Abridged & adapted from an address by Pastor Chris Coleborn to the ERCS on 29 May 2005

Part 1 of 4

The question that this article addresses is whether the ‘innocent party’ involved in a divorce has a right to remarriage after the divorce. My position on this subject is not only that of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, as summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith, but of the historic Reformed Churches. My thesis is that he or she has the right to remarriage.

But though I speak in support of this right out of the Word of God and the testimony of history, I recognize that it is a sensitive matter. I understand that there are varying consciences and understanding on this question amongst Reformed believers. I would commend to you therefore the spirit of the Bereans who "…received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11).

1. Various Clarifications

To properly deal with our subject, it will be necessary I think, first to clarify several matters before moving on to the crucial question of the remarriage of the innocent party after divorce if they so choose to do. We who are either for or against the remarriage of the innocent party in a lawful divorce are both operating from several basic presuppositions. We need to identify our presuppositions and to test them from Scripture and the testimony of the historic true church. We can then I believe, arrive at sound Biblical answers to our questions.

Looking at every aspect of the divorce and remarriage question at this point is to invite confusion. To try to address every aspect of the question would, it seems to me, cloud the basic issues that decide the question of whether the innocent party in a divorce for adultery may remarry. The other questions which may arise will be answered from the position arrived at in the resolution of our basic presuppositions. So, as it were, we need to look at the root and trunk of the matter. The twigs and outer branches of the tree of the question of divorce and remarriage can then be decided when we have clear what is the root and trunk – the basic Biblical principles involved or our presuppositions.

I suggest that the basic presuppositions or the root and trunk of the matter are the matters we consider below.

It seems to me that we need to clarify first what is to be our understanding of and commitment to, the Scriptural teaching on marriage. Secondly we need to be clear on Scripture’s definition of divorce and thirdly to be clear on its definition of death. To have the light of the Scriptures shining on these subjects will help us appreciate why we conclude it is proper for the remarriage of the innocent party after divorce.

a. Marriage

Please understand that the Westminster Confession and the EPC have a full-blooded commitment to marriage. We believe that the covenant of marriage is a holy, precious and deeply important institution. It is given by God to mankind for their welfare, and especially for the good and welfare of His church. It is a relationship which is to be jealously guarded as long as two shall live. It is a wonderful blessing for the enrichment and fulfilment of men and women’s lives, spiritually, socially and physically, and in which companionship and love is given and received. It is a good and beautiful state blessed by our Saviour by His presence at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. It is likened by the Holy Spirit to the mystical union between Christ and His people. It is the foundation of the Christian home with all its priceless blessings. Christian marriage and children, the fruit of it, are one of the means whereby Christ’s church is extended.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXIV, sections ii, iii, & vi positively summarize our Biblical and reformed view of marriage.

"Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.

"It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet is it the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

"Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage …"

We state the above because while we hold that the Scriptures allow divorce and remarriage under certain specific circumstances; this is not to say that we hold a low view of marriage and the family. The EPC and the historic Reformed Churches hold that marriage is God-given. It believes it is a deeply important institution for life. The EPC is committed to marriage as one of the profound ways in which it pleases the Lord to work out the wonder and mystery of His covenant and eternal purposes for individuals, their children, the church and society generally.

We strongly reject the notion that if one allows for divorce, one therefore does not have a high view of marriage.

Thus on the subject of marriage we stand positively for this vital Biblical institution and its inestimable blessings. For us marriage is to be guarded with all care and every possible means taken to protect and nurture the marriage bond, and to remedy the causes of divorce. We do not believe in, or promote divorce, we believe in marriage! In the language of Scripture, we ‘suffer’ divorce.

In our further discussion on divorce and remarriage please remember, we address the matter from a heart-felt conviction about marriage as described above.

b. Divorce

To properly deal with the matter of divorce and remarriage, I believe we must be crystal clear on what is the Scriptural definition of divorce. Let us consider some aspects of how divorce is portrayed in Scripture by God.

The Scriptures allow divorce and remarriage under certain circumstances. However, divorce speaks of tragic, hurtful and sinful things. It promotes the cause of the evil one and harms the cause of Christ and people’s souls.

We believe Almighty God, as He reveals His will in the Scriptures, recognizes that in this fallen world divorces will occur at times. In the light of Scripture, we recognize as a sad fact that the marriage covenant between a man and woman, which the Lord intended to be for as long as the two should live in this life, can be destroyed and dissolved (as we will seek to later show) by certain acts.

We understand too, in the light of Scripture, (as we trust to shortly show), that this sad reality is recognized by God Himself, so that He at times, because of sin, "suffers" divorce. That He also allows the person who has not themselves committed the sin that is the ground of divorce, to remarry if they so choose.

We believe from the Scriptures that the Lord does not view divorce in itself as an evil. What are evil are the causes, occasions and circumstances of it and unjust divorce. There are just and righteous divorces.

I would suggest to you that Scripture views divorce in a similar way as angerand jealousy. In themselves anger and jealousy are not sins - for God has within Himself a righteous anger and jealousy – just as He practices a righteous divorce (cf. Isa 50:1a; Jer 3:6-8a). It is in the causes and the manner in which anger and jealousy are expressed that evil and sin lies. So too, we believe, with divorce.

More particularly, let us consider the following three points, (i) God regulated divorce, so it is not in itself evil, (ii) Divorce was ‘suffered’ by God and (iii) The definition of Biblical divorce means the marriage was fully terminated. It is not simply a separation of the parties, but they are still married.

(i) God Regulated Divorce so it is not in itself Evil

By the Lord regulating divorce we see it is not absolutely forbidden, for one does not regulate what one forbids. While the Lord did not command divorce (Hesuffered it), yet permission and toleration under divine regulation are allowed as a partial remedy for something that is basically evil and wrong.

If divorce were in itself a great evil, we would not of course find the Lord countenancing it, and speaking of Himself divorcing. If it were in itself a great sin, we would expect to find it among the heinous sins listed in Scripture. Yet when we read those lists of sins in such places as Proverbs 6:16-19; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 etc., we do not find divorce mentioned. To note these things is simply to give perspective to the Biblical attitude to divorce. It is not, as it were, the unpardonable sin.

If divorce was not to be practiced by God’s people at certain times and under certain conditions, we would not find the Lord regulating divorce as we find Him doing in such passages as Leviticus 21:1a &7 & 14; 22:13; Numbers 30:9; Deuteronomy 22:19 & 29; 24:1-4; Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:1 & 8; Ezekiel 44:22; Malachi 2:14 & 16; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:9. It was clearly forbidden under some circumstances, (Dt 22:13-19, 28-29; Ex 22:16-17), and it was insisted on arguably by God Himself in other circumstances (Ezr 9:10 to 10:5; Neh 13:23 ff).

(ii) Divorce Suffered by God

We must not think that because the Lord Jesus said, "Moses suffered or allowed such because of the hardness of men’s heart", which Moses wrote the body of laws in which divorce is suffered on his own authority, and so set Moses against Christ as some seem to do. The truth is, the regulations given by Moses are given by God Himself and have His authority. What must not be overlooked in this statement by our Lord, is that Moses only wrote what was God’s revealed or perceptive will - it was not Moses’ will!

We would all clearly recognize that the Scriptures indicate that divorce was not, and is not, a part of God’s original intention for marriage. Divorce or separation of parties in a marriage arose from man’s inclination to weakness, unfaithfulness, and lack of love in this creation ordinance of God. Thus Christ’s commentary in Matthew 19:8, "From the beginning it was not so."

Divorce within the marriage bond then, is part of the fall and the curse. The causes and occasions of divorce are a part of the ravages of sin upon the good and perfect institutions of God, such as marriage. For this reason, Christ says the Lord via Moses suffered divorce. Matthew 19:8.

The Lord in Malachi 2:13-16 explains something of His attitude to unjust divorce and to the causes and occasions of divorce. In verse 16 we read, "He hateth putting away – (i.e. He hates divorce)."

The context shows that the Lord hates what causes and occasions divorce, and the results of divorce, and the wrong grounds of divorce. But note, because, as we have already pointed out, we find the Lord regulating divorce, (Dt 24:1-3; Ezr 10:1-19; Mt 5:31-32 & 19:9 etc.), even practicing it Himself, (Isa 50:1; Jer 3:6-8), and so we conclude He does not hate divorce per se - intrinsically in itself.

So, while divorce because of the occasions and causes is a tragic thing, we nevertheless recognize God has allowed it in His Word. It can be a just and proper step that may be taken for specified reasons. Divorce is a means that God permits for dealing with some specific sad results of human sin and rebellion in the marriage bond.

(iii) The Definition of Biblical Divorce Meant Termination not Separation

Some hold to the concept that divorce doesn’t necessarily dissolve marriage. The idea is that once married, that marriage cannot be dissolved except by physical death. They thus define divorce as "a separation for life of married people, that is, legal separation for life on the basis of adultery or fornication."The concept then is that, "even if people are legally divorced, they are ... according to the Word of God still married. Only they are separate married people." "The marriage bond is absolutely indissoluble."

Simply put, divorce by such is defined as only separation not dissolution of the marriage tie. Only physical death, it is argued, can dissolve the marriage tie.

In the instance of the marriage covenant being violated by adultery, (this view argues), a person may leave their spouse, and even go through the motions, in extreme cases, of the law of the land to "divorce" them. But principally and intrinsically the marriage bond is still there! The couple are still "married", and thus the question of freedom to remarry after "divorce," even for the innocent party, is simply out of the question.

Such argue too, that since the Scriptures declare, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," it is impossible under any conditions for man to break the bond. The argument then is that this concept would rule out the possibility of a new marriage. Let us consider these matters.

Apart from other considerations, an examination of the Scriptural terms for divorce certainly does not bear out the definition given above. Nor does Scripture uphold the implication built on it that the marriage bond is absolutely indissoluble, and that therefore there can never be the possibility of remarriage.

The Scriptural words for divorce are cutting off, send away, put away, loose from, drive out or banish, set free, release a prisoner, relieve of a disease,dismiss from the duties of life and be allowed to die.

This being so, if we define the Scriptural terms used for divorce conceptually asseparation but still married, do we not end up with meaningless use of the concepts behind the words? We may as well define cut off as to stretch apart but not separate; define to send away as to treat as if not present when they are physically present; define release a prisoner along the lines of parole him, but he is still a prisoner; define release a debtor as still a debtor but not having to pay the debt; define set free from disease as still diseased but not having the symptoms of the disease; define loose as release the tightness of the bond, but still be bound; define allow to die as treat as dead but they are not really dead and so on? Nor, we believe we can define divorce Biblically as simply separated but still married.

Is not the clear intent then that the words the Holy Spirit has chosen to use fordivorce in Scripture are to dissolve what had been the previous state and not simply the essential retention of the state but with some modification of it? We believe Scripture clearly points to a dissolution of the marriage bond, and not simply to a continuation of it under other circumstances. The position that it is only a separation of bed and board, not the dissolution of the marriage itself, is only reached, it seems to me, by a tenuous and extended reasoning that does not in the end fit all the data of Scripture.

John Owen says of the understanding that Biblical divorce means only separation of bed and board (mensa et thoro) that it makes divorce a mere fiction. He says this notion of a perpetual divorce is in no way useful to mankind, but hurtful and noxious for the following reasons:

1. It would constitute a new condition or state of life, wherein it is not possible that a man should either have a wife, or not have a wife lawfully. ... into this estate God calls no man.

2. It may ... cast a man under a necessity of sinning: for suppose he hath not the gift of continency, it is the express will of God that he should marry for his relief; ...

Owen further points out that the notion of an abiding marriage bond after Biblical divorce is scripturally unlawful. Unlawful, because under that notion of divorce, the man and woman are still husband and wife, but all the mutual duties the Word of God calls us to in marriage cannot be discharged - and so they live in disobedience - sin.

Owen argues that, "... the form of marriage consisteth in this, that two become ‘one flesh’ (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:6); - but this is dissolved by adultery; for the adulteress becometh one flesh with the adulterer (1 Cor 6:16), and no longer one flesh in individual society with her husband, and so it absolutely breaks the bond or covenant of marriage."

Charles Hodge says that divorce makes the two parties to stand henceforth to each other in the same relation as they were before marriage. He makes the point in defense that divorce should be defined as a full termination, from how under the old dispensation if a man put away his wife, she was at liberty to marry again (Dt 24:1-2)

We should understand that though the original plan and intention of God preceptively or by way of command was that marriage was not to be broken, it does not mean that it cannot be broken. We have already pointed out instances where God Himself breaks it. Dr. J.G. Vos puts the matter this way:

We may have on our parlor table a beautiful and costly vase. It ought to be handled carefully. It ought not to be broken. It was not made to be smashed; it was made to exist as a thing of beauty and grace. But it is not impossible to break it. And if a member of the family breaks it through carelessness, or in a fit of temper smashes it deliberately, there is nothing to do but sweep up the broken fragments and dispose of them. We will not say, ‘This vase was not intended to be broken; therefore it is impossible to break it; the vase is unbreakable; therefore in spite of the fact that it lies in shattered fragments on the floor, we will not throw it away; we will keep it forever.’ No one would say that about a broken vase; yet that is substantially the argument of those who say that the marriage bond is ‘indissoluble’ and ‘unbreakable’.

Let us have a care not to rest upon a faulty definition of divorce for our opposition to the remarriage of the innocent party. We are persuaded that biblically, divorce is not separation but the marriage bond still intact. To us, the plain meaning of the words Scripture uses to describe divorce, clearly indicated there is no marriage still in place after lawful divorce. There is no marriage in place. We come to consider the possibility of remarriage of the innocent party.

c. The Concept of ‘Death’

It is generally accepted that upon the death of a person, their spouse is able in all good conscience to remarry. Death is seen to be the one event which dissolves the marriage bond or covenant.

We agree that the notion of "death" is involved in the dissolution of the marriage bond. We should however understand that death in Scripture does not mean only physical death. This point is very important.

It is a point often overlooked in the consideration of our subject. However, it is not a new or novel concept. It has been held as basic to our argument since the days of our Reformed fathers.

When there was ‘unforgivable’ adultery, our fathers’ believed, it was permissible for the innocent party both to divorce and (as with physical death) to remarry if they so chose to do so. They believed this in the light of Scriptural usage of the term and concepts of death.

For example, the Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 24, Sec. V. says in part: "In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead."

The Westminster Divines believed that the word of God taught that divorce results in "death" in a biblical sense.

A Biblical concept that our fathers saw as basic to this ‘death’ concept wasjudicial death. This concept is raised in the Scottish Reformed Church’s First Book of Discipline, Chapter XIII Sections 6 & 7. The understanding is that under the judicial laws of the Old Testament, adultery (or persistent adultery) was punishable with death. The person who commits such a sin that would destroy a covenant marriage was judged to deserve the death penalty. This opens the way for the innocent party to sue for divorce in very much the same way as it opened the way for the civil magistrate to sentence the guilty party to death. Likewise as the case when divorce is effected the guilty party may be treated as judicially dead from the perspective of the innocent party just as the guilty party who is executed would really be dead. In the past when the sentence was actually carried out the people of God would not have to be concerned about the question of remarriage for the innocent party while the guilty party was still alive. That question would not arise because the guilty party would not be alive physically. So while the guilty now live, they are judged judicially dead, argued our fathers, least the innocent party be unjustly treated without compassion.

Having cleared these three matters, let us now then consider the matter of the remarriage of the innocent party in a divorce.

.......To be continued......


1 For example, Joseph’s proposal to divorce Mary as recorded in Matthew 1:19-24.

2 For further discussion of this evaluation of divorce, see Jay E. Adams, op cit., page 24-25.

3 While there is disagreement as to the conditions and meaning of the statue that the Lord gave by Moses in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, we cannot escape this fact at least - the Lord suffered divorce to be regulated.

4 Ezra 9:10 to 10:19; & Nehemiah 13:23 ff. For a recent discussion on the Ezra passage, see Reformed Theological Journal, Theological Seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland, Belfast, 1996, Vol. 12. The author, W. Norris Wilson, Professor of O.T., R.T.C. Belfast, writes for example,"Above all, as we have said, Ezra had the conviction that what he was doing was in keeping with God’s revealed will (10:3,11). It was out of this conviction that he believed that at this crucial stage in the history of redemption enforcing divorce was necessary …" Page 50. While the authority of Ezra’s actions can indirectly be attributed to God’s will in the matter, it should be noted that Keil & Delitzsch in their commentary on Ezra 10:3 translate the words "… according to the counsel of my lord…" as "… according to the counsel of the Lord…" Other translations, such as the Jewish Publication Society of America’s translation in their A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text, also follow this translation. The authority then of the divorces is directly that of God, not his servant Ezra.

5 Prof. David Engelsma in his book, Marriage The Mystery Of Christ And The Church, Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grand Rapids, 1975, page 83 appears to make it as if it is a question of Moses’ authority against the Lord Jesus Christ.

6 If we understand that the law was given in the hands of a mediator to refer to THE Mediator of the covenant, the Lord Jesus, then it was Christ Jesus who, for the hardness of men’s hearts, gave the remedy of divorce.

7 Loraine Boettner puts it this way: "The divine ideal for marriage is seen in the creation of Adam and Eve, one man and one woman, to form a union which would be broken only by death. There, at the very beginning of the race, God set forth the true nature and basis of marriage. We read, however, that shortly after man was created he rebelled against God, and by his sin disrupted the divine-human relationship that had been designed for his good. The entrance of sin had its effect on every phase of his life, including the marriage relationship. Disharmony arose between husbands and wives. "

8 Malachi 2:13-16; "And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that He regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not He make one? Yet had He the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That He might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously."

9 We believe that a consideration of Ezra 10 will establish that the divorces spoken of here were sanctioned by God. Ezra, and the faithful of his day, certainly believed it was so. The inspired text is written in a manner that sees divorce as the proper means for the remedy of the sin into which many of the Church of that day had fallen. Verse 11 specifically says that it pleased God: "Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do His pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives." See also Jay E. Adams, op cit., page 24, fn.1

10 Prof. David Engelsma appears to make divorce in itself to be sin, op cit., page 90. If this is so, then are we not attributing sin to God Himself, who speaks of Himself divorcing? Further, Prof. Engelsma allows for divorce in the instance of adultery, page 91. We see this as an inconsistency in teaching - it is right, but it is wrong, it is sinful but the child of God may do it in some instances.

11 The Rev. Herman Hoeksema gives this definition and argues against the concept that divorce is dissolution of the marriage tie, which would allow the possibility of remarriage, in his work The Triple Knowledge, 3 Vol., RFPA, Grand Rapids, 1972, Vol. 3, page 359. See also the Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s pamphlet, The Unbreakable Bond Of Marriage, op cit., Page 12. See also Prof. D. Engelsma’s article in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, a publication of The Theological School Of The Protestant Reformed Churches, Grandville, Michigan, Nov, 1992, Vol. XXVI, Page 36.

12 Ibid., 361.

13 This is the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches, as set forth by Herman Hoeksema, op cit., page 11 - 13.

14 This is the classic position of the Roman Catholic Church for example. The Rev. Herman Hoeksema as the most influential father of the Protestant Reformed Churches fully identifies with the Roman Catholic position, with the exception of making it a sacrament. See The Triple Knowledge, op cit., page 360. One matter that the Rev. Herman Hoeksema does not address in Roman Catholic teaching is that the rules of marriage that make it indissoluble apply only to baptized members of the Roman Catholic Church. (See for example, The Baltimore Catechism, Q. 1194, which states, "The marriage of two baptized persons who have afterward lived together as husband and wife can never be dissolved except by the death of one of the parties."). Are there two standards, one for the Christian and one for the non-Christian with regard to marriage and divorce and remarriage?

15 The expression for divorce in the O.T. is (seper keritut) expressed in the phrase, bill of divorcement.Deuteronomy 24:1; Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8 etc. The word means to cut off. In the N.T. the words commonly used are (apolyo) means to loose from; to put away, send, release or dismiss, and ( chorizo) - put asunder, depart from, to separate (by divorce). For a discussion on these terms and words, see Jay Adams, op cit, page 32, including fn. 1 & 2. See also for example, Abbott-Smith’s Manual Greek Lexicon Of The New Testament, T. & &. Clark, Edinburgh, 1968, page 486. In answer to those who argue that Biblical divorce is really only permanent separation and so the marriage bond still remains intact, separation in Scripture, when referring to the relationship of a man and woman in marriage means the marriage is effectively ended. For example, wherever the word (chorizo) appears in the NT in connection with divorce it has this idea. (E.g. Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9; 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11, & 15).From this data, it is clear that the idea that separation of husband and wife, where they no longer share bed and board, and dwell permanently apart, is something less than divorce, does not bear up to Scriptural scrutiny. For further discussion, see Jay Adams, op cit, fn. 3, page 33, & page 34. See also Loraine Boettner, op cit., quoting Prof. John Murray, "...that to provide for and sanction permanent separation while the marriage tie remains inviolate is something that is alien to the general tenor of Scripture teaching." Page 29.

16 Old Testament Hebrew words for divorce are keritut, a cutting off (Deuteronomy 24:1, 3; Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8); salah, to send away (Jeremiah 3:1; Malachi 2:16) and garas, to drive out or banish(Leviticus 21:7, 14; 22:13; Numbers 30:9; Ezekiel 44:22). See The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 4 Vol., Ed: Colin Brown, Zondervan Grand Rapids, 1971, Vol. I, page 505-506; W.E.Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary Of Old & New Testament Words, Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappan, New Jersey, 1981, page 329. Also note, one of the New Testament Greek word for divorce isapostasion, from the verb apolyo, to set free. In the New Testament apolyo has its classical Greek meanings, which are, to release a prisoner, (Mark 15:6-15 par.; cf. Matthew 18:27 of a debtor); set free from disease (Luke 13:12); send people away (Mark 6:36, 45; 8:3, 9); dismiss from the duties of life, allow to die (Luke 2:29; cf. dismissal from military service). This word is especially used of divorcing a wife (Matthew 1:19; 5:31 ff; 19:3, 7-9; Mark 10:2, 4, 11 ff; Luke 16:18.

17 It is significant that the word used to describe Joseph in Matthew 1:19, where he contemplates breaking his betrothal (a binding with promise to marry) to Mary, was apolyo ‘put away’. The same word is used by Jesus in Matthew 19:9 to describe divorce. Now, the force of the word as used re Joseph clearly did not mean that Joseph would never become betrothed again. It was not that their betrothal was no longer functioning or formally binding, but they were in effect still betrothed. No, obviously Joseph could lawfully, honourably and righteously break this betrothal ‘covenant’ if Mary had been unfaithful, and then be able if he so chose to enter into a betrothal with another. The meaning of the word Jesus used to describe the state of the one who has ‘put away’ an unfaithful spouse is the same. It means surely the bond is broken – it no longer exists!

18 For further discussion on the Biblical meaning of divorce, see Jay E. Adams, op cit., page 32-35.

19 John Owen, The Works Of John Owen, 16 Vol., Banner of Truth, London, 1968, Vol. 16, page 254.

20 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 Vol., James Clark, London, 1960, Vol. III, page 391.

21 As quoted by Loraine Boettner, op cit, page 13.

22 Some have argued upon a faulty exegesis, we believe, of 1 Timothy 3:2, "… the husband of one wife."The passage is opposing polygamy, not remarriage after the death of a wife.

23 This is seen from the proof texts added, i.e. Matthew 19:9 together with Romans 7:2-3.

24 I understand from the Scriptures that the death sentence is not now applicable for such sins, nor were they obligatory for every case of adultery even in the O.T. It seems that the application of that last resort and highest punishment was reserved for the most persistent and unrepentant types of behaviour. One act of defiance on the part of a teenager, did not necessarily mean capital punishment for them. It applied to incorrigible delinquents who were a threat to the life and health of society and the cause of good. So too with adultery - David was not executed for his sin re Bathsheba and the death of Uriah. Our Saviour did not apply the death sentence to the woman taken in adultery. But the principle remains that such sins are so serious they are not only worthy of death but makes the adulterer as good as dead to the innocent spouse.