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Question #205

Can a marriage covenant ever die?

I have a scenario that is very confusing and would like to explain and get advise. A young girl had sex before marriage and did not marry. The boy moved with his parents so they were not able to see each other and eventually they dated other people. Then later she had sex before marriage with someone else and became pregnant. She did not marry the father or the child. During that time the first person she had sex with (whom she still loved) died. Grieving over the loss of her first boyfriend she contacted his family and went to see them. She began dating, did have sex with and then became pregnant from the brother of her first boyfriend (who died). Eventually married him. During the marriage he physically and mentally abused her did drugs, stole things, was an alcoholic and would go to bars and stay out all night. She never caught him in the act of cheating but is not sure whether or not he did cheat but would get suspicious since he would get very drunk and stay ! out all night sometimes for days at a time. When she finally got better from her grief and severe depression she left him and for fear of her life did not tell him where she and the children where. She divorced him and although not certain but based on information from someone who says he was seen at a bar with another woman thinks it may be possible that he may have cheated either before or after (or both) the divorce. He later married someone else. She met and dated another man, she did have sex with hi m before they were married. They dated for years before finally marrying. She had been baptized during her first marriage but fell away from God for several years. Now she is married and very fearful that she is in an unlawful marriage and wonders if she should leave the marriage and live the rest of her life alone. Her husband is not a christian and is actually quite hostile about the subject of God and christianity. What can you make of this confusing situation based on w! hat the Bible teaches? I have read all of the information on t! he website but am still confused. She talked with someone who told her that sometimes the marriage covenant "dies" and it is ok that she left the abusive marriage even if she had no proof of any cheating. The marriage she is in now has become very unhappy as well and she was also told if this marriage covenant is "dead" is ok to leave it as well. What a mess..... This also makes me wonder...a marriage is an actual marriage with vows thus a covenant...correct? In other words she was not married just because she had sex even though she basically joined herself physically by the act of sex. Is this right?

The Answer:

There is an old saying that some situations are so complex that they would cross a Rabbi’s eyes. This one comes close, but perhaps they can be simplified.

A young woman had sex with three men prior to marriage. She became pregnant by two of them. No. 1 and No. 3 were brothers; No. 2 was unrelated. The pregnancies were by No. 2 and No. 3. No. 1 died before the relationship with No. 3, No. 1’s brother.

The young woman did not marry until No. 1 was deceased at which time she married No. 3. No. 3 was abusive to her. Additionally, he was a thief, a drug user, and heavy drinker. He frequented bars and would be gone for days at a time. He was never caught in and did not confess unfaithfulness. The young woman divorced him and did not reveal where she was going because she feared for her safety. She was advised by someone that they had seen him at a bar with another woman from which she concluded that he might have been unfaithful either before or after the divorce. No. 3 subsequently remarried.

After a number of years the young woman also remarried. She had been baptized before she married No. 3, but she had been away from God for a number of years. Now she is worried that she may be in an unscriptural marriage. This marriage has become unhappy.

She had been advised by someone that the marriage covenant sometimes becomes dead and when it does it is acceptable to terminate the marriage. There is no indication of what constitutes a “dead” marriage or the standards by which one can tell if the marriage is “dead.”

The questions arising from these facts are: 1) Was there a marriage based upon fornication before marriage? 2) Was there a scriptural basis for the first divorce? 3) Is she bound to the second marriage?

  1. There was no marriage based on pre-marital fornication. Marriages do not happen by accident. There must be an intention to be married. No such intention is stated here. See also the answers to Question 171 and Class: Questions, Lesson 2, page 18, par. 6, PDF format, at this website.)

  2. There is obviously some doubt about whether unfaithfulness was involved prior to the divorce. Unfaithfulness after the divorce could not have been the cause of the divorce and thus was not a scriptural basis for the remarriage. Additionally, wisdom dictates that the safe approach be followed in affairs of the eternal soul. Thus, marriage is not advised under such circumstances where certainty of pre-divorce unfaithfulness is absent. This does not mean that the divorce itself should not have taken place. God does not require a spouse to remain in a marriage where there is mental or physical abuse. However, if unfaithfulness is not the basis of the divorce God requires that the divorced party either remain unmarried or be reconciled to the prior spouse. 1 Corinthians 7:11. See also the answer to Question #6 under Questions and Answers.

  3. This question is partially answered under No. 2, above. See also the answer to Question #73 under Questions and Answers. If the divorce from No. 2 was not because of fornication, the second marriage was unscriptural. The answer to Question #73 addresses that situation.

While the Inquirer here does not address the issue, reading of situations like this make our hearts go out to the young lady. We must keep in mind that God did not cause her problems. In fact, if she had followed God’s will the problems could have been avoided. The existence of the problems is not a reflection on the will or love of God; it is a commentary on the tragedy that people endure if they reject God’s will. Sin has consequences. Our sins often bring sad consequences into our lives. While many of those consequences cannot be undone, we can get right with God and avoid eternal consequences. That is the path that should be followed here.

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)