What’s Divorce?

wedding115Recently in preparing for teaching on 1 Corinthians 7 (marriage, divorce, and remarriage) I ran across some things that deserve reflection.  The first of which came from G.K. Chesterton who wrote something to the effect of “to answer the question of what divorce is, you must first answer the question of what marriage is.”  This is crucial to understanding the absolute language that the Scriptures use in regards to divorce.  Divorce is evil, but why?  Many here would point to the fact that it wrecks individuals, and that is true.  Many would point to the fact that it sends damaging ripples throughout society, and that is true.  But all of this is not the real reason why divorce is evil – the real reason is answered only when we look at marriage.

Marriage is God’s institution.  When God wants to get something done He creates an office to do it.  So, to fill the earth with children He creates His offices of husband and wife.  He then sets qualified individuals into those offices (men for husbands, women for wives).  The abomination that is same-sex marriage is in complete rebellion to this, but reflects the ongoing shift away from God’s institution of marriage.  We have replaced God’s estate of marriage with mankind’s perverted imposter of it.  So God puts men into the office of husband and women into the office of wife.  Literally God is the only matchmaker for marriage.  As Luther points out in his sermon on the Estate of Marriage, Christians need to look at marriage as something that is God’s work and that He places people together and unites them (just like the first marriage where there could be no doubt in Adam’s mind that God put he and his wife together).  The inbred synergism of mankind has of course perverted this view also as we think of marriage as some sort of human work to find each other and pick a spouse.

Marriage has another purpose.  It was not good for man to be alone.  This “not good” happens in the litany of “goods” that one finds in the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2.  God’s fix for it is the helper fit for the man.  Companionship and mutual support becomes a purpose of marriage as well.  The world has of course perverted this as well in challenging and down right reversing gender roles (human phrase for the distinctions which God has given to men and women).

Marriage has another purpose.  The first two purposes happen in the perfect creation.  This third one is necessary in a fallen creation.  It is the idea that St. Paul touches upon in 1 Corinthians 7 that not all are given the gift of chastity so others will need to be married in order that they not burn with passion.  This is also of course been assaulted by the world, as terms like friends with benefits and rampant fornication have been accepted and even celebrated ways of life.

Martin Chemnitz in his “Examination of the Council of Trent” deals with marriage in the second volume.  In it he not only list these first three purposes for the estate of marriage and the offices of husband and wife, but he lists two more which are wonderful to think about.

Wedding at CanaThe fourth purpose according to Chemnitz is that God is a God who blesses.  This is evident of course in the first purpose to bless with children, but there are many more blessings to living in the married estate.  There is joy and blessing to found in marriage.  Yes, there are trials, but even trials are a blessing from God.  Think of the effect that suffering has on the Old Adam and teaching self control and discipline.   A good example of this is Jesus blessing the couple at the wedding at Cana in John 2.  God is a God who blesses, and He loves to bless in marriage.


The fifth purpose Chemnitz poses is probably theologically the most important.  Chemnitz lists that marriage has the purpose of being a mysterious picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church.  This is in accord with St. Paul’s words found in Ephesians 5 concerning husbands and wives.  Marriage points us to Christ as head and self-sacrificing husband for His bride the Church, who out of respect for His office as head and His sacrificial work subordinates herself to Him.  This of course can become a great lesson for husbands and wives in how they should handle the offices which God has given to them.  More than that we can see the mystery of Christ and Church behind the offices of husband and wife.

Those five things help describe marriage.  So as Chesterton describes things, what is divorce based upon that?  Divorce is declaring those things to be nothing.  It is to tear apart the estate which God has created, to trash His Word and work.  It is to say no to “be fruitful and multiple”.  It is to say no to God’s very good fix for “it is not good for man to be alone”.  It is to return to the burn of passions.  It is to refuse the God who is a God of blessing.  It is to mar the image of Christ and His Church.

Do you see why divorce can be called evil?  It goes against God’s design and brings offense against His Word.  Yes, Jesus allows for the possibility of divorce when adultery is committed.  Yes St. Paul says that divorce may happen to a Christian whose unbelieving spouse leaves.  In a fallen world sinners are going to sin.

Now the real challenge is this: do we listen to God’s Word on this (or really any great moral issue or controversy) or do we mask our past sins by trying to self-justify our actions.  I would encourage you to stop the self-justifications and embrace Christ’s justification.  Christ’s justification allows you to call your past sins exactly what they are – sins.  His forgiveness frees you from having to serve the past sins with continuing denials or platitudes.  His forgiveness allows you to confess that you are a poor sinner.  This is a great and glorious thing, for Christ came not for the healthy, but for the sinners.


What’s Divorce? — 114 Comments

  1. @fws #44
    there is at that teeny % of gay “marriages” that have nothing at all to do with real marriages?

    You’re the first one to [honestly] call it a “teeny %”. [It is, but who’d believe it, reading the papers?] You are right in saying that it has nothing to do with real marriages!

    Now, all you have to do is explain [in one screen or less, please] why the “teeny %” is so “in our faces” insisting that we not only tolerate their sin, but agree that it isn’t sin, it’s peachy-keen, in fact!

    We all sin, but we don’t all demand that the 99.1% approveof our particular sin, even if they have to rewrite the Bible (or ignore it) to accomplish that.
    [Even the guy prone to speeding does not whine too much about the justly deserved traffic ticket! He doesn’t think the law should change just for him.]

    As Sandra said, the “innocent party” in a divorce gets much less sympathy than you want.

  2. Dr. Martin Luther, Marriage Sermon on Eph 5:22-23, Delivered at the Palace of Eilenburg in the yar 1536, as reprintedin The Marriage Ring: Three Sermons on Marriage, translated by J. Sheatsley:


    “Here St. Paul has combined and woven together into one both the marriage estate and the resurrection, together with the entire kingdom of Christ in Christendom. And he sets before the married, both husband and wife, this one example, that Christ is the head of the Church even as a husband is the head of the wife, and that Christendom is His bride or wife. We then, and all men, who wish to live in Christian marriage and do better than the heathen, are hereby taught to keep in view this image of Christ and His Church, which God has placed before our eyes, in order that in marriage they may keep to it, and may praise and thank God that they are permitted to dwell in these two divine estates, namely, the one, the high spiritual marriage with the Lord jesus Christ, and the other, the low bodily marriage in the world or in the flesh.”

    That being so, who might we expect is the enemy of marriage? The enemy of the resurrection, of the entire kingdom of Christ in Christendom, the enemy of our souls, the Old Serpent. On this, more from The Marriage Ring:

    “Of a certainty the devil will approach you on every side and deluge you with temptations. First, he will create displeasure and disgust, in order that you and your spouse may not live together long in happy agreement, and so your pleasure and delight will doubtless soon give way to dislike. For he cannot endure the sight of married people living together in friendliness and unity. … So much does the devil hate the estate; … he constantly opposes and interrupts God’s Word and work, and often succeeds in making man and wife sullen and afterwards impatient and bitter toward each other, so that their pleasure is turned into displeasure and their joy into anger and pain.”

    “Man and wife may get to be at variance with no one more easily than with each other. By a single word, casually or jestingly uttered, one may so displease the other as to pierce his very heart, so that it can never be forgotten, and that afterwards, on this account, mutual poison and gall ?ll their hearts. The reason is this that the devil ?nds no pleasure in the existence of peace, concord‘ and the like. … Therefore one should be prepared for the devil who is an enemy of this estate and who begrudges any peace and unity therein.”

    “Such is one of the ways in which the devil seeks to stir up all manner of dislike and variance in marriage, so that one gets to be as angry as a spider at the other. In this way wedlock becomes a very hell and work of the devil who laughs in his ?st over his success. For do not think by any means that the devil and the world ?nd joy and pleasure where love and concord rule. God and the Holy Spirit, however, are well pleased; He laughs and is happy over it.”

    When husband and wife by the Word become wise that they are not the antagonists, but together they are opposed by the Devil, that it is us together against him, with Christ on our side, when we see marriage as what the Word makes it, and our spouse as what the Word makes her or him, then light can shine in darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. Here the Word and faith are not only matters of doctrine, but of wisdom, conflict, victory, and the peace that passes understanding.

  3. @Sandra Ostapowich #49
    I agree, in certain circles divorce really does seem like the unforgivable sin. However, in other’s not so much. For instance, my pastor divorced his wife of 30 years last summer. The congregation expressed overwhelming support that he stay on.

  4. Sandra,
    I have lived it as well, & helped a local women’s shelter charity.
    Legal separation, is what I chose. When that is chosen, it not only allows the Court to protect, support & assets etc, it also allows the Marrige Covenant to remain intact. In the eyes of the court, you have explaining to do, yet, it allows valuable time, for everyone. The outcome, depends on the offender. Repentance, counsel, and encouragement, can at times, change someone & save a marriage & that family.

    In doing that, that enables for Pastoral Counseling, Individual counseling, marital counseling & family counseling. For all, the offender, the offended, the family, & the member with their Pastor. Let alone, the prayers of many and our Heavenly Father’s aid.
    Separation, should always be reccomended, unless it is so apparent, that the physical threat or the issue is far gone & no repentance is possible.
    Adultery is survivable & can be overcome. Financial issues can be, too. If Christian wives & husbands, are following Scripture, after all, that spouse, chooses to walk away, we don’t stop them. I’m grateful, I had the chance, to try, pray, and ask for any aid I could or was offered to me & my husband. That matters & means more, than most here know. I’m glad few do.

  5. 3 pages of thread, has brought up, quite a bit of aspects of divorce. Also, the legal separation to boot.

    No matter the issue, why aren’t Pastor’s made aware of this when it happens in their Congregations? Why aren’t members taught, we have 2 options, one Biblical & one maybe not & not just the fast track to ending our Covenant? Why aren’t they teaching basic/specific in the Sems regarding anything that may lead to divorce outside our Faith, let alone inside it? When did the word (emotional affair) aspect of adultery get lost? No one can prove physical, unless it’s pridefully unrepented. Financial issues, can be helped, didn’t Thrivent offer info for $$$ counseling? Parental issues, also fixable.
    Even abuse can be, but it doesn’t begin with any member of a Congregation, they should be coming into the Office for all this.

    Why don’t they & what happens if they do? What happens if the offender, not the offended, the offender spouse is unrepentant & yet is a member?

    This should be a series on BJS. I pray Pastor Scheer takes that lead, the 50% divorce rate, happens in our Synods.

  6. @Dutch #5
    This should be a series on BJS. I pray Pastor Scheer takes that lead, the 50% divorce rate, happens in our Synods.

    “The 50% divorce rate” is somewhat misleading.
    The person who has one divorce is more prone to consider it a solution to a 2nd marriage, too. We’ve all seen/read about people who indulge in what one of my Pastor/Profs called “serial polygamy”. And we know many others who live in their first marriage until one of them dies. They are really a majority. 50, 60 and 70 year marriages are celebrated in the Witness every month.

  7. Helen,
    Most I grew up around & watched did, just what the Witness celebrates. Let’s be frank, that is the best & brightest, for a reason & intent. It’s all I ever knew…& then I grew up, and learned that there was more to those marriages, than just what others see & hear.

    No, they are not a majority, the question is why? Why is it the offended have to depart the Congregation, & the offender allowed to stay? Why is it, when a couple comes in, are they farmed out, now? It was not always that way. Why?

    Being married & having a marriage, a Biblical Covenant Marriage, are 2 very different things. We no longer teach boys, young men, or counsel pre married as we once did, why?

    If I look at my own family, all Lutherans LCMS, just a few WELS, that 50% ratio, applies. Marriage, the Covenant, we enter into with a Holy & Almighty God, on our wedding day, regarding our spouse, is what we have always taught. Vocations in that marriage Covenant, have also changed, why? Sheep should not teach sheep. Sometimes, a ewe or a ram actually is submissive & obeys what He says. When they do so, they fly in the face of man’s law. When ya do that, why you chose, is put on defence, just as you are. Not pretty nor accepted, and we do not teach, train, Shepherds, Circuit Counselors, or Districts, to deal, advise, encourage, rebuke, or admonish. Divorce is easy here in our/His House, abiding by His Word, isn’t normally done, in our/His own House.

  8. Folks,
    Water flows downward. If we still believe, teach, train, & preach, the husband is the Head, and all that entails, then how is it, we can debate, post, link, & quote so much, that most do not know, understand, & are assumed to know? My & a woman’s vocation in Marriage, is well known & we hear it often.

    Do men, little boys, & teens, really know, what all is entailed in Christ’s love for the Church, as he laid His Life for Her? Do we really teach that practical application, in relation to marriage? No. We assume, it shows, we assume. Water flows downward, the head of a house, home, marriage, bear that accountability. It is the meet & measure as to who is able to serve, in any Congregation, we know that, Paul said it, as did He.

    Why do we focus, on the one is to be lead & help meet, rather than the one, He holds accountable for his own house?

  9. @Dutch #9

    Do men, little boys, & teens, really know, what all is entailed in Christ’s love for the Church, as he laid His Life for Her? Do we really teach that practical application, in relation to marriage?

    In many places, there is a significant weakness there, you are right.

  10. T.R.,
    Do we not rejoice & insert His Doxology, in seeing it applied, not just spoken!!!!
    It was done by laity & the Office, then, it is how I knew what to train & teach all those, charged to my care, for so many years. Let alone our little boys.

    Why don’t they teach this, to those who may hold the Office? Why do those who do & depend upon, the Circuit & District, make the same mistake, as we sheep do?!

    If we endevor to defend Marriage, it should begin, endevor, encourage, rebuke, admonish, & at times, be called to question,…in His House, it is His Bride, His not ours~ What hapens when this is not, from top to bottom, you leave rams, ewes, and lambs, at the mercy of the left hand’s law! If they know what we believe, & in a court of law, a lamb, is to defend it, knowing it was not, in His House, what does that teach, to our children or the wounded, yet in Him, Hopeful?! Not much!

    I’d love to see a series on this, I can’t imagine so many, don’t & wouldn’t ask it! If you are the Head, of a bride, children, as He is head of His, how can we be such an EPIC FAILURE, IN THIS??!!

  11. @Dutch #9
    Do men, little boys, & teens, really know, what all is entailed in Christ’s love for the Church, as he laid His Life for Her? Do we really teach that practical application, in relation to marriage?

    Dear Dutch,
    If you are saying that we get the text on women’s “submission” from the pulpit several times a year and the much longer text accompanying it, on the duties of the husband, about once a decade… you’re right in too many places. I remember having complained of it myself.

    Not every home is fit to teach a husband’s role, because not every husband fills it. They weren’t taught. It is not just marital bullying, [although it was commonly assumed to be a generation or two ago.] You are right that this needs to be discussed with boys… and girls, too, so that they do not make wrong choices.

    I’m inclined to think that there is no such thing as a “no fault” divorce, but it’s an easy way out for the courts and if someone else has the bed already warmed for the one who leaves, the Scriptural thing that the one left can do is let them go, but not remarry themselves.

  12. Helen,
    You’re right, there never was or ever will be anything He deems “no fault” divorce.
    We have epic failure, in the department, of teaching & training our little boys, and have allowed it for decades.

    We have 2 little boys, I had the best & brightest of examples, in my Dad, those men around us & the Pastors, I grew up around. I may be the 1st in 3 generations, to have boys, my responsiblity is never far from my mind.

    The simple fact is, men are the head, they are to lead, they are to love as Christ did, & we do not explain how that applies to marriage covenants. I know, full well, that 2 little girls, 2 sets of parents, somewhere out in the beyond, are trusting me & my husband, to train & teach those boys in the way they should go. I don’t give my son away, they gift & give their precious little girl, to our son, and we do not have the luxury of playing monday morning quarterback. Not with this.
    We all talk & debate over much the world has touched in His House, this came in long before anything any of us have debated or dialogued.

    Why? That is why I ask that this be a series, if a husband is the head, & his service depends & is dicated by what Paul wrote, why is it, help meet’s are always looked to first? We help meet a need, no one should ever have to make choices like those referred to in these posts, that is for the Office to correct, defend, teach, and at the worst of moments, correct. We have the Word & His tools, we just refuse or abstain from their use. That charge is levied to those in the Office, not to sheep.

    Ya can’t fix what ya don’t know, & you cannot plead ignorance, once you are told. Easy peasy. Just not in His House anymore, court yes, His House, no.

  13. Great post. It’s sad to live in a society that has no-fault divorce, which basically gives the power to whichever person is least committed to the marriage. This has caused so much grief; I have never understood why conservatives don’t blame poverty on lax divorce laws rather than just insist on blind spending cuts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.