I read an article recently that confused the scriptural understanding of marriage and divorce. I think many enter marriage impulsively for the wrong reasons, and divorce in the same way. So here are some biblical basics regarding marriage and divorce.
God declares, “It is not good for man to be alone,” Genesis 2:18. Jay E. Adams, reformed theologian and Christian author, comments on this verse in his book entitled Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage in the Bible. He writes, “The reason for marriage is to solve the problem of loneliness…a marriage lacking companionship is headed for misery or divorce. All that jeopardizes companionship must be avoided; whatever promotes it must be cultivated.”
This is the central truth…
This is the central truth about marriage. While the home is the institution ordained by God for the birthing and nurturing of children, and sexual relations are blessed by God in the marital relationship, neither of these is the primary purpose of marriage. A couple can be childless and still have companionship. Children grow up and move away, but companionship remains. The ability to have sexual relations may be compromised by injury, disease, or old age, but companionship survives. A husband and wife may become too old to make love, but they will never grow too old to love.
The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” (See the narrative in Matthew 19:3-9). Jesus’s response was not “for any reason at all,” but “except for immorality.”
The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” (See the narrative in Matthew 19:3-9). Jesus’s response was not “for any reason at all,” but “except for immorality.” Immorality breaks the marital covenant; it does not necessitate divorce, but gives the grounds for one especially when the adultery is not repented of and continues.
The context here is Jesus is addressing what believers and followers of the law of Moses should do, Paul addresses another issue in the context of the Gospel being carried to the gentiles, First Corinthians 7:10-16.
Paul gives essentially the same instructions in verses 10-11 to a believing couple as Jesus did, and then addresses those situations in which one of the spouses becomes a believer and the other doesn’t. In verse 15 he writes, “if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the bother or sister is not under bondage in such cases.” The believer is no longer bound by the marital covenant when the unbelieving spouse deserts him or her.
While these are the only two reasons given explicitly for divorce, it seems intuitively clear that chronic abuse by either spouse would be grounds for divorce. A husband cannot claim he loves his wife (Ephesians 5:25) and abuse her, nor can a wife claim to respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33) and be abusive to him?
It takes two to marry, only one to divorce.
It takes two to get married and sustain it; it takes only one to get a divorce. Many give up too soon with too little effort, but God recognized the need for divorce when appropriate and regulated it. God hates divorce because of the sin that is at the root of every divorce, but not every divorce is sinful.