The Biblical View of Divorce and Remarriage -- Part 3
What about remarriage? Truthfully the Bible doesn't say nearly as much about remarriage. I'm not sure why. Nonetheless, the fact remains that little is said of it. We know that if a person's spouse dies, the survivor is free to remarry (1Cor 7:39). We can say for certainty that if the divorce is NOT Biblical, then the two are not free to be remarried except to each other (Matt 19:9). However, nothing concrete and clear is said of those who are left after a Biblical divorce.
Brothers and Sisters, where Scripture is silent, we must be as well. Now it is a generally accepted throughout Christian history that remarriage after a Biblical divorce is not forbidden nor sinful. After all, Jesus says "except sexual immorality" in Matt 19:9, and Paul says "a (believer) is not under bondage" in 1Cor 7:15. Not under bondage means, well, NOT UNDER BONDAGE. Certainly it's a reasonable position, even admitting that we lack a concrete passage dealing with remarriage save for 1Cor 7:39. Many great expositors and students of Scripture have taken this position.
John Piper takes a different position. I pause to take a deep breath, and look on in horror as I am forced once again to disagree with Piper, whom I admire and appreciate as a great brother in the Lord. One of these days I'm going to write a tribute to John Piper because he has had an indelible influence on my life and I'm tired of taking him to task. He's right way more often than he's wrong and when he is wrong it is infrequent and on secondary matters.
At any rate, Piper wrote this paper. With all due respect, he's wrong.
I won't pick apart his paper piece by piece, but I will take a few things he says here and show you good examples of eisegesis. Eisegesis is when you inject a meaning into Scripture instead of allowing Scripture to speak for itself and determine it's own meaning.
Take, for example his deconstruction of Matthew 19:
"Before we jump to the conclusion that this absolute statement should be qualified in view of the exception clause ("except for unchastity") mentioned in Matthew 19:9, we should seriously entertain the possibility that the exception clause in Matthew 19:9 should be understood in the light of the absolute statement of Matthew 19:6, ("let no man put asunder") especially since the verses that follow this conversation with the Pharisees in Mark 10 do not contain any exception when they condemn remarriage."Later he says:
"I began, first of all, by being troubled that the absolute form of Jesus' denunciation of divorce and remarriage in Mark 10:11,12 and Luke 16:18 is not preserved by Matthew, if in fact his exception clause is a loophole for divorce and remarriage. I was bothered by the simple assumption that so many writers make that Matthew is simply making explicit something that would have been implicitly understood by the hearers of Jesus or the readers of Mark 10 and Luke 16.
Would they really have assumed that the absolute statements included exceptions? I have very strong doubts, and therefore my inclination is to inquire whether or not in fact Matthew's exception clause conforms to the absoluteness of Mark and Luke."For one thing, as I said in part 1, we can not look to Luke 16 as an authoritative Scripture on divorce and remarriage in light of the fact that it was not the thrust of Jesus' point in Luke 16. Mark 10, however, is different and much like the need for reconciliation between Matt 19 and Luke 16, we must also reconcile Matt 19 and Mark 10.
I have a problem with Piper's reconciliation because he is writing a portion of Scripture out of Matthew by essentially erasing it by saying it must conform to Mark 10. Rather, a better handling of Scripture would be to say that Mark 10 leaves some things unsaid, and Matthew 19 says those things. That way BOTH portions of Scripture can say all they need to say and are harmonized perfectly. Pipers method requires an eraser. My method requires a reverence for all of Scripture.
Piper makes some conclusions at the end of his paper and says the following:
"In the New Testament the question about remarriage . . . it is determined by the fact that:
Marriage is a "one-flesh" relationship of divine establishment and extraordinary significance in the eyes of God (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8),
Only God, not man, can end this one-flesh relationship (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9—this is why remarriage is called adultery by Jesus: he assumes that the first marriage is still binding, Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11),
God ends the one-flesh relationship of marriage only through the death of one of the spouses (Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39),
The grace and power of God are promised and sufficient to enable a trusting, divorced Christian to be single all this earthly life if necessary (Matthew 19:10-12,26; 1 Corinthians 10:13),
Temporal frustrations and disadvantages are much to be preferred over the disobedience of remarriage, and will yield deep and lasting joy both in this life and the life to come (Matthew 5:29-30)."
Let's take him point by point, shall we?
1. "Marriage is a "one-flesh" relationship of divine establishment and extraordinary significance in the eyes of God."
This is true. However, to be fair to Scripture, there are instances where this one-flesh relationship ends. If it being one flesh meant that it were always to remain that way, then 1Cor 7:15 and 1Cor 7:39 would be out of place. So while the statement is true, it is limited.
2. "Only God, not man, can end this one-flesh relationship —this is why remarriage is called adultery by Jesus: he assumes that the first marriage is still binding"
Not so. In a 1Cor 7:15 situation, did God end the marriage or did the unbelieving spouse? Is the believer under bondage?
3. "God ends the one-flesh relationship of marriage only through the death of one of the spouses."
While it's true that He does end it that way, by His word he also allows for other endings. Again, you can't erase Jesus' word in Matt 19 or in Matt 5 simply because the statement was incomplete in Mark 10 or Luke 16. You also can't say that Jesus is placing a bondage on those in marriage with Mark 10 and Luke 16 and say that 1Corinthians 7 is wrong to say that a believer is not under bondage.
4. "The grace and power of God are promised and sufficient to enable a trusting, divorced Christian to be single all this earthly life if necessary"
No argument here.
5. "Temporal frustrations and disadvantages are much to be preferred over the disobedience of remarriage, and will yield deep and lasting joy both in this life and the life to come"
And here is where I have my biggest problem. Piper, and those who agree with him, are taking a poor interpretation and poor handling of Scripture and turning it into a burden on their Biblicaly divorced brothers and sisters. They are putting on them a yoke that they put on no other group and a yoke that is not put on them by Scripture.
Piper has to write an entire position paper in which he ignores parts of Scripture to come to this conclusion. No one can point to a scripture or passage that deals with remarriage in a way that he concludes. Rather, the texts must be massaged and compromised in some cases, to come to his conclusion.
No, divorce for flippant and stupid reasons is not Biblical. One can certainly be sure that remarriage in those cases is exactly what Piper and his compadres are claiming it is. But they cannot ignore Scripture nor can they make a rule where Scripture does not.
Treating Matt 5 and Matt 19 on their own, letting them speak for themselves plainly, we see a clear exception. The same is true for 1 Corinthians 7. This cannot be ignored even if other passages do not have the same clauses. The best interpretation of these passages, without doing them harm, is to take them at their word.
There are exceptions to divorce and the subsequent remarriage clauses that follow are also subject to those exceptions. God has shown tremendous grace to believers in those circumstances and our attitude ought to reflect this grace. We ought to be like Christ and make exception where He does. Moreover, there is a lack of clear teaching dealing directly and solely with remarriage in the circumstances of Biblical divorce. Scripture is silent.
We should take the hint.
In closing, I'd like to beg you, my dear readers, to pray and help my fellow divorced believers. Especially those who are also single parents. It is a lonely place to be. One thing I was struck by when I began being social again after my own marriage fell apart was that modern American Churches are overwhelmingly geared toward families. I often felt out of place, misunderstood, and as if I was falling through the cracks. For me, there were long times of despair and sadness. I thought that no woman would ever understand or want me again. I questioned whether God wanted me.
I'm happy to report that God's grace is amazing. I remain a single man, but I am, thankfully, past the initial stages of depression. Others, however, never find their way out. Single parents and divorced believers need our affection and love. They need to be cared for and helped. They need to see Christ's care for them manifested in His people. The last thing they need is an additional burden not found in Scripture. Yes, many of them will remain single and scarred, but some will not. After these past few days, I hope that you'll see that in some cases, that is a good thing and an occasion to praise God with our divorced brethren, not an occasion for rebuke.