Divorce and Remarriage

Part 1


Dr. John Hoole – July 31, 2016




Today we’re going to talk about divorce, and I’d like to begin with a little experiment. In just a minute, I’d like you to raise your hand if any of the following are true:

•  If you have ever been divorced.

•  If you are married to someone who’s been divorced.

•  If someone in your immediate family has been divorced: your parents, brothers and sisters, children, grandchildren.


If any of those is true for you, would you please raise your hand?


OK, take just a minute to look around the room.  This is a group of people that knows something about divorce, about how it effects relationships, about the kind of deep pain  and damage that can come from a marriage that doesn’t end well.


This group knows that divorce doesn’t just impact a husband and wife—the consequences ripple throughout the entire family.  Thanks for participating in the experiment.  If you raised your hand today, you don’t need to feel embarrassed.  As you can see by looking at the hands that were raised around you, there is hardly a family in this country that hasn’t at some time been touched by the tragedy of a divorce.


If you are visiting with us today, we have been studying the Sermon on the Mount, as found in Matthew 5 – 7.  We have been studying the 6 illustrations Christ gives in Matthew helping us to understand the righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees.


Matt 5:31-32  (NIV)


31       "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'

32       But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.


Today, we embark on a study of another of those subjects that are often bypassed. bypassed because of the potential controversy and the imbedded emotions of those involved.  Like our last topic about what Christ taught on adultery and sexual immorality, the subject of divorce and remarriage also goes counter to what is generally accepted in our society today.


Although I believe that God’s way in most cases is not divorce, I hope I shall teach this subject with some sensitivity, especially for those here today who have gone through a divorce.  I know you have suffered pain, and I have no wish to add to your distress.


And yet, it is because I am convinced that what the Bible teaches on this subject is good for all of us, that I dare to take my trek into this subject.  In fact, I dare not omit it.


Matthew 5:31, 32 can hardly be thought to represent the sum total of our Lord’s instruction on the subject of divorce.  In fact, it is but a brief illustration, among 5 others, of what constitutes a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, which Jesus says, back in verse 20, is the righteousness that must occur in those that follow Him.


They deal with the specific subjects of murder, sexual sin, divorce, speaking the truth, retaliation, and loving others.  He makes their application very practical by bringing them down to where we actually live.  So today we come to illustration #3.


He says it is not just the outward act of homicide that is wrong but hatred and anger in one’s heart is equally murderous.  And it’s not just the physical act of adultery which is sinful, but he that looks and lusts (desires) after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.  This is the pattern Christ uses through these illustrations.


The power of anger and the power of sex are two of the most dynamic forces operative, not only in our society, but in all of human experience.  Followers of Christ must not only know how to cope with anger, they must also know how to handle and control sex.  Their example of how they deal with these two forces greatly influences the effectiveness of their Christian witness in the world.


So how do I address the subject of divorce and remarriage, which is also a volatile and emotional topic?


When I was in college back in the 1960’s, a social anthropologist by the name of Margaret Mead was proclaiming the death of the family unit         -- at least the death of the family as we have known it.  She advocated that it would be good for our society for the family unit to be dissolved.


British physician David Graham Cooper in his book The Death of the Family, published in 1970 suggested the best thing society could do is to abolish the family altogether.  He claimed it was the primary conditioning device for a Western imperialistic world view.


Also in 1970, an advocate for women’s liberation, Kate Millet maintained in her book Sexual Politics that, “the family unit must go because it is the family that has oppressed and enslaved women.”  The proposal of radical ideas did not end a generation ago.  They have been refined.  From every side the family is being directly attacked or indirectly undermined.


About a year ago, there was an article written for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation titled, “Is having a loving family an unfair advantage.”  Joe Gelonesi, host of “The Philosopher’s Zone” radio program on ABC - Australia, calls the natural mom-dad biological family, “a weathered institution ever more in need of a rationale for existing.”


Friedrich Engels and Carl Marx also hated the family.  On one occasion, Marx wrote to Engels, stating, “Blessed is he who has no family.”


All those holding these positions on the structure of society, bristle at the idea of a God or absolute designer who has devised eternally established standards for male-female marriage and family.


And yet, on the other side we find the writings of Dr. Armand Nicholi.  In an article titledThe Fractured Family: Following It into the Future” published in 1979, Dr. Armond Nicholi, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, says that….


         “certain trends prevalent today will incapacitate the family, destroy its integrity, and cause its members to suffer such crippling emotional conflicts that they will become an intolerable burden to society.  If any one factor influences the character development and emotional stability of an individual, it is the quality of the relationship he or she experiences as a child with both parents.  Conversely, if people suffering from severe nonorganic emotional illness have one experience in common, it is the absence of a parent through death, divorce, or some other cause.  A parent’s inaccessibility, either physically, emotionally, or both, can profoundly influence a child’s emotional health.”


Nicoli says that by far the major cause of emotional problems and the major detriment to the family is divorce.  He says:  “The trend toward quick and easy divorce, and the ever-increasing divorce rate, subject more and more children to physically and emotionally absent parents.”  If the trend is not reversed, he says, “the quality of life will continue to deteriorate, producing a society with a higher incidence of mental illness than ever before.”


When it comes to divorce and remarriage, our government has decided to take the path of least resistance.  So now people can get a “no-fault” divorce – although I have never heard of a divorce being nobody’s fault.  For a few dollars and an agreement, there is no contesting the divorce.  Today a person can get out of a marriage one day and into another one the next day.  Most, if not all, states in the United States have adopted a no-fault divorce policy.


UCLA sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger conducted a national survey of 8,590 adults.  His findings were published mid-1997, where he stated: 


•  Only 1% of the adults surveyed had grown up in families that experienced at least two failed marriages.


•  Among the adults that had lived through two or more parental divorces, 67% had themselves been divorced, 26% of them 2 or more times.


•  Among adults raised in intact homes, 41% divorced, 9% two or more times.


What Is The Divorce Rate?


It has long been believed that half of America’s marriages end in divorce.  And we hear that it is just as bad in the Church as it is in the rest of the country.


Where did that number come from?  Those who calculate such numbers don’t know where it came from.  It is believed to have been part of a study done in the 1980s which projected a 50% divorce rate if current trends continued.  The fact is, the divorce rate has never been 50%.  And the rate of divorce within the church is less than the general population.


It is interesting that both Hispanic and Asians have a significantly lower divorce rate than whites.  Among Asians, 83% of those who marry will never divorce.


Let me say, before we get into the ways to calculate the divorce rate, that, among Americans, nearly two-thirds of marriages today will last until one dies.  And it is even less if one of them has a bachelor’s degree.


Shaunti Feldhahn, the author of a book on the subject, says, “It was never true that half of the newly married couples would end up divorced, and that 30% is closer to the mark.”  There are other sociologists, however, that claim it is probably not that low.  Many believe the divorce rate has been in decline since 1981.


Statisticians who calculate the divorce rate tell us there are several ways to make the calculation.  We will look briefly as them.  But first, they give us the factors that complicate its calculation.


Some of the factors are:

•  Population growth

•  Longevity greater in more recent years

•  varying age before first wedding

•  Increase in cohabitation – living together first

•  Existence of children

•  Separation not ending in divorce


There are four different ways to calculate divorce.  Let me briefly give you some of their details.


1.  Crude Divorce Rate


This number refers to the number of divorces per 1,000 people in a population.  The crude annual rate today sets at around 3.6 divorces per 1,000 people in the U.S.  That calculation include all people regardless of age.  An age-adjusted rate is about 13 per 1,000 people age fifteen and older.  Additionally, the crude rate has gone down from 5.3 to the current 3.6 since the 1980s.  These are the rates you will see published by the CDC (Center for Disease Control).


The positive for the crude rate is that it makes it easy to calculate differences between states or countries.  The negative of this rate is that it includes all people, such as children, the unmarried, and elderly couples, who are not at risk for divorce.


2.  Percent ever divorced


The next metric that is calculated by some it called the “Percent Ever Divorced.”  This, of course, is not an annual rate.  Currently 22% of women and 21% of men have ever been divorced.  But, many of those who have ever divorced have remarried.  The results of this calculation is:


         •  11 percent of women are currently divorced.


         •  9 percent of all men are currently divorced.


3.  Refined Divorce Rate


This is the number of divorces per 1,000 married women.  Like the crude rate, this is an annual rate.  In 2011, 19 out of every 1,000 marriages ended in divorce.  Or, to say it another way, 1.9% of marriages end in divorce every year.  The positive of this calculation is that it gives the rate of divorce as a subset of the actual married population.  The negative is that it does not give the number of divorces over time.


4.      Cohort Measure Rate


This is the 40-50% rate we sometimes hear cited.  It is not a hard, objective number, but an educated Projection.  It is calculated by looking at a particular “cohort” or a large group of people marrying within a particular measure of time.


The pros of this calculation is that it is the measure most scholars use.  The negative is that it does not give an objective number of actual divorces.  It is a somewhat sophisticated estimation given the current risks.  It is much like projecting life span of babies born today.  The cohort rate is an estimate of divorce for those getting married today.  It is only valid under current conditions.  But if the 6 factors I gave you earlier change, the result will vary.  Several authoritative sources put this rate at 42 to 45 percent for those marrying today..


But here is the most important news concerning one’s lifetime risk of divorce.  While the 40-50 percent divorce risk number is indeed correct, it actually applies to no one—or, at least, very few.  There are a handful of personal factors and life experiences that sociologists have determined significantly affect one’s overall risk of divorce—for good or ill.


The major factors that determine a couple’s risk of divorce include:


- Cohabitation: cohabiting couples have a 50-80 percent higher likelihood of divorce than non-cohabiting couples.


- Age: those who marry after age eighteen have a 24 percent reduced risk of divorce.


- Education: only 27 percent of college graduates will divorce by middle age (estimate).


- Family Background: having parents who have never divorced reduces divorce risk by 14 percent.


- Marital History: being previously divorced markedly elevates one’s risk of divorce.


- Religion: those with a strong common faith have a 7-14 percent lower risk of divorce. However, having a nominal faith has no protective effect.


- Desire for Children: a marriage in which the wife desires children but the husband does not is at a 50 percent greater risk of divorce.


While the divorce rate is lower than we sometimes hear, and the divorce rate among Christians who are active in their faith is even lower, divorce is still an issue that we must address.


Let’s return now to the Sermon on the Mount.  Keep in mind that this sermon is sort of a handbook about living in the Kingdom of God.  These are some very pertinent rules about how we as citizens of that kingdom should live.  And what he is teaching us in this section of the sermon is that external performance is not enough.  Rather, we are to let the “kingdom rules” govern our thought, our motives and our attitudes.


In these six illustrations given from verse 21 to the end of chapter 5, Christ is giving comparisons between external performance” and the “internal obedience” that God desires.


And today we are going to look at what God says concerning the third illustration.  That is, Divorce and Remarriage.


Let’s begin with God’s initial pronouncements on marriage itself:


Genesis 2:18 NKJV


18     And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him."


Genesis 2:24 NKJV


24     Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.


Genesis 1:28 NKJV


28     Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."


This biblical account records God’s intentions for marriage as He established it “in the beginning.”  Additional Scriptures reveal a fuller picture of God’s outlook on marriage, as well as on divorce and remarriage.


The first mention of divorce in the Bible is found in Deuteronomy 24.


Deuteronomy 24:1-4 NKJV


1       "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,

2       when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man's wife,

3       if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife,

4       then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.


Moses is the writer of this passage, and he lived several thousand years after the Genesis account.  Is there any record of divorce before 1450 BC, when Moses uttered these words?  I did a little research – not an exhaustive one – to see if I could find divorce occurring in the ancient world.  I found good information about ancient Roman and Greek cultures, but they existed far after the time of Moses.


I also briefly investigated the ancient Sumerians (1800 BC) and ancient Egyptians (1600-2500 BC).  They both had rules for divorce.  In the Sumerian culture, at the time of Hammurabi, a man had to support a divorced wife for the rest of her life.


Returning to Moses, we find an allowance for divorce for almost any reason.  In the Old Testament, there are three Hebrew words used for the concept of divorce.  The first, and most common, is the word, SHALACH, which means “to send away or go away,” and is found 847 times, but only 4 times is it related to divorce.  It is used in Genesis 3:23, when God sent Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.  It is used in Genesis 8:8, when Noah sent forth the dove from the ark. 


The second Hebrew word is KERITHUTH, which comes from the root word KERATH, and means “to cut off or cut down.”  Kerithuth is used 4 times, all speaking of the “cutting off” of a marriage.  We find it twice in the Deuteronomy 24 passage we rad a moment ago.  It is also used in Isaiah 50:1 and in Jeremiah 3:8.


The third Hebrew word used for divorce is GARASH, which means “to drive out or cast out.”  This Hebrew word is found 46 times, of which 5 refer to a divorced person.  (Jeremiah 21:7, 14; 22:13; Numbers 30:9; Ezekiel 44:22)


In the New Testament, there are two Greek words used to indicate divorce.  The first is APOLUO, which means “to loose from.”  It is found 66 times in the Greek text of the New Testament.  15 of them speak about the breaking up of a marriage.  The second Greek word is CHORIDZO, which means “to separate.”  It is used 12 times, with 5 referring to ending a marriage.  And you will find these two Greek words used interchangeable.


13 times in the Old Testament and 20 times in the New Testament, the issue of divorce is discussed or mentioned.  We can also observe that the Law of Moses contains only 8 references to divorce.  In addition to Deuteronomy 24, we learn the following.


•  In Leviticus 21:7 & 14, the priests (sons of Aaron) could not marry a divorced woman.


•  In Leviticus 23:13, we learn that a priest’s daughter who had been divorced could return to her father’s house and eat her father’s food ,which was from the offerings people brought for worship.


•  In Numbers 30:9, we learn that a vow of a divorced woman stood; it could not be overturned by a father or former husband.


•  In Deuteronomy 22:19, we learn that a man could not divorce his wife if he falsely accused her of sexual immorality.


•  And in Deuteronomy 22:29 we learn that a man could not divorce an unengaged virgin with whom her has had sex before marriage.


That brings us back to Matthew, chapters 5 & 19, and Deuteronomy 24, which we will discuss in detail during our next lesson.




To close our lesson today, let me say that, contrary to some opinions, the concept of divorce is biblical.  The Bible recognizes and regulates divorce.  Certain provisions are made for it.  Since the subject of divorce is discussed in the pages of Scripture, we must do all we can to understand what God says about it.


I must also add that because divorce is not the unpardonable sin, it can be forgiven.  But while that is especially true, it does not heal all the heartbreaks resulting from it.