Summary: A thorough Outline on the New Testament teaching concerning divorce and remarriage, and the responsibilities of divorcees and the church.
Christian Principles Governing Divorce and Remarriage
I. Divorce and remarriage and the New Testament
C. Principles directly learned from these passages:
1. Marriage was intended to be permanent – until death do us part!
2. Divorce and re-marriage is permitted for two reasons:
a) Sexual immorality
b) Desertion by an unbelieving spouse.
3. Remarriage is permitted for biblical divorces.
D. Principles indirectly implied but not directly stated in these passages:
1. Non-biblical divorcees may remarry:
a) Upon the death of original spouse.
b) Original spouse is now engaged in immorality.
c) Original spouse is now re-married.
2. Continuous spousal abuse, or incest (or other sexual abuses) constitutes desertion from the marriage covenant based on the original intent of marriage (Genesis 2, Malachi 2), and Paul’s allowance for divorce from an unbelieving spouse who wishes to leave.
a) The innocent party of these types of unsafe marriages may consider the guilty party as an unbeliever if the “guilty party” refuses to repent for continuous clear violations of the Scriptures.
b) This principle of treating unrepentant persons as unbelievers is taught by both Jesus (Matthew 18:15-17), and Paul (I Corinthians 5:1-11). This does not mean that these people ARE unbelievers, just that we are to remove them from the fellowship.
c) This principle, for obvious reasons must be considered carefully. In most cases, the “guilty party” has no intention of leaving the “innocent party” and intends to continue the unhealthy relationship due to selfish reasons (such as control). If the household has become an unsafe environment for the innocent spouse and for the children, then this principle ought to be followed. Immediate separation for the safety of innocent children should be addressed at a minimum. Misguided loyalty kills the soul.
d) Therefore, the spouse of a physically or sexually dangerous person who refuses to repent has already abandoned the marriage covenant and original purpose of marriage and should be considered a deserter. Based on Paul’s command to “allow him to go,” a biblical divorce should be granted.
e) Divorce is still the last resort here, as with the two other biblical reasons, however it is the personal opinion of this minister that physically and sexually abusive spouses have already divorced themselves from the marriage – only that they haven’t got the intestinal fortitude to do so legally.
3. Nowhere in scripture is a previous divorce mentioned as a hindrance to Christian service of any kind.
a) Old Testament priests were not allowed to take a divorced wife, however, the Old Testament priest was a type of Christ as mediator. If this analogy is followed to it’s logical conclusion, then NO Christian is allowed to marry a divorcee since ALL Christians today are members of the royal priesthood of the believer. The correlation between Old Testament priest and New Testament pastor doesn’t hold water.
b) The qualifications for Christian leadership (specifically pastors and deacons) in I Timothy 3:2 simply say, “The husband of one wife.” Literally, the Greek says, “a one-woman man.” That is all. (See also I Tim 3:12, 5:9, Titus 1:6) To read into this passage, “a man who has only ever been married to one woman” violates Greek language grammar rules, and adds words and verb tenses into the rest of the sentence that are not there.
4. There is no such thing as an “annulment” that takes the place of a divorce in the Bible.
5. Divorce is not required if your spouse is unfaithful.
a) Temporary separation may be needed as a cool down period.
b) Forgiveness is essential, regardless of the actions of the guilty party. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world.
II. What about Christians who have been divorced and are now re-married on non-biblical grounds?
A. The responsibility of the divorced
2. The Old Testament law forbids people from divorcing their spouses in order to be remarried to their first spouse. DO NOT divorce a second time to try to be “spiritual.” You cannot unscramble eggs!
3. Repent of your past, or forgive the other spouse, and move on.
4. WE ALL have sin in our background. Learn from your mistakes, teach those who are coming of age. We are ALL living with the consequences of our past sin. The key is to teach those who are younger the truth, and help them not to make the same mistakes we made. We DO NOT want our children to make the same mistakes we made, DO WE?
B. The responsibility of the Church
1. The church is a hospital for sinners and victims of sin. Recognize that every person in the church is on equal footing at the cross of Jesus Christ. There are no sins which make a person less of a Christian that others.