Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage
Since a lot of email and phone calls from visitors to the website and FAM Fellowship members concern questions regarding whether or not it’s okay to stand for a second or subsequent marriage, and specific answers to these questions MUST come to each of us from the Lord through serious Bible study and seeking His will through prayer and fasting, this page is provided to answer such questions only in general terms and its primary purpose is to address some of the things churches and Christian leaders teach and promote that are not supported by what the Bible actually says.
Preparing for a marriage restoration ministry required a great deal of study and research, and it quickly became apparent that there is very little agreement among Christians concerning what the Bible teaches about marriage, divorce and remarriage. And even though there should be little doubt what it teaches, there’s a wide array of opinions from one extreme to the other, and everyone appears convinced they have the right answers. While most everyone attempts to support their position with scripture, it is often taken out of context or with total disregard for other Biblical teaching. But since God’s word can never accurately and reliably be interpreted to mean anything inconsistent with the rest of the Bible, it’s easy to dismiss many opinions because of the double talk and verbal contortions required to reach such conclusions. However, some opinions might not be so easily dismissed since they appear to be correct without considering their relevant context, especially as it relates to remarriage after divorce; so we have to dig even deeper into God’s word for answers to these perplexing questions while praying for divine revelation and understanding.
When Jesus reaffirmed God’s plan for marriage as a one flesh, life long covenant, totally invalidating the Mosaic law that permitted a man to divorce his wife for any cause (same as today’s “no fault divorce”), as He did in Matthew 19:4-9, anyone caught in adultery was stoned to death. That obviously meant that the surviving spouse was free to remarry after the death of the spouse who had committed adultery. However, despite contrary opinion, there’s NO reasonable or rational doubt about Jesus’ views concerning divorce and remarriage because in Matthew 5:32, He said “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Since He specifically said she was not guilty of marital unfaithfulness or fornication, and he knew she wouldn’t be guilty of adultery unless she became a prostitute or remarried, Jesus obviously expected the woman to fall on hard times and become a prostitute or get married again, which would likely be necessary for her survival. And despite the fact that it was her husband who divorced her, even though she had not been unfaithful or committed adultery, Jesus still called her an adulteress and said that any man who married her would also commit adultery. So the Bible clearly teaches that marriage is a one flesh covenant relationship, created by God, and that no one should separate what God joins together. Yet in His infinite mercy and very strong sense of justice, God may make some kind of provision when someone remarries after a spouse has committed adultery and divorced them even though they themselves have not been unfaithful or committed adultery. And while there might be evidence of that in Hosea 4:14, it’s important to note that God STILL calls it adultery, and He clearly prefers forgiveness and reconciliation because He hates divorce and taught that if we do NOT forgive others, our heavenly father will not forgive us. So anyone dealing with this issue must diligently seek answers from the Lord through intense Bible study, prayer, and fasting because having confidence in God’s will is the only way to ever have the grace and strength needed to stand for marriage restoration, and we know that God ALWAYS wants us to forgive and not harden our hearts.
Another widely held opinion not supported by the Bible is that God releases a Christian to remarry when an unsaved spouse divorces them because 1 Corinthians 7:15 says But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound (DOULOO in Greek, which means slavery, the same word used in Acts 7:6 and 2 Peter 2:19) in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. Well, if that’s what it meant, why would the very next verse say How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Interpreting that to mean the saved person is released to remarry TOTALLY ignores (or requires an effort to explain away) what Paul said a few verses earlier in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, which he VERY unusually and specifically stated was not from him but from the Lord. It says To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. Since that was the FIRST thing Paul said on the matter of separation, divorce and remarriage in this chapter, EVERYTHING ELSE he said AFTER that must be taken in that context. If Paul was teaching that one is release to remarry in such circumstances, why would he conclude the very same chapter, using a DIFFERENT Greek word for being bound, in 1 Corinthians 7:39, by saying A woman is bound (DEO in Greek, which means mutual commitment or agreement, as by contract, the same word he used in Romans 7:2-3)to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. Since that was the LAST thing he said in this chapter, he obviously felt it was important enough to restate and clarify; probably to make sure there was no misunderstanding or misinterpretation of anything he had previously said on the matter. And Romans 7:2-3 says For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
So perhaps a more accurate and biblically consistent explanation of what 1 Corinthians 7:15 means is found in Luke 15:11-32, the parable of The prodigal son, and Hosea 1-3, about Hosea and Gomer (a portrait of how God deals with unfaithfulness and disobedience); which both illustrate very important principles of marriage restoration. The Prodigal’s father and Hosea did not “stand in the path of sinners”, their son and wife, and they “let them go” when they wanted to leave. Then they lived in peace and obedience to the Lord in their daily lives; putting their trust in Him and allowing HIM to create the circumstances that brought their son and wife back and restored their relationships. In both situations, the consequences of sin and disobedience led to the prodigal son’s and Gomer’s realization that they were better off before they left, which made them glad to return home. And since God ALWAYS calls us to live in peace, we can’t infer a special interpretation in this context because the same thing is seen in many other verses; such as Romans 12:18, which says If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Furthermore, rejecting the “loop hole” interpretation is more consistent with the instructions given to wives in 1 Peter 3:1-4, which says Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. That makes the meaning of 1 Corinthians 7:16 much more obvious; especially since many men and women with restored marriages say that it was the unexplainable peace (a quiet and gentle spirit–not giving way to fear because our hope is in god) they observed in their spouses that first drew them back to their homes.
As for not being bound in such circumstances, that can NOT possibly mean something so totally contrary to what so many other passages of scripture say; especially since Paul did NOT use the Greek word DEO. So perhaps it is just a statement of the obvious…that while our spouses are away from home, we’re no longer bound and expected to perform or act as their spouses in terms of our daily duties and responsibilities, and are thereby able to serve the Lord with undivided devotion. In fact, Paul clearly considered remaining unmarried the “better” thing to do since he later stated that married men and women are “concerned with the affairs of this world–how to please” their spouses in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. That particularly makes sense when considered in the context of how strongly Paul stated that married people can’t serve the Lord with the same level of faithfulness and commitment as those who don’t have the responsibilities and concerns of marriage; which he apparently viewed as a form of bondage or slavery.
Additionally, since most of the above passages were written by Paul well after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the “grace” so many Christian leaders now teach covers and pardons the sin of adultery in marriages after divorce for reasons other than marital unfaithfulness, was already in existence and something Paul well understood. Yet these passages of scripture are very precise and explicit, and DO NOT include any exceptions or allowances for God’s grace; which they would if that was God’s intention because the Bible says God is not the author of confusion. And Jesus didn’t include any possible exceptions other than marital unfaithfulness in Matthew 19:9 either, where He very simply and emphatically stated “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” And the discussion Jesus had with the disciples about what He meant by those statements leaves NO doubt what He meant, because the disciples said if that was the case, it would be better for a man not to get married! Apparently, a lot of today’s Christian leaders disregard or ignore that conversation in order to rationalize and “create” so many “exception” clauses for remarriage after divorce for reasons other than a spouse’s marital unfaithfulness. That’s why it is so important to read the Bible for ourselves rather than rely on someone else’s interpretation. In fact, the Bible actually provides clear and irrefutable evidence and confirmation regarding how God views certain “legally sanctioned” marriages. Mark 6:17 says For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. And again in Matthew 14:3-4, even though Herod had married Herodias, we see that she was still considered his brother’s wife in the eyes of God because it says Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And let us not forget that John The Baptist lost his head for preaching AGAINST that particular marriage and refusing to accept and acknowledge it as lawful! And since the Bible tells us that the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever, we have NO scriptural basis for believing that God blesses or recognizes the same kind of non-covenant marriages today.
Finally, a much more complex and complicated issue concerning divorce and remarriage is what to do when someone is already in what the Bible describes as an adulterous marriage or an adulterous relationship, and gets saved or finds themselves in the middle of a divorce. Since such situations require serious Bible study and a lot of prayer and fasting while seeking the Lord’s guidance, it’s very important to read 1 Corinthians 7 from beginning to end because that’s the only way to fully understand it. Sadly, based on this chapter, many prominent Christian leaders today believe and teach that if we’re in an adulterous marriage or relationship (in which case they usually push the adulterous couple to get married) when we get saved, we don’t have to worry about it because all of our sins are forgiven, all things old are passed away and made new again, we are new creations in Christ, that the grace of God covers even the sin of adultery, AND that we are called to stay in the state or situation in which we were saved according to 1 Corinthians 7. However, when we carefully read this chapter all the way through, we see that in most of the examples Paul used, he said stay that way, but if you don’t, that’s okay too! And by reading Philemon 1, it’s obvious that Paul did not believe that being saved meant that Onesimus was no longer a slave and was therefore free to stay in the state he was in when he was saved; which would have meant that he could have continued serving the Lord with Paul. In fact, the above interpretation, even though now widely promoted and accepted, couldn’t be further from the truth because it’s the exact opposite of what 2 Corinthians 5:15-17 clearly states, which is And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! And being “in Christ” does NOT mean living CONTRARY to the written Word of God, so the true meaning of “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” is made abundantly clear in Romans 7:5-7, which states For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”
So the only reasonable conclusion to draw from 1 Corinthians 7 in its entirety is that when we receive a strong conviction and the necessary grace from the Lord to remain single, especially after divorce, that’s what we should do, AND that we should be content in the Lord NO matter what our situation is. Additionally, it is obviously Paul’s personal opinion that it is better not to be married; however, that when we do get married, it’s for life. So it’s difficult to reconcile that with the fact that an adulterous relationship or marriage is the ONLY sin pastors don’t tell people they have to give up by repenting and sinning no more. And since there’s no other sin that people are encourage to continue living in after being saved, it’s quite unreasonable to use 1 Corinthians 7 as the basis for staying in adulterous marriages or in adulterous relationships by getting married, and believing that it’s the one and only sin that doesn’t require confession and repentance or that we should discontinue living in. And even worse yet, are the pastors that encourage, support, condone and perform adulterous marriages on the basis of God’s grace and forgiveness; blatantly disregarding Romans 6:14-15, which says For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! And Jude 1:4 clearly warns against such unscriptural teaching, saying For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
While I’m not unaware of the offense this might cause, being true to what the Bible teaches, there’s just no basis for teaching that God blesses and condones adulterous marriages anywhere in the Bible. Quite the contrary is true when even in the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew 1:6 forever highlights and records that David’s marriage to Bathsheba was not acknowledged or blessed by God since it says only that she “had been Uriah’s wife”…and it says that even though Uriah was dead at the time David married Bathsheba! So That’s why everyone in this situation must ask the Lord to speak to them directly about their specific circumstances because it’s an important matter that must be considered when making a decision regarding standing for the restoration of a second or subsequent marriage, and only knowing and understanding God’s will and Word enables anyone to make that decision wisely.
If we ask the Lord to guide us, He will, and then we just have to be obedient to whatever we receive through our spirit in accordance with His Word because that’s the only thing we’ll ever have the grace and strength from God to do. So it is my heartfelt prayer that the Lord will bless and guide everyone seeking the revelation of His will through serious Bible study, prayer and fasting because as Jesus taught in John 8:31-32, it’s only by holding to HIS teachings that we are truly His disciples and will then know the truth that will always make us free!
Related Seeds Of Faith Posts (on the public website):
Is Adultery Grounds for Divorce?
Adultery Does Not Invalidate Or Destroy The Marriage Covenant
When Your Spouse Remarries
All Bible verses are from the New International Version 1984 unless otherwise indicated.