Jesus on Sexual Sin and Divorce

As I continue the series on applying the Sermon on the Mount to marriage, we come to a passage that’s all about marriage:

It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” [Mat 5:31&32]

Adultery © Dreamstime Agency | Dreamstime.com

This seems to be one of those passages people either ignore or make into more than what it says. I find it sadly interesting some who treat divorce as the unforgivable sin don’t get nearly as worked up about other things Jesus said in this discourse. I don’t mean to downplay divorce, but why don’t we spend as much time on the whole “anger is like murder” passage a few verses earlier? But I digress …

The contentious issue here is the meaning of the word translated as “sexual immorality”. I’ve studied this a great deal, and I think sexual immorality is exactly the right definition. The Greek word is Porneia, which Strong’s defines as “adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.”. Most scholars agree first century Jews and Christians used the word to indicate sexual sins as a whole, but some then go on to argue this is not what Jesus meant in this passage. Some say it means only fornication, meaning it only applies if the woman is found to have had sex before marriage. Others say it means adultery, and only allows for divorce if one’s spouse commits adultery.

There are a great many arguments for and against all of the definitions; I choose to focus on the issue of covenant – something most in the Western world don’t understand. A covenant is not like a contract; there are no loopholes and you can’t end it by mutual agreement. A covenant only ends when one of two things happens – either one person dies, or one person breaks the covenant. The thing that breaks a marriage covenant is… sexual immorality. Sexual immorality always breaks the marriage covenant – period, full stop. Under the law, anyone who broke a covenant was put to death – no appeal, no exception, death. So in the OT if a spouse had sex with another person (of either gender) or with an animal, they were put to death. This clearly left their spouse single and free to marry again.

As I see it, God still sees sexual immorality as a really big deal. Sexual immorality still breaks the marriage covenant; the cross didn’t change that. What the cross did change is the death penalty. If you commit a sexual sin, your marriage covenant is broken, but you’re not put to death. So the husband and wife are both still alive, but not married because the covenant has been broken.

Divorce is a legal action, and it has no power over a covenant. You can be divorced and still in a marriage covenant, or your marriage covenant can be broken but you are not divorced. It seems to me Jesus was telling us we are allowed to divorce if our spouse breaks the marriage covenant. This makes perfect sense as it brings the legal condition into line with the spiritual condition. The divorce doesn’t end the marriage, because a divorce can never end a marriage.

All this said, the wronged spouse has the option to rebuild the marriage. This isn’t required, but given how God feels about grace I suspect it’s His will more often than not. However, that does not mean we can tell people it’s a sin to divorce after their spouse commits sexual sin! I have heard this many times – “my spouse committed adultery half a dozen times, but I was told if I get a divorce I’d be kicked out of the church and s/he would not be”. This requires a very narrow definition of the word Porneia and completely ignores the fact marriage is a covenant. While I have no doubt the intention is good, changing what Jesus said never turns out well. I’ve actually heard men say their wife can’t divorce them if they committed adultery, and I think that kind of thinking makes adultery far more likely!

Okay, have at it in the comments!

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Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:

 

The Generous Wife

Giving Together ◄ A way to make money a positive force in your marriage.
It’s the Little Things ◄ What little things are you doing for your spouse?
Silent Expectations ◄ A great way to hurt your marriage.


Hot, Holy and Humorous

So What Should We Aim for in Marriage? ◄ Happiness, holiness…??
Is “Don’t Have Sex” Enough for Teens? ◄ Are you saying enough about sex to your kids?


Intimacy in Marriage

Is It Truly Possible to Escape Pornography Addiction Permanently? ◄ Yes!!


Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage

Idol of Happiness – Part 2 ◄ Speaking of reasons (not) to divorce…


One Flesh Marriage

Tear the Book In Half ◄ Skip the parts written for her.


refine us

5 Mistakes Many Young Couples Make Part 1 Part 2 ◄ Any couple would do well to avoid these.


The Romantic Vineyard

Drive-In Movie Night ◄ Great idea – and not what you think it is.


Safe at Home

Great Marriages Require Significant Investment ◄ Do NOT cheap out on your marriage!


…to Love Honor and Vacuum

Is Masturbation in Marriage Wrong? ◄ It certainly is when it is in place of sex.

51 Comments on “Jesus on Sexual Sin and Divorce

  1. This one really hits home, for me, because my divorce was based on the fact that she had an affair.  I found out later she was planning never to tell me about it.  At the time, I considered this a huge breach of trust, and I still do.  It was like a gut-punch, and despite my efforts(emphasis on mine, not hers, as I don’t think she was willing) to save the marriage, our divorce was final in July, 2009.  
    As I understand it, because she broke the marriage covenant with her affair, there would be no adultery if I myself remarried later, correct?  This is the part of the issue I struggle with the most, because I feel strongly in my heart that I will be married again, one day, but despair at the same time that I may be too old to do so.  As time passes(I’m a freshly-minted 37), that feeling increases, and it feels like God is dangling that as a carrot in front of me, giving me a goal I can’t quite reach, no matter how hard I try.  I know He isn’t like that, as He wants to give us the desires of our heart, but there are days when that fear really grips my heart.

  2. This one really hits home, for me, because my divorce was based on the fact that she had an affair.  I found out later she was planning never to tell me about it.  At the time, I considered this a huge breach of trust, and I still do.  It was like a gut-punch, and despite my efforts(emphasis on mine, not hers, as I don’t think she was willing) to save the marriage, our divorce was final in July, 2009.  
    As I understand it, because she broke the marriage covenant with her affair, there would be no adultery if I myself remarried later, correct?  This is the part of the issue I struggle with the most, because I feel strongly in my heart that I will be married again, one day, but despair at the same time that I may be too old to do so.  As time passes(I’m a freshly-minted 37), that feeling increases, and it feels like God is dangling that as a carrot in front of me, giving me a goal I can’t quite reach, no matter how hard I try.  I know He isn’t like that, as He wants to give us the desires of our heart, but there are days when that fear really grips my heart.

    • JSYantiss From my reading of the Word and what you have said about your situation, I see no reason you should avoid being married again. Perhaps God wants you to be sure for yourself before you marry again?
      My advice would be to live your life to the fullest. Grow, learn, and become a better man so you will be a great husband in the future.

      • TheGenerousHusband I’m not actively avoiding it, necessarily, but I do want to at least be debt-free first before I jump back into my search.  Thankfully, that will be accomplished in August.  Even in spite of that, it feels like God is taunting me with the “marriage carrot” in front of me…dangling something I can’t have.  I know he’s not like that, but still…

      • TheGenerousHusband I’m not actively avoiding it, necessarily, but I do want to at least be debt-free first before I jump back into my search.  Thankfully, that will be accomplished in August.  Even in spite of that, it feels like God is taunting me with the “marriage carrot” in front of me…dangling something I can’t have.  I know he’s not like that, but still…

  3. I’m not sure betrayed husbands get the opportunity to forgive their unfaithful wives and rebuild their marriages.  From what I understand, in most cases, when a wife is willing to cheat on you, she is unwilling to end her affair and work on the marriage.  She is emotionally attached to the other man and begins to spout things like, “God wants me to be happy” and “It was a mistake for us to marry.”  She runs off, files for divorce and you have no chance to save the marriage.

    Given that 2/3rds to 3/4s of divorces are filed by women, not men, and men and women are equally represented in affairs, (at least one man and one woman in the majority of affairs) it stands to reason that men really do not have the opportunity to rebuild their marriages after suffering at the hands of an unfaithful wife.
    I do agree that men SHOULD be willing to forgive.  What I’ve found in both personal experience AND from studying the topic is that few men actually have the opportunity to welcome home a wayward wife.

  4. I’m not sure betrayed husbands get the opportunity to forgive their unfaithful wives and rebuild their marriages.  From what I understand, in most cases, when a wife is willing to cheat on you, she is unwilling to end her affair and work on the marriage.  She is emotionally attached to the other man and begins to spout things like, “God wants me to be happy” and “It was a mistake for us to marry.”  She runs off, files for divorce and you have no chance to save the marriage.

    Given that 2/3rds to 3/4s of divorces are filed by women, not men, and men and women are equally represented in affairs, (at least one man and one woman in the majority of affairs) it stands to reason that men really do not have the opportunity to rebuild their marriages after suffering at the hands of an unfaithful wife.
    I do agree that men SHOULD be willing to forgive.  What I’ve found in both personal experience AND from studying the topic is that few men actually have the opportunity to welcome home a wayward wife.

    • TonyB If the sin has note ended, there is no possibility to rebuild. I have no idea how often a wife repents but I know of a number of cases where is did happen, so it is not unheard of.
      As to the rest you and I have argued your math a number of times and never agreed. For those who missed that I will say I do not agree with your statistics or your conclusions, and leave it at that.

      • My math is solid. Most affairs are men and women, meaning the numbers of each gender engaged in affairs is statistically even. The numbers of who files for divorce are well known and since the Bible tells us we are all sinners, women have no more justification to choose divorce than do men.
        Again, I never suggest that we should not become better, more Godly husbands. I simply question the notion that men are to be blamed for the break down of the family when 2/3rds to 3/4s of the time it is not the husband choosing to divorce.
        Some wives do come back. But that is not the typical outcome. I personally have witnessed a pastor who asked what I did to cause my ex-wife to have an affair. So any hint that husbands are forcing their wives to sin only twists that knife plunged into my back by a community that was supposed to be there for my marriage, but instead turnded its back on me and my family.
        This is a story I see over and over again, best typified by authors such as Ken Nair and Joel Davisson who suggest that 99% of marriage problems are due to the husband. Or the contrast of the typical Mother’s Day vs Father’s Day sermons. Mothers do no wrong and men need to step up their game.
        It’s just more of the same when folks try to justify the much higher rates of women choosing divorce vs men choosing it.
        Here we read that men should not choose divorce as often as they do, but when the much higher rates of divorce by women is called into question, it’s suddenly suggested that they have justification.
        Everything I’ve read indicates that less than 10% of all divorces are for serious causes such as abuse, addiction, or adultery. Not based on filings as most stares have no fault divorce, but from a study, reading between the lines, of divorce cases looking for clues regarding those causes.
        I don’t believe they found any significant differences in justification based on the gender filing.
        So let’s be careful that we don’t heap blame on innocent men for the choices their wives make when they abandon or betray their husbands.

        • TonyB Two fast proofs on the math. Each using closed group of 100 marriages.
          1) Three of the wives cheat, with ten of the husbands. So you have 3% or married women cheating on their husband, and 10% of the married men cheating on their wife.
          2) Five of the wives cheat, three with married men, two with single men. Fifteen of the men cheat, three with married women, twelve with single women. So you have 5% of the wives cheating on their husband, and 15% of the men cheating on their wife.
          Who files tells us nothing about who may have sinned. If men cheat more, then more women than men could file for biblical cause. The statistics on adultery back this up, BTW.
          You know I do not think 99% of marriage problems are due to the husband.
          I agree with you that most marriages are not for biblical grounds – regardless of who files.

        • TheGenerousHusband TonyB  
           Three wives are cheeting.  Unless you are claiming they are cheating with the 10 husbands, so far we have 3 men and 3 women involved in affairs.  Then 10 husbands cheat in your next clause, I am presuming there are 10 more women.  So far we have 13 men and 13 women in affairs.
          As I’ve said before, the marital status of the participants in immaterial.  God’s law is that you have sex with your spouse.  Even if the “other party” doesn’t know the marital status of their partner, 100% of them know their own marital status and therefore know the person they are sleeping with is not their spouse.
          Now there are occasions when a cheating spouse has more than one partner, or goes on a string of one night stands.  If you want to get down to gender based cheat days, we could go there.  But again, unless you are talking about same sex affairs, men and women are involved in affairs in equal numbers.
          I never said either male or female affair partners are themselves married.  Frankly, that is immaterial.  Neither men, nor women suddenly get better marital ethics because they are now married.  But they are a willing participant in an affair.  They may not know the other person is married, but they do know the other person is NOT their spouse.
          My math still holds up!

        • TonyB
          Yes, 3 cheating with the 10.
          Yes I know your marital status does not count argument, but the fact remains that when a married man has sex with a single woman you have one man cheating on his wife and no woman cheating on her husband.
          I am talking about how many WIVES cheat versus how many HUSBANDS cheat, and every decent study ever done says far more husbands than wives cheat.

        • TonyB
          Yes, 3 cheating with the 10.
          Yes I know your marital status does not count argument, but the fact remains that when a married man has sex with a single woman you have one man cheating on his wife and no woman cheating on her husband.
          I am talking about how many WIVES cheat versus how many HUSBANDS cheat, and every decent study ever done says far more husbands than wives cheat.

      • TheGenerousHusband TonyB  
        I don’t have any math or statistics or studies. This is simply an interesting thing from my personal experience:
        I have a client who quit being a lawyer, went back to school and became an engineer because he said that he got tired of being a facilitator for 40+ year-old women divorcing their husbands to be with a younger man.
        I know this adds nothing to the discussion. It’s just something I had never dreamed was going on in my simple sheltered world.

      • TheGenerousHusband TonyB  
        I don’t have any math or statistics or studies. This is simply an interesting thing from my personal experience:
        I have a client who quit being a lawyer, went back to school and became an engineer because he said that he got tired of being a facilitator for 40+ year-old women divorcing their husbands to be with a younger man.
        I know this adds nothing to the discussion. It’s just something I had never dreamed was going on in my simple sheltered world.

  5. Thanks, Paul.  I’ve found this to be a pretty good analysis of what Jesus said.  Several years ago there was a movement toward “Covenant marriages” supported and heavily pushed by a Major Nationwide Ministry but it also seemed to lean heavily toward guilt if there was a divorce.  When my wife and I were in counseling I suggested that  sexual abandonment and neglect would also be covenant-breaking. He was sympathetic but didn’t fully agree with that definition.

    • Dan01 I would agree with you on sexual abandonment as I think Porneia includesthat (yes, I get a lot of flack for that!). Neglect is less clear – at some level it falls under what Paul said in 1 Cor. 7:15 for neglect.

      • TheGenerousHusband Dan01 
        I would think that neglect would at some point become abandonment, but defining where that point is would be difficult.  Full disclosure:  yes, I am separated from my wife and will likely be divorced soon.  I didn’t get married for sex, but lack of sex killed our marriage.

        • Dan01 TheGenerousHusband  
           @Dan01, there is a process spelled out for this in Matthew 18.  If your wife is a believer and a member of the church, the church is supposed to approach the sinning spouse in order to win her away from her sinning ways.
          Good luck getting a church to actually do that if you have a believing spouse in sin, bent on divorce.  I don’t think it matters the gender.  I have yet to hear of anyone who has successfully convinced their church to engage in the process spelled out in scripture.
          It’s sad, because the process has benefits besides being the Word of God.  The process is designed to encourage the sinner (marital sin or any other sin, it’s not just about a sinning spouse) to turn from their sin and return to the Body of Christ.
          Second, if a sinner will no do this, those who suffer at their hands, such as those betrayed by a spouse unwilling to end her affair, are given some measure of relief as the church took a Godly view of the situation and the sinner would not end her affair or whatever the sin might be.
          Churches do a great disservice when the fail to do this because they often leave their victims in a state of limbo.  
          The process spelled out in Matthew 18 results in one of two outcomes.  The sinner is won back from their sinning ways and returns to Christ and the church.  Or they refuse to quit sinning and it is determined that we are to treat them as unbelievers.
          What does scripture say if an unbeliever wants to leave?  We are to let them leave and we the believers are no longer under bondage.
          The church is failing on two fronts by not applying the process spelled out in Matthew 18.  They are not winning sinners back to the body nor are they bring the matter to some, hopefully objective closure.
          It’s one thing for any of us to say our spouse was abusive, adulterous, they abandoned us or any of the other A-Z sins they might be.  It’s quite another to have a body, truly sold out to Christ, trying to win sinners back, and coming to the conclusion the sinner does not want to be won or won back.

        • Dan01 TheGenerousHusband  
           @Dan01, there is a process spelled out for this in Matthew 18.  If your wife is a believer and a member of the church, the church is supposed to approach the sinning spouse in order to win her away from her sinning ways.
          Good luck getting a church to actually do that if you have a believing spouse in sin, bent on divorce.  I don’t think it matters the gender.  I have yet to hear of anyone who has successfully convinced their church to engage in the process spelled out in scripture.
          It’s sad, because the process has benefits besides being the Word of God.  The process is designed to encourage the sinner (marital sin or any other sin, it’s not just about a sinning spouse) to turn from their sin and return to the Body of Christ.
          Second, if a sinner will no do this, those who suffer at their hands, such as those betrayed by a spouse unwilling to end her affair, are given some measure of relief as the church took a Godly view of the situation and the sinner would not end her affair or whatever the sin might be.
          Churches do a great disservice when the fail to do this because they often leave their victims in a state of limbo.  
          The process spelled out in Matthew 18 results in one of two outcomes.  The sinner is won back from their sinning ways and returns to Christ and the church.  Or they refuse to quit sinning and it is determined that we are to treat them as unbelievers.
          What does scripture say if an unbeliever wants to leave?  We are to let them leave and we the believers are no longer under bondage.
          The church is failing on two fronts by not applying the process spelled out in Matthew 18.  They are not winning sinners back to the body nor are they bring the matter to some, hopefully objective closure.
          It’s one thing for any of us to say our spouse was abusive, adulterous, they abandoned us or any of the other A-Z sins they might be.  It’s quite another to have a body, truly sold out to Christ, trying to win sinners back, and coming to the conclusion the sinner does not want to be won or won back.

    • Dan01 I would agree with you on sexual abandonment as I think Porneia includesthat (yes, I get a lot of flack for that!). Neglect is less clear – at some level it falls under what Paul said in 1 Cor. 7:15 for neglect.

  6. What about cases of abuse? Would that make the divorced abused women who remarries an adulterer?

    • NJWahm Pastor Mark Gungor, who is a pastor here in the local area, talked about this. Mark Gungor is know for Laughing Your Way to a Better Marriage, and also has his own internet talk show. He probably addresses this issue a lot. In the case of abuse, Mark Gungor says separation is what is needed, not divorce. You stay separated from the abusive spouse until you know absolutely that the abusive spouse has gotten the help that they needed, and that you see improvement. But if you are divorced, according to this article written by Paul, it is black and white. Death or sexual sin can be the only thing that truly ends the marriage covenant. To me, the divorced abused woman would become an adulterer if she remarries another man other than the man she was married to. But I am not the expert on it. But it is what I am understanding on it.

      • Typical man response. I truly wish some of the people who preach or think this way would be forced to live in fear in an abusive relationship. How can anyone believe God would consider an abused woman who divorces her abusive husband an adulterer when she remarries a good man and raises a family together in the church? I have seen this logic applied way too many times in the Church and as a result seen women emotionally destroyed by people who thought this way. This cannot be what God intended.

        • NJWahm And yet that is what the Bible clearly says.
          I think the real problem is not so much one of divorce, but of bad marriages. People get married against the advice of their parents and family, then claim they had no way to know their spouse was a _____ or addicted to ______.
          In days gone by communities were smaller, and secrets were few. This significantly cut down on rude surprises after marriage. 
          That, and if a man beat his wife, there was a good chance her male relatives would show up and explain to him with their fists why he was never going to do that again. I’m not suggesting we do that, but it worked pretty well.
          BTW, I never said anyone should live in fear of an abusive relationship. On the contrary I said to get safe. That is a separate issue from remarriage.

        • NJWahm- I am divorced after a 20 year abusive marriage.  I am a Christian, but neither me nor my ex were when we married.  I chose unwisely.  I saw some red flags before we married, but still went through with it.  And it was not until after we married that my ex’s true colors really came out, which I believe is quite common in abusive marriages. Four years ago, my ex left me and our two sons in a very dramatic way just so he could prove to me and everyone else how much I needed him.  He never chose to change, he played the game of “look at poor me”, my wife does not want to reconcile and I do, she only believes in divorce.  My ex abandoned our marriage years before he left.  He treated me and our two sons abusively, and used financial and spiritual abuse to keep me tied to him.  A marriage covenant??  Ours was dissolved by him years ago.
          Yes, God can do anything He wants and I believe that also means He does not always allow some marriages to be repaired.  As with any sin, when we sin we are separated from God until we repent.  And in my opinion, an abuser is not a true believer for you cannot be a true believer and continue walking in the way of abuse.  Although yes, they can make a choice to follow Jesus eventually.  When my ex walked out of our home, that was an unbeliever leaving and choosing to abandon his marriage…and I decided to let him go.

          I have been remarried now for over 1 1/2 years to a wonderful Christian man and there will always be those that choose to condemn me, but I think Paul said it very well at the beginning of his post…”I find it sadly interesting that some who treat divorce as the
          unforgivable sin do not get nearly as worked up about other things Jesus
          said in this discourse. I do not mean to downplay divorce, but why
          don’t we spend as much time on the whole “anger is like murder” passage a
          few verses earlier?”
          I highly recommend the blog, A Cry for Justice about abuse and the Christianity.  So much wisdom there.

        • NJWahm- I am divorced after a 20 year abusive marriage.  I am a Christian, but neither me nor my ex were when we married.  I chose unwisely.  I saw some red flags before we married, but still went through with it.  And it was not until after we married that my ex’s true colors really came out, which I believe is quite common in abusive marriages. Four years ago, my ex left me and our two sons in a very dramatic way just so he could prove to me and everyone else how much I needed him.  He never chose to change, he played the game of “look at poor me”, my wife does not want to reconcile and I do, she only believes in divorce.  My ex abandoned our marriage years before he left.  He treated me and our two sons abusively, and used financial and spiritual abuse to keep me tied to him.  A marriage covenant??  Ours was dissolved by him years ago.
          Yes, God can do anything He wants and I believe that also means He does not always allow some marriages to be repaired.  As with any sin, when we sin we are separated from God until we repent.  And in my opinion, an abuser is not a true believer for you cannot be a true believer and continue walking in the way of abuse.  Although yes, they can make a choice to follow Jesus eventually.  When my ex walked out of our home, that was an unbeliever leaving and choosing to abandon his marriage…and I decided to let him go.

          I have been remarried now for over 1 1/2 years to a wonderful Christian man and there will always be those that choose to condemn me, but I think Paul said it very well at the beginning of his post…”I find it sadly interesting that some who treat divorce as the
          unforgivable sin do not get nearly as worked up about other things Jesus
          said in this discourse. I do not mean to downplay divorce, but why
          don’t we spend as much time on the whole “anger is like murder” passage a
          few verses earlier?”
          I highly recommend the blog, A Cry for Justice about abuse and the Christianity.  So much wisdom there.

        • amyhannaford65 Yes, there will always be those who want to accuse you. Fortunately we are judge by God, not man!
          Blessings to you and your marriage.

        • amyhannaford65 Yes, there will always be those who want to accuse you. Fortunately we are judge by God, not man!
          Blessings to you and your marriage.

      • Typical man response. I truly wish some of the people who preach or think this way would be forced to live in fear in an abusive relationship. How can anyone believe God would consider an abused woman who divorces her abusive husband an adulterer when she remarries a good man and raises a family together in the church? I have seen this logic applied way too many times in the Church and as a result seen women emotionally destroyed by people who thought this way. This cannot be what God intended.

    • NJWahm That is a very difficult issue. Certainly we have a right to separate for safety (and I would say that is an obligation in the case of the safety of children.) However, there is nothing I can find that says the covenant is broken. That would make remarriage sin.
      Sometimes in these cases the spouse will eventually file for divorce. At this point 1 Cor. 7:15 might apply: “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.” Many think that Paul is saying that abandonment breaks the covenant, which is consistent with what we know about marriage covenants.
      That said, if someone in such a situation has remarried, they have not committed an unforgivable sin. Neither must they divorce to be free of the sin or to “prove” repentance. Once a couple is married, it is God’s will for them to remain married and have the best marriage possible,

  7. What about cases of abuse? Would that make the divorced abused women who remarries an adulterer?

  8. A wife who found your post via twitter here. My husband had an affair and broke our covenant. He has repented and I have chosen forgiveness and together with Jesus we are believing for restoration of our marriage. So in light of your post, what would be required or constitute the re-establishment of covenant? Is that possible biblically speaking?

    • MrsH To me, a renewal of vows would be great starting point. This is what my second wife and I did, when we were separated. I was lonely, and knew that my marriage was ending. My wife had moved out, and I was given no address to contact her. I fell into the temptation of adultery out of loneliness myself. When my wife contacted me about are marriage and wanting to restore it, I immediately ended my affair. My wife and I attended a weekend marriage workshop, that centered around restoring marriages. One year later, we renew our vows for our ten year marriage anniversary. But if it wasn’t for the her desire to forgive me and wanting to restore our marriage, I might be in a worst situation facing the pits of hell.

    • MrsH To me, a renewal of vows would be great starting point. This is what my second wife and I did, when we were separated. I was lonely, and knew that my marriage was ending. My wife had moved out, and I was given no address to contact her. I fell into the temptation of adultery out of loneliness myself. When my wife contacted me about are marriage and wanting to restore it, I immediately ended my affair. My wife and I attended a weekend marriage workshop, that centered around restoring marriages. One year later, we renew our vows for our ten year marriage anniversary. But if it wasn’t for the her desire to forgive me and wanting to restore our marriage, I might be in a worst situation facing the pits of hell.

    • MrsH I agree with @http://www.livefyre.com/profile/13962178/ that it would be an excellent way to go.
      Among other things, a covenant is a public proclamation, and I think that would be good for you and your friends.

    • MrsH I agree with @http://www.livefyre.com/profile/13962178/ that it would be an excellent way to go.
      Among other things, a covenant is a public proclamation, and I think that would be good for you and your friends.

  9. Thanks for the Daily article Paul. When we think of porn, normally, we think of women being the objects of desire by men, and for good reason too, because men are visual. We, as men look at women as a object of beauty and desire. Which is why there are so many magazines and website geared more for men than women. But for the few women that have been in my life or are still in my life, the daily soap operas seem to captivate their attention. My mother is a soap opera watcher, my ex-wife and her mom are soap opera watchers. But in our society, soap operas aren’t deemed to be pornography, as maybe some R-rated movies or some prime time shows that have scantily clad dressed women. And lets not forget the annual swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated and other sports magazines. Then comes summer time, the lakes, the beaches, the public pools, where men and young men are exposed to women and young women in swimsuits, and vice versa. It seems it is everywhere. I remember an episode of 18 and counting. The Duggar family was at a family reunion. Jim Bob Duggar, was telling the viewers, that he wanted his kids to be modest even when swimming and that wasn’t just for the Duggar girls but the boys as well. Amazing that even us as men, we should be dressing modestly when out in public.

  10. Thanks for the Daily article Paul. When we think of porn, normally, we think of women being the objects of desire by men, and for good reason too, because men are visual. We, as men look at women as a object of beauty and desire. Which is why there are so many magazines and website geared more for men than women. But for the few women that have been in my life or are still in my life, the daily soap operas seem to captivate their attention. My mother is a soap opera watcher, my ex-wife and her mom are soap opera watchers. But in our society, soap operas aren’t deemed to be pornography, as maybe some R-rated movies or some prime time shows that have scantily clad dressed women. And lets not forget the annual swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated and other sports magazines. Then comes summer time, the lakes, the beaches, the public pools, where men and young men are exposed to women and young women in swimsuits, and vice versa. It seems it is everywhere. I remember an episode of 18 and counting. The Duggar family was at a family reunion. Jim Bob Duggar, was telling the viewers, that he wanted his kids to be modest even when swimming and that wasn’t just for the Duggar girls but the boys as well. Amazing that even us as men, we should be dressing modestly when out in public.

  11. TheGenerousHusband  
    This is a great post. I believe you have interpreted this Scripture
    accurately.

    A man in my church teaches a 13-week continuing class called
    “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage”. He hits the meaning and implications of ‘covenant’
    really hard for most of that time. Pretty much what you say about it.

    Then, he turns right around when discussing the word ‘pornea’
    and says that it means an incorrigible long-term pattern of adultery or
    something of that sort. He says that one act of sexual infidelity is not a “Get
    Out Of Jail Free” card for the offended spouse.

    My question to him (which I haven’t actually confronted him
    with) is: Suppose the guy only cheats once every five years and stops when he
    is caught – Pleading that he will never do it again? Is it going to take 25
    years of his wife’s life to establish the ‘pornea pattern’ so she can get an
    acceptable divorce and remarry without committing adultery?

    I agree with you that one act of infidelity (sex with some
    person or thing not your spouse) breaks the covenant. It is a bright-line
    divider – fidelity before, infidelity after. I don’t believe Jesus is in the business
    of giving us mushy instructions amenable to all sorts of philosophical,
    hair-splitting interpretations.

    Then, everything you say about broken covenants
    is good biblical “stuff”.

  12. TheGenerousHusband  
    This is a great post. I believe you have interpreted this Scripture
    accurately.

    A man in my church teaches a 13-week continuing class called
    “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage”. He hits the meaning and implications of ‘covenant’
    really hard for most of that time. Pretty much what you say about it.

    Then, he turns right around when discussing the word ‘pornea’
    and says that it means an incorrigible long-term pattern of adultery or
    something of that sort. He says that one act of sexual infidelity is not a “Get
    Out Of Jail Free” card for the offended spouse.

    My question to him (which I haven’t actually confronted him
    with) is: Suppose the guy only cheats once every five years and stops when he
    is caught – Pleading that he will never do it again? Is it going to take 25
    years of his wife’s life to establish the ‘pornea pattern’ so she can get an
    acceptable divorce and remarry without committing adultery?

    I agree with you that one act of infidelity (sex with some
    person or thing not your spouse) breaks the covenant. It is a bright-line
    divider – fidelity before, infidelity after. I don’t believe Jesus is in the business
    of giving us mushy instructions amenable to all sorts of philosophical,
    hair-splitting interpretations.

    Then, everything you say about broken covenants
    is good biblical “stuff”.

  13. My wife committed adultery twice and I did once.  I listened to the enemy when he told me my wife would never want me again and I would never be able to forgive her.  She wanted to reconcile once after a year and we stumbled along but now 3 years later, she wants out for good and no longer loves me.  Along the way, Jesus saved me and I truly understand covenant now.  I so want our marriage to be resurrected because I still love my wife and am now able to see her as Jesus does.  God allowed me to see my mistakes and how I hurt her.  I am very confused over what Scripture says.  I loved being married, but am sure I made my wife and our marriage an idol.  I do not want to marry again, only to reach the end of my life and stand before Him, only to hear I’m an adulterer.  I love Him and I want to do His will regarding my wife, but I don’t know what it is.  My heart is shattered.

  14. My wife committed adultery twice and I did once.  I listened to the enemy when he told me my wife would never want me again and I would never be able to forgive her.  She wanted to reconcile once after a year and we stumbled along but now 3 years later, she wants out for good and no longer loves me.  Along the way, Jesus saved me and I truly understand covenant now.  I so want our marriage to be resurrected because I still love my wife and am now able to see her as Jesus does.  God allowed me to see my mistakes and how I hurt her.  I am very confused over what Scripture says.  I loved being married, but am sure I made my wife and our marriage an idol.  I do not want to marry again, only to reach the end of my life and stand before Him, only to hear I’m an adulterer.  I love Him and I want to do His will regarding my wife, but I don’t know what it is.  My heart is shattered.

    • ballfan You certainly have my prayers! If you can get her to go to a pastor or counselor with you do it. If not, continue to show her love and grace and pray that she will change her heart.

    • ballfan You certainly have my prayers! If you can get her to go to a pastor or counselor with you do it. If not, continue to show her love and grace and pray that she will change her heart.

  15. Paul – where do you come in on the last part of the scripture, about marrying a divorced woman? I am married to a divorced woman. She was married for just over two years at the ripe old age of 20, and he left with his third mistress (that she knows of). Now, I’m happily married, love my wife with wild abandon, and am told by my church that I cannot be a deacon or leader in the church because I’m married to a divorced woman. I think this is a bunch of Bravo Sierra, and have told them as much. It tears her up every time someone suggests that I be involved in leadership and we have to tell them that I can’t because, according to their interpretation, we’re in a sinful marriage. Seems a bit outside the intention of this passage, don’t you think?

    • http://www.livefyre.com/profile/1883599/ 
      1) You could show them the qualifications for church leadership in 1 Timothy
      3, etc. It says you are to be a one-woman man. About the wife, it says, “Likewise
      their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all
      things.” Ask them how either one of you fails to live up to these
      qualifications.
      2) Show them Paul’s post on this page regarding covenant and marriage to try
      to straighten out their thinking. If they are willing, read it with them and
      discuss as you go along. If they are true seekers of truth, they will see that
      your wife’s divorce was biblical and that she was free to marry you without
      sin. Her ex sinned; she did not.
      In using Paul’s post, you are not appealing to him as some unassailable
      authority but that he has written an analysis of the Scripture that is an
      honest attempt to understand and apply Christ’s words, that you agree with what
      he says and what he wrote covers all the bases in an organized understandable
      way that can be used as the basis of directing your discussion. Assure them
      that the only unassailable authority you recognize is God’s word – the scriptures.
      3) If they cannot be convinced, then they are not true seekers of God’s
      truth and you should find another church if possible. If you find a new church
      and still want to serve in a leadership position, talk with the new leadership
      up front and find out what their beliefs are. You are not asking to be made an
      elder or a deacon right away; you are simply making sure that, when the time comes,
      your wife’s scriptural divorce won’t be used as a means of thwarting your
      service to the Lord.
      4) Bathe all of this in prayer and make a sanctified plan before you “make
      your move”.
      God bless.

      • bbh999 
        I generally agree with you on this.  I was a deacon at a church that barred a man from a leadership role because he was divorced (his first wife had an affair) and remarried.  I contended that he was the “husband of one wife” and had been for over 30 years.   But the others had a more restrictive view on that point and would not budge.  Although they did allow him and his second wife to teach Sunday School and lead teen youth groups.  That was a mixed message.
        BTW, this same church wouldn’t allow a young man to be nominated as a deacon because he was not married, and obviously was not the “husband of one wife.”
        All this was past history by the time I started going to that church.  There were numerous other issues, and  on reflection I probably shouldn’t have stayed at that church as long as I did an probably shouldn’t have served as a deacon.

    • bigcharlieNow there is something five scholars can interpret seven ways!
      My opinion, after a lot of reading of what others have said, is that Paul was talking about what kind of a husband a man was. Let me first look at other possibilities and why I don’t think the are right.Paul was talking about multiple marriages. Thing is we have no historical record of polygamy then and there. The Greeks specifically outlawed it, and the Romans never sanctioned it – and my have had laws against it (Augustine reported it was forbidden by the Roman Empire.)Paul did not want any unmarried men in these positions. Given that Paul said being single was better for those who could do it, why would he then prevent those men from being leaders?Paul was saying a man could only be a leader if he had only one wife in his life time. This would mean a widower could not be a leader, which is at odds with Paul telling widows they should remarry.One problem with any of these is it does not prohibit all kinds of things one would not want in an elder or deacon. For example, any of these readings would allow a past adulter, to be a deacon. The other problem with all of these is there is an easier and clearer way to say each of them. If Paul did not want divorced men to hold these offices, would he not have made that clear by saying “not divorced?” Paul is not known for being vague or shy!
      It has been suggested by many (Kenneth Wuest, who helped with the NASB and later did the Wuest Expanded Translation was one of the first I think) that this should be understood as a one woman kind of man. Wuest translated the passage thus: “He must be a one-wife kind of man in that he isolates and centralizes his love upon one women and that forever.”
      To me this makes a lot of sense, as it covers not only a very wide range of potential sins, but goes even deeper. If a man is not an outstanding husband, he should not be a leader. This is critical for two reasons – 1) he is an example, and 2) a man with a lesser marriage may see his marriage suffer because of the stress and stain of leadership.
      The other thing about this reading is it makes the issue less on/off. This means an imperfect husband who has grown would be allowed, and is that not the kind of person we want as leaders?
      Where does this put a divorced man? Kind of depends on the situation. Divorce is a serious thing, and it always means there is significant sin on the part of at least one spouse.

      I’ve seen a lot of garbage about who can and cannot be elders and deacons in my life. I understand that choosing leaders is exceptionally important, and that if we get that wrong we have a mess. What concerns me is that some seem to focus too tightly on the few things mentioned and ignore the life of the person in general. Perhaps we would do far better to see what Paul said as an example of the kind of person an elder or deacon should be, and the kind of a person who should not be considered.
      BTW, I have three times been asked to be an elder or deacon, and have declined all three times. Once I said no because I was very young and did not feel qualified. Once I said no because I was new to the church, and did not feel it was right given that most there did not know me. Once I said no because I did not agree with the churches take on the passage we are discussing. While they felt I was qualified, they were excluding others on things I do not see in the passage. I figured that if I agreed to accept the office, I would be saying I agreed with their reading.

    • bigcharlieNow there is something five scholars can interpret seven ways!
      My opinion, after a lot of reading of what others have said, is that Paul was talking about what kind of a husband a man was. Let me first look at other possibilities and why I don’t think the are right.Paul was talking about multiple marriages. Thing is we have no historical record of polygamy then and there. The Greeks specifically outlawed it, and the Romans never sanctioned it – and my have had laws against it (Augustine reported it was forbidden by the Roman Empire.)Paul did not want any unmarried men in these positions. Given that Paul said being single was better for those who could do it, why would he then prevent those men from being leaders?Paul was saying a man could only be a leader if he had only one wife in his life time. This would mean a widower could not be a leader, which is at odds with Paul telling widows they should remarry.One problem with any of these is it does not prohibit all kinds of things one would not want in an elder or deacon. For example, any of these readings would allow a past adulter, to be a deacon. The other problem with all of these is there is an easier and clearer way to say each of them. If Paul did not want divorced men to hold these offices, would he not have made that clear by saying “not divorced?” Paul is not known for being vague or shy!
      It has been suggested by many (Kenneth Wuest, who helped with the NASB and later did the Wuest Expanded Translation was one of the first I think) that this should be understood as a one woman kind of man. Wuest translated the passage thus: “He must be a one-wife kind of man in that he isolates and centralizes his love upon one women and that forever.”
      To me this makes a lot of sense, as it covers not only a very wide range of potential sins, but goes even deeper. If a man is not an outstanding husband, he should not be a leader. This is critical for two reasons – 1) he is an example, and 2) a man with a lesser marriage may see his marriage suffer because of the stress and stain of leadership.
      The other thing about this reading is it makes the issue less on/off. This means an imperfect husband who has grown would be allowed, and is that not the kind of person we want as leaders?
      Where does this put a divorced man? Kind of depends on the situation. Divorce is a serious thing, and it always means there is significant sin on the part of at least one spouse.

      I’ve seen a lot of garbage about who can and cannot be elders and deacons in my life. I understand that choosing leaders is exceptionally important, and that if we get that wrong we have a mess. What concerns me is that some seem to focus too tightly on the few things mentioned and ignore the life of the person in general. Perhaps we would do far better to see what Paul said as an example of the kind of person an elder or deacon should be, and the kind of a person who should not be considered.
      BTW, I have three times been asked to be an elder or deacon, and have declined all three times. Once I said no because I was very young and did not feel qualified. Once I said no because I was new to the church, and did not feel it was right given that most there did not know me. Once I said no because I did not agree with the churches take on the passage we are discussing. While they felt I was qualified, they were excluding others on things I do not see in the passage. I figured that if I agreed to accept the office, I would be saying I agreed with their reading.

  16. Paul – where do you come in on the last part of the scripture, about marrying a divorced woman? I am married to a divorced woman. She was married for just over two years at the ripe old age of 20, and he left with his third mistress (that she knows of). Now, I’m happily married, love my wife with wild abandon, and am told by my church that I cannot be a deacon or leader in the church because I’m married to a divorced woman. I think this is a bunch of Bravo Sierra, and have told them as much. It tears her up every time someone suggests that I be involved in leadership and we have to tell them that I can’t because, according to their interpretation, we’re in a sinful marriage. Seems a bit outside the intention of this passage, don’t you think?

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