MDR IN PRINCIPLE AND PROCEDURE
By Jeff Belknap
The New Illustrated Webster’s
Dictionary (pg. 770) defines “principle” as “a general truth or law, basic
to other truths.” Unfortunately, as time continues, more new twists are
arising on the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage. In the devil’s
persistent effort to corrupt us from “the simplicity that is in Christ” (II
Cor. 11:2), alternate “applications” to God’s marriage laws (principles)
are constantly emerging and being disseminated.
God’s first institution (the home) was
structured by the Lord in the very beginning (Gen. 2:24). This fundamental right
of “leaving” and “cleaving” was also authorized by Christ (Mt. 19:5). In
I Corinthians 7:2, Apostle Paul reveals to us God’s plan “to avoid
fornication.” He stated, “let every man have his own
wife, and let every woman have her own
husband” (emp. mine). The principle is simple. Each man is afforded the
privilege of having his “own” wife, and every woman, the right to her
“own” husband (I Cor. 7:5). There is no permission in scripture for anyone
to have one who is not their “own”
(Heb. 13:4). Error which violates this principle is simple to expose. Forbidding
marriage (cf. I Tim. 4:3) for those who are approved to marry is obviously
binding where the Almighty has not bound (Mt. 16:19; 18:18; Gal. 1:8-9).
Conversely, to teach that one may be married to someone while either party is
bound to another is to loose where the Bible has not loosed (cf. Rom. 7:2-3).
For example, Jesus stated in no uncertain terms that marriage to one who “is
divorced” (or put away) committeth (or commits) “adultery” (Mt. 5:32;
19:9; Lk. 16:18). To advocate anything different than this is to speak where God
has not spoken (I P. 4:11; II Jn. 9).
the exception clause in Matthew 19:9, Jesus stated His divorce principle in
verse 6, “what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (emp. mine). The Lord did not
pronounce that man CANNOT violate that Divine prohibition, but rather that he
MUST NOT. Divorce is the death of a physical marriage, despite the fact that the
spiritual bond remains in an unscriptural putting away. Regrettably, there are a
few brethren of renown who now deny
that some sinful divorces can and do take place (if and when an “innocent”
mate is opposed to it). However, Jesus reveals that man has the ability to
“put asunder” his or her physical
marriage (Mk. 10:9) whether the other party approves or not! In such an
unfortunate predicament, one becomes “unmarried” (I Cor. 7:11) and
consequently MUST NOT marry “another” as long as their original mate lives
(Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk. 16:18; Rom. 7:2-3). If we are to “rightly” divide the
word of truth (II Tim. 2:15), it is essential to note how the gospel uses the
words “let not.” There is a
difference between “let not” and “cannot.” For example, in Matthew 6:3
Jesus said, “…let
not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” But can
one hand know what the other is doing? Again, in John 14:1, 27 He stated, “Let
not your heart be troubled.”
Yet, can we do what we should
not do? Furthermore, in spite of the fact, that in some situations, Paul
wrote in I Tim. 5:16, "let
not the church be charged,” some are
doing the very opposite (cp. w. Lk. 21:21; Rom. 6:12; 14:3, 16; Eph. 4:26;
Jas. 1:7 et al.). Because we must not
engage in these things, does that mean that it is impossible for us to do them? It is self-evident that the Bible does
not forbid us to do what is impossible
for us to do. The rule of God maintains that man MUST NOT divorce, except it be
for fornication. Any other divorce not only “causeth” the put away person
“to commit adultery” when they remarry (Mt. 5:32), but the one who marries
her that “is divorced” is guilty of the same (Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk.
one and only exception to the prohibition of divorce, is when it is done “for
the cause of fornication” (Mt. 5:32; 19:9). With Matthew 19:6 in mind,
consider also I Corinthians 7:10-11. Apostle Paul is in essence quoting our Lord
when he wrote, “And unto the married I
command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let
her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let
not the husband put away his wife.” The word “depart” in this
passage is the same Greek word found in Matthew 19:6 translated “put
asunder.” The result of this unscriptural divorce is that the wife is now
“unmarried” (and vice versa). In spite of this sinful divorce, these two are
still spiritually bound together by the law of God
(cf. Rom. 7:2-3). While the wife in I Corinthians 7:11 is prohibited from
marrying another, the implication here (as is spelled out clearly in other
scriptures) is that the one who was unscripturally put away (whether with or
against their will) is forbidden to marry “another” (Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk.
16:18). What CANNOT be scripturally done, is the remarriage of a put
away person without adultery (Mt. 5:32; 19:9). Who will disagree with the
Master (Amos 3:3; I Jn. 1:7)?
are some brethren who confuse the marriage (man’s
physical part in the union) with the bond (God’s
spiritual part in the union). Although any divorce dissolves the physical
marriage (man’s part), it does not necessarily loose the spiritual obligation
(cf. Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:27, 39). To infer that the only way to end a marriage
is for God to sever the bond contradicts scriptural teaching in Matthew 5:32,
19:9; Luke 16:18; and I Cor. 7:11. God does not marry and man cannot bind what
is joined in marriage. Likewise, God does not divorce and man cannot loose that
which the Almighty has bound.
brethren further contend that God did not “specify a procedure” for the
scriptural putting away. However, neither did He “specify a procedure” for
the scriptural marriage. Furthermore, it is obvious that the same procedure one
must go through in any given society to be scripturally married, is the exact
procedure that others go through to be unscripturally
married. Likewise, it is clear that the procedure which one goes through in
order to get a scriptural divorce is the same procedure that is used to obtain
an unscriptural divorce.
5:32, 19:9 (and all other verses that deal with MDR) do not infer more than one
procedure for marriages, or more than one procedure for divorces, scriptural or
otherwise. The obvious is that while there is one recognized “procedure”
which marries, and one that divorces (in any given society), God either binds or
does not bind, looses or does not loose upon that act of man.
Whatever procedures any given culture
recognizes for its divorces and marriages are the procedures that God must be
referring to. If the procedure Jesus was referring to is something other
than what a person’s culture and laws recognize as “divorce,” then man
must prescribe an alternate procedure that men can uniformly recognize. This is
necessarily implied, because we are commanded to avoid brethren who are
adulterers (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 5:9-13; cf. Mk. 6:17-18). Would this alternate
procedure not constitute the “commandments of men” and adding to the
scriptures? Claiming special significance in the fact that Christ specified no
procedure, these brethren imply that we have general authority to choose another
procedure, as Noah had freedom to choose his tools for ark-building. If this is
true, then all must be free to divorce or marry by using whatever procedure they
conjure up in our own minds, as long as it does not conflict with other
scripture. This means that there would be no way for one to determine who is
married and who is divorced, who is an adulterous relationship, and who is in a
scripturally legitimate relationship. How is that decent and orderly (I Cor.
14:40)? Does this not make the word of God of “none effect” (Mk. 7:13)?
who want to get around these Biblical parameters (Mt. 7:13-14), finagle all
kinds of reasons for justifying a possible remarriage for those who have been
civilly, but unscripturally divorced. In order to do so, they deny
the restrictions of the Lord, reasoning by the use of “accommodative
language” or they tell us that Jesus did “not” deal with every
possible put away scenario in Matthew 5:32; 19:9 and Lk. 16:18.
In Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, the New
Testament reveals the rule as well as the one and only exception to it. While
Jesus prohibited putting “asunder” what “God hath joined together” (Mt.
19:6), He gave every marriage partner the authority to put away (repudiate)
their spouse (partner in marriage) who
is guilty of fornication (Mt. 5:32; 19:9). This is the simplicity of the gospel.
However, in an effort to validate second marriages after
unscriptural divorces, some are finding new ways to defend second divorces (“mental
divorces”). Although these brethren deny belief in both a second putting away
and “mental divorce,” it is only because they deny that an unscriptural
civil putting away of an innocent mate is an actual
divorce. However there are those
(myself included) who recognize that such a divorce scenario makes one a “put
away” person (and subject to the restrictions spelled out in Matthew 5:32,
19:9 et al). While I mean no disrespect to proponents of this view in using
terminology that they find offensive, for us, it is a second putting away
and a “mental divorce” (as opposed to what we recognize as the first
and actual one). This new concept (application) is being
advocated in many private settings,
for the advocates, as well known as they are, have not
yet been willing to come out into the public
light (Jn. 3:19-21) with the fullness of this doctrine.
Let me say with all confidence, that
Jesus NEVER authorized a put away (repudiated) man or woman the right
to later “put away” (repudiate) their ex-spouse (if they later
commit fornication) who had already
put them away (Mt. 5:32; 19:9). The
underlying principle revealed in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is the ability of one married
partner to put away (repudiate) their mate who is guilty of fornication. This
principle does NOT include authorization for a put away / unmarried, (I Cor.
7:11) companion (regardless of innocence) to “divorce” later under any
circumstance. The Biblical order (principle)
necessarily inferred for employment of the exception clause is after
a scriptural marriage, and before
a divorce is completed! You need a lot of “help” (outside of the scriptures)
to find authority for an unscripturally put
away person to later have the “right” to “put away” their ex-spouse,
if and when they some day commit fornication. To lead brethren in this
direction, is to direct without spiritual vision (Mt. 15:14). Please acknowledge
these clear statements of the Lord:
whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Mt. 5:32).
whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Mt. 19:9).
whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery (Lk.
Dear reader, Jesus affirmed, “…the
scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35). Therefore do not allow yourself to be
tossed to and fro from the simplicity of the truth (II Cor. 11:3; Eph. 4:14).
Neither permit men to tell you that Matthew 5:32; 19:9 and Luke 16:18 do not
apply when discussing American civil law (or any other nation’s civil law).
To teach that there is absolutely no
authority to ever put away, is to bind where God has not bound (Mt. 16:19;
18:18; Gal. 1:8-9). On the other hand, to contend that a
put away person may “scripturally” exercise the exception clause (upon
their ex-spouses’ fornication,
subsequent to the unscriptural divorce) and remarry, is to loose where God has
not loosed (cf. Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk. 16:18). Whosoever marries one who is put
away commits adultery – there is no exception clause given to those who are already
The restrictions enjoined upon the put
away person in Matthew 5:32, 19:9 and Luke 16:18 apply to the one whose partner has
(for whatever reason, scriptural or not) put them away. The very term
“unscriptural divorce” denotes what it is: man’s sinful act of putting
“asunder what God has joined together.” In the case of an unscriptural
divorce, the court simply enables one to fulfill their sinful desire. To
illustrate this point, the willing woman makes it possible for man to fornicate
(sin) and the abortion clinic makes it possible for a woman to kill her baby
(sin). Likewise, the civil courts make it possible for man to unscripturally
divorce his spouse (sin). Are we honoring man’s law (which condones
fornication and abortion) above God’s law (which condemns fornication and
abortion) if we acknowledge that these two sins have transpired? Thus, we are
not guilty of honoring man’s law (which permits the divorce) above divine law
(which disapproves of it) when we acknowledge that an unscriptural divorce has
considering the Bible principle decreed for remarriage, it is evident that, as
in any scriptural marriage relationship, both parties entering that marriage
only have a right to their own spouse,
NOT someone else’s (I Cor. 7:2). For example, in Mark 6:17-18, we learn that
Herodias who was still bound to his brother Philip. Therefore an unscriptural remarriage is physically possible (v. 17), although
spiritually unlawful (v. 18). This exact state of affairs is alluded to in
numerous places within the gospel–i.e. bound to one, while married to another
(Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk. 16:18; Rom. 7:2-3; et, al).
scriptures reveal authority for only three different individuals to remarry
(after having been bound by the law of God): 1) The one whose mate has died is
loosed by God to remarry (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39). 2.) The one who has
dissolved his physical
marriage for “fornication” has also been Divinely set free (loosed)
to remarry (Mt. 5:32; 19:9). 3.) The one who has never been loosed by God and
seeks reconciliation after an unlawful divorce is authorized to remarry his
original mate (I Cor. 7:11). Any other unrevealed “applications” are
contrary to the truth (heresy), for they invade the silence of God (I Cor. 4:6;
II Cor. 10:5; Col. 3:17; I P. 4:11).
beloved brethren, do not be deceived – whosoever marries a put away man or
woman commits ADULTERY. It is only man’s wisdom that seeks to exclude some put away persons from the
rule that Jesus gave to all put away persons. Men can assume, presume and
speculate all they want (II P. 2:10), but the Lord still says, “…and whoso
marrieth her which is put away doth
commit adultery” (Mt. 19:9). Apostle Paul wrote, “let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4; emp. mine).
note: Please consider the following additional study materials:
Divorce & Remarriage; What Does The Text Say?,
by Donnie Rader,
Is It Lawful?
A Comprehensive Study of Divorce
By Dennis G. Allan and Gary Fisher,
Mental Marriages and Mental Divorces (by Gene Frost).