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            Our purpose in this chapter is to report some secular statistical facts and to give a scriptural presentation of what the Bible has to say about adultery, fornication, desertion, divorce and remarriage. This chapter is a very strong doctrinal chapter. Therefore, it is not intended to be a primer on divorce counseling. For Bible believing pastors and counsellors, there is no solution to the exploding wickedness of divorce in the church outside of the willingness of those whom they counsel to yield to the conviction of the Holy Ghost and the plain teaching of the Scriptures on these subjects. Without repentance and forgiveness there is no balm of Gilead for our divorces. The Lord Jesus Christ has already nailed the chief cause of divorce when he stated in Matthew 19:7 that it was the hardness of men’s and women’s hearts that is at the root of all divorces. God hates divorces.

            The doctrine of divorce and remarriage is among one of the most controversial doctrines in Scripture especially in this day when divorce rates among professing Christians are equal to that of secular divorce rates. That ought not to be. Both legally and scripturally a bill of divorcement is a document declaring the intent of one or both parties to a marriage to divorce. In the Bible, the divorce breaks both the scriptural legal bond and the physical bond whereas in civil law it may only break the legal bond with the sexual relationship being allowed to continue. We state again and again throughout this book that God’s intent for marriage has from the beginning been “one man with one woman for a lifetime”. God’s intent in becoming one flesh is best illustrated by the statement: “Nothing but death separates a man or a woman from their own flesh”. God hates the action of divorce and he plainly states that very strongly in Malachi 2:16. The Lord Jesus Christ plainly restated in Matthew 19:6 what God’s original intent for marriage was and then stated in Matthew 19:8 that the reason God allowed divorce was because of the hardness of the people’s hearts. In other words, the cause for divorce was sin that proceeded from hardened hearts. There are those who vehemently argue that divorce is never scriptural, but what does the Bible say? There are five different conditions where divorces are/were scriptural including: (1) An unspecified act of uncleanness from Deuteronomy 24; (2) God put away (divorced) Israel for her idolatry; (3) God’s command to divorce given to the people, the priests, and the Levites of Israel in Ezra chapter10; (4) The fornication/adultery of one’s spouse; (5) The act of desertion by an unbelieving spouse as stated in 1 Corinthians 7 (This one is hotly contested by many, if not most). We will elaborate on those later in our study. There are three divorces recorded in scripture and one of those involved multiple divorces. These are: (1) A case could be made that the casting out of Hagar in Genesis 21:10 by Abraham at the insistence of Sarah was a divorce; (2) God divorced Israel in Isaiah 50:1-2, Jeremiah 3:8; (3) God commanded the people, the priests, and the Levites of Israel to divorce their pagan spouses in Ezra chapter10 because they had taken to themselves the strange wives.

            The terms “divorce” and “putting away” and their cognates are the general terms that the Scriptures use for dissolving a marriage. In addition to the three scriptural grounds for divorce, there are at least 18 (eighteen) grounds for divorce identified in the civil law of many government court systems including desertion, natural impotency, insanity or idiocy, a wife's pregnancy by another person at the time of the marriage, adultery, imprisonment for crimes, incurable insanity that develops after marriage, habitual drunkenness, habitual and excessive drug use, habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, bigamy, incest, sodomy, bestiality, conviction of a felony, attempting to take the other spouse’s life, infecting the other spouse with a sexually transmitted disease, irreconcilable differences (no fault divorce), and non support . All state courts in the United States now allow for no fault divorces. Divorce has become a very serious issue in the Church and in secular society. Without getting into a lot of detail, the reason that the divorce rate has skyrocketed in the church is because our churches in America are full of unbelieving, professing Christians and the few that are saved are in open apostasy because they lack Godly leadership. They have also divorced the 1611 King James Bible that built the church in America and took up with pagan harlots. The corruption of the God ordained institution of marriage has run hand in hand with the corruption of the King James Bible.


            The statistics concerning divorce in the United States are shocking. The country with the highest divorce rate in the world is the United States of America. Before getting underway with our study we cite the following statistics:

“The percentages of divorces expressed in percentage of membership in American religious organizations are as follows: Nondenominational, 34%; Jews, 30%; Baptist, 29%; Episcopal, 28%; Pentecostal, 28%; Methodist, 26%; Mormons, 24%; Presbyterian, 23%; Catholic, 21%; Lutheran, 21%; Atheist/Agnostic, 21%.” Cited from: http://facts.randomhistory.com/divorce-facts.html

            “The following divorce rates apply for: first marriages = 41%, second marriages = 60%, third marriages = 73%. There are 16,865 divorces per week in America.” (Cited from 2011 US Census Data)

            “Americans have become less likely to marry. This is reflected in a decline of more than 50 percent, from 1970 to 2010, in the annual number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried adult women (Figure 1). In real terms, the total number of marriages fell from 2.45 million in 1990 to 2.11 million in 2010...Since 1960, the overall percentage of the married population has declined by 16%. Since 1960, there has been an average 22.5% drop in those married in the age group 35-44...The decline in marriage does not mean that people are giving up on living together with a sexual partner. On the contrary, with the incidence of unmarried cohabitation increasing rapidly, marriage is giving ground to unwed unions. Most people now live together before they marry for the first time. An even higher percentage of divorced persons who subsequently remarry live together first....The American divorce rate today is about twice that of 1960, but has declined since hitting its highest point in our history in the early 1980s. For the average couple marrying for the first time in recent years, the lifetime probability of divorce or separation now falls between 40 and 50 percent.... Teenagers and the nonreligious who marry have higher divorce rates....Having a religious affiliation (vs. none) makes you14% less likely to get a divorce.... Between 1960 and 2011, as indicated in Figure 8, the number of unmarried couples in America increased more than seventeen-fold. Unmarried cohabitation — the status of couples who are sexual partners, not married to each other, and sharing a household — is particularly common among the young.... More than 60 percent of first marriages are now preceded by living together, compared to virtually none fifty years ago.... In fact, some evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage.... Children from single parent homes are three times more likely to get into trouble. The number of children born in homes without fathers are about 1 million new children each year.... Since 1960, the percentage of babies born to unwed mothers has increased more than sevenfold....Consequently, there has been about a fifteen-fold increase in the number of cohabiting couples who live with children since 1960....Children who grow up with cohabiting couples tend to have worse life outcomes compared to those growing up with married couples. The primary reasons are that cohabiting couples have a much higher breakup rate than married couples, a lower level of household income, and higher levels of child abuse and domestic violence....With more than 50 percent of teenagers now accepting out-of-wedlock childbearing as a “worthwhile lifestyle,” at least for others, they do not seem to grasp the enormous economic, social, and personal costs of nonmarital childbearing.” (Cited from: “The 2012 State Of Our Unions Report” from the University of Virginia)

            “Living together prior to getting married can increase the chance of getting divorced by as much as 40 percent.” (Cited from: http://www.mckinleyirvin.com/blog/divorce/32-shocking-divorce-statistics/ )


             In the study that is before us, we have some difficult and controversial questions to answer. During the course of our study, we will deal with definitions and descriptions of the words adultery, fornication, adulterer, adulteress, uncleanness, bound, loosed, putting away, divorce, divorced, divorcement, desertion, and sodomite. Some of the questions that we will deal with include:(1) What is adultery? (2) What is fornication? (3) What is the difference between fornication and adultery? (4) Can a married person be guilty of fornication? (5) Is adultery a sexual act or a ceremonial act? (6) What, if any, are the scriptural grounds for divorce? (7) Does unmarried mean separated, but not divorced? (8) Is desertion a scriptural ground for divorce? (9) Are all divorces absolutely prohibited? (10) Is divorce always wrong? (11) Is divorce always a sin for all parties to the divorce? (12) Under what circumstances is a divorce scriptural? (13) Is divorce an unforgivable sin?. (14) If a person gets divorced can they remarry? (15) If a divorced person gets remarried are they in perpetual adultery? (16) Should a person who has been guilty of an unscriptural divorce put away (divorce) their current spouse and reunite with their former spouse? (17) Can you be married to someone and them not be your spouse? Now let’s turn to the definition of some terms?


            Some fundamentalist and Baptist churches believe that the only scriptural grounds for divorce is adultery while other churches believe that adultery and desertion are scriptural grounds for divorce. Some Baptist churches teach that there are no scriptural grounds for divorce. Some fundamentalist and Baptist churches believe that if a divorced person ever remarries they are living in perpetual adultery. Some Baptist churches will not allow a divorced man to testify of his salvation in church services. There are even some Baptist churches that will not allow a divorced man or woman to be a member of THEIR church. Some fundamentalist and Baptist Bible schools, pastors, and evangelists teach that a married person cannot be guilty of fornication. Many fundamentalist and Baptist Bible schools, pastors, preachers, and evangelists believe that both parties to a divorce are guilty of sin. Some fundamentalist and Baptist preachers teach and preach that it is heresy to state that the sexual act constitutes a scriptural marriage (God says that a man and a woman become husband and wife when they become one flesh in the sexual act. There is no scriptural requirement for a ceremony. There is no requirement for a marriage license. There is no requirement either in the Old Testament or the New Testament for a religious official such as a priest, a pastor, or a preacher to perform a ceremony). We are NOT stating here that we believe that marriage is nothing more than a sexual relationship, but we are saying that a sexual relationship establishes a covenant that imposes upon a couple the obligation to enter into a permanent scriptural relationship as husband and wife. When they do not, or cannot enter into a permanent husband and wife relationship, they are both guilty of fornication even if one or both of them is married. If one or both of them is married, but not to each other, then the act of fornication becomes the crime of adultery. Some fundamentalist and Baptist Bible schools, pastors, preachers, and evangelists teach that it is not the sexual act that constitutes adultery, but that it is the marriage ceremony itself that constitutes adultery. We address these and other issues in the discussion that follows.


            Under the Old Testament law, a man could not be guilty of adultery unless he had sex with a woman that was married to another man. What that means is that if he had sex with an unmarried woman, he was not guilty of adultery even if he had a wife. However, if he laid with an unmarried women, he was under the obligation to take care of her as a wife. Perhaps that is why so many of the kings of Judah and Israel had so many wives. Under that same law, an unmarried man could be guilty of both fornication and adultery if he had sex with another man’s wife. The following definition for adultery is from the Oxford English Dictionary:

Adultery: Violation of the marriage bed ; the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with one of the opposite sex, whether unmarried, or married to another (the former case being technically designated single, the latter double adultery). [Oxford English Dictionary]

            In 1388, the Wycliffe translation of Jeremiah 3:9 read as follows:

“Bi ligtnesse of hir fornicacioun sche defoulide the erthe, and dide auowtrie with a stoon, and with a tree.” [Oxford English Dictionary]

            Let us put the above sentence into Modern English: By lightness of her fornication she defiled the earth, and did adultery with a stone, and with a tree. What this dictionary definition and contextual definition tells us is that adultery is considered to be an act of fornication. Wycliffe’s translation of Jeremiah 3:9 gives us our contextual definition. You will see the definition of adultery repeated several times in this book Adultery is usually defined as a voluntary sexual act committed between two people who are not married to each other, but at least one of whom is a married person. Both parties to this sin are said to be committing adultery, even the unmarried party. If both parties are married, but not to each another, then double adultery is involved. Regardless of the marital status of the individuals involved, all are guilty of fornication. Adultery is a special class of fornication committed by married persons. In the Scriptures, adultery is never based upon a ceremony. Adultery is always based upon a sexual act. The Bible nowhere states or implies that a ceremony must take place in order for a marriage to be scripturally valid and binding. You can perform all the ceremonies you want to, but until a sexual act takes place there is no scriptural marriage. In quoting and refuting Brother Stinnett Ballew, Brother Karl Baker has this to say:

            “Karl Baker quotes Stinnett Ballew as saying: “Very plainly, it is the marrying another that is adultery, not the living together. It is not the sex act in the second marriage, but the second marriage itself. If it were the sex act, which was the adultery, then, a person that is too old or physically unable to function sexually could divorce and remarry many times without committing adultery. Again I emphasize the adultery is a second marriage itself.”...Using Dr. Ballew’s definitions would run you into some serious problems when it came to teaching about David’s sins of 2 Samuel 11 and 12. You can’t have David committing adultery when he went into Uriah’s wife in chapter 11:4 because he didn’t have a ceremony, in fact, according to Dr. Ballew’s definition, David never did commit adultery, because when David did marry Bathsheba in 11:27, Uriah was already dead, verse 26! David couldn’t have committed fornication because he wasn’t having sex before marriage, so I guess the only sin David really committed was killing Uriah!” [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, pages 103-104]

            We could not have said it better. The words “adultery” and “adulteries” occur a total of 45 times in our King James Bibles: 20 times in the Old Testament and 25 times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the words are used of physical adultery but five times with the remaining 15 times used of spiritual adultery against God. In the New Testament, the word adultery is used 23 times of a physical act of adultery with the remaining 2 times used of idolatry. Only three different incidents of physical adultery are recorded in the whole Bible. In neither of those three incidents, is the word adultery used. The first act of adultery recorded in the Bible took place when Reuben “lay with” his father’s wife, Bilhah, in Genesis 35:22. The next act of adultery is recorded when David committed adultery with Uriah the Hittite’s wife Bathsheba when “he lay with her” in 2 Samuel 11:3-4. The last recorded act of adultery is by an unnamed son who “had his father’s wife” in 1 Corinthians 5:1. Below, we quote all those passages of Scripture we have referenced in this paragraph:

Genesis 35:22

22 And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:

Exodus 20:14

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Leviticus 20:10

10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Deuteronomy 5:18

18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.

Deuteronomy 22:22

22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

2 Samuel 11:3-4

3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? 4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.

Proverbs 6:32-33

32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. 33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.

Ezekiel 16:32

3 But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!

Matthew 19:9

9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Mark 10:11-12

11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

Luke 16:18

18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

John 8:3-5

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

1 Corinthians 5:1

1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

Hebrews 13:4

4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

We deal in great depth with these Scriptures that relate to adultery in the section describing adultery as scriptural grounds for divorce. Our next term we describe is fornication.


            The Oxford English Dictionary definition of fornication is:

Fornication: Voluntary sexual intercourse between a man (in restricted use, an unmarried man) and an unmarried woman. In Scripture extended to adultery. [Oxford English Dictionary]

            In a 1450 A.D. document called the Knights de la Tour a phrase in that document with a reference to Bathsheba had this to say:

“King David...felle into avowtry and fornicacion with her”.

[Cited from Oxford English Dictionary under the entry for fornication and from Knights de la Tour.]

“Avowtry” is Middle English for adultery and “fornicacion” is Middle English for fornication. What the dictionary definition and the contextual definition is telling us is that adultery is an act of fornication. The only time fornication is called “uncleanliness” in the Bible is in Numbers 5:19 where it is describing the fornication/adultery of a wife after a couple is married. We deal with that under the definition of “uncleanness” below. Concerning the definition of what fornication is Brother Harold Sightler had this to say:

            “Now, what is fornication? Certainly, it is reasonable for us to desire to know just what this sin is. From the usage of the word in the New Testament there can be little doubt but that it is the word for sexual intercourse of unmarried persons. The Old Testament word for the same sin is “uncleanness” as used in Deuteronomy 24:1.” (Page 6, Divorce and Remarriage, Harold B. Sightler)

            Brother Sightler’s definition is wrong. We would agree that one of the Old Testament words used for fornication is uncleanness, but it is not in Deuteronomy 24:1. The only time in the Old Testament that uncleanness is used of fornication is in Numbers 5:19 where it is used to describe a possible case of adultery. Some Old Testament words and phrases that are used to refer to fornication are “adultery”, “uncover the nakedness”, “go in unto”, “lie with”, “lie carnally with”, “play the harlot”, “playing the whore”, “go a whoring”, “prostitute”, “sodomy”, “sodomite”, and so forth. A proper definition of the word fornication would include any perverted or illicit sexual relationship between two individuals that are not married to each other. That would properly put sodomy, adultery, premarital sex, child molestation, beastiality, and pornography under the umbrella of fornication because that is the way it is used in the New Testament. Do you think for a moment that those same sort of actions would not have ended a marriage in the Old Testament and that by stoning to death?! In the Old Testament, the penalty was stoning to death and in the New Testament the penalty is divorce. Fornication is never used of a sexual act in the Old Testament. It is always used of a spiritual act that is committed with idols. The fornication of Matthew 19:9 is not the uncleanness of Deuteronomy 24:1 because the penalty for fornication in the Old Testament was death and not the putting away of divorce allowed in Deuteronomy 24:1. We discuss this issue in some length later on. Adultery and other unlawful sexual activity between a man and a woman in the Old Testament was dealt with according to the law of Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:12-30 and in most cases required the death penalty. The exception to this rule was Deuteronomy 22:28-29 where if an unmarried man and woman were found lying together they were forced to become husband and wife and the man had to give the woman’s father 50 shekels of silver. Fornication can best be defined as any illicit sexual activity outside of the scripturally established confines of marriage. Speaking of this word Karl Baker had the following to say:

“In talking of Stinnett Ballew he says: he further states that fornication is commonly accepted to mean sexual involvement before marriage; and the only place Moses mentions divorcement is Deuteronomy 24:1-4. He uses Jesus’ remarks in Matthew 19:9 as a pretext for this conclusion, consequently, interpreting the uncleanliness of Deuteronomy 24 to be the fornication of Matthew 19. In all these points, Dr. Ballew is totally and scripturally wrong. In fact, we might as well throw in Dr. Ballew’s previous paragraph where he accused the Pharisees of twisting the Scriptures by asking why Moses would command to give a writing of divorcement and put her away, when Jesus said Moses suffered them to put away their wives to show it was an optional decree not an original design. Dr. Ballew is wrong in that statement, as well. Moses did command to give her a writing of divorcement – read Deuteronomy 24:1. The bill of divorcement had to be given to her or she would be called an ADULTERESS (Romans 7:1-3). Anybody knows that who knows the law! A woman could marry another man under the law by either death or divorcement, but if it was by divorcement; she had to have proof or she would be stoned (Leviticus 20:10). The good doctor forgot to study Scripture with Scripture before he made such a statement, for if he had checked the cross-reference of Matthew 19 in his center reference Bible, it would have taken him to Mark 10:2-4 where it is Jesus who asked what did Moses command you, and it’s the Pharisees who replied Moses suffered us to write a bill of divorcement. Kind of messes up his accusation a little, doesn’t it? One thing is for sure, contrary to Dr. Ballew’s assumption, Jesus was not interpreting the uncleanliness of Deuteronomy 24:1 to be fornication as a sex act committed before marriage. All we have to do is go to Deuteronomy 22.... Look at Deuteronomy 22 and see if it does not wash away Dr. Ballew’s foundation of sand, (the uncleanliness of Deuteronomy 24 is fornication before marriage)....”[The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, pages 80-81]

“Jesus said except it be for fornication. You have no right to corrupt the word of God by saying it is an act before you get married when all the evidence points to any time a man or woman is unfaithful to their marriage vows, the offended party has a right to seek a divorce if they cannot live with it. God did it any Ezekiel 16 and Jeremiah 3. If the offended party decides to remarry, they have not sinned! Jesus made the allowance! You have no right to condemn what God allows.” [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, page 100]

Brother Karl Baker’s point is well taken that the uncleanness of Deuteronomy 24 is not the fornication of Matthew 19:9. We deal with that issue several times in this chapter. One could ask at what point does adultery become fornication.           

            A woman is guilty of being a whore and a harlot when she commits her first act of fornication and/or adultery. A man is guilty of being a whoremonger when he commits his first act of fornication and/or adultery. What that means is that if you come together sexually with multiple partners, then you have had, or do have, multiple (living) spouses. Many pastors scream against acts of fornication being called marriages because they and many of their deacons are guilty of premarital sex and/or adultery after their marriages. The act of adultery also constitutes an act of fornication. If the sexual act(s) constitute a marriage (and it does), then they are guilty of having multiple wives which by their own twisted interpretation and application would permanently disqualify them from the ministry. Again, the Holy Ghost plainly states in 1 Corinthians 6:16 that when a man joins himself unto an harlot that they become one flesh. That is the definition of a scriptural marriage. Some of the men we are talking about were guilty of fornication before they were saved and some of them were guilty of fornication after they were saved. God does not give a different set of qualifications for the ministry based upon whether a man was saved or lost. Many self-righteous, once-married peacocks take what they consider to be the “safe” route by not allowing anyone who has ever been divorced, saved or lost, to enter into the ministry. While we partially agree with that interpretation that salvation is not the issue, we totally disagree that divorce is the disqualifying issue. The issue is how many scriptural wives does a man have in the present tense. What that means is if a man has a former wife that he has been scripturally divorced from, that she is no longer counted as a wife. If the divorced man did not remarry, he does not have a wife. If he remarried, then he has only one wife. The same reasoning applies to a widower.

            For those who say that a married person cannot fornicate you need to reread Matthew 19:9 where the Lord Jesus Christ uses both the word “adultery” and the word “fornication”. You also need to read Ezekiel 16 where adultery is equated with fornication at least three times. For those of you who like running to “the Greek” you also need to know that we know that two entirely different Greek words are used for fornication and adultery in Matthew 19:9. Many fundamentalists claim to love the King James Bible until you challenge their doctrine. Then they like to run to “the Greek” and that is especially true in interpreting 1 Timothy 3:2. We do not speak Greek and if we did, we would still use the King James Bible. “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue”(1 Corinthians 14:19). Greek is an unknown tongue in an English speaking congregation.


            It is sometimes difficult to determine the exact definition of the word uncleanness because it is used in so many different ways in the Old Testament to describe such things as ceremonial uncleanness, religious uncleanness, unlawful sexual activity, a woman’s menstrual cycle, any discharge of waste from the human body, dead human bodies, leprosy, the touching of dead animals, the consumption of certain unclean animals, and so forth. In the New Testament, the word “uncleanness” is also used in a number of different ways that fall into two different categories: spiritual uncleanness and sexual uncleanness. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of uncleanness is:

“Lack of moral cleanness ; moral impurity.” [Oxford English Dictionary]

            In a 1603 Shakespeare work called “Measure For Measure”, we have the following contextual definition for uncleanness:

“Marry sir, by my wife, who, if she had bin a woman Cardinally giuen, might haue bin accus'd in fornication, adultery, and all vncleanlinesse there.” [Cited from the Oxford English Dictionary and Shakespeare’s 1603 work “Measure For Measure]

To put this phrase in today’s English it would say: “Marry sir, by my wife, who, if she had been a woman Cardinally given, might have been accused in fornication, adultery, and all uncleanness there”. Notice in this definition that the words fornication AND adultery are equated with all uncleanness. That is the same sense that it is used in the Old Testament in Numbers chapter 5. Numbers chapter 5 verses 12, 13, and 19 state:

Numbers 5:12-13

12 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, 13 And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner;

Numbers 5:19

19 And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:

            If the woman in Numbers 5 had actually been caught in the act of adultery, then both her and the adulterer would have been stoned to death as required by Leviticus 20:10. Leviticus 20:10 reads:

Leviticus 20:10

10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

In the context of Numbers 5, it is obvious that the husband and the woman suspected of adultery or fornication had been married for some time. The woman is said to have lain with a man carnally in Numbers 5:13.Verse 13 also indicates that her adultery had not resulted in a pregnancy. That fact is revealed in the phrase “neither be she taken with the manner”. In Numbers 5:19 we see that uncleanness is equated with adultery and/or fornication, but that is not the case in Deuteronomy 24:1-2 where it is stated:

Deuteronomy 24:1-2

1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.

            The marginal note in the King James Bible for Deuteronomy 24:1 sheds some light on the interpretation of the phrase “found some uncleanness”. The King James marginal note refers to it as a matter of nakedness. In other words, it may have been some defect that could not be observed until the woman was naked in the marriage bed. It is also possible that the uncleanness described in Deuteronomy could be a physical defect that was not evident until there was an attempt to consummate the sexual relationship in the marriage bed. If the uncleanness of Deuteronomy 24:1-2 were adultery then the law of Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:13-21 would apply which would bring the death penalty and not divorce. Brother Karl Baker had this to say about the uncleanness of Deuteronomy 24:

“The uncleanliness of Deuteronomy 24 is not fornication before marriage, because that is covered in Deuteronomy 22! It is evident that Jesus cannot be interpreting fornication to be the uncleanliness of Deuteronomy 24:1, because when a man found his espoused wife had fornicated before marriage, he did not give her a writing of divorcement; rather, he took her to the elders of the city to be proved, and she better have proof in hand or she was to be stoned. Divorce for uncleanness cannot be fornication. It must be something her husband could not stand about her that he considered unclean. Why do you think the Pharisees are saying “for every cause”? One more reason we should know that Deuteronomy 24:1 is not premarital sex is that when the woman goes out with her divorce papers she can be another man’s wife; do you believe the divorce does not state why he put her away? Moreover, do you believe that the second husband does not know he is not marrying a virgin? Also, does not Deuteronomy 24:3 say that if the latter husband hates her, that he can divorce are also? Is the latter husband putting her away for fornication also? Why would the first husband want her back if she were a fornicator in the first place?” [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, page 83]

            The word uncleanness is used much the same way in the New Testament as it is in the Old Testament. It is used in both a spiritual sense and in a sexual sense. It is used eight times in relation to sexual uncleanness. We will look at Romans 1:24-28, Galatians 5:19, and Colossians3:5 where we see: 

Romans 1:24-28

24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Galatians 5:19

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Colossians 3:5

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

In all three occurrences of the word “uncleanness” in the above Scriptures, we can see from the context of the word that it is a reference to some sort of sexual sin. It is not identified with any particular sexual sin just sexual sin in general. It obviously has more to do with a wicked mind set or tendency to commit sexual sins. It is used in the context of sexual acts such sodomy, adultery, fornication, lasciviousness, inordinate affection, and evil concupiscence. These are all actions that lead to divorce and the destruction of the God ordained institution of marriage. A more and more frequent event in our reprobate American society is that of same sex, sodomite relationships destroying scriptural marriages. So, it is a very serious issue that must be dealt with. The question that must be answered by those who advocate no divorce under any circumstance, no divorce except for adultery, and no divorce except for fornication is what if any scriptural grounds exist for a divorce when an innocent spouse has been the victim of a spouse who has been guilty of sodomy, or pornography, or beastiality, or child molestation? Are you actually going to tell me that the exception clauses “saving for the cause of fornication” in Matthew 5:32 and “except it be for fornication” in Matthew 19:9 do not apply to acts of fornication that involve sodomy, pornography, beastiality, child molestation, and adultery?? Speaking strictly to the issue of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, how do you administer justice and punishment in the New Testament economy for sexual sins that required the death penalty in the Old Testament economy? The obvious conclusion is that divorce is the recourse for the offenses of fornication and/or adultery in marriage.


            We open this section by quoting Brother Karl Baker who wrote:

“It is evident that divorce can be the only action to alleviate the suffering that once was a capitol punishment (Leviticus 20:10). It replaces the Old Testament form of judgment against the unchaste in marriage. The Lord in his omniscience knew that because nations and laws outside of Israel’s theocracy were going to be reached, and just as the Jews were unable to enforce certain laws after it fell into secular powers and their jurisdictions (John 18:31-32), so would the Christians in those countries where the gospel would be ministered, need effectual ordinances for the sake of moral and spiritual relief... One thing more, if adultery is the second “ceremony” and not a “sex act” (page 33, Dr. Ballew’s book), does it include the “adultery” of 1 Corinthians 6:10?” [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, page 128]

            Divorce is the putting away of a husband or wife. God put away Israel for adultery. Though God hates putting away, he regulated divorce in the Old Testament Law because he knew the hardness and the wickedness of mens hearts would lead to divorces that would bring great harm if they were not restrained by the Law. God also regulates divorce in the New Testament by limiting its grounds to adultery, fornication, and desertion. There was no divorce allowed in the Old Testament for adultery and fornication because the adulterer and the adulteress were put to death. Though allowing for divorce in the New Testament, God has deliberately made divorce as difficult and as painful as possible because if He did not the institution of marriage would be destroyed by the unbridled lust and wickedness of men’s and women’s hearts. By the time God was incarnate in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, divorce was being practiced for every cause by the Jewish people contrary to the law and the original intent of God that marriage be one man and one woman becoming “one flesh”for a lifetime (No man or woman separates from their flesh without dying). God in the flesh rebuked the Pharisees for their licentious interpretation and application of Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

            The words used in our King James Bibles to describe the destruction of a marriage are put away, putteth away, putting away, divorce, divorced, divorcement, unmarried, and loosed. These words are used to describe the breakup of human marriages and the putting away of God’s wife, Israel. These words occur in only twenty-seven (27) verses in the whole Bible. These 27 verses occur in the context of only 105 verses dealing with the issue of divorce. Forty-four of those verses come from Ezra chapter 10 alone. So that you may go and read all these Scriptures in context we include them here and they are: Leviticus 21:7, Leviticus 21:14, Leviticus 22:13, Numbers 30:9, Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Ezra 10:1-44, Isaiah 50:1, Jeremiah 3:1-11, Ezekiel 44:22, Malachi 2:10-16, Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:3-12, Mark 10:2-12, Luke 16:18, 1 Corinthians 7:10-15, and 1 Corinthians 7:27-28. Make sure that you read and study all the verses in context because a verse taken out of context is a pretext for false doctrine. Some would include Romans 7:1-4 in the list of verses that we just gave, but those verses are not about divorce. Those verses are about a woman who would be guilty of adultery. Those verses are not being used by the Holy Ghost to teach doctrine about men’s divorces. The Holy Ghost is using those verses to teach that once we die to our sin we are no longer in bondage to, or married to Satan, and are therefore loosed and free to marry the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, Romans 7:1-4 can be used to interpret the words “loosed” and “bound”in 1 Corinthians 7:27. And we do use them later for that purpose. God’s attitude toward divorce is best illustrated by Malachi 2:10-16 where He states:

Malachi 2:10-16

10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts. 13 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. 14 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. 15 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. 16 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.

            Not only were these wicked men and wicked priests divorcing the wives of their youth, they were taking up with “the daughters of a strange God” who were nothing but temple prostitutes. The priests were the leaders in this wickedness before God as is documented in Malachi 2:1-9 and yet they continued to minister in the house of God while committing adultery with temple prostitutes. That sounds like some “fundamentalist” churches of today. Now, let’s go pick up twenty-three more of the verses that we called out above (We deal with Ezra chapter 10 under a separate topic in this chapter):

Leviticus 21:13-14
13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity. 14 A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.

Leviticus 22:13

13 But if the priest’s daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father’s house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father’s meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof.

These verses in Leviticus give us no real insight into the meaning of the word divorce. We do not get a scriptural definition of divorce until we reach Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where it is written:

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

            Note that a bill of divorcement had to be written and given to the woman that was being divorced so that she would be allowed to go out of her former husband’s house and remarry. If she tried to marry another man without a bill of divorce, both she and the man she would marry would be stoned to death for adultery as required by Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22. For that reason, the uncleanness of Deuteronomy 24:1 could not be fornication or adultery because a divorce was allowed in Deuteronomy 24. Now, we come to the matter of God’s divorce which we have already stated was caused by Israel’s adultery. This divorce is recorded in Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:8 where we read:

Isaiah 50:1

1 Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

Jeremiah 3:8

8 [The Lord said] And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

            So much for the statements of many fundamentalists preachers and pastors that adultery is not a grounds for divorce as we have already discussed above. To get a real grasp of the issues involved here, you really need to read and study all of Ezekiel 16 and Jeremiah 3:1-11. Ezekiel 44:21-22 is the last Old Testament Scripture we will look at.

Ezekiel 44:21-22

21 Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court. 22 Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away: but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that had a priest before.

            In Ezekiel 44:22, the phrase “her that is put away” refers to a divorced woman. Now, lets turn to the New Testament where a great deal of controversy exists over Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:6-9, Mark 10:7-12, Luke 16:18, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, and 1 Corinthians 7:27-28. Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:31-32

31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Now let’s turn to Matthew 19:6 where we read:

Matthew 19:6-9

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Now let’s turn to Mark 10 and begin reading in verse 7:

Mark 10:7-12

4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

Luke 16:18

18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

            Those verses in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 do not say that a person cannot marry any divorced person. What these verses are saying is that a person cannot marry another person who has been put away (divorced) for fornication else he or she is guilty of adultery. What this also means is that a single person can commit adultery because it is said that both are guilty of adultery. That is why both were stoned to death under the Old Testament law. These verses do not say that a man or woman commits perpetual adultery if they marry a divorced person. We deal with that issue in a separate topic that follows. The conditional statements “saving for the cause of fornication” and “except it be for fornication”is what drives the interpretation of both of these passages as it relates to who is guilty of adultery and who is allowed to divorce and remarry. We deal with those issues below under the topics of the scriptural grounds for divorce and remarriage.

            Many argue on the basis of Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9 that God puts all marriages together. This false doctrine creates its own list of difficult problems and impossible situations that are to numerous to be dealt with here. Imagine the myriad of scenarios that could be documented or devised that would be almost impossible to resolve. From a human perspective, the sin and damage of most divorces cannot be undone and must be dealt with in an attitude of forgiveness that does not bring the repentant sinner under endless condemnation. However, if they will not repent, they are under the condemnation of God. Those repentant sinners guilty of causing divorces should be forgiven and charged to “go, and sin no more”. If an unrepentant sinner continues down a path of adultery, they must be put out of the church. This discussion brings us to this conclusion: Contrary to what many fundamentalist and Baptist preachers and pastors preach and teach, God does not put most marriages together. While God in his permissive will allows unscriptural marriages, he does not put them together. God does not put a believer and an unbeliever together. God did not put a Jew and a pagan together. The scriptures do not say: “what therefore God has allowed to be joined together, let not man put asunder”. The scripture is emphatic that God joined them together. There have been a lot of unholy unions down through the years. The last such unholy union will take place during the tribulation when the apostate church, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS, becomes the bride of Satan. How many marriages today do you think God has actually joined together?

            “Divorced” in the Old Testament and the New Testament is a term meaning having been married but now unmarried. Being scripturally unmarried, gives you the right to remarry (Deuteronomy 24:2-3; Matthew 19:9; and 1 Corinthians 7:15, 27-28). In 1 Corinthians 7 we have the case of a believing wife that has left an unbelieving husband and the following instructions are the charge to the believer from the Holy Ghost:

1 Corinthians 7:10-11

10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

1 Corinthians 7:27-28

27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

            First Corinthians 7:10-11, plainly states that the departed spouse is unmarried. You cannot be unmarried without a divorce. That does away with the whole false idea that the term “unmarried” of 1 Corinthians 7:11 is referring to a temporary separation. Therefore, “unmarried” applies to those who have never been married and to those who have been married but are no longer married because of death or divorce. The term unmarried only occurs four times in our Bibles and all these are in 1 Corinthians 7. Concerning this term “unmarried” in 1 Corinthians 7:11, Brother Karl Baker had this to say:

            Unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband! Now if married means a ceremony and she had one, because she had a husband, how can she remain unmarried? Unless the word “married” means, as we have implied, not to join her flesh to another man’s flesh, thereby marrying with him. Is that not also how Paul use the term in Romans 7, “So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress,”? That is why Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 emphasizes not joining ourselves to harlots, because in so doing we become “one flesh” even though we did not intend to “marry” her. We technically are marrying her when we join our flesh with hers.” [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, page 94]

            Brother Baker is driving home the idea that it is the sexual relationship that establishes the marriage. Divorce ends that sexual relationship. Divorce is a very painful thing because it is the ripping asunder of one flesh. Divorce is a knife in the heart of love. Divorce is death itself. In many ways divorce is much more painful than the death of a spouse because if you love someone you will always wonder if there was something you could have done to have prevented the divorce. Divorce is not always a sin in the Bible for all parties involved. There can be an innocent party in a divorce. The Bible no where says that divorce is sin. Sin can and does lead to divorce. In quoting Stinnett Ballew, Brother Karl Baker had this to say about the doctrine that states that divorce is sin:

            “let me, [Stinnett Ballew], say in the very beginning divorce is sin. It is not the unpardonable sin, but it certainly is sin. I do not believe any couple is ever led of the Lord to get a divorce. Divorce is man’s way out, not God’s.” Then Brother Karl Baker states: “But Dr. Ballew, the Bible states in 1 John 3:4, “sin is a transgression of the law”. Where is the Scripture that backs up the statement that divorce is sin? I realize that divorce can be sin (Matthew 19:9) and can cause sin (Matthew 19:9) but divorce is not sin in every case. Deuteronomy 24 is the law, and what the law allowed or made a provision for cannot be called sin (Romans 7:12, 14 also, Romans 5:13). Jesus allow divorced for fornication and desertion by an unbeliever (Matthew 19:9, 1 Corinthians 7:15 ), and it cannot be sin if our Lord condoned it as acceptable.... God himself has gone through a divorce! [The Marriage & Divorce Controversy, Karl Baker, page 75]

            We have heard it stated many times that divorce is always sin and that both parties to the divorce are guilty of sin. That is not true. To state that “Divorce is ALWAYS wrong” or “God NEVER approves of divorce” is to contradict the Scriptures. The following scriptural facts contradict those views: (1) God gave a law that permitted and regulated divorce AND REMARRIAGE (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).(2) It was the will of God that the priests and the people of Israel put away their strange wives (Ezra 10:10-11).(3) God Himself divorced the nation of Israel (Isaiah 50:1-2, Jeremiah 3:8).(4) The Lord Jesus Christ granted permission to divorce AND REMARRY if a spouse was guilty of fornication (Matthew 19:9). (5) the Holy Ghost allows for divorce in 1 Corinthians 7 in cases of desertion by an unbeliever. Next in our discussion, we will deal with the scriptural grounds for divorce.

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