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Question #387

Is divorce permitted on the grounds of spousal abuse?

I have read Lesson 2 on marriage & divorce and agree with the whole lesson. One topic it did not delve into is can a spouse divorce in the situation of spousal abuse or even when children are involved and the safety of spouse and children are in danger? The argument is based on 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 which was briefly discussed at bottom of lesson 2. It is being argued a spouse can divorce in “man’s law” but are still married in “God’s eyes”. The spouse would not be able to remarry. And the reason they would need to divorce by “man’s law” is so they can better hide from the dangerous spouse and protect themselves and children. They can again do this because they are still married in “God’s eyes” and are obeying other scriptural responsibilities to take care of children. Verse 11 states if she departs (divorces), let her remain unmarried. This to me contradicts Jesus when he says only reason for divorce is fornication. Does not the end of verse 11 “let not the husband put away his wife” not mean “if she departs” means she left without getting a divorce? If not, why would verse 11 have to say “let not the husband put away his wife when that wouldn’t be an option if they were already divorced? I would appreciate input on this and what the scriptures speak on this. There are elders and preachers in the church of Christ teaching this and I clearly think the Bible does not allow this. Thanks.

The Answer:

The part of Lesson 2 under “Class: Questions” to which you refer is most likely:

“God permits divorce for causes other than fornication. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. In such cases, however, there can be no remarriage. They must remain unmarried or be reconciled. Thus the case is that divorce for whatever reason ends the marriage. If it did not Paul could not have said that those who divorced for causes other than fornication were to remain unmarried.”

If you read it carefully you will see that it does not say that a person divorced for a reason other than fornication is still married in God’s eyes. It says exactly the opposite – that a divorce for whatever reason ends the marriage. It does not contradict what Jesus taught since Jesus was discussing what happened when a person divorced for a reason other than fornication and then remarried. Paul did not reach that issue because he by inspiration said that the person who divorced for a reason other then fornication was required to remain unmarried. God does not require a spouse to remain in a marriage where the health and physical or spiritual welfare of a spouse or children are at risk. In such a relationship one or both of the participants made a serious mistake. God does not require that mistake to continue. He does require the participants to suffer the results of that mistake – remain unmarried.

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)