Over the past few years, new
ideas have been suggested which would allow certain unlawfully put away
individuals the right to remarry. Those
who support these erroneous ideas deny they are advocating“mental
divorce,” since the innocent party in an unscriptural divorce never “repudiated
the marriage bond.” They contend that this innocent put away person, having
remained “faithful to the marriage bond,” may later “put
her ex-spouse for fornication that is committed after the divorce. They claim this is
not a “second” putting away, because the first putting away was never sanctioned
by God (see “Mental Divorce, Revamped and Revisited;” Gospel Truths, October 2000, pg.
is the basis of their revised and revamped version of what has been known for
years as “mental divorce.”This
second article deals with additional abuses of the same subject by examining the
terms “marriage bond;” “accommodative language,” and “ungodly civil laws.”
Marriage and The Bond
First of all, this position confuses the marriage (man’s physical part in the union) with
the bond (God’s spiritual part in the
union). Although divorce dissolves the physical marriage (man’s part), it does
not necessarily loose the spiritual obligation (cf.
Cor. , 39). Yet, some mistakenly
intertwine the two with references to the “marriage bond.” One must accept the
misuse of this combination of terms if they are to believe the position under
nothing wrong with the term “marriage bond” when used in reference to God’s part
in a marital union. In times past, the marriage bond was understood to indicate
the obligations that God enjoins upon those in a scriptural marriage. However,
to infer that the only way to end a marriage is for God to sever the bond is
an incorrect usage of these words. 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.
In Matthew 19, Jesus responded to a Pharisee’s query as to whether it
was lawful to “put away” for every cause (v. 3). He taught that man is not to
“put asunder” what God has joined together (v. 6). The idea “put asunder” is
used interchangeably with “put away” in this context. According to Strong’s, its
meaning is, “to place room between, i.e.
part; reflexively, to go away; depart, put asunder, separate.” This
statement motivatedthe Pharisees to
then ask why Moses commanded that a man “give a writing of divorcement” (another
term used interchangeably here for “put away”). Are these not actions that man
alone takes? Would God tell man not to “put asunder” if he did not possess the
ability to do it? These are all aspects of a physical divorce, separate and
apart from God’s loosing.
Progressing from a misguided combination of the words “marriage” and
“bond,” this position maintains that in some instances the Bible uses “marriage”
and “divorce” accommodatively.
It is true that the terms “husband” and “wife” are used
accommodatively in scripture (Mt. 22:24-25; Mk. 6:17-18; Jn. 4:15-18; Acts 5:9).
For example, Matthew 22:24-25 refers to the woman whose husband died as his “wife.” In addition, Acts
5:9 says that Ananias was dead when Peter stated, “the feet of them which have
buried thy husband are at the door”
(emp. jhb). Since the Bible clearly teaches that death severs the marriage and the bond (I Cor. 7:39), we know the
terms “wife” and “husband” in these passages are used accommodatively.
Another reason that “husband” and “wife” are sometimes used in this
way is because, in some cases, there are those who are bound to one, while being married to “another” (Rom. 7:2-3). In
Mark 6:17-18, how could Herodias have literally been the wife of Herod while the
Bible says she was Philip’s wife?
(cf. I Cor. 7:2). In John 4:15-18, although Jesus asked the woman to call her
“husband,” they both agreed that the man she lived with was not really her husband. In such verses, it is clear thatthese terms are used accommodatively.
Conversely, in the absence of a scriptural contradiction (immediate or
elsewhere), scripture must always be taken literally.
These verses which use “husband” and “wife” in an accommodative sense
are the very scriptures to which some appeal for “proof” that “marriage” and
“divorce” are used in the same way. However, the expressions “marriage” and
“divorce” are NEVER used accommodatively (II Tim. 2:15; I Thess. 5:21). Man
marries (a physical/civil procedure) whether divinely authorized or not
(carefully consider Matt. 19:9, Mk. 6:17 and Lk. 16:18). Is there any scripture
that necessarily infers the parties involved have not really married or
divorced? The Holy Writ plainly says they were “married” and “divorced” and
there is nothing to contradict a literal interpretation. Though Herod’s union
with his brother’s wife was unlawful, the Holy Spirit says, “he
hadmarried her” (Mk. 6:17).
In truth, every time the word “divorce” or “marriage” is found in our context of
study, the actual deed has transpired (cf. Matt. 19:6; Rom. 7:2-3 with I Cor.
In Matthew 19:8-9, Jesus refers to both divorces that were allowed
and divorces that are condemned as putting away. “He saith unto them, Moses
because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives:
but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife,
except it be for fornication, and shall
marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery,” (emp.
jhb). It is clear from verse 9 that the bond of God’s law (I Cor. 7:39) has not
been loosed in an unscriptural divorce, but the physical marriage has been
severed! Jesus said that in both cases, she IS divorced or put away. Who will
argue with the Lord (Rom. 11:34)?
“…Whosoever marrieth her
that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Lk. 16:18; cf. Mt. 5:32;
19:9). How could the Lord have made it any plainer (Prov. 8:9)? As stated by
brother Wayne Partain in the February 2001 issue of The Preceptor, “One thing is for sure:
if Matt. 5:32; 19:9 is not clear, then neither are Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38. No
scripture is clear to the person who is determined not to accept it.”
vs. “Ungodly” Civil Laws
attempt to justify a second putting away is made by claiming that since God does
not sanction an unscriptural divorce, the “marriage bond” remains. Based on this
hypothesis, they allege that the innocent party who was put away in the ungodly
civil court may later appeal to divine law to “put away” their now fornicating
(estranged) spouse. According to their reasoning, to deny the innocent party
this second divorce appeal makes one
guilty of honoring human law above God’s law.
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 taken place. This truth renders a
“second” divorce appeal an addition to God’s word.
these brethren believe that to deny one this second putting away is to revoke
the exception clause of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 for the innocent party. However,
they fail to acknowledge that God never gave an exception clause to the one
who has been put away. In Matthew 5:32, the husband is wrong and unfair
to divorce his wife, thus he becomes responsible for her
subsequent adultery. His sin has become her stumbling block. In spite of this
ungodly man’s unfair treatment of his wife, God’s law teaches us that she
commits adultery when she remarries. Jesus knew that civil law would allow man
to unjustly put his wife away, though she was innocent of any wrongdoing. How
then, is she to respond to the injustices in this life? The gospel teaches us to
patiently suffer wrong until the new day dawns (cf. I Cor. 6:7; I Thess. 4:6; I
Pet. 2:20-21; 3:14-17; 4:15-19).
the hypothetical situation in which an ungodly husband secures a “quickie
divorce” by a “tricky lawyer” against the wishes of his “innocent” spouse. In
spite of her faithful effort to protest the divorce, a year later, her
self-centered ex-husband marries another. Scenarios such as this are cited to
prove the unjust, ungodly nature of the civil law regarding marriage and
divorce. Yet, regardless of the governing regulations we are subject to, there
will always be one who puts away and one who is put away. Therefore, the same
scriptures apply, regardless of the civil law one is under.
divorce proceedings (including Roman regulations) at the time of Christ were no
better than some of our country’s most liberal laws, probably even worse (cf. Mt. 19:3; Mk.
6:17-18)! When Jesus revealed the
strictness of God’s rule compared to the easy divorces authorized by the civil
law of His day (Mt. 19:7-8), the disciples concluded, “…it is not good to marry” (v. 10). Yet, Jesus
acknowledged, “All men cannot receive this saying” (v. 11), and stated that
heaven was for those who are willing to receive God’s word, even to the point of
celibacy (v. 12).Though the
ungodly civil courts may grant the unscriptural divorce of an unwilling mate, it
is God’s regulation that precludes
the put away person, innocent or not, from remarrying.
Comparisons of MDR False Doctrines
It is suggested that this “application” should not “disrupt
fellowship because there is no denial of the basic principles involved.” It is
also stated, “The doctrines of Hailey, Bassett, etc. inevitably lead to division
because the basic principles of morality are changed.”
However, this particular view is as unscriptural and perilous as all
of the others. If the teaching in this article is according to truth, then the
view under examination leads to adultery and death (Lk. 16:18; Rom. 6:23).
Comparisons to other men only divert attention from the issue at hand, and such
a practice is not wise, for it measures by the wrong standard (II Cor.
10:12-13). The numerous man-made adjuncts in this theory are reminiscent of the
Pharisee’s arbitrary rules that determined which oaths must be taken seriously,
and which oaths were “nothing” (Mt. 23:16-22).
To accept this so-called “application,” one must distort several
1)It binds arbitrary rules (outlined in first article) which are contrary
to the principle of I Peter 4:11 (cf. I
2)It denies that when one is unscripturally put away, they become
“unmarried” (I Cor. 7:11,15).
3)It erroneously asserts that the terms “marriage” and “divorce” are used
accommodatively in scripture (Mt. 5:32; 19:9).
4)It adds to the divine order for remarriage [i.e. marriage, fornication,
divorce (for that cause), and remarriage – Mt. 5:32; 19:9; cf. Mk. 16:16].(See first article.)
5)It denies that man has the ability to put asunder what God has joined
together (Matt. 19:6).
6)It fails to acknowledge the completeness of God’s word by insinuating
that other applications are needed to address individual circumstances (Col.
7)It negates the principle that those who are put
away inevitably commit adultery when they marry another
unless their original spouse has died (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39).
this redefined mental divorce theory is not simply a minor difference in
“application” of a scriptural “principle.”Furthermore, it does not belong in the realm of conscience (Rom. 14). To
believe and advocate this doctrine, one must pervert (Gal. 1:6-9) and wrest (II
Pet. 3:16) numerous fundamental “principles” of gospel truth. As the man of God inquired, “If
the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psa. 11:3).
It is my heart’s desire and
prayer to God that those dearly beloved brethren who hold and/or defend this
doctrine will reconsider their ways. “Thus
saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where
is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls...”
note: Please consider the
following additional study materials:
& Remarriage; What Does The Text Say?, by Donnie Rader,
Divorce (May Some Put Away People Remarry);
consider pages 145-149 in the APPENDIX
Lawful?A Comprehensive Study of
Dennis G. Allan and Gary Fisher,
Constitutes Divorce? (by Bob Waldron);
Put Away the Put-Away? (by Gary Fisher);
rights of an Innocent Put-Away Person (by Kevin S. Kay).
Marriages and Mental Divorces (by Gene Frost).