What About Divorce?

By Wayne Jackson

"Consider the following case: John and Mary are married, but John has grown tired of the relationship. He has, to use his expression, ‘fallen out of love’ with Mary. He is not interested in another woman, he just wants to live the single life again. "

John’s attitude is like that of so many self-centered people in today’s world. He seems to labor under the illusion that he can abandon the most sacred of human relationships, simply at his own whim. The attitude is one of consummate selfishness and stands in opposition to a number of biblical principles.

(1) Marriage is a life-long commitment. Once a marriage covenant has been made, unless it is dissolved for a biblical reason (e.g., death or sexual infidelity – Rom. 7:2; Mt. 5:32; 19:9), it is an abiding obligation. “. . . [T]he woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband while he is living,” i.e., as long as he is alive (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:39).

The Bible is clear on the matter of the perpetual design of the marriage union.

(2) God is the Author of the marriage institution. It is he who joins the man and woman to one another in this sacred union (Mt. 19:6). It is, therefore, only the Creator who may determine when a divorce proceeding may be initiated.

And the fact of the matter is this: God has authorized divorce solely for the cause of fornication (Mt. 5:32; 19:9). To initiate a divorce upon any other basis, therefore, is to go beyond that which is authorized by divine law (cf. 1 Cor. 4:6 – ASV).

Such an action is a presumptive transgression of Heaven’s marriage law (1 Jn. 3:4). Just as no person is eligible to marry without the sanction of divine law, in like manner, no one is free to divorce without the authority to do so.

(3) When one enters a marriage relationship, he or she enters into a covenant agreement with a companion; that agreement is witnessed and sealed by God (see Ezek. 16:8; Mal. 2:14).

To divorce a marital partner without divine authority is to become a “covenant breaker” – an action strongly condemned in the Scriptures (Rom. 1:31). Read the catalog of sins mentioned in this context for some idea of how God views such a transgression.

(4) The marriage covenant carries inherent responsibilities. When a person commits to the marriage relationship, he or she accepts certain obligations of this relationship (see 1 Cor. 7:3-5; Eph. 5:22ff; 1 Tim. 5:8). To vacate a marriage by the utilization of an unauthorized divorce is to flaunt these sacred responsibilities.

Unscriptural divorce creates an environment of temptation. When a marriage partner initiates a capricious divorce, he subjects his mate to the temptations of yielding to unlawful sexual fulfillment (cf. 1 Cor. 7:5).

This is very likely the point that Jesus made in the sermon on the mount when he declared that a man who divorces his wife, for a reason other than fornication, “makes her an adulteress” (Mt. 5:32). The meaning probably is this: He subjects her to the temptation of finding another companion, which relationship would constitute adultery (cf. Arndt & Gingrich, Greek Lexicon, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1967, p. 528).

Are we so naive as to think that God will not hold one accountable for such neglect?

Marriage is a sacred and most serious undertaking. Our youth must be taught not to enter into this union lightly.

And when one yields to this covenant relationship, he or she must remain committed to it – if at all possible.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.