Statement on Separation, Divorce, Remarriage

Equip Rock Ministry, recognizing the authority of God's word has carefully considered and adopted the following statement on Separation, Divorce and Remarriage.

With a sex-crazed Western culture brazenly challenging the beauty of God's design for physical intimacy, many Christians have lost a significant biblical understanding of marriage.  Wrong or insufficient views of marriage, chastity and fidelity have eroded our ability to live God-honoring lives.  Rather than learning and embracing the biblical view of sex, we unknowingly take our cues from unreliable sources on television, radio, and the internet.

We are fully committed to the sanctity of marriage. We deplore the high divorce rate and the disintegration of family life in our nation. We believe Christians should not yield to the cultural thinking and ways of our society.

Moses faced the issue of Hebrew wives being dismissed by their husbands.  He was inspired by God to give the law in Deuteronomy 24, not to institute divorce, but to regulate it. When a husband dismissed his wife (sent her away) the Law of Moses was framed to protect a wife against capricious divorce, false accusations by misinformed people in the community, and to further protect the second marriage should the former husband want her back (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Divorce and re-marriage are difficult and complex issues.  Different positions on these issues range from "no divorce, no re-marriage under any circumstances to "divorce for any cause."  

To justify a breakdown in a relationship based on the retrospective argument of "bad choice" or "incompatibility" or “I no longer love her/him” runs contrary to the biblical teaching on marriage.  Jesus reminds us it is because of “hard hearts” that people want to abandon their marriage (Mark 10:5).

When a person who has committed adultery and has broken their marriage, turns back to the Lord in repentance, or when a person trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, he/she is forgiven of all past failures, moral or otherwise (1 Corinthians 6:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The church has a great responsibility in displaying the gracious character of God in accepting those who are repentant and show the fruits of repentance, whatever their failure, and encouraging them to experience God's forgiving, restoring grace (1 John 1:9).

Those who are divorced and remarried and subsequently become Christians, or Christians who repentant and renew their faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, should remain in their new marriage.

This is not to say that church discipline is unimportant, nor that the church should not speak and work towards reconciliation in broken marriages and speak of God's opposition to divorce.  The church should not exclude those God accepts, nor should it include those who God excludes (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Revelation 21:8)

Key Bible Passages:

 Genesis 1:28;  2:21-25;  Malachai 2:13-16;  Jeremiah 5:7-8;  Matthew 19:2-10; Romans 7:1-4; First Corinthians 7:1-16.

Fornication

  • Fornication is an umbrella word for a wide variety of sexual deviant behaviour including: pre-marital sex, co-habitation, sexual immorality, lesbianism, homosexuality, incest, bestiality as well as adultery - Matthew 5:32; 19:9; I Corinthians 5:1

Adultery

  • Adultery is sexual immorality involving a married person and either a single person, or the spouse of someone else.

Divorce

  1. Divorce occurs when marriage break-down is formally recognized in law.  In the Bible divorce is considered to be the dissolution of the marriage.  A christian legally divorced on biblical grounds is permitted to remarry.

Marriage is intended by God to be an indissoluble union between an adult man and woman and is binding until one of the two persons dies.  The Bible only recognises a hetrosexual marriage.  Genesis 1:28; 2:21-25;  Matthew 19:1-10;  Romans 7:1-3

God intended marriage to be a lasting, intimate, personal relationship between a man and a woman. This union is more than a simple agreement to live together. The Bible teaches that a married couple "become one flesh." This suggests a special relationship of mutual companionship (Genesis 2:18), help (Genesis 2:20) and sexuality (Genesis 2:24).

Therefore to break up a marriage is like tearing apart something God has knit together. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).   The Lord Jesus emphasized this when He said, "What God has joined together, let no one separate" Matthew 19:4-6

 The death of a marriage spouse automatically terminates the marriage bond leaving the remaining spouse free to marry again - Romans 7:1-3

There are only two biblical grounds for separation.  

  • The first is when a non Christian spouse is unwilling to stay because their wife/husband has become a Christian subsequent to the marriage (1 Corinthians 7:8-16).
  • The second biblical grounds for separation is when there is an abusive situation in which it is deemed unwise to remain.  Should one partner be experiencing either physical or emotional abuse that becomes intolerable or it is dangerous to remain the abused spoused should either seek a legal court restraining order.  Or, where no grounds for divorce exists, that person should seek legal separation for their own protection and that of the children for "God has called us to peace" (I Corinthians7:15).  Legal and/or professional help ought to be sought in order that the abusive partner’s behaviour is changed.  Only after that is it wise to seek reconciliation.

The biblical grounds for divorce are:

  • The Bible allows for divorce on the basis of adultery/sexual immorality/fornication (see the definition of fornication). Every effort should be made to encourage the guilty person to repent and demonstrate this in tangible ways
  • The second Biblical grounds for divorce is based on the unwillingness of the non-believer to remain married to their spouse, who since the marriage, has become a Christian (1 Corinthians 7:15).  In such a case the technicality of who actually files for divorce is not the binding issue but rather the desire of the non-believer to no longer remain committed to the marriage vows.

God has always righteously hated sin.  He expressed hatred for divorce as sin in Malachi 2:16.

God designed a certificate of divorce for one reason only, adultery.  God issued a certificate of divorce to the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 3:18).

Whenever legitimate divorce occurs, remarriage is always assumed.  Where divorce is permitted, remarriage is never forbidden.  1 Corinthians 7:15 God's ideal response to a sinning spouse in marriage is illustrated in the life of Hosea as expressed by his forgiveness and restoration of Gomer.  See the book of Hosea.

God permits divorce on the grounds of fornication, adultery or desertion by an unbeliever.  However, He never commands or demands it. It is church policy not to normally advise divorce but rather to work at restoring the one caught in sin through repentance, confession and then work toward a humble, forgiving reconciliation.  Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:31-32

When a person receives Christ they are a "new creation, old things have passed away" (2 Corinthians 5:17).  From the time of their conversion the new believer is responsible to live their life according to what God has revealed about marriage and divorce.

If one is saved while married, that person should not seek divorce  (1 Corinthians 7:10-15).  If one experienced salvation while divorced, that person is free to marry another believer. 2 Corinthians 6:14.

The Bible does not says that the guilty party must stay single or that remarriage after the sin of adultery is an additional sin. Those who sinfully enter a second marriage are not said to be living in a continual state of sin, but to have committed the sinful act of adultery. Adultery is an act of sin that can be forgiven.  Matthew 5:32; 19:2-9; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Believers who pursue divorce or separation on non biblical grounds are subject to church discipline because they openly disobey the Word of God. Matthew 18:15-17; I Corinthians 5:1-13;  7:1-16

If a divorce took place on non biblical grounds both parties should make no attempt at justifying their actions but rather should seek the God's forgiveness (1 John1:9). The grace of God becomes operative at the point of genuine repentance and confession.  

Genuine repentance will be marked by a willingness to remain single or be reconciled to their spouse (1 Corinthians7:11).  If a remarriage has taken place the repentant party should remain faithful to their present marriage partner. (Deuteronomy24:1-4).

In cases where a divorce is obtained between believers on non biblical grounds, the person who remarries or becomes sexually involved with another commits adultery. Matthew19:1-10

The person who marries a person who has divorced on non-biblical grounds commits adultery. Luke 16:18.

 The innocent party of a divorce is free to serve the Lord according to their spiritual gifting.  Forgiveness and the ensuing privilege to serve is the right of every child of God.

Those guilty of a non-biblical divorce must first demonstrate their repentance before being free to serve the Lord within the church.  They may be restricted as to what official roles they can fulfill.  The church has a responsibility to uphold the biblical ideal of marriage, especially as exemplified by its leadership.

Any appointment of divorcees to any leadership position will be handled individually and on the basis of spiritual maturity, character qualifications and marriage relationship.  1 Timothy 3:1- 13; Titus 1:5-9  

See also the Statement on Marriage

Dr Keith Graham