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Clarifying Marriage Doctrine for Women

One of the most perplexing issues about marriage doctrine is about what to do with women who have been previously "married and divorced". Women who have been "divorced" find themselves being informed out-of-hand by some sincere Christians that it would be adultery if a Christian man was to marry them.

Of course, it is very good that Christians would not want to fall into the sin of committing adultery, and thus very good that they would preach against adultery. Absolutely. And amen.

But is this matter really all that simple?

What about women who were "married and divorced" before they even came to Christ?

What about women who were "married" to unGodly unbelievers who had "divorced" them?

Has the Lord not provided a way for such women in such unGodly cases?

More than one woman in these kinds of situations, women who were NOT married nor "divorced" from a believer man, although perhaps "divorced" from an UNbeliever man, has cried out these kinds of questions to this ministry, seeking a Scripture-based answer.

Recently, for just one example, on January 30, 2000, one woman asked for a clarification of all these issues in a post she made at the FRIENDS and FELLOWHELPERS listserv (also known as "FAF").

That woman's post, and then the reply to it from the Founder of this ministry, are herein copied below, in trying to provide some further clarification of all these kinds of issues and questions in this most perplexing matter for us as Scripture-believing Christians.


-----Original Message-----
From: [Woman Asking]
To: FAF listserv
Date: Sunday, January 30, 2000 10:28 AM
Subject: question

Hello everyone its me again. I feel that God has forgiven me for everything. I've had an issue come up that I would like clarification on. Since I am a divorced woman would someone who would marry me be comitting adultery? I was told they would be comitting adultery if they were to marry me. And yes I have read what is on Truth Bearer's site. I just need it in plain english so I can understand. Thanks [Woman Asking]


On Feburary 1, 2000, the Founder of this ministry then posted the following reply.


-----Original Message-----
From: . . . TRUTH BEARER
To: FAF listserv
Date: Tuesday, February 01, 2000 4:04 PM
Subject: Clarifying Marriage Doctrine for Women . . . Re: question

Greetings in the love of the Lord Christ Jesus.

Dear FELLOWHELPERS,

While this is addressed to [Woman Asking] who asked the original and very good question, this reply here will be another "meaty" one which may be of interest to others here as well. I pray this be a blessing for all who are able to read it!

Dear [Woman Asking],

Good question you ask.

From your post, I take it you have already read the lengthy
6-Part series at TRUTH BEARER, titled,

"ReMarriage of a Woman",
as linked from the 'START' page at
http://www.truthbearer.org

(If you have not yet read that, I would heartily encourage you to do so when you have some time. :-)

But to try to "put it in simple English" ....
  :-)

I will try here to put it as concisely yet completely as possible. At the end of this, I will provide a short "flow-chart" of questions to make it easy for a woman to determine as to where her particular situation "is" in terms of marriage doctrine. And after that, I will make one final showing of the difference of doctine between a believer woman being married to a believer husband versus being married to an unbeliever husband.

It comes down to the issue of who is saved in the marriages, who is a believer in Christ Jesus?

Think of it this way, in terms of the "world" and all:

There are three types of "marriages"
1) Believer married to believer
2) Believer married to UNbeliever (i.e., a hybrid-marriage)
3) UNbeliever married to UNbeliever

Sinners without salvation in Christ Jesus are condemned already, as per John 3:18, as it is written,

"He that believeth on him [i.e, in Christ] is not condemned: but he that believeth NOT is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18.)

Without Christ as our Saviour, we are condemned already.

Nothing we do will change that, except for receiving salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. (See Ephesians 2:8-9.)

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one". (Romans 3:10.)

"But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." (Galatians 3:22.)

Amen. Hallelujah!

This means that all doctrine to which the saved/Godly follow is irrelevant for unbelievers, because unbelievers are condemned already, for, as it is written,

"by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified [[i.e., rendered as fully innocent]]..." (Romans 3:20a.)

(I understand that doctrine is doctrine, but this need not cause a battle here with anyone as this only a matter of semantics. My point here about irrelevancy for unbelievers is that doctrine simply does not have any effect on unbelievers because it will have no impact on whether or not they do or do not follow doctrine, because they are condemned no matter what, until or unless they accept the gift of salvation by Christ Jesus alone. It is for THAT reason and within THAT context that I am here saying that doctrine is irrelevant for being followed by or pertaining to unbelievers.)

This means that all sin is sin, and so, anything we do/have-done as unrepentant/unsaved sinners is irrelevant. Without Christ, nothing we did matters, until we repent and come to Christ in all true sincerity, in spirit and in truth. (See John 4:23-24.)

This means that the #3 possibility above doesn't matter in terms of marriage doctrine. Unbelievers married to unbelievers is meaningless to us in terms of doctrine, and is meaningless to unbelievers too!

All things any of us would do as sinners before we come to Christ are then washed away by the blood of Christ, upon salvation. Hallelujah!

As such, once we DO come to Christ, we THEN become a new creature in Christ. As it is written,

"Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, ALL things [[i.e., including all sins, relationships, so-called "marriages" with unbelievers, etc, ALL things]] are become new." (2_Corinthians 5:17.)

It is AT THAT POINT when doctrine then pertains to us and is therefore very relevant to us.

So, marriage doctrine then begins to have effect upon salvation.

So, that leaves us with two possibilities:

1) Believer married to believer
2) Believer married to UNbeliever (i.e., a hybrid-marriage)

Actually, believers are instructed NOT to marry unbelievers, for the spiritual kind of destruciton which can happen.

As it is written,

"Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (2_Corinthians 6:14.)

But of course, sometimes some unfortunate believers might either find themselves newly come to Christ while still being married to an unbeliever who refuses to come to Christ, or they find themselves having been deceived by one pretending to be a believer when that person is are actually completely unGodly and unsaved in spirit and in truth. These are situations of the #2 possibility of marriages; namely, hybrid-marriages, where a believer is married to an unbeliever.

For such dear believers who find themselves in such unfortunate situations, the Apostle Paul provided the instructions for hybrid-marriages in 1_Corinthians 7:12-15.

At the beginning of that passage, Paul clarifies that he is then speaking to a different group of people than to whom he had been addressing in the previous verses of 10-11 (which had been addressed to marriages between believers exclusively, to which all of God's doctrine, of course, does apply). Hence is the reason he says, "But to the rest speak I...."

As Paul wrote,

"But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 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.

"But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister [i.e., in Christ] is NOT UNDER BONDAGE in such cases: but God hath called us to peace." (1_Corinthians 7:12-15.)

The reason that the believer is instructed to remain with the unbeliever, if the unbeliever would mutually consent to remain, is for the possibility that that unbeliever might later become a believer in Christ too. Hallelujah for the salvation of any soul! Praise the Lord for ever! Amen. As Christians, the salvation of other souls must be of our highest priorities, with the love of Christ in our hearts for everyone, that all who would, that they might be saved. And again, Amen!

As Paul then asks in the subsequent verse,

"For what knowest thou, O {{BELIEVER}} wife, whether thou shalt save thy {{UNBELIEVER}} husband?

"or how knowest thou, O {{BELIEVER}} man,whether thou shalt save thy {{UNBELIEVER}} wife? (1_Corinthians 7:16.)

The possibility of salvation is the ONLY reason for a believer in this kind of hybrid-marriage to remain with the unbeliever who mutually consents to dwell with the believer.

Howbeit, Paul does still provide a way "out" from being so unequally yoked with an unbeliever who does not so "be pleased" / mutually consent to dwell with the believer: Verse 15.

As it is written,

"But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is NOT UNDER BONDAGE in such cases: but God hath called us to peace." (1_Corinthians 7:15.)

This means that the believer brother OR SISTER is not under bondage to marriage doctrine if the UNBELIEVER wife or husband departs or otherwise pushes them away.

This means that even the believer WOMAN is free indeed "in such cases". As we know Christian Polygamy doctine, a man would, of course, naturally be free to marry another wife. But this verse also says that a SISTER too is free in such cases. That is the most relevant part of this verse here. Yes, a believer wife may indeed be FREE from an unbeliever husband in such cases.

At this point, she must not marry another unbeliever, but must from that point on adhere to the original instruction of 2_Corinthians 6:14, to not be unequally yoked AGAIN with any unbeliever.

So all this brings us to the only remaining possbility of marriage.

1) Believer married to believer

All marriage doctrine therein applies to the believer married to a believer. And the thing to remember is that

"the LORD God of Isreal, saith that he hateth putting away..." (Malachi 2:16a-b.)

God hates divorce.

That is the single most important thing which all Christian husbands and wives must remember, when it comes to the question of "divorce" and believers.

For, as Paul wrote for believers who are married to believers,

"And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, {{ie, GOD IS COMMANDING THIS...} 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." (1_Corinthians 7:10-11.)

In this passage, Paul is only speaking to those to whom all doctrine of God applies, in this case specifically, it is marriage doctrine. This is addressed to husbands who are believers and to wives who are believers.

And Paul says that not only is this doctrine, but these words he is saying here go one step further than that, not just being his words, but even more so being an actual outright COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD to believers married to believers!

The beginning and ending of that COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD is that the believer wife should not depart and the believer husband should not put her away.

The middle part addresses doctrine if she, the believer wife, STILL departs anyway.

The COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD here is that, if the believer wife STILL departs from the believer husband, then she must remain unmarried. (Her being joined with anyone other than her husband would be the breaking of her wedlock with her believer husband, "na`aph" in the Hebrew, ie., adultery.) The only other option available to this believer wife who still departs from the believer husband is to be reconciled to her believer husband. (And thus this is also a COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD to the believer husband that he let the previously-departed believer wife be reconciled back to him.)

So, what this passage shows us is that it is a

  COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD

that a believer wife who STILL departs from her believer husband must not be with any other man but remain alone or reconciled back to her husband, so long as her husband lives.

As it is written, (realizing that this is speaking only to BELIEVERS, because following doctrine is irrelevant to change the condemnation of unbelievers until they accept salvation in Christ)....

"For the woman which hath an husband is BOUND [[as in, "under bondage", as we saw in 1_Corinthians 7:15, she is BOUND]] by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband." (Romans 7:2.)

"The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; ONLY IN THE LORD." (1_Corinthians 7:39.)

So, for a believer woman who had been "divorced", here is a sort-of "flow chart" of three questions for her to ask herself, in determining issues here. If any question here has the answer of "Yes", then the believer woman is free to marry, but only to a believer man in Christ.

  1. Did her previous "marriage(s)" occur and end before she came to Christ?

  2. Was the man actually an UNbeliever to whom she was married while she was a believer, who has since departed from her?

  3. Is the believer man to whom she was married, is he now dead?

    • If yes, she is free, but only to marry another believer.
      (1_Corinthians 7:39.)

    • If no, she is commanded of the Lord to remain unmarried or be reconciled back to her believer husband so long as he lives.
      (1_Corinthians 7:10-11.)

If the woman was a believer married to a POSSIBLE believer man, the real question then is whether he was a *real* or a *fake* believer (as there are certainly many who only "go through the motions" of LOOKING as though they are Christian when they really are not.) Fake believers are not believers "in spirit and in truth" (per John 4:23-24.)

So, even if the man claimed to be a "Christian", but never really was "in spirit and in truth" (please understand, I'm only talking deliberate fakery here, not about our misjudging mere human failings which we all have), then such a one would be considered an unbeliever, and the believer woman would then be considered free to marry a true believer, all as per 1_Corinthians 7:12-15.

So, in summary....

To apply these things as to how they pertain to a believer woman...

  • 1_Corinthians 7:10-11 is the COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD to believer wives of believer husbands. The believer wife may NOT marry another as long as her believer husband lives. God commands that, if she departs, she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her believer husband.

  • 1_Corinthians 7:12-16 applies ONLY to hybrid-marriages, where the believer wife finds herself with an unbeliever. The believer wife is "not under bondage", is not "bound" to the law of marriage doctrine, in such cases when her unbelieving so-called "husband" departs or himself pushes her away from him (same thing), in that he is not "pleased" / mutually consenting to dwell with her. In such cases, she is at liberty to marry, but only to a believer.

So, while I realize that this has been perhaps a bit lengthy, I do pray it has been concise yet complete in providing you with some insight into marriage and adultery doctrine, to which is only relevant for us who are in Christ Jesus.

For anyone seeking an even deeper and more comprehensive study of all these issues here, then I would recommend reading the

6-Part series at TRUTH BEARER, titled,

"ReMarriage of a Woman",
as linked from the 'START' page at
http://www.truthbearer.org

Thanks for asking for this clarification, and I do pray it has been helpful for you and hopefully that I wrote this even in "plain English"!   :-)

May the wondrous love of the Lord Christ Jesus be with you.

YHWH bless...

---Mark
  Founder
TRUTH BEARER
   Acts 24:14
http://truthbearer.org

© February 1, 2000, TruthBearer.org
P.O. Box 765, O.O.B., ME 04064


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