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 we cannot? Do they accept a command of the Lord God that we 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 received by the 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 traditional approach on divorce.
What begins as dogma grows into traditions and lasts for centuries bringing to pass whole denominations that are stale and spiritually dead. Traditions typically spring from dogma. Even traditions that spring from scripture often slide into dogma and the precepts of men. Tradition is unnecessary for people who pour over the Word of God with teachable minds and hearts. One of the great distinctions between the sheep and the goats is that the sheep pour over the Scriptures while the goats opt to follow the traditional path. “We (the authors of the New Testament) are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” [parenthesis ours] (1 John 4:6) .
In the gospel account according to Matthew chapter 15 verse 2 the Pharisees and scribes sought Jesus out to inquire of Him, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” Jesus responded, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” And then Jesus provided them with an example. The unregenerate religious leaders were defending their traditions, clearly the precepts of men (dogma), which were unquestionably accepted by the legalistic Jews, while Jesus was defending the commandment of God (Scriptures).
In verse 6 Jesus continued, “And by this (dogma/precepts of men) you invalidated the Word of God for the sake of your tradition” [parenthesis ours]. Then, quoting Isaiah, Jesus demonstrated that this practice of invalidating the Word of God through the precepts of men was done by those whose worship of God was in vain; our Lord closed with, “Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” This is not to say that having any false doctrinal beliefs causes worship to be in vain, but at the very least we must be working very diligently in God’s Word to prove what is right, pure, lovely, and of good repute. “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). Dogma, by definition, church traditions and the precepts of men are poor substitutes for knowing the Word of God at best and profoundly wicked practices at worst.
Now, imagine for a moment that the earth’s size represented the number of regenerate Christians, and the sun represented the number of unregenerate “Christians” (1,300,000 earths could fit inside the sun). This hyperbolic illustration demonstrates that the unregenerate “Christians” far outnumber those who are truly in Christ Jesus. This enormous body of unregenerate Christians fill the pews, rely upon their religious leaders for understanding, gravitate toward unregenerate leaders, and seek dogma and the traditions of men so that they do not have to be practiced in the word of righteousness. With a vastly larger body of Christians-in-name-only falling squarely in the camp of dogma and traditions is it any wonder that regenerate Christians have been polluted by this much larger body?
We care not for the dogma on the issue of divorce for those bound together with unbelievers. We have no use for the precepts of men as they rail against biblically prescribed divorce. Finally, the traditions of the church are of no value if they cannot be born out in the pages of God’s Word.
This problem is not one of the past only, but continues into the 21st century. The time has come for God’s children to question the dogma on divorce and remarriage, which has come through the traditions and the precepts of men. Christians must consider anew scriptural teaching on divorce and get out from behind the presuppositional hedge preventing them from seeing all that God has revealed.
Biblical view on divorce