MDR: Conclusions

While we are left with some interesting unanswered questions, we are also able to reach some very firm conclusions.

1. God blesses marriages, so much so that Jesus says that God unifies the husband and wife.

2. Marriages are covenants, promises made by spouses to one another, promises that God holds the couple to. The covenant calls spouses to the mutual submission and love described in Ephesians 5, of which Christ is the perfect example.[1]

3. Breaking the covenant of marriage is a sin. This is so whether the covenant is being violated by a spouse or by someone else who tempts a spouse to violate the marriage.

4. The sin is fundamental — violating God’s plan for men and women established in Eden, before sin entered the world.

5. Going to court to file papers to have a marriage terminated is not necessarily sin. Rather, if the marriage has already been broken by the other spouse, there is no sin in having the government recognize as ended a marriage that has already ended.

6. There are many ways to violate a marriage covenant. Examples would include abandonment, abuse — physical or emotional, and sexual infidelity — either having sexual relations with another or refusing to have sexual relations with one’s spouse.

7. Obviously, these principles must be applied to one another just as we expect God to apply his law to us — with grace, mercy, and sensitivity to the state of one’s heart.

8. If one violates his marriage covenant in order to marry another, making the second marriage is sin.

9. However, continuing in a marriage is not adultery. Terminated marriages are really terminated, and there is no such thing as an adulterous marriage. It is not sin to have sexual relations with your spouse, even if the marriage was made in sin.

10. Because terminating a marriage is sin, terminating a second marriage is sin, even if entered into in sin.

11. However, terminating a marriage is not sin if the marriage is inherently sinful, that is, where not only the making of the marriage is sin, but so is the continuation in the marriage — as in the case of incest[2] (or under the Law of Moses, an Israelite marrying a foreign wife).[3]

12. A second marriage by a divorced spouse is not sin, regardless of who was guilty of causing the failure of the first marriage, except as described in paragraph 8.

13. Therefore, there is no reason to require a divorced and remarried couple to separate as a condition to baptism.

14. Therefore, except as noted in paragraph 8, there is no reason to treat a divorced and remarried couple as second-class Christians or as necessarily in need of repentance.[4]

15. General principles of repentance, forgiveness, and grace apply to divorce as well as to any other subject. Thus, it may well be appropriate to counsel, rebuke, or even disfellowship a Christian who persists in a sin against his or her marriage.

16. This raises a practical problem, inherent in Christ’s grace-based system, that some Christians may take advantage of available forgiveness and use it as a license to sin. We may wrongly consider some Christians forgiven when they really are not, but God will ultimately judge us all. Sinning in deliberate reliance on grace is a sure road to hellfire.[5]

17. A legal separation is as much a “putting away” as is a divorce. Both end the unity of the marriage.

18. Wives and husbands owe a duty dating back to the Creation to provide sexual gratification to the other. Violation of this duty is sin.

19. Marriage is an honored state, but remaining single (whether as a virgin, after a divorce, or as a widow or widower) in order to better serve the Lord is also honorable. Marriage is not for everyone. But it is wrong to require someone to remain single.[6]


[1] See Ephesians 5 Part 1 (”Head”) and Ephesians 5 Part 2 (”Submission”)

[2] 1 Cor. 5.

[3] Following the Catholic Church, we have traditionally called ending such a wrongful marriage an annulment.

[4] This is universally true. Being divorced and remarried does not disqualify one from being an elder or deacon. The phrase “husband of one wife” is best translated “one-woman man” and is satisfied unless the elder or deacon has been unfaithful to his wife. Even then, allowance must be made for repentance.

[5] Heb. 10:26 ff. Compare Heb. 12:15 with Deut. 29:18-21. This doctrine is discussed in detail in The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace.

[6] (1 Tim. 4:1-3) “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. … They forbid people to marry …”

This entry was posted in Divorce and Remarriage, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to MDR: Conclusions

  1. Tim Archer says:

    One question about paragraph #14. Are you saying that we do treat those who have married per #8 as needing to repent? How would that repentance be lived out? That is, can they say, "We were wrong to marry, please forgive" and live a normal life from there?

    Appreciate the insights.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Tim,

    I'll address that question in posts coming up shortly.

    Jay

Leave a Reply