Monday, March 16, 2015

How the Church SHOULD Handle Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage?

Do a simple search on "About Us" or "What We Believe" pages of evangelical churches. You will find that "What they believe" on marriage may be hard to find. Apart from making a decision about the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, marriage is the most important decision one will make in a lifetime. The Gospel shows us the love of God who gave His only begotten Son to suffer and die for our sins. We have eternal life because the Lord Jesus Christ rose from death through His resurrection. Salvation is a gift from God. As salvation is a gift of God, so too is marriage a gift from God. In fact, Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians that marriage was a perfect example of Christ love for His bride, the Church. (Eph 5:31)    
Paul wrote concerning the husband…
Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Why then are there so many divorces in churches today? That’s an easy answer. It is because the evangelical church does not preach the truth about marriage, divorce and remarriage. 

Marriage is one man and one woman for life. No excuses, no exceptions. Next to the Gospel, marriage should be the highest priority of the church. If marriage was a high priority as God gives marriage, there would be fewer divorces, and when there was divorce, the whole church would be held accountable. Church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) should be at its highest level in the case of all divorces so that no stones will be unturned. Where there is divorce, or talk of divorce, there is sin. Sin needs to be brought into the light. Most often there is no “innocent” and “guilty” party of divorce. Divorce is most often a result of fleshy desires by both spouses, rather than one or both spouses pleasing God in the Holy Spirit.
This post is not how the church has failed in accountability of marriage. This post is how the Church must handle marriage, divorce and remarriage. There is still time to be accountable to marriage on how Christ intends marriage to be. (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9)
How should the Church handle marriage?

If we get the foundation wrong, or if the foundation is not on solid ground, the structure cannot handle the storm. As stated earlier, marriage is a gift from God to humankind. God created woman from man to be a helper for man because God desired that a man would not be alone. (Genesis 2:18; 1 Cor 11:9) This demonstrates God’s grace. God created man in His image and though a man and woman are equal in value to Him, God designed them with specific roles for society, family, and church. (Genesis 1:27)  Marriage is a covenant vow that God not only ordains, he also enters into covenant of every marriage in the Lord. (Genesis 2:24; Mal 2:14; Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; 1 Cor 7:39; Romans 7:1-3)
Marriage makes a man and woman one-flesh for life. It is a man and a woman in a one-flesh covenant. (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6) Two become one through “vows” to each other, and to God, in God’s presence. (Genesis 2:23) The first marriage was one becoming two, and then two becoming one. Marriage also displays the love Christ has for His bride, the Church. This is true love that comes from God. The grace of Christ equals grace in marriage. (Eph 5:31-33)Thus, every marriage God ordains, He also sustains. He is the center of every marriage and both the husband and wife look to Him for guidance, protection, correction and comfort should one spouse fall into sin.

It is the one spouse who remains in the Lord to be the shining light of grace, forgiveness and kindness which leads to repentance of a prodigal spouse. God desires that we be holy as He is holy (Lev 11:45; John 17:11; 1 Peter 1:16), therefore, happiness and self-gratification are never prerequisites of marriage. 
The Church MUST defend the definition of marriage as one man and one woman for life.

There must be no compromise here. There needs to be accountability in the body of Christ and there is no fence sitting on the definition of marriage. All marriages is the Lord need to be preserved, defended and protected by the body of Christ. No one can argue that marriage is a lifetime commitment where both spouses forsake their own desires for self and each become one–flesh to become one. This takes forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation on a daily level, till death do they part.

God has the final say on all things, and He will most certainly preserve the truth of marriage even when the world will not. That is why it is imperative for the Church to live out and be a witness of marriage as God designed man and one woman for life. If a husband is not committed to loving his wife under the love of Christ, then he will most certainly give an answer to the Lord. In the same way, a woman remains under Christ when she respects her husband. It is no great mystery that those who are in Christ will love as Christ, and no greater demonstration of this love outside of the Gospel is a husband and wife's love for each other. 

Eph 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
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.

How should the Church handle divorce?
God hates divorce. (Mal 2:16) The Church must hate divorce as God hates divorce. Divorce is not an option in the body of Christ. The heart of divorce is sin. Hardheartedness is not the attribute of a regenerated believer. It is the responsibility of every single believer to handle sin as the Lord calls us to handle sin against us. (Matthew 18:15-17)This is true in a marriage. A wife sins against her husband, the first responsibility of the husband it to see if any of his actions caused the sin. If it is determined that the sin was not of his doing, he must go to his wife and tell her that she has sinned against him. (Matthew 18:15) If she recognizes her sin and repents, the husband is required to forgive. Grace abounds.

Matthew 18:15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

If she does not believed she has sinned, the husband is to take two or more witnesses so that every word be established. This is where the body of Christ shines. We ARE to judge in righteousness and it is a judgment call to recognize a wayward wife who cannot see her sin from her husband’s point of view. Witnesses of Christ will establish every word so that the sin is brought to repentance. We are to protect marriage, hate sin and live holy lives pleasing to the Lord. Should the wife recognize her sin and repent, there is forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. This is the love of Christ.
Matthew 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
Is she does not believe she has sinned where every word is established among several witnesses, it must be brought forward to every member of the Church so that is evident in this woman’s life that no believer will tolerate a impenitent sinner who calls herself a believer. If it gets to this point, it should be obvious that this woman will either repent, or she will prove that she is not a believer.
Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

I want to be clear that once the body of Christ make a decision that a spouse has proven to be an unbeliever after enacting the final step of church discipline (Matthew 18:17), this does not give concession for the other spouse, or the body of Christ to disregard the covenant marriage. On the contrary, the Lord Jesus Christ says we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27; Romans 12:20) and seek the lost as He came to save the lost. (Luke 10:19) Salvation of any unbeliever is at stake, much less the salvation of a prodigal spouse. Please read this blog for more on this. "The story of the prodigal spouse."
Unfortunately, the evangelical church has handed Church discipline into the hands of the man-made courts and this has diverted accountability away from clergy and laypeople and given accountability to the individuals of divorce and their lawyers. This must stop. Divorce and accountability associated with divorce is the responsibility of the body of Christ. The moment the governments of men supersedes the authority of Christ is the moment we deny Christ.
Taking back the authority of God’s word on marriage begins by making it clear to any person divorcing or believing that a divorce ends a one-flesh covenant of marriage is in error. Divorce does not end a marriage covenant. Death ends a marriage covenant. Thus, it is vitality important to understand what God’s word says about those who seek to use divorce as an excuse to reconciling marriage as God intends.
There is two verses AFTER the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that speaks to the permanence of marriage until death. These two verses echo the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in both Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9.
1 Cor 7:10,11 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband; But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
The Church must make it clear that divorce is not the answer. A husband is not to divorce. I understand that many think adultery is a case for divorce, but what about Church discipline? How many spouses would remain in adultery if they knew that they would never be in fellowship with Christ again should he or she not repent of their adultery? How many spouses would remain in adultery if every church rejected their sin? Telling an impenitent person that he or she will not inherit the Kingdom is the greatest display of love we could give to a person. Sinners need to repent of sin to be saved.
Then there is the possibility that a “guilty” adulterous spouse will be convicted of sin and repent. Remember, God remains with the covenant keeping spouse. Those who break a vow to his or her spouse, break a vow to God. Will a repentant spouse return to reconcile the sin he or she committed only to find that the other spouse has forsaken their vow and remarried another? Do you see what the Lord calls for SINGLENESS in the case of divorce?
Scripture gives the impenitent sinner two choices…Repent of your sin and enter into the eternity with Christ, or die in your sin and spend eternity in Hell. This is true of those who sin in marriage. However, a sin does not break a marriage one-flesh covenant until death. Therefore, even in the direst of situations, repentance is always an option for the impenitent sinner. God remains in covenant with the spouse who remains in covenant, because He is part of the marriage. Therefore, a spouse who remains in covenant needs to have the body of Christ come along side and comfort and take care of obedient spouse.
The body of Christ needs to rush to the aid of any spouse that follows church discipline and does all that God requires of him or her. If a divorce occurs as a result of no-fault litigation and the covenant spouse is at the mercy of the courts, the body of Christ needs to be accountable. The covenant spouse needs support from the body of Christ, whether it is financial, spiritual, or emotional. The wayward spouse is to have no doubt that impenitent sin will not be tolerated. Therefore, he or she cannot “remarry” because he or she remains an adulterer if he or she left the marriage to be with someone else.  Their only recourse is repenting of their sin and reconciling the marriage.
If an adulterous spouse uses unilateral divorce laws and runs to another congregation to “remarry”, the Church must make a stand and call the “remarriage” for what God calls it…ADULTERY. God will not sanctify a “remarriage” after divorce. This regardless if a preacher was a Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian or a thousand and one other denominations, this “remarriage” is nothing more than sanctified adultery , complete with hollow vows from hard hearts.   
How should the Church handle remarriage? 
Defining “remarriage” is any ceremonial union between a man and woman that occurs after divorce of a living covenant spouse. This could include a ceremonial union between a single or widowed person and a divorced person with a living covenant spouse. This could include any combination of a divorced man and a divorced woman with living first covenant spouses. It is NOT a “remarriage” if a single person marries a widow/widower OR a widow marries a widower, but a NEW marriage in the Lord. The word of God calls all “ceremonial unions of remarriage after divorce of a living covenant spouse a state of adultery.
Do not fall into the lie believing that since an ordained clergy performed the ceremony, and that vows were exchanged that God blesses the “remarriage”. It is God alone who joins a man and woman into marriage, not a religious organization, a representative of a religious organization, a government, or a court appointed magistrate. Just because Pastor/Reverend “so-and-so” says you are married does not equate to God approving the marriage. A “remarriage” is always adultery. (Matthew 5:32, 19; Mark 10:11, 12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2, 3; 1 Cor 7:10, 11)
What defines a “remarriage” as adultery?  A remarriage is adultery because this ceremonial union is performed in direct violation of the word of God. God does not enter vows of a remarriage, nor does he ordain a remarriage, nor does He abide in a remarriage because the first covenant marriage represented in either person that has divorced is not broken by death. (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9; Romans 7:2, 3; 1 Cor 7:39) You become an idolater if you teach that a remarriage is a sanctified marriage in the Lord.

So what is the required of the Church to rectify this false teaching? Since divorce is not an option, remarriage after divorce is not an option either. The Church must set the example to the world that marriage is God’s design. Since singleness is the only option, should either person use outside influence of secular government to initiate a divorce, it is possible they may initiate a remarriage. This can only happen against the desires of the Church. A unilateral divorce and remarriage must come with consequences. Those who seek to go outside the Church to initiate divorce and remarriage become apostate and it is required that he or she repent. 

Then there is the matter of existing “remarriages”. These existing remarriages have proven to be adulterous unions that are not sanctified by the Lord. Repenting of this adulterous union involves separating from the union and never calling this union anything other than adultery. This may require singleness for a person who has a first covenant spouse that has also entered into a remarriage with someone else. If a person dissolves an adulterous union and his or her first covenant spouse remained single after their divorce, reconciling this covenant marriage is ideal.   

If a single person entered into an adulterous union with a divorced person, it is possible that he or she may marry someone else in the Lord. However, there is always consequences to these adulterous unions. Regardless of the situation, and adulterous union comes with real consequences as it will be as if a person is experiencing the pain of divorce all over again. This divorce from sanctified adultery is God’s will because the adulterous union should have never occurred in the first place. 

Again, this is not the time for the Church to lack accountability. The pain of dissolving adulterous unions is real. However, there is grace and mercy for those who repent of sin. The Church must openly help, comfort and provide care for cases where a single person repented of his or her adulterous union. There is a difference between a divorce from an adulterous union, and a divorce from a covenant marriage. The former glorifies God, while God hates the latter. Remember, this is not a divorce to end another marriage, this is a divorce from adultery. This repentance from an adulterous union will also be a witness to a world that mocks the covenant of marriage.

The parting may not be without pain for two believers that depart from an adulterous union. Again, this union should have never been to begin with, and the consequences will be painful. God will heal each in time, and it is through this dissolution of sin that both must remain brother and sister in the Lord, but never again will they be husband and wife. This is important to note if children are involved. Even though the adulterous union has ended, parenting of children of adulterous unions will take on similar roles of those who divorce. The exception is that this is two parents abiding in God's word, and not two parents seeking selfish motives and fleshy desires.

What about the children...are they responsible for the sins of their parents? Generational curses occur when sin remains unchecked. (Ex. 20:5-7) A child is not responsible for the sins of his or her parents. The Gospel is for those who repent of sin. We would never say that a child born of rape (sin) is cursed. No, the blood of Christ covers the humble and contrite heart. This is true of those born in adultery. Repentance from an adulterous union demonstrates to the children the willingness of their parents to become accountable for their sin, and it also is a witness to the obedience of God’s word. This witness to a child carries the eternal sanctity of a marriage covenant, and preserves a legacy of holiness for generations to come.

The sad truth in today’s world is that those who divorce and remarry, raise children that divorce and remarry. In one generation, the Church can become accountable, and become an incredible witness to the lost, simply by dissolving adulterous unions today.

In conclusion, the world marries and divorces, but the Church WILL marry and stay married. The Lord Jesus Christ never forsakes His bride. To paraphrase Paul, The Lord Jesus Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it. That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. The Church must represent marriage as God intended. The very representation of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is at stake. If the Church marries and stays married, no one can deny the power of the Gospel reflected in the lives of a man and woman joined together to become one…Until death do they part!
For His glory!
In Christ’s love,

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