Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:24-25 ESV)
God designed marriage to reflect the beauty and permanence of Christ‘s loving relationship with his bride, the church (Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:7). Instituted by God at creation and designed to reflect the loving relationship between God and his people, marriage is intended by God to be permanent and must be guarded wisely.
The Christian marriage speaks to the world the reality of Christ in our lives. God’s love and covenant with His bride (the church) are revealed through the love and covenant of two individuals becoming one flesh (Gen. 2:24-25). Biblical marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman and God in which the husband commits to providing materially and emotionally to ensure his wife’s and children’s well-being at great expense to himself (Eph. 5:28-29; 1 Tim 5:8) and the wife respectfully submits to the husbands loving, sacrificial headship of the home (Eph. 5:22-24; 5:33).
For this reason, the elders of Sovereign Grace Church are committed to enriching marriages for Christ’s glory. We will devote portions of our preaching and teaching ministry to strengthening marriages and families. Couples are also encouraged to nurture their marriages by openly participating in the discipleship group ministry of the church in which people seek to grow together in their love for God and for one another (Heb. 10:24-25). As relationships deepen within these groups, we expect husbands to spur each other on in loving and cherishing their wives, and wives to encourage one another in respecting and loving their husbands (Eph. 5:33).
The pastors of Sovereign Grace Church count it a privilege to be involved in the beginning of a marriage. We are honored to officiate at weddings but more so, our desire is to prepare couples for the road that lies beyond the wedding day. To this end, we require and provide premarital counseling prior to any marriage to ensure that couples entering into marriage will be prepared for its many challenges.
Because we recognize both the divine origin of marriage and the devastating effects of divorce, the elders of Sovereign Grace Church are deeply committed to preserving marriages and preventing divorce. We are committed to providing counsel and support to couples who face marital difficulties. We will discourage couples from using divorce as a way to run away from issues that can be resolved through gospel-centered biblical counseling, repentance, forgiveness, and ongoing discipleship.
Though divorce is intensely personal, the biblical counsel and objectivity available through consultation with the elders will greatly increase the likelihood of avoiding impulsiveness (Prov. 15:22; Heb. 13:17). Therefore, just as pastors are involved in beginning a marriage, they should also be involved when there is marital conflict that may lead to the ending of a marriage. Church members are expected to bring the situation to the elders and cooperate with them as they promote repentance and reconciliation, exhaust redemptive biblical discipline if appropriate, and determine whether grounds exist for a divorce.
As an elder team, we recognize that there are times when God permits a believer to seek a divorce without sinning against God or a spouse. If their is a hardness of heart and resistance to repentance and change (Matt. 19:8; Mark 10:5), divorce may be permissible under certain circumstances. The Bible teaches that divorce is permissible in the instance of sexual immorality (Matt. 5:32; 19:9), or when an unbelieving spouse abandons a marriage (1 Cor. 7:12-16).
Even though divorce is permissible in these situations, we believe that biblically it is never required, and should only be pursued when all possible attempts at reconciliation have been exhausted. God patiently bears with our sins, repeatedly calls us to repentance, and freely forgives us when we turn back to him (Ps. 103:8-12; Isa. 55:7). An offended spouse can imitate God‘s love by offering a straying spouse these same evidences of grace (Eph. 5:1-2). This may involve patiently bearing neglect or lovingly confronting serious sin (Col. 3:12-14; Gal. 6:1). In some situations, love may require asking the church to initiate formal discipline to rescue a spouse and a marriage from the devastating effects of unrepentant sin (Matt. 18:12-20).
In our society, marriages fail under a wide range of circumstances. Many people have gone through a divorce before having a relationship with Christ, and others have experienced divorce through no desire or decision of their own. Still others may have divorced because of their own wrongful choices, but have since experienced the repentance and forgiveness offered through our Lord Jesus.
At Sovereign Grace Church, we rejoice that divorce never diminishes God‘s free offer of love, grace and forgiveness. He cherishes and loves every person who has been unwillingly divorced, just as he graciously extends this same love to those who have wrongly left their marriages.
As an elder team, we are committed to helping divorced people restore their previous marriage if that is possible and appropriate. We will support a decision by a divorced individual to pursue a second marriage to a different person only when we have determined that there was a biblically valid reason to pursue divorce. The elders would not support remarriage unless the previous marriage ended because of sexual immorality (porneia), abandonment by an unbelieving spouse or because of irreconcilable violence by the spouse of the previous marriage.
Members of Sovereign Grace Church who have sought divorce through the guidance of the elders should consider themselves married until the day a civil court issues a divorce decree. Thus, they should refrain from dating or any other activity that is inconsistent with being married. Though not always necessary, we do believe that a separated spouse should remain single for as long as every effort is applied to reconcile with their husband or wife under the supervision of the church elders. The elders of Sovereign Grace Church will continue counseling and care of those affected by divorce for as long as necessary after a divorce.
The elders of Sovereign Grace Church have pursued much study, prayer, wisdom, and counsel in order to faithfully represent the will of God. It must be the commitment of all members of Sovereign Grace Church to follow the directives of Scripture in the areas of marriage, divorce, domestic abuse, and remarriage wherever they may go no matter how uncomfortable they may be.
This Statement on Marriage, Divorce Domestic Abuse and Remarriage is not intended to be exhaustive. The elder team recognizes that there are many complicated factors and variables specific to each marriage. When difficulties and questions arise within the marriage context, we will prayerfully give counsel based on the merits of each case in light of the clear teaching of Scripture.