Here are the results of that reflection:
First, I remembered the major study I conducted in marriage before getting married the first time. Marriage is integrally entwined with sex, or as Genesis puts it becoming one flesh. “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2: 24.
In biblical times, they did not have the kind of marriage ceremony we have. A man and woman made a covenant at the time of the betrothal. This set each apart for each other. Usually, a wait followed, while the man prepared a place to live with his wife—often a room on his fathers house. The woman and her parents prepared everything she needed to set up her home, including her dowry. Then the groom would send word to the bride and family to expect him. The groom, his best man, and other friends would march from the new home to accompany his new bride there. They would all march from her father’s house, to their new home. Upon arrival, the couple would enter their bedchamber to consummate their marriage. The wedding was a feast of celebration begun by the family and friends, later to be joined by the happy new couple. With this understanding, you can easily see why Jesus would allow a divorce only in cases of adultery. It breaks what constitutes marriage—both the covenant and sexual relationship.18
This understanding of marriage and sex being inescapably intertwined is further confirmed in 1 Corinthians 7:1–5, “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” This entire passage is in the language of command. I also noticed the word for deprive in verse 5 is the same word used for defraud in chapter 6 and verse 8. I concluded that withholding sex is indeed a form of sexual unfaithfulness.
Some would argue that a remarriage is a perpetual state of adultery but there is reason to question this. It is counter to what we know about the grace of God. “When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 If we truly confess, he is faithful to his own nature. As he says in Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
I asked Highland’s preacher at the time about this (who is also my cousin). He suggested I look to the example of David. David’s sin with Bathsheba betrayed Uriah, one of his mighty men. And the cover-up involving murder was even worse. They suffered terrible consequences for their sin, with the death of the child of their adultery. However, all indications are that David was forgiven, once he fully laid his guilt before the Lord. He clearly expresses both, in the Psalms.19 And he remained married to Bathsheba. It is amazing that God chose Solomon, David and Bathsheba’s second son, to succeed him on the throne. David’s other, older sons had more “right” to this position. Yet, God chose to honor the son of this marriage. He chose to bless their marriage—despite its beginnings. And, at the end of David’s life, it was written that he had fulfilled God’s purpose for his life in spite of his great mistakes.
My guilt in committing adultery is no light matter. I felt the consequences long after confessing my sin and receiving forgiveness. But I am confident in that forgiveness and have seen God bless our own marriage, in amazing ways.
Note: I hesitate to add this study. I believe this conclusion is quite a legitimate view of scripture, but also feel those who oppose my marriage have a legitimate view as well. This is true even though I believe my own view is more correct. So, I do not feel comfortable recommending another person act on it. If any reading this are considering adultery to be an out for a bad marriage—please don’t! Beg God to walk with you to a solution. I urge any facing the same decisions I made, to divorce and remarry—take it very seriously. Plead with God to lead you to a right decision in your own life.
18 Bromiley, G. W. 1979. The International Standard Bible encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans. vol. 2, p 1998
19 Psalm 32 and 51
Here are the results of that reflection: