Divorce and Re-marriage: An Azusa Report position paper
One of the biggest criticism that I received is about my view on divorce and re-marriage. Is what Azusa Report believe in light with historical theology, especially from a Pentecostal point of view? However, most importantly would be does what I teach about divorce line up with the scriptures?
What is the position of Azusa Report: that is a good place to start, isn’t it? Divorce is wrong, evil, sinful and a mockery to the covenant of God. God loving believers must have a holy hatred for divorce and it must never become an option. Any pastor would recommend a divorce is not in line with the Holy Scriptures. Is that clear enough?
Marriage is between one man and one woman (sorry, no gay marriage allowed) and it is for life. It is one woman for life, not three women throughout your life. Anything outside of your spouse being killed and become a widow is not acceptable for believers.
I hear a lot of people criticize Azusa Report over this issue, many of them are militant Agnosticists. They are not just skeptics, they actually active mock, slander and attack who have active faith and are believers in Pietism. It is important to note that we live by faith and grace; not the Fox News or CNN. Our doctrine must never be a reflection of the world around us.
What does the scripture teach about divorce?
First of all, it is important to understand that marriage is a sacred, holy and monogamous union between a man and a woman. That is the foundation of all things in the family unit. When one makes that decision at the altar, they are making a covenant or purposeful lifelong commitment to serve God together all of their days.
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 2:16
According to the scriptures, a man that divorces his wife has committed violence to her but leaving her unprotected. It is the duty of a husband to protect the wife of his youth, not the replacement of his middle age crisis.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:5-6)
Marriage is God’s plan for humans and it is a direct revelation that marriages must endure until the end of life. It is the will of God for you to die married to the same spouse you married in your youth. There is no replacement option in this contract.
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)
Paul was very clear to the believers in Corinth than divorce under any connection was not acceptable for a believer. How can we say we believe in the power of God to restore lives but can’t even allow the Spirit to work to restore our marriages?
What about adultery in the marriage?
At the center of this discussion would an exchange that Jesus had during the Sermon on the Mount. In it, he teaches that believers must not divorce but gives the famous adultery statement.
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
What is sexual immorality? It is not what we think of it as, I promise you. The word used for it is porneia (yes, we get porn from this word) It implies that a man (or woman) has repeatedly made a habit of visit prostitutes. The same word is used in Revelation for harlot. This seems very clear that if a spouse has a one time affair, there is no grounds for divorce in any way, shape or form.
Jesus also used the word, moicheuó here for commit adultery. It is an interesting verb to use in the greek here. It means to actively engaged in adultery. In other words, if you can not use a breach in the martial covenant in the past as ground for separation.
It seems clear that Jesus was teaching that unless your spouse is actively and purposefully engaging in the services of professional sex workers; there is no ground for a divorce. A short affair with a secretary is not grounds according to the original languages spoken during the Sermon on the Mount.
What about abandonment in the marriage?
While there is text that take about abandonment, I can not find any that allow for one to seek a divorce because of it. The only real passage that we have to look at, in context, is 1 Corinthians 7:10-13.
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
To the believer that is married to someone that is willing to live with them within the marriage, they are commanded by scriptures to be faithful and make it work as much as they can. At no point can a believer seek a separation for any reason.
If a follower of Jesus has a hard relationship and they seem to toxic to his faith, that is not a legit and biblical reason for walking out of the marriage. If the other spouse is willing to live with them, they must seek to make the relationship work.
If the spouse that is not a believer leaves, the remaining spouse is directed by Paul to allow them to freely go but can not seek to be re-married.
But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15)
What about martial abuse?
One question that always come up when discussing divorce is about abuse of the wife by the husband. Is violence against her grounds for separation and ultimately divorce? This question is asked many times by very honest and noble people.
To their disappointment, I can not find any biblical support for separation because of abuse in the New Testament. It just is not there. We can not put things in the New Testament because of events and trends in our culture. In the 21st century America, domestic violence is grounds for divorce but you would very hard pressed to defend it biblically.
The only thing that I can find is a limited, short term option to let things calm down. This would also allow for pastoral care to begin to stop the cycle. This must only be for a short separation for crisis care to begin and never a long term option.
By no means, should a wife (or husband) be a speed bag on a nightly basis. If this is happening, it is time to get the pastor of their church involved and some deliverance ministry is in order. This cycle of behavior must be addressed and dealt with harshly by leadership.
However, the fact remains that either long term separation or divorce is not even an option for the believer. There is no abuse card to pull to use a cop out to get out of a marriage just because you are not happy anymore.
A personal concern that I have is many people are too quick to cry abuse. If a husband in anger shoulder blocks his wife out of his way, is that abuse? It might be technically but it is not something to head to the pastor’s office over. We live in a political correct world where anything and everything has become abuse.
Another concern is that we should not provoke spouses to levels of anger that they turn violent. Many wives continue to press issues until the husband snaps. This is not godly behavior and making a lifestyle of provoking your spouse to anger just so a wife can be “right” is sinful as well.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to get pastors involved quickly if there is true abuse so they can give the proper help needed.
What about re-marriage after divorce?
This is the question that many have. If someone is divorced and there is no chance to work things out again, can they biblically remarry? The simple answer is no!
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)
If you do divorce, you must remain single for the rest of your life. If you choose you be married, you need to work things out with your former spouse. Otherwise, you are becoming an adulterer.
There is very little room to wiggle on the issue of getting married to a second woman in scriptures. There is even less room when you understand the biblical context of sexual immorality, abandonment and abuse. Basically, you are left with zero grounds for a second marriage to be right before the Lord.
A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. (1 Timothy 3:12)
Anyone that has two living wives (they came to faith after marrying a second wife) is not allowed to be a church leader. To what degree this would apply would be up to each Assembly to determine but in most cases, it would be a ban on deaconship (clearly) as well as pastoral staff (biblical elders).
With that said, there must be zero toleration for people who divorce and get a second spouse while in leadership of churches. There has been examples of this happening in many churches and it is clearly sinful and wrong in the eyes of God.
Closing thoughts on Christians and divorce
We have went way too soft on the issue because of its’ cultural issue concerning people. God hates divorce and we must also hate divorce. If believers hated it as much as God does, there would be far more holiness in our families.
Separations destroys children and people should concern them when makes any martial decision because many people have been spiritual wrecked for life based on a parental divorce. This should be at the least motivation to make marriage work.
The view of the cause of Christ should also bid us to have a holy hatred for divorce. When believers do divorce, it sends a negative image to the sinners that know them that the Lord is not powerful enough to keep them together. This must be a consideration that is weighed.
With that said, I do know some people who are divorced and went to have very successful marriages afterward. There is forgiveness and God can raise up people even in their adultery. Having been married a second time is not the death sentence but it is not the will of God either.
I hope this position paper helps you understand what the Word actually teaches about the issue of divorce and re-marriage. Position papers are normally longer articles that addressed very important issues than normal articles so people can understand the depth of the challenges that make issues hard to address.