Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pastor to Pastor - What Does the Bible Say About Divorce and Remarriage? - Mark 10:2-9 - By Mary Fairchild

Divorce and Remarriage - Jeffrey Hamilton / Getty Images 
Scriptural Reference: Mark 10:2-9 (KJV)
 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.


Marriage was the first institution established by God in the book of Genesis, chapter 2. It is a holy covenant that symbolizes the relationship between Christ and his Bride, or the Body of Christ. Most Bible-based Christian faiths teach that divorce is to be seen only as a last resort after every possible effort toward reconciliation has failed. Just as the Bible teaches us to enter into marriage carefully and reverently, divorce is to be avoided at all costs.

Biblical Perspectives on Divorce and Remarriage
Sadly, divorce and remarriage are widespread realities in the body of Christ today. Many Christians have questions about divorce and remarriage. Generally speaking, Christians tend to fall into one of four positions on this controversial issue:

Position 1: No Divorce - No Remarriage
Marriage is a covenant agreement, meant for life, therefore it must not be broken under any circumstance; remarriage further violates the covenant and therefore is not permissible.

Position 2: Divorce - But No Remarriage
Divorce, while not God's desire, is sometimes the only alternative when all else has failed. The divorced person must remain unmarried for life thereafter.

Position 3: Divorce - But Remarriage Only In Certain Situations
Divorce, while not God's desire, is sometimes unavoidable. If the grounds for the divorce are biblical, the divorced person can remarry, but only to a believer.

Position 4: Divorce - Remarriage
Divorce, while not God's desire, is not the unforgivable sin.
Regardless of the circumstances, all divorced persons who have repented, should be forgiven and allowed to remarry.
The following study attempts to answer from a biblical perspective some of the most frequently asked questions about divorce and remarriage among Christians. I would like to credit Pastor Ben Reid of True Oak Fellowship and Pastor Danny Hodges of Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg, whose teachings inspired and influenced these interpretations of Scripture pertaining to divorce and remarriage.

Q1 - I am a Christian, but my spouse is not. Should I divorce my unbelieving spouse and try to find a believer to marry?
No. If your unbelieving spouse wants to be married to you, stay faithful to your marriage. Your unsaved spouse needs your continued Christian witness and may likely be won to Christ by your godly example.

1 Corinthians 7:12-13
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. (NIV)

1 Peter 3:1-2
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (NIV)

Q2 - I am a Christian, but my spouse, who is not a believer, has left me and filed for divorce. What should I do?
If at all possible, seek to restore the marriage. If reconciliation is not possible, you are not obligated to remain in this marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:15-16
But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (NIV)

Q3 - What are biblical reasons or grounds for divorce?
The Bible suggests that “marital unfaithfulness” is the only scriptural reason that warrants God’s permission for divorce and remarriage. Many different interpretations exist among Christian teachings as to the exact definition of "marital unfaithfulness." The Greek word for marital unfaithfulness found in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 translates to mean any form of sexual immorality including adultery, prostitution, fornication, pornography, and incest. Since the sexual union is such a crucial part of the marriage covenant, breaking that bond seems to be a permissible, biblical grounds for divorce.

Matthew 5:32
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (NIV)

Matthew 19:9
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (NIV)

Q4 - I divorced my spouse for reasons that have no biblical basis. Neither one of us have remarried. What should I do to demonstrate repentance and obedience to God's Word?
If at all possible seek reconciliation and be reunited in marriage to your former spouse.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

Q5 - I divorced my spouse for reasons that have no biblical basis. Reconciliation is no longer possible because one of us has remarried. What should I do to demonstrate repentance and obedience to God's Word?
Though divorce is a serious matter in God's opinion (Malachi 2:16), it is not the unforgivable sin. If you confess your sins to God and ask for forgiveness, you are forgiven (1 John 1:9) and can move on with your life. If you can confess your sin to your former spouse and ask forgiveness without causing further hurt, you should seek to do so. From this point forward you should commit to honor God's Word pertaining to marriage. Then if your conscience permits you to remarry, you should do so carefully and reverently when the time comes. Only marry a fellow believer. If your conscience tells you to remain single, then remain single.

Q6 - I did not want a divorce, but my ex-spouse unwillingly forced it on me. Reconciliation is no longer possible because of extenuating circumstances. Does this mean I cannot marry again in the future?
In most cases, both parties are to blame in a divorce.
However, in this situation, you are biblically considered the "innocent" spouse. You are free to remarry, but you should do so carefully and reverently when the time comes, and only marry a fellow believer. The principles taught in 1 Corinthians 7:15, Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:9 would apply in this case.

Q7 - I divorced my spouse for unbiblical reasons and/or remarried before I became a Christian. What does this mean for me?
When you become a Christian, your past sins are washed away and you receive a brand new fresh start. Regardless of your marital history before you were saved, receive God's forgiveness and cleansing. From this point forward you should commit to honor God's Word pertaining to marriage.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (NIV)

Q8 - My spouse committed adultery (or another form of sexual immorality). According to Matthew 5:32 I have grounds for divorce. Should I get a divorce because I can?
One way to consider this question might be to think of all the ways we, as followers of Christ, commit spiritual adultery against God, through sin, neglect, idolatry, and apathy. But God does not forsake us. His heart is always to forgive and reconcile us back to him when we turn back and repent of our sin.

We can extend this same measure of grace toward a spouse when they have been unfaithful, yet have come to a place of repentance. Marital unfaithfulness is extremely devastating and painful. Trust requires time to rebuild. Give God plenty of time to work in a broken marriage, and to work in each spouse's heart, before following through with divorce. Forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration of the marriage honors God and testifies of his amazing grace.

Colossians 3:12-14
Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. (NLT)


Note: These answers are simply meant as a guide for reflection and study. They are not offered as an alternative to godly, biblical counseling. If you have serious questions or concerns and are facing divorce or considering remarriage, I recommend that you seek counsel from your pastor or a Christian counselor. In addition, I am certain that many will disagree with the views expressed in this study, and therefore, readers should examine the Bible for themselves, seek the Holy Spirit's guidance, and follow their own conscience in the matter.