Divorce and Remarriage, part 2

This study is called "After the Divorce". What if you have already gone through a divorce (whether it was your fault or not), then what?

Advice to unmarried divorcees

1. Remember God still loves you.

A divorce is a heart rendering experience and it is easy to think that God rejects you because of it. But God's love is unconditional and He still loves you no matter what you may have done or had done to you.

2. Ask God's forgiveness and forgive your former spouse.

Ask God to forgive you for your failures, then forgive your former spouse for what he or she did. You might think you can't forgive, but God says you must. Forgiveness is an act of the will, so you must choose to forgive. Once you have forgiven your ex-spouse, you must receive God's forgiveness and forgive yourself.

3. Remain unmarried or be reconciled to your spouse if he or she is a Christian.

"But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not send his wife away." (1 Cor 7:10-11).

One of the first things many divorced people say after the divorce is, "I want to get married again someday." This is a shocking statement considering what they have just gone through. Even though they have been through a terrible experience, they are often too anxious to jump back into matrimony, rather than being healed and seeking God's will. People have a tendency to think, "The first marriage was his (her) fault, so my second marriage has a better chance of making it." On the contrary, while over 50% of first marriages end in divorce, statistics show over 70% of second marriages end in divorce. Divorced people who remarry usually have more problems in their second marriage because problems from the first marriage are carried into the second. A spouse who has been wounded in the first marriage will carry those wounds into the second. If the other person in the second marriage has been divorced, he or she will also carry those hurts into the marriage. This makes the spouses hypersensitive to same problems that were experienced in their first marriages. Dealing with children from previous marriages makes the situation even more difficult. Getting remarried to another person often doesn't simplify the problems but only compounds them.

God says divorced Christians should remain single or be reconciled to your former spouse. God always desires reconciliation. Some object to Paul's advice by saying, "Why can't I get married to someone else? After all, divorce is not the unforgivable sin." While it is true that divorce is not the unforgivable sin, it is also true that singleness is not the unkeepable commandment. God knows what is best for us even when we don't.

Advice to those already remarried

What happens if you are already divorced and remarried? God can still bless your marriage. He gives specific instructions to those who have already remarried.

1. Ask God's forgiveness for your disobedience.

God will forgive you when you truly mean it with your heart. Of course, there are some situations where God legitimately permits divorce and remarriage. (see Divorce & Remarriage, part 1)

2. Remain married to your present spouse.

If you will place your present marriage under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, He will bless it. God always deals with us in our present situation. Some churches wrongly teach you can't be right with God until you divorce your second husband and return to your first spouse. But this violates the principle set forth in Deut. 24:1-4. According to this passage, once a wife divorces and marries another, she cannot go back to her first husband and he is not allowed to take her again to be his wife.

We have other examples in the Bible dealing with second marriages. God deals with us one way before we make a decision and He deals with us another way after we have made a decision. God will work with us in our present condition, no matter how many mistakes we have made in our past. When Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4:16-18, He told her "you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband." He didn't tell her to go back to her first husband before she could get right with God. It would have been easier to unscramble eggs or put the toothpaste back into the tube than to undo all of her mistakes. Instead, Jesus took her in her present situation and told her to worship God.

In the marriage of David and Bathsheba, they committed adultery (not to mention the murder of Uriah), and yet Jesus was born through the line of David (Matt 1:6). Although the relationship started as adulterous, it was sanctified through forgiveness. We also find the principle in 1 Corinthians 7:24 which says, "let each man remain with God in that condition in which he was called." To put it another way, "God will work with you in your present state."

What about holding offices in the church?

When Paul writes Timothy and Titus concerning the qualifications for elders and deacons, he mentions one of the qualifications as being "the husband of one wife" (1Tim 3:2, 12, Titus 1:6). Bible scholars debate whether this refers to polygamists (those having two or more wives at the same time) or those who have been divorced and remarried. We believe that this refers to both groups. It is doubtful this refers only to polygamists because Paul doesn't even touch the subject of polygamy in any of his other writings, while he does teach concerning divorce.

The "husband of one wife" rule

Some argue that to exclude divorcees from being elders and deacons means the Church hasn't forgiven them entirely. But this isn't true because every church member is a forgiven Christian, yet very few are qualified for the office of elders and deacons. This list of qualifications has nothing to do with whether or not a person is forgiven; it has to do with being "above reproach" in the eyes of the world (1Tim 3:2,7).

Exceptions to the rule

There appears to be three exceptions to the "husband of one wife" rule. If God permits remarriage in some cases, then He must view the first marriages are terminated.

First, the Christian whose spouse has been unfaithful. (Matt. 19:9)

Second, the Christian who was married to an unbeliever who departed. (1 Cor. 7:15)

Third, the person who has become a Christian after he has been divorced. (2 Cor. 5:17, 1 Cor. 6:10-11)

God holds us accountable from the point of salvation onward.

While divorce might disqualify one from holding the office of elder or deacon, it does not disqualify one from preaching, teaching, evangelizing, or any other ministry, for the gifts and calling are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).

Ministering to the divorced

Church members should totally accept divorced people into fellowship. Many are hurting and wounded, and desperately need Christian fellowship and acceptance. Remember Jesus said, "However you want people to treat you, so treat them" (Matt 7:12). Put yourself into their shoes. How would you like to be treated if you were the victim of a divorce?

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