Divorce and Remarriage
People often call me for legal help in obtaining a divorce. In my law practice, I am most concerned with acting according to the great love of Jesus Christ. I want to follow Jesus in all that do, including my law practice. So, when it comes to helping people file for divorce, I must decline, because Jesus taught that no man should separate what God has joined together in marriage. Let me explain what Jesus teaches about divorce and remarriage. If you are contemplating filing for divorce for any reason, then this study of the Word of God may help you understand God's perspective on divorce and remarriage.
As God, Jesus hates divorce. During His ministry in the flesh, Jesus taught about God's design for marriage and the issues involved in divorce. In Matthew 19:1-9, page 1534, Jesus provided basic teaching about divorce and remarriage. We will look first at that passage, and then compare 1 Corinthians 7:1-16, pages 1788-1789, for further instruction. So, let us begin our study with Matthew 19.
Matthew 19:3, Page 1534
"Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?'"
1.1 Question One: Can a Man Divorce His Wife for Any Reason at All?
In Matthew 19:1-9, page 1534, the Pharisees, a group of religious men who studied the Old Testament, came to Jesus, asking questions and testing Him. The Pharisees questioned Jesus specifically about the Old Testament Law of Moses. The questions here make all the difference. Any interpretation of this passage that does not account for their questions misses the point of the passage about divorce and remarriage. So, the first question is quite simple: can a man divorce his wife for any reason at all? In other words, does a man really need a reason to divorce his wife, and, if so, what reasons will God allow for divorcing a wife?
Matthew 19:4, Page 1534
"And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,'"
1.2 Answer: God Created Them Male and Female.
Notice how Jesus loved to answer a question: He quoted the Bible as His answer. Notice too the small phrase: "Have you not read." By this simple phrase, Jesus was showing the Pharisees that they should have read and understood the meaning of the Old Testament passage Jesus cited to answer their question. As the Pharisees sought to test Jesus, so Jesus used the opportunity to provide careful teaching to everyone, including everyone who would read this passage later (like us). Jesus cited Genesis 1:27, page 2, to lay the foundation for His answer. Jesus went back to the creation of man and woman in the Garden of Eden, as described in Genesis 1:27, page 2. So, based upon the fact that God made humans as "male" and "female," Jesus relied upon the difference and purpose in the creation of humans. Jesus based His answer upon the facts of creation. By citing the the words "male" and "female," Jesus intended to convey that God created humans as male and female (separate genders). They were different in appearance and function. They were heterosexual. He intentionally created two sexes, not just one. They form a mating pair, and a life pair. God intended one gender to be in a relationship with the other gender, as we will see in the next verse. The special relationship God created for a male and female was "marriage." Again, let me emphasize that Jesus used God's plan of creation to start His teaching about divorce and remarriage. According to Jesus, you cannot understand marriage without first understanding the creation of humans as male and female in Genesis.
Matthew 19:5, Page 1534
"and said, "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'?"
1.3 Answer: God Joins a Man to His Wife in Marriage.
Jesus built further upon the divine plan of male and female creation. He again quoted the Old Testament, citing Genesis 2:24, page 4. Jesus meant that the rules for marriage, divorce and remarriage rest upon the creation of male and female. They go all the way back to Genesis. Based upon creation, Jesus highlighted several aspects of marriage. First, Jesus taught that marriage involves separation. Second, the man separates from his mother and father to be joined to his wife. Third, having been joined together, the husband and wife become one flesh So, to summarize, Jesus taught that God created marriage in the Garden of Eden, by making humans as males and females, each in the image of God. Not only did God craft males to be physically different from females, but He designed them for Him to join them together to make one flesh. God designed, created, and joined people in marriage. Males and females fit perfectly together when God joins them together in marriage. They become one flesh.
Matthew 19:6, Page 1534
"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
1.4 Answer: God Said They Are No Longer Two, But One Flesh.
Jesus again built upon the theology of marriage. God created one male for God to join to one female in marriage, so that the two humans would become one flesh. So, if you have followed Jesus, He just explained that God made one male and one female to join together as one flesh in marriage. Jesus emphasized that God joins people in marriage, and the product is each person enjoys a fleshly unity with the other person. In a New Testament sense, consider that at the moment Jesus saved you by faith alone, your body became the temple of the Holy Spirit, where He lives inside your body. While the Holy Spirit dwells within the individual believer, in another sense the Holy Spirit now indwells the couple (corporate unity) joined by God in marriage. Consider the consequences described by Paul that even a believer becomes one flesh with a harlot when they have sex. So, let us take a look also this concept of "join" as used in the New Testament. First, we should learn that God revealed a complete, final union with the term "joined together." Second, we see that God created marriage as the only means for one male to be joined to one female. Third, this sexual union producing one flesh also occurs by having sex with a prostitute. Therefore, we see that our fleshly sexual unions have direct spiritual consequences in our lives. The Bible refutes any notion that sex can be frequent and casual, with many partners. God designed marriage to be the sole bond producing one holy flesh before God. Sex outside marriage pollutes the believer by becoming one flesh with an immoral person. Immorality always damages spirituality.
Matthew 19:6, Page 1534
"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
1.5 Answer: What God Has Joined Together, Let No Man Separate.
Jesus taught that marriage changes a man and woman into one flesh. You see how Jesus handled the question of divorce. Because God has joined a male and female in marriage, they have now become one flesh. We know that God spoke of a sexual union here, as you can see in 1 Corinthians 6:17, page 1788. In that passage, Jesus spoke about a man becoming one flesh with a prostitute. A spiritual union results from sexual activity, even with a prostitute. You may intend to have only sex, but God revealed that a spiritual union also takes place through sex. In Matthew 19: 6, page 1534, Jesus described this sexual union as one flesh. God created this union in Genesis, as we saw above. Jesus then spoke about the implication. If God joined a male and female in marriage, resulting in a sexual and spiritual union, then no man should separate God's work of joining the male and female together. In fact, we should rejoice over God's plan for forming a strong, spiritual and sexual bond between one male and one female for life.
Now, let us focus upon the notion that man may separate what God has joined together. Let us take this matter in parts. First, we have seen that God joins a male and a female in a sexual and spiritual union He called marriage. Second, God has taken all the initiative. He "joined" the male with the female. This term for "joined" has special significance in this passage. This term "joined" pinpointed God's special activity. God joined one male to one female in marriage. Notice the heavy emphasis upon God doing all the work. He once and for all times joined one male and one female. So, the contrast could not be brighter when Jesus commanded all men never to separate what God has joined together. Notice that God joins one male and one female in marriage, but man separates what God has joined together. Jesus contrasted the blessed activity of God joining a male and female in marriage, with the sinful activity of man in separating what God has joined together. In essence, God joins and man separates. God never intended any form of separation, for any reason, ever. God never separates what He has joined together. We will see Jesus expand upon that basic premise in the next verses.
So, to summarize, Jesus did not permit divorce for any reason. He commanded man not to separate a man and a woman God had joined in marriage. Jesus based His command upon creation of man and woman, and God's purpose in joining one man to one woman in marriage so that they became one flesh.
Now, Jesus will respond to the second question of the Pharisees. Jesus gave a very thorough answer stating that God never intended divorce, but only permitted it based upon the hardness of heart in certain sinful spouses. God intended that the marriage of one man to one woman results in those two people becoming one flesh in marriage. Jesus also taught that this union had spiritual dimensions and consequences. No man should separate by divorce what God had joined together in marriage. All marriage has spiritual roots in God's activity in human lives, joining them together for life and blessing together.
Jesus had answered the Pharisees first question by proving that God did not permit divorce for any reason at all. Jesus implied that all divorce is sinful in God's eyes. This answer prompted the Pharisees to confront Jesus with a further question about divorce, this time based upon their view of the Law of Moses.
Matthew 19:7, Page 1534
""They said to Him, 'Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?'"
2.1. Question: Why Did Moses Command Divorce?
The Pharisees did not like the first answer to their general question regarding divorce. So, they now turn to quoting the Bible. They claim subtly that Jesus was contradicting Moses on divorce. According to the Pharisees, Moses commanded divorce. They cite Deuteronomy 24:1-4, page 325. In that passage, Moses provided instruction about a man divorcing his wife because he found indecency in the wife. Symbolically, it spoke of the wife's shameful or sexually disgraceful act. Notice the little word "then" in Matthew 19:7, page 1534. The Pharisees also claimed that Moses gave the "command" to divorce indecent wives.
Matthew 19:8, Page 1534
"He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.'"
2.2 Answer: Moses Permitted Divorce, But Never Commanded Divorce
The Pharisees understood that Jesus had just told them that God never permits divorce for any reason. So, they ask Jesus a new question about the Law of Moses. According the Pharisees, Moses commanded divorce. So, they now cite the Bible back to Jesus, except the Pharisees do not quote the Bible accurately or understand the truth of the Bible. First, Jesus answered that the Mosaic Law permitted divorce. Notice that Jesus here distinguished between: (1) what God commands to avoid sin; and (2) what God allows because of sin. In this case, God allowed the people of Israel to divorce because they had a hard, sinful heart. God understood the hard, sinful heart of the people of Israel, just like people today, and provided a law about divorce and remarriage. The only reason God permitted divorce was because of the sinful hearts of the people of Israel. God always called divorce sinful. God never commanded divorce, but allowed hard-hearted sinners to divorce. Divorce has always been sinful in God's eyes. If you are contemplating filing for divorce, then you must recognize that your hard, unforgiving heart prompts your decision to divorce. So, in every case, without exception, filing for divorce will always be a sinful act, according to the Lord Jesus Christ.
2.3 Answer: Hardness of Heart Always Motivates Divorce
Jesus linked "hardness of heart" with the sinful desire to divorce. Jesus always knows the hearts of people, and how sin devastates the heart. It changes the heart for the worse. In this case, Jesus spoke about the "hardness of heart" involved in every divorce. This spiritual "hardness" or "stiffness" refers to a sinful quality of the heart, unwilling to repent of their own sinful response to the evil actions of the spouse. Notice that when one spouse sins, particularly with immorality, the hurt and anguish sinks into the innocent spouse's heart, and may begin to fester in unforgiveness. Until the innocent spouse now repents, and forgives the immoral spouse, the innocent spouse lives with a hard heart, that may prompt filing for divorce. The sin of immorality does not destroy a marriage, but rather the hard-heart of unforgivenss lies behind divorce.
Today, I hear many pastors "command" divorce. They teach that you must "get out of the marriage." This false teaching completely misses the points Jesus made about divorce. Despite the popular teachings today that allow divorce for many reasons, Jesus provided a very clear answer that man should not separate what God has joined together in marriage. One of the most frequently cited passages, allegedly allowing sinless divorce, is Matthew 19:9, page 1534, regarding immorality. According to the false teaching that God "commands" divorce, some people teach that "immorality" in the marriage frees the believer from the marriage and allows them to remarry. We shall see how Jesus handled that matter in the next verse.
Adultery After Divorce
Jesus has shown that all divorce begins with a sinful heart. The sinful heart has become hard, so hard that it no longer allows God's forgiveness to operate in their own heart. Now, Jesus adds further teaching about the problem of immorality in the marriage.
Matthew 19:9, Page 1534
""And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.'"
3.1 Adultery Can Follow Divorce
For many people, they cannot imagine that adultery can really follow divorce. Those folks believe that if you are now divorced, then you cannot commit adultery, because adultery assumes you are still married. Yet, Jesus said adultery can follow divorce. Here is how it happens.
In Matthew 5:32, page 1508, Jesus taught that the husband who divorces his wife makes his wife commit adultery, unless she has already committed sexual immorality during the marriage. Notice also that Jesus covered the man who marries the divorced woman who did not commit sexual immorality during the marriage. Any man commits adultery by marrying the "divorced woman." Depending upon the translation of the ambiguous Greek forms and structure in the original text of the verse, a very strong case can be made here that Jesus revealed that the husband who divorces his wife, except for the cause of her sexual immorality, bears spiritual responsibility for the adultery. Likewise, if a man marries a woman who divorced her husband, he now commits adultery. So, if a person has been divorced, how can anyone commit adultery after divorce? Adultery applies to an ongoing-marriage. So, was the divorce not really a divorce in the eyes of Jesus because the woman who divorced her husband can still be a party to adultery?
According to Jesus, in Matthew 19:8, page 1534, if a man divorces his wife, because he has a hard heart, and his wife has not committed "immorality" during the marriage, then he commits adultery when he marries another woman. So, in effect, the man began the divorce with a hard, sinful heart--let us call that Hard-Hearted Sin (divorce itself). If the man marries another woman after committing Hard-Hearted Sin, he now commits adultery by marrying another woman--let us call that Adultery Sin (remarriage after divorce without preceding sexual immorality). The only way a man committing Heard-Hearted Sin can remarry without adding Adultery Sin will be if the wife committed "immorality" during the marriage. Notice that the man is still guilty of Hard-Hearted Sin because of the divorce in the first place. Can the man committing Hard-Hearted Sin remarry without committing Adultery Sin? Yes, under only one circumstance. A man may avoid Adultery Sin if the wife has committed "immorality" during the marriage. But, the man still commits Hard-Hearted Sin by divorcing his wife. Notice that Jesus has consistently focused upon just the person filing for divorce, not the party being divorced. We need to keep in mind that Jesus taught two important points in the Matthew 19 passage regarding the continuity of marriage. First, God joined the man and together for a permanent bond. Second, apparently man can "separate" what God joined together, because Jesus warned against the same and then provided further teaching on divorce and remarriage. So, we see that "sexual immorality" during the marriage does not justify a divorce, but God permitted Moses to issue divorce decrees for the hardness of heart of the people who refused to honor God's union of man and woman, but rather insisted upon having a hard, unforgiving heart toward the spouse engaging in sexual immorality. It also apparently severs the marital bond, at least from the limited standpoint of allowing the Hard-Hearted Spouse who filed for divorce to remarry, because of the spouse's sexual immorality.
Now let us focus upon Matthew 19:9, page 1534 and the use there of the word "immorality." Notice that in Matthew 19:9, page 1534, Jesus distinguished the sin of "immorality" from the sin of "adultery." Jesus clearly intended some difference between the term "immorality" and "adultery," because two different terms are used in the Greek text. Some commentators have limited the term "immorality" to mean sexual activity before marriage, citing the example of Joseph seeking to "divorce" Mary when he discovered she was pregnant. Yet, when you compare the Pharisees questions with the idea that "fornication" only covers pre-marital sex, it does not seem to fit the context. So, it seems better to recognize that the term "immorality" has a broad meaning here, indicating that Jesus included all forms of sexual activity with someone other than the spouse. Based in part upon 1 Corinthians 6:18, page 1788, we see that the "immoral" man sins against his own body. So, we observe that "immorality" includes sexual bodily sins of different kinds, in contrast to the term "adultery" which means sexual infidelity while married, but specifically seems to indicate sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse.
So, in conclusion, Jesus taught that all divorce is sinful, because the person seeking divorce has a hard, unforgiving heart toward the spouse. We will call that sinful act of filing for divorce Hard-Hearted Sin. We also saw that Hard-Hearted Sin can be compounded by Adultery Sin, where the husband filing for divorce marries another person. The only way to avoid Adultery Sin is to show that the wife committed "immorality" while married. Remember, Hard-Hearted Sin still remains, because the husband had a hard heart in seeking a divorce. If you file for divorce, Jesus taught that you have a hard, unforgiving heart--no exceptions, no excuses. You sin against God by filing for divorce. Not many people will like that answer from Jesus, but please take the time to study the passage for yourself and draw your own conclusions from the Bible, being led personally by the Holy Spirit into all truth. All sins can be forgiven by God, but willfully sinning by filing for divorce will only lead to discipline from God. We should also look at the Sermon on the Mount for concise teaching on divorce, as Jesus contrasted the Old Testament with the New Testament, with greater revelation regarding God's gracious plans for our lives.
Matthew 5:31-32, Page 1508
""It was said, "WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE': But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'"
Jesus provided basic teaching on divorce and remarriage in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-7:27. In Matthew 5:31-32, page 1508, Jesus taught that a man should not divorce his wife, as we have noted above in Matthew 19:1-9, Page 1534.
In Matthew 5:32, page 1508, Jesus first quoted an Old Testament passage on divorce, then gave further instructions. First, Jesus declared that everyone who divorces his wife makes her commit adultery. Jesus provided one clause of caution: "except for the reason of unchastity." Notice that this phrase regarding unchastity relates to the adultery after divorce, not as an exception for divorce. So, I do not agree that "unchastity" provides a permissible basis for divorce. On the contrary, nothing in Matthew 5:31-32, page 1508, conflicts with teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19: 1-9, page 1534. All divorce emerges from a hard heart, and it is always sinful.
In the last phrase of Matthew 5:32, page 1508, Jesus covered the issue of "whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." I am always skeptical of an explanation of any verse that seems to turn the meaning completely opposite. So, I sought careful proof that Jesus had not intended: "every divorced spouse, whether innocent or not, cannot remarry, because if that spouse remarries, then the person who marries that divorced spouse commits adultery." First, I began my study by noting that the Greek text has certain ambiguities here. The word "divorced" in the phrase "a divorced woman" occurs in an ambiguous form in the Greek text. It may mean "who was divorced," in which case we do not know who filed for divorce--the wife or the husband. But the word "divorced" in that same phrase may mean "she divorced herself" from her husband. In that case, we know the wife filed for divorce. Second, I thought about the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:1-9, page 1634, where He developed the doctrine of marriage and divorce in greater detail. There, He taught that filing for divorce was always sinful, because it issued from a hard, unforgiving heart. So, in Matthew 5:31-32, page 1508, it seems unlikely that Jesus would teach that the innocent spouse would not be allowed to remarry, even though she had done nothing wrong. So, in conclusion, I believe Jesus taught that if the wife filed for divorce, anyone who subsequently marries her commits adultery. That interpretation fits well with all the passages, rests upon correct grammar and syntax in the original, and does no obvious violence to the context. Well, can the innocent spouse remarry?
The Innocent Spouse
In 1 Corinthians, Paul provided great help regarding marital relationships. As we saw with Jesus teaching on divorce, Paul did not promote divorce. Paul, however, dealt with several specific instances of desertion, and also spoke to general marriage issues. We will focus upon the divorce issues here primarily.
In 1 Corinthians 7:2, page 1788, Paul taught that a man may avoid the snare of immorality by having his own wife, and the same for a woman. We also observe that Paul treated the sexual desires the same for men and women, and both of them should marry to avoid immorality.
1 Corinthians 7:2, Page 1788
"But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband."
Notice that the problem with "immorality" confronts the lives of all single believers. Some believers, like Paul himself, have the gift of "self-control" which helps them overcome the temptation of sexual sin. Paul also had important words for the unmarried. We will look at this category of people further on in this study, but the term "unmarried" will provide specific guidance on remarriage.
1 Corinthians 7:8, Page 1789
"But I say to the unmarried and to widow that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But it they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion."
Paul used himself an example of staying single, relying upon the gift of self-control bestowed by God upon him. Paul recognized, however, that not everyone possessed such a gift, and also understood what it means to burn with passion. While the unmarried and widows may remain single and live in God's blessing, so also they may remarry if they do not have self-control. Paul specifically recognized that marriage provides God's blessing upon those who burn with passion so that they may burn with desire for their God-given spouse. Having now encountered the term "unmarried," let us look at the concept as it is used in 1 Corinthians 7.
In 1 Corinthians 7:8, page 1789, Paul distinguished the term "unmarried" from the term from "widows." In both cases, Paul directed them to remain single as he was, or else get married, if they lack the spiritual gift of self-control. So, what does the term "unmarried" mean in this chapter? Specifically, does the term "unmarried" include divorced people?
1 Corinthians 7:10-11, Page 1789
"But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife."
In 1 Corinthians 7:10, page 1789, Paul taught that the wife not "should not leave" her husband. The same term "leave" occurs in 1 Corinthians 7:11, page 1789, to describe the woman who leaves ("χωρισθῇ") her husband. In the 1 Corinthians 7:11, page 1789, following the same train of thought, Paul described that woman who "left" her husband as an "unmarried" woman. Moreover, also in 1 Corinthians 7:11, page 1789, Paul commanded a man not to divorce his wife, apparently just like the wife should not divorce or leave her husband. Paul brought mutuality to divorce and remarriage. One gender does not have special rights to divorce and remarry. Both wives and husbands must not divorce their spouses. We see then, that in 1 Corinthians 7:11, page 1789, the term "leave" means to "divorce." So, Paul wrote that he himself was not giving instruction, but the Lord, that "the wife should not leave her husband." Paul never encouraged anyone to file for divorce, but exactly followed the Lord Jesus' teaching that only the Hard-Hearted Spouse files for divorce and so sins against God (Matthew 19:9, page 1534). Jesus never provided any exception to the no divorce rule. So, in 1 Corinthians 7:11, page 1789, Paul described the woman who had "divorced" her husband as "unmarried." Therefore, we see that a woman who divorced her husband now may be described as part of the group Paul labeled "unmarried." Therefore, we know that the group "unmarried" includes divorced people. Within the group of divorced people, we have two general groups. First, the group that filed for divorce we will call the Hard-Hearted Spouse group. Second, we have the Innocent Spouse group. These are the people who did not file for divorce, but their spouse divorced them. So, we see in Matthew 19 that the Hard-Hearted Spouse group have sinned against God by filing for divorce. As we look at 1 Corinthians 7, we learn that Paul's general teaching regarding the "unmarried" (the "unmarried in 1 Corinthians 7:8 should remarry to avoid burning passion and immorality) applies to the Innocent Spouse group, and nothing in Matthew 19 prohibits the Innocent Spouse from remarrying. If the unmarried, Innocent Spouse lacks the gift of "self-control," then that Innocent Spouse may remarry to avoid burning with passion and immorality. The Hard-Hearted Spouse sinned by filing for divorce, and may compound their Hard-Hearted Sin by adding Adultery Sin ("except for immorality") as described above.
Therefore, because most believers lack of the gift of "self-control," Paul teaches that it is better for the Innocent Spouse Group to remarry (1 Corinthians 7:9, page 1789). So, the Innocent Spouse, deprived now of his/her sexual mate, will be "unmarried." As an "unmarried" believer, the problems of "burning with passion" and temptation from Satan allow the Innocent Spouse to remarry, provided the Innocent Spouse finds another believer. What about the Hard-Hearted Spouse that filed for divorce? Can that Hard-Hearted Spouse remarry? Now we will look at some verses in 1 Corinthians 7 and compare them with Matthew 19.
1 Corinthians 7:10 provides more information for the Hard-Hearted Spouse who files for divorce. Remember, please, that the person who files for divorce is the Hard-Hearted Spouse (with no exceptions), and the other spouse is the Innocent Spouse. I do not mean that the Innocent Spouse has done nothing wrong, but by filing for divorce, the Hard-Hearted Spouse has broken God's commandment not to divorce, as we observed above in our study of Matthew 19. So, what about the Hard-hearted Spouse who wants to remarry? What does God say about that option? Well, in 1 Corinthians 7:10, we see that the woman who leaves (leaves=divorces as described above) her husband must remain unmarried. Again, no exceptions are given here. If a hard-hearted woman insists upon divorce, then Paul orders her to remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. Consider the woman who simply dislikes her husband and has grown tired of him. If she knew that God commanded her not to divorce her husband, then she would not be as eager to divorce him. Furthermore, if she also knew that God commanded her to remain single after divorce (at least until her husband dies--Romans 7:1-2, pages 1766-1767), or else be reconciled, then she would not be eager to divorce him. I never suggest creating doctrine from our experience, but I do believe in applying doctrine gleaned from Scripture alone to our experience. Likewise, if your spouse has been unfaithful sexually to you, you still will be the Hard-Hearted Spouse if you file for divorce. Furthermore, you would have to remain single for the rest of your life, or else be reconciled to your husband. As we move forward in this study, we also need to review God's teaching about marriages between believers and unbelievers. They provide more divine insight into divorce and remarriage. God loves us and wants us to know all about happy lives in marriage.
The Unbelieving Spouse
The Lord Jesus not only created marriage, but He also intended for every believer to enjoy marriage, unless He had given that believer the gift of sexual self-control. In some cases, however, Jesus recognized that believers had married before their conversion and so had an unbelieving spouses. In other cases, a believer married an unbeliever. In both cases, the believer is now married to an unbeliever. If an unbeliever wants to divorce the believer, then what should the believer do? Do the same rules of marriage outlined above apply to an unbeliever? We will see how God applies the same basic commands to a believer married to an unbeliever and notice special provisions for believing spouses married to unbelievers.
1 Corinthians 7:12, Page 1789
"But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her."
In 1 Corinthians 7:12, page 1789, Paul began to address the issue of a believer married to an unbeliever. First, Paul commanded believers to remain with their unbelieving spouses. This command fits perfectly with the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels not to divorce for any reason. Notice that the unbelieving spouse, in this case the wife, consents to live with her believing husband. So, just because you were saved while already married to an unbeliever, you should not seek a divorce just because your spouse is an unbeliever. In 1 Corinthians 7:13, page 1789, Paul applied the same teaching to a woman married to an unbelieving husband, again showing that the marriage commands do not make distinctions between males and females, but God applied them without regard to gender.
1 Corinthians 7:14, Page 1789
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy."
In Corinthians 7:14, page 1789, Paul next revealed the theology behind God's plan for a believer to remain married to an unbelieving spouse who wants to remain married to the believing spouse. First, the believing spouse has a sanctifying influence upon the unbeliever. The believing spouse will have daily opportunities to bring God's light of salvation to the unbelieving spouse. Second, the believing mother or believing father will provide sanctifying guidance to the children of the marriage. In essence, they will be washed in the gracious love and teaching of the believing spouse. Compare Deuteronomy 6:4-9, page 297. Furthermore, the believing spouse will have far less daily contact with the children after a divorce imposing a rotating residential responsibility (rotating overnight visits with each spouse) for the children. The believing spouse will be spending time away from the children, and so the believing spouse may have less time to be a sanctifying influence upon the children.
1 Corinthians 7:15, Page 1789
"Yet, if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace."
In 1 Corinthians 7:15, page 1789, Paul described the case of the unbelieving spouse who "leaves" the believing spouse. As we learned above in 1 Corinthians 7:10, page 1789, the term "leaves" means "divorce" in this context. Therefore, if the unbelieving spouse divorces the believing spouse, the believing spouse is not under bondage. What does the term "bondage" mean in this context? Does it mean the believing spouse divorced by the believing spouse may remarry after the unbeliever files for divorce and obtains the final judgment of divorce?
Paul described the believer divorced by his unbelieving spouse as not under "bondage" in such cases. The best way to understand the term or concept of "bondage" is to look at the same author's use of the same or similar idea. In 1 Corinthians 7:39, page 1790, we read that Paul said that a wife is "bound" to her husband as long as he lives. The key idea here is that "bondage" in that verse indicates a marriage bond that endures for the life of the other spouse. But once the spouse dies, then the living spouse is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. So, we see the idea of being bound means unable to remarry, but once the spouse dies, then the bondage has been lifted, and the widow is free to remarry. Please recall that Paul distinguished the "unmarried" and the "widows" in 1 Corinthians 7:8, page 1789, apparently identifying the means by which some people become single, respectively, through: (a) divorce or never married; and (b) death. Therefore, we see that Paul used "bondage" in this context in the sense of being bound to the spouse in marriage. As we follow Paul's teaching, we observe that "bondage" referred to the inability to remarry in this larger context of the chapter. Therefore, we may conclude that "bondage" in 1 Corinthians 7:15, page 1789 means bound to a marriage and unable to remarry. Now, we may apply these doctrines and learn that if an unbeliever divorces a believer, then the believing spouse may remarry because they are not under bondage. As a final note, Paul also teaches us that the believer has been called to peace. This phrase helps the believer have peace from God about the difficult decision to remarry. Speaking through Paul, Jesus provided comfort to some contemplating remarriage. He implied that He Himself will help that believer divorced by the unbeliever to find a new believing spouse and pour His blessing upon that new marriage. In conclusion, the believer who has been divorced by the unbeliever is free to remarry, but the believer must only marry another believer ("in the Lord").
After reviewing the Word of God, we now may summarize the teaching of Jesus about divorce and remarriage. Please keep in mind that God focuses most on who filed for divorce and obtained the final judgment of divorce.
1. God's Plan of Marriage. God created man, woman, and marriage. No person should separate the man and woman God has joined together in marriage--no exceptions. Matthew 19:1-9, page 1534.
2. Hard-Hearted Divorce. Every person who files for divorce has a hard-heart and sins by filing for divorce--no exceptions. Matthew 19:8, page 1534.
3. Adultery after Divorce. Every person who files for divorce always has a hard-heart--no exceptions. Every person filing for divorce adds a further sin if he/she divorces for any reason other than the other spouse recently committed immorality during the marriage (remember what "recently" means above--you have not taken the immoral spouse back into the marriage). Matthew 19:9, page 1534.
A. Immorality. Every spouse who divorces the other spouse for any reason other than the immorality of the other spouse causes the innocent spouse to commit adultery. Matthew 5:32, page 1508.
B. New Spouse. Every person who marries a person who divorced his/her spouse commits adultery. Matthew 5;32, page 1508.
4. Remarriage. Some people may remarry with God's blessing.
A. Innocent Spouse. If your spouse has divorced you for any reason other than immorality, you may remarry with God's blessing because you are now unmarried, and you should marry rather than burn with passion; if you have the gift of self-control, then you do not need to remarry. 1 Corinthians 7:9, page 789.
B. Hard-Hearted Spouse. If your spouse did not commit immorality during the marriage, and yet you still divorced your spouse, then you may not remarry with God's blessing. Matthew 5:32, page 1508; Matthew 19:9, page 1534.
C. Divorce for the Purpose of Remarriage. Every person who divorces his/her spouse and marries another person commits adultery. Matthew 5:32, page 1534.
4. Unbelievers and Divorce. Believers happen to be married to unbelievers because of many circumstances. In all those circumstances, Jesus applies the same commands described above.
A. Remain Married to the Unbeliever. Every believer married now to an unbeliever must not divorce the unbeliever so that the believing spouse may be a sanctifying and saving influence upon the unbelieving spouse and the children of the marriage. 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, page 1789.
B. The Unbeliever Divorces the Believer. If the unbelieving spouse divorces the believing spouse, then the believing spouse may remarry and enjoy the peace of God. 1 Corinthians 7:15, page 1789.
I understand the exegesis described above does not match the mainstream teaching, on many points, in the church today regarding divorce and remarriage. I only care what the Word of God teaches, not what men teach. Every believer must make their own decisions about faith after careful study of the Word of God. Please do adopt any view in this study, until you have studied the Word of God for yourself. No matter where you stand today inside or outside of marriage, the Lord Jesus Christ loves you and intends for you to have an abundant life in Him. I urge you to have peace with God.