Divorce and Remarriage?

     I’ve recently had several people ask  me about divorce.  It’s a difficult subject, but the Bible does address it.  Scripture teaches that divorce is permissible only when a spouse offends through sexual infidelity (Matt. 5: 31-32), or when an unbelieving spouse abandons their Christian partner (1 Cor. 7:12-16).  Divorce is not required, and is discouraged if any hope of saving the marriage can be found.  Forgiveness and love is expected in the Christian toward the offending spouse.  Remarriage is permissible when the divorce is biblical (Matt. 5:31-32), when an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage (1 Cor. 7:12-16), or if a spouse dies (1 Cor. 7:39).  The believer must only marry another believer (1 Cor. 7:39).  God does not recognize divorces for nonbiblical reasons; however, if a divorced partner remarries, forming a new covenant relationship, this frees the first spouse to remarry (Deut. 24:1-4). 

     God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), yet, it is recorded in Scripture that God Himself issued a writ of divorce against His people, Israel, after they had repeatedly engaged in spiritual adultery, saying, “I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce” (Jer. 3:8a; cf. Isa. 50:1).  The metaphor of divorce here speaks of God sending the Northern Kingdom of Israel away to their destruction under the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

Note in verse 8 [of Jeremiah 3] that God divorced Israel and that it was because of adultery. The Savior’s words in Matthew 19:9 are consistent with this. He taught that divorce is permissible for an innocent partner when the spouse has been guilty of immorality. When we read in Malachi 2:16 that God hates divorce, it must mean unscriptural divorce, not all divorce.[1]

(This short article is an excerpt from my book: Making a Biblical Marriage.)

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

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[1] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1000.

3 thoughts on “Divorce and Remarriage?

  1. Steven – In relation to the subject of divorce and remarriage, what is your view on a divorcee – whether remarried or not – serving in “The Ministry”? I know there are multiple levels of service, but I am talking specifically of the pastorate (Pastor/Teacher). I know there are wide discrepancies in various churches’ positions but curious what you would have to say about this. Thanks for the blog. Enlightening!

    1. Hello Terry, thanks for your comment. That’s a tough question. I don’t think I’ve ever considered it. There are biblical qualifications for elder (http://wp.me/p3bc4W-ow), but they don’t address the issue of a divorced/remarried man. This is merely my opinion, but it would seem that if the divorcee is already in the pastorate, and his divorce is not his fault, then he must decide whether he wants to continue as a pastor and the church must consider whether they want him. If the divorcee is not in the pastorate, and he experiences a divorce that is not his fault, I know he’ll have a tough time finding a church that will accept him as pastor. What are your thoughts about the matter?

  2. Hi Steven – As a point of interest I went to your blog and clicked on this topic to bring myself to this page. Don’t know if that’s “standard operation” – not real conversant in this form of communication – but here I am.

    In respect to your comments above I would find myself in the same camp. Or at least fundamentally so. As we discussed this morning – I have a very long family history of teaching on this subject. So being completely unbiased is probably a stretch but nonetheless we are in essential agreement on this. And your comments about someone who is already in the ministry presenting special concerns for his pastorate (flock) as well as himself, should he find himself divorced is new for me. I had not reflected on this aspect of the marriage relationship before. That would (or could) constitute a “divorce” of sorts between the church body and himself as well.

    Good conversation and as American Society progress through more “easy” relationships between men and women I suppose these situations will repeat themselves more often. (There is an article in the Star-Telegram today about a legislator who is introducing a bill to repeal the “No Fault Divorce” statute in Texas – I think that’s what he is proposing. The article is difficult to read but I believe that’s the gist of what is being proposed. Probably deserves more thought on my part.)

    Thanks for the blog. Good work!

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