Question: Dear Bob, If you are able to speak with me on the subject of divorce and remarriage, I certainly would appreciate the help. I am desperately seeking answers to help me just get through the day as I am remarried and worry constantly about going to hell, please help if you have the time. Thank you.
Response: I'd be happy to talk about this with you. A few things by way of introduction:
Scripture is abundantly clear that believers in Jesus Christ have eternal life (1Jn.5:11-14). We are expected as believers to follow our Lord, to obey His mandates, to imitate Him as best we can, but scripture is also quite clear that none of us is perfect (cf. 1Jn.1:5-10). If "sinless perfection" after salvation were the standard, no one could be saved (Lk.18:23-26). It is true that repeated, consistent, arrogant flaunting of God hardens the heart and deadens faith (cf. 1Jn.5:16-17), but as long as faith still abides, the person is still a believer and still has eternal life abiding in them (1Jn.5:18-20).
The very fact that you are concerned about your relationship with Jesus Christ is an indication that you have one. And if you are in Christ, you have eternal life abiding in you.
The problem of divorce and remarriage is a very thorny one, and believe me when I say that you are not the only person who is concerned about these issues. I would venture to say that there are very few persons in the true Church of Jesus Christ who are not closely connected with some believer in a similar situation (if not in the very situation themselves).
Clearly, if I thought a person's ultimate eternal end depended on their changing of their marital status, I would counsel them to change. But what does Paul say to those who have married outside of the Lord (1Cor.7:12-16)? He frankly tells the believing party that they should remain in the marriage if at all possible - in spite of the fact that they have married an unbeliever, something they should not have done (cf. 1Cor.7:39; 2Cor.6:14). A marriage is still a marriage, no matter the circumstances under which it was contracted, so that it is in any case something which should not be "put asunder" (Matt.19:6; 1Cor.7:27; cf. Mal.2:16).
The reasons for these commands to "stand pat" are pretty obvious. It is not really fair to the other spouse, to the children, even to the other relatives, to so violently disturb the status quo after commitments have been made. Paul further says that the best thing is to remain in the state in which we became believers (1Cor.7:20). Clearly, many if not most of us change anyway (marrying, divorcing, remarrying), but the principle holds good: wherever one finds oneself in terms of the marriage relationship whenever this issue comes up, as Christians we should do our best to persevere in a Christian way in that status if at all possible. Obviously, there are reasons why a marriage cannot be kept together by one willing party (or should not, as in the case of abuse). But in terms of situations where a person has divorced for whatever reason and remarried for whatever reason, it seems clear to me that these same biblical principles apply, namely, that a person in such a situation ought to make the best of that present situation according to the guidance of the Word of God (and not seek change). If this is God's will, and I believe that the principle is biblical, then, certainly, following that divine guidance will not endanger salvation. We should trust and hope in God that He is able to change the situation if it must be changed.
In many, many arenas of life, we all sin and we all bind our own limbs with the "leg irons" of natural consequences. What we did yesterday is likely to affect what we do today. If we borrowed and spent in an unwise way yesterday and wish for spiritual reasons to be free and clear "owing nothing to any one" today, our creditors will not for that reason expunge our debts. God may provide the means for change. But until He does, we are expected to continue to service those debts in an honorable, Christian way. God may deliver us from an uncomfortable or bad marriage and/or from any of many other areas where we have muddied the waters and complicated our lives through our own folly. But until He does, we are expected to proceed honorably. We all, to one degree or another, have made bad decisions in our lives that have left us in weak or questionable positions (marriage being just one of the ways for us to burden ourselves down with "baggage").
God expects us to do the right thing. If we do the wrong thing, it inevitably has consequences. As we grapple with these consequences, God expects us to deal with them in a Christian way - not to make matters worse by seeking somehow to shed the responsibilities we have undertaken.
Marriage is a most solemn commitment. That is true of all marriages, even those into which a person should not have ventured. For once in a marriage, even if the marriage was inadvisable either from the point of view of prudence, or questionable circumstances, or even clear and outright violation of scripture, that marriage bond still must be taken into account (Matt.19:4-6). In my opinion, God expects us to persevere with honor, not yield to our feelings of guilt and do something that violates our commitments and may even make matters worse in the end.
Here are a few other e-mail responses I have given on similar questions:
A conversation about divorce and remarriage.
More on divorce and remarriage.
Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.
No Grounds for Divorce?
Divorce and Remarriage
More Divorce and Remarriage
The Sanctification of the Unbelieving Husband
The Unbelieving Husband
I hope that this is of some help to you. I would be happy to talk with you about this further.
Yours in the One who has washed away all our sins, our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
Thank you Bob for your prompt and thorough reply. I appreciate your candor with book, chapter and verse support. Even though my new husband and I were counseled and married by our preacher, and my husband was baptized into Christ, I just simply can't shake this terrible feeling of doom. I have begged forgiveness over and over again for the sins of my past, and I have good days and bad days. On good days, I forge ahead with life, having married a wonderful Christian man and having beautiful children. On the bad days, I pray for peace. But I love God so much and want to be with Him forever, I will do whatever He commands, and I feel like I haven't done anything right up to this point. I grew up in a denomination, was baptized at nine, and while I saw most people very secure in their salvation, I always felt out of place because I never felt "good" enough or secure, and to feel you have lost your salvation completely, is the worst feeling in the world. I never really thought about it too much until lately, and the more I learn, the more unworthy and guilty I feel, and maybe that's why all of this happened. I suppose the devil is trying to make me pull away and not trust in God, but I continue to go for my children, because I am fully responsible for their salvation and upbringing. When someone asks me to pray for them, I am afraid it is in vain, because I am such a sinner, it's as if I'm on death row.
Again, I really appreciate your e-mail, and when I am having one of "those" days, I will read it over and over. I have to push forward with life and live the last half like I should have lived the first and just pray for His grace in the end. I also pray He will use me to do His will, and sometimes I feel He does, and that is a great feeling because I know He still loves me and hasn't left me.
In Christian love.
You are welcome, and thank you for your thoughtful words.
I do want to reassure you that there is much about your approach to your relationship with Him that is scripturally commendable.
We really ought to reverently fear God as you are doing (Ps.19:9);
We really ought to walk humbly before Him as you are doing (1Pet.5:5);
We really ought to earnestly strive to please Him as you are doing (1Cor.9:24-27);
We really ought to be careful about assuming we are safe as you are taking care to do (1Cor.10:12; 2Pet.3:12).
However, it is also true that ...
We need to avoid obsessing about the past (Phil.3:13).
We need to remember that our sins have been blotted out in Christ (Is.1:18; 53:4-6).
We need to take care to enter into His peace (Heb.4:1).
For Christ has left us the blessed gift of His peace (Jn.14:27), and we are commanded to live lives of joy in the Lord (1Thes.5:16; Jas.1:2), not because life or this world is so wonderful, but because He is so wonderful. Part of loving Him is trusting Him, and part of trusting Him is having confidence that He forgives us, and loves us, and is concerned for us in every way (Jn.14:1-4), working all things together for good for us in His own sovereign way (Rom.8:28).
Casting your cares upon Him, because He cares for
1st Peter 5:7 (Psalm 55:22)
In Him who is our hope, our confident expectation of the resurrection and eternal life to come for all who have placed their trust in Him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.