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Question #320

I have another long question about divorce and remarriage.

I have consulted with other brethren with questions in regards to marriage-divorce-remarriage. If possible, I would like to have your answer according to the scriptures. I was previously married to a man who had a living wife. I was in this relationship for 12 years, with no scriptural right to be married to him. I was willfully living in sin, and I knew it. The marriage ended in divorce in 1995. I remarried in 1999 to a man who has never been married. In 2003, My first husband died. My husband that I am married to now was baptized into Christ in 2002. August 2005 my husband was restored. I also was restored October 19,08. My question is, according to the scripture: Romans 7:1-4, (2)'For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loose form the law of her husband. (3)So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.'.. Please explain verse 4. I have crossed referenced Romans 7:1-4 with Matt.5:32, Matt.19:9, Gal.2:19, Gal.5:18, Col.2:14. According to the scriptures, do I have a right to be remarried, since my first husband is dead? Did his death loosen me from all ties to my 1st marriage with God? and is this marriage I am in right in the sight of God?

The Answer:

This question begins with a woman married to a man who had a living wife (Marriage 1) and who had been divorced without scriptural cause. She does not say whether she had been married before, but since the question concludes by asking about ties to her “first husband” this answer will assume that she had not been married before and that the reference is to the “first husband” of Marriage 1.

First, God recognized marriage 1 even though it was adulterous. Marriage 1 ended in divorce in 1995. Marriage 1 was consummated in spite of its being knowingly adulterous. No adultery is alleged in the question as the cause of the 1995 divorce. Thus, when Marriage 1 ended the questioner was required to remain single under 1 Cor. 7:11. The second option was not open to her because there was no prior husband.

Second, After the 1995 divorce, a second marriage (Marriage 2) followed in 1999 to a man who had never been married and who was not a Christian. Husband 1 was still alive. Accordingly, the woman was not entitled to marry Husband 2 and the marriage was adulterous under Mark 10:12.

Third, Husband 2 was baptized in 2002. This baptism did not change the fact that the marriage was adulterous. See “Class:Questions,” Lesson No. 2; “Questions and Answers,” Question No. 2.

Fourth, Husband 1 died in 2003.
Fifth, in 2005 Husband 2 was restored. This was approximately 6 years after the marriage, two years after Husband 1’s death, and three years after his baptism. No facts were given about the reason for the restoration.

Sixth, while the date is not clear, it appears to have been in 2008 that the wife was restored. Again, no reason is given for the restoration. It is reasonable to conclude that neither restoration had to do with the adulterous marriage with Husband 2 because the restorations occurred at different times while both were living in adultery.

Given those facts, the real issue is the impact of the 2003 death of Husband 1 on the validity of the marriage with Husband 2. The argument is that when Husband 1 died the wife was freed from the law of Husband 1 (the marriage vow) and was free to marry Husband 2. But consider what had happened that did not change. A. The divorce from Husband 1 still was not “for the cause of fornication.” B. The marriage to Husband 2 was still adulterous. C. When Husband 2 was baptized a year before Husband 1’s death he continued to live in an adulterous marriage. D. When Husband 2 and later the wife were restored they both continued to live in an adulterous marriage. E. The husband’s death in 2003 changed none of these things. It did not make the divorce of 1995 be “for the cause of fornication.” It did not and could not change that history.

But didn’t the death of Husband 1 in 2003 free the wife from the marriage vow to Husband 1? Absolutely not. The wife left that law back in 1995 and nothing ever reinstated it. These facts, though complicated, are really nothing more than the old argument that when two people divorce for a reason other than fornication, and one of the two later remarries, since the marriage of the first divorced spouse is adulterous the second divorced spouse is free to remarry. NOT SO. The putting away between the two spouses was still not for the cause of fornication; the fornication and adultery in the case of the first spouse to marry was the result of the original putting away. The Lord did not say that one who puts away a spouse for other than fornication is free to remarry if the other spouse marries first. He said that if one who put away a spouse for a reason other than fornication and married another commits adultery. He added absolutely nothing about “unless the spouse put away marries first.” 1 Cor. 7:11 remains clear: if there is divorce for a reason other than fornication the options are to remain single or be reconciled. It is fairly easy to recognize that sin has unintended consequences unless those unintended consequences are falling upon us. That is the problem here. This lady should have made decisions about the impact of divorce on her spiritual life before her Marriage 1, but failing that, certainly before her divorce and Marriage 2. Marriage 1 was admittedly adulterous and deliberately chosen in spite of God’s will. She knew God’s will but chose not to be bound by it. Now the consequences have come home and she wishes to be free from the results of her prior choices. And so she can be from the sin, but not from the consequences upon her life. It is as if a man chooses deliberately to drink in excess and in the process wrecks his automobile and becomes physically quadriplegic. The sin can be forgiven; the quadriplegic condition remains for life.

C.S. Lewis addressed the issue well. Writing to one who inquired about the right of the innocent party in a divorce to remarry he said: “All I would say is that the matter should be decided once and for all now while the question of re-marriage is purely academic, so as to save you from painful indecisions later on, and also because your whole future attitude to your thoughts and feelings and indeed much of your social behaviour must be governed by it.” (Yours, Jack, Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis, p. 258, edited by Paul F. Ford, Harper One, 2008, emphasis by the author.)

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)