Larry Kirkpatrick

A Positive Place on the Web for the Third Angel's Message

Q and A -- Divorce and Remarriage

QUESTION: Does a divorce decree from the state grant one the biblical right to remarry?

ANSWER: "There is only one sin, which is adultery which can place the husband or wife in a position where they can be free from the marriage vow in the sight of God. Although the laws of the land may grant a divorce, yet they are husband and wife still in the Bible light, according to the laws of God" (Adventist Home, p. 344).

QUESTION: Who is involved in a marriage covenant?

ANSWER: The husband, the wife, and God.

QUESTION: Does "removal from church membership" mean one is lost?

ANSWER: Seventh-day Adventists neither disfellowship nor excommunicate. Seventh-day Adventists simply "remove from membership," implying nothing concerning one's salvation status. To disfellowship or to excommunicate, in some denominations, carries a sense of loss of salvation. Seventh-day Adventists say only that one is "removed from membership" so as to refrain from making a salvation statement. But this is not to say that church membership is unimportant. It is sacred! Among other things, church membership identifies the behavior of the individual with the moral standing of the congregation in the eyes of God and of the surrounding community. Sexual immorality destroys witness. When immorality has been acted out in a specific case by a church member, failure on the part of the congregation to act is an endorsement of sexual immorality.

QUESTION: Can a person who has been removed from membership still attend church?

ANSWER: Yes. However, if the faithful spouse continues to hold membership in the congregation, consideration for the emotional impact on that person will normally lead the guilty spouse to attend a different congregation.

QUESTION: Would failure to discipline a divorced spouse who remarries imply immorality by the other spouse?

ANSWER: Yes, it would. The congregation must guard the rights and moral reputation of all its members, young and old, male and female, husbands, wives and children.

QUESTION: Shouldn't a congregation just overlook the sin and try to love the sinner?

ANSWER: "Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus"; "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people"; "Put away from yourselves the evil person"; "And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you" (1 Cor. 5:5, 9, 13, 2 NKJV); "Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 71).

QUESTION: What power does the church have to discipline members?

ANSWER: "On the church has been conferred the power to act in Christ's stead. It is God's instrumentality for the preservation of order and discipline among His people. To it the Lord has delegated the power to settle all questions respecting its prosperity, purity, and order. Upon it rests the responsibility of excluding from its fellowship those who are unworthy, who by their un-Christlike conduct would bring dishonor on the truth. Whatever the church does that is in accordance with the directions given in God's Word will be ratified in heaven" (Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 263).

QUESTION: What if the spiritual leaders of a congregation permit open sin to continue?

ANSWER: "God holds His people, as a body, responsible for the sins existing in individuals among them. If the leaders of the church neglect to diligently search out the sins which bring the displeasure of God upon the body, they become responsible for these sins" (Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 269).

QUESTION: What if Matthew 18 isn't followed?

ANSWER: Matthew 18:15-20 is to be followed in a matter of personal trespass between two members. However, in a case of open and public sexual immorality, the specifics of Matthew 18 are not applicable. Open sin is to be openly rebuked. "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (1 Timothy 5:20).

QUESTION: What about other church members who ought to be removed from membership? How can the congregation address issue D while issues A, B, and C have not been addressed?

ANSWER: Sexual sin is perhaps the most particularly destructive in terms of its personal impact (1 Corinthians 6:18) and on the public witness of the church (1 Corinthians 5:1). All sexual sin goes immediately to the top of the list of urgent matters to be addressed.

QUESTION: In the past, similar cases have not been handled this way in this church. Isn't it unfair to handle this one this way?

ANSWER: The Ten Commandments have been around for a very long time and have not changed. Violation of the seventh commandment is a deed for which persons are to be removed from membership in the current Church Manual (p. 62), Furthermore, the pastor has in his library a copy of the 1942 Church Manual, which lists among reasons a person shall be removed from membership, "Open violation of the law of God, such as. . . the remarriage of a divorced person, except the innocent party in a divorce for adultery" (p. 109). Negligence or inaction by the congregation in the past cannot excuse negligence or inaction in the present.

QUESTION: But what if there has been meanness, conjugal withholding, occasional physical absence, or other alleged improprieties or imperfections in the marriage?

ANSWER: None of these are biblical grounds for divorce--let alone remarriage.

QUESTION: Is abandonment by an unbeliever grounds for remarriage?

ANSWER: No. It is recognized at present as potential grounds for divorce, but not for remarriage (see Church Manual, p. 153).

QUESTION: What if one spouse disagrees with another about what happened with the marriage? What if there is a "he said," "she said" disagreement?

ANSWER: The members of the congregation need to weigh the matter for themselves. The primary weight in any case should rest with the clearest establishable facts specifically pertaining to the case. For example, public record of the divorce and its grounds, upon what basis the state granted that divorce decree, and whether there has been a public remarriage. Unproven allegations carry no weight.

QUESTION: What if the church member claims to have received differing advice concerning the matter from another pastor?

ANSWER: It would be wise to consult with the pastor of the church where one actually holds membership, and who is responsible for safeguarding the moral reputation of the congregation where one holds membership.

QUESTION: This kind of church discipline is old fashioned and is no longer done in the churches; why are we doing it here?

ANSWER: As the Sabbath was given in Eden, so was God's plan for marriage, and it is still current. "For I am the Lord, I change not" (Malachi 3:6). A case involving the seventh commandment occurred just two years ago in a church in the district immediately east of ours. The party was removed from membership for violation of the seventh commandment.

QUESTION: What if one claims their partner had a mental illness? Is that not biblical grounds for divorce?

ANSWER: It is not biblical grounds for divorce--even were it actually formally diagnosed by a qualified mental health specialist.

QUESTION: Jesus said "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone" (John 8:7), and, “Judge not that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). How then can we do this?

ANSWER: The church deprives none of salvation or temporal life. Under the theocracy of Israel, the witnesses to the sin were to be the first in executing its penalty (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 17:2-7; 22:13-30). Our own private and personal views cannot be the standard for evaluating the actions of others. We cannot judge motive. Nevertheless, the following commands remain today for the people of God: "Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus"; "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people"; "Put away from yourselves the evil person" (1 Cor. 5:5, 9, 13 NKJV); "Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 71).

QUESTION: Can a person having been "removed from church membership" eventually rejoin?

ANSWER: In many cases, yes (2 Corinthians 2:6-8).

Created 2013-03-15

Bible Versions Issue Summary Cleanse and Close Book PDF