Bible Questions? E-mail us.....................................................................................Back to Main Page
Online Bible Course
Article Archives
- by Date
- by Subject
Audio Sermons
Sermon Outlines
Debates & Discussions
About Us
Location & Assemblies
Want to study with us?
FREE Bible Download
FREE Bible Course

Elmer Moore

I suppose that everyone can recall something that was said or done in times past that has made an impression. I know this is true of myself. One statement that has stuck in my mind, and influenced my teaching is that, "Men are divided more over what the Bible DOES NOT say than they are over what it DOES say." I am firmly convinced that this is the case concerning the subject of this article: Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.

This is certainly a Bible subject. Every statement of the title of this lesson occurs in Matthew 19:3-10. I hasten to point out that the subject is not exhausted in this passage; however it is identified. This subject, like all Bible subjects, must be studied in the light of the total context, consisting of the statement, the immediate context, and the remote context (all other related passages). Any time men are not careful in the examination of all the facts, there is danger of fallacy. The Bible is harmonious; hence, any interpretation of a given passage that conflicts with other Bible truths must be rejected. This subject, like all Bible subjects, will have to be settled on the basis of what the Bible teaches and not on the basis of some hypothetical situation, or contingency, producing strong feeling.

I hasten to point out that I don't profess to be able to solve every marital difficulty to the satisfaction of the subjects involved. It would take someone with double the ability of Solomon to do this.

"Divorce Rate Is Down"

Recently the local paper carried an article indicating that the rate of divorce in this nation was down. One might be made to rejoice if he didn't know why this is true. As the article went on to point out, fewer people are taking the trouble of marrying. They are just living together! This is like throwing out the baby with the dirty water. Two wrongs do not add up to one right.

For the sake of space I will not write out every passage that deals with our subject. However, I suggest that you read them. The point made will identify the portion involved. Please consider the New Testament passages involved: Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18. Passages that deal indirectly with the subject may be considered, including Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:10,11; Hebrews 13:4.


Marriage is honorable and right in the sight of God. However, we must never lose sight of the fact that the "marriage" that is honorable and right before God is one that is patterned according to His will. Surely no Bible believer will deny this fact. Marriage accepted by God is one that is in harmony with His will and intent (1 Cor. 7:39; 11:11).

Lifelong Contract

Marriage, ordained of God (Gen. 1:27), was intending to be a lifelong contract (Romans 7:1-3). Man was not to devise arrangements for putting "asunder what God had joined." There are certain things that God hates, and among them is "putting away" (Mal. 2:14-16). Man has always devised reasons for "every cause" to put away a mate, and today is no different. Man has not been given the right to decide how and when one may "put away" a mate and enter into a second marriage. "Marriage" does not necessarily mean that God recognizes the union, (Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:10-11); nor does becoming "unmarried" necessarily mean that God breaks the union. He said, "and marries (emphasis mine, E.M.) another commits adultery" (Matt. 19:9), and the one who departed in (1 Cor. 7:10-11) was to "remain unmarried (emphasis mine, E.M.) or else be reconciled" to the mate. There is no doubt that God endorses the marriage relationship (Heb. 13:4).

Divorce - Remarriage

The Bible clearly indicates that under some circumstances God allows one to divorce his mate (Matt. 5:31,32; 19:9). That he also allows remarriage under some circumstances is also obvious (Matt. 19:9; Romans 7:3; 1 Cor. 7:39).

Brief Statement of the Subject

The remainder of my remarks will address the subject of "divorce and remarriage." However, before I do so allow me to state briefly what I believe God's will is concerning the matter. I do this in view of the conviction I have that men are NOT divided over what God has said on the matter, but rather over what He HAS NOT said.

In Matthew 19:3-10, Mark 10:2-12, Jesus was questioned by his disciples about this subject. He responded by referring to what Moses taught, what God's will was in the beginning, and by implication what it is now. Moses, he said, "Suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. 19:8). Man can argue about why He did this until he is blue in the face and will not change what Jesus said. Jesus went on to point out what God intended in the beginning about marriage, divorce, and remarriage. He said, "And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery," (Matt. 19:9). In this statement there are implied two things: (1) What God intended about marriage, divorce and remarriage in the beginning, (2) What God's will is today about the subject. This passage implies that God's will today, concerning the subject is precisely what it was in the beginning. Jesus points out that the only reason for divorce and remarriage is fornication. One mate is guilty; the other is innocent. No man could misunderstand this without professional help. The innocent has the right to remarry and the guilty does not. One of two fundamental laws of Bible interpretation is involved. LB. Grubbs in his book "Biblical Hermeneutics," on page 6 points out that the "second of two great principles" is called "The Law of Opposition, or negation." He further points out that the rule may be formulated as follows, "In all cases a writer or speaker is liable to suffer injustice, if his statements are interpreted without reference to the context before his own mind." He further points out that "the precise opposite (my emp) of any important assertion of truth made by him is always, by way of negation, the exact (my emp) measure of the length and breadth of the signification of that assertion." This principle has been used by brethren in explaining the contrast of Romans 3:27-4:12, between the law of faith and the law of works. That there is a contrast involved in our Lord's discussion is without question; a contrast between the innocent and the guilty. If I can learn what the innocent can do I can know what the guilty cannot do. Jesus declares that the innocent has the right to remarry, thus the guilty does not. To ignore this fundamental law is to invite numerous difficulties.

Marriage Not A "Church Ordinance"

Marriage was in existence many years before the church (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 16:18). As was noted earlier, Jesus declares that marriage today is to be as it was in the beginning. The inspired writer recognizes the marriage between one who is a Christian and one who is not (1 Cor. 7:12-13). The concept is advanced that alien sinners are not amenable to the law of Christ. I can only briefly address this concept. (The same is true of other concepts I believe to be false, E.M.) There are a number of terms that are used to refer to the New Testament of our Lord. These terms are not describing different messages; rather they are different terms to describe the same message. The Gospel of Christ is said to be "the word of the truth" (Col. 1:5). Man is to be judged by "the gospel" (Rom. 2:16). But man is to be judged by "the words of Jesus" (Jn. 12:47-48). Hence the "gospel" and the "words of Jesus" are the same. Man is also to be judge by a "perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 4:12). It obviously follows that the "words of Jesus," the "gospel," and the "law of liberty" are the same. The "gospel" is identified as "the faith." Paul preached the "gospel" (Gal. 1:11), but Paul preached the "faith" (Gal. 1:23), therefore the "gospel" is the "faith." The "faith" is said to be the "word of God" (Acts 13:7-10), the "doctrine (teaching) of the Lord," (v. 12). The Spirit's law makes men "free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2), but the gospel of Christ makes men free from the law, (Gal. 4:1-5:1). Other instances could be cited; however, it seems to me that one can see that these many terms are used to describe the same message. All men are amenable to the gospel of Christ, and Matthew 19:9 is a part of that gospel. When you hear men trying to make distinctions based on these different terms, you had better watch them! Men invent terms such as "covenant passages" to indicate that certain ones are not answerable to the restrictions given in Matt. 19:9. It is beyond being strange that these same men have no problem in applying Mark 16:15-16 to the alien sinner, but will not apply Matthew 19:9 to these same people. There are so many absurdities associated with the idea that the alien sinner is not amenable, answerable to, what the law of Christ has to say about the marriage relationship, that it is difficult to see how any Christian could believe such. For instance, if what God has to say about those who may and may not marry does not apply to the alien and only civil law applies, then what about the question of polygamy? My friends, all accountable men are amenable to the gospel of Christ, including Matthew 19:9.

"Not Under Bondage"

Does Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 7:15 provide another reason for divorce and remarriage? Does desertion constitute scriptural ground for divorce and remarriage? Let us consider the question. The statement in Matthew 19:9, "except it be for fornication," is indeed significant. What is implied is an exceptive sentence. The significance of an exceptive sentence is that of "if and only if." Thus Jesus declares that one can enter into a second marriage if and only if his living mate was guilty of fornication. The statement will not allow another way. Let me illustrate the foregoing. In John 3:3-5 Jesus declares that one cannot enter the kingdom "except" he is born of water and the Spirit. Brethren know this has reference to water baptism in harmony with the Spirit's law. When men cite 1 John 5:1 and similar passages to argue entrance into the Kingdom by faith only, they have invented another way into the kingdom of God. Jesus declared that one may enter the kingdom if and only if he is born again of the water and the Spirit. We know that one perverts the passages cited in an effort to find some other way into the kingdom. In precisely the same way, I know that men are perverting 1 Corinthians 7:15. They use this passage to justify another way into a second marriage of one who has a living mate. The truth of the matter is that 1 Corinthians 7:15 teaches no such thing. The "bondage" of the passage is not the same as the "bound" in 1 Corinthians 7:27,39 and Romans 7:2. Paul, twice, in this chapter, uses the same basic word as he does in Romans 7:2. However, the word translated "bondage" is a different one.

This word occurs many times in the New Testament and not once does it refer to the marriage bond - unless 1 Corinthians 7:15 is the exception. This word refers to slavery. The context of the statement will bear this out. The unbeliever is threatening to leave unless the Christian abandons her or his belief in and service to Christ. The apostle points out that the Christian is not such a slave as to have to abandon Christ and continue to fulfill the marriage responsibilities outlined by the writer. Roy H. Lanier notes, "the believer is not so bound to to the unbeliever that he must give up Christ to hold to the unbeliever." The idea of remarriage is not under consideration in this passage. When one realizes the exceptive nature of Matthew 19:9, he will realize that to set out another reason for divorce and remarriage would be a flat contradiction of the passage.

Question To Consider

It seems to me that the matter is simple. Who may marry? Actually when this question is answered you will have the answer to who may not marry and who may not be married. The Bible is plain on who may marry, including: 1. The one who has never married (1 Cor. 7:2), 2. The one whose mate has died, (1 Cor. 7:39), 3. The innocent who has put away a mate for fornication, fornication that occurred during the marriage and not htat which occurs after the marriage has been terminated. To so argue is to confuse cause and effect (Matt. 19:9).

This site is © Copyright Tri-County Church of Christ 2006, All Rights Reserved.
Web templates