By Pastor Stan Vespie

Copyright © 1995 Stan Vespie, pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church, P.O. Box 497, Wartburg, TN 37887 (423) 346-2464. To order the paperback version of this article, send $4.00 to address above. Please address all comments to:


Introduction | A Tale of Two Men | Marriage | Divorce | Remarriage | What About 1 Timothy 3? | The Envelope Please


One of the most controversial topics among Baptists today is the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Numerous sermons have been preached and literature published addressing the subject. While there are many good resources for a person to read which give insight to this prominent problem, the Lord dealt with me to add another one to the many that are available.

God has been gracious to me. He has blessed me with a wife of more than 18 years. She is faithful to me and a true helpmeet. She is a model pastor's wife. In fact, one time a lady that I pastored told me, "Preacher, every time we get a good pastor, we get a sorry pastor's wife and every time we get a good pastor's wife, we get a sorry pastor - and I want you to know that Joyce is the best pastor's wife we've ever had!" Anyone who knows my wife could say "Amen" to that. She is the only woman that I have ever "known". Therefore I do not write this to (as some would accuse) to make an argument for remaining in the ministry. According to the standards of the brethren, I am not "disqualified" on the grounds of having "two wives." By anyone's definition, I have only one wife.

The question in this brewing controversy is: if a man remarries, after a divorce, does he have one wife or two? As with any other study, we must cast aside opinions of men and look solely to the word of God as our authority. We must cast away all tradition and what we have been taught all our lives. We must look at what God says about these matters. We must keep a constant guard against teaching, for doctrine, the traditions of men. When we talk about the Scripture, we are talking of the King James Authorized Version of 1611, the Scripture God uses.

My prayer is this book will be a blessing to those who read it. Whether or not you agree with the conclusions found herein, may it lead you to be a Berean Christian so that you will "search the Scriptures." Nothing would thrill me more than if a man who has become a casualty of war because of a failed marriage would be encouraged to accomplish something for God in the time remaining. We must redeem the time!

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Dale was a missionary who loved God and the work of God. He was experienced and "successful." He had a beautiful family and a fruitful field. He served in a country which was hungry for the gospel. He was able - by the grace of God - after much prayer and labor to plant a church. Then one day tragedy struck. His wife told him she had been raped by a national and she was pregnant. As soon as arrangements could be made, they came home to have the child. When he saw the baby, he knew the baby wasn't his, but loved the little one as if it were.

Because of these circumstances, Dale knew that he could not return to the mission field. Almost immediately, the Lord opened a door for him to start a church in the States. Again, the hand of God was in the work with many getting saved and baptized. But, then again, like a bad nightmare, sin struck again. This time, his wife had an affair with a man in the church. In addition, he found out the "rape" wasn't really a rape at all, but just another sordid affair.

Dale's wife left him for another man. The divorce was finalized on the grounds of adultery. Let me ask you a question - should Dale resign as Pastor of his church because he is "disqualified" from the ministry?

Your answer to that question will determine whether you have the Bible or the tradition of men as your final authority. There are those who firmly believe that Dale should resign from the ministry because his wife committed adultery. We will see if he should or not in this booklet as we "search the Scriptures."

Recently a man telephoned me with a Bible question. At one time he had been a full time evangelist. His wife left him for another man, divorced him (against his wishes) and left him a "Prisoner of War." He went before his local church and resigned as a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He turned in his ordination papers and became bitter at God. He had been taught, and fervently believed, that if a man's wife left him, he was no longer "qualified" to preach. The questions that I posed to him, were the questions Dr. John Rawlings asked another preacher thirty years ago: 1) Did God call you to preach? 2) Did God call your wife to preach? 3) Are you going to quit because your wife quit? Those are excellent questions and have helped keep many in the battle.

So what does the Bible have to say concerning the subject of marriage? What does it say about divorce? And is it ever acceptable for someone to remarry? Can a person ever remarry and not sin? Randy's questions prompted me to revisit the issue and the discoveries that I made are found in this booklet.

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The word "marriage" occurs fifty-six times in the Bible in fifty-one verses. The first occurrence is in Genesis 19 where the Bible tells us that Lot's daughters had married some men of Sodom. Obviously, this is not the first time a marriage takes place in the Bible for Adam and Eve were married. But this is the first time the word "marriage" occurs in Scripture. Of Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ said, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that Adam and Eve were married?

It is doubtful that they exchanged wedding rings (which came from pagans) or that they had a wedding reception (who would attend, except the animals?).But they were married. (And before you get mad, yes, I have a wedding ring on my finger just to show my wife that I'm married and to let others know that I'm spoken for!)

It has been well stated that the first institution ordained by God was the family. It is also true that this fundamental foundation of society is under Satanic attack today. The devil knows that if he can destroy the home it is only a matter of time before the local church, specifically, and society, generally, will begin to crumble. The most important human relationship on earth is between a man and his wife. God instituted and ordained the act of marriage. In His wisdom, He determined that a male and female should make a lifelong commitment to love, honor, and cherish one another. And, by the way, this settles the definition of "family" for the federal court system which is trying to force the United States to accept two queers as a family and suitable for raising children. According to the Bible, a marriage is between a "male" and a "female." But who didn't know that except idiots who have been educated beyond their intelligence and immoral perverts?

The Lord Jesus Christ gives us the first historical reference to "marriage" in Matthew 24:38. He informs us that dads gave their daughters in marriage before the flood. And even though it was something God commissioned and consecrated, Jesus said, "The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage" (Luke 20:34). Jesus showed His approval of the institution (despite sin's reign for four thousand years) by attending the marriage in Cana and taking His disciples with Him (John 2:2).

From the beginning of the human race, God highlights successful marriages: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, etc. While the problem of polygamy rises early in Scripture, it interesting that we never read of a marriage ending in divorce in the Book of Genesis! In fact, I challenge you to find the first divorce in the Bible!

Isaac and Rebekah had their share of problems, but you never read of them hiring lawyers and going their separate ways. Heaven knows that Jacob had all kinds of troubles (who wouldn't with four wives?), but he didn't divorce a single one of them. God's plan for man is marriage to one woman for life. Lest anyone thinks that messages on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage are avenues to promote divorce, let it be made clear: God is pro-marriage and anti- divorce. I do not know any Bible believing preacher who encourages people to get a divorce. A person should stay married and keep their marriage vows for life. And even where the marriage vows have been broken, the couple should try to reconcile if at all possible.

In the word of God, marriage always refers to a man's and woman's relationship for life. It is an agreement by which two people vow to live together in mutual affection and fidelity until they are separated by death. God instituted this union for many purposes:

  1. To prevent promiscuous intercourse between men and women.
  2. To promote domestic harmony.
  3. To secure a place for rearing children to love God.

Servants married wives (Exodus 21:3) while under the service of their masters. Miriam and Aaron got in trouble for criticizing Moses' choice for a mate (Numbers 12:1). God forbade marriages to heathen women (Deut. 7:3). The marriage relationship was so important that in the law God commanded that if anyone violated the relationship by committing adultery, they were to be executed (Deut. 22:22). Of course, only the guilty party was executed, while the victim was free to remarry.

It is with the common illustration of marriage that God explains His love and joy in seeing people brought into fellowship with Him (Matthew 22:2-9). In fact, a Christian marriage is the greatest picture on earth of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:21-33). God forbids a Christian marrying a lost person (1 Cor. 6:14). What Christian would want the devil for his spiritual father-in- law? Nevertheless, it is ironic that even two lost people who marry still portray the relationship of Christ and the church though they may not realize it. The Holy Spirit has often used the marriage itself as a witness of salvation.

Part of the duty of a married couple is to please their spouse (1 Cor. 7:33-34). We are not to live for ourselves to please ourselves, but seek to please the person to whom we are married. Someone has observed that it is impossible to be selfish in a three-legged race. You cannot make any progress in the race of life if you are pointed in two different directions. The prophet asks the rhetorical question, "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" The answer is obvious. They can't! So what happens when there comes a time that the marriage will not work. Is divorce ever Biblical? Is it ever in the permissive will of God for a couple to divorce? And if it is, then is it also proper for the man or woman who goes through divorce to remarry? Let us deal with these questions one at a time.

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The word "divorce" (or a word related to it) occurs eleven times in eleven verses. Since there are so few, let us deal with each one of them briefly:

1. Speaking of whom the priest should marry, Leviticus 21:14 says, "A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife." So a man who was going to serve God as a priest in the Tabernacle was forbidden to marry a divorced woman (see Lev. 21:1).

2. If a priest's daughter was divorced, she was allowed to return home to her father's house. Leviticus 22:13 says, "But if the priest's daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father's house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father's meat; but there shall not stranger eat thereof."

3. In the Book of Numbers, the Lord lays down the following stipulation in the law of vows: "But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her" (Numbers 30:9).

4-5. Then in the Mosaic law concerning the divorce the Lord said this: "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. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. 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; 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" (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

6. In describing God's relationship to the nation of Israel, God says in Isaiah 50:1, "Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away."

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

The New Testament provides the final four references to divorce in the Bible.

8-9. In Matthew 5:31-32 in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus Christ said concerning the subject, "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."

10. The Pharisees tempted Jesus Christ with this question about divorce in Matthew 19:7, "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" (We will deal with the answer the Lord gave later.)

11. The last reference with a form of the word "divorce" in it is Mark 10:4. This time the Pharisees are responding to a question put to them by Jesus Christ. He asks, "What did Moses command you?" (vs. 5) "And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away" (vs. 6). Again, we will deal with the question, answer, and response a little later. But before we do, did you notice another term for divorce in the references listed above? A synonym for "divorce" in the word of God is the phrase "put away." That phrase is found 53 times in the Bible but is limited to the issue of divorce in only 19 of the references. For the sake of space, we will list the references for you and trust that you will be a good "workman" and look them up yourself. (Some of them may be found in the verses already provided above.) In reference to divorce, the term "put away" occurs in the following scripture verses: Leviticus 21:7; Ezra 10:3,19; Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:1; Ezek. 44:22; Hos. 2:2; Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3,8-9; Mark 10:2,11-12; Luke 16:18; and 1 Cor. 7:11.

The principle of first occurrence states that the first time a term occurs in Scripture, the usage of that word in the context stands as the typical definition. The phrase "put away" is defined in Genesis 35:2. Jacob tells his children to "put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments." Thus, it is safe to say that "put away" in the Bible means to "get rid of" something. In the case of a wife, it is also called a divorce (see Matthew 5:31- 32 and 19:7)!

The reason God made provision for divorce in the Old Testament is apparent. Jesus said Moses made the provision "because of the hardness of . . . hearts." It was NEVER God's intention that a husband and wife divorce (Matthew 19:7); however, like the problem of the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36), God made provision for problems when they arose that were "out of the norm." Divorce should be occasional, not habitual. Recent statistics state that one out of two marriages now ends in divorce. Check your newspaper and find the listings of recent marriages and divorces. You may be surprised to learn that the latter often outnumbers the former. Recently a news report on a local radio station stated that in Knox County, Tennessee (1994) two out of three marriages end in divorce! The national average is a failure rate of about one out of two marriages.

The Bible tells us "the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away" (Malachi 2:16). God does not hate divorced people. Neither does it imply that divorce is always the wrong thing to do. There are Biblical grounds for divorce. There are occasions when divorce is inevitable and unavoidable. However, we live in a "bail-out" society when it comes to marriage. Couples know it is easier to get a "no-fault" divorce than it is to work out their difference. When young couples find out that marriage is sometimes an ordeal rather than ideal, they begin looking for a new deal. Based on the Bible, divorces should be rare not routine! God hates divorce. IT IS NOT HIS WILL FOR ANY CHRISTIAN to take the attitude regarding marriage, "if you don't at first succeed, try, try again."

A true Bible-believing Christian does not advocate, advance, encourage, promote, or champion divorce. If you are looking for an easy way out of your relationship with your spouse, you are reading the wrong book. Get on your knees and ask God to restore your marriage; fast and pray until God restores what the canker worm has eaten. Remember that love is a decision, not an emotion. Love is giving, not taking. You made a vow, keep it! If your marriage is in trouble, seek help! It is amazing that when people have a toothache, they will find a dentist to relieve the pain. When they have a broken bone, they will find a doctor to set it. But when they are having marital trouble, they will not find a Pastor who believes the word of God and ask for his advice! Humble yourself and ask for help! You would if you were drowning. So if your marriage is drowning, look for someone with a life preserver. Whatever you do, don't take the easy way out. Divorce is not all that it is advertised to be. The devil will make you think that the single life will once again be "freedom." Whenever the devil tries to tantalize you with freedom, remember that there is always a ball and chain behind his schemes.

Ezra had some convictions about "putting away" wives. In Ezra chapter ten the priests, at the commandment of the Lord, put away the strange wives they had married. God wanted these men to get a divorce because they had married heathen women. Yes, that is Old Testament. No, you are not to obey that today (see 1 Corinthians 7), but it sure is interesting reading, isn't it? The Jews divorced these women even though they had children by them (Ezra 10:44). God is so "fanatical" about this issue that He forbids priests serving in the Millennial Temple to marry strange or defiled women - including divorced women (Ezekiel 44:22).

For those who are divorced - you are not a second-class Christian just because of a failed marriage. If you have done wrong in the past, ask God to forgive you, repent of your sins and forsake them, and go on with your life and try to accomplish something for God before the Rapture of the Church.

There are scriptural grounds for divorce! This does not mean that you should divorce, but God did make the provision for divorce.

Before we look at the instances where God allows divorce, we need a definition of the word. Divorce is a dissolving of a marriage. Technically speaking, death causes a "divorce" of a couple. You are both scripturally and legally considered single. This is obvious to everyone except Mormons who believe that, if you get married in one of their designated places, you are married for eternity. You can ignore them just like you do the clowns in the circus. If your mate dies, you are no longer married. Romans 7:1 says, "Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?" This verse embraces simple logic. It is common sense that you do not prosecute a dead man. No matter what he may have done, the only thing we can do is bury him. The law has no power over a dead man. It is against the law to commit suicide, but what are you going to do to a person who does? There is nothing that can be done except bury him with a shovel. The Philistines hung King Saul's body up after he was dead. While it was a disgrace to Israel, it certainly brought no further harm to Saul.

Do not fail to overlook the parenthesis. Dr. Sam Gipp says the parenthesis is "a special note from the author to the reader." The note here is that these words are for those who "know the law." That eliminates 90% of Christians from intelligently discussing the verse. The average Christian does not spend much time studying. If they do study, they largely ignore the Old Testament believing, mistakenly, that the Old Testament has no application whatsoever to them.

The statement, "for I speak to them that know the law," means that it is impossible for a Christian who does not know the law to understand Romans 7. Much of the Bible is this way. Isaiah 28:9-10 tells us how God teaches us things. "Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little." If we do not understand step number one, then we cannot understand steps two and three. To understand some things in Scripture, God has laid them out like all other learning - one step at a time. We cannot skip steps. "Wherefore the law our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). THE BETTER WE KNOW THE LAW, THE BETTER WE WILL KNOW JESUS CHRIST. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law. The more we know and understand the law, the more we can appreciate what He did. Too many Christians do not realize that the Old Testament law is going to be in effect during the Millennium and perhaps even afterwards. They have no comprehension that those who reign with Jesus Christ during the Millennium will be responsible for making judgments based upon the Old Testament Law. Far too many of us will spend far too much time after the Rapture just learning what God has said (see Isa. 29:23- 24)! We may have to spend so much time at it then that we miss out on some blessings which God has. After all, if we do not suffer, we will not reign (2 Tim. 2:12). God has told us to "read" (Isa. 34:16), to "study" (2 Tim. 2:15), and to "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Because He has commanded each of us to do these things, God will hold us accountable for how we do them (1 Cor. 3:13). If we fail to obey God now in these simple instructions, why should God turn over greater responsibilities to us later?

With that background, God says in Romans 7:2, "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead she is loosed from the law of her husband." The reason the Lord used the female as an example is because, under the law, she could not free herself from her husband, no matter what he did. Under the Mosaic Law, the woman did not have any grounds for divorce. The man could divorce his wife for almost any reason at all. There were a few exceptions, but in most cases the husband could divorce his wife simply because she displeased him (see Deuteronomy 24). The woman's only way "out" was by death of her spouse. In the New Testament there are other grounds for divorce for a female from her husband. We will look at these momentarily, but the first one still remains true. If the husband dies, the woman is "loosed" from her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:39 adds, "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." Observe that in the context of death as a cause for the end of one marriage, another marriage is scriptural. ATTENTION "K-MART SHOPPERS": mark that down and remember it, remarriage is scriptural when divorce is scriptural.

During His ministry on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ dealt with many "thorny" issues. One of these was the issue of divorce. He came to the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan. Matthew 19 records a question put to Him by one of the Pharisees who made it their goal to try to catch Jesus in His words. Once again, the motive of this man was not pure because the Bible says that He asks the question "tempting him." But the question sets the table for the Lord to give mankind His views on the important subject of divorce. The Pharisee asks, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" That is the same question you want answered, isn't it? So what did the Lord of glory say?

"HAVE YE NOT READ . . . ?" That is a striking question, isn't it? Have you noticed that, most of the time, when someone wants to "discuss" the Bible, it does not take a discerning Christian long to see that the person who is so opinionated and obstinate is the very one who has not read their Bible? What you should do right now before you read any further in this book go and find out what THE Book says about the issue. What the Bible has to say is much more important than these words that you are reading. Go get your Bible and read the verses that I have listed for you above. You ask the question: "Is it ever right to get a divorce?" Perhaps you are not a Pharisee and your motive is pure, but the answer to your question is still the same question that Jesus Christ put to this man two thousand years ago: `Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh, What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." There is a three-point message given by Jesus Christ: the priority of marriage, the permanency of marriage, and the partnership of marriage.

This leads to another question: "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" (Matt. 19:7). Again, it is the same question many ask today: IF IT IS GOD'S WILL THAT MARRIAGE IS TO BE PERMANENT, WHY DID GOD ALLOW DIVORCE? Jesus answers, "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so." In the Old Testament, a man could put away his wife for any cause (Deut. 24:1). Does this rule still stand? The Lord gives the answer in Matthew 19:9, "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."

In this passage of Scripture, the Lord Jesus Christ (in red letters!) gave grounds for divorce. The first Biblical ground for divorce is "fornication." This clears up the erroneous teaching that fornication is sexual relations before a person marries and adultery is having sexual relations outside of marriage. Clearly, a married person can commit the sin of fornication. So fornication is unlawful sexual relations regardless of whether or not it is before marriage or after marriage. In other words, both singles and married people are capable of committing the sin of fornication. If a person joins themselves sexually to someone other than their spouse, they are guilty of the sin of fornication and it is grounds for divorce. It must be said, once again at this juncture, that divorce is not necessary. If the offended party forgives (it is impossible to forget) and the offender truly repents and forsakes his (her) sin and the marriage is mended, praise God! But if the offended party seeks divorce, then he has the Biblical authority to do so.

Briefly, let us go back to Romans 7 and look at the Holy Spirit's reminder that a divorce without proper grounds is adultery. Earlier, the first two verses were quoted in regards to death as being a "divorce." Now we want to bring into this context of fornication, Romans 7:3-4. Remember that the first verse says, ". . .(I speak to them that know the law)", so this is for a person who is familiar with the Old Testament.

In Romans 7:2-3 Paul writes, "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she is married to another man." If the woman marries another while her husband is still living, she is an adulteress! (She is "called" an adulteress, which sounds like a public, church-wide condemnation. This is where the idea of the Scarlet Letter has its roots.) The only way she can legally be married to another is for her husband to die. This is according to the Old Testament law (vs. 1). There are proper divorces, fornication (Matthew 19) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7, discussed later in this book). Also a little later, we will deal with the question of remarriages in this situation, but for now, read the word of God and pray over Matthew 19. Ask God to open your eyes, your understanding, and the Scriptures. After all, the word of God is your authority in all matters of faith and practice, isn't it??

The second Biblical grounds for a divorce is in 1 Corinthians 7. According to verse one, the Corinthians wrote Paul to ask him some questions on various subjects. He addresses their questions dealing with marital duties and obligations. He gives advice concerning marriage: "For I would that all men were even as myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:7-11). The commandment is clear. A person is better off to remain single if possible. The reason is they are able to focus on bringing glory to God. A man who has a family has obligations to them (see vss. 32-35). When the Bible says you are better off married than to burn, it is speaking of burning with lust. A person is to fulfill their sexual desires with their spouse. Some, like Paul, are given the gift of celibacy (see Matthew 19:11-12).

The tenth and eleventh verses are crucial to understanding the second Biblical grounds for divorce. The command is clear. The wife is not to depart from her husband. The wife's duty is to remain married to her husband. "But and if she depart . . . " - it is not the will of God that she departs (vs. 10), but she leaves anyway. The directive will of God is that she stay. The permissive will of God allowed her to leave. This is because people have a free will and if your spouse decides she or he is going to leave, there is nothing you can do about it. God goes on to say that the person who departs is to "remain unmarried, or be reconciled," but they are not to marry another person (which constitutes adultery).

Then he writes concerning marital separation: "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: if any brother have 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. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases; but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches" (1 Cor. 7:12-17). This is the guidance given to a believer married to an unbeliever who deserts him or her. In verses ten and eleven, Paul explains that while on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ gave the commandment that the wife is not to depart from her husband and the husband is not to put away his wife. The Corinthians want to know if there are any exceptions to this commandment. There question may have been posed to the Apostle Paul like this: "Suppose two lost people are married and one of them gets saved, may a Christian divorce a lost person?" So in these verses the Apostle is addressing a subject upon which the Lord Jesus Christ was silent. He is speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit so it cannot be dismissed as Paul's opinion. The Apostle answers their question of separation with an emphatic "No." If the lost person desires to remain married to the saved person, then the saved person is under biblical obligations to remain married. If the lost person departs, then the saved person is not under the bondage of verses 10-11 in such cases.

What does a Christian do if their believing spouse leaves him? Does the same principle apply? It is essential to our understanding of this subject to remember there is no such stipulation for two Christians who separate. The assumption is that two Christians will not separate, but will be true to their vows. Of course, we all know that Christians do get a divorce. Our God, who knows the beginning from the end, was certainly aware that Christians would divorce. He chose not to make provision for divorce for Christians in 1 Corinthians 7. Desertion is a scriptural grounds for divorce. Reread 1 Corinthians 7:14-17 and pay particular attention to verse 15: "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister IS NOT UNDER BONDAGE IN SUCH CASES: but God hath called us to peace." The Lord is dealing with a lost person married to a saved person. The grounds for divorce is desertion. In the case of a lost and saved person (and, again, this is for a person who gets saved after they are married to a lost person), a Christian "is not under bondage in such cases." God's counsel is to let them go.

This is a hard saying, but it is, nevertheless, Biblical. It is not the will of God that two Christians divorce. The only grounds for divorce acceptable in the sight of God is when the sin of fornication is involved. In that instance, God makes an allowance for divorce. In all other instances, a Christian woman is not to depart from her husband (1 Cor. 7:10) and a Christian husband is to never put away his wife (1 Cor. 7:11). If they do it is a sin. If you are saved and your spouse departs, you are not given the Biblical sanction to divorce that spouse. Your only option is to remain single or be reconciled (1 Cor. 7:10). If your spouse divorces YOU, then you are no longer under bondage (1 Cor. 7:25- 28). Therefore, the Biblical definition of desertion is in the instance where your spouse leaves and divorces you. If they simply leave, you are not free to divorce them. This re-emphasizes the Biblical truth that God does not expect two Christians to divorce. You are married for life.

Verses 25-28 of the same chapter are also words of wisdom to singles: "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you." Since "all scripture is given by inspiration of God," the Holy Spirit (not Paul) reiterates that it is good to be single. However, if you are already married, then you should not seek a divorce. If you are already "loosed" from a wife, then you should not seek a wife. The Lord does not give the grounds for the divorce, so we must trust the context which is desertion. Remember, the biblical definition of desertion as explained in the previous paragraph. Desertion is more than a legal separation.

While legally a person may divorce their spouse for everything from mental cruelty to incompatible differences, Biblically the two grounds for divorce are fornication and desertion. All other grounds of divorce are illegitimate.

If a person has legitimate grounds for divorce (and the only legitimate grounds are Biblical ones), in the eyes of our Lord they are single. Dale (the pastor whose wife played the whore) is no longer married to that woman either in the laws of the state or in the eyes of God. HE IS SINGLE! He does not have a living wife. He has no wife! Only a person who is ignorant of the Scripture ("HAVE YE NOT READ . . . ?) or a Pharisee would think that this man should leave the ministry. In the eyes of God he is no different from a man who has never married!

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In this section, we must backtrack to Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7. In both instances where God discusses divorce, He mentions remarriage in the context.

Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, "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." Let us suppose that a man puts his wife away because of fornication. She is guilty of "stepping out" on her husband and joining herself to another man. In this instance, the man has scriptural grounds for divorce and is free to remarry without committing adultery. This is not a man's opinion, but the Lord Jesus Christ's words! Therefore, the man who puts away his wife for the cause of fornication is no longer married to that particular woman. He is single. HE DOES NOT HAVE A WIFE. Since he has scriptural grounds for divorce, he also has scriptural grounds for remarriage. If he marries a woman who has not been "put away," he does not commit adultery. Thus, following the Scripture, he is married to one woman in the eyes of God. If he is a bishop (1 Timothy 3), he is "the husband of one wife."

On the other hand, if a man divorces his wife for any other reason than fornication or desertion, he commits adultery if he marries another woman. Our Lord makes this crystal clear in Luke 16:18: "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery."

If a man and woman decide they cannot get along (the court calls this "irreconcilable differences"), the ONLY option this couple has is to remain single the rest of their lives or be reconciled. Once again we turn to 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 which says, "Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, LET HER REMAIN UNMARRIED, or BE RECONCILED TO HER HUSBAND: and let not the husband put away his wife." For the sake of illustration let us suppose that a wife leaves her husband. He has not given her scriptural grounds for divorce. He may be a bum. He may not provide for her. He may not love her, but he is faithful to her and wants to live with her. She has all she can take, packs her bags, and leaves. According to the word of God, she has two choices: remain single or be reconciled to her husband.

The Holy Spirit makes it very plain. The instructions to the woman is "let not the wife depart from her husband." The instruction to the man is equally clear: "let not the husband put away his wife." The woman is not to leave the man; the husband is not to divorce his wife. You wonder, "What if she departs?" The command for the man does not change - "let not the husband put away his wife." The old saying is true, "Two wrongs don't make a right." He is not to start the divorce proceedings against her. HE IS ONLY LOOSED IF SHE PUTS HIM AWAY. This eliminates the problem of a man hating his wife and desiring a divorce. In his mind, his only option is to get rid of her. Since it is not "Christian" to murder her, he may decide to be so mean that she "can't take it any more" and deserts him. "Ah ha," he thinks, "she left me, so I have grounds for divorce." This scenario will not work according to 1 Cor. 7:10-11. God has spoken clearly, concisely, and candidly: "let not the husband put away his wife." It is not the will of God that a man divorce his wife! Remember, as the husband, we picture Jesus Christ. HE WILL NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, DIVORCE HIS BRIDE! 2 Timothy 2:13 says, "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself."

If the woman disobeys God and deserts the husband and then marries someone else, she is an adulteress. The man then is "loosed" from his wife and may remarry, although the Biblical admonition is that he would be better off if he remained single (1 Cor. 7:27).

The only "out" that the man has is for his wife to divorce him since he is forbidden to divorce her. If this takes place and he is "loosed" then this meets the Biblical grounds for remarriage (1 Cor. 7:28). If his wife departs (which the word of God forbids), and never divorces the husband or commits fornication with another person, they both must remain single the rest of their lives.

If the man has been granted a biblical divorce and remarries, then the woman's two options are reduced to one. She must remain single the rest of her life or else knowingly commit the sin of adultery. You might think that is cruel, but your argument is with the Author of Scripture, not with me. He wants you to keep your vows! Marriage is serious business. It is not to be lightly regarded or lightly discarded.

If a married man or woman commits fornication and their spouse decides to divorce him or her, the guilty party must remain single the rest of their life, or knowingly commit adultery. From the story of David, we know there is a high price to pay for that sin. The person is better off remaining single. You might think, "That is hard." Well, "the way of the transgressor is hard" (Prov. 13:15).

The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians and tells those that are married they should not seek a divorce. If they are scripturally divorced, they should not seek to get married (1 Cor. 10:27). Then he says, "But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned . . . Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you." Remarriage is acceptable in the eyes of God. It is not a sin for a person who has been scripturally divorced to remarry. A warning is posted that there will be trouble in the flesh for a person who marries the second time. If you were married to a woman named Sarah for several years and she dies or deserts you, and you remarry, sometime you are going to call your new wife by the wrong name! Get ready, it will happen. You will make the stupid mistake of comparing their cooking, cleaning, hobbies, or habits. Those who remarry after a scriptural divorce have not sinned, but be forewarned, "such shall have trouble in the flesh."

Everyone believes that it is proper and good for a virgin to marry. The Lord indicates that a person who has a scriptural divorce has the same right and privilege of marrying as does a virgin (1 Cor. 7:28). The two men mentioned earlier (Dale and Randy) both had scriptural grounds for divorce. One was granted a divorce because of adultery and the other because of desertion. Therefore, both these men have a scriptural grounds for remarriage. As of this writing, neither man has remarried, but if they ever do remarry, they will have ONE wife. Please do not be guilty of the sin of the Pharisees, "Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye" (Mark 7:13). One of the most difficult things for a man to do is admit that he is wrong, particularly when he has taught others the error. It is really a matter of submission. Will you accept the word of God or insist on changing it? Will you conform your beliefs to the word of God or try to conform the word of God to your beliefs?

It must be understood that this book is not written to give adulterers and adulteresses an "easy road." The sin of adultery is horrible. This country is filled with people whose eyes are full of adultery. It is a sin that has brought a curse on this great nation. No one should take it lightly.

At the same time, like our Lord, we should have compassion on a person guilty of adultery who desires to repent of their sin. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). If you are one who has committed adultery and you have never confessed that sin to God, then you must do so immediately. Sin is like a cancer that will eat away all your blessings. The word of God says "that no whoremonger . . . hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph. 5:5). Thank God that "if we confess sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). The blood of Jesus Christ is not limited just to sins that we commit, but is able to cleanse all sinners. 1 John 5:7 says ". . . the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from ALL sin." This includes the sin of adultery.

In the Old Testament there was no provision made for one who committed adultery. If they were guilty of the sins of adultery or murder, the law demanded that they be killed (Duet. 17:7, Lev. 20:11). In the New Testament "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Roman 5:20). God will forgive you. You must go to Him and confess your sin and be willing to forsake your sin. He is anxious to forgive you.

Some of you reading this may be separated from your wife or husband. You do not have the two scriptural grounds for divorce discussed in the pages above. Your question is, "What should I do?" If your desire is to follow the word of God, you only have two options: (1) be reconciled to your spouse, (2) remain single the rest of your life.

Some of you reading this may have already remarried being ignorant of these precepts from the word of God. You are living in adultery. Your question is, "Should I divorce the person I am now married to and be reconciled to my former spouse?" The answer is found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. "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." According to verse four, the second marriage is more binding than the first! Again, the old saying is, "Two wrongs don't make a right." If you are legally married to a woman (Romans 13:1-4), you should remain married to that woman and be faithful to her. As far as the adultery is concerned, you must put that sin under the blood and ask the Lamb of God to take it away.

In regards to this matter, the wording the Holy Spirit uses in the case of David and Bathsheba is very enlightening. Three times God calls Bathsheba "the wife of Uriah the Hittite" (2 Samuel 11:3, 26, and 12:10. But the most interesting example is 2 Samuel 12:15. Do you remember the circumstances of Uriah's death? He was murdered by King David when he ordered Joab to send this mighty man of valor into the heat of battle and desert him. Despite the fact that Uriah is dead, the Holy Spirit says, "And the LORD struck the child that URIAH'S WIFE bare unto David, and it was very sick." God still calls Bathsheba Uriah's wife, though he has been dead for nine months. She has two husbands. Bathsheba is David's wife (2 Samuel 11:27, 12:24) as well as Uriah's wife. This sin is so disgusting to God that while He allows the name of a harlot (Rahab) and a Moabitess (Ruth) recorded in the genealogy of His Son (Matthew 1), He refuses to record the name of Bathsheba. He says that Solomon was born "of her that had been the wife of Urias." Uriah's name was recorded while her name was omitted. We should not pass lightly over the words "had been" in Matthew 1:6. Before the baby boy died in 2 Samuel 12, nine months after Uriah's death, the Holy Spirit is still saying that Bathsheba was Uriah's wife (2 Samuel 12:24). Apparently after the death of the child, then the Lord puts the marriage in past tense. This seems to be a picture of the blood atonement. The law of God demanded that one die because the adultery. "The wages of sin is death." God allowed this innocent child to die in the place of David and Bathsheba. He was their substitute. Thus, he is a type of Christ. After this atonement is made, Bathsheba is called David's wife. Her marriage to Uriah is put in past tense. She went and "sinned no more. In other words, she was faithful to David the rest of her life.

Your substitute is not your child. Your substitute is the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for your sins. The debt is paid. The sacrifice is made. If you are living in adultery, take that sin to God, confess it, and ask Him to forgive you. While adultery is a horrible sin with a high price to be paid for committing it, it is not the unpardonable sin. David learned that, while his sin was "put away" (interesting choice of words God used in 2 Samuel 12:13, wasn't it?), there was a harvest of heartache to be reaped for what he had sown. Many people wish to sow their wild oats and then pray for a crop failure. It does not always work out that way. Adultery brings broken homes, broken hearts, and broken health. It is no friend! It is not worth trading fifteen minutes of pleasure for years of sorrow, suffering, and woe. If you are guilty, your only refuge is Jesus Christ. He can pick up the broken pieces of broken lives and put them back together again.

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We turn our attention to 1 Timothy 3 where the Lord gives the blueprint of a bishop. He minces no words saying, "A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (2 Timothy 3:2-7). While the word "qualification" does not appear in the Scripture the word "must" leaves no room for debate about the importance of these sixteen things. Being blameless is first on the list followed by the admonition that he be "the husband of one wife." The Holy Spirit forbids polygamy for pastors (and, for that matter, all other Christians as well). If a man divorces his wife for any other reason besides Biblical grounds and marries another woman, he should resign the office of bishop. The same is true of a deacon (1 Timothy 3:12). This does not mean "one wife at a time" as some would accuse us of believing. As already stated, if a man is scripturally divorced, he has no wife! He is single. He is on the same scriptural ground as a virgin (1 Cor. 10:28). This is not to say he is a virgin, but that he has the same privilege to marry as does a virgin.

While no one should de-emphasize "the husband of one wife," neither should the other things listed should be de-emphasized. At the same time, one part of the sixteen should not be elevated above the other fifteen. In order, this is what the Holy Spirit says "must be" true of a bishop: 1. Blameless 2. The husband of one wife 3. Vigilant 4. Sober 5. Of good behavior 6. Given to hospitality 7. Apt to teach 8. Not given to wine 9. No striker 10. Not greedy of filthy lucre 11. Patient 12. Not a brawler 13. Not covetous 14. One that ruleth his own house well 15. Not a novice 16. Have a good report of them which are without.

If there is any validity in emphasizing one of these things on this list, it should be the first one listed! No one quarrels that a bishop should be blameless (or that he should be patient, and not covetous). It is strange that the second thing on the list is the one which is discussed the most! Yes, a bishop should be the husband of ONE wife, but don't forget the others, too! Have you ever heard of anyone talking about a man being disqualified because he isn't given to hospitality? How about not being vigilant? How many pastors are not "apt to teach"? Do not misunderstand, I am not trying to weaken 1 Timothy 3:2, but rather keep it in perspective with the context. A man SHOULD NOT hold the office of bishop if he is an adulterer. He should not hold the office if he gets tired of his wife and puts her away because they cannot get along. But, if he has biblical grounds for divorce, then he has as much scriptural ground to stand on and to continue in that office (and more) as a man who does not have his children in subjection! Do I hear any "amens" in the congregation?

Do you remember the story of Dale? He is the missionary who is now a pastoring a church he started. He is still in the battle. He had Biblical grounds for divorce. The state court where he lives granted a divorce on the grounds of adultery. According to 1 Timothy 3, he has the same privilege of pastoring as this author (who has one wife). Dale does not have a wife. If God ever sends him one ("Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord"), he will still meet the "qualification" of 1 Timothy 3:2. Please do not put him and other men under the bondage of Phariseeism. God may never send this particular young man another wife. But suppose He does, do you want to defend your position at the Judgment Seat of Christ? It will be a particularly difficult position to defend if it is based upon a misinterpretation of the word of God?

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At the beginning of this booklet, you were challenged to find the only divorce in the word of God. Have you searched the scriptures? If you were reading closely, one of the verses was given in the list searching the word "divorce."

In Jeremiah 3:8 the God says, "And 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." The other verse is Isaiah 50:1, "Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away."

God is divorced! Because of her adultery, God put Israel away and gave her a bill of divorce. According to the standard advocated by the Pharisees of our day, God is "disqualified" from being God. He is divorced!

Now we know that is ridiculous and we only state the laughable, ludicrous notion to make a point. God is holy, righteous, pure, undefiled, and without any blemish or spot in His glorious character, even though He is divorced from Israel. To divorce an adulteress woman is not a sin or else God is guilty of sin. One could also argue that Israel deserted God (see the book of Judges), which would be another cause for God putting her away.

If you are suffering through the heartache of having a marriage break up, this may not make it any easier to get through the emotional trauma of divorce. However, you mark it down: divorce is not an unpardonable sin. You can be forgiven for the "blood of Jesus Christ, his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). If you are an adulterer or adulteress, then take the words of Jesus Christ in John 8 to heart: "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Accept your medicine. You must either be reconciled to your spouse or remain celibate the rest of your life. Pray, first, for the grace of God and, second, for the gift of celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7).

If you have solid Biblical grounds for divorce (adultery, desertion), then, according the word of God, you may remarry but "only in the Lord" (1 Cor. 7:39). That is, you may only marry a Christian as it is in the will of God. "Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh" (1 Cor. 7:28). Do not deceive yourself into thinking there will not be any "bumps" along the way.

Once I was pastoring a church where a man was remarrying after many years of waiting on God and rebuilding his self esteem. His wife had left him for another man. The music director in the church announced the wedding shower for the couple on Thursday night. BUT instead of saying the new bride's name (Pam), he accidently said the former woman's name (Paula). You can see how easy it would be to make such a mistake with the similarity in the names. Added to this equation was the fact that the music director had said "Gary and Paula" for years. Needless to say, everyone was embarrassed, but it served as a good illustration for Gary and Pam of some of the "trouble" they faced. This was a small thing compared to bigger troubles such as Gary accidently calling Pam, Paula! Now that is BIG trouble!!!

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