YCK Chapel Position on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage
I. God’s Design for Marriage and Family (Gen 1:26-2:25; Matt 19:4-9; Eph 5:21 – 6:4, 2 Cor 6:14, Deut 7:3)
1. Marriage is instituted by God. Scriptures tell us that God created male and female in His image. He brought Adam and Eve together in the Garden of Eden and pronounced them as husband and wife. Marriage is God’s idea and not the creation of man (Gen 1:27; 2:22-25).
2. Marriage is instituted by God to establish godly families to populate and steward over His creation (Gen 1:26 -28; 2:18).
3. Marriage is a sacred institution created for the purpose of couples glorifying God as one flesh, enjoying sexual intimacy and parenting godly children. In marriage, the husband and wife can legitimately and fully experience the truest sense of emotional and physical intimacy, and in their union, understand something of God’s love for the Church. (Gen 2:22-25; Eph 5:21- 6:4)
4. Marriage is life-long. It is a covenantal relationship between one man and one woman, never between the same sexes. It is an exclusive sexual relationship arising from the union of heart and mind, with total commitment to one another in the bond of marriage (Gen 2:18; 22; Matt 19:4-6).
5. Marriage involves the process of leaving, cleaving and joining (Gen 2:24-25; Matt 19:5-6). “Leaving” conveys the need to relinquish that priority position of commitment and devotion previously given to parents in order to give that position to the spouse, as the couple sets up their new family unit. “Cleaving”, which literally means “to adhere to, stick to, or join with” involves the commitment to love and remain faithful to each other, sticking together through thick and thin. “Becoming one flesh” involves the intimacy of physical union and sharing of their lives together.
6. In line with the above scriptural principles and teaching, the Church will only conduct marriages between a man and a woman, and ‘in the Lord’ ( ie. between two believers -2 Cor 6:14 and Deut 7:3).
II. Biblical position on Divorce and Remarriage (Mal 2:16; Deut 24:1-4; Matt 5:32; 19:6, 9; 1 Cor 7:15, 39; Rom 7:2-3; Mark 10: 11-12; Luke 16:18)
1. Divorce is not in God’s Design
a) The LORD “hates divorce.”(Mal 2:16) This is because divorce profanes the sanctity of marriage (i.e. it is a desecration of something holy, something set apart for God’s glory). Jesus never encouraged divorce when he was asked the divorce question. He took care to refer to God’s original design for marriage in Genesis 1:27; 2:24. (Matt 19:3-9). The Bible tells us that God’s law allowed divorce only because of the “hardness of man’s heart” (Matt 19:8). As divorce is a concession to man’s sin and not a part of God’s original plan, all believers should hate divorce as God does and pursue it only when there is no other recourse.
b) Divorce is considered adultery when a man or woman divorces his or her spouse in order to marry someone else (Mark 10:11-12).
c) If a believing couple divorces other than on biblical grounds, they or the culpable party may be subject to church discipline.
2. The Biblical Grounds for Divorce and Remarriage
The only grounds mentioned in the Bible for divorce are (a) sexual immorality or (b)desertion by an unbelieving spouse.
a) The first is found in Jesus’ use of the Greek word porneia (Matt. 5:32; 19:9), a general term that encompasses all forms of sexual immorality. When one partner violates the unity and intimacy of a marriage by sexual sin—and forsakes his or her covenant obligation—the faithful partner is placed in an extremely difficult situation. After all means are exhausted to bring the sinning partner to repentance, the Bible permits release for the faithful partner through divorce (Matt. 5:32).
b) The second reason for permitting a divorce is where an unbeliever does not desire to live with his or her believing spouse (1 Cor. 7:12-15). Because “God has called us to peace” (v. 15), divorce is allowed and may be preferable in such situations. When an unbeliever desires to leave, trying to keep him or her in the marriage may only create greater tension and conflict. Also, if the unbeliever leaves the marital relationship permanently but is not willing to file for divorce, perhaps because of lifestyle, irresponsibility, or to avoid monetary obligations,then the believer is in an impossible situation of having legal and moral obligations that he or she cannot fulfill. Because “the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases” (1 Cor. 7:15) and is therefore no longer obligated to remain married, the believer may seek a divorce.
In a biblically permitted divorce (ie. 2(a) and 2(b) above), the faithful partner is freed from his or her previous marriage bond. Paul suggested that it is better for them to remain single; however they do not sin if they choose to remarry (1 Cor 7:26-28). So in a biblically permitted divorce, the faithful partner is free to remarry, but only in the Lord (ie. to a believer).
III. Counsel for Couples with Troubled Marriages
1. Christian couples who experience marital conflicts should humbly seek godly counsel to address the problems they face. The Church will provide first-line pastoral counselling and will refer to and work with professional counsellors where needed. Divorce should not be the solution they turn to, for both husband and wife must know that marriage as God has designed is a life-long commitment, and they have made their marriage vow before the Holy God. By divorcing, believers break their marriage vow made before God and man.
2. A Christian couple should never feel that it is God’s will for them to terminate their marriage relationship. There may be situations when couples feel so incompatible as conflicts arise in their marriage relationship leading them to think it would be better that they did not get married in the first place. But they are married and as people who reverence God and have experienced God’s grace, they must know that overcoming incompatibilities is part of the journey of being transformed by God’s enabling grace.
3. The Lord provides resources that can turn incompatible differences into complementary strengths. In times of marital stress, it is important to remember that divine resources are available to help us resolve our conflicts. Such resources include the guidance of the Word of God, prayer, the transforming power of His Spirit and godly counsel. Either spouse should turn to the Church for help and intervention when needed, and wherever possible.
4. When separation or breakdown has taken place, it is God’s desire for the Christian couple to be reconciled (1 Cor 7:11). Reconciliation should begin with repentance on the part of both partners since breakups are rarely one-sided. As repentance is the first step in our reconciliation with God, so also it is the first step of reconciliation between marriage partners. The spirit of repentance should manifest itself in a forgiving and submissive attitude and in an earnest desire to seek the spiritual resources God has provided to bring about healing and reconciliation. Here again the Church’s assistance should be sought.
5. A decision to divorce is a serious matter for which each spouse will one day have to account to God. Should they eventually decide to take this step despite all the prayers and efforts taken to reconcile them, the Church will continue to pastorally support them and counsel them on the well-being of the parties affected, including the children. They will be advised to remain unmarried and pray to God for reconciliation one day.
6. Individuals who are divorced will be taught that it is advisable to remain single, for the reasons given in 1 Corinthians 7:26, 32-35.
7. Ministry to a couple in a troubled marriage where sexual immorality, abuse, desertion or other misconduct is involved, may also call for the exercise of church discipline over the culpable spouse.
IV. God’s Grace extends to Broken Marriages
1. Although God hates divorce and forbids adultery, we are assured that God will forgive those who truly repent and seek His forgiveness (Heb 4:16, 1 Jn 1:9), including those who have experienced broken marriages.
2. In our Church today, we will likely encounter people who have gone through the pain of divorce before they came to know the Lord. Such people who subsequently experience God’s grace desire to have their lives restored in Christ and the Church will minister to them.
3. Sadly, believers are also vulnerable to serious marriage problems which lead to separation and divorce. For those who come to the Lord in humility to seek His forgiveness for not having fulfilled their marital vows, the Church will minister to the individuals concerned and wherever possible involve their spouses too.
4. The message of God’s grace and restoration in Christ must be heard by all (Eph 1:7), including those who have gone through divorce and experienced pain in their personal lives and the consequences on their ex-spouses, children and other family members.
V. The Church’s Approach to Remarriage
1. In our Church, there may be believers who are divorced, who choose to remarry. In 1 Corinthians 7:26-28, Paul exhorted that it is better for those who are not subject to the marriage bond to remain single though they do not sin if they choose to marry. These will include the widows and those who are divorced on biblical grounds.
2. The Church will minister to such couples to help build strong marriages.
3. While the Church upholds God’s design for marriage, we recognise our responsibility to come alongside those who choose to remarry. In such cases, the following steps will need to be taken:
• The couple will be required to go through pre-marital counselling. This is particularly vital as :
─ Remarriage is not to be taken lightly in the light of the Church’s understanding of God’s design for marriage.
─ The marriage institution as God has designed is holy. Promises are to be kept. Therefore, if a remarriage is advisedly entered into, the couple will be reminded that God expects each to be faithful to the other, for as long as they both shall live.
─ The couple will need to confront the reality of the scars in their previous marriages, and take appropriate steps to deal with the pain and baggage of the past. Issues relating to children and other relatives will also need to be addressed.
─ The couple will also need to address issues that caused their failed marriages so that they do not resurface in their remarriage.
• The couple will also need to go through all relevant pre-marital preparations. A mature godly couple will be assigned to help prepare the couple
VI. Role of the Church in the Marriage Ceremony
1. It is not a light matter to solemnise a marriage in which one partner who is divorced, has a previous partner still living. The decision as to whether to solemnise such a marriage, in church or an outside venue, should for the purpose of our corporate witness, be consistent with Scripture and the Church’s teaching delineated above.