Category Archives: divorce rate

Reclaiming God’s Provision of Divorce: God’s Prescribed Means of Dealing with Sin in the Church

Divorce and divorcees are viewed by the church as unholy.  Yet God divorced Israel for her unrepentant godlessness.  God’s divorce action against Israel cannot be unholy because God is most holy.  If God, of whom it is said is Holy, Holy, Holy, divorced his bride because she was so unholy, then should not God’s children follow their heavenly Father’s example?  So why does much of the church prohibit unequally yoked divorce?  The Old Testament could not be more clear in its teaching that separation between the godly and the ungodly is necessary because the ungodly will pull the godly into idolatry, which is also called spiritual adultery.

Pastors routinely use Christian divorce rates as a proof of the declension in the church.  But should they be doing this?  Christian leaders commonly place divorce alongside sins listed by the Apostle Paul as “the deeds of the flesh”, but Paul never listed divorce with any other sin, and God’s word does not call divorce a sin nor does it prohibit divorce.  The word of God properly places divorce as a provision of God’s laws to protect innocent spouses and to prevent further sin.  Therefore the proper category for divorce is alongside church discipline, rebuke, reproof, punishment, and even giving a so-called believer over to Satan with hopes that he will repent and believe.  This entire category could be called “God’s prescribed means of dealing with sin in the Church”.  This category is chiefly concerned with the punishment/restoration of the unrepentant and the protection of the innocent, which are in essence two halves of the same coin.

Godly men and women lament at the scarcity of church discipline, but inexplicably decry every divorce.  These two are similar actions belonging to the same category in scripture.  Both remove the leaven from the body of Christ.  Both have been abused by wicked people.  Both are greatly under utilized by the church.  When a church member is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, then appropriate church discipline will always result in the expulsion of that individual from the body of believers because he is a danger to the body.

Divorce performs the exact same function in Christian marriages and families that church discipline does for the church.  So then, it is no surprise that the very people who hate to follow through with God’s command for church discipline also hate God’s gracious provision of divorce?  Whether they are uncomfortable with confrontation, lack trust in the Lord to bring about a good outcome, fear being called judgmental, lack wisdom and spiritual discernment, have a lax and slothful oversight, favoritism or just not wanting to be drug into the kind of fight that godless people seemingly enjoy, most churches never or rarely do any church discipline and most churchmen repudiate divorce by calling it a sin.

In both cases churchmen remain sitting when they should stand up for battle.  Scripture refers to believers as soldiers and provides them with the full armor of God.  Christian leaders are under Christ’s command to protect and feed the flock.  Instead most Christian leaders take a let go and let God approach to these difficult situations involving unrepentant sinners within their flocks.  This disobedient, slothful approach says that if God wants the brother or sister to be set free from a godless, treacherous spouse, then God can always take the life of the wicked spouse.  And if we just wait upon the Lord, then God will remove or redeem the worthless fellow.

This is decidedly not the approach that the great apostle Paul took.  He said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14), and “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?”  And “In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened (1 Corinthians 5:4-7).  It is the Christian’s task to clean out the leaven, which means to actively remove unrepentant sinners from their sphere of influence.

Perhaps divorce actions have been miscategorized because they can be and often are messy, but church discipline is frequently messy.  Whenever unrepentant sinners are exposed to the light and held accountable for their sin they will usually fight back with wickedness (Contentiousness, lies, accusations, threats, deceptions, disputes, quarrels, comparisons, attempts to divide the church, self-defense, etc.), which pulls the Christians involved into the mire…a very uncomfortable circumstance for believers.  It matters not whether this unpleasant duty is a church discipline action or a divorce action the goal is the same…remove the leaven.

It is clear why church leaders do not enjoy church discipline.  It is equally unpleasant to go through a divorce with an ungodly spouse, and with the current mindset of most Churches it is made all the more difficult because Christian leaders turn upon and attack the Christian who is seeking to obey God’s call to separate from the godless.  Understandably, Christians hate this difficult work, but as soldiers they must fight the good fight even when the immediate battle is difficult and unpleasant.  It would be great if the Church would get on the same page, but that will never be the case this side of heaven.  Individual churches and individuals must take upon themselves these difficult tasks because scripture prescribes these measures when unbelievers are in the midst of the people of God.

The heart of this article is that the divorce of an unequally yoked spouse is not a sin and should cease being treated as though it was listed in any of Paul’s “Deeds of the flesh” passages.  Divorce is not classified as a sin anywhere in the Bible notwithstanding Malachi 2:16, Matthew 5 and 19, and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 all of which have articles addressing them rather extensively on this blog.  Divorce in general and especially unequally yoked divorce is properly classified in God’s word under “God’s prescribed means of dealing with sin in the Church.”  Divorce belongs to the same classification as church discipline, rebuke, being removed from leadership position, restoration and even giving the unrepentant sinner over to Satan with hope that repentance will ensue.

It is well established that divorce is an allowance in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 21 & 24), and Jesus did not annul or overturn that law as many understand from Matthew 19.  Jesus said:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).

In Matthew 19 Jesus did not say that the Pharisees were guilty of divorce.  Of course he would not say that because Jesus knew that divorce was permitted by God’s law—it is not a sin.  Jesus said the Pharisees were guilty of adultery because they wanted to cover up their adultery with illegal usage of God’s legal divorce provision.

A comparison will help clear the muddied waters.  Suppose the Pharisees exchanged their desire for gentile wives with a desire for unpaid servants.  If they asked Jesus if it was permissible for them to adopt gentile children, but their real motive was to force the children into unpaid labor, then Jesus would have said they were guilty of human enslavement, child abuse and child endangerment.  But Jesus would not have said the Pharisees were guilty of adoption just as he did not say they were guilty of divorce.  And the church would not have treated adoption as a wicked sin through the centuries, yet this is precisely what has been done with God’s provision for divorce.  Man’s abuse of divorce should not diminish at all God’s gracious provision.  God understood that since the fall people’s hearts were wicked and innocent partners would require relief from wicked spouses.

The Pharisees were merely trying to cover up their adultery with God’s legal provision of divorce.  Jesus showed their argument to be nothing more than a rouse.  He understood that they were not asking about divorce as it is allowed in the Law, but they were asking whether or not legal divorces could be obtained without just cause.  So he said anybody who would carry out what the Pharisees had devised would be an adulterer because they would be divorcing a wife who has not broken her marriage covenant conditions in any way.  Jesus understood that if their wives had given them no just cause to divorce them, then their reason for seeking divorce was in their adulterous hearts, which is why he said they would be committing adultery.

Christian leaders beware of the glibness with which you disagree and continue holding your unbiblical view on divorce.  Both God’s law and Jesus tie judging people wrongly to unjust balances and weights in the market place.  God’s law reads, “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.  You shall have just balances, just weights…” (Leviticus 19:35-36 underline mine).  And in his Sermon On the Mount Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matthew 7:1-3 underline mine)?  Do you have an answer to the Lord’s question to the Pharisees?  Try to answer it before reading further.

Jesus is using an analogy to teach about judging others.  It is easily understood that if a street vendor is selling food items using a false scale or balance and deceitful weights, then he is cheating innocent consumers.  Jesus is saying that the religious leaders do the same to the people of God by changing God’s standards or laws by which men are to measure themselves.  In context, Jesus was saying that with their false standard of measure the Pharisees’ were twisting God’s Laws in their attacks on Jesus and his apostles for healing on the Sabbath and picking grain from fields as they traveled on the Sabbath, yet at the very same time these religious leaders refussed submition to the very Son of God who was standing right in front of them.

So then, a log in the religious leaders’ eye today is using a man-made standard of measure that restricts God’s allowance for divorce.  Divorce is protected in God’s moral law.  What right do you have prohibiting it for the people of God?  God does not want his people bound together with unbelievers, but you have restricted them from accessing God’s allowance of divorce that would allow them to repent of their unequally yoked marriages.  Millions of new unequally yoked marriages take place because the church has made a propitiation for Christians in such marital relationships.  Young people have no fear of disobeying God by getting unequally yoked because the church long since stopped church discipline for this sin.  In fact, the church has gone so far as to call repentance of these relationships the sin rather than being in an unequally yoked marriage.  Because of this sinfulness a pall of darkness is placed upon all who have divorced wicked spouses even though they followed the provision of God’s law.  God forbid the church continues this lunacy.  The people of God are suffering for it.  The church is filled with unbelieving spouses as a result.  Churches are so full of unbelievers that the believers are being corrupted by the bad company IN THE CHURCH!  Brethren, these things ought not be this way.

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Church Divorce Rates Mirror the World: What to Think

Divorce rates in the United States rose steadily throughout the 20th century but did so sharply from the latter half of the 1960’s until about 1980 when they began to steadily drop. It may sound like good news that divorce rates began to drop during the 1980’s, but in all actuality marriages began to drop rather dramatically at the same time. Therefore broken marital bonds were no longer recorded for those who merely joined together without God’s institution of marriage. The reality is that broken marital relationships within and without the institution of marriage are as high as ever.

Preachers love to use divorce as a barometer of the ruination of a person, family or culture. These same preachers note that the divorce rates in the church today exactly mirror the divorce rates in the world. They draw the false conclusion that God’s people are doing something grossly wrong when they look identical to the world, which is true when it is, in fact, the case. But it is not the case here for two reasons:

First, the vast majority of those in the church today are not actually in Christ or put differently, they may call themselves Christians and they may attend a church, but they are in no way part of Christ’s church, which is to say that the vast majority of American churches are filled with Christians in name only—superstitious people who happen to worship a false christ rather than any of the vast number of false gods offered up by the world. These people populating today’s churches get divorced at the same rate as the world because they are the world—they mirror the world perfectly because they are the world.

The church finds itself in this condition because it forfeited the biblical gospel and replaced it with the latest iteration of the gospel’s old nemesis semi-Pelagianism/Arminianism (easy believism) gospel born out of the entitlement movement following WWII. False gospels lead to false conversions, which lead to worldly people populating churches, which leads to the church failing to separate from the world. This is where American churches are at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries.

Sadly, for centuries, the church’s response to the godless infiltrating its numbers has been to make a monumental effort to shame these counterfeit Christians into sanctification. A major tool they have used to accomplish this mistaken path was to restrict divorce where God gave liberty and license. Both the churches’ path and the tool of taking a permanence view of every marriage have been abysmal failures. Where the church should have salted the world with the pure gospel yet remained apart from the world, it chose instead to embrace the world and comingle or unequally yoke itself to the world hence losing its flavor.

Secondly, far from a high divorce rate condemning the church as worldly…God’s people actually need to have a divorce rate that far exceeds that of the world and they need to do so corporately and quickly. After the initial spike in divorces for those who are truly in Christ Jesus the divorce rate among the elect children of God would then drop down to a level far below that of the world. How can such advice be biblical…how can it be needed in the church of God?  It is needed because those who are actually born-again and therefore in Christ Jesus in American churches are, in large numbers, unequally yoked to counterfeit Christians who are merely masquerading as believers in the churches (they are actually the majority in the churches today).

The great apostle Paul warned that these imposters would “proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). They will also take “pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thes. 2:12), they are those “…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).

The apostle Peter said that they will “secretly introduce destructive heresies”…”Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in greed they will exploit you with false words”. They are “those who indulge the flesh in corrupt desires and despise authority…they are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions as they carouse with you (the saints)…having a heart trained in greed…forsaking the right way, they have gone astray…speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barley escape from the ones who live in error…for it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them (all verses from 2 Peter 2).

As in the days of Ezra, God’s people need to corporately repent of their unequally yoked marriages to the sons and daughters of the world. In response to an epidemic of unequally yoked marriages Ezra commanded the following: “So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away (divorce) all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of the Lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law” (Ezra 10:3).

Christianity has followed along and repeated many cycles throughout each successive generation, and a particularly horrible cycle is one that has the church failing to separate from the world. As God has repeatedly warned his children, God’s people quickly commit spiritual adultery whenever they mix with the nations (the world) and soon fall away from God altogether as they lose their identity as God’s children and become children of wrath at which time a new church is raised up out of the world and the cycle starts anew. Jesus described these believers as salt that has lost its taste. He says of them, “It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matthew 5:13).

Matthew Henry’s translation of Mark 9:50 reads, “Have salt in yourselves, else you cannot diffuse it among others.” The salt is a true biblical theology and gospel, and it is to be thrown onto the unsavory meat of this world by God’s faithful saints. But once those saints join themselves to the world they cease being salt and light to the world and they become the worst of the world. Again Henry said, “A wicked man is the worst of creatures; a wicked Christian is the worst of men; and a wicked minister is the worst of Christians.” Wicked Christians and wicked ministers are the outcome of the church failing to separate from the world—failing to be salt to an unsavory world by joining with the world.

Paul said,
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 Belial or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
Therefore, 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. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).

Jesus Said,
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I 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 (Matthew 10:34-36). [What has a believer in common with an unbeliever?] Parenthesis from Paul above.

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). Bold text mine.

Written on the 4th of July 2017.  The church needs to gain its independence from the world and be salt once again.

Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord.