This is the fourth part of a five-part post, entitled “More Harm than Good”.
"Marriage is not a mere civil thing, but is partly spiritual and Divine, and therefore God alone has the power to appoint the beginning, the continuance, and the end thereof." ~ A.W. Pink
After carefully reading and considering Dr. James Dobson’s three premises on why he believes divorce and remarriage are optional to a one-flesh covenant that no man may break, I have concluded that I must point this ministry to the word of God and expose their false idea that Jesus and Paul allowed loopholes to exit a one-flesh marriage covenant. You can find these premises on his website, here. “Dr. Dobson on Divorce and Remarriage.”You can find the first post here, and the second post with the first premise here, and the third response the second premise here. . Here is the third and final premise.
3. When one of the mates is an unbeliever and willfully and permanently deserts the believing partner. This does not refer to a temporary departure, but a permanent abandonment (see I Corinthians 7:12-15). Of course, Dr. Dobson recognizes that it is difficult to avoid misunderstanding when dealing with theological issues of this nature. However, we hope that this response is helpful in clarifying his position.
First, when do we as imperfect creatures define permanent abandonment? I see a common pattern here with the second premise…To qoute my own response to the second premise.."In this premise, we notice there is an assumption that we have knowledge that a spouse will “remain “unrepentant” thus concluding there is no hope for restoration of the marriage. This has nothing to say about the fact that a impenitent spouse will go to Hell if they remain in sin."
Is there no hope for an unbelieving spouse that walks away? Is this teaching applicable to Jesus’ teaching on the prodigal son? What does Peter mean when he says…(2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
The following passages of scripture are Paul’s reply to those who are married.
1 Cor 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.
It is important to note here that Paul is talking to all marriages…A man is not to divorce his wife. That is very clear. In addition, this is a command from the Lord, and not Paul. We must consider this and apply this to ALL marriages, even unequally yoked marriages…
2 Cor 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
This passage clearly states that a believer should not fellowship with an unbeliever. This would also apply to entering into a one-flesh marriage covenant. A believer must never marry an unbeliever, and any believer who believes they can marry an unbeliever by ignoring these passages is in for a marriage of misery until the unbeliever comes to faith in Christ. However, if a believer does ignore this scripture the believing spouse sanctifies an unbeliever once they enter one-flesh covenant marriage. The problem with this is that a believer who marries an unbeliever will be unable to fellowship with an unbelieving spouse. This will certainly bring heartache to a believer until a spouse comes to faith in Christ.
1 Cor 7:12 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. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
These scriptures apply to two scenarios …
- A believing spouse knowingly or unknowingly marries an unbeliever.
- An unbeliever marries an unbeliever, and one of these come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In these passages, Paul commands a believer to never leave an unbeliever because the one-flesh marriage covenant sanctifies the unbeliever and the children. (1 Cor 7:12-14) Yet, this premise believes Paul says it is “ok” to divorce and remarry after an unbeliever walks away from the marriage?!?!
That is not the example we see in the Luke 15:11-32, the story of the prodigal son. Should a believing spouse divorce, remarry, and let an unbeliever believe that the marriage is over? God forbid. A believer has no “fellowship” with an unbeliever and this will always cause problems… Yet, the marriage covenant is still valid and cannot be broken because Paul commands (1 Cor 7:12-14) that a believer sanctifies the unbeliever because of what? Answer: They are both entered into a one-flesh marriage bond until death.
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.
The “peace” a believer has is not the severing of the marriage bond; it is a peace of living in singleness apart from being enslaved to an unequally yoked unbeliever until the unbeliever comes to repentance and faith in Christ. To read this scripture any other way is using this as a loophole to divorce an unbeliever and remarry someone else. This hardhearted action, this hardhearted premise is totally contrary to other scripture and contrary to the very Gospel itself. Remember, if a spouse departs, they are to remain single. (1 Cor 7:11) Tell me, what member or minister in the body of Christ would remarry an unbeliever who abandons his or her believing spouse?
This premise (and many a professing scholar and minister) relies on twisted interpretation of scripture to say that a believing spouse may sever the marriage bond giving the unbeliever the idea that he or she has no hope of salvation, let alone the hope of a restored marriage. This is the message this premise presents. Where is the Gospel in this? Would it serve a believer to trust in the Lord to restore the heart of an unbelieving spouse by believing the Lord chastises him or her by letting those unbelieving spouses eat among the pigs? Will the prodigal spouse see a faithful and loving spouse who waits on the Lord, who is there with open arms when the prodigal returns? Not according to this premise or many ministers who believe a believing spouse is in "peace" if they divorce the infidel spouse and remarry someone else.
“Of course, Dr. Dobson recognizes that it is difficult to avoid misunderstanding when dealing with theological issues of this nature. However, we hope that this response is helpful in clarifying his position.”
In conclusion, I wish I could say that these premises clarified a reason not to believe in the permanence of marriage. After all, this is what these premises imply. These three premises imply that marriage is not a permanent bond until death, yet the Lord Jesus Christ on more than one occasion is recorded as saying…”What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” We either believe by faith that God can restore a prodigal spouse and we will forgive the prodigal to restore the marriage when He does, or we never had faith in God to begin with.
In Christ’s love,