This is the first in a series of posts on some of the more common biblical views of divorce and remarriage. The content of these posts come mostly from some lectures David Jones gave at SEBTS.
Same-sex marriage is getting a lot of attention right now and for good reason. However, I believe there is a more fundamental and pervasive problem with our views of marriage and the family. As Dr. David Jones once said in an ethics class at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, divorce and remarriage are hands down the greatest moral problems facing the church today. What do you think about that statement?
Do you think divorce and remarriage are the greatest moral problems facing the church? Even though there is no way to REALLY know what is the greatest moral problem anywhere, I think Dr. Jones might be right.
Today we hear people complaining that we need to stop our government from redefining marriage, but haven’t we already redefined marriage back in the 1970s and 1980s when almost every state adopted some form of no-fault divorce law? Part of me thinks we should not be so surprised that so many young people today have a low view of marriage and are happy to approve same-sex marriage. Anyone born after 1983 has grown up seeing their parents treat marriage just like a contract. They have not observed the perpetual and life-long covenantal vows “for better or for worse, till death do us part.” Instead when things go bad and someone is not happy, then they get a divorce. The very essence of marriage as a covenant has already been redefined by both our government and an entire generation of “failed marriages.”
If we in the church want to help recover biblical marriage, then we need to start with the foundation. We need to teach people what is a marriage because so many people have no idea what it is. For example, how many more people in your church have been divorced or are pursuing a divorce in comparison to those who are pursing same-sex marriage relationships? Similarly, how many more people in your church have been negatively affected in their families by a divorce or remarriage versus the number of people who have been negatively affected by same-sex marriage?
Trying To Fix The Problem We Created
We should consider all the ways the secular world has tried to fix the problems that have been caused by all the divorces and remarriages. For example, here are a few strategies we have seen the past few decades that people in our country have implemented to try and prevent divorce.
* Singleness – Remain single and just avoid marriage all together. So many people have only seen marriage as a bad thing that they want nothing to do with it. “Why would I want to invite pain into my life?” they might say.
* Cohabitation – Delay marriage or replace it by living together. Have all the sexual and financial benefits of marriage and if things do not work out, then go your separate ways with no lawyers or judges.
* “Starter Marriages” – This is a first marriage that lasts five years or less and ends without the couple having any children together. These marriages are great for people who want to try it out, but do not want to be locked in to anything.
* Covenant Marriage Laws – This is a new distinct kind of marriage, in which the marrying couple agree to obtain pre-marital counseling and accept more limited grounds for divorce. Some states now have two different types of marriage you can get and these marriage make it much harder to get a divorce.
* Prenuptial Agreements – This is a contract entered into prior to the marriage agreement and commonly includes provisions for division of property in the event of divorce. Essentially you go into the marriage saying, “just in case it does not work out the house is mine!”
The rise of divorce and the number of remarriages are clearly two big issues facing our country. What other explanation would you give for all these recent attempts to avoid the pains and trails of divorce?
Foundations For Studying Divorce & Remarriage
Before you begin studying the bible’s teaching on divorce and remarriage here are a few helpful foundations:
1. Divorce is a big problem, but it is a forgiven problem. Regardless of what your view currently is or will be there is no orthodox Christian view that teaches divorce is unpardonable. So if you disagree with someone else’s view that does not mean they will not be forgiven.
2. Realize that throughout the history of the church there have been a variety of views that have been held by many people who love God, believe in the authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures, and have spent a lot of time studying this issue. This should cause us to be humble and patient with one another who may disagree with us.
3. Whatever view you decide to hold it you needs to be because that is what God’s word says and not because of:
A. Emotions – Your emotions or someone else’s emotions.
B. Experiences – Your experiences or someone else’s.
C. Pragmatism – Whatever is practical and works best for you or others.
4. Although this is a very important topic there really are not that many passages of scripture that speak about marriage. There are only a handful of passages that address divorce and remarriage and this should encourage us to study each of them thoroughly.
5. Just because something is controversial does not mean we should avoid it. Divorce and remarriage is not of first importance, but it is far too important to neglect. There will be far too many instances where this issue will come up in your life whether in your own marriage or as you counsel others in their marriage. If someone you love in your church or your family is considering a divorce or remarriage what are you going to tell them? If you are considering a divorce or remarriage what are you going to do?
6. In order to understand divorce and remarriage you must first know what the bible teaches about marriage. Here a few important bullet points about marriage:
A. The idea of marriage came from God. Marriage is God’s doing. He is the one who said it was not good for Adam to be alone and he said that even before sin came in the world. (Genesis 2:18)
B. The purpose of marriage the Glory of God. The main purpose of every marriage is to teach us about the character of God and reflect the relationship between the three members of the trinity. (Ephesians 5:32)
C. The definition of marriage it is a covenant. It is not a contract. It is not the Roman Catholic teaching of being a sacrament. It is a covenant. (Malachi 2:14)
D. What is a covenant? We may throw that word around in church, but what does it really mean? There is much we could say about covenants, but for the sake of brevity we see 4 Essential Elements of biblical covenants: 1) A Personal Relationship Between the Parties; 2) Public Oaths Are Declared; 3) A Ratifying Sign Seals the Covenant; 4) The Oaths Made Are Life-long Obligations with Blessings and Curses
E. The roles of marriage are complimentary. The husband is to be a servant leader. The wife is to submit to his leadership, but they are both to submit themselves to one another under the lordship of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21-24)
In my next post, I will start to unpack the different view of divorce and remarriage. For further reading and study about the foundations of marriage see God, Marriage, & Family