Churches Of Christ/annulment

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I am seeking to.get an annulment from my husband. I first set out to file for.separation with intention for.counseling and trying to save our marriage. So many issues. He will lead our home as promised before marriage. He is not a Christian. Before marrying, I really prayed and asked him for the reason for his divorce. My first marriage ended due to the death of my husband. I knew I was free to remarry. He swore adultery was provable and that is why he divorced. Well we separated due to other matters. Him not being the leader of the home, no financial support, never working, mistreating me and my children emotionally, catching him in lies where the children were concerned. I asked him to.separate and he would not so I put him out. My son was suffering emotionally and did not even want to live in the home with him. He refused counseling and separation from first lawyer. I was so unsettled. I chose to get a second opinion from a brother in Christ who is a lawyer. He happened to be the laywyer represented my husband's ex-wife in his 1st marriage. I did not know this fact. He told me there was no adultery in that marriage and that was not the cause of the divorce. I was lied to.His parents even told me there was adultery. I would have never married him had I known he did not have biblical reason for divorce. I am devastated. I have to divorce for I am living in adultery and now have I been lied to and had my chances of a marriage at all ruined due to deception. How can this be happening? My heart breaks. He lied to me.

Answer
Hi Ellen,

Thank you for asking me your question. First I do understand that it was completely wrong of your husband to lie about what caused his first marriage to end in divorce. He is not a Christian but he knew your views and beliefs regarding whom you felt able to marry so he chose to lie to you. That was definitely wrong. It also sounds like he's got many problems. All those things you mentioned are in essence acts of adultery when you understand that adultery is at it's core unfaithfulness to marriage vows. When he married you he made a vow to take care of you and any children in the marriage. Not being leader of the home, giving no financial support, not working, mistreating you and your children emotionally, lying where the children are concerned...that is all unfaithfulness to his marriage vows.

He refused counseling and separation so it seems clear he has no interest in being the man he should be in the marriage. BUT, the fact that his first marriage did not end due to adultery does not mean his first marriage did not end. You were lied to and had you not been lied to you never would have married him. I do understand that point. I also understand you feeling devastated by learning the truth about his first marriage.

Yet you are not living in adultery nor is your chance of ever again having a marriage is not ruined due to his deception. Nowhere in the New Testament is there evidence that anyone ever becomes no longer able to have a marriage. The first thing I would like to do is explain the words of Jesus on MDR.

In both Matthew 5 and Matthew 19, Jesus was not giving instruction to Christians on MDR. Jesus was correcting Pharisee errors on the Law of Moses - specifically Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Now Moses did give instructions on how and why a Jewish man can divorce. Moses specified a cause. He used a word in Hebrew - ervah - which is not very specific. It can mean nakedness, uncleanness, shamefulness. So Moses stated that if a Jewish man's wife loses favor in his eyes due to something which he considers disgraceful or that brings shame upon him. Adultery was not meant as a cause. As you know, under the Law of Moses adultery was punishable by death and the one guilty would be stoned to death. Therefore no divorce was needed for adultery. The purpose for divorce was to free the woman to find a new husband. Without the bill of divorce, she would not be able to marry someone new. So whatever was meant by "ervah" it did not prevent her from having a new marriage. Also, because Moses did give a cause and even though "ervah" can have multiple meanings it is clear that the Jewish men were not free to divorce for any reason. The most popular teaching accepted by Jews during the time Jesus was on earth was that Jewish men could divorce for any reason. [the school of Hillel] It is also important to note that if the second husband divorces that same woman she was not free to return to her original husband.

Jesus was correcting the error in that teaching. In Matthew 5 31,32 - Jesus begins by saying "you have heard it said"...so this is not referring to what was written in the Law of Moses but was referring to Pharisee teaching. Now there is also something unique to the Matthew 5 passage on MDR. Jesus says that if a man divorces his wife for reasons other than "fornication", he makes his wife an adulteress by divorcing her. This proves that Jesus is not using "adultery" to refer exclusively to the physical act. It was his divorcing her that made her guilty of adultery. Why? Well if he ends the marriage and send her away, she's no longer able to be faithful to her marriage. He is also guilty of adultery because he ended the marriage for reasons other than "fornication" and so is also unable to remain faithful to that marriage that should not have ended. We know Jesus did not mean "adultery" when He said "fornication" (porneia). It is my belief that Jesus was reminding the Jews and especially the Pharisees of the reason Moses mentioned in Deuteronomy 24 and so when Jesus said  fornication it was a Greek word that was as close in meaning to the Hebrew word Moses used (porneia is the Greek...ervah is the Hebrew word).

Now if we carefully analyze Matthew 19:9 this is what it actually says. Any man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery - unless the cause for divorce is fornication which we know is not referring to adultery...fornication meant something else but definitely something serious which was shameful or disgraceful. Now if the cause for divorce was fornication, then no one involved in the divorce is guilty of adultery nor is anyone who marries the one who was divorced guilty of adultery because the divorce was for fornication. Let me also point out that divorce is a one time action in Matthew 19:9...as is marries a one time action...so therefore when Jesus says "commits adultery" this is also a one time action and not a continuous action. Divorce always ends a marriage.

The bottom line is that Jesus was correcting Pharisee error on the Law of Moses. The one thing that was true from the beginning of creation and has always been true and always will be true is that God wants one man to join with one woman in marriage to become one flesh and they should remain married until death parts them. This should be the goal of every Christian today. Marry once for life. This is not always possible. Divorce must always be done only when there is absolutely no way to save the marriage and fix the problems. I say that but when both the man and the woman are Christians and truly seeking to live their lives by Christian standards, there will never be any problem that will develop within that marriage that they cannot overcome together. That is the key. It take BOTH working to resolve any problems. Once it is clear that only one person in the marriage is willing to do whatever it takes to resolve problems, that is when divorce is inevitable. I never wish to encourage divorce because it is destructive and painful and even more so if there are children involved.

What most within the churches of Christ ignore is the fact that Paul was the only one who gave very thorough instruction on MDR for Christians. Jesus was speaking to Pharisees in Matthew 19 and to Jews in general in Matthew 5. For too many years the majority within the churches of Christ have taught error on MDR and have inserted false assumptions within the words of Jesus. They mostly focus on Matthew 19:9.

Paul specifically says things that most ignore. In I Corinthians 7:6-9 Paul makes it clear that few are able to live celibate like he did and not sin by fornicating. He says it is better to marry than to burn with passion. The only reason Paul encouraged celibacy was because at that time the church was being persecuted. Now when we read verses 10 and 11 of I Corinthians 7, we see that again most within the church of Christ misunderstand what Paul said. Most believe and teach that Paul was speaking of divorce in those verses but Paul never used the word that specifically means divorce. He was speaking of separation. When the woman chooses to depart and she abandons her husband...he is still her husband because there was no divorce. She must either remain alone or return and reconcile with her husband. If you are divorced you cannot reconcile and he is no longer your husband. Now look at what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:26-28. Paul says if you are "bound" to a wife don't seek to be "loosed". If you are "loosed" from a wife, don't seek to be "bound". Then Paul says, but if you do marry you do not sin. It should be clear that being bound means married and loosed means once married but no longer. So if you are loosed then you are either divorced or your spouse died. Nothing in the passage limits the meaning of loosed to widowed so those divorced are included. If anyone "loosed" chooses to marry they do not sin.

Now one last thing I want to point out is that there is not one example of anyone in the New Testament being told they are in an adulterous marriage and must divorce to be right with God. No one is told they must either return to their original spouse or remain celibate the rest of their lives. Also, there is no evidence in the first 400 years after the church was established on the Day of Pentecost of anyone being told they are in an adulterous marriage and must divorce to be right with God. No one was ever told in the first 400 years after the church was established that they needed to either live celibate the rest of their lives or return to their original spouse.

After learning details of your marital situation you have many serious violations by your husband to the marriage. He is not willing to do the things needed to make the marriage what God intends a marriage to be either. You have valid grounds for divorce and there is no way to save this marriage. God understands and knows you seek to please Him. He knows you want to make sure your marriage honors God. You are not currently living in adultery by remaining married to your husband but he is guilty of unfaithfulness on many counts. You are able to divorce him and you are able to find a good Christian man to marry and make that marriage for life and one centered on God. I pray that you carefully study what I have written and study all of I Corinthians 7. You need to study and prove what is true and not take my word blindly or anyone's. I am praying for you.

God bless you and strengthen you in this difficult time of your life.

In Christian Love, Joe Norman  

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Joe Norman

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I can answer questions regarding acceptable worship, organization of the church, or any apsect of the Christian life. I am the son of a preacher and have studied the Bible from cover to cover since I was 12 years old. I am strong in my research skills and do not follow teachings of men. Many will label me as conservative and some might label me as liberal, but I just seek to be biblical. I understand proper exegesis and hermeneutics and apply them. My desire is to share my knowledge of God's Word with others. Please always keep in mind that none of us who are listed as experts here are divinely inspired and therefore it is possible to get incorrect answers from any one of us. Study the Scriptures and decide for yourself if what is taught is true.

Experience

I am the 4th generation in my family to be a faithful member of the church of Christ. I was raised by a preacher and have studied the Bible everyday since I was twelve. I am 45 yrs old now. I am not a "scholar", but I am very familiar with the scriptures.

Organizations
member of the church of Christ, served as a Deacon for a few years at LakeShore church of Christ in Waco, Tx. I currently live in the North Dallas area and am still very active within the church of Christ teaching, leading Bible Studies, and songleading as well. I am also actively involved in online ministry. I hope to open my own webpage eventually.

Education/Credentials
School of hard knocks

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