The Great Reconciler False Assumption

2014-07-19 13.29.42

Assumption: Divorced Christians have a moral imperative to remain open to remarrying their former spouse regardless of circumstances of the divorce until that former spouse remarries since they are called to emulate God’s character of being the Great Reconciler (II Corinthians 5:18).


False. God is holy and jealous. He is the same in both the Old Testament and New Testament. In Jeremiah 3, God exposes just how abhorrent it would be for Him to receive Israel back into His arms after her repeated and willful adulteries. It was not lawful for a man to return to his remarried/widowed/divorced former spouse because it was abhorrent to a Jew to share a woman with another man according to the (Biblical) holiness code (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). So, God divorces Israel in light of her adulteries, and that generation (at least) was separated from Him. Similarly, we see in Romans 11 that not all of God’s original bride (Israel) will be accepted and chosen (e.g. “save some of them” vv14, not all, but “some.” Also, vv.17 “If some of the branches have been broken off” suggests permanent separation and death for some who are the original Bride of God!) If God allowed Israel (that generation, minimally) to perish choosing other gods/lovers over Him, then certainly this relational reality may be mirrored in human experience and marital relations as well. It is logically nonsensical to call such a choice ungodly since God made it.


Variation/Restatement of Assumption: All remarriages are prohibited to Christian divorcees unless they remarry their former spouse.


False. A faithful spouse released through the adulterous behavior of their former spouse is free to remarry without any moral stigma (according to both Old and New Testament teachings). If a Jewish spouse was caught in confirmed adultery, that spouse would be killed according to the Law (Deutoronomy 22:22). Hence, if one had a confirmed adulterous spouse, one would be a widow or widower under the Law. Applying this scenario to Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 7:39 (“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord” (NIV)), the faithful spouse is free to remarry another Christian. Hence, Scripture consistently teaches that the faithful spouse is free to marry or remain single. Their character is not under question either way according to Paul’s teaching about remarriage with widows (I Corinthians 7:39 and 7:36).


Addendum: It would be an odd reading of Scripture to ascribe less freedom and grace to a faithful spouse under the Covenant of Grace than under the Covenant of the Law. Many evangelical Christians would insist abstinence for the faithful spouse under the Covenant of Grace unless they remarried their former spouse (or that former spouse remarried first). However, this idea is not applied to a widow or widower–i.e.they would see no moral conflict in the case of a widow/widower remarrying. Therefore, the grace/mercy shown to the unfaithful spouse (granting him/her their lives) results in less freedom/mercy for the faithful spouse under the Covenant of Grace with this understanding. A morally and Biblically consistent approach to a brother or sister who has suffered the trauma of adultery and divorce by a former spouse is to treat them in the same way we would a brother or sister who lost a spouse to death.


3 thoughts on “The Great Reconciler False Assumption”

  1. Help me understand 1 Cor 7:9-16. Your post seems to touch on it, yet it would interesting to hear your commentary on this particular section.

    1. M,

      A whole post could be and probably will be written on that passage. This is the passage used to talk about divorce in cases where no adultery is present. Paul instructs us not to divorce as Christians; however, he realizes that sometimes an unbeliever will not give us an option. Instead of creating a spiteful relationship through fighting the abandonment/divorce, Paul instructs believers to accept it. Some pastors (like Pastor Timothy Keller in his and his wife’s book THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE) see this as possible grounds for a Christian to divorce an abusive spouse after church discipline is applied and the abusive spouse has not repented/changed. The passage as I have been told is referring to a physical leaving of the believing spouse. I tend to agree with Pastor Timothy Keller on this point; however, I add the caution that wise third parties (i.e. church officials) ought to be involved in such cases to avoid self-deception and/or a hasty, unwise decision. Emotional affairs, physical abuse, and emotional abuse are situations where I believe separation is warranted for the safety of the abused. However, Scripture is not clear on these matters after that point, in my opinion. To say it says it one way or another would be to impose my convictions on others. It is not clear. Much more can be said, but I will leave it at that until I write on the matter at more length later.

  2. This “no remarriage until the other one marries” might have been valid in a time when marriage was normative. In our culture though, cohabitation is just as much a norm as marriage. So as long as the adulterous spouse is willing to live with the OW/OM without formalizing their relationship in a new marriage, such pastoral advice keeps the faithful spouse “on the hook” for years.
    In these cases, even if they have not remarried, reconciliation is still not going to happen.

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