Remarriage and Adultery

Probably one of the touchiest subjects that can be brought up in Christian circles is that of Divorce and Remarriage. It cuts rather close to the bone in just about all church communities. We now have millions of Christians who get divorced and re-married. While once the church was distinct from the general culture in this issue, it has now caught up and been mired in the same devaluation of marriage which it once frowned upon.

Getting Real on the Issue

If the church is going to have any hope of finding God’s wisdom on issues where its own values have changed in recent generations, then it must at least remain conscious of the voice of God’s Word. While interpretations, arguments and counter-arguments might rage in certain circles, it would be wrong to pretend that what the Bible says is not there.

Let’s at least acknowledge a couple of facts. The church has moved its goal posts regarding divorce and remarriage, just as society has done. That means we were either not Biblical before or we are not seeing things the same way any more, or something.

Historically the western cultural standards for indissoluble marriage came from the Christian church. More recently the church’s practice of easy divorce has come from the culture. So we have moved from a church which sets social standards to a church which allows the secular culture to set its standards. That seems very much like the salt having lost its saltiness, don’t you think?

The Issue is Discussed in the Bible

This might come as a shock to some people, but the Bible does speak about divorce and remarriage. It has a fair bit to say about it. While the things that it says are challenging, they come from such reliable sources as the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and from the Apostle Paul, who gave us most of the New Testament theology and practice.

While there is a nice thought in today’s church world that just about any kind of remarriage is OK, there are a number of comments in the Bible which clearly indicate that remarriage constitutes adultery, at least on some occasions.

That link between remarriage and adultery has caused the church to give a very high regard to marriage, to publish marriage banns, to insist on time for the couple to be sure of their choice, and to apply marriage vows that are very binding on the couple.

Today, however, there is a sense that marriage is a more casual commitment, it can be entered into just on the basis of emotional confidence and it can be thrown away if it doesn’t work out. With that, too, comes the idea that people are entitled to a second go if their first try didn’t work out as well as they hoped.

All of that brings disrepute to marriage.

The Unspeakable Link

The problem for the church today is that just about every congregation, denomination and group has people as members, leaders and heroes who have also been divorced and remarried. To make matters worse, it seems a bit tough to go to the heathen who are quite entangled in divorces and remarriages and entice them with such heavy-handed messages as “Your Remarriage is Adultery!”

It’s just not politically correct to discuss such things. So the link between remarriage and adultery is one of those “unspeakable” things.

But sociologist, Gerard Egan, suggests that “undiscussibility” in an organisation is an indication of ill-health. So if the church cannot discuss this topic, then the church has become unhealthy as an organisation.

So allow me to press your boundaries a little by simply putting on the table the fact that the Bible makes a clear link between remarriage and adultery, such that Jesus Christ tells us that (at least in some cases) remarriage is adultery.

Politically Correct

The suggestion that remarriage may represent something evil is frowned upon, since it might reflect on someone who is a respected church leader or pastor. So the church has become silent on the subject. Thus it is interesting to see that Jesus was not silent on this topic.

To be politically correct, let’s not make anything of what Jesus said, but just have a little peep at it. All we want to do is acknowledge that Jesus linked remarriage with adultery. That is not to say that He did so in every case – but He at least did so in some cases. So too did the Apostle Paul.

Let’s just do a quick skim of those references and leave the implications for some other time, a l-o-n-g time from now. That way it can’t really be too much harm to look at what the Bible says.

Bible Quotes

All I want you to acknowledge in these quotes is that Jesus and Paul do actually make a link between divorce and remarriage – at least in some cases. That’s all we’re looking at here.

“But I say to you, That whoever will put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever will marry her that is divorced commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32

“And I say to you, Who ever will put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and will marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her which is put away commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9

“And he said to them, Who ever will put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her. And if a woman will put away her husband, and be married to another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:11,12

“Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:18

“For the woman which has an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” Romans 7:2,3

“And to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” 1Corinthians 7:10,11

A Consistent Theme

I don’t know whether you noticed, but the connection between remarriage and adultery is made in those verses a total of nine times. That means it has more direct Biblical emphasis that being “born again”.

Note also that it is consistent. Christ taught it and so did Paul. Christ made his statements in the context of upholding what God created in Eden (Matthew 19:4-8). Paul and Christ gave special emphasis to the lasting quality of the bond that God creates for the couple when they are married. That bond is the reason why future divorce and remarriage is seen as adultery by God, Christ and the church.

So, What are You Saying?

At about this point someone will be jumping up and down accusing me of saying things I haven’t said. Read my lips! I am simply getting YOU to read what the Bible says. What you do about it is your business. What the broader church decides as its theology on the issue is the church’s business.

But if you blithely head off into a course of action based on what is culturally popular and you have not stopped to look at the words in red in your Bible (assuming you have a Red Letter edition with the words of Christ in red ink) then you are in danger of coming to conclusions which Jesus may wish to talk with you about.

I am not your judge. I would be in danger if I were to make judgements. I’m just a regular Joe who thinks we need to remain at least Biblical, whatever else we decide to do.

Now, class dismissed!

Milton Got Marriage Wrong

The English poet and freedom fighter, John Milton, had much to say about marriage, love and divorce. His comments throw light on present day notions that, like Milton’s, are also out of step with God’s wisdom. So, allow me to share with you some lines from Milton as discussion points on the important subjects of marriage and love.

John Milton

John Milton stands tall in English history. He lived from 1608 to 1674 and was a staunch advocate for civil and religious liberty. He was a successful advocate for the “unshackled press”. He stood before the English Parliament and won the day on several key issues. He worked with Oliver Cromwell and supported the cause of Parliament while opposing the rule of church leaders.

A Church History post on John Milton, summarising his life, can be found at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/john-milton

John Milton and Marriage

It seems that Milton’s support of personal freedoms lent toward freedom from responsibility. It seems he was really seeking ‘licence’ rather than ‘liberty’.

He took a young bride, Mary Powell, who at 17 was half his age. Milton’s biographer points out that he had a low regard for his own commitment to the marriage and to the wedding vows he gave to this young lass. Milton treated Mary more like a household slave than a bride. He did not see himself as “one” with her, but as one competing with her, to dominate her.

After just a few weeks of marriage Mary abandoned Milton, and returned to her family home. Milton wrote several letters to her which she refused to answer. He then sent his servant to bring her back but she refused to go. Milton was infuriated, believing that his honour and repose had been violated.

John Milton and Divorce

In the face of Mary’s refusal to perform as his wife, Milton appealed to the English Parliament for a divorce. He sought “domestic liberty“, but those who considered his situation saw that he was really seeking “license”, meaning that he sought to go outside of God’s laws and get his own way.

Milton’s predicament was saved by his wife, who humbled herself and fell at his feet, pleading his forgiveness with tears. It seems she was forced to this by the fear that he would gain a divorce and she would lose her place as his wife, unworthy though that place had become.

In order to please Milton, Mary accepted what the biographer calls a “servitude at home below the dignity of a woman!”

Milton’s Appeal for Divorce

Milton had no moral ground for his appeal for divorce from Mary. When he addressed the Parliament he tried to substitute cultural values in the place of the Bible and the Law of Christ, upon which England was built. He tried to suggest that marriage laws and the rules against divorce were a matter of “custom“, not moral imperative.

He also appealed to a sentimental notion, by suggesting that marriage could only be what God created it to be if “charity” prevailed. His own words mocked his personal actions, where he demeaned his wife and accused her of not being loving toward him.

Milton laments on behalf of those “who have, unwarily, and in a thing which they have never practiced before (meaning marriage), made themselves the bondmen of a luckless and helpless matrimony”.

Milton sought the right to divorce a wife if the man had made an unwise or non-beneficial union. If a wife did not prove to be all that God would have intended in creating a helper for him, then the woman was deficient and should not be allowed to stand in the way of the happiness God clearly created woman to bring to the man.

Love in Marriage

The following statement about love in marriage has been widely quoted. It has been seen as a worthy summary, even though it came as part of his selfish entreaty to be allowed to divorce the wife he scorned. In this quote we see something of the misconception of marriage that obstructs people, even today.

“Love in marriage cannot live nor subsist unless it be mutual; and, where love cannot be, there can be left of wedlock nothing but the empty husk of an outside matrimony, as undelightful and unpleasing to God as any other kind of hypocrisy.” John Milton.

Milton’s Mistakes

Milton errs on several accounts. His comments show that his insights are not divine but are “earthly” and “sensual” (James 3:15). Milton looked at marriage as a human relationship. He sought to abandon it based on his own feelings and he appealed to have new laws for divorce, so that man’s enjoyment could be elevated over God’s institution.

Milton elevates what I refer to as “sentiment”. Human senses are his primary concern. The way a man feels and the emotional benefits provided to a man are concerns which he argues should be given sway when marriage is being considered.

In the process, Milton cheapened marriage. He brought it down from a divine privilege to a tool for human pleasure. Rather than being a unique union conferred by God, Milton wanted it to be a convenient relationship with a guarantee of human happiness attached. Rather than being a relationship which God requires husbands and wives to work on, by His processes, Milton wanted it to be a throw-away connection, which delivered what he wanted, whether he deserved that output or not.

In his appeals Milton also reduced love from being a divinely selfless commitment to being a conditional act, demanding a return on investment through “mutual” response.

True Love in Marriage

Since “love seeks not her own” (1Corinthians 13:5) and husbands are commanded to love (Ephesians 5:25) while the wife is not, true love in marriage is seen in the very opposite of what Milton did and argued for.

True love in marriage, gives of itself, selflessly, for the good of the wife, wanting what is best for her, despite the personal cost. Marriage joins a man and woman as one moral body, so their sexual intimacy is holy and legitimate. It also brings the couple together in a covenant, which is a bond between them which God watches over.

The husband’s love and the wife’s devotion are acts of worship to God, not acts of selfish investment, for a self-indulgent return. If the love is not reciprocated or the devotion not valued, both the husband and wife have no alternative but to live in the fear of God and seek the favour of God to bring blessing in what would otherwise be an unhappy state.

Human happiness is not a core issue. Milton’s happiness is a much lesser consideration than his character. His character was out of order and so his happiness suffered. Giving him the right to abandon his wife would not have made him happy, since his own failings were his real problem.

Applying that to Today

Sentimental notions about marriage are out of place. Selfish demands in marriage are out of place. They were not appropriate in Milton’s life and Milton’s day and they are no more worthy today.

Those who will enjoy a long and happy marriage are those who make their vows to God and who then rely on God, in the fear of God and with faith in God, to see them through the various challenges.

Sister Etter and the Miracles

This is the day that … Maria Woodworth-Etter was born in Ohio, in 1844.

Roberts Liardon refers to her as “the grandmother of the Pentecostal movement” (God’s Generals, page 47).

In her autobiography she tells how she was converted whilst “going under the water” at her baptism. She was 13 years of age (page 7). Almost immediately she says she heard God’s call to preach – and this in a day when women preachers were frowned upon.

Marriage to P.H. Woodworth resulted in six children being born, five of whom died in childhood. Nor did her husband share her desire for ministry. She divorced her first husband (1891) and married Samuel Etter in 1902.

Sister Etter, as she was known, preached to thousands, sharing the gospel and praying for the sick. Significant for hundreds and even thousands in her meetings was the experience of falling in a trance, akin to the frontier meetings of an earlier time.

In her preaching ‘holiness’ was her initial emphasis. By 1885 she claimed 500 were converted every week at her meetings. Then she began to emphasise ‘tongues’ and ‘healing’. Thousands flocking to her 8000-seat tent meetings.

She wrote many books – including one that foretold the destruction of San Francisco by a tidal wave in 1890! “Thousands fled to the hills because of her prophecy” (Dictionary of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements, page 901). Her book, Acts of the Holy Ghost, impacted many who held it as one of their most treasured texts. One of the Cambridge Seven missionaries, Stanley Smith, gave such testimony.

And most odd were her trances. Sometimes during a service she would “stand like a statue for an hour or more with her hands raised…” (ibid, page 901). To her, “lack of physical manifestation was a sign of apostasy!” (God’s Generals, page 55).

Healing people by “punching them in the stomach” or “whacking them in the neck” was one of her methods (page 73). It is believed Smith Wigglesworth adopted this method from her. He preached in her Tabernacle in Indianapolis after her death.

Whatever one’s theological leaning, Maria Woodworth-Etter must be regarded as one of the most interesting and influential figures in the history of Christendom. She proclaimed the Pentecostal message before Azusa Street and the emergence of the organised Pentecostal groups. Her miracles, preaching and impact did much to open people’s eyes to the restoration of New Testament manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

For a more detailed account of her life and ministry visit: http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/199901/086_woodsworth_etter.cfm

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

The Church of England is Born

This is the day that … Henry VIII was excommunicated by the Pope of Rome. It was 1533.

He was 42 years of age, had sat upon the throne of England since 1509 … and (in 1521) had been awarded the title “Defender of the Faith” – by Pope Leo X!

Why? Because Henry had taken up his pen and denounced Martin Luther as a heretic.

Henry VIII was a loyal son of the Roman church. Until, that is, he set his eyes on Anne Boleyn! This raven-haired beauty, incidentally, “had a sixth finger on her left hand, a deformity she skilfully concealed…”

The problem was that Henry was already married to Catherine of Aragon … and after “16 years of repeated pregnancies” there was still no male heir. So Henry decided that his marriage was not legal in the first place – after all, Catherine had been the widow of Henry’s brother … and didn’t Leviticus have something to say about that? So he demanded that the Pope annul the marriage.

The Pope, however, stood firm. He may not have done so had it not been for the fact that he (the Pope) was “really a prisoner in the hands of Charles V of Spain … who was Catherine’s nephew”!

Suffice to say Henry divorced Catherine … married Anne, who was already pregnant (January, 1533) … and passed the Act of Supremacy (1534), which states that he is “the Supreme Head in Earth immediately under God of the Church of England”.

By September, 1533, Henry already had his roving eye on Jane Seymour.

Thus Anne was declared to be guilty of adultery, beheaded on Tower Hill … and Henry married Jane less than a month later.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Marriage Scriptures

Due to requests for Bible Verses about Marriage I have compiled a quick list of Marriage Scriptures which give people access to some key thoughts about marriage as discussed in the Bible.Much that is taught about marriage is not listed neatly but is embedded into the broader picture of God’s dealings with people. For that reason some of the important truths need to be mined – dug out of the pages of the Bible. That does not mean the truths are not important, but rather that our whole life walk with God is more important than any one aspect of that journey.The following collection of Bible Verses on Marriage covers some of the Key Thoughts. At a later time I will collate a discussion about Bible Verses from the early chapters of Genesis – since Jesus referred back to them. But for now, here are the Key Scriptures.

God Created Marriages

“And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, he made into a woman, and brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:22

Husbands are to Love their Wife

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” Ephesians 5:25

Husbands are to Cling to their Wife

“Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will cling to his wife: and they will be one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

Wives are to Submit to their Husband

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22

God Hates Divorce

“For the LORD, the God of Israel, says he hates putting away (divorce): for one covers violence with his garment, says the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi 2:16

God Created Sex

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27

God Wants Marriages to Produce Godly Children

“And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And why one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” Malachi 2:15

Forgiveness is the Key to Happiness in the Home

“And be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

Love is Awesome

“Love suffers long, and is kind; love does not envy; love does not promote itself, is not puffed up, does not behave badly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” 1Corinthians 13:4-8

Marriage is a Covenant – so God is part of every marriage

“… the LORD hath been witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously: yet is she your companion, and the wife of your covenant.” Malachi 2:14

God Joins the Couple Together so their Sexual Intimacy is not Sinful

“What therefore God has joined together, do not let man put asunder (separate).” Mark 10:9

“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Hebrews 13:4