Divorce & Remarriage: In Light Of Unrepentant Physical Abuse, Separation, and Desertion

Divorce & Remarriage In Light Of Unrepentant Physical Abuse, A Resulting Separation, and Desertion.

Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Note: The trespasser is to be treated as an unbeliever, i.e., an unbelieving one, even a heathen and publican.

1 Corinthians 7:39 “The wife is bound [G1210/deō/the same root verb for G1402/douloō in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 below] by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.”

Note: The wife here is said to be bound, as one who is in bondage to, her husband (legally-speaking). This is important because the word at issue, G1210/deō/bound, is the verbal root of the directly-related, derivative noun found in the next passage.

1 Corinthians 7:10-16 “And unto the married I command, [yet] not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from [her] husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [her] husband: and let not the husband put away [his] wife. 12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage [G1402/douloō/noun; from G1401/doulos/noun; which is from  G1210/deō/the root verb] in such [cases]: but God hath called us to peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save [thy] husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save [thy] wife?” 

Note: Given the unquestionably direct relationship between the verbal root, and the derivative nouns, clearly the one who is not in bondage is resultingly not bound. If the professing “believing” husband proves himself to be an unbeliever (as a heathen and publican) due to prolonged unrepentance, and this results in a long-term separation, one leading to abandonment/desertion (the departing spoken of in 1 Corinthians 7:15), then the woman (no longer bound to him) would be free to remarry. Why? Because the only reason for a divorce, or receiving a bill of divorcement, or an unbinding of a bound relationship, is for one to be free to remarry. Separation does not allow for remarriage; but a divorce due to fornication and/or desertion/abandonment/the-departing-of-an-unbelieving spouse does.

See below for some commentary from William Perkins on the matter.


“On the other hand, in his Christian Oeconomie Perkins appears to validate a dissolution of a marriage on the basis of desertion caused by physical cruelty.

In the case of a mixed marriage:

Suppose that an husband which is an unbeliever or a heretic in the foundation, of his own accord, upon detestation of true religion, quite forsakes the believing wife, and denies any more to dwell with her: what is to be done?

All good means must be used to bring the infected party to repentance; and when none will succeed, but the case remaineth desperate, then marriage is dissolved on his part, and the believing wife is free to marry another. (Works, III, 687)

In the case of two believers:

The faulty person, who is the cause of this desertion, is to be forced by course of civil, and ecclesiastical censure to perform his, or her duty. Upon which proceeding if he remain obstinate and perverse in will; the other must in patience, and earnest prayer unto God, wait the time, until his mind may be changed, and he be made to relent by the order of the Magistrate. But if one of them, by just occasion of fear, be compelled to depart from the other: and cannot return again without apparent danger of life; in this case they are not bound to return; but the delinquent party is to remain solitary, till they be instructed and made willing to do their duties: and in the mean while, the party innocent must be resolved that God hath call him or her to a single life.

Again, be it that the one is resolutely unwilling to dwell with the other, and thereupon flies away without any fault of the other: if the thing after a long space be sufficiently known beforehand, and all probable means have been used, to reclaim the guilty person; yea, being called he doth not personally appear before the judge, to yield a reason of the fact; after public and solemn declarations made, the Minister upon such desertion may pronounce the marriage to be dissolved. For he that upon malice flieth away from his mate, is to be holden in the same terms as with an unbeliever, who departs upon detestation of religion, and the service of God, I Tim. 5.8. (Ibid., III, 687-688).

Excerpt from: http://www.pcanet.org/history/pca/2-260.doc

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