When Divorce is an Absolute Righteous Necessity
Anyone who knows anything about the Bible, and isn’t twisting it to suit their own agenda, must acknowledge the following things:
- God banned Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden when they transgressed against Him.
- God destroyed all of mankind by a flood except for eight people who were righteous before Him, essentially giving up upon the rest, judging them as people who are irremediable, incurable, and unfitting to partake of His grace; and thus leaving them to the destructive consequences of their sins.
- God wrought similar destructions upon entire peoples, cities, and nations after the flood whom He likewise judged to be exceedingly corrupt and hopelessly wretched, useless to the cause of righteousness except for righteousness to be vindicated in their judgment and destruction.
- He even caused the ten northern tribes of Israel, the nation He redeemed to Himself and took as His own unique people, to be carried away for good and removed from the land He caused them to inherit, in spite of great patience, much warning, and much heartfelt pleading for them to return to Him and find mercy.
- He even caused the tribe of Judah, which He worked to redeem out of their captivity in Babylon (which they were sent into for their many sins and hardhearted impenitence), to yet be destroyed by the Romans and scattered among the nations for their rejection of His Christ (primarily in AD 70; but also in their attempts to rebuild in the land we know as Israel in the following decades).
- He will yet send a massive portion of humanity to the eternal lake of fire for continuing in their sins, and refusing His Son Jesus Christ to reign over them, whom God has sent to suffer and die to redeem mankind to Himself. The following which Jesus specifically said about the Jews who rejected Him doubtlessly reflects His heart towards mankind in general: Luke 13:34: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” We also read along the same lines in Romans 2:3-5: “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God”
- God threatened, in both the Old and the New Covenants, that those who don’t bring forth the good fruit which necessarily accompanies being related rightly to Him by an obedient, living faith will be cut off from His covenant and condemned as unbelievers with the unbelievers. There is no respect of persons with God; and hence there is no such thing as unconditional security and remaining in covenant with God unconditionally- except of course as a vain concept put forth by teachers of false grace who do not uphold truth and faithfully teach by word and deed the necessity of righteous living before God. Hebrews 10:26-29: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Jude 3-7: “ Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old (i.e. in the Old Testament) ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (many more examples could be given, but also see especially Romans 11:19-23 and Revelation chapters 2 & 3)
- It is also evident that the marriage covenant as ordained by God is intended by God to reflect the nature of His relationship to His people (Ephesians 5:21-32 proves this absolutely if anyone had any honest doubts about that).
- With these things in mind and chained together logically, it is inconceivable and illogical to think that a divorce to end a marriage would never be an absolute righteous necessity.
Reading from Deuteronomy 24:1-2: “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.”
God gave His Word with the implication that anything which His Word doesn’t expressly define should be interpreted in line with everything which has been expressly defined in His Word. Applying that principle to the above passage from Deuteronomy, it is logical that God’s command about divorce here implies that there is a real uncleanness in the woman which makes her a corrupting influence on the man’s home. Otherwise, she is not such a hardhearted person that she ought to be divorced for uncleanness!
I know that some are likely to hear this who will say that what is being said here is wrong- and they will appeal to Jesus’ words about divorce and remarriage in the Gospels to the Scribes and the Pharisees to try to back up their claim. Yet it was the Scribes and Pharisees who were interpreting this passage outside of the context of moral uncleanness, the very thing which can make divorce a righteous necessity. They were trying to justify divorce for any cause at all, something which the Law of God certainly did not permit! The Law of God made a narrow provision for divorce for a man (or a woman by the way, she could appeal to the judges in the gate too for a divorce) to initiate for the moral purity of his home when that was evidently a necessity. Jesus in the Gospels was speaking against the broadening of this narrow provision. To deny the occasional necessity of the application of this narrow provision for divorce is just as bad as the broadening of this provision. Either way, unrighteousness is being promoted; and either way, there is an ungodly license given for one spouse to deal treacherously with the other.
Consider some common sense applications with other relationships: If there is one in the church who is sinning, and that is known, and they won’t repent and be amended, they are to be ex-communicated from the church and they shouldn’t even be regarded as someone whom a church member should share a meal with. 1 Corinthians chapter 5 makes this clear. And a key reason for this given there is that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. There will be a corrupting influence on the church if the persistent sinner is allowed to remain there.
And no parent in their right mind would allow an older child or young adult offspring to remain in their home when they were so disobedient and misbehaving that they were an affront to their parental authority and a corrupting influence on the other children. They can’t remain in the home and partake of the privileges of being in the home nor be eligible for the father’s inheritance while they defy their father and/or mother and corrupt the home. Even the Prodigal son waited until after he had received his inheritance and left the father’s house before he did the corrupt things that he did! He knew that such things wouldn’t be tolerated in the home; and he knew that in returning to the father’s home that he had to put away his evil deeds in order to be accepted there.
So it is no different with a spouse who is living ungodly. When a wife disobeys her husband, lies, won’t dress modestly (not to mention if she is committing adultery), etc she is teaching the children evil by her bad example. The husband keeping her with him is (by example, practically at least) teaching the children the false grace which the Bible warns about that we looked at earlier! Likewise, if a husband is being abusive, is being perverted, is habitually losing his temper and/or frequently using foul language, etc. A woman who is adequately concerned about the children being taught in God’s way and about their overall safety can’t put up with that behavior for too long until she becomes complicit with it. Separation for a time is warranted to show the offending spouse that you mean business, but that can’t last forever either. A time has to come where the patience demonstrated becomes excessive to the point of mockery; and the separation must be finalized by a divorce. The sinning spouse must leave or be left.
Of course, sometimes a spouse may not be serving the Lord yet their sin isn’t really affecting the others in the home. And that is the only context in which these verses apply. 1 Corinthians 7:12-14: “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.” That only applies when the home can truly be a Christian home despite the husband or wife being an unbeliever. That is very often not the case in an unequal marriage. The next verses (1 Corinthians 7:15-16) say “ 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?
Common sense time: What if the unbelieving doesn’t leave, yet they can’t be dwelt with peaceably as the believer in Christ follows the Lord and thus (necessarily of course) seeks to maintain a godly atmosphere in their home. Obviously, a spouse who prevents the maintenance of a godly atmosphere needs to be put away! And that goes back to a proper application of Deuteronomy 24:1-2.
There will always be people who abuse this to try to justify divorce for unrighteous reasons, often involving their desire to marry someone else, or another type of person in general, whom they have set their heart upon in an adulterous manner. It might take the form of a man calling his wife rebellious because she failed to follow one thing he commanded which she was confused about or which wasn’t righteous to follow anyways. Maybe he will call her out of order for the expression of her opinion which she might have intended as a suggestion (men should actually often ask their wives what they think and consider their suggestions). With a woman, it may be that she calls her husband unloving because he spoke to her in a tone she thought was too harsh or accuse him of being a tyrant because she didn’t get her way in something that was wrong or at least unnecessary. None of this makes a man wrong to divorce his wife because she really persistently dishonors him, lies to him, and/or perhaps really dresses like a harlot in spite of reproof and better instruction from him. Nor is a woman to wrong to divorce her husband when he insists on commanding her to do wicked things like watch ungodly movies and/or physically abuses her and/or the children, and/or behaves in a way which makes it impossible to peacefully live and raise the children in the ways of the God of the Bible.
In fact, to not divorce when such behavior is defended and persisted in is to (by example at least) teach a false grace, to partake of and promote sin through toleration and enabling of evil. It is to misrepresent God- as if He can be mocked and as if His commandments are at most suggestions! One might say otherwise, but our example speaks louder than our words do.
Whenever there has been a divorce which a person righteously initiated, or which they had no control over the other initiating, there is freedom to remarry. 1 Corinthians 7:15 considered with 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 makes this as clear as day. “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. .. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.” Obviously a couple which has already divorced for reasons which are not righteous should reconcile if possible. But desire for reconciliation is not always mutual; and reconciliation is neither righteous nor practical if one or both of the parties have already remarried. The concept that God only recognizes first marriages is also false. Jesus acknowledged in John 4:18 that the Samaritan woman whom He conversed with at the well had had five husbands.
God hates divorce, yet that doesn’t mean it’s never necessary and it doesn’t mean there isn’t such a thing as an innocent party who is blameless in the divorce. He hates it when man’s unrighteousness necessitates a divorce as much as He hates it when man’s unrighteousness initiates a divorce when there was no righteous necessity for it. Wicked people can abuse God’s Word out of context to threaten a victimized spouse not to divorce them just as wicked people abuse God’s Word out of context to justify a divorce so they can remarry to gratify their lust or for some other unrighteous reason. There are people who have gone through years and years of constant abuse at the hands of a lunatic or otherwise impossible to bear heathen (who might also be a professing Christian) believing that divorce is never, ever righteous. This can also expose children greatly to physical and emotional abuse. Wavering, sloppy Scripture application, and overall bad understanding on this matter throughout Christendom can toss someone getting counsel on this matter to and fro- sometimes so much that they will be utterly confused and driven further towards insanity.
Very often those who contest these things point to 1 Corinthians 7:39 and Romans 7:1-3 which speak about the woman being bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. And yet they are unwittingly proving the point that there is a narrow provision made by God for divorce and remarriage. You have to reference God’s Law to know and understand that! That is the very point and the key to handling this issue. It will never involve justifying the person who made up some shallow excuse to leave their spouse for someone else. It will never leave someone to be continually terrorized by an adulterer or an otherwise heathen spouse, whose heathen ways interfere with Christian principles being followed in their home. And it will also never leave one who is divorced, with no reasonable hope of ever reconciling their marriage, waiting for their first spouse to die before they can ever even think about remarriage. And the fact that all of these foolish things, and many other foolish things in relation to this topic, are commonly practiced throughout Christendom is proof in and of itself that the churches now (in general) have departed from God’s ways and lack the knowledge of Him (see Hosea 4:6).
God Himself doesn’t show unlimited patience. He will cast people who persist in sin into the fire of hell in spite of the much effort made on His part in Christ to redeem them and much merciful patience exercised on His part. And He will cast His very own people who had been in His covenant, out of His covenant, and into the fire of hell eventually- should they provoke Him by persistence in sin and resistance of His correction. There is no respect of persons with God!
To say that divorcing a spouse is not an absolute righteous necessity, when their persistence in sin is corrupting the home and preventing God from being glorified there, is fighting against the truth and enabling rebellion against the Lord. That never ends well.
Jeremiah 6:29-30: “The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away. Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.”
Jeremiah 8:19-20: “Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Proverbs 29:1: “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”
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