Sunday, July 29, 2007

Does a Scriptural exemption for divorce indicate an exemption for remarriage?

Many people have noticed that the plague of divorce in our culture is no different inside or outside the Church. Some have even placed divorce amongst Christians at a statistically higher rate because of a Christian mindset of insusceptibility to the matter. Regardless of current trends, does Scripture allow for divorce? If so, does that mean that we are allowed to remarry? Probably one of the more popular Scripture references on the matter is Matthew 19:3-9 ("Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from 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 they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."). So, it would seem that we shall not divorce except in cases of immorality. Well, what is this immorality exception? The Greek word here for "immorality" is porneia. This word is taken to mean either fornication or incest. We know that married couples cannot be fornicators, but rather adulterers because of their marriage. So what does this mean? A position known as the "betrothal view" may clear up any confusion. During the time of the writing of Scripture, betrothal (the ancient variation of today's engagement) was a very serious commitment, highly valued as betrothed were already considered husband and wife. As an example, Joseph and Mary were betrothed, and when Joseph discovered she was pregnant (not knowing by the Holy Spirit), he desired to divorce her quietly. Just as married couples, betrothed couples, too, had to divorce in order to legally dissolve the relationship. Understanding the original author's intent in the Greek, the use of the word porneia makes more sense as it relates to those who have been betrothed and not married (consummation followed after the betrothal period, about one year later). This position (betrothal view) is also supported by other Scripture as it relates to marriage and divorce. For example, Matthew 5:32 tells us, "but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity (porneia), makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." Other examples are 1 Corinthians 7:39, which tells us, "A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.", and Romans 7:2, "For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband." If nothing else, these verses prohibit remarriage in that the covenant of marriage is for the life of one's spouse. This means that none may remarry as long as their spouse is alive or they shall be seen as an adulterer in accordance with Scripture. Immoral sexual acts, such as fornication, incest, and yes, adultery, seem to allow for a divorce in accordance with Scripture, however, allowing for one thing (divorce) does not necessitate an allowance for another (remarriage). Much of these verses can be hard to swallow for those in second marriages or those who have been divorced, however, this should just reemphasize the importance of the bond of marriage in the eyes of the Christian and how we as believers should not enter into it without an enduring commitment to one another. Remember, there is no marriage in Heaven other than the marriage between the Church and the Lamb (see Matthew 22:23-33).

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