DOES GOD PERMIT DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE? (PART I)
By Akin Ojumu
Amid the mass hysteria and social media feeding frenzy following the untimely death of Osinachi Nwachukwu, the popular Nigerian gospel singer whose death is allegedly linked to domestic abuse, there are many pondering, “Does God ever allow divorce and remarriage under any circumstances?”
As terrible a human tragedy this is for the family of Osinachi, this incidence presents a unique opportunity to ministers of the Gospel to teach the Biblical truth about marriage. Now that the attention of the fickle-minded world is focused on this grievous calamity, those who are shepherds of God's flock ought to step in and correct the errors and misconceptions that pervade the Church on the subject of divorce. Not from the view point of human philosophy or the commonsense of human wisdom but from the Word of God.
And this commentary sets out to do just that. To answer the burning question in the minds of the teeming masses, we must turn to the Bible and find out what God actually says about marriage and divorce.
First and foremost, let it be said that God hates divorce. In the sight of God, to divorce is likened to covering oneself with a garment of violence and wrong. Divorce is a violent dismembering of one's partner in marriage. The Bible makes that very clear in Malachi 2:16:
““For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with violence,” says the LORD of armies. “So be careful about your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.””
God reveres marriage. It's a pure and honorable institution He alone created, and it must not be defiled or corrupted. When God established marriage, He set out by creating one man for one woman; not one man for multiple women or one woman for multiple men. God didn’t join Adam to Eve and Evelyn. Neither did He give Eve in union to Adam and Adamson. It was one Adam for one Eve joined – i.e., fused, glued, soldered, welded, gummed, coupled, and cleaved – together with an inseparable bond. By virtue of this union, they became one person – i.e., one entity, one life, one whole, one flesh – in God’s eyes. This coupling of two people into one person is His own creation – His handiwork and workmanship – and must never be separated.
“And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6).
This is God’s will, His original intent. God’s desire is for divorce to never occur. Jesus said so in Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:1-12 where He again laid down God’s principle for marriage. Yet even in these passages, God allowed for divorce in the case of sexual immorality. Why? Because God knows that the heart of man is evil continuously and desperately wicked.
While sexual immorality is the only ground for divorce mentioned in Matthew 5 and 19, a careful search of Scripture reveals additional instances where divorce, and even remarriage, is permitted by God – the operative word being “permitted.” One of such places in Scripture is in the Epistle of Paul to the believers at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 7.
In response to a series of questions concerning sex, celibacy, marriage, divorce, remarriage, singleness, etc., the Church at Corinth had posed in a letter to him, Apostle Paul wrote back with, perhaps, the most profound and in-depth teachings on marriage and divorce in the Bible.
The first question was:
“Is celibacy a good thing and is it okay for a Christian to completely abstain from sex?”
Now, to understand the reason behind this question, you’d have to understand the Corinthians’ situation and context.
The Christians at Corinth lived in a morally depraved and profoundly promiscuous society. The people of this ancient City were engaged in all manner sexual deviancy. Within Corinth was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love aka sexual perversion. The place was crawling with half naked temple priestesses cum prostitutes who engaged in sexual orgies with the adherents who paid them for sex.
At Corinth, sex with a temple prostitute was considered a religious devotion that confers deeper spirituality. So, unbridled sex was a way of life. The notoriety of the Corinthians was so widespread that to “Corinthianize,” i.e., to have sex with a temple prostitute, became a synonym for immorality in the ancient world.
As a result, the Christian converts in Corinth who had left behind the old lifestyle of sexual debauchery that still existed in their society now viewed sex as a bad thing. Because of their morally depraved antecedents, where sex was associated with pagan worship, they came to regard all sex as something associated with evil. Many of them started teaching others to abstain from sex all together and never to have sexual relationship with the opposite sex. To these people, sex equals sin and must be avoided.
In response, Paul said:
“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:1-3).
Celibacy, Apostle Paul told them, is a good thing and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you have the grace for it go for it. However, not everybody is gifted with such grace. Therefore, for those who aren’t so gifted, his counsel was that they should get married and enjoy sex instead of setting themselves up for the Devil for temptation into fornication, the very thing they were trying to avoid.
Next time, we’ll discuss the second question posed by the Corinthians. And it was about celibacy in marriage.