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What the Bible Says About Divorce and Remarriage

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Is Any Divorce Acceptable?

In a general sense, God allows only three reasons for the dissolution of a marriage.

  • The first reason is obvious—death of one of the individuals in the marriage. See Romans chapter 7, verse 2 (Romans 7:2).
  • The second reason is adultery or immorality on the part of one of the individuals (Matthew 5:31,32 19:9, and so forth).
  • The third reason appears in First Corinthians 7:12-16. (Note that when Paul wrote “I say, not the Lord” in that passage, he did not say that this was not from God, but rather that Jesus had never addressed this topic Himself.) Here Paul states that “if the unbeliever departs” the Christian is not “under bondage.” The same concept is used again in verse 39 where the clear context of being “under bondage” was that you could not remarry. As a rule of hermeneutics, you allow the author to define the terms by what is stated in other areas of the same document. This is the author’s intended meaning. Thus, a Christian is not bound to their marriage if the unbeliever leaves them.

In each of these cases, it seems that God is trying to protect the innocent party that is left to live their life after the marriage ends. Please understand that this is a brief treatment of this subject.

Now let’s look at a situation that does not include one of these “acceptable” divorces. Many people do believe that remarriage after such a divorce constitutes continuous adultery that cannot be repented of (if you remain in the marriage). They would say that these people should divorce again and either be reunited to their original spouse or remain single. They would cite Romans 7:3 as a proof of this position. It is a possible position to take. (Still, remarriage to the same spouse after being married to someone else in between violates Deuteronomy 24:4.)

It is important to note that Romans 7:3 was not designed by Paul to be the “end all” statement of divorce and remarriage, it was actually using marriage in general to illustrate a point about the Law. Obviously God did provide for marriage to end in two other ways besides death. This is not to say that God is soft on divorce. Jesus said that it was only because of our “hardness of heart” that God allowed divorce (Matthew 19:8 and others). Ezra chapters 9 and 10 are sometimes used to support getting a divorce to obey God. However, the reason for divorce in these chapters was to keep the Jewish people pure for the Messiah to come through their lineage. (They had intermarried with those other than Jews, which was in direct violation of God’s commandment to them.) The situation was very different from our situation today. Malachi 2:16 says that God hates divorce, and we think everyone knows that divorce is wrong before God.

How About Remarriage?

The real issue that people wonder about is remarriage. Although God has not given specific information regarding the acceptability of remarriage, we can give you some things to think about in this area.

Obviously, based on 2 Corinthians 5:17, if someone has had a failed marriage, and later got right with God, “all things are done away with”—you get a clean slate as though you had not been divorced. There are certain passages like Romans 8:28 that show that God can use bad stuff that happened in our life to do good stuff. The “prodigal son” of Luke chapter 15 certainly shows someone who walked away from all that was good, messed up his life, and then repented and came back. While there were repercussions for his failures, he was still reinstated as a son. In the book of Joel, a terrible swarm of locusts had devastated the land as a judgment brought on them for their sin. But God then promised that He would “give back the years that the locusts have eaten.”

Summing Things Up

So, how do we summarize? If both partners had a divorce for one of the three “acceptable” reasons, they are free to remarry. If not, things become less clear. We have always believed that God is the God of the future. While people certainly need to take responsibility for what they have done wrong and the consequences that a divorce brought against them, we have to believe that true repentance can right such a wrong before God. It is hard to believe that people are useless to God and unacceptable to Him because of this past failure. Further, it just does not seem consistent with what we read in the Bible about God. However, we must emphasize that this is our opinion. Each person must decide this for themselves based on what the Bible says.

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