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The Bible and Divorce

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It is my desire to uphold God’s Word – not to add to it or subtract from it.  His Word and His Spirit are the authorities – not me or any person.  I am not a pastor, counselor, theologian, or expert. Ultimately we are each accountable to God for our sin/obedience. No one is accountable to me. I am not the Judge. I hope to point us to God’s Word as the only source of truth. I don’t EVER want to mis-speak even one word.  I know that I am accountable to God for each and every single word I say and write and that I am held to a stricter standard as I seek to fulfill God’s mission for me to teach women according to Titus 2:3-5.  This gives me great cause to seek to be completely humble before you and before God. How I pray God will always speak through me.  This has to be ALL about Him and not about me or my thoughts or my opinions at all.  May God greatly increase and may I greatly decrease.

I hope to clearly lay out God’s truth about divorce in this post – even though it is EXTREMELY counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, painful to hear, and most definitely against our own sinful selves.  
  • God is not concerned about saying things that will conform to our standards and our desires and our feelings.
  • He does not submit to us.  We submit to Him.
  • He is concerned about what is right in His eyes.
  • He has infinitely higher wisdom than we do.
  • When He gives us commands, it is always in OUR best interests and for our greatest good.
  • It is our job to conform ourselves to His standards of holiness even if what He has to say is not what we want to hear – and even if it is painful to have to see our sin – even if we have to completely change the way we live.

Divorce is a tender and excruciatingly painful topic, to be sure.  Almost everyone in our culture today has been touched personally by divorce in one way or another.

  • What I don’t want to do is heap condemnation or guilt on people who have divorced for biblical grounds or even who divorced apart from the instructions of Scripture.  

There is forgiveness and much grace at the foot of the cross when we repent of any and every sin – turning away from our own way, humbling ourselves before God, agreeing with God that our sin is wrong and turning to Christ.  The blood of Jesus is completely adequate to cover all of our sin, no matter what it is.  I am not aware of divorce or remarriage being unforgivable sins anywhere in Scripture.  God’s Spirit and His Word are able to give us wisdom about what to do from this moment on to live in obedience to Christ.  He can fill us with His spirit so that we can soar on wings like eagles and live lives that are pleasing to Him no matter what our background.

How I long for us all to be found faithful in the eyes of Christ when we stand before Him in heaven.

Avoiding and preventing sin is so much better than trying to fix things after the fact.  Even if God’s ways are not what I want to do.  This is when I can trust Him and not lean on my own understanding, realizing that my heart is deceitful above all things and without cure – apart from Christ.  

God HATES divorce. (Malachi 2:16)

There are a few sins God talks about hating.   This is one of them.  Obviously, God hates all sin – but if He brings particular attention to one – I want to really hear His heart about it! I don’t think we even realize that divorce is sin in many cases in our culture.   It has become so “normal” we just accept that it has to happen like that and don’t even question it anymore.

In many cases, divorce is sin.  In all cases, divorce is a result of sin.  (David Platt – Secret Church – Marriage, Family, Sex and the Gospel)

Divorce is NOT God’s design or His perfect will for marriage or for families.  There are only a few situations where God allows divorce and divorce may be part of His permissive will.  God NEVER commands divorce.  He permits it – in some (hopefully) rare and extreme situations.  Marriage is a COVENANT that we have with our husbands and with God.  Our holy God is a Covenant Keeper.  He never breaks His covenants with us.  He doesn’t want us to break our covenants with Him or other people either.  (For more on the seriousness and meaning of “covenant,” click here.)

SEPARATION

Separation is not necessarily labeled as sin in the Bible.  It is ideal if we are able to stay and honor and obey Christ and our husbands and function as a godly family. There can be times separation may be very necessary (I Corinthians 7). God desires us all to honor the covenant of marriage, prayerfully seeking reconciliation and trusting God to heal and work in our marriages.  If you have serious problems in your marriage (addictions, abuse, infidelity, uncontrolled mental illness, etc)  please seek godly, wise, biblical counsel and pray and fast on your face before God, desiring to obey and please Him above all else.  

If you are not safe, please get help ASAP!  Get out if you can safely get out. I do not believe God commands women to stay in dangerous situations. If you are in danger, please find a qualified, godly counselor, pastor or shelter or contact the Salvation Army.  I am not qualified to counsel women with severe problems. Please do not read my blog if you have serious abuse in your marriage. I never condone sin or abuse against anyone.

DIVORCE

  • Divorce is a concession in cases of a certain type of physical adultery or fornication – but it is not commanded by God (Matthew 19:1-12).  In fact, many times, God can and does heal marriages even after physical infidelity has been committed.  I can’t even count how many Christian couples I know whose marriages God has healed from adultery and who have much stronger and more godly marriages now than ever.  It is important for us to recognize that in Old Testament times, any man or woman who committed adultery was to be stoned to death In accordance with God’s Laws.  But today, we can find grace, mercy, forgiveness and new life in Christ. There is debate about the translation of the word “porneia” in the New Testament Greek in Matthew 19:9. Some translators believe it means if the woman was found guilty of fornication with another man during the betrothal period, the man could divorce her before they were officially married. Some believe it means adultery. If that word means only fornication before marriage, and that divorce would need to take place in the betrothal period before the marriage is consummated, then, the grounds for biblically justified divorce today would be extremely narrow.
  • If an unbelieving spouse leaves – I Corinthians 7 says to let him leave and not to try to force him to stay.  A believing spouse is not told to initiate a divorce in such a situation.

I am not offering legal advice here.  I am not qualified to do that – it is not my purpose.  My heart is for us as women of God to know God’s Word and to obey Him and honor Him in everything we do – that we might bring the greatest glory to His Name.  That has to be our goal as followers of Christ – to glorify God with our lives, to seek to obey and please Him alone.  Nothing else matters if Christ is our LORD.

Divorce is VERY serious in God’s eyes. I approach this topic with great humility, reverence and trembling before God.  Our society makes divorce so easy and treats it very casually – but this does not honor God.  I know it is hard to wrap our minds around this in our culture – but unbiblical divorce is significant sin that deeply grieves God’s heart and deeply wounds many other people

OUR POWERFUL INFLUENCE OVER OUR GIRLFRIENDS, SISTERS AND COWORKERS:

If you have a Christian girl friend who is talking about divorce – PLEASE, PLEASE use your godly influence to direct her to the truth of God’s Word and to exhort her to honor her marriage covenant and to seek God’s healing, hope, power and His face in her own life and in her marriage.  We cannot change people.  But God can!  We can point our sisters and friends to Christ and towards obedience to God’s Word!  How many marriages might be saved if all of us encourage grace, forgiveness, mercy, repentance to God and obedience to His Word instead of encouraging divorce??  Let’s uphold God’s authority and the authority of His Word.  Let’s encourage other women to honor and respect their husbands and to affectionately love them and to be true to their wedding vows. (Eph 5:22-33, Titus 2:3-5)

GOD’S AUTHORITY

I have no authority to tell anyone what to do with her life.  God’s Word DOES have the authority to command us what to do.  God designed us.  He made men and women.  He designed marriage.  It is completely within His rights and authority to dictate how we are to behave in every area of life.  What He commands us to do is ALWAYS impossible in our own power or in our sinful nature.  But – He is able to give us His Spirit to empower us to obey the commands He gives to us if we will completely submit to Him and trust Him and lay our lives before Him daily as living sacrifices.

JOHN 15

23Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

RELATED:

Why Don’t I Address Women in Abusive Marriages? – please check out the resources that readers share in the comments!

WHEN MY SPOUSE IS WRONG

A Wife Finds God’s Peace Even As Her Husband Divorces Her – on Nina Roesner’s Blog today

John Piper on Divorce and Remarriage

John Piper at www.desiringgod.org and search for “fornication,” “divorce,” “remarriage”

David Platt at www.radical.net

I am not a pastor.  I am not a theologian.  I haven’t spent months or years studying the doctrines involved with divorce and remarriage.  And, most importantly, I am not God.  I am woefully inadequate to begin to try to make any kind of blanket statements about what people in these complicated divorce situations “should” do.  I implore you to research the issue, seek God’s face and do what you believe is most honoring and obedient to Him!

WHAT DOES GOD’S WORD SAY ABOUT DIVORCE?

If your husband is far from God – God’s prescription for you is I Peter 3:1-6

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

MALACHI 2

13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with  favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.

16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.

So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

Another version (GNT) of verse 16:

1I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel. “I hate it when one of you does such a cruel thing to his wife. Make sure that you do not break your promise to be faithful to your wife.”

MATTHEW 5

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

LUKE 16:18

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

 

MATTHEW 19

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘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.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (or could be translated, “fornication” before marriage), and marries another woman commits adultery.”

I CORINTHIANS 7

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?…

39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

DEUTERONOMY 22 and 24 contain details about God’s laws to Israel concerning divorce in the Old Testament which are quite eye-opening.

HOSEA

The entire book of Hosea is about the faithful love of God as a Husband to His faithless people Israel – portrayed vividly in the marriage of Hosea ,the prophet, to the prostitute, Gomer.

God does not divorce His people.  Even though they deserved it time and time again because of their idolatry – which is like adultery in God’s sight – a heinous breaking of their covenant relationship with Him.

92 thoughts on “The Bible and Divorce

  1. Thank you for this, April. Setting aside the cases of actual, physical adultery or abandonment, there are way too many divorces being filed by Christians, and 75-80% of those are filed by wives. The Christian women friends of those wives could be a significant brake against the destruction of all those families, but it seems that almost all the time the Christian girlfriends are cheerleaders for the divorce. At best, they remain silent. If more Christian women would really take to heart what the Bible says about divorce, they could have an impact on their churches, families, and neighborhoods.

    1. David J.,
      I was just praying and crying out to God with many tears about the state of His people today and the sin that so ensnares us – praying for us to repent and to return to Christ. I was about to add something about how we as believing women need to uphold our friends’ marriage covenants and encourage them to obey God, too, when I saw your comment.

      Thank you. I agree. We as Christian women can have a POWERFUL influence for good or evil on our girl friends and sisters. May we use it only for God’s glory.

    2. David and April,

      It is very sad that we encourage each other like that when a friend comes to us for advice about a marriage problem. Or even when our daughters do it. Aside from the cases of actual abuse of course. And I may get flack for saying this but I believe it’s best to mention the elephant in the room, we also do not do our sisters any favors by “labelling” things as abuse that are not.

      One time I had a friend come to me about how abusive her husband was being.. I asked her if he was hitting her or threatening her. She said no, it was “financial abuse”.. I was speechless and in my head I was thinking, “Is that a thing now?”…So I asked her what she meant. She said, “He asks for receipts for everything. He wants me to use cash for groceries and purchases and started sticking specific amounts in envelops!”

      Now, I’m thiking to myself.. Ooooohhhhhh!! He must have read a Dave Ramsey Book. Apparently her mother told her she should move out and see how he liked paying alimony and child support.. I was like.. Girl, grow up.. That is a “real” method of budgeting and getting out of debt. Why in the world would you think it was a form of abuse. She read an article from a bonafide therapist about “financial abuse”..

      That still blows my mind. Saying, “He yells at me” is also not abuse. Nor is “he called me a name”.. It may not be right but as many times as my husband has raised his voice at me, called me a name or said something stupid, I would never say he was abusive. No more than I would say I was necessarily abusive every time I raised my voice, called him a name (even under my breath) or said something stupid. I call that being human. Wrong as it is, it is human. When people make up “abuse” and call every little thing abuse, it really muddies the water of the real serious issue of abuse. People become immune to the claim and frankly that causes as many horrible outcomes than ignoring real abuse does. It’s the same failed logic.

      Divorce is easy. Very easy. Mark is my 4th husband. The other 3 were athiest (like I was) at the time. Those marriages did not last a year each. I spent 12 years single until I married Mark. We have been married 4 years on Dec 11th. I know, it’s not long but to me it signifies something is different. And I don’t have to wonder what that is.. 🙂 But I have to say, the first year and a half, I yeilded the Divorce word around like a sword. All it did was make him not trust me, not open up to me, not believe when I said I loved him during good times and it made him always question my motives. Which in turn made me indignant about why he felt that way about me!

      I was confused by the first blog post I read about divorce. I mean, no doubt, it’s a complicated topic. And I did research it fully because of my own history. I really wanted to know what it meant in terms of my current marriage and blended family. But I do think you laid it out pretty well in both that one and this post. There’s no way to really dance around or sugar coat the topic. But if I put it in context of everything else I’ve learned, I think I get it. I am where I am now and this is where God found me. I don’t feel like I’m doomed because I have 3 failed marriages prior to this or because he has 1 failed marriage. I do however see how the enemy can lie to me and make me think it’s doomed sometimes. Especially at the times when we are doing very well. You would think that by now, I would recognize that particular knock on my door but it doesn’t always stop me from opening that door!

      Gail W.

      1. Gail,

        Oh! THANK YOU for bringing up mislabeling abuse. How did I not mention that?

        Yes, there are times when women are in severe physical danger, sometimes even severe emotional/spiritual danger – and I strongly encourage women to seek godly help ASAP. There are times a woman may need to leave when there is actual abuse going on (and the same goes for men in severe danger from their wives, I am sure).

        But – you are right! So many women pull out the “abuse” card when what they are describing is not abuse.

        I am so thankful there is forgiveness and grace and that our God is able to give people a new start.

        There are many interpretations of scripture (humanly speaking) about what all of that means with multiple divorces and a remarriage. But Gail, I just don’t think I can even begin to go there with me deciding what that means for people. I think people will have to study this complicated issue themselves and listen carefully to God’s voice and do what they believe is right before Him.

        Divorce DOES complicate things so much! So does fornication. What happens if someone has 20 partners or 100 partners and then repents and wants to marry? Honestly, I am so glad I am not God to have to figure out each situation. But – I know there is grace at the cross and I thank God for His Word.

        I’m thankful for what God is doing in your life! It is so beautiful!

        The thing about labeling something as abuse that is not may need to be a post, too!

        Much love,
        April

  2. April,

    You may have saved many marriages and untold heartache by having the courage to remind women of God’s holy standards and how important it is to follow them. Thank you so much for all you do!

    My own experience has confirmed how truthful it is, that following God’s standards for marriage really is in OUR best interests. Sometimes, when we are in pain and have been for years, it’s almost impossible to believe that, and I divorced my first husband years ago, after 23 years of emptiness. But, time has taught me that there are so many things I could and should have done to be a better wife to him, and that had I focused on the positives, my situation would have been far happier.

    We married very young and had I waited I would have married someone very different, but in retrospect, I see that I didn’t trust God enough, or have enough faith in his ability to help us create a happy marriage, even though as people we had few things in common. I was so lacking in wisdom! Divorcing caused us both great pain.

    I remarried later, a wonderful man with whom I enjoyed life until he died ten years later, but knowing that I no longer had an unbroken nuclear family was always in my heart. If I could go back and relive the past I would do so many things differently. . . . I should have trusted God much more than I did. Instead I was bitter at having entrapped myself in a marriage at 17 to the “wrong” person.

    Now, I am trying to reconcile the past with my desire to fully align myself with God’s righteous and wise principles in my life now, but it is very difficult.

    I know he has forgiven me, but it is much, MUCH harder to forgive myself. But I sense his love and holy spirit in my life now, and am so grateful for his forgiveness, and for having another chance to live by his standards, I have married for the third time, to another wonderful man, and am trying hard to honor God by following his Word. My husband and I have already reaped the benefits of this and our relationship is growing stronger every day.

    April, I am so grateful to you for being a mouthpiece for God’s word and for so lovingly reminding us of what really works for our long-term happiness. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your ministry, and for caring so deeply about all of us.

    1. Elizabeth,

      Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story! I believe God will use you to inspire many wives to trust and obey Him! 🙂

      This topic is SO HEAVY on my heart. I cannot tell you how often I have wept over my sisters and brothers in Christ and the miserable state of our spiritual condition in the church as a whole today.

      I know that this topic is going to be so difficult and painful for MANY, MANY of my sisters today. But – it is my hope that we might embrace the pain now of allowing God to remove any sin in our hearts – and avoid much greater pain later.

      Conviction is painful!
      Dying to self is painful!
      Submitting fully to Christ is difficult and scary at first. But it is the path to His great peace, joy, purpose and fulfillment in our lives.

      We married young and things began to go wrong 1 week into our marriage in 1994. I had NO ONE to go to for godly advice – even though all of our parents were believers. I had no one to walk me through my pain. I lashed out at Greg in ways that deeply wounded him for years – and I didn’t even know it. If I had had any money that first summer, I would have left – temporarily. It was the worst summer of my life. I have never felt so unloved, so unhappy, so rejected, so alone.

      But – Greg and I had a commitment that we would not talk about divorce. And we never have so far.

      That word is not in our vocabulary in our marriage.

      How I WISH I knew 19.5 years ago what I know today!

      But – I praise God that He is able to use my 14+ years of sin, disrespect for Greg, disrespect for God, idolatry of self, PRIDE, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness now to draw many women to Himself around the world.

      It was all worth it now. I see God’s sovereign hand involved the whole way looking back.

      I thank Him for opening my eyes. I could not open them myself.

      How I pray that He might speak through me to open many other women’s eyes in the church today and that we might all serve Him faithfully together for His glory! That we might really understand that this is all about our relationship with HIM, it is not about our husbands, our feelings or our happiness. It is about our holiness, our obedience to Him, our surrender to the Lordship of Christ and His greatest glory!

      I praise God that the blood of Jesus is more than adequate to cover your sin and my sin – and anyone’s sin – and to give us new life!

      Please pray that God might empower me to be faithful to Him and to declare His Word boldly, with love, with humility and with courage – as I should.

      1. I agree that we women are our own worst enemies. How often do we husband bash when a friend is struggling in a marriage instead of lifting up, praying, and offering hope like I have found in your site. When my first husband and I were having so many problems, I had no where to turn either. Compound that by the fact that he was active duty military, made finding help impossible. Since then, I have often told my friends “divorce isn’t an easier road, it is just a different road”. It is no easier to be divorced from my first husband (with whom we share a child) than it was to be married to him. And sometimes I feel like I have two husbands because I must work with both of them (and they are sooooo different) for the best of our children. I tell friends all the time- DON’T DIVORCE! WORK IT OUT! And I pray for them.

        1. Sara,

          This is unfortunately all too true and common – for women to back up their friend and heap disrespect on the husband affirming to their friend that she can and should disrespect her husband:
          “You shouldn’t have to take that!”
          “You deserve better.”
          “How dare he do X!”
          “You should just leave him. I would. That’s exactly what I would do if I were you.”
          “He’s worthless.”
          “Don’t listen to him!”
          “Who cares what he thinks about this issue – you’re right and you should do what you want to.”

          WHAT TOXIC POISON WE DISPENSE TO OUR FRIENDS WHEN WE SAY THINGS LIKE THIS!

          How I pray that we might be careful to respect and honor our friends’ husbands as the head of their marriages and if we cannot show respect for our friends’ husbands- we ought not be listening to their marriage issues!

          I also pray that we will seek to help our friends find things to respect and point them to God’s Word and to obedience to Christ.

          Many marriages could be saved, I believe!

  3. The second marriage is adultery according to God’s Word. There are 8 scriptures that specifically state remarriage is adultery while the first spouse is still living. So, how can the second marriage be a covenant when God says it is adultery? You also said that scripture prohibits remarrying the first spouse as stated in Deut. 24. You need to study the Hebrew language and how it was used in Deut. 24. When correctly interpreted, you will find that Deut. 24 referred to incestual relationships. There was also a second reason. It was to discourage men from taking advantage of the wife’s family. There was an abuse of men kicking the wife out and then taking her back so he can get another dowry from the wife’s family. http://www.marriagedivorce.com

  4. Yes, divorce is a tough one for Christians. There is much confusion about it. There are even church splits over it.

    Divorce is a perfect example of why Jesus left us with more than just the Bible as our authority. When it comes to divorce (among many other things), people tend to interpret the scriptures in different ways. Some Christians say divorce is ok if a spouse has been unfaithful. Some say not. Some Christians say divorce is ok if the marriage is difficult or abusive. Some say not. Regardless of what is written in the Bible, eventually a person (or persons) must declare what the proper interpretation actually is. That’s why Jesus established an official, visible Church with official, Spirit-led human leadership. And, that is why the Bible points Christians to the authority of the Church. The Church and the Bible together are Christ’s authority.

    When Jesus came, he fulfilled the Old Testament. He restored marriage to what it was in the beginning. Jesus made marriage a covenant (as you rightfully point out), and he also made it a Sacrament. The Protestant reformers got rid of many (in some cases all) sacraments of Christ’s Church. A sacrament can’t be “undone” (For example, try “un-baptizing” someone). Do we ever see ministers “un-marry” a couple? No. They couldn’t if they wanted to. Marriage can’t be reversed. The only thing that gets rid of a valid, sacramental marriage is death. (“In heaven they are neither married nor are given in marriage.”)

    Divorce is the dissolution of a contract between two people. The government can issue a civil marriage license and they can also destroy it. That’s divorce. (Moses allowed such things before Jesus came and fulfilled all that Moses had pointed to.) A sacrament, however, “let no one put asunder.” Adam and Eve were “bone of bone and flesh of flesh.” That can’t be reversed. It would be like telling a blood relative, “This piece of paper says you are no longer my blood relative.” It simply doesn’t work.

    An annulment is not a divorce. An annulment is an official declaration by Christ’s authoritative Church that a marriage never happened in the first place. This is based on examined evidence (sometimes over years) that has to meet specific criteria in order to determine if the marriage was a valid one. You can’t divorce what does not exist. An annulment simply verifies and acknowledges the fact that, despite appearances, the marriage was never valid to begin with and never existed.

    Matthew 19:9 is not the “loophole” many people think. Again, it gets interpreted different ways depending on the person and the version of the Bible one reads.

    (http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/does-jesus-leave-a-loophole-for-divorce-in-matthew-199).

    The same, Spirit-led Church that wrote and assembled the Bible also provides the official interpretation of the Bible. This is not “taking people’s word over the Bible.” It is simply following the Church like the Bible tells us to. Authority = Church and Bible, not Church or Bible. They are not in competition with each other. They both flow from Christ. He gave us both. And they both inform us about divorce.

    (By the way, I respect and understand your caution and apprehension about teaching people what Scripture means. I used to feel that a lot when preaching and teaching. Personally, I found much relief in discovering that, for 2000 years, Jesus had already been doing that through his Church. It’s not up to us individuals to “figure the Bible out for ourselves” and then “hope we get it right.” Jesus takes care of us. Thank God!)

    1. Thomas,

      Thank you very much!

      I always appreciate your insights and godly wisdom greatly.

      Do I understand correctly that in the Catholic church, a couple cannot divorce and remarry someone else? The second marriage is not recognized by the church, correct?

      So then, what does the church instruct people to do who have divorced and remarried if they decide to repent?

      1. You are correct in understanding that in the Catholic church, a couple cannot divorce and remarry someone else and have that marriage recognized. In fact, they will not even perform the second marriage. UNLESS your first marriage is annulled. And Thomas is correct. Getting an annulment is a long and reflective process. I have been through it. In order for my second marriage to be blessed in the church, my husband and I filed for annulments. And guess what?! Both were annulled based on the criteria you talked about (his wife left him and in spite of his deep desire NOT to divorce (he refused to even sign the papers) she went ahead anyway- and mine because my husband was a committed adultery regularly, with multiple and refused to give up his ways and again, he left me (and I begged on the day of the divorce for him not to take this road and instead repent). After this process was finished, we were able to marry in the Catholic church.

        Interestingly enough, after we finished the process, I met another couple who had remarried and had children (like we did)and were convicted upon diving into their Catholic faith that their marriage was unholy and in fact adultery. So, instead of divorcing again, they chose to remain celibate and pray. It took two years for their first marriages to be annulled. In those two years, they shared a bed and home and raised their children- but lived as roommates. She did not want her children (who were very young) to think they were separating. She discussed what lengths she went through to be modest around her “husband” so as not to excite him and allow both of them to fully repent of their sin and enter their Biblical marriage again AFTER their first marriages were annulled and they were married in the Church.

        Many other religions fault the Catholic church for taking such an unyielding stand against divorce. But perhaps more should…. I believe fully that my current husband and I would have remained married to our first spouses if they had not left. We would have toiled. It would have not been easy. But it would have fulfilled the covenant we made before God.

        Do you watch Major Crimes on TNT? It is one of the few I do watch. Interestingly enough, the main character, Sharon, has never divorced her husband even though they live apart. She still keeps his clothes in her closet. When asked why she doesn’t just dump the dirt bag, she said “It’s complicated”. Because they have mentioned her Catholic faith on the show, I know why.

      2. An annulment must be granted for the previous marriage before the current marriage can be valid. Until then, they must live as brother and sister and hope the annulment is granted. Very tough for a lot of folks, but God’s way is not always the easy path. Unfortunately, many decide to leave the Church and go where things are less strict.

        The Church of England (Anglicanism) was started because the Pope refused to let Henry VIII divorce his wife. Divorce is a touchy thing.

      3. April,

        Having grown up going to Catholic church I would have to say it was a huge factor in me deciding to be an Athiest as an adult. Once I got divorced from my first husband, there were a lot of things that I could not participate in. I probably stayed married longer than I should have just so my daughter could be baptized when she was 3 months old. I don’t want to say that my first husband was a bad man but I did not know that there was mental illness there when I married him. I was only 19. Mental illness can be very hidden when someone is taking medication and it’s only when they believe themselves to be ok and stop does it manifast again. So, he wasn’t a bad man but he was a dangerous man. He still is 25 years later. He’s just not a danger to me or my child.

        When I grew up in the Catholic church remarriage was one of those things that cost you getting into heaven. They do have graduated sin. I won’t say I was a faithful church goer in my teens or as a young adult however, the impact of believing that if there was a God you couldn’t change whether or not you were going to hell or heaven has an impact. I have no idea if the Catholic Church still teaches that or not.

        I also remember a couple of years ago when I went to a non-denominational church for the first time in decades being so surprised that people had bibles. Not that they owned them but I couldn’t imagine why they would bring them to church.

        I know when I got remarried after my divorce the instruction was that I absolutely would not be going to heaven. Maybe purgatory. I could not receive communion anymore and my daughter would not be able to participate or receive any of the sacrements.

        Also, when my daughter was 10, I took a job in Ireland. It was really odd because all of the public schools were Catholic schools. Being anti religion I had to send her to Private school to avoid that. But the government was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church and all I can say is that it was interesting what people believe. When I finally read the bible like a year ago I remember thinking of all of the things that were taught that it never said in the bible.

        I struggle with that clash from what I was taught growing up and what I think I know now. I’ve been asking a lot of question about the issue of divorce the last couple weeks so it made me laugh when I saw the two posts you had on that topic. One of the other big ones is baptism. Sprinkled or dunked. Does it count if you were a baby or not. etc. etc.

        I don’t want to say that the Catholic church is bad but I do think, for me, the teachings caused a lot of internal conflict and confusion.

        Gail

        1. Mcsprite,

          I grew up in the Northern part of the USA where most people were Catholic. We went to a little Southern Baptist mission church – and were definitely by FAR in the minority there.

          Thomas actually has a site that is devoted to addressing some of the misconceptions and problems in the Catholic church today – and he is a true believer in Christ – so I am sure he will have things to say from his perspective about these issues. I know he has posts about them, actually!

          http://www.reflectiverevert.wordpress.com

          But- I have seen most of those I grew up with who were Catholic leave their faith. What they seemed to understand from what they were taught was very works-based legalism. I don’t know that legalism is what the priests intended to teach – but that seemed to be what many of them took from what they were taught.

          I realize that it can be difficult to see the grace of God in the Catholic church at times – and that makes me sad. Actually – there are many churches where legalism seems to overshadow the truth of God’s Word and the grace and mercy of Christ. Even independent Baptists do this, too.

          We LIKE legalism! We LIKE having man-made rules and keeping score and thinking we are “righteous” in and of ourselves and comparing ourselves to others and thinking we are “so much better than they are.”

          We can turn anything into legalism:
          – reading the Bible
          – going to church
          – dressing modestly
          – praying
          – giving to the poor

          This is where we have to be so careful! God does want us to do the right things, but for the right REASONS. Our motives must be pure – out of faith in Him and love and appreciation for Him and a desire to please Him and to bless and love others. If we are trying to be “good” to “earn heaven” that is works-based salvation. And it is not what Jesus is about.

          We must constantly be on guard against “the yeast of the Pharisees” – this is exactly what they did, too.

          I am thankful that there is grace, mercy and forgiveness available in Jesus.

          I am thankful that we have church leaders and authorities to help guide and direct us and give us wisdom – but I also know that they are not perfect or infallible. However, I am grateful for the authority structure of the church. There is more about that concept here: Spiritual Authority

          Thomas and I do not agree on absolutely everything – of course- Greg, my husband, and I don’t either! I am thankful for Thomas because he does a great job explaining his faith and the reasoning behind it. I respect him very much.

          I still think there is plenty of room for unity in the body of Christ as we cling to what we have in common.

          The issues surrounding divorce can get extremely complicated for my little brain. So, I knew I was opening Pandora’s box to even address this issue. I know we are not all going to agree. That doesn’t really bother me.

          My concern is to attempt to proclaim God’s Word as clearly as I can and to seek for Him to speak through me.

          I believe many marriages can be spared from divorce as we address these things – that is my greatest hope.

          BUT – I also do want us to be able to love those who have been through divorce with the love of Christ and to exhort repentance if there was sin and to help our sisters find a right relationship with God.

          I praise God for what He is doing in your life! 🙂

      4. Mcsprite,

        There are three important things for a Christian to consider: what you believe, why you believe it, and what difference it makes. For many decades the Catholic Church has struggled in her duty to teach the “why” and the “what difference it makes.” Hence, many Catholics are woefully ignorant of the reasons for the teachings. That has been getting much better in recent years with Catholic apologists coming out in force. Nevertheless,

        Your experience of being turned off by Catholic teachings is not uncommon. We need a better understanding of WHY the Church teaches what she does. The teachings are not true simply because the Church says they are true. The Church teaches them because the Holy Spirit compells the Church to teach what is true.

        It is also important to make a distinction between “infallible” and “impeccable.” No church leader is “impeccable” in the sense that they can make no errors or mistakes. However, the Catholic Church believes that the Holy Spirit preserves the integrity of Church teachings by keeping the office of the Pope and the Magisterium infallible. This means the Holy Spirit will prevent even a scoundrel of a pope from declaring error as official Church teaching (the Holy Spirit also preserves the integrity of Scripture).

        To illustrate this principle, consider how Peter said the wrong thing and was called “Satan” by Jesus. Yet, when Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus blessed him and said that it was God, not man, that revealed the truth to Peter. That’s impeccability vs. infallibility. The Peter that Jesus called Satan, the Peter that denied Jesus three times was not impeccable. But Peter was infallible when he spoke what God revealed to him. Jesus made that same Peter our first Pope and gave him the keys to the Kingdom.

        It is the responsibility of every baptized Catholic to study and learn their faith as much as they can. The clergy can’t spoon-feed it all to us. We must study to show ourselves approved, as the Scripture says.

    2. Here is a copy of the link Thomas shared in case anyone would like to see it:

      Full Question

      I believe the Bible when it says he who divorces and marries another commits adultery, as we see in Mark 10:1-12 and Luke 16:18. But isn’t Jesus leaving a loophole when he says in Matthew 19:9 “except for unchastity”?
      Answer

      What may appear as a loophole is a consequence of misinterpretation or mistranslation. The King James Version and others translate the passage into English words that appear to say fornication, unchastity, or adultery are exceptions that allow a divorce.

      The constant teaching of the Church has been that a valid sacramental marriage can not be broken, even if one party sins. As Matthew 19:6 says, “Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Biblical scholars, such as J. Bonsirven, have pointed out that the Greek word that is pivotal here is “porneia,” which means unlawful sexual intercourse. The Gospel does not use the Greek word “moicheia,” which is the ordinary Greek word for adultery.

      The intent appears to be to distinguish a true marriage from concubinage. What is being said is that if a man and a woman are in fact married, the bond is inseparable. But if they are not married, just “living together,” then there is no lawful marriage and there can be a separation or annulment. The wording of the New American Bible for Matthew 19:9 is a translation that gives us this sense.

      1. Thanks April,

        I definitely have to check out Thomas’s site. I also grew up in the north. My mother’s family was from Italy and settled in Wisconsin. So, of course we were raised Roman Catholic. In fact, I don’t even know if my mom knows that Jesus was Jewish. I think she thinks he was Roman Catholic. When she asks me if I went to Mass I just say yes.

        I think I mentioned before that my sister moved down to Texas to live with me when she became disabled. It took my husband and I a year to get her to go to Church with us because it wasn’t Catholic Mass. Not that she had been to Mass in 20 years but she had this perception that weird things happened in other churches. The first time she went and we introduced her to our Pastor he made a joke that we don’t kill Chicken’s on Sundays only the Wednesday service. He could tell she was apprehensive and tried to lighten the mood. She has been going ever since which makes me happy since she was very depressed about her disabilities.

        This is a complicated topic but it’s also an area where people and Churches seem to over complicate Jesus. I think you did a good job covering the topic and it was definitely very brave of you.. 🙂 Reading or picking apart parts of the bible or individual scriptures is something Athiests do to prove contradiction and try to back up their opinion that God does not exist. It’s also what Christians do to admonish others. I am too thankful for grace. I am also glad that I am not God because I would be smiting all over the place! I would be like a smiting thing, in smiting land that won an award for smiting.

        I had to laugh because I forgot that all of my user ID’s / tags / display names where I set up an account reads: McSprite.. It’s what my husband calls me. We are techno geeks and gamers so the name kind of stuck and now it’s a nickname. He uses it sort of like when Ricky Riccardo used to call Lucy when he found out she had snuck into Club Babalu.. People can call me either McSprite or Gail… 🙂

        1. Gail/McSprite – Hey, I will call you whatever you want me to call you! 🙂

          This is a complicated topic. I believe God wanted me to write about it – but WHEW! Some topics are a lot more difficult to write about than others.

          You know – I was thinking today about the letter that the Jewish church leaders sent to the Gentiles. The topic was different – but I think this passage may be relevant…

          5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

          6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

          12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon[a] has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

          16 “‘After this I will return
          and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
          Its ruins I will rebuild,
          and I will restore it,
          17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
          even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
          says the Lord, who does these things’[b]—
          18 things known from long ago.[c]
          19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

          The Jewish church leaders could have included A LOT of things in this letter to the Gentiles. I find it interesting to see what they decided to prayerfully write to new Gentile believers.

          The smiting thing made me laugh!

          Here is what I do know for sure – we have a MASSIVE problem with divorce in our culture and in the church. We also have massive problems with adultery, fornication and so many other sins. It is my prayer that God might sweep through His people by the power of His Spirit and convict us of every trace of sin, that we might repent and that we might be made right with God so that we might live in the power of His Spirit and live in obedience to Him for His glory! And I want to see everyone get to experience the grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, salvation and new life Christ has to offer to us!

          Much love,

      2. That is very thought provoking Thomas….

        Some areas of the bible are pretty clear. There’s no way to misinterpret what it says. It just says what it says like, BAM there it is.. Others not so much. There are things that I read where I get utterly confused. Our church has bible study groups and when we first attended it was difficult.. Because people would start sentences with, “Everyone knows the story about……. ” and then they would make their point. Inside I was like, “Noooooo.. Everyone does not know that story”.. I mentioned that once to our pastor and now we have a bible study for beginners..

        I have the urge to ask questions on this post that get off topic but I’m going to check out your site and see if you address any of those there. Such as communion, confession, batism, etc, etc..

        Thanks for the input.

        Gail W.

      3. You’re welcome, Gail. Bible studies have pros and cons. 2Peter 3:16 warns us that there are things that are hard to understand, especially in Paul’s writings, and that people destroy themselves by getting it wrong. So, it makes perfect sense that we get confused by lots of scriptures.

        Catholics are supposed to read and study the Bible, but we are also supposed to verify that the conclusions we reach do not contradict what the Church teaches. That’s one reason we have the Catholic Catechism. It’s also a reason that Catholics should avoid non-Catholic Bible studies unless they are very well grounded in Catholic doctrine.

        The primary reason there are so many different churches and interpretations is that the Protestant reformation got rid of Church authority and declared that anyone can interpret the Scriptures on their own. Without that central authority established by Christ, there is no one to settle disputes and disagreements. The result has been constant splintering and division for the past 500 years. Some estimate we now have over 30,000 different denominations. They all say they are right, and they all claim to be led by the Holy Spirit. Something is wrong with that picture. Just having a Bible obviously doesn’t cut it. (Jesus established one Church with authority, not a bunch of churches with seperate authorities.)

        In a Bible study you really don’t know what you’re getting. Unless there is someone who can difinitively say, “Wait a minute, that’s not what the Church teaches,” pretty much anything goes.

        The Church is not based on the Bible. The Bible is based on (and flowed from) the Church. The Church asembled the Scriptures and officially decided which writings belong in the Bible. Hence, anyone who declares that the Bible is authoritative is also validating the Catholic Church’s authority (whether they know it or not).

        I appreciate your interest in my blog. Be advised that my authority is the Church AND the Bible. They go together. Therefore, always check anything I say against scripture AND Catholic Church teaching. Some of my writing is more reflective than apologetic. When I do delve into apologetics, I do so not as a professional. A good resource is the Catechism of the Catholic Church and websites like catholic.com, ewtn.com, or CatholicsComeHome.org

        Peace to you, and Merry Christmas!

        Thomas

  5. This is where repentance comes in. Repentance means to confess the sin and give up the sin. If one lies, then one has to stop lying. If one steal, then one has to stop stealing. If God calls the remarriage adultery, then that means the couple has to give up the adultery/remarriage. I personally know people who read and studied the Bible and were convicted when they realized they were in adultery, because there was a living covenant spouse in the picture. They immediately separated and filed for divorce.

  6. I do have to warn you that due to the proliferation of divorce and remarriage, sometimes a second marriage can be a covenant marriage, since the first one wasn’t covenant to start with, but adulterous. (Example: Jill marries John, who is divorced and has a living covenant wife. In God’s eyes, that is adulterous. Jill divorces John and marries Jack, who has never married before. That marriage is covenant.)

    1. Lynn,

      This whole divorce and remarriage thing makes my head spin! I really kind of wish it was not an issue at all. It gets so convoluted today. 🙁

      I am so thankful that there is hope, healing and restoration available in Christ!

      Thank you for sharing.

      1. I know this may sound silly, but what constitutes marriage? A friend of mine is married to a man who lived with a woman by whom he fathered two children. They never got married, but although she says she was not in a close relationship with the Lord at the time they were getting married 10 years ago and believes she would have made a different decision had she known what she knows now, she is still plagued by guilt that maybe her marriage is displeasing to God. Can people live together for years and have kids together, and not be married? Can they get married to other people after breaking up with each other? When is it called a marriage? Please help?

  7. Vivien, if two people are living together without vows and witnesses, they are in fornication. It doesn’t matter how many kids they have. Since God does not view that as a marriage, Vivien (if she never married before) is free to marry someone who has never married before or lost a spouse to death.

  8. Please pray for my friend C and her husband R. The live for many years in seperate houses and its kind of a Cold War going on. She is a believer. She is very weak emotionally and needs wisdom. I try to encourage her as best as i can, but it seems very difficult for her to put things into practice… Please pray for a breakthrough for R and C.

  9. Thank you April for speaking so plainly, on the issue of divorce.I believe it is of special importance to Christian women in this day when 75-80% of divorces are initiated by women.Society not only condones, but encourages women to divorce their husbands on little or no grounds. No-fault divorce is squarely aimed at the destruction of the institution of marriage. My wife and I have never considered divorce as an option, although we were separated for 5 years. Even during our separation, I was conscious of my responsibility to care for her spiritually and financially.By God’s grace we came together again, but my sin against my wife and God still haunts me.When we sin, we can be forgiven, but there are always scars left behind that remind us of the past. I would have it no other way, as it increases my thankfulness for God’s mercy to me.

    1. Ted C,

      Thank you for sharing your story, Ted! I praise God for what He has done in your marriage!!!!!

      This is such a raw and painful subject – but – it is at the core of so much of our severe spiritual illness as God’s people today. How I pray we will all repent of all sin, turn to Christ and be healed and live in obedience to Him for His glory.

  10. FROM RG:
    t should also be noted that in the Old Testament, the civil law of divorce wasn’t really needed in cases of adultery anyway, because the higher function of God’s moral law punished all adultery by stoning to death both men and women adulterers, effectively “divorcing” (through death) and ending the marriage anyway.

    Divorce was not seen as a human form (or “right”) of personal civil legal justice against a morally offending spouse, but as the consequent side-effect of God’s own personal, holy, moral justice against (male and female) morally offending sinners. God was more interested in dealing with the sin and upholding holy, moral, commands (biblical standards) than he was about what we think of as our own personal “rights” to our own legal standards of “justice.”

    Justice belongs to God. It is our job to obey Him.

    The New Testament changed from “An eye for an eye” justice to “Forgive those who sin against you” justice.

    Even if we are sinned against in marriage, God wants us to forgive our sinning spouses, and trust God and His sovereignty to handle all the moral issues of HIS justice.

    We don’t have all the “rights” we think we do just because society says we do.

    God is not interested in all our self-proclaimed civil or legal “rights.”

    God does not change for us and our standards. We change for Him.

  11. This issue has grieved my heart so much for so many years. .. . Before I was married, I was engaged to my high school sweetheart. We loved each other very much and in our junior year had decided we were ready for a sexual relationship. We knew we were in sin, but we followed what felt right in our hearts at the time. We were very cautious and very committed. Both of our parents had done the same and both had been married over 20 years! It was just a matter of time for us, we thought.

    We both loved Jesus as well and we were heavily involved in leadership at our church’s youth group during that time. (I shudder when I think of how many young eyes were watching us and approving of our example. . .ugh.. . .the things I didn’t think about when I was 17!!)

    Fast forward a couple of years out of high school. We went to different colleges and life took us different ways. Our breakup was sad for both of us, but seemed like the right thing to do. . . .it sort of got ugly in the end, I think because we had invested so much and then it all fell apart. . .It was over but we (I) still had so many emotions. . . .

    Fast forward almost 20 years and I’m still confused about this whole relationship. I have often heard that we were “married” under God’s law because of our sexual relationship. Although, from a biblical standpoint, it seems what we had was just “fornication” or “pre-marital sex”. Pretending to be married does not constitute marriage.

    This misunderstanding has at times made me worry that I left my first “covenant” marriage and am possibly in sin present day. . . .Of course, being committed to my current husband, this issue is something I’ve tried to ignore . . .and almost never comes up. . .but I would say that it is still not “resolved” in my heart.

    It is so painful, though, when it does come up. (Like on a random day when some random blog post takes me back. . .) It still “feels” like a first marriage was lost. . . . Amazing the pain that can result when we “follow our hearts” instead of our Lord 🙁

    Thanks for the link, April, I think it addresses this very issue. And I also think Lynn is speaking to it. . . .probably because today is not “random” at all. . .

    1. fallenshort,
      These issues are SO painful!!!!!

      It was really sobering for me as I read in Deuteronomy 22 and 24 last night about God’s laws for His people concerning these things in the Old Testament.

      I pray for God’s wisdom for you!

    2. This is why I continue to urge my children NOT to have premarital sex (as I did). Sex was intended only for marriage because of the deep emotions that come with such an intimate act. In my faith. I was not married. However, it sure felt like it. Even though you both were committed, you did not make that commitment before God and your family in church. Thankfully, our sins are forgiven. You sin was adultery. It is a big deal. But when you repent of this sin (as I have), I am forgiven. I now use my current job working with youth and my role of parent to teach others of my mistakes and the emotional heartache premarital sex causes. I see it as my penance of sorts.

  12. There are as many ways to interpret these texts as there are churches and Bible versions. Just like the discussion about keeping the 10 commandments.

    1. Sandy,
      Yes, there are many interpretations… Ultimately, we will all answer to God, so only His interpretation will matter. I pray He will show us His wisdom and truth and that we might obey Him and please Him. 🙂

      Thank you, this is certainly an important point.

    2. That’s exactly right, Sandy. Jesus knew this would be the case (he is God, after all). That’s why he established one, authoritative Church with the power of “binding and loosing” and the ability to rightly discern and interpret Scripture. All these different interpretations and versions began 500 years ago when men abandoned Church authority. The Bible alone isn’t enough to sufficiently guide Christians. The Bible points us to Church authority (like in Matt 18:17 for example). Nowhere in the Bible is it written that the Bible alone is our only authority. Submitting to Church authority solves a lot of problems because to submit to the Church (Christ’s Body) is to submit to Christ himself. That’s how Jesus set things up.

  13. In the scripture it clearly talks about adultry. Adultry is when a spose has sex with another person,but for men its different. Men actually commit adultry against God when they have sex with a women they’re not married to yet. The reason is because women don’t OWN their husband. The husband owns his wife. Look up the hebrew and greek of the word own in comparison with the marriage scripture-let each man have his own wife. Its very important that women understand that as well. We don’t own our husbands,the world has blinded us from that fact. The marriage bed should be honorable amongst all, and if cheating is going on its not grounds for divorce for the woman, but for the man its different,she has violated his territory. Its harlotry and unclean. The man may divorce in this case if he chooses.

    1. Husbands do not own their wives outright either- “we were bought with a price” and are ultimately owned by God- men, women, children. I can’t find any sort of Scriptural support for wives as property. Even children are not seen as property. This seems to be a distortion of both the idea of submission and the dignity of mankind. For the flip side of let each man have his own wife is let each woman have her own husband. “Own” – ownership like that of a steward (a frequent picture given to us in parables), not outright ownership like that of the master (God) – and this steward ownership goes both ways as wives have authority over their husband’s bodies too. It is the authority of the steward in both cases, I believe.

      Where does the Bible talk about men committing adultery against God if they sleep with a woman other than their wife? Chapter and verse, please. It is a nice idea, but not a Biblical one. It sounds like you would make a man’s adultery a lesser sin than a woman’s. Very interesting. Where does the Bible say that a woman’s adultery is harlotry? Words have meanings. Harlotry is an old word that means the same thing as prostitution. An adulterer is not necessarily a prostitute unless if money was exchanged. Once again, words have meanings.

      1. R.E.,
        Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your questions. These ideas definitely need to be clarified and supported with scripture – as do all ideas – as we test them before we embrace them.

      2. I understood Sharon’s comment about men committing adultery against God to mean that, unlike female adultery, it is not a sin against the spouse, and, on second reading, I might have assumed too much. All sins are sins against God, of course, and might additionally be sins against someone else too. My apologies if I misunderstood you, Sharon.

  14. Wow! Since sunday i had the burden to tell u to tell women purely God’s stand on divorce so that they won’t be deceived. The Spirit of God has moved to write this and nobody’s blood’l be on ur head. Now God is proud of u 4 u’ve quenched His heart cry u’ve done what many so called pastors failed to do, if it were so d rate of divorce would’ve reduced. Keep speaking the raw word of God don’t water/dilute it 4 the standard of God stands sure n He cant change. Jesus is waiting earnestly 4 the marriage with His bride, but are we ready? God bless u!

  15. Yeah I didnt give the full details, I will,sorry about that, this is an interpretation of the meaning of OWN in the bible, I dont want to be to light on areas without giving full explanations, I will come back with the details, , i just gave a briefing but dont want to confuse people. R.E. it is no lesser of a sin for man to commit adultery, its the same. Im just sharing some info I had recieved, but the whole context I will bring back later.

  16. God gave men wives, land, cattle, slaves, and many more things, and he also gave men women. Women were made for man, men were not made for women, as stated in 1 Cor. 11:9. Women were created because God did not want man to be alone. Women were created to be helpers as well.
    The bible gives no ground for a woman to divorce. In 1Cor 10:11 A wife is not to DEPART from her husband. -NKJV And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
    The man is the one who always had grounds for divorce if the women committed adultery. Scripture clearly states its adultery if the women divorces. or if she has sex with another man she’s not married to.
    Mark10:12 And if a women divorces her husband and marries another she commits adultery. Scripture clearly states its adultery if a women divorces or if she has sex with another spouse. Im speaking for the women….this link may be helpful it has all the scriptures about adultery and divorce.

  17. The only issue I have with John Piper is that he believes you should stay in your adulterous marriage. He calls remarriage adulterous, but then tells people to stay in it.

    1. That’s because he is operating outside the parameters of Church authority and interpreting the Bible according to his own authority (which is the foundation of Protestantism). The Church does not teach that people should remain in a sinful situation. In fact, the Church does what it can to encourage people to repent and resolve the issue. An annulment is one option for many people that remain within the arms of Holy Mother Church. Outside of the Church, you’re at the whim of whatever interpretations are floating around (“every wind of doctrine”).

      1. God does give authority to church leaders, elders and pastors.

        I would prefer not to get into a debate about the authority of the Catholic Church vs. other churches. I desire to uphold and respect those in authority in the church.

        There are obviously conflicting views about who has what authority. I am not going to try to resolve that issue on my blog. I desire to see there be a united church without ungodly divisions. The will of Jesus is clearly for us to be united as believers -John 17.

        I believe it is possible for people to honor and submit themselves to the church authority over them in a similar way that wives submit to their husbands. Every husband does not have the same convictions about everything. But it is the wife’s job to submit to her particular husband and to trust God to lead her through her husband.

        There are those in spiritual authority over us in the church to help believers as we wrestle with these difficult questions.

        Thomas, as you know, I respect your faith and the Catholic Church and appreciate your wisdom.

        1. To hopefully clarify for my readers,

          It is my understanding, Thomas, please correct me if I am wrong, that the Catholic Church gives equal or greater weight to the authority of the Church than the Bible.

          It is my understanding that Protestants, generally, give greater weight to the authority of the Bible than to the church.

          This is a critical topic, because whoever or whatever has authority determines the outcomes of many decisions, beliefs, motives and behaviors.

          I have a post on spiritual authority you may find on the top of my home page.

          John Piper is acting outside of the authority of the Catholic Church.

          If that is the only church God recognizes, then that is a massive problem for the rest of us.

          John Piper seeks to operate under the authority of scripture. And it is my belief that he is not operating under his own authority, but has authority as a pastor and from God’s Word to seek to lead and shepherd the people in his care.

          But Thomas is right that having all of these different denominations and splinters is confusing.

          God commands us all as believers to test the spirits – or the teachings we hear, and not to embrace false teaching, which is rampant.

          I believe we will each ultimately be held individually accountable to God. And those in authority will be held to an even greater degree of accountability (James 1).

          These issues are foundational to our faith. So, I believe they are worthy of prayerful consideration.

      2. I’m not interested in debating here. I was just offering food for thought that seemed pertinent to the issue and addressed the confusion surrounding it.

        To answer your questions: The Catholic Church regards the Bible as part of the Sacred Tradition handed down through the centuries by the Church. Some Sacred Tradition was handed down orally, and some of it was written down. This is known as “The Deposit of Faith.” The Bible is part of the Church’s Deposit of Faith.

        For example, the Bible does not tell us which writings belong in the New Testament. The Church had to figure that out based on Sacred Tradition. Then the Church had the power and authority to declare, “These are the books of the New Testament.” For nearly 400 years after Christ there were lots of writings, but there was no official New Testament. It was assembled and approved by the Catholic Church.

        Catholic Church authority is not greater than biblical authority. Nor is the Bible greater than the Church. It is all one, authoritative organism working together to spread the Gospel and disciple and feed believers. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. The Bible is part of Catholic Faith. Catholic teaching does not contradict the Bible. There may be some Catholic teachings that are not explicitly laid out “in detail” in the Bible, but there is no contradiction of Scripture. Catholic teachings can be shown to have at least implicit scriptural support. The Bible and the Church are both God’s Word. The Bible is the written Word and the Church is the Body of Christ, the Living Word made flesh. Not all of God’s Word is written in ink.

        You wrote: “John Piper is acting outside of the authority of the Catholic Church.

        If that is the only church God recognizes, then that is a massive problem for the rest of us.”

        Non-Catholic Christians are, of course, recognized by God as believers. The Catholic Church does not say they are not Christians (particularly those who are outside of the Church through no fault of their own, largely due to being children of the Reformation). However, they are at a disadvantage because they are separated from the fullness of the Christian Faith and the guidance of the Church that Christ gave them. This becomes evident when believers wrestle with issues of faith and morals and discover opposing views and opinions amongst themselves, their pastors and their shepherds. Discussions on divorce are a good example.

        There is no central leadership because it was abandoned 500 years ago. Three pastors of three different churches on the same street may have three different teachings. This is not biblical, despite the good intentions of the pastors. They try their best, but they are working with less than what God intended. In the midst of this confusion, believers are the ones that often suffer the most. The sheep are left trying to figure out which shepherd to follow. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church bids all to return.

        It pains me to see people trying to “reinvent the wheel,” so to speak (especially since I tried it myself for over 20 years). Christ has already directed the Church what to teach on these matters. Guess that’s why I contribute my two cents. Trying to help folks struggle less.

        That’s all. Hope that answers your questions about Catholicism. Anyone is free to go to my blog to learn more. I’ll do my best to answer any more questions there. I’m not going to continue this thread here. April, you have been more than accomodating to me here and I appreciate your graciousness.

        May we ALL have a blessed Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Peace.

        Thomas

        1. Thomas,

          I understand you are not debating. 🙂 And I greatly appreciate all the food for thought. These are incredibly important issues.

          If there are some posts you would like me to link to for those who are interested, I am glad to put them up!

          I greatly appreciate your 2 cents and the way you explain the Catholic teachings so thoroughly and beautifully.

          Merry Christmas to you, too, my brother! 🙂

          1. The Holy Spirit is so powerful! That’s a big reason I returned to Catholicism. I don’t believe He would direct different church leaders to teach opposing doctrines while all claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit. The guidance of the Holy Spirit brings unity, not confusion. One Lord, one Faith, one baptism for all the world to see. Only the Holy Spirit could have held the Catholic Church together for 2000 years and used her authority to give us the Bible.

            The same Church authority that gave us the Bible also gives us authoritative Church leaders to teach the Bible. In this way, the 2000 year apostolic teaching remains unified. It all comes from Christ. The Holy Spirit is awesome!

  18. April and Thomas,

    I have really learned a lot on this post between to two of you. You both have answered so many questions that I was struggling with. I also have shared with Thomas’s site with a couple of friends. There were some topics he covers on there that have been part of our recent conversations. Love the one on “church shopping”.. You both are great!

    Gail W.

    1. Gail,

      I think Thomas’ site is amazing. I’m so glad it has been a blessing to you.

      PS –
      There is a lady commenting on today’s post which is your story about handling blended families. She has a question for you. 🙂

  19. Labeling things abuse is a form of guilt assuaging. Some women recruit others to do just this. read where Christian women gather and discuss marriage. If a woman states a problem in her marriage, within 4 posts following that some other woman will say “sweety, you do know that is abuse don’t you?” I have tried to ask them why they do that, the answer is always, “why not, if its abuse lets call it such”

    The other one is, porn is not grounds for divorce. Period.

    Between abuse and porn you capture the majority of female filed Christian couple divorces.

    When those two fail, a distant third is abandonment. I even read a Family Life article last week where they used the term “emotional abandonment”. How irresponsible. Don’t they know the trigger words? That article probably cemented dozens of divorces. With abandonment comes the rationale “The filing had nothing to do with the divorce, we had been divorced for years, this is just administrative details”.

    Oddly, that same couple, if they reconcile, will pick up sexual relations where they left off. Strange thing for “divorced” Christians to to isn’t it? Words mean things. But these days words mean whatever they need to mean to convince The Personal Jesus to endorse your choices.

    1. empathologicalism,

      Abuse is a VERY strong word – as well it should be. How I long to see us as women be very cautious with this word and not just toss it about when it is not warranted.

      How I pray that my brothers and sisters in Christ will be delivered from the addiction of pornography. But – I agree, that porn, though very destructive and sinful, is not biblical grounds for divorce.

      I have seen God heal many people from porn addiction. It is a difficult road – but not impossible with Christ.

      Thank you for sharing.

  20. Thomas and April are godly examples of “how to agree to disagree” or at least, to show grace when offered seemingly varying view points. Kudos to you both. That was such a testament to graciousness and truth in love. 🙂 Debating would have just grieved God’s Heart. We are all believers. May we all see each other in Heaven. 🙂

    I am a devout Catholic, by the way, whose eyes were opened by April’s blog. 🙂

    1. Nikka,

      Thomas is always welcome here. He adds so much beauty and truth to every discussion. I’m thankful for him and for all that God has done in his life and the generous spirit he has to share with others.

      I’m thankful for all of my brothers and sisters – and the unity we can have in Christ. 🙂

  21. I think often times the divorce gauntlet is thrown and then neither the husband or wife can back down from the actual filing. I look at my husband and his ex-wife and think, why did these two people get divorced? They were married for 10 years. They had kids, a house, they seem to get along now although I understand they didn’t always.

    When I hear either one of them talk about it, it seems that once it was filed and friends and family knew, they couldn’t back down. If 2 people put as much effort into their marriage as they do in order to “come out the victor” in a divorce their marriage would be awesome! If they invested that money into Godly counseling or a marriage retreat or something positive to improve their marriage it would be awesome.. It’s gotta be a pride thing at it’s core. Otherwise it doesn’t even make sense.

    I also see porn get brought up a lot. Couples can recover from that. Maybe I said this before but a lot of wives withhold sex from their husbands. If your husband is rejected 80% of the time, he’s going to feel worthless. He’s also going to be more tempted to give into lust. And he’s probably going to be irritable. They are not going to feel like they are “smokin hot” in your eyes either.

    Sometimes we do it because we are tired or we don’t feel attractive or because we have the same last name and now we are related.. 🙂 But sex has an important meaning for a man. Nobody wants to feel rejected and lonely. It can also be a great form of comfort.

    Ok, that’s the last time I’m going to write about sex.. I’m glad my mom doesn’t know what the internet is.. 🙂

    Gail.

  22. I was thinking about this whole porn thing, and how i affects wives, and it seems like this is one of those issues that’ kind of like the “My Demon” and Voices in his Head” things.As a husband who has always struggled with porn addiction, I can tell you even in my marriage I have never fantasized about being with another woman, when I was with my wife.It has at times made me discontent in our relationship, by creating desires for things in our marriage bed that I might have never have thought of on my own. On the other hand,I can’t speak for many in my generation, as I’m firmly convinced I’m far different than most, but I would never have had the first clue regarding sex, had I never read or watched porn.My dad’s version of “the talk” was to give me a copy of Penthouse as I was leaving after joining the Navy. Until I became a Christian I didn’t consider it wrong.I was ashamed of it , because in my mind resorting to it showed that I wasn’t man enough to deserve the real thing.I had been addicted for years before I ever met my wife ( I think the first time I ever looked at porn I was 13 or so.)I guess my point is, that my porn addiction is like any other addiction, it doesn’t go away. You spend your whole life guarding yourself from it. A healthy and robust marriage bed does help. The lack of that marriage bed makes it much harder.And while my wife is not the cause of my addiction,neither is my addiction in any way about her. I would very much like to hear other men’s point of view on this, as I normally consider myself an oddball on these issues

  23. I agree with you Ted. One of the sad effects of porn and romance novels and frankly chick flicks is that it sets an unrealistic standard for a relationship and a marriage. In so many ways. Most people get to a point where they don’t see the difference between the fantasy and the reality. It can also cause people (men and women) to dehumanize their spouse. The result is unnecessary unhappiness and discontentment..

    That’s just the reality aside from it being a sin.

    Merry Christmas everyone. I’m off to Children’s Hospital. My baby granddaughter has been admitted with a fever and high white cell count. I think most parents can relate to spending a Christmas here and there in the hospital..

    Gail

    1. assume you”re agreeing with the unrealistic expectations part of the comment. The bigger point I was trying to make was about the fact that to me, at least, my problem with porn has nothing to do with my wife or my marriage.My wife and marriage can help, but the are not the source or the cause. It is caused by sin in my members.Everyone is susceptible to this temptation. As you pointed out, the chick flicks and romance novels are simply an acceptable form of this for women. The sin is the same.

      1. Ted C.,

        I really appreciate your comment and understand that many men feel the same way – that porn isn’t about their wife or marriage. Of course, most women take their husband’s porn use very personally and feel it is because they are inadequate in some way that their husband would turn to porn. But, a porn addiction is very similar to a drug addiction, it produces the same neurotransmitters in the brain as a drug high. Once a man is addicted, it can be very difficult for him to stop. I would love to see wives team up with their husbands to combat this issue together instead of treating their husband like an enemy.

        I think it would be very freeing if more wives could understand that their husband’s porn addictions have very little to do with them and how they can best help. Thank you for sharing how your wife was not the source or the cause of this sin. And praise God there is healing and victory available in Christ!

      2. I agree with both of your points. Women tend to tie their self esteem way too closely to their looks. If their husband or boyfriend is addicted to porn the first thing that they will think is its because they are not attractive enough. It doesn’t have anything to do with it. Some of the most gorgeous women have husbands who are addicted to porn. I don’t think witholding sex from your husband creates a porn addiction but it also isn’t helping him not to stumble either. Embarrasing him on it will also not help. Both of those will ensure he never talks to you about it when he’s struggling with the addiction however. It’s like a cruel punishment for something he really is doing harm to himself with.

        It’s like any other addiction or temptation, if the other person internalized it the person with the problem will either not ask for help or will not ask you for help. My daughter’s addiction was drugs. If she can’t come to me and tell me that she feels vulnerable to her addiction without me freaking out or punishing her, then I am not going to be able to help her.

        1. Gail,

          I agree with your analogy with other addictions, and how important it is for the addicted person to be able to share when he/she is feeling vulnerable to temptation so that the other person can help them deal with the stress that is triggering the craving or desire to give in to the temptation.

  24. My husband too, has had a porn addiction. He actually admitted it to me, I saw some posts on this blog about men confessing their porn addiction-some of it from disrespected wives, or wives withholding sex. Guess what, I was like hmmm is my husband having this problem?? He is a strong man of God by the way…very fervant in prayer and the word of God, and God uses him in many ways daily. So I confronted him and asked him if he has failed to porn in the marriage, he admitted he has, and was thankful that we had a talk about it….it was awesome. It was awesome that he could share his feelings with me. The porn had alot to do with my disrespect…he said he went to it on those nights when we have huge arguments….my disrespect was bringing him down and a little away form God, he wasnt motivated to pray as much…and of course prayer is the only way you can fight through temptations. My disrespect and withholding sex from him…and then he wasn’t desiring me sexually as much either, because of my disrespect he said. It all can defintately hinder the marrige. I’m thankful for God confiming my husbands heartache…he told me he was direspected for years…he’s a man who will stand for truth, and we have had very serious heated arguments and fights because of my disrespect and talkback and pride. Peaceful wife…God is using you to bring marriages back to purity.

    1. Peeps,

      Thank you for sharing!! I am so glad you talked about this and that you were a safe place for him to share. I praise God you are approaching this issue as a team. Thank you for sharing what he said with us. I think your story may benefit other marriages too.

  25. I am devastated ,I didn’t know I was committing a sin . My husband abandoned me in July and left me penniless and without food or transportation right after my 6th surgery for breast cancer. I was told that in order for him to have to pay me any money I should file for Pendente lite, temporary divorce for alimony relief. I don’t want a divorce from my husband and still pray for a restoration of my marriage. It’s been almost 5 months now he’s been gone and 2 months since I’ve heard from him . Will God forgive me .?

    1. Brenda,

      There are times when divorce can be necessary. I think what gets dicey is remarriage sometimes. I pray for God’s wisdom for you, my precious sister. I am so sorry to hear about your cancer. I know that as you seek Him first, He will provide a way for you to walk in obedience to Him and make things clear.

      Sending you the biggest hug!

      Much love!
      April

My grandmother is on hospice and won't be with us much longer (11-30-16). I will get to comments when I am able to but I need to be with family right now. Thanks for understanding.

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