In part 2 of this series, we noted that God’s desire for Israel was that they only marry those who were faithfully serving Him. The New Testament also gives Christians a similar directive in 2 Corinthians 6:14.
In an effort to refute the restrictive teaching of 2 Corinthians 6:14, some modern day preachers have demanded that if the requirement for marriage is such, then anyone who marries a non-Christian must immediately divorce. Let’s see if this is correct reasoning. Notice in Matthew 19:9 that there is no allowance for divorce except for fornication. “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9). How are these false teachers different than those in the church at Corinth?
THE MEMBERS AT CORINTH DID NOT HAVE THE PROPER UNDERSTANDING OF MARRIAGE
Apparently the church at Corinth struggled over issues having to do with the proper view of marriage. One brother had his father’s wife, and it seems the members were proud of him and glorying in, rather than mourning, his actions (1 Cor. 5:1, 2, 6). Paul had written earlier that they were not to company with fornicators—especially not a brother—not even to eat with him (1 Cor. 5:11). This brother’s crime was a hideous, incestuous act Paul said was unheard of even among the Gentiles and he directed them to deliver such a man to Satan (1 Cor. 5:5).
In addition to addressing this touchy issue Paul responded to other questions put to him about marriage. Judging from his answers, we can see the Corinthians, like many today, had erroneous ideas about the nature of marriage itself. Reading 1 Corinthians chapter 7 helps Paul’s teaching to become clear.
First, Paul stated that celibacy is acceptable for a Christian, because not everyone needs to marry. In fact, Paul declared that he himself could serve Christ better even though he had the right to marry (1 Cor. 7:32-34). The single life can be lived for God’s glory, as Paul was doing, only if God has given the gift of being able to control natural passion (Matt. 19:12). If one does not have that gift, he should marry (1 Cor. 7:9).
Next, Paul spoke about the problem faced by a Christian believer whose spouse does not believe. He reasoned that if the unbelieving partner is willing to live with the Christian, then the Christian should not dissolve the marriage. Remaining with the unbelieving partner could result in the reconciliation of the marriage as well as helping the unbelieving mate to be saved (1 Cor. 7:14).
There is yet another reason given for the believer not to leave the unbeliever. Every man and woman needs a husband or a wife due to the temptation of fornication (1 Cor. 7:2). That need cannot be satisfied in any other way as long as God has joined them to each other, for they cannot marry another without committing adultery (Matt. 19:9). According to 1 Corinthians 7:2, having an unbelieving mate is better than not having any mate at all.
SOME TODAY BELIEVE ALL EXISTING RELATIONSHIPS SUCH AS MARRIAGE
WERE DISSOLVED IN BAPTISM
In much the same way, some today believe that baptism dissolves former relationships and forgives the “sin” of marrying one who has no right to marry. If that were so, a man who put away his wife and married another (Matt. 5:32) would no longer be living in adultery after baptism. Although baptism does forgive sins, it does not dissolve covenants. If marriage is a covenant (as previously noted in Mal. 2:14), then baptism does not break or dissolve the marriage covenant for anyone. If baptism were to break a marriage covenant, then all those baptized would be required to ‘remarry’ after their baptism. Such a thought is ludicrous! Jesus’ words are true both before baptism and after baptism. “And I say unto you, Whosoever (Since Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, we understand that “whosoever” applies to Gentile, Jew, Christian or non-Christian. BJ) shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” The bond made by God, which binds all men and women in marriage, cannot be broken by baptism and neither does baptism forgive men or women who have not determined to repent of whatever sin they have committed (or are committing).
OTHERS HAVE TRIED TO USE THEIR OWN SIN AGAINST A MATE
AS A RIGHT TO DIVORCE AND REMARRY
Some believe that if they divorce their mate for any reason, and the mate eventually marries someone else, that they are then scripturally qualified to marry again. This position is greatly flawed for two main reasons.
First, Jesus declared that if a man unscripturally puts away a woman that he causes her to commit adultery (Matt. 5:32). Subsequently, if the wife then commits adultery or marries someone else, he may feel justified in claiming a right to remarry based in her fornication. How can such a man be justified to marry again when he himself caused his wife to commit adultery?
Second, the Lord declared that Christian men and women are required to give each other their marriage rights, because their bodies belong to each other. If the brother or sister defrauds the mate (1 Cor. 7:5), how is that any different than putting away one’s mate and causing them to commit adultery? If the reason for marriage is to have needs satisfied, but the mate refuses to fulfill those needs, is that not equivalent to putting them away? Those who refuse to obey the Lord’s command for marriage to provide the marriage right, cause their mates to commit adultery and thus are not justified to divorce for the cause of fornication. Only if the brother or sister fulfills his or her own obligation for marriage are they justified to put away their mate if the mate commits fornication.
FORNICATION DOES NOT REQUIRE A DIVORCE
Keep in mind that the Lord does not command a brother or sister to divorce the mate when there is fornication. There can be forgiveness and a good solid marriage if the mate repents and does not fall into the same unfaithfulness again. Divorce is only an option if the guilty party refuses to repent of their fornication. Remember Jesus words in Mark 11:25-26—“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” If the innocent party is willing to forgive the guilty party’s sin of fornication when he repents, there is no need to get a divorce.
- If a Christian man or woman disobeys the command to only marry a believer, should he or she get a divorce from the unbeliever?
- According to Matthew 19:9, what is the only reason for one mate to seek a divorce?
- After baptism, are a man and woman required to-remarry or does the marriage bond continue before and after baptism?
- If a man or woman is living in an adulterous marriage (a Matthew 5:32 union God does not recognize) due to unscriptural divorce and subsequent remarriage, what must that man or woman do in order to repent?
- If a man or woman is living in adultery due to an unscriptural divorce and remarriage, does he/she need to repent of that adultery before he/she is baptized?
- Give two reasons (other than Matthew 19:9) why a Christian should not put away the unbelieving mate (1 Cor. 7:2; 19-14; 16).
- Is a Christian justified to put away a mate for any unscriptural reason and then after he (the mate) commits adultery, claim the right to remarry?
- Can a mate deny the marriage rights and claim to have a scriptural right to remarry if the mate is unfaithful?
- What “gift” would a Christian need in order to live the single life?
- Does God require that the innocent party divorce the mate who has committed fornication?