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Divorce and Remarriage

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People often call me for legal help in obtaining a divorce. In my law practice, I am most concerned with acting according to the great love of Jesus Christ. I want to follow Jesus in all that I do, including my law practice. So, when it comes to helping people file for divorce, I must decline, because Jesus taught that no man should separate what God has joined together in marriage. Let me explain what Jesus teaches about divorce and remarriage. If you are contemplating filing for divorce for any reason, then this study of the Word of God may help you understand God’s perspective on divorce and remarriage.

As God, Jesus hates divorce.1See Malachi 2:14-16. God spoke to Israel about its sinful behavior using the symbolism of marriage. God declared to Israel: you have dealt treacherously (“בָּגַדְתָּה”) with the “wife of your youth,” even though she is “your companion” (חֲבֶרְתְּךָ) and your wife by covenant (“וְאֵשֶׁת בְּרִיתֶךָ”) God used the marriage covenant, created by God in Genesis, to demonstrate that Israel had dealt treacherously, as an adulterer deals with the wife of his youth. In response, God disregarded the sacrifices of His people Israel. Though they would weep, groan and morn, they still dealt treacherously and God disregarded their offerings. This passage emphasizes the spiritual nature of marriage, and how it illustrates the spiritual relationship between Israel and God. During His ministry in the flesh, Jesus taught about God’s design for marriage and the issues involved in divorce. In Matthew 19:1-9, Jesus provided basic teaching about divorce and remarriage. We will look first at that passage, and then compare 1 Corinthians 7:1-16, for further instruction. So, let us begin our study with Matthew 19.

Part One

Lawful Divorce? 

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”

Matthew 19:3

1.1 Question One: Can a Man Divorce His Wife for Any Reason at All?

In Matthew 19:1-9, the Pharisees, a group of religious men who studied the Old Testament, came to Jesus, asking questions and testing Him.2This Greek word for testing (“πειράζοντες“–present active participle, masculine nominative plural, indicates they came for the purpose of testing him) means that opponents of Jesus sought to trap Him by His words. They presented a question to Jesus, for the sole purpose of seeking a basis to accuse Him of error under the Law of Moses, which they studied often. This same word, in the same form, also occurs in other passages. In Matthew 16:1, for example, the Pharisees and Sadducees sought a sign from heaven, testing Jesus. Likewise, in Mark 8:11, the Pharisees came and argued with Jesus, again seeking a sign from heaven. In a similar passage about divorce, Mark 10:1, the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce, testing him again. See also Luke 11:16, where some people in a crowd sought a sign from heaven because Jesus cast out a demon and so they were testing him. The Pharisees questioned Jesus  specifically about the Old Testament Law of Moses. The questions here make all the difference. Any interpretation of this passage that does not account for their questions misses the point of the passage about divorce and remarriage. So, the first question is quite simple: can a man divorce his wife for any reason at all? In other words, does a man really need a reason to divorce his wife, and, if so, what reasons will God allow for divorcing a wife?

And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,

Matthew 19:4

1.2 Answer: God Created Them Male and Female.

Notice how Jesus loved to answer a question: He quoted the Bible as His answer. Notice too the small phrase: “Have you not read.” By this simple phrase, Jesus was showing the Pharisees that they should have read and understood the meaning of the Old Testament passage Jesus cited to answer their question. As the Pharisees sought to test Jesus, so Jesus used the opportunity to provide careful teaching to everyone, including everyone who would read this passage later (like us). Jesus cited Genesis 1:27, to lay the foundation for His answer. 3In Hebrew, God emphasized that He created man (“אֶת-הָאָדָם”), using the generic term for human, and then specified that God made both male and female humans in His image (בְַּלְמוֹ). Jesus went back to the creation of man and woman in the Garden of Eden, as described in Genesis 1:27.  So, based upon the fact that God made humans as “male” and “female,” Jesus relied upon the difference and purpose in the creation of humans. Jesus based His answer upon the facts of creation. By citing the the words “male” and “female,” Jesus intended to convey that God created humans as male and female (separate genders). They were different in appearance and function. They were heterosexual.  He intentionally created two sexes, not just one. They form a mating pair, and a life pair. God intended one gender to be in a relationship with the other gender, as we will see in the next verse. The special relationship God created for a male and female was “marriage.” Again, let me emphasize that Jesus used God’s plan of creation to start His teaching about divorce and remarriage. According to Jesus, you cannot understand marriage without first understanding the creation of humans as male and female in Genesis.


Matthew 19:5

1.3 Answer: God Joins a Man to His Wife in Marriage.

Jesus built further upon the divine plan of male and female creation. He again quoted the Old Testament, citing Genesis 2:24.  Jesus meant that the rules for marriage, divorce and remarriage rest upon the creation of male and female. They go all the way back to Genesis.  Based upon creation, Jesus highlighted several aspects of marriage. First, Jesus taught that marriage involves separation. Second, the man separates from his mother and father to be joined4The Greek phrase here for “to be joined” (“κολληθήσεται“–notice the passive voice, indicating that God joins husband and wife, and not man–compare also the Hebrew term for joined (“דָבַק”) referring again to God joining the male and female) indicates that God has a divine plan for a male and female to join together in a permanent bond forged by God. to his wife. Third, having been joined together, the husband and wife become one flesh 5The Hebrew phrase here for “become one flesh” (“וְהָיוּ לְבָשָׂר אֶחָד”) and the Greek phrase “and the two will become one flesh” (“καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν”) both speak of the joining of male and female in marriage to become one flesh. God joins two people to make one new flesh. So, to summarize, Jesus taught that God created marriage in the Garden of Eden, by making humans as males and females, each in the image of God. Not only did God craft males to be physically different from females, but He designed them for Him to join them together to make one flesh. God designed, created, and joined people in marriage. Males and females fit perfectly together when God joins them together in marriage. They become one flesh.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

Matthew 19:6

1.4  Answer: God Said They Are No Longer Two, But One Flesh.

Jesus again built upon the theology of marriage. God created one male for God to join to one female in marriage, so that the two humans would become one flesh. So, if you have followed Jesus, He just explained that God made one male and one female to join together as one flesh in marriage. Jesus emphasized that God joins people in marriage, and the product is that each person enjoys a fleshly unity with the other person. In a New Testament sense, consider that at the moment Jesus saved you by faith alone, your body became the temple of the Holy Spirit, where He lives inside your body. 6In 1 Corinthians 6:15, the Holy Spirit wrote: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!” In this verse, Jesus taught us that our physical bodies have spiritual qualities called “members.” So, as a believer, I am a member of the Body of Christ. Just like I am joined to Christ by faith, I can become a member of a prostitute if I have sex with a prostitute. I should always remember that by faith I am a member of the Body of Christ, and belong solely to Christ. Notice that God wants us to know about the spiritual aspects of sex and how we become members of sinful people when we have sex with them. As a believer, I must remain conscious that the very presence of our holy God lives within me, all day, every day, to the glory of God. While the Holy Spirit dwells within the individual believer, in another sense the Holy Spirit now indwells the couple (corporate unity) joined by God in marriage. Consider the consequences described by Paul that even a believer becomes one flesh with a harlot when they have sex. 7In 1 Corinthians 6:16, Paul warned: “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” Clearly then Paul does not refer to the offspring as one flesh produced by the sexual union, but rather something spiritual happens to the believer when he has sex with a prostitute. God created a special relationship for sex. He named that special relationship marriage. When you ignore God’s plan that sexual activity joins two people as one flesh, then you endanger your spiritual walk with God. In 1 Corinthians 6:17, Paul described the spiritual joy of having a spiritual union with Christ Jesus, not in a sexual sense, but in the sense of being spiritually joined with Him. So, let us take a look also this concept of “join” as used in the New Testament. First, we should learn that God revealed a complete, final union with the term “joined together.” 8The Greek term for “joined together” (“συνέζευξεν”–aorist, active, indicative) only occurs here and in the parallel passage in Mark 10:9, on marriage and divorce. Notice in the Mark 10:9 passage, Jesus answered the first question found in Matthew 19:3. Jesus did not focus upon the second question in Matthew 19:7, concerning the Mosaic Law and divorce. Jesus, however, pre-empted that question by His response to the first question in Mark 10:5: “Because of your hardness of heart he [Moses] wrote you this commandment.” Notice that Jesus always taught that the serious sin of hardness of heart always underlies divorce for any reason. Often, the believer continues to bear a grudge against an unfaithful spouse, that results in bitterness and smoldering anger. When that smoke and bitterness accumulate, without confession and spiritual forgiveness, the desire for divorce arises from the hard heart. So you see that Jesus linked that problem of unforgiveness and divorce to the spiritual hardness of heart. According to Jesus, no one seeks a divorce unless they have a hard heart. Not every hard heart arises from infidelity. In some cases, the spouse simply may have lost interest in the marriage, found someone else, or longed for money another spouse would provide. Many reasons may account for the hardness of heart. But all of those reasons display the same attitude toward the marriage bond God used to join the man and the woman. The hardness of heart finds its specific target in disdaining the work of God in creating and sustaining the marriage. In some cases, the infidelity of the first spouse produces a more profound and long-lasting sin of bitterness and hardness of heart in the other spouse, who was wronged by infidelity. Sexual sin has profound effects in the marriage, and may lead to such unforgiveness in the spouse that he/she files for divorce. Yet, by filing for divorce, that spouse yields to sin flowing from a hard heart. Consider Matthew 6:14-15: “For it you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Furthermore, remember Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy time seven.”” Second, we see that God created marriage as the only means for one male to be joined to one female. Third, this sexual union producing one flesh also occurs by having sex with a prostitute. Therefore, we see that our fleshly sexual unions have direct spiritual consequences in our lives. The Bible refutes any notion that sex can be frequent and casual, with many partners. God designed marriage to be the sole bond producing one holy flesh before God. Sex outside marriage pollutes the believer by becoming one flesh with an immoral person. Immorality always damages spirituality.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

Matthew 19:6

1.5 Answer: What God Has Joined Together, Let No Man Separate.

Jesus taught that marriage changes a man and woman into one flesh. You see how Jesus handled the question of divorce. Because God has joined a male and female in marriage, they have now become one flesh. We know that God spoke of a sexual union here, as you can see in 1 Corinthians 6:17. In that passage, Jesus spoke about a man becoming one flesh with a prostitute. A spiritual union results from sexual activity, even with a prostitute. You may intend to have only sex, but God revealed that a spiritual union also takes place through sex. In Matthew 19:6, Jesus described this sexual union as one flesh. God created this union in Genesis, as we saw above. Jesus then spoke about the implication. If God joined a male and female in marriage, resulting in a sexual and spiritual union, then no man should separate God’s work of joining the male and female together. In fact, we should rejoice over God’s plan for forming a strong, spiritual and sexual bond between one male and one female for life. 9Of course, we know that in heaven, we shall be like the angels, who are neither married nor given in marriage. See Matthew 22:30.

Now, let us focus upon the notion that man may separate what God has joined together. Let us take this matter in parts. First, we have seen that God joins a male and a female in a sexual and spiritual union He called marriage. Second, God has taken all the initiative. He “joined” the male with the female. This term for “joined” has special significance in this passage. 10The Greek term for “joined” (“συνέζευξεν”) appears in the aorist tense. The aorist tense highlights the totality, finality, and completeness of the term “joined.” The subject of the verb is “God.” The verb also stands in the active voice, meaning that God, not a human, joined the the male and female in marriage. Finally, we should also observe the indicative mood. The indicative mood speaks of actual reality. So, Jesus taught that God, not man, completely and finally joined a male and female together, and they absolutely exist henceforth as one flesh. This term “joined” pinpointed God’s special activity. God joined one male to one female in marriage. Notice the heavy emphasis upon God doing all the work. He once and for all time joined one male and one female. So, the contrast could not be brighter when Jesus commanded all men never to separate what God has joined together. 11In the Greek text, Jesus phrased it so that you could translate it: “man shall not separate.” The technical details here matter. Just as God joined, so a “man” (ἄνθρωπος“) (notice the singular) shall not separate. This negative term “no” (“μὴ“) indicated that under no circumstances (with the subjunctive verb) should the man separate what God joined together. Jesus could have used the other word for no (“οὐκ“) normally used with the indicative mood, but instead he used the normal “no” used with the subjunctive mood. In this context, however, Jesus apparently taught that “no” here means under no circumstances, no possibility of man separating. Jesus also emphasized the action of separation (“χωριζέτω“). This verb indicates moving apart, separating, divorcing. This same root word occurs in 1 Corinthians 7:15, page 1788: “Yet, if the unbelieving one leaves (“χωρίζεται), let him leave (“χωριζέσθω:“); the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.”  This same root word helps us understand both passages, because both passages speak about divorce as “separating” or “leaving.” The New American Standard translators did not use the same English words, but the Greek text helps you understand the close relationship between the act of “man separates,” just as the “unbeliever leaves,” but actually separates from the spouse in the sense of “divorce” in Matthew 19:6. Notice that God joins one male and one female in marriage, but man separates what God has joined together. Jesus contrasted the blessed activity of God joining a male and female in marriage, with the sinful activity of man in separating what God has joined together. In essence, God joins and man separates. God never intended any form of separation, for any reason, ever. God never separates what He has joined together. We will see Jesus expand upon that basic premise in the next verses.

So, to summarize, Jesus did not permit divorce for any reason. He commanded man not to separate a man and a woman God had joined in marriage. Jesus based His command upon creation of man and woman, and God’s purpose in joining one man to one woman in marriage so that they became one flesh.

Now, Jesus will respond to the second question of the Pharisees. Jesus gave a very thorough answer stating that God never intended divorce, but only permitted it based upon the hardness of heart in certain sinful spouses. God intended that the marriage of one man to one woman results in those two people becoming one flesh in marriage. Jesus also taught that this union had spiritual dimensions and consequences. No man should separate by divorce what God had joined together in marriage. All marriage has spiritual roots in God’s activity in human lives, joining them together for life and blessing together.


Part Two 

Sinful Divorce 


Jesus had answered the Pharisees’ first question by proving that God did not permit divorce for any reason at all. Jesus implied that all divorce is sinful in God’s eyes. This answer prompted the Pharisees to confront Jesus with a further question about divorce, this time based upon their view of the Law of Moses.  

They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?”

Matthew 19:7

2.1. Question: Why Did Moses Command Divorce? 

The Pharisees did not like the first answer to their general question regarding divorce. So, they now turn to quoting the Bible. They claim subtly that Jesus was contradicting Moses on divorce. According to the Pharisees, Moses commanded divorce. They cite Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In that passage, Moses provided instruction about a man divorcing his wife because he found indecency in the wife. 12The Hebrew term for “indecency” (“עֶרְוַת דָּבָר”) literally means a repulsive thing, referring normally to her nakedness (consider the story of Ham looking upon the nakedness of his father in Genesis 9:22; see also Leviticus 18:1-17, for the general prohibitions about uncovering the nakedness of certain individuals, speaking of indecent sexual activity). We may glean from the other uses of the term that the “indecency” includes improper sexual relations outside the marriage. Symbolically, it spoke of the wife’s shameful or sexually disgraceful act. Notice the little word “then” in Matthew 19:7. 13The Greek word for “then” (“οὖν”) functions to link this question to the previous answer of Jesus. In this passage, you cannot understand the teaching of Jesus, except you first understand the questions posed by the Pharisees. The Pharisees ground a particular axe here about divorce. Jesus used the questions from the Pharisees to elucidate His commands regarding divorce and remarriage. The Pharisees also claimed that Moses gave the “command” to divorce indecent wives. 14The Greek word for “command” (“ἐνετείλατο”) chosen by the Pharisees missed the context of Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In that passage, Moses did issue a command, but it concerned “indecency,” and also the remarriage of the divorced woman. The first husband was prohibited from remarrying the woman he once divorced, if she had married another man after the divorce. Jesus will explain the background to this passage in Deuteronomy in the next verse.

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.

Matthew 19:8

2.2  Answer: Moses Permitted Divorce, But Never Commanded Divorce

The Pharisees understood that Jesus had just told them that God never permits divorce for any reason. So, they asked Jesus a new question about the Law of Moses. According the Pharisees, Moses commanded divorce. So, they now cite the Bible back to Jesus, except the Pharisees do not quote the Bible accurately or understand the truth of the Bible. First, Jesus answered that the Mosaic Law permitted 15The Greek term for “permitted (“ἐπέτρεψεν”) means to allow, permit, let. Think concession to sinfulness with this word. divorce. Notice that Jesus here distinguished between: (1) what God commands to avoid sin; and (2) what God allows because of sin. In this case, God allowed the people of Israel to divorce because they had a hard, sinful heart. God understood the hard, sinful heart of the people of Israel, just like people today, and provided a law about divorce and remarriage. The only reason God permitted divorce was because of the sinful hearts of the people of Israel. God always called divorce sinful. God never commanded divorce, but allowed hard-hearted sinners to divorce. Divorce has always been sinful in God’s eyes. If you are contemplating filing for divorce, 16By the phrase “filing for divorce,” I want to emphasize the act of initiating the divorce, but also included in the phrase is the divorce in its totality, specifically including the final judgment of dissolution of marriage. In other words, the phrase includes the complete “divorce” as a civil action in court, as the United States of America legal systems recognize the civil law process. then you must recognize that your hard, unforgiving heart prompts your decision to divorce. 17Every group of elders in a local assembly should carefully consider imposing church discipline upon every believer who files for divorce. Hardness of heart threatens to destroy the marriage and imperil the welfare of the children of the marriage. The principles of Galatians 6:1-5, page 1826 and Matthew 8:15-20, page 1533, should be applied to help the believer refrain from seeking or completing the divorce. Furthermore, the elders should minister to the suffering couple the Word of God regarding repentance (2 Corinthians 7:5-13, page 1811) and forgiveness (Luke 17:1-4 and Luke 15:11-32). So, in every case, without exception, filing for divorce will always be a sinful act, according to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 2.3   Answer: Hardness of Heart Always Motivates Divorce

Jesus linked “hardness of heart” with the sinful desire to divorce. Jesus always knows the hearts of people, and how sin devastates the heart. It changes the heart for the worse. In this case, Jesus spoke about the “hardness of heart” involved in every divorce.18The Greek phrase “hardness of heart” (“σκληροκαρδίαν”) emphasized the particular “hardness of heart” at issue in divorce with the definite article. The root word for “hardness” illustrates the sinful stubbornness of the unrepentant heart (Romans 2:5).  In a similar sense, the “stiff-necked” (“Σκληροτράχηλοι”) and uncircumcised of heart are always resisting the Holy Spirit and follow the sinful patterns of their fathers (Acts 7:51). This spiritual “hardness” or “stiffness” refers to a sinful quality of the heart, unwilling to repent of their own sinful response to the evil actions of the spouse. Notice that when one spouse sins, particularly with immorality, the hurt and anguish sinks into the innocent spouse’s heart, and may begin to fester in unforgiveness. Until the innocent spouse now repents, and forgives the immoral spouse, the innocent spouse lives with a hard heart, that may prompt filing for divorce. The sin of immorality does not destroy a marriage, but rather the hard-heart of unforgiveness lies behind divorce.

Today, I hear many pastors “command” divorce. They teach that you must “get out of the marriage.” This false teaching completely misses the points Jesus made about divorce. Despite the popular teachings today that allow divorce for many reasons, Jesus provided a very clear answer that man should not separate what God has joined together in marriage. One of the most frequently cited passages, allegedly allowing sinless divorce, is Matthew 19:9, regarding immorality. According to the false teaching that God “commands” divorce, some people teach that “immorality” in the marriage frees the believer from the marriage and allows them to remarry. We shall see how Jesus handled that matter in the next verse.


Part Three 

Adultery After Divorce 

Jesus has shown that all divorce begins with a sinful heart. The sinful heart has become hard, so hard that it no longer allows God’s forgiveness to operate in their own heart. Now, Jesus adds further teaching about the problem of immorality in the marriage. 

And I say to you, whoever divorces  his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.

Matthew 19:9

 3.1 Adultery Can Follow Divorce

Many people cannot imagine that adultery can really follow divorce. 19The Greek root term for “adultery” occurs in many contexts. For example, Romans 7:3 shows that a woman who “is joined” (“γένηται”) to another man after the death of her husband does not become an “adulteress” (“μοιχαλίδα”); likewise, see Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4; (sign of Jonah the Prophet). In 2 Peter 2:14, Peter described false prophets as “having eyes full of adultery (“μοιχαλίδος”) that never cease from sin.” In that context, both spiritual and sexual sin seems in view.  Notice too that Jesus taught she was free from the law of divorce in that passage. In James 4:4, we learn that friendship with the world makes us “adulteresses” (“μοιχαλίδες”). Similarly, in Mark 8:38, Jesus spoke of everyone who is ashamed of Him and His words is part of an adulterous (“μοιχαλίδι”) and sinful generation. Those folks believe that if you are now divorced, then you cannot commit adultery, because adultery assumes you are still married. Yet, Jesus said adultery can follow divorce. Here is how it happens.

In Matthew 5:32, Jesus taught that the husband who divorces his wife makes 20The Greek term here for “makes” (“ποιεῖ”–present active indicative) indicates the husband is responsible for her adultery. The Greek syntax here (“ποιεῖ αὐτὴν μοιχευθῆναι”) has the present active indicative followed by the aorist passive infinitive (“μοιχευθῆναι”), apparently implying the result of the divorce throws the Innocent Spouse into the pool abounding with “adultery.” In essence, the Innocent Spouse has adultery put upon her (aorist passive voice–implying completed, total action in this case–passive voice probably indicates she had this problem foisted upon her), because her husband filed for divorce. As seen in 1 Corinthians 7, when some of the unmarried burn with passion, immorality becomes a problem, and it is better for them to marry. his wife commit adultery, unless she has already committed sexual immorality during the marriage. Notice also that Jesus covered the man who marries another woman after divorcing his wife who did not commit sexual immorality during the marriage. That man commits adultery by marrying another woman. 21The Greek term here for adultery (“μοιχᾶται”–present middle indicative–shows that adultery can be self-inflicted, middle voice, and so it further bolsters the argument that the preceding participle “ἀπολελυμένην” may best be translated as middle voice (instead of passive voice), indicating the wife filed for divorce in this last clause. Also, this same term “committing adultery” (“μοιχᾶται”) occurs in Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, and in each case it references the spouse who files for divorce commits adultery by marrying another person. In Matthew 15:19, Jesus placed the source of adulteries in the heart, from which  come evil thoughts; compare Mark 7:22, Greek Text. Likewise, in Luke 16:18, Jesus declared that everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery (“μοιχεύει”–present active indicative) and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery (“μοιχεύει”). In this usage, the “divorced” person appears to be still married to the original spouse, because she/he can commit adultery with others, even after the “divorce.”  In Romans 2:22, the term for adultery (“μοιχεύειν”) occurs in the construction “ὁ λέγων μὴ μοιχεύειν μοιχεύεις;”  This construction shows the use of the infinitive coupled with “μὴ”  to describe a forbidden sexual act. Likewise, in James 2:11, the command not to commit adultery (“Μὴ μοιχεύσῃς”–aorist active subjunctive–all-encompassing command to abstain from adultery), relates directly to the charge that you do commit adultery (“μοιχεύεις”). A very similar construction “Μὴ μοιχεύσῃς” occurs regarding the rich young ruler in Mark 10:19, and Luke 18:20. Compare the similar command in Matthew 5:27, “You shall not commit adultery” (“Οὐ μοιχεύσεις”–same construction in Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9.) In John 8:4, accusers bring a woman caught in the very act of adultery (“μοιχευομένη”–present passive participle. The passive voice here indicates that she was a part of the sin, but the other actor remains undetermined). In Revelation 2:22, we read the Lord will throw Jezebel upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery (“τοὺς μοιχεύοντας”–present active participle, notice the masculine indicating the male actors)  with her, into great tribulation. In Luke 18:11, the Pharisee praised God he was not like adulterers (“μοιχοί“); similarly, the same Greek term “μοιχοί” is used in 1 Corinthians 6:9, to describe different people who would not inherit the kingdom of God. Thanks be to Jesus Christ that “such were some of you,” but now those “adulterers” have been washed and sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. This verse provides strong support for permissible remarriage after divorce that occurred before salvation. 1 Corinthians 6:11, believers who committed adultery before salvation are no longer “adulterers,” because of the phrase “such were some of you” (“καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε”–imperfect active indicative, showing a continuous past state of adultery, now changed by the wonderful activity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in their lives). Therefore, if you divorced or remarried improperly before salvation, you are no longer an “adulterer” because salvation has changed you. Finally, in Hebrews 13:4, the judgement of God awaits all people who commit sexual immorality (“πόρνους”) and adulterers (“μοιχοὺς”)–notice the simple nouns to describe these people, as opposed to the participles in the other passages.  Depending upon the translation of the ambiguous Greek forms and structure in the original text of the verse, a very strong case can be made here that Jesus revealed that the husband who divorces his wife, except for the cause of her sexual immorality, bears spiritual responsibility for the adultery. Likewise, if a man marries a woman who divorced her husband, he now commits adultery. So, if a person has been divorced, how can anyone commit adultery after divorce? Adultery applies to an ongoing marriage. So, was the divorce not really a divorce in the eyes of Jesus because the woman who divorced her husband can still be a party to adultery?

According to Jesus, in Matthew 19:8, if a man divorces his wife, because he has a hard heart, and his wife has not committed “immorality” during the marriage, then he commits adultery when he marries another woman. So, in effect, the man began the divorce with a hard, sinful heart–let us call that Hard-Hearted Sin (divorce itself). If the man marries another woman after committing Hard-Hearted Sin, he now commits adultery by marrying another woman–let us call that  Adultery Sin (remarriage after divorce without preceding sexual immorality). The only way a man committing Heard-Hearted Sin can remarry without adding Adultery Sin will be if the wife committed “immorality” during the marriage. Notice that the man is still guilty of Hard-Hearted Sin because of the divorce in the first place. Can the man committing Hard-Hearted Sin remarry without committing Adultery Sin? Yes, under only one circumstance. A man may avoid Adultery Sin if the wife has committed “immorality” during the marriage. But, the man still commits Hard-Hearted Sin by divorcing his wife. Notice that Jesus has consistently focused upon just the person filing for divorce, not the party being divorced. We need to keep in mind that Jesus taught two important points in the Matthew 19 passage regarding the continuity of marriage. First, God joined the man and woman together for a permanent bond. Second, apparently man can “separate” what God joined together, because Jesus warned against the same and then provided further teaching on divorce and remarriage. So, we see that “sexual immorality” during the marriage does not justify a divorce, but God permitted Moses to issue divorce decrees for the hardness of heart of the people who refused to honor God’s union of man and woman, but rather insisted upon having a hard, unforgiving heart toward the spouse engaging in sexual immorality. It also apparently severs the marital bond, at least from the limited standpoint of allowing the Hard-Hearted Spouse who filed for divorce to remarry, because of the spouse’s sexual immorality.

Now let us focus upon Matthew 19:9 and the use there of the word “immorality.”  22The Greek term for “immorality” (“πορνείᾳ”) covers several sexual sins. For example, the same word occurs in 1 Corinthians 5:1, to describe the fact that a man has his father’s wife. The word also describes the acts of a harlot in Revelation 19:2. The word also appears in conjunction with “impurity” (“τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ”) and “sensuality” (“ἀσελγείᾳ”) in 2 Corinthians 12:21. Notice that in Matthew 19:9, Jesus distinguished the sin of “immorality” from the sin of “adultery.” 23The Greek term for “adultery” (“μοιχᾶται”) means to be unfaithful sexually in a marriage context, but it also describes the spiritual sin of breaking a marriage covenant with God by seeking idols (see Jeremiah 5:7, where God says that the sons of Israel have forsaken God and committed adultery as they “trooped” to the harlot’s house by swearing by those who are not gods. (See also Ezekiel 23:37, and Hosea 4:13). Jesus clearly intended some difference between the term “immorality” and “adultery,” because two different terms are used in the Greek text. Some commentators have limited the term “immorality” to mean sexual activity before marriage, citing the example of Joseph seeking to “divorce” Mary when he discovered she was pregnant. 24Some commentators have argued that the story of Joseph and Mary must mean that the word “immorality” (“πορνείᾳ”) must be limited in meaning to sexual activity before marriage, in the sense of fornication. In essence, they argue that Matthew called Joseph a “righteous” man, even as Joseph contemplated “divorcing” (“ἀπολῦσαι”) Mary before they were formally married. Matthew used the same word for “divorced” in Matthew 1:19 and Matthew 19:9. So, to avoid any inconsistency between the acts of Joseph, a righteous man, and the teachings of Jesus later in Matthew and the other Gospels, these commentators argue that “immorality” should be limited to just “fornication” before marriage. One significant problem is that their argument lacks clear textual support. The word “immorality” never occurs with Mary and Joseph, and they only prove that Joseph was justified in putting Mary away before marriage. They intend to limit the meaning of the term “immorality” in Matthew 19:9, to just premarital sexual activity. In their view, the only marriages subject to divorce without sin would be those people only engaged, but not formally married. But, that meaning does not fit with the context of formally married people seeking divorce, which we see in Matthew 19. Otherwise, to adopt the limited view of “immorality,” to all the divorces Jesus has in mind in Matthew 19 were those “divorces” before the couples were actually married, or sexual acts committed before marriage. In the alternative, following the logic of this view, Jesus meant that you could divorce any time during the marriage if you could show that your spouse had been guilty of pre-marital infidelity. But then the example of Joseph would not apply, because Joseph sought to put Mary away before they were married. Such limitations do not fit with the question of the Pharisees who had in mind that any man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever. The proof for limiting the term “immorality” in Matthew 19:9, to mean only “fornication” (referring  to premarital acts) does not appear convincing, but very interesting. Yet, when you compare the Pharisees’ questions with the idea that “fornication” only covers pre-marital sex, it does not seem to fit the context. So, it seems better to recognize that the term “immorality” has a broad meaning here, indicating that Jesus included all forms of sexual activity with someone other than the spouse. Based in part upon 1 Corinthians 6:18,  we see that the “immoral” man sins against his own body. 25In 1 Corinthians 6:18, the term “immoral man” (“πορνεύων”–present active participle, indicating, perhaps, continuous present action) suggests a close connection to bodily acts of a sexual nature.   So, we observe that “immorality” includes sexual bodily sins of different kinds, in contrast to the term “adultery” which means sexual infidelity while married, but specifically seems to indicate sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse.

So, in conclusion, Jesus taught that all divorce is sinful, because the person seeking divorce has a hard, unforgiving heart toward the spouse. We will call that sinful act of filing for divorce Hard-Hearted Sin. We also saw that Hard-Hearted Sin can be compounded by Adultery Sin, where the husband filing for divorce marries another person.  The only way to avoid Adultery Sin is to show that the wife committed “immorality” while married. Remember, Hard-Hearted Sin still remains, because the husband had a hard heart in seeking a divorce. If you file for divorce, Jesus taught that you have a hard, unforgiving heart–no exceptions, no excuses. You sin against God by filing for divorce. Not many people will like that answer from Jesus, but please take the time to study the passage for yourself and draw your own conclusions from the Bible, being led personally by the Holy Spirit into all truth. All sins can be forgiven by God, but willfully sinning by filing for divorce will only lead to discipline from God. 26Hebrews 12:9-11–all discipline seems sorrowful for the moment. Godly sorrow in turn leads to repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11. We should also look at the Sermon on the Mount for concise teaching on divorce, as Jesus contrasted the Old Testament with the New Testament, with greater revelation regarding God’s gracious plans for our lives.

It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 5:31-32

Jesus provided basic teaching on divorce and remarriage in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-7:27. In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus taught that a man should not divorce his wife, as we have noted above in Matthew 19:1-9.

In Matthew 5:32, Jesus first quoted an Old Testament passage on divorce, then gave further instructions. First, Jesus declared that everyone who divorces his wife makes her commit adultery. 27Although I do not agree with some authors’ conclusions about divorce and remarriage, he does present a summary of different views and analyzes them.  See Jesus provided one clause of caution: “except for the reason of unchastity.” 28We should also consider the problem of “immorality” that occurred a long time ago in a marriage. What is a long time? In answering that question, we must consider the teaching of Jesus in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus used the word “defiled” (“הֻטַּמָּאָה”) there to describe the woman who had been divorced, married by a new husband, and then the new husband died; in that case, the wife cannot remarry the first husband because she is “defiled,” in the sense of taking her would be an abomination (“כִּי-תוֹעֵבָה”). We may learn here that sex with another man renders a woman unclean in reference to having sex with her previous husband. Taking her back would be an abomination if she had remarried, even if her new husband had died. I am not suggesting that we follow this pattern of Old Testament law, but I observe that sex with another person, even in marriage after divorce, causes ceremonial uncleanness in the Old Testament. The more basic point is that taking a person back has serious sexual and spiritual consequences. By taking back, I mean having sex with that person again. Remember that having sex with a prostitute causes you to be joined with her. So, joining these two concepts together (no remarriage and sex with a prostitute), I suggest that if a spouse takes an immoral spouse back and has sex with that spouse, or even continues the marriage after the immorality, then the exception of “immorality” in the teaching of Jesus in the Matthew 19:8 no longer applies. If you learn of the immorality, and have a hard-heart and say, no I am going to divorce you, then you commit Hard-Hearted Divorce by filing for divorce. You may avoid Adultery Sin because your spouse was immoral. But if you take the spouse back, continue the marriage or have sex with that spouse again, then you have become one flesh with that spouse again and so the exception of “immorality” no longer applies. I do not teach this with great assurance, but it makes the most sense to me in light of the entire group of passages on divorce and remarriage. So, how long is a long time? The answer is fairly simple: did you have sex after you knew about the immorality, or did you continue the marriage? So, any sin of immorality does not linger in the marriage, except by unforgiveness and a hard heart. Notice that this phrase regarding unchastity relates to the adultery after divorce, not as an exception for divorce. So, I do not agree that “unchastity” provides a permissible basis for divorce. On the contrary, nothing in Matthew 5:31-32, conflicts with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:1-9. All divorce emerges from a hard heart, and it is always sinful.

In the last phrase of Matthew 5:32, Jesus covered the issue of “whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” 29In the Greek text, the phrase “whoever” (“καὶ ὃς ἐὰν”) only occurs here and in Matthew 12:39 and Matthew 18:5, and seems always part of a conditional clause with a subjunctive verb. Not only does this phrase indicate the phrase may stand independently of the first part of the verse, it also suggests something that is likely to happen in the future. Furthermore, this entire last phrase apparently stands independently from the woman in the first part of the verse. No definite article describes the “divorced woman” and so the relationship to the woman divorced in the first part of the verse cannot be pressed to mean the same woman. I am always skeptical of an explanation of any verse that seems to turn the meaning completely opposite. So, I sought careful proof that Jesus had not intended: “every divorced spouse, whether innocent or not, cannot remarry, because if that spouse remarries, then the person who marries that divorced spouse commits adultery.” First, I began my study by noting that the Greek text has certain ambiguities here. The word “divorced” in the phrase “a divorced woman” occurs in an ambiguous form in the Greek text. 30In the Greek text, the term for “divorced” (“ἀπολελυμένην”) may be in the middle voice or the passive voice. It may also be a deponent. But, taking the entire context into consideration, and the larger teaching already developed in Matthew 19:1-9, it seems best to take it as middle voice, with the sense that the wife took the action to divorce herself. It may mean “who was divorced,” in which case we do not know who filed for divorce–the wife or the husband. But the word “divorced” in that same phrase may mean “she divorced herself” from her husband. In that case, we know the wife filed for divorce. Second, I thought about the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:1-9, where He developed the doctrine of marriage and divorce in greater detail. There, He taught that filing for divorce was always sinful, because it issued from a hard, unforgiving heart. So, in Matthew 5:31-32, it seems unlikely that Jesus would teach that the innocent spouse would not be allowed to remarry, even though she had done nothing wrong. So, in conclusion, I believe Jesus taught that if the wife filed for divorce, anyone who subsequently marries her commits adultery. That interpretation fits well with all the passages, rests upon correct grammar and syntax in the original, and does no obvious violence to the context. Well, can the innocent spouse remarry?

Part Four

The Innocent Spouse

In 1 Corinthians, Paul provided great help regarding marital relationships. As we saw with Jesus’ teaching on divorce, Paul did not promote divorce. Paul, however, dealt with several specific instances of desertion, and also spoke to general marriage issues. We will focus upon the divorce issues here primarily. 

In 1 Corinthians 7:2, Paul taught that a man may avoid the snare of immorality by having his own wife, and the same for a woman. 31Paul used the term “immorality” (“πορνείας”), and that is the same root word used in Matthew 19:9. Because of the problem with “immorality,” God provides for a man to have a wife. We also observe that Paul treated the sexual desires the same for men and women, and both of them should marry to avoid immorality.

But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.

1 Corinthians 7:2

Notice that the problem with “immorality” confronts the lives of all single believers. Some believers, like Paul himself, have the gift of “self-control” which helps them overcome the temptation of sexual sin. 32In 1 Corinthians 7:5-7, Paul described the gift that allowed him to avoid immorality, but he made it plain that not everyone possessed that special gift of “self-control” (“ἀκρασίαν”). Notice too that Satan uses this lack of self-control to tempt believers, especially in the marriage of believers. So, following Paul’s teaching, we see that even in marriage, the lack of “self-control” may be a problem when one spouse deprives the other spouse of sex. As Paul taught, only believers married to each other should have sex, and in that context of a believer’s marriage, “self-control” can still be an issue. Satan tempts married believers when they are deprived of sex. So the remedy will always be mutuality in sexuality. As Paul described in 1 Corinthians 7:4, each spouse controls the sexual activity of the other spouse. In other words, if you perceive that your spouse hungers for sex, then have sex. If you deprive the other spouse of sex, then do it only by agreement and then only for a time (“καιρὸν”) to devote yourselves to prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5). So, any spouse who uses sex as a weapon or power play in a marriage clearly violates the Word of God. Paul also had important words for the unmarried. We will look at this category of people further on in this study, but the term “unmarried” will provide specific guidance on remarriage.

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.  But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

1 Corinthians 7:8-9

Paul used himself an example of staying single, relying upon the gift of self-control bestowed by God upon him. Paul recognized, however, that not everyone possessed such a gift, and also understood what it means to burn with passion. 33In 1 Corinthians 7:9, the Greek phrase “burn with passion” (“πυροῦσθαι”–present passive infinitive) literally just references the burning. Because of the context, the translators added the word “passion.” Based upon 1 Corinthians 7:5, we see that Satan seeks to use this lack of “self-control” in believers to inflame their passions for sex to promote immorality in the lives of believers. While the unmarried and widows may remain single and live in God’s blessing, so also they may remarry if they do not have self-control. Paul specifically recognized that marriage provides God’s blessing upon those who burn with passion so that they may burn with desire for their God-given spouse. Having now encountered the term “unmarried,” let us look at the concept as it is used in 1 Corinthians 7.

In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul distinguished the term “unmarried” from the term from “widows.”  34The Greek terms here are “the unmarried” (“ἀγάμοις”) and “the widows” (ταῖς χήραις”). In Romans 7:1-3, Paul explained that the law caused a woman to be bound in marriage to her husband as long as he lived. But, upon his death, the wife was now a widow, and no longer bound to her husband. In 1 Timothy 5:1-16, Paul outlined the principles for caring for widows. In 1 Timothy 5:14, Paul specifically commanded younger widows “to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no cause for reproach, for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.” Paul understood the “sensual desires” (“καταστρηνιάσωσιν”) in disregard of Christ many widows experienced. The cure for such desires was marriage, just as he prescribed for the “unmarried.” In both cases, Paul directed them to remain single as he was, or else get married, if they lack the spiritual gift of self-control. 351 Corinthians 7:9.  So, what does the term “unmarried” mean in this chapter? Specifically, does the term “unmarried” include divorced people?

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.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11

 In 1 Corinthians 7:10, Paul taught that the wife not “should not leave” her husband. 36The Greek phrase here is “should not leave” (“χωρισθῆναι”). The same term “leave” occurs in 1 Corinthians 7:11, to describe the woman who leaves (“χωρισθῇ”) her husband. In 1 Corinthians 7:11, following the same train of thought, Paul described that woman who “left” her husband as an “unmarried” woman. 37The Greek term for “unmarried” (“ἄγαμος”) therefore includes divorced people, based upon 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Moreover, also in 1 Corinthians 7:11, Paul commanded a man not to divorce his wife, apparently just like the wife should not divorce or leave her husband. Paul brought mutuality to divorce and remarriage. One gender does not have special rights to divorce and remarry. Both wives and husbands must not divorce their spouses.  We see then, that in 1 Corinthians 7:11, the term “leave” means to “divorce.” 38The Greek term for “does leave” (“χωρισθῇ”) here must mean divorce, because of Paul’s words in the same verse “the husband should not divorce (“ἀφιέναι”) his wife.” The behavior of the wife in leaving seems the same as the behavior of the husband in divorcing, both in the same verse. You may recall that Jesus used the term “divorce” (“ἀπολύσῃ”) in Matthew 19:9. We see a variety of words used in these passages to describe divorce, but while a closer study of those terms would be nice, it is beyond the scope of this study. So, Paul wrote that he himself was not giving instruction, but the Lord commanded that “the wife should not leave her husband.” 39This distinction between what Paul wrote here and what the Lord Jesus said has been twisted by many commentators. In this instance, when Paul attributed the teaching concerning divorce to the Lord Jesus, he only meant that the Lord Jesus had explicitly taught on divorce. In other instances, Paul relied upon the Holy Spirit working within him to provide the words Paul wrote. In all cases, Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17, and 2 Peter 1:20-21). When I write that Paul taught, I mean that Paul taught under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so Paul was speaking for God in all his epistles contained in the Bible. They were inspired the moment that his pen hit the paper, if not in his mind before the pen moved. Paul also used the phrase “I think I have the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39, pages 1790-1791).  Paul never encouraged anyone to file for divorce, but exactly followed the Lord Jesus’ teaching that only the Hard-Hearted Spouse files for divorce and so sins against God (Matthew 19:9). Jesus never provided any exception to the no divorce rule. So, in 1 Corinthians 7:11, Paul described the woman who had “divorced” her husband as “unmarried.” Therefore, we see that a woman who divorced her husband now may be described as part of the group Paul labeled “unmarried.” Therefore, we know that the group “unmarried” includes divorced people. Within the group of divorced people, we have two general groups. First, the group that filed for divorce we will call the Hard-Hearted Spouse group. Second, we have the Innocent Spouse group. These are the people who did not file for divorce, but their spouse divorced them. So, we see in Matthew 19 that the Hard-Hearted Spouse group have sinned against God by filing for divorce. As we look at 1 Corinthians 7,  we learn that Paul’s general teaching regarding the “unmarried” (the “unmarried in 1 Corinthians 7:8 should remarry to avoid burning passion and immorality) applies to the Innocent Spouse group, and nothing in Matthew 19 prohibits the Innocent Spouse from remarrying. If the unmarried, Innocent Spouse lacks the gift of “self-control,” then that Innocent Spouse may remarry to avoid burning with passion and immorality. The Hard-Hearted Spouse sinned by filing for divorce, and may compound their Hard-Hearted Sin by adding Adultery Sin (“except for immorality”) as described above.

Therefore,  because most believers lack of the gift of “self-control,” Paul teaches that it is better for the Innocent Spouse Group to remarry (1 Corinthians 7:9). So, the Innocent Spouse, deprived now of his/her sexual mate, will be “unmarried.” As an “unmarried” believer, the problems of “burning with passion” and temptation from Satan allow the Innocent Spouse to remarry, provided the Innocent Spouse finds another believer. 402 Corinthians 6:14-18 provides clear reasons why a believer should never marry an unbeliever: (a) no partnership with unbelievers (v. 14); (b) no fellowship with unbelievers (v. 14); (c) no harmony with unbelievers (v. 15); (d) nothing in common with unbelievers (v.15); (e) no agreement with unbelievers (v.15).   What about the Hard-Hearted Spouse that filed for divorce? Can that Hard-Hearted Spouse remarry? Now we will look at some verses in 1 Corinthians 7 and compare them with Matthew 19.

1 Corinthians 7:10 provides more information for the Hard-Hearted Spouse who files for divorce. Remember, please, that the person who files for divorce is the Hard-Hearted Spouse (with no exceptions), and the other spouse is the Innocent Spouse. I do not mean that the Innocent Spouse has done nothing wrong, but by filing for divorce, the Hard-Hearted Spouse has broken God’s commandment not to divorce, as we observed above in our study of Matthew 19. So, what about the Hard-hearted Spouse who wants to remarry? What does God say about that option? Well, in 1 Corinthians 7:10,  we see that the woman who leaves (leaves=divorces as described above) her husband must remain unmarried. Again, no exceptions are given here. If a hard-hearted woman insists upon divorce, then Paul orders her to remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. Consider the woman who simply dislikes her husband and has grown tired of him. If she knew that God commanded her not to divorce her husband, then she would not be as eager to divorce him. Furthermore, if she also knew that God commanded her to remain single after divorce (at least until her husband dies–Romans 7:1-2), or else be reconciled, then she would not be eager to divorce him. I never suggest creating doctrine from our experience, but I do believe in applying doctrine gleaned from Scripture alone to our experience. Likewise, if your spouse has been unfaithful sexually to you, you still will be the Hard-Hearted Spouse if you file for divorce. Furthermore, you would have to remain single for the rest of your life, or else be reconciled to your spouse. As we move forward in this study, we also need to review God’s teaching about marriages between believers and unbelievers. They provide more divine insight into divorce and remarriage. God loves us and wants us to know all about happy lives in marriage.

Part Five

The Unbelieving Spouse

The Lord Jesus not only created marriage, but He also intended for every believer to enjoy marriage, unless He had given that believer the gift of sexual self-control. In some cases, however, Jesus recognized that believers had married before their conversion and so had unbelieving spouses. In other cases, a believer married an unbeliever. In both cases, the believer is now married to an unbeliever. If an unbeliever wants to divorce the believer, then what should the believer do? Do the same rules of marriage outlined above apply to an unbeliever? We will see how God applies the same basic commands to a believer married to an unbeliever and notice special provisions for believing spouses married to unbelievers.

But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.

1 Corinthians 7:12

In 1 Corinthians 7:12, Paul began to address the issue of a believer married to an unbeliever. First, Paul commanded believers to remain with their unbelieving spouses. This command fits perfectly with the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels not to divorce for any reason. 41The Greek term for “divorce” (“ἀφιέτω”) is the same root term Paul used for “divorce” in the previous verse. Notice that the unbelieving spouse, in this case the wife, consents to live with her believing husband. 42The Greek term for “consents” (“συνευδοκεῖ”) literally means same good thoughts, or agrees. So, just because you were saved while already married to an unbeliever, you should not seek a divorce just because your spouse is an unbeliever. 43This passage stands in contrast to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, where Paul urges a believer to remain separate from an unbeliever, and to “COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE.” There, Paul commanded believers to avoid all bonds with unbelievers, especially to avoid being romantically involved with them. In 1 Corinthians 7:13, Paul applied the same teaching to a woman married to an unbelieving husband, again showing that the marriage commands do not make distinctions between males and females, but God applied them without regard to gender. 44Do not misunderstand. God prohibits marriage between two males and likewise between two females. God always intended for one male to marry one female.

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

1 Corinthians 7:14

In Corinthians 7:14, Paul next revealed the theology behind God’s plan for a believer to remain married to an unbelieving spouse who wants to remain married to the believing spouse. First, the believing spouse has a sanctifying influence upon the unbeliever. 45The Greek word for “sanctifying” (“ἡγίασται”–note the perfect passive indicative) means here that the believing wife has a continuing influence upon the unbeliever. Many wives, by their continual, faithful testimony, have seen their unfaithful husbands come to know the saving power of faith in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection (1 Peter 3:1-6). Paul nowhere taught that salvation can be imputed from one spouse to another, or from parent to child. Each person must receive the gift of eternal life by faith alone. The believing spouse will have daily opportunities to bring God’s light of salvation to the unbelieving spouse. Second, the believing mother or believing father will provide sanctifying guidance to the children of the marriage. In essence, they will be washed in the gracious love and teaching of the believing spouse. Compare Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Furthermore, the believing spouse will have far less daily contact with the children after a divorce imposing a rotating residential responsibility (rotating overnight visits with each spouse) for the children. The believing spouse will be spending time away from the children, and so the believing spouse may have less time to be a sanctifying influence upon the children. 46Some commentators wrongly suppose that the children are automatically saved by the influence of the believing spouse. Some commentators even teach that the believing parent can remove or limit the effects of original sin on their children, but nothing in any of these verses speaks of original sin. Scripture never contradicts itself, because God wrote Scripture, and God cannot contradict Himself, because He always tells the truth (John 17:17; Titus 1:2). Scripture universally provides that salvation comes by faith alone, and it must be your own faith (Romans 10:9-10), and not the faith of others. So, in this verse, we have the sanctifying influence of the believing parent shining God’s light of salvation upon the children, and also training them daily in the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet, if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.

1 Corinthians 7:15

In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul described the case of the unbelieving spouse who “leaves” the believing spouse. 47The Greek term here for “leaves” (“χωρίζεται”) means to depart, but in this context, we see that it also means to divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10). As we learned above in 1 Corinthians 7:10, the term “leaves” means “divorce” in this context. Therefore, if the unbelieving spouse divorces the believing spouse, the believing spouse is not under bondage. 48The Greek term for “bondage” (“δεδούλωται”) here means to live under the marriage bond. The same word is used in the same form only  in 2 Peter 2:19, where it speaks of the slavery of corruption suffered by false prophets. A better comparison of the use of the same concept of “bondage” occurs in 1 Corinthian 7:39, where Paul wrote that a woman is “bound” (“δέδεται”) to her husband as long as he lives. But once he dies, then she is “free” (“ἐλευθέρα”) to remarry. Compare Romans 7:2, where Paul spoke of the woman as “”bound” (“δέδεται”) by the law to her husband so long as her husband lives. But when the husband dies, the the wife is “released” from the law. In a parallel sense, the term for “released” (“κατήργηται”) means to abolish, to destroy, or to replace one thing with another, such as light removes darkness. Just as the woman is no longer bound to her husband after death, so also salvation releases us from the bondage of sin. Compare the use of a similar term for “bondage” (“δεδουλωμένοι”) in Galatians 4:3, where it indicates that people were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world, but freed when Christ appeared bringing salvation and adoption into the family of God, now crying “Abba! Father!” In this same sense, something that once held one in bondage now has been removed.  What does the term “bondage” mean in this context? Does it mean the believing spouse divorced by the believing spouse may remarry after the unbeliever files for divorce and obtains the final judgment of divorce? 

Paul described the believer divorced by his unbelieving spouse as not under “bondage” in such cases. The best way to understand the term or concept of “bondage” is to look at the same author’s use of the same or similar idea. In 1 Corinthians 7:39,  we read that Paul said that a wife is “bound” to her husband as long as he lives. The key idea here is that “bondage” in that verse indicates a marriage bond that endures for the life of the other spouse. But once the spouse dies, then the living spouse is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. So, we see the idea of being bound means unable to remarry, but once the spouse dies, then the bondage has been lifted, and the widow is free to remarry. Please recall that Paul distinguished the “unmarried” and the “widows” in 1 Corinthians 7:8, apparently identifying the means by which some people become single, respectively, through: (a) divorce or never married; and (b) death. Therefore, we see that Paul used “bondage” in this context in the sense of being bound to the spouse in marriage. As we follow Paul’s teaching, we observe that “bondage” referred to the inability to remarry in this larger context of the chapter. Therefore, we may conclude that “bondage” in 1 Corinthians 7:15 means bound to a marriage and unable to remarry. Now, we may apply these doctrines and learn that if an unbeliever divorces a believer, then the believing spouse may remarry because they are not under bondage. As a final note, Paul also teaches us that the believer has been called to peace. This phrase helps the believer have peace from God about the difficult decision to remarry. Speaking through Paul, Jesus provided comfort to some contemplating remarriage. He implied that He Himself will help that believer divorced by the unbeliever to find a new believing spouse and pour His blessing upon that new marriage. In conclusion, the believer who has been divorced by the unbeliever is free to remarry, but the believer must only marry another believer (“in the Lord”).



After reviewing the Word of God, we now may summarize the teaching of Jesus about divorce and remarriage. Please keep in mind that God focuses most on who filed for divorce and obtained the final judgment of divorce.

1. God’s Plan of Marriage. God created man, woman, and marriage. No person should separate the man and woman God has joined together in marriage–no exceptions. Matthew 19:1-9, page 1534.

2. Hard-Hearted Divorce. Every person who files for divorce has a hard heart and sins by filing for divorce–no exceptions. Matthew 19:8.

3. Adultery after Divorce. Every person who files for divorce always has a hard heart–no exceptions. Every person filing for divorce adds a further sin if he/she divorces for any reason other than the other spouse recently committed immorality during the marriage (remember what “recently” means above–you have not taken the immoral spouse back into the marriage). Matthew 19:9.

    A. Immorality. Every spouse who divorces the other spouse for any reason other than the  immorality of the other spouse causes the innocent spouse to commit adultery. Matthew 5:32.

     B. New Spouse Every person who marries a person who divorced his/her spouse commits adultery. Matthew 5:32.

4. Remarriage. Some people may remarry with God’s blessing.

     A. Innocent Spouse. If your spouse has divorced you for any reason other than immorality, you may remarry with God’s blessing because you are now unmarried, and you should marry rather than burn with passion; if you have the gift of self-control, then you do not need to remarry. 1 Corinthians 7:9.

    B. Hard-Hearted Spouse. If your spouse did not commit immorality during the marriage, and yet you still divorced your spouse, then you may not remarry with God’s blessing. Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9.

     C. Divorce for the Purpose of Remarriage Every person who divorces his/her spouse and marries another person commits adultery. Matthew 5:32.

4. Unbelievers and Divorce. Believers happen to be married to unbelievers because of many circumstances. In all those circumstances, Jesus applies the same commands described above.

   A. Remain Married to the Unbeliever Every believer married now to an unbeliever must not divorce the unbeliever so that the believing spouse may be a sanctifying and saving influence upon the unbelieving spouse and the children of the marriage. 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.

    B. The Unbeliever Divorces the Believer.  If the unbelieving spouse divorces the believing spouse, then the believing spouse may remarry and enjoy the peace of God. 1 Corinthians 7:15. 

I understand the exegesis described above does not match the mainstream teaching, on many points, in the church today regarding divorce and remarriage. I only care what the Word of God teaches, not what men teach. Every believer must make their own decisions about faith after careful study of the Word of God. Please do not adopt any view in this study, until you have studied the Word of God for yourself. No matter where you stand today inside or outside of marriage, the Lord Jesus Christ loves you and intends for you to have an abundant life in Him. I urge you to have peace with God.

Eternal Life


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