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!