Marriage, divorce and remarriage.


The Grammatical Gymnastics of an

Advocate for Divorce and


BLOG POST | November 8, 2018

Recently I have come across some novel arguments to justify remarriage after divorce while the original spouse is still living. I will not name the advocate of remarriage on the blog: suffice to say that on social media he began commenting on a video link to Prof. David Engelsma’s lecture at the British Reformed Fellowship Conference (2018), “Unbiblical Divorce and Adulterous Remarriage: A Scandal.” He labeled it “proscribed heresy” and called those who agreed with the lecture “hypocritical legalists” who “damage the church and mock the grace of Christ,” adding that we were “perfect illustrations of the haughty Pharisees,” and called us to repent. Then he called our position “false, anti-Reformed, and unbiblical,” as well as “schismatic and destructive of true Christian compassion.” He argued (correctly) that neither Luther nor Calvin agreed with our position, which Prof. Engelsma fully admits in his book Marriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church. While we admire the Reformers, they were (sadly) not strong on the subject of divorce and remarriage. This is reflected in the otherwise excellent Westminster Confession of Faith.

Because I did not want my answer to be buried in a long Facebook thread where the advocate for remarriage made his novel arguments, I decided to make it public here. I hope it will serve as a witness to the truth of the unbreakable marriage bond. Some of the arguments from Greek grammar are quite involved, so I ask for the reader’s indulgence.

In addition, I am not interested in attacking personalities or churches. I am merely interested in the arguments, especially exegetical arguments, for God’s word is the final arbiter on this and all matters.

I should point out right at the beginning, however, that knowledge of Greek grammar is not necessary for the child of God. The King James Version of the Bible is an accurate translation of the original Greek and Hebrew, and no theologian or pastor should give the impression that the Bible cannot be comprehended without recourse to the original languages: we believe in the perspicuity of holy scripture, that is, we believe that the Bible is clear, so clear that, if a child of God has a good translation, he can understand the scriptures; yet the Bible is so profound and rich that the greatest theologian cannot plumb its depths. Moreover, we believe in the office of believer according to which every child of God has the blessed privilege of knowing and understanding God’s word without the need of “experts” or a “priestly class” in the church.

In addition, the main issue is clear. Marriage is a lifelong, unbreakable bond between one man and one woman, in which the two become one, enjoying intimate fellowship with one another, which fellowship, both in the Old Testament and New Testament reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. In scripture God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16); and even when he gives his adulterous, unfaithful wife a “bill of divorce” (Jer. 3:8), he still declares himself married to his people (v. 14), and he never takes another people (i.e., the Lord never remarries).

Moreover, when Jesus deals with the subject of divorce and remarriage, he does so in the context of a controversy he has with the Pharisees, many of whom had a very permissive view of divorce and subsequent remarriage. The Pharisees made their main appeal to Deuteronomy 24:1–4, where they interpreted the “some uncleanness” as allowing divorce for every cause. Before Jesus addressed that text, however, he reminded the Pharisees of God’s original command in Genesis (showing, incidentally, that Jesus believed in the authority and historicity of the creation account of Genesis 1–2):
Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt. 19:4–6; see also Mark 10:6–9).
In those words, Jesus defines marriage as between one man and one woman and confirms that God created two (and only two) genders, refuting the “same sex marriage” and “transgender” movements of our day.

The Pharisees counter in Matthew 19:7 with an appeal to Moses in Deuteronomy 24: “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” Notice how Jesus reframes the issue in his response: the Pharisees speak of a “command,” but Jesus refers to Deuteronomy 24 as permission or concession (God “suffered you”). This is accurate, for in Deuteronomy God does not command the people to put away their wives, but he legislates for divorce in such a way that the woman who is put away receives legal protection. To paraphrase: “If you are so stubborn and hardhearted as to desire to put away your wife, you may not do so unless you give her a bill of divorcement, which bill will protect her and give her some legal rights. Otherwise, you are, as it were, throwing her to the wolves when you divorce her.” God’s command is: Do not put away your wife; the concession is: if you divorce, give her a bill of divorcement.

This is clearly Christ’s authoritative interpretation of the law: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you [permitted you] to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). Hardhearted Pharisees appealed to Deuteronomy 24 because they desired to rid themselves of their spouses. Hardhearted people in the church follow their Pharisaical forebears, which is ironic, for it makes them (and not churches who argue for the permanency of the marriage bond, and who forbid divorce and remarriage in the preaching and in discipline) the children of the Pharisees on this issue.

Moses permitted it, but Jesus does not permit it. “For the hardness of your heart he [Moses] wrote you this precept, but from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:5–6). “But from the beginning it was not so, and I say unto you…” (Matt. 19:8–9).

In addition, of course, the stipulation of Deuteronomy 24 no longer applies in the New Testament. What applies is Christ’s authoritative teaching on the permanency of marriage in which he gives no concession to hard hearts!

The apostle Paul repeats the teaching of Jesus, insisting that a divorced and remarried woman (one living with a second or subsequent husband) is an adulteress (and he makes no reference to the “permission” of Deuteronomy 24): “If, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man” (Rom. 7:3). Only death breaks the marriage bond to permit remarriage: widows and widowers may remarry; divorced persons may not as long as their original spouse lives.

In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul applies the teaching of the Lord to marriage: “Let not the wife depart from her husband” [No divorce] (v. 10). “But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried [No remarriage], or be reconciled to her husband [The original bond of marriage could and should be restored]: and let not the husband put away his wife” [No divorce] (v. 11). Remarriage after divorce makes reconciliation with one’s original spouse almost impossible, which is another reason why God forbids it. The permanency of marriage applies even, says Paul, when there is a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever: “Let him not put her away” (v. 12); “let her not leave him” (v. 13). The only exception is where the believer is wickedly abandoned by his unbelieving spouse: then, divorce is possible: “Let him depart” (v. 15). Nevertheless, the abandoned believer may not remarry. Verse 15 does not permit remarriage in the case of desertion, but rather the deserted believer may live without shame and enjoy peace: “A brother or sister is not under bondage [the meaning is not “is not bound;” that is a different verb] in such cases: but God hath called us to peace” (v. 15).

Paul ends the chapter by reaffirming the permanency of the marriage bond: “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead [with real, physical death that puts him in the grave], she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord” (v. 39).

The Bible is clear: marriage is a lifelong bond broken only by death; divorce is permitted, although not required, only on the grounds of adultery; and remarriage (a second or subsequent marriage) is not permitted to either party in the marriage while the original spouse is alive.

Having set forth the teaching of Christ, I plan to address the novel grammatical arguments of the advocate of remarriage. Again I ask for the reader’s indulgence, as some of this will be complicated; however, I hope that most readers will be able to grasp most of what I write.

To be continued…

This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comment section on the blog.

What Will Your Legacy Be?

So I challenge you: What legacy are you leaving behind? Are you leaving a legacy that will long outlive you and be felt in subsequent generations? Will your legacy impact your immediate family, local believers, unbelievers, or even the body of Christ around the world?

A strong spiritual legacy doesn’t just happen by accident. Be intentional about what kind of legacy you want to leave behind. Let how you spend your time and money speak clearly to what that legacy will be. If you have children and grandchildren, pour into them. Spend time with them. Engage in meaningful, spiritual conversations. Encourage them; share your story; offer wisdom; always point them to Christ and God’s Word.

Too many grandparents waste the precious years they have with their grandchildren. Instead of recognising that their race is not yet finished, they leave the spiritual instruction of their grandchildren completely up to the child’s parents or church and instead focus solely on building memories or retirement. But God doesn’t say age 65 is when our race is run! We have a calling to declare God’s works to our children and their children (Deuteronomy 4:9). You have a unique perspective and wisdom you can pass along to encourage the next generation. Don’t waste your latter years!

What will your legacy be?

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children. (Proverbs 13:22)

Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis)

Temptation (46)


Further thoughts from John Owen on temptation or trial:

1.God can send an affliction that shall put to death some sin of the flesh in your heart in the matter of temptation, whatever it be, that that which was before a sweet morsel under the tongue shall neither have taste or relish in it unto thee,—thy desire to it shall be killed.

2.Or he can, by some providence, alter that whole state of things from whence thy temptation doth arise, so taking fuel from the fire, causing it to go out by itself.

3. Or he can tread down Satan under thy feet, that he shall not dare to suggest any thing any more to thy disadvantage (the God of peace shall do it), that thou shalt hear of him no more (Romans 16:20).

4. Or he can give thee such supply of grace as that thou mayst be freed, though not from the temptation itself, yet from the tendency and danger of it;

5. Or he can give thee such a comfortable persuasion of good success in the issue as that thou shalt have refreshment in thy trials, and be kept from the trouble of the temptation.

6. Or he can utterly remove it, and make thee a complete conqueror.

Consider where the temptation wherewith thou art surprised hath made its entrance, and by what means, and with all speed make up the breach. Stop that passage which the waters have made to enter in at. Deal with thy soul like a wise physician. Inquire when, how, by what means, thou fellest into this sin; and if thou findest negligence, carelessness, want of keeping watch over thyself, to have lain at the bottom of it, fix thy soul there,—bewail that before the Lord,—make up that breach,—and then proceed to the work that lies before thee (adapted)


BRF conference 2018

British Reformed Fellowship conference, Hebron Hall, near Cardiff, Wales 21-28th July 2018


Notes of speeches and devotions. Links to U tube messages.

Day 1


Zech.3:1-8  Joshua, like us, is instituted into the holy priesthood by being given the robes of imputed righteousness. We are all priests to offer up spiritual sacrifices-first ourselves and also our praise, thanks, giving and intercessory prayers. Abraham, Joshua and Job led their families as priestly heads in devotion.

Day 2

Hating Family  Rev. McGeown

Luke 14:25-35  Believers must have a holy hatred of family as David spoke about in Psalm 139,which includes forsaking (rejecting) their influence and even their company if required, though it is not necessarily physical separation. We have no fellowship (spiritual) with those who hate the Lord when what they say, do or advise conflicts with devotion to Christ. They must not be allowed to lead us into sin. The cross mentioned in these verses is a painful self-denial for Christ’s sake-he may send a sword to sever ties. Our real family is the family of God, as was Jesus’.

All speeches plus Q/AS on U tube. Click on 1/18 top left to view them all.


Ps.92:12-15 (Gen.17:6) Kings shall come from our families, indeed as believers we are all kings and priests (Rev.1:6).

Day 3

God of the Living      Rev.Andrew Lanning

Matthew 22:32         Jesus teaches that earthly marriage which is only a type will give place to the greater and more blessed heavenly marriage between Christ and his bride. The Sadducees’ unbelief made them materialistic political agitators. Today their like do not believe in a spiritual beginning of all things (by God) and a spiritual ending (to all human lives). God has an eye on all the dust that we will become to fashion it into resurrection bodies. Marriage must be dissolved to make way for the greater reality. What Christ describes is covenant life which is eternal as he is, the great I AM of the burning bush. Because HE IS, we are! We are already resurrected to new life in Christ, our souls will be resurrected into heaven at death and on the last day our souls will be reunited with resurrected body. The astonishment of the people was like a knock down blow. Remember Christ IS the resurrection.

Family and Education      Pete Adams

Deut. 6:7     School at home   We want to instill: respect for authority, work ethic, love for neighbour, manners and devotion(s). Formal school is supported in Scripture Gal.4:2  tutors appointed by fathers. Being in a true church vital to children (Ps.128:5)-blessed out of Zion.

The Blessed Eunuch      Rev. Angus Stewart

Isaiah 56   Resting in Christ (the real Sabbath keeping) the eunuch belonged to him and this ultimately is more important that having children. These eunuchs are believers who cannot have children. They are either born eunuchs, made eunuchs, make themselves eunuchs (either by divorce or being divorced and staying unmarried), remaining single, or being a barren man or woman. Deut. 23:1 is rescinded. They are forbidden to indulge in self-pity. God knows best. Think of Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8) likely the tool used to bring many of his countrymen into the catholic church. Eunuchs have a place and a name in God’s eternal kingdom.


Devotions    John 14:1-26  As disciples we have a place in God’s family-adopted as children by our Father with Jesus as our elder brother in the family love of the comforting Holy Spirit.

Day 4

Devotions– Romans 1:7-12 and Phil.1:3-10. Paul addresses two church families emphasising fellowship with them and the fact he prays regularly for them.

Trip to Raglan Castle and Gloucester

Divine Origin of the Family  Rev. Andrew Lanning

Origin determines authority and origin directs honour.

Gen.1:1-3, 26-28, 2:18-25

God makes the rules as the creator.

  • Family…In the divine being, the trinity is a family that is complete.
  • Regarding the church he is husband and the church his wife and the mother of his children (including Jesus)
  • Families are generally God’s will (society opposes this) as is being fruitful I Tim.5:14
  • God’s idea of sex-male and female and man needing a helper

Marriage is a civil ordinance-the state has a role.

Devotions-Isaiah 42-43:13. The gathering of the whole church family.

Day 5

Devotions Psalm 111

Note verse 9, God keeps his covenant (to save families in O.T. and N.T) for ever!

Defence of the Gospel (being about marriage and the family)    Prof. David Engelsma

Ephesians 5:22-6:4

Marriage and the family is gospel truth. Errors about the family are errors about the gospel (e.g. allowing divorce and remarriage)

The family promotes the gospel and is the means of extending the kingdom. The witness of loving husband and submissive wife promotes the gospel and covenant children brought up in nurture and admonition of the Lord extends the kingdom in families. The gospel saves families. The gospel proclaims family-marriage is at the heart of the gospel (Christ loving the church and giving himself for her). And marriage to Christ after being dead to the law (Rom.7:2,3). Conversely it is a scandal (stumbling block) when Christians divorce.

Defining marriage -one man, one woman for life plus or minus children (Matt.19:5, Eph.5:25).

Baptists offend the little ones. Paedobaptism is believers bringing their infants to Christ as in gospel (Matt.19:3,4). Nurture and admonition only possible if children are regenerate (spiritually alive). Promise of salvation still is to believers and their seed (Acts 2:38-39).

Malformed marriages as in polygamy in O.T. do not promote gospel.

Our real, lasting spiritual family is the church.

Basis for all this is the fact God is family

All attacks on the family are attacks on God and these are destructive of society, reason for gangs etc. (80% families in Chicago one parent).

God blesses the Christian family Psalm 128.

The God-fearing man and his virtuous wife  Rev. Andrew lanning

Psalm 128/Proverbs 31:10-31

The calling of the Christian husband-to fear the Lord (a reverential awe and love for eternal, unchangeable, self-sufficient Jehovah Jesus), in all paths of obedience, be the loving head of his wife with sacrificial love, understanding her, honouring and protecting her especially against the threat of being deceived-so needs to know the truth, lead her to a true church and have daily Bible-based devotions with her.

The calling of the Christian wife-to fear the Lord, not seek favour of others or external beauty(wrong aims) but rather seek God’s favour, submission (hence not ruling over men in church or family), because she sees Christ working through him. She is the unique helper who complements him (therefore need to communicate freely), this all applies even to the wife of an unbeleiving spouse.

All in all this relationship reflects Christ’s relationship with his church.

Other insights: evolutionism, the feminist movement and the false gospel of Arminianism (free-willism in which Christ is impotent) have all contributed to the erosion of all authority (no absolute standard) and the emasculation of men in society and church.


Isaiah 55:5 The calling of the catholic (universal) church.

Day 6


Psalm 116   Communion with God including Christ on the cross (vv3,15) and the hope of resurrection (v9). Importance of communication in the family and prayer for individual children.

Trip to St. Fagan’s castle and museum of Welsh Life.

Spousal Abuse    Prof. Engelsma

Psalm 56.

Song of Solomon 1:15-2:15

Fact is it is happening in Reformed churches.

Nature: deliberate relentless pattern of destructive behaviour towards wife soul and body. Often cyclical. Physical or emotional/verbal. Note sex is a debt to please the other. Abuser characterised by claiming entitlement, threats and control. Abuse must be dealt with in the churches. Abuse is murder (Heidelberg LD40) I Cor.5 and 6 speaks of reviling and railing. It violates marriage oath.

Church’s calling: preach truth on marriage, confront abuser, wife’s submission should be response to love. Family visitation should examine spiritual condition of family and help. Pastor needs to be involved. Separation may be necessary.

Deliverance: prevention best-women check out future spouse, parents ditto. Men-determine to love. Consistory involvement and counselling. If guilty must be genuine repentance. Abuser may be a hypocrite.

Free booklet available from CPRC bookshop.

Devotions: Psalm 45 (marriage psalm). Ephesians 4 note especially “forgiving one another” (v32).

Day 7

Devotions     Psalm 133   Ed Bos noted how he has seen unity in the conference grow over the years.

Psalm 124  God delivers his people from the persecution or through it.


BRF Meeting

Decisions: Next conference July 11-18th 2018  Castlewellan Castle, County Down, Northern Ireland

Speakers  Prof. Engelsma and Rev Lanning

Topic: Union with Christ


Parents and Children    Prof. Engelsma

Psalm 89:27-37

Malachi 2:11-16

The destruction of the family is the cause of much of the ills of society and governments actively contribute to this. The family is not only fundamental to society but also the kingdom of God.  God is angry against all attacks on the family. E.g.

Marriage with unbelievers


Provoking children to wrath by favouritism, unfair discipline etc

Neglect by husband

Fellowship is sharing one life.



Eph.1:1-12 note adoption by Father God.

Day 8


Psalm 110 The ascended Christ, David’s son takes his power to reign, triumphing by his Spirit to save his church and destroy his enemies. Quoted in Acts 2:23-39.

It’s good to be single    Rev. Lanning

1 Cor.7:1-9, 17-24

  • it may mean virginity (like Paul
  • you may be divorced or a widow(er)
  • it is good/even better than marrying (in some ways)
  • famous OT singles e.g.Miriam
  • NT single John the Baptist
  1. It is a covenant calling for some and a gift (they are able to contain sexual urges)
  2. It promotes covenant service with undistracted devotion e.g. Anna in Luke 2
  3. It is covenant satisfaction and contentment

Unbiblical divorce and adulterous remarriage     Prof. Engelsma

Matt.19:1-5, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18.

The cause of the Reformed faith and Biblical marriage is God’s and his the power to promote it.

Our authority in this as in all matters of faith and practice is Scripture. Genesis and Jesus’ interpretation of it teaches one man and one woman for life and no divorce. Only God by the power of death divides. Divorce destroys families. The call to the married is be faithful. “Commits” adultery is on-going present tense!


Ephesians 3-speaks of the mystery of the catholicity (universality) of the church and Paul’s faithful prayers for the Ephesians. May we continue to faithfully to pray for each other.

Roll on BRF 2020.









BRF Fun Run (5K) Results

  1. Emily Feenstra         F25    19m 28s     75.85%
  2. Carleen Dykstra       F31     21m 33s    68.53%
  3. Bruce Feenstra        M22    19m 08s    67.85%
  4. Joshua Harris          M18    19m 11s    67.70%
  5. Brian Buiter             M25    19m 45s    65.23%
  6. Dr Julian Kennedy   M65    26m 52s    61.98%
  7. Patrick Duerr           M9      26m 23s    61.65%
  8. David Smit              M28    26m 20s    49.31%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      well done all who took part.

Second marriages

Malachi warns people that if they are unrepentant, divorced and remarried their worship is unacceptable to God.

 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out (the tears of the abandoned spouse and children-JK), insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant (Malachi 2;13,14). Futhermore marrying for a second time while the first spouse lives is adultery (Matthew 5:31, Romans 7:2,3) and adulterers shall not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor.6:9). How many friends, even among professing Christians do you know in this position?

Royal adultery


In case, as a Christian, you are getting swept along by the royal wedding euphoria surrounding Harry and Meghan please be aware that this couple, along with Charles and Camilla and Ann and Timothy are, or will be participants in on-going adultery which bars them from the kingdom of heaven. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterersnor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,” (I Cor.6:9). What is an adulterer? Among other things it is someone married to another who has divorced and whose first spouse still lives (and so is still married in God’s eyes).  “So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” (Romans 7:3). “But I say unto you,  whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Matthew 5:32). The word of God is clear, even though the law of the land allows divorce and remarriage, in God’s eyes only death ends the marriage bond.

Divorced are still married in God’s eyes!

The apostle Paul ‘does not put in the category of the single the divorced person. The divorced are not single. They are married but divorced. This is the teaching of the words “the wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth: but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will” (I Cor.7:39). The apostle says that she is not single, though she is divorced, as long as her husband lives. The divorced are not single, but their state is a special form of the married state. Their marriage bonds are not broken, and they are called to be eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. ‘ This is Christ’s teaching when he says,”What God has joined let not man put asunder” and the Biblical teaching on the indissolubility of the marriage bond (till death do us part). Divorce is separation from bed and board NOT the annulment of marriage! Those divorced persons and those whom they marry are living in continual adultery if their first spouse still  lives and will be excluded from the kingdom of heaven-JK

From “Walking in the way of love” by Nathan Langerak

Why men must lead in church and home.

Excellent message by Rev. J. Mathani of Cornerstone PR church on Genesis 2/3 and I Tim.2:11-15.

Biblical masculinity mandates that man is the primary leader/worker and the woman/wife the help.

The first fall, the fall of marriages and the fall of churches took/takes place when men fail to lead!

God’s command/instruction was first to Adam so he would then explain to her the truths and lead her in applying God’s word to every aspect of life. Man being made first mandates male leadership and the woman to follow. She was made for him. She was deceived while Adam looked on, and failed to intervene(Gen.3:6). Men are to lead in dating, marriage and sex in marriage.He should have led her away from sinning. Adam was condemned because he listened to Eve instead of God. 

The manner of leading is first to submit to God’s word then be able to share it and Biblical principles derived from it. He ought to have said it is not good to eat it. Lovingly lead like Christ.

Rev. Jonathan Mathani

Sermon 11th March 2018