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QUESTION: Ernie,
Many years ago I was married very briefly and unfortunately.   My  husband at the time abandoned me filed for divorce, and left the state without any further contact.   I don't know whether there was any adultery involved on his part but there was none on mine.   I eventually remarried without knowing.  Later I learned in a roundabout way that my former husband has since remarried as well,  although I have no way to know when that occurred.  My question is this:  What do I need to do to be right with God?  Please include any applicable scriptures with your answer.   Thank you for your help.

ANSWER: Annabelle,

I grew up in a congregation where there was a woman who had been in almost the exact same situation you describe.  She had married young.  Her husband and her were military and both kind of wild.  With no unfaithfulness on either of their parts, they decided after a while they were no longer in love and divorced (they had already had a kid, even).  She remarried, and a second son, then wanted to obey the gospel.  That's when she began to ask these questions.

Here are the applicable verses:

Matt. 5:31-32 - 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matt. 19:1-9 - 1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; 2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. 3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Mark 10:2-12 - 2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. 3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

Luke 16:18 - 18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

Please note that 1 Corinthians 7 is not in this list. It has no bearing on this discussion because it does not address the topic of divorce (apoluo) only separation and physical duties of spouses to one another.

My answer, in your case, will focus on your particular status.  Note what Matthew 5:32 says:

whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery:

Your first husband put you away (divorced you) NOT for fornication (sexual unfaithfulness on your part).  The reason for the divorce was NOT because you had sex with someone else while married to your first husband.  Therefore, according to this verse, your husband divorced you unscripturally and this has led you to commit adultery.

What's more, the verse continues:

and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

So your 2nd husband has married a woman that has been divorced for unscriptural reasons (NOT fornication - sexual unfaithfulness to your first husband), therefore he is also guilty of adultery.

For sin to be forgiven, it must first be repented of (Acts 2:38; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Pet. 3:9).  Your marriage to your 2nd husband is an unlawful marriage according to the law of Christ.  It must be repented of.  That earthly institution, your marriage, must be dissolved.  This is what repentance means, to turn away from doing that which is wrong and toward doing what is right.  Saying I'm sorry, but continuing in the sin, and then thinking that immersion or prayer absolves you of the sin is an erroneous view of Biblical repentance.

My friend from that congregation I was telling you about realized this.  She "divorced" her second, unscriptural husband (even though she had a kid with him) and has lived single for decades now (her son is in his 20s).  She is one of the strongest, most faithful women I know because she was willing to sacrifice anything and everything in this life to be right with God.

I know that's not what a lot of people want to hear, but the scriptures are very clear on this.  I hope my answer has helped clear up any confusion for you.  If you have further questions, please ask.

Also, I have a website where I have posted my thoughts on various Bible topics.  You can find a discussion of 1 Cor. 7 there as well as one on the nature of forgiveness if those things interest you in light of your original question.

http://swordmasterpublications.wikia.com/wiki/Forgiveness
http://swordmasterpublications.wikia.com/wiki/1_Corinthians_7

I apologize for the formatting on some of these articles.  I transferred to a wiki from a blog and have not had the opportunity to update the format on all the articles yet.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your prompt reply to my question.   I am familiar with the Bible verses that you mentioned and they do seem fairly straightforward.  After spending some time thinking about them though it occurred to me that might not necessarily be the case.   For instance, since Jesus was talking to Jews who were still under the law of Moses in Matthew 5 and 19, was he saying "All of you who are currently divorced and remarried are living in sin unless the divorce was related to adultery"?  Or was he saying "All of you who are who are currently divorced and remarried without adultery being involved will be living in sin when I die and my new covenant comes into effect"?   I'm paraphrasing of course but you get the idea.   I don't those who heard him understood him to mean either of those things.  I wonder if we are missing something here. ..I am thinking of John 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus took what Jesus said to him literally because that's what he said , although that obviously was not the message he was trying to get across.  Also,  Matthew 5 says that anyone who divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery.   It doesn't say "if she remarries" .  It  sounds as if the adultery occurs whether she remarries or not...otherwise,  how could he make her commit adultery?   It would have to be her choice wouldn't it?   I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts on this.   Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions.

Answer
Hi Annabelle,

It's late, but I'll do my best to be clear here.

Jesus was preaching the kingdom.  While He never taught the Jews to disobey the law of Moses, He was also teaching what things would be like in the kingdom.  That's why the gospel accounts, while written about events that transpired before the cross, were written after the cross to audiences amenable to the law of Christ.  Even in the context of Matthew 5 and 19, Jesus makes that distinction.  "Moses said...but I say..."  Under the law of Moses, the divorce was allowed.  "But I say..." is Christ stating what the law will be in His kingdom.  That law went into effect at the cross, whatever implications that has.

The statement in Matthew 5 about divorce causing one to get married cannot be understood isolated from the other teachings on the topic.  Understanding what the word "adultery" means and in conjunction with the other passages on the topic, we can correctly and necessarily must infer that divorce caused one to commit adultery in that they would marry another.

Adultery is a sin committed against someone.  It is sexual activity of a married person with someone who is not their spouse.  If the only Biblical reason for divorce is adultery on the part of one spouse, and the divorce takes place for other reasons, then according to the law of Christ, the divorce is not legal.  They are not divorced under the law of Christ, and therefore having sex with another (Luke 16:18) is by definition adultery.  The laws of man are of only secondary importance when considering the marital institution, which is a spiritual one first and foremost (Eph. 5).

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Ernie Laurence, Jr.

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I am capable of answering any questions concerning doctrines of the church of Christ. I specialize in Creation vs. Evolution topics, the book of Revelation and other Biblical prophecies, and other apologetics related topics such as distinctions from denominational doctrines.

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My experience in this area includes: having been raised by members of the church of Christ from infancy, having been immersed into the church of Christ at age ten, having taken an active role in worship/service leadership (song leading, teaching, preaching, youth ministry) since age fourteen through the present, and participating in numerous formal debates, research projects, and online discussions.

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I hold a bachelor's degree in computer information systems (CIS) from Tarleton State University which focuses on business communication and management. This provided training for how to deal professionally with individuals and organizations if not direct training in the field of religion. See experience section for informal education experience.

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