Last updated on November 12th, 2019
What does the Bible say about remarriage and divorce? Let’s open up scripture and find out.
This is a tough question to say the least. And it’s an emotional question. Nobody wants to get divorced when they marry someone. We don’t hear the months of shouting matches that happen. We don’t see the weeks of tears after arguments. So all of us should be sensitive and respectful to people who have divorced when discussing this topic. None of us know how painful that decision is unless we’ve been through it.
What does the Bible say about remarriage and divorce?
With all of that said, let’s consider a question. What does God want if anyone decides to divorce someone? Matthew 5:32 states, “32 but I say to you that everyone who [ae]divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a [af]divorced woman commits adultery.“
So we see it here in the first part of this verse. Divorce of a wife is only to be done for unchasity. Did you notice something? I didn’t say the divorce of a spouse, but the divorce of a wife. That raises a question. Does this verse indicate only men are permitted to divorce in the eyes of God? I’m not making a conclusion here, just throwing out something to think about. Let’s look at the meaning of the Greek word for unchasity.
Unchasity (porneia) – harlotry (including adultery and incest), of illicit sexual intercourse in general.
So divorcing for unchasity means to divorce if someone commits adultery, incest, or illicit sexual intercourse. For those who don’t know what illicit means, it means forbidden laws, rules, or customs.
You’ll find the same Greek word is used in this verse in Matthew 19:9 for immorality, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery”
Now that we know when God accepts divorce, we can understand when re-marriage is allowed. Based on the statements in the verse, it appears re-marriage can only occur if the divorce happened because of unchasity or immorality. But think about this. Does the verse permit the one who committed the immoral act to re-marry? If the allowance to re-marry is only specified for the one divorcing, what are we left to conclude about the one who is divorced? The verse went out of the way to excuse divorcing for immorality, and not call when a man marries another woman in that case committing adultery.
And there lies the controversy of Christians re-marrying after divorce. As I said earlier, these are difficult questions to answer, because the answer may be difficult for us to accept. Even me in trying to understand the right answer in the verse, without being insensitive to anyone.
What about abusive spouses?
One particular sensitive issue that might come up in some of your minds. What if one is being physically abused by their spouse? What is that individual to do? I would suggest 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 perhaps gives us the Biblical answer.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11 states, “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.”
So Apostle Paul gives this instruction, but he’s careful to say this isn’t the Lord’s instruction. He believes a wife should not leave her husband, but also says that she can. if she does, she must remain unmarried or reconcile with her husband. But this is all in Paul’s opinion. He makes it clear this is not the Lord’s instruction. Now this is an interesting thought. Because Paul says the wife is to remain unmarried, does that perhaps suggest she can choose to divorce? One can’t be unmarried if a divorce has not occurred.
But there’s something that seems reasonable to believe is the truth. If an abusive spouse chooses to divorce without it being for adultery, then the divorced spouse can remarry. But we’re back to the question of if the person who divorces for non-adultery reasons can remarry? And I say again, if Jesus went out of his way to exclude those who divorce for unchasity and immorality as being adulterers if the marry else, what are we left to conclude for those who don’t divorce for that reason?
So what do you think? What does the Bible seem to say about remarriage and divorce? You can feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comments. Because your insight might help increase understanding. May we all rise in our understanding of this issue for the glory of God.
Peace to you all in Christ.