does not change the fact that it is holy and that it is ideal. The God who made us knows what humans do not!
Jesus was questioned by the sceptical Pharisees in His day about the place for divorce. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" Jesus replied:
'Haven't you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together let man not separate' (Matthew 19:3-6, NIV).
Whenever, by mutual consent, a man and a woman are sexually joined together – even if not 'officially' recognised by society as husband and wife – God regards that union as consummated. He regards them as having married. They have come together as 'one flesh' and therefore bind themselves before God in a marital relationship until death. Ideally, they should also openly declare their union before the rest of society – "get married" – to protect the sanctity of their relationship from others who might not realize they are sexually bound together.
In the Old Testament, the sexual union was vigorously protected from violation. God protected the sanctity of marriage through several specific laws against flagrant abuse. These laws are listed in Leviticus 18 (see Lev 18:6-24):.. (From Why Marriage? p 9.)
God Hates Divorce!
The spiritual union of marriage partners was revealed even in the Old Testament. The prophet Malachi explained why the nation had gone into demise and had been cut off from the blessings of God. In large measure it was due to marital infidelity. He told them:
You weep and wail because He no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask 'Why?' It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? [People don't consider when they get married that their union is bound in heaven.] In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring" (Malachi 2:13-15, NIV).
Much is revealed here in these words. Marriage is both a physical and a spiritual union, bound by God. He is aware of everything we humans do (Psalm 139). When two people marry, He regards their contract they have made and expects them to be loyal to each other for life. They will have to answer to Him for infidelity. The union is sacred for the sake of the offspring – "because He was seeking godly offspring"!
Malachi continues: "So guard yourself in your spirit". We must heed the spiritual issues and not regard marriage as a purely physical institution. It is not just a physical relationship. Purely physical approaches are destined to end in disaster. Only the correct spiritual approach will bring success.
...and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 'I hate divorce', says the Lord (Mal 2:15,16). God repeats for emphasis: So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith [do not be unfaithful] (v 16, NIV).
Jesus reiterated this sanctity of marriage. When man and woman are joined together in matrimony Jesus said their union has been made in heaven.
Therefore what God has joined together let not man separate (Mt 19:6).
The Pharisees asked Him:
"Why then, did Moses direct that a man could issue a certificate of divorce to dismiss his wife?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not [intended by God to be] this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery" (Matt 19:8,9, NIV).
The natural hardness of heart which is in all humans leads to unforgiving and intolerant attitudes. But the true love which is placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, softens us and enables us to create a loving environment in which marriage need not fail.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied of the time when the whole nation of Israel will enjoy this true love:
I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people (Jeremiah 31:33). I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh [soft heart]. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws (Ezekiel 36:26,27, NIV). (From Why Marriage? pp 13-15.)
Divorce and Remarriage
Sadly, marriages do fail, even when one party tries to be loyal. All humans are prone to weakness and sin. Mistakes are made. Penalties are incurred. Wherever God’s laws are broken, curses follow in their wake.
Where marriages fail and partners separate, Jesus said they are not necessarily free to remarry. Ideally, He would want them to be reconciled to each other. But people do not always find it possible to resolve their differences in order to restore their damaged relationship. In that situation, separation can be the only, although far from ideal, solution.
Jesus insisted that when one partner divorces the other and marries another partner, that person commits adultery (Matt 19:8,9). And if the partner who is divorced remarries, he or she is also living in adultery (ibid.). (The only exception is where a partner has been sexually unfaithful.)
Jesus encouraged, if possible, married partners to become reconciled and avoid the tragedy of divorce. It wrecks emotions, health, whole families and lives.
As long as there is a chance of reconciliation, individual partners should seek to restore what they have lost, and remain single until that can be achieved. Only when all attempts at restoration have failed, should remarriage ever become an alternative.
Where breakup and divorce has occurred, it is up to the individual parties concerned how they should apply Jesus’ words to their situation. This area is fraught with manifold complications and it is not possible to lay down hard and fast rules that apply to each person – other than what Jesus has already said.
Where churches have attempted to legislate for their members in this area, it has only brought more suffering. It is not for man to dictate to man, or to meddle in an area which is highly sensitive and stressful.
While God’s Word should be our guide, how we individually apply that Word can vary, depending upon our level of spiritual maturity and understanding. Although we do not want to tolerate sin in any form, neither should we fall into the trap of condemning others for either ignorance or lack of spiritual maturity.
Marriage is sacred and should be protected from violation in every way possible. God designed His law to do that – if it is obeyed. It is our responsibility to fulfil our duty in that regard to the best of our ability, and to draw on the strength of His Spirit to do so.
As we fulfil our obligations in marriage, we will be accomplishing the purpose for this sublime holy union, preparing for the divine union to come in God’s heavenly Kingdom. (From Why Marriage? pp 27-28.) Malcolm B Heap
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