Holly T. Ashley

Oh? Did I type that outloud?

Permissible Divorce: By David Ashley, M.A.A., M.Div.

The following is an excerpt from the Redemption. Restoration. Recovery. (R3) Domestic Violence Services and Training manual (Chapter: “Church Discipline”) and is used by permission.
David Ashley, M.A.Apologetics, M.Divinity (AKA: The Pastor of Pump: Founder, Cross Strength Ministries)


Permissible Divorce

“The women of my people you drive out from their delightful houses; from their young children, you take away my splendor forever,” (Mic. 2:9).

God never intended for there to be a separation of husband and wife. God created human beings in His likeness, giving them worth, dignity and significance[1]As stated in Genesis 2:24, God intended for man and woman to “hold fast” and to “become one flesh” as in one unit, as He so lovingly described in His covenant to Israel: “‘I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. And I swore to you and entered into a covenant with you,” declares the Lord Jehovah, “‘and you became Mine,” (Jer. 2:2b).

However, due to the fall of man and the sin that incurred, people did not comply with God’s original design. Man’s sinfulness, rebellion, and “hardened heart,” as Jesus reminded us, provisions were put in place by Moses – but make no mistake, God hates divorce, and sees it as violence: “‘For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘covers his garment with violence,’ says the Lord of hosts. So, guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless,” (Mal 2:16). Since adultery came with it a sentence of death by stoning, it certainly puts God’s statement of divorcing your wife as “covering one’s garment with violence” in a whole new light, so to speak.

In Deuteronomy chapter 24, we find in the first verse the divorce law from Moses: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her… he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand… sends her out of his house… she departs out of his house…” (Dt. 24:1).  Jesus made it clear that the “indecency” Moses spoke of was for sexual immorality only, “He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery,” (Mt. 19:8-9).

As a matter of fact, God Himself, reiterated this decree when He divorced Israel for its unfaithfulness: “…For all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce,” (Jer. 3:8a). From the disciples stand point, including that of Paul, it was almost too much to bear and determined that staying single was a nobler route: (See Matthew 19:10; 1 Corinthians 7:8).

In Matthew 5:31, 32 Jesus explicitly abrogated the Mosaic legislation that allowed men to divorce their wives. He viewed the practice as a violation of the integrity of women. Adulterous men who divorce their wives reduce them to the status of whores, using them as commodities to be passed around through the expedient of easy divorce.

By divorcing their wives, men treat them as adulteresses. By marrying a woman discarded from a previous marriage, a man perpetuates the demeaning process and becomes guilty of adultery.

Jesus deliberately withdrew from men the ruler’s right of discarding a wife at will and reinstated the creational pattern of the lifelong “one flesh” union. His disciples understood his intent accurately. But the principle of male privilege was so deeply ingrained in their mentality that they declared the freedom available in celibacy preferable to a commitment to life-long monogamous marriage (Mt 19:10).[2]

Scripture is filled with multiple passages whereby God refers to His relationship covenant with His people as a marriage, meant to last and the NT makes it clear in Ephesians 5:22-33, “That this is more than a mere analogy; rather, the Biblical norm for Christian marriage is found in the relationship of Christ to His church (the prototype of which was the relationship of God to His bride, Israel): As Christ… so too the husband; as the church… so too the wife.” [3] Yet there is indeed a distinction, and each have their distinct roles.[4] God never intended for the Covenant to be violated with a divorce, let alone infidelity. But marriage is not unconditional, as God so demonstrated and since He himself does not permit unfaithfulness, neither does He force it upon His creation.

When the covenant is broken. When following Christ is a competition that will eventually lead to harm or even death – then a divorce may be the only option.

“I came to cast fire on the earth… Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:49, 51-53).

The Apostle Paul twice dealt with divorce. In his discussion of the law in Rom. 7:1–3, Paul used the illustration of marriage to show the authority of the law. He reaffirmed the principles of the sanctity of marriage, the wrongfulness of divorce, and the potential consequences of remarriage. In 1 Cor. 7:10–16 Paul reiterated the need to preserve the marriage commitment.

Based on Rom. 7:1–3 and 1 Cor. 7:39, Paul believed that divorce was no longer an issue once one spouse had died. The remaining spouse was free to marry as long as the new marriage was “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39). Therefore, marriage in Scripture represented a sacred bond between one man and one woman for one lifetime. The concept of marriage was ordained by God and applied to believers and nonbelievers alike. This had ramifications for the leadership qualifications for God’s other institution, the church (1 Tim. 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9). A breaking of the marriage covenant opposed the plan of God and divided the God-ordained institution of the family.[5]

One final instance of divorce mentioned in the Bible is that of abandonment or separation. In the OT, as is today, idol worship and the worship of foreign gods was abundant. God specifically commanded the Israelites not to marry these “foreigners” who practiced this idolatry and other things and further stated that they were an abomination. This is not to be confused with or made into a race or ethnicity issue, it was specific to the worship of foreign gods, idolatry and other unacceptable cultural practices and not unlike Paul’s command found in 2 Corinthians 2:14, believers are not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers.

John MacArthur describes the specifics of the situation this way:

“The Ammonites and the Moabites were nations east of the river Jordan, outside the Promised Land, who were regarded as especially hostile to Israel (Deut. 23:3-4). And in Lev. 18:3, Egypt is regarded as morally equal to Canaan. The peoples of the land who kept themselves distinct from the returned temple-community are thus portrayed as the same in principle and in character as these ancient enemies. These are specifically wives (Ezra 9:2) of foreign nations who had not abandoned their worship of other gods, for [Ezra] 6:21 makes it clear that such people could join the people of Israel if they were willing to follow the Lord God alone.”[6]

But as history has a way of repeating itself, much like modern day today, the Israelites lives turned into a literal holy hell because of their disobedience to God and marrying those who did not worship God alone, as a matter of fact, these brides and their children, down-right refused to worship God alone.

After much lamenting, Ezra gave the command to the men of the Promised Land to divorce their wives in accordance with the law:

“And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: ‘We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.’ Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So, they took the oath” (Ezra 10:2-5).

We are called to be peace keepers. There is no peace in a volatile marriage. Therefore, when the marriage covenant has violated the law of God and since we know that persistent, consistent, aggressive behavior leads to violence, violence leads to death, and the impact of the children’s spiritual growth is then hindered – the covenant has been broken – and divorce is sometimes the only option.

Perhaps this is why Paul justified divorce in the event that a non-believing spouse leaves the relationship. It would most certainly, “keep the peace.”

“But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace,” (1Cor 7:15).

The word used for “separate” is:  χωρίζω –  chōrizō; meaning to separate or divide – which in the case of refusing to honor Christ as Lord – and keep with His commands to respect and honor your spouse, violence would most certainly constitute a reason for separating if not totally “abandoning” the marriage relationship.[7]

Some experts believe that Biblical abandonment includes even mental and emotional abandonment of the marriage, in addition to a professed believer who abandons the marriage:

Although the provisions of 1 Corinthians 7:15 refer primarily to desertion by an unbelieving spouse, it should be noted that a believer guilty of desertion is to be treated as an unbeliever (1 Tm 5:8). Behavior equivalent to the abandonment of the marriage relationship constitutes a breach of conjugal commitment and becomes subject to the provision stated in 1 Corinthians 7:15.[8]

Sexual sin: Although Jesus referred to the term “porneia,” Köstenberger warns that although the word porneia is a general term for sexual sin, no one can derive a doctrine of nonsexual “no-fault” divorce from Jesus’ use of the word.”[9]

Western society, with its new legacy of sexual immorality and sin leaves marriage and divorce across the board imminently doomed and we should be immensely grateful that the law requiring adulterers to be stoned has been dismissed or else most all of the Western culture with eyes to see would face swift extinction:

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matt 5:28).

For more information on R3 Domestic Violence Training and services – go to www.Redemption3.com or www.CrossStrengthMinistries.org

[1] Köstenberger, A. J. (2010). God, Marriage, and Family Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. (2nd ed.). Wheaton, IL: Crossways.
[2] Elwell, W. A. & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, p. 636.
[3] Adams, J. E. (1980) Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p. 71.
[4] Köstenberger, A. J. (2010). God, Marriage, and Family Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. (2nd ed.). Wheaton, IL: Crossways, 256.
[5] Spradlin, M. R. (2003). Divorce. In C. Brand, et al. (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 436). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
[6] MacArthur, J. (2008). English Standard Version Study Bible. In: The Book of Ezra (p. 819). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
[7] Thomas, R.L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
[8] Walter A. Elwell, W. A. & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, p. 636.
[9] Andreas J. Köstenberger, A. J. (2010). God, Marriage, and Family Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. (2nd ed.). Wheaton, ILL: Crossways, p. 231.



One comment on “Permissible Divorce: By David Ashley, M.A.A., M.Div.

  1. OKRickety
    July 17, 2018

    ‘Sexual sin: Although Jesus referred to the term “porneia,” Köstenberger warns that although the word porneia is a general term for sexual sin, no one can derive a doctrine of nonsexual “no-fault” divorce from Jesus’ use of the word.”

    I cannot determine the meaning of this paragraph. How does “a general term for sexual sin” relate to “a doctrine of nonsexual ‘no-fault’ divorce”? What is the difference between “nonsexual ‘no-fault’ divorce” and the standard “no-fault divorce” of today? Are some arguing that porneia is a catch-all meaning no fault is needed for a divorce? That would seem contradictory to the argument of Jesus’ day, supported by the response of the disciples to the statement. Köstenberger in The Bible’s Teaching on Marriage and Family, states this:

    “Jesus, for his part, interpreted the passage as allowing divorce only in cases of sexual immorality, that is, sexual marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9; cf. Matthew 5:32; Greek porneia). Even in such cases, divorce is only permissible, not encouraged or even preferable.”

    I recommend you rewrite this paragraph to convey your true intent, whatever it is.

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This entry was posted on May 1, 2018 by in Call to Action, Domestic Abuse and tagged , , .
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