What the Bible Says about
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

John Coblentz

Does an adulterous marriage need to be broken,
or can the couple ask for forgiveness
and remain together?

Pages 60 - 62

Consider the following Scripture again:

"And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery" (Mark 10:11, 12).
Under the Old Testament, a bill of divorce granted the right to remarry. The remarriage was not considered adulterous because God recognized the divorce -- He recognized divorce, not as approving it, but because of the hardness of their hearts (Mark 10:5). Jesus said, however, that to divorce and remarry was adulterous. The marriage of two eligible partners, in other words, is indissoluble until death.

The Greek verb tense translated "committeth adultery" in Mark 10:11, 12 is present indicative, suggesting continuous action. It means "is committing adultery." The adultery is not in the past only. It began when the second relationship began and continues as long as the relationship continues -- the remarriage is ongoing adultery against the former companion as long as that companion lives. Again, this was not so under Moses, but it is so under the teachings of Jesus.

The only conclusion which deals adequately with Jesus' teaching is the conclusion to separate the adulterous relationship. Those who wish to be cleansed of their sin must forsake it.

Both the Old Testament and the New are clear that to ask for forgiveness of sin and remain in it is presumptuous. God asks the people of Jeremiah's day the incredulous question, "Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery . . . And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?" (Jeremiah 7:9,10). When the Pharisees came to John wanting baptism but not wanting to leave their sin, John minced no words about their presumption. "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" [in other words, demonstrate your repentance by genuine sorrow for your sins and a willingness to forsake them] (Matthew 3:7, 8).

Would we suppose that a member of the Mafia could find forgiveness simply by asking God, "Please forgive me," but then continuing in his Mafia membership and activities? Wouldn't we say that to get right with God he would need to break his commitments to the Mafia and leave his sinful practices -- no more stealing, murder, extortion, dishonesty, etc.? Supposing he didn't. What testimony would he give to the next man he blackmails, the next company executive he swindles, the next person he bumps off -- "You know, I know it's wrong to do this to you, but I've been forgiven by the mercy and grace of Jesus, and I know He'll pardon me for it. He could forgive you too if you just ask him, before I pull the trigger." How would that be for a testimony?

But is it any less presumptuous to continue in what Jesus clearly called adultery and say, "I know it's wrong, but I'm in it now and I'm sure Jesus will forgive me"?

"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13).

Previous Table of Contents Next

[Anabaptists: The Web Page]