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  • CHAPTER EIGHT
    OF
    THE DISCIPLINE
    800    SOCIAL CONCERNS

    801    MARRIAGE, DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

    1. What the Bible Teaches About Marriage
        A. Marriage is a Divine Institution.
        Contrary to some contemporary opinions, marriage is not a human institution that has evolved over the millennia to meet the needs of society. If it were no more than that, then conceivably it could be discarded when it is deemed no longer to be meeting those needs. Rather, marriage was God's idea, and human history begins with the Lord himself presiding over the first wedding (Gen. 2:18-25).
        B. Marriage is to be regulated by Divine Instructions.
        Since God made marriage, it stands to reason that it must be regulated by his commands. In marriage, both husband and wife stand beneath the authority of the Lord. "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Ps. 127:1).
        C. Marriage is a Divine Illustration.
        In both Old and New Testaments, marriage is used as the supreme illustration of the love relationship that God established with his people. Israel is spoken of as the wife of Jehovah (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:8; Hos. 2:19-20). The church is called the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-32). The Christian marriage is sort of a "pageant" in which the husband takes the church, and the wife plays the role of the believer, loving and submitting to her husband as the Christian does to the Lord. Thus, Christian marriage should be an object lesson in which others can see something of the divine-human relationship reflected.
        D. Marriage is a Covenant.
        From the earliest chapters of the Bible, the idea of covenant is the framework by which man's relationship to God is to be understood, and it also regulates the lives of God's people. A covenant is an agreement between two parties based upon mutual promises and solemnly binding obligations. It is like a contract, with the additional idea that it establishes personal relationship. God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants is summarized in the statement, "I will be your God, and you shall be my people." Marriage is called a covenant (Mal. 2;14), the must intimate of all human covenants. The key ingredient in a covenant is faithfulness, being committed irreversibly to the fulfillment of the covenant obligations. The most important factor in the marriage covenant is not romance; it is faithfulness to the covenant vows, even if the romance flickers.
        E. Marriage is a Whole-Person Commitment.
        God meant marriage to be the total commitment of a man and a woman to each other. It is not two solo performances, but a duet. In marriage, two people give themselves unreservedly to each other (Gen. 2:25; I Cor. 7:3-4). "What God has joined together, let not man separate," declared our Lord (Matt. 19:6). "Till death do us part" is not a carryover from old-fashioned romanticism but a sober reflection of God's intention regarding marriage (Rom. 7;2-3; I Cor. 7:39).

    2. What the Bible Teaches About Divorce.
        A. Divorce is abhorrent to God (Mal. 2:15-16).
        B. Divorce is always the result of sin.
        God's basic intention for marriage never included divorce; but when sin entered human experience, God's intention was distorted and marred. Under perfect conditions, there was no provision for divorce, but God allowed divorce to become a reality because of man's sinfulness (Deut. 24:1-4; Matt. 19:7-8). To say that divorce is always the result of sin is not to say, however, that all divorce is itself a sin. It may be the only way to deal with the sinfulness of the other party that has disrupted the marriage relationship.
        C. There are two conditions under which divorce is biblically permissible. Since divorce is a sinful distortion of God's intention for marriage, it is an alternative of last recourse, to be avoided whenever possible. However, Scripture does teach that there are two circumstances in which divorce is permitted (though never required):
            1. In the case of sexual unfaithfulness (Matt. 19:9)>
            2. In the case of desertion of a believing partner by an unbelieving spouse (I Cor. 7:15-16).
        D. Divorce carries with it consequences and complications.
        Divorce, because it is a violation of God's plan, carries with it painful consequences and complications. God has made perfect provisions for the complete forgiveness of all our sin through the death of Christ, even the sins of sexual infidelity and unjustified divorce (I Peter 2:24; Col. 2:13).
        Forgiveness, however, does not remove the temporal consequences of our sins or the pain and grief involved in the death of a relationship. Divorced singles, single-parent families, remarriage, and the problems of "blended" families are part of the consequences of God's intentions being thwarted. The church is to minister to individuals and families suffering these consequences, and to seek to help them respond with maturity to their problems.
        E. Scripture recognizes the possibility of separation that does not lead to divorce.
        Because of humankind's sinful nature, couples can, at times, be involved in a marital relationship that is destructive, either physically or emotionally, to the two marriage partners and/or their children. It is possible that separation might become necessary because of the destructive nature of the relationship or the potential danger to one or more of the family members. Such a situation does not provide grounds for dissolution of marriage and the establishment of a new marriage. A Christian is bound to seek reconciliation as long as there is a possibility of such reconciliation taking place (I Cor. 7:11).
        F. Reconciliation is to be preferred to divorce.
        While divorce is permitted, it is never commanded. Forgiveness and reconciliation are always to be preferred (I Cor. 7:10-11).

    3. What the Bible Teaches About Remarriage.
        A. Remarriage is permitted when the former spouse is deceased (Rom. 7:3; I Cor. 7:39).
        B. Where a divorce occurred prior to conversion, remarriage may be permitted.
        "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (II Cor. 5:17). When one becomes a Christian, all sin if forgiven, and all condemnation is removed (Rom 8:1). Thus, preconversion conditions do not necessary preclude remarriage to a Christian mate.
        If the former marriage partner has also become a Christian, remarriage to that partner should be sought. Where the former partner has not been converted and attempts to share the gospel with him or her are rejected, however, remarriage to that person would be disobedient to Scripture (II Cor. 6:14).
        Even though remarriage is allowable biblically, there may be consequences from past sins that continue or destructive patterns from the old life that can carry into new relationships. Thus, a new marriage should be entered into with due thoughtfulness and with the counsel of mature Christians.
        C. Where a divorce has occurred on scriptural grounds, the offended party is free to remarry.
        A person who has been divorced because of infidelity of a marriage partner or desertion by an unbelieving partner is free to remarry (I Cor. 7:15).
        D. What about desertion by a "Christian" spouse?
        First Corinthians 7 deals specifically with the case of a nonbeliever who refused to live with the believing spouse. The question then arises about the remarriage of a believer who was divorced by a partner who also professes to be a Christian. Such a situation ideally should involve the church in the steps of disciplinary action outlined in Matthew 18. A Christian who decides to walk out of a marriage without biblical cause is in violation of Scripture. Such a person who refuses the counsel and admonition of the spiritual leaders and persists in following the course of disobedience ultimately is to be dealt with as though he or she is an unbeliever (Matt. 18:17). The deserted spouse would then be in a position of having been deserted by one whose sinful behavior and unresponsiveness to spiritual admonition give evidence of an unregenerate heart, and thus he or she falls under the provision of I Corinthians 7:15.
        E. Scripture does not absolutely forbid remarriage of a person who was involved in a nonbiblical divorce.
        Where there is the demonstration of genuine and heartfelt repentance in the case of one who was a Christian at the time of the divorce, remarriage may be permitted if (1) the former spouse has remarried or (2) the former partner refuses reconciliation (I Cor. 7:15).

    802    SOCIAL CONCERNS:
        Statement of Purpose: The purpose of the local Social Action Committee is to provide information which both educates and motivates our congregations toward Christlikeness reflected in personal and community standards.
        The local Social Action Committee and pastor are to encourage total abstinence from illegal and/or addictive drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. These leaders are expected to set an example themselves by refraining from the use of these addictive and destructive substances.
        The use of these items in any form is prohibited in any area where the worship of God is conducted or where Christian instruction is performed.
        Pastors, members, and friends are further encouraged to promote restriction of sales and use of these substances.
        No pastor or member should license or rent property for use or sale of these substances.
        It is our position that abortion under any circumstances is murder. God is the Giver of life. God, not mere mortals, determines when life should end. Psalm 139:13-16; I Samuel 2:6.
        Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is absolutely forbidden by Scripture. We are proponents of abstinence in the absence of a marriage partner. I Corinthians 7:1-3,10-11; 10:9; Hebrews 10:4.
        Pornography is prohibited by God's Holy Word. It is also addictive and destructive. Matthew 5:28; Philippians 4:8.
        The practice of homosexuality is positively forbidden by Scripture. Romans 1:26-27; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13.
        Scripture repeatedly denounces the occult in all its forms. In our day, this includes (but is not limited to) horoscopes, Ouija Boards, tarot cards, palm reading, predicting the future, Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, and crystals. Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:6; 20:27.
        Gambling is a destructive, impoverishing and addictive activity. We urge our fellow believers to abstain from gambling and from playing the lotteries. Hebrews 13:5; I Samuel 2:7; Ecclesiastes 5:19; Proverbs 23:5; 27:23-27.
        The ballot is a potent weapon against the social evils of the day; therefore ministers and members are asked to use the ballot, guided by Christian principles.
        Conclusion: To the best of our ability, we will provide pertinent information and resources, as well as avenues of action, for our family of believers to express their concern, commitment and involvement.

    803    Soliciting Fund: No person shall be allowed to solicit funds in any church without the consent of its minister.

    804    Debts: When the reputation of the church has been injured by a member incurring a dishonest debt, the matter shall be considered by the Quarterly Conference. In case of a minster, the matter shall be referred to the General Committee.

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