September 3, 2017
I will tell you, we’ve got a lot more questions than we have time to answer, so what we’ve been doing the past couple of weeks is, record some videos that we’re putting online, and hopefully, some of you have already seen them. If your question doesn’t get answered, don’t feel like we’re ignoring you. We’re not. We’re trying to answer every question that we get. Just pay attention to Facebook and YouTube and all of our other stuff, and it should be there eventually.
If we’re using our own conscience, our own desires, or our own sinful selves, that logic makes perfect sense. But luckily, we have a better conscience than ours that guides us right. So, instead of using logic or reason, we want to use the Word of God to show us how to live. So, I want to warn us, warn you, something that we pray through and talk through every week, that when we stand up here and answer these questions, we don’t answer these questions just based on our own opinion, but hopefully through the lens of God’s Word.
Divorce is a topic that has touched all of us. It’s a hard subject to talk about, so thanks for being here. Thanks for being attentive, and thanks for helping make this not awkward. So, I’m going to start us off.
Instead of just one of us getting up here and preaching for 20 minutes about divorce, what we thought we would do is, the panel of us are just going to answer some questions you’ve already sent in, and we’re going to take some time for questions at the end. So, here’s question 1:
1. If I divorce and remain celibate, is this sin?
The full context of this question is, if I divorce for any reason other than infidelity, which is a great caveat, and remain celibate, is this sin? Here’s the the answer, and then we’ll talk about why. The answer is…no. If you want to take notes, the answer is no. Let’s talk about why. I’m going to read Matthew 19 to help us get a picture of what’s going on here. This starts in verse 3.
3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” 5 And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”
Here’s what we’re talking about, and this will be a theme today: It’s never a good idea to compound sin onto sin. So, does this verse teach that divorce is a sin? Yes, is the answer. It’s a tough word, but it is. Now there are some caveats in the Bible that we’re going to talk about, but here’s the deal: As someone who is divorced, if you are reading here in verse 9, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery”, this is a second sin. So, really the only option for someone who is divorced is a life of celibacy, according to Scriptures.
Now, there are lots of little caveats about divorce in the Bible. There are a lot of things that we’re going to get into, but I’m going to mention one here, because nobody else gets a chance to. Later on in 1st Corinthians, Paul talks about what happens if two people get married, one of them becomes a believer, and the other one doesn’t. Should they then divorce? Paul’s pretty clear on this, that if the belief of one spouse causes division in the marriage, and the other spouse doesn’t want anything to do with the person, then it’s right for those two to separate. But, if it doesn’t, you stay together, because the faith of one might influence the faith of the other, and herein lies the whole point. -that the preferred method of dealing with divorce is restoration. I think we’d all agree with that; it’s reconciliation and restoration, and so when we’re talking about someone who is divorced and he’s remaining celibate, here’s what I’d commend you to do: We repent of the sin of a divorce, and then we live humbly and faithfully in all that God has called us to do from there. That’s answer 1. Here’s question 2:
2. My husband beats me. Is it okay to get a divorce?
So, I actually really like this question, simply because they don’t mince words. They’re very clear. My husband beats me; is it okay to get a divorce? I want to lead with a one-word answer, so there’s no confusion and explain it. The one- word answer is yes. Now the hard part of explaining it. So, it’s worth remembering that when Jesus speaks on divorce, when Paul speaks on divorce, when Peter speaks on divorce, they’re speaking to a first-century Middle Eastern audience where spousal discipline was common practice. That’s not the world that we live in, so we have to go deeper. At the heart of every issue is an issue of the heart, and so we need to find the heart of the issue of domestic abuse, and I’m willing to make the claim that the heart of the issue of domestic abuse, the cause of domestic abuse is anger, pent-up hatred, it’s resentment, its failure to love.
Michael looked at Matthew 19 where Jesus describes what a marriage is and describes what divorce is. A marriage is this covenant of a man and a woman coming together as one body, one flesh, and so when there’s adultery, that one-flesh covenant is broken, so divorce is permissible. So, with that in mind, we’re going to look to Ephesians 5. This is a big chunk of Scripture, but it describes marriage; it describes divorce; it describes this beautiful picture of the church’s relationship to Christ.
22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Now, verse 28 said that man ought to love his wife. Verse 29 is very clear. It doesn’t say a man ought not hate his wife. It doesn’t say that a man shouldn’t hate his body. It says, “No one hates his own body.” If you remember Matthew 5 in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ discusses anger, and he teaches that if you harbor long-term anger and resentment toward someone in your heart, that’s the same as committing murder against them. So, what Paul is saying here (the way it is) is that no man hates his own body. That does not happen. That’s not what goes on. So, if you harbor so much resentment and anger toward your spouse that you are willing to abuse them, that is no longer a marriage. You have broken this covenant of one-flesh. So, to the abuser I say, you have broken your marriage vows. You have broken your covenant. You have ended your marriage by hating your own body, and to the abused party, obviously I want to be very clear. Reconciliation is preferable, but personal safety is paramount. If you can find it in yourself to forgive and work out the situation, that is preferable, but you need to make sure that you are safe, that your children are safe, and then the issue is to work on the heart of your spouse.
In this room, in a room of the size, there are almost certainly several women and a couple of men who are being abused, and we want you to know we’re here for you, praying for you, and we would like to offer a shameless plug for the Columbus Christian Counseling Center. They do plenty of marriage counseling, including situations of domestic abuse.
3. My spouse is in a vegetative state; Can I get a divorce?
I want to read the question to you as it was sent in. It’s a very sad question, and I want to read it in its entirety. “My friend is a sincere believer in Jesus. He married a woman who was also a Christian. Many years ago, she was involved in a near-fatal car crash that left her in a persistent vegetative state. She has shown no signs of progress for many years. My friend has fallen in love with another Godly woman and wants to marry her. Is it okay with God if he divorces his first wife so that he can marry this woman?”
Six days a week, I’m a children’s pastor, so I talk to children for a living. So, for the next few minutes, you are children, and you have to deal with it, and since I’m the one with a microphone, you have to listen. Sorry. But the way you deal with kids is, you give them a word picture and then you give them a black-white answer. That’s what I’m going to do with you.
But first, to get that word picture, we need to talk about something, and that’s this: We tell them in the children’s department that this not only is God’s Holy Word; It is a book of instructions. So, let’s get some instructions from a verse.
Now men, we don’t like to listen to instructions; We don’t like to read instructions either. If you’ve ever put together one of those metal buildings for your backyard, or if you have daughters and you’ve had to put together one of those kitchen sets, you have lots of instructions (about 40 pages of instructions), but we don’t usually read the instructions, and when we don’t read the instructions, the building in the backyard at the first wind, falls down. And when your daughter tries to open the oven door, it falls off.
Okay, so let’s look at the instruction manual and get some words that will give us some answers. Let’s look in the Old Testament first. Look at Numbers 30.
Then Moses summoned the leaders of the tribes of Israel and told them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: 2 A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.
Now, I perform marriages, and at the end of every wedding you’ve probably ever been to, at the very end, the minister or pastor says, “What God has joined together, let no man separate”, right? Okay, now let’s look and see what Jesus says about this. This is in Matthew 19, and you’ve already heard it, but I want you to hear it again.
1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. 2 Large crowds followed him there, and he healed their sick. 3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” 5 And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”
So, the black-white answer is -May this man divorce his wife? -… No.
4. If I’m divorced and remarried, are we living in sin?
First, I think it’s important to remind us that the answers to some of these questions that we’re talking about and others that we’ll answer here shortly, the evangelical church does not have a consensus on some of the answers. There are lots of books written that go on differing points of view. What you are hearing are each of our points of view. We don’t all agree even on the stage on all of these, but there are some things we read in Scripture that are really nonnegotiable, right? If there is an explicit statement in Scripture, then there’s really not a lot of areas of play, not a lot of areas of “negotiation”. So, the question is, in these conversations on questions surrounding divorce, what are the areas that are explicit? What does the Bible say explicitly? And we have to land and stand on those.
So, the question that came in (If I’m divorced and remarried…), the way the question was worded when it was texted in is, “If I’ve married, been divorced, and I’ve re-married, am I causing my husband to commit adultery?” And the follow-up to that was, “Are we living a life of adultery?” That’s the way the question was worded
So, the short answer to the question is yes…and no. Now, let me explain why. In Luke, we have a similar story to what we saw for Matthew from the other guys. In Luke chapter 16, Luke says this:
“For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”
Now, this is in that area of explicit statement in Scripture, so what Luke seems to be saying that Jesus has said is, if a person divorces and remarries, then adultery has been committed, right? So, is adultery sin? It’s one of the 10, right? -Thou shalt not commit adultery; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not bear false witness; Thou shalt not covet; Thou shalt not worship idols. There are others, but this is one of the 10! So, we know the explicit statement is: divorce plus remarriage equals adultery. Therefore, the question of “Have a committed sin?” -The answer is yes.
The second part of the question that was asked was, “Then am I living in sin?” The answer to that question is no. I’m not asking you to raise your hands, but have you lied? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever told a fib about a neighbor and then asked God to forgive you, and you repented of your sin, and God has given you restoration? Does that mean you’re living in sin? – that you are a liar?
We sin. We ask God’s forgiveness. We seek their forgiveness. And God restores! It says in James chapter 5, verse 16:
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
This is an important process of Christian living. If I sin, I need to ask for forgiveness, so that restoration can be made, so that the relationship between fellow brothers and sisters can be reconnected.
So, I think what Scripture is teaching is, if a person is married and gets a divorce and remarries, adultery has taken place. If that person then confesses sin, seeks restitution, provides a repentant heart, forgiveness is made. Then, we have the principle that Paul gives us in Roman chapter 12. Paul says:
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
That includes your ex. As much as you can, live in peace with everyone. Now, I think it’s important when we talk about the reality of divorce, that sometimes, divorces are incredibly messy. The opponents are vehemently opposed to one another; There is vitriol that comes out of them towards one another; There is good old-fashioned hate in one another.
If we are a believer, and one has gone through this process, I think Scripture is very clear that 1) It is sin. 2) It needs forgiveness. 3) As much as it is possible with you, live at peace with them. Now, they may still be filled with hate and vitriol and vomiting acid every time they see you, but as much as is possible with you, live at peace with everyone.
So, if a person gets divorced and remarried, is it sin? Yes. But, are you continuing to live in sin because you remarried? No. If we’ve sought forgiveness, if we’ve asked forgiveness, if we’ve sought repentance between God and with them, then we’re now living at peace with all men. There are many wonderful second marriages and others that are Godly, and they are doing what God wants them to do, leading in their family the way God has called them to lead, serving in the church the way God has called them to serve… It’s 2 people who are sinners, saved by grace, living under a forgiven, righteous life. That’s the answer to that question.
(Question and Answer Session)
I want to start a relationship with Jesus today. I turned from my sins and to Jesus for the first time this morning.
+ I have friends or family heading for divorce. I will pray and encourage them to fight for their marriage.
– My marriage is in trouble. I will pray and work to fix my marriage to honor Jesus in my home.
- What does the Bible mean in Genesis 2:24, when Adam and Eve are described as being “one flesh”?
- In Matthew 19:6, Jesus quotes the previous verse when asked about divorce. How strong is the bond of marriage, according to Jesus?
- What are some things a couple can do to keep from going down the path that leads to divorce?
- If a couple has been divorced, should there be forgiveness and reconciliation? How? When?
- How can we offer grace to those who are going through a divorce or have been divorced?
- How do we balance a biblical view of the permanence of marriage with an emphasis on grace and forgiveness?