Monthly Archives: January 2015

Reforming Church Dogma on Divorce

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of discovering God’s revelation on the dissolution of broken marital covenants is that it sets us at odds with so many godly saints who have gone before over the centuries. Great courage can be taken as we consider what the reformers went through as they worked at reforming the greater doctrines of justification, soteriology, divine revelation, the body of Christ, etc.

Nevertheless, I must confess that concerns arise as to why so many have seen this issue as they have seen it. Do they see something that I cannot? Do they accept a command of the Lord God that I refuse? Why do they, almost universally, see one thing while a minority see quite another? Whenever we find ourselves going against centuries of orthodox thinkers the burden of proof is ours and not theirs.

Consider the probability that the answer lies in the fact that Christians have proven to be very susceptible to the downside of dogma. A dogma is a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted. It is unquestionably a fact that the church has advanced as dogma the idea that divorce is a sin—not just a sin but a chief sin—a sin that would never be committed by God’s children. Hence, those who dared divorce were ostracized from the church, which is death for a part of the body to be severed and removed from its source of life (the treatment of all reformers). The result has been untold numbers of severely injured lives due to unequally yoked marriages that needed to be ended but could not be due to this dogmatic approach to divorce.

This problem is not one of the past only, but continues into the 21st century. The time has come for God’s children to doubt and question the dogma on divorce and remarriage and consider anew God’s teaching without this dogma forming a presupposition that prevents them from seeing all that God has revealed.

Biblical view on divorce

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Unraveling the Linchpin: 1Corinthians 7:12-14 (part 2)

The perspective (presuppositions) one has when they arrive at the seventh chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church largely determines how they will interpret this text regarding divorce for those unequally yoked. Nowhere in the word of God can a passage be found that says anything like, “thou shalt not divorce thy spouse”. If such a passage did exist, then Paul would have merely appealed to the commandment of God rather than saying, “if the unbelieving spouse consents to live with you then you must not send them away.” In this biblical passage, Paul provides wisdom for a particular circumstance rather than appealing to the commandment of God (since no commandment exists). Even though God’s word lacks a prohibition against divorcing when unequally yoked, men over the centuries have fabricated an hateful bias against all who divorce. Godless men possess this hateful bias and sadly it runs very deep into the Christian church as well. Furthermore, among the most ubiquitous commands in all of scripture is the command, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers…therefore, come out from their midst and be separate” yet no discernible bias against the unequally yoked exists in Christianity or the world of the ungodly. Consequently, and not at all surprisingly, those who maintain this hateful bias readily interpret Paul’s words in the most restrictive way possible so as to remove the possibility of divorce even for those unequally yoked in marriage.

Unbiblical Doctrines Created From the Forced Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7

A presupposition or bias almost always prevents proper interpretation. The pressure to interpret this text so as to maintain its agreement with this bias tends to open the way for some very unbiblical doctrines.  Here are a few for the readers consideration:

The first unbiblical doctrine from 1 Corinthians 7 fabricated by the anti divorce bias could be called Sanctification by Association. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.” Ezra and Nehemiah did not understand unequally yoked marriages in this light at all…nor does God. Undeniably they recognized God’s command for His people to be separate from the world. Consistent with God’s command they realized that bad company corrupts good morals and failure to heed this particular command always ended in idolatry. The question begs to be asked: Why are these biblical and wise concepts no longer the foundation for interpreting New Testament texts such as this one?

The answer leads to the second unbiblical doctrine coming from 1 Corinthians 7 because of the forced interpretation caused by the presupposition against all divorce.  An hateful bias has crept into the church from the world, and this bias is so entrenched in men’s hearts that they can no longer see clearly on this issue.  The church has, in many ways, surpassed the world in this hateful bias.

Being able to condemn those who must get divorced strokes the egos of those who do not divorce.  On the other hand, remaining separate from the world is most difficult and costly on almost every front. Most Christians strut about like arrogant roosters so proud having never gotten a divorce while failing to recognize just how intertwined with the world they have become. Those who possess the righteousness of Christ should be striving to be pure and undefiled children of the living God untouched by the world and in no way unequally yoked to the children of wrath.  The anti divorce bias prevents them from seeing God’s bigger picture.

Third, in accordance with the interpretation forced upon Paul’s text by this bias, Paul’s text would seem to be arguing that unequally yoked relationships actually improve or enhance the likelihood that God will save the unrepentant partner. If this form of evangelism was effective and if it fit with the gospel, then we would expect God to command His children to be bound together with unbelievers, which is the opposite of what He actually commands. The gospel makes allowance for exactly no merit whatsoever on man’s part. What Paul is actually saying is that believers must give the unbelieving spouse time to be exposed to the same gospel of grace that saved the believing spouse–“remain in that condition in which you were called”.

The apostle Paul of all people understands the gospel.  Sinners cannot improve themselves in any way so as to make themselves more appealing to God’s grace.  Neither can God’s elect children prepare the lost so as to make them more appealing to God’s grace.  God regenerates only those whom it pleases Him to save.  Do we really believe Paul is teaching unequally yoked believers to remain in those marriages in order to enhance their godless spouse making them more appealing to God for salvation?  Those who believe this do not understand God’s word.  Not only does this idea contradict the gospel, but it also contradicts all the scriptures that tell us how much the wicked hate the righteous.

Consider a few biblical passages: “He who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked” (Proverbs 29:27b), “Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes…The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He plans wickedness upon his bed; he sets himself on a path that is not good; he does not despise evil” (Psalm 36:1, 3 and 4), “Do not drag me away with the wicked and with those who work iniquity, who speak peace with their neighbors, while evil is in their hearts (Psalm 28:3) and “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord” (2 Chronicles 19:2)? It is a romantic but false notion that makes Christians believe their godliness will draw the unrepentant to the cross. The Puritans were perhaps the greatest group of believers since the apostles and the world uses them as an example of pure hatred and self-righteous, judgmental hypocrisy. The worldly do not love or like God’s children: “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).

A forth false doctrine that springs from the presumed view of 1 Cor. 7:12-14 states that these believers are not slaves of righteousness so much as they are slaves to their unrighteous spouses. Holding this presumed view must mean that when a believer enters into a covenant with an unbeliever God wants the unbeliever to own the believer as if he/she were a slave. Even our Lord’s exception clause (pornia)  is trumped if the adulterous unbelieving spouse wants to stay. According to this interpretation of the text, as long as the unbelieving spouse wants to stay he can commit adultery with hundreds of other women and his believing wife has to let him stay in the marriage covenant and the marriage bed with her. As long as the unbelieving spouse “consents to live with him/her” the believer must accept any and all behavior without recourse. Of course this contradicts Proverbs 6:1-5, Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 12:49-53, Psalm 89:39, Psalm 101:7-8 and 1 Samuel 15:26 to name a few.

Finally, this hateful bias has obscured a godly view of 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1. The presumed understanding of 1 Cor. 7 must mean that God does not really mean it when he says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”. Untold thousands of men of God have used 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 to teach those who are yet unmarried not to enter into unequally yoked marriage but then turn around and claim that this same passage does not apply to the marriage relationship. If Paul said, “Do not get bound together with unbelievers”, then maybe they would have a point albeit illogical. Nevertheless, the passage says “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”, and this direct command of scripture must not be trumped by a misunderstood interpretation of Paul’s teaching in his first letter to the church at Corinth.

The correct interpretation of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 will fit the rest of scripture perfectly. This is one way we allow scripture to interpret scripture. The proper interpretation has been discerned once it fits the immediate context without contradicting biblical passages that are more frequently and completely communicated.

Therefore it seems appropriate to interpret Paul’s comments as wise counsel for new converts. He is not upending the bedrock principle of separating light from darkness. He is simply telling the Corinthians to apply wisdom as they enter their new life in Christ. They do not need to rush into divorces or undo circumcisions or run away from their slave owners, but simply allow time for God to work out His will in these matters. Perhaps your spouses will receive God’s grace too. Perhaps they will be hardened by the gospel at which time a more mature believer would understand that they are under the command to be free from such godless alliances. As an aside, Paul’s temporarty injunction would include the wise counsel that unequally yoked marriage partners should abstain from having children until God shows them their future paths (together or separate).

Paul is saying, do not act hastily, do nothing to injure another, and by all means do nothing against the law of God or the laws of men. In time God will reveal His will for each one so that they know what changes to make and how they must act. What seems so confusing for baby Christians will soon be very clear if they would just live one day at a time seeking to obey every command of the Lord as they are revealed in the pages of scripture and as the Holy Spirit moves in each ones heart.

What Paul is not saying is that believers must stay unequally yoked in marriage. If Paul believed this, then he never would have said what he said in the second letter to the Corinthian believers at the end of chapter six…it would be a complete contradiction.

Biblical view on divorce


Matthew 19:8 What does, “Because of your hardness of heart” really mean?

Matthew 19:8 “Because of your hardness of hearts Moses permitted you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.”

Also read the more recent article titled, “Paul’s commentary on Matthew 19:8“.

Consider the illogical argumentation of the majority view: Moses, speaking on behalf of God, permitted divorce, which is incorrectly thought by many to be a sin in and of itself.  And we are led to believe that God acted in this fashion because adulterers were insisting upon their adultery? Seriously, are we to believe that God gave hard hearted, treacherous sinners this benefit?  The men in question were seeking release from their marriages so that they could sexually join with women, other than their wives, without being guilty of adultery.  Are we to think that God gave in to such an evil request?  Preposterous!  God demands righteousness from His people…adultery in the Old Testament was grounds for stoning to death.  If Israel insisted upon committing sin and refused repentance, then they could expect His wrath manifested through death, captivity or severe living conditions until they repented.

Nevertheless, many seem to believe that this is precisely what Moses did, and then they believe that Jesus is here undoing it and reverting back to the way God intended marriage from the beginning.  Such a viewpoint would make it difficult to take seriously the immutability of God.

Since this absurd understanding of our Lord’s words is incorrect, then what did Jesus mean with His use of the phrase: “because of your hardness of heart”?  The first test of Christ’s true meaning is that it must be consistent with the rest of Scripture.  Since the fall of Adam men have had hard hearts.  As the hard heartedness of mankind is born out in marriage, God has responded with a license for divorce.  God through Moses did not provide this license to placate the wicked but to protect the innocent marriage partner.  This protection is from continual, daily abuse from the wicked spouse.  This includes many, many wicked behaviors all falling under the description “treacherous”.  Secondly, it is also possible that forcing a godless, treacherous spouse to stay in a marriage they no longer want will push them toward much worse abuse and even often the murder of their innocent spouse a la King Henry VIII.

Once a spouse’s hard heartedness erupts into treachery against their marriage partner either party can petition for divorce because the divorce action is not that which breaks the covenant, but rather it protects the innocent marriage partner from further treacherous actions by the guilty spouse who has already broken the marriage covenant by failing to keep the conditions of the covenant (Primarily: 1.  fidelity and 2.  to love and to cherish).

In response to a question from reprobates, which was designed to trick Jesus into a sinful response, Jesus was addressing a treacherous sin that men of means and position were regularly practicing. These scoundrels came up with a scheme that would allow them access to other women without getting the reputation of being adulterers.  Their scheme made unlawful, unbiblical divorces lawful, which would then open the path for them to take a new woman as their wife.

Jesus informed them that their scheme was transparent to God.  Calling that which was unlawful lawful did not suddenly make their adultery virtuous.  Quite simply, these men were committing adultery and using God’s legal provision of divorce as a diversion to hide their sin.  Jesus realized that it was adultery for three reasons: First, their motive was adultery (they desired relations with women who were not their wives). Secondly, they did not have a treacherous spouse who had broken the conditions of the marriage covenant; hence they were living under an intact marriage covenant.  Finally these men were illegitimately using God’s provision of divorce when their marriage relationships did not call for it.

Seeing their adulterous hearts Jesus pointed out that getting an illegitimate divorce paves the way for adultery and not a second marriage.  Because these Jewish leaders were attempting to use that which was legal (legitimate divorce) as a cover for that which was forbidden (adultery) many have interpreted Jesus’ remarks to be a comprehensive teaching against divorce.  Sadly, this interpretation has created a prohibition where God made provision for legitimate divorces.  And God gave this liberty of divorce for the innocent partners of treacherous spouses who have already broken the marriage covenant through the breaking of it’s conditions to love and to cherish and to remain faithful, forsaking all others.

Therefore, with devastating results much of the church has used Matthew 19:8 to remove or reverse Moses’ law that permits legitimate divorces even in the light of Jesus saying, “…until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).  Indeed it is wrong, as Jesus was pointing out, to call an unlawful divorce lawful, and it is equally wrong to call a lawful divorce unlawful (Deut. 24:1, 2 & Jeremiah 3:1). Having done so has resulted in untold tens of thousands of believers suffering needlessly under the tyrannical abuse of a covenant-breaking spouse.

Both scripture and logic have been turned upon their heads as the conditions and promises in the marriage covenant have been eviscerated.  They were divinely intended to protect the marriage partners so that marriage would be a blessing and not a curse, and the church cut them out making millions of marriages curses rather than blessings.  This illogical and unbiblical interpretation exposes the godly or innocent marriage partner to the very harm for which God’s Mosaic license intended to shield.  And to add insult to injury, the offenders are protected by the church’s misinterpretation of our Lord’s words.

The covenant breaker maintains dignity as they cannot be put out of the marriage for having broken its conditions, they maintain financial protection, and they maintain access to their innocent partner, access to their children, access to all relations and friends. They use deception to ruin the good name of the innocent spouse; forget not that this evil is done from the innermost position of spouse giving it credibility to those outside the marriage.

The hard hearted spouse uses cruelty, manipulation, deception and slander to attack the innocent spouse and to hide their own sin and shame.  Their wicked behavior causes friends and family to view the problematic marriage as a ‘he said, she said’ private matter between the married couple thus leaving the innocent partner without any support.  Most people will not know what or who to believe and they will cast aspersions upon both the innocent and guilty parties in the marriage. Everything about this interpretation is injurious to the innocent party, while the guilty party comes off looking better than had the truth been fully disclosed in open divorce proceedings.  All of this intentional confusion and chaos plays into the hands of the wicked spouse who is the only beneficiary of the church’s misinterpretation of Jesus’ position on God’s permission for divorce.  And frequently this position does not even benefit the wicked spouse, which is to say not only is the glory of God’s name injured, but none benefit–all are injured.

The church’s shameful reversal of God’s provision for divorce forces unequally yoked believers to wrestle with pigs in the mud and expose themselves to bad company. It prevents them from following so many wisdom passages in Scripture such as:

“The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Prov. 14:1).
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20).
“Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge” (Prov. 14:7).
“Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord?” (2 Chron. 19:2)
“A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left” (Eccl. 10:2).
“He cuts off his own feet and drinks violence who sends a message by the hand of a fool.” “Like one who binds a stone in a sling, so is he who gives honor to a fool.” “Like an archer who wounds everyone, so is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by” (Prov. 26:6, 8 and 10).
“Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words” (Prov. 23:9).
“A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping” (Prov. 19:13).
“Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you” (Prov. 9:8).
“Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.’ And He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life’” parenthesis mine (Luke 18:28-30).
“For I (Jesus) came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” parenthesis mine (Matthew 10:35-36).

Oh, dear members of the body of Christ, I pray that God will help each of you rediscover God’s provision for divorce to all believers who are unequally yoked to unbelievers in their marriages.

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14)


Mark Twain Quote

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”


Unraveling the Linchpin: 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 (Part 1)

Two biblical themes collide in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 and both must be maintained if the passage is to be understood properly. The first theme is God’s intention that marriage is sacred and was, in the beginning, intended to continue until the death of one of the two participants. The second theme, which is ubiquitous in the scriptures, is God’s command to be separate from the world. Using this passage as the linchpin for the argument that the marriage covenant supersedes the command against unequally yoked relationships fails to serve either biblical theme well, but those who do so are so bent on protecting their understanding of the sanctity of marriage that they fail to see what their argumentation actually does to this text and to God’s children who find themselves unequally yoked in marriage.

Anticipating man’s fall, God instituted marriage to slow mankind’s decent into sin particularly in the following three areas: Unequally yoked relationships (which historically always led God’s people into idolatry), fornication/adultery and homosexuality. The depravity of unequally yoked marriages and homosexual marriages destroys God’s intention for marriage as both of these illegitimate marriages accelerate and deepen a man’s decent into sin.
The presumed view of 1 Cor. 7:12-14 is that Paul is teaching Christians that they can neither leave nor put away (divorce) their spouse on the basis of their unbelief (unrepentant wickedness). To understand this text as a command for believers to remain yoked in their marriage relationships to unbelievers is a contradiction to hundreds, if not thousands, of biblical passages that command God’s children to be separate from the world. In fact, this understanding contradicts many of Paul’s own teachings to the very same Corinthian believers. For instance, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians ends with these words: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.” Paul uses the Greek word “anathema” which connotes an imprecation (to call the curse of God upon), and to excommunicate and denunciate. To denounce someone includes giving notice of the termination of an alliance or covenant with that person. It is inconceivable to think that Paul is commanding believers to remain in a lifelong marriage to a person who is an anathema to all Christians. Either the unbelieving spouse must become born-again or the believer is obligated to denunciate them via divorce and remain single or marry in the Lord. A passage in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1) is an even stronger contradiction of the presumed view.

So what did Paul mean when he said if the unbelieving spouse wants to stay with the believer, then the believer must not send them away (divorce)? The answer to this question is the key to upending the linchpin argument in support of maintaining unequally yoked marriages. Briefly stated, Paul was writing to new believers, as all regenerate people were new believers in the first century, and he was explaining to his Corinthian audience that as God has recently regenerated you from your spiritually dead state bear in mind that He may soon regenerate your spouse as well, so do not follow the ubiquitous commands of scripture to separate yourself from godless people until you have had enough time to determine whether or not your unbelieving spouse is going to harden or soften to the gospel. If your unbelieving spouse softens to the gospel, then praise God because He will have removed you from the sin of an unequally yoked marriage. If your unbelieving spouse hardens to the gospel, then you are under the command not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers, which Paul provided these same Corinthian believers in 2 Corinthians 6:14f.  Following Ezra’s biblical pattern you then must make a covenant with God to divorce your unbelieving spouse.  Then you follow through in the most loving and kind way possible taking every opportunity to do right by your unbelieving spouse and the children you brought into this godless relationship.