Many years ago, I recommended a speaker to a group of mature Christians in a nearby town. They were planning to hold meetings, inviting itinerate ministers to teach God’s word. They rejected the speaker I put forward and I couldn’t think why. He was well-known, educated in the word of God, and an itinerant speaker. I had been in touch with David Pawson, so I suggested they invite him instead, which they did. David spoke regularly on various topics, and I believe his relationship with Anchor Recordings developed at that time. So, what was the problem with my first suggestion? It turned out that he had recently divorced his wife and married another woman. The group in the town knew about it. I thought to myself, where is the forgiveness in this? Everyone makes mistakes, don’t they? If the group believe this man sinned, why don’t they forgive him and invite him to speak? It was a puzzle to me as a young Christian. I thought no more about the subject until some years later, when divorce and remarriage came much closer to home. I witnessed the devastating effects of three divorces and remarriages. Though I have not been divorced myself, I am speaking from some experience, not simply from ideas plucked out of the air. Often one hears remarried Christian people say, “Doesn’t the Lord want me to be happy?” That is supposed to put one on the back foot so that you agree, of course the Lord wants you to be happy. But Jesus didn’t come to make us happy. He came to make us holy. This is made particularly clear in a passage in Ephesians Ch.5, which addresses husbands and wives. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemishes, but holy and blameless” (vs 25-27). If you are holy in this life, you can be happy in the next. How the Church’s understanding has changed in the last sixty-or-so-years. We let almost anyone on the platform today, to speak and to teach and to affect our lives. Leaders in the Church have lost the ability to judge rightly, leaving congregations vulnerable to a spirit of deception. It is not just our civil courts that are failing us. I think any real change will only come through the grass-roots people; those whose hearts are wholeheartedly for God.
A recent request to petition British MPs asking them to stand up for marriage stated that, “The Government’s ‘no-fault’ divorce Bill poses a serious threat to marriage.”
States in the USA began to adopt the no-fault divorce law introduced there in 1953. In 1960, there were 2.2 divorces for every one-hundred people. By 1970, that had increased to 59 percent. Divorce continued to increase so that before the twenty-year period from the 1960’s to the 1970’s had ended, there was an increase of more than 140 percent.
Britain’s Prime Minister is a serial divorcee, so the “no-fault” divorce proposal debated on June (8th) was no surprise. MPs backed the Bill 231 to 16. In its rush to bring in the changes, on 17th June 2020, MPs are being given another opportunity to further consider the Bill. Then it will be passed. One MP has commented that, this change to marriage means “the vows made at the beginning have no legal force.” The Lord Chancellor claimed that divorce is not linked to marriage. If you believe in marriage, no-fault divorce is not the way for a nation to go. It will lead to greater disaster for the “land of hope and glory.” My suggestion is that individuals and congregations petition their leaders to teach what the Bible really says about divorce and remarriage. In an age when sexual promiscuity begins at a very early age in many cases, and where increasingly fewer are virgins on their wedding day, no-fault divorce could become a fashionable option for those that want to remarry.
In 2008, a French court ruled, and annulled a marriage. It involved a wife who had lied to her husband about her being a virgin before they wed. The reason for the annulment was because of the wife’s dishonesty. Pre-nuptial sin can invalidate a marriage, and could do so at the time of Jesus. It is what the Bible really speaks about concerning divorce.
There is a moral law, written on the hearts of humans, by God. Paul explains this in Romans 2:14-15: “When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts.” The understanding that hidden pre-marital sex nullifies a wedding is found historically and in different cultures and religions throughout the world.
So, what exactly is the “Get-out-of-jail-card” or “exception clause” as it is known? It is found in Matthew 19:9a: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (NIV). (See also Matthew 5:32; 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:11-13). There are various views and interpretations held, and so divorce and re-marriage is no big deal in most churches today – but is it a big deal in God’s eyes? Moses allowed divorce because of their hard hearts (Matthew 19:8; Mark 10:5), but did he (or the Law) allow remarriage? The answer is, no, he/the Law didn’t.
It is often said that God divorced His wayward wife, Israel, because she committed adultery. This comes from Jeremiah 3:6-14. If you read the passage carefully, you discover a different understanding. The passage actually teaches against the idea that a divorce for adultery dissolves the covenant marriage. The idea that marriage is a covenant not a contract is sometimes taught in churches, but the outliving clearly shows we view it as a contract that can be broken. In this passage of Jeremiah, Israel is presented as the wife of God who has committed adultery. Her husband has finally had enough of her behaviour and says, because “Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce.” Continue reading the section to understand the whole scenario correctly. At the end of the passage and after God had divorced His wife for adultery, God explains that even though the wife – Israel had committed adultery, and even though He had obtained a legal divorce from her, He still acknowledges that “I am married to you.” Even after the divorce, in God’s eyes Israel was still His wife. God did not go off and look for another wife so that He could re-marry. What He did was to try and win His wife back saying, “Return backsliding Israel…Return…” This is why Hosea can claim that redemption will come despite God’s “bill of divorce.” Indeed, a new, pure generation will arise to whom divorce will not apply in any case.
The consequences are that false doctrine has been introduced into the Church so that Christians too divorce and re-marry. This teaching has contributed to Replacement Theology, which claims that God has divorced Israel and married the Gentile Church. A correct reading of Scripture reveals that the Church never replaced Israel; rather, the Church became a part of Israel. Paul explained that before they became Christians they were “without Christ” and were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. They were strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now, being believers, they were no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens [of Israel]. Jesus made both Jew and Gentile One New Man in Him. Gentiles are now fellow heirs [with the Jews]. They are of the same Body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel (Ephesians 2:11-36). Scripture is abused by the false teaching of Supersessionism; and it is abused by the false use of the so-called “Exception Clause” and the introduction of divorce and remarriage. The consequences include not only the division between a man and his wife, but also a divided Church. There is no example or direction for the world, so the world goes in whatever direction it chooses, being wise in its own eyes and understanding.
Further consequences are that within a generation of lowering the standards on divorce and remarriage, the Church was using the same arguments to accept homosexuality. Every denomination that now accepts homosexual behaviour began by lowering their standards on divorce and remarriage, and so sin reigns (Romans 6:12) – And, the continuous dumbing-down of God’s Word leads to apostacy and falling away.
There are very clear passages revealing God’s mind on these issues: Mark 10:11; Mark 10:12; Luke 16:18a; Luke 16:18b; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11a; I Corinthians 7::39. Jesus is clear, if a person enters into a remarriage state, he or she commits adultery. Is it adultery only the first time they come together when they are newly remarried? If it were so they could repent and continue without concern. Or, do they commit adultery continuously all the time they are married? The Greek makes it very clear. The Greek verb for “commits adultery” is in the present tense. In Greek, the present tense indicates that something happens continuously in an ongoing manner. The Greek verb, written in the present tense implies that it has continued from the moment it first began up until the present, and is still continuing. It is a continuous, ongoing action. What does this mean? It means that the remarried couple are continuously committing adultery every time they have sexual intercourse. A juggling act sometimes comes into play by preachers that can’t accept the truth of Scripture in this matter. They try to say that the present tense in these verses really refers to the “aoristic present” – Meaning it can be used to describe an event, but exactly how long it happens for is indefinite. We will not be able to juggle words when we stand before Jesus. These things are written not to condemn us, but to save us. Jesus didn’t come to condemn us. He came to save us. If we follow Him and obey His teaching, we have nothing to fear.
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful (Malachi 2:16)
God willing, next time we will look at covenant, and word studies concerning the exception clause.
Blessings and shalom