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Bennetts End Reformed Baptist Church in Hemel Hempstead | The Holy Bible and The TV Guide
Bennetts Baptist Church
 

The Question of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

What saith the Scriptures?

Pastor Chalan Hetherington

This is no doubt a very important subject indeed and should be handled with the greatest of care and diligence.     As the Word of God is our authority in all matters, we must seek to study it carefully to know truth from error.    

 What does the Word of God have to say about Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage? Are the latter two permitted by God in His Word?

 Marriage

Let us firstly consider the subject of Marriage. The Lord God of heaven instituted marriage as a sacred and blessed union between one man and one woman. The Scriptures unequivocally teach that marriage is only between one man and one woman.

Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”

The Lord God said that ‘it is not good that the man should be alone’, therefore the Lord provided Adam a wife and she was called Eve [Genesis 2:18].  Marriage was instituted before the fall and is therefore a blessed and sacred union.

Secondly, it clear from the Word of God that it is the duty of Christians, meaning those who are born again by the Spirit of God to marry ‘only in the Lord’ and not to marry otherwise.

2 Corinthians 6 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

1 Corinthians 7:39 “she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord”.

Thirdly, if one of the two unbelieving spouses are later converted by God’s Sovereign Grace and brought to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the two must remain married. 

1 Corinthians 7:12-13 “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him”.

Fourthly, polygamy in Scripture is never sanctioned by God, and it is to be noted from the Scriptures that polygamy has been the cause of many lifelong personal and family problems. Interestingly polygamists have an inconsistent view, in that only the male spouse may have multiple spouses. Again, polygamy is never authorised, sanctioned or taught in the Word of God.

The advocates point to the various Laws given in Scripture for financial provisions to be made for those having more than one wife as the legitimacy for polygamy. However, these Laws by no means constitute God’s sanction of polygamy but are Laws given to protect and provide for women. They set forth a polygamous man’s responsibility to care for and provide for all of his natural offspring.  

Fifthly, incestuous marriages and relationships are clearly forbidden see [Leviticus 20:19-21. Mark 6:18 etc] 

Divorce

The only stated Biblical grounds for dissolution of marriage is physical death and adultery.                                      The Scripture says in Deuteronomy 24:1–4 

1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

Points to note in the above Law.

1] The man and woman are stated to be ‘married’ and are not ‘engaged’.

2] There is however suspected fornication or adultery, but no witnesses are to be found in which case the death penalty would have been carried out.

3] The woman and man may divorce and remarry, but once they have divorced each other they may not remarry each other again vs 4.

In the above Law we see clearly the:  

A. Protasis (describing conditions under which the law applies)

B. Apodosis (stating the legislation)

C. Motive (reason for the legislation)

These truths are set forth very clearly by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity in passages such as Matthew 5:31-33, Matthew 19:6-9 and Mark 10:1-12, Luke 16. All these passages must be read together and not in isolation.

Matthew 5:31-33  “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery”

Matthew 19:6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery”.

The Law which the Lord Jesus Christ was referring to is Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Some argue that the word he uses πορνεια “fornication” translated Pornea in the New Testament simply refers to ‘sexual infidelity before marriage’, but absolutely nowhere in the Scriptures are we given this definition. This is not only a mistranslation of the word πορνεια but if applied it would forbid anyone Christian or non-Christian from entering into marriage who has had any prior relationship with another person.

Furthermore, it is stated by the Lord who was married to Israel, that He wrote Israel a Bill of Divorce because of her “adultery”. See Jeremiah 3:8.

Jeremiah 3:8And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also”.

Judah was accused of fornication. Ezekiel 16: 26 “Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger”

The Greek Word “Pornea” translated “fornication” can be referenced in Strong's concordance 4203; TDNT 6:579; nf  Transliterated: Porneia;  Pronounced: por-ni’-ah Trans. & freq. in the AV— fornication 26 times; 26 occurrences of Greek word in AV.

As to the meaning of Porneia (πορνεια) Porneia 'is a comprehensive word, including adultery, fornication and unnatural vice'. It includes every kind of 'unlawful sexual intercourse' and spiritual infidelity to the Lord.

With reference to Matthew chapters 5 and 19 some suggest that; what the Lord Jesus Christ was doing was, ‘improving’ upon the Law in the Old Testament. Quite astonishingly, some go so far to suggest that Moses had made a mistake in issuing the precept and Law for Divorce in those verses, and that the Lord Jesus Christ was disapproving of that Law and was now rescinding it.

Such reasoning and argument is not only fraught with error, but worst of all it is heretical. For if the Lord was correcting Deuteronomy 24:1-4 which permits divorce in the case of infidelity. He would be admitting that the Holy Scriptures are in error, which of course they are not.  

We could then justly question the validity and veracity of any part of the Word of God. The Scriptures however are ‘pure words as pure silver tried seven times’ Psalm 12:6.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is given by inspiration of God and is without error, it is the infallible, inerrant and sacred Word of Almighty God, and thus what Moses declared, was God’s Holy Law. Furthermore, if Moses were in error the Lord surely would not have allowed centuries to pass before making a correction.

At the time of the Lord Jesus earthly ministry there were two followings amongst the Jewish Rabbis on the subject. The smaller grouping was led by Rabbi Shamai, who was conservative, and he maintained the clear teaching of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Then there was the broad liberal school of thought, led by Rabbi Hillel who taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason that was found to ‘displease him’.

In the case of both Matthew 5 and Matthew 9 it must be plainly understood that the Lord Jesus Christ was not for a moment rescinding or overthrowing the Law on divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. He explicitly told His hearers that Moses gave the Law in Deuteronomy 24 ‘because of the hardness of men’s hearts’. The meaning and context and the Lord’s explanation that follows is plain.

Many of these so-called religious men like the Scribes and Pharisees, did not love their wives, and so they were content to divorce their wives for any reason, and so fulfil their own adulterous hearts by divorcing and marrying again, and in many cases much younger wives. Leaving the abandoned women to defend and provide for themselves and their children.

The Law in Deuteronomy 24 protected the woman who would be open to public scorn and shame, if divorced she was to be sent away honourably with a dowry and she was also free to remarry. If the guilty adulterer or adulteress had been caught in the act of adultery by two or three witnesses they would have been stoned to death [ Leviticus 20:10 ], but in this particular case the matter could not be proven and so the man or woman feeling that they are unable to continue in such a marriage which involves a sexual relationship with an adulterer is free to divorce, and they are not permitted to marry the same person again, (see vs 4).

Without doubt the Lord Jesus Christ does not counter what Moses Commanded by God but rather He highlights the fact that the reason this Law was given was because of the ‘hardness of their hearts’.

The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 24 Paragraph 5 states:-

“Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead”.

Matthew 5:31-33  “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome             Church Services and Times      SUNDAY SCHOOL        Contact us          Map        

Sermon Recordings          What is a Christian           Our History           Reformer's Online Library           1689 Confession            TULIP

                 The Word of God           Worthy Hymns             Good Book Guide             CH Spurgeon'S Daily Readings  

    SITE Search            Young People’s Gospel Meetings          Catechism          R. Chaplin