Question:

Hello,

I gave "Are All Divorced Persons Eligible to Remarry?" by Dave Miller at Apologetics Press to my step father. He said the author was "narrow". Before he was baptized he had inquired about his marriage situation and was basically told he is OK. One of the leaders in our congregation actually gave him an article titled "Jesus and Divorce: Matt. 19:3-19" by J. Curtis Manor. In our brief conversation he asked, "how can a man that murdered his wife be forgiven yet a man that commits adultery can't be forgiven." I responded that "both can be forgiven but the latter can't marry." I read the article by Manor and hope you can help me with some questions I have. Do you think this is going to put me at odds with my family as well as with the leaders?

I outlined, as clearly as I was able to, the arguments made, followed by my thoughts about each of the arguments. I tried to the best of my ability to address each point from the Bible. Your web site was very helpful. Can you please read over it and share your thoughts. I apologize for how lengthy it is and greatly appreciate your help.

Argument #1 Marriage is not a "spiritual union" it is a joining of the flesh that does not outlive the body, which is why Jesus said in the resurrection no one will marry (Matthew 22:30) and is also why a widow can remarry (I Corinthians 7:39; Romans 7:3). The idea of a "spiritual union" is a false idea that came from the early Catholic Church that wanted control over its members. Marriage arrangements are consistently treated as the business of the family, never the temple, synagogue or church. Look it up.

Thoughts: Marriage is a covenant between two individuals before God. God tells us what the laws of marriage are.

Argument #2 "Indissolubility." We are told that what God has joined together man cannot put asunder. Jesus does not say we cannot, He says "Let not…" "The very fact that we are cautioned not to do it recognizes that we are capable of it." As an example, God joined the body and spirit, but men murder others contrary to God's law; thus, they separate what God joined together. "But if a divorce is not for fornication it isn't a scriptural divorce, therefore the couple is still married, because God joined them together." Thus "…if a man is murdered in violation of the law, he isn't really dead because he wasn't killed scripturally, was he?" Or "… a girl who has conceived out of wedlock won't really have a baby because her pregnancy is not scriptural." "That which God has joined together can often be put asunder, and that which God has forbidden to be joined is often bonded together by man, either in ignorance, weakness or rebellion."

Thoughts: Is it not obvious that a man can divorce his wife? The question is whether or not it is contrary to God's law for him to do so for any reason and marry another woman. Jesus makes it very clear that any one who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery and whoever marries that divorced woman also commits adultery (Luke 16:18). I Corinthians 7:10-11 tells us that a woman is not to separate from her husband, but if she does she should remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.

Argument #3 "Subsequent Union Not Marriage." Many believe that a union after a divorce, except for sexual immorality, is not recognized by the Lord as marriage. "But did Jesus say that? No, he said 'whoever divorces his wife… and marries another.' Jesus called the second union marriage." Another example that a subsequent marriage is valid is Acts 24:24 where Drusilla is called Felix's 'wife.' According to secular history, Drusilla left her Syrian husband, Aziz of Emesa and married Felix. "…scripture not only calls her Felix's wife, the Greek wording makes the recognition of divine inspiration even more explicit by call her Drousillav tay idia gunaiki—'Drusilla his own wife. 'Repeat:' his own wife." This is because when two people are united no matter when they enter into a union by mutual consent, they are automatically husband and wife regardless of sin or righteousness.

Thoughts: Two people enter a marriage by covenant (Malachi 2:14). Can I so easily declare that covenant void by simply marrying someone else? "…brothers, even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified." (Galatians 3:15 ESV) Once a marriage covenant has been confirmed, one can't go and simply marry another to nullify the first. In fact, Romans 7:3 says that a woman is bound to her husband while he lives. This covenant is a life long covenant that only ends when one or the other dies. Any person can choose to violate their covenant by leaving and marrying another person, Jesus says that person is an adulterer and more, He says that whomever they married is also an adulterer.

Argument #4 "Living in Adultery." This phrase is not in the Bible, it is an invention of human tradition and it does not reflect any doctrine that the Bible clearly teaches. This concept teaches that a remarried couple commits adultery every time they are intimate since one or both persons divorced are still bound to the original spouse and not actually to the present partner. To advance this idea, many scholars say that the Greek of Matthew 19:9 should say 'whosoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another keeps on committing adultery" According to these scholars, the present tense in Greek always indicates continuing action and thus, the adultery is repeated as often as the remarried couple is intimate. "It is true that the Greek present tense sometimes—perhaps even most of the time—implies continued action. But it may also mean one time, or point action…" Every English translation of the Bible renders this passage "commits adultery" or "shall commit adultery"—never "keeps on committing"

"We allege that the divorced and remarried couple is not 'living in adultery' because the old bond of previous marriage has been severed by the divorce and remarriage, and therefore neither party is any longer the spouse of another. Here is why: Since Jesus says that one who divorces a mate except for fornication and marries another commits adultery, it follows that one who divorces a mate because of fornication and marries another does not commit adultery. Thus most scholars agree that the 'innocent party' may remarry without sinning, since the adultery of the guilty party and the divorce have combined to sever the marriage bond, and the new marriage is not adulterous for the innocent one because he/she is no longer married to the former spouse. But in the next breath they will say that the guilty party who remarries, is a perpetual adulterer because he/she still has a living spouse, being bound o the innocent party of the former marriage. So what do we have? A case where A is free to marry C because she is no longer married to B; but B is not free to marry D because he still is married to A! In other words, he's her husband, but she's not his wife! How can one party to a marriage be married, but not the other? If one is bound, both are. And if there is no bond to a third party, a sexual union is not adultery, by definition. It may be fornication, but it is not adultery."

Thoughts: You allege that the divorced and remarried couple is not living in adultery because the old bond of previous marriage has been severed by the divorce and remarriage. God says in Romans 7:2-3 "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man."

Notice that if she marries someone else, as long as the husband is alive she shall be called an adulteress. If her husband dies and she marries another, she is not an adulteress. What is the conclusion? If she marries another man, she is guilty of adultery as long as her husband is alive. She continues to be an adulteress until her husband is dead. If this is not the case, then we have exactly what the Pharisees asked about, divorce for any reason! This is the exact opposite of what Jesus said.

Jesus said "whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery." (Luke 16:18 KJV) You say "whosoever puts away his wife and marries another does not commit adultery" or perhaps only commits adultery once but afterward is not committing adultery because his second marriage nullifies the first. But as long as his first wife is alive, he is bound by his covenant.

Jesus' general rule: If you divorce and marry another you commit adultery. Exception: If you divorce for sexual immorality. Implication: If your spouse commits adultery, you can divorce them and are free to marry Why can't the "guilty" party remarry and the "innocent" party can? Jesus does not authorize them to do so. Also, it leads us to an illogical position: A man can't divorce for any reason so he decides to go commit adultery, now he can divorce his spouse (or his spouse divorces him) and he is free to marry someone else. The adulterer violated the marriage covenant and because of that act, God allows the "innocent party" to divorce and remarry. God's word says nothing about the adulterer being free to remarry.

Argument #5 "Repentance Requires Separation." Proponents of this teach that the only way a guilty pair can receive forgiveness is by separation. If they do not return to their first spouse, they must spend their remaining years in celibate loneliness. "Under the Old Testament law, at least, a return to the former spouse was forbidden. It was even described as an 'abomination' (Deut 24:1-4)." There are some sins that have no restitution, like murder, lying and adultery. After these are done, they can't be undone. The best you can do is apologize, ask forgiveness of God and never repeat the mistake. It seems that men have selectively applied rules they have invented or inherited from their fathers. "For instance, here is a Christian widow who, according to scripture, is at liberty to remarry 'only in the Lord' (1 Cor. 7:39). Like so many of her kind … she marries a non-Christian. Did you ever hear of a preacher … telling her that she could not go to heaven and would be thrown out of the church unless she broke up with her new husband, because she violated a teaching of the Bible in acquiring him? And there is the young woman who … conceived a child out of wedlock. Did you ever hear of a preacher … who demanded that she disown her child … before she can ever be a Christian again, because she acquired it by an act of sin? Tell me about that one, too, if you ever hear of it."

The sin of David with Bathsheba is blatant. He got her by means that were not honorable but David repented and was allowed to keep Bathsheba as his wife. God even blessed one of their offspring (2 Sam 12:24-25). There are no examples in scriptures of God ever having required the breakup of a marriage because of adultery. The only example of marital breakup by what appears to be divinely authorized was because of religious differences, not prior marriages (Ezra 10:11, 19, 44). We often hear that two wrongs don't make a right yet if a person sinned by break up his first home, why would we want him to sin again by breaking up the second or third, or wherever repentance may catch up to him. It is better to follow the admonition of Paul: "Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called…Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned…" (1 Cor. 7:20, 27, 28).

Thoughts: I Corinthians 6:9 "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither…adulterers… will inherit the kingdom of God" fornication must cease, thievery must cease, practice of homosexuality must cease, adultery must cease. He who marries someone while their first spouse lives is an adulterer (Romans 7:3). To repent implies that you decide to no longer commit adultery, what other way can you stop committing adultery than to leave the union where you are committing adultery? If someone were practicing homosexuality, would we not tell him/her to end his/her homosexual union? Or would it simply tell him that it would suffice that he say he is sorry that he entered that relationship? David married Bathsheba after her husband Uriah died (II Samuel 11:26-27). How does this prove that marriage after a divorce is approved by God if Bathsheba did not divorce Uriah? David did repent and was forgiven but he still suffered severe consequences (II Samuel 12:10-14).

Argument #6: "The guilty may never remarry." "By denying the former adulterer's right to a normal life, we make adultery the one unpardonable sin. Murder can be forgiven, fornication can be forgiven, and even sodomy can be forgiven. But if the reformed adulterer should ever be tempted to seek a normal Christian life in marriage, he will find that his sin is still on the books and will forever be held against him ... It seems that … the blood of Christ will not fully cleanse a person from at least one thing for which God did sometimes justify a person under the Law of Moses (2 Sam. 12:13)

Thoughts: Being forgiven for a sin is different from facing consequences for a sin. If a man commits fornication and is infected with HIV, he can be forgiven but he still has HIV. If a man is imprisoned for murder and later repents he can be forgiven but he still has to serve his sentence. Through the cleansing of Jesus' blood, we don't have to face the second death, still, our sins have consequences on this earth. II Samuel 12:13 "…Nathan said to David, 'The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die." God forgave David. II Samuel 12:14 "Nevertheless, …the child who is born to you shall die." God forgave David and yet, there were still consequences of his sin David, on the child's behalf, fasted and lay on the ground all night and on the seventh day, the child died. (II Samuel 12:15-18). God forgave David, he was told his child would die because of his sin, David pleaded but his child still died and David did suffer many other things. If we use the logic of this faulty argument, God did not forgive David because David's sin still had consequences; thus, David's sin was unpardonable. We see very plainly in the Scriptures that this is just not so, God did forgive David.


Answer:

You made some really good points. Let me add a few more:

Argument 1: Marriage isn't spiritual.

"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). It is God who binds the marriage covenant. "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6). Therefore, there is a spiritual aspect to marriage.

Yes, marriage covenants are lifetime vows (Romans 7:2-3), but that doesn't mean they aren't sanctioned by God. True, in heaven, the physical concept of male and female don't exist, so the institution of marriage between individuals don't exist, but there is still marriage in a different form. "Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2). Since our spiritual lives are eternal, this marriage does not end; thus, marriage here on earth is a shadow of something greater that appears in heaven.

Argument 2: Indissolubility

That has to be one of the most convoluted, poorly thought out argument I've seen. Just because a person can violate God's law, it does not follow that the law does not exist.

Argument 3: Subsequent Union Not Marriage

Yes, men can marry when they should not. Polygamous marry multiple wives. Homosexuals are now marrying. But these violations of the marriage laws do not mean the marriage is legitimate. "For John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife"" (Mark 6:18). They were married, but unlawfully married. Thus, God declared the relationship adulterous.

Argument 4: Living in Adultery

Interesting he grudging admits that the Greek does mean continuous action. He goes on to dismiss the obvious, but he does admit that it exists. His argument based on English only establishes that English is broader in meaning than Greek: "commits adultery" in English does include continued adultery.

The Greek word gamesas is a nominative verb, third person singular, present middle indicative tense. "Middle" roughly means that it is both being done by the person and it is being done to him at the same time. There isn't an equivalent tense in English, so the passive tense is generally used as the closest match. "Present indicative" refers to "an action that normally occurs in the present. It can either be continuous ("I am studying") or undefined ("I study") action." [William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, p. 130]. In other words, you can only conclude that it is currently happening. You cannot conclude that it will not continue to happen in the future as the author wants to claim. Therefore, so long as the conditions Christ placed remain true, the adultery remains true at the present.

Your argument from Romans 7:2-3 is perfect in showing the flaw.

Argument 5: Repentance Requires Separation

You covered this one well.

Argument 6: The guilty may never remarry

When a person is practicing homosexuality, they are told that they must give up their sin. They can, and sometimes do, argue that their "right" to happiness is being denied to them, but the argument is false because they are deriving their pleasure from sin and not righteousness. A couple who is committing adultery are also deriving their pleasure from sin. They do not have a right to sin.

By the way, "unpardonable" and "unforgiveable" do not appear in the Bible. These words imply that God would refuse to forgive a repentant sinner. Instead, the only time a sinner is mentioned as not being forgiven is due to the sinner's own stubborn refusal to give up his sin.

Note that all these arguments are for divorce for any reason that then allows for remarriage if a person feels like it. They are direct contradictions of Jesus' answer to the Pharisees who also argued for divorce for any reason in Matthew 19:1-12. Basically the person is arguing that Jesus was wrong.