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Hello Ernie
I am requesting prayers for the salvation of my marriage.  My husband of 8 years is going to divorce me because he says we are in an "adulterous marriage" or ďadulterous relationshipĒ.  He is unsure what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:31,32 "Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality (fornication)[e] causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery; this last part is the clincher.  What does it mean? Who is Jesus talking about?  It looks like the innocent wife is an adulteress and her new husband is also committing adultery.  
My husband says fornication does not mean adultery included. He says if Jesus meant adultery why didnít he say adultery? In considering the last part of the verse, my husband says if the traditional view is correct in regard to MDR then why does the innocent party by implication commit adultery when she remarries.
He was a widower when we married and my first husband was unfaithful. We are both church of Christ. My current husband believed the "exception clause" when he said his vows to marry me but now after 5 years of studying online he is sure we are living in sin. He says, according to Luke 16:18b and the man who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. He says we are in perpetual adultery and will both go to hell if we stay together. He does not want to divorce. He does not want to live alone and celibate the rest of his life but he says he must be obedient to God in this manner.  He disregards that God hates divorce. He says that God only hates the first divorce not the second divorce.  I say where does it say these things in the Bible.  He says I am still married "in God's eyes" to my first husband who is now married to the woman he was committing adultery with over 20 years ago.
I donít think anything but Jesus himself telling him he is wrong and will be committing the sin of divorce will change his mind. But I am still praying and hoping.  
I just donít believe that God meant for any man or woman to live alone and celibate the rest of their lives.
I don't believe out of all the bad things satan puts us through that remarriage is perpetual unforgiving sin. And I don't believe that it is the only sin out there that is a constant suffering to require the divorced people to be celibate and alone the rest if their lives. Did Jesus die for every sin ( if it is a sin) but divorce and remarriage ?
I donít believe divorce to repent is the correct option.  Committing a sin to erase a sin is just not what Jesus would say to do.  I canít even make myself believe the same way he does. Any input you could give me I will appreciate.
Please explain "and the man that marries the divorced woman commits adultery".  Why would Jesus/God put something in the Bible that would cause such controversy for hundreds of years? I say that if Jesus did not say to divorce then it is a sin to divorce. Their are too many verses that are direct in what we should do. Like, if you can't control your sexual desires then marry. And husbands do not divorce your wives. Also, God hates divorce! That's in black and white, clear!  And also Jesus told the Pharisees that "because of the hardening of your hearts Moses allowed you to div your wives. I would say hardening of your heart is pretty bad.
Besides would Jesus want a father to abandon his children if he married a divorced woman and later changed his belief?  
Thank you
Julie

Answer
Julie,

I am so sorry to hear of your difficult situation.  I can only imagine the stress, tears, and heartbreak you both must be enduring.  Let me say up front that I applaud your husband's desire to do what is right at any cost.  He is reflecting a new teaching that I have only heard about in the past few months.  I was even sent a PDF document to review by another questioner here on AE that was wanting to convince me of the position.  I have read the book and reject the position that your husband has come to hold.  I will explain why below.

~~~~~I am requesting prayers for the salvation of my marriage.  My husband of 8 years is going to divorce me because he says we are in an "adulterous marriage" or ďadulterous relationshipĒ.  He is unsure what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:31,32 "Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality (fornication)[e] causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery; this last part is the clincher.  What does it mean? Who is Jesus talking about?  It looks like the innocent wife is an adulteress and her new husband is also committing adultery.~~~~  

One thing that must be considered is that he is only looking at one verse out of several relating to this concept of divorce.  For us to have a complete understanding of a concept, we need to look at the totality of verses relating to that concept throughout scripture.  Second, he is not understanding what the word "except" means in this context (or any other).

The statement "whoever divorces his wife for any reason except fornication causes her to commit adultery" gives a general statement with a specific exception.  The next phrase grammatically goes back to the general statement.

It might be broken down this way.

1.  If any man divorces his wife he is causing her to commit adultery.
2.  If any man marries a woman who has been divorced, he is also committing adultery.

These are the general cases.  However, Christ provided one exception to the general case, that of fornication.  If a man divorces a woman because she has committed fornication, then the general case of adultery does not apply to him because he is freed under the exception clause.

Now, why is this the case?  The answer comes in understanding the meanings of words.

Marriage - the legal state of a man and a woman who have formed a new union called a "family" for the purpose of bearing and raising children (whether children are ever actually conceived or raised).  The focus here is on the legal state.  There are many cases where a married couple do not fulfill the primary purpose of a marriage either through inability or lack of desire.

Divorce - divorce (apoluo) carries with it a legal impact that no other word carries.  It isn't just separating or moving apart, it is severing according to some legal system, a system of law.  so for there to be a divorce, first their has to be a marriage according to some law.

Fornication - fornication is a much broader term than adultery.  It covers any kind of sexual immorality including homosexuality, and "foreplay" where the actual intercourse (a man's penis inside a woman's vagina) doesn't actually take place.  The word choice does not exclude adultery, it explains it more fully.   A person performing any of the myriad kinds of fornication is, by definition, committing adultery.  But fornication is a word that describes the event, where as adultery requires a specific relationship to exist first.  That is already implied by the context, so the word adultery is not needed.  Another way to say it is that unmarried people cannot commit adultery and married people cannot commit fornication with their spouse.  Since the context is already talking about married people, use of the word forincation is sufficient and useful where the word adultery is superfluous.

Adultery - when a married person has sexual activity with someone other than their spouse.

Why are these terms important for our purposes?  Because they demonstrate that the exception clause is also excluded in the last phrase (your clincher).

If any many divorces his wife he is causing her to commit adultery.  Why?  Because the divorce, though legal according to the laws of man, is not legal according to God's Law.  Since according to God's Law (the higher law), the divorce is not legal, the man and woman are still married under that Law regardless of what man says.  Since they are still married according to God's Law, then they are said to commit adultery when any kind of sexual event takes place with someone other than their original spouse.  Note, marriage according to man's laws is sufficient to be considered a sexual act since the purpose of marriage is reproduction whether a person actually has sex with their spouse or not.

However, the exception clause actually allows a legal divorce according to God's Law, a dissolving of the union if the exception is met.  That being the case, a person (like you) who has a legal divorce is no longer married and therefore cannot, by definition, commit adultery.  All other considerations of the MDR question are not relevant to your case and so I will not go into them here.

Now to address further specific parts of your question:


~~~~My husband says fornication does not mean adultery included. He says if Jesus meant adultery why didnít he say adultery?~~~~

As I wrote above, adultery is not necessary to use because the relationship of marriage is already under consideration and adultery is a given.  If I said Bob committed adultery on Jane with Mary, you would know that Bob and Jane were married by implication.  However, if I say that Bob is married to Jane and had sex with Mary, you would know by implication that he committed adultery even though I didn't say he committed adultery.  Fornication is just the King James English way of saying "had sex with".

~~~~In considering the last part of the verse, my husband says if the traditional view is correct in regard to MDR then why does the innocent party by implication commit adultery when she remarries.~~~~

That's just it, the innocent party in a legal divorce according to God's Law doesn't commit adultery when they remarry.  They are excepted.  The adultery phrases only apply to the general case, not the exception...else its not an exception.

~~~~He was a widower when we married and my first husband was unfaithful. We are both church of Christ. My current husband believed the "exception clause" when he said his vows to marry me but now after 5 years of studying online he is sure we are living in sin. He says, according to Luke 16:18b and the man who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. He says we are in perpetual adultery and will both go to hell if we stay together. He does not want to divorce.

He does not want to live alone and celibate the rest of his life but he says he must be obedient to God in this manner.  He disregards that God hates divorce. He says that God only hates the first divorce not the second divorce.~~~~

One of the interesting things about this "God hates divorce" phrase (Malachi 2:16) is that it is almost always used out of context in a discussion of MDR.  Look at the surrounding context.  Look at the broader context of the OT prophets.  The Israelite nation and later the split kingdom are metaphorically said to be married to God.  Both were unfaithful (committed fornication with other nations - 2 Chron. 21:11; Isa. 23:17; Ezekiel 16; Malachi 2:11).  God divorced Israel and later Judah for their unfaithfulness (Isa. 1:18).  So in the very context where God says He hates divorce, He is talking about HIS eventual divorce FOR fornication that HIS bride, Judah, committed.

Yet, what is the church called in the NT?  It is the bride.  Is one going to argue, according to this new teaching that God is committing adultery since He divorced his first wife for the exception clause and married another?  If not, why not?


~~~~I say where does it say these things in the Bible.  He says I am still married "in God's eyes" to my first husband who is now married to the woman he was committing adultery with over 20 years ago.~~~~

Then he is ignoring the very concept of "except for".  There is no "except" according to what he believes.

~~~~I donít think anything but Jesus himself telling him he is wrong and will be committing the sin of divorce will change his mind. But I am still praying and hoping.    I just donít believe that God meant for any man or woman to live alone and celibate the rest of their lives. I don't believe out of all the bad things satan puts us through that remarriage is perpetual unforgiving sin. And I don't believe that it is the only sin out there that is a constant suffering to require the divorced people to be celibate and alone the rest if their lives. Did Jesus die for every sin ( if it is a sin) but divorce and remarriage ?  I donít believe divorce to repent is the correct option.  Committing a sin to erase a sin is just not what Jesus would say to do.  I canít even make myself believe the same way he does. Any input you could give me I will appreciate.

Please explain "and the man that marries the divorced woman commits adultery".  Why would Jesus/God put something in the Bible that would cause such controversy for hundreds of years? I say that if Jesus did not say to divorce then it is a sin to divorce. Their are too many verses that are direct in what we should do. Like, if you can't control your sexual desires then marry. And husbands do not divorce your wives. Also, God hates divorce! That's in black and white, clear!  And also Jesus told the Pharisees that "because of the hardening of your hearts Moses allowed you to div your wives. I would say hardening of your heart is pretty bad.  Besides would Jesus want a father to abandon his children if he married a divorced woman and later changed his belief?~~~~

There is a lot more that you are appealing to that I don't think applies to your particular situation.  IF you divorced your first husband because he had sex with someone else while you were married to him, then you are under the exception clause and your divorce is legal according to the Law of Christ.  Since your marriage union is dissolved legally according to the Law of Christ, you are no longer married according to the Law of Christ, and by definition you cannot commit adultery according to the Law of Christ.

The rest of your comments are emotional pleading and not useful in addressing your particular circumstance so I will not address it further.

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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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