The Assemblies of God denomination values the institution of marriage and as a result takes divorce seriously. The purpose of its teaching about divorce is to obey Scripture and to effectively minister to the men, women, and children who are impacted when a marriage ends.
The Assemblies of God sorrows over divorce but acknowledges its validity for reasons such as marital unfaithfulness and when one spouse who isn’t a Christian decides to leave the marriage. Couples who are considering divorce are strongly advised to seek the wisdom and help of pastors and church leaders.
How does the Assemblies of God know when divorce is valid? Does the denomination see the guilty party and innocent party equally? What does it teach about the appropriateness of remarriage? Keep reading to learn more.
Assemblies of God beliefs about divorce
Beliefs about divorce in the Assemblies of God tradition come from studying, interpreting, and applying what Scripture teaches on the topic. Providing a loving, comforting, and supporting community of believers is a key part of the denomination’s application of these teachings. Like God, the Assemblies of God hates divorce. Also, like God, it loves those who have unfortunately experienced it.
Readers are encouraged to explore the principles below and visit the Assemblies of God official website (link below) for more information. These principles are a combination of summaries and quotations of Assemblies of God teachings on divorce and remarriage, presented in an easy-to-understand format.
God hates divorce. Key principles:
- Divorce is an expression of unfaithfulness against one’s spouse (Malachi 2:14-16)
- Divorce significantly hinders the nurture of children
- Divorce was not a part of God’s original intention for humanity
- Divorce is a rejection of God’s design for the institution and each spouse (Ephesians 5:21-31)
- Though God hates divorce, he loves those who sadly experience it
- Since the days of the Old Testament, God has protected innocent parties whose marriage ends in divorce
God Law’s regulated divorce. Key principles:
- Divorce regulations in the Old Testament showed that God wanted to protect innocent parties
- Though only a husband could initiate a divorce, there were only a small numbers of reasons he could do so (Deuteronomy 24:1-4; cf. 22:13-19, 28,29; Genesis 21:8-21)
Jesus regulated divorce. Key principles:
- Jesus taught that husbands couldn’t just divorce their wives for any reasons (Matthew 19:1-9)
- Jesus forbade divorce as contrary to God’s will and word (Matthew 19:5-6 and Mark 10:6-9)
- Jesus permitted a Christian to initiate a divorce when “marital unfaithfulness” was involved (Matthew 5:32)
Assemblies of God teaching on the word “porneia” from Matthew 5:32:
- The Greek word translated “marital unfaithfulness” in these passages is porneia, which would certainly include adultery in the context of these sayings (a porne was a prostitute). However, porneia is a broad term for sexual immorality of various kinds, often habitual, both before and after marriage (Mark 7:21; Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:18; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
- Matthew used porneia in 5:32 and 19:9 to translate the Hebrew ‘erwa (“something indecent”) found in Deuteronomy 24:1… The root meaning of ‘erwa has to do with “uncovering” and “exposure” of, among other things, the genitalia (Genesis 9:22-23). So the “indecency” of Deuteronomy 24:1 appears to have been some kind of sexual immorality, or indecency, short of adultery (for which the adulterer would have been stoned; cf. Deuteronomy 22:22).
- In Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:8-9, Jesus spoke of the man’s initiative in divorcing an immoral partner. In Jewish society, normally, only the man had that legal right — though certain upper-class women, as Herodias, seem to have done so (Matthew 14:3; note that in Mark 10:11,12, Jesus warns both sexes against groundless divorces). Clearly, the spiritual principle applies for either men or women.
- Moreover, it should be noted that Jesus granted permission to divorce only under specific circumstances where sexual immorality was involved. He did not, however, issue a command to divorce, since such action would rule out any possibility of reconciliation.
Paul regulated divorce. Key principles:
- Paul forbade Christian couples to divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10,11). He recognized that some Christians were getting divorces, but apparently for invalid reasons. Therefore, he commanded, in these cases, that they keep the way open for reconciliation.
- Paul forbade Christians to take the initiative in divorce simply because their partner was an unbeliever. It appears that some new converts were eager to do exactly that (1 Corinthians 7:12-15). While making every effort to preserve the marriage, when the unbelieving spouse was definitely unwilling to continue, the believer should not, at all costs, attempt to restrain him/her. In these cases, abandonment, by implication, may be interpreted as grounds for divorce and remarriage.
What does the Assemblies of God believe about remarriage?
The Assemblies of God seeks to follow the Bible’s instruction about remarriage. The Bible’s teaching about remarriage after one spouse dies is less controversial than after a divorce. Like in other denominations, there has been significant discussion and debate about interpreting and applying the Bible’s instruction about remarriage.
The Law permitted remarriage. Key principles include:
- Deuteronomy 24:1-4, already quoted, assumed that the divorced woman (and her former husband) would remarry. However, this passage also shows that the Law put certain limits on remarriage in that the rejected wife could not be reclaimed after her marriage to another man.
Jesus permitted remarriage. Key principles include:
- Jesus taught that divorce and remarriage, without biblical cause, was adultery. It constituted a sin against the covenant of the first marriage (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11,12; Luke 16:18). In these passages, Jesus appears to be speaking to those who willfully initiated divorce without having biblical grounds to do so.
- Jesus included an exception on behalf of the innocent spouse… This shows that a married person who divorces a sexually immoral spouse does not cause that spouse to commit adultery, since the offender is already guilty of adultery. Nor does the spouse who has been sinned against commit adultery upon remarriage.
Paul permitted remarriage. Key principles include:
- Paul also included an exception on behalf of the innocent spouse. In cases where unbelieving spouses were unwilling to live with partners who had become believers, Paul advised, “If the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound [not “enslaved,” douloo] in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).
- Paul, in some cases, does discourage remarriage for the sake of ministering to the Lord. “Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned” (1 Corinthians 7:27,28).
Objections to remarriage: The above exceptions notwithstanding, there are still certain arguments made against the remarriage of innocent believers.
It is sometimes recognized that Jesus’ exceptions do indeed allow divorce for “marital uncleanness.” But it is then argued that such a divorce still does not sever the marital bond, or give any right to dissolve it. Therefore, on this view, remarriage by the innocent party is still adultery.
- However, Jesus never made such a statement; and in Matthew 19:9, he assumes the man will remarry. The verse deals with divorce and remarriage; the laws of grammar make the exceptive clause apply to both. The Greek word for “divorce (apoluo)” is used in the Deuteronomy passage to which Jesus referred in Matthew 5:31 and Mark 10:2-12.
- In the Deuteronomy passage, the “divorcing” clearly dissolved the marriage bond. Jesus did not change the nature of divorce as the dissolution of marriage. He simply threw out all excuses, reasons, or causes except “marital uncleanness (porneia).”
- Moreover, this view is difficult to maintain in light of other passages that emphasize the conjugal rights and obligations of husbands and wives (as in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5). Most Protestants therefore have understood that the exceptions spoken by Jesus do indeed provide for remarriage and free the innocent party of any charge of adultery. But, in no case does Jesus command divorce or remarriage. They are merely permitted under this condition.
The objection sometimes is made that two passages, Romans 7:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 7:39, specifically say a woman is bound to her husband until death; therefore, believers may not divorce or remarry short of the death of their spouse.
- Remarriage establishes a new marriage covenant. While Scripture makes it clear that errant spouses who sinfully break their marriage covenant do commit adultery, Scripture never places such guilt on the innocent partner.
- Those who argue that an innocent believer continuously commits sin by living in a new marriage have not a single shred of biblical evidence.
- Jesus clearly assumed that those who were divorced by sinful spouses, or those who divorced sinful spouses for “marital uncleanness” or abandonment, were free to remarry without any tinge of adultery.
- However, believers are to remarry one who “belong[s] to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) and the new marriage covenant is to be permanent.
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