That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Monday, May 16, 2011

Divorce and Remarriage: My thoughts... and questions???

I have had this written for almost two weeks now, and I've been struggling about whether or not I should post it.  I keep thinking of the saying "when in doubt, don't", but sometimes I think doubt holds us back from doing what we know to be right.  I really don't want to upset anyone, but I know some of the things I say here probably will.  Maybe that's unavoidable.  I'm going to post what I've written, because it's been on my heart.  I have two parts to this.  Maybe I'll see how many nasty comments I get before I decide if I'll post the second part :).  I'm not asking you to agree with me. However, I would ask you to really search the Scriptures with a teachable spirit, and without a preconceived idea. With that said, here's what I have learned and written... 

 I know divorce is a controversial subject within Christianity. In fact, a couple of Sunday's ago there was quite the discussion about divorce and re-marriage at my church.  As divorce becomes more accepted by society, it's become more accepted by the church too.  There was a time when divorce was just wrong. Period.  But, it's not like that any more.  

I realize divorce and remarriage are very sensitive and emotional issues.  I know people, both Christians and non-Christians, who are divorced and re-married. I realize there are many complicated and unique situations where a black-and-white answer is not always readily apparent. I've read the Scriptures, and I've tried to study this issue and understand it from a biblical perspective. I still have questions. I also believe that if we keep studying the Scriptures diligently, pray, and seek wisdom and direction from the Holy Spirit we can gain biblical answers to these situations.  Our flesh may revolt against those answers, but if we love God we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).

I've always believed it was wrong for Christians to divorce and re-marry, but I hear many Christians giving reasons of why divorce and remarriage are okay for them.  It wasn't their fault the marriage ended.  Why should they have to suffer?  Their spouse was unsaved, and it just didn't work.  Now that they are divorced, why shouldn't they be able to marry a godly man or woman and enjoy that marriage?  Don't they deserve some happiness?  This kind of reasoning bothers me somewhat.  I don't believe someone's happiness and/or who's to blame is really the issue.  Obedience to God's Word is.  I'm not entirely sure there's a Scriptural basis to back up some of these reasons to allow a re-marriage.

What does the Bible say about this?  I mentioned before that if we love God we will keep His commandments.  One of God's commandments is... What therefore God hath joined togetherlet not man put asunder.   I'm not going to write out every single verse about marriage, adultery, and divorce or this would be a REALLY long post, but here are a few other things God commands us, and some things I've learned.  I'm starting with the assumption that everyone reading this believes marriage is between one man and one woman, and that marriage vows are a life long covenant a man and woman make before God.  That is the biblical pattern that God established in Genesis.  

Mark 10:11-12 says, And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. I find this passage of Scripture to be very clear.  If you "put away" (divorce) your spouse, and marry someone else you are committing adultery.  The divorce itself is not necessarily adultery, but the re-marriage definitely is.  Another VERY clear Scripture is Exodus 20:14, Thou shalt not commit adultery.  I'm aware of the "exception clause."  Personally, I think this has been greatly abused and grossly misunderstood by many looking for some sort of biblical validation to be remarried after they have been divorced.  I'm just not sure how any Christian can justify being remarried when the words of Christ here are so clear?

Here's another one ...and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery (Matt 5:32)... and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery (Matt 19:9).*  Jesus says this twice in Matthew, and there's a parallel passage in Luke 16:18.  Perhaps the fact that it's repeated three times in the Scriptures means this is serious stuff!  I find it interesting that this text does not say the man is divorced. I believe this is speaking about a man who's never been married before, marrying a divorced woman.  According to this verse that man commits adultery.  I always thought you had to be married in order to commit adultery, but this verse says you can commit adultery without being previously married by marrying someone who was previously married.  I don't think I'm reading into the text by stating this.  Although this verse speaks specifically to a man marrying a divorced woman, I see no reason why the reverse would not also apply.  A previously un-married woman who marries a divorced man is committing adultery.   

What really bothers me about this whole re-marriage thing is that it neglects to take into account the power of God to bring salvation, healing, and restoration to a marriage and family.   God is all-powerful.  God changes people.  God heals.  God restores.  God SAVES!  People make mistakes. They ignore wise counsel.  They get into situations they never imagined would happen. Maybe they marry someone who is unsaved. Does that justify ending a marriage vowed before God until death?  I would be very hesitant to say that it does.  The Bible deals specifically with this kind of situation.  Look at what God says in I Peter 3:1-2, Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. If anyone can reach that man for Christ, it is his saved wife!  By leaving him, she closes the door on the power and mercy of God to use her to bring her husband to salvation.

I think my main issue with a Christian re-marrying after a divorce is that it seems like willful sin.  God says a marriage is until death.  Re-marrying purposefully disobeys God's decree.  Maybe I'm way off here, but that's what I'm getting from the Scriptures that deal with this topic.  I realize there are some cases where a separation or a divorce may be needed.  I don't think the Bible requires someone to stay in an abusive relationship.  However, I think this should always be a last option.  I think every effort should be taken to seek restoration, forgiveness, counsel, and healing.  If an unsaved or hard-hearted spouse leaves, I think the other spouse should NEVER give up praying for the one who left, and never give up hope that God can restore that individual to Himself, and thus heal that marriage.

Then again, I'm not married, so maybe I don't really know.  Maybe I can't make a judgement on this subject because I've never been there.  Maybe if I were married I would understand why someone who's been divorced would feel justified in getting re-married.  But then I think, is there really a difference between me and a divorced person?  I have no husband, and a person whose spouse leaves them would basically be in the same state I am right now.  If I can be unmarried and be content with that, then why can't they?  

Just some of my thoughts.... and questions....?? 

*I also found it interesting in doing this study that the newer Bible versions significantly change or weaken Jesus' teachings on divorce and re-marriage.  This portion I quoted from Matthew 19:9 is omitted in the NIV, NASB, and ESV, although the ESV does give it in a footnote.  Also the word "fornication" is changed to "marital unfaithfulness" in some versions, which is not what fornication means at all!  


  1. Looks like you gave this a lot of time, study, and prayer! I'm not sure what I believe about it just yet, but am also praying and searching the Scriptures. My husband and I need to know as we go forward ministering to the saints and witnessing to unbelievers. Your * verse, I heard that very verse compared in KJV and ESV yesterday...

  2. I'll be praying for you and your husband as you guys study this. If you read the comments on the other part, someone suggested a book there that looks like it might be good. I know God will give you the answers you're seeking for :).

  3. I realize this is an old post, but I just stumbled on it. I just wanted to say, you hit the nail right on the head! My husband and I studied this out many times and always come up with the same conclusion. It is hard taking such a stand today, especially in the ministry where we have only two couples (including ourselves) that haven't been touch by divorce/re-marriage. We even lost a family over it. But God's Word is clear that marriage to a divorced person is sin until they have been released from those vows through death. It's nice to see we're not the only ones who believe this.