Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
When I think of the thousands of divorces in our country, it grieves my heart. I co-facilitated a divorce care ministry for nearly five years and the common denominator of every single divorce was that one or both spouses had a hard heart. Forgiveness was not an option and neither was repentance. The saddest part of all, in most cases these were professing Christians. Yet, Paul calls the believer to be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Lord. He calls us to renew our minds so that we may do the will of God. Marriage is a sacrifice…from self to selflessness.
During my extensive research on the covenant of marriage, I noticed a recurring theme among those who believe that the exception clause validates divorce and remarriage. The Gospel of Matthew is the only Gospel that offers this exception clause. The two verses are Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. For the sake of this post, I offered three popular translations. The King James Version (KJV), the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT) I want to be clear that I rely on the King James Version and the betrothal view of marriage that is only applicable to Jewish Christians who understood that “fornication", can only take place in a non-consummated betrothal marriage. More on this here. For the sake of this post, I want to approach this exception clause from an alternative, yet equally compelling view.
King James Version (KJV) 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.
New International Version (NIV) But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
New Living Translation (NLT) But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.
King James Version (KJV) 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.
New International Version (NIV) I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.
New Living Translation (NLT) And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.
There is a recurring theme is that the ONLY person who may use this “exception clause” is the “innocent” spouse of the marriage. I say, “Use” as if the word is an option for the innocent party. In other words, this “exception clause” is only applicable to the innocent spouse of sexual immorality/martial unfaithfulness. What many scholars and pastors will say that Jesus gives this exception clause as an option, yet they believe it is best that the believer should remain in the marriage and preserve the marriage as best as they are able. More on this “grace” later…
I want to get a handle on the exception clause first. If this is an option in the case of an innocent spouse, what are the consequences for the unfaithful spouse? What is required of the innocent spouse after the divorce? Is remarriage an option? As you will see, there is a lot of confusion in the exception clause. I believe it is best if I use fictitious names and a scenario as an example. We will use the names of Joe and Mary:
Joe marries Mary in the eyes of God and man. Mary has an adulterous affair with her co-worker. We will call this man Bob. According to this exception clause, Joe has the option to divorce Mary if she does not repent of her adulterous relationship with Bob. However, if we go specifically by this exception clause, is it mandatory that Joe divorce Mary, or can Joe forgive Mary should she repent?
One thing to note before we continue… Is “adultery” the same as sexual immorality/martial unfaithfulness? What defines adultery? What defines sexual immorality/martial unfaithfulness? In this case, we can presume that Mary commits “adultery” as in sexual intercourse with Bob. However, we need proof that this is the case and not merely based on assumptions...
If Joe divorces Mary, we must assume that the marriage is over and that Joe can remarry another woman. At first glance, this looks simple enough. We must assume that Mary will never repent and that she must now remain in singleness the remainder of her life. After all, she was the guilty party in the marriage. If she remains with Bob, she remains in adultery, right?
We assume that once Joe divorces Mary, the marriage is over. It is assumed that Joe can remarry another woman. Would this release Mary of her sin of adultery against the Joe? If Joe enters into a remarriage with another woman, is Mary now able to remarry Bob? In Mary’s case, she could say that since the marriage is over and Joe remarried, Mary is no longer in the sin of adultery anymore.
What is the verdict?
What is the verdict?
Here is a very important question… If Joe divorces Mary, will Joe’s remarriage to another woman CAUSE Mary to remain in this sin of adultery with no hope of repentance?
If you say no, then you are saying that sexual immorality/martial unfaithfulness is not a sin. After all, Mary did not repent of her adultery thus forcing Joe to divorce her. The ONLY answer is yes, Mary will remain in her adultery UNLESS Mary repents of her adultery with Bob and remains single the rest of her life.
One could argue that since the marriage is over, Mary could repent of her adultery and God would forgive her and she could marry Bob. However, if that is the case, why would not Joe remain single so that IF Mary repents, Joe and Mary could save their marriage? Not to mention that unrepentant adulterers, or any sinners for that matter, will NOT enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Suppose two days after Joe remarries another woman Mary repents and seeks to restore her marriage with Joe? Since Mary was too late, she decides to remain single the rest of her life saying that Joe had no scripture to support his remarriage. Mary believes that she sinned against God and Joe, and knows that even though she committed adultery, the blood of Christ covers her sin and she seeks to restore her marriage making a claim that Joe must repent of his remarriage.
As you can see, the exception clause creates a lot of problems and scenarios that could deceive many. I can assure you that these are but a few examples and that many more problems can occur in the “exception clause” scenario. Ultimately, there would be less confusion if “remarriage” were not an option after divorce. Yet, many pastors and biblical scholars believe that God gives the innocent party the option to divorce AND remarry.
Paul says this to the 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.
If Joe would not have divorced his wife and Mary repented of her adultery, there would be no scenarios except reconciliation of the marriage. If Mary was divorced by Joe and Joe remained single, Mary is left with no options except repentance and reconciliation of the marriage. You would think this would be the case…yet the exception clause causes wickedness and deception.
Many churches will remarry a person without ever asking so much as one question as to why they seek to remarry after a divorce. Even IF the innocent party remarries, the “guilty” need not repent of their sin. They can just go down the street and make a claim the THEY were the innocent party of the divorce. Who would know? What is more alarming is that many "famous' evangelical (P)astors teach that once a "remarriage" is solemnized by an ordained clergy, and vows are exchanged, this new "remarriage" suddenly becomes a "marriage in the Lord". To be clear that one must NEVER divorce from a "remarriage" as this would be evil. (rinse,lather and repeat)
Go to your church on Sunday and ask if the remarried person next to you if they were the “innocent” or “guilty” party of a divorce. Ask them if they initiated the divorce because they were the innocent spouse or if they committed adultery and believe they can remarry because their “innocent” spouse remarried someone else. How can we know if the remarried couple divorced and remarried according to the exception clause? What if they divorced and remarried just because they said they had an incompatible relationship in their first marriage? Are they in adultery, or is this remarriage legitimate? Does God recognize divorces and remarriages outside the confines of the “exception clause”?
We must take this divorce and remarriage business very seriously. If “remarriage” is adultery, then this sin will face judgment if not repented. It is clear that this exception clause causes confusion, and if left unabated, it will cause great wickedness to enter into the church. Unfortunately, that has already occurred and has gone on to epic proportions. Divorce and remarriage is so common in the professing church that no one bats an eye anymore. It will be no surprise that within a few years, no one will bat an eye to same-sex marriage.
What is even more shameful is that many say that grace covers the thousands of divorces and remarriages. This “cheap” grace is no more than disobedience and unrighteousness to God’s covenant of marriage. Instead of grace that remains in marriage, we make exceptions and loopholes to demand this grace to divorce and remarry. Grace is extended to the humble and contrite of heart. Those who live in self-righteousness to divorce and remarry believe in an “exception clause” that offers nothing of grace or truth, let alone having bodies that exemplify a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.
The grace I extend to those who believe in an exception clause is this. God is merciful and full of grace for those who humble themselves and repent of their divorce and remarriages. If singleness is required to glorify God, then that is the consequence of your disobedience to divorce and remarry in the first place. I can assure you that the Lord Jesus Christ wants a relationship with you first. If this was not your reason to get married in the first place, then now is the day for a new life in Him. We cannot expect anymore of a God who made marriage a representation of Christ’s love for His church, even when we did not.
Eph 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.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
In Christ’s love,