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Question #96

Are the divorce and remarriage rules different for men and women?

As you know, muddled teachings on divorce are everywhere throughout the Lord's church. I have even seen men I loved and respected for their fight for the truth teach falsely about acceptable reasons for divorce and what the scripture allows. So I guess I have 2 questions for you:

  1. If a person, man or woman, puts away his/her spouse for any reason other than adultery do you feel they are subject to church discipline?

  2. It seems in the scripture that there is a distinction made between man and woman and what each can do accordingly regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage. In all teaching that I have heard it is always applied universally to both male and female. Is this accurate? Can a woman scripturally divorce her husband?

The Answer:

I agree that muddled teaching on divorce exists everywhere, including the Lord’s church. Unfortunately, most of it arises because those who depart from the teaching of scripture very often have family members whose condition they are trying to justify. For example, I know of a group of elders who told a young man who was divorced without scriptural cause that he could never marry again unless he was reconciled to his first wife. Today that young man is married to the unscripturally divorced daughter of one of those elders. Moreover, the couple is now teaching in the Bible school. It is truly sad when leaders in the church bend Biblical teaching to conform to personal practice rather than conforming personal practice to Biblical teaching.

As for your questions, you have not provided sufficient information to answer the first question. They are not subject to discipline if there is no remarriage following the divorce. In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul gives instruction for a situation involving divorce in the absence of adultery: “10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” That the Greek word translated “depart” involves divorce is evident from the context because Paul says that she should “remain unmarried.” Discipline would be appropriate if remarriage occurred rather than staying single or being reconciled.

While much Biblical teaching is stated in the masculine, it is generally applicable to both male and female. God is no respecter of persons. Even in situations where the context clearly limits teaching to males, e.g., since an elder must be the husband of one wife women do not qualify as elders, God is not holding male in favor over female. The fact that different functions are assigned male and female has nothing to do with their worth as individuals. Much teaching is stated in the masculine because, until the day of political correctness, the masculine gender was often used in the sense of mankind to include both male and female. The fact that the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:9ff. is couched in terms of the husband putting away his wife does not mean that the wife cannot put away her husband. She may in fact do so, but under the same conditions, or in the absence of adultery, under the same limitations. That this is so becomes absolutely clear in Marks record (10:11-12) where both the husband and the wife are addressed.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)