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Divorce in the Bible

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Divorce in the Bible
The Bible allows divorce for adultery or abandonment. “They are but one flesh. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.“

Reasons For Divorce in The Bible: 2 Big Basic Rules

Divorce is acceptable in just two situations, adultery and abandonment.

The proof texts for these are below. The first from the Gospel:

Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Jesus in Matthew 19:9

And this from the Epistle to the Corinthians

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. – St Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:15

Neither Jesus* nor St. Paul* was articulating a theological prescription for divorce. Both were responding to unique circumstances in a practical, authentic way. It is a kind way, of honoring God and having compassion for His people.

(an asterisk after a name means that person’s biography is in my book SPIRITUAL LIVES.)

Jesus had already spoken His position on divorce in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:32).

The Pharisees raised the question to “test” Him, the gospel says, meaning they were trying to get Him to say something that would get Him into trouble.

Divorce in the Old Testament

All the Jews were schooled in the Law of Moses*:

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. Deuteronomy 24:1-1

With this in mind, the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Jesus’ answer was “only for fornication:”

“The doctors of the school of Sammai affirmed, that, in the law concerning divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1, the words “some uncleanness,” were to be understood of adultery only; whereas, they of the school of Hillel interpreted them of any matter of dislike whatever. – Benson Commentary

Jesus* was here acting on behalf of women whose husbands just wanted to get rid of them for any reason they thought of!

Under Mosaic Law, only the husband could initiate divorce which would allow the woman to marry again.

Divorce in the New Testament

The Apostle Paul faced another dilemma. As the church grew people were often saved whose spouse was not. What was the believer to do?

Paul* encouraged the believer to win that spouse to Jesus*, but if that did not happen, he advised:

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 1 Corinthians 7: 15

God loves His people and wants the best for us. That is why the Bible commands us

not to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” 2 Corinthians 6:14

This is a key commandment that will keep those who obey it far from divorce.

The Bible gives two big, basic rules that will keep divorce far away from those who obey them.

Big, Basic Rule #1 for escaping divorce

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment. Jesus in Matthew 22:38

Big, Basic Rule # 2 for escaping divorce

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus in Matthew 22:39

If we are obedient to these two commandments, we will draw closer to God and keep ourselves from the evil of divorce.

God sees divorce as a serious matter.

It murders a holy relationship created by God. Jesus explains:

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”,

and said, For this cause, a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh?

Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. – Matthew 19:3-6

Jesus* is here citing Genesis which also tells us that God created woman from the body of man:

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam*, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam* said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:21-24

Marriage is a reunification of this creation, and like it makes us fruitful and multiply.

The Apostle Paul* picks up on this

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. – Ephesians 5:25,28,30 & 32

Marriage represents Jesus' relationship with the church

Marriage is the symbolic representation of Jesus’ love for the church, you and me, and the millions of other members of His body, represented as His bride.

Just as we are to be faithful to Him, we need to be faithful to the one to whom we have promised:

O GOD, who hast so consecrated the state of Matrimony that in it is represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church;

Look mercifully upon these thy servants, that they may love, honour, and cherish each other, and so live together in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and of peace;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

¶ Then shall the Minister join their right hands together, and say,

Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.

1928 Book of Common Prayer

Keep me true Lord Jesus, keep me true,

Keep me true Lord Jesus, keep me true.

There’s a race that I must run,

There are victories to be won.

Give me power every hour to be true.

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