Thursday, April 17, 2014

Legalism and the Permanence of Marriage?

 I have read many articles, books, and publications that approve divorce and remarriage. The fact is nearly all of these articles, books and publications will say that it is God’s desire that the marriage be until death. Yet, these same sources say that God provides us with certain instances where we may exit the marriage before the death of either spouse. These exception clauses provide instances that allow one or both spouses to divorce and remarry without any ramifications.These exceptions clauses also make us believe that there is no hope for the restoration of the marriage, let alone the restoration of a soul.

If you care to read any of my other posts on this blog, you will see that scripture supports the permanence of marriage and calls divorce a hardhearted decision and any and all remarriages after divorce nothing more than adultery. Scripture does not support the two main reasons people seek to exit a marriage. These two reasons are martial unfaithfulness and abandonment. In order to believe this one must clearly ignore the whole council of God’s word centered on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers are called to forgive our enemies, trust in God through faith alone, persevere through hard times, and we are to love others as He loved us.

Yet, some will call a person legalistic who believes in the permanence of marriage. They claim that since God provided scripture to exit marriage in certain situations, anyone who disagrees with this is clamping a yoke on an individual that few can bear.  

, the author of the post responded to a man who was told by his counselor that he was to remain celibate and faithful to his wife of covenant.

"In March 1998, I received a call from a dear friend, twenty-two years old, whose marriage was falling apart. He was seeing a Christian marriage counselor (fictitiously called "Bill Jones" below) who at the outset of their counseling asked him to make a vow not to remarry should his wife (fictitiously called "Jane") divorce him but to remain celibate and faithful to her for the rest of his days. My friend, also a Christian and a person of his word, was uncomfortable making such a vow. He called me and asked for my advice. The following is what I wrote him, after first showing it to three mature, trusted Christian friends, all of whom are teachers of the Word (two of them have taught for years at the seminary level)."

If you notice, the man with a falling apart marriage did not go to the word of God to determine if this counselor was giving him sound advice. Instead, he contacted a pastor who will give him what he wants to hear. Notice too that this pastor (the author of this post) confided in three mature, trusted Christian friends before responding. He also made it necessary to note that two of these three trusted men taught on the seminary level. What? Is seminary training necessary or is the word of God with the prompting of the Holy Spirit sufficient?   

The post then proceeds with the classic twisting of scripture of Matthew and 1 Cor 7 to allow for divorce and remarriage. The post then concludes with remarks on why it is legalistic to believe in the permanence of marriage.    

“God has chosen to provide three conditions when people who have been married can remarry: (1) when one partner dies, (2) when divorce takes place because of sexual immorality, and (3) when an unbelieving partner definitively deserts the believing partner. If God has graciously chosen to allow us to remarry under these conditions, we should be thankful for his mercy, kindness, and grace and not subject ourselves to a legalistic yoke that creates a heavy burden few could bear.
It is not "more spiritual" to demand more of ourselves than God does; it is just proud, misguided legalism. It's exactly what the Pharisees did. A vow that would require you to remain chaste, celibate, and unmarried should Jane divorce you is a false asceticism; and asceticism is a variety of legalism. Paul vehemently attacked false asceticism in Colossians 2:20-23, which I commend you to read. Any form of legalism involves putting confidence in our flesh (Phil. 3:3) and thereby making ourselves enemies of the cross (Phil. 3:18). God resists pride in any and every form, but he gives grace to the humble and exalts them in due time (1 Pet. 5:5-7; cf. Prov. 16:5; Isa. 57:15; 66:1-2). In your situation, what God greatly values is humbling yourself, throwing yourself completely on his mercy and grace, and casting all your anxiety on him (1 Pet. 5:5-7), not making a heaven-shaking vow.”

If you notice in this whole article that there is an assumption that the “guilty” spouse will never repent. In fact, this is the common assumption of anyone who uses the Matthew’s “exception clause” and Paul’s privilege of 1 Cor 7:15. Since when did we have the ability or foreknowledge to know who will come to salvation in Christ?  

After all, this breach of the marriage covenant, whether it is impenitent martial unfaithfulness or abandonment of the marriage is a salvation issue is it not? Tell me, will a person who abandons his or her spouse face judgment if they do not repent? What happens to a person who commits adultery, gets a divorce from his or her spouse, and remarries their adulterous lover? Is this marriage legal and binding if the innocent spouse refuses to remarry because they seek to restore the marriage?   Instead, this particular author believes it is legalism to wait for a prodigal spouse to repent.

Jesus says, whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery…Is this applicable to the one who abandons his wife? In addition, if an unbeliever abandons his wife, what church would remarry him to someone else? If a particular church does remarry him to someone else, is this marriage legal and binding?
Some will say…"If he repents of abandoning his first spouse, he may remarry."

Wait a second…If he can abandon his wife, and she remains single so that one day he would repent, should he not reconcile to his first marriage?  According to this article, the author says that it is legalistic to wait for the return of a prodigal spouse so the marriage can be restored. Not only that, the prodigal spouse repented and now is saved for eternity. Imagine if a legalistic spouse stayed in the marriage vow because she loved her husband and waited on the Lord to restore him to Christ. Is that legalistic?

I want to share a story of a woman who believed that God could restore her husband…

"I want to share a story. This is from a family friend who is now gone. This woman was a devout Christian, she prayed, read the Word daily, fasted, went to Church, and had a great spirit. For many years in her marriage her husband was "intolerable." He was known as a whore in the streets, a drunk, a gambler, evil and calloused toward her-although he didn't leave her nor she him. Of course people would ask her- Why? Why would you tolerate that? Why would you not leave him or kick him out? How could you? ... This was her simple response: "I may be the only piece of Heaven he will ever know" ... So what happened after YEARS, over a decade, of this "intolerable" behavior of her husband?? He got saved!!! Truly sanctified and became a man of God that EVERYONE thought was impossible.. but God."

According to the twisting of scripture by this author and men like Jay E. Adams, this woman had every legal right to divorce her husband and remarry someone else.  Tell me, is this woman’s example of legalism or is this example of a spouse who was obedient to God and His promises?  Is this an example of a woman who had faith in God to restore a prodigal because she would remain true to her vow of marriage? Is this an example of someone who loved as Christ loves us, or was this woman prideful in her legalistic stance believing in the permanence of marriage?  

When I read this ..."In your situation, what God greatly values is humbling yourself, throwing yourself completely on his mercy and grace, and casting all your anxiety on him (1 Pet. 5:5-7), not making a heaven-shaking vow.”

It is for those who kept their marriage vow despite the actions of their prodigal spouse. These spouses will stand on God's promises and not on the words of men who teach that divorce and remarriage is acceptable. They believe is the truth of God 's word for the permanence of marriage...until death do we part.

Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

In Christ’s love,


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