Staff & Sling
Ministry

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

D∙I∙V∙O∙R∙C∙E; Episode III

Hi again. Well, did I lie to you? I told you that I was going to step on your toes, and I always try to be a man of my word (I suppose here is where I should put one of those cryptic sideways smiley faces, but I just can’t bring myself to do so. I’ll just have to trust you to pick up on the humorous parts). If you haven’t read the first two articles on this subject, do so before you read this one.

On the other hand, if you have read my two previous articles on this topic, and you are a divorcee, then you must be wondering. "What’s the point? If I’m living in adultery, why bother trying to be a Christian?" Well, before we go any further, I need to point out two things to you.

First, adultery is not the unpardonable sin. Second, when Jesus died He paid the price for all of your sin. I know, there are plenty of people who insist that only the sins you confess are forgiven. And there are those who would say that you can’t be forgiven of a sin that you keep doing. Or maybe they think you have to constantly keep confessing it every time you do it, or something like that. Who knows. The problem is that these people don't think of sin as a God does. It's true that sins are individual acts. but sin is also a state of existence, separated from God.

The root word for sin, in Hebrew, is spelled !)( (chet-tet-aleph, right to left, in case the Hebrew fonts don’t carry over to your screen) and is pronounced ket. It is an archery term meaning, "to miss the target." It's sort of like an "Alice" putt for you golfers, where your putt stops rolling before it gets to the cup. If an archer's bow was too weak, or if he failed to aim high enough, his arrow wouldn't reach the target. Think about the verse in Romans, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," (Romans 3: 23).

Everyone knows the verse, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1: 9). But read the whole statement, not just the one verse.

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us" (I John 1: 8-10).

In context it becomes a bit clearer that this is not an instruction to engage in some sort of legalistic behavioral accounting practice. It is simply a statement that we must recognize that we are sinful before we can be forgiven, and all the more reason to avoid the temptation to try and justify getting divorced and/or remarried. "For if we should judge ourselves, we should not be judged," (I Corinthians 11: 31).

And no, before anyone asks, I am not saying that we should "... continue in sin, that grace may abound" (Romans 6: 1b). Paul answered it best. "God forbid" (Romans 6: 2a). Neither am I saying that if you are divorced and remarried that you should divorce your new spouse and go back to your first. Deuteronomy 24: 3, 4 pretty much quashes that idea. And finally, if you’re remarried, then you’ve pretty much blown right past I Corinthians 7: 11.

But before we go into specifics about this particular circumstance, I want to reiterate (for emphasis) that confessing your sins does not mean making an itemized list and that only those sins that make the list get forgiven. It means confessing to God that you are sinful, not making excuses or trying to find loopholes and justifications. Similarly, repentance doesn’t mean turning away from a particular behavior. It means turning away from that whole sinful state of existence, submitting to God’s will and work for and in you.

So, where does this leave you if you’re divorced? The first clue I would point you to is "And He saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her," (Mark 10: 11). Did you catch that? Jesus said he commits adultery against his wife.

This is a completely tangential point, but I want to take a moment to complain about those WWJD bracelets and necklaces that so many wear today. How likely is it that anyone could answer that question apart from scripture? Perhaps you think it’s a good standard to use, if you need to make a choice. Okay. Here’s one for you. Christ healed the lame man at Bethesda (John 5: 1 - 9). But there were a multitude there who were not healed. Why, if Christ is so loving, did He leave the multitude unhealed?

The point of this riddle is not to raise questions about the love of Christ. The point is to demonstrate that we, however much we might wish or think otherwise, do not have the mind of God. We simply lack His perspective. And unless scripture tells us how He sees something, we probably have no idea.

So now that we have a notion that we don’t understand things as God does, we don’t see things as He does, let’s consider another verse. Christ and His disciples were walking through a field one Sabbath day and they began to pick grain and eat as they walked. The Pharisees took Christ to task for this violation of the Sabbath law, and Christ rebuked them by saying, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath," (Mark 2: 27b).

Now I would remind you that observing the Sabbath, like the admonition against adultery, is one of the 10 Commandments. But Christ said that it was ordained for our sake, not the other way around. So a violation of the Sabbath is a sin against ourselves, not God. Similarly, when one divorces and remarries, (s)he commits adultery, not against God, but against their spouse.

Have you ever noticed that the sins we think of as the worst, are all sins that others commit against us? Murder, adultery, these are sins against men, not God. Yet we tend to think of them as the most severe. But who thinks of a proud heart as particularly sinful. Oh sure, it’s a sin, but it doesn’t get us angry like adultery. Look at how easily we suffer the taking the Lord’s name in vain. You can’t turn on a television show without hearing someone use "God", or "Jesus" or "Christ" as an exclamation. Pride, or taking His name in vain, these are sins against God Himself, yet we hardly take notice of them.

When Jesus was instructing His disciples how to pray, He was careful to point out to them that they had to forgive those who sinned against them as they sought God’s forgiveness (Matthew 6: 12; Luke 11: 4). "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have anything against any, that your Father also, who is in heaven, may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father, who is in heaven, forgive your trespasses," (Mark 11: 25, 26).

The point of all of this is simple. Not all sins are against God. To be sure, all sin separates us from God, but not all sin is against God. Adultery is a sin against your spouse, not God. So if you have put away your spouse, and have married another, you need to ask your spouse’s forgiveness (Matthew 5: 23, 24). And if your spouse has divorced you and married another, you need to forgive them (Mark 11: 25, 26). Once you forgive them, then God will forgive you. It's that simple.

Reader Alert: The last paragraph was probably the most important point to be made in this whole article. So, once again relying on emphasis by redundance, I write this a second time. Pay attention. Not all sins are against God. To be sure, all sin separates us from God, but not all sin is against God. Adultery is a sin against your spouse, not God. So if you have put away your spouse, and have married another, you need to ask your spouse’s forgiveness (Matthew 5: 23, 24). And if your spouse has divorced you and married another, you need to forgive them (Mark 11: 25, 26). Once you forgive them, then God will forgive you. It's that simple.

More importantly, if you are not divorced, and your spouse commits adultery, you need to forgive them. "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have anything against any, that your Father also, who is in heaven, may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father, who is in heaven, forgive your trespasses," (Mark 11: 25, 26).

And what of your second spouse? I would point out that God never provided a monogamy exemption for Patriarchs and Kings, yet Solomon had hundreds of wives, and even more concubines. All of the patriarchs had multiple wives, yet God did not disown any of them. Everyone knows that Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons, but don’t forget that they were born of two wives (Leah and Rachel) and two concubines (Bilhah and Zilpah) (Genesis 35: 22b - 26). David not only took Uriah’s wife, he murdered Uriah in an attempt to make it "legal." How ironic!

So if you have divorced and remarried, you have two spouses. A judge may have given you a bill of divorcement, but that doesn’t mean he had the power to put asunder what God had joined together (Matthew 19: 6). Even though the law allows it, that doesn’t make it okay. The law allows unborn babies to be murdered, but that doesn’t make it okay. I would counsel you to trust God. Trust Him to deal with you in love and grace and mercy. Earnestly seek, through prayer and fasting and studying scripture, His will for you. He will not forsake you, despite the hardness of your heart.

And let’s not pretend that you didn’t harden your heart to God’s will when you divorced and remarried. Even if you weren’t saved yet, you knew it was wrong and did it anyway. So now you have more than one spouse, in God’s eyes if not man’s, and for this there are consequences.

To begin with scriptures say that you are no longer qualified to serve as a pastor or deacon (or a bishop or an elder or whatever you call those positions in your church; see I Timothy 3 and Titus 1: 5 - 7). Of course, you might have a hard time finding a church that recognizes this these days, but that’s another matter for another day. See my earlier article entitled "Mind the Little Things."

Still, there are other consequences to having multiple spouses. Surely you don’t think He told us not to commit adultery in an effort to make us miserable. Do you think it was His idea of a divine joke at our expense, maybe one more hoop for us to jump through? There are consequences to adultery that He would have seen us spared. If you have children in separate families your attention will always be divided, and consequently insufficient. If you are paying alimony to an ex-wife, that money comes out of your current wife’s household. But you don’t need me to enumerate the deleterious effects of divorce on the lives of those it touches. Look around. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6: 7).

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be saved. It simply means that you need to understand and do the following.

First: Do not try to justify, which is to say excuse or deny, your sins.

Second: If you have sinned against someone, seek their forgiveness.

Third: If someone has sinned against you, forgive them.


Romans 3: 23    For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

I John 1: 8-10    If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I Corinthians 11: 31    For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

Romans 6: 1, 2    What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Deuteronomy 24: 3, 4    And [if] the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth [it] in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her [to be] his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that [is] abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance.

I Corinthians 7: 11    But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [her] husband: and let not the husband put away [his] wife.

Mark 10: 11    And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

John 5: 1 - 9    After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep [market] a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time [in that case], he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

Mark 2: 27    And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

Matthew 6: 12    And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Luke 11: 4    And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Matthew 5: 23, 24    Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

Mark 11: 25, 26    And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

Genesis 35: 22 - 26    And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard [it]. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun: The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin: And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali: And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these [are] the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram.

Matthew 19: 6    Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

I Timothy 3    This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise [must] the deacons [be] grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being [found] blameless. Even so [must their] wives [be] grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Titus 1: 5 - 7    For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

Galatians 6: 7    Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.