Staff's ROD

Staff's ROD #28, Divorce and Remarriage

By Bro. Vince Kluth

We at MBC take exception to the last phrase found in the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter XXIV, paragraph V, which states:


5. Adultery or fornication, committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract.a In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce,b and after the divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.c


The discordant phrase is, "and after the divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead" (underlined).  Neither Matthew 19:9 nor Romans 7:2-3, the scripture proofs given for that phrase, actually support their assertion - which is highly unusual for the Westminster Divines. Those passages read as follows:


(Matthew 19:9) 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.

(Romans 7:1) Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? (2) For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. (3) So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.


One can readily see that it is a far stretch to take the physically dead of Romans 7:3 (if her husband be dead) to refer to a spiritually dead man.  This would put the Apostle Paul's permit of Romans 7 at odds with his direction in 1Corinthians 7:13-14, which says:


(1Cor. 7:13-14) And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.


Let's look at the context of Romans 7. In verse 1, Paul reminds them of the law's permanent hold on men until they physically die.  In verses 2-3, Paul finds the perfect analogy for the permanence view of the law in the marriage covenant.  He speaks in earthly terms which the Bible has already established (Ex 20:14, Deut 5:18, 22:22-29, etc.).  Then in verse 4, Paul goes from the physical to the spiritual, where he writes under inspiration:  


(Romans 7:4) Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.


Paul is using the physical marriage relationship to illustrate our spiritual relationship to Christ through His death.  Only death fully dissolves the marriage bond; likewise, Christ's death and our union to him effectively kills us in the eyes of the law, so that we can be married to another.  The law didn't die, I did - in Christ.  He rose from the dead, and so did I, because of that union with Him. It is a magnificent picture of our blessed union to Christ.


There are no exceptions to this rule of full dissolution, which is pivotal to Paul's point.  As such, there cannot be remarriage, which Jesus clearly stated in Matthew 19:9.  (If you are using a counterfeit Bible, such as the ESV, then that phrase will be conveniently missing.)  In fact, in Matthew 19:10, it is clear that Jesus taught marriage for life, when the disciples exclaimed:


(Matthew 19:10) His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.


The disciples got the point that marriage is for life, as noted by their remark!


For a more thorough analysis of all scripture references to marriage, divorce and remarriage, view Bro. Vince's lengthy paper on this subject here.

Review Of Doctrine (ROD) from the Staff at MBC.  Find articles and resources that explain our beliefs, as well as our confessional exceptions.