WHAT ABOUT DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE?

Wayne S. Walker

     Question:  “If a man marries a woman, doesn’t get along, gets
divorced, and marries another woman, but the divorce wasn’t for adultery,
and then both of them hear the gospel and are baptized, are they safe in
the kingdom and all right with God?”

     This is a question that has been discussed a lot through the years.
Not everyone will agree on a single answer, but the purpose of this
question and answer column is to discern what the Bible says.  And the
Bible teaches that marriage is for life.  “Therefore a man shall leave
his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one
flesh” (Genesis 2.24).  “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew
19.6).  When a marriage is made, there are only two ways that it can be
severed acceptably with God.  The first is honorably, by the death of a
partner. Romans 7.3-4 says, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by
the law to her husband as long as he lives.  But if the husband dies, she
is released from the law of her husband…so that she is no adulteress,
though she has married another man.”

     The second is doshonorably by the sin of fornication.  When one
partner puts away his companion because of the companion’s fornication
(sexual immorality), he has the right to be married again.  However, if a
person divorces but not for adultery and marries another, they cannot be
married to each other without committing adultery, because Jesus said in
Matthew 19.9, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for
sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever
marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”  This simply says that all
marriages contracted after a divorce, except for the marriage of one who
put away his spouse because of the spouse’s fornication, are adulterous
in the sight of God.

     Certainly, any person who hears the gospel believes in Christ,
repents of sin, and is baptized is forgiven of all past sin and safe in
the kingdom of God (Mark 16.16).  However, should that person continue in
or go back to his former practice of sin, he would be wrong before God.
This would be true whether his sin was drunkenness, stealing, idolatry,
or adultery.  It is not a question of whether baptism will bring
salvation, but of whether the person has truly repented.  Repentance is a
change of mind that brings a change of life.  2 Corinthians 7.10 says,
“For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted;
but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
 

    If the remarried couple in the question repent of their sins, they
must turn from their sins.  And since one of their sins is adultery, they
must turn from it.  Their relationship as husband and wife is sinful
because they are living in adultery, and they must cease that practice to
be saved.  If adulterers can stay together after baptism, can
homosexuals?  Can bigamists?  Baptism by itself will not save.  We have a
Bible example that speaks to this issue.  Herodias was married to Philip,
the brother of Herod.  However, Herod desired to have her, so she
divorced Philip and married Herod (who also divorced his wife to marry
her).

     But in Mark 6.18 we read, “For John had said to Herod, ‘It is not
lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  Now, John had been
preaching and practicing a baptism for remission of sins (Mark 1.4).
However, John did not say that it would have been lawful for Herod to
have her IF they would both be baptized!  There is nothing in baptism
that can make a sinful act or relationship right with God.  The morals of
our society have become loose.  Divorce and remarriage have become
acceptable and even popular.  But the law of God remains unchanged.  We
may be sympathetic with those involved in such situations, but we have no
right to change the will of the Lord.  Obedience to the Lord is often
difficult, but it is never impossible if we are truly seeking to please
Him.  [From “Search for Truth,” Nov. 2, 1997.]

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