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Does the Bible Ever Allow Divorced Christians to Remarry?

 

Are divorced believers ever allowed to remarry according to the Bible?Letís examine whether they are and under what circumstances that they may remarry.In summary, divorced Christians are only allowed to remarry if one or both spouses committed adultery or major fraud by one partner against the other occurred before the wedding.

 

Now Jesus said in Matthew 5:32:  "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."  The key issue concerns the "exception clause" here.  What is "sexual immorality"?  The Greek word "porneia" here has a broad meaning, and doesn't just mean adultery or incest, but concerns all sorts of general sexual sin.  Indeed, it's the root word for "pornography" in English.  So then, the first and most important question to ask is (although I know it's unpleasant):  Did either your sister or brother-in-law commit adultery, so that their union could be dissolved in God's sight permissibly?  Of course, it might be better for them (and any children they may have) if they could work out their problems through counseling, and reconcile.

 

Divorce and remarriage for other reasons besides adultery wouldn't be permissible within a Christian marriage for both parties excepting arguably obvious and major fraud.  But then this leads to two other exceptions which are based on other texts.  (Here, for example, it's assumed that Jesus in Matthew was speaking to a Jewish audience so that all the married people were of the same faith).  One serious issue concerns how to interpret I Cor. 7:15:  "But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases.  But God has called us to peace."  This may authorize divorce from an unbeliever, but does it authorize remarriage also?  The "Bible Background Commentary:  New Testament" has something strikingly interesting on this matter:  "Paul addresses the specific situation not address in Jesus' general principle that he has just cited (7:10-11):  the innocent party is free to remarry . . . 'Not under bondage' or 'not bound' alludes to the wording of Jewish divorce documents, which told he woman, 'You are free to remarry any man,' and further applied to divorce the precise language of freedom from slavery.  Being 'bound' would mean that she was still married in God's sight; not being 'bound,' or being 'free,' meant that she was free to remarry" (p. 467).  Hence, given this historical information, it would be permissible for a Christian who got divorced from an unbeliever to remarry within the faith, at least so long as he or she didn't drive away his or her unbelieving spouse!  (Notice the part about "willing to live with him" or "willing to live with her" in verses 12-13).

 

Another possibly ground for divorce and remarriage has to be raised, although I'm decidedly more hesitant here, concerns fraud.  Notice the situation described in Deut. 22:13-21.  If a woman who gets married isn't a virgin, and the man objects, and the charge is proven true, he could get a divorce by (well) her being executed!  It can be argued there is a principle here in which if (say) a man concealed from his wife that he had been divorced, had had children by a prior relationship, or even was an alcoholic or criminal, that she could get divorced from him if this is discovered early on and acted upon.  Admittedly, I'm not sure if this principle should be extended beyond obvious matters of fraud related to prior sexual experience (i.e., the man who says he's a virgin, but is actually divorced and has three children in another state).  Also, notice that today, if such fraud was discovered, the woman wouldn't actually be executed!  (Compare to John 8:2-12, the famous incident in which the woman caught in adultery wasn't condemned to be executed by Jesus, although He still said she had sinned).  She would still be alive, and thus (arguably) the man's wife still lifelong until one or the other commits adultery.

 

I do believe that marrying a person divorced on non-Biblical grounds would be committing adultery.  For example, and this does sound harsh, a woman who gets divorced because her ex-husband was a wife-beater or chronic, unrepentant alcoholic or drug addict, can't remarry based on those grounds alone.  True, typically many men guilty of such offenses often are adulterers also, but until such an offense occurs (including after the divorce), his ex-wife wouldn't be free to remarry.  Hence, single, never married people should be especially careful about marrying a divorced person.  They have every right, and a Biblical duty, to ask that divorced person about the circumstances of his or her divorce if he or she doesn't volunteer this information beforehand.  It's our duty to follow Scripture and to believe in faith that God knows best for us even when it seems to be very difficult to follow.  If a Christian couple got divorced, and neither committed adultery, and there was no obvious fraud (especially concerning prior sexual experience) in question concerning the original marriage, both have to live celibately single the rest of their lives.  Here they have become eunuchs for the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:11-12).

 

Clearly in some cases divorced Christians can remarry, such as when one or both partners committed adultery or perhaps when major fraud has occurred before their wedding, but in most cases they may not. 

 

Eric Snow

www.lionofjudah1.org

 

 

 

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