The subject of divorce is definitely not one of my favorites. I'd
rather not have to talk about it at all, but ignoring it doesn't make
it go away. The problem increases as society spirals morally down. I
heard of a pastor so deluged with marital problems in his congregation,
he restricted his counseling to take marital problems only. This tells
how mammoth the problem's become.
Some Christians, in a rocky marriage, are committed to work
it out. That should always be the first action. They want to know what
biblical options they have. Others have tried and feel they can't
handle it anymore. They're wondering if divorce is ever right for
Christians. Others are already divorced and considering remarriage.
These want to know if remarriage is right for Christians. These are
issues we need to look at.
There's a multitude of books, tapes, seminars, etc. on this
subject. I've read various stuff on it, but have never found anything I
felt satisfactorily dealt with the scriptures and their application to
the problems. Some did a very good job at the start, but departed when
the biblical answer to the question became an emotionally tough task to
accept. I don't want to evade tough spots in this way. The answers may
not always be pleasing, but I hope you'll find them scripturally
I. Working With It, Living With
I could write a book on how to work it out, if both
partners actively seek to. That isn't what I want to aim at here. I
want to address those in a relationship where the partner isn't sincere
in trying to fix an unlivable situation. (See the study entitled
'Sorry!' for a supplement.) I'm talking about adultery, (physical or
spiritual), or even something like physical abuse (beating either the
partner or the children, or molestation).
For those who want to tough it out, under some
circumstances, the Bible does allow this option. First, you need to
weigh your relationship with God. How will taking the tolerant course
affect your walk with God? That which can't be sacrificed is your
ability to walk fully after God. Does your continuing with him/her
present more of a spiritual assault than you can faithfully obey God
first in? If such conflict occurs, the issue is a clear case of God or
your spouse. One or the other, but not both. A Biblical account of such
a case is presented in Ezra and Nehemiah, which will be covered shortly.
After the question of your relationship with God is
settled, you must consider your responsibility in the care of your
children. You have the responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing
home for them. Are you doing this? If not, what will you have to do to
protect them properly, both physically and spiritually? You can't
neglect these responsibilities in the hopes of salvaging the marriage.
The charge of protecting the children comes first (Matthew 18:6,10).
I want to give an example of one way this issue, of staying
right in your relationship with God, can impact this situation. I
witnessed a home where the wife always wanted things her way. The
husband had the choice of giving in to the wife and maintaining peace,
or resisting and facing the tantrum threat of her leaving him. Should
he compromise? The cost of standing firm is divorce. Biblically, he
should stand firm, even if she leaves him. On what basis? The charge he
has from God to be the head of his family. If he gives in to her
tantrums, he's given her rulership of the house. He then has sinned
before God. The charge in Genesis 3:16,17 not only condemns her for her
rebellion, it condemns him for allowing her rebellion. He actually acts
as an accomplice to her crime. An answer he could give her when she
threatened divorce would be, 'Go ahead and do what you feel you have
to, but my decision stands.'
For those in the midst of a nightmarish relationship, I
wish the answer was easy. Whenever you talk about free-will, things
aren't that simple. Some things can never be made right. If both
partners in the marriage want to fix the relationship, there's always
hope. If only one does, the selfish member has little hope of changing,
barring a miracle (Matthew 7:13,14). In the one-sided attempt to
restore a marriage, the person who wants to hang on must face the fact
it won't be a good and happy marriage. Attempts on one side won't
compensate for the lack of effort on the other.
Some openly acknowledge, 'my spouse will never change'.
They may witness affair after affair. If you're in this, and are right,
you need to consider at what point you'll say, 'no more'. If there's a
limit, why and what is that limit? Solomon said:
4 Better is an handful
with quietness, than both the hands
full with travail and vexation of spirit.
You need to figure what it is you're
holding onto. There
are a number of reasons people want to endure an unendurable
relationship. Toppers is usually the children.
Another reason is because of how the relationship was. They
hope they can make it that way again, and don't want to give up too
There's the fear of being alone. This will keep some people
from giving up.
Another reason is insecurity. To get a divorce means
potential hardships. A woman may have to go get a job while she raises
the children. She may not even be able to get better than a minimum
wage job, while her husband was a big wage company executive. Such
considerations can be scary.
A final reason is the belief divorce is wrong. They believe
getting divorced shows a hard heart.
Passing over this last point for now, if any or all of the
other reasons are yours, Solomon's proverb gives you something to weigh
in your values. Separation or divorce speaks of loss, but this solution
may mean settling for a less than perfect solution you can live with.
Undoubtedly, God can meet any need you have, even the
ability to not be filled with bitterness. Remember that works both
ways, He can meet your need to enable you to handle being alone.
In handling the bitterness that threatens to rear it ugly
head, consider this incident:
A minister had finished speaking and a man came over to
talk with him. This man often traveled for months on end across the
country. About two years prior, he had returned home to find his wife
had run off with his best friend. Since he was a Christian, this man
knew he couldn't harbor hatred in his heart towards them. Every morning
he woke and told himself he would forgive them, but he could never find
it in himself to overcome the pain and bitterness. The minister said,
'Good.' The man responded, 'What? I've got to do something.' Then this
minister asked, 'What can you do?' The man sorrowfully acknowledged
there was nothing he could do, he had tried everything. The minister
continued that that was exactly where he had to be. Only when he
realized he couldn't forgive and overcome the pain, would he finally
give up trying. He would then resign himself to God. It's like the
drowning man. Only when he has no energy left, so stops thrashing, can
the lifesaver grab him. This man abandoned his effort, then and there,
within himself. He suddenly exclaimed something like, 'I see it now,
you're right, I'm free.' That man left freed of the pain and bitterness
he had struggled with for two years. In a moment of time, he was freed.
(For more on bitterness see 'Vengeance!')
The challenges to a good marriage (being abuse or adultery)
can very often have a spiritual foundation, demonic compulsion or
possession. Where one of the partners is a Christian, Satan will take
any opportunity he can to move into the relationship and create
hardship for God's servant. If you're in this situation, realize the
battle may not only be physical. So you may think, 'This will be easy
to deal with. When my spouse is asleep, I can cast out the demon, and
then my spouse will be able to change.' I wouldn't advise that. You
see, demons gain their footing on people by ground given by the person.
Satan was able to bring them into their present sorry state, because
they didn't resist the temptations in the first place. Once they gave
in a little, Satan enslaved them by this open invitation they afforded
him. If you cast out the demon, and your spouse doesn't truly repent,
the demon will return and the state will probably become even worse
(Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26 - For a full study of this issue see
'Exorcisms'). If there's true repentance on the part of the spouse, the
casting out is important, and actions following such repentance. They
must commit their lives to God, fleeing all areas of temptation. If it
was the husband who goes into affairs, he needs to avoid starting any
kind of relationships with women. The weakness is there, and must be
diligently fled from:
22 Flee also youthful
lusts: but follow righteousness,
faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure
2 Timothy 2:22
Today temptations are so abundant to
gape after scantily
clothed women. You can't go into your department stores without being
assaulted with pictures of near naked women in almost every isle. Even
most grocery stores assault you as you go through the cash registers.
The TV goes without saying, if the show doesn't get you, the
commercials will. What to do with these continual overwhelming
temptations? Avoid them as much as possible. If he needs something at
the department store, he can wait in the car while you go in and get
it. Don't watch the TV. The aids are there to help avoid temptations,
if he's serious. If he's not, he'll laugh at such measures to pursue
purity. If he's not serious, even such measures won't help, for the
heart will still seek evil pursuits.
Looking at this demonic hold, realize that if left undealt
with, the situation will only continue. Satan will see that you're
tormented until the day you die. If you commit to sticking it out, yet
don't bring it down, your only choice is to watch it continue. The pain
can't help but be there. You wouldn't be human if it didn't hurt. If
you harden your heart, so you're not so sensitive to the pain, you've
only done yourself harm. God's answer doesn't mean there isn't pain. He
doesn't want us to become inhuman or not enraged at immorality. I've
seen what happens when a person acknowledges the problem in the spouse,
yet learns to live with it. What follows this conditioning is a numbing
effect. The victim has to become insensitive in an overall way, to not
sense the pain so much. Eventually, they're no longer as aware of signs
of the same sin developing in the lives of their own children. They no
longer sense the abhorrence of wickedness in many other areas of life.
They have to close their emotional system down. This is a fatal
mistake. To hang around this kind of problem spouse damages the
children. I've seen the children hate the offending parent and be
taught in a Christian way by the other parent. The children, even
though they hated what the one parent did to the other, became like the
offender as they grew older. Don't hold the false confidence they won't
be influenced to corruption (1 Corinthians 15:33).
To whoever in this terrible marriage, can't face its
continuing torment, yet won't consider divorce, consider what you're
looking at. Are you looking at a mental breakdown, suicide or maybe
even snapping and committing murder? You may think you won't murder,
but can you be sure? Think about it, if you think you might have an
emotional breakdown, you're admitting you've lost control. If you've
lost control, you won't be able to guarantee the result won't be murder
or suicide. If you feel you can't face the continuing torment, you've
also admitted you're unable to have the victorious Christian walk in
the midst of this excessive trial. If you're not able to find God's
peace in this, are you saying you're willing to let the out of control
car, roll where it may? You need to determine your definite course of
action. Don't let it take you along to whatever destiny it would dump
you in. Satan clearly has a hand here, and he's not known for his
mercy. God will give grace and strength:
13 There hath no
temptation taken you but such as is common
to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted
above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to
escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Realize that 'escape' can also mean God will give you the
strength to follow through a task that's normally beyond your natural
strength. The only sound solution may be to get out of there before you
would snap. Don't throw out this possibility. I've seen people in
horrible situations that want the marriage to hold out. They hope
there's a solution that will restore peace and love. I would like
nothing better than to be able to say, 'do this and that and you'll
have a happy home again'. Unfortunately, if the spouse won't change,
even Jesus cannot help them:
37 O Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets,
and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have
gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens
under her wings, and ye would not!
Even God was ultimately forced to file for divorce because
Israel wouldn't cease from adulteries. God pleaded with Israel again
and again through His prophets, but they wouldn't hearken. Eventually,
one of His prophets made this proclamation:
8 And I saw, when for all
the causes whereby backsliding
Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of
divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and
played the harlot also.
This also shows that the one seeking the divorce isn't
necessarily the one with the hard heart. God doesn't have a hard heart,
yet divorced. The hard heart was on the side of the transgressing
Israel. The sinner left no alternative.
The hope for the hopeless marriage can only lie in stirring
true repentance in the transgressor. Apart from that, there's nothing
The principal of dealing with sin in the congregation, is
based on the solution to dealing with unrepentance. The solution in the
church is a harsh procedure, yet God showed this was necessary to bring
about correction. It meant a definite loss to the body, if repentance
didn't come. God didn't like having to do this. The sin made it an
unpleasant, unwanted necessity.
Look at this church procedure briefly: If the sinner won't
listen to your appeal, then talk to them with another mature faithful
Christian, or Christians, in the hope they'll listen to conviction and
sound speech. If that doesn't work, the Church deals with the problem,
and if they're not listened to, disfellowship occurs (Matthew
18:15-17). Paul pointed out the reason was to help bring them to
repentance (Galatians 6:1,2; Thessalonians 3:14,15). He didn't say,
just keep working on that church member, eventually he might listen and
turn. The harsh action of disfellowship, this painful procedure, was
Hosea had a tough charge as a prophet of God. The office of
a prophet was not always glamor and glory. Consider this one:
2 The beginning of the
word of the LORD by Hosea. And the
LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children
of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing
from the LORD. 3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim;
which conceived, and bare him a son.
said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved
of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD
toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons
of wine. 2 So bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an
homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: 3 And I said unto her,
Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and
thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.
Hosea was called to this marriage to serve a prophetic
message to Israel. God was calling diligently to Israel to repent so He
wouldn't have to divorce her. Israel was a whore in its relationship
with God, yet God still wanted Israel back. He didn't want her back at
all costs. He wanted her to repent and choose Him again. He kept
appealing, until there was no other choice. God gave the example of
giving the best attempt to salvage a bad marriage. Even upon repeated
offenses, such as Hosea endured, He tried to get Israel to quit playing
the whore. God gives the example that an offense of the marriage
contract doesn't demand instant annulment. God seeks diligently to
cause a return to the covenant. Only after serious effort, did God
divorce Israel, as in Jeremiah 3:8.
I would like to end this section with a bit of hope.
Concerning that Christian who's married to a non-Christian, Paul did
make this comment:
16 For what knowest thou,
O wife, whether thou shalt save
thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy
1 Corinthians 7:16
His point was that if we live godly before our spouses, who
aren't Christians, they may see the light you present and be converted.
I read of a woman who was married to a non-Christian. She
was committed to honoring her husband no matter how he abused her. He
wanted no part with God, and her behavior brought him under conviction.
To alleviate his conscience he proceeded to abuse her unmercifully. He
felt that if he could cause her to quit living as a Christian, he was
justified in living life the way he wanted to. She remained faithful
and loving. After she had suffered much and long abuse, he broke before
God. Rather than supplying a point of justification for him, she
supplied a point of conviction. He wouldn't live for God while not
suffering, yet she lived for God while it cost her much. Her light
broke his heart, and he became a Christian. Even for the worst, there's
always some hope.
II. The Option of Divorce
I need to start this issue by saying that divorce never
pleases God. It's like the parable Jesus gave:
7 Woe unto the world
because of offenses! for it must needs
be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!
8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast
them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or
maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into
everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and
cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one
eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
It may be necessary to cut off a member, but it's a horrid
thing. Divorce is like this. It's painful, it leaves a scar that will
last for life, and will never quite pass from memory. You may very well
have to limp the rest of your way through life. Realizing the
seriousness of this surgery, let's proceed.
First look at the accounts of Jesus' discussion of this
issue found in Matthew:
31 It hath been said,
Whosoever shall put away his wife,
let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That
whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication,
causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is
divorced committeth adultery.
3 The Pharisees also came
unto him, tempting him, and
saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every
cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he
which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said,
For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to
his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no
more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let
not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to
give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto
them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put
away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto
you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication,
and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her
which is put away doth commit adultery.
In the 5:31,32 passage, Jesus is saying
the issue of
divorce isn't as simple as giving or receiving a piece of paper. A
moral violation that occurs, even though it's technically legal. He
said that if the man put away his wife, he causes her to commit
adultery. If he divorces her for fornication, she has already committed
adultery, and therefore isn't causing her to do it. He's accredited to
causing her to commit adultery, for other causes of divorce, because
the natural desires will push her into remarriage. In the act of a
remarriage, she's technically breaking a life covenant she made with
her first husband in going in to another:
1 Know ye not, brethren,
(for I speak to them that know the
law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2
For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband
so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from
the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be
married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her
husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no
adulteress, though she be married to another man.
Even though remarriage is legal, it's
still breaking the
first covenant, no matter how unwise the first marriage was. Israel was
held responsible to honor its word to the Gibeonites, when it entered
the promised land, even though the covenant was made through deceit
(Joshua Ch. 9).
What if the divorce is for the cause of abuse? If you
divorce for this cause, wouldn't that incriminate you in causing your
spouse to commit adultery? (If he/she remarried.) Take a look at
Abraham sending away Hagar (Genesis 21:9-14). Sarah wanted Hagar gone,
and so Abraham was grieved. God spoke to Abraham and told him to send
Hagar away. That puts Abraham in this situation of putting Hagar under
compulsion to commit adultery. God told him to do it. We find the
reason for this in the New Testament (Galatians 4:22-31 - the spiritual
allegory of true inheritance with God). This shows there are reasons of
spiritual responsibility that require severe actions.
Divorce for causes such as abuse may push the other person
towards an adulterous marriage, but the blame ultimately falls on the
abuser. They forced the victim into the corner, in regards to both
personal safety and protection of their children. It's much like taking
a life. The Bible condemns that, right along in the same list with
adultery (Exodus 20:13 - the ten commandments). If a person is attacked
by someone and they kill that person in defending their life, they're
not held responsible for breaking the commandment of 'thou shalt not
kill' (Exodus 22:2; Deuteronomy 4:42). The 'victim' in this case signed
a type of release of his rights through his violating the law, when he
abused his neighbor. The Exodus 22:2 example is a perfect one - killed
in the act of theft. Currently, when a thief's injured on someone's
property, when committing a theft, the court sometimes awards the
reward for damages to the thief. We think how preposterous this is, for
we all know the thief would never have been injured if he hadn't been
stealing. Biblically, the act which brings about the death of the thief
is taken into consideration. Yes, you might be guilty of 'killing' your
neighbor, but his act released you from guilt in the killing.
In the next passage of 19:3-9, there's a lot of material.
What I need to discuss out of this passage is 'Moses because of the
hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives:.' It's
very important we understand who has the hardness of heart. We tend to
assume the hard one is the person seeking divorce. We assume they're
taking the wrong action. It doesn't say this. Look closely. Moses wrote
the law for divorce as a commandment of God. He didn't make it on his
own, as one writer suggested (Exodus 18:16; Daniel 9:10). Jesus was
referring to the law for divorce coming from the Mosaic laws. Even
though Moses was the giver of the law, God told him what laws to give.
The law of divorce was only a toleration on God's part because, no
matter how much He wanted an obedient people, he knew that wouldn't be.
Because sin would go unchecked, He made the divorce law for the purpose
of relief for the afflicted partner. The hard heart was on the part of
the afflicter. The afflicter's hardened heart refused to repent, and
love the spouse. The divorce allowance was for the relief of the
victim. We can see the hardness of heart didn't necessarily incriminate
the fleer of the marriage. We already took a look at one passage
proving this in Jeremiah 3:8. There are two other passages that
likewise prove this.
They are two accounts of the same thing. The first is in
Ezra. The other in Nehemiah. Ezra and Nehemiah were men committed to
God and godliness. They sought to please God, and obey His revelation.
These two books were amongst the last written of the Old Testament,
these men had the scriptural text at an almost completed stage. Their
actions weren't based upon claims of ignorance. In fact, Ezra is
accredited with being the compiler of the books of the Old Testament
into the complete canon of Old Testament scripture. Following are the
pertinent excerpts from Ezra, with the Nehemiah references listed:
10 For Ezra had prepared
his heart to seek the law of the
LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
14 Should we
again break thy commandments, and join in
affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be
angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no
remnant nor escaping? 15 O LORD God of Israel, thou art righteous: for
we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in
our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this. 1 Now
when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting
himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of
Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the
people wept very sore. 2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the
sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against
our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet
now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. 3 Now therefore let
us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as
are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those
that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done
according to the law. 4 Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we
also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it. 5 Then arose
Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear
that they should do according to this word. And they sware.
10 And Ezra
the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye
have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the
trespass of Israel. 11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God
of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the
people of the land, and from the strange wives. 12 Then all the
congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so
must we do.
44 All these
had taken strange wives: and some of them had
wives by whom they had children.
(Nehemiah 10:29,30; 13:23-31)
This is very solemn. It was serious.
With careful reading,
you'll notice the godly solution called for divorce. Consider how truly
great their sacrifices were - even their children! The right way is
indeed not always a happy way.
Think about this. They had married strange wives and raised
a family as an act of a hard heart. Now they wanted to get right with
God. In order to get right, they had to get divorced. They had to
correct the action of their hardness. Jesus said, because of the
hardness of your hearts, divorce had to be allowed. Because of the
hardness of these Israelites' hearts in marrying against the law, they
had to correct it by divorce. These verses demonstrate the divorce
wasn't an act of hardness, and the ones filing for the divorce were
doing the right thing. These passages in Ezra and Nehemiah are very
sobering, to say the least.
Look back to the gospel passages. If the passages were
taken to incriminate the one seeking divorce, that would be saying God
wrote the divorce law to enable the hard hearted person to have his own
way, and further victimize the spouse, through causing them to commit
adultery. Interpreting it that way, would be saying God made a law to
enable sin to actually multiply. This is simply not true.
There's divorce done as a result of a hardened heart on the
part of the one seeking the divorce:
14 Yet ye say, Wherefore?
Because the LORD hath been
witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast
dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy
covenant. 15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the
spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore
take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the
wife of his youth. 16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he
hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith
the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not
This seeking of divorce, God never made
allowance in Mosaic
Law. These people used their wives, and when tired of them, pitched
them. They used the technicality of the ability to get a divorce to
serve their sinful lusts. God hated this treachery, and the gavel came
down on these sinners.
I want to list two other passages to hold next to the
2 And the Pharisees came
to him, and asked him, Is it
lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. 3 And he answered
and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses
suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And
Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he
wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God
made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his
father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be
one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What
therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10 And in
the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he
saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another,
committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her
husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
putteth away his wife, and marrieth another,
committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from
her husband committeth adultery.
Jesus said the divorce resulted in
adultery. Now we may
think this in the New Testament was new. It wasn't. Jesus didn't say it
was now adultery. He was stating that what took place was really this
way. This carries further implications. It means that since God had
Moses write the divorce law, which allowed remarriage, God legalized a
form of adultery. The act of remarriage after divorce didn't suddenly
become adultery, when Jesus made His statement. He was stating what was
Paul had a little to say about divorce in 1 Corinthians
chapter 7 which we'll look at shortly.
III. Considering Remarriage
In considering remarriage, we need to look at the gospel
passages. They bear much weight and form the basis for what Paul says
in 1 Corinthians.
Jesus said whoever marries someone who's divorced, commits
adultery. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. The technicality of the
issue is clear. Do to the harshness of this reality, he followed this
fact by saying that not all men can remain unmarried (Matthew 19:10).
Your spouse may have already committed adultery, but until you either
break wedlock or remarry, you haven't committed adultery. The act of
remarriage is technically breaking the marriage covenant by
unfaithfulness through going into another, even though law allowed it
in this manner of divorce and remarriage.
We know Moses allowed for divorce and remarriage. Jesus
said it was adultery, and adultery was Mosaically forbidden. Did one
law negate another? No. We simply find an allowance. I believe here's
an example of what John called, '. .
. a sin not unto death' 1 John
5:17b. Christians do divorce and remarry sometimes. It's adultery if
remarriage is before the death of the former spouse. (You better not
wish that person's death - that's murder - 1 John 3:15). God made a
legal exclusion in the Old Testament, so it wasn't a death penalty
offense, as was adultery in the ten commandments. Remarriage (while
both former partners are living) is never right, but is tolerated
because of 'hardness of heart'. In this case, the hardness falls on the
part of the person who fled the marriage as the victim, and couldn't
bear being unmarried. This victim is placed under incredible natural
pressure to remarry (like Jesus said, 'causeth her to commit
adultery:'). Such remarriages are legal before God, but - Warning!!!
Such legal allowances can't expect God's blessings. To many, this may
not seem so important. Beware, as Paul said: 'Nevertheless such shall
have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.' 1 Corinthians 7:28b. Paul
made this statement to virgins marrying. If this is so of a pure
marriage, how much more of an impure one?
This legal allowance gives the church leniency about
confronting this in the assembly. If there are remarried couples in the
church, technically, it's an adulterous marriage. However, the church
isn't to confront it as the sin of adultery and come to disfellowship.
This is another reason for God's legal allowance. You can see how far
the ramifications may lead. It's a sin, but not unto death, or in the
case of the church body, disfellowship.
Paul's writing to the Corinthians is the next place to look
in this question of remarriage after divorce:
8 I say therefore to the
unmarried and widows, It is good
for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let
them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. 10 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 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?
In the first two verses, Paul addresses
the freedom the
unmarried and widows have to marry. There's nothing wrong with their
doing this. Now the 'unmarried' doesn't include divorced. We know that,
because 'widows' are automatically classified as unmarried, but are
specifically itemized; therefore, 'unmarried' refers to virgins.
Verses 10 and 11 make it doubly clear the unmarried
divorced folk aren't on the free list to marry. It makes it clear
they're able to leave a marriage. Paul doesn't say, 'you can't leave
your spouse, because you would be to blame for their committing the sin
of adultery.' In the necessary circumstances, separation is
scripturally clear for the Christian. Remarriage is not.
Verse 12 takes a turn in the person talking. Paul says he's
not speaking as a prophet with a 'thus saith the Lord'. He makes it
clear in chapter 7, that what he says is according to the Holy Spirit.
It's factual information, just not a burden to give to the people as an
official message from God.
From verse 12, onward, Paul takes up the problem of being
married to an unbeliever. They married as both unbelievers and one
converted to Christ. Paul says to keep working for the growth of the
marriage, but if the unbelieving spouse wants to leave, you haven't
sinned in allowing them. He said the marriage was 'sanctified'. He
meant that God allowed for the marriage, so the relationship and its
offspring are clean before God. The offspring aren't considered
In verse 15, we find 'A brother or a sister is not under
bondage in such cases:' What does this mean? Does it mean they're free
to remarry? The commands are found in the 'thus saith the Lord' stuff,
as in verse 11. Paul actually expounds some on what God had commanded.
He applies it to the specific instances of spiritually mixed marriages.
The release from bondage isn't a release to remarry. Verse 11 makes
that clear in addition to what Jesus said in the Gospels. The release
from bondage is the release from staying in the relationship with the
unbeliever, if that's what the unbeliever wants.
I've heard of cases where, separated for many years, both
have remained unmarried, and later got back together to have a good
For those divorced and considering remarriage, I know the
emotional trauma you must be facing. You may feel the world will come
to an end if you don't get remarried. It's possible to lead a good life
single. If you find yourself in this position, God will give you the
strength to live pure before Him. You have an example to admire, found
in the scriptures:
36 And there was one
Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of
Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived
with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow
of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple,
but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she
coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of
him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
We find Anna was probably around 106+ years of age. She had
been widowed for 84 years. She could have remarried, but never did. She
lived a happy life in pursuit of God, and verse 38 shows a happy
disposition. Her life wasn't one of mere subsistence, until she
gratefully expired. She had known marriage, and was fulfilled also in
an unmarried state. If you're in a divorced state, use this time to
draw closer to God. He will be your great reward (Genesis 15:1). Draw
closer rather than seeking your own will, putting a barrier between you
and Him. Not living in His perfect will always creates a wall that
should never have been created or allowed in the first place.
Applying These Principals To Our Lives
For those facing a rocky marriage, the options remain to
work it out or divorce. You know what you're facing and what you can
and should tolerate. If both of you are truly committed to God, you'll
make it into a beautiful marriage. If the commitment is one-sided,
while claiming to be two-sided, playing games doesn't work. Hope has to
start with honesty and facing facts. For the one committed to God, a
good place to start is by looking closely at your own life. Are you
purifying yourself, as you are pure? (I John 3:3) If, or when, you can
answer yes, pray diligently and continually for your spouse. If you can
safely fast in this pursuit, all the better. God can and does work
miracles. Don't be grieved if your prayers result in some hardship to
your family in the physical realm. That may be what God uses to bring
your spouse around. Ask God, leave it in His hand, and don't feel
you've been abandoned if the seas get stormy in your spouse's life, and
lap some waves on you. Fight it diligently, only then, if divorce is
inevitable, will you be able to leave and not have a guilty conscience
that you didn't do all you could to save the marriage.
The thought of remarriage after divorce can be obsessive.
Wherever obsession lies, enslavement isn't far behind. It also closes
down one's heart to any words that rebuke your own pursuits. Such
scrambling for self-preservation leaves one without peace. Seek to have
that peaceful relationship with God, then your mind will be clear in
the decision making processes. Compulsion won't be able to drive you on
into actions you'll later regret.
33 But seek ye first the
kingdom of God, and his
righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Whatever position you come at these
problems from, this
verse gives promise that your basic physical needs are cared for and
looked after by God. Just remember your part.
For couples seeking to restore yourselves to a good
marriage, the only real answer calls for fully committing yourselves to
God. As you do this, and seek to purify yourselves, as you are pure (1
John 3:3), the blessings of a happy marriage will naturally flow forth.
Where there's a home committed to righteousness and godly love, there
will be peace and joy.
For further study in marital issues, I would
recommend reading our articles entitled, "Husbands Love Your Wives", "Song of Solomon", and "Marriage" (in our
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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible