Marriage

 

 

The marriage bond is dissolved not only when one of the spouses dies, but also when one of them commits fornication or adultery, and when an unbelieving partner departs

 

 

 

Most Protestant Churches have taken the following position on divorce and remarriage.

If a married woman is unfaithful to her husband, her unfaithfulness (that is, her fornication or adultery) dissolves the bond of marriage, thus her husband has the right not only to send her away but also to remarry. The Biblical passages taken in order to support this teaching are Matthew 19:9: “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery,” (NKJV) and Matthew 5:32: “Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery” (NKJV).

If an unbelieving spouse is no longer willing to remain in the marriage, and he (or she) leaves the believing partner, the believing partner must be considered set free. Thus, since it is the unbelieving partner who determines to go and initiate a divorce, the believing partner is free to remarry. The Biblical passage taken to support this teaching is 1 Corinthians 7:15: “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.” (NKJV)

 

Confutation

 

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus this question: ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ and Jesus answered them saying: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6 – NKJV). After Jesus answered them, the Pharisees asked Him another question: ‘Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ and Jesus answered them: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:8-9 – NKJV).

According to the words of Jesus, therefore, it is not lawful for a man to put away his wife for any reason, except for fornication, that is, except for marital unfaithfulness. His words complete the law, which says: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house ….” (Deuteronomy 24:1 – NKJV), for according to the precept of the law a man was allowed to send away his wife not only for sexual immorality but also for other reasons. Note that the law did not specify the reason for which a man was allowed to send away his wife, but it stated that it was lawful for a man to send away his wife if she found no favor in his eyes for he had found some uncleanness in her. Jesus did not say to the Pharisees that a man was allowed to send away his wife for any reason, as many teachers of the law taught in his days, but He said to them that a man was allowed to send away his wife for one reason, that is, for fornication, confirming thus that He came to complete the law, as He said to His disciples some time before: “It has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery …. “ (Matthew 5:31-32 – NKJV). Note the expression ‘but I say to you,’ which indicates that Christ came to complete the law and that the law of Christ is superior to the law of Moses. Therefore, according to the words of Jesus, it is not lawful for a man to send away his wife if she is taken seriously ill, or if she is not good at cooking, or if one of her members is amputated, or if she loses one of her eyes or all her hair, or if she is barren and can’t bear any children to her husband, or if he finds a woman who is more beautiful than his wife, for if he sends her away he causes her to commit adultery. But if she commits fornication or adultery it is lawful for her husband to send her away, for she has been unfaithful to him. However, the fact that he has the right to send away his wife does not mean that he has the right to marry another woman. Why? Because whether he sends away his wife for she has committed fornication (therefore lawfully) or he sends away his wife for any other reason (therefore unlawfully), if he marries another woman he commits adultery, for Jesus said: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery” (Luke 16:18 – NKJV) against her (cf. Mark 10:11). As you can see, in the light of these words of Jesus recorded by Luke the expression “except for sexual immorality” (or ‘except for fornication’) which we find in the Gospel of Matthew does not mean that if a man sends away his wife for marital unfaithfulness and marries another he does not commit adultery, for in Luke it is written that whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. Obviously if a woman puts away her husband and marries another man, she also commits adultery, for Jesus said: “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12 – NKJV). But there is something else to be said: anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery too (no matter if she divorced from her husband for marital unfaithfulness or for some other reason), for Jesus said: “Whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18 – NKJV). ‘Whoever’ means anyone, thus whether he is unmarried or a divorced man, if he marries a divorced woman he commits adultery. Someone may ask me at this point: ‘Do you mean then that both spouses don’t have the right to remarry even if one of them commits adultery, and that as long as both spouses are alive they are bound by the law to one another and if one of them remarries commits adultery?’ Yes, that’s what I mean. The following passages of the Scripture confirm what I have just said:

● Paul says to the Romans: “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. …. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress” (Romans 7:2,3 - NKJV). As you can see, Paul states that a married woman is bound by the law of God to her husband (even if he has deserted her and lives with another woman) as long as he lives, and she is not allowed to marry another man, for if she marries another man she commits adultery. The reason why Paul said those words is that the two have been joined together by God and they are one flesh.

● Paul says to the Corinthians: “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or to be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 – NKJV). As you can see, even if a woman does depart from her husband, she is commanded to remain unmarried or to be reconciled to him. These other biblical verses, therefore, confirm that neither partner is free to remarry as long as both of them are alive.

To sum up, if a married woman marries another man, while her husband is still alive, she commits adultery; and if a married man marries another woman while his wife is still alive she commits adultery. However, if the husband of a woman dies, then she has the right, according to the law of God, to marry another man, for Paul says: “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39 – NKJV), and again: “But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man” (Romans 7:3 – NKJV). Obviously a man also is free to marry another woman if his wife dies.

We saw before that the words of Jesus “It has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery …. “ (Matthew 5:31-32 – NKJV) do not allow a man, whose wife has committed fornication, to send away his wife and to remarry, but they solely allow him to send her away. Now let us examine closely 1 Corinthians 7:15: “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace” (NKJV) to see whether this verse allows a man to remarry if his unbelieving wife departs from him. To begin with, however, let me quote the three preceding verses: “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (1 Corinthians 7:12-14 – NKJV). Now, according to many Protestant Churches, the expression ‘But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases’ means that if a brother or a sister is deserted by his unbelieving spouse he or she is free to remarry. However, they are wrong, for that expression means another thing, that is, the Christian is not bound to fight in order to preserve togetherness. Paul is saying that a deserted partner is not ‘bound to make war’ on the deserting unbeliever to get him or her to stay. The peace God has called us to – of which Paul speaks in verse 15 - is the peace of marital harmony. Therefore, if the unbelieving partner insists on departing, then the believing partner is not bound to live in perpetual conflict with the unbelieving spouse, but is free and innocent in letting him or her go. So Paul did not allow the deserted believing partner to remarry. If Paul had allowed a deserted believing partner to remarry, he would have contradicted not only himself but also Jesus.

 

 

 

Back