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Marriage and Divorce
Some Questions Answered
 
Main Texts on the Subject

Gen. 2:23 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

Proverbs 5:18 "
Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth."

Proverbs 18:22 "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord."

Proverbs 19:14 "Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, But a prudent wife is from the Lord."

Eccl. 9:9 "Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.

Mal. 2:13-14 “And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. 14 Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant.”

Mal. 2:16 “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”

Matt. 5:31 “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 causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."

Matt. 19:8-9 "
 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Luke 16:18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery."

Romans 7:2-3 "
For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man."

1 Cor. 5:1 "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!"

1 Cor. 7:12 "But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.

Eph. 5:25 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

Col. 3:19 "Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them."

1 Pet. 3:7 "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered."
 
Other Thoughts

1. What is God's desire for marriage?

Ephesians 5:
25 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself."

Ephesians 5:28 "
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband."

2. What does the Bible say about divorce?

Mal. 2:16 "
Mal. 2:16
“For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”

3. Under what conditions is divorce permitted?
 
A. Adultery

Matthew 19:9 "
And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

B. Desire of Unbelieving Spouse

1 Cor. 7:12 "But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.

"He who has entered the marriage relation while unconverted is by his conversion placed under stronger obligation to be faithful to his companion, however widely they may differ in regard to religious faith; yet the claims of God should be placed above every earthly relationship, even though trials and persecution may be the result. With the spirit of love and meekness, this fidelity may have an influence to win the unbelieving one. But the marriage of Christians with the ungodly is forbidden in the Bible. The Lord's direction is "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."  {MYP 464.2}

"Those who enter the marriage relation while unconverted should not after conversion leave their unbelieving companions. Whatever their religious character may be, they must remain faithful, kind, and true toward them; yet they should acknowledge the claims of God above any earthly relationship, serving him with fidelity, even though inconvenience, trials, and persecutions may arise for the sake of Christ and the truth. This persevering fidelity to truth and duty may be a sanctifying influence upon the unbelieving companion. But marriages formed understandingly with unbelievers are forbidden by the word of God. The suit may be urged by the unbeliever, and inclination may plead that it be accepted; and inclination frequently triumphs; but Satan has the victory; temptation has not been resisted, and in nine cases out of ten both parties are lost to Christ."  {ST, April 10, 1879 par. 11}

"If the wife is an unbeliever and an opposer, the husband cannot, in view of the law of God, put her away on this ground alone. In order to be in harmony with the law of Jehovah, he must abide with her, unless she chooses of herself to depart. He may suffer opposition and be oppressed and annoyed in many ways; he will find his comfort and his strength and support from God, who is able to give grace for every emergency. He should be a man of pure mind, of truly decided, firm principles, and God will give him wisdom in regard to the course which he should pursue. Impulse will not control his reason, but reason will hold the lines of control in her firm hand, that lust shall be held under bit and bridle."  {TSB 158.3} 

"We receive many letters soliciting advice. One mother says her husband is an unbeliever. She has children, but they are taught by the father to disrespect the mother. She is deeply burdened for her children. She does not know what course she can pursue. She then expresses her anxiety to do something in the cause of God, and inquires if I think she has a duty to leave her family, if she is convinced she can do no good to them.  {TSB 44.1}  
     I would answer: My sister, I cannot see how you could be clear before the Lord and leave your husband and your children. I cannot think you would feel that you could do this yourself. The trials you may have may be of a very trying character. You may be often pained to the heart because disrespect is shown you, but I am sure that it must be your duty to care for your own children. This is your field where you have your appointed work. It may be rocky and discouraging soil to work, but you have a Companion in all your efforts to do your duty unflinchingly, conscientiously, notwithstanding all the discouraging circumstances. Jesus is your helper. Jesus came into our world to save lost and perishing souls, and you are to consider that in this work you are a laborer together with God."  {TSB 44.2} 

4. Does a provoking party in a divorce have the right to remarry?

"I have been considering your case in connection with L, and I have no other counsel to give than I have given. I consider that you have no moral right to marry L; he has no moral right to marry you. He left his wife after giving her great provocation. He left her whom he had vowed before God to love and cherish while both should live. Before ever she obtained her divorce, when she was his lawful wife, he left her for three years, and then left her in heart, and expressed his love to you. The matter has been negotiated largely between you and a married man while he was legally bound to the wife he married, who has had two children by him.  {2SM 340.4} I see not a particle of leniency in the Scriptures given either of you to contract marriage, although his wife is divorced. From the provocation he has given her, it was largely his own course of action that has brought this result, and I cannot see in any more favorable light his having a legal right to link his interest with yours or you to link your interest with his. . . ."  {2SM 341.1}

5. Must an individual who has Biblical grounds for divorce remain single after their former spouse has remarried?

"J did not put his wife away. She left him, and put him away, and married another man. I see nothing in the Scripture that forbids him to marry again in the Lord. He has a right to the affection of a woman. . . .  {2SM 340.1} I cannot see that this new union should be disturbed. It is a serious matter to part a man and his wife. There is no scriptural ground upon which to take such a step in this case. He did not leave her, she left him. He did not marry again until she had obtained a divorce. When K divorced herself from J he suffered most keenly, and it was not until K had married another man that J married again. The one he has chosen I feel certain will be a help to him, and he can be a help to her. . . .I see nothing in the Word of God that would require her to separate from him. As you have asked my advice I will freely give it to you."--Letter 50, 1895.  {2SM 340.2}

Note the following instructive words from John Murray:
 
"The divorce permitted or tolerated under the Mosaic economy had the effect of dissolving the marriage bond. This Mosaic permission regarding divorce is referred to in the context of this passage as well as in Matthew 5:31 and in the parallel passage in Mark 10:2-12. In each of these cases the same verb (apoluw) is used with reference to this Mosaic provisions. Now since this was the effect of the divorce alluded to in this passage and since there is not the slightest indication that the actual putting away for adultery, legitimated in Matthew 19:9; 5:32, was to have an entirely different effect, we are surely justified in concluding that the putting away sanctioned by our Lord was intended to have the same effect in the matter of dissolving the marriage tie. It should be appreciated that the law as enunciated here by Jesus does not in any way suggest any alteration in the nature and effect of divorce. The change intimated by Jesus was rather the abolition of every other reason permitted in the Mosaic provisions and the distinct specification that adultery was now the only ground upon which a man could legitimately put away his wife. What is abrogated then is not divorce with its attendant dissolution of the marriage bond but rather all ground for divorce except adultery."

"On these various grounds we may conclude that it is not feasible to construe the exceptive clause of Matthew 19:9 as applying merely to the putting away and not to the remarriage on the part of the divorcing husband. The considerations preponderate rather in favour of the conclusion that when a man puts away his wife for the cause of fornication this putting away has the effect of dissolving the bond of marriage with the result that he is free to remarry without thereby incurring the guilt of adultery. In simple terms it means that divorce in such a case dissolves the marriage and that the parties are no longer man and wife."—John Murray