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Divorce and Remarriage 

In this lesson, I will teach a clear understanding of the Bible's teaching on Divorce and Remarriage. I will cover all relevant Scriptural references. I will also cover one aspect of divorce and remarriage (Marital Abuse) not covered by Scripture and share my feelings and teaching to this church.


Please understand I will be teaching from the New Testament on this subject.  The Old Testament deals with the subject of divorce but the New Testament and in particular, Jesus and Paul teach and clarify the Old Testament teaching on the subject.

Matthew 5: 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matthew 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.

There are parallels in many of the subjects covered here, which apply either way and to either party involved in these disputes.

Matthew 5:32

In this case of Matthew 5:32, our Lord shows that the man who divorces his wife for any cause except fornication causes her to commit adultery in remarriage.

A.     The Lord assumed that the woman would remarry. The reason the act is called adultery is that she becomes involved in sexual sin with another man while still the wife of the man who divorced her.
B.     The divorce did not dissolve the marriage. She was still his wife and he was still her husband. The woman did not have the right to remarriage neither did her husband. Both sin if they remarry or enter into sexual relations with another.
C.     In this case an UN-dissolved marriage is clearly in view. The divorce leaves the couple still married. The question of dissolution is at the heart of the whole matter.

If the husband puts away his wife for the cause of fornication, the case is different.

A.     The marriage is dissolved and the man is not involved in the sin that the woman commits. The emphasis in the prior case is the wrong that the husband does to his innocent wife by his unjust divorce action. His wife had not given him just cause to divorce her.
B.     Christ here stressed the wrong that the husband does to his wife in exposing her to the sin that she commits with another man.
C.     Jesus, in His divorce law, used a decisive expression-"saving for the cause of fornication." The question of divorce and remarriage centers around these words. What do they mean? How shall we interpret them?

1.     Adultery is a sufficient ground for divorce because it is an actual breaking of the marriage tie.
2.     The words, saving for the cause, etc., apply also to the second clause, and whosoever marrieth, etc.
3.     For this cause, logos, a cause; why anything may be rightly done. (Gnomon of the New Testament, V. 1, p. 115, 1860.)
4.     The use of "cause" logos-"for which a thing may be rightly done has the same meaning in ancient and modern times.  
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Arndt & Gingrich, University of Chicago Press, p. 479, 1957.
Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testarnent, p. 381.

Fornication was a just or right cause for dissolution. Would Jesus make it right for a man to divorce an adulterous wife and then make it wrong for him to remarry? What kind of law would that be which establishes a right but places a no-marriage penalty upon anyone who uses the right?  For the rightful cause of fornication, Messiah approved the Jewish divorce which allowed remarriage.

Matthew 19:3-10

Looking at the meaning of "except". (Different ways of looking at the Scripture)

A.     Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commiteth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Matt. 19:9.
B.     Except it be for fornication, whosoever shall put away his wife, and shall marry another, commiteth adultery, and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
C.     Whosoever shall put away his wife, and shall marry another, commiteth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery, except it be for fornication.
In laymen's terms these verses say:

1.     There is no acceptable reason to divorce other than adultery. **
2.     Anyone divorcing for a reason "incapability, un-resolvable differences, burnt pancakes, un-kept house etc…."  other than adultery is both committing adultery and causing the other individual to commit adultery as well.
3.     Fornication and adultery are synonymous terms in the Bible.

a.     The original male-female purpose in marriage remains in force, except for fornication.
b.     The man must forsake father and mother and cleave unto his wife, except for fornication.
c.     What God hath joined together, man must not put asunder, except for fornication.
d.     It was hardness of heart for a Jew to divorce his wife, except for fornication.
e.     A Jew must not use the writing of divorcement, except for fornication.

It is a conclusion of fact that the Christ-authorized divorce of verse 9 made void the status of the woman as the man's wife.
A.     Marriage can be made null and void for a violation of  the one-flesh purpose. It can be dissolved for a violation of the thing that constitutes it.
B.     The Pulpit Commentary, long held in high honor, says: "Our Lord does not say that the remarriage of divorced persons is in all cases adulterous" (V. 36, p. 67, old edition).

The conclusion is, therefore, that there is no contradiction, and that Matthew 19:9 accords to the innocent spouse the right to remarriage. (Baker's Dictionary of Theology, p. 176, Baker Book House, 1960.)

Romans 7: 1-4

Romans 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. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

A.     These are not difficult verses to understand. However, we should follow the topic closely to understand it.

1.     An individual is bound by Scripture to stay married unless the other party commits adultery.
2.     However, if the two parties cannot live together, and want to separate, I believe they may do so.  If they separate and re-marry they are committing adultery.
3.     If a person's spouse dies, they are free to re-marry because the marriage is no longer in existence.
4.     The woman or man is bound to the law of marriage, if they separate or divorce for a reason other than adultery they commit sin.  
5.     However if they are divorced or separated and do not get involved in a extra marital relationship, and at some time the other individual dies (this is not permission to kill), I believe they are then free to re-marry, not before.

I Corinthians 7:10-16

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? Apart from a passing continent in Romans 7, these few verses contain everything Paul wrote about divorce. Some critics say that in the process he contradicted Jesus' stipulation that the only grounds for divorce was sexual immorality. But a careful consideration of the historical circumstances makes it clear that Paul was faithful to Jesus' words on this matter.


When Jesus made His statements about divorce, He addressed Jewish people living under the Mosaic law. Paul addressed believers, both Jews and Gentiles, on this side of Calvary and the empty tomb. Many of these Gentile believers undoubtedly came out of a paganism that was morally decadent. Its worship involved temple prostitution and sexual orgies, The city of Corinth itself was known far and wide as a center of sexual indulgence and other forms of immorality.

The pagans who became Christians needed often to be reminded of God's moral standards. Then too, some of those who had become believers were living with a mate who had not become a Christian. Apparently, a number of the non-Christian spouses were content to allow the marriage to remain intact. Other nonbelievers, however, wanted the mate either to renounce Christ or to end the marriage.

Paul was concerned that fellow believers be as unencumbered as possible from the normal cares of life so they could serve Christ freely in the difficult days that were ahead. Therefore, in chapter 7 of his first
epistle to the Corinthians he gave inspired advice and instruction about singleness, marriage, divorce, and remarriage. We will consider only the verses that deal directly with the divorce and remarriage problems.

#1. Paul advised single people to remain single,
#2. and married people remain with their present mate.
#3. However, he declared that the unmarried would not sin by marrying a believer
#4. and that a Christian with a non-Christian mate who wanted out of the marriage would not sin  
      by allowing the unbeliever to obtain a divorce.

But if the unbeliever departs [the word Paul used here was an official term for divorce on the certificate of that day], let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases (I Cor. 7:15).

Paul was addressing: mixed marriage.
Paul confronted a different problem--marriages between believers and nonbelievers.

A.     God, through the apostle Paul, mandated that a believer does not sin by allowing a divorce when the unbeliever wants out.
B.     A divorce in such instances is therefore valid. God sees the marriage as ended. Therefore, the believer thus divorced has the right to remarry.


From the words of Jesus in Matthew 19 and from Paul in I Corinthians 7:15, we have found only two grounds upon which God sanctions divorce: sexual immorality and the desertion of a believer by an unbeliever. This raises the question, "Is divorce wrong under all other circumstances? What about abuse? Must a woman continue to live with a man who is beating her and sexually abusing her?

A.     There is no verse in the Bible specifically stating that a woman in an abusive marriage has a right to obtain a divorce.
B.     Nor is there any mention of a legal separation. Many pastors and other Christian leaders have gone through great emotional and mental turmoil when confronted with extreme cruelty situations. I know I have. And in my searching of the Scriptures I have found a principle that I believe we can apply in such situations. It has permitted me to advise some women to seek a divorce even when the husband was a professing Christian and free from sexual immorality. Let me explain.

1.     God in His compassion sometimes allows His people to set aside strict conformity to certain rules He has given.
2.     He did this on one occasion when David and his men were hungry. He allowed them to eat consecrated bread in the tabernacle--bread which He had declared holy (I Sam. 21:1-6).
3.     God also did this with His Sabbath rules. He had commanded the Israelites to keep the seventh day as a day of absolute rest--even for domestic animals (Ex. 20:8-1 1). He forbade the kindling of a fire to cook food (Ex. 35:1-3). The importance of these rules was seen when He ordered that a man be stoned for gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36). It was to be a day of absolute rest!
4.     Yet Jesus healed on the Sabbath, When rebuked by His adversaries, He reminded them that even a legalistic Jew worked to free an animal that had fallen into a pit (Mt. 12:9-13). The strong "no work" regulation could be set aside when an animal needed help or a person needed healing. The Bible doesn't say this explicitly, but the Jews knew it to be true. The Lord Jesus expressed this fact when He said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (M. 2:27).

Let's apply this principle to God's regulations about divorce. Why did God give men permission to divorce their wives? Jesus answered this question when He told His critics, "because of the hardness of your hearts" (Mt. 19:8). God had declared that a man should cleave to his wife in a one-flesh relationship (Gen. 2:24). He never rescinded this rule. Yet He permitted men to divorce their wives. Why? The only logical reason I can think of is that He did so to protect the wives of hard-hearted men. If a man didn't want a woman as a wife any longer, he couldn't just discard her, he had to give her a certificate of divorce.

A.     The Old Testament divorce laws were a merciful provision. God hated divorce then just as He does now. But He preferred divorce to the abuse of wives and mothers.

B.     Divorce is often a terrible evil, but in some situations it represents a wise and loving course of action. Ezra insisted that Israelite men put away their pagan wives and children (Ezra 10: 10- 1 9). God Himself divorced the northern tribes of Israel (Jer. 3:8). He took such action only after enduring their prolonged spiritual unfaithfulness, which He compared to sexual unfaithfulness.

Since divorce is not always wrong, it is not like lying, stealing, coveting, or sexual immorality. These other actions are always wrong. God can never approve them. But divorce is not always a sin. It is always by sin, but is not an act of disobedience when permitted by God.

A.     Believers are not necessarily sinning when they divorce a spouse who through sexual sin has shattered the exclusive commitment of the marriage covenant.
B.     In fact, a woman who is married to a physically abusive husband may not be sinning when, with the encouragement of her spiritual counselors, she seeks divorce action--even if her husband is not guilty of sexual immorality. If such a wife has given careful consideration to the name and reputation of Christ, if she has sought to fulfill the requirements of love, and if she has followed the biblical procedures for confronting a sinning brother (Mt. 18:15-17), then she may have reason to seek divorce, action against someone who is no longer being treated by the church as a brother.

As noted earlier, Jesus taught that sometimes the spirit of the law allows specific legal requirements to be overridden (Mt. 12:1-13). By His own example, Jesus allowed His hungry disciples to pick and eat grain
on the Sabbath, just as He also took the opportunity to heal a man with a crippled hand on a day when no work was to be done.

I believe the apostle Paul could have had this same spirit of the law in mind when he wrote:

Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife (I Cor. 7: 10-11).

Notice that after commanding the Christian wife not to divorce her husband, the apostle inserted, "But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband." Why didn't he just tell both husbands and wives to refrain from divorcing one another without inserting "but even if she does"? I believe that Paul may have been making a compassionate provision for an abused woman.

Therefore, I believe an abused woman may divorce and re-marry without the penalty of sin upon her.

This lesson is already long but I must finish with a summation.

A.     The only acceptable reason for divorce is fornication/adultery.

B.     If a couple in the church need to separate for any reason other than adultery or abuse and if they re-marry they are committing adultery.

C.     If a couple comes into the church from the "world" and the spouse not desiring to serve the Lord wants a divorce, the Christian is allowed to consent to the divorce and re-marry without committing sin.

1.     However, if the unbeliever doesn't want a divorce the Christian is encouraged to stay with them.
2.     This mostly applies to the foreign field where one partner comes to Christ and the other desires a divorce based on the fact they will not convert.

D.     An abused spouse is permitted to divorce and re-marry.

All the proceeding is also subject to the fact that anyone in the church desiring to marry must marry "in the church".  That is to say a believer.

The Christian must be extremely careful who he\she marries.  Much prayer and time should be allowed to make sure you are picking the right person.  If you end up separating for any cause other than stated above you are not allowed to re-marry.

This Bible study is from research compiled by the following sources:

The Bible
Divorce and Remarriage: Guy Duty
Lesson "The Divine Permission" Author Unknown
Other sources….

By Pastor Warren Tryon  New Britain UPC

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