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Divorce and Remarriage

(Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18)

Lesson 13 -- second quarter 2003
May 25, 2003

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2003, Christian Light Publications

To whom does God's marriage law apply?

We need to be clear to whom God's marriage law applies. Many Christians teach and practice that marital mix-ups before conversion "do not count" since they took place before the individuals became accountable to the standards for Christian living. Thus, they say, a couple divorced and remarried before becoming Christians have no obligation to separate. So, to whom does God's marriage law apply?

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). That verse very briefly but conclusively states God's law of marriage. Key to our understanding of its applicability is the realization that God stated this law on the very first day of human history. Obviously what God had to say when He established marriage long predated Judaism and Christianity. Therefore, we have no option but to conclude that marriage is a universal law, applicable to all humans. A legitimate marriage between two unbelievers is every bit as binding and lasting as is a legitimate marriage between two Christians. Therefore, divorce for unbelievers is as wrong as it is for Christians. Divorce-and-remarriage is sin for any couple without regard to their spiritual standing before God.

When Jesus was asked about divorce, He went way back to Genesis 2:24 and then reemphasized the thorough union of the marriage relationship, saying, "And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh" (Mark 10:8). He concludes (in the following verse) by making clear God's wishes, intents, and purposes: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Is divorce and remarriage a sin for which the Cross is not sufficient?

This question often gets turned into an accusation. Some times it is phrased like this: "When you insist that divorce and remarriage requires separation you are saying that the blood of Jesus is not completely sufficient to cleanse all sins." Not at all! The sacrifice and blood of Jesus will cleanse any repentant soul from all sin. But if that soul refuses to leave his sin behind, how can he expect the blood to cleanse him from it? He is hanging on to his sin too tightly!

At other times the accusation comes out this way: "You are saying that divorce and remarriage is too great a sin for God to forgive." To that I would respond by simply stating that sin lived and not confessed is indeed impossible for God to forgive.

The blood of Jesus is sufficient for all sin. And the grace of Jesus is sufficient for all obedience, even separating from an adulterous "marriage." No obedience is too difficult for God's grace to see us through.

"But we are such a happy family!"

Consider this not-so-imaginary scenario: five children aged three months through nine years; one or both parents with a divorced and remarried background; happy parents and happy family; parents only recently converted. "How can you possibly say that this happy, stable, secure family should be divided?! The poor children! The poor parents!"

I believe Ezra 10:3 contains a compelling answer: obedience first -- "Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law." While the context here is not divorce and remarriage, it does show that emotion, sentiment, love, children, and familial success should not stand in the way of obedience to God's laws and precepts.

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