|May I Divorce and Remarry?
Divorce and Remarriage
This is a subject that has caused much heartache, spiritual shipwreck and tragic loss of ministry potential. I am not speaking of the heartache of broken homes and broken dreams which are the inevitable results of a failed marriage, but rather the legalistic and unbiblical attitudes which bring lifelong guilt and bondage to many believers as a result of not rightly dividing the New Testament teaching on this subject.
As the church of Jesus Christ our mandate is to set the captives free, not put heavier chains on them and then kick them off the dock and into the deep waters of discouragement and despair. Hopefully the following paper will bring freedom and peace to many who read it.
NOTE: As we study this subject please keep in mind that Jesus was talking to Jews under the Old Covenant and Paul is writing to the Church under the New Covenant. When you take this into account you find no discrepancy between the teachings of Jesus and those of Paul.
JESUS ON DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE
"What does Moses (The Law) say?" (Mark. 10:1-12)
Mark 10:1 ¶ And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again. 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.
Under the Law Remarriage is Legitimate in Some Cases
Remarriage is permissible under the law when divorce is the result of sexual immorality. (Matt 19:3-9 also see Matt 5:31,32)
Matt 19:3 ¶ 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. 10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
NOTE: For believers, sexual infidelity should be grounds for forgiveness and reconciliation, not an excuse for divorce. Moses made his concession because of the hardness of their hearts.
Please keep in mind that Jesus is teaching Jews under the law of Moses in the scriptures quoted above. We need to look at the writings of Paul on the subject in order to find out what the teaching to the church is on the subject of divorce and remarriage.
PAUL’S TEACHING ON DIVORCE
In 1 Corinthians the seventh chapter Paul give us the New Testament teaching on divorce and remarriage. He is apparently in answering questions the Corinthian church sent to him asking for a definitive doctrinal teaching on the subject.
1 Cor 7:1 ¶ Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. 6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one
after this manner, and another after that. 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?
Note: In vs 10 Paul emphatically states that what he is about to write concerning the married believers is a direct command from Jesus Christ Himself, "I command, yet not I, but the Lord". He is not going to disagree with Jesus in the following teaching, he is going to deliver the command the Lord gave Him for the church. First he states unequivocally that it is not the will of God for either husband or wife to give up on their marriage and seek divorce.
Depart: 5563 cwrizw chorizo kho-rid’-zo AV-depart 8, separate 3, put asunder 2; 13
Mark 10:9"What therefore God joined together let not man put asunder"
Paul makes it very clear that Christian couples should expend every effort to make their marriage work and even if they divorce they should keep the door open for restoration by avoiding remarriage. It is probably good to note at this point that there is nothing mentioned here about fornication or adultery either as the cause of divorce or as a legitimate reason to reason to remarry. Neither is there any curse mentioned for remarriage.
Paul now moves on to the case of a believer married to an unbeliever. Keep in mind that there were no believers in Corinth before Paul founded the church there so there were probably quite a few instances in which one member of an existing marriage relationship became a believer and their spouse remained unsaved. This is not talking about a believer making the decision to marry an unbeliever as so often happens nowadays. Paul covers that in his "be not unequally yoked" teaching in 1 Cor 6:14.
1 Cor 7:12 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.
Paul uses the same terminology here as he does speaking of the liberty to remarry without reference to sin that comes after the death of a spouse.
Rom 7: 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.
1 Cor 7:39 ¶ The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
PAUL ON REMARRIAGE
In vs 27 Paul finally gets around to the subject of remarriage after covering the various marriage and divorce scenarios in the church. His definitive command to every believer is "If you are married, don’t look for a divorce. If you are divorced, it would be better to remain single but if you remarry you have not sinned."
1 Cor 7:27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
NOTE: Divorce is an awful thing, and is to be avoided at all cost. It is not however, the unforgivable sin. Nor does divorce and remarriage constitute ongoing adultery. The Blood of Christ cleanses from ALL sin and ALL unrighteousness.
copyright 2003 Ray and Sharon Stark
Pastor Celebration Christian Church
22 years experience in pastoral and missionary ministry.