Divorce, Remarriage, Celibacy
Derek Prince
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Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage Or Celibacy Series
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Divorce, Remarriage, Celibacy

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Part 5 of 5: Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage Or Celibacy

By Derek Prince

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Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

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Divorce and remarriage. Now, this is a really controversial subject. I have heard preachers say that adultery is the unforgivable sin. Generally speaking, in most of the old sections of the church, the historical sections, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church and some others, they have taken the official attitude that it is wrong for a Christian to divorce. And, if a Christian is divorced, that Christian may not marry. That is still the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church today. Although, typically enough, they have ways of getting around the regulations if you’re rich enough and you know the right people.

Also, I’ve observed that though they won’t take divorcees into communion they’ll take their money when they put it in the offering. That seems to me strange.

I’m going to try to handle this purely on a scriptural basis. I’m not going to go to any other source but the Bible. I find the Bible is sufficient. I’m going to ask two questions and offer the answers. On what grounds, if any, is it scriptural for a Christian to divorce? And, secondly, is it scriptural for a divorced Christian to remarry? Those are the two questions. Okay? One of the things we need to bear in mind about the prevailing ecclesiastical laws on divorce and remarriage is they were made by priests who were committed to be celibate. Which has got a lot to do with the laws because they knew they’d never have to keep their own laws. I don’t want to be unkind but I always think of the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:4 which he spoke to the scribes and Pharisees. He said about them:

“They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders: but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

Their religious regulations impose on other people heavy burdens that are hard to carry and cause a person to stoop and stagger but they won’t put out even one finger to help carry the burden. I think that is true of a good many of the accepted ecclesiastical regulations concerning divorce.

We ask the question first does God ever permit divorce? Some Christians would tend to say never. We’re not going to turn there but if you read the book of Ezra, the last two chapters, 9 and 10, you’ll find that Ezra not merely permitted the Jews to divorce the non Jewish wives they married, he commanded them to divorce. He wouldn’t allow them to remain married to them. Whether it was right or wrong, at least it settles one question that there are places where the Bible endorses divorce.

What are the scriptural grounds for divorce? Let’s say, first of all, that divorce is always a disaster. If all men—and even all Christians—lived according to the laws of God there would be no need for divorce. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people, Christian and non Christian, are not living according to the laws of God and there arise occasions where divorce is needed. The traditional attitude of the church was if people are married, Christians, get divorced, they’re both guilty, forbid them to marry. That has been historically the attitude of the church.

To me, that’s absurd. Let’s take the example of robbery. Robbery is evil. If everybody lived right there would never be any robberies, isn’t that true? But the fact of the matter is a lot of robberies take place. We’ve got to deal with robbery as a real thing that confronts us. What’s the answer? Do we say robbery is evil therefore when one person robs another we’ll punish them both? We’ll put them both in prison? It doesn’t make sense. But, when one person to a marriage is unfaithful, to forbid the innocent party to remarry is much worse than putting them in prison, it’s a much severer penalty.

What then are the scriptural grounds for divorce? To deal with this thoroughly I’m going to take three different periods in the Bible. The period before the law of Moses, the period under the law of Moses and, the period initiated by Jesus through the proclamation of the gospel. Time doesn’t permit me to read all these passages in detail but in Genesis 38 you’ll find an account of what happened in the family of Judah who was one of the sons of Jacob. He had three sons: Ur, Onan and Shelah. His son Ur was married to a woman named Tamar. The Bible says Ur died because he was wicked, the Lord executed him. We don’t know how and we don’t know exactly what he did. According to the tradition of the day, the next son Onan was due to raise up a descendant to his dead brother by his brother’s widow. That was the accepted custom of the day. Onan refused to do it. So, God executed him. That left only Shelah who was not old enough to be married. Judah said to Tamar, listen, you’ve been married to my eldest son. He’s dead. The tradition is that you should be married to my remaining son Shelah but he’s not old enough to marry you yet. Go back to your father’s house and when he’s old enough we’ll arrange for you to be married. This isn’t a pretty story but it’s just how people are. Tamar who was obviously a woman of some, I would say guts, observed that Shelah was now old enough to be married and she wasn’t being invited to marry him. So, she heard her father in law, Judah, was going to a certain place to shear his sheep so she disguised herself as a prostitute, sat by the wayside and when Judah passed by he said let me come in and have relations with you. She said that’s okay but what are you going to give me? He said I’ll give you a goat. She said how do I know you’re going to give me the goat? What pledge will you give me? He said I’ll give you my signet ring and my staff which were the distinctive marks of his position.

So, she took the signet ring and the staff, they had relations, she became pregnant. Some months later the message came to Judah “Your daughter in law Tamar is pregnant.” Typically of men he said take her out and burn her. They called her out, she had the signet ring and the staff and she said to Judah, by the man to whom these belong I’m pregnant. Could you see who they belong to? He said they belong to me. He was man enough to acknowledge his sin. Tamar was not put to death, she became the mother of twins who are actually the two main ancestors of the tribe of Judah, Perez and Zerah.

I simply point out to you the fact that because Tamar was betrothed to Shelah, unfaithfulness was considered to be adultery even though the marriage hadn’t been consummated and the penalty for adultery was death. That’s all I’m trying to establish. Before the law of Moses amongst the people of God the established penalty for adultery was death.

That solves any problems about divorce, doesn’t it? I mean, once your husband is dead you’re free. The Bible says that.

Under the law of Moses—the next phase—the mandatory penalty for adultery was death. No options were allowed. Turn to Deuteronomy 22:22–24.

“If a man is found lying with a woman married to her husband...”

You remember I pointed out that the Bible talks about lying with when it’s an illegitimate relationship and knowing when it’s a legitimate relationship. So here’s an illegitimate relationship.

“If a man is found lying with a woman married to her husband, then both of them shall die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so you shall put away the evil from Israel.”

When any two persons were found guilty of adultery which is sexual intercourse that violates the marriage vow, that’s the essence of it, there was no alternative, the penalty was death. You can go on and read even if the woman was only betrothed. If she was able to refuse the man and did not do it, both the man and the woman were to be put to death. Again, that solved the problem of divorce. There’s no problem about divorcing when the person is dead.

Now we come to the New Testament and we turn to Matthew 5:32. Jesus says:

“But I say to you, Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality...”

In the old translations the word is fornication. I have a little more to say about that. Many people have been misled by that translation because fornication is essentially between unmarried persons. That’s not the meaning of this word. The correct translation is sexual immorality. It makes a whole lot of difference.

“But I say to you, Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”

Jesus said if you divorce your wife for any reason except one, what is that? Sexual immorality. What one ground for divorce did he give? Sexual immorality.

Matthew 19:9:

“I say to you, Whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery: and whoever married her who is divorced commits adultery.”

What is the one permitted grounds for divorce? Sexual immorality.

Now, the Greek word, if you’re interested in it, is porneia. We could go to Greek lexicons and dictionaries, we don’t need to go outside the New Testament to see that it means any kind of sexual immorality. Whether the persons are married or unmarried, whether it’s man with woman or man with man, all is included in this one word porneia. Let’s look at just a few examples. I could give you more. In Acts 15:20 we have a decree that was made by the council in Jerusalem as to what would be required of Gentiles who came to Jesus. They decided they would not be required to observe the law of Moses but there were just four simple things they had to observe. This is very important for all of us who are non Jewish because this is the area in which the law of Moses affects us. There are four things we are forbidden. Acts 15:20 says:

“We write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.”

I don’t know whether you’ve ever noticed that list or not. A lot of Christians are ignorant of it. You’ll notice the second item is sexual immorality. It’s obvious that they weren’t telling the people that they must abstain from sexual immorality if they were unmarried but, if they were married it was all right. That would be ridiculous. Sexual immorality covers both the married and the unmarried. The first thing they had to abstain from was idolatry and the next two were things strangled, eating things strangled; and eating things with blood in them. I find that many contemporary Christians are unaware that that’s forbidden. Why is it forbidden to eat something strangled? Because the blood remains in it. You have to cut the throat and let the blood out. Blood pudding and blood sausage in God’s eyes are the same as sexual immorality. I hope I haven’t hurt anybody’s feelings but that’s the way it is.

In Acts 15:29 we get the same put down in a letter.

“That you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, and from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

Porneia. Turn to 1Corinthians 5:1, Paul says to the Corinthian Christians:

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles, that a man has his father’s wife.”

What’s the word that’s used? Porneia. What does it cover? Two things. First of all, adultery because a man was living with his father’s wife. Second, incest. That is, relationships outside those permitted. They’re both described by the one word porneia. See?

Then we look in 1Corinthians 5:9–11.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, not thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

There’s a whole list of people who won’t inherit God’s kingdom. The first in the list are the people who commit porneia, any kind of sexual immorality. We need to broadcast that message to the young people in the church today because many of them think there’s nothing wrong with it. They’ve changed the word fornication to premarital sex and that makes it respectable. It doesn’t change God’s view of it the least bit.

Then, in Jude verse 7 it speaks about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Homosexuality. What is it called? Porneia. Porneiacovers every kind of sexual deviation. It includes adultery, incest, homosexuality and I would have no doubt it includes bestiality, intercourse with beasts. Jesus said any of those are grounds for divorce. I’ve dealt with more than one woman who discovered that her husband was a homosexual, a practicing homosexual. They come to me, I say what you do is your decision. Scripturally you have every right to divorce him. My recommendation in most cases is that they do it. I don’t believe in being sentimental about that particular issue. I find Jesus and the Holy Spirit are absolute realists. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed that. There’s a kind of Christian attitude, “Well, if a man’s wife is unfaithful, runs around, comes back and says, ‘I’m sorry, forgive me,’ they have to forgive.” I say you don’t have to forgive unless you’re really convinced that they have truly repented. Otherwise, I would recommend you not to continue the marriage. I would recommend you to take your scriptural right and divorce them. I’ve seen that work. I know some happy marriages which came out of a situation.

In a certain sense, if a man is married to a loose living woman or a woman is married to a loose living man, if they commit adultery that can be God’s release for you. Don’t turn it down. You don’t hear everybody preach like that!

I want to be right and say as Christians we’re obligated to forgive the truly repentant. If we can be assured of repentance, thank God we don’t have to stone them as we would have had to do under the law of Moses. We can say God has forgiven you, God has cleansed you, I receive you back. I would advise you to do it with great circumspection. If possible, I would advise you to seek the counsel of a mature, experienced Christian minister before you do it. It’s a difficult, tricky area.

The next question is if a Christian is free to divorce, is that Christian free to remarry? Traditionally the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church and other what we would call liturgical churches have taken the stand even if you are divorced you’re not free to remarry. I mean, many Pentecostal denominations have taken that line. I’m talking from experience, I know.

I want to say to you that both from scripture and from the culture of the Bible there’s not a suggestion anywhere that a person could ever be legally free to divorce and not legally free to marry. Divorce includes the right to remarry. The old church fathers had a thing that they called in Latin ?separatio amensa etoro?, which means you separate them from your food table and your bed but you’re still married. What kind of marriage is that? That’s an invention of the human ecclesiastical mind and has nothing to do with scripture.

One thing I’ve learned from being with the Jews, they have a healthy attitude toward marriage. It’s very interesting. The Catholics will not allow a priest to marry. I don’t know how they get away with the fact that Peter had a mother-in-law. How can you have a mother-in-law without being married? The apostles regularly took their wives with them. The Jews, on the other hand, will not permit a man to be a rabbi unless he’s married. In my opinion, that’s much more sensible. In fact, Paul said that an elder must be the husband of one wife. So, he clearly anticipated married pastors or elders.

I’m sorry for the man who has to struggle with the ministry of a pastor without a wife. There are many, many situations in which he’s put in a very difficult and compromising situation. And, there are many instances in church history where men of God have been trapped into immorality by that very situation. I don’t believe it should have been allowed to occur. I’m not saying every minister has to be married but I think almost every minister who is a pastor needs to be married.

Let’s look now at what the scripture says. First of all, we’ll turn to Deuteronomy 24. We’re now dealing again with the law of Moses just to see that the principle never changes. And, you have to bear in mind when Jesus spoke to the Jews of his day, their basis for thinking was the law of Moses. So, he was speaking to people who thought in these terms. In Deuteronomy 24:1–4 Moses says:

“When a man takes a wife, and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes, because he has found some uncleanness in her: and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of the house [which is still the way the Jews carry out divorce today]. When she is departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife. If the latter husband detests her, and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; or if the latter husband dies, who took her to be his wife; then her former husband, who divorced her, must not take her back.”

The language indicates that he is no longer her husband, he is her former husband. Divorce terminated that relationship to him as the husband and made her legally free to marry another man. Moses would never have made a regulation that caused a person to commit adultery. See what I’m saying?

So, as far as the Jewish mind and the law of Moses goes, freedom to divorce included freedom to remarry. There never was a concept of freedom to divorce without freedom to remarry.

Let’s go on to the New Testament, 1Corinthians 7:27–28.

“Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife?”

Loosed there means scripturally loosed from a wife.

“Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned.”

To be loosed scripturally and remarry is not a sin. Are we agreed?

I wonder how many of you realize that this is a very important issue for a whole lot of people. I don’t know what your background is but I find there are millions of divorcees who are either held in bondage or are left feeling faintly guilty all the time. My contention is that if a man or a woman has legitimate scriptural grounds for divorce and remarries, he’s as righteous and as much a first class citizen of the kingdom of God as any other believer.

Let’s bear in mind that in all we’ve been saying the only permitted ground for divorce is porneia, sexual immorality.

I want to consider for a moment the marriage vow. I want to give you a little simple illustration. Basically, all over the western world the marriage vow is pretty much the same. It may be in kind of Old English like “I plight thee my troth to keep myself to thee alone till death do us part.” That, in a sense, is a contract. I know it’s a lot more than a contract but it is a contract. In that contract to use legal terminology—I know we have a lawyer here—there’s two clauses. There’s the use clause and the time clause. The use clause is I’ll keep myself to thee alone. The time clause is till death do us part.

In a secular contract if there are two clauses, one is a use clause and the other is a time clause, they are mutually dependent. You cannot enforce one without the other. Let’s take the example of Smith who leases a building to Jones for five years from l986 through l991. That’s the time clause. The use clause is you may use the building for any purpose except the sale of liquor. Okay? So, as long as Jones doesn’t use the building for liquor he’s entitled to hold the building till l991. But, if he breaks the use clause and starts selling liquor, Smith can say, “I’m evicting you from the building.” The time clause is no longer in force when the use clause is broken.

So, when a couple get married, the use clause is my body is for you alone. No one else has access to my body. The time clause is till death do us part. If one party breaks the use clause they can no longer enforce the time clause. You see what I’m saying? It no longer is till death do us part. It’s a strange thing but religious people always seem to focus on the awkward things and make things difficult that could be comparatively easy. I mean, if it was a question of leasing a building we’d all agree but when it comes to marriage we get awkward.

I believe there is one other New Testament ground for divorce. I say I believe. It’s my understanding of scripture but I don’t want to force my opinion on you. This is a very delicate and important matter. I’ll simply state what I believe and you can make your own determination. This is stated in 1Corinthians 7:10–15.

“Now to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, a wife is not to depart from her husband: but even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and her husband is not to divorce his wife.”

He says the Lord says that, not I, because he’s quoting the teaching of Jesus. We’ve already pointed out that in the teaching of Jesus there was one exception which was sexual immorality. What Paul is saying here, unless the occasion is sexual immorality, a Christian has no right to divorce his mate. If he or she does divorce the only option is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to your previous mate. Understand that? Unless the grounds are sexual immorality.

I want to emphasize that. I’m not telling you you’re free to divorce for any reason and get married to anybody else you please. That is absolutely not true.

“To the rest I, not the Lord, say...”

Paul is saying something which isn’t found in the teaching of Jesus. I don’t think that it means it isn’t authorized in scripture because if it’s in the Bible it’s authorized. What Paul is saying is this is a problem that Jesus didn’t deal with in his teaching.

“...if any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.”

Here’s a case of a man who comes to the faith and has a wife who is an unbeliever. As long as she’s willing to live with him then he shouldn’t divorce her. The same applies to the woman.

“And a woman who has a husband that does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: otherwise your children would be unclean; but now they are holy.”

In other words, one partner to a marriage vouches for the acceptance of the children by God whether it’s the husband or the wife. That, of course, is extremely important. Then Paul goes on to say:

“But, if the unbeliever departs, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage [or is not bound] in such cases: but God has called us to peace.

I understand that to mean that if one party to a marriage comes to faith and, as a result, the other party deserts the one who has become a believer, then the believer is not bound to that marriage. If you’re in a country like India or a Muslim country or other countries, that’s a very probable case. Let’s say a Hindu woman accepts Jesus as her savior and confesses him. It’s highly probable that her Hindu husband will leave her. If he doesn’t, Paul says, that’s wonderful. But, if he does, Paul says she is no longer bound to that husband. That’s the way I understand it. He says the main thrust of what I’m saying is we’re called to peace. Not to make quarrels, not to make strife. And he says, if she does remarry or he does remarry, there’s one important condition which is only to a believer.

According to the New Testament a believer is never free to marry an unbeliever. You can talk as much as you like about the leading of the Holy Spirit. I question you. It was the Holy Spirit that gave these instructions, I doubt whether he ever goes contrary to his own directions. If you believe that God is going to save that man or that woman, why don’t you let him do it first and then marry him.

Let me say something because I’ve had experience with this. Sometimes the man will want to marry a Christian woman and in order to get her he’ll pretend to be saved. I say if you’re a woman, just check. Wait for the fruit. Otherwise, once he’s got you he’ll get unsaved again.

The second condition in this situation we’re talking about is no matter what you do you have to fulfill the requirements of the civil law. Whatever you do in the area of divorce must be in line with the requirements of the civil law.

Those cases, I believe, are covered by the New Testament. But, there are many other cases which are not covered by the New Testament. It’s a complicated realm, we’ve got a lawyer sitting here and he could probably think of 15 different cases. I probably could, too, if I were to give my time to it. I want to offer you some suggestions and I want to base them on the words of Paul in 1Corinthians 7:25.

“Concerning virgins I have no commandment from the Lord: yet I give judgment, as one whom the Lord in his mercy has made trustworthy [or has obtained mercy] to be found faithful.”

I’m doing that. I’m giving you my opinion. I think I can say after 40 years in the ministry I have found mercy to be found faithful. I’m only give you my opinions. You must make your own decisions.

I have a friend who is a pastor in Denmark and they have these problems that I’m going to talk about where, for instance, it’s common today for young people to live together unmarried. They don’t even bother to think about getting married. Which, of course, is pretty true in America, too. In Scandinavia they’ve gone a lot further. Then they break up and one of them gets saved and he’s never been married. So, he’s perfectly free to marry anybody he will. But, suppose that two unbelievers take the trouble to get married and then break up and one of them gets saved. Because he has been married is he not free to remarry? You see the question I’m saying? In other words, he gets penalized for having taken the trouble to get married whereas the man who didn’t bother about marriage has no penalty. I’m not telling you the answer but I’m just pointing out it’s a real problem. It’s not a real problem if you don’t happen to be in that case but if you’re in that case and you’re a young person of about 22, are you going to face the rest of your life with a sentence of celibacy?

This pastor friend of mine went away to seek the Lord because he’d conducted some marriages for people like that and the older Christians in the church had made a fuss—which is typical. He wanted to seek God so he went away and he got alone with the Lord and he said, “God, whatever you tell me, I’ll do. You tell me and I’ll do it.” He told me that he felt the Lord said this, “On the contrary. Whatever you decide, I’ll go along with it.” You see, I think there are many situations in this area where the elders and the leaders of the church have got to take the responsibility of making a decision. God says if you make the decision I’ll back you up. That’s a revolution, isn’t it. I think it’s very practical.

Let’s consider just a few possible cases. Let’s take two people, both of them have been sinners, both of them have committed adultery, got divorced then married. Then they get saved. They never had been saved, they never knew what it was. What does the church say to them? You’re living in adultery? You’ve got to give up your wife and go back to your previous wife? What about the children? To me, that doesn’t sound like God. I wouldn’t endorse that.

This is my counsel, my opinion. My response would be God has given you a new start, be sure you don’t make the same mistakes again. That would be one situation.

One thing we need to be very clear about is that when we get saved, forgiveness for the past is guaranteed. Okay? I want to show you some scriptures because some of you are going to need them. Matthew 12:31.

I just want to ask you a question. Do you think when Jesus taught the multitudes for three days and then held a healing service, do you think all his teaching was about healing? No, I don’t. Some people have got the idea if you’re going to have a healing service you’ve got to teach on healing. I don’t believe that’s true. God confirms the word. Whatever the appropriate word is, God will confirm it. We’ve had some of our greatest meetings of healing when we didn’t say a word about healing in the message.

Matthew 12:31, Jesus is speaking.

“Therefore I say to you, Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven men.”

What is the one sin that will not be forgiven? Is it adultery? No. It’s the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Every other sin will be forgiven. That includes adultery, homosexuality, fornication and anything else you’d like to tack on at the end of that list. Thank God!

In Acts 13—and really, we need to emphasize this. You know, there are a lot of Christians in the church who really wonder whether God could ever forgive them. Acts 13:39. Paul is speaking in a Jewish synagogue about Jesus. He says in verse 38:

“Therefore let it be known to you brethren, that through this man [Jesus] is preached to you the forgiveness of sins: and by him every one who believes is justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

By the law of Moses you could not be justified from adultery. But, by believing in Jesus you can be justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. Is that clear? That’s good news.

Incidentally, you need to know the meaning of the word justified. I say—and you’ve probably heard me say this—when I say I’m justified it means I’m just as if I’d never sinned. You could give it a lot of different phrases. I’m acquitted, the verdict is not guilt. I’m reckoned righteous. I’m made righteous with God’s own righteousness. That’s what it is to be justified. When you’re justified you’re just as if you’d never sinned. Because, you’ve been made righteous with God’s righteousness which has no guilty past, which has no shadows, which has no consciousness of sin, no memory of sin. That’s what it is to be justified by faith in Jesus. I could preach on that for weeks. It’s exciting. After all, our real biggest problem, you know what it is? It’s guilt. That’s Satan’s strongest weapon.

1Corinthians 6:9–11. We’ve been there once but we’ll go back again. It’s good news. Do you know the word gospel means good news? Did you know that? Let me tell you, if you ever hear anything that isn’t good news it isn’t the gospel. There’s a lot of so called gospel preaching which contains no good news in it whatever. 1Corinthians 6:9–11:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? [That’s important.] Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

You’ve been washed, you’ve been made clean, you’ve been sanctified, you’ve been made holy, you’ve been justified, you’ve been made righteous with God’s own righteousness. Even if you were an adulterer or fornicator. Or a homosexual. Let no one ever make you feel guilty about those things if you truly repented and trusted in Jesus.

You might say, Well, they still committed adultery. He’s divorced his previous wife before he was saved and now he’s married, he’s living in adultery. I’m really not going to argue but I don’t see how you can be justified and still guilty of the sin. I’m not trying to make things easy because I believe in a strict morality for Christians. I don’t believe in being stricter than God is himself. You remember Peter had a vision on the top of a housetop of a lot of unclean animals coming down in a sheet. He was told by God to eat them and he didn’t want to. God said, “What God has cleansed don’t you call unclean.” I think a lot of church members need to hear that. What God has cleansed don’t you ever dare to call unclean. Don’t you belittle the power of the blood of Jesus which cleanses from all sin. Amen.

Let’s take a few other cases and these are only some of many possible cases. I’m not telling you the answers, I’m just asking you to think. Which you may not have been asked to do before! At least in this area. We’ve dealt with the unsaved divorcee who gets married and then gets saved. What about two unsaved people who marry and then divorce but not for adultery? Later, the man remarries. It could be the woman. By remarrying, as I understand it, he’s committed adultery. So, now is his wife free to remarry because she’s been released by his adultery? See what I’m saying? Get the problem. I don’t know the answer but I would say myself, I’d say go ahead.

Then you have the same scenario. Two unsaved people get married and then get divorced but not for adultery. Incompatibility or mental cruelty, something like that. They drift apart and lose contact with one another. Five years later one of them gets saved and wants to marry. What are you going to say? If you marry you’ll be committing adultery? You don’t know because you don’t know what the other party did. You can go to sleep tonight thinking that one over. You see, I really believe this is where the church needs godly, mature leadership. I believe they are the people that should resolve those questions by the light of scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe laws cover every case.

Let’s look at one basic principle of judgment. I’m getting near the end now. James 2:12–13.

“So speak, and so act, as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”

What is the law of liberty? That’s a good question. I’m not going to try to define it. That’s how we are to speak and act, as people who will be judged by the law of liberty, not by the law of Moses.

“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy; and mercy triumphs over judgment.”

I tremble for church members who judge other people with no mercy. You know why? They’re going to be judged without mercy. If I’m going to err on one side or the other, I’m going to err on the side of mercy because I know one thing, I need God’s mercy.

Now, we come to another totally different aspect of divorce which is very important and very personal. It’s healing the wounds. I hardly think there’s a person who’s ever been through a divorce who hasn’t come out in some way wounded. I’m going to say something that may surprise you. When I felt that God showed me supernaturally I was to marry Ruth—and this story is told in the book both from my point of view and hers—I made a date with her at the King David Hotel. I said meet me for breakfast at 9 o’clock. The King David Hotel is a hotel in Jerusalem. We were together from 9 till about 4 p.m. I think. That was a long breakfast! One of the first things I zeroed in was what was the basis of your divorce. Because, I did not want to go contrary to the word of God. I didn’t believe that God would lead me contrary to his word. I fully satisfied myself that Ruth’s first husband had been manifestly unfaithful and that was the basis of the divorce. On that basis I felt that Ruth was scripturally free to marry me without any stigma of inferiority or guilt. I have to say looking back I’m rather glad that God put me in that position because I feel that divorcees have been so unfairly treated by the church it’s time somebody did something to claim their rights for them. I want to tell you I got a jewel of a wife.

Ruth would agree with me she came out with many wounds and scars. She’s a very sensitive and a very tender person. You can’t go through all the agonies of discovering that your husband is unfaithful or your wife is unfaithful and then spend time thinking if we divorce, what will happen to the children? Nobody who’s got any natural feelings at all can come out of that without some kind of scar, wound or pain. Unfortunately, our present culture in America is filled with wounded people. I have one of my other radio messages called “From Rejection to Acceptance.” Second to the one on curses, it produces the biggest response. We offer the transcript free to radio listeners. Every time we’ll get maybe 2,000 people writing in for that book. What does it tell you? That there are a lot of people with the wound of rejection.

I’m so glad that God has shown me how it can be healed. I would be kind of paralyzed if I had to face all these wounded people and not have any remedy. But, thank God I have a remedy and it works. I’m going to tell you the remedy. First of all, let’s look at a little passage in Isaiah 54:6.

“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit; a wife who married young only to be rejected, says your God.”

That defines the problem. In my opinion that’s the deepest wound that the human heart can suffer, is the wound of rejection. I think probably 50 percent of the people in America today have that wound. Divorce is not the only cause. In fact, the commonest cause is a feeling of being unloved by parents. Because contemporary parents are so delinquent the result is many children that grow up with the would of rejection.

I want to tell you very simply how you can be healed. Three very simple steps. First of all, acknowledge that you’re hurting. Face the fact of your wound. See, there are many people that have been through rejection and I know some of them personally, I could describe them. Their reaction has been I’ll never let that happen again, I’ll never let anybody get close enough to me again to wound me that much. I’ll put on a facade of happiness, self sufficiency and I’ll never let anybody get through that facade. You see such people, if they’re women they may put on a little too much make up, they kind of laugh but there’s a kind of brittle note in their laughing. They’re a little bit aggressive in a way when you get near certain subjects, they’ll push you aback. Everything about them says I’m hurting inside but they won’t admit it. If you don’t admit you’re wounded God won’t heal you. You’ve got to acknowledge the reality of your wound.

This doesn’t happen to women only, believe me. Men can suffer rejection every bit as much as women.

The second thing you have to do is put your trust in the atonement of Jesus. The message of the cross: the evil came upon Jesus that the good might be made available to us. That’s true in every area. The ultimate truth is that Jesus endured our rejection that we might have his acceptance. If you’ve never seen that you haven’t discovered the source of healing. I want you to say that with me. We’ll use our left hand for the bad thing and our right hand for the good thing. Don’t say it with me the first time, say it after me. “Jesus endured our rejection that we might have his acceptance.” This time we’ll all say it together. “Jesus endured our rejection that we might have his acceptance.”

Jesus endured a double rejection. First of all, he was rejected by men. His own people rejected him. That’s hard but that wasn’t the end. Look in Isaiah 53:3 which is right across the page from Isaiah 54.

“He is despised and rejected by men...”

That’s the first rejection. But, the ultimate rejection which many people have never seen is he was rejected by God. That’s what broke his heart. Turn to Matthew 27 and we’ll begin from verse 46. This is a description of the end of the sufferings of Jesus on the cross.

“About the ninth hour [which would be about 3 o’clock in the afternoon] Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? [that was Aramaic] That is, My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”

Forsaken me, rejected me. That’s the first time in the history of the universe that the Son of God prayed and the Father gave no answer. The Father averted his eyes and stopped his ears. Why? Because Jesus had been made sin with our sinfulness. He endured the ultimate penalty of sin which is being rejected by God.

Let’s read what follows.

“Some of those that stood by, when they heard this, said, This man is calling for Elijah. [They didn’t understand the language he was speaking.] Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink.”

I think the sour wine is the ultimate bitterness of rejection.

“The rest said, Let him alone, let us see if Elijah will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up his spirit. And, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

What killed Jesus? It wasn’t crucifixion. He could have lived maybe an hour or two longer at least. Pilate was surprised later when he heard he was already dead. He didn’t die of crucifixion, he died of a broken heart. What broke his heart? Rejection. The worst of all rejection is rejection by a father.

But, when he died, what was the next thing that happened? The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. What did that signify? We have acceptance. His rejection has dealt with ours and opened the way for our acceptance. So, we have acceptance with God on the basis of the rejection of Jesus.

The third thing you have to do is lay down all bitterness and all resentment. Matthew 6:14–15. At the end of the Lord’s prayer Jesus added these words:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you trespasses.”

You have the option. You can refuse to forgive and forfeit God’s forgiveness or you can forgive and qualify for God’s forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness is not an emotion, it’s a decision.

I remember talking a good many years ago to a woman whose husband had forsaken her after about 15 years of marriage and left her with the children, no money and so on. I said if you want freedom, if you want healing, you’ve got to forgive your husband. She said, “He’s ruined 15 years of my life and now you’re asking me to forgive him.” I said if you want him to ruin the rest of your life just keep on resenting him. Because, it’s not the one who is resented that suffers the most, it’s the one who resents.

I was teaching on this in another place and I said forgiving other people is like tearing up IOUs. I took the example of a woman whose husband had been unfaithful. I said you have in your hand a whole sheet of IOUs from your husband. I owe you love, I owe you support, I owe you respect, et cetera. They’re all absolutely legal, you can enforce your claim. But, before you do just bear in mind that up in heaven God has in his hand a sheet of much larger IOUs from you to him. In fact, in one of the parables the relationship is seventeen dollars to six million dollars. So, God says figuratively, let’s make a deal. You tear up your IOUs and I’ll tear up mine. But, you hold on to your IOUs and I’ll hold onto mine. You have to make the decision. I think if you’ve got any business sense you’ll tear your IOUs up because it’s stupid to hold onto seventeen dollars when you can be forgiven six million.

At the end of my message—I always see this so vividly—a very smartly dressed sophisticated looking young woman of about 30 came marching right down the aisle straight toward me. I had no idea what she was going to do. She stood right in front of me and said, “Mr. Prince, while you were preaching I got rid of about $30,000 worth of IOUs.” She turned around and walked out. She had got the message, I didn’t need to counsel her, I didn’t need to pray with her, I didn’t need to do a thing! She was the most satisfied person in that congregation that day. Remember, if you want to be healed and stay healed you’ve got to tear up the IOUs. It’s good business to do it.

I tell people forgiving others is not being super-spiritual, it’s just having a business sense, that’s all.

Now we’re going to minister healing to those who have the wound of rejection. We’re not limiting it to divorcees or people who’ve been married. As you sit here tonight, you know that’s the thing that’s taking away your peace. You see, when you have this problem of rejection you’re like somebody who is always on the outside looking in. You feel I’ll never get in. Others can but I can’t. I believe I’ve said enough. If you have believed what I’ve said tonight which is straight out of the Bible about how to be healed—I’m not talking about marriage and divorce now—and you want to be healed. And, you believe that I can lead you in a prayer that will help you, I want you to stand up right where you are. I will lead you in that prayer. I want to say I don’t know what will happen when you pray this prayer. If you pray it with faith something will happen. Some of you may get a somewhat dramatic experience, others may get no dramatic experience. You receive it by faith. I’m going to lead you in the prayer, it will be directed to the Lord Jesus, not to me. At the end of the prayer when we’ve said amen I’m going to stand with the pastor and pray for the finger of the Holy Spirit. You know the Holy Spirit is the finger of God? To be reached out and touch you where you’re hurting. You just expect it to happen. Take a little while, we’re not in a hurry, I’ve said that already. We’re not trying to tell the Holy Spirit he’s got to do everything in the next five minutes. Okay? I’d like you to just say these words after me. Bear in mind you’re not speaking to me, you’re not speaking to a human being. You can either close your eyes or keep them open, it doesn’t matter to me. When we say amen remember you don’t pray any more, you begin to receive. How do you receive? By thanking. Thanking is the purest expression of faith. Will you say this?

“Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that you are the Son of God and the only way to God. That you died on the cross for my sins and rose again from the dead. I thank you Lord Jesus that on the cross you took upon you all the evil due to my sin that in return all the good due to your sinless obedience might be made available to me. You took the evil, Lord, that I might receive the good. In particular Lord, I thank you that on the cross you endured my rejection. Your heart was wounded with rejection that in return my heart might be healed of rejection that I might be delivered from this wound of rejection and receive your acceptance. Lord, by faith now I receive your acceptance. I am no longer rejected, I’m no longer unwanted. I’m a child of God. God is my Father, heaven is my home, I belong. I belong to the best family in the universe. Thank you God, you love me, you care for me, you want me. Lord, I love you, too. I thank you. God, you are my Father. Lord, you are my husband. I am accepted. Rejection is passed. I’m free. My wounds are healed. Thank you, Lord. Thank you. Thank you.” Keep thanking him.
“Father, we pray in Jesus’ name that your healing virtue will be released into every one of these wounded hearts, that you’ll stretch out your finger which is the Holy Spirit and touch these men and women where only you can touch them, where only the finger of God can reach, where no human scalpel can reach, where no psychiatrist can probe. Lord, you can touch them. We believe you to do it tonight. We thank you now for healing. We thank you for your healing power that’s present here tonight. We thank you for all that was purchased by the blood of Jesus. We lay claim to it in his name. Amen. Amen. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Father.”

Just take a little while to enjoy God. It’s no sin for a Christian to be happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord.

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