Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Woman At The Well and Permanence of Marriage.



 This blog is in defense for God's design for the permanence of marriage between one man and one woman for life.(Genesis 2:24) Often some will use certain  scripture to validate that God's word gives an instance or instances where the Lord Jesus Christ offers anything other than the permanence of marriage. The story of woman at the well (John 4) is one such case. The argument goes like this: "Jesus recognizes the woman's five husbands, therefore He recognizes five marriages as valid marriages. Thus, I can remain in a second marriage after divorce."The following is the response to this argument. As always, I pray that you test  anything I write to the full council of God's word.

(KJV) John 4:3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
4 And he must needs go through Samaria.5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.

26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.


The story of the woman at the well is a great example of how God redeemed the world through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ offers this Samaritan woman living water. She believes that this “prophet” is offering her water that will never make her thirst again. What she does not realize is that the Lord Jesus Christ is offering Himself as her salvation. This woman knows the stories of the prophets and that the long awaited Messiah will return. The Lord Jesus says, I that speak to you am he.”


No one will argue that this story reflects the perfect example of the Gospel because here was a woman who was living in sin, and the Lord offered Himself as the remedy of that sin. Yet, the Lord makes it clear that true worshippers will worship God in spirit and in truth. This woman cannot worship the Father until she accepts the Son. We must remember that chapter 3 precedes this chapter. A chapter famous for this verse. 

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.


We know that in context, the story of the woman at the well is a direct correlation to the Gospel.  Yet, when it comes to discussing the permanence of marriage with some, this story of the Gospel often enters the conversation. Some will use this story as an example that the Lord Jesus Christ recognizes the fact that this woman had five husbands. They conclude that since the Lord recognized these husbands, that the Lord also recognized the marriages as valid and approved marriages. Thus, anyone in a "remarriage" should not exit  these "remarriages" less they would break another marriage. This is a fallacy because one must believe that the Lord approves "remarriages" as valid marriages when He does not. The context of the argument is that since the Lord approved of these remarriages, anyone in a current “remarriage” after divorce should view this new marriage as binding. 


In his book, “The Momentary Marriage, A Parable of Permanence”, author and pastor John Piper believes that “remarriages” after divorce are valid marriages and therefore divorce of these “remarriages” is not required.  Piper writes:


“Another reason I think remarried couples should stay together is that when Jesus met the woman of Samaria, he said to her, “You have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.” (John 4:18). When Jesus says, “The one have now is not your husband,” he seems to imply that the other five were. Not that it’s right to divorce and marry five times. But the way Jesus speaks of it sounds as though he saw them as real marriages. Illicit. Adulterous to enter into, but real. Valid.”-page 170



I would strongly argue against this for a few reasons. First, Piper assumes that these marriages are all “valid” marriages simply believing that Jesus saw these five marriages as valid marriages. What if Jesus was making a point to a woman that understood the laws of the day and that five marriages were a possibility if the woman was "put away" five times according to the Law of Moses? (Deut 24:1-4) 

In the Lord’s time, certain Pharisees would accept a divorce for just about any reason. Therefore, this woman would not understand anything other than believing she was in five marriages simply because the five men put her away according to the law. This could explain the fact that she did not bother getting married anymore for fear of maybe being divorced again. This is assuming she was married and divorced five times. 


Another reason I strongly disagree with Piper’s logic is that we simply do not have the factual evidence of how the five marriages ended. What if all these marriages ended in the death of all five husbands? Could we not conclude that the Lord did indeed recognize her marriages as valid marriages and that her living with a man while not married is still sinful? If we assume that all marriages ended in divorce, we know that this woman understood the laws of divorce. Yet, we must refer to the other Gospels and the full counsel of God’s word on how the Lord handled His view of divorce. 


Mark 10:2And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 


The Lord was engaging the woman on what she already understood about the laws and that her five marriages were valid according to the laws of Moses. This is no indication that the Lord approved of her five marriages. We know in Mark’s account that the Lord only recognizes one man and one woman in a one-flesh covenant for life.  




Another reason I strongly disagree with Piper’s assessment is the actual context of the verses in John 4. In verses 6 through 15, the Lord engages the woman with seeking water from the well. The woman makes an assumption that a Jew would not as much pass through Samaria let alone ask a Samaritan woman for water. (John 4:9) Yet, we know the compassion of the Lord and He engages this woman to offer her living water which is the gift of God.(John 4:10) He and the disciples also stay in Sychar for two days. (John 4:43)

The woman asks the Lord if He is greater than Jacob. (John 4:12) The Lord replies:
John 4:13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

This woman wants actual water that never again makes her "flesh" thirst, yet the Lord is offering her so much more.  In contrast, God was in covenant with Jacob, yet this Man was indeed offering her a better promise, a better way, a better life, and a better Covenant. Instead of telling her plainly that He is the Messiah, the Lord first addresses the root of why he came into the world and why she will continue to thirst with the water from this well. He asks her a question that digs deep to her very soul.

John 4:16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

If you notice, the Lord did not ask for ALL of her husbands, He asked for her husband, singular. This is significant, because the woman has to not only answer as to why she does not have a husband, but she has to do so knowing she had five husbands. What the Lord does is He exposes this woman’s condition. He asks a question that is specific to why she needs living water. Her answer is simple. She says that she has no husband. Is the answer to this question accurate? Why would she answer with, “I have no husband, but I am living with a man that is not my husband,…should I go call him instead?”



John 4:17,18 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.



These “prophetic” words get the heart of the issue. The Lord is exposing why this woman needs living water. It has nothing to do with us believing the Lord would approve of her five husbands when He specifically asks for her singular husband. We cannot use this story as an example to validate remarriages after a divorce. In fact, every time the Lord speaks of a “remarriage” after divorce, He calls this adultery. (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11, 12; and Luke 16:18)

Another reason to argue Piper's point is that the Lord Jesus Christ takes away the Law of Moses and replaces that law with the law of grace and truth. We as readers must remember that we live in the New Covenant and that a regenerated believer must view scripture under this pretense. We need to read John 4 and put this into context under the New Covenant. Yes, there are times when marriages become difficult, but it is usually because of a sin that needs repentance. A believer remains under the hand of God in any situation, including waiting in singleness should a prodigal spouse abandon the marriage. After all, we are in covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, divorce is never an option for the believer. 



In conclusion, the problem that people have with understanding that a “remarriage” is not a valid marriage is a belief that God recognizes a “remarriage” as valid when He calls it adultery. In the case of the woman at the well, we cannot make a general assumption that the Lord recognized her marriages as valid simply by believing that He referred to her five husbands. Under the Law of Moses, this woman did believe that she was married five times that these men were her husbands. But, it very clear that the man she was living with was not her husband and this was sin.


We have no record that this woman left this man she was living with to walk in singleness. We have no record of her actions after she received news that this man was eventually crucified by the Romans and on the third day He rose from the dead and was seen by many. (Acts 8:5,6) What we do know is that she was dramatically changed by the words of the Messiah. If this man was indeed the “Living Water” that we all need, then what are the actions of those who see sin for what it is and react accordingly? Will we walk in spirit and truth to worship the Father?


Had this woman rejected the words of spirit and truth by the “prophet” at the well, would she receive this living water? The Lord exposed the sins in this woman’s life because He wanted her to see that those who worship the Father must come through the Son and worship Him in spirit and in truth.  The Lord pointed to this woman’s need for a Savior. The Father requires holiness and perfection which can only come through faith in the Son who fulfilled the law completely. Do we understand that when those who seek to know the Messiah, we can simply point to the Lord Jesus Christ who says, “I that speak unto thee am he.”


John 4:21-24 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.


In Christ’s love,

Neil







3 comments:

Anna Berl said...

I have a question about this that is very specific to my current situation that I would like your perspective regarding.

I married a divorced man 14 years ago. At the time, since his first wife had already remarried, I believed that it was okay in God's eyes, since Deuteronomy explicitly forbids the remarriage of the two after another man has married the wife.

Now, my husband is divorcing me. My first instinct has been to honor the covenant that I made with the Lord and him and to stand for this marriage even if it means being unmarried for the rest of my life.

Now, I am wondering 1) should I have ever married him at all? And 2) If not, should I bind myself to an oath to stand or allow the possibility of remarriage to myself?

If God honors the covenant of marriage that I have made (I was never married before) then the answer is clear to me in agreement with your post - I am to remain unmarried and continue to pray for and honor my spouse as his mate until death. If I was wrong from the beginning though, then I am truly confused about what I should do next.

There is much at stake in the answer to that question. We have a three year old son, who I long to raise to be a godly man. I believe that if I should stand and don't that disobedience would leave him in bondage, and if I shouldn't stand and do that disobedience could likewise lead him down a wrong road.

In all honesty, my heart is broken in either case.

Neil Novotnak said...

Thank you for commenting Anna, and thank you for the questions. I have no doubt the Holy Spirit is moving in these last days on the truth of marriage. It is my prayer that more people like you would come forward and seek the truth of marriage.

You wrote: "Now, I am wondering 1) should I have ever married him at all? And 2) If not, should I bind myself to an oath to stand or allow the possibility of remarriage to myself?"

These questions must always stand on the foundation of marriage truth.Your "marriage" of a divorced man 14 years ago was not a marriage in the Lord since he already has a wife of covenant. His wife is in an adulterous union if she too "remarried". It was not in his place to make marriage vows to you when he has already vowed to his wife. Thus, it was not in your place to make vows to him since she is still alive.

The answer to your first question is that you should have not even dated him, let alone marry him. If you chose to stand for this marriage you would be standing for adultery. If you read my testimony you will find it is not unlike yours in that you made hollow vows to someone who is in a covenant marriage. The Lord does not honor lies.

The answer to your second question is not easy. "If not, should I bind myself to an oath to stand or allow the possibility of remarriage to myself?"

Since your "marriage" was not a marriage in the Lord, what steeps of repentance are needed to make this apparent? For me, this blog is my process of repenting from adultery. I stand on the truth of marriage as one man and one woman for life and the whole world has access to this truth. I personally have remained unmarried and stand for the truth of marriage. Since I was not married in the Lord but was in an adulterous union for 20 years, there are obvious consequences to this long relationship.Though like you, I have the opportunity to now "marry in the Lord", I have not done so knowing that I am a witness to the truth of marriage, divorce and remarriage.I also pray that my son's mother would come to know the truth.

The caution is this...Certainly you are permitted to "marry in the Lord", but who will know that your marriage is in the Lord was due to you being in adultery for 14 years? It is no mystery that divorce and remarriage are widely celebrated...we need people to widely celebrate marriage as one man and one woman for life!

"There is much at stake in the answer to that question. We have a three year old son, who I long to raise to be a godly man. I believe that if I should stand and don't that disobedience would leave him in bondage, and if I shouldn't stand and do that disobedience could likewise lead him down a wrong road."

You need to tell your son the truth. He deserves the truth and then when he is able to make decisions for himself he can then know the truth of marriage and become a godly man in his own right.

"In all honesty, my heart is broken in either case."

I weep with you. But there is a light in the dark tunnel. There is peace which is indescribable. There is hope when all seems lost. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, In Him you will find all you need to stand in the gap for the truth of marriage. There is also a group of people who will stand for you and comfort you through these dark days. (Facebook-RESTORING BIBLICAL MARRIAGE). Please know too that i will help in any questions you have. God bless you and may the spirit of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit guide you in peace.

Neil Novotnak said...

I like a point to another reason that we need to disregard the idea that this woman may have been married and that we should use John 4 as an excuse to defend divorce and remarriage. Daniel Jennings, author of "Except For Fornication, Why Evangelicals Must Reevaluate Their Interpretation Of Matthew's Divorce Exception Clause" quoted:

"I think that this one can be explained easily by looking at the translation issue at play here. The same Greek word for "husband" also means "man". Its the word "aner". So, the passage could just as easily be translated "for you have had five men, (aner) and the one you now have is not your husband (aner)." I think that this is the correct way of translating it and that doing so gets rid of all of the confusion that comes from translating it as husbands. Under this way of translating it the woman is shown to be a promiscuous woman who has jumped from one illicit relationship to another one and even the one she currently had was immoral, having chosen to not marry the man she was currently living with."