By Jeff Belknap

Those who are advocating that a civil divorce is not necessarily a real divorce (as well as those who merely advocate that we should fellowship their “application”), have attempted to pigeonhole those who will not agree to fellowship their doctrine.  The allegations have been inaccurate and in many cases, absurd.  Such misrepresentations only cloud the issue and divert attention from the real matter of concern.  So that you may know where I really stand on this issue, I offer my personal convictions. 

  1.  It does not matter who initiates the civil proceedings!  (Scripture does not say “whoever initiates divorce against his wife…,” or “whoever files for divorce…,” but “whoever divorces his wife…”).  Those who accuse me (and others who have spoken out against this doctrine) of believing in “the race to the courthouse” confuse the "filing" with the final putting away.  However, one may file, have a change of heart and never go through with their initial intention.  In any lawsuit, the civil authorities finalize their decision after weighing the case.  It is only at this point, that one becomes put away or divorced.

  2.  The innocent party may counter sue (if not, why not?).  The law has given her this right in many states, and since filing is not equivalent to obtaining a divorce, the innocent mate (as one not yet put away), would have the right to petition the civil authorities in the matter.  Again, the civil authorities make the decision after hearing both petitioners.

  3. I do not believe that in a scriptural divorce, “the cause” has to be written (stipulated) on the court documents!  The question is, was fornication the factor that motivated the innocent party to go to the civil authorities for the divorce?  God knows (cf. II Cor. 8:12)!

  4. The issue of controversy is simply this:  When a civil proceeding is over and a divorce is finalized, may a put away (divorced; repudiated) person someday later “divorce” their ex-spouse, if and when the person who secured the civil divorce commits fornication?  Does the remaining presence of the spiritual bond after an unscriptural civil divorce extend the innocent (already) put away person’s right to take some kind of action (procedure) which would allow them to “scripturally” remarry?  Doesn’t the Bible teach that it is possible for an innocent mate to be “put away” without their consent (Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk. 16;18)?  If it does, whatever procedure one argues to be what the Lord meant by “put asunder,” “put away,” “divorce,” [Greek: “apoluo,” “aphiemi,” and “chorizo”] would already have been done by the ungodly mate against the innocent mate.  Hence, any way you look at it, the innocent is still “put away,” and therefore has no hope to scripturally remarry another while their ex-mate lives (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39).

Many emotional examples and fleshly appeals (II Pet. 2:18) are being given to justify and encourage fellowship with this doctrine. However, unfortunate illustrations and distressing scenarios have always been employed when a book, chapter and verse is lacking (I Pet. 4:11; Col. 3:17).  How many times have we heard those involved in various “Christian” religions argue, “What about the man who dies on the way to be baptized?” “Would God condemn him to Hell, when he wasn’t able to be baptized?”  “Is he just out of luck?” 

Ungodly people continue to perpetrate all sorts of injustices upon the faithful, making their lives difficult.  However, as Christians, it is pleasing to God when we patiently accept mistreatment for doing what is right.  Respecting the civil authorities as God commands (Rom. 13:1-7), may indeed cause suffering on the part of the innocent.  However, Christ has left us an example of righteousness through undeserved suffering (I Pet. 2:19-21; Heb. 5:8-9).  I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will not allow us to be tempted above that which we are able to bear.  Not all the “eunuchs” in Matthew 19:12 that made themselves “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake” were put away fornicators.  Some were simply the unfortunate victims of an ungodly spouse and unjust rulers (cf. Mt. 5:32; I Cor. 7:10-11, 15), yet the Master stated, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (emp. jhb). 

Home | Search This Site

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