What Does The Bible Say About Marriage and Divorce?



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It has been said that

  • marriages are made in Heaven implying that neither man nor woman can dissolve a marriage.
  • any married person who has sexual relations with someone other than their spouse has broken their covenant of marriage.
  • those divorced for reasons other than sexual immorality cannot remarry as they are still married in God's sight. Therefore,will be living in sin.
  • a faithful spouse divorced from a sexually unfaithful spouse can marry another and not be living in sin. But the sexually unfaithful spouse cannot marry another as they are still married but prohibited from fulfilling their marital obligations as the faithful spouse is married to another still married to him. So, how can one be married to someone who is not married to him?

The purpose of this study is to examine scriptures relating to the subject of marriage and divorce in an attempt to determine God's will. These interpretations and conclusions are personal and are subject to change upon further study. The reader should not accept my opinions or anyone else's but study and examine all Bible teachings before reaching their own interpretation. Personal interpretations are subject to changes as additional knowledge is acquired.

Permission is given to reproduce for non-commercial purposes lessons in their entirety and without change. The Bible Way Online-Randolph Dunn - Write to us at questions@thebiblewayonline.com, Revised August 2017

Table of Contents



Introduction

The purpose of this study is to examine scriptures relating to the subject of marriage and divorce in an attempt to determine God's will. It has been said

  • marriages are made in Heaven implying that neither man nor woman can dissolve a marriage.
  • any married person who has sexual relations with someone other than their spouse has broken their covenant of marriage.
  • those divorced for reasons other than sexual immorality cannot remarry as they will be living in sin.
  • a faithful spouse divorce from a sexually unfaithful spouse can marry another and not be living in sin.
  • the sexually unfaithful spouse cannot marry another as they are still married. Therefore, would not the remarried faithful spouse be a polygamist?

God created man and provided for his physical needs by placing him in Eden. Then he created a companion/helper 1 for "it was not good for man to be alone" (2:18). They were united as one flesh, as if glued together (Genesis).
1 Man's helper -- 'ezer - (help meet -- KJV; his counterpart -- YLT)

Exodus 21:10 gives man's marital responsibility toward his wife. "If he takes another woman for himself, he may not withhold from the first her food, her clothing, or her marital [conjugal - NASU] rights (ISV).

As time passed and while under the Covenant God made through Moses various situations existed between man and woman.

  1. The father as head of the household had control / authority over his wife and children.
  2. When a woman married 2 she left the control of her father. 2 Married, gä-mos; -- marry -- to wed of either sex); Unmarried ä gä-mos;gämos -- ä' -- not gämos married.
  3. Husband had total control over his wife - Law of the husband.
  4. Sexual relations outside marriage is fornication.
  5. Husband can send (put) his wife away without a bill of divorcement thereby not fulfilling his marital responsibilities.
  6. Husband can divorce his wife by giving her a "bill of divorcement".
  7. A bill of divorcement dissolves the marriage covenant, thus they are no longer married.
  8. Wife had little if any rights - she could not divorce her husband.
  9. A put away wife without a bill of divorcement is still legally married
  10. A divorced wife can marry another without being an adulteress
  11. Marriage is dissolved at death and ends the law of the husband
  12. Widows are free to enter into a new marriage2 covenant.
  13. 2 Married, gä-mos (of either sex); Unmarried ä'-gämos - ä' - not

Reason for Marriage

Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 address the unmarried in verse 1 "It is good for a man not to touch 3 (marry -- NIV, ISV) a woman" and the married in verse 2 "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" (RSV).
3Háptesthai -intercourse, cohabit, (Thayer's)

"In view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound 4 to a wife [in a covenant relationship (rd)]? Do not seek to be free. Are you free 5from a wife [not in a married state (rd) (loosed ASV, KJV)]?
4 Bound, deoo - to bind, fasten, [e.g., by a marriage covenant relationship -rd]
5Free or loosed, lúsin - divorced Thayer's

Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned" (1 Corinthians 7 26-28a ESV). "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband (Corinthians 7:1-2 KJV).

"To the unmarried 6 and the widows 6 I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control [over their sexual desires(rd)], they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" (1 Corinthians 7:8-9 ESV).
6 Married, gä-mos; -- marry -- to wed (of either sex); Unmarried ä gä-mos;gämos -- ä' -- not gämos married

"Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous" 7 (Hebrews 13:4-5 ESV)
7 Sexually immoral and adulterous are not equivalent terms [sexual immoral, pornos --immorality; harlotry, idolatry; unchastity; fornication; any illicit sexual intercourse] [adulterous, moichos -- Breaking of a covenant by [intercourse with someone other than their spouse -- Vine's] or other means e.g., not fulfilling marriage responsibilities..

God by design in the creation process stated that it was not good for man to be alone and that he needed a suitable companion, his counterpart, his helper, a wife. Thus He united the male and female together by the covenant relationship we call marriage to satisfy their fleshly desires of companionship and sexual passion. Therefore marriage is honorable and not a sin.

It is a sin to pursue one's sexual desire outside of marriage by having sexual relations (fornication) of any kind.

There is no requirement to marry if sexual desires can be controlled, e.g., Paul.

The never married, divorced and widowed have sexual desires so they are advised to marry if they ate not able to exercise control over their sexual desires.

Marriage Covenant

Malachi stated "she is your companion and your wife by covenant" 8 ( Malachi 2:14).
8 Covenant - beriyth - alliance, constitution, pledge, treaty, league; covenant of marriage.

  • A covenant is a binding agreement based upon faith and trust in each other and honoring each other. Actions contrary to the terms of the covenant breaks it with faith and trust destroyed.

  • God entered into several covenants with man which required them to be faithful to him (not worship other gods). They constantly broke their covenants with Him, but He always forgave when they repented and returned to Him.

  • Anytime man breaks or dissolves one of His covenants it is sin. Therefore, it should be obvious it is a sin when one breaks the marriage covenant by abandoment, the putting away or the divorcing a faithful spouse.

  • God hates the sin of covenant breaking, adultery.

Law of Husband

"Don't you realize, brothers -- for I am speaking to people who know the Law -- that the Law can press its claims over a person only as long as he is alive? For a married woman is bound by the Law to her husband while he is living, but if her husband dies, she is released from the Law concerning her husband" (Romans 7:1, 2).

  • The NASB reads -- "-- released from the law concerning the husband." More literally, the Greek text states -- "-- from the law of the man/husband." Again, one detects the nature of the absolute authority and lordship the man was given over the woman by such laws and customs. It was law that, quite frankly, favored the man rather than the woman. Such were the inequities often evident in ancient, more primitive, cultures. This "law of the husband" thus allowed male dominance and "lordship" in almost all areas of the marital relationship.

  • It is important for us to understand Paul's point of emphasis in this passage. Paul is not "laying down law" with regard to marriage, divorce and remarriage; rather, he is pointing out, to people well aware of their own legal customs, that under the prevailing legal climate a man had a type of "legal lordship" over his wife. The woman was under the "law of the husband" -- she was bound to him, and could not of her own doing secure a legal or socially acceptable release. If her husband was unwilling to release her, then her only legal recourse was to await his death.
    10REFLECTIONS by Al Maxey Issue #106

  • Neither Roman nor Jewish law applies today. However, it is still a sin to break covenants. Broken marriage covenants can also be restored today by repentance and forgiveness.

Divorce or Putting Away

"But you O priest -- 8 have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi," says the Lord Almighty. -- 11 Judah has broken faith 10 a detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god 11 -- 13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, "Why?" It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith [dealt treacherously -- YLT) with her, though she is your partner [companion (ASV, ESV], the wife of your marriage covenant. -- 16 For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce [sending away -- YLT]" 12 (Malachi 2:8, 11, 13-14, 16 NIV).
11 Broken faith, [have been faithless -- ESV, RSV; dealt treacherously -- NKJ, YLT] -bagad -- faithless, to act covertly, pillage, deal deceitfully, unfaithful (Thayer); dealt treacherously, deceitfully in the marriage relation, in matters of property or right, in covenants, in word and in general conduct. (Brown-Driver-Briggs)
12 Marrying daughters of foreign gods was against their covenant with God therefore spiritual adultery. They broke their covenant with God.
13 Shalach Hebrew #7971- to send away -- ASV, KJV, YLT; divorce - RSV, ESV, NIV ) cast out, forsake, leave, let depart, loose. However the Hebrew word for divorcement is kriythuwth (Brown-Driver-Biggs). One can send away his wife without a bill of divorcement, dealing treacherously, Malachi.

Malachi is first discussing the breaking of covenant between God and Israel which he called a detestable thing. The covenant was broken because the men of Israel married foreign idol worshiping women which God strictly forbid by their covenant with Him.

Then he wrote about husbands not fulfilling his responsibilities 13 under the marriage covenant by sending his wife away. It appears he sent her away without giving her a certificate of divorce as he used the Hebrew word Shalach (send away) rather then apostasion (divorcement). Thus he is considered as having dealt treacherously with her leaving her no means of physical support and unable to legally marry without having a certificate of divorce. Therefore, he forced her to cohabit (live with a man with whom she was not married) thereby violating her marriage covenant with the one to which she is legally married and unable to legally marry in order to have food, clothing and shelter even if sexual intimacy was not involved which would be doubtful.
13 "If he takes another woman for himself, he may not withhold from the first her food, clothing, or marital rights". Exodus 21:10-11
"You have heard that it was said, 'You must not commit adultery.' But I say to you, anyone who stares at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:27-8 ISV).

Although no physical relationship is broken, his one flesh bond appears to have been since, he passionately desires ti have sexual relations with her, he "committed adultery." Therefore adultery can be committed in ways other than fornication.

"Whosoever shall put away (apoluo not the Greek word for divorce) his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement (apostasion): But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away (apoluo) his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced (apoluo) committeth adultery as she is still legally married under the law of the husband. (Matthew 5:31-32 - KJV). "It must be pointed out in Matt. 5:32 that the word "divorced" in the KJV is a flagrant mistranslation of the Greek word apoluo, which they translated "put away" earlier in the very same verse (and in vs. 31 also). Apoluo is not the Greek word for divorce it is apostasion. 14 Todd Derstine, www.americaspropheticdestiny.com

"Yeshua {Jesus} implies strongly in Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19:9 that men were putting away their wives for reasons other than porneia, simply out of the hardness of their hearts, i.e. for largely carnal reasons. But in order to cover up their carnality and hard-to-please attitude, they were also neglecting to issue the bill of divorce [he dealt treacherously (rd)], causing the woman and her new husband to commit adultery. The woman would be merely "put away" (Gk. =apoluo put away not the Greek word for divorce), not legally divorced. Also factoring into the sociology of this time period in Jewish history is the fact that Judaism, contrary to the Torah passages already looked at, did not recognize a woman's right to initiate divorce. Hence, the women of this evil time were being left in legal limbo, i.e. out of house and home, but not free to marry another man.

The putting away of a fornicating wife even without a bill of divorcement cannot "cause" her to be an adulteress because she is already an adulteress as she broke the marriage covenant. It is the putting away a faithful wife without the certificate of divorcement that causes her to be an adulteress as discussed earlier.

There are two words translated as "send away or put away" a wife with or without a certificate of divorcement. They are shalach (Hebrew- Strong's OT# 7971) and apoluo put away not the Greek word for divorce). Without a certificate of divorcement the sent away wife was still married with no marital benefits such as food, clothing, shelter or conjugal rights. Her means of survival were limited to prostitution or cohabiting both are considered as fornication. The man committed adultery by breaking his marriage contract with his faithful wife. Women in New Testament times did not have a legal standing to initiate such action although they could abandon their husband.

There are also two words one Hebrew and one Greek meaning certificate of divorcement. These words are keriythuwth (Hebrew - Strong's OT#3748) and apostasion (Greek NT Strong's # 647). With a certificate of divorcement the put away wife was legally free to marry another as she was no longer married to her former husband.

"And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, 'Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?' -- He said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce (apoluo) your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces (apoluo put away not the Greek word for divorce) his wife, except for sexual immorality, 15 and marries another, commits adultery' " (Matthew 19:3; 8, 9 -- ESV).
15 Those involved in sexual relationship with another's spouse are to be put to death. Leviticus 20:10

"Whoever divorces (apoluo put away not the Greek word for divorce) his wife and marries another 16 commits adultery against her, and if she divorces (apoluo put away not the Greek word for divorce) her husband 17 and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10:11-12 -- ESV).
16 This appears to mean one divorces in order to marry someone more pleasing
17 Greek and Roman wives could put away their husbands but not so for Jews, (Vines)

"Everyone who divorces (apoluo put away not the Greek word for divorce) his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced (apoluo) from her husband commits adultery" (Luke 16:18 -- ESV).

"Or do you not know, brothers — for I am speaking to those who know the law 18 that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress." (Romans 7:1-3 ESV).
18 Law - law of Moses and/or possibly Roman civil law

The test the religious scholars were attempting to accomplish was to get Jesus to choose between two interpretations; a) divorce for any reason of one’s choosing, b) prohibit divorce for any reason. But these were not the only available options so Jesus reminded them that in marriage they were united as one. In response to Moses allowing the giving of bill of divorcement, Jesus states it was their hardness of heart, dealing treacherously, by putting his wife away while keeping her under his control, by not giving a bill of divorcement. Therefore, without means of survival so He allowed Moses to require a bill of divorcement to be given when putting away a wife.

"Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to have sexual relations (touch - KJV, ASV; marry NIV). 19 But since" there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that" (1 Corinthians 7:1-7 NIV).
19 Greek haptoo – to attach oneself to; cohabit)

Withholding of marriage covenant duties appears to be not satisfying sexual passions. Neither can he withhold his other marital responsibilities (food, clothing, shelter and intimate companionship) without violating the marriage covenant.

Those Separated

"To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce (send away YLT; afiénai ) his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 ESV).

"To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate 20 from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce (send away YLT; afiénai 21 ) his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 ESV).
20 Separate (chooristheénai -Strong's NT#5563) -to leave, depart, forsake, abandon.
21 afiénai Strong's NT#863 - to bid go away or depart

Women could not divorce their husband, but she could leave, depart, abandon him, as the husband. When this departing occurred Christian wives and husbands were to remain unmarried or be reconciled.


Unbelieving Spouse

"To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her[aphiemi - Strong's # 863 -send away; [not the Greek word for divorce (rd)]. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce [afiétoo / aphiemi forsake, leave, put away (Strong's)] him" (1 Corinthians 7:12-13 ESV).

Never Married and Unmarried

"Now concerning the betrothed 22 (virgins ASV), I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife [married]? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife [divorced]? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that (1 Corinthians 7:25-28).
22 Unmarried persons of either sex -- Adam Clarke's Commentary

"I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry -- it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better" (1 Corinthians 7:32-38).

The point being made is under certain situations, e.g. persecution, love and concern of family increases the temptation to yield to the pressures of persecution rather than remain faithful to your covenant with God. But sexual passions could be a greater if so it is not a sin to marry.

Bound or Free

Are you bound23 to a wife? Do not seek to be free. 24 Are you free 25 from 26 a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away" (1 Corinthians 7:27-31 ESV).

It is the same for the unmarried and never married. You can avoid stress in the coming distress if you are not married.
23 Under a covenant relationship (married--rd)
24 Lysib To unbind, release, undo, dissolve -- Thayer (divorce - rd)
25 lúsin Free of loosed, -- divorced (free from any bond such as marriage) - Thayer
26 Free from a wife -- widowed or divorced [one never married would not have had a wife from which he could be freed -- (rd).

Summary

Matthew
Jesus reiterated that breaking the marriage covenant by giving a certificate of divorce is a sin unless a spouse broke their marriage covenant by being sexually unfaithful. The putting away of a faithful spouse withour a bill of divorcement is a sin as you have broken a covenant but still legally married.

The Pharisees in chapter 19 attempt to trap or test Jesus into choosing between two teachings, (put away his wife for any reason or prohibiting divorce for any reason). Jesus stated originally, and still applies today, man and woman were and are united into one flesh and that relationship was and is intended to last until death. But man is capable of sinning and he does so by breaking his marriage covenant by divorce, abandoning her or sending her away, putting asunder [not divorce]. Due to man’s treacherous dealings with his defenseless wife, God approved the written document of divorce as recognition of a dissolved marriage. The woman was then able to marry legally without being considered an adulteress. Without the divorce document she could only cohabit, not legally marry. Since the divorce certificate acknowledges the dissolved marriage, they are no longer in a marriage relationship, thus free or loosed from a spouse. The divorce certificate does not negate the sin of divorcing a faithful spouse (also recorded in Mark 10 and Luke 16). In chapter 15 Jesus explains that it is the inner man can commit adultery.

1 Corinthians
To the unmarried (never married, widowed and divorced):
a. Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. As stated in the beginning it is not good for man to be alone.
b. Men and women should marry to avoid sexual immorality.
c. It is better to marry than burn with passion. Those divorced have the same or perhaps even greater sexual desires than those never married. Therefore, their sexual desires may be more difficult to control than those who have never married.

To the married:
a. Do not send away or divorce a faithful wife as this is breaking a marriage covenant.
b. Do not withhold the fulfilling of a spouse's sexual desire.
c. A husband and wife may separate by mutual consent from each other for purposes of prayer and fasting. The separation period must be of sufficient brevity so as to avoid the temptation for sexual immorality.
d. Refusal to reconcile following a separation from a faithful spouse breaks the marriage covenant.
e. Christians are to remain in their marriage relationship to an unbelieving spouse who consents to do so.
f. A Christian is not bound to their marriage covenant if an unbelieving spouse deserts or abandons their wife or husband. The marriage covenant is broken if by choice as the covenant obligations cannot be fulfilled.

When one enters into an exclusive covenant relationship all other similar relationships must be excluded, such as:
a. marriage in the physical
b. faith, trust and obedience to God in the spiritual.

Not fulfilling the covenant requirements or being unfaithful to the marriage covenant is adultery; e.g.,
1. In the marriage relationship
a. sexual intercourse with someone other than one’s spouse
b. refusal to reconcile following separation
c. Not fulfilling ones marital obligations; e.g., refusing to participate in the sexual and companion relationship
d. abandonment

2. In the spiritual relationship
a. rejecting God by worshiping false gods (e.g., idols, icons, money, pleasures)
b. refusal to participate in a covenant relationship with God
c. refusal to repent and reconcile following separation

3. To receive forgiveness of the sin of covenant breaking, adultery, requires the:
a. recognition of sin
b. cessation from continued activity (practice of activity)
c. repentance 27
d. desire to be forgiven
e. seeking of forgiveness.

There is no doubt that God hates the breaking of the covenant including of marriage covenant -- unfaithfulness. Faithfulness is a part of the very nature of God. In the Law of Moses marriage was recognized following a divorce. Also Christ recognized a marriage was dissolved by divorce and no longer in a marriage relationship and that one longer in a marriage relationship and that one having married again following a divorce was in a married state.

27 Not a mere feeling; it has not the uncertainty of moods and sentiments. It is not a simple change in the weather of the soul. It is a distinct alteration of the focus of the intelligence; it carries with it a movement of the will; in short, it is a revolution in the very ground of the man's being." 27 The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18, p. 66 quoted in REFLECTIONS #515 Al Maxey, January 3, 2012

Forgiveness

All men and women are encouraged to marry in order to avoid sexual immorality. Therefore, marriage is not a sin. God hates divorce as a covenant is broken. Divorce is the sin. So, what action must be taken by a Christian guilty of the sin of breaking a covenant - divorcing?

First, all sins are forgivable except for those who refuse to seek forgiveness or for the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matthew 12:31-32 NKJV). Whenever Christians become aware they have sinned they must correct their situation to get back into a right relationship with God. Therefore, there must be some instruction in the New Testament regarding what a Christian must do to be forgiven of the sins he commits.

In the spiritual marriage relationship, God is always willing to forgive and restore but not on any conditional basis. Sinners must return unconditional by changing their life and seeking a restored relationship. Likewise in one's physical marriage relationship every effort should be made to restore the marriage relationship but not on some conditional basis.

Luke, recording an attitude and possibly greed problem of Simon, states in Acts 8:20-23 "But Peter said to him, 'Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.'" This Christian's heart was evil, full of sin and in need of forgiveness.

Paul, without giving many details, wrote in 1 Corinthians about a Christian involved in fornication. He strongly condemned both the fornicator and Corinthian Christians tolerating his fornicating since they did not take any action to bring the sinning brother back into the right relationship with God. Apparently they did not regard act of fornication as sinful and alienated from God. They needed to repent from their lack of love for this brother in his sinful condition.

In 2 Corinthians 2:10 Paul states that he forgave the fornicating brother. The Corinthian brother ceased his fornicating and changed his attitude, for the Christians in the Corinthian church were told in verse 7 to "comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow." Obviously a Christian brother had sinned, later repented and was forgiven as Paul told the other Christians to comfort him.

It is incumbent upon Christian brothers and sisters to provide a Bible answer to the question, what must I do to be saved or to be forgiven. It is clear they must stop sinning, repent; i.e., making a complete change in attitude and lifestyle. The Ephesian Christians were told "Therefore, putting away lying, 'Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,' for we are members of one another. 'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need" (Ephesians 4:25-28 NKJV). It appears that they had a practice of lying, stealing and holding grudges. Therefore, to be forgiven the practice of sinning must cease.

Does the cession of the practice of sin bring forgiveness? No, for John in 1 John 1:8-9 writing to Christians states "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess 31 our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

From these examples it should be clear that a Christian must be aware of their sin(s) for if one is not aware, how can they cease or change.

To be free from the bonds of iniquity, one's attitude (heart, mind, center of emotion or intellect) must desire to be pleasing to God by ceasing their sinning and altering their lifestyle. One must also confess, or acknowledge their sin to God and if possible, to the one sinned against. Prayer is the avenue for confessing to God one's unfaithfulness and the desire to return to His fellowship.

This applies to all sins one in Christ who yield to temptation as well as the practice of sinning - fornication, stealing, lying, rage, murder, rape, slander, blasphemy, envy, lust, child abuse, divorce, drunkenness or any other sin. For "therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men."
31 Confession is more than saying "I am sorry." The expression whether verbal or from one’s inner being must be from a contrite heart recognizing one's sinful situation. It must result in a change in life, repentance, 1 and a desire to restore the relationship destroyed by sin. (Adapted from the ) The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:7-32 is a good example of this.