Revamped and Revisited  

(Part 2)

Over the past few years, new ideas have been suggested which would allow certain unlawfully put away individuals the right to remarry. Those who support these erroneous ideas deny they are advocating mental divorce,” since the innocent party in an unscriptural divorce never “repudiated the marriage bond.” They contend that this innocent put away person, having remained “faithful to the marriage bond,” may later put away her ex-spouse for fornication that is committed after the divorce. They claim this is not a “second” putting away, because the first putting away was never sanctioned by God (see “Mental Divorce, Revamped and Revisited;” Gospel Truths, October 2000, pg. 18).

This is the basis of their revised and revamped version of what has been known for years as “mental divorce.” This second article deals with additional abuses of the same subject by examining the terms “marriage bond;” “accommodative language,” and “ungodly civil laws.”

The Marriage and The Bond

First of all, this position confuses the marriage (man’s physical part in the union) with the bond (God’s spiritual part in the union). Although divorce dissolves the physical marriage (man’s part), it does not necessarily loose the spiritual obligation (cf. Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:27 , 39). Yet, some mistakenly intertwine the two with references to the “marriage bond.” One must accept the misuse of this combination of terms if they are to believe the position under examination.

There is nothing wrong with the term “marriage bond” when used in reference to God’s part in a marital union. In times past, the marriage bond was understood to indicate the obligations that God enjoins upon those in a scriptural marriage. However, to infer that the only way to end a marriage is for God to sever the bond is an incorrect usage of these words. God does not marry and man cannot bind what is joined in marriage. Likewise, God does not divorce and man cannot loose that which the Almighty has bound. 

In Matthew 19, Jesus responded to a Pharisee’s query as to whether it was lawful to “put away” for every cause (v. 3). He taught that man is not to “put asunder” what God has joined together (v. 6). The idea “put asunder” is used interchangeably with “put away” in this context. According to Strong’s, its meaning is, “to place room between, i.e. part; reflexively, to go away; depart, put asunder, separate.” This statement motivated the Pharisees to then ask why Moses commanded that a man “give a writing of divorcement” (another term used interchangeably here for “put away”). Are these not actions that man alone takes? Would God tell man not to “put asunder” if he did not possess the ability to do it? These are all aspects of a physical divorce, separate and apart from God’s loosing.

Progressing from a misguided combination of the words “marriage” and “bond,” this position maintains that in some instances the Bible uses “marriage” and “divorce” accommodatively.

Accommodative Language

It is true that the terms “husband” and “wife” are used accommodatively in scripture (Mt. 22:24-25; Mk. 6:17-18; Jn. 4:15-18; Acts 5:9). For example, Matthew 22:24-25 refers to the woman whose husband died as his “wife.” In addition, Acts 5:9 says that Ananias was dead when Peter stated, “the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door” (emp. jhb). Since the Bible clearly teaches that death severs the marriage and the bond (I Cor. 7:39), we know the terms “wife” and “husband” in these passages are used accommodatively.

Another reason that “husband” and “wife” are sometimes used in this way is because, in some cases, there are those who are bound to one, while being married to “another” (Rom. 7:2-3). In Mark 6:17-18, how could Herodias have literally been the wife of Herod while the Bible says she was Philip’s wife? (cf. I Cor. 7:2). In John 4:15-18, although Jesus asked the woman to call her “husband,” they both agreed that the man she lived with was not really her husband. In such verses, it is clear that these terms are used accommodatively. Conversely, in the absence of a scriptural contradiction (immediate or elsewhere), scripture must always be taken literally. 

These verses which use “husband” and “wife” in an accommodative sense are the very scriptures to which some appeal for “proof” that “marriage” and “divorce” are used in the same way. However, the expressions “marriage” and “divorce” are NEVER used accommodatively (II Tim. 2:15; I Thess. 5:21). Man marries (a physical/civil procedure) whether divinely authorized or not (carefully consider Matt. 19:9, Mk. 6:17 and Lk. 16:18). Is there any scripture that necessarily infers the parties involved have not really married or divorced? The Holy Writ plainly says they were “married” and “divorced” and there is nothing to contradict a literal interpretation. Though Herod’s union with his brother’s wife was unlawful, the Holy Spirit says, “he had married her” (Mk. 6:17). In truth, every time the word “divorce” or “marriage” is found in our context of study, the actual deed has transpired (cf. Matt. 19:6; Rom. 7:2-3 with I Cor. 7:11, 15). 

In Matthew 19:8-9, Jesus refers to both divorces that were allowed and divorces that are condemned as putting away. “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,” (emp. jhb). It is clear from verse 9 that the bond of God’s law (I Cor. 7:39) has not been loosed in an unscriptural divorce, but the physical marriage has been severed! Jesus said that in both cases, she IS divorced or put away. Who will argue with the Lord (Rom. 11:34)? 

 “…Whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Lk. 16:18; cf. Mt. 5:32; 19:9). How could the Lord have made it any plainer (Prov. 8:9)? As stated by brother Wayne Partain in the February 2001 issue of The Preceptor, “One thing is for sure: if Matt. 5:32; 19:9 is not clear, then neither are Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38. No scripture is clear to the person who is determined not to accept it.” 

God’s Law vs. “Ungodly” Civil Laws

Another attempt to justify a second putting away is made by claiming that since God does not sanction an unscriptural divorce, the “marriage bond” remains. Based on this hypothesis, they allege that the innocent party who was put away in the ungodly civil court may later appeal to divine law to “put away” their now fornicating (estranged) spouse. According to their reasoning, to deny the innocent party this second divorce appeal makes one guilty of honoring human law above God’s law.

The very term “unscriptural divorce” denotes what it is: man’s sinful act of putting “asunder what God has joined together.” In the case of an unscriptural divorce, the court simply enables one to fulfill their sinful desire. To illustrate this point, the willing woman makes it possible for man to fornicate (sin) and the abortion clinic makes it possible for a woman to kill her baby (sin). Likewise, the civil courts make it possible for man to unscripturally divorce his spouse (sin). Are we honoring man’s law (which condones fornication and abortion) above God’s law (which condemns fornication and abortion) if we acknowledge that these two sins have transpired? Thus, we are not guilty of honoring man’s law (which permits the divorce) above divine law (which disapproves of it) when we acknowledge that an unscriptural divorce has taken place. This truth renders a “second” divorce appeal an addition to God’s word.

Moreover, these brethren believe that to deny one this second putting away is to revoke the exception clause of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 for the innocent party. However, they fail to acknowledge that God never gave an exception clause to the one who has been put away. In Matthew 5:32, the husband is wrong and unfair to divorce his wife, thus he becomes responsible for her subsequent adultery. His sin has become her stumbling block. In spite of this ungodly man’s unfair treatment of his wife, God’s law teaches us that she commits adultery when she remarries. Jesus knew that civil law would allow man to unjustly put his wife away, though she was innocent of any wrongdoing. How then, is she to respond to the injustices in this life? The gospel teaches us to patiently suffer wrong until the new day dawns (cf. I Cor. 6:7; I Thess. 4:6; I Pet. 2:20-21; 3:14-17; 4:15-19).

Consider the hypothetical situation in which an ungodly husband secures a “quickie divorce” by a “tricky lawyer” against the wishes of his “innocent” spouse. In spite of her faithful effort to protest the divorce, a year later, her self-centered ex-husband marries another. Scenarios such as this are cited to prove the unjust, ungodly nature of the civil law regarding marriage and divorce. Yet, regardless of the governing regulations we are subject to, there will always be one who puts away and one who is put away. Therefore, the same scriptures apply, regardless of the civil law one is under.

The civil divorce proceedings (including Roman regulations) at the time of Christ were no better than some of our country’s most liberal laws, probably even worse (cf. Mt. 19:3; Mk. 6:17-18)! When Jesus revealed the strictness of God’s rule compared to the easy divorces authorized by the civil law of His day (Mt. 19:7-8), the disciples concluded, “…it is not good to marry” (v. 10). Yet, Jesus acknowledged, “All men cannot receive this saying” (v. 11), and stated that heaven was for those who are willing to receive God’s word, even to the point of celibacy (v. 12).  Though the ungodly civil courts may grant the unscriptural divorce of an unwilling mate, it is God’s regulation that precludes the put away person, innocent or not, from remarrying.

Comparisons of MDR False Doctrines

It is suggested that this “application” should not “disrupt fellowship because there is no denial of the basic principles involved.” It is also stated, “The doctrines of Hailey, Bassett, etc. inevitably lead to division because the basic principles of morality are changed.”

However, this particular view is as unscriptural and perilous as all of the others. If the teaching in this article is according to truth, then the view under examination leads to adultery and death (Lk. 16:18; Rom. 6:23). Comparisons to other men only divert attention from the issue at hand, and such a practice is not wise, for it measures by the wrong standard (II Cor. 10:12-13). The numerous man-made adjuncts in this theory are reminiscent of the Pharisee’s arbitrary rules that determined which oaths must be taken seriously, and which oaths were “nothing” (Mt. 23:16-22).

To accept this so-called “application,” one must distort several biblical “principles:”

1)       It binds arbitrary rules (outlined in first article) which are contrary to the principle of I Peter 4:11 (cf. I Cor. 4:6).

2)       It denies that when one is unscripturally put away, they become “unmarried” (I Cor. 7:11,15).

3)       It erroneously asserts that the terms “marriage” and “divorce” are used accommodatively in scripture (Mt. 5:32; 19:9).

4)       It adds to the divine order for remarriage [i.e. marriage, fornication, divorce (for that cause), and remarriage – Mt. 5:32; 19:9; cf. Mk. 16:16].  (See first article.)

5)       It denies that man has the ability to put asunder what God has joined together (Matt. 19:6).  

6)       It fails to acknowledge the completeness of God’s word by insinuating that other applications are needed to address individual circumstances (Col. 2:8-10).

7)       It negates the principle that those who are put away inevitably commit adultery when they marry another (Lk. 16:18),   

unless their original spouse has died (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39).


To embrace this redefined mental divorce theory is not simply a minor difference in “application” of a scriptural “principle.” Furthermore, it does not belong in the realm of conscience (Rom. 14). To believe and advocate this doctrine, one must pervert (Gal. 1:6-9) and wrest (II Pet. 3:16) numerous fundamental “principles” of gospel truth. As the man of God inquired, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psa. 11:3).  

It is my heart’s desire and prayer to God that those dearly beloved brethren who hold and/or defend this doctrine will reconsider their ways. “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls...” (Jer. 6:16).  

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