MDR 7 – Once Married, Always Married

adam_eve_loveA lifelong marriage is a great blessing and only death is the one who can end the marriage. If it was so, many would probably consider it as a blessing from God because it represents a lifetime warranty on marriage. But on the other hand, for the group of people where the partner is actually cheating and violent, this would be a life sentence in prison with the most cruel enemy, and the representative of the blessing would have been the death.

There is not everything that lasts forever or for a lifetime, and maybe that’s why marriage is so special. Imagine; some have proposed to you and said: “I love you, and only you!” and at the wedding, they say: “I love and honor you, keeping you in good and bad days till the death do us off.” It may well impossible be more affirmative that one that you love, this lifelong commitment to you. That is why it is so devastating when these promises are broken.

When people commit adultery or being cruel and / or violent, marriage starts to squabble and what happens next? Most marriages can be healed of course, but it requires effort from both parties. If it has reached a stage where the “cancer” has killed the marriage, there are three ways out:

# 1. They can either continue together and suffer in the hope that it will be better. # 2. They can separate without divorce (which seems to be impossible in Norway today when divorce happens automatically after 3 years. I’m not fully inside the technical here), or # 3. They can be divorced.

But should a Christians divorce? Doesn’t marriage last forever? Well, I’d like to be agrees on the phrase “once married, always married”, and that God blesses each marriage and keep it together no matter what happens. But I have bad news for you. Some marriages actually cannot be saved, and the Bible doesn’t promise that every marriage has a lifetime warranty.

Certainly there are places where the Bible suggests a lifelong marriage and only the death ends the marriage, but it is only when the reader ignores the context or the actual words used in the scriptures. An example is “… what God has joined together, no man can put asunder” (Matt. 19: 6). But what the text actually says is “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (NASB) (English NIV; “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”) What the text suggests here is that marriage can ends but it is not desirable. (Read more about this scripture here)

Again, there are texts in the Bible that seem to speak of a lifelong marriage and only the death ends the marriage. Let me stress this – seems to speak about this. What I am saying is that the texts that are retrieved to support this doctrine actually not talking about it.

We took our first text above, but there are also three (3) other texts in the New Testament that seem to speak about marriage lasts a lifetime, and there are two (2) that seem to say that only death can end marriage. Let’s strip this down.

The first text we go into is when Jesus describes a marriage after a divorce, as adultery (Matt. 19: 9).

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matt. 19:9). 

Scripture suggests that a divorced person is still married because the person are divorced by ‘Any Cause’-divorce. We touched upon this in Divorce – Any Cause ESG4, and saw that Jesus specifically refers to ‘any cause’-divorce over all other types of divorces. He condemned ‘any cause’-divorces as unbiblical and invalid. He said if you marry again after an invalid divorce, you technically commit adultery. In context, this text tells more that Jesus emphasizes the invalidity of ‘any cause’-divorce. Mat. 19: 9 can not be used to provide a support a guarantee for a lifelong marriage or ‘once married, always married’.

The other place where the Bible seems to support “marriage lasts a lifetime”-teaching is when it describes a married couple ‘one flesh’. (Mat. 19: 5-6).

5 …‘ For this reason A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh ’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. (Matt. 19:5-6) 

It sounds as if two people have been permanently turned into one individual, something that should have happened, but sad to see does not always happen. Let’s go to Paul and take a closer look at this.

In 1 Cor. 6: 15-2, we see that a human being actually can be one flesh, and actually with a prostitute;

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “ The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price:therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:15-20) 

My friends, what do we do now? Paul says here that this is a serious sin, because a Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit. It is now important to see that Paul did not say that their ‘one flesh’ relationship with a prostitute was permanent. If it was so, Paul would have warned these converted, fornicator Corinthians, to remain single because their former ‘one flesh’ relationship forbids them to marry again. I have no doubt that Paul considered ‘one flesh’ relationship more intimate than anything else, but he didn’t considered it as a permanent relationship. Although this text describes a relationship that should be lifelong, it does not guarantee that it will last a lifetime.

The third and final text that seems to provide support for that marriage is always lifelong is Eph. 5:32 which says:

This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32). 

We actually here encounter a evolutionary problem, a kind of progress problem in understanding of meaning of words. The word ‘mystery’ is translated from the Greek musterion but when Greek was translated into Latin, the word musterion was translated into ‘sacrament’ (Latin sacramentum). This was really a perfect and good translation in the 4th century because sacramentum meant just that – ‘secret’ hidden in holiness. But over subsequent centuries the word sacrament started changing significance. In medieval times did the word sacrament mean ‘an unchanging sacred reality’.

Who started this I do not know, but the Catholic Church can give us an good example. They reckon ordination as a sacrament. Only bishops can ordain, and only men can receive ordination (sacrament). It is regarded as an embossing sacrament, which means that you can only receive ordination once for each of the ranks, and that it is not possible to reverse the ordination. A priest who is deposited, does not ends to be a priest, but only gets deprived of the right to work in office.

In other words; a sacrament of priest refers to a permanent transformation of an ordinary layman into a priest when he presents his promises for the bishop. The sacrament of marriage is likewise referred to a permanent transformation of two individuals to one flesh / married couple, when presenting their promises for the priest. It is therefore not possible to divorce in those countries that are strongly influenced by the Catholic church, for example Philippines. The only chance to get out of the marriage is’ annulment as we will mention more in another post.

Whether you disagree or not about the theology of ‘sacrament’, there is still no Biblical basis for saying that marriage is a sacrament, besides in the Latin Vulgate translation of Ephesians. 5:32, which was written when the ‘sacrament’ meant just that – mystery. That marriage is always lifelong proves to have no Biblical foundation, although it is supposed to last lifelong. But there are two other important texts we need to go through that seems to say that only death could end marriage.

That we will go into in the next post… see you then!

Note: 

– MDR stands for Marriage – Divorce – Remarriage. A shortcut I choose to use on this series where I deal with some christian problems in the questions of marriage, divorce and remarriage. 

– Bible Verses are from NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

What do you think? 

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6 thoughts on “MDR 7 – Once Married, Always Married

  1. Pingback: MDR 8 – Till Death Us Do Part | BIBLiBlog

  2. Pingback: MDR 10 – About Remarriage in The Bible pt.I | BIBLiBlog

  3. The exception is formication and only applies to betrothal (engagement) period that only Jews practiced which is why it’s only written in Matthew-bc his audience were Jews. Gen 2:24-(NOT DEUT 24) is Christ’s teaching on marriage AND DIVORCE. He and Paul consistently teach permanence and reconciliation and also both are clear that any “remarriage” while the first spouse is still living is nothing more than ongoing adultery: Mark 10, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:1-4, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. In fact, the earliest Christian writers are well aware of there being no exception after marriage. The definition for “Fornication” was and still is today sex between two unmarried people. The translation error, Lexicon and teaching after this kept adding and taking away to the word that now it includes adultery….Jesus knew exactly what He was saying and did not misuse the word-He clearly states fornication and adultery in the same sentence bc they mean completely different sins as shown plainly in Joseph and Mary’s case. Joseph and Mary were engaged- betrothed to one another, but when Mary was found to be with child, he could have divorced her for fornication, but after being explained…well, we know the rest. Also, He clearly listed fornication and adultery as separate sins: Matthew 15:9. The Pharisees even accused Christ of being born of fornication-John 8:41. And let’s not forget Malachi 2:16….who is anybody to say that they will not obey the Lord and “remain single otherwise be reconciled” because they believe God is partial and will allow some to sin and not others–abuse, desertion, unequally yoked, these are all man-made laws based on false assumptions and false teachers who wrongly believe that Christ can forgive the wayward spouse, but the “innocent” spouse is given a pass to harbor bitterness. We have other false teachings and all are destructive…but in my own opinion, a “blessed remarriage” leads to far more heartache and false security. No scriptures teach that while one spouse is obeying God praying for reconciliation that He would bless another woman or man with the hardened spouse. He is perfect and unchanging. He doesn’t command the covenant spouse to do something that if He himself will hinder by giving the wayward spouse to someone else! Impossible. Yet we have pastors preaching and marrying to people who are divorced with a living spouse and are told to remain in adultery. “Repenting” of a first marriage is not possible- and they are still one-“Never again two, but one”
    Christ’s relationship with His church is how a husband and wife should be. He is indeed more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. Separate from the abusers and pray for their salvation so that their hearts may be broken, softened, reconciled to God first, and the marriage restoration will follow. He desires everyone to turn from their ways and follow Him. He rejoices when even just one lost is found and restored.

    • Thank you undeservedmercyloveandgrace for taking your time reading and commenting here. I am very aware of the point you bring, but I am not totally agree on some of your take on them. It may take a lengthy comment to answer and explain it, but I will try to make it short.

      First I think it’s needed a general explanation of how words, understanding and use of phrases in the bible can be misunderstood today. And take note, this is not from me, but from scholars in mass.

      It is known that lot of documents disappeared in the flame of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. A large number of Jewish groups also virtually disappeared, such as Sadducees, Herodians, Qumran Jews and Shammaite Pharisees. Who’s left? The only type of Jew who was left and had any significant authority (in the new age) were Hillelites Pharisees. Johanan ben Zaikkai was one of them and he has a very interesting story.

      Anyway, from now on the Jewish law was interpreted in virtually every respect according to the tradition of the Hillelite school, and there again, all divorce after this time were based on the Hillelite teaching on “Any Cause”. Couple of centuries later, when the Church Fathers was to interpret documents, they believed that Jesus did not allowed divorce, except in the case of adultery.

      Other aspects we need to look at is how word and phrases changes, develops and are understood between generations. Also between the time of Jesus and us. I make this very short: What do you get out of this phrase; “A young woman should avoid “intercourse” with men outside her social status”? If I was to ask this in the 1800’s, they would understand it as a warning against ”speaking” with unsuitable suitor. Languages are still changing today.

      Now, I jump over to “Fornication” [Strong; 4202. πορνεία porneia, por-ni´-ah; from 4203; harlotry (including adultery and incest); figuratively, idolatry: — fornication.]
      Fornication, as you see above, also include adultery and incest according to Strong. Some say it is wrong translation, but it’s not. Strong translate it as how it is understood in the context. But we don’t have to let Strong’s dictionary alone explain it for us.

      I am full aware of the Jewish betrothal and marriage custom, but it actually not change the meaning of porneia much. Yes, it is true that porneia can refer to illegitimate marriage and/or to premarital unfaithfulness as you say, but it can also refer to other sexual offenses and are not only applied to the topic of betrothal.

      The meaning of porneia must be determined by the context. In the context of the Jewish debate about legitimate ground for divorce, porneia would mean adultery. This is confirmed by Jesus’ use of moicheia [3429. μοιχάω moichao, moy-khah´-o; from 3432; (middle voice) to commit adultery: — commit adultery.], which has the narrow meaning of “adultery” in the same debate. No, they are not necessarily synonymous, but they clearly relate in some way in this passage. We must assume that the text speaks with the same language that would successfully communicate to the original recipients of this text – first century Jews and Gentiles. Please read MDR 4 and MDR 5 for some context of the discussion of Jesus’ and the Pharisees.

      In Mat. 5:32, Jesus actually cite the OT text in the exact same way as the Shammaites, using their reverse word order: “matter of indecency” instead of “indecent matter” (Deut. 24:1). LXX uses a more vague phrase, “a shameful matter” which actually are more accurately translation (according to the scholars).

      Now, in the context, porneia could have no other meaning than adultery. I guess Jesus would have had to state it clearly otherwise. There is no indication in the Gospel passages that Jesus meant anything other than normal, expected meaning of this word in this context.

      To your other good points you bring up, like Paul’s exception, I like to refer you to MDR 10 and MDR 11. I don’t know if you have read rest of the MDR series, but I hope I am able to give more answer and explanation there of my view, which is neither false teaching or destructive.

      • I welcome you to this site dedicated to MDR.
        http://1cor7-39.blogspot.com/?m=1
        This is compiled research and cited sources are included:

        I hope that you will consider taking some time to read and study this as I will the information you have sent me.
        Please let me know if you are unable to open the last site. I will try to send it to you another way.

        http://www.danielrjennings.org/except_for_fornication_version_1.pdf
        http://genesistwo24.blogspot.com/?m=1
        http://www.marriagedivorce.com/

      • Sorry for my late reply. I have been sick and also busy.

        Before I go on. I’m sorry that I had to edit and delete some of your links you gave me. One of them was “KJV only” like a link, where they try to make James Strong a bad corrupt person because he was linked to Wescott & Hort, who again is been liked to Freemasonry and other groups and there again (i guess) to the devil – James Strong is therefor corrupt, poisonous and dangerous??? I have been looking down that street and I am not going there. I can assure you, all this is NOT true, only if you want to.
        I got the same impression of “KJV only” in Daniel R. Jennings article, but I let it stay.
        It is notting wrong with KJV or ASV. I use them both much in my reading among many other translations.
        So about the concern of using Strong’s. – I don’t have to use him. I can go to other sources and find the same thing. Who or what do you suggest to me to use?

        The other links didn’t work, the first and the three last did work. Anyway, I have read your links and I can’t answer it all. No time, no space. But I have take some excerpt from William F. Luck SR’s book, Divorce and Re-Marriage: Recovering the Biblical View (Read the book online: http://tinyurl.com/qbn65j7), and then some sources for more study.

        “The betrothal view is one that holds that Jesus employs porneia in a technical sense, restricting its use from its usual broad meaning to betrothal unfaithfulness. (For example, Mary’s alleged offense was thought by Joseph to be an instance of porneia in this sense.)…” The study “…cannot show that porneia ever incontrovertibly means only betrothal unfaithfulness, much less that porneia must be so limited in the Matthew texts.”

        “Because adultery was to be dealt with by divorce (after execution was discontinued), Joseph, “being a righteous man,” sought to “divorce her.” Thus, the betrothal view seems to be correct in arguing that betrothal unfaithfulness is intended by porneia. But this view unfortunately continues to argue that such betrothal unfaithfulness is the only kind of unfaithfulness entailed in porneia. But if the proponents of this view were to include post-consummative unfaithfulness the view itself would be destroyed. The integrity of the view depends upon limiting the meaning of porneia to the betrothal period. Of course, they might argue that only betrothal adultery is in view in Matthew, but the reference in Matthew 1 is not strong enough to sustain that. The mind of the reader would have included more in the meaning of porneia than the betrothal view allows, given the common usage of the word, so the burden of proof rests upon the betrothal school. And they cannot bear it.”

        In the same book, R. C. H. Lenski are been mention, who have come up with this list about Matthew 5. The case here is not about the word “porneia” itself, but more in general of MDR.
        From R. C. H. Lenski
        1. The woman of Matt. 5:32a is innocent of wrong. It is her husband who has destroyed the marriage by the divorce—rendering her unable to fulfill her marital commitments. It is improper grammatically to find the responsible agent for her “adultery” in a second, hypothetical husband, for the causal agent of an infinitive must precede it.
        2. The “adultery” relating to the wife is said to occur at the time of the divorce, not in some subsequent marriage; 5:32a and 5:32b are independent clauses.
        3. The woman is said to “suffer” the adultery, not “commit” it. The infinitive is passive not active (the active form available-used in the prior context—but not chosen), and no one has shown that it should be translated actively.
        4. Therefore, it seems better to interpret this verse as condemning the woman’s husband for stigmatizing her as an adulteress.

        I really suggest to you to read the book. Other great sources I recommend is:
        Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context, by David Instone-Brewer, is a book for deeper study. He take a look at ancient document, the context of Jesus-Pharisees discusion and also the Church Fathers.
        A lighter book to read from same author is Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities.

        I don’t read one view of the topic. Here are three views: Remarriage after Divorce in Today’s Church: 3 Views

        God bless.

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