Can we Divorce OR marry a divorced person?

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Can we Divorce OR marry a divorced person?

Post  Waqar Daniel on Sat 21 Jul 2007, 4:36 pm

Divorce and remarriage have become common as civil law allows no-fault divorce. A husband or wife may dissolve a marriage for almost any grounds and remarry, regardless of the will of their spouse. The result is that many people marry without considering the teaching of the Bible. Is fornication (or adultery) the only Scriptural grounds for divorce, or does the gospel allow marriage to be dissolved for other grounds? Please consider this careful study of the Biblical teaching.

What does God say abut it?

Men will be judged according to whether or not we have conformed our lives to His will (John 12:48). Man's will often differs from God's (Prov. 14:12; Isa. 55:8,9; 2 Cor. 10:12,18; Lk. 16:15,18). Since the Bible reveals God's will, we must learn what it says about divorce and remarriage (2 Tim. 3:16,17; 1 Cor. 14:37; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:21).

Mathew 19:3-9, Mark 10:2-12, Luke 16:18

Jesus was asked whether divorce can properly be obtained for just any reason a person might have. He answered by appealing to the original marriage law.

Jesus taught that divorce itself, in general, is contrary to God's will. God made one man for one woman, indicating He did not intend for either to marry anyone else. He said they should cleave to one another and the two become one - there is no room in God's plan for a third party. God joins the man and woman, no human has the right to break that bond.
Further, whoever divorces his wife and marries again commits adultery (unless he does it because she has been guilty of fornication), and whoever marries her who has been divorced also commits adultery. (Mk. 10 adds that this rule also applies to the woman if she divorces her husband.)

Matthew 5:31,32
One who puts away his wife (for some cause other than fornication) causes her to commit adultery. This assumes that she remarries as described in the last part of the verse and as implied in the previous verse (the purpose of the "bill of divorcement" according to the law was so she could become another man's wife - Deut. 24:1).

By divorcing his wife, the husband puts her in the position where she is strongly tempted to remarry and if she does remarry, Jesus says she is guilty of adultery and so is the man she marries (in contrast to the Mosaic Law which tolerated the remarriage). Hence, the divorce itself is wrong and should be avoided. [Cf. Matt. 18:6,7]

Romans 7:2,3
A married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives. This means that if she is married to another man while her first husband is alive, she is guilty of adultery. She is free to remarry without guilt only if her husband is dead.

(Some ask what "law" is this that joins the man and woman - God's law or man's law? It is the law which, when violated, makes the woman an adulteress. Clearly this must be God's law, and this conforms to what is taught elsewhere.)

1 Corinthians 7:10,11
A married woman should not depart from her husband nor he from her. Again, divorce itself is not the will of God.

But if she departs (if divorce has occurred), she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. Clearly remarriage is not a scriptural alternative.

(Note: "depart" here is the same word elsewhere translated "put asunder" - Matt. 19:6; Mk. 10:9: The result of the action is that the woman is "unmarried.")

The teaching of the gospel on this point is unpopular with most people. Many people don't want to hear it preached. Jesus' own disciples considered it very strict (Matt. 19:10-12), still Jesus did not compromise it or apologize for it. He continued to teach and defend it and so must we.

Malachi 2:14-16
God hates putting away (v16). Again, divorce is contrary to God's will. Why? Because marriage is a covenant between a man and his wife (v14). God is a witness to that covenant, and He holds men to it (v14). If a man violates the covenant, he is dealing treacherously with his wife and God will hold him accountable. [Prov. 2:17; Ezek. 16:8]

Though this is an Old Testament passage, it helps us learn the definition of marriage, which has not changed. Marriage is, by God's definition, a solemn mutual agreement between a man and woman to live together as husband and wife. God holds them to that covenant bond and will not free them from it, even if people declare them to be free.

Remember this! The whole foundation of New Testament teaching regarding divorce rests on God's attitude toward marriage. When people weaken the barriers against divorce, they are weakening respect for marriage. Divorce matters because it destroys a marriage, and marriage is very important to God. Any view of divorce, which fails to respect marriage as God respects it, must be an unscriptural view.

This is why Jesus, in answering a question about divorce and remarriage, appealed to God's original intent regarding marriage (Matt. 19:3-9). God will respect and enforce His law regarding it, even when men disregard it!

Hebrews 13:4
The marriage covenant includes the right and obligation to have the sexual union only with the companion with whom we have a Scriptural marriage covenant. To have relations with anyone else is "fornication" or "adultery."

This too is part of the marriage covenant as God defines it. Marriage gives a man and his wife the right to the sexual union, but only with their lawful spouse.
[Ezek. 23; Jer. 3; Prov. 5:15-20; 6:29,32; 7:18-20; Ezek. 16:32; 1 Cor. 7:1-9].

Romans 7:2,3
In this marriage covenant, the woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives (cf. 1 Cor. 7:39). The marriage "bond" is a lifetime covenant commitment, and God holds people to the commitment they made, even if later they try to break it.

Note that the passage says a woman may be "bound" to one man, but "married" to another man! The "bond" refers to the marriage covenant that God holds you to. "Marriage" refers to the relationship you are living in as recognized by civil law and society. The two may be the same, but not necessarily. In this case, the woman was "bound" to one man but "married" to a completely different man!

That is why a woman is guilty of adultery if she is married to another man. Adultery, by definition, refers to sexual intercourse between two people, one of whom is bound by a marriage covenant to somebody else [see definitions in notes on Matt. 19:9].

This woman is an "adulteress" because she has been joined in a marriage covenant with one man, and God holds her to that covenant for life. But she is having sexual relations with another man, and that, by definition, is adultery. This passage defines adultery for us!

Note that anytime she has sexual relations with a man other than her scriptural mate it is adultery - as long as her first companion is living, the passage says. Whether she has just a single act of intercourse, or has an "affair" involving a number of adulterous acts over a period of time, or whether it is a second marriage to another man - in any case every time she has sexual union with another man the passage says she is guilty of adultery.

This is "adultery" because the woman is Scripturally committed to have the sexual union only with one man as long as he lives, but instead she is having it with another man. This is why it is proper to refer to the second marriage as "adulterous" or "living in adultery," just as it would be if she were living with him but not married to him (Col. 3:5-7).

Matthew 19:3-9
What reason is given why remarriage is forbidden and why it is called "adultery"? Because God declared man and woman should cleave to one another. He joins them (by witnessing their marriage covenant and holding them to it). He forbids their changing their mind and says no man can put their marriage asunder.

So, if man puts away his wife and marries another, the second marriage is "adultery" because he is having the sexual union with a second wife while God still holds him obligated to his covenant to have the sexual union only with his first wife.

Note again: the terms "marry" and "divorce" (or "put away," and also "husband" and "wife") as used here and elsewhere, refer to the relationship as viewed by society and the law of the land. In a first marriage, both God and society recognize the marriage commitment to exist between the man and woman. They are both "married" in the eyes of society and "joined" ("bound") in the eyes of God.

Society and civil law may then grant them a "divorce" (not for fornication) and they may "marry" again. Society and civil law then views them as free from their first marriage and entered into a second one, and the Bible calls this "divorced" ("put away") and "married" again. But though God uses these terms as society does, He does not recognize the divorce as making a valid end to the covenant commitment that He recognized in the first marriage. God still considers them "bound" or "joined" or held accountable for the commitment of the first marriage (v6).

There is a definite distinction between the covenant commitment (bond) which God recognizes and the divorce and marriage which civil law recognizes. (cf. Mk. 6:17,18)

Again, the second marriage is "adultery" because the person is still joined in God's eyes to his/her first spouse, but they are having a sexual relationship with a second spouse. That is adultery, and it will continue to be adultery every time they have the sexual relationship, because God has still "joined" them to their first spouse and He will not "put asunder" that bond.

1 Corinthians 7:10,11
This explains why, if a woman divorces her husband, she still has no right to remarry. She may get divorced in the eyes of civil law, and God calls it "divorce" and says she is now "unmarried." But that does not free her from her bond or covenant obligation to her first husband. Since she is still bound to her first marriage covenant, her only choice then is to be reconciled to her husband (the one God recognizes) or else remain unmarried.

Sexual relationship outside of a Scriptural marriage bond constitutes fornication (v2-5). Hence, if the woman divorces and remarries, that second marriage, as long as it lasted and as long as her first husband was still alive, would constitute adultery.

Understanding these principles will be vital to reaching proper applications and answers to other questions we will deal with.
[Note that adultery involves a sexual act - John 8:4; Heb. 13:4; Prov. 6:20-35. It is not just the act of divorcing and remarrying that is adultery.]


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1:3)

Waqar Daniel

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