Divorce, remarriage and Church Leadership

God hates divorce (Mark 10: 4-12). The question has been raised, “What should be the position or function of divorcees in the Church?” This is quiet a touchy and emotional issue that must be faced by today’s church leaders. However, one thing that is clear is the biblical teaching that a divorcee should be forgiven of his or her sins. But the position he should occupy in the church is an entirely different issue.

1Timothy 3:2,12 Titus 1:6 clearly disqualify divorcees from church leadership because to be a church leader a man must be the “husband of one wife.” This teaching must be followed, not because the church hates the divorcee but because the church must be careful to obey Christ’s word. Again, this does not imply that a divorcee is useless or worthless in the life of the church. Far from it! He is still a precious, beloved brother, having full equality in Christ like any church member.

When one hold positions of teacher, elder or pastor, it does not mean that he is higher in position in the sight of Christ. It simply means such person has the biblical qualification as well as the spiritual gifts to function in that capacity. For the good of both the divorcee and the church, the divorcee should not hold any church office. He should remain a full pledged member, having fellowship with the whole congregation. Such a position will make the church shine forth in Christian holiness before the whole world and thus keep its testimony in good standing before the eyes of the Lord and the world

Therefore, even though divorcees have been born again and have become “new creatures” in Christ, the local church must limit their leadership positions because they lack qualifications for these areas. In addition, a Church leader must have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap (1 Tim. 3:6-7).

However, those who have been divorced can fully participate in every aspect of the church: prayer, fellowship, Holy Communion, visitation, evangelism, hospitality but they are not qualified to hold position of spiritual leadership. Our daddy Pastor E. A. Adeboye has made it clear that no divorcee could head any of the RCCG parishes.

Remarriage

Many questions have been raised on what the Bible teaches concerning remarriage after a person has been divorced, remarriage of a believing partner who has been deserted by an unsaved partner, and remarriage of a Christian following the death of a spouse.

In the Old Testament the written “certificate of divorce” made remarriage possible (Deut. 24:1-4). Also remarriage after the death of a partner was not a problem (Ruth 3:11). Likewise when a partner guilty of adultery died from stoning, the surviving partner was allowed to remarry (1 Sam. 25:39-44, Deut. 22:20-21).

In the New Testament, Paul makes it clear that the Christian must not put away an unbelieving partner, provided that the unbeliever is willing to live with him or her (1 Cor. 7:12, 13). If a Christian partner insists on divorce, he or she forfeits the right to remarry. However, our difficulty comes in interpreting what Paul means when he writes, “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let him separate. A brother or sister is not enslaved in such circumstances” (v. 15). What is the believer freed from? Should the believer have the liberty to remarry?

The first question can be answered in terms of freedom from all martial obligations. The bond of marriage is dissolved. The believer is not held responsible for the departure of an unbelieving partner. The second question poses a more serious problem: Is a deserted believing partner free to remarry a third party? Here, Paul is completely silent. We can only conjecture what the course of action may be. The verb “korize” in the Greek language has the idea of to set free or release. Does the freedom include both dissolution of marriage and remarriage? It is hard to tell.

This is a delicate matter and one should exercise every caution possible. The writer feels that since Paul discourages divorce under a mixedmarriage, the believer may not contract a subsequent marriage. However he may decide on his own to remarry because he has no control over the unbelieving partner who wants to divorce him or her. It may be argued that the act of divorce is not the believer’s responsibility. It will be a wise thing however never to legislate for or against remarriage in the case of desertion in a mixed Christian marriage.

Personally the writer does not accept that divorce gives a Christian the right to remarry. Rather remarriage after a divorce is an evidence of human depravity. The teachings of Christ and Paul cannot simply justify remarriage except in the cases of widows and perhaps mixed marriages (1 Cor. 7:39). Paul sees a divorced woman as permanently remaining unmarried and Christ regards her new position as real divorce. A remarriage after divorce for the Christian is a sin (Matt. 5:32). However, Christians who have married and divorced before accepting Christ, if they desire to marry again, should first seek reconciliation with his/her partner or remain single. By all intents and purpose, one should not remarry to a third partner because it is un-biblical to do so.

The question of remarriage also comes up in the case of the death of a spouse. The Old Testament law said that the husband no longer had authority over his wife (Rom. 7:1-13). She could freely marry another man without any legal, criminal, religious or moral charge against her. She was perfectly free from the law of adultery or the charge of unfaithfulness. So death of a partner cancels all marriage obligations legally, spiritually and physically. It is left to the widow or widower to decide whether or not to remarry (1 Cor. 7:8-9).

However, a widow who lacks self control should marry. There is no way out. The wife or husband is at liberty to marry, but the choice is limited. He or she must marry only a believer “in the Lord” (v. 39). Young widows should marry in order to avoid lusts of the flesh that put Christ to shame (1 Tim. 5:11, 14). If widows honour God with their bodies, God will honour them, too. Therefore, widows and widowers must resist fleshly lusts and societal pressures to marry unbelievers or those who already have marriage partners.

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