Sunday, December 18, 2016

What About Abuse As Grounds For Divorce?

Matthew 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

It never fails. 

Nearly every time I or others in the permanence of marriage movement bring up the truth that a “remarriage” after a divorce of a covenant marriage is an adulterous union which requires repentance, there comes certain questions as it pertains to abuse. As if there are loopholes which give a spouse freedom to divorce and remarry after cases of abuse. Those loopholes are nonexistent. 

I want to be clear from the beginning. 

Abuse of any kind is sin. I or others who believe that the Lord taught the permanence of marriage would never condone abuse of any kind. I believe abuse can be handled just like we handle any other sin, and that abuse is never a loophole to divorce unless you prove to be hardhearted and wish to remain single the rest of your life. 

After reading this post on dealing with the sin of abuse, I hope that you come away with wisdom to understand the significance of marriage and how this union is always to be an example of the Christ’s love for His church. I understand there are many scenarios of abuse which are not simply related to physical abuse. But I believe it is necessary to use physical abuse as an example for this post.

The scenario is much like this:

 An abused person reads a post from someone who supports the permanence of marriage and concludes that he or she is going to Hell because they divorced this abuser and remarried another person. The thought is that this person is justified in divorcing from the abuser to remarry another. They even may have been taught to believe that the Bible offers a loophole for the “innocent” spouse of abuse. In most cases, the verses of the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul, are what drives a person to conclude that God would not want a spouse to remain in an abusive marriage. One such case is 1 Cor 7:10 and 11…
I Corinthians 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.

These verses clearly state that a wife is not to depart from the husband. These verses do not say, “Let not the wife depart from her husband unless she is abused”…It most certainly does not say, “Let not the husband put away his wife, unless she is an abuser.” In fact, none of these verses permit loopholes for any sin, including “sexual immorality”. 

Before we go on with the context of the “abuse” issue, I believe it is clear to note that any unrepentant sin is a danger to marriage; let alone a danger to individual lives. We can insert any sin in the category of “abuse”, including adultery, and appear to make a case for divorce. The common thought is that there are loopholes to divorce and remarry.

The two most widely used verses are Mt 19:9 (The “exception clause”) and 1 Cor 7:15 (The Pauline Privilege)….This author has rebutted the popular Evangelical exegete of these two verses and I will simply direct you to this post rather than go into detail. “Simple Response to Exceptions and Privileges”.

I believe it is important to break down a question about abuse with the intent to show the heart behind the question. It is also important to understand the definition of marriage and why someone gets married in the first place. It is also important to understand sin and how we deal with sin as it pertains to repenting of sin, forgiving sin, and reconciling after sin. And last, but certainly not least, we must put the power of the Holy Spirit in to the equation and how the Lord Jesus Christ gives a believer that capacity to be like Him even in the worse of scenarios.  

Scenario: A woman responds to the thought that marriage is one man and one woman for life and that ANY remarriage after a divorce of a covenant one-flesh marriage is adultery which requires repentance. This repentance includes ending the adulterous union and either remaining single until death or until the covenant spouse dies, or reconciling the covenant marriage. I will use fictitious names.

Jill: “You mean to tell me that I am going to hell because I divorced my husband (Jack) and married another man (Bill) after my husband constantly abused me? He never repented even after our church excommunicated him after every step of church discipline (Mt 18:15-17). He is now remarried to another woman (Sue).

 Since we do not know the complete truth of Jill’s marriage to Jack, it is very possible that this may be Jane’s second marriage.  For the sake of this post we will assume that Jill and Jack were in a one-flesh covenant marriage.

The reason Jill responded is because she read 1 Cor 7:10,11. Jill believes that she is justified in divorcing an unrepentant man. She also believes she is justified in remarrying another man. Ironically, Bill was a member from her church. He was never married before so this is his “first” marriage.  She also assumes that since her congregation recognized her husband’s inability to repent, it gave her a green light to divorce and remarry this other man. In fact, the very same Pastor who solemnized the vows of her first marriage is the same man who solemnized the vows of her second marriage. 

The first question I have is why would Jill respond to the idea that it is not adultery to divorce and remarry while your covenant spouse is still alive? Mark’s account speaks to the woman who divorces her husband. This would include a woman like Jill.

Mark 10:6-12 (The Lord Jesus Christ speaking to the Pharisees) But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

 If Jill felt justified in divorcing and remarrying, why would she need to respond to the absurdity of believing her marriage can only end in death? The truth is the word of God cuts to the heart. (Heb 4:12) The choice to divorce and remarry are heart issues and not grounded in the word of God. The moment that the word of God called Jill and adulterer, she wanted to pin all this on Jack’s sin….of which she believes is worthy of Hell.

These questions come from the flesh and not from the spirit whenever someone compares their situation and it does not line up with the word of God, A woman who believes that marriage is a fulfillment to appease the flesh has no real understanding of marriage in this life, much less understand that this life is a door to eternity. If marriage was for our pleasure alone, then we have no business getting married to begin with. Marriage AND singleness are about representing the Gospel and glorifying the Lord. (1 Cor 10:31)

“You mean to tell me that I am going to hell because I divorced my husband (Jack) and married another man (Bill) after my husband constantly abused me?” 

A major part of the problem lies in Jill’s understanding of sin and that we are all sinners until we put our faith and trust in the Lord, repent of our sin, and follow Him. The thought this woman has is that an “abuser” will always be an abuser, and that there is no chance Jack will repent.  Yes, there was church discipline in this case, and the unrepentant abuser was excommunicated from the church. But the church discipline was not for the purpose of bringing this man to repentance if he simply went away after the divorce to remarry another woman. 

The very act of divorce by his wife, and by the church leaders of this congregation was a sign to Jack that his wife would NEVER forgive him, and not only freed him to remain in his sin, it also compounded his sin since he entered into adultery with Sue. If Jack does one day repent and come to a saving knowledge of Christ, he will see the consequences of his sin and though he should not have guilt and shame for what he did, he will have regret for the sins he has done. 

I would compare this to a woman who aborted a child, who later realized she murdered her child to appease her flesh. The pain of realizing that this was murder can only come through the knowledge that murder is sin. The remedy for this sin and pain is the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Jack may feel the consequences and regrets of his abuse toward Jill, in the same way a woman feels the regret for murdering her child. 

The Lord Jesus Christ takes away the guilt and shame because He is the once and all remedy for that sin. If we believe this, we can be healed and then mightily used by God. In most cases, an aborting mother goes in to ministries that are like her experiences, such as caring for woman seeking abortion. In Jack’s case, many of these abusers minister on the sin of abuse and the remedy through the Lord Jesus Christ.  

The question is what does Jill do? Does she forgive Jack, or has she already exposed her heart for Jack by her actions of divorce? Is there really a person alive who does not deserve the Gospel? Per Jill, men like Jack are deserving of Hell, and she wants to see him go there. Her divorce from him is a true indication of her heart to him. This is considerable contrast to Christ calling us to love our enemies, even if that enemy is a spouse. 

Concerning Jack’s abuse…Why he is not in jail is a question on whether Jill loved Jack enough to make him accountable to his sins. Jail is the place for abusers, and I personally believe that there should be extreme sentencing for convicted abuse. At the same time, there should be equally extreme sentencing for those who falsely accuse another of abuse. Abuse should never happen, and if it happens one time, it should be the last time. I would also question the congregation she attends. If this man was a vile as he is painted to be and Jill was constantly abused, why didn’t the leaders of the congregation press charges against this man? 

Do not mistake me. I am not giving a loophole that frees a person to divorce after abuse, because scripture allows none, I am simply stating that sin of this nature must be held accountable. The penalty of such abuse should be swift and unflinching for the sole purpose of bringing such sinner to repentance. The consequences may be considerable time behind bars, but there should also be considerable support for victims of abuse. There should also be a victim who understands the sin behind the abuse and the willingness to love the sinner by remaining true to the marriage vow so that when there is repentance, there is forgiveness, there is reconciliation, and there is restoration.

“He never repented even after our church excommunicated him after every step of church discipline (Mt 18:15-17).”

Jack never repented” does not equate to “Jack will never repent”. The moment we believe that there is no hope for a soul is the moment we make a god in our image. The God of the Bible is a God of promises, a God of mercy, a God of grace, a God of love and he is patient that none should perish.(2 Peter 3:9) When we accept the gift of Christ, we put on Christ, we become like Christ increasingly over time. In our own capacity we do not have the mercy and grace of God, but in Christ, we have more than the capacity to love others, even our spouse, when they certainly do not deserve that love. 

The Gospel has power when the Holy Spirit works in us to love others with Christ like love. No greater stories of love have more of an impact than restoration of marriage stories. Perhaps it is because marriage is a reflection of Christ’s love for His bride, the church. If Jill would have loved Jack as Christ loves us, she would have sent away to jail. She would have remained true to her vow, and loved him even when he was serving his sentence. And she would be waiting there to forgive him after he repented.

Divorce of this nature is vindictive, and bitter. Jill cannot show the love of Christ in a divorce. She certainly cannot show the love of Christ if she believes Jack is no longer capable of repenting of his sin to restore the marriage. In fact, Jill has “murdered” Jack by her thoughts since she believes that she could divorce AND marry another. 

The truth is that no matter what congregation or “tenets of faith” tell us that a one-flesh covenant marriage can end in a divorce, a one-flesh covenant marriage can only end in death. If your spouse is breathing and is alive, he or she will be your spouse until one of you, or both of you pass into eternity. Do not believe the lies that divorce is as it was before the death and resurrection of Christ. Divorce is a heart issue, a hard heart issue.

He is now remarried to another woman (Sue).


No. Both Jill and Bill are in an adulterous union, and Jack and Sue are in an adulterous union all because Jill and Jack did not remain true to their vows, and because a clergyman believed that “exception clauses” are applicable to New Testament saints. Jill is sadly mistaken to believe that her second vows to Bill were solemnized before the Lord because some minister said they were. Bill should have read his own bible where it says that a man is not to marry a divorced woman as this is adultery. Sue should have considered that marrying a man with a covenant wife is adultery.

Perhaps the most tragic of errors comes from those who profess to preach and teach sound doctrine by believing that divorce can end what God hath joined in Heaven. Clergy have provided the lies to hearts who believe there are loopholes in place long before they say “I do.” In fact, marriage has been downgraded into a contract when the authors ofthe Westminster Confession of Faith penned the position that divorce and remarriage are acceptable in some cases. What is amazing that these “some cases” have turned into “for any reason”, “same-sex marriage”, and “why even get married”.  

I also wanted to add something that I think should be addressed. I find it hard to believe that a woman would marry a man if they felt there was a chance that he was an angry and an abusive person. Often many enter marriage contrary to an understanding of what both the husband and wife must bring to the marriage. Eph 5:22-33 is the foundation, and there will be trouble unless both are willing to submit to the headship of Christ long before they make a covenant vow to each other.

In conclusion, the richness of the Gospel and the idea that we are to love our enemies seems to get lost in the idea that there are certain instances that allow for divorce. IF it can be proven that any one-flesh covenant marriage can be restored because one or both spouses allowed the power of the Holy Spirit to enter the heart and mind to love as Christ loved us, then “exceptions” and “privileges” were never really in context of the verses in which they apply. 

I pray that the wisdom of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirt would see the word of God in the context that marriage is one man and one woman for life. The flesh will tell us differently every single time. The enemy of the Lord, and the enemy of our souls seeks to destroy marriage and all those associated in marriage; husband, wife, and children. It is time the Church of The Jesus Christ stands strong for the truth of marriage. Will you stand firm to the truth that marriage is one man and one woman for life, and that the only exceptions come from hearts not fully committed in the love of Christ? I pray you do.

1 Peter 3:1-9 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.  

For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 

 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. 

 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

In Christ’s love,


Friday, December 16, 2016

The Sword of the Spirit and Marriage Permanence.

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,