Revamped and Revisited

(Part 1)

By Jeff Belknap

There have been many departures from the word of God regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage, especially in recent years.  I’m thankful for the courage and hard work of many, in exposing these threats.  Yet there is an evolving digression which seems to be growing somewhat unchallenged.  Regrettably, this concept has been espoused by some of our most influential and admired preaching brethren, who travel far and wide.

In contrast to the other departures on this topic, this error has not been frequently proclaimed from various pulpits or magazines across the land, but has rather been discussed in private settings, behind closed doors.  The major problem with this doctrine is that it appears to be gaining some momentum and credibility among us.

On the surface the idea “seems” reasonable (Proverbs 14:12 ; 16:25 ), however after further examination its flaws become evident (Proverbs 18:17 ).  The end result is adultery and will therefore condemn souls (Galatians 1:6-9; 5:19 -21). 

The Position

Although this stance agrees with the “Biblical principle” of “one man for one woman, for life, except for the cause of fornication,” it differs in “application.”  The contention is that since God’s law supercedes man’s law, God does not “sanction” an unscriptural divorce.  Therefore, when an unscripturally put away spouse has fervently protested the divorce, and his/her ex-spouse remarries another (after the divorce), then the unscripturally put away person actually becomes eligible to “put away” (by public declaration) the spouse who had already put them away.  This act of publicly vocalizing a (mental) decision to put one’s ex-spouse away for the cause of their fornication, is said to free them to remarry.  In this position, the condition of a public declaration is yet another addition to the mental divorce (which is, in itself, an addition to God’s word).

 Errors in The Position

The foremost problem with this theory is that no such scenario is ever even hinted at in scripture.  Therefore, we must apply revealed Biblical teaching to such a situation (Romans 3:4; 10:17 ).  Approval for remarriage of any put away person to another is neither stated nor implied anywhere in scripture, and is not of “the faith” (Jude 3). 

The words of Jesus will be the standard by which we are judged in the last day (John 12:48 ); not the words or writings of some preachers of renown (I Corinthians 4:6).  To uncover the fallacy of this doctrine, we need to distinguish Biblical terms (I Peter 4:11 ) from man-made terminology, arbitrary rules and unauthorized conditions (II Timothy 2:16 ). 

Marriage and divorce are only man’s part in joining or separating the physical relationship.  God’s part of binding and loosing is not automatically intertwined with what man does.  From the teaching in Matthew 19:9, it is clear that God does His part in loosing a person from the bond of His law only when man has fully complied with His law in the matter.  Once an unauthorized divorce is final, there are no revealed means that free a person to marry another.  

The mistaken position connects the marriage (the physical relationship) to the bond (the spiritual obligation), by teaching that as long as one is bound (by God), they are married.  Likewise, they contend that only when a couple is loosed (by God), are they really divorced.  Therefore, a distinction is made between marriages and divorces that are “real” (in the eyes of God) and those which are “merely” civil (in the eyes of man).  In unauthorized marriages and divorces, the terms are said to be used only accommodatively. 

Although it is true that God does not “sanction” an unscriptural divorce, the presumption that it is not “real” is where the problem lies.  In I Corinthians 7:10-11, the unauthorized divorce resulted in each individual being “unmarried.”  Moreover, in verse 15, when a unscriptural divorce is carried out against the innocent party, we learn that something significant (in God’s eyes) has transpired.  The faithful person, whose spouse “departs” unlawfully, is now given a divine reprieve from his/her (physical) marital obligations. Why? The physical marriage has been severed.  However, no scripture is found anywhere for remarriage to another after an unscriptural divorce has taken place.  In the same context, verse 39 plainly states that the woman is bound by the law as long as her original spouse lives.  Moreover, in Romans 7:2-3, the woman is said to be bound by God’s law (spiritually obligated) to her first husband while unscripturally married (physically) to another. 

The only way that the remarriage of an innocent put away person could possibly be justified while the original mate lives, is to claim that the innocent put away person is not really put away at all.  Regardless of the reason for a divorce, when the civil requirements have been complied with ( Rom. 13:1-7), then someone has been put away.  The mental divorce position assumes that the innocent put away person actually has the power to “put away” a person to whom they are no longer married.  However, at the point in which a given society recognizes a divorce, God either looses (in a scriptural divorce) or does not loose (in an unscriptural divorce).  Whatever man does after this dissolution is inconsequential, if we remain silent where the Bible is silent.  When the physical marriage has already been terminated, it has suffered death (separation) and can only be revived by reconciliation.  For man to add another condition upon which God will “loose” a spouse from the bond of His law is presumptuous (I Timothy 6:3-5). 

Jesus stated in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 that the only one who has a right to divorce and remarry another, is one who has put away his mate for fornication (which, in this country, involves civil law).  Thus, the Biblical order is: marriage, fornication, divorce (for that cause), and remarriage.  Yet, the position under examination teaches: marriage, divorce, fornication, mental divorce (for that cause) plus public declaration of the same, and remarriage.  Just as the order in Mark 16:16 is to be maintained, so is God’s order regarding this subject.  A perverted gospel will not save (Galatians 1:6-9).

Consider Luke 16:18: “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.  Here, when the unjustly put away person remarries even after the fornication of her previous spouse, she becomes guilty of adultery nonetheless.  Regardless of who marries first, adultery is still the result for both when they marry another.  There is simply not one shred of Bible authority for any put away person to remarry another!

Under the law of Moses, a writing of divorcement was necessary (Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Matthew 19:7).  Joseph knew that more would be required of him in order to put away his espoused wife (Mary) than just being “minded” to do so (Matthew 1:19).  In America, even when a spouse pursues a divorce for fornication, a civil procedure must be accomplished to constitute it’s validity (in God’s eyes, and man’s).  Nowhere in Scripture was a simple decision within one’s mind, coupled with an announcement, sufficient to produce a divorce! 

The Bible never speaks of “real” or “unreal” marriages or divorces.  If an unscriptural divorce is not a real divorce in the eyes of God, then why did Jesus say, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6)?  The very fact that Jesus commands us not to put asunder implies that we have the capacity to do so, even if it is against His will.  One might as well argue that the fornication mentioned in Matthew 19:9 is not real, since it is also without God’s sanction! 

The crux of the matter is this:  If an unscriptural divorce is really a waste of time and effort “in the eyes of God” (God doesn’t approve of it as “real”), then logic dictates that it wouldn’t make any difference which party did the second “putting away” (for fornication).  The need for the unwilling put away spouse to fervently protest the divorce is superfluous if this point is valid.  It would all boil down to whoever could hold out the longest (the waiting game).  Although advocates of this position claim to oppose the waiting game, they apply purely man-made rules to circumvent the conclusion that necessarily follows. 

Some Say It’s Not Fair

We recognize that children in abusive homes and wives with selfish and cruel husbands are to be in submission, though treated unfairly (Ephesians 6:1; I Peter 3:1-6). The plight of a person who must become a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake is no different (Matthew 19:12).  Yet God has no more “sanctioned” the mistreatment of the child or wife than he has authorized an unscriptural divorce.  Nevertheless, the dire consequences are often inescapable for the innocent parties involved.  God has only promised that the tears we shed upon this earth will be wiped away in heaven if we remain faithful to His word throughout our trials (Matthew 16:24-26).

When we carefully study God’s law in Matthew 5:32, we find that the departing spouse (not God) is the one who treats their mate unfairly, by causing them to commit adultery upon remarriage (Matthew 18:7).  This remains true, regardless of whether the departing spouse commits fornication after the divorce is final, or remains unmarried. 

Because something is unfair in this world does not give men provision to reinterpret scripture in order to balance the scales of justice in the eyes of men.  When one supposes to know the mind of God independent of what is plainly taught in the scriptures, a red flag should be raised!  Again, the measure of judgment will be the words of Christ (John 12:48), not what we perceive the “spirit” or the “intent” of His will to be.  

Consequences Of This Position

The consequences of this position are colossal.  It opens the door to at least one party of every unscriptural divorce to remarry (since unscriptural divorces are not “real”).  Advocates of this belief would not agree with this conclusion, but without their man-made conditions and qualifiers, this is what remains. 

Some might emphasize that we agree on the Biblical principle, and that our differences are just a matter of “application.”  Unfortunately, for the most part, that’s where we differ with brother Hailey as well!  He agrees with us in principle; it’s just his view of who the law applies to that is different!  Nevertheless, the bottom line of both errors are the same: justification and validation for individuals to live in ADULTERY (I Corinthians 6:9-10; Colossians 3:5-7)!  Error’s cost?  Souls are lost!

We must do God’s bidding without fear or favor!  It’s my heart’s desire and prayer to God, that in all of our valiant efforts to expose heresy, we will not let this specific cancer spread “unawares.”

Special note: Please consider the following additional study materials:

Divorce & Remarriage; What Does The Text Say?, by Donnie Rader,

  • Chapter 8 Mental Divorce (May Some Put Away People Remarry);

  • Also consider pages 145-149 in the APPENDIX

Is It Lawful? A Comprehensive Study of Divorce By Dennis G. Allan and Gary Fisher,

  • Chapter 13 What Constitutes Divorce? (by Bob Waldron);

  • Chapter 38 Can You Put Away the Put-Away? (by Gary Fisher);

  • Chapter 39 The rights of an Innocent Put-Away Person (by Kevin S. Kay).

Mental Marriages and Mental Divorces (by Gene Frost). 

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM