Marriage, Divorce, & Remarriage
March 22, 2002
Major Revisions, June 8, 2008
These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have been preaching since 1968 in the Church of Christ. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men. Bernie Parsons
Marriage, Divorce, & Remarriage
By Bernie Parsons - March 22, 2002 with Major Revisions July 26, 2006 & June 8, 2008
I have found that the more complicated a religious argument is, the more it is steeped in man’s finagling and perversion. God does not give us laws that are so hard to understand that there is massive confusion about what to do.
In my discussions of Christian marriage with several different people, I find that there are many quite complicated views. Most of them are based either entirely on the Roman Catholic view of marriage, or some variation on it. Additionally, most fail to consider all the relevant marriage scriptures together. Each speaker or writer picks out the particular scriptures that support his or her argument, then blithely ignores the others.
God’s law on marriage is pretty straightforward:
(1) Believers (the righteous) are not to divorce a spouse. Matthew 19:4-6
(a) If a believer divorces a spouse, either of that couple who remarries commits adultery. Luke 16:18
(b) Except it be for fornication! In this case, divorce and remarriage does not result in adultery. Matthew 19:9
(2) When an unbeliever (non-Christian) leaves the marriage, the believer (Christian) is free (not under bondage). 1 Corinthians 7:15
(a) One who is free (loosed from a spouse) may marry. 1 Corinthians 7:27-28
Why so much confusion and disagreement?
Most of the confusion about marriage, divorce, and remarriage are derived from the Roman Catholic view that marriage is a mystery, and cannot be understood, therefore it is best left alone. They say that one cannot divorce for any reason. Most Protestants have adopted this view, or some more convoluted variation on it.
The Catholics misunderstand the following scripture:
Ephesians 5:31: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,
and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
In verse 32, the mystery to which Paul is referring is the relationship of the church to Christ, as a wife to her husband. Verse 33 proves this by saying, "Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." Even though the mystery was about the church's relationship to Christ, the same relationship is to be observed between husband and wife.
The Protestants come up with variations by taking the Roman Catholic view and joining it to some concocted doctrine of their own; or, by totally ignoring this and arriving at other conclusions based upon what one or more scriptures seem to say, at first glance, on marriage. As I researched the different variations in doctrine regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage, I counted ten different spins on the subject before I gave up!
They arrive at so many different doctrines by denying certain scriptures, by misusing others, and sometimes by just inventing new doctrine.
It is my desire to clearly and completely understand God’s teaching on this vital subject. I don't want to unwittingly mislead anyone into a situation that imperils his or her soul. In order to get the clear and complete picture, we have to study all of the scriptures on the subject.
Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
The apostle Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
2 Timothy 2:15-16 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”
What does the New Testament say about divorce?
Matthew 5:31: “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let
him give her a writing of divorcement:
Matthew 19:3 “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying
unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
Mark 10:2: “And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful
for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
Luke 16:18: “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”
1 Corinthians 7:10: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
11: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
12: 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.
13: And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
14: For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
15: 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.”
All of the above passages deal with divorce, except for 1 Corinthians 7, which deals with both marriage and divorce. Both passages in Matthew, as well as 1 Corinthians 7, deal with remarriage, as well.
1 Corinthians 7:27: “Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.
28: But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.”
In Matthew, was Jesus preaching the Law of Moses regarding divorce?
Some say that Matthew should be disregarded, since neither Mark nor Luke mention “except it be for fornication”. They willfully ignore the fact that each of the three writers is giving his particular account of the Lord’s answer to the Pharisees’ question, “Can a man divorce his wife for just any reason?” Of course, all three writers are giving the Lord’s answer as “No!” However, Matthew gave the Lord’s complete answer, citing the so-called “exception clause”. There is no contradiction in doctrine, just Matthew giving the long version, if you will. The point is that Jesus answered a specific question, as I paraphrase, “No, you cannot divorce your wife for just any reason.”
Some have totally embraced the Roman Catholic doctrine, which is not based on scripture alone. The Catholics maintain that church-issued doctrine is just as binding as scripture. Those embracing the Catholic doctrine, yet who claim that they base their doctrine only on scripture, seek to do away with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John altogether, so that Matthew’s “exception” can be taken out of consideration. Their explanation is that since Jesus had not yet died, His remarks were only for Jews, who lived under the Law of Moses—what we often call Old Testament law. Thus, they reason, we cannot accept any of their discussions on divorce or remarriage.
(1) These writers wrote these books after the death of Jesus Christ, not before;
(2) These books are the gospel of Jesus Christ, Mark 1:1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;”;
(3) Which gospel was to be preached to the entire world after the death of Jesus, Mark 16:15: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”; and,
(4) God declared in Mark 9:7: “This is my beloved Son: hear him.”
Furthermore, the words of Jesus Himself deny that His teaching was that of the Law of Moses:
Matthew 5:31: “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
Matthew 19:8: “He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”
Therefore, Jesus was not teaching the Law of Moses on divorce! We can take what He said, because it is different than what Moses taught and allowed.
Still others try to present Romans 7 as the definitive teaching on divorce.
Romans chapter 7 is not discussing divorce!
Romans 7:2: “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3: So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
This is not a discussion on divorce, but a discussion on whether or not the Law of Moses is still in effect! Here is the context:
Romans 7:1: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
2: For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3: So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
4: Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5: For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6: But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”
Since it was not a discussion of divorce and subsequent remarriage, Romans 7 should not be taken as the final word on divorce or remarriage. On the other hand, the conversations in Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians are answers to direct questions on those subjects.
How does God view adultery and divorce?
What is important is to try our best to understand the mind of God on this issue. What is it that God is trying to stop men (and women) from doing, that He hates so? In the Old Testament, He clearly hates the practice of men sending their wives away, leaving them humiliated and with no means of support.
Malachi 2:14: "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness
between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt
treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
Yet, He allowed divorce:
Deuteronomy 24:1: "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.
God, in the spiritual sense, divorced Israel and Judah, because of spiritual adultery:
Isaiah 50:1: "Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's
divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I
have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for
your transgressions is your mother put away."
Jeremiah 3:1: “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.
2: Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.
3: Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.
4: Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?
5: Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.
6: The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.
7: And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
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.
9: And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
10: And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.”
In the above passage we see how God Himself views adultery and divorce. He said that Israel had committed whoredom, or adultery, by worshipping false gods of stone and wood. He begged her to return, although He had told man that such a thing was unacceptable, in Deuteronomy 24:4, as quoted above. After she rejected His pleas that she return and be His wife, God divorced Israel, seen in verse 8 above. Adultery was just cause for a divorce, if we follow God’s example.
How to study to understand God’s views on divorce, and remarriage.
I will use these three criteria in my examination of the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage:
(2)All the scriptures are from God, therefore they are the word of God.
(3) We must study to rightly discern the word of truth—that is, the will of God.
There is no doubt from the study of the scriptures that God wants marriage to consist of one man and one woman; that the two become one in the eyes of God; and that man is not to sever what God has joined. (Note that God can sever what God has joined, but man cannot.)
Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
Jesus affirms this to be true.
Matthew 19:4-6 “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Jesus said that man cannot put asunder what God has joined. Man cannot create a different law that overrides the law of God. We know that this is the context, because the Pharisees, tempting Jesus, posed a question about divorce under the Law of Moses. The above statement by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 is in response to a specific question asked in
Matthew 19:3 “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (Emphasis mine—bp)
In other words, “Does God’s law allow man to break the bond of marriage by issuing a divorce for any reason that he chooses?” The answer is, “No, he cannot divorce her for any reason that he chooses.” The law of man cannot override the law of God. The Jews understood that truth, and so should we.
Acts 5:29 “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
God tells His children that they cannot divorce except for fornication.
That God intended a husband and wife to stay together as one is obvious. That is His design for marriage. It is intended as a lifelong commitment from both parties, not a matter of convenience for one or the other. In that light, God has commanded that a married believer not divorce his or her spouse for just any reason. Speaking to the Jews, Jesus said:
Luke 16:18 “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”
Does marriage continue beyond death?
From this, some conclude that marriage is eternal, and that the bond can never be broken, even by death. This doctrine is not scriptural.
Mark 12:18-25 “Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
"Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
"And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.”
1 Corinthians 7:39 “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.”
Romans 7:2 “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.”
Plainly, the word of God teaches that death indeed dissolves the marriage bond, so that marriage is not eternal.
Some state that marriage is for a lifetime, without any possibility of a divorce.
Matthew 19:9 “And I say unto you, 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.”
Matthew 19:9 clearly shows that divorce can be granted in cases of fornication. Were it not so, Jesus would have omitted this statement, often referred to in religious circles as “the exception”. When the reason for the divorce is "for fornication”, then the divorce is allowed. The one who puts away a spouse for fornication does not commit adultery upon remarriage. The phrase “except it be for fornication” means that this is the exception to the law. What we see is that God allows, but does not command, divorce when adultery has been committed.
Some argue that if this is the case, then whenever one wants a divorce, all one has to do is to commit adultery, then get a divorce, and remarry someone else. This is the very attitude against which Jesus spoke. Remember that the question was whether a man could divorce his wife for just any reason at all. The answer that Jesus gave shows that a man is to love and take care of his wife, and not put her away, as evidenced from the scriptures in Malachi, chapter 2, above.
Matthew 5:31-32 “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
Some maintain that this is just talking about “bed and board divorce”!
What about “bed and board divorce”?
Some also adopt the Roman Catholic concept of “bed and board” divorce, which they invented because they deem marriage to be a mystery, as described above. When pressed to allow divorce in cases of spousal abuse or other extreme conditions, they relented and established the unscriptural “bed and board divorce”. This doctrine is not found in the Bible.
Some incorrectly explain the last part of the statement of our Lord in Matthew 19:9, “and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” as meaning that any woman that is put away for any reason, including fornication, commits adultery if she remarries. Note that the expression “except it be for fornication” is part of a larger statement. which refers back to and further clarifies that part of the statement that precedes it regarding not putting away one’s wife. The entire statement must be taken in its entirety and its context. As we have seen, God allows remarriage in the case of lawful divorce.
Matthew 19:7-8 “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”
What was this “writing of divorcement”? Some argue that this was merely a written release that meant that the husband would no longer have sexual relations with his wife, and would not be responsible for her support—they refer to this as the “bed and board” clause. This is not a scriptural doctrine at all, as there is no scripture that describes such a situation. This is an innovation by the Catholic Church, which was subsequently adopted by some Protestant religions.
In some states, for instance, there are two kinds of “divorce”: “bed and board”, in which the “bonds of matrimony” are not severed, and “absolute divorce”, in which the “bonds of matrimony” are severed. Some religious students who use the “bed and board” argument maintain that even with this “writing of divorcement” that the two were still married in the eyes of God, and that if she were to be with another man as his wife, she would be committing adultery. This is not what the Bible teaches. Look at Deuteronomy, chapter 24 again.
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.”
This “bill of divorcement” was an absolute divorce, allowing the divorced woman to become another man’s wife. There is no such thing as a “bed and board divorce” in the Bible. The divorce means that the marriage is dissolved—that the “bonds of matrimony” are severed. In the case of Biblically-allowed divorce, remarriage for the divorced parties is permitted.
Note also that the Law of Moses called for the divorced wife to never return to the original husband. We have some who argue that the exact opposite must take place--that once a divorced and remarried person becomes a Christian, he or she must return to the first spouse, or remain single the rest of their lives.
Some argue that the defilement here mentioned is that the second husband and the divorced wife are living in a state of adultery. Look at the context: it is obvious that the defilement--or uncleaness--lies not in the fact of the second marriage, but in the rejection by the first husband. Once he has humiliated her by divorcing her, and she takes a new husband, it is unthinkable that she return to the one who first rejected her. This leads to frivolous treatment of the woman. God does not allow that.
(Note again: God can sever what God binds. When Jesus allows “fornication” as a reason for divorce, that means that God allows the severing of the marriage bonds in that instance. It is not man allowing the severing of the relationship, but God. What God allows, we must not disallow!)
What is fornication?
Fornication is generally regarded as “any sexual sin”, including adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. If this is true, then the innocent spouse may divorce the guilty one. Some who do not believe that divorce is permitted in any situation are so alarmed by this allowance that they try to move the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to the Old Testament to void them, thereby nullifying the doctrine of “the exception of adultery”.
The word adulterate means to add something that does not belong, thereby making it impure. God commands that married couples refrain from sexual desire for, or activity with, others. God decreed, and Jesus affirmed, that the two become one. He did not say that three can become one. The obligation is for each of the two to regard the other as their own flesh and life. Fornication is a violation of this oneness and the purity of the marriage relationship.
The concept of adulterating a marriage is that of making it impure by way of introducing someone else who doesn’t belong there--a person other than one of the spouses. Two married believers, whether Jews then, or Christians now, have an obligation to honor the marriage by keeping it pure, and not introducing a third person into the relationship.
Some say that the fornication mentioned by Jesus in Matthew’s account cannot mean adultery, because under the Law of Moses, adulterers were stoned to death.
Leviticus 20:10-16 “And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
"And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
"And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.
"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
"And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.
"And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
"And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
Some say that fornication is different than adultery, and that Matthew’s account of what Jesus said is not talking about adultery, but fornication. Some say that adultery is after marriage, and fornication is before marriage. However, as you can see from the verses above, the penalty for pre-marital fornication in many instances was also death.
Private cases were treated differently than public cases.
Deuteronomy 22:13-27 “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.
"But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.
"If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
"But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die. But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
"If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.”
Exodus 22:16-17 “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”
We see that the penalty for consensual adultery was death of both parties, as was the penalty for consensual sex between a man and a “betrothed” woman—that is, one promised to another man. The penalty was death to the man who raped a betrothed woman in a remote and isolated setting where her cries for help would not be heeded.
A man was forced to marry for life the woman that he raped who was not betrothed. He was not allowed to divorce her.
The Old Testament cited cases where the parties were caught. What about those situations where they had sexual relations without getting caught? This would leave some women (and men) in the position of not being virgins, yet having not been caught in the act. Deuteronomy 27, quoted above, indicates that if a husband suspected that his wife was not a virgin, he could ask for proof. If he was proven wrong, he could never put her away. If he was right, the penalty was death for the woman. What if a man suspected or found out privately that his wife or fiancée was not a virgin, but decided not to make a public example of her? What if he wanted to marry her anyway?
Notice the public nature of the accusation and resolution of the accusation. The woman had deceived the man into thinking that she was a virgin, but wasn’t. He felt shamed and humbled, so he in turn humbled her publicly. What about a situation where a man felt wronged, but did not want to make a public spectacle out of it? Could he privately put away his wife, or betrothed, without causing her death? This would, in essence, be like an annulment of the marriage, or betrothal, immediately upon the discovery.
Matthew 1:18-19: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.”
We see a distinction between public divorce, or putting away, and that done privately. The outcome seems to have hinged upon whether or not the man decided to make a public example of his espoused, or wife, once he discovered that she was not a virgin.
The key points seem to be:
(1) Did she deceive him into thinking that she was a virgin?
(2) Is he wanting to make a public example of her?
In other words, although death in case of fornication or adultery was the punishment when the parties were caught in the act, as it was also in the case of the rapist who engaged in forcible rape, there were times when it was not administered. The case of Joseph and Mary is one such instance. Joseph had planned to put Mary away privately when he thought that she had been unfaithful.
Paul taught what Jesus taught regarding married believers.
The apostle Paul corroborated what Jesus said when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 7: 10-11: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”
In other words, what God has joined, let not man put asunder. Two believers (children of God) are to remain together as husband and wife. This is true under both the Law of Moses and Christianity.
This also dovetails with Romans 7: 2-3: ”For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
There is no disagreement between Matthew 19:3-9, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, and Romans 7:2-3. Two married believers have no reason for a divorce—except in the case of fornication, as Jesus so plainly stated.
I have heard some argue that in the case when one of the two commits adultery, that he aggrieved party must put away his or her spouse. This is totally unscriptural. All sins can be forgiven of God, with the exception of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. If God can forgive adultery, we must forgive adultery. There is no command to put away the wayward spouse.
John 8: 3-11: “And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
"When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Notice that the woman caught in the very act of adultery was not told to go, and divorce her husband—she was told to go, and sin no more! Neither did Jesus call for the death of the two adulterers, as the Law of Moses commanded. We can see that Jesus was teaching a higher level of spirituality than the legalistic Law of Moses taught. Therefore, we can conclude that when He said that divorce and remarriage were allowed in the case of fornication, that He was speaking to a higher law, the eternal law of God, and not the Law of Moses given only to the Israelites.
Instead of the death penalty, Jesus called for repentance and a pure life. Isn't that what God really wants from us? That we repent, and order our lives according to His guidance and leadership? Adultery can be, and must be, forgiven. Jesus advocated no divorce for married believers. Paul advocated no divorce for married believers.
When speaking of His people’s spiritual adultery, God called for their return to Him.
Jeremiah 3:1: “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.”
Believers should not divorce on account of adultery, although Jesus said that they may. They should avoid adultery, but if adultery is committed, they must forgive and reconcile. However, if the marriage is rent beyond repair due to fornication, divorce and remarriage are allowed.
In Matthew 19:3-9, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, and Romans 7:2-3, the discussion is about married believers. In the case of Matthew, the believers were Jews, bound by the Law of Moses. In 1 Corinthians and Romans, the letters were addressed to the called-out assembly (church) of Christ.. Yet, we find a deeper discussion in 1 Corinthians 7, because Paul was specifically answering questions about marriage, divorce, and remarriage that had been asked by the Corinthian church.