QUESTION: If a divorced person becomes a Christian, does it matter how and why that person became divorced?
ANSWER: If God’s marriage law only pertains to Christians, why only that law, and not the rest of God’s law? If God’s law only applies to Christians, does 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 mean the sins listed by Paul only count as sins if they are committed by Christians? Paul says elsewhere that “there is no sin where there is no law” (Romans 4:15 and 5:13). If non-Christians are not under God’s law they cannot be sinners, and would not need to be saved. Why then do we teach them and try to convert them to Christ?
We try to convert them to Christ because otherwise they will die in their sins against God and be excluded from the kingdom of God and from His heaven. But after listing a number of things that will keep one out of the kingdom of God, Paul says, “And such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11). To paraphrase it: “Some of you who are now Christians were guilty of such sins before you became Christians.”
In Romans 1:19-31, Paul speaks to those who are not Christians, who refuse to accept or follow God, and who are therefore given up by God to suffer the consequences of their sins and be consigned to the death and destruction that their lifestyle deserves. Notice that he mentions adulterers as separate from fornicators (in 1 Corinthians 6:9). That is because porneia (fornication) covers all kinds of sexual sin, including adultery, homosexuality, sodomy and more. Those sins are a sub-set or kind of fornication applying only to those who do those particular things; whereas moicheia (adultery) applies only to married persons. It is the sexual sins of any kind committed by a married person. And, Paul says some of the Christians he was writing to had been guilty of adultery in their marriage, before they became Christians. They were judged by God’s law, not by the laws and standards of their pagan society and religion (which he calls idolatry since it was not of the One True God).
If God’s law of marriage applied to non-Christians, all of it applied, since all of it was “from the beginning” (Matthew 19:1-6). That is, not from the beginning of the Jewish religion or the Christian faith, but from the beginning of humanity, from Adam and Eve. With that in mind, it becomes apparent that how and why one was divorced before becoming Christian is just as important as if or when it happens to one who is a Christian, whether he or she was the divorcer or the divorcee.
When Paul says “you were washed, sanctified, justified” by Christ and the Spirit of God when you became Christians (1 Corinthians 6:11), he means the guilt of past sins is gone. But, he does not imply that the sinner can keep on sinning in those ways as a Christian. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!” (Romans 6:1)
Can one continue in idolatry? Homosexuality? Unrighteousness of any kind? What about adultery? “No” to every sin of every kind! Restitution implies that one returns, repairs, and restores, to the extent that it is possible for him, what he has taken, abused, or destroyed – in relationships, and not just in physical property.
One last thought: if people believe God’s marriage law only applies to Christians, why do we not suggest that the marriages of non-Christians are not marriages at all, and that the improper relationship is dissolved automatically when one becomes a Christian, and then require those people who become Christians and want to continue living with each other as sex partners and parents to their children to become married to each other in the Lord and in compliance with His law?
Too many keep asking questions until they find someone who tells them what they want to hear, and then they stop searching. Too many, who claim to believe the Bible, find the answers they want, about the whole subject of marriage, from somebody who grants freedom to marry, divorce, remarry, etc. endlessly for almost any reason and claims to find that freedom in the scripture. But they find the freedom they want by misunderstanding, twisting, perverting, or ignoring the words of Christ and the apostles who were inspired and authorized to speak for Him and for God, in scripture. People who want to be right with God should find their justification in the scripture, not in someone who perverts scripture (Galatians 1:6-9).