DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE
DEFINITIONS: Divorce occurs when a couple decides they no longer want to fulfill their commitment to their marriage. Remarriage is marrying again after a previous marriage ended in either death or divorce.
FACTS ABOUT DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE:
Divorce was not God’s original plan. When questioned by the religious leaders about divorce, Jesus explained that divorce was permitted because of the hardness of the hearts of mankind (Mark 10:1-9). God’s original plan was one man, one wife, for life (1 Corinthians 7:10)
Divorce is permitted under certain circumstances. For believers, these circumstances include sexual immorality (Matthew 19:9) and when a spouse deserts (1 Corinthians 7:15). In these situations, divorce is permitted by scripture, but not necessarily advocated. The goal is always reconciliation if possible.
Remarriage is not prohibited for a person whose spouse has committed sexual immorality or abandoned them–and of course, remarriage is permitted after the death of a spouse.
Although usually one person initiates divorce proceedings, both parties most likely have contributed to the breakup to some degree.
Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. We are all sinners, and we all make mistakes in relationships. To those who were caught in sin, Jesus forgave them with the admonishment, “go your way and sin no more.” Sinful errors may have been made in a relationship, but you can receive forgiveness and go on with a renewed dedication to God.
Having an unbelieving spouse is not grounds for divorce. The Christian spouse is encouraged to remain with their mate with the goal of winning him/her to Christ (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).
Many problems in marriage would be avoided if believers obeyed God’s Word regarding not marrying an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). No need to pray about this. God already said don’t do it! To avoid such emotional entanglements, don’t date unbelievers.
DEALING WITH DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE:
Think long and hard before initiating a divorce. Do you have biblical grounds? How will it affect your children, friends, and family? Will it actually solve problems or just present a whole set of new issues? How will it affect you and your family financially? Divorces are difficult spiritually, mentally, materially, and a breakup is especially hard on the children. Shame, anger, depression, loss of other relationships–all are part of divorce. You shouldn’t leave because of petty issues of incompatibility, because you tire of a relationship, or you are not committed enough to make it through the tough times.
Explore your relationship with God. Are you a believer? If you want your marriage to succeed, you must build it on the Lord (Psalm 127:1). Join with your spouse to seek a renewed relationship with God first, then with each other.
Seek forgiveness. Ask forgiveness from God and from your spouse. Pray for the healing of your emotions and relationship.
Seek reconciliation. Try to the best of your ability to reconcile with your spouse. Pray together, study the Word of God, form relationships with couples who have successful marriages, attend Christian marriage seminars. Pray about your problems instead of yelling about them. Do not bring up the past. Look to the future.
Take practical actions. List all the praiseworthy traits of your spouse and share at least one each day with them. Take a good look at yourself and improve things like bad habits, appearance, mannerisms, integrity, etc. Don’t just tell your spouse how you are going to change; show him/her by changing.
If you are a born-again believer, do not marry an unsaved person. Don’t be surprised when such a union experiences difficulties because Jesus said, a house divided against itself is destined to fall (Luke 11:17). A similar passage in the Amplified Version says, “…no city or house divided against itself will last or continue to stand” (Matthew 12:25 AMP).
Accept that sometimes, there is no more you can do. If you have done everything possible to save your marriage and it still failed, if your mate has departed, or if you are in an abusive situation and you need to depart for your own safety–then accept that there is nothing more you can do. It is in God’s hands. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. Ask God for forgiveness for your part in the problem. Accept His forgiveness, forgive yourself, and then get on with your life. Do not keep looking back thinking “I should have….” As long as you live in the past, you will never have a future.
Realize that there are some relationships that cannot be fixed. Not because God can’t fix them, but because one party is unwilling to change. The abuser, the alcoholic, the drug addict–they all promise they won’t do it again, but they will not change without a true born-again experience and supernatural deliverance. The adulterer and fornicator that comes and goes in and out of your marriage bed may leave you with an incurable sexually transmitted disease. Perhaps this is one reason why fornication–sexual activity outside of marriage including adultery–was specifically mentioned as a scriptural cause for divorce (Matthew 5:32). In the case of spousal abuse or child abuse, you must leave and take the kids with you. In many nations, you are legally responsible and can be criminally prosecuted if you fail to protect your children. Just because you walk away, does not mean God will not continue to deal with your spouse, nor does it mean God cannot put the relationship back together again in the future, nor does it mean that you must legally divorce your mate. What it means is that, for the present, you must take this action to protect yourself and your children. Be sure to protect yourself legally from the debts of your spouse and be sure the children are provided for.
Know that God is the God of a second chance. Consider Jonah, David, Moses, and Peter. God accomplished His purposes in the lives of each of these men, despite their failures. If you have failed in marriage and you are divorced, it is time to..”Arise [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you–rise to a new life]! Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!” (Isaiah 60:1, TAB). Let go of the hurt and bitterness. Stop dwelling on the “what ifs”. Stop rehearsing the past. If you are in an abusive situation, stop trying to make it work. If your mate has abandoned you, release them to God. If God puts the relationship back together in the future, then it will work. If not, consider it a divine division, abandon the past, and look to the future. As long as you are living in the past, you will never have a future.
Embrace your loss as spiritual gain. The Apostle Paul said: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:7-10, KJV). God can use even the suffering of divorce to deepen your relationship with Him. Embrace that loss–and all the losses in your life–as spiritual gain.
Do not judge others who have divorced and remarried. If you don’t believe in divorce for any reason or remarriage after a divorce, do not judge others who remarry. Live by your own convictions in this area, but do not impose your beliefs on those whose situations you do not understand and know nothing about.
WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS ABOUT DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE:
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:20-24)
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22)
Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home. (Proverbs 27:8)
If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? (Jeremiah 3:1)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3)
And did not God make [you and your wife] one [flesh]? Did not one make you and preserve your spirit alive? And why [did God make you two] one? Because He sought a godly offspring [from your union]. Therefore take heed to yourselves, and let no one deal treacherously and be faithless to the wife of his youth. (Malachi 2:15 AMP)
It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” 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. (Matthew 5:31-32)
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25)
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9)
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
“What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:1-9-12)
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Luke 16:18)
For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. (Romans 7:2-3)
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. 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. 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. (I Corinthians 7:10-15)
A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39)
Read 1 Corinthians 13.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, NIV)
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13:4)
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)
(See also “Marriage” in this database.)