Mal 2:13-16 (KJV)
13) And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth [it] with good will at your hand. 14) Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet [is] she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 15) And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16) For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for [one] covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
As one of the most important institutions that the Lord established, marriage is a very important subject that Christians need to understand and honor. In this series we will be looking at:
- What we need to know about marriage to understand divorce.
- The definition, allowance and purpose of divorce and allowance of remarriage.
- The Biblical grounds for divorce (fornication).
- The Biblical grounds for divorce (loss of favour).
- The Biblical grounds for divorce (departure).
- A Summary Of Our Study and Closing Thoughts
Please understand, for this study we will only be looking at information that is pertinent to the subject of marriage and divorce. Since marriage and the family is such a large subject we cannot begin to cover all aspects of the marriage union in this study. Therefore, other subjects concerning marriage will be covered at another time.
Also, this series of blog postings do not begin to cover every verse in the Bible that touches on the subject of marriage and divorce. To try to cover all the verses involving marriage and divorce would lead to a multi-part posting of maybe 40 or 50 parts. I have books on marriage and divorce that are well over 200 pages long. So, once again, please understand I will be covering just a few representative verses on this subject to cover the basic principles concerning marriage and divorce.
If, after the series is completed you have questions about any individual verse I have not covered I’ll be glad to answer, to the best of my ability, any question you may have. Please feel free to ask them in a comment on the blog or by email at email@example.com
Also, for those who have questions about same sex-marriage, please see my blog posting entitled “Same-Sex Marriage: What does the Bible say?” for a more complete study on that subject.
Let’s begin this summary of what we have seen throughout the Scriptures concerning Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.
Mal 2:13-16 (KJV)
To bring our study to completion let’s look at section of scripture in Malachi 2:13-16 that supports all of our previous findings…
Mal 2:13-16 (KJV)
13) And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth [it] with good will at your hand. 14) Yet ye say, Wherefore?
The Israelites were experiencing a time of judgment at the hand of Almighty God. He was no longer looking upon the nation with pleasure, there was no longer answered prayers, no acceptance of worldly remorse, and no acceptance of their worship and praise. Why?
Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet [is] she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
He was opposed to them because they were mistreating their wives and breaking the marital vows that they had made before in the presence of their Lord. Keep in mind, they had made promises to one another at their marriage (forming the marital covenant). But those promises were made in the presence of the Lord. He was the witness to the covenant into which they were entering. Therefore as they broke their promises to their wives, the Lord was avenging and protecting the innocent wives by beginning to judge these men for their sins.
The Lord describes their mistreatment of their wives as dealing “treacherously” with them. This term means to “to be unfaithful”, “to pillage”, “to work secretly”. He is saying that they were being unfaithful to their promise as they were mistreating and harming their wives deceitfully.
15) And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
How could they mistreat the one to whom they were so closely united? They were working against the revealed plans and purposes of their Lord. He wanted them to be godly and set apart from the other nations, instead they were living as the heathen abusing their wives for their own personal gain.
The remedy? Control their sinful desires and cease from abusing and misusing their wives.
16) For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for [one] covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
The Lord hates for there to be divorces, and yet their actions were grounds for divorce. Once again, by breaking their marital covenant as they sought to fulfill their sinful desires (at their wife’s expense) they were committing fornication and deserving of divorce.
They were trying to hide their sinful actions from God by hypocritically approaching His altar with gifts and tears. But He knew their hearts and the condition of their marriages. The marital covenant has been broken and there was no true sorrow for their actions…. Divorce would be the only remedy to defend their wives. They must change their ways or divorce would take place.
Here we see clearly the Lord liking “putting away” (divorce) with their continued “treachery” (fornication), the grounds for upcoming divorce. This folks, has been the basis of our entire study…. The Lord allows divorce for the sake of the innocent party to stop abuse and mistreatment following fornication. In this context, the fornication was the husband’s forsaking of their marital responsibilities for the sake of the fulfillment of selfish desires. These desires were being fulfilled through the abusive treatment of their wives.
How sad it is when a spouse chooses to commit fornication when they break their marital agreement, harm the one they had promised to love, simply to fulfill their fleshly lusts.
What we have seen in our studies….
In lesson #1:
1. Marriage is a covenant relationship
2. The parties of the covenant are the husband and wife
3. God is the witness to the making of the covenant, He is not a party in the covenant
4. God as witness will hold each party accountable to keep the promise they made to each other.
5. Marriage is described as a “cleaving” and a “one-flesh” relationship
6. Both of these descriptions imply a closeness, unity and intimacy between the couple
7. The marriage union SHOULD NOT BE broken by man but CAN BE broken by man.
8. Man’s responsibility in a marriage union can be summarized as “to love” and “to nourish” and “to cherish” the wife
9. Woman’s responsibility in a marriage union can be summarized as “to be a help meet” and “to be a companion” to the husband.
In lesson #2:
1. Divorce is the act of destroying, or removing the marital covenant resulting in the covenant being rendered void and going out of existence. The parties of the covenant are held responsible for the breaking of it.
2. Divorce is allowed in cases of “uncleanness”, “fornication”, or “departure
3. God allows divorce to protect the innocent party from abuse and mistreatment.
4. God allows for remarriage following divorce in the cases of “uncleanness”, “fornication” and “departure”
In lesson #3:
1. The Lord teaches us that divorce is allowed by God in the event that fornication takes place. 2. The Biblical definition of fornication is the fulfilling sinful desires resulting in unclean actions and forsaking of God given responsibilities.
3. In the context of our study this would include: following selfish desires resulting in the commission of unclean sexual unions or the fulfillment of other sinful desires resulting in the forsaking of the responsibilities of the marriage covenant.
4. There is no need to limit acts of fornication to sexually related acts.
5. The breaking of the marital covenant is a very serious offense. This offense is so severe if it is committed there is a reason to question the salvation of the individual committing the offense.
6. The grounds, effects, and judgments surrounding the sundering of the marriage covenant apply equally to both men and women. It is wrong to believe that either gender has a greater responsibility to remain faithful to the covenant of marriage.
In lesson #4:
1. Becoming hard-hearted towards a spouse is, in essence walking away from their marital responsibilities due to following of their fleshly desires following the uncovering of something shameful on the part of their mate.
2. Another type of “fornication” (a legitimate ground for divorce) is hard heartedness towards a spouse
3. When a spouse allows their heart to hardened against their spouse they are breaking their marital vows by not caring and treating them as they should.
4. This type of hardhearted attitude leads to physical, psychological or mental abuse of the spouse.
5. The divorce is allowed for the protection of the mate guilty of the uncleanness. It is an act that is done to eliminate the abuse that otherwise would be taking place.
6. If the “uncleanness” is a sin that breaks the marital covenant, then the one who committed the uncleanness is held guilty of the sundering of the marriage union. If the uncleanness does not rise to the level of breaking the marital vows, then the responsibility for breaking the covenant rests on the one harboring the hatred in their heart.
In lesson #5:
1. “Depart” can refer to a physical departing or a separation of parties joined by a covenant
2. A believing couple should realize that God desires marriage to be permanent.
3. When faithful to the covenant, only after the death of a spouse that remarriage is allowed
4. If a believer chooses to depart they must remain single or be reconciled to their partner.
5. The departing believer is looked upon as lost following efforts of church discipline.
6. Innocent party that is divorced is released from their bonds and allowed to remarry.
7. The divorcing unbeliever is allowed to depart for peace, avoidance of abuse, and freedom
8. Departing from the covenant (1 Cor 7) is fornication.
9. Sending away an unfavoured spouse (Deut 24) is fornication.
10. The teachings of Christ, Moses and Paul are harmonious.
Some closing thoughts…
Thoughts on the need to harmonize the OT with the NT…
Please keep in mind, the key to being able to harmonize all of the OT and NT verses on marriage and divorce is coming to an expanded definition of “fornication” based upon it’s usage in the Bible. If we hold to a more limited meaning to “fornication” then the teachings of Moses, Christ and Paul cannot be harmonized.
If the definition is not expanded, then we have to say that the OT instructions given by Moses no longer apply to us today. Also, we have to say that, when Christ taught on the subject, He gave an incomplete answer to the issue at hand and the Apostle Paul had to expand the grounds for divorce to include desertion. I can see no other solution to these issues and, speaking for myself, I am not prepared to accept this way of thinking.
I believe that the Bible’s teachings on marriage, divorce and remarriage are a part of God’s moral laws. Therefore, both the OT and NT teachings apply to our lives today. If this is the case, we must be able to reconcile all the OT teachings and examples with the teachings and examples we find in the NT. The expanded definition of “fornication” does this very thing.
Likewise, I believe that when Christ taught on the issue, He was giving a full and complete answer to the questions being posed to Him. Paul’s teachings simply more fully explained what Christ had already taught. Again, this I believe is a far better way to understand what Paul was doing when he wrote his instructions in 1 Cor 7:
The “loosing favour” and “hatred” of Deut 24: is a type fornication (breaking the covenant due to following selfish desires.) It is a man coming to the point of hating his wife for whatever selfish cause which motivates him to turn his back on his covenantal responsibilities. This is tantamount to him “departing” from his covenant responsibilities as we read in 1 Cor 7:. This “departure” is a type of fornication as well. Both cases are an act of “treachery” against the innocent spouse (Mal 2:). Christ speaks of all these when He teaches using the term “fornication” (Matt 19: & 5:).
Thoughts on the need to deal with spousal abuse…
One of the most common beliefs concerning divorce is limiting the grounds of divorce to adultery and physical desertion only. However, then a very important issue remains to be addressed in the Scriptures. What to do in the case of the marital covenant being broken in other areas such as physical (or psychological) abuse and other forms of mistreatment.
Some would say that the answer to this is simply for the abused party to leave the home and live separated from their spouse without getting a divorce, and by implication, not being remarried for the remainder of their lives. I can see a few real problems with this “theory”.
First of all the Bible does not give these instructions anywhere. To my knowledge the only time that spousal separation is discussed is in 1 Cor 7: where Paul speaks of a couple agreeing to separate for a limited time to pray and fast. They are to have a date set for their reunion. This is not in any way what we are speaking of in terms of the need to separate due to spousal abuse.
So what we have is the Bible being silent about the use of spousal separation to deal with this issue that has existed during the days of the OT, NY and today’s time. This idea is simply the well-meaning thoughts of human beings with no Biblical mandate.
If we stop and think about it what we are asking the couple to live separately, not fulfill any of their covenantal responsibilities, and yet call themselves married. This is my mind is creating a hypocritical type of relationship. Neither couple is fulfilling their vows but still “married”.
However, if we understand that the OT teachings still apply to us today, we can see in cases of spousal abuse, this is forsaking of the marital covenant and it is grounds for a divorce. This divorce allows the abused to be removed from the situation and allowed to begin a new life of singleness or being married to another.
Thoughts on making divorce easier…
There are many who say that by holding to the teachings I have presented that it makes divorce much easier to attain. I do very much appreciate the motives behind this accusation. The world in which we live is filled with marriages that are failing. In many cases, divorces with no Biblical grounds are being sought and attained. These men and women are attempted to stand up and make divorces as difficult as possible for the sake of the married individuals as well as society as a whole. I very much appreciate their motives and their attempts to honor the marital union. However all the good intentions in the world cannot justify false teaching.
My feeling is that the Bible makes it very plain that the Lord hates divorce and desires for every marriage to be permanent in nature. We all should strive for that. Every time that the marriage vows are taken, and every time that marriage, divorce or remarriage is taught there should be CONSTANT reminders of the Lord’s desires for permanence of marital vows. He is the witness to our covenant making and, as such, will chasten the guilty while protecting the innocent. To break the marital covenant is a big deal, a really big deal. The Lord desires for marriage to be permanent and we should strive for that.
The Lord also desires peace in the marriage union and will not allow treachery against a spouse to continue indefinitely. For these instances where the covenant has been broken, and spouses are being abused, if no repentance is shown, the Lord allows for the marriage to end for the protection of the abused and the abuse to come to an end. Please remember both the Deu. 24 and the Mal. 2:13-16 passages among others. Do these verses not make it plain that the purpose of divorce is to stop this treachery against the spouses? Also, if we properly define “fornication” the teachings of the Lord will uphold this principle as well.
Thoughts in closing…
We need to remember that our Lord’s desire for the marriage unit. Above all else, our Lord desires for marriage to be permanent. Even when a spouse is guilty of an offense allowing divorce, there should be room for forgiveness and reconciliation whenever true repentance is shown by the offending party.
Also, we should keep in mind that for those who have been divorced (following a marriage to one who had consistently, stubbornly, unrepentantly broken the marital covenant) you are free to remarry and to go forward with your life with no guilt, knowing you have done all that is possible to save your marriage.
If you have been a participant in a divorce that was not based upon legitimate grounds… keep in mind that there is forgiveness being offered from our great gracious God. There is no sin so great it cannot be forgiven by our Lord.
If, after you have read every part of this entire series, you continue to have questions about anything I have taught or any individual verse I have not covered, I’ll be glad to answer them. Please feel free to ask them in a comment on the blog or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
May The Lord Continue To Bless You As You Seek To Study The Word.
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