What the Bible Says about
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

John Coblentz

What if the other partner initiated the divorce?
Pages 67 - 70

"Whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery" (Luke 16:18).

"Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (Matthew 19:9-12).

Very clearly in Jesus' teaching, a second marriage is wrong both for the one who initiates the divorce and for the one who is divorced. For both partners, the first marriage stands in God's sight, and it is adulterous to begin another relationship.

The reaction of the disciples was that perhaps it is better not to marry. Jesus acknowledged that His standard for lifelong marriage is high. Not all people would receive this teaching, just as they would reject many of His other teachings. But this is the standard for those whose ears are tuned to His kingdom, who are willing to be His true disciples.

To obey Jesus in this matter means being willing to live singly. In some cases, it is possible to rebuild the relationship with the first partner, against whom the adultery was being committed. Where this is not realized, however, the now-single people should, according to the instructions of Jesus, give their lives to the work of building God's kingdom. The message from such a decision and from their single life should be: "I came to believe that I was violating God's standard for marriage. In obedience to Him I have left an adulterous relationship and entered a life of devotedness to Him. I trust Him to work out the details and meet the needs of my heart. I would rather live the rest of my life single in obedience to God than to be married in disobedience to Him." This would be a direct response to Jesus' statement, "There be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (Matthew 19:12).

There are those who object to the idea that some people should be required to live a single life. The thinking seems to be that if marriage is one's desire, it should be one's right. Both Jesus and Paul, however, (whose teachings we have been examining) have demonstrated that ultimate fulfillment is not in marriage but in being in the will of God. Furthermore, their lives testify to the power and blessing that can flow from a single life devoted to the kingdom of God. The point is not that singlehood is better than marriage or vice versa, but that obedience to God must be held above either singlehood or marriage. Only in God's will can we experience the satisfaction of God's blessing and grace. Disobedience to God in this matter, though it may bring temporary companionship, will bring God's reproofs and will bring ruin in the end.

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