Marriage in the Brit Chadashah is an illustration of the reality that the word of God is leading us towards. That is the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride. Christ and the Church. God’s Son and the holy Kallah which He brings forth from the world. Marriage is a chance for the husband and wife themselves to be an illustration of God’s wonders, the husband loving and leading his wife as if she were the Kahol (Church) and the wife seeking diligently to support his will and to DO his will as the Kahol does of its King. That marriage, in fact the whole household, is also an illustration of the nature of Elohim, as husband, wife and the children they bring forth reflect God the Father, Son and Spirit. Just as it’s said in theological language that the Ruach (Spirit) springs forth from the love between Father and Son, so also do our children spring forth from the love, unity and oneness of husband and wife. Like God’s love, it is a life-bearing love.
But New Covenant marriage is not just a wonder in its joys and its mysteries. It is also a wonder in that, when hardship comes to marriages, we illustrate the suffering love that Elohim does. Just as God had a covenant with Israel, which even in Israel’s grave wickedness He never abandoned forever, so we have a covenant we hold to in love, even the suffering kind of it. Elohim forgives untold times. So must we. This naturally reminds us of the prophet Hosea, whom God instructed to marry a whore. In marrying this immoral woman, Hosea became an illustration of God’s relationship with Israel, as well as His patience and sorrow with her. When Hosea’s wife sinned against him continually, Hosea still took her back. So just as our marriages in Mashiach illustrate the joyful realties in God, so too they illustrate the suffering. What God has joined together, the Savior has told us, let no man tear apart.
Yet as is hardly a secret today, the Bride of Messiah has taken this beautiful and stand-out form of marriage, and turned it nearly into what the rest of the world has. What is holy, we have made common. What is a unique expression of God, we have made into an excuse-laden failure. In this country anywhere between 40 and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. The long-held prohibition against remarriage has been abandoned by nearly all groups but the Catholic Church. Worse yet, the occurrence of divorce seems to be much the same between believers and everyone else. Some people of course will challenge this claim, stating that if you narrow in on individual believers who really do a lot to live their faith it is clear that faithful Christians profane marriage less often than the world. And this is true. Nevertheless, this claim does little to lessen the dire situation for marriage in the Kahol. Number one, even among that specialized subset of believers, divorce is still beyond what the Body of Messiah should expect. Number two, and perhaps more importantly, our role is not merely to point to a specialized subset of believers and say – look, you can have a new life if you are very diligent in faith; rather it is also to INSTILL that very kind of faith, diligence and pursuit of holiness in believers, and even sanctify the world we live in. You see there is a mortal collapse around us, beloved. Twiddling with the statistics does not change that.
Another way to get a good look at what’s going on, and clarify where we really are, is to have a look at history. The roots of marriage in the New Covenant are in the words of Yeshua and secondarily in passages from the epistles of Sha’ul (Paul). Yeshua’s teaching is very clear. They do leave an exception for divorce in the case of adultery, though they never clearly give an exception for remarriage. Remarriage of the divorced is simply adultery. Sha’ul reiterates Yeshua’s teachings, and he also allows another exception, at least for this separation or divorce; that is for a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever, if the unbeliever absolutely demands a divorce. Again, he never gives an exception for remarrying, and in fact explicitly states that a wife is bound to her husband until his death. Strong teachings indeed. They were also the foundation for marriage in the Christian West. They gave it a firmness and soundness that the pagan European world, for which marital faithfulness was rare, never had. We’ve built a civilization on it.
From the earliest documented era, the doctrines of the Body of Messiah have been based on a plain and literal understanding of these scriptural teachings. The early Church fathers from across the empire all taught that remarriage was impossible. Some taught there were exceptions to allow for separation in the case of adultery, as is explicit in Matthew, but even then did not allow for remarriage. Naturally regulating marriage came to be controlled by the Body of Messiah itself. True the surrounding empire at times had MUCH more lenient laws regarding divorce or remarriage, but Christians were clearly taught this was unacceptable. Using civil law to break God’s moral law could lead to being excommunicated from the Church. Most Christians respected Church law on marriages, and as is pointed out above, a civilization was built on it. It’s the same one which has crumbled around us.
So that is where we came from. In brief, how did we get HERE? How did this terror of frequent divorce and illicit remarriages happen? To begin with, there were attempts to loosen the rules about remarriage from at least the 4th century AD, and local religious leaders sometimes made exceptions, especially in Eastern Christianity. The first large and institutional loosening finally came from the Eastern Orthodox about a thousand years ago, when bishop Alexius introduced an allowance for remarriage for the innocent party in adultery. Much worse happened centuries later after the Protestant revolution; Protestant leaders and major Protestant groups opened the doors wide to more and more excuses for divorce leading to remarriage. Zwingli had a long list. Luther, although his Lutheran Church never followed suit, actually allowed for a case of bigamy. He also taught that in narrow cases polygamy was acceptable. Perhaps the strongest change however wasn’t just the loosening of the reigns, but the actual handing over of the reigns to the civil government. For it was these Protestant leaders who now claimed marriage was primarily a secular affair, and that view has more or less taken over the West since then. They gave marriage over to the state. The Protestant and Evangelical world still managed to hold strong with only a small number of divorces until the twentieth century, when the true floodgates opened. Perhaps the Christian infatuation with the modernist culture led to it. Perhaps the decreasing shame involved in divorce. Or perhaps more rules being shed. The final act of destruction was the opening up to “no fault” divorce laws by Governor Reagan in California, one which led to a doubling of divorce in his state in about six years. He later claimed it was the worst mistake he’d ever made. Nevertheless, it was too late. The other U.S. states and country after country has followed suit.
I hope that makes is clear how we arrived here, at least in the basic elements; we had firm and literalist views on marriage, divorce and remarriage. We had the Body of Messiah in charge of marriages. Then we abandoned that. We found one excuse after another for bending or breaking the rules. Then we finally handed marriage over to the state, and infatuated with all the possibilities, got drunk on this freedom for ourselves. So to speak, were seduced by it. If our Bridegroom were to return right now, wouldn’t He see us so seduced? Wouldn’t He see us in the grips or rather the embrace of our lover? What would our Bridegroom say, walking into the chamber unbeknownst to us, seeing us in that embrace? Stripping off doctrine after doctrine getting naked and drunk with our lover? Is it sorrow He would feel? Is it grief? Or is it great and righteous anger? A fury? A heart-felt desire to teach us a good lesson?
The rubble of New Covenant marriage must be rebuilt from the ground up. That is starting now. It is also important to consider that we profess to the world that Yeshua saves man from sin, yet the fruits we are showing the world are not of the saved. They are the fruits of the damned. Therefore, I’ve put together this page of Kodesh Kallah to present the facts behind the biblical teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage, as well as propose a few avenues of rebuilding from our terribly collapsed position. One avenue is of course to make a commitment to biblical marriage ourselves. The other is to ask our congregations and communities to make the same commitment, and to teach what was rightly taught as doctrine for many centuries. Finally, as far as rebuilding from ground zero, I propose putting the reigns of marriage and divorce back into the hands of the Body of Messiah. That is where they have always belonged. Are you willing to take these steps? Are you willing to put your neck on the line for marriage? Pastors, are you willing to take control of the marriage process, and get your sheep out of the secular system? And are you willing to teach the truth?
You know this topic of New Covenant marriage reminds us of the biblical covenants themselves. It reminds us of their permanence. Or as some might have it, lack of permanence. Many have claimed for instance that Elohim forever cast away the Jewish people and has since, well, remarried. Others say the opposite, bringing up many points including that the covenant of Abraham is still valid with Israel. Likewise, some will say that in the New Covenant in Mashiach, enough sinfulness will lead us to be cast into hell forever. Others passionately argue the opposite, saying that the covenant is ALWAYS valid, and even if we sin gravely, Elohim will restore us to holiness again. Well, I’m not even going to touch those questions right now. What I will do instead is recount what Elohim says He does with a faithless bride — Every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire —and — if it bear thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is being BURNED.
To the Restoration of the Bride:
Resources on Doctrine
Divorce in Moral Theology — This is a detailed article from a quality Catholic website. The Catholic Church, in the arena of biblical marriage and various others, is simply the Last Man Standing.
Why God Hates Divorce — By ES Williams
Divorce and Remarriage — This essay by Neil Hedtke covers the scriptural teachings and provides an historical overview.
What is Marriage? — An excellent website by Tony Walker covering scripture, doctrine and history of biblical marriage. What God calls adultery can NOT become a marriage.
This video begins with a warning. Let’s get on our knees.
What the Bible Says — A youthful-looking preacher goes over God’s teaching on divorce and remarriage in several videos and a thorough article. It’s really not that complicated. Separation is allowed in certain narrow circumstances. Remarriage is adultery.
Whoever Marries a Divorced Person Commits Adultery — We cannot let our feelings define the truth. This sermon is excellent exhortation, but does not spend a lot of time on scripture.
What about Pauline Privilege and Annulments — This is my response to two common exceptions. Pauline Privilege claims that 1 Corinthians 7:15 permits divorce and remarriage in the case of an unbelieving spouse who forces a divorce upon a believing one. Annulments declare a marriage void based on a core missing element at its inception.
One More on Pauline Privilege — Weldon Warnock also presents evidence against finding an exception in 1 Corinthians 7:15, and points out the problem with tolerating multiple marriages in the Church.
Hillary Clinton Vs. The Holy Bible — This is not so much about the political candidate, as it is a meditation on marriage, obedience to God and forgiveness. What does Hillary have that Christians should want?
Destroy the Idols in Your Church — I would recommend reading this book by Jack Shannon, Contra Mundum Swagger. It contains a powerful message of repentance as well as a call to do spiritual battle. We must purge the sin from ourselves first.
Testimonies of Repentance
This is Obedience — Here’s a story about a Catholic couple who decided to live as brother and sister when they accepted that their union was sinful, and desire full participation in the Church. God really does provide options for people who have entered sinful unions. He also provides us the power to repent.
Covenant Restored — This is about a couple who restored their covenant marriage after 7 years of divorce. I believe it would be a commoner testimony if more believers actually tried reuniting.
Leaving Adultery: This is a testimony on cadz.net from Judy, a faithful Christian who left her remarriage when she learned it was adultery. The testimony is also in video at the bottom of the page. We need many more souls like her.
Letters to Churches
The Hosea Project – This letter to pastors is part of an effort to turn the tide on divorce and remarriage and encourage churches to reform their practices. Please review it, and send it to your pastor if you are moved. It comes with links to other resources as well.
Letter to Pastor Answering John MarArthur’s Claims: This is a letter I wrote to my pastor as part of our debate on marriage. It is primarily a response to John MacArthur’s interpretation of Matthew 5 which my pastor had given me, as well as a plea for marriage reform in the church. It addresses some of my pastor’s particular concerns and sticking points.
Letter to Pastor Introducing Marriage Book: This is a short letter I gave to my pastor along with Daniel Jennings’ book Except for Fornication. It also contains a plea for reform in the church regarding marriage. While I do not explain the “fornication” view of the exception clause in my page on marriage above, it is a good interpretation and may well be the best.
How Did We Get Here?
The History — This piece is an enormous outline with footnotes, and detailes the devolution of New Covenant marriage from the 1st century to today.
Early Thought — A collection of writings from the early Christian Fathers from the 1st to 5th century on marriage, divorce and adultery. The early fathers from Syria to Britain were unanimous in forbidding remarriage. This is also from the What is Marriage website above.
A short history from the early Fathers to the early Protestants of Christians abandoning Christian marriage.
The Scariest Thing about God
U.S. Divorce Rates
Divorce Rates the past century and a half — This is a chart.
Christian versus non-Christian — Who values traditional marriage more? Sometimes, hard to say.
A Conflict over the Stats — This article argues that if we examine the stats a bit more, believers are actually divorcing at a lower rate in America than the rest. Good knowledge to have here, but it changes the desperate situation little.