Category Archives: Biblical view on divorce

Here God Once Dwelt

The Puritan John Howe when preaching on the fall would recall seeing large palaces or castles that have fallen to ruins and there would be a sign hanging above the entrance saying something like “Centuries ago, such and such a king once dwelt here.” Then Howe would go on to say, “Now, as a result of man’s fall into sin, it is written over man, ‘Here, God once dwelt.’”

When man fell in the Garden of Eden he lost his original righteousness and thus his correspondence to God. God’s immediate response was to condemn man and put him out of Eden. No longer having correspondence with God man could no longer be together with God. The scriptures inform that it was the woman who first fell and then the man. Had Eve fallen alone, is there any reason whatsoever to believe that Adam would have been condemned along with her and both of them put out of the garden? Both logically and theologically, had Adam continued in his original righteousness, then he would have continued having correspondence to God and therefore would not have been condemned and put out of Eden.

Well then, one could speculate that perhaps Eve would have been allowed to stay in the garden with Adam even though she alone had fallen; after all she had become Adam’s wife. The Lord Jesus said, “What God has joined together let no man separate”. In our Lord’s statement we find the obvious doctrine, implicit, yet undeniable, that only God can separate what He has joined together and that is precisely what God would have done in this scenario. Eve would have been put out of the garden because she alone would have come under condemnation and she alone would have no longer had correspondence to God and, in fact, she would not have had correspondence to Adam either.

In this scenario they would have become unequally yoked in marriage, and God would have divorced them by putting Eve out of the garden alone. But some will argue that this is merely speculation. Since it never happened it cannot be known what God would have done. Speculation means: The act of theorizing. To speculate means: To form conjectures regarding anything without experiment (experience). To conjecture is to guess or to presume knowledge that is simply unknown.

Is it conjecture that man’s sin caused a separation between man and God? Few biblical doctrines are more sure than sin separates man from God. Is it conjecture that a just God would not punish an innocent man? The situation may be hypothetical but as to how God would have responded is sure. Adam would have continued in fellowship with God in the garden and Eve would have been stricken dead or put out of the garden, and since God put the both of them out of the garden for committing this offense together there is no reason, other than stubbornness of mind, to think that God would have done anything else with Eve had she alone fallen into sin.

But God in His everlasting lovingkindness sent His only begotten Son into the world so that whosoever believes in Him shall come out from under God’s condemnation and once again have correspondence to God. The righteousness of Christ Jesus is the possession of all those truly born-again. So then, they, once again, have correspondence to God in their spirit. They are granted eternal life and will forever dwell with God.

However, they no longer correspond to those children of Satan who refuse repentance. If God’s remedy for a failure to correspond to a righteous being is to put the unrighteous, condemned soul out, then that is precisely what must be done here. Notwithstanding Paul’s temporary injunction to the Corinthians that if the unbelieving spouse wants to stay then let them stay. Paul provided a “grace period” with this temporary injunction so that the grace of God in salvation might come to the unsaved spouse as well. Some time is necessary to see whether or not the unbelieving spouse softens or hardens to the gospel of grace.

Then after an appropriate amount of time divorce is inevitable as Paul subsequently commanded the Corinthian believers “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”. And the great apostle gave this command because the two no longer have correspondence to one another. Then Paul quotes the scriptures saying, “Come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Saints who are presently bound in marriages with unbelievers should be agreed that marital separation from such unions is inevitable, and seek to know the mind of God concerning the steps which they should take.

Adam and Eve stayed married to one another because they continued in their correspondence one to another throughout their entire lives (they fell and remained fallen together), but when a marriage consists of one born-again person in whom there is no condemnation and one child of Satan who is already condemned by God a divorce is the biblically mandated remedy. It is God that has separated them when He brought only one of them out from under His just condemnation. The one condemned should be called to repentance, and if they refuse they should be put out of the marriage as they no longer have correspondence with their righteous spouse or with God who dwells within the believing spouse.

Marriages, throughout man’s long history, between saints and scoundrels have it written over them, “Here, God has never dwelt.”


Why are God and the Scriptures In Favor of Marital Divorce, While Most of the Body of Christ is Against It?

God has made allowances for marital divorce, and the greater portion of the church throughout its history has restricted divorce to the saints where God’s word has offered liberty. Since this is out of character for godly men it must be asked: Why has this happened?  Interpretive errors of this sort take place when biblical interpreters begin to think about the process of applying the truth of God’s word to God’s people before they first receive the pure message of the truth from God’s word.  Stated differently, occasions arise when the leadership of the body of Christ is more untrusting of their flocks than they are trusting of the Great Sheppard. Whatever the cause, the interpretation of scripture is susceptible to such negative influences, which cause human errors. Additionally, as each generation passes without correction it becomes more difficult to go against the tide of church history. Two examples in the following paragraphs should be considered.

One of the great debates over scriptural interpretation is found in Romans’ seventh chapter. Some argue that this passage describes a believer continuing to struggle with sin, while others say the person of whom Paul speaks could not possibly be a believer because he is still enslaved to sin. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in teaching on Romans chapters 6-8 clearly and deliberately points out that the great apostle Paul is teaching that it is the spirit of a man that is justified and saved while the body remains in sin. Understanding this dichotomy makes it obvious that the person being described in chapter 7 is a believer whose holy and redeemed spirit is warring with his “body of death”. The interpretive problem is no longer necessary if all the saints simply understood the dichotomy between the spirit and the body for those who have been justified. God revealed this truth so that the saints could more effectively win the war against the flesh, so it is to every believer’s great benefit that they properly comprehend the condition in which all the saints find themselves.

Nevertheless, virtually none in the church have seen and expressed what Lloyd-Jones so clearly saw. Why? It is likely because they feared this biblical teaching would push people in the direction of Gnosticism. The core of Gnosticism was that the material world is bad, that the God described in the Old Testament is not the God and Father of Jesus Christ, and that salvation is obtained not by atonement but by means of “secret knowledge”. It seems likely that the healthy fear of heresy pushed the saints away from Lloyd-Jones’ proper interpretation of scripture. The fear that believers would see the body as bad no matter what and that only their spirit had been redeemed would push them into an admixture of Gnosticism and antinomianism. This would cause them to think of themselves as holy spiritually while allowing for all kinds of debauchery in the flesh.

However, it is not the prerogative of the saints to fail in teaching the whole word of God because of a fear that some will abuse certain truths. Such a fear demonstrates a lake of faith in God. Scripture demonstrates that the Holy Spirit does not allow the saints to transgress for long—it is His work to draw them back into obedience. Only the tares amongst the wheat would take such opportunisms to sin freely and they would do it regardless. Paul’s intended meaning in Romans 6-8 (overlooked by so many of the saints) is plainly stated in Romans 8:10, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones stood nearly alone by proclaiming this very edifying biblical doctrine while most seemingly shun its teaching because of a fear of Gnosticism—what an awful shame.

This is not the only instance of a shunning of the true meaning of biblical passages by the church at large. A similar misapprehension of scripture is commonplace when it comes to the biblical doctrine of divorce for those unequally yoked in marriage. The word of God indubitably makes provision for divorce for the unequally yoked believer, yet the church has hobbled together, from a few misinterpreted passages, a prohibition against such divorces. Why? What would motivate otherwise godly saints to misapprehend clear passages of scripture in this way? It seems apparent that churchmen have feared wide scale abuse of God’s loving provisions of liberty for His beloved in such marriages. They feared that making allowance for those who truly warranted a divorce would open up the floodgates for those who would avail themselves of the same liberty without warrant. So then, these fears created a presupposition, which in turn prevented churchmen from apprehending God’s original intent on the doctrine of divorce for those unequally yoked in marriage. That is it. That is the thing that has been done.

For this reason the saints have, through the ages, misapprehended certain teachings clearly found in the pages of holy writ. Unquestionably it is an egregious error made by these saints to question God and His word. God gave us these truths because they are in the best interest of the saints. God knows best. We will be much more safe and filled with joy standing with Him even when it means we stand alone in the church as Martyn Lloyd-Jones often did.

FOR A REAL BLESSING: Go to mljtrust.org and click on “Sermons” and put 8104 into the box provided.

Listen for yourself to Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the spirit and the body. Prepare to be blessed by a great man of God already rejoicing with the Lord in heaven.


How the body of Christ Misunderstood God’s Teaching on Divorce

The church has traditionally held a prohibitive position on marital divorce for those in the body of Christ who found themselves to be chronically bound in marriage to an unbeliever, yet I believe that position to be the very opposite of the instructions given in God’s holy word. Obviously the burden of proof falls upon the lone dissenter and not upon the larger body.  So then, if the church has traditionally and continually taken the opposite view from that found in the scriptures then the reasons for missing the mark should be retraceable.

Here is a list of those very reasons that have biased the people of God away from His clearly revealed will on the subject of marital divorce for believers bound together with unbelievers:

  1. The church has consistently failed at being in the world but not of the world. It rarely fulfills God’s desire for believers to separate themselves from unbelievers.
  2. The church focused in at least two wrong directions. It focused upon marriage without regard to the greater doctrine of separation from the world. FYI: The church thus far is not repeating this mistake in its approach to homosexual marriage. Secondly, when unequally yoked marriages began to fail the church focused on the symptoms (Adultery, desertion, and physical abuse, deception, corruption, etc.) rather than upon the condition (unequally yoked marriage).
  3. Family is near the top of the list of idols, and many so-called Christians worship at the family alter sadly prioritizing/worshipping family instead of God. When family is worshipped marital divorce damages the image of one’s idol.
  4. Departing biblical and logical reasoning, churchman transubstantiated divorce from its appropriate place as an amoral action to an almost unforgivable sin. If divorce in and of itself was a sin, then Ezra would not have entered into a covenant with God to oversee the divorces of over a hundred unequally yoked marriages, and God would not have divorced Israel. Like divorce, marriage is an amoral action. Transforming marital divorce into a sin is equivalent to calling marriage a virtue. But getting into an unequally yoked marriage, a homosexual marriage, a polygamous marriage or an open marriage are all regarded as sinful behaviors against God. Marriage to a “suitable” (Gen. 2:20) partner is a virtue, just as divorcing unsuitable partners is a virtue.
  5. The church was behind the shotgun wedding concept. The desire to force men to atone for their wicked behavior supplanted God’s command for equally yoked marriages. Two wrongs do not make a right. Forcing a scoundrel to get married does not inhibit his evil desires and actions; it does however avail him a ready victim for further wickedness.
  6. The church built a man-made doctrine on divorce based upon a few passages of scripture, often out of context, to the exclusion of much greater passages and related doctrines.
  7. The church failed to make a distinction for divorce between those who are equally yoked and those who are unequally yoked (see article on a comparison to killing).
  8. Most of the church failed to understand the actual condition of those unequally yoked, so they made them feel guilty for their sin and deserving of the life-long, “consequences”. Consequences that were actually forbidden by God but wrongfully insisted upon by churchmen.
  9. Fairness or the pettiness of man: “The rest of us don’t get a do-over, so neither should you”.
  10. Churchmen have fallen into group think and have come under the pressure of each generations’ thinking the same way.

All of the causes listed above have been explained in detail previously in blog articles except for the second cause, which is why it will be the focus of this article.

The argument of this second reason why the church missed the mark is that the church focused in at least two wrong directions:

FIRST, MARRIAGE BALKANIZED FROM DOCTRINE OF SEPARATION

First, the church balkanized marriage from the greater doctrine of separation from the world, and secondly, the church set out to treat the symptoms that inevitably arise in unequally yoked marriages rather than upon the condition of a believer who is bound together with an unbeliever in marriage.

Marriage and subsequently divorce have traditionally been balkanized from the biblically ubiquitous doctrine of separation, which has lead to a very high volume of Christians binding themselves to children of Satan in marriage, and it has also lead to an unbiblical doctrine of divorce for those who have done so. We must face the truth; the church has not agreed throughout the centuries as to what actually constitutes a marriage or put another way, who exactly is married and who is not.  Today it has almost become an antiquarian idea for a young couple to get married without having slept together in the marriage bed for months or even years first.  Churchmen are looking the other way as they call them neither married nor fornicators.  On the other hand, young couples with traditional values could meet, fall in love and marry all within the span of a month until one of them decides they made a big mistake.  They could separate from their new spouse and get a divorce, and the church would mark them as a divorced person for the rest of their life.  While the cohabitating couples can live together for twenty years all the while engaging in sexual relations and even having children together, but when their relationship falls apart and they separate the church fails to mark them as divorced even though God and the state does not fail to do so.

So we must ask ourselves, are people married because their parents arranged a marriage against their wishes, because they simply claim to be married, because they have a marriage license, because they had a church ceremony, because they have voluntary sexual relations, because they live together regularly having sexual relations, because they have entered into a covenant, or because God has joined them as husband and wife? When does God view them as a married couple?

To understand marriage apart from God’s doctrine of separation from the world is very much like trying to understand marriage apart from God’s doctrine on homosexuality. Today homosexuals claim to be married, they can get a license, they can have “church” ceremonies, they can live together, they can make a covenant with one another, but God certainly does not join them in marriage for He says “to the wicked”, “What right have you…to take My covenant in your mouth” (Psalm 50:16)?  So if God prohibits both homosexual marriages and unequally yoked marriages, then why does the church acknowledge one as a legitimate marriage and not the other?

Certainly if a person in a homosexual marriage wanted to repent of their homosexual behavior the church would be quick to celebrate their legal divorce, and that repentant soul would not be marked with a “D” for divorce. They would rather be lauded as being wonderfully repentant.  But if an unequally yoked person wanted to repent of their godless marriage they are forbidden to do so by the church and get no support whatsoever from the church before, during or after they choose to obey God who clearly commanded, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).  And this even after the biblical example of Ezra and Nehemiah’s last chapters depicting over a hundred examples of divorces for the unequally yoked.

So then, if two males are not “suitable” or do not “correspond to” [Genesis 2:20] one another for the purposes of marriage then neither do a saint and a reprobate “correspond to” one another. In fact, their worlds are further apart than are those of two males who are both unrepentant.  Neither pairing can expect God’s blessing upon a marriage union; neither pairing has a right to take God’s covenant in their mouth.  Therefore both pairings must not fear a divine prohibition or hindrance when they repent by divorcing their unsuitable partners.

SECONDLY, TREATING SYMPTOMS SUPPLANTED CURING THE CONDITION

Now we should like to consider how the church set out to treat the symptoms that inevitably arise in unequally yoked marriages rather than upon the condition of a believer who is bound together with an unbeliever in marriage.

Consider the analogy of a sick person seeking a physician’s care. When a person seeks medical attention the physician immediately begins probing the patient for the symptoms that have caused them to seek medical attention.  The reason a prudent physician collects symptoms is that she wants to properly diagnose the actual condition of her patient.  Imprudent physicians, on the other hand, treat the symptoms one by one in order to make the patient feel more comfortable in their poor condition, which often leads to a declining condition and ultimately a fatal condition.

The prudent physician seeks to accurately diagnose the condition as early as possible in an attempt to separate the patient from their diseased and declining condition. Once an accurate diagnosis is determined the physician can work to replace the patient’s diseased condition with a healthy condition.  Having a successful diagnosis and cure the symptoms miraculously disappear.

The doctrine of divorce for the unequally yoked believer becomes plain when these logical concepts are applied. Has the church traditionally acted like the prudent physician or the imprudent physician?  Clearly the church has acted imprudently in treating the symptoms one by one as they arise in these marriages while forbidding a removal of the diseased and declining condition in which the regenerate marriage partner finds himself/herself.  The regenerate partner, being bound together with an unbeliever, is in a diseased and declining condition.  The church should have diagnosed this condition and prescribed a complete separation from the unbelieving spouse as was done in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.  This restorative action would remove the believing spouse from their diseased and declining condition and restore to them a healthy condition.  The symptoms of adultery, abandonment, physical abuse, lying, cheating, corrupting, slandering, impairing spiritual growth and so many more would miraculously disappear as the diseased and declining condition has been dealt with once and for all.

To be clear, how exactly has the church focused upon the symptoms at the expense of the unequally yoked believer whose condition is diseased and declining? To begin with the church has tried to determine which, if any, of the symptoms rise to the level of making an allowance for divorce.  In their desire to be consistent most churchmen historically have decided that no allowance for divorce is biblical; as stated earlier they balkanized the doctrine of separation from the world and marriage in order to draw this conclusion.  Secondly, the church has engaged extensively in counseling unequally yoked couples and trying to get them to “get along” better.  This has so horribly missed the mark, and it should have been obvious to all who read the scriptures that such a path could never work.

Paul told the Corinthians as much when he wrote the following:

2 Corinthians 6:14-16, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belieal, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?”

The church has been trying to reconcile couples who God says have no chance at partnership, fellowship, harmony, commonality, and agreement. Not to mention that God has forbidden believers to enter into these marriages, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”  And anecdotes of keeping these marriages peacefully together do not pass the muster as it cannot be shown how much more sanctified the believer would have been had they never married or quickly divorced the unbelieving spouse and gotten remarried to a fellow believer as scripture prescribes.

As it currently stands, the church has effectively deemed as outcasts all of its unequally yoked members who have gone through a marital divorce when what it should have been doing was casting out the wicked condition of being unequally yoked from its churches. They failed to mark as wicked the condition of being unequally yoked, and they succeeded at demonizing brothers and sisters who have not only been cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who have also taken the difficult step of repenting of their unequally yoked marriage.  Had the church focused upon the condition of being bound together with unbelievers rather than focusing upon the symptoms of these marriages it would have far more effectively prevented a significant percentage of these marriages.  Had the church effectively shamed the practice of marrying outside the kingdom of God rather than celebrating such marriages after the stubborn members of the church entered into them, the unequally yoked pandemic within the body of Christ would have never taken place.  The church would have been so much the better for having followed God’s path, and untold numbers of God’s children could have avoided entire lifetimes of the evil influence of godless spouses.

The church is finding out how this proper approach would have worked as it applies it to the homosexual marriage issue. When a church follows God’s precepts, whole families will leave the church in order to support their homosexual family member.  While they think they are demonstrating love for a family member bent on sin they merely succeed at cementing their loved one in their sinful condition against God.  In so doing, these family members should feel the pain of separation from the body of Christ when they stand up for an unrepentant family member over the bible and the church.  They should sense a tug toward the world and away from God for choosing an unrepentant family member over obedience to the word of God.  Jesus said he came not to bring peace but to divide families.  Why?  Because some would prove to be children of God and others would remain children of Satan.  This will inevitably drive a wedge between even the closest of family members.  Every regenerate soul has felt this separation take place.  Therefore, the absence of this separation clearly indicates that regeneration has not taken place for the family members uniting over an issue of sin.

The church can still get this right. The church must get this right.  God says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”


Divorce the Sons of Disobedience or Sink Into Damnable Idolatry

“I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before Me.” The first of the Ten Commandments could not be clearer, yet the Israelites continually sought the gods of the nations, particularly they worshipped the Baals. The worship of any other than the living God is by definition idolatry—having an idol. However, this unfaithfulness to God is also called adultery; theologically it is called spiritual adultery so that it remains distinct from physical adultery. God uses the imagery of physical adultery to show Israel how wicked they were behaving in their relationship with God when they turned to the gods of the nations (spiritual adultery). Note: The inverse is not also true, which is to say that God does not view those born under idolatry as being faithful when they worship the gods of their fathers. It is not only the Israelites who must have no other gods before the God of creation, but all of mankind is guilty of spiritual adultery when they fail to worship God. In the same way, God’s children do not belong in marriages with spiritual adulterers. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14). So then, God’s word clearly states, “You shall have no other gods before Me”, and “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” thus God’s people must divorce themselves of any and all false gods and they must divorce themselves of any and all unequally yoked relationships with those who worship false gods.

Scripture uses the marriage between a man and a woman to demonstrate man’s relationship with God. Israel and Judah are depicted as being the bride of God. The church is depicted as the bride of Christ. The gospel commands all men to come to Christ; being apart from Christ is to be guilty of spiritual adultery. Those born under false gods are commanded to divorce themselves of those gods (repent of their idolatry) and embrace Christ Jesus. In exactly the same way those married to the children of Satan are commanded to divorce their spiritually adulterous spouses (repent of being unequally yoked) and remarry only in the Lord or remain single.

THE CHURCHES ONE SIZE FITS ALL APPROACH TO MARRIATAL DIVORCE

Whether it is with the god of our youth or the bride of our youth it is too simple to say that we must stay with them until death in order to be free of adultery. Adultery is the sin of joining or giving yourself to someone or something when you rightly belong to someone else. This manifests three situations whereby we would be guilty of adultery. To begin with, the first of the Ten Commandments commands all humans to have no other gods besides God, which is God’s claim upon mankind. So anyone worshipping anything other than God is guilty of spiritual adultery. Secondly, when two believers unite in marriage they belong to one another as husband and wife and therefore commit adultery whenever they give themselves to another. Finally, when a believer joins himself in marriage to an unbeliever he is committing adultery because God’s word clearly instructs him that he belongs to/with a fellow believer; he literally belongs to another (a coheir of Christ Jesus) even when her identity is yet unknown to him.

God’s desire for His children is that they love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and that they dwell together in unity (love one another as they love themselves). Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” In the 101st Psalm David is speaking not on God’s behalf but on his own when he says, “No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me. He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me (Psalm 101: 5-7).
We are commanded as God’s children to dwell in unity with those who are faithful and walking in God’s blameless way. David clearly states that the unbeliever shall not “dwell within my house” nor shall he “maintain his position before me.” Oh man or woman of God, do you have the heart of David who himself was a man after God’s heart? Do you allow a child of Satan to dwell within your house? Do you have a spiritual adulterer maintaining their position as your spouse? King David clearly says he would not allow such. Jesus agreed with David when He said, “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” (Luke 18:29).

The Lord’s meaning is made clearer in Matthew 10:34-39 were Jesus informed His followers that He brings not peace but a sword, and with the sword He would divide and separate His children away from those who remain lost in disobedience. Even the most intimate family relationships will be divided as we follow God’s way while our family members continue in the way of unrighteousness.

So then, we must address the elephant in the room. Clearly we understand that scripture commands God’s true followers to separate themselves from all unbelievers and dwell in unity with their fellow heirs in Christ Jesus. This includes divorcing unbelieving spouses. A failure to do so makes you guilty of committing adultery for you belong to and must delight in the majestic ones upon the earth (Psalm 16:3). Yet the church has taught for centuries that to divorce an unequally yoked spouse is adultery. The word of God must correct the traditions of men. The word of God must determine our doctrinal views. The word of God must correct man-made doctrines even when those doctrines are held by otherwise godly men. We must not allow man-made doctrines, even those that have become centuries old traditions, the power to interpret the word of God. The time has come to correct this misunderstanding of God’s holy word and separate ourselves from the sons of disobedience.

I dedicate this article to my beloved wife Hilary who is a fellow heir of Christ Jesus and truly a Proverbs 31 lady. We were joined in holy matrimony on this very date four years ago. Thank you Lord God for the beautiful gift you provided for me in answer to years of earnest prayer.


Does God Actually Hate Divorce?

A straight commandment against divorce does not exist in the holy word of God. Even a clear condemnation of divorce would be useful for the fight to prohibit any divorce actions, but that too is not found in God’s word. In the entire Old Testament not a word against divorce is spoken until the final book. In the short book of Malachi many point to the words so poorly translated in modern versions of the Greek text, “’For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel’” as all the proof they need that every divorce is an act of sin. Even those who clearly know better use this passage and give hearty approval to others to use this passage to say something it clearly does not say. Why would men of God act so wickedly about a passage of God’s word? It is done because those who passionately obstruct every path to divorce have very weak biblical grounds for their position, so they must distort biblical passages to justify it. Though it is true that God’s word clearly condemns those who use divorce to deal treacherously with their spouse it is a man-made doctrine that restricts divorce entirely.

What does the short book of Malachi actually say regarding marriage and divorce? As always the beginning point is to understand the book’s purpose or “big point”. Malachi is directed, almost entirely, at the priests who have clearly fallen into a state of unbelief—they no longer fear God. Malachi 1:6 quotes God as saying, “O priests who despise My name.” Then Malachi lists several sinful behaviors that the priests routinely engage in that demonstrate their hatred of God or even their disbelief altogether. Parenthetically, God compares the priests of Malachi’s day with Levi of whom God says, “…he revered Me and stood in awe of My name…but as for you, you have turned aside from the way…you have corrupted the covenant of Levi” (2:5-8). God, through Malachi, continues pointing out some of the many ways in which the priests have become entirely godless.

Then using the synecdoche “Judah” to continue referring to the priests Malachi adds to the list of transgressions against God’s law the entering into forbidden marriages with godless woman (unequally yoked marriages). “Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Isreal and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord which He loves and has married the daughter of a foreign god” (2:11). In this passage and ubiquitously in scripture unequally yoked marriages are viewed as acts of treachery against our covenant to be God’s people.

The next transgression listed against the priests of Malachi’s day is that they “have dealt treacherously” with their godly wives whom they married when they were young—and presumably at least trying to live faithfully in their covenant with God. How are they dealing treacherously with their Judean wives? Clearly they have been taking for themselves godless wives who no doubt appeal more to their sensuality. Secondly, as if that were not bad enough, they began “putting out” their Judean wives. The text does not actually use the word for divorce, so we do not know if these Judean wives were being given a certificate of divorce or not (most believe they were not). Either way as the acts of dissolution of the marriage covenant were a result of treacherous behavior on the part of the priests these acts angered the Lord God because they were wicked treatment of the women—failure to love your fellow man. Thus we have the infamous quote of God saying, “I hate divorce” (2:16).

The better English translation comes from the American Standard Version because the New American Standard Bible broke its own rules and interpreted the text instead of merely translating it. The infamous verse actually says, “For I hate putting away, says Jehovah, the God of Israel, and him that covers his garment with violence, says Jehovah of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously” (2:16 ASV).

It is the acts of treachery that God hates so very much as should men of God in every age. With respect to marriage, there were two treacherous acts these godless priests were committing against God. The first was entering into unequally yoked marriages with women who were not part of the family of God or said differently “the daughter of a foreign god”. The second was to deal treacherously with their Judean wives of whom the passage says, “…you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (2:14). Therefore, these wives were: a. faithful in their companionship, which is to say that they had not abandoned their husbands, and b. faithful in their marriage covenant, which is to say that they remained pure by not sexually joining themselves to anyone other than their husbands nor were they making themselves unavailable to their husbands in the marriage bed. The reason the priests were treacherous is because neither of their wives’ faithful qualities describes them. And to add insult to injury these priests were trying to cloak their violent treachery with “legal” divorces and marriages.

In the 21st century the faithful wives of these treacherous priests would be treated with the same distain as their godless husbands because they would have the same “D” for divorce stamped on to their spiritual forehead for the remainder of their lives. Although they were living up to their end of their marital covenant they still experienced a divorce because their spouse ended up being a traitor to God and a covenant breaker to them. But those who prohibit divorce in every instance label the innocent victims of treacherous spouses as equally treacherous themselves because they have a d-e-v-o-r-c-e on their record.

I have no delusions, I realize that the permanence view people would decry my argument as slanderous to their actual position, but they are wrong to defend themselves. The outcome of their position paints every divorced person equally guilty and shameful, regardless of their guilt or innocence. This current state of affairs can and must be set right.


All Who are Wise and Who are In Christ Jesus Should Read This Paragraph

This is the blog author speaking directly to you the reader. I have labored intensely to understand God’s heart and mind on the issue of divorce for the unequally yoked. Dr. Greg Bahnsen had an intellect that far surpasses mine, and everyone who wants to know what God’s word actually says about divorce and remarriage would be a fool if they do not read the 5 part Theses he wrote in 1984 that I have placed on this blog. I apologize for breaking it into 5 parts, but so many will not read a larger article. I have studied divorce from a biblical standpoint for four years, which has given me the foundation to see the brilliance of Bahnsen’s Theses. I will be studying his theses in depth for the next few weeks and months, and I will write again at that time. Bear in mind, the “no divorce ever crowd” will treat every divorced person like a second class Christian at best, but I believe that many of God’s children are sinning by remaining in their unequally yoked marriages. One last note: Bahnsen’s Theses makes “fornication” the critical and only grounds for divorce, but pay close attention to how God’s word defines fornication.

Christ’s Continued Blessings to all the beloved of the Lord.


Part 1: Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s Theses on Divorce and Spousal Abuse

Note: Both R.C. Sproul and the author of this blog disagree with Dr. Bahnsen’s final point (C. 5. A regenerate believer who has an adulterous, but repentant, spouse will forgive the spouse and seek a restored relationship, imitating God’s gracious reaction to the sinner).

A. At the beginning of human history, prior to man’s sinful condition, there was no just ground for divorce.

1. “He said to them, With reference to your hard-heartedness Moses authorized you to divorce your wives, but it has not been so from the beginning” (Matthew 19:8).

2. “From the beginning” (Matt. 19:8) alludes to man’s situation when God “made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4) – when God instituted marriage with the words of Genesis 2:24 (Matt. 19:5).

3. “Hard-heartedness” (Matt. 19:8) is a Biblical figure of speech for man’s fallen or unregenerate nature which does not believe or obey God (see LXX for Deut. 10:16; Prov. 17:20; Jer. 4:4; Ezek. 3:7; and in the NT, Mark 16:14). Regeneration is described as God taking away the “stony heart” and replacing it with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).

B. Ideally there should be no divorce; it is contrary to what God desires most.

1. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).

2. “For I hate divorce, says Jehovah, the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16).

3. These words state the ideal, for God Himself makes provision for putting marriage asunder (Matt. 19:8-9; cf. Deut. 24:1) and practices divorce Himself (Jer. 3:8).

4. Similarly, death and killing are contrary to the divine ideal (and would not have come into the picture “from the beginning”), but due to man’s sinful condition God gives orders regarding them (e.g., Gen. 9:6; Deut. 21:23).

C. Between two regenerate believers, there should be no divorce whatsoever, even for the cause of fornication.

1. For believers redeemed from sin, the original creation ordinance (A) and God’s highest desire for marriage (B) will be their guide. Sinful behavior and attitudes between husband and wife will be dealt with apart from recourse to divorce – according to redemptive principles (analogous to the relation between Christ and the church, Eph. 5:22-33).

2. “But unto the married I give charge (not I, but the Lord) that the wife not depart from her husband…, and that the husband leave not his wife” (I Corinthians 7:10, 12).

3. Fornication is not the unforgiveable sin (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11; Mark 3:28; 1 John 1:7).

4. A regenerate believer who falls into the sin of adultery will offer genuine repentance for it (Ps. 51; Jas. 4:8-10; I John 1:9; Matt. 5:23-24) and do the works appropriate for turning from it (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20). Refusal to repent in this way must be taken as a sign that the person is not truly a believer (I Cor. 6:9-10; Prov. 28:13; Luke 13:3, 5) – eventuating in excommunication, if need be.

5. A regenerate believer who has an adulterous, but repentant, spouse will forgive the spouse and seek a restored relationship, imitating God’s gracious reaction to the sinner (Matt. 6:12-15; 18:15, 21-35; Eph. 4:32). Forgiveness necessitates reconciliation and precludes divorce, for God does not forgive the sinner and then say “Depart from Me into everlasting darkness”! (Matt. 25:21, 30, 34, 41; Ps. 85:2-3; 103:12; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:21-22; cf. 2 Cor. 2:7-9) Refusal to forgive in this way must be taken as a sign that the person is not truly a believer (Matt. 6:15; 18:34-35; I John 3:14-16) – eventuating in excommunication, if need be.
Author: Greg Bahnsen