Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 22, 1963
NUMBER 16, PAGE 1,12-14a

Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage

Lloyd Moyer

Preface: Recent efforts have caused many to re-examine the marriage and divorce question and many have elicited from me, in recent correspondence, my position. I am undertaking in this tract to set forth what I believe the Bible teaches on the subject. In doing so I hope to correct any erroneous reports that I believe or advocate the "Fuqua Position" or "free love" or "antinomianism." Furthermore, it should be noted that I recognize that this is an unsettled matter, one that has been discussed by good and sincere brethren for years without the drawing of fellowship lines over it. I have not pressed my convictions on this matter to the dividing of any congregation, nor do I intend to do so. I do not consider that a person must agree with my position on the marriage question in order to be in fellowship. I feel the same way about many other matters over which there has been diversity of thought: such as the "War Question," "Hat Question," "Eldership Question." However, when brethren press these matters to the dividing of congregations and the confusion of the church generally, thus dictating that all must agree with them, I feel obligated to set forth my convictions and to urge brethren not to divide the church into fragments over these "unsettled" matters. I suggest that in studying together the marriage question that brethren not engage in misrepresentation, lying on each other, appealing to prejudice by branding those who might disagree with them as advocating "free love" or "that old filthy, God dishonouring, libertine doctrine of Satan." I believe open, free and frank discussion of the matter is in order and would be productive of much good. This little tract would never have appeared had certain brethren not misrepresented me and branded me as advocating every sort of immorality.


Divorce and remarriage is the product of sin. Every divorce and remarriage is the result of someone having violated God's law. That there are innocent parties involved in divorce and remarriage is freely admitted. However, someone must have committed the unlawful act which permits divorce before there could possibly be a dissolution of the marriage. Psychologically, sociologically, financially, and spiritually the impact of divorce and remarriage is staggering. Every effort should be exerted to combat this flaunting of God's law. Yet, caution should be exercised in our fight against this evil lest we find ourselves guilty of placing restraints and making laws that are not found in the scriptures. We might find ourselves in the awful position of "putting asunder" that which God "hath joined" together.

The purpose of this treatise is not to impress the scholarly, appeal to prejudice, nor to conform to tradition. It shall be an effort to set forth the teaching of God's word in a simple, candid and straightforward way. Due to the delicate nature of the subject, every effort to avoid the vulgar shall be made: yet, in the interest of simplicity, words and terms will be used which may be offensive to the hypersensitive. It is our desire that the subject may be treated with both the dignity and simplicity which it merits.

Proposition Defined

It has been said that a proposition well defined is half argued. We need to have clearly set before us just what it is that we are discussing in this paper. We are not concerned with the "first marriage" except as to when and how it is dissolved. When the first marriage is dissolved, is the "guilty" party "loosed" from the marriage as well as the innocent party? The question simply stated is — When a marriage is dissolved and the parties get married again, do one or both of them commit adultery every time they cohabit with their second partner? Does sexual intercourse with someone other than husband or wife constitute the grounds which Jesus gave for "putting away" (divorcing) a husband or wife? Is the innocent party free from the marriage and can he be married to someone else? Is the guilty party still married to the innocent or is the guilty one free from the marriage? If the guilty party is free from the marriage, may he marry someone else? If the guilty party does marry again, does he commit adultery every time he cohabits with his marriage partner? Is physical death the only way a marriage can be dissolved" If and when a marriage is dissolved by illicit sexual relationship are both man and wife free from the marriage and allowed to be married again? Do the scriptures enjoin celibacy upon the guilty? Where is the scripture? There are other things involved, but I believe that this will fairly set before us the subject under discussion.


Marriage is the ordination of God that one man and one woman come together as husband and wife. (Gen. 2:24) Paul quotes this in Eph. 5:31, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife and they two shall be one flesh." Marriage, as God ordained, is two people; one man and one woman; becoming "one flesh." Jesus quotes this in Matt. 19:5 and then adds, "Wherefore, they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Verse 6) God never intended that man tamper with this arrangement.

At least three things are necessary to constitute a marriage: (1) There must be a mutual agreement of a man and a woman to live together as husband and wife. (2) They must meet the demands of the civil authorities. (3) The bodies of man and woman must be joined in cohabitation — sexual intercourse. Where these elements exist, God recognizes a marriage. This is true whether the parties involved are saints or sinners; members of the church or not. This applies to aliens as well as to members of the church. The idea that God's law of marriage does not apply to aliens is contrary to the scriptures. Paul affirms that the aliens were guilty of adultery and fornication. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

The God-ordained institution of marriage is two people becoming "one flesh." Wherever and whenever a third or more parties are brought into this union, the thing ceases to be what God ordained. It becomes something entirely foreign from God's will.

All sexual intercourse outside of marriage is unlawful. "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." (Heb. 13:4) Sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are married to each other is "free from contamination." (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, page 168) It might be well to note that the word "Whoremongers" is rendered "fornicators." in the ASRV. This shows that a married person can commit fornication.

Some Definitions

"Fornication" — "illicit sexual intercourse." (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, page 125) He adds that it "includes adultery." "Illicit sexual intercourse in general." (Thayer's Greek Lexicon, page 532) Any time unmarried people have sexual intercourse it is fornication. When one of them happens to be a married person it becomes adultery as well as fornication. Thus, fornication is "illicit sexual intercourse in general." It is the broad term and may include adultery. It is this "unlawful sexual intercourse" which "defiles" the "two party," "one flesh" ordination of God in a marriage. The marriage ceases to be that which God ordained when one of the two parties of the marriage joins his body to that of someone other than the person to whom he is married. If it be argued that the marriage still exists as God ordained, then it must be argued that God ordained not just two people becoming "one flesh," but that He ordained three or more people becoming "one flesh." Who is ready to so contend???

"Committeth Adultery" — "to defile a married woman, to commit or be guilty of adultery." (Harper, page 272)

(Thayer, page 417) "to have unlawful intercourse with another's wife, to commit adultery with." Thayer adds regarding Mark 10:11.... "against her" — "commits the sin of adultery against her (i.e., that has been put away)."

Adultery is the act of "adulterating" something, or "defiling or making unclean." Just what is adulterated, made unclean or defiled by the act of adultery? It is not the act of "sexual intercourse" because that was ordained by our Creator. That act is not unclean of itself. Adultery simply adulterates the marriage.

The Dissolution Of A Marriage

We now come to the very heart and core of the controversy of the marriage question. When is a marriage dissolved? When does God cease to recognize a marriage as that which He ordained? Let us remember that God ordained that two people, a man and a woman, become one flesh. This arrangement cannot be set aside by man without sin. The only way a marriage can be dissolved without sin is by the physical death of one of the parties. The only other way a marriage can be dissolved is by one or both of the parties (those married to each other) having illicit or unlawful sexual intercourse with someone other than the person to whom they are married. When this act takes place a third party has been added to the two party affair which God ordained. God will not tolerate such a state. This is plainly shown by Paul's teaching in 1 Cor., chapter 6. "Now the body is not for fornication...." (Verse 13) The body is not for "illicit or unlawful intercourse." "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid." (Verse 15) (the word "harlot" in the Greek refers to "one who indulges in illicit sexual relations"). A Christian cannot, with the approval of God, join his or her body to that of one who "indulges in illicit sexual relations." Why is this so? It is because fornication involves the union or joining of two bodies together. Only in marriage did God ordain that this "joining" take place. In fact, the very purpose of marriage is to "avoid fornication." (1 Cor. 7:2) Fornication (illicit sexual relationships) would destroy the very need for marriage and therefore God's institution of marriage. Hence, the admonition, "Flee fornication." (1 Cor. 6:18) Notice verse 16: "What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh." Any time one party in a marriage cohabits or becomes "one flesh" with any person other than the one to whom he is married, he becomes an "harlot" (one who indulges in illicit sexual relations) and the innocent party may not cohabit with the guilty companion without taking a member of Christ and making him a member of an harlot. The innocent cannot knowingly participate on the "marriage bed" which is defiled without becoming a party to the unholy union of three people becoming one flesh. The marriage has been "adulterated," defiled, made unclean and has ceased to be that which God ordained. The innocent has two choices. He may go ahead and sever the legal bond of the marriage, or providing the guilty repents (makes up his mind not to commit adultery or fornication again), he may restore to the marriage the two elements which have been destroyed. (1) They make an agreement to live together again as husband and wife. (2) They come together in cohabitation. The legal aspect of the marriage being still intact and having again established the two elements which had been destroyed, the marriage would be restored to that which God ordained.

Jesus teaches in Matt. 19:9 and in other scriptures that "illicit or unlawful sexual intercourse" (fornication) is grounds for the dissolution of a marriage. When a marriage is thus dissolved, the innocent is no longer married to the guilty, nor is the guilty any longer married to the innocent. No marriage exists. Where no marriage exists, the parties may marry someone else. Most all will admit that the innocent could marry again and not commit fornication or adultery every time he had intercourse with his marriage partner. However, many will command the guilty to "abstain" from marriage, thus "forbidding to marry." Where is the passage or passages which teach that the guilty person whose marriage has been destroyed cannot be married again? They are not married. What law would prohibit those not married from getting married? Some contend that the guilty party must remain celibate the rest of his life as a consequence of the sin he committed. Then the guilty one could not be taken back by the innocent into marriage. He would have to remain in a state of celibacy. I know of no such restraint in the scriptures. Some are ready to say that this allows the guilty to benefit from his sin of adultery which severed his marriage by setting him free so that he may get another wife. This is no more true than it would be in case a man should, in a fit of anger, strike his wife and kill her. Most brethren contend that a man who has thus killed his wife may repent and be free to marry another woman after serving his time in prison. Do they encourage men to kill their wives? I think not. Neither do I encourage men to commit adultery. I do not encourage those who have separated without cause of fornication to remarry any more than I would encourage a man to kill his wife. Both are sinful. However, if, in a moment of weakness, a man does commit adultery, and as a result his marriage is dissolved, I believe that he can repent (make up his mind not to engage in illicit or unlawful sexual relations again) and live in obedience to the commands of our Lord, even though he be married to another woman. He is not married to his former partner. His former partner is not married to him. There is no such thing as "half marriages."

Any time one puts away his marriage companion without fornication (illicit or unlawful intercourse) and marries another, that person commits adultery when he has sexual intercourse (Matt. 19.9) and if the one who has been put away marries, he is caused to commit adultery also. (Matt. 5:32) This is true because the first marriage has not been dissolved by illicit or unlawful intercourse. That is why adultery is committed the first time one cohabits with any other than the person to whom he was first married. It is a case of a married person having unlawful sexual intercourse with someone other than husband or wife. We have already shown that by the very act (unlawful sexual intercourse) the first marriage is defiled, made unclean or "adulterated." By this act the first marriage ceases to be that which God ordained. It is no longer the two people being "one flesh"; it has become three people being one flesh and God did not ordain this nor will He tolerate it. That first marriage has been destroyed by the sin of fornication (illicit or unlawful sexual intercourse). Since the first marriage has ceased to exist, how is it possible to adulterate that which does not exist? Though adultery was committed when they first joined themselves together in intercourse because they were still the husband or wife of someone else, subsequent sexual intercourse between them is not adultery. They are no longer the husband or wife of someone else. They are sinners because they have committed adultery. And by this sin of adultery they caused their previous marriage to be dissolved. Now, the question is — Does God recognize marriages of sinners? I believe that He does. This being true, repentance would not demand that they separate, defraud one another and burn with passion in a life of celibacy. It would demand that they repent of having committed adultery. They would have to make up their minds that they would not have illicit or unlawful sexual intercourse with anyone again, and render obedience to the commands of God.

Because of "ignorance and unbelief" and the weakness of the flesh, people find themselves in many non-ideal situations in life. Such was the case of men owning slaves. (Read the book of Philemon) Sometimes these situations cannot be corrected without committing more sins So it is with these non-ideal marriages. To demand that they separate is to demand something that the Lord does not demand. It would cause them to "defraud" one another and this is forbidden. (1 Cor. 7:5) It would give Satan the advantage in tempting one. (1 Cor. 7:5) There are some who "cannot contain" (control or govern their passions): Paul says "let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn." (1 Cor. 7:9) To demand that a man and wife separate is equal to saying that it is better to burn than to marry. To say that it is good not to marry at all is to ignore our Lord's statement that "all men cannot receive this saying . . . ." (Matt. 19:11) There are those who insist on separation who admit that they could not live a life of celibacy without "burning" with passion. Jesus taught, "....That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matt. 5:28) To demand separation where there are children would mean depriving the children of the home life provided by a mother and father and this is contrary to the principles taught by Christ.

(To be concluded next week.)

— 41325 Kathlean, Fremont, California