If there are two doctrines that are taught clearly in the Bible it is marriage and divorce. If there is one doctrine that is most confused, either on purpose or accident, it is, most specifically, the doctrine of divorce. Just as Jesus met the question of divorce head-on in Matthew 19:1-9 so shall we do here.
The biblical teaching on marriage is simple: “It is not good that the man should be alone…therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:18, 24). Marriage is the joining together of a man and a woman in a union that was created by God, and completed by the couple becoming “one flesh.” Once married, the role of the wife is primarily “to be mother of sons…[as well as] manag[er of] the Household” and the role of the husband is primarily to “provide for his wife and family.” The main limitation of marriage is that it is an exclusive relationship, meaning that promiscuity and adultery are “ruled out.” Also, indissolubility is only allowed when certain conditions are present. The Bible is clear that “what therefore God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6).
In Genesis 2:24 one can see that God views a couple married when the man leaves his mother and father (a new primary relationship/responsibility), the couple is joined together (a covenant with one another and God), and finally, join their two bodies together to create a complete whole, “one flesh.” There is one distinct way that this biblical view stands out from common practice today: becoming “one flesh” is solely intended for the marriage relationship, not any other relationship(s) (1 Cor. 6:16).
The Bible is clear about divorce as well: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). God abhors divorce and does not encourage it. “A marriage is intended to be a relationship, healing and growing and maturing through time, a ‘harvest of the Spirit,’ which is patterned on and in turn displays something of God’s covenant relationship.” A marriage union is not meant to be severed.
Although divorce is discouraged in the Bible, it is allowed under certain circumstances. The only grounds for divorce (or release from the marriage covenant, in the case of death) that are mentioned in the New Testament are “sexual immorality” (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:9), death (Rom. 7:2), and if an unbeliever in the relationship wishes to leave (1 Cor. 7:15). This differs from what is witnessed in our current society. Money is a large, but decreasing, reason for divorce, as are emotional factors; neither of which are biblical reasons for divorce.
The main objection to the view this author stands by (above) is that divorce is not biblically allowed under any circumstances (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). A second objection goes to the opposite extreme and says that a divorce can take place for any reason (Deuteronomy 24:1). This author stands by his interpretation of scripture (shown above) and believes that in the case of “sexual immorality,” death, or an unbeliever leaving the marriage, divorce is permitted to take place.
The topic of divorce may raise questions concerning remarriage. Specifically, is remarriage allowed? Yes. If a spouse dies, the living spouse is permitted to marry again without committing adultery (Romans 7:3). Also, if a divorce takes place due to “sexual immorality” then an individual is free to remarry due to the first marriage covenant being severed. That being said, if there is even the slightest chance of reconciliation to the first marriage, a second marriage should not take place. “Remarriage always falls under the cloud of the broken covenant of the first marriage.”
When divorce happens in the church and society, it harms the immediate family as well as society. Ultimately what is at play in divorce is love and sin. A marriage starts with love, and sin enters into the relationship to destroy it. Giving sin the victory (divorce) may lead those in the church and society to believe that God will stop loving them as a result of their sin. This is not the case, but there is no doubt that divorce, if allowed to happen, will not just affect how individuals view one another, but also how individuals view God.
God created the union of a man and a woman in the marriage covenant as a means to complete the incomplete. He did not make man to be alone (Gen. 2:18) and when one enters into marriage they are able to experience a relationship that is unlike any other relationship on earth.
-  Perkin, H.W. “Marriage, Marriage Customs in Bible Times.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001), 742.
-  Granberg, L.I and Root, J.R. “Marriage, Theology of.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001), 743.
-  Atkinson, D.J. “Divorce.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001), 347.
-  “The State of our Unions.” ed. Wilcox, W. Bradford. (Charlottesville, VA: National Marriage Project, 2009), 45.
-  Atkinson, D.J. “Remarriage.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001), 1007.
Atkinson, D.J. “Divorce.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 345. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.
Atkinson, D.J. “Remarriage.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 1007. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.
Granberg, L.I and Root, J.R. “Marriage, Theology of.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 743. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.
Perkin, H.W. “Marriage, Marriage Customs in Bible Times.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 740. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.
“The State of our Unions.” ed. Wilcox, W. Bradford. Charlottesville, VA: National Marriage Project, 2009. http://www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/pdfs/Union_11_25_09.pdf (accessed September 16, 2011).
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In today’s society divorce is prevalent because people give up. Their expectations change or aren’t met and they essentially give up. I have had conversations with people recently in regards to divorce. Lack of sexual intimacy, lack of communication, finances, etc. I think people have forgotten the foundation and principles of what marriage is. Marriage isn’t just a label. It’s a commitment, joining of the flesh. Two souls becoming one. This is what marriage is supposed to be.
Culturally, the Old Testament’s defines marriage of how marriage was viewed by our grandparents and even our parents. My parents have been married for 28 years. I have known people who have been married for over 50+. Unfortunately, this level of commitment isn’t prominent in our generation.
Matthew 5:32 “32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
When I read that verse earlier this week I was confused by it. Culturally, divorce is wrong in the Old Testament. New Testament says it’s okay as long as x, y, z. But this particular verse is saying if any one divorces, the wife will commit adultery because the husband has left her, which leaves her to find someone else. Which breaks the union between them both.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of divorce. I tell myself everyday that I’m only doing the married thing ONCE. And if there ever comes a time when the dreadful “D” word is passed around, then it’s time to work at our marriage. Granted, there are some instances where you’ve done all you can and ultimately divorce is the only solution. However, as Christians, shouldn’t we strive to grow in our marriage as we do in our relationship with God?
I think the problem in today’s society is that there is not enough God in relationships and marriages. I believe if God was in forefront, divorce wouldn’t even be an issue or a solution.
God is the solution, He is the union.
I really enjoyed reading this article. I look forward to more.
You nailed it at the end of your comment. “God is the solution, He is the union.”
There are always a number of excuses for why a marriage does not work out and a couple seeks divorce, but probably one of the most common reasons (within the Church) for divorce is lack of loving God (although this will rarely be mentioned).
Our love for God will essentially get everything else in our life in order and prioritized correctly. When God is not the center of our lives, or a marriage, there are going to be things that happen that are not intended, divorce being one of them.
Thanks for the comment, and thanks for joining the conversation!