Divorce and remarriage is a sensitive topic that many Christians have strong opinions about. If you’re looking for answers from the Bible, you’ve come to the right place.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible permits divorce and remarriage only in certain circumstances, such as marital unfaithfulness. However, there are differing viewpoints among Christians on the details.
In this comprehensive article, we will walk through the key Bible passages about divorce and remarriage. We’ll look at the teachings of Jesus and the apostles Paul and Peter. We’ll examine the different Christian viewpoints on this issue.
And we’ll consider practical questions like: Can a divorced person remarry? Is remarriage after divorce considered adultery? Our goal is to present what the Bible teaches so you can make an informed decision.
What Jesus Taught About Divorce
The Exception Clause (Matthew 5:32, 19:9)
In Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, Jesus taught that divorce was permitted only in cases of sexual immorality or marital unfaithfulness. This exception clause has been debated among scholars, but most believe Jesus was referring to serious sexual sin like adultery, incest, or unnatural relations.
Jesus permitted divorce in these extreme cases to protect the innocent spouse. However, he emphasized reconciliation and forgiveness should be pursued if possible (see Matthew 18:21-22).
Certificates of Divorce (Matthew 19:7-9)
In Matthew 19:7-9, Jesus responds to a question from the Pharisees about divorce certificates. In ancient Judaism, a man could divorce his wife simply by giving her a certificate of divorce. But Jesus rejected this easy divorce system, reiterating from Genesis 2:24 that God intends marriage to be permanent and only broken by sexual immorality.
Jesus always sought to uplift and protect women, advocating for marriage to reflect God’s faithfulness.
Remarriage = Adultery? (Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18)
In Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18, Jesus states that whoever divorces and remarries commits adultery. This strict statement has caused much debate. Some interpret it to mean remarriage is never allowed, even after divorce due to adultery.
Others believe it refers to restrictive Jewish customs of the time, warning against divorcing one wife simply to marry a more desirable one. Still others interpret it to mean remarriage results in a non-binding union, as God still views the partners as married to their original spouses.
There are good arguments on all sides. The few verses on divorce and remarriage are complex and have been interpreted differently by scholars.
Paul’s Teachings on Divorce
Abandoned Unbelieving Spouse (1 Corinthians 7:12-16)
In 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, Paul provides guidance for Christians married to non-believers. He teaches that if the unbelieving spouse is willing to remain with the Christian, the Christian should not seek divorce. However, if the unbelieving spouse wishes to leave, the Christian can allow this.
Paul clarifies that “God has called us to live in peace” (v.15). He concludes that if the unbelieving spouse leaves, the Christian “is not bound in such circumstances”, implying freedom to remarry.
Modern research confirms the struggles of religiously mismatched marriages. According to the Pew Research Center, mixed-belief couples have slightly higher divorce rates compared to same-religion partnerships.1 However, some interfaith relationships thrive despite differences.
The key seems open communication about core values and mutual respect.
Remain Unmarried or Reconcile (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul addresses both the married and unmarried in the Corinthian church. Regarding divorce, at verses 10-11 Paul writes, “A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.” He underscores the gravity of divorce by giving the same charge to husbands toward their wives.
Paul understood that divorce causes deep emotional wounds. He once quoted God in saying, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16). Yet Paul met people where they were, gently urging reconciliation when possible. He sought to limit harm by advising no remarriage unless the spouses reunite.
Today, counselors echo this compassionate stance. They suggest that timeline from divorce to remarriage should include mourning losses and reestablishing identity beyond the broken union.
Peter’s Instructions to Husbands and Wives
Wives Submit, Husbands Honor (1 Peter 3:1-7)
In 1 Peter 3:1-7, the apostle Peter provides important instruction for Christian husbands and wives. He begins by addressing wives, encouraging them to win over their unbelieving husbands through their respectful and pure conduct rather than nagging or preaching.
A godly and gentle spirit is of great worth in God’s eyes. For instance, look at Sarah who submitted to Abraham and called him lord. You can be her daughters if you do what is right without giving way to fear.
Let your adornment come from the inner person of the heart, not merely external things like braided hair or gold jewelry. Remember, precious in God’s sight is the gentle and quiet spirit.
Next, Peter instructs husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker partner since she is a woman. Grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life so that your prayers won’t be hindered.
He reminds husbands that they are to treat their wives with sensitivity, gentleness, and honor. Their prayers would be hindered if they failed to honor their wives.
The principles here provide a pattern for healthy Christian marriages. Wives are called to submit to their husbands’ leadership out of reverence for Christ. It does not imply wives are inferior but shows God’s created order.
Husbands are called to tenderly lead their wives with understanding since she is the weaker vessel physically. They are to honor their wife in the same way they honor Christ. Submission and sacrificial love form the foundation for Biblical marriage roles.
Live in Understanding (1 Peter 3:7)
In his instructions to husbands, the Apostle Peter says they are to live with their wives in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7). What does it mean for a husband to live with his wife in an understanding way?
First, it means taking the time to understand his wife’s needs, desires, fears, and aspirations. He should listen to her heart, observe her passions, and care about her feelings. For instance, he could discuss her goals, learn her love language, and understand her background.
Second, it requires understanding her physically, emotionally and spiritually. As the weaker vessel, husbands should be sensitive to times she feels weary or her physical limitations. They should also be aware of her emotional needs and anxieties.
Moreover, they should nurture her spiritual growth in the Lord.
Third, it involves understanding her differences as a woman. Appreciate that women think and communicate differently than men. Don’t expect her to react the way a man would. Respect her feminine qualities, gifts, and strengths which complement yours as a man.
Fourth, it means giving her the benefit of the doubt instead of judgment or criticism. Believe the best about her intentions and be quick to forgive. Refrain from anger, impatience or insensitive remarks.
Finally, it requires understanding yourself, your flaws, and past hurts to have patience and not expect perfection. Examine your own heart before accusing her. Lead by your own sacrificial example.
Husbands who live with their wives in a caring, empathetic, and understanding way honor Christ and reap an intimate, lifelong partnership full of love. As the saying goes, “To understand your woman, walk a mile in her shoes.”
Differing Christian Viewpoints on Divorce and Remarriage
Conservative (No Remarriage Allowed)
The conservative Christian viewpoint is that remarriage is not allowed after divorce, except in specific circumstances like adultery or abandonment (Matthew 5:32, 19:9). This is based on scriptures like Mark 10:11-12 which says that anyone who divorces and remarries commits adultery.
Under this view, marriage is seen as a lifelong covenant binding two people together and divorce is not viewed as dissolving the marriage bond.
Churches holding this position include the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, and some evangelical denominations. They emphasize commitment and the sanctity of marriage. Divorce may be permitted in cases of adultery or spousal abandonment, but remarriage is not allowed since the first marriage still spiritually exists.
Annulments declare the marriage wasn’t valid, allowing remarriage. But overall, marriage is encouraged to be preserved if at all possible.
Moderate (Remarriage Allowed in Some Cases)
The moderate position allows for divorce and remarriage in certain circumstances, based on passages like 1 Corinthians 7:15 which says to let an unbelieving spouse leave if they want to. This view attempts to balance scriptural principles with grace and love towards those going through divorce.
Many mainline Protestant denominations hold this view, allowing divorce in cases of adultery, abuse, or abandonment. Remarriage is permitted for the faithful spouse, not the guilty one. An annulment may also permit remarriage.
The emphasis is on ministering to the needs of individuals with love and mercy when marriages regrettably end.
Liberal (Divorce and Remarriage Permitted)
The liberal view emphasizes freedom in Christ and God’s forgiveness. They believe divorce dissolves marriage and subsequent remarriage is not adulterous. This is based on ideas like marriage covenants ending at death (Romans 7:2), and not being under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14).
Some denominations like the Assemblies of God, United Church of Christ, and Metropolitan Community Church hold this freer view. They encourage divorce only after extensive counseling, but validate subsequent marriages. Emphasis is placed on fresh starts and God’s grace.
Forgiveness and acceptance is highlighted rather than condemnation.
Common Questions About Divorce and Remarriage
Is Remarriage After Divorce Adultery?
This is a complex question with differing views. Some believe remarriage after divorce constitutes adultery based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18. However, the apostle Paul allowed for remarriage if the unbelieving spouse leaves in 1 Corinthians 7:15.
Most evangelical Christians believe remarriage is permissible in cases of adultery or desertion.
What if My Spouse Cheats on Me?
Infidelity is incredibly painful. However, some couples do reconcile after an affair. Consider seeking Christian counseling first before making any permanent decisions. Ultimately, the betrayed spouse must determine if the breach of trust can be repaired.
If reconciliation attempts fail, then divorce may be an option, with careful consideration regarding potential future remarriage (Matthew 19:9).
Can a Divorced Person Ever Remarry?
Many Christians believe remarriage after divorce is allowed in certain situations based on Bible passages like Matthew 19:9 and 1 Corinthians 7:15. The apostle Paul permitted remarriage for abandoned believers. Most churches do not forbid remarriage for the victim of adultery or desertion.
However, some conservative denominations prohibit all remarriage after divorce.
Those considering remarriage should examine their situation carefully against Scripture. Seeking spiritual counsel can help determine if certain factors constitute biblical justification. Ultimately, pastors and church leaders must decide eligibility for remarriage on an individual basis.
There are good arguments on multiple sides of this issue. Christians seeking God’s wisdom regarding divorce and potential remarriage should thoroughly research biblical principles and talk to mature believers.
While aiming for reconciliation where possible, churches should also provide grace, care and support to those wounded by divorce.
The Bible’s teachings on divorce and remarriage cannot be fully summarized in one article. There are sincere Christians on both sides of this complex issue. Our goal was to walk through the key Scripture passages so you can understand the different viewpoints.
In the end, Christians desire to honor the sanctity of marriage while also extending grace to those going through the tragedy of divorce. If you are facing these struggles personally, seek wise counsel from church leaders and mature believers.