Bound, Loosed, Married and Divorced
Sunday, 06 February 2011 05:00
A large portion of the battle in understanding who has the right to divorce and subsequently remarry is rooted in understanding God’s role in contrast to man’s role when it comes to marriage and divorce. This is also where a great deal of the misunderstanding on the topic of marriage, divorce and remarriage takes place.
The following chart demonstrates the breakdown of roles. God does not marry and divorce, but He does bind and loose. Man cannot bind or loose, but he does marry and divorce. Realizing this helps us to clear the fog when it comes to any scenario, no matter how convoluted things may get. Determining if someone can be married (or married again) hinges on whether or not they are bound by God’s law to another. This is the key and central point.
Let’s illustrate this with some extreme circumstances. As repugnant as the thought may seem, two homosexuals can marry in certain places in this world and in this country. Are they bound by God’s law to one another? Some would argue that they are not married “in God’s sight” even though they might be married “in man’s sight.” Such language only convolutes the situation and is wholly errant. They are married, period. If civil law or custom declares them married, they are married, just like two people living in adultery are considered “married” (Matt. 5:32b; 19:9b, Mark 6:17-18; Luke 16:18). However, the fact is that they are clearly not “bound by God’s law” because God’s law forbids homosexuality.
Jesus’ understanding of the Samaritan woman’s situation demonstrates this truth. When she said, “she had no husband,” Jesus said that she spoke properly. She was indeed married, but because God did not bind her to the man she was currently wed to (as she had five husbands), she did not have a husband. So, God recognizes (but does not authorize) unapproved marriages (hence, making them sinful), but He does not bind couples in unscriptural marriages (making them either adultery or fornication or homosexuality).
Now, considering again our extreme illustration of a homosexual marriage, we ask, “What happens if one of those men repents of his homosexuality (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11), can he ever marry again?” Some might argue he cannot due to the fact that they confuse being married with being bound. The answer is “Yes.” Why? The fact is that the now penitent homosexual was never joined to another person by God. Therefore, he is free to remarry in the Lord.
Realizing that there are essentially four scenarios that can arise is helpful in understanding one’s marital status. Observe the following chart, which shows the four marital statuses that can arise. This does not take into consideration remarriages.
A man can be BOUND AND MARRIED when he weds a woman and neither of them has been married before. A man can be BOUND AND DIVORCED when he wrongfully divorces and remains unmarried. A man can be LOOSED AND MARRIED when he marries a woman who is bound to another man. A man can be LOOSED AND DIVORCED when he divorces for the approved cause and is at liberty to be remarried if he so chooses. Therefore, determining whether one is bound or loosed by God’s law helps clarify one’s status when it comes to marriage or remarriage.
The element of remarriage adds another factor to this equation. Yet, even then, the determination must be made if one is bound or loosed by God’s law. If they are loosed, then they may marry or remarry. If they are bound, they may not. If a man wants to marry a woman who has been previously married, he must ensure she was loosed from that bond by God’s law before he marries her. Likewise, a woman who wants to marry a man who has been previously married must ensure that he has been loosed from that bond before she marries him. The facts must be ascertained and this determination must be made, otherwise one might find themselves in a sinful (i.e., unauthorized or disapproved of by God) relationship.
Apart from one having never been bound by God’s law in marriage, God’s law teaches us that there are only two things that loose one from the obligation of a marriage. Death looses one from his marital obligation (Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39). Regardless of the other circumstances, if the person one is bound to dies, the one bound to them is loosed from that bond. The other thing that looses one from the obligation of marriage is if one party puts another away for the cause of fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). In this case, one may be remarried while the first spouse, who was put away for fornication, lives. There simply are no other cases where one may be loosed from his marital obligation. Any marriage to or remarriage of one who is not loosed by God’s law is adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11-12). It is important to acknowledge that a man could marry a woman (or vice versa) who is bound to another and not realize it. In this case, though married, the man was never bound to that woman by God in the first place, because she was still bound to the first man. You cannot be bound to two people in marriage at the same time. Such is adultery.
The study of adultery and what one must do to repent of the sin of adultery is another study for another time. Suffice it to say, adultery is a sin and is condemnable. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4; cf. Rev. 21:8). One cannot enter into a marriage that will result in or cause the sin of adultery and remain pleasing to God (cf. Mark Matt. 5:32; 10:11-12). Moreover, God will not bind two people in the sin of adultery.
Marriage is a holy institution with huge spiritual implications and significance. In light of all the teaching the Lord did on the subject, it is clear that Christians must indeed pay careful attention when they choose a spouse. Please consider these words carefully in light of that fact.