It is my understanding that the whole Bible combining the Old and New Testaments presents one seamless teaching on marriage and divorce, without any contradictions. But men have read their own prejudices into the text and have positioned their own interpretations as sacred cows. When in fact it’s their very own interpretations that are contrary to the teachings of Jesus. As a result they have kept people in bondage, just like what the Pharisees did in their day.
- I keep asking myself this question, but it’s one that we all have to ask ourselves – Are the traditions of men more important to you than the truth?
Over the last few posts I’ve been looking at what Jesus said about putting away, divorce and remarriage. Then in my last post Abstinence and the Corinthian church, we headed into 1 Corinthians 7 to see what Paul said on those matters. Today we’re looking at Romans 7 …
Before we can continue in Romans it is essential that we take into consideration that Paul is addressing both Jewish and Gentile Christians. But it is also essential to understand that at times Paul is addressing one cultural group and not the other.
In Chapter 6 and 7 Paul is addressing Jewish Christians that were once under the Mosaic covenant. Gentiles were never under the Mosaic covenant so these chapters aren’t directly addressing the Gentile Christians.
Freedom Has Come
In Romans chapter 6 Paul speaks to the Jewish Christians about the freedom that’s to be found in Jesus. Then in Romans 7 he goes on to show how that freedom had taken place. He showed how the Mosaic Law had dominion over a Jewish person’s life as they were bound to the law by the Sinaitic covenant. But that the person had been redeemed from the Law and set free by Jesus, through His death on the cross.
To help explain what Paul was saying to the Jews, Paul used the example of the Jewish marriage covenant.
In the Jewish culture, women had no legal ability to free themselves from the marriage covenant due to the male dominated patriarchal society they were born into. Their only way to gaining freedom was if their husband divorced them (wrote a bill of divorce), or if he died.
For the married woman (~~>a woman that has no divorce papers) is bound by law (Greek: hupandros) to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.
So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.
Therefore, my brethren( ~~>the Jews), you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. ~ Romans 7: 2-7
Paul even uses the greek work hupandros which means one under the authority, power and control of another and in this case ‘under a husband’ as it was the cultural norm back then.
But before this Jewish woman could legally allow herself to be bound to a new covenant her original covenant had to end and in Paul’s illustration, her husband had to die. His audience would have understood and grasped that principle immediately.
Those in the Church that hold to ‘the permanent view of marriage’, dictate that what Paul is saying in Romans 7 is that marriage is ‘until death us do part’.
In other words a person is only ever released from a marriage covenant when a spouse dies, no matter if either spouse breaks the covenant.
I take issue with that statement for these two reasons:
- For starters Paul was using Yahweh as a spouse in his illustration in Romans 7. He was perfect. If men and women were perfect, divorce would be unimaginable and unnecessary. But so as long as imperfect people marry there will always be the possibility of divorce.
- Secondly Paul was addressing Jews – The House of Judah and the freedom they had in the New Covenant through Jesus. Yahweh himself had already divorced the unfaithful House of Israel hundreds of years earlier.
If all of this is quite new to you let me give you a little bit of background information to help you see Paul’s words from his Jewish audience perspective.
When God gave the Mosaic covenant to the 12 tribes they were a unified nation. But eventually they split and became 2 Kingdoms, each with different kings and many times in the Old Testament they were very hostile to each other. The Southern Kingdom was known as The House of Judah with Jerusalem as its capital. It comprised of the tribe of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. While the Northern Kingdom – The House of Israel had Samaria as its capital and comprised of all the other tribes.
But both Houses went off whoring after other gods and because of that, they each had to suffer the consequences of their idolatry.
The House of Israel was given a bill of divorce from Yahweh because of their unfaithfulness. Once the House of Israel received the bill of divorce they were taken into captivity and went into exile throughout Assyria. The tribes eventually blended into the surrounding gentile nations over the subsequent generations and worshipped other gods. They couldn’t return to their former husband Yahweh as that would have been an abomination as it says in Deuteronomy 24:4.
The Jews knew all of this through the scriptures in the Old Testament but they knew that there were also prophetic scriptures saying that one day they would be unified again.
and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. ~ Ezek 37:22
- But how would Ezekiel and other old testament scriptures be fulfilled?
Hence the reason the disciples asked Jesus this question …
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” ~ Acts 1:6
The House of Judah, because of Yahweh’s mercy never received a certificate of divorce even though they too went into exile due for unfaithfulness. Yahweh remained married to the house of Judah so that His son – Jesus would be legitimate. After all Yahweh couldn’t have a son by a woman (House of Judah) who He wasn’t married to.
For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, But I will utterly take them away. Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah ~ Hos 1:6-7
The marriage of the house of Judah ended at Calvary. She became a widow and was then given as a bride to another man – the resurrected Jesus.
Even though the House of Israel were unfaithful and the ‘guilty party’ as they broke the conditions in their first marriage covenant, they were still allowed to marry again. They too were being given as a bride to another man – the resurrected Jesus.
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 31:31-32
For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ ~ 2 Cor 11:2
that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. ~ Ephesians 5:27
So that’s a very short and concise summary of the historical events that is the basis to Paul’s discussions in Romans 6 and 7. I can’t emphasise how important a thing this was to the Jews in the early church.
Dead to the law and free to have a new relationship with Jesus
This passage in Romans 7 was not intended by Paul to explain the biblical rules about marriage and divorce! He’s showing how Jesus’s death ended the legal obligation of being bound under the Old Covenant law and opened the door for Jews to freely enter the New Covenant. This was freedom to a Jew!
Unfortunately churchianity takes this chapter totally out of its original context and has misapplied the text to include ‘to death do us part’ in it’s own sacred cow rules on divorce. It looks on divorce as the greatest sin ever and holds divorce against members of the church for the rest of their lives.
You will have seen throughout this putting away, divorce and remarriage series that Jesus taught and Paul fully understood what was exactly stated in the Mosaic law.
“When a man has taken a wife, and married her, and it comes to pass that she finds no favor in his eyes, because he has found some uncleanness in her; then let him give her a bill of divorce, and give it into her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.” ~ Deut 24
- Is she committing adultery when she remarries? Absolutely not!
- So does the law allow remarriage? Of course it does!
A marriage is a conditional covenant/contract between two people. Conditional contracts or ‘covenant’ vows can be broken by one person. Once they are broken, the entire thing is null and void.
It’s not divorce that breaks a covenant. Divorce protects the spouse whose covenant has already been broken. The official paper only acknowledges what happened a long time ago. It is so obvious that in the bible a bill of divorce provided legal protection for the victim.
So finally I’ll ask the same question that I asked at the very beginning of the series: Jesus and Divorce Part 1…
- Does God hate divorce?
But this time you’ll be able to answer it with clarity, straight from the scriptures and expose it for the lie that it really is!
Further Useful Resources:
The Castaways – A defense of the divorced: A thesis written by a Baptist pastor on marriage, divorce and remarriage. The bible declares in both the New Testament and Old Testament that Yahweh allows and recognises divorce as a dissolution of marriage, and the divorced do not sin when they remarry, nor do they commit adultery when they remarry, nor do they live in adultery after marriage.