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Biblical Reasons for Divorce and Remarriage, Part 2

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
March 12, 2024 12:00 am

Biblical Reasons for Divorce and Remarriage, Part 2

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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March 12, 2024 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version or read the manuscript of this message here:  Discover the biblical perspective on divorce and remarriage in this thought-provoking sermon by Stephen Davey. Drawing from Luke 16:14-18, Stephen explores the challenges of marriage, the importance of commitment, and the consequences of unrepentant sin within the marital relationship. Gain insights into the exceptions for divorce outlined in the Bible and learn how to navigate difficult situations while upholding God's design for marriage. Stephen answers common questions such as, "Must an abused wife remain in her marriage?" Find encouragement and guidance for your own marriage or for supporting others who may be facing marital struggles.



The world is looking at the church. It's looking at immoral men and women and saying, look at you with your vows. What's wrong with our marriage? To the same sex or whatever it might be.

Look at you. It's time for the Christians to show the world what true biblical marriages are supposed to be like. We're not perfect, but we're going to be persistent. We're committed to revealing marriages that exalt the design of our creator God. Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart. Last time we were with you, Stephen Davey began a message called Biblical Reasons for Divorce and Remarriage. He didn't have time to complete that message, so after a little bit of review, we're going to conclude that message today. In the first century as Jesus walked the earth, the religious leaders misrepresented God's view of marriage and divorce.

And as you know, confusion and false ideas are still common regarding this topic. What did Jesus teach? Well, Stephen turns to Luke 16 to unpack what the Lord had to say.

So here's Stephen with today's message. So in the context of Luke 16, here's what's happening. These Pharisees were following the popular liberal interpretation of the law. It allowed them to go from one woman to the next, from one wife to the next.

Outside of Judaism, the Roman Empire was no better. In fact, the women and the elite, a culture were known to date their years by the names of their husbands. So divorce is rampant. Marriage for the Pharisees worked for them as long as it worked for them. But if their wife burned too many dinners or talked back or said something disrespectful or talked loudly enough for the neighbors to hear or if she wasn't as beautiful as somebody else he found, she would more than likely end up on the street. So Jesus reinstates then a high guardrail. And in so doing, he's using this as an illustration to reveal the wickedness of these men's hearts.

And he's saying to them essentially, get your heart clean. Get serious. Grow up. Take responsibility. Settle down.

Get over yourself. Go back to the commitment of God's design for marriage that is so wonderfully spelled out in those vows. Now for those who are married to someone who refuses to come clean, to get serious, to genuinely repent, the Lord opens the door with this exception clause. Now keep this in mind as well that in the Old Testament adultery led to death. And that led to an immediate release of the innocent spouse. So if they fulfilled the law, divorce wasn't even necessary because the adulterer was put to death. Now as we move into the New Testament era, since the Old Testament death penalty for adultery is no longer an option, and you might be thinking that would still be nice, well it isn't an option any longer. The death of a guilty spouse cannot be enforced, but the death of a marriage bond can be with God's permission.

Unless there is genuine repentance, God allows divorce to release the innocent spouse to move on with their lives, perhaps marrying someone else in the will of God that will follow after God. Now I realize a message like this brings up two or three hundred good questions. Put them in an email and I'll have Pastor Les Lofquist answer them over the next month. Let me deal with a big question here with the time remaining.

This is where I really wanted to get to. Is immorality the only grounds for a biblically justifiable divorce? Short answer, no. There are other grounds. There are actually, I believe, many scenarios that justify what we call a biblically justifiable divorce, where the marriage has been broken by a defiant spouse. By the way, before we talk about those scenarios, let me make sure we understand that sin is not the basis for divorce. Sin really isn't the issue justifying divorce. If sin were the issue, then we should have never gotten married in the first place because we were sinners when we got married.

Marriage, for those of you who are married, you've realized and you realized soon after that it has the potential of revealing just how sinful we are and how much redemptive work Christ must do in our selfish hearts. The issue is not sin. The issue is unrepentant sin.

Unrepentant, willful rebellion. In fact, divorce acts in a way like church discipline. We don't discipline people out of the church because they sin. If we did that, none of us would be here today. The issue that leads to discipline is sin, which will not be repented of.

It will be clutched, it will be pursued, it will be grasped. So divorce, then, is what we might call a severe discipline brought about by the lack of genuine repentance. Jesus didn't cover every contingency. He just used a broad term for any kind of sexual activity outside of God's design.

He didn't get into all the various scenarios. Several years later, the apostle Paul will pick up this subject and fill in the gaps to the Corinthian church. Let me recommend that you turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 7 and verse 10. He says, to the married, I give this charge, not I, but the Lord. The wife should not separate from her husband, but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband, and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Now, this statement is basically what Jesus has already said was God's design. Marriage is a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. God's ideal is for that to be for life, which means we should do everything in our power and then in dependency on the power of the Holy Spirit to build our marriages on the principles of what he designed and revealed back in Genesis 2 with those principles of permanency and humility and harmony. So here in this part of 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is talking about a couple that does not have biblical grounds for divorce.

And in this case, should a spouse leave, they're not free to marry someone else. Paul says they should either remain unmarried or reconcile with their spouse. Now with that, Paul changes the conversation here. He addresses a different group of people in a sense here in verse 12. To the rest, I say I, not the Lord.

Let me clear this up here. This doesn't mean that Paul is not going to give you his opinion. It means that the Lord never recorded this in his ministry. It's not written down. Now Paul is going to be led by the inspiring Holy Spirit to give further revelation and direction to the church.

Here it is. If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. Now the word consent is critical here. It's a word that refers to pleasing agreement. You can render it a mutual desire to dwell together. So consent is a two-way street, not a one-way street.

It's a pleasant agreement to pursue harmony and unity. You have to imagine for a moment, just back up, you're coming out of Judaism, you're entering the church and you've been told you're a new creation in Christ. The old things are passing away. Everything's becoming new. So you're going to innocently wonder, which I believe they were wondering, well, does that mean that since I got saved and my spouse didn't, that I can divorce them and start over, get a new spouse who loves Christ?

And that was a valid question, do I start over? And Paul clearly says no. It's interesting then to consider that many of these marriages, even though it's now between a believer and an unbeliever, one of them got saved, the other one didn't, that their marriage can still become an opportunity for the glory of God to be revealed and the gospel of grace.

And Paul will go on, we're not going to dive in here because it's a different sermon, but he's going to tell how that happens. And I will say at least quickly that their testimony may win that unbelieving spouse to the Lord. And even in the meantime, if that spouse doesn't believe, the children are given a holy example by their believing parent.

Now, for our discussion, here's the point. If there is a harmonious and respectful consent that is clearly genuine, even from an unbeliever, don't divorce that unbelieving spouse. Now, if that is not the case, and there is not consent, and that would be demonstrated by decisions, lifestyles, addictions, defiance, that communicates a lack of consent, here's the exception. Verse 15, but if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. And I would insert here the partner who is acting as an unbeliever in the marriage, even if the spouse claims to be a Christian, but is acting as an unbeliever. If he separates, Paul writes further, in such cases, the brother or sister is not enslaved. What that means is you're no longer bound, you're no longer obligated to the wedding vow which has been violated, broken by their unrepentant sin. So Paul is saying God's called you to peace, meaning don't fight, don't argue about it, allow it. In fact, there's nothing here that would forbid the believing spouse from initiating it. Paul is saying you're being called to peace.

That's your goal now. As much as possible, get out from underneath that ongoing war and that conflict with that sinful, defiant, unrepentant spouse. Now Paul uses a phrase here in verse 15, in such cases, the brother or sister is not enslaved. That's the only time that phrase appears in the New Testament, in such cases. It means in cases like these, which includes desertion or abandonment. Again, this phrase is an umbrella phrase for any kind of case that reveals the spouse is not genuinely repenting, is not genuinely violating, that they want to live respectfully and harmoniously, agreeably with his or her spouse.

In these cases, in fact in cases like these, here's what happens. The defiant, unrepentant person, man or woman, choosing to act as an unbeliever is actually being subsidized and supported, though violating the believing spouse or the spouse who's acting as a believer, even though the unbeliever is continually violating their wedding vows. In his commentary on this phrase, Wayne Grudem writes that this verse could be paraphrased to read this, but if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In this and other similarly destructive cases, the brother or sister is not bound or enslaved.

God has called you to peace. The Grudem goes on to write that this lack of consent will reveal itself in cases where the spouse refuses to repent, seek counsel, stop, change, pursue, accept, whatever the consequences may be. And Grudem, by the way, goes on to give a list of scenarios and other commentators that I've read as well that he believes fits under this umbrella phrase in these kinds of cases.

What are those kinds of cases? He delivers his own list, which is not inspired, but he's attempting to apply the words of Paul in the case of a marriage where one particular spouse acts without consent to agreeably unite. You might not agree with this list.

I'll give it to you very quickly. I happen to agree with all of it. But again, the issue isn't the sin that's going to show up on the list. The issue is being stubborn in choosing those vices rather than commit and consent to pursuing the vows. Grudem's list includes sexual activity outside the boundaries of marriage between a man and a woman, as defined in Scripture. Pornography, which would be included under sexual immorality, refusal to repent, change.

In fact, the word porneia gives us our word pornography. Gambling, which leads to indebtedness affecting the welfare of the innocent spouse and her children and all of the deceit and lying, actual theft taking place, the breaking of those vows. Addictions to drugs and alcohol accompanied by the lying, the deception, the stealing involved of the household's funds to live that kind of life. Verbal cruelty, destructive to a spouse's mental and emotional stability. Physical abuse, verbal threats of physical harm. He writes that the abuser is forsaking his wedding vows to love and cherish. He has instead become a threat, either through his unrepentant sin, his immorality, his addictions, whatever they may be, and certainly physical abuse. Now, you might wonder if physical abuse is just something new. That's been added to the list of exceptions.

It's been around a long time. In fact, you could go back and read the Puritans. They typically talked of three exceptions, adultery or immorality, abandonment or desertion, and abuse.

In fact, go back to the 16th century, I'll give you one quote from William Perkins who wrote in his commentary on the Christian life. This is what he said, here it may be demanded. It's interesting he says demanded. Here it may be demanded what a believer should do who is in certain and imminent danger. If the husband threateneth hurt, just threatens it. The believing wife may flee in this case as if the unbelieving man has deserted her. In other words, that threat is tantamount to the breaking of the vow. In other words, it's equivalent to desertion. I have to say, on this particular issue, there's a lot of debate on the subject. There is, in my understanding, as I've read, a widely rather tragic opinion within the evangelical church that says this, and I'll quote one particular source that defends this, that an abused wife should endure abuse like a missionary endures persecution, and that by enduring it, she honors God's design for lifelong marriage.

No. Leaving an abusive spouse, leaving a wicked, unrepentant, cheating, stealing, drunken, deceitful, immoral, abusive spouse, and I think I might have covered all of it in that phrase, ending that marriage with the support of the church, and you will find the support of this church in you doing that. Let me tell you, that happens to be a better way to witness to our world what God demands of a Christ-honoring marriage. The world is looking at the church, it's looking at immoral men and women and saying, look at you with your vows. What's wrong with our marriage to the same sex, or whatever it might be?

Look at you. We have not kept this standard high and we dishonor the sanctity of marriage by supporting and subsidizing and defending evil, just as the church today does not discipline for sin. It's time for the Christians to show the world what true biblical marriages are supposed to be like, to show the world what true, agreeable consent looks like. We're not perfect, but we're going to be persistent. We're committed to revealing marriages that exalt the design of our creator God.

And if you don't want to do that, have the decency to leave town. Have the decency to not force your spouse to take the initiative, which they have the right to do, and allow them the freedom to find within the will of God someone with whom they can glorify and honor Christ. And what would that look like? That would look like people who go back to their vows and pursue them. Here they are. I promise to have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part, in obedience to God's holy command. That's what it looks like. And with that, we're out of time.

Send your questions to Les Lofquist. Thank you, Father, for your Word, every stroke, every line, every comma, the meaning of every word. It is indeed life and health. I pray for every spouse in this audience, and I believe in a crowd this large, Lord, there are men and women contemplating, leaving their spouse without biblical ground. They believe that they have found somebody better, somebody more understanding, somebody more attractive, and they're on the verge of breaking their vow. Would you, Spirit of God, arrest them now?

Arrest them. Bring them to repentance to renew their vow in their heart, to invest, to consent, to pursue the ideal you've given us. I pray for those in this audience today, primarily women, who've been led to believe that they must subsidize, support an unrepentant man, an abusive man. I pray that this gives her hope and courage and with our support to end what is already broken, unless there is repentance.

Maybe her actions would lead to that. Help us as a church to demonstrate the sanctity of marriage, what it means to be a true Christian man or woman in the home. We thank you that you have addressed the subject. May it not be an illustration in our own lives of playing fast and loose with your Word, finding some verse to defend our own evil, finding some counselor to support our own immorality. Cause us to return to your Word, every stroke, every consonant, every comma. For you know, Lord, that our hearts stray so quickly and easily. We all need cleansing again afresh today. Help us then as we demonstrate your grace to us, to our spouses, to our children, to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you for that privilege. In Jesus' name.

Amen. I hope this message helped you today. This is Wisdom for the Heart.

Stephen Davey called it Biblical Reasons for Divorce and Remarriage. Stephen is the president of Wisdom International. Our phone number is 866-48-BIBLE or 866-482-4253 if you have a comment or question for us. If you haven't already, I invite you to sign up for a free membership in Friends of Wisdom. Once you do, you're going to begin receiving resources from Stephen that'll help you walk wisely through life. Friends of Wisdom receive an email from Stephen each Tuesday. He might send an encouraging article to help you better apply God's Word to your everyday life. Sometimes he sends an answer to a Bible question he received. It's always interesting to see what people are asking and read Stephen's answers.

You might find that you were wondering the very same thing. And maybe you have your own question that you want Stephen to answer. At least once a month, our Friends of Wisdom receive a free resource. Joining Friends of Wisdom is both free and easy. All you need to do is visit forward slash friends. You'll be signed up and you'll start hearing from Stephen very soon.

And when you do sign up, you'll receive two free resources immediately. Stephen has two very popular booklets. One is called Blessed Assurance. It's helped thousands of people know what it means to have assurance of their salvation.

The other is called The Coming Tribulation. Once again, visit forward slash friends. Thanks for listening. Join us next time for more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-12 00:30:47 / 2024-03-12 00:39:04 / 8

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