“For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”
2 Corinthians 2:17
It is time.
It is time to teach on the subject of divorce and remarriage.
In all honesty, this is my least favorite thing to cover. Not because it is not important for us to understand or have a ready answer for, but because there are SO many teachings on this topic that are absolutely feelings-led and fearfully erroneous. Then, also on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some teachings so close to truth but lacking any touch of biblical grace and sincerity of heart. Merciless. Saltless. Unprofitable.
So before you read this blog, especially if you have been divorced before, I want you to just breathe. Unclench your jaw. Relax your shoulders. I am not your enemy. Let’s unravel what has become so jumbled in emotions and/or doused in self-righteousness. Try to get comfortable because, for the sake of truth alone, this may be the longest blog I have written as of yet. May the Lord give me the words to speak and the grace to do it with His heart.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”Genesis 2:24
First, what is a marriage according to the Bible?
A marriage is a binding covenant formed between two people before God. A sealed pledge. And they two become one flesh: so then they are no more two, but one flesh (Mark 10:8). It is not, as most believe in this day and age, a signed contract you fulfill only if or after your own decided needs are met. It is much deeper than the cultural signing of papers. It is far more striking than any writing of ink. It is a public promise and open proclamation before God and man to serve one another in holy matrimony until death do you part. Marriage is honorable in all (Hebrews 13:4).
The problem today is marital vows are no longer taken as seriously as they ought – by one party or, oftentimes, by both. It is not physical death that is doing them apart, but their own spiritual decay.
So, what is a divorce?
Divorce, in layman terms, is the end of a marriage.
Well-over 50 percent of marriages in the country I live in, the United States, end in divorce or separation. A magnificent difference between just a little over a century ago when it was a mere 10 percent. Did you know researchers estimate that 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce? The more generations pass, the more marriage is held without honor.
The number one cause of divorce at 75% is “lack of commitment.”
Not infidelity. Not abuse. Not even abandonment. Lack of commitment.
Lack of reverence for the Holy Scriptures. Lack of holy fear of the Lord.
What could constitute a divorce according to the Bible?
Well, in the Old Testament under the law, Moses permitted any writ of divorce given by the husband to the wife as a validated divorce.
“When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. – Deuteronomy 24:1-2
And that was put into place because many husbands who wanted to rid of their wives back in that day would falsely accuse them of far greater matters, such as adultery, and she would be wrongfully stoned to death and the man would go on in his selfish ways to marry another. For only a man then could request a divorce. However, please do keep in mind that there were still good husbands and men who feared the Lord during that time also and did not dabble in such sinfulness.
Now, on the other hand, imagine how this new and more lenient way to end of a marriage went?
“She does not heed my instructions exactly how I like.” Divorce!
“She has gained too much weight for my taste. What a glutton!” Divorce!
“She talks too much and always has something to say.” Someone please get me some ink and a feather… Divorce!
So, here comes along the Lord, the Word now made flesh, in the New Testament to make clear what is actually permissible for a writ of divorce – and even then He reminds us what marriage is supposed to be. Lifelong.
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
– Matthew 19:3-6
There are only two exceptions that can constitute a divorce:
- Adultery/Sexual Immorality/Porneia
They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 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.
– Matthew 19:6-9
We see that the Lord puts emphasis on how Moses even then in his time begrudgingly “because of the hardness” of their hearts gave the reason for the putting away of their wives. Just to remind us that God does not celebrate divorces, but He does allow them on biblical terms. In Malachi 2:13-16, He actually expresses He hates the “putting away”. But in His great mercy here in Matthew, He sets it even clearer, according to what Moses had already given, that adultery is an exception as a reason to ending a marital covenant – that is if the non-adulterer desires to move on after a broken heart and shattered trust.
Now, this reason has been controversial. So, below I will simply share why I do believe by the Word it is a valid reason. You can always read the Word for yourself and pray that God may reveal what needs to be revealed to you.
“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 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 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. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? 17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.”
– 1 Corinthians 7:12-17
In the older biblical days it was custom for a spouse to go before the church if their spouse abandoned them and the church would go to the abandoning spouse to try and reconcile them to their concerned spouse. But if the abandoning spouse did not heed the elders and leaders of the church, the abandoning spouse would be considered an unbeliever and exiled from that local body of believers (reference Matthew 18:15-17). That is why above the verse says if the unbelieving spouse still desires to be married, then be married. But if the unbeliever departs (for there is no doubt in my mind that two honest believers will go to the Lord and work out their differences and forgive one another and hold fast to their vows), then let the unbeliever depart. God calls such a one “worse than an infidel” (reference 1 Timothy 5:8).
Some attempt to say that the “not under bondage” means just not obligated to marital duties, however, I beg to differ. Not under bondage means no longer bonded. A covenant is a bond. If you are free to be released from the responsibility of marriage, then you are no longer bound to that marriage. God has called us to peace.
**But I will say, if someone is completely going by the red letters (spoken words on earth) of Jesus according to studying the Word and are completely ignoring the teachings of Apostle Paul after the New Covenant of grace, then only adultery breaks the divine law of marriage and releases the non-adulterer to divorce guilt-free.**
So what if my first divorce was not validated by the Word of the Lord?
And here is where we must apply grace as Christ…
Were you saved? If not, there is grace to applied to your situation. God does not hold unbelievers to the same level of consequences as He does those of us who now know the truth. Even if you wrongfully divorced in ignorance, God does give grace.
For example, the Samaritan woman at the well…
“Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.”
– John 4:16-18
We see here that Jesus does two things:
- He acknowledges all of her previous marriages (numbering at 5) and He also lets it be known that she is not married now to the man she is currently shacking up with. Which lets us know that Christ validated all her previous marriages and divorces by her cultural law.
- He never told her to go back to her first husband, as many Christians, also erroneously tell remarried women nowadays. Not realizing that once a woman is remarried to another, her first husband cannot remarry her according to the Word (reference Deuteronomy 24:3-4).
However, if you were saved before divorce and you are not remarried and neither is your spouse and you were not cheated on or abandoned and they still desire said marriage, then I believe in reconciliation of that marriage. For the Lord has not given grounds for it. At the end of the day, that is between the Holy Spirit and you. Pray. Pray. Pray. And let not your own feelings and desires deceive you.
What about divorce for abuse and domestic violence?
I will get into this more another day soon and in another blog. But I am about to give you a hard truth – even for me to say.
In case of abuse, God permits us separation – but not divorce.
Nowhere in the Word is it mentioned of divorcing for any form of abuse. And no, God does not condone abuse at all. He speaks against it in His Word all throughout Scripture. Here are just a few examples…
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
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 did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.
16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
And most of us know 1 Corinthians 13 and what the fruit of Spirit are in Galations 5:22-23 also. If not, please take the time to read them.
In wisdom, you can separate from the abuser and not live in harm’s reach. Subjecting yourself and those in your care to harm for no reason other than for the gospel’s sake is not biblical – and, even then, that requires discernment. Remove yourself from the situation. Fast, pray, and seek Godly counsel. If need be also consult the police when you honestly have fear that your life could be in danger. The abusive spouse needs to come to a godly sorrow that leads to true repentance in Christ before the process of reconciliation can begin.
God in His abounding love even protects the victims of rape and those captured into slavery (in those days slavery was much different than it is as we have known it in recent history).
“28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; 29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” – Deuteronomy 22:28-29“11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; 12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; 13 And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. 14 And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.” – Deuteronomy 21:11-14
Unrepentant abusers are disqualified from leadership positions (1 Timothy 3:2-7) and even fellowship with believers (1 Corinthians 5:11-12). That is how serious God views it.
If I am divorced, may I remarry?
“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
– Romans 7:1-3
Let’s also keep in mind, according to God, that adulterers will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven (reference 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
If any man or woman that is in one covenant leaves said covenant without biblical grounds for divorce and marry another, they are considered adulterers. An adulteress should not remarry for she is still bound to her first husband until he dies. If you are divorced and it is because of the fornication of your former spouse who has now given you a formal writ of divorce, then you would be free to remarry. But that does not give us the green light to go off and marry another. Consult with God and seek out His perfect will for you and He will direct your steps. Lest you find yourself in such a place again, and far worse off than before.
“If God permitted divorce rather than death as a merciful concession to man’s sinfulness, why would He not also permit remarriage, since remarriage would be perfectly allowable under the original law of death for the adulterer? After all, the purpose of divorce was to show mercy to the guilty party, not to sentence the innocent party to a life of loneliness and misery.” – John MacArthur
Here’s the unpopular and shunned truth.
From the very beginning, God never condoned divorces and even now does not want any of us promoting them. They are not required by the Word nor encouraged by the Word. Marriages are meant to be lifelong, or until death of at least one spouse. As I said, meant to be (reference Matthew 19:8). None of the men or women of faith that God used in His Scriptures were men and women of habitual divorce – even the few ones in that time who had multiple wives in that culture were not. Their spouses died naturally – of old age, childbirth, illness, etc – and even then most of them never remarried for they too had reached old age.
Now, I speak as a woman who has grown in the Lord since my first marriage which ended in divorce given on biblical grounds, I believe in fighting for marriages. People, even many Christians, will look at me sideways and rile up because I say this. And I speak on my own conviction here, I know what the bitter taste of infidelity staining a marriage is like. I am no stranger to heartbreak and trust shattered. As for me, and I only speak for me, I will choose to fight for any covenant *the Lord* has joined together. Not for the sake of the person, but because my God fights for me and still does even now in the moments of my weaknesses. He has forgiven me for so much, and in much wisdom, I will by the grace and love of God, contend for my marriage now as long as my spouse still desires that said marriage.
I do not take marital vows lightly.
And I thank God infidelity has not tainted the marriage the Lord has blessed me with this time, for my heart remembers the deep aches still of the pains imparted by unfaithfulness. The Lord is my strength and may I be a testament always of His love. That is my stand.
“For the Christian, even marriage is not about us, it is ,first and foremost and ultimately, of and about Christ – to His glory alone.” – A. Murrell
Advice to all the still in the good fight of their marriage…
I see you and I am rooting and praying for you!
Better yet, God sees you and He prays for His children (reference John 17:9).
I am aware that most people today would encourage you to give up on your marriage and start-a-new, even most within the church – unfortunately. But if you have the desire to contend for your spouse know it is of God. As long as you are not doing so in idolizing your spouse, your marriage, or even your reputation – but to glorify God in Holy matrimony. We have an example in Scripture in the book of Hosea.
Hosea and Gomer is a story of love, but not the Hallmark kind. Hosea was a prophet and Gomer was the wife the Lord told him to marry though she was a “wife of whoredom.” An adulteress woman. Though God would not call His children now to begin a marriage with a person who still loves sin, for Hosea was meant to show and fulfill a prophecy. But can you imagine how hard that must have been for him? A man who loved the Lord being called to marry a woman who enjoyed being unfaithful – representing the children of God and their adultery with other gods. Yet, still, even after they had children together (paternity in question) and she still chose to be a woman of many men and leave him, God told Hosea to take all he possessed and buy her back – representing God/Jesus Christ. Though this is a more extreme example, it does not take away from how serious God takes covenants, for He has made a covenant with His children. And remember what we discussed before? Marriage is a covenant. All in all, marriage is worth fighting for as we symbolize the relationship between Christ and His bride – the Church.
Who you choose to marry is important.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
2 Corinthians 6:14
Marriage is beautiful, lovely, and glorifying to God, but it is also hard and holy work. Absolutely worth it!
However, sometimes people run ahead of God and build their own houses on sand due to their own desires, lust, and “wisdom”. Never consulting God on the matter and finding themselves unequally yoked or, worse, both of them are not saved and their marriage is a taste of hell instead of heaven.
To anyone who is single, I say this with a loving sternness and from experience, it is better to wait long than marry wrong. Let the Lord be your matchmaker. As parents in the older biblical days were to their children for the best interest of their home, move out of the way and let your Father in heaven pair you better to the best interest of His Kingdom – of course, if it be His will. And He will bless you exceedingly and abundantly above all you can ask of Him. I can testify of this very thing. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not into your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
To anyone who is divorced, I say this, divorce is not the end all be all. No matter what anyone says, God is who you find your worth in. Not in whether you have a spouse by your side or not. Trust the Lord – always. I have been where you are. Life happens and God understands that much. Though a biblical divorce is not a sin in itself to repent of, it is a product of sin(s) that entered at some point. May you learn from your past mistakes and surrender every area of your life to Christ. He will never steer you wrong. God bless, my sisters in Christ!
In closing, I do not read the Word of God in a bias and neither look for loopholes of what is made plain. I always ask and pray to God for the truth and that His Holy Spirit may reveal it to me no matter how I or others may feel about it and neither my own experiences. I pray you too, dear sister, always do the same. Study the Word accompanied by your Father’s heart and spirit. Truth will prevail whether we always immediately take heed of that truth or not. And Truth will always be preserved by God. So may we as Christians always contend for the Truth.
With much grace and fervent prayer,
The Redeemed Wife
3 thoughts on “By the Word: Unraveling the Touchy Topic of Divorce”
So very thankful for your true, biblical wisdom, Alicia. This is timely as I’m praying for a young woman at church who is running to an unyoked marriage and I have been praying through two passages, one in 1 Corinthians and one in 2 Corinthians that I would love to share/explain as she has taken them out of context to support her decision. I’m hoping to share before her October wedding and praying she will be open to the truth of God’s Word instead of pride, lust and loneliness. Your explanations are very helpful. God bless your ministry always! And your marriage!
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Praying for you in your attempts to reach her during this time and also for the young woman! May God’s perfect will be done. And thank you. The Lord is so faithful
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Thank you. She rushed ahead, and is married to the man. I pray for both of their salvation and honesty between them.