DIVORCE AND DESERTION

Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California

Copyright 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved



Introduction

The doctrine of Divorce and Desertion is a difficult subject for many people. The Biblical principles pertaining to this all-to-common and devastating series of events in married lives are very important. Handling divorce and desertion properly and the profound rejection that accompanies it according to God’s Plan through correct application of His Word is the key to maintaining momentum in your spiritual life! Below, I have provided a few of the Biblical principles necessary to handle events preceding and following divorce and/or desertion. Follow them as unto the Lord.

New Testament Words for Divorce

Apoluo

The Greek word APOLUO is composed of the Greek preposition APO which means away from and the verb LUO which means to loose. Hence, the meaning is to loose away from yourself and refers to the legal dissolution of a marriage. APOLUO is so used in Matthew 1:19, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:3, Matthew 19:7, Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:2, Mark 10:4, Mark 10:11-12, and Luke 16:18.

Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19)

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32)

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" (Matthew 19:3)

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" (Matthew 19:7)

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:9)

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" (Mark 10:2)

They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." (Mark 10:4)

He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." (Mark 10:11-12)

"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Luke 16:18)

In Mark 10:12, the Lord used APOLUO to refer to a wife divorcing her husband while talking to Greeks. The Greeks permitted it, but the Jews didn't. In Jewish society, the husband could divorce his wife, but a wife could not divorce her husband. Not so with the Greeks. In the New Testament, Paul makes it clear that if there are grounds for divorce, it relates to both male and female equally. A wife could have just as much grounds for divorce as the husband. If the man is guilty of immorality and/or desertion, the woman has grounds for divorce.

Apostasion

The Greek word APO means away from and STASION is a standing or a tearing. APOSTASION means a tearing away from or a standing away from. It refers to a defection or a standing off in the marriage relationship where a cessation of the love relationship has occurred whether based on personal or impersonal love. This situation usually leads to divorce. APOSTASION was used for a bill or a writing of divorcement. This is seen in Matthew 5:31, Matthew 19:7 and Mark 10:4.

"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' (Matthew 5:31)

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" (Matthew 19:7)

They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." (Mark 10:4)

APOSTASION is also the word from which we get apostasy. What is apostasy? It is the same thing, by way of analogy, that happens in a marriage. First of all, there is rejection by one or both parties. This is what happens when a believer becomes apostate. He rejects the Word of God and becomes indifferent and hostile towards it. First, there is rejection, then there is separation.

There is separation before divorce - whether formal or in formal. This is when people who become reversionistic separate themselves from doctrine and doctrinal teaching. Then you have the divorce which means you are dead to that former relationship. Thus, people who are temporally dead are out of fellowship, they stay out of fellowship, then they perpetuate carnality into retrogression. Their rejection has gone from rejection to separation and they have divorced themselves from the entire Plan of God. They are still in the plan of God, but they are not functioning in accordance with it because of their indifference and rejection of Bible truth.

That is why APOSTASION was used as an analogy to what takes place in the dissolution of a marriage. First rejection, then separation, then divorce where you are dead to the former relationship. This is what happens to people when they get away from the Truth of God. May it never happen to any of us! May we never become indifferent to Bible truth so that we reject it in our apathy and antagonism! May we never separate ourselves from grace-oriented teaching thereby actually becoming dead to the plan of God for our lives.

The Non-Divorce/Non-Desertion Use of the Greek Word CHORIZO

Leaving or Departing

CHORIZO is a verb in the New Testament which is used for divorce and/or desertion. I want to show you some passages that illustrate the fact that it is used in other contexts for other meanings. This is the non-divorce, non-desertion use of the verb CHORIZO. Here, it means leaving or departing. For example, leaving or departing from one geographical location to another. It is used this way in Acts 1:4 where the apostles were told not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait or tarry for the promise of the Father which was the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 30 A.D. to form the Church Age.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. (Acts 1:4)

Going from One Geographical Area to Another

CHORIZO is also used in Acts 1 and Acts 2 for going from one geographical area to another. It is also used in Romans 8:35 and Romans 8:39. Here, the phrase "Who shall separate us" means to cause us to leave or depart. Nothing shall ever be able to separate us from the love of God. It is used in Romans 8:39 for separation and gives us eternal security where no thing or power could ever separate us from the love of God which is in union with Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (Romans 8:35)

neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)

Mental or Soulish Separation

CHORIZO is also used for the doctrine of mental or soulish separation in Hebrews 7:26 where it describes the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ as set apart. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners. He was separated from sinners. How can that be when He had fellowship with tax collectors who were considered the most hated people in the ancient world? The only people they could have fellowship with were prostitutes. We are not talking about sexual fellowship. We are talking about just getting together and talking, conversing, and having dinner. The Lord Jesus Christ met with the Publicans, the tax collectors, the sinners, and the prostitutes. He did not separate Himself from them physically. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from those sinners. He did not go along with their lifestyle, their viewpoint, or their way of doing what they did. He had mental and soulish separation even when He was in their midst.

Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26)

The same is true of the many times He talked to, confronted, and usually chewed out the religious leaders and religious people in His own day and age. He did not have any ivory tower or a holier-than-thou attitude. He was right there with them, trying to convince them that He was the Messiah and the Savior of the world. Jesus Christ condemned their religiosity, often in vitriolic terms, yet He always did so with a perfect unconditional love fro them exhibited by His virtue and thoughtfulness. Jesus Christ was never religious. To be religious is to be evil. Religion is man by man's efforts seeking to gain the approbation of God on the basis of his human good, his merits, and his good deeds. Religious people try to get God to smile on them and throw the pearly gates wide open. This is a terrible, terrible evil and is the control center of Satan's cosmic system of evil.

And so the Lord was not religious in any sense of the word. He was the epitome of grace. In John 1:14, in describing who and what the Lord Jesus would be, it says He would be full of grace and truth (doctrine). You cannot be full of grace and doctrine and be religious. If you are religious, you are full of something that is not grace and doctrine, but evil. The Lord was with the religious leaders and religious people trying to convince them concerning the Father's grace plan for the incarnation. He was trying to convince them of His claims - that he was the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the World as stated in Matthew 1:21.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

He was right there with them, but in His soul, thought pattern, motivation, emotion, conscience, and His volition He was totally separated from them. So, you see, this is how CHORIZO is used in the New Testament. It is used for soulish and mental separation. The Lord was with the tax collectors, but He was separated from them within His soul. He was with the prostitutes, but He was separated from them in His soul. He was with the religious people, but He was separate from them within His soul.

Marital Unfaithfulness as a Basis For Divorce

Jesus Christ was always healing people as presented in Matthew 19:1-2. He did this not only to alleviate suffering, but more importantly, to provide a platform to declare who and what He was. He loved them unconditionally and loved to heal them of their illnesses. If Jesus Christ healed others only to alleviate human suffering, then our Lord was terribly amiss because He only succeeded in healing a very small number of the human race and in a very limited geographical area. Jesus Christ always healed people to declare that He was the long-awaited Messiah and Savior of all mankind.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. (Matthew 19:1-2)

Pharisees often came to hear Jesus talk in public to test Him as seen in Matthew 19:3-4. This is another example of Jesus being in the midst of religious healers, but not agreeing with them and presenting God’s Word. The Pharisees are providing meddlesome comments within the crowd listening to the Lord to distract both Jesus and the crowd. They were experts at cynicism and sarcasm, thus trying to put people down and to try to refute what the Lord was teaching.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' (Matthew 19:3-4)

and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:5-6)

Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Mark 10:9)

Matthew 19:5-6 states that two united in marriage are no longer two people, but one flesh, one in purpose and motivation, two people building a life together. John Calvin said, concerning this passage, that in marriage, two persons come to think, act, and feel as one. That is what marriage is all about.

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:7-9)

Matthew 19:7-9 presents what Jesus Christ had to say about the basis for Biblical divorce.

The Lord Jesus Christ states that there are absolutely no grounds for divorce except for marital unfaithfulness. This means physical unfaithfulness or adultery and mental or physical desertion as we will see in the following sections.

Desertion as Biblical Grounds for Divorce

Desertion is also a valid reason for divorce. Marriage should never be dissolved Biblically except for immorality and/or desertion, whether physical, mental, or soulish desertion. In 1 Corinthians 7:10 a divine mandate is given that the wife should not leave her husband nor divorce her husband.

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:10)

But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:11)

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:14)

In 1 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Corinthians 7:11, and 1 Corinthians 7:14 we have the Greek verb CHORIZO in the middle voice. CHORIZO means to separate oneself mentally, soulishly, and/or physically. It means to depart from mentally, soulishly and/or physically and we have it in these passages in the middle voice. For example in 1 Corinthians 7:10 it says the wife must not separate from her husband or she must not divorce her husband. The reason it can be translated separate or leave or divorce is because the same Greek verb is used later on in this passage for desertion. The verb CHORIZO is used for divorce and desertion (i.e., divorce is desertion and desertion is divorce). This is why the contexts are interchangeable. CHORIZO is the same verb and is used in the middle voice. This is very important! What this means is that the subject is to be benefited by the action, so where there are grounds for divorce, the "innocent party" can get on with their life.

But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:11)

In 1 Corinthians 7:11 it says but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried. If she leaves or terminates the marriage for any reason other than immorality, then she is to remain unmarried or else be reconciled. If there is separation and it does not lead to divorce, then she can be reconciled. But if she goes ahead and divorces, then she has to remain unmarried unless they can settle their differences and be reconciled to one another. However, neither one can have been involved in a sexual relationship with another! Whether in or out of marriage, this is something that would completely frustrate the sexual initiation and responsive activities of both male and female and would greatly hinder the possibility of their being reconciled.

If she does divorce her husband, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. If she can be reconciled to her husband, then they can remarry according to the Bible. An modern day example is that the movie stars Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood married, were divorced, and then got married to each other again. In 1 Corinthians 7:11 it says the husband must not send his wife away or separate from her. It also says that the husband must not divorce his wife. It can be translated either way. That is why Paul is building up to 1 Corinthians 7:15 where we have the doctrine of divorce. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, CHORIZO is also used in the middle voice, but we're building toward this.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15)

According to 1 Corinthians 7:12, just because you get saved and your wife remains unsaved is NOT Biblical grounds for divorce! This erroneous reason for divorce is practiced by a certain element of Pentecostalism within the Assembly of God Church. They wrongly teach that if you get saved and your mate is unsaved, you can divorce your mate and become involved with a fellow Pentecostal. When you have the emotions controlling the soul, you can do nothing but corrupt your life. So, for this and many other reasons, stay away from the tongues movement.

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. (1 Corinthians 7:12)

In 1 Corinthians 7:13, it states that if a woman who is a believer has an unbelieving husband and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce her husband. This is a case for either the husband or the wife as believers who are married to an unbeliever. Neither believer can use the unbelief of their spouse as grounds for divorce. This is because the laws of divine establishment state that marriage is for both believers and unbelievers alike.

And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. (1 Corinthians 7:13)

In 1 Corinthians 7:14, the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his believing wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband. This does not mean they are saved by proxy. It means that they are under blessing by association as stated by the phrase "Or otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy."

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:14)

The Greek verb CHORIZO occurs again in 1 Corinthians 7:15 as the word "leaves" and means "to desert." In other words, the believer who did not leave or desert their unbelieving spouse is free from the marriage union. They are no longer obliged to remain married under these circumstances. However, it is always God's will for the marriage to be saved, if it can be saved. It is always God's will for us to live our marriages under His grace blessing and prosperity.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15)

In 1 Corinthians 7:16-17 a mandate is presented for the believing spouse to continue in the personal evangelism toward their marriage partner based on their unconditional love for them. This is no different that the believer’s mandate to be a witness for Jesus Christ to the unbelieving world through their Ambassadorship as part of their Royal Priesthood for the Church Age. Those married to unbelieving spouses should continue to be a positive example to their spouses of what the Word of God can do to someone and through someone. They should continue to present the Gospel and Bible doctrine to their spouses under unconditional love whenever the opportunity arises.

How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. (1 Corinthians 7:16-17)

What if your spouse says they want nothing more to do with your marriage? What if your spouse says they don’t want to have any type of relationship with you at all? What if your spouse says they don’t want to even remain a friend, but would like to stay around the house or apartment just as a roommate or casual acquaintance? What if your spouse says they want to remain living with you, but want to go their own way whenever they want to and with whomever they chose? The Bible says these situations are the same as desertion. These are examples of mental desertion which are mental cruelty which are Biblical grounds for divorce. These are examples of irreconcilable differences, which are grounds for divorce. They are tantamount to desertion because the verb CHORIZO is used here and not only refers to physical separation or physical desertion, but to a mental desertion which is much worse and much more tragic to the innocent party.

This is desertion in the soul where the person wants absolutely nothing to do in any way with the Christian marriage or Christian family. This is a sound interpretation because CHORIZO is used for both physical and mental desertion or separation. From the positive standpoint, our Lord was separate (CHORIZO) from sinners. From the negative standpoint, a person can be separate, removed, and in a position of having already left or deserted the other mate while still under the same roof.

Greek Words for Physical Separation or Desertion

Apochorizo

APOCHORIZO is another Greek word which means "to depart asunder" or "to remove." This is a physical departure or removal only. This word is seen in Acts 15:39 and Revelation 6:14. This is used for physical separation, desertion or removal. APOCHORIZO is not used for mental or soulish separation or desertion, whereas CHORIZO is.

Diachorizo

Another compound Greek word for separation is DIACHORIZO which means "to separate", "to leave", "to depart completely and definitely." This word is used in Luke 9:33 and is a physical separation, whereas CHORIZO is used for both divorce and desertion and can be either physical or soulish/mental divorce or desertion.

Conclusions

We must consider all that we have learned in this study about what the Word of God has to say about divorce and the legitimate Biblical grounds for it. The Biblical bases for divorce are: unfaithfulness (adultery) and mental and physical desertion. We have to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul make an explicit modification to the creation command relating to marriage - that marriages can be terminated because of immorality or desertion. The Bible teaches that marriage is a covenant of companionship between two people (a man and a woman only) and is something that has been going on since the beginning of human history. Proverbs 2 and Malachi 2:13-16 express the application of the Word of God to your life and that through that application, you will maintain your spiritual advance to maturity and the true inner happiness that results.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. None who go to her return or attain the paths of life. Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it. (Proverbs 2:1-22)

Another thing you do: You flood the LORD'S altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. (Malachi 2:13-16)


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