Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Going Back to a First Spouse After Remarriage: What Scripture Actually Says About It

I have seen a growing trend among certain groups of Christians to claim that those who are divorced and remarried are living in perpetual adultery and should divorce their second spouse and return to the first spouse. This is a very dangerous and unbiblical teaching.

It's somewhat understandable that people might believe this. We live in a time and place where divorce and remarriage are frequent and even the church has largely accepted it. In reaction against the common view that marriage is easily cast aside for any and every reason, some have tried very hard to go to the opposite extreme and consider marriage completely indissoluble. Yet rather than react, we must search the scriptures to find the right view.

Here are some Bible passages that show that second marriages are legitimate marriages and that divorce from a second spouse or a return to a first spouse is not permitted.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 "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. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance."

Notice that the woman's second marriage here is obviously considered a valid marriage and the scripture specifically says that she must not go back and marry her first husband again. Her second marriage was an act of adultery (according to Jesus), but it also broke the tie between her and her first husband such that it would be a sin if she ever went back to the first husband - even if her second husband were to die. That's very powerful proof that remarriage does produce a valid marriage.

Jeremiah 3:1 says much the same thing: "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD."

Again, a second marriage makes it impossible to ever go back to the first spouse. This is clearly spelled out in scripture.

So while Scripture does intend for divorced people to reconcile with their spouse (I Cor. 7:11), that is only the case if they have not married anyone else. If a second marriage has occurred, going back to the first marriage would be a sin.

I Cor. 7:12-13 "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him."

Notice that, in this passage, even things which would normally be a sin to do (i.e. marry an unbeliever), once they are done, should not cause a divorce. One is supposed to carry on and not divorce, but live right from this time onward.

Some point out Jesus' statement that remarriage after divorce is adultery, and that is certainly true. It is a sin to remarry after divorce. However, the question is, if someone does remarry, whether the new marriage commits adultery as a one time thing or whether the new marriage is adulterous every day for the rest of their lives, which requires a second divorce in order to stop sinning. Jesus' statement, by itself, doesn't say which it is.

Some people assume, without proof, that the second possibility is the case without considering anything else. What we should do is use scripture to clarify that uncertainty rather than make assumptions. When we do that (as I did above), we see that the Bible teaches that a second marriage breaks the ties of the first marriage and forms a valid marriage, not continuous adultery, and thus that the first interpretation of Jesus' statement is the correct one. Remarriage is a one-time act of adultery, not on-going adultery, and the correct course of action is to remain faithful to the new marriage vows.

Another thing to consider, in addition to the Biblical case I already made, is God's purpose for marriage. God intends for marriage to be a stable, loving environment for the raising of children and also a picture of the love between Christ and the church. The idea that a person must divorce a second spouse is not only opposed to clear Scripture passages, but it runs counter to the plan God has for marriage. If a person has remarried, and especially if they have children in that new marriage, divorce only causes further harm to the people in the second marriage and any children they have. It is this damage that God hates. In fact, this kind of damage is the reason divorce is so harmful in the first place. Advocating further divorce to go back to a first spouse is telling people to cause more harm that God hates.

What it comes down to is that Scripture is clear that a second marriage breaks the tie of the first and the Bible never advocates more divorce. God hates divorce. He never tells anyone to divorce. What should happen when a divorced person comes to repentance is that they carry on, in whatever marital state they are in, and do their best to live for God going forward. If they can be reconciled to their first spouse, they should do so, but if they have married again, they should stay in that marriage and be faithful.

31 comments:

  1. Jesus never stated that marrying again is a adultery nor a sin of any kind. What he do say is that if no divorce has taken place, then marrying again is adultery, cause one then is still married to the first husband and thus bound to him.

    This article elaborates a bit more on that: http://www.missiontoisrael.org/m-d-remar.php

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's not what the text says.

      Mark 10:11-12  And He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery." 

      It specifically says that remarrying after divorce is adultery. It breaks the vow of faithfulness for a lifetime that was made to the first spouse.

      Delete
    2. No, it specifically says that divorcing someone in order to marry someone else is adultery. It says nothing about the person who has had the divorce initiated against them remarrying. The ban on divorce after marriage very clearly applies only to the adulterous spouse: the one who initiated the divorce. I don't know why Christians refuse to take a literal reading of this, or of Paul's clear statement that every Christian should have a spouse .... even those who have been left by a pagan.

      Delete
    3. Why don't you say what the Bible says: Remarrying after a divorce is adultery FOR THE PERSON WHO LEFT THEIR SPOUSE, except in cases of sexual immorality.

      Delete
  2. This is just a bad translation, the underlying Greek text used by most modern translations uses another word than divorce. If you read the article you will find out that "The Greek word for “put away” is apoluo, whereas the Greek word for “divorce” is apostasion".

    Its quite simple if the woman is not divorced she would commit adultery by being married to another man. If she is divorced, then she can marry another.

    The man is causing the adultery if he is not divorcing his wife.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lindsay is correct in her article. Read for yourself what the Strong's says about the word in Matthew 10:11-12:

    ἀπολύω (apolyō)

    Strong: G630

    GK: G668

    pr. to loose; to release from a tie or burden, Mt. 18:27; to divorce, Mt. 1:19; to remit, forgive, Lk. 6:37; to liberate, discharge, Mt. 27:15; to dismiss, Mt. 15:23; Acts 19:40; to allow to depart, to send away, Mt. 14:15; to permit, or, signal departure from life, Lk. 2:29; mid. to depart, Acts 28:25; pass. to be rid, Lk. 13:12

    Looking at multiple translations, they regularly translate the word DIVORCE.
    Jesus would not necessarily try to prove that a person NOT divorced is committing adultery if they marry someone else. That was common knowledge. What He was teaching was something that contradicted contemporary understanding. IF you divorce your spouse, and you remarry, it is being disloyal to your marriage and you are committing adultery. You may not like that idea but Jesus was definitely teaching that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. apostasion
    Means the legal process or bill of divorce.
    Apostasion is in the noun form and Apoluo is in the verb form.
    Joseph was going to Apoluo Mary privately so as not to make a public spectacle of her.
    That means Divorce.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can anyone explain the meaning in "he has found some uncleaness in her"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The root word translated "uncleanness" here is usually translated "nakedness" in most places and often has a sexual connotation. Some translations translate it as "indecency" in this passage. So perhaps it refers to some sexual sin on her part.

      Delete
  6. Very interesting and informative so what you are saying then that the rules set forth by Moses in Deuteronomy applies to us today as it did then and "if" ( which I have ) found "uncleaness" ...sexual sin .....in my wife I can divorce her and send her away with no sin on my part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I did not say that the rules of Deuteronomy apply to us today. However, they do inform us about God's moral laws, which do not change. Jesus called us to a higher standard than the law of Moses. The Mosaic law allowed for divorce, but Jesus told us that was because of the hardness of man's hearts. The new standard is that we are not to divorce and that remarriage after divorce is adultery (See Matthew 19, Luke 16).

      Delete
  7. Question similar to the above topic, but certainly different as well. If a person who is a homosexual accepts Christ as his Savior can he remain in the marriage he is in with his existing partner if he has asked God to forgive him of the sin he committed when he entered into that marriage arrangement ? I have been taught that forgiveness is only obtained if there is repentance...turning away from the sin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two men or two women cannot make a marriage. There is no such thing as same-sex marriage. Thus, someone who is living in a homosexual relationship should leave it when they repent, even if the state calls them married. It is not actually a marriage. Only a man and a woman can make a marriage.

      Delete
  8. Lindsay, I appreciate your insight /comments, but still am confused about the act of repentance ( the change of mind and DIRECTION) and asking for forgiveness. I will go along with homosexuals are not really married, but what about a Mormon living in Polygamy and gets saved or two "believers" who have been divorced on unbiblical grounds. If one person can ask forgiveness and stay in the marriage/relationship why can't the other?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even though remarriage after divorce is a sin in that it breaks the marriage covenant from the first marriage, it is a valid marriage and God expects believers not to break a second marriage vow. In the case of polygamy, while polygamy was never God's plan, the Bible is clear that a man can be married to more than one wife and thus be in more than one marriage at a time. Thus, a man who has more than one wife, when he gets saved, should be faithful to all of his wives, providing for them as he promised, and yet marry no more women. He should fulfill the covenants he entered. Similarly, a Christian is not to marry an unbeliever, but if they do they should continue in that marriage and keep their vows. Marriage is sacred and that is why we are to fulfill our vows, even if we ought not to have made the vows in the first place.

      Delete
    2. Marriage after divorce do not break the marriage covenant with a former spouse, but divorce itself breaks the covenant.

      Delete
    3. If polygamy was never part of God's plan,how then can the bible be clear that a man can have more than one wife! Gods inspired word can't contradict His plan. The bible is clear that God prohibits polygamy.1 Corinthians 7:2

      Delete
    4. To the individual confused about repentance and forgiveness.If two believers get a divorce on unbiblical grounds only the spouse who initiated the divorce needs to seek forgiveness.The other is innocent, although the spouse wanting the divorce would cause the other to commit adultery if remarried.A second marriage requires fidelity and commitment as does a first. Polygamy do not allow for staying in a relationship because it causes fornication as of necessity. Ongoing fornication without true repentance is unforgivable.

      Delete
  9. According to this logic ... the following is also true.
    If you were to steal a car, that would be a one time sin. But then the car is yours, and you should not feel guilty for having it. Simply take good care of it. Do regular maintenance, keep it clean, and treat it well. Ask God to forgive you for the sin of stealing the car, but now go and live an upstanding life with His blessing while using it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, that is not taught in scripture. Also, people are not property. And the marriage covenant and sexual consummation are sacred. It is because of the importance of sex and the children that result from it that one cannot go back to a first spouse once having joined to a new one. Thus, sex and marriage are in a very different category from property rights.

      Delete
    2. What is to keep anyone from getting remarried after a divorce then?
      You say it's a sin to get remarried, but once you are remarried it would be a sin to leave that marriage.
      How does that even make sense?
      If getting remarried is a sin, at what point after the wedding does it switch from being sin to being right?

      Delete
    3. When someone makes new wedding vows after divorce, they break the old marriage. They didn't keep those marriage vows. That's adultery. They didn't keep their word. They married someone else. But now that they made a new vow, they should keep that one. It was wrong to break the old vows by marrying someone else. Further breaking the new vows doesn't fix anything though. It only adds to the sin.

      Delete
  10. If a thief steals another persons brand new car then repents of the sin, is it ok for the thief to keep the stolen car? True repentance would be evident in the thief returning the car then buying his own car. The former thief's new car then would be his to keep, not the one he stole. For me it's the same where marriage is concerned. If a woman marries another woman's husband and then repents, She should release (divorce) the "stolen" husband. He then should remain unmarried or be reconciled to his wife (same would be true if I were speaking from the perspective of a "stolen" wife). The marriage to the "stolen" husband was not valid before God (just as gay marriage is not valid). The entire act was an act of adultery. A stolen car that is kept by the thief remains stolen every day until it is returned (true repentance).

    Spiritual adultery would be applied the same. If we serve other Gods and make pledges to them and then repent, can we honor those idolatrous pledges and be right with God? Those pledges were sinful and offensive to God. To honor them would be to remain in spiritual adultery (idolatry) and continue to offend the living God.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That may seem reasonable to you, but people are not property like cars and God's word directly teaches that we are not to go back to a previous spouse after remarriage. I would urge you to use scripture rather than your own understanding in order to determine the correct course I action.

      Delete
  11. Herein lies the problem. Why do we insist on trying to apply custom to as a norm rather than applying doctrine to our lives? We get so confused with custom. We try to apply Jewish Law as if it applies to us and the adaptation to our lives. In Jewish Law women were seen a second-class citizens. They were not counted as people, neither were children. Look at Mathew a Jewish man whose accounts were added to but the transcribers because of the Jewish Law.

    This was learned behavior from Jewish men, who could not allow women even to be counted. That is one of the reasons why Matthew (alone amongst the Gospels) mentioned in 14:21 that women were not counted when 5000 people were fed. Let us note that the statement: “Not counting the women and children” appears only in Matthew, while the story was recorded in all four Gospels. One may ask why only Matthew mentioned this.

    Matthew was a Jew and as such he did not abandon his Jewish culture about the women when writing his Gospel. This statement also justifies the Jewish prayer which Rabbi Yehuda taught every man (male) to pray daily which says: “Praise is to you, God, that you have not created me a heathen, a woman and not a slave”

    Even the word slave was mistranslated and misunderstood. Slave as we know it is a person who is discounted as a human amongst others. Biblically it meant ignoramus. Look at the constitution of the “God fearing United States.” The same applies here. We must stop trying to make the narrative a norm. It will never fit.

    Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. We need to search the principle of the scriptures. Again, We must stop trying to make the narrative a norm. It will never fit.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is not accurate;

    Her second marriage was an act of adultery (according to Jesus),

    "I hate divorce" is something we should all adhere to, after all it's scriptural, right!? The answer to that is a resounding NO! It is doctrine that has been inserted into some translations of the Greek manuscripts.

    The English word "divorce" was deliberately inserted for the Greek word which was "put away"!

    Read Deut 4:2 and you will realize someone is in trouble as well as those of us who repeat their error.

    Study the Greek words! Know what this passage actually means! It's each and every one of our responsibility to study to shew ourselves approved! What does that mean? It means verify! God warned us Jer 8:8 that the scribes/translators have corrupted His words/the original manuscripts for a reason. The English translations of the Manuscripts should not be trusted! God did not give them to us, He gave us the manuscripts! Am I condemning the Bible? NO! But again, if men have tampered with it don't be naive to excuse yourself from studying, from being a Berean! Or else your lack of study will show yourself "disapproved"!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Putting away is divorce. It means ending a marriage. I'm not sure what your point is here, but I have looked at the original words.

      Delete
    2. Hello, that was my comment. A divorce has two components see Deut 24:1 The New Testament is very clear on the two components too. Two separate Hebrew words in the OT and two separate Greek words in the NT. What had been a problem in the OT and the NT is that men were "putting away" their wives without a writ forcing them to commit adultery. God was adamant in Micah that it was treacherous to "put away" a woman without a writ. The verse in Matthew that says God hates divorce is the Greek word for "putting away" which is translated putting away everywhere else but there! Hmmmm? Docrtine at work on the translators part.

      Delete
    3. Jesus weighed in on the morality of divorce. There was a debate at the time whether a man could divorce his wife for any reason (even as little as burning his toast) or whether divorce was only justified for infidelity. They asked Jesus about this:

      Mat 19:3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?"
      Mat 19:4 He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
      Mat 19:5 and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?
      Mat 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."
      Mat 19:7 They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?"
      Mat 19:8 He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
      Mat 19:9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."
      Mat 19:10 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry."

      Jesus clearly taught that divorce is only justified for sexual immorality, not for frivolous reasons. Furthermore, divorcing for other reasons forces the woman to remarry to have a husband to provide for her, which Jesus is saying is adultery.

      Jesus is clearly discussing divorce, not just sending a wife away to fend for herself despite being still married. The context is the Jews asking when divorce is justified, which we know was a debate among Jewish scholars of the time. They even refer to the certificate of divorce in this passage to indicate they are talking about when it is permissible to issue one. And Jesus' answer was strongly in favor of preserving marriage, to the point that his own disciples were shocked and said it was better not to marry since you can't get out of it.

      Delete
    4. Jer 3:8 KJV
      (8)  And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

      SO I hope my first reply went through.

      Delete