There is such confusion in the body of Christ on this issue; of course there are many other issues that confusion reigns.
Paul say’s in 2 Cor. The letter killeth but the Spirit bringeth life. I am astounded how people only want to look at individual verses, but I guess this comes from our Greek mindset, and our penchant to systematic theology, another Greek idea, rather than seeing theology as the Hebrew does as a whole unit, unable to be separated. The Greek way is like dissecting a frog and in the end all you have is dead theology. That is exactly what systematic theology alone does.
Jesus in Matt 5:31 – 32 begins the New Testament teaching on this issue, however to look at Matthew outside the context of the Old Testament leads to error. The issue has to be understood in the Hebrew way. The above verses must be looked at in the framework of these Old Testament passages.
a) Dueteronomy 24:1 – 4, is the basic text on divorce and remarriage.
b) Exodus 21:7 – 11, which clearly sets forth the rights of a former slave girl who has become a wife. She could demand a divorce under certain conditions which deprive her as a wife.
c) Dueteronomy 21:10 – 14, Shows God’s law regarding a military captive who has become a wife of one of her captors.
d) Ezra 9 and 10, Shows the mass “putting away” of foreign/pagan wives, which many in Israel had taken in violation to God’s commands. As Ezra had brought them back to God’s word they in repentance were required to “put away”, not divorce, why because according to the Covenant those marriages were not considered valid.
e) Jeremiah 3:6 – 8, reveals how God divorced Israel, the confederacy of the 10 tribes who worshipped in Samaria. This is the first and only divorce recorded divorce in scripture, even though is was a regular occurrence.
It is worth noting that God in putting away Israel, which was all He was required to do, as Israel had been an idolitous wife, but He also divorced then thus giving them total freedom to go an marry whom ever they wanted.Jeremiah, says that Judah, her treacherous sister was worse, then why not also divorce Judah, simply because Jesus had to be born of the tribe of Judah and to be conceived out of wedlock/covenant would have mad Jesus an illegitimate son, and thus unable to obtain the birthright/inheritance.
f) Malachi 2:14 – 16 This passage shows how God views simply “putting away” the wife of they youth, rather than giving a bill of divorcement as demanded by the Mosaic law.
It is plainly obvious that “putting away” Hb Keriythuwth and “divorce” Hb Shalach were two separate concepts, any one caught in adultery was to be stoned, however there was also another practice called putting away, for this cause. Why? Simply no one could be stoned unless there were two or three eye witnesses, and it this situation it would be hard to find those witnesses. If a woman was pregnant, whilst it would be an obvious conclusion, to show adultery, you still had to have the “eye witnesses”.
The only valid reason for “putting away” was for adultery, every other failure of a marriage required a divorce, or letter or bill of divorcement. Those whose marriages broke up for any reason but adultery, and were not given a bill of divorce were seen by the community as adultresses. There is another problem, and that is that usually a women could not sure for divorce, it was usually the men who did so.
In Malachi 2:14 – 16 the practice of “putting away” and no divorces being given had become so common, that when Jesus arrived on the scene, this is what was happening.
The theological school of Shammai taught that a man could not divorce his wife except upon moral or religious grounds. Although the school of Hillel agreed, they added that anything that annoyed or angered her husband was grounds to simply put her away. Contrary to popular belief that is in error, the passage does not say that God hates an essential written divorce which He provided for. It simply addresses the practice of “putting away”.
Having shown that the Hebrew shows two different concepts we now look at the Greek and find exactly the same thing, but in reading the King James we do not see this and then misinterpret what Jesus was saying. Note how it is written.
Mat 5:31-32 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
How this passage should be translated.
a) Mat 5:31-32 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away630 “apolusee” which is the third person, singular, subjunctive active of “apoluo”][/color] his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:647 “apostasion” meaning the written letter of divorce that was required by “Mosaic Law”] But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away630 [“Apolelumeneen” which is the accusative singular feminine participle perfect passive of “apoluo”] his wife, saving for the cause of fornication,4202 [Notice the word is not adultery, which is the word the Jesus would have used if only adultery was in mind.
The word is “porneia” which speak of unfaithfulness to the covenant, a harlot which is what Israel was condemned for, and it had nothing to do with sexual immorality, infact sexual immorality was a symbol] causeth4160 her to commit adultery:3429 [This is simply stating if a woman is put away and has no bill of divorcement she is seen in the community to have been an adulteress] and whosoever shall marry her that is put away630 [again without a divorce ] committeth adultery.3429 [Why? Simply because if she has been simply put away, for any other reason than fornication, she cannot remarry, why? Because she did not get bill of divorce, meaning she is still bound to the husband.
b) The same applies for Matthew 19:9. Jesus used the word “apolusee” which is the third person singular, first aorist subjunctive active of “apoluo”
Let me make some additional comments here. Mat 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. Here Jesus is showing that this is not how it was before the fall. After the fall because of mans sinful nature, man did sinful acts against fellow man. A married man against his wife and a wife against her husband. The concept of divorce was to allow the innocent party get on with their lives out of bondage.
Now try and tell me that things are different today, Christian men and women though saved can still live and operate with a carnal mind. Women and men who are unfaithful to covenant need a way to be free from a partner who WILL NOT change. I am promoting divorce, absolutely not, but it may be the ONLY choice. Remember divorce is NOT a symptom or cause, but it may be the ONLY solution.
c) Mark 10:2, 4. The word here is “apolusai” which is the first aorist infinitive active of the word “apoluo”.
i) The exegetical fact is that Jesus clearly taught that the only way a man could scripturally put away a wife was to first give her a written bill of divorcement. Note the sequence given in Mark 10:4; which follows God’s instructions in Duet 24: 1-4. God made provision for divorce to protect helpless women from hardhearted men. It must also be strongly emphasized that Jesus did not say that men or women who had to divorce a companion, could not marry again.
A final comment before looking at Paul, was that Joseph was going to put away Mary , not divorce her, for from natural observance it appeared that she had been unfaithful. It was only after a dream in which he was told that the child that Mary was carrying was not the result of adultery but of the work of the Holy Spirit, and thus obviously confirming Mary’s testimony.
What does Paul say on the subject.
Paul’s teaching on this subject never contradicts Jesus teaching, just as Jesus teaching and Paul’s does not contradict the Old Testament, they go hand in hand like a glove. Also not that the ONLY scriptures they had were the Old Testament, as well as some of the writings that were in development. Paul’s teachings would be some 20 years after Jesus.
As the church was being established throughout the gentile world, note that it wasn’t till about the 90’s and on, that the major infux of gentiles came about. Up till the 60’s and 70’s a greater percentage of converts were Jewish. Paul’s admonition in the book or Romans was “to the Jew first”, as it was with utmost urgency to reach the Jewish people, why? Because the covenant they were under was going to be removed, so the New Covenant that was cut for them would stand alone. Any Jew not entering into the New Covenant once the Old was removed would be without a covenant.
a) 1 Cor. 7:1-6 the husband’s and wife’s mutual sexual responsibility to each other.
b) 1 Cor. 7:7-9 Paul says that not everyone is gifted with the gift of celibacy.
c) 1 Cor. 7:10-11 Paul’s teaches about the basic rules for a Christian wife and husband.
d) 1 Cor 7:12-16 is dealing with the concepts of the unequally yoked couple. Telling not to be unequally yoked, but teaching that if one is they should work to keep their marriage together. It is obvious that these people would have known about or heard about the Command of Ezra to put away their non-covenantal/foriegn wives. Paul says that “if the unbeliever chooses to remain, then the children are clean, and in doing so he may come to a personal relationship with Christ because of your testimony. If he departs then you are no longer bound by the marriage.
An important and wider application note here; it is obvious that Paul understands that believers never depart, because they by the very nature of kingdom are the true heirs and stewards of covenantal inheritance, children and property, and thus extended to mean the earth
Also note that even prayer or fasting could not interfere without each others consent. Paul shows that this is not listed among the Old Testament commandments.
e) 1 Cor 7:27-28 Paul talks about the advantages of celibacy, because of the darkness of the times they were in, the light of the church was nearly extinguished. To think that we are in similar times today is really a bit of a joke. One only has to read Josephus and about the rule of Nero and the Jewish wars to know that one age was finishing as a new age had already was coming to maturity. It was truly a clash of kingdoms and as Jesus called it the night when no man could work. So Paul says are you bound to a wife, don’t seek to be looses, are you loosed from a wife don’t quickly seek to be bound again, but if you do, you have NOT sinned.
Let me also deal with the issue of Romans 7.
a) Rom 7:2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband. People use this to say if you are divorced, and your ex is still alive, you are still bound to him. This is so untrue, but is used to again put people under bondage.
b) Firstly the context here is Romans 6:18 – 7:6 The issue is not marriage but Paul is using marriage to explain and what death relating to sin is. Death is covenantal/spiritual death.
c) Secondly when one is divorced which is death of a marriage, one no longer has a husband or wife. For the ex spouse is now dead to the covenant.
i) I have seen people so bound up by what is taught from this passage, that they still believe for the ex partner to be restored to them, even when that partner is remarried. This is nothing more than heresy and soul ties. They still confess that the other person is still their husband or wife. These people are never happy and can never get on with their lives.
If you are free then you are free, its that simple.
A parting thought. Have you ever wondered why second+ marriages have a higher failure rate. The reason is because of wrong teaching and thus sealing in the minds of those who have been divorced, a second class citizen mentality. They never think that they can have a higher way of living, so the barriers come down, the ideals come down, their self worth is affected for the worse. They generally settle for second best, and often out of loneliness seek companionship and with a wounded heart develop soul ties that possibly sealing the fate of another failure.
Wholeness is the first key.
Knowing who you are in Christ, and no longer seeing yourself as second class or less citizens.
Divorce is only the burying of a broken covenant that is dead, and are thus free.
If you are free then you are free, its that simple.
Additional comment. All this presupposes that the marriage we are looking at is one that God has brought together. Matt. 19:6b “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” This not only establishes equalness, [co-joined]but also shows that only those who are of the same character, strength, ideas can be yoked together. In this case we see God, like a farmer, who knows the importance of matching the beasts. Anything else is just mans putting together, and in most cases it is the man or woman that makes a choice not in God’s plan. Does that mean that if God hasn’t brought you together, that you get a divorce, NO. It just means you have an uphill battle but with God working in both lives you can make it.
Pastor John McDonaldschoolofthekingdom[at]gmail.com
John's website is here. Note it is still under construction.
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