Back in 2010, Kevin DeYoung of the Gospel Coalition wrote an article entitled “A Sermon on Divorce and Remarriage.” In this article, Kevin gives seven principles of divorce and remarriage. He then gives 5 scenarios which he said :
“These situations require tremendous wisdom because it’s not always clear what is the correct counsel.”
I thought I would use scripture to answer these 7 principles. If you compare the principles to Kevin’s sermon, you will see we both come to different conclusions. The main difference is that Kevin, and many like him, believe that divorce ends a one-flesh covenant marriage. Scripture points to the fact that ONLY death ends a marriage. (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; 1 Cor 7:10,11,39, and Romans 7:2,3)
Consider this: If there is so much confusion and these situations require tremendous wisdom because it’s not always clear what is the correct counsel, is this popular teaching on divorce and remarriage accurate? The very popular teaching I am referring to is those who believe Matthew 19:9 and 1Cor 7:15 allow for divorce and remarriage. Kevin DeYoung is one such person who believes that scripture offers loopholes for divorce and remarriage. However, think of all the possibilities and misconceptions this creates.
For instance, how do we know if a person that remarried after divorce, divorced according to the right scripture? Also, if a believer divorced an unbeliever according to 1 Cor 7:15, what happens if the unbeliever repents and comes to Christ and seeks to restore the marriage. And let’s say this conversion happens a thousand miles away and ten minutes before the believer that divorced them makes a vow to remarry someone else? Scripture says the believer is to reject the very appearance of evil.
1 Thess 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
1 Cor 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
1. Marriage is the sacred union between one man and one woman and God’s intention is for marriage to last a lifetime.
This definition of marriage is the foundation of any discussion that involves divorce and remarriage. If you get the definition, the conditions, and the duration of marriage wrong, you will not correctly define divorce and remarriage. Marriage is a binding one-flesh covenant only broken by death. (Gen2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; Romans 7:2,3; 1 Cor 7:39; Eph 5:31) I agree with this principle only adding that God "commands", not that it is His "intention" that marriage lasts a lifetime.
2. Divorce is not always sinful.
On two occasions, Jesus calls divorce hardheartedness. Matthew 19:8 and Mark 10:5 Question: Is hardheartedness a sin? Divorce is a meaningless piece of paper initiated by a hardhearted person because every instance tells us that remarriage after divorce is adultery. In simple terms, divorce never breaks or separates the one-flesh marriage covenant. Divorce is also incompatible to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since the LordJesus Christ calls divorce hardheartedness (Mal 2:13-16; Matthew 19:8 and Mark 10:5), this principle is not recommended, encouraged, or valid.
3. Divorce is permitted, but not required, on the ground of sexual immorality.
Divorce is permitted for fornication, but not required. Fornication is sexual intercourse outside a consummated marriage covenant. This would only apply to a wife or husband who committed fornication during Jewish betrothal marriage (similar to our engagement, the difference being that a man and woman in Jewish Betrothal are already recognized as husband and wife and not just merely fiancés). If a man found his wife to be unclean (not a virgin) on his consummation wedding day, he could write a divorce decree to send her away. (Example Read Matthew 1:18-19,25) Using the Greek word “porneia” as a broad definition of sexual immorality is not accurate. Also, this principle ignores the fact that only death breaks the covenant.
4. Divorce is permitted, but not required, on the ground of desertion by an unbelieving spouse.
Divorce is NOT permitted on the grounds of desertion of an unbeliever because the marriage is a one-flesh covenant only separated by death, not abandonment. A believing spouse is commanded not to leave an unbeliever because they sanctify the marriage because it is a one-flesh covenant. (1 Cor 7:12-14) A believer in singleness lives in peace because they are no longer enslaved to an unequally yoked (2 Cor 6:14) spouse. In context, 1 Cor 7:12-16 are Paul’s example of a believer who marries an unbeliever, and two unbelievers who marry and one comes to salvation in Christ. No believer would divorce a one-flesh covenant they made before God because they would trust God to restore a prodigal first to Him, and then to restore the marriage. This Pauline privilege is not a loophole for a believer to divorce and remarry because the believer’s actions would run contrary to 1 Cor 7:10,11 and the fact that ONLY death breaks the covenant..
5. When the divorce was not permissible, any subsequent remarriage (to someone other than the original spouse) results in adultery.
ANYONE for whatever reason, who divorces a living covenant spouse and remarries commits adultery. Anyone who marries a divorced person who has a living covenant spouse commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9; Mark10:11,12;Luke 16:18) Since death only breaks the covenant and divorce is a hardhearted decision, remarriage is NOT an option.
6. In situations where the divorce was permissible, remarriage is also permissible.
Again, divorce is not permissible and remarriage is adultery in EVERY case.(Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9; Mark10:11,12;Luke 16:18)
7. Improperly divorced and remarried Christians should stay as they are, but repent and be forgiven of their past sins and make whatever amends are necessary.
Divorced and remarried Christians MUST dissolve an adulterous union because it is NOT a marriage.Again, Kevin says, “These situations require tremendous wisdom because it’s not always clear what is the correct counsel.” I disagree. These are easy to understand once you have an understanding of the permanence of marriage.
Luke 5:32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Kevin then gives us scenarios that the permanence of marriage takes care of each in turn. .
• “A wife commits adultery. She is repentant and wants to save the marriage. The husband knows he must forgive, but he wants to file for divorce? Would you grant him that right? Does it make any difference if the wife was frequently unfaithful?”
No, the husband is required to forgive a repentant wife, just as Christ forgave us. Seven times seventy… Adultery is NOT an excuse to divorce. If the wife repents, he must forgive. If she does not repent:
1. The wife is in adultery, she cannot remarry because her divorce has no power given the fact she is still in covenant marriage with her husband. She has no choice but to repent.
2. She must go through the steps of church discipline in order that she repents. (Matthew18:15-17)
3. If she remarries because a liberal church or someone else remarried her, they, she, and the person she remarried are in adultery and encourage adultery.
4. If she remains in sin, the husband must remain single until she repents or dies.
• “A wife gets a divorce because of marital unfaithfulness? You’ve determined she has legitimate grounds for that divorce. Is she then free to remarry? What if the husband repents, is he? Or only to his ex-wife? And what if she gets remarried, does that change his obligation?”
If you understand the permanence of marriage, divorce is not an option unless both wish to remain single the rest of their lives because of their hardheartedness to divorce. IF one or both divorce and remarry, they are in adultery. It cannot be any simpler than that.
• “A non-Christian couple gets a divorce. Later the man becomes a Christian and realizes the divorce was wrong. Is he obligated to try to win back his non-Christian ex-wife? What if he tries to be reconciled and his ex-wife has no interest, is he free to remarry in the Lord?”
First question is this: If they were unbelievers when they married, what vow did they make to each other that God did not recognize if God recognizes all marriage vows regardless of whether the person believes in God or not? God is not mocked. A person is without excuse if they say they do not believe in God (Romans 1:18-20), yet they will stand before witnesses and God and make a marriage vow to their spouse. A marriage is for life and EVERY person that makes a vow of marriage is without excuse. The man that became a Christian is obligated to restore his covenant marriage with his covenant bride. If she remarried, she and the man she married are in adultery because her first covenant husband is alive. Therefore, he must remain single to restore the marriage once the adultery is dissolved. The church needs to preach the truth about marriage so these “situations” never happen again.
• “A remarried couple comes to realize their divorce and remarriage was sinful. Are they committing adultery by staying married? If they stay married, what should they do to make things right? Can they be members in the church? What about leaders?”
They MUST dissolve the remarriage because this unholy union is NOT a marriage it is adultery. Once they dissolve the adultery, they showed that they repented of this sin and this always brings them back into fellowship within the body of Christ.
The permanence of marriage is what the Lord Jesus Christ taught. Regardless the circumstance…there is clear instructions that require very little wisdom to answer any question or resolve any situation that comes to mind. The scribes and Pharisees created loopholes to divorce and remarriage…The Lord Jesus Christ said this…What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Kevin DeYoung finishes with a message to the married, the divorce and single, to those who have sinfully divorced, to those whose sin caused the divorce, to those who are now remarried when you shouldn’t be.
"To the married: Stay married. Guard your marriage. Don’t think you are above falling. Don’t think you are above temptation. Pray together. Take walks together. Get away from the kids to be together. There are few things more precious in life than your marriage. Do not take it for granted. And if you are contemplating divorce, please talk to someone. Please don’t give up."
I agree with everything he says here up to this point…except he should say that marriage is never dissolvable by a divorce decree and anyone who divorces must remain single until repentance or death. All remarriages after divorce is adultery. Consider the harm to your kids. Stay married.
To the divorced and single: Stay in the covenant vow you made before God so that your spouse comes to repentance. Enact church discipline (Matthew18:15-17) and make sure the church is involved. If a prodigal spouse is made clear by the entire church through church discipline that his or her only options are reconciliation of the marriage or singleness until death, this will give the Holy Spirit ample time to bring them to repentance and salvation in Christ.
The following quote is the best advice Kevin DeYoung gives on the matter. I commend him for admitting that the sins of divorce and adultery is forgivable with repentance. However, he left out something important.
"To those who have sinfully divorced, to those whose sin caused the divorce, to those who are now remarried when you shouldn’t be: run to the cross. It is not light thing to tear asunder what God joined together. It is no small mistake to pursue an adulterous second marriage. But God’s grace is not light and it is not small. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. There is mercy yet for you. But the contrition must be real, the admission of guilt must be honest, the repentance must be earnest. A broken heart and a contrite spirit the Lord will never deny. Run to God. Plead with God. Know his adopting love. Experience again his justifying free grace. There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains."
In conclusion, I will add to what Kevin wonderfully wrote. Running to the cross is admitting your sin and repenting of that sin to do the right thing so that God will receive the glory. Any remarriage is adultery, and remains adultery until repentance. Dissolve this unholy union and let others know why. All you need do is point to key scriptures and tell them that you will remain obedient to God's word and His covenant of marriage, and let the Holy Spirit convict. I can assure you that the permanence of marriage is not a popular topic among evangelicals and the world in general. However, we are to please God and not men.
My final message to Kevin DeYoung and all those he represents in the popular view of divorce and remarriage is to repent. Run to the cross; admit that you have it wrong and that from here on out you will not waver on the scriptures clear message that divorce is a hardhearted decision and remarriage is always adultery and remains adultery until repentance. No repentance from sin brings judgment. There is still time. Do the right thing before time runs out.
Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
In Christ’s love,