Marriage, Divorce and Remarrying after Divorce
The first marriage is recorded in the book of Genesis at the Creation (Genesis 2:23-24) ” 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” God first created man (Adam) and then later made woman (Eve) as a companion to him, to complete him. (Genesis 2:18) “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” and creating Eve was his way of “fixing” the problem at hand. Eve was created beside Adam as his “other half” to aid him and be his helper.
The word “helper” used in (Genesis 2:20) means to “to surround, to protect or aid, help.” When a man and a woman are married they become “one flesh“. The “one flesh” or oneness is manifest in its entirety when husband and wife come together in unity during sexual intimacy. The Bible warns regarding this coming together of one flesh (Matthew 19:6) ” Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
There are a number of epistle written by Paul in the Bible where he explains to believers how they are to behave within a marriage. They are (Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5:22-33). When studied together, they provide biblical principles for a biblical marriage.
Ephesians is extremely insightful, (Ephesians 5:22-23) “22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” (Ephesians 5:25) “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Ephesians 5:28-29) ” 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:” and (Ephesians 5:31) “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”
When a born again husband and born again wife live by Biblical principles, a biblical marriage results; a marriage that is balanced, full of love, with Jesus Christ as the head of husband and wife TOGETHER. Oneness between two individuals is a picture of oneness of Jesus Christ with His church.
Most importantly it is imperative that we remember that no matter what view one takes on the matter of divorce, God says, (Malachi 2:16) “16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: [divorce]” The Bible says that marriage is a lifelong commitment (Matthew 19:6) “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” However God does realise that human beings are sinful, therefore divorce will occur. In the Bible in the Old Testament, God laid down a few laws mostly to protect the rights of the divorcee, especially woman. See (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Jesus points out in that it was because of the hardness of people’s hearts, NOT because it was God’s desire, that these laws were given. (Matthew 19:8)
In (Matthew 5:32) “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.” and (Matthew 19:9) the phrase “except for marital unfaithfulness” has brought much discussion over whether divorce and remarriage is allowed according to the Bible. That phrase quoted is the only exception in Scripture where God gives permission for divorce and remarriage. Some interpreters understand this “exception” to only be during the “engagement” period. In Jewish custom, a man and woman were considered married when they got engaged or “betrothed”. Immorality during the engagement period was then said to be the only valid reason for a divorce.
The Greek word translated “marital unfaithfulness” is is porneia of which we get the modern word “pornography” – the main meaning behind the word is “sexual perversion” and means ANY FORM of sexual immorality, e.g., fornication, prostitution, adultery, incest, polygamy, etc.
Sexual relations is an important part of a martial bond. (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31) “the two will become one flesh“. Sexual relations outside of marriage is an instantaneous breaking of that bond and might be a permissible reason for divorce. Here Jesus has “remarriage” in mind when he says, (Matthew 19:9) “and shall marry another” indicating that divorce is allowed but only in the instance of the exception clause. Only the innocent party can however remarry. It is God’s mercy for the one who was sinned against, that they may remarry.
Now, in (1 Corinthians 7:15) there appears to be another “exception” that being if an unbelieving spouse wants to divorce a believer. The context of the verse though does not mention remarriage; the context only states that a believer is not bound to the marriage if the unbelieving spouse wants to leave. Then there is the issue of abuse (including child abuse). Many claim this is a valid reason for divorce, however it is not mentioned in the Bible. Separation is possibly the answer, not divorce.
Physical violence is illegal, abuse is against the law and the authorities should be contacted if this occurs. No one should live in an unsafe environment. God is the only one who has the power to heal individuals and mend relationships. (Matthew 7:8) The spouse (husband or wife) who is experiencing abuse must put on the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6:11-13) “11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Martial unfaithfulness is not a requirement for divorce; it is only an allowance for it. When adultery is committed, a couple can learn, through God’s grace, to forgive each other and rebuild their marriage. God has forgiven us, most surely we can follow His example and forgive each other. See (Luke 11:4, Phillipians 2:1, Mattew 6:14, Mark 11:25, Colossians 3:12-13) “12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
If however the spouse continues in their sexual immorality or is unrepentant, then divorce is a Biblical option. It is interesting to note that God sometimes calls people to stay single after they have divorced so that their attention is not divided. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) “32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
Some people look to remarry too quickly after they have divorced, when God just might desire of them to remain single. Remarriage is not the only option. Having said that, the Bible does say that it is better to marry and that possibly includes remarry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:9) Being single however should not be viewed as a punishment and no one should look down on you because you are single, but see it as an opportunity to serve God. (1 Corinthians 7:32-36)
Many Christians are married to unbelievers. The Bible even says that is will be difficult for these two parties to live in peace and harmony (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). Sometimes one spouse becomes a Christian after marriage, and then the struggles begin. Both parties are now living under two different authorities, the one God for the Christian, the other Satan for the unbeliever. Often Christians will look for a way out of the marriage because of the unbelieving partner, thinking they are honouring God, but the Bible says the opposite (1 Corinthians 7:12-14) “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.” Being married to an unbeliever does not alter the sacredness of the marriage.
A Christian wife is Biblically obliged to have a submissive heart, even toward her unbelieving husband (1 Peter 3:1) “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;” because as a Christian you always look for ways to bring Glory to God, even if the circumstances are challenging. (1 Corinthians 7:17). This does not give the unbelieving husband the right to abuse his wife. The Christian will need to remain close to God in prayer, as He gives them the strength to deal with the lifelong commitment he/she has made. And through much prayer and Godly ministry to the husband by the wife, husbands have come to Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:1)
It is shocking to note that the divorce rate among professing Christians is nearly as high as that of the unbelievers. God hates divorce and requires forgiveness at all costs first, as this is the sign of a born again believer’s new life. (Ephesians 4:32) “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” But God does realise that divorce will occur even among His children and one should not feel any less loved by Him because of this.
To repeat, (Malachi 2:16) “God hates divorce. ” It causes, pain, frustration and confusion and this is most assuredly also partly why God hates divorce. But what of remarriage? Most people do consider getting remarried. Let us see what the Bible has to say about this?
(Matthew 19:9) ” 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.” and (Matthew 5:32) ” 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. ”
Except in the case of “marital unfaithfulness”, remarriage after divorce is adultery. There are a few instances where divorce and remarriage are permitted without the remarriage being considered adultery, namely physical abuse (spouse or children), unrepentant adultery and the abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. The Bible does ultimately prefer reconciliation over remarriage (1 Corinthians 7:11) “But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” But if it’s an impossible situation, God offers His mercy and grace to the innocent parties, for God is a just God, and does allow that person to remarry without it being considered adultery.
Anyone who gets a divorce and remarries for any other reason other than the ones listed above will be committing adultery. (Luke 16:18) ” Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” The big question is, is the remarriage in act of adultery or a state of adultery. The Bible says that if one remarries one is only committing an act of adultery and is not in a continuous state of adultery. (Matthew 5:32; Matthew19:9; Luke 16:18) When you lie, you commit an act of lying; you do not stay in a continuous state of lying. The lie / adultery is the sin, and until you repent to Jesus Christ of this sin, you will remain in spiritual turmoil.
Death was the punishment for adultery in the Old Testament (Leviticus 20:10) “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” However in (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) it mentions remarriage after divorce and does not call it adultery and does not mention the death penalty for the person getting remarried. (Deuteronomy 24:1) ruled that divorce was permissible for “some unseemly thing.” Two Jewish Elders, Hillel and Shammai and their students could not reason what this meant, Hillel said it meant “the nakedness of a thing” and said that divorce was only for indecency, Shammai said that the translation of the word only meant “thing” and therefore divorce could be granted for almost anything. The Pharisees questioned Jesus about this, and Jesus explains to them what the prophet Malachi had already done before him. (Malachi 2:10-16). Jesus then explains the law to them after much questioning by the Pharisees and tells them about the exception clause: “except for marital unfaithfulness” can one get divorce.
If anyone divorces for the wrong (non adulterous) reasons, and remarries, and has sexual relations, that union is an immoral act that dissolves the first marriage, in other words, you will be committing adultery. And the repercussions are severe. It goes so far that, if a husband divorces his wife and she remarries, and has sexual relations, he will have has caused her to commit adultery.
A divorce of any kind is a sin because a divorce is evidence of sin. When one has committed adultery, one has sinned, and this sin is destroying the marriage. The fact that divorce was permitted in both Testaments, shows that people failed to live up to the will of God. Those whose have had marriages fail must find spiritual forgiveness and healing through Jesus Christ the Son of God, before they could move forward in their relationship with God. It is not wise at all to enter a second marriage without sorting out and dealing with the issues that when wrong in the fist marriage.
God does not hate remarriage. He does however hate divorce. And it is interesting to note that nowhere in the Bible does God expect a remarried couple to get divorced, they are to remain married. Their marriage now does not become invalid. Ending the second marriage is again breaking ones bond before God. Marriage is Marriage. But the sin remains, and this needs to be dealt with.
During a second marriage, the couple should strive to live out their married lives in a God-honoring way, which means Jesus Christ is at the head of their marriage. They should devote themselves to God and to each other. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration is God’s desire for all marriages. God can and will heal any marriage where both parties are willing to submit to Him and follow His Word.