Marriage and Remarriage

Some notes by Paul Breneman February 4, 2001

Update: On Dec. 2, 2001 I found that Jonathan Lindvall ( ) has expressed his views on this issue in one of his newsletters ( ). His views seem almost identical to mine (but are expressed much more clearly) and I highly recommend reading his newsletter linked above (you'll find the topic discussed in the bottom third of that newsletter).

Update: On July 21, 2007 added a link to this article: The Anabaptist Position on Divorce and Remarriage

My notes on this topic are just that - notes, and can be confusing to read. Here is a summary I stated on an Internet discussion group in July 2007.

The harmony of Deut 24, Jer 3 and Matt 5 & 19 on D&R

I believe Deut. 24 and Jer. 3 harmonize very well with Matt. 5 & 19 and (at least for me) this helps to make sense of this (D&R) difficult subject. Since God doesn't change I think he has always viewed marriage, divorce, and remarriage the same in the OT times as well as in the NT times. Of course, in the OT some things were not spelled out as much as in the NT, but there should still be consistency.

God hates divorce even though he made himself a divorcee by divorcing Israel because of her adulteries (Jer. 3). We should try our best to keep this scourge out of our churches and families, but we must also deal correctly with Christians already affected by this.

In the OT God allowed divorce between couples who were both "in the camp" (Deut. 24). I believe that Jesus did restrict that (by restoring things - Matt. 19) so a true church should never allow a divorce between two real Christians. However, a true church would still allow (or even require) a divorce (or separation) in a situation that is the equivalent to Jer. 3 (unrepentant adultery - Matt. 19).

In Matt. 5 & 19 when Jesus said there is adultery when the divorced woman remarries, I think he just clarified what the "defilement" of Deut. 24 was.

I think Deut. 24 & Jer. 3 also establish:
1) God sees defilement when the divorced woman remarries.
2) The second marriage ends the first marriage and therefore it is an abomination to God to restore it.
3) A harlot or prostitute could return to her former husband.

Therefore I believe:
1) It is the second marriage ceremony or covenant (not sexual relations) that ends the first marriage because being a harlot or prostitute doesn't end the first marriage (Jer. 3).
2) The ceremony or covenant is the defilement mentioned, and also the adultery Jesus mentioned.
3) Jer. 3 speaks of spiritual adultery and in the NT I think friendship with the world is called being adulterous, so I see no problem saying a second marriage ceremony or covenant adulterates the first one.
4) Since the adulteration of the first marriage by the second ceremony or covenant is an act I believe the adultery is not continuous.
5) God recognizes the second marriage even though it was entered into via an act of adultery, and therefore it should not be broken up.
6) In Deut. 24 the woman was defiled by the second marriage, even if she was not at fault for breaking the first marriage. Similarly, in Matt. 5 & 19 there is always adultery when the divorced woman remarries.

I fasted and prayed about breaking up second marriages when this issue was raised in a fellowship I was attending. I learned about the nature of marriage from Scripture and the Holy Spirit. The early church and the original Anabaptists have since confirmed what the Spirit showed me first through Scripture. As the Lord allows I will be bold in expressing what I've learned in the hope of preventing further family breakups and sin and abominations to the Lord.

Since the beginning, God has had only one plan for marriage: it's permanent to this life, breakable only by death. In the OT God made allowance for His people to live in violation of that standard (though His will or plan never changed). In our age, God has revealed through Jesus Christ that we should live according to His original plan for marriage.

1) Prior to the OT law God did not allow His people to divorce or remarry. If pagans divorced and remarried then God recognized the second marriage (as the law later revealed to us).

2) The OT law allowed divorce and remarriage for the Israelites and God allowed the same thing among the pagans. God recognized both pagan and Israelite remarriages. The part of the OT law about the restriction of not returning to a former spouse after a remarriage also revealed God's will concerning both Israelite and pagan remarriages.

3) In the NT it is the same as #1 above.

I feel that the discussion is really two separate issues:

I've only tried to address the first issue, and once a second marriage occurs the second issue is no longer the issue for that particular couple.

To keep things as simple as possible I am not including these topics in this summary at this time:

1) What constitutes marriage? I believe that intimate relations alone don't make a marriage and that God joins together that man and woman who marry even in ceremonies and circumstances in which He is not acknowledged.

2) What about illegal marriages? Adam and Eve's children had to marry each other, but later on the law made it illegal to marry close relatives. For the sake of our discussion we are just assuming normal legitimate marriages are involved.

The main two Scripture references:

Deut. 24:1-4 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, [2] and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, [3] and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, [4] then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

Jeremiah 3:1 "If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers--would you now return to me?" declares the Lord.

When a woman is divorced by her husband, she has three options:
1) celibacy
2) promiscuity
3) remarriage

The verses above show that the only case where the woman can't return to her former husband is if #3 occurs. The only difference between #2 and #3 is the second marriage ceremony. Therefore the second marriage ceremony is recognized by God.

The following seven pages discuss this issue in more detail:

Honesty with History and Scripture

Did John the Baptist lose his head over divorce and remarriage?

What about the "exception" clauses in Matthew?

Taking Romans 7:2-3 out of context?

Why can't a former marriage be restored after a remarriage occurs?

What is the adultery that occurs upon remarriage?

The Greek verb tense argument

To quote someone's writings: When we find two Scriptures that seem to contradict each other, we had better be careful about thinking we understand either one of them until we can reconcile them both. To say that our understanding of one verse is correct while at the same time we can't reconcile the other Scriptures that "seem" to contradict is a dangerous place to be in my opinion.

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6). Please note that Jesus did not say we "can't" put it asunder, but that we "should not". He did NOT say "What therefore God hath joined together, man cannot put asunder".

But here is what the Lord says in Jer. 9:23-24:

This is what the Lord says:
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,"
declares the Lord.

I'm not wise, strong, or rich, but I will boast in the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness!

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