The most inquiries I have had over the years has been people in marriage situations asking "what should I do in this situation". There is so much confusion, fear and guilt associated with the marriage commitment.
Marriage is an important commitment to make to another person, and life-long faithfulness is the goal. But that is not always possible. We all make errors in judgment and hopefully we learn as we walk with God. The core of God's nature is love, forgiveness and mercy, as Jesus makes abundantly clear, so we ask for forgiveness, we try real hard not to make the same mistakes again, and we move on, with our Father who loves us, and our Master Jesus who leads us on.
One's wife or husband would be included in the above teaching as "my brother" or "my sister" : ) But equally true is the requirement of a sincere apology or a sincere request for forgiveness. If the request for forgiveness is not genuine - meaning there is no appropriate contrite attitude associated with the request (the word "sorry" is based on the same root word as "sorrowful") - then the person is not really sorry, but is rather manipulating you to get their way. This is true with an apology or request for forgiveness for any matter, including marital transgressions.
Again, a marriage commitment is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. But that marriage request or agreement or commitment should never have occurred without each person first knowing the other person well, which would require some time as good friends - the more time the better. This is the first mistake with failed marriages. People don't know each other and just react emotionally or on a shallow level. Often having sex is a primary motivation for marriage, and that is a really bad motivation for getting married. So, before we address marriage, divorce and remarriage, let's make the fact clear that a marriage based on a poor or weak foundation - one where the prospective husband and wife don't really know each other or have poor motivations for the marriage - will more than likely fail and it should be no surprise when it does.
OK, so what does Joshua say about marriage and other key concepts that would apply to any relationship, including marriage?
There are many bible people who say that divorce is approved of God in almost any or all situations and others who say that all divorce or remarriage is sinful and thus all divorce or remarriage is condemned by God. Well, what does Joshua say, for that is really all that matters for those who are his disciples.
Let's first sum up principles Joshua teaches that apply to the marriage relationship.
Major or Key Principles:
Minor or Failure Principles:
If we fail in these things and thus our marriage fails, it would be best not to re-marry, but not prohibited if either we repent of the sins that we committed in causing or contributing to the failure; or we truly did not contribute to the failure (fairly rare - this is more likely a matter of degree). If we can't succeed in a second marriage due to our failure, it increases our accountability and we should probably not try again, but again, this is our individual choice in as much as we can properly judge if, or how much, we contributed to the failure.
What is Marriage?
Marriage is an institution created by God (Matt. 19:4-6), wherein a man and a woman come together for the purpose of lifelong companionship for each other; to create and raise children; and with the primary purpose of knowing their Father and doing what His Son says. Marriage is a covenant of companionship. The "coming together" of the man and woman is comprised of two elements. First, the commitment of relationship (lifelong faithfulness) to each other, in the roles God has called each to - husband as the loving guide, wife as the loving supporter. Second, the sexual union whereby the two become one flesh. The "one flesh" refers to both the intimate and unique union that a husband and wife experience in the sexual union, as well as the offspring of that union, children. The husband and wife (two) produce children (one flesh). Sexual relations are NOT the primary purpose of the marriage, nor do they make "marriage", but rather are a privilege granted in the marriage relationship [see Human Sexuality]. Once again, God's intent for the marriage relationship is that it be a permanent relational commitment that is to last as long as each spouse lives (Matt. 19:6, 8-9).
How Does One Enter Into the Marriage Relationship?
Contrary to the traditions of men, the marriage relationship is entered into when a man and a woman commit themselves to each other as husband and wife and consummate that commitment by the sexual union. Joshua (nor even the new testament) offers NO precepts or guidelines for "marriage ceremonies". The New Testament contains accounts of marriage customs which should not be interpreted as approved examples, for they are merely cultural examples. There is NO command nor precept from Joshua (nor even in the whole bible) that says that some man ("clergy") is to "marry" the couple. No man can marry a couple because it is God who created the marriage relationship, and He gives no command in the entire bible whereby He calls for a man to serve as the agent of approving the marriage. The couple is to be married before the heavenly Father first and foremost.
It might be wise to have others as witnesses to the commitment, as well as to share in the joy of a public commitment, but this is not taught by Joshua/Joshua. If the couple lives in a country where laws exist that require the marriage be "registered" in the government's eyes in some manner, they should submit to those laws as long as obeying that law does not interfere with obeying Joshua.
There is good sense support for the practice of a betrothal or engagement period before the man and the woman commit to the marriage relationship and consummate it through sex. There is wisdom in waiting or order to really get to know one another. That betrothal period is THE TIME to talk about important issues like what is the proper way and goal of raising children; what is the right way to discipline children. What are the priorities in terms of using the resources we have and will create?
It is worth noting again that the marriage relationship should be first and foremost a deep friendship build on the love Joshua taught – selfless behavior motivated by compassion. If this was the case, there would be very few divorces.
As bad as divorce can be, and as much as it can bring pain and suffering, there is nonetheless some circumstances where Joshua allows for divorce. All divorce is brought about by sin of some kind by at least one of the parties, but not all reasons for divorce are sinful.
There are two clear exceptions given by Joshua, whereby a spouse is allowed to divorce his/her spouse – meaning that the divorce itself is not wrongful. However, more important is the principle of mercy and forgiveness. But before looking at those portions of Joshua' teachings, it must be said that in the case of two disciples of Joshua (husband and wife), there should be no occasion for them to divorce. Even if there is sin on the part of their spouse, there is always repentance and forgiveness available, by the mercy of the Father, to allow forgiveness to wash away the pain of the sins. We will look at this issue in a bit more detail as we move on.
The First Exception Teaching
Luke 14:26, 33, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple...So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."
See also Matt. 12:47-50, Matt. 10:34-38, Matt. 19:27-30
These teachings of Joshua cover all issues in this life, including marriage to a spouse. If a man or woman becomes a follower of Joshua after getting married and after some period of time their spouse does not come into faith and become a disciple; AND the spouse that rejects Joshua seeks to hinder the disciple of Joshua from following Joshua (obeying God); then separation and/or divorce would be acceptable. Loving God above all else is the greatest command, and if any person insists you disobey that command, then you are free to leave them, no matter what relationship you have with them. Of course that decision should not be made hastily, but after much soul searching to make sure you know what “loving God” means.
What also needs to be said is that normally, the person who refuses to believe Joshua will normally be the one who leaves the relationship, for they can't stand the Light that shines forth from the true disciple (John 3:19-21).
Second Exception Teaching
“Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
A woman married to a man who seeks to force his wife to engage in sinful behavior is free to leave. For that matter, if a husband truly abuses his wife, she is free to leave, for he is not honoring the basic agreement of marriage which is to love his wife. When a man agrees to love and protect his wife, he is obligated to do that. Again, if he does not do that, then the wife is no longer obligated to respect and stay with that man.
In the same way, if a wife does not love (value) nor respect her husband, then he is not obligated to stay in the marriage relationship – he is free to leave.
Third Exception Teaching
Matt. 5:32, "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery".
His command here is general and applies to all people. One of the things Joshua does with this teaching is provide an exception for a marriage between two people, where a spouse may divorce his/her spouse and not be wrong in doing so. That exception is "except sexual immorality". The Greek word behind that phrase is "porneia" which is usually translated either sexual immorality or fornication. The Greek word for adultery, "moikeia", is NOT used in this passage. Thus, this author believes this exception is best understood in the context of Deut. 22:13-21, which the Jewish gospel writer, Matthew might have understood Joshua referring to when giving Matt. 5:32.
In this case, the exception to divorce a spouse would be if the woman whom a man married, lied to her husband in assuring him she was a virgin when in fact she was not. Thus, upon the first sexual union and discovering his wife was not a virgin, when she told him she was, would be grounds for him to divorce her. Again, lying for selfish purposes is a sin, and if confessed by, and repented from the one who lied, there is no reason forgiveness could not be granted. However, in this case, it is allowable and legitimate for a husband who was lied to by his wife-to-be regarding her virginity, to divorce his wife.
Some understand Matt. 5:32 to include adultery. This author would modify that to say it would have to be unrepentant adultery, in which case Matt. 5:32 would not be the primary verse of guidance, but rather John 14:15. If a disciple of Joshua who is married, goes into an adulterous relationship and does not repent after going through Family discipline as given in Matt. 18:15-17, then they are not to be considered a disciple of Joshua.
If a disciple gets caught in the flesh and stumbles and transgresses, but repents when confronted (Matt. 18:15-17), then there should be restoration and forgiveness granted to that spouse (Matt. 18:21-22; Luke 17:3-4). Truly, forgiveness is the key to walking after the Light, for His forgiveness towards us is infinitely more than we'll ever be called upon to grant to others, including a temporarily unfaithful spouse (Matt. 18:21-35). It is the mistake of those with a proud or non-compassionate heart to place an unforgiving spirit above mercy (Matt. 23:23).
So, what about those who divorce for reasons other than sexual immorality? Joshua says that in those circumstances, the man who divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery; and the man who marries a woman who was divorced commits adultery. He doesn't leave any room for justifying a divorce with these words, and thus the only way to be reconciled with God is through repentance. Specifically, if a man divorces his wife without her consent for a reason other than her adultery, then he needs to ask for forgiveness for that sin from both his ex-wife and God. If possible (if it would not cause more sin against others), it would be best to remarry her as well (if his former wife will take him back), as this would indicate true repentance on his part.
The unrepentant woman (or man) who was the cause of a wrongful divorce commits adultery when they marry (commits to keep a faithful relationship and consummates the marriage with sex) another person. The person who marries the new spouse out of ignorance, meaning they believe their new spouse was rightfully divorced, would not commit the sin of adultery when marrying. If they know that their new spouse is divorced wrongfully, then they too commit adultery upon consummation of the new marriage.
It seems reasonable to think that the fruit of the repentance for the individual who was the wrongful cause of the divorce, would be to never wrongfully divorce again. Joshua says that the sin of adultery is caused by the act of consummating the marriage by the initial sexual union i.e. "whoever marries a woman who is divorced". Thus, in the example Joshua gives, he should repent of marrying multiple times and never divorce again, nor never marry a divorced woman again.
Some insist that the new marriage must be dissolved because every time the new husband and wife come together sexually, they are committing adultery. That would only be true if:
Furthermore, Joshua explicitly says the act of adultery is the initial consummating which comprises "the marriage", not sexual unions after that. Listen again, "...whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery" ("commits adultery", not 'becomes an adulterer'). It is the act of marrying in view here, not primarily the sexual union, although the two are related.
If Joshua intended to say that any man who marries a divorced woman will be in a constant state of sin every time they come together sexually, then he would have said something like, 'and whomever marries a divorced woman will be an adulterer', or, 'whomever marries a divorced woman, that sin cannot be forgiven unless they separate'. But Joshua does not say that. In fact, he says elsewhere, "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people..." Mark 3
If the man who married a divorced woman and his current spouse are disciples, then in most instances divorcing each other is not the way to repent, as that would be just more sin, especially if they have children. Breaking up a natural family where the spouses have a good marriage based on love and faithfulness and taking them away from their children with the justification "God requires that in order to grant forgiveness" is a position of the self-righteous who don't understand Joshua' teachings on God's mercy. The repentance from the original consummating act of "marrying" (don't marry again by leaving your present wife and consummating another marriage with another woman) would make both spouses clean again in God's eyes.
The teachings of Joshua are that divorce is not to be an option for disciples of Joshua who are husband and wife. Every effort to overcome sin, by the love of the Father and the power of repentance and humility, should be made to maintain and grow a marriage between two disciples of Joshua. However, there are three exceptions given by God wherein a disciple may legitimately divorce his or her spouse without sinning in doing so. The first is when a disciple is married to a non-disciple (the disciple became a disciple after the beginning of the marriage) and that non-disciple does not repent and consistently tries to hinder the disciple from obeying Joshua.
The second exception is when either spouse does not keep the promise made when committing to be married – to love one another. Unfortunately, with love being redefined by the world, most people don’t know that “love” means to value a person and behave selflessly towards them based on compassion. Instead, “love” has been redefined as an emotional feeling towards someone often based on sexual attraction. Married couples who believe the world’s wrong definitions of love will stand little chance of actually loving one another and fulfilling the life-long commitment of faithfulness to each other.
The third exception is for sexual immorality, either before the marriage and lied about thereby deceiving their future spouse on the issue of virginity; or after marriage by unrepentant adultery thus proving that the unrepentant adulterer is not a disciple of Joshua.
A Word of Warning To the Quick to Condemn
At this point I must pause and address those who condemn all divorce as sinful, evil, an abomination, and worse. Surely this tendency exists due to, in most cases, self-righteousness. It seems those the quickest to condemn have, of course, never been divorced. They are the ones who boast of being married for 30 years or more. Sadly, it won't make any difference to them the teachings of Joshua pointed out in this article, for their hearts are seemingly locked into self-righteous condemnation on this issue. There are two truths regarding our personal sin. First, our sin always looks worse when committed by others. And second, if I haven't sinned in a particular area, then those who have, are so bad they must certainly be headed for hell. On this issue of divorce or remarriage, particularly, it seems God's mercy (“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”) just doesn't apply in these men's or women's hearts.
For those who see the bible as "God's Word", here is an amazing biblical truth for the 'all divorce is wrong' and 'all remarriage is sin" self-righteous folks to ponder. In all the lists of sins in the New Testament - Mark 7:21-22; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Rev. 21:8; Rev. 22:15, as a sampling - guess which "sin" is missing? Yes, divorce and remarriage! None of the lists list "divorce" or "remarriage". Some will say, 'But those lists contain adultery and sexual immorality'. Yes they do, and for the illegitimately AND unrepentant divorcee, the warnings of adultery apply. But don't miss the distinction between "divorce" and "adultery", as has been documented in this article.
The quick-to-condemn types understanding of God's mercy is truly lacking. They are quick to look at the lists of sins in the New Testament and try to group all divorce under "the same group" as the adulterer or murderer. They fail to take a hard look at the other sins listed with adulterer and murderer, such as "covetous, drunkard, reviler, lewd, hatred, contentious, jealous, those with selfish ambition, dissenters, and the envious". Both 1 Cor. 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 include these people.
How quick are you, reader, who holds all of the bible to be God's Word, to CONDEMN as "under the Lord's wrath", and heading for "hell", those brethren who might stumble in committing one of those sins? After all, those sins ARE IN THE SAME LISTS. Please tell me, how is a legitimately divorced person who is remarried and faithful to their new spouse, an " adulterer" or "sexually immoral"? In fact, they are not, and thus beware of the quick to condemn all divorce and remarriage types, who are more than likely stuck in one of the worst sin's - self-pride.
Ponder Joshua' teachings on this matter: "The Pharisee stood and prayed within himself in this way: God, I thank You that I am not as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice on the Sabbath, I give tithes of all that I possess. And standing afar off, the tax-collector would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but struck on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself shall be abased, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18:11-14)
"But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."? (Matt. 5:28) Joshua, in this verse, explains sin to us, and explains how that the heart produces the sin that the person carries out. Joshua plainly says that to lust after a woman in one's heart is the same as "committing adultery" with her. Since he said “adultery” instead of “fornication”, we should conclude he is talking about a single man lusting after a married woman, or a married man lusting after a woman other than his wife.
So, are those who condemn all divorce or remarriage as "adultery" consistent in their condemnation of men who lust after women? Are they telling the single or married men who struggle with this sin, that they are heading for hell, as they do all divorced and remarried people? If they are not, then they are both inconsistent, and hypocritical in their judgment. Of course many men would also deny that they have ever lusted after a woman, so some would also be liars.
This author understands the concern of the remnant believing communities regarding divorce. Surely, the counterfeit church approves of divorce for essentially any reason, and thus many claiming to be 'born again believers' are divorcing freely and sadly in great error. It is not uncommon for Christians to be on their second or third "marriage" while believing that their former spouses were also Christians (to understand the difference between a Christians and a disciple of Joshua, please see the rest of this web site!)
The error practiced among bible believers and Christians should give disciples of Joshua reason to pause and to look at those teachings that are being disobeyed and abused by those folks. Certainly marriage, divorce and remarriage are important concepts which disciples need to understand and obey. But like any other issue, we must seek to understand and live out ALL of Joshua' Words, and not the opinions of men.
The classic error of "throwing the baby out with the bath water" is often made regarding "divorce". As it was said before, all divorce is brought about by not practicing love and forgiveness, but not all divorces are sinful. And divorce or remarriage are not the unforgiveable sins, but rather blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is. Just because the world and most Christians accept all or many reasons for divorce does not mean that God did not approve of divorce in certain circumstances. As we have seen, He has in fact approved of divorce in three circumstances where nothing else is wrong between the two people.
This brings us to the issue of remarriage. If we have clarity of what the Word Joshua says regarding love, marriage and divorce, sin and forgiveness, then we will have no problem arriving at the right conclusion regarding remarriage.
Again, for the bible-is-God's-Word folks, it must be noted that the term "remarriage" does not occur in the bible! The bible does allow for certain people once married to marry again. For example, the scripture teaches in several places that a widow (and by reasonable inference, a widower) can marry again (1 Tim. 5:14; 1 Cor. 7:8-9, 39). In all three passages just cited, the term "remarry" or "remarriage" is never used. The people are simply told (and even commanded in 1 Cor. 9) that they can "marry". This is significant for the following reason. Once a marriage is legitimately dissolved, whether by death or legitimate divorce, then that marriage no longer exists in God's eyes. In other words, it is as if the marriage (the legal aspect of the institution) never was.
The concept of "they are still married in God's eyes" is completely unsupported by Joshua' teachings and wrong if it is used towards widows, widowers or legitimately divorced or remarried people. Those freed from marriage by the death or legitimate divorce of a spouse are completely free. They are free in the purest sense, of God not holding anything against them, nor of God having any expectations regarding marriage commitments (that no longer exist), nor of God even considering them "once married". They are simply a child of God, period, just like every other true disciple of Joshua. Men take a much higher view of the institution of marriage (not the commitments within a marriage) than God does (Matt. 22:30). In fact, marriage has nothing to do with following the real, historical Jesus of Nazareth, for that is always an individual endeavor first and foremost.
To sum up, then, the teaching of the Joshua regarding marrying again after a divorce:
In the case of the ILLEGITIMATE divorce between two disciples, those two disciples should NOT remarry, but should remain unmarried or be reconciled with their spouse (Matt. 5:32, 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18).
In the three cases of LEGITIMATE divorce: First, where a non-disciple spouse does not want to live with the disciple due to expressions of the disciple’s faith (this includes the case of unrepentant adultery). Second, where one spouse refused to love the others. Third, where one of the two young people are deceived by their spouse regarding their virginity - Matt. 5:32.
In these three cases, the disciple is free to marry again.
In the third case of the sinning/lying spouse, there would need to be submission to Family discipline and subsequent repentance prior to being free to marry again. The spouse who was lied to is free to marry again immediately after the divorce from the prior spouse - of course wisdom would dictate that person wait and make sure to test the faith of the next person they want to take in marriage. Again, it must be emphasized that repentance and forgiveness is obviously the best course of action in this case. Typically this circumstance might arise among two young people, so immaturity and lack of wisdom might characterize the couple, and sin is not lacking in the spiritually immature.
In the case of the non-disciple not wanting to live with the disciple - the disciple is free to marry again after the divorce, for the disciple has not sinned regarding the divorce, and is not in bondage to the non-disciple spouse who does not want to follow Joshua (Luke 14:26). The highest course of action for a person in that situation is not to remarry at all, but rather be single for the sake of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 19:11-12).
Summary and Conclusions
Marriage is designed by God to be for life - a covenant of companionship between a man and a woman which includes the creating new human beings and raising them in a loving and stable environment. The marriage relationship is one in which they love and serve their heavenly Father, their Master, each other and others.
The marriage relationship was created by God and divorce is allowed and regulated by Joshua. "Remarriage" is a label of men that seeks to keep people in bondage to their past, in spite of the freedom of conscience the Father wants for His children.
It really is quite simple. Love one another, forgive one another, appreciate one another, and divorce or remarriage will never be relevant. The person who divorces for the wrong reason, or who is at fault for the divorce, should not remarry, or better yet, should be remorseful and seek to make things right with their former spouse. Those who have a legitimate reason for divorce can do so and are free to remarry.
Sadly, many divorces taking place these days among those who take the label "Christian" are wrongful. Joshua of Nazareth, the Word of God, provides for legitimate divorce. First, for the situation of a disciple being married to a non-disciple (due to one being born again after they were married) who seeks to prevent the disciple from following Joshua (Luke 14:26). Second, his other teachings regarding love would also free spouses who are being truly abused by their partner. Third, in the case of a false basis of entering into the marriage covenant (Matt. 5:32).
A person whose spouse dies, or who is legitimately divorced, is free to marry again.
For all divorced disciples, divorce is NOT the unpardonable sin, as many who lack understanding into the commands of Joshua and the mercy of God, would have you to believe. Joshua plainly says, "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come". (Matthew 12:31-32) Please note that divorce, remarriage or even adultery do not qualify for the unforgivable sin, and thus each person who commits even an illegitimate divorce or remarriage can repent and be forgiven.
May those people who take divorce lightly, ignore Joshua' teachings and seek to have wrongful divorces accepted, heed this word of exhortation: turn away from your sin and seek to find the love needed to learn to care for and appreciate your life-long companion. Turn into a person with a good heart who cares about what is true and right and thus does what is right.
May those people who condemn all divorce as sinful, heed this word of exhortation: turn away from any self-pride which is blinding you to the mercy, compassion, and precious forgiveness that is available from God for the repentant heart. Seek ALL the truth - acknowledge and discern legitimate divorces and truly repentant people - and don't lay yoke's of bondage on those Joshua says are clean, forgiven and free.
Do this with even just a little bit of faith in the One whom you are reading about, and you will be set free to enter into his Life!