A Second “Putting Away?”

By Jeff Belknap 

During the last few years, some brethren have been advocating doctrinal unity based upon the undisputed fact that Jesus authorized a man to put away his wife (or vice versa) for fornication and to marry another while their original spouse still lives. However, they are also advocating that those who are already put away are amongst the ones authorized to “put away” for (post-divorce) fornication.

In order to properly understand what a text does teach, it’s helpful to first eliminate what it does not teach. When the Lord spoke of those who put away, He was speaking of those who sunder the “one flesh” (marriage) relationship (cf. Matthew 19:3, 6, 9; cp. w. 5:31-32). Therefore, post-divorce “putting away” (of which the Bible speaks nothing, cf. Hebrews 7:14) is an “application” that does not fit within the above statement for unity in any way, shape or form!

Moreover, the discernment of WHO Jesus is addressing in a context is essential (cf. II Timothy 2:15)! Obviously, the one who “is put away” is not the one who “putteth away.” To claim that the one who “is put away” can later become the one who “putteth away” in these verses makes about as much sense as claiming that the woman (who is spoken of in these verses) can become the man.

When considering the Lord’s teaching in the first halves of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, we read about the one (man or woman, not both) who puts away (i.e. who sunders the lawful, “one flesh” relationship). The exception clause to put away and marry another is only given to the one who sunders the “one flesh” relationship “for fornication.”

Then, in the second halves of those verses, Jesus teaches regarding the one (man or woman, not both) who is put away (after the fact). Jesus’ teaching that “whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (whether lawfully or not – Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b; Luke 16:18b) is just as applicable as the first halves of those verses. The second halves of these verses confirm that the put away person always commits adultery upon marriage to another unless their bound mate has died (cf. Romans 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7:39).

Moreover, in all the verses which address putting away, there is only ONE sundering of a marriage discussed, regardless of the cause! To teach more than this is an addition to God’s word.

The problem with those who claim that the put away person is authorized to “put away his wife (or vice versa) for fornication and to marry another” is that they erroneously apply the exception clause to the put away, while ignoring the statement that actually applies to them.

First, the contexts of both Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:7-9 prove that the exception clause was addressed to those who were within a “one flesh” (married) relationship. In both of these passages, Jesus equated the Jew’s national procedure of putting away with giving “a writing of divorcement.” This was only done by those who were “married.” The scripture says:

“When a man hath taken a wife, and MARRIED her, and it come to pass that she find no favour 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 (emp. jhb). Deuteronomy 24:1

Moreover, in Matthew 19:3-6, when the Pharisees’ original question was asked regarding the lawfulness of putting away (cf. Mark 10:2), Jesus reiterated God’s intent of marriage from the beginning! Therefore, the Lord’s answer was clear, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6; cf. Mark 10:8-9). Hence, man was charged not to separate (chorizo) the “one flesh” relationship (which clearly implies that it was possible, while not authorized for “man” to so do). When apostle Paul quoted this command of the Lord (not to “put away” one’s lawful spouse), he addressed “the married.” The scripture says:

“And unto THE MARRIED I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart (chorizo, jhb) from her husband: 11 But and if she depart (chorizo, jhb), let her remain UNMARRIED, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife” (emp. jhb). I Corinthians 7:10-11

Jesus equated putting away (departing from) one’s marriage partner with separating the “one flesh” (physical) relationship. Moreover, the Lord plainly taught that the “one flesh” (physical) relationship could be sinfully separated, in spite of the continued divine obligation (Romans 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7:39). Hence, how can one subsequently separate what has already been separated? Whether wrongfully or righteously divorced, the “married” become “unmarried” after divorcement has taken place! Therefore, any post-divorce “putting away” is an invention of man (cf. Colossians 2:8; 3:17). 

In Luke 16:18, Jesus addressed both the scenarios of a person who commits fornication after they have wrongfully put away their lawful spouse and of the put away. The Master stated:

“Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery (emp. jhb).

Luke 16:18 is the same as Matthew 19:9, but without the exception clause. In both verses, the Lord taught that the husband who wrongfully puts away his wife and marries another, commits adultery. What is more, in both verses Jesus unequivocally stated that the subsequent marriage of the unfortunate put away woman would be adulterous as well. This is in spite of his post-divorce immorality! It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Dear reader, the doctrine of post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication and marriage to another is NOT “written” anywhere in the Bible (cf. I Corinthians 4:6; II Corinthians 10:5)! This obvious invention of man is simply the basis for his attempts to legitimize marriages which the Lord plainly said would result in “adultery” (cf. II Timothy 4:3-4).

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 03:41 PM