"What does the Bible say about divorce and remarriage?"

First of all, no matter what view one takes on the issue of divorce, it is important to remember Malachi 2:16: “I hate divorce, says the LORD God of Israel.” According to the Bible, marriage is a lifetime commitment. “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). God realizes, though, that since marriages involve two sinful human beings, divorces are going to occur. In the Old Testament, He laid down some laws in order to protect the rights of divorcees, especially women (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Jesus pointed out that these laws were given because of the hardness of people’s hearts, not because they were God’s desire (Matthew 19:8).

The controversy over whether divorce and remarriage is allowed according to the Bible revolves primarily around Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. The phrase “except for marital unfaithfulness” is the only thing in Scripture that possibly gives God’s permission for divorce and remarriage. Many interpreters understand this “exception clause” as referring to “marital unfaithfulness” during the “betrothal” period. In Jewish custom, a man and a woman were considered married even while they were still engaged or “betrothed.” According to this view, immorality during this “betrothal” period would then be the only valid reason for a divorce.

However, the Greek word translated “marital unfaithfulness” is a word which can mean any form of sexual immorality. It can mean fornication, prostitution, adultery, etc. Jesus is possibly saying that divorce is permissible if sexual immorality is committed. Sexual relations are an integral part of the marital bond: “the two will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31). Therefore, any breaking of that bond by sexual relations outside of marriage might be a permissible reason for divorce. If so, Jesus also has remarriage in mind in this passage. The phrase “and marries another” (Matthew 19:9) indicates that divorce and remarriage are allowed in an instance of the exception clause, whatever it is interpreted to be. It is important to note that only the innocent party is allowed to remarry. Although it is not stated in the text, the allowance for remarriage after a divorce is God’s mercy for the one who was sinned against, not for the one who committed the sexual immorality. There may be instances where the “guilty party” is allowed to remarry, but it is not taught in this text.

Some understand 1 Corinthians 7:15 as another “exception,” allowing remarriage if an unbelieving spouse divorces a believer. However, the context does not mention remarriage, but only says a believer is not bound to continue a marriage if an unbelieving spouse wants to leave. Others claim that abuse (spousal or child) is a valid reason for divorce even though it is not listed as such in the Bible. While this may very well be the case, it is never wise to presume upon the Word of God.

Sometimes lost in the debate over the exception clause is the fact that whatever “marital unfaithfulness” means, it is an allowance for divorce, not a requirement for it. Even when adultery is committed, a couple can, through God’s grace, learn to forgive and begin rebuilding their marriage. God has forgiven us of so much more. Surely we can follow His example and even forgive the sin of adultery (Ephesians 4:32). However, in many instances, a spouse is unrepentant and continues in sexual immorality. That is where Matthew 19:9 can possibly be applied. Many also look to quickly remarry after a divorce when God might desire them to remain single. God sometimes calls people to be single so that their attention is not divided (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). Remarriage after a divorce may be an option in some circumstances, but that does not mean it is the only option.

It is distressing that the divorce rate among professing Christians is nearly as high as that of the unbelieving world. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that reconciliation and forgiveness should be the marks of a believer’s life (Luke 11:4; Ephesians 4:32). However, God recognizes that divorce will occur, even among His children. A divorced and/or remarried believer should not feel any less loved by God, even if the divorce and/or remarriage is not covered under the possible exception clause of Matthew 19:9. God often uses even the sinful disobedience of Christians to accomplish great good.

Recommended Resources: Logos Bible Software and Divorce and Remarriage: 4 Views edited By H. Wayne House.

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/divorce-remarriage.html#ixzz2a0e3J6HN

21 responses to “"What does the Bible say about divorce and remarriage?"

  1. Calvinists refuse to see a marriage in light of us being married to God. Once married to God, there will never be a divorce, because GOD WILL NOT abandon us, abuse us, hurt us, etc.

    Where does God allow for his bride to suffer? We are to run TO HIM for COMFORT, not FROM HIM in FEAR. He states of the Holy Spirit, in that the Holy Spirit is our COMFORTER.

    Calvinists have no clue as to how to SPIRITUALLY discern anything in the Bible. They are more focused on CARNAL EXEGESIS.

    What would make a BRIDE to WANT TO run to her husband for COMFORT?

    When a little girl is growing up, she dreams of a prince (isn’t Jesus called a prince in Isaiah?) charming to SWEEP HER OFF HER FEET. The little girl is often spoken of as a PRINCESS.

    What would MAKE a woman WANT to get married to a Calvinist man, a TYRANT? Certainly, he is not a COMFORTER, nor a prince charming. He is rude, and crude, and mean, and nasty, and controlling, and in such need of POWER AND CONTROL. He has psychological issues, including that of co-dependency. He thinks that everything revolves around him. Selfish, prideful, and abuser.

    All Calvinists are MEAN.

    • Wow, Ed.

      I wasn’t going to post that, but then you would complain about not being posted. However, since you seem to WANT to display your skill with rational thought, I took it our of moderation.

      You really need to find a remedy for your illness (AntiCalvinitis). Is there a 12 Step Program anywhere that could help?

  2. Born, this was an interesting set of articles from SBC voices. The interesting part specifically talks about 1 Corinthians 7 and what that part about if a woman separates means….I think it’s a very important part that we tend to ignore. God is not an ogre, but you’ll have to read the article to see what I am talking about. I”m gonna provide the link for one article at the end of this comment.

    Ed, I believe the doctrines of grace, and I’m not a calvinist. However, I’m called one because I believe the doctrines of grace. I don’t hold the same view of church heirachy or of the sacraments that Calvin had, yet because I believe the doctrines of grace, I am labeled as a Calvinist.

    With that being said, I don’t agree with you that all calvinists are rude, crude, mean, etc. etc. etc. If you would have said…people in general are mean, crude, rude etc….then you have a point. Even though stereotypes are an easy way to say what you wanna say, they are generally inaccurate. I honestly don’t think I’m any meaner, cruder, ruder or more power hungry then say…a non-calvinist. ;) That’s like saying that all Muslims are terrorists, all germans are nazi’s, all mexicans are lazy etc…and we know darn well that is not true. I also love my husband and want to be with him. I assure you, he’s no tyrant. My husband still believes I’m his princess…and he treats me like it.

    Anyway, here’s one of the articles I mentioned above about 1 Corinthians 7:

    “Marriage is designed by God and is meant to be a permanent covenant between a man and a woman. ‘Till death do us part.”

    There are only two grounds given in the scripture by which a divorce is permissible.

    These two actions break the marriage covenant in such a way that the innocent party is freed from the covenant. Christ established adultery as a grounds for divorce. Paul added to that, in 1 Corinthians 7, the act of abandonment. Both acts end the marriage.

    In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul establishes a third situation in which a marriage might end. In verses 10-11, Paul makes an offer to women who cannot live with their husbands – one he does not give to men.

    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 his wife.
    Husbands are not permitted to divorce their wives, but wives are permitted to separate from their husbands on grounds beyond that of either adultery or abandonment. If she separates on these grounds, she must either live single, or seek to reconcile with her husband. Questions arise from these verses.

    First, why would Paul give an option to women that he does not give to men? Paul establishes in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 (and other places) that men and women have different roles in marriage. Women must submit to their husbands as to the Lord, while men are called to lead their wives and family in the ways of the Lord. Since a man has that authority within the home, he must stay at it. But since the woman is called to submit to her husband, she is also given the way of escape from the marriage if that authority is unbearable.

    So, that leads to the second question. In what circumstances may a woman invoke this passage’s permission to leave? The answer would seem to flow naturally from the answer to the first question. If a man uses his authority in the home to oppress or abuse a woman in such a way that she finds living with him unbearable, she is given the right to leave the home.

    Finally, then, what are her options if she leaves the home on this basis? That is clearly defined in verse 11. She may either live as a single woman or she may seek to reconcile to her husband. Her marriage here is not recognized as ended and she is not permitted to divorce.”

    - See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/is-abuse-a-biblical-grounds-for-divorce/#sthash.vCyQEdnX.dpuf

    • I sure hope that you don’t think that God wants us to be in an abusive relationship with our spouse?

      In addition, men and women both need to submit to the Lord, as men are spiritually wives to the Bridegroom, Christ.

      But, submitting to Christ is another way of saying to “RELAX”, “Lean on me”, “TRUST ME”, etc.

      But to the Calvinist it is about domination.

      If the husband does not act Christ like, then the husband is committing SPIRITUAL adultery, as he is worshiping another Jesus, a different Jesus, and those like me do not believe in the Calvinist version of the doctrines of Grace, therefore, we believe that the Calvinist has a different gospel.

      Different Jesus, and a different gospel. Let him be accursed.

      Ed

      • That’s just another gross misrepresentation about Calvinism, as is your style, Ed. I am not faulting you, especially since I have just doscovered that the AMA has added AntiCalvinItis Desease (ACID) to their master list of illnesses. I’ll probably post so;mething abut it later.

      • Hi Ed. I couldn’t tell if you were responding to me, Dawnmarie, or Born. Your comment is my reply area, so I think maybe you’re talking to me???

        Anyhow, no I don’t belive that God wants us to be in an abusive relationship with our spouse. Yes, men and women need to submit tot he Lord. No, men are not spiritual wives of Christ. Neither are women. Neither are we spiritual sheep or salt or light or grass etc. etc. etc. Comparison does not equal spiritual reality. It’s metaphors and similes. We are not courting Jesus. :)

        Submitting to Christ is more than saying “relax, lean on me, trust me”. It’s because you do those things that you do submit…you lean on him, trust him and therefore submit to him as Lord and Saviour. A little kid who submits doesn’t just relax, trust, lean on their parents. Of course that’s part of it, but they also have to obey their parents. That is part of submission. People get all crazy and take submission to some great extreme of martyrdom and so you get John Piper or something telling abused wives to stay in their relationship and submit to their husbands. That’s just nut talk IMO. Hog wash. Then others, take your definition for example…relax, trust me…but it’s more than that. In the Bible, there is this Parent Child relationship with the Father and it’s not presented as let go and let God…IMO. There’s also a sort of “structure” presented in which men, whether you like it or not, are the head. It doesn’t mean men get to go around being jerks and whacking their wives and kids around or something. That should be common sense shouldn’t it? It means, they are responsible to that family unit. They are responsible to provide for that unit, run that unit, take care and protect that unit, be an example to that unit…I’m not sure why people have a problem with that. I believe it’s because we see so many bad examples of this that we knee jerk to the other extreme. We’re people. We all are guilty of extremes in one way or another I suppose.

        You said, if a husband does not act Christ like, then the husband is committing spiritual adultery and he is worshiping another Jesus..He is? Some would say having a beer is not Christ like…so does that mean that the one drinking a beer is committing spiritual adultery and worshiping another Jesus? I think if that’s our definition of spiritual adultery, then we all do it every day right? Do you ever act unChrist like Ed, and in doing so are you committing spiritual adultery and following another Jesus? Acting and being unChristlike is sinning. Sinning of all sorts, which may or may not be spiritual adultery.

        Then you said…”and those like me do not believe in the Calvinist version of the doctrines of Grace, therefore, we believe that the Calvinist has a different gospel.

        Different Jesus, and a different gospel. Let him be accursed.”

        I wasn’t aware that Jesus said that everyone had to understand absolutely correctly every single nuance in the Bible. These armenian/calvinism blah blah issues are debates because they are debates. If there weren’t scripture that backed both views, the things we call problem scriptures, we wouldn’t have the debates where everyone wants to argue about who’s right rather than praising and thanking Jesus Christ for saving those who believe in Him. I could call you a heretic because I do believe the doctrines of grace…and what purpose would that serve? I don’t know how God does what He does. I believe what I believe based on my understanding of scripture. God knows if I am His and He says if I believe in His name, I will never be ashamed. If you’re my brother, and you are saved by the same blood that saved me, why do I want to accurse you?

        It sounds like someone ticked you off and so your projecting you bugginess in my reply box. Maybe I’m reading you wrong? If I am, I apologize in advance. After all, I don’t really know you of course. ;)

  3. Hey Born…just been reading about divorce…what a topic! Anyway, came across this article that is really interesting. You might wanna give it a gander just so you know the other types of things people are writing about on this subject. This one focuses on Malachi 2:16 and translation issues. I read it after a few articles I read on jewish tradition, ancient and modern when it comes to divorce. Anyway, I think it’s worth a read if you get the chance. Here’s the first paragraph just to weat your whistle. I didn’t even know this was a controversy!!!! WOW!

    http://www.esv.org/assets/pdfs/malachi.2.16.collins.pdf

    “Most English Bibles, beginning with the AV, render Malachi 2:16 in such a way
    that God is saying that he hates divorce – either in the first person (“I hate
    divorce,” NASB, NIV, NRSV) or in the third person (“he [= the LORD] hates
    divorce,” AV). Most acknowledge that this is extremely difficult to get from the
    Masoretic Text, and offer some set of corrections (re-vocalizing, emending the
    consonants).

    An approach that is gaining favor in recent years takes the forms “hate” and
    “divorce” as two verbs that describe a sequence of actions, with the subject being
    a member of the restoration community that Malachi addressed:
    1

    ESV: Forthe man who hates and divorces, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.

    HCSB: “If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the LORD of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

    There are slight syntactical differences between these versions, which we will
    need to assess; but their basic agreement is what we must attend to now.
    Though this approach is gaining favor, assent is not unanimous. Some have
    even gone so far as to claim that the “God hates divorce” interpretation is
    traditional, and that the other interpretation weakens the Biblical testimony
    against divorce.
    2
    Hence the purpose of this essay is to review the arguments:
    first, to see whether there really is a “tradition,” and second, to evaluate the
    syntactical questions to see whether the more recent view really handles the
    details better. Finally, I will give some thoughts as to how this passage aims to
    function in the ethical formation of God’s people.”

    • Dawnmarie,

      I downloaded the paper on the Malachi passage. Really interesting. I also consulted a couple of other translations and some commentaries, especially John Gill. There seems to be an emphasis in the passage of husbands divorcing their wives while we tend to think of it as pertaining to ‘divorce’ period – in either direction. However we interpret it, God’s ideal is a lifelong covenant relationship. The conclusion was well written, I think.

      “This way of reading Malachi 2:16 allows us to see how the verse fits into the overall promotion of covenant fidelity as the ideal of marriage, an ideal for which the faithful among the people of God – whether in ancient Israel or in the Christian Church today – will seek all the resources of grace, of forgiveness, of fellowship with the saints, and of the Holy Spirit’s enabling power.

  4. Wasn’t that interesting? The polygamy part from Calvin was helpful I think and I believe that’s probably part of what was going on. It makes sense to me. But I’m sure there’s even more to it that we don’t understand because of our own culture.

    I noticed the emphasis on husbands divorcing their wives as well. I suppose that makes sense because women were considered property and couldn’t divorce. Men had to do that, and I guess, from what I’ve read, that women could ask for a divorce, and if they had grounds the man wouldn’t do it, the courts made them do it…they had to follow the law. If a women didn’t get a divorce, she was in a bad spot because she couldn’t remarry, but her own husband wasn’t taking care of her…and men were the providers for women in that culture…there’s cultural stuff that I’m not sure we can understand in our westernized culture fully.

    Regardless, yes, life long marriage is the ideal and of course, it’s not always met. There are people who can work through the infidelity of a spouse, other’s who can’t. I don’t believe any woman should have to be a punching bag, and that goes both ways. I have known abused men as well as abused women and any pastor who encourages that either spouse be a punching bag probably needs to be given a lesson in empathy and sympathy…and mercy. IMO, if a husband abuses a spouse, they have broken the covenant and have hated their wives, and done even worse than divorce by keeping her as a slave to a fraudulent covenant. Some would argue that abuse is an example of abandonment, that abandonment can take on many forms. In Jewish tradition, things like not giving the wife their monthy intimacy could be grounds for divorce….shoot, if an abuser doesn’t provide for the family, that could be considered abandonment, if they go to prison for abuse, well, that would definitely be abandonment. Another thing I was thinking about is how we should see marriage between non believers. I mean, just because you have a state license, does that mean that God sees your marriage? I don’t know. Just curious. I don’t see a covenant relationship symbolized through the marriage of non believers, so I’m not sure how to apply any of this to secular society. AND after reading some of the stuff that was going on in ancient Judiasm…I’m just glad I didn’t live in those times. ROUGH!

    • You bring up some excellent points. We (Dan and Dee) have both been through first marriages. Dee was abused and mine left while we were stationed in the 70′s. Dee and I were both prodigals at the time but God put us back together, with each other. 38 years in December.

  5. God restores those years doesn’t He. Congrats! Before my husband was a believer, things got really bad in my household…but God restored us as well. I had every scriptural reason to leave, reasons in which no man could argue with because if they did, they would be going directly against the scripture… I didn’t leave the marriage, though I tried to leave this world. He didn’t leave the marriage either. God honored that. Our minds and our marriage were healed. We’ll be married 18 years January 1. It wasn’t easy. It was one of the most difficult times in both of our lives. And we are both so thankful that we are still together.

    I think sometimes people who get so hot and heated over the divorce issue (whatever side of the issue one might be arguing) assume that those people who do proclaim that life long marriage is God’s ideal don’t understand what others might be going through…but, just maybe, we understand a little bit more than we might be letting on. You know? But on the other hand, I think some people put marriage up on some sort of idol pedestal and put “the law of marriage” above “mercy”.

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