As I preach through 1 Corinthians, I am grappling with divorce and remarriage. In the next few posts, I’m going to summarize the major arguments, then critique those arguments, and then offer some final conclusions. First come the arguments allowing for divorce and remarriage. Second the arguments against divorce and remarriage. I will allow the position that accepts divorce in some circumstances but rejects remarriage to be subsumed in the no divorce position’s arguments.
1. Jesus’ clearly gave an exception multiple times (Matt. 5:32 and 19:9).
Matt. 5:32 is part of a famous sermon that would have been heard everywhere Jesus preached. He also repeated the exception clause (except for fornication) in the lengthiest passage in the NT dealing with divorce (Matt. 19:3-12). The most natural reading of this clause permits divorce today. This is probably the strongest reason to allow divorce because not only is it repeated, but it appears to be the obvious meaning of the text.
2. Allowing divorce and remarriage for the injured party is a demonstration of mercy and grace.
This is a theological reason culled from dozens of statements throughout the Psalms about the lovingkindness of God. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for missing the major points of the faith one of which was mercy (Matt. 23:23). The fruit of His Spirit include love and kindness. The merciful will inherit the earth. God endures the wicked and even gives them many blessings for a long time before the final judgment. David served Mephibosheth. And on and on, the proof texts and examples go throughout Scripture of God’s delight in mercy. What could be more gracious and merciful than allowing someone bruised through a terrible marriage to get relief with a divorce and then peace with a second marriage to a godly Christian?
3. The binding that Paul references in 1 Cor. 7:15 probably means “bound to marriage.”
He uses that same picturesque term in 7:39 where it clearly refers to being bound to marriage. If we are bound to marriage there, why would 7:15 not refer to marriage? This seems like the most natural, surface reading of the passage. On top of that, other interpretations of this passage stretch the natural flow of language and the context.
4. 1 Cor. 7 sets up several “rules” and then offers exceptions to those rules. So, we should expect an exception to the prohibition to divorce.
There is an exception to staying single: Marriage is better than ongoing temptation (7:1-2). There is an exception to paying your conjugal debts: fasting (7:5). Marital and family issues are so varied and complicated, there must be exceptions. Even though the general rule is no divorce, there are sad, sickening, and even terrifying circumstances that call for exceptions. Paul knew about human nature and so he included exceptions for these kinds of abuse and desertion.
5. Ezra seemed to bless divorce under certain circumstances (Ezra 10:1-14).
Ezra as the spiritual leader and the people both took responsibility to break up marriages. The reasons for divorce may have changed for the NT, but the barest conclusion to take away from this account is that divorce is sometimes blessed by God.
6. God divorced Israel in Jeremiah 3:8.
When Israel sinned against her “husband” the offended party acted to give a certificate of divorce.
Proposition 1: God had the right and exercised the right to divorce His bride for her unfaithfulness.
Proposition 2: I must be like God.
Conclusion: I have the right and may exercise the right to divorce my bride for her unfaithfulness.
7. This is the most common position today as well as being found in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The accumulated wisdom of years means the evidence must be very strong to oppose it. They had the Holy Spirit as well as we. So, why would we depart from the position that is far more common?