When it comes to the issue of Divorce and Remarriage, God has a court. The question comes, “Who decides when there are or are not legitimate grounds for a divorce?”
There are 3 spheres that allow divorce:
• When immorality enters into a relationship —it is an allowance by God.
• When there is a non-Christian married to a Christian and the non-Christian deserts the Christian —then that is an allowance for the Christian to proceed with a divorce allowed by God…
• Removal from the fellowship of God to be excommunicated as to be under Spiritual death (1 Corinthians 5). (This is where there’s immorality, beating, or being a “striker,” being a violent person, for a person who’s not taking care of his family, etc.) It’s where the “supposed” Christian will not come under authority.
Before Divorce: A Death Must Occur
To sum it all up —a death must occur. For a woman is bound to her husband as long as the both shall live, as the Scriptures says. But when one dies, she is no longer bound. So a person can die physically —therefore, the Covenant has been broken. Or they can die Spiritually and therefore, the Covenant can be broken.
So the question is: WHO determines (the legitimate grounds), and HOW is it determined. Who decides? After discussing this whole issue of “removing people” from the fellowship in 1 Corinthians 5, it then continues in chapter 6. This is where it is explained HOW it’s to be done. (So chapter 6 is the continuation of chapter 5.)
God has set you up to judge the “whole world.” Judgment is a part of the role of the people of God. They render decisions on behalf of God Himself. Kingdom decisions are to be rendered by Kingdom People. That is because only Kingdom People obligate themselves to Kingdom rules. The Church was never intended to be a “2-hour building” that you went to for services once a week. It was intended to be an “expression of the Kingdom intentions” of the King. That’s why when Jesus prayed He said, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.“
So like it or not, judgment is a part of the role of the people of God.
A couple that decides that they want a divorce for “irreconcilable differences” (which there’s no such divorce for) needs to realize that everybody is irreconcilable to everybody else. You are very different from your mate. You’re supposed to be. God intentionally made you different. The issue is not the differences —we’re to turn them into “complements rather than conflicts.” But His point is, that you don’t go to the unrighteous, who have no Kingdom view of marriage, and don’t understand that God is the author of marriage. They’ll simply grant you (because you agree on your own terms) a no-fault divorce.
He’s not putting down judges, because you must have Civil Government. But when it comes to matters of the Kingdom, they’re to be decided within the Kingdom, and then they can be confirmed in the government.
In verse 7 (of 1 Corinthians 6), he says if you go to a Secular Law Court —you’ve already lost. You’ve lost for 2 reasons: number 1 you’ve destroyed your testimony, and number 2, God is against your process.
And so he raises the point here that the church is to act as God’s judging agency. Now this ought to solve a very important issue that many Christians are very confused about whenever you hear a person say, “Well, you’re not supposed to judge.” They are wrong! You are supposed to judge. The Bible tells us to judge. It tells us in 1 Corinthians 6 “to render a judgment in the Church.”
Christians are supposed to judge. In fact, Christians who are right related to God, are the best judges. That is because they’re going to judge predicated on a righteous standard. The righteous standard is God Himself. It is manifested in and through His word! Because Christians have access to Truth, we can render judgment.
In Matthew 7 (verse 1), people misinterpret the passage where it says “Do not judge, lest you’ll be judged.” Is that because you aren’t to judge? No, in verse 2 it says, “for in the same way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” He’s not saying, “don’t judge” but, BE CAREFUL, WHEN YOU JUDGE. Because the same judgment you use against another will be the very same judgment God uses against you. So think twice before you jump out there judgmentally. In other words, he’s saying, “judge carefully ” —not don’t judge at all!
How do you judge carefully? (Look at Matthew 7:3). Don’t judge folks who have something wrong with them “speck-sized” when you’ve got a tree-trunk hanging out of your eyeballs!
The problem today is, we have people judging other people when they’re as “messed up” as the folks they’re judging. Don’t condemn somebody else for something you’re doing and can’t get a handle on. (This can be further illustrated in John 8 with the woman who’s condemned for committing adultery.)
In the scriptures, when God established His courts, they carried authority with them. Deuteronomy 17, (starting with verse eight) shows that God’s court systems were to be taken seriously. And how powerful they were! (Numbers 5, starting with verse 12 illustrates this.) 1 Corinthians 10:11 says, “these things were written for our example.“
Regulations VS Revelations
The Old Testament, you can use it —NOT for it’s REGULATIONS, but for it’s REVELATIONS. That is, the principles still applies even though the specific way of carrying it out —God may not use that anymore. And the principle is —that God wants his people to render judgment, on God’s behalf, related to any kind of litigation issues. And we’re constantly dealing with them. Do you go and sue them downtown? God’s clear —you take it to the church.
What’s the process? It’s in Matthew 18 (starting with verse 15). So the first thing you do is, you handle it personally. If your brother has hurt you (or your mate has hurt you) the very first thing that you do is try to fix it privately. YOU NEVER CARRY A PROBLEM BEYOND ITS NEED, TO BE KNOWN. What makes it a need to be known? Matthew 18:16 —if he doesn’t listen to you. He’s not open for correction. He is not repentant. But it’s a legitimate thing. He says, by then, with 2 or 3 witnesses, every fact is confirmed. Two or 3 witnesses would mean that there would be a legality attached to the process now. It became official… it had witnesses.
So you take 2 or 3 witnesses to confirm that you tried and they won’t —that you are trying to fix this marriage, but they won’t. This is so that it’s not your word against their word, that you can VALIDATE that there is a sin and that that mate is not willing to correct it.
What happens then? In Matthew 18:17 it says, “tell it to the church.” Why do you tell it to the church? Because that’s the extended family —that’s the environment where God’s decisions are rendered.
“And if he will not listen to the church, LET HIM BE TO YOU, AS A GENTILE and TAX-GATHERER.” In other words, HE IS TO BE VIEWED AS SPIRITUALLY DEAD! He is rendered a gentile, or a tax collector. Not only were tax collectors sinners… they were also ostracized because of their occupation. Jews didn’t have fellowship with tax collectors. In other words, they are spiritually dead. They, may be a Christian… but you can now relate to them… as though they are spiritually dead.
Rendering Heavenly Decisions Concerning Divorce
Why? Verse 18. God gives the church the ability to act as His earthly court, rendering His heavenly decisions. “Whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven, whatever you bind on earth, will be bound in heaven.” The church’s job is to bind and loose. That simply means to “exercise authority on behalf of God.” AND IF YOU WANT TO BE BLESSED, THAT’S THE COURT YOU GO TO.
In verse 19, He says whenever you gather together to render decisions, “I’ll be in the midst of you.“ “When you gather together to make judgments using My word, applying them to the situations of life —that’s when the rubber meets the road.” The church is God’s extended family court. And just like you don’t want your children taking your family business out to the street, God doesn’t want His children carrying out kingdom business in the street to people who don’t have a Kingdom mentality.
Subject to God
But here’s why people don’t want to come to the church. They don’t want to come to the church because they don’t want to subject themselves to God. They want to go to somebody who will agree with them. Also, they don’t want to be rendered a “righteous decision,” they only want to be rendered THEIR decision.
So, how does this relate to marriage and divorce? 1 Corinthians 7:39. As long as the mate is alive… either physically or covenantally… then you are bound to that person. And the most you can do (1 Corinthians 7:10), is separate and remain unmarried or be reconciled. You don’t have grounds for a divorce as long as they’re alive.
If they are dead, they must be dead by God’s coroner. And God’s coroner is the church. Once they’re declared dead, then a declaration of death is always a freedom to remarry —because a woman is only bound to her husband, as long as he lives. So once he either dies, or is declared to be such (as a tax gatherer or a sinner) or as 1 Corinthians 5:5 says, “put him in the realm of Satan.” At that point, the party is free to remarry. Why? It’s because God has canceled out the previous marriage.
God hates divorce.
He never demands divorce. God only permits it. But He does allow it, when death occurs in order to preserve and protect the innocent.
There are 3 options the Christian has (and by the way, the reason God says to be married “only in the Lord” is because GOD DOESN’T WANT IT TO BE HEAVEN and HELL EXPERIENCE TO BE MARRIED, if they can help it), a person whose mate commits covenantal death has 3 choices:
• To restore them to the relationship based on restitution.
In fact, that always ought to be the 1st option, to see if we can fix what got broke. What if your mate does something that causes covenantal death, but they’re sincerely repentant? And how do you know they’re sincerely repentant? The Bible says “let them bring forth fruits of repentance.” There must be a demonstration or restitution that pays back the offended party, that lets them know they’re serious in their heart about what they just verbalized with their mouth as demonstrated by their actions.
They must be restored based on “their fruits of repentance.” And if they’re sincerely repentant, then the goal should be, if at all possible, to seek to restore them. (That’s the reason why God accepted the marriage of David to Bathsheba. God took restitution out on David. He lost four of his sons as David had declared that the man who did this crime should be punished four-fold. So he lost four of his sons as payment back to God. He set him free to marry only after he had received restitution.) So if you’ve offended your mate, you need to pay them back.
• To divorce
When your mate has become covenantally dead, that is, to have them declared so by the church, which frees you up. (This was the option Joseph was going to take with Mary. He decided to put her away privately, when he thought the mother of Jesus had been immoral.)
• You can choose to live continually with your covenantally dead spouse.
This applies even though they’ve committed an act and even though they’re unrepentant for their sin. (1 Corinthian 7:13-15) Here he sets the scenario, that the covenantally dead person or the unbeliever (he’s either an unbeliever, or he’s functioning as an unbeliever), wants to stay in the marriage relationship. If he’s willing to function, as her husband, and she’s willing to function as his wife —He says don’t leave.
You need to LOOK AT IT AS AN EVANGELISTIC OPPORTUNITY. He’s not saying you’re staying there and he’s beating on you. He’s not saying you’re staying there, and he won’t work. What He’s talking about is his willingness to stay there under the covenant of the family. Even if you have grounds (for divorce), if they’re willing to function properly, even though they’re not spiritually on track, then you “sanctify them.” If you love them and care about them, but they’re not on track, you may want to stay, pray, and watch God work through you to bring about a change —to bring that person back.
What do you do if you’re already coventally dead? GOOD NEWS —God has the ability to raise people from the dead!
This article was gleaned from an audio tape titled “Divorce Court” from the ministry of Dr Tony Evans. This was just a portion of what he had to say from a message he gave, based on 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. There are several excellent illustrations that aren’t written in the contents of this text. Please consider contacting the ministry of Urban Alternative through the web site at Tonyevans.org to possibly obtain this and other helpful information pertaining to marriage, divorce, re-marriage and other important topics.
— ALSO, Concerning Christians and Divorce —
Gary Thomas addresses this issue of Christians and divorce. We encourage you to read:
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