Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
In my last post, I offered resources for those who stand on God’s word that marriage is one man and one woman for life. No excuses, no exceptions. While these resources are valuable, what needs to be clear is that we can never have a right view of marriage unless the Holy Spirit convicts us of that truth. As the many resources there are for the permanence of marriage, there are thousands more on the exceptions which permit a spouse to divorce and remarry. I have concluded that no matter how many resources you have on one way or the other, it is the word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit that convicts the heart.
I can write post after post defending marriage, but if the foundation I use is not the word of God then my position is weak and eternally damaging. Yes, I know that those who write to defend divorce and remarriage also use the word of God to back their position, but no matter which position you hold, it must coincide with the Gospel, it must glorify the Lord, and it must point people to the love of Christ. I have found that no position glorifies the Lord, and is a better picture of the Gospel then those who hold to marriage as one man and one woman for life.
Just last night I listened to a woman’s testimony of marriage restoration who came to understand the truth of her marriage vow by reading the word of God. When I look back at my own history, it was the word of God that convicted me that marriage definition is as it was in the beginning. (Gen 2:24) There was no bias from others telling me what the word said. I simply read the words and they spoke to my heart. Luke 16:18 was the verse that stuck with me even when the Pastor told me that there are exceptions found in similar passages.
When I came to know the truth, I found that truth through scripture and the Holy Spirit convicting me of that truth. I thought that I had discovered something new and that I was the only one who believed that divorce was no longer an option. Then I began to research and find that many early church writers believed in the permanence of marriage and that throughout the years, many voices were standing firm to the truth that marriage was one man and one woman for life.
I wanted to understand why so many taught that there were exceptions and privileges, only to find that most who stand on these positions use two instances of scripture out of context, and base their whole theology of divorce and remarriage around these verses. I wanted to understand how these same people can ignore unambiguous verses on this position and stand solely on ambiguous verses(Mt 19:9 and 1 Cor 7:15). I wanted to understand the purpose of a vow and how that vow of marriage is an example of God’s mercy and love to provide man with a suitable partner and that the vow is sealed in the truth. I wanted to understand the meaning of one-flesh and how God made one into two, and then two into one again. I understood that the marriage bond was even greater than the bond of siblings and parents. Just as we can say that our brother, sister, mother and father can no longer be our siblings and our parents, we can never say that a spouse is no longer our spouse… until death.
I read commentary after commentary on the many positions and could not get past the fact that the marriage bond reflected the Gospel. (Eph 5:31-32) I could not see the Gospel in the any other position save the permanence position. When people spoke of mercy and grace to divorce and remarry, I saw mercy and grace to remain in the marriage and express the love of Christ to the other spouse who did not even deserve the love of Christ. I thought, and continue to think why I deserved the love of Christ in my own life.
Did I pursue God? Can I save myself from myself? Was it the love of God through the Lord Jesus Christ who loved me enough to take upon Himself the penalty of sin that I deserve? How am I to love others? How can I possibly show love to others when I do not even love myself sometimes?
After listening to that woman’s testimony last night, I was reaffirmed to the power of God’s love. I was also reaffirmed to the power of the written word and how the scriptures can only come to life what we crucify our flesh and read the scripture in the power of the Holy Spirit. None of us deserves God’s mercy and grace, yet we have this through the Lord Jesus Christ. Once we get past the idea that God wants to bless us for our glory, we are the ready to be blessed because we give Him glory.
This woman was willing to trust the Lord and believe the scriptures through the power of the Holy Spirit. It was not her power, but the power of Christ in her that extended love to a prodigal husband. She had hope in the Lord that her failing marriage would be restored. She longed to see her husband know the Lord. She extended love to her enemies (One of which was the other woman), not knowing that years later that love would transform the heart of her enemies so that they would come to have salvation in Christ.
It is not unlike the story I heard yesterday on Focus on the Family (FOTF). And it amazes me how these stories seem to complement each other…Even though I believe FOTF has done more harm to marriage then they will ever agree, I believe that some of what they offer will hold them accountable. The story is of Al and Lisa Robertson and their struggles as individuals, and as a married couple. You can read the transcript here.
Al showed the love of Christ to his wife, even after she committed adultery. At first, he was like many hurt by the devastating betrayal of adultery. He was told by many that divorce is the answer…
“And I told her we were going to divorce, that I wasn't gonna stay married to her and at that moment, that's exactly what I felt, you know, that I was gonna do. But it was interesting. Over the course of the next few days, weeks and ultimately a couple of months, a lot of people advised me just that. There were other people that were saying, you know, just take some time. Don't make any hard decision now. Just wait. Just wait and let God, you know, work on you and that was great advice, which I've used to a lot of other people.”- Al Robertson
To his credit, Jim Daly asks what many want to know….
Jim Daly: “How do you do that in that moment though? I'm just, you know, thinking through if I were in your shoes and some listening have been in your shoes, to bridle that desire to strike back, to bridle the flesh and the response that we would want to have and put it at the foot of the cross; that is big.”Al: "It's huge and look, a lot of people can't or don't do it and feel like they can't do it."
Jim: "And feel justified.
Al: "And feel justified.”
The flesh can lead the heart in many ways, but is the spirit that leads to everlasting life. Many believe that the “exception clause” (Matthew 19:9) gives the “innocent” spouse the freedom to divorce. If this is the case, is the exception clause a command or an option? Most Evangelicals, and ministries like FOTF will say the best option is to remain committed to the marriage and seek restoration through channels of repentance, forgiveness and grace…yet they believe this clause is necessary in some cases…or is it?
If we read the scripture with the intent to give us happiness instead of making us holy, could we make the “exception clause” to be anything we want it to be, or is it more as the Lord making a point to the Pharisees that the only exception to divorce, “put away” your wife, if you found her to be pregnant when she is was betrothed to you as a virgin? This remind you of another couple from Matthew's Gospel?...
Here is Al’s response to Jim’s thoughts…and many thoughts of others...:
Al: And feel justified, absolutely and say, you know, "Well, even Christ said, you know, except for marital unfaithfulness," so it's almost like there's a clause there. But what I always tell people is, look, you have been forgiven by God and as a Christian, if you've embraced that forgiveness, then you have the capacity to forgive in a way you don't know that you have yet. Because a lot of people say, "If that ever happened to me, I know what I would do." No you don't. No one knows until you live through every situation you live through, but there is a capacity. If God is big enough to forgive my sin, then He gives me a capacity to forgive someone else's sin.”
I want to stress the point that Al is making when he references the “clause”. He says it is “almost like there’s a clause there”. What if there isn’t a clause there and Al is right? Or the very least, this clause does not apply to post-resurrection saints…What if we do have the capacity to forgive a prodigal as Christ forgave us? After all, were we not all prodigals at one time? And what if the scripture points to ways to reconcile a marriage rather than ways to divorce and remarry?
Why should God forgive us and have mercy for us and give grace for us? Do we deserve that grace and mercy? Many who can answer this will say that we can never earn that grace and mercy because we have all fallen away from God. Many will tell you that it was God who pursued them to come to a saving knowledge of the Gospel. God loved us while we were yet sinners. Can we love our spouse who is yet a sinner? Do we honor the vow we made to our spouse by loving our spouse like Christ loved us?
No. We cannot.
But Christ in us through the power of the Holy Spirit can.
If we learn anything from these testimonies of faith in Christ by one spouse, we see it was the Lord who channeled His love through the believer to turn the hearts of a prodigal back to Him. In Al’s case, the Lord was working in the heart of Lisa too, and those friends who told Al to wait on the Lord were the ones who gave not only the best advice, they were telling Al the truth.
When will the Evangelical understand that the Westminster Confession of Faith “exceptions” are not prenuptial agreements and loopholes which turn a marriage from a covenant into a contract so as to exit a marriage when things go wrong? When will the Evangelical place a greater emphasis on the covenat of marriage and be like the disciples who when told by the Lord about the significance of marriage said, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” (Mt 19:10)
In conclusion, I pray that the you would read the word of God for yourself when it comes to these passages on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Do not let any bias, one way or the other, divert you from what the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart. If you love the Lord and love what He did for you on the cross of Calvary, you will see the love that He is prepared to live through you. Even if that love is for a spouse, a child, or a loved one who is on the road of the prodigal. Never will we see the Gospel more evident by those who remain faithful to the covenant vow and who in turn are faithful to the love of Christ; those who remain obedient to His word regardless of what others will tell us.
Romans 5:1-8 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
In Christ's love,