Marriage and Divorce 1st Edition


Marriage and Divorce

First Edition

 

Introduction

After God had created Adam, He formed every animal and brought them to Adam to see what Adam would call them. When Adam had finished naming all the animals, he had not found a help mate for himself. God took a rib from Adam and made Eve and Adam named her woman because she was taken out of man, Genesis2:18-23. [1] In Genesis 2:24-25 it says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”[2] This is the biblical foundation of marriage as instituted by God for a man and a woman.

Mosaic Law

In the Old Testament, there were requirements of the Israelite s not to intermarry with foreigners. This is a biblical direction from God under Mosaic Law seen in Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7:3-6. This did not prevent people from doing so, as is seen in Genesis 16:34 when Esau married two Hittite women,[3] as Perkin points out to us. Perkin gives additional biblical examples of Joseph the Egyptian (Gen. 41:45), Moses a Midianite (Exod. 2:21), David an Aramean (2 Sam. 3:3), Ahab the Tyrian princess Jezebel (1 Kings 16:31), and Bathsheba a Hittite (2 Sam. 11:3).[4] As a result of these intermarriages the entire nation of Israel was jeopardizing their ability to comply too God’s standards. In doing so, this would lead them to suffer God’s wrath. Shecaniah the Elamite spoke in response to Ezra stating; “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, (Ezra 10:2-4).”[5] In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 7:10-17, Paul instructs believers not to divorce unbelieving spouses. Paul does warn us of marrying unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.  A couple is considered to be married when they are joined in one flesh. This is expressed to us from God in: Genesis 2:24, “and they shall be one flesh,” Matthew 19:5, “and they shall be one flesh,” Ephesians 5:31, “and they two shall be one flesh,” 1 Corinthians 6:16, “for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.”[6] Granberg and Root explain to us, “The key phrase is the expression ‘one flesh.’ In this way God indicates the incompleteness of man and woman apart from one another and sets forth marriage as the means for them to achieve completeness.”[7] Today you can get married and divorced at a court house and you do not even need a minister. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States alone people are divorcing (3.4 per 1,000 population) at half the rate they are getting married (6.8 per 1,000 total population). [8] God has blessed us with the gift of marriage and if we do not heed his instruction then we will fall. Most of the time people will get married in a ceremony and consider themselves married when a minister, pastor and/or preacher pronounces them man and wife. Rayburn states, “The picture in Revelation 19:7-9 conforms to the ancient Near Eastern custom of a wedding ceremony in two parts: a procession to the home of the bride and the wedding banquet itself.”[9] We can also look to the parable of the marriage feast in Matthew 22:1-14, in which Jesus tells the story in which he is the bridegroom and the church is the bride. So there is a biblical basis for the weddings we do celebrate with our church families and share in our love of God.

Divorce

The Mosaic Law for divorce allowed a man to divorce a woman on the basis that he found some uncleanness in her (Deut. 24:1).[10] There are biblical scholars who differ on the opinion of biblical interpretation of the New Testament verses on divorce. I believe William Heath said it correctly, “If we factor in our own contemporary cultural differences, reflect on the accumulated canonical witness to God’s merciful dealings with his people, take seriously the call to model the forgiveness we received from Christ at the cross and the call to imitate our heavenly Father as his beloved children (Eph. 5:1-2), then we should know not to apply Jesus’ and Paul’s exceptions in exactly the same way their first-century hearers would have applied them.”[11] It would seem that if we are to truly believe the Bible as God’s true and living word, then we must also know that it will not contradict itself in teaching and instruction. The grounds for divorce are also found in the principles that unite Jesus’ and Paul’s exceptions. Heath explains, “(1) both sexual immorality and abandonment violate one of the fundamental components of marriage (either ‘leaving and the cleaving’ or the ‘one flesh’ unity); (2) Both leave one party without any other options if attempts at reconciliation are spurned; (3) Both recognize the extreme seriousness of divorce as a last resort and as an admission of defeat.”[12] One major argument to this position is the translation of Malachi 2:16. A large portion of Bible translations use the phrase, “I hate divorce,” in translation. If we are to assume this translation correct, then we would be inclined to believe this is absolute prohibition of divorce. However, I would contend that the translation is “the man who hates and divorces,” as is seen in the ESV translation, is the correct biblical translation. Heath points out that , “Malachi only condemns divorce based on aversion (i.e. unjustified divorce), which is a shared assessment on aversion in Deuteronomy 24:3, with its adverse financial consequences for the offending husband.”[13]

It is acceptable for a Christian to remarry. Paul addresses these concerns in 1 Corinthians 7:9, “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”[14] I believe Paul is refereeing to widowers and widows in this context, but this is not a license for us not to control our sexual desires. God has given us the strength to get out of the situations of bodily passion. Heath states, “Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:15, willful desertion by an unbelieving spouse who subsequently remarries makes the restoration of that marriage impossible, and I would see no barrier to remarriage.”[15] I believe the best biblical evidence we have in God’s word comes from Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28. Heath writes of this passage, “This makes Paul explicitly approve of remarriage after divorce without qualification.”[16] I agree with Heath and find that Paul is absolute in his support of remarriage.

The spiritual and social impact of marriage and divorce in our churches and society are directly linked to our ability to fellowship and grow the kingdom of God. The way in which a church practices what it preaches from a literal application is viewed in all social corners of society. The churches at large have not taken the appropriate steps to define our roles of being a beacon of accurate biblical truth of God’s Word. This has caused churches to take a back seat to Hollywood, television, and the internet defining the guiding principles our children live by. How many hours a day do you read the Bible in comparison to watching the television? Now we have to ask ourselves how many hours a day to we allow our children to watch the television and not read the Bible? This leads us to the final question of who is teaching our children basic moral and ethical guidelines for life? “Hurry everyone, Desperate Housewives is coming on! We can watch the Real housewives of Hollywood next!” I believe Hays defines this best, “The church must recognize and teach that marriage is grounded not in feelings of love but in the practice of love. Nor is the marriage bond contingent upon self-gratification or personal fulfillment. The church has swallowed a great quantity of pop psychology that has no foundation in the biblical depiction of marriage; …. When the marital union is rightly understood as a covenant, the question of divorce assumes a very different aspect. Those who have made promises before God should trust God for grace sufficient to keep those promises, and they should expect the community of faith to help them to keep faith, by supporting them and holding them accountable.”[17] We do not to nearly enough as church s to help aid, instruct, and take care of the needs of our Christian family. There should be a group of men trained to handle very tough and specific issues for each age group. The church is not a hospital for saints, but it’s also not a come on Sunday to get you through the week drive-through gospel event. The accountability of the church family to hold others means someone has to be ready and willing to answer the call to aid others in biblical matters and understanding. Preachers cannot speak to everyone all the time and that is where a core group of biblical based and trained men should be there to help respond the needs of the church family. If you have a problem or addiction you need to overcome and need that help, does your church have a place people can go? If the church waits to react to society defining marriage, define divorce, define sexual purity, define any ethical and moral issues; then we will end up losing our faith in our schools (oops that’s happening), losing our faith in our businesses (yes, Christian businesses are declining), then we will be too late. Pro-action is the best reaction to current course and Jesus Christ our Lord and savior is the cure!

Footnotes

[1] Oxford, The Holy Bible: Scofield Study Bible, KJV (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1909).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Walter A. Elwell and H.W. Perkin, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1984, 2001), 412.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Oxford, The Holy Bible: Scofield Study Bible, KJV.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Elwell, Granberg, and Root, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 412.

[8] Office of Information Services, Marriage and Divorce FastStats, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/divorce.htm (accessed February 19, 2012).

[9] Elwell and Rayburn, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 412.

[10] Oxford, The Holy Bible: Scofield Study Bible, KJV.

[11] William A. Heath, Jesus on Divorce: How My Mind Has Changed, http://www.sbts.edu/media/publications/sbjt/sbjt_2002spring2.pdf (accessed February 20, 2012).

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Oxford, The Holy Bible: Scofield Study Bible, KJV.

[15] Heath, Jesus on Divorce: How My Mind Has Changed.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (San Francisco, CA: Harper Publishing, 1996), 372.

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