Can a divorced person remarry according to the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of whether a divorced person can remarry according to the Bible is a topic that has been debated and discussed among Christians for centuries. The Bible offers various references that provide insight into this issue. To fully explore this topic, we’ll examine relevant biblical passages, theological perspectives, and practical implications.

Understanding Divorce in Biblical Context

Divorce is a subject addressed in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In the Old Testament, divorce was permitted under certain circumstances, primarily due to the hardness of human hearts (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). However, the ideal presented in Scripture is that marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, intended to reflect the union between Christ and the church (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31-32).

Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce

In the New Testament, Jesus provides clarification on the topic of divorce in response to questions posed by the Pharisees. In Matthew 19:3-9 (NKJV), Jesus reaffirms the divine intention for marriage and addresses the issue of divorce:

Matthew 19:3-9 (NKJV)

“3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ 4 And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’ 7 They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ 8 He said to them, ‘Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.'”

In this passage, Jesus reaffirms the sanctity and permanence of marriage, citing the Genesis account of creation. He emphasizes that divorce was permitted under the Mosaic Law due to human sinfulness but was not part of God’s original design for marriage. Jesus then provides an exception clause, stating that divorce is permissible in cases of sexual immorality (adultery). However, he explicitly states that remarriage after divorce, except in cases of marital unfaithfulness, constitutes adultery. Only the innocent party is allowed to remarry.

Even in the case of adultery, a couple can, through God’s grace, extend pardon and restore their marriage. Thus, they can follow Christ’s example of forgiveness and forgive the sin of adultery (Ephesians 4:32). However, in many cases a spouse continues in the path of sin. That is when Matthew 19:9 applies.

Paul’s Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage

The apostle Paul also addresses the issue of divorce and remarriage in his letters to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (NKJV), Paul provides guidance to married couples:

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (NKJV)

“10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

Here, Paul echoes the teachings of Jesus by affirming the importance of marital fidelity and discouraging divorce. He advises that if separation does occur, reconciliation should be pursued rather than remarriage.

1 Corinthians 7:15 (NKJV)

“15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.”

Paul also addresses situations where a believer is married to an unbeliever who chooses to leave the marriage. In such cases, Paul suggests that the believer is not bound by the marriage covenant and may be free to remarry. This interpretation is based on the understanding that the unbeliever’s departure constitutes a form of abandonment.

Child and Spouse Abuse

Some teach that abuse (spousal or child) is a valid reason for divorce even though it is not mentioned in the Bible. But we should never presume upon the Word of God. Therefore, in cases of abuse, a separation is definitely appropriate and should take place immediately for the safety of the members of the family.

Conclusion: Biblical Principles and Practical Wisdom

In conclusion, the Bible presents clear teachings regarding divorce and remarriage. Jesus and the apostle Paul affirm the sanctity and permanence of marriage while acknowledging the reality of human sinfulness and the potential for brokenness in relationships. Divorce is permitted only in cases of sexual immorality (adultery) and remarriage is allowed only for the innocent spouse. Remarriage is also permitted in cases of abandonment by an unbelieving spouse.

Pastors and believers are called to uphold the biblical standard of marriage while extending compassion and support to those who have experienced the pain of divorce. Ultimately, the goal is to promote healing, reconciliation, and restoration within the context of God’s grace and truth.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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