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Amy Grant divorced her husband for no Biblically-justifiable reason
and married Vince Gill, country music singer, on March 10, 2000.

God’s law is not vague about sex. God goes to great lengths to reveal the context in which sex is beneficial and productive, and the context in which it is destructive and therefore, unlawful. From the very beginning, God gave Adam a woman to be a helpmeet, a lifelong companion. He calls them “one flesh” (Gen.2:7, 18, 21-24). He unites them as only God can unite two people. God never intended that this unity should be broken. He designed it so that a man and a woman would come together with vows of faithfulness to each other, know each other sexually and live with one another for the rest of their lives. He designed it so that they would bear children, the natural rewards of their union, and raise up these children in the ways of the Lord in a stable, God-ordained family unit. God willed that the wife perform the role of homemaker and helper to the husband, and that the husband be the “bread-winner” and the spiritual authority of his wife and children. God wanted the mother and the father to be a great source of strength, encouragement, and wisdom to their posterity. God wills that the parents and grandparents show their posterity by teaching them and by example, how to live in righteousness and peace, and how to fulfill their distinct roles as husband and wife.

In the Law of Moses, God reiterates the sacredness of this covenant and sets concrete boundaries to define this wholesome unity which he had in mind from the very beginning. The seventh commandment forbids adultery. Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 sanction death for adultery. Deuteronomy 22:20 sanctions death for women found by their husbands to not be virgins after marriage. Numbers 5:11-31 says that men who are suspicious of the fidelity of their wife should take her to the priests for a trial. God promised to supernaturally respond to the suspicion of the husband by vindicating the accused and thereby ending the jealousy or cursing the accused, or else by smiting the woman with a curse and a disease. In Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29, if a man lay with a virgin, he would be forced to marry her and would never be allowed to divorce her for any reason. If the father of the woman would not let them marry, then the man should pay the father the price of the dowry regardless. The law of Moses sanctioned death to those guilty of incest, rape, sodomy, etc. God’s laws on these matters reveal that God takes the marriage covenant and sexual relations very seriously! Wouldn’t you agree?

Now let me make an important comment before proceeding. God’s laws on marriage and sex come best as a package deal. When we try to apply one specific category of God’s laws on marriage and sex, it can be difficult without the context of the rest of the commandments on marriage and sex. On no topic is this more evident than divorce and remarriage. For instance, if your husband committed adultery on you, he could be stoned according to the civil laws of God, then you would be free to remarry and would be perfectly blameless. In our society where adulterers are not punished as they should be, the woman whose husband commits adultery on her is at a disadvantage. She has to either live with the creep or leave him! Neither choice is good! So it might be difficult in applying the laws of God regarding divorce and remarriage in a society such as ours which rejects the other commandments and judgments of God regarding marriage and sexual relations. Nevertheless, we should obey what THE BIBLE says about divorce and remarriage, and we all should be diligent in applying God’s principles in our lives, in the lives of those around us, and in our society.

Although many contemporary theologians refuse to acknowledge the wisdom and the practicality of these laws and the judgments thereof, they admire this one:

Deuteronomy 24:1-4: (I’ll simply highlight the major points of passages for brevity’s sake - please look these up if you are able and if you doubt my conclusions.

1. If husband finds “some uncleanness” in wife, he may send her out with a “bill of divorcement”.

2. The divorced woman may be another man’s wife.

3. If the man who marries this same woman later ends up despising her, and sends her out of his house, he must give her a “bill of divorcement”, and she may not go back to her first husband (for that is an “abomination” to God)

4. If her second husband dies, she may not go back to her first husband (that would be an “abomination” to the Lord.)

“Uncleanness” in Deut.24:1-4 is the Hebrew word, ervah, which is also translated shame and nakedness. It comes from the word arah which means to make bare, empty, destitute, discover, make naked, uncover. Ervah refers to discovering something previously unknown to husband which brings shame, disappointment, and extreme dislike. If this uncleanness refers to sin, then the previous commandments and judgments apply, and if the woman has committed something worthy of death, then she should die as God dictates in His law.

Let’s jump ahead a couple thousand years to the New Testament to get Jesus’ commentary on this issue. First, let us understand the historical context of Jesus’ time. In Jesus’ day, there was a controversy about divorce and remarriage. This was called the Hillel-Shammai dispute. Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever, and Shammai taught that men could divorce his wife only for fornication or adultery. The controversy rests on the interpretation of the word “uncleanness” in Deut.24. Jesus’ commentary on Deut.24 is critical. He frequently corrects the prevalent misinterpretations and abusive renderings of the laws of Moses, and the misinterpretations of the passages on divorce are not excepted. He was questioned by those who were obviously familiar with the Hillel-Shammai dispute. His answers on this issue were not vague. We will first examine the two times in Scripture when Jesus commented on this passage in response to a question:

Matthew 19:3-6: The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

How does this response answer the Pharisee’s question? They asked if a man could put his wife away for any reason whatsoever, but he responded that a man should not put his wife away at all! What God hath joined together, let not any man, Levite, nor priest, nor judge, nor lawyer, nor husband, nor wife, put asunder!

Their rebuttal?

Vs. 7: They say unto Him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

Jesus’ responded:

Vs. 8-9: He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Let me summarize Jesus’ commentary on Deuteronomy 24:1-4:

1. Those that divorce for the reasons given in Deut.24 have hard hearts, and divorce was not tolerated from the beginning. The commandment only became necessary because of the stubbornness of Israel.

2. Whosoever puts away his wife for any reason other than fornication and marries another “commits adultery” (i.e. divorce was only lawful if the spouse was guilty of fornication or adultery)

3. Whoso marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Likewise, whoso marries a divorced man commits adultery.Lest we try to over-emphasize one passage of Scripture at the expense of others, let me also give the other references where Jesus comments on marriage and divorce in the Gospels. I’ll just give a summary of his comments.

Mark 10:2-12:

1. What God hath joined together, let NOT man (husband, lawyer, judge, pastor, etc.) put asunder.

2. To put away wife or husband and be remarried is to commit adultery.

3. Divorce was tolerated “for the hardness of your hearts”.

Again, according to Jesus Christ, divorce was permitted in Dueteronomy 24 for the hardness of the people’s hearts. This is critical! And divorce, although permitted for the stubbornness of the Israelites, was not permitted for just any reason, but only for fornication. Hillel was wrong, Shammai was right.

Matthew 5:31-32:

1. One may put away wife for fornication only.

2. To put away the wife for any other reason is to “cause her to commit adultery”.

3. Whosoever shall marry a divorced woman commits adultery.

Luke 16:18:

1. Whosoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery

2. Whosoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Whereas the first passages might appear to leave room for remarriage if the divorce is lawful (divorce for the other’s fornication), this passage from Luke is less vague. If a divorced person remarries, he/she commits adultery. If a single person marries a divorced person, he/she commits adultery. In other words, all remarriage is forbidden by God’s moral law. All remarriage is forbidden by Jesus.

Divorce was not commanded in Deut.24, but permitted, for the hardness of the people’s hearts. The populace was largely immoral, hard-hearted, and rebellious. Reading of the history of the nation of Israel, it is easy to see how they could be called “hard-hearted” by Jesus. Apparently, the Israelites were leaving their spouses for the most frivolous of reasons, and it required Moses to place some limits on the reasons for divorce. One could only divorce for fornication. Jesus’ commentary on Deut.24 restricts the interpretation of the use of the word “uncleanness” to mean “fornication” only. For no other reason could a couple divorce. Now the question remains: why was divorce tolerated for uncleanness or fornication? Why wasn’t divorce outlawed altogether?

In my opinion, the permission for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was “damage control”. Divorce was and is necessary in an immoral society to maintain some vestige of the sanctity of marriage and prevent the destruction of civilized society. Perhaps Moses, realizing the frequency of executions that would take place because of the prevalent immorality of the Israelites, gave this commandment allowing the husband to put away his wife without bringing her to trial for her fornication.

It was not uncommon for God to withhold the punishment due for transgression of the letter of the law when immorality was prevalent. For instance, after Israel heard with their ears the commandments of God, Moses went up the mountain and they, after many days, made a golden calf and worshipped it. The execution of every single idolater was justified according to the letter of the law, but God saw fit to only have 3,000 slain and the others were only to drink of the bitter water and were struck with a plague. If God would have enforced the civil judgment due for this crime, the entire nation would have to be almost completely wiped out! So God saw fit to withhold the execution of the civil judgment in a time of popular immorality while still emphasizing the severity of breaking His law. It was “damage control”.

Likewise, in this time of Israel’s hard-heartedness regarding divorce and remarriage and sexual sins, God made a way so the husband could put away his wife and not bring her to trial, and divorce was tolerated by civil government. He could have been justified in bringing her to trial if she was not a virgin when he married her, or if he could prove or even suspected she was in sexual sin, but divorce of the woman without bringing her to trial was tolerated. He could pity her and divorce her without having to execute her or see her executed.

These restrictions on divorce were necessary in order to maintain some vestige of the sanctity of marriage. Otherwise, Mrs. Hezekiah would be with her husband, Mr. Hezekiah, this month, then receive a bill of divorcement from him, and next month be with Mr. Malachi. A few months later, she would receive a bill of divorcement from Mr. Malachi, and she would go back to her former husband and marry him again. Confusion would reign and the institution of marriage would become practically worthless.

Can you see how this would destroy the covenant of marriage, the foundational building block of any stable society, and would bring destruction upon that society? You would have multitudes of frivolous divorces, multiple remarriages, more and more single people not marrying because of the cheapening of the covenant, bastard children, etc., and all this leads to a disintegration of a free and peaceful society. But if there were a formal public proclamation of divorce, so that all could know, and there was a law against returning to the former husband, then some stability would be maintained. Deut.24:1-4 is public “damage control” in an immoral society, a society of hard hearts. In every case, divorce occurred because of hard hearts, and yet divorce was necessary to maintain a vestige of sanctity in marriage and to prevent the complete breakdown of the society.

America once had laws that prevented divorce save for adultery. This would have prevented the break-down of society even if the vast majority of Americans were wicked in their heart. Limiting divorce to this situation alone, preserves the sanctity of the marriage covenant. But the “no-fault” divorce destroys that, with more divorces, more remarriages, and more single people not marrying as a result of the public cheapening of marriage, more bastard children, etc.

In spite of the fact that divorce would be civilly legal in a society governed by God’s civil laws, divorce should NEVER be allowed or condoned in the life of the Christian, because “hardness of heart” should NEVER be allowed or condoned in the life of the Christian! Does everyone see that? Can a hard heart also be a pure heart? Would anyone think that “hard-heartedness” would be justified in the life of a Christian? Would anyone dare think that “hard-heartedness” is consistent with loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Or is stubbornness and hard-heartedness inconsistent with the love of God? (I think, the latter.)

Listen closely! Some things might be forbidden by the spirit of the law of God, yet tolerated by God in a civil society wherein non-Christians exist. The moral law makes demands of us that the civil law does not. For instance, hate is forbidden by the moral law of God, as is unjustified anger and unforgiveness, etc., and yet there was no civil sanction proposed for those guilty of these sins in the Old Testament. No fine, no prison time, no execution, no public flogging, no civil punishment whatsoever for these sins! Those guilty of such would be condemned by God on Judgment Day, and not by the civil authorities in this life. If the hateful person acted upon their malice and transgressed another commandment, such as the commandment forbidding murder, then they should receive the appropriate civil penalty in this life. But hate and malice alone was worthy of no civil punishment in this life.

Let me give you another example: lust was the same as adultery according to Jesus in Matthew 5:27-30. Both were sexual sins. Those guilty of lusting after another to whom they were not married were adulterers at heart. Yet the law of God as codified in the Pentateuch never pronounced a civil judgment upon those who lusted after their neighbor. In spite of the fact that there is no civil sanction against those who lust, lust always has been and always will be strictly forbidden by the moral law of God in the lives of individuals. Men are forbidden by God to lust, but they are not executed or fined for it in this life. If they act upon that lust by committing adultery, incest, sodomy, rape, or bestiality, then the law of God does pronounce a civil sanction upon them. But lust alone is not punished by the civil authorities.

The same is true of divorce: it is forbidden by the moral law of God, yet tolerated by a civil law ordained by God for a society where ungodly persons exist. The same is true of remarriage: it is forbidden by God’s moral law, and like lust, Jesus calls it “adultery”, yet it is tolerated in society where hard-hearted non-Christians exist. In a society governed by God’s law, it might be civilly legal for man to divorce for the right reason (adultery) and remarry, just as it might be civilly legal for a man to lust after another or hate his neighbor in his heart. Yet the moral law of God forbids divorce and remarriage just as it forbids lust and hatred. Understand? If America ever returned to God and governed itself by His laws and adopted His criminal justice system, then it would be legal to divorce, for adultery only, and to remarry. However, it would be “hardness of heart” to do so, Christians should not do it and should preach against it. Being hard-hearted was not worthy of civil sanction, yet it is sin nonetheless.

Let me summarize: there are NO grounds for divorce in the lives of Christians, for they are not to commit adultery and fornication. And if their mate commits adultery against them, they should patiently pray for repentance and reconciliation and they should pray this with faith, not doubting, and if their mate repents, they should return to them. (How can you pray with faith for reconciliation with your backslidden mate if you are looking for new prospects for a mate?) When God’s bride (be it Israel or the Gentile church) repented of her whoredom, God received her back. So should it be with the offended wife or husband. She should work to bring repentance to her backslidden mate, perhaps by sending friends to rebuke him. She should fast and pray for him and plead for others to do the same. She should plead with him in person, or write him letters and call him incessantly, begging him to forsake his sin and restore honor to himself and to his family, and to give honor to God. If he repents, his offended wife should forgive him and receive him, just as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven and received her.

Let us now examine the teachings in the New Testament epistles on this subject. Paul comments on this subject thoroughly.

I Corinthians 7:10-11: And to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife

Paul makes this comment here: “I command, yet not I, but the Lord”. He clarifies that this is not just his opinion, but God’s opinion. In this passage:

1. Remarriage is condemned - the offended wife should seek reconciliation with her husband.

2. The woman should not depart from her husband, but if she does, she should not divorce him.

3. Divorce is condemned - the offended mate should not divorce the offender, even if they leave the house.

These commandments apply to church government, not civil government. The civil government would tolerate divorce for adultery and would tolerate remarriage, but the church should not tolerate divorce any more than it should tolerate lust, hate, unforgiveness, etc.

Verses 12-16: But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

Paul comments here, “Speak I, not the Lord”. I highlight this to emphasize the previous two verses. In verses 10-11, he plainly states God’s opinion on the matter. In verses 12-16, he gives his own opinion on related issues. If any interpretation of verses 12-16 contradicts verses 10-11, then we should stick with God’s opinion and not Paul’s. Right? However, I do think the proper interpretation of verse 12-16 is consistent with verses 10-11.

If the unbelieving spouse depart, Paul says, let them depart, and “a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases”. All this can mean is that they are no longer obligated to fulfill their husbandly or wifely duties to their departing spouse. The woman cannot cook the meals and do the laundry of the man who has left her. She cannot be his helper as God commanded. The husband cannot (and shouldn’t have to) pay the grocery bills of the woman who has left him and taken the children. It CANNOT mean that they are free to marry, for that would be contradicting the teachings of Christ and Paul on the subject.

I’ll summarize Paul’s comments in verses 17-24 of the same chapter. Stay as you were when you were converted. Do not use Christianity as an excuse to break up your marriage and your family. God honors the covenants made between sinners, and becoming a Christian does not negate those covenants. In verse 27, he says that the married should not seek to be loosed from their marriage covenant. And in verses 39-40, he says that the wife is bound by law to her husband as long as the husband lives

Also read what Paul says about marriage in Romans 7:1-6. I will summarize his comments here for brevity’s sake.

The wife is bound by law to her husband as long as the husband lives. Just as the Christian Jew is no longer obligated to obey all of the ceremonial laws of as a means of approaching unto God and has married Christ, so the woman is no longer obligated to obey her former husband when he dies and she is married to another. But until her husband dies, the wife is obligated to submit unto him as her husband just as the Jew was obligated to keep the ceremonial commandments before Christ’s death and resurrection. This passage highlights the seriousness of the marriage covenant in God’s eyes. The wife is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives, and may not be married to another until he is dead.

In conclusion, let us hear God speak through the prophet Malachi on the grief brought to his heart when a divorce occurs. I will cite from the New International Version of the Bible because of its clarity in this passage.

Malachi 2:14-16: God “no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well with his garment,’ says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

God hates divorce, which separates which He has united. To divorce the wife or husband of your covenant is to “deal treacherously” with them (as the King James Version of the passage translates it). Do not do, my friend, what the Lord despises so. Do not deal treacherously with the wife of your youth, or the husband of your youth, for in so doing you deal treacherously with God!


More Questions and Answers?

What about two persons who divorced and remarried and then became Christians? Are they in adultery?

Two Christians who were previously divorced and remarried should repent of their adultery. But they shouldn’t necessarily separate. After all, if two virgins lusted after one another before marriage, then they also should repent of their “adultery” (lust is the same as adultery in God’s sight), but they shouldn’t separate after repenting. They should keep their vow.

There are those who would argue that those who are divorced and remarried, or those who married divorced persons, should separate just as two persons living in adultery next door should separate. There is a Scriptural example of married persons separating as fruit of repentance: Neh.13:23-31. So this interpretation is not without Scriptural evidence.

Are persons who divorced for unlawful reasons or persons who remarried contrary to God’s law hellbound?

You could argue that this concept of the sanctity of marriage and the evil of divorce and remarriage was written upon the consciences of all men. If this is the case, then certainly the transgressor would be hellbound. You could argue that one could divorce because of spousal adultery and remarry, and not be hellbound because this was done in ignorance of what the law of God says on the issue. I do not think you could justify divorce for any other reason other than adultery.

I lean toward the former. I think the laws of God regarding marriage are written on the consciences of all men. I humbly admit I could be wrong on this issue, and invite critiques of this view and alternative interpretations of the passages I cite.


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