Regular visitors to the site know that I often refer to and provide links to messages from Dr. Creflo Dollar, whose TV broadcast I greatly appreciate and usually watch twice a day during the week. And a link to his daily broadcasts and website is even provided in the resource section of this site (Note: That link has since been removed due to Dr. Dollar’s teachings on divorce.). However, this past Thursday, May 25th, I was quite surprised by statements he made in his message (unfortunately the link is no longer available), How to Be Liberated From Hurt, about marriage and adultery that are contrary to what the Bible teaches. But that led me to more seriously study what the Bible actually teaches about the Lord’s covenants and what happens when we violate them, which is important for everyone standing for marriage restoration to understand.
In fairness, and in defense of Dr. Dollar, he did stray off his prepared text a bit at that point, and I’m sure it’s easy to say something we wouldn’t say if we were better prepared before talking about it. And very few preachers and teachers do as much study on the topic of marriage, divorce and remarriage as those of us who are personally affected by it. Just the same, Dr. Dollar stated that when a husband or wife commits adultery, the marriage covenant is broken and that the other party is then put in a position of deciding whether or not they want to renew the covenant, the same as deciding if they want to marry that person again. He said that’s what Paul meant when he said “If you be willing to dwell with them…or If you be pleased to dwell with…” that person, referring to the covenant having been broken by adultery. Then He even said that Jesus “Showed up to say your free to go…you’re not held in bondage in such cases“, because the covenant was broken by adultery. He further stated that it “Requires your decision to get it back again…a decision cranks that covenant up all over again”. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common opinion in the Christian church today, but that still doesn’t make it right, and there’s no basis for it in the Bible.
First, what Paul actually said in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 (KJV) does not refer to adultery, because it was instructions given to unequally yoked Christians, saying But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. Besides, in that particular context, the implication would be that if our spouse commits adultery and still wants to “dwell” with us, leaving them is NOT an option, which is quite different than what Dr. Dollar said. And Jesus did not say we’re free to go and not under bondage when a spouse commits adultery. In fact, in Matthew 5:31-32,Jesus said “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 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. And Matthew 19:8-9 says 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.” Then in Mark 10:6-11, Jesus said “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘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.” When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.
Many Bible scholars believe the term “marital unfaithfulness” used here does NOT refer to adultery, but to an act that occurs during the period of betrothal BEFORE the marriage, and discovered on the wedding night. That’s because the original text uses two different words when referring to adultery and marital unfaithfulness (or fornication), even though some of the modern translations now use them interchangeably..
It was actually Paul who talked about living in peace in 1 Corinthians 7:15, 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. But once again, there’s NO mention of adultery or that the offended spouse has an “option” to leave the marriage or renew the covenant, and in the next verse he said How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Yet, a lot more to the point is what Paul said FIRST in verses 10 and 11, where he said To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. There are NO exceptions in that command, and Paul particularly made a point of stating that this was a COMMAND FROM THE LORD, which I’m not aware of him doing anywhere else; so it must have been pretty important. And since that’s the first thing he said on the subject of divorce or separation, everything else he said after that has to be considered in that context. And Paul obviously considered the admonition for a woman who is separated or divorced from her husband to remain unmarried (unless she is reconciled to her husband) very important, because he restated and further clarified it in the last two verses of the chapter, 39 and 40, saying A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God. So how in the world someone can believe that either Jesus or Paul taught that the marriage covenant is broken when a spouse commits adultery or that the offended spouse has the option to get a divorce and remarry, is beyond my ability to understand! In fact, Paul was so set on the exact opposite opinion that he AGAIN stated it and FURTHER clarified it in Romans 7:2-3, where he said For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. That makes Paul’s opinion pretty clear, which was that death is the ONLY thing that breaks the covenant of marriage, and there seems to be no other reasonable conclusion. And when Paul referred to not being bound in verse 15, the Greek word he used was “DOULOO”, which refers to being a slave. But the Greek word he used in verse 39 was “Deo”, which refers to a mutual commitment or agreement, as by a contract, and that’s the same word he used in verse 27 and in Romans 7::2-3. Therefore, the ONLY “escape” clause found in what Jesus or Paul said about marriage, adultery, divorce and remarriage is that in their time, if someone was CAUGHT in the act of adultery, they were stoned to death, which obviously made the surviving spouse free to remarry.
Additionally, if someone commits adultery and the marriage covenant is broken without the other person’s knowledge, they wouldn’t be aware of the requirement for them to exercise their “option” to renew it, so they wouldn’t be married either! Obviously that’s not the way the Lord does things, because that would lead to TOTAL confusion and chaos, and the Bible tells us that God is not the author of confusion!
Hopefully, this effectively dispels the idea that adultery automatically voids, invalidates or destroys the covenant of marriage, but we still need to have a better understanding of how God views a covenant and what happens when it is broken or violated, which is NOT the same as being destroyed or made of no force and effect. So the following passages of scripture provide a better understanding of how the Lord feels about the importance of honoring His covenants, and what happens when we violate or break them:
Jeremiah 31:31-33 – “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Jeremiah 31:37 – This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 33:20-22 – “This is what the LORD says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.’
Malachi 2:13-14 (AMP) – And this you do with double guilt; you cover the altar of the Lord with tears [shed by your unoffending wives, divorced by you that you might take heathen wives], and with [your own] weeping and crying out because the Lord does not regard your offering any more or accept it with favor at your hand. Yet you ask, Why does He reject it? Because the Lord was witness [to the covenant made at your marriage] between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously and to whom you were faithless. Yet she is your companion and the wife of your covenant [made by your marriage vows].
Ezekiel 17:18-21 – He despised the oath by breaking the covenant. Because he had given his hand in pledge and yet did all these things, he shall not escape. ” ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: As surely as I live, I will bring down on his head my oath that he despised and my covenant that he broke. I will spread my net for him, and he will be caught in my snare. I will bring him to Babylon and execute judgment upon him there because he was unfaithful to me. All his fleeing troops will fall by the sword, and the survivors will be scattered to the winds. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken.
The stark contrast between the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience are very graphically portrayed in Leviticus 26. Yet, even though the covenant was broken and violated by the unfaithfulness of the people, verses 44 and 45 show us that the Lord STILL considered and honored it as a VALID covenant, saying Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the LORD their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the LORD.’ “ And we see again in Ezekiel 16, an awesome example of how even though God severely disciplines us when we break and violate His covenant with us, the covenant itself is NOT voided or invalidated by our sin against it. In fact, we see quite the contrary in verses 59 through 63, which say ” ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both those who are older than you and those who are younger. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on the basis of my covenant with you. So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD.'”
How totally unsettling it would be if we could not be absolutely CERTAIN that the Lord’s covenants NEVER change and how sad it is for anyone to believe that our failure to keep faith with His covenants could EVER affect their validity. What do we have without the assurance and confidence that HIS covenants will NEVER change? Fortunately, Hebrews 13:8 assures us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. And just as His love endures forever, so do His covenants, as we see in Deuteronomy 7:9, which says Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.
Additionally, Is Adultery Grounds for Divorce?, is a related Seeds Of Faith post that deals with the issue of adultery and divorce and remarriage in more detail.