By: Bro. Wilfred Atigbi (Bishop – COC – Grey)
Introduction: One of the greatest threats to the survival of the Church and the world today, is the alarming number of divorces. Every divorce made is a monument to broken promises and shattered lives. It is difficult to find a single family that has not been touched by divorce in some way. While Nollywood glamorizes open adultery and multiple marriages, let us always remember that God hates divorce and should be discouraged in the Church. (Malachi 2:16).
The Marriage Covenant:
The marriage contract is a covenant between three parties: the man, the woman and God. Some men in the days of Malachi had been unjust to their wives. The prophet reminded them that “the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14). The immoral woman of Proverbs 2:17 had forsaken her husband and forgot the “covenant of her God.”
In every wedding ceremony, couples are reminded that their wedding vows are made in the presence of God; He is their witness. The time might come when their earthly witnesses would encourage this couple to divorce, but they need to remember that God will not forget their vow to cleave to each other “till death do them part. “
There are many obligations in the marriage covenant. The husband is to love his wife “as Christ also loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). He is also to provide for his family (1Tim. 5:8). The wife is required to be in submission to her own husband “just as the church is subject to Christ” (Eph. 5:24). They are both required to render the “affection” due to each other (1 Cor. 7:3). In addition, they are “bound by the law” to their spouse as long as they live (Rom. 7:1-4). This is obviously the law of God, and not the law of man.
COMMON CAUSES OF DIVORCE:
- Disobedience: As we have seen from the above, God’s idea is married couples to stay together except death or adultery. Therefore anytime a marriage is annulled by anyone and for whatever reasons, then what is involved is rebellion and disobedience to God and His laws on marriage. (Gen. 2:24, Mal. 2:14-16, Matt. 19:3-8, Rom. 7:1-7). Thus when two agree to end their marriage relationship, it shows that they have decided to ignore or relegate God’s word in this matter.
- INTOLERANCE: No one has said marriage is without disagreement. For two personalities with different background and home bringing to stay together for life requires courage and commitments to agree and live together for better for worse, in sickness and in health. Great marriages and families don’t just happen, they are made by two committed individuals having respect for the law of God in marriage.
Marriage and a home free from divorce is about loving and displaying responsible Christian behavior that sincerely keep the home together for life. (Matt. 24:27, Jam. 1:22).
- FAMILY/MEDDLER/INTERFERANCE: This is an unnecessary but common causes of failures in our society. This list here includes; family in-laws, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends, neighbors etc. Meddlers cause problems in homes. Couples who are weak or immature allow them to break their marriages.
- Others are; Barrenness, Witchcraft, Worldliness, Extra-marital affairs, Drunkenness
Can there be Divorce for Any Cause?
When the Pharisees questioned Christ about the issue of divorce “for just any reason,” He reminded them that God had intended for one man and one woman to live together in marriage for life. He also said that in marriage a couple is “joined” together by God himself (Matthew 19:3-6). They asked why Moses had allowed them to give a “certificate of divorce” and put away their wives (Matthew 19:7).
Jesus explained that while God had tolerated their immorality for a while, “from the beginning, it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). The Pharisees had many reasons to “put away” their wives, but our Lord stated there was but one reason for a man to “put away” his wife and be married to another, i.e., adultery (Matthew 19:9).
In the Divine order, God said the “putting away” had to be because of “adultery” (Matt. 19:9).
This rules out the Waiting Game played by some persons today. The game is played when a couple gets divorced and one party waits for the other to commit adultery. They claim this would then give them the right to scripturally remarry. Please we should be reminded that Jesus said the adultery had to come before the “putting away” (Matt. 19:9).
Since God is the one who joins a couple together in marriage, He is the only one who can release them from the contract.
It is possible for a couple to be married by the laws of the land, but not joined together by God. This is the case in (Mark 6:17,18). In this passage John the Baptist told Herod “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herod was married according to civil law, but John said the marriage was not “lawful.” The woman in (Romans 7:2,3) was still bound by God to her first husband as long as he lived, even though she might be married to another man.
Will God approve Divorce for any reason?
What happens when an individual has been unscripturally divorced and wants to obey the gospel? Will God overlook his previous marriage(s) and allow him to continue his present marriage? Sometimes brethren want to wrangle over the efficacy of baptism and its role in the forgiveness of sins. We need to remind them that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), not the remission of marriages.
As far as I can determine, the discussion should not center on the role of baptism but rather the meaning of true repentance since it precedes baptism. If a man is living in unscriptural marriage (i.e., adultery) repentance demands that he cease the practice of sin and forsake his unscriptural mate.
Repentance is defined as the change of the mind of those who have abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds. Repentance carries with it evidences which the world cannot question. In the Old Testament God demanded restitution to be made when a man repented of his sins (Num. 5:6-8; Lev. 6:1-7). Our repentance is vain unless we bring forth “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:8).
Yes, the blood of Christ will remit all our sins as we are buried with him in baptism (Rom. 6:1-4; 1 Pet. 3:21), but prior to baptism we must repent of our sins (Acts 2:38). If one is living in adultery, repentance demands he put away his unscriptural mate.
In John 8 we find the account of the woman who was caught in the very act of adultery. There can be no question our Lord forgave her. But what did Jesus mean when He said “go and sin no more?” Could she go back to the man she was sleeping with? I believe the Lord forgave her, but also warned her not to commit this sin any more.
Are Non-Christians Subject To The Law Of Christ?
Some have argued that non-Christians are not subject to Christ’s law on marriage, divorce and remarriage. When Jesus gave the command in (Matt. 19) He was talking to the Pharisees, men whom he called “hypocrites,” “blind leaders of the blind” and children of the devil. To these men Jesus said “Whosoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). The word “whosoever” covers all men, Christians and non-Christians alike.
It is sad and sinful when non-Christians teach something which contradicts what God teaches. It is sadder still, when Christians engage in false teaching. God warned his people that from among his own children false teaching would arise (Acts 20:30).
He also told us the time would come when some brothers in Christ would no longer “endure” the truth and, therefore, they would only listen to men who would teach them what they wanted to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
This is why Christ warned his church with these strong words in (2 Corinthians 13:5): “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?; unless indeed you are disqualified.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).