We’ve been following David Instone-Brewer’s IVP book, Divorce and Remarriage in the churchand now come to chapter 9. Thus far he has been arguing that there are 4 biblical grounds for divorce in the bible. Some of these grounds, he argues, become clearer when you understand the culture in which Paul and Jesus were arguing. While both argue against groundless divorce, they also allow directly or indirectly OT allowances for failure to love, support, and be faithful to one’s spouse.
But in this chapter I-B asks whether the Scriptures support remarriage. In short, his argument is that everyone in that time (Rabbis, Greeks) believed that if divorced properly, remarriage was a given, even nearly compulsory. If Jesus and Paul thought otherwise, wouldn’t they have said so? The only purpose for a certificate of divorce was one thing: freedom to remarry. He points to Paul’s quotation of common divorce decrees in 1 Cor. 7:39: “She is free to remarry…” (p. 111). While he is speaking there to widows, he uses divorce certificate language. Why? I-B states that Paul could only refer to this language if everyone believed that divorcees had the right to remarry. Further, Paul says abandoned Christians have the right to remarry though they should pursue reconciliation if possible.
But what about those who caused or actively sought a groundless divorce? Can they remarry? I-B says that Paul states that those who separated and divorced groundlessly must not remarry but pursue reconciliation (1 Cor 7:11). They should seek to “make things right” but if they cannot (because the other remarries) then they are not allowed to pursue this person and are free to remarry.
I-B raises the question about the consequence/punishment of forcing an unbiblical divorce being the inability to ever remarry. He says it is neither since the call is to reconcile until it is no longer possible and then the person is free.
We have to realize that despite the number of passages on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, there is still much silence in areas we’d like. Those who try to make that silence into meaning we can do what we want are wrong but so are those who act as if the silence is black/white and as if Jesus/Paul spoke more definitively than they really did. It is interesting to think that Paul’s teaching on this is about stopping invalid divorces but not being enslaved to an invalid divorce when one is a victim and being free to remarry. We read these passages from our context but when I-B points out Paul’s context and the supporting documents, he has a strong case!
2 responses to “Marriage & Divorce 9: Getting Remarried?”
One of the great misconceptions in the church, is the idea of divorce. Divorce is a patently Old Testament, Levitical Legal clause. This is not something to be used by Christians who now serve under the New Testament of Grace. When asked about divorce, Jesus Christ references Deut. 24:1 a piece of law specifically set aside for those who married a wife and thereafter discover some sexual impurity in her. This was the same scenario with Joseph and Mary the Mother of Jesus. Jesus spoke specifically to that clause, because of the abuses of that legal clause in His day. Men were divorcing their wives for burning toast.
The Bible is abundantly clear that marriage is a life-long committment. Jesus states the standard of His father by reminding the men of that day from the beginning God joins a man and woman into a one-flesh union. Marriage is a vow between God and two people.
Christians are a people of reconcilliation. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ’s was a ministry of reconcilliation. How can a christian divorce their life-long spouse? How can a christian marry someone to which God has not joined them?
Divorce is a legal device for those who are under the law–those who follow Christ and claim to be partakers of His Grace have absolutely no jurisdiction using that legal device.
Isn’t there a scripture somewhere in Corinthians where remarriage was accepted ?