Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

Today’s culture is so messed up that even Christians reject what Christ taught regarding marriage. In this post, we will explore what Christ taught on marriage, divorce and remarriage for several problematic situations.

Marriage

Matt 19:4-6 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 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’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Christ’s teachings is plain and simple on marriage: When man and a woman marry, they are joined as one flesh by God and no man can separate. In other words, divorce or separation is not allowed (excluding exceptions).

Divorce

Matt 5:32 “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Matt 19:9 “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.”

The only exception given for divorce is sexual immorality. However, this exception is found only in the gospel of Matthew.

Mark 10:11-12 So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Luke 16:18 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

If you look into the other two gospels, even the exception for divorce is completely missing. There are also some differences expressing the same point in different angle. In short, anyone who divorces (with the only exception of sexual immorality) and marries another commits adultery and also makes the ex-wife or ex-husband commit adultery.

Jer 3:8 “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.

We can be sure that Matthew is correct on Jesus teachings regarding the exception of sexual immorality because God divorced Israel for her (spiritual) sexual immorality by going after other gods.

Remarriage

As we can see above from Christ’s teachings, remarriage is allowed for a spouse and not considered adultery only when the other spouse is divorced for committing sexual immorality.

Luke 20:33-35 “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.” Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;

When Sadducees asked Jesus about the law of remarriage when a husband dies, Jesus explained clearly that marriages in this world ends in this world and will not be carried into resurrection. Hence, when a spouse dies, the living spouse can remarry.

Comparison with the Law

Deut 24:1-4 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

As per the law, it is extremely important to note that two divorced couple can remarry again to restore their marriage as long as the ex-wife haven’t remarried someone else (which agrees with not only the law but also the core point of Jesus that –  what God has joined together, let not man separate). If the ex-wife and the ex-husband remarries someone else, as per Jesus, they both are committing adultery. If the ex-wife restore her broken marriage by going back to her former husband, according to the law, it is an abomination to God. But Jesus taught any remarriage after the divorce of the first marriage (except for sexual immorality) is adultery. How can you stop an adulterous relationship which is a sin? It is by not doing it and running away from it. Hence, adulteries in disguise of marriages must be stopped immediately. Separation in adulterous marriages is not considered divorce because the marriage itself is not even considered as marriage to begin with but rather it is adultery as per the teachings of Jesus (this differs substantially when compared to the law).

Verses to Consider

We can learn from how God dealt with adulterous Israel and other events in the Bible:

Jer 3:1 “They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, And she goes from him And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me,” says the LORD. (NKJV)

Jer 3:1 God says, “If a husband divorces his wife, And she goes from him, And belongs to another man, Will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers; Yet you turn to Me,” declares the LORD. (NASB)

Jer 3:1 If a man put away his wife, and she depart from him, and become another man’s, shall she return to him any more at all? shall not that woman be utterly defiled? ye thou hast gone a-whoring with many shepherds, and hast returned to me, saith the Lord. (LXX)

Israel was divorced by God and had become another man’s by worshiping other gods. This is exactly how God compared Israel’s adultery. However, comparing different translations and LXX, God is not asking Israel to turn to Him but rather God is questioning Israel how great the land will be polluted if it returned to God.  This is consistent with the law which God is referring to.

Hos 1:2 When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the LORD.”

God is asking Hosea to marry a wife of harlotry to show how God had to live with adulterous Israel.

Mark 6:17-18 For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

If a marriage is adulterous, the only solution is to break it as John the baptist said, for which he even lost his own head.

Deut 23:2 “One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD.

We must also be aware that God does not even want anyone of illegitimate birth to enter His assembly, even up ten generations none of his descendants can enter.

Problems & Solutions

Let us see some of the practical situations faced by many Christians today and their solutions based on the points we discussed above:

Rule #1: If A being divorced by B but not for sexual immorality: 

  • If both A and B did not remarry, then either A or B can pursue to restore the broken marriage.
  • If A is willing to fix the broken marriage but B is unwilling, both A and B cannot marry anyone else since it would become adultery.
  • If either A or B remarried, they commit adultery through their remarriage. Hence, A and B must stop their adultery and not continue in their adulterous remarriage.
    • If A is a female, then she cannot go back to her former husband B because it is an abomination to God (Deut 24:1-4).
    • If A is a male and if her former wife B haven’t remarried another, then A can take her back as his wife again (Deut 24:1-4).

Rule #2: If A being divorced for sexual immorality by B:

  • A could ask forgiveness to B and/or B could forgive A of the grave sin. As in Rule #1, If both A and B did not remarry, then either A or B can pursue to restore the broken marriage.
  • A and B can remarry someone which will not be considered adultery because the divorce which is due of sexual immorality is valid according to Jesus.

Rule #3: If A being divorced by B but not for sexual immorality who then remarries C:

  • A marrying C is committing adultery according to Jesus. If a marriage is adulterous then the only solution is to stop that adultery from happening. Wonder why John the baptist lost his head (Luke 3:19)?
    • If A is a male and B didn’t remarry anyone, both can try to and restore their marriage. According to Jesus, A’s marriage with C is not even considered marriage but adultery.
    • If A is a female, then she cannot go back to B because it is an abomination to God (Deut 24:1-4).
    • If C had not married earlier or a widower, but committed adultery by marrying A, then C must not stop committing adultery with A. and marry someone else which will not be considered adultery before God. Since A married to C is considered adultery by Jesus, C separating from A is not considered divorce but stopping the sin of adultery. Further, Jesus also allowed divorce for sexual immorality too. Hence, A separating from C is the right thing to do.
    • If C was previously married with D and got divorced
      • If C was not divorced for sexual immorality, then C must stop the adultery with A to go back and live with D as husband and wife as per Rule #1.
      • If C was divorced for sexual immorality by D, then C must stop the adultery to marry someone else which is not considered adultery.

Rule #4: Illegitimate Children

  • If the remarriage between A and B constitutes adultery according to Jesus (which must be stopped) and if it is possible to restore a previous marriage as per earlier rules, what happens to children of adultery?
    • If A and B had young children, then they must stop the act of adultery by exhibiting abstinence for the sake of their young children to bring them in God’s ways.
    • If A and B had older children, then they must stop the act of adultery
      • They can either exhibit abstinence to live in the same home so that they don’t continue in the act of adultery before God (or)
      • They can restore their previous marriage provided they don’t break the rules set by God and the teachings of Jesus.
  • Illegitimate children cannot enter the assembly of God in the old covenant. But, no such rule exists in the new covenant. The invitation for the kingdom of God is for all – everyone from the highways, both bad and good (Matt 22:1-14). Jesus also wants little children to come to Him and even said that kingdom of Heaven is for such (Matt 19:14). This teaching is immediately after Jesus taught about divorce (Matt 19:9). Hence, normal children have no additional advantage over illegitimate children and the invitation to follow and obey Him is for all.
  • Jesus taught about being born of God (born a second time) to enter into His kingdom (John 3:3). Only the sinless are God’s sons but those who sin are slaves (John 8:34-35). Hence, the worldly status of illegitimate child is irrelevant when they have been born again and have God as their Father.

The rules seems to be complex based on today’s messed up situations in some families. We must always make sure that anything we do must not go against the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures (with Christ’s teachings superseding Scripture). The core point in what Jesus taught is this:  “what God has joined together, let not man separate” and any matrimonial relationship outside of that first marriage which God joined is considered adultery. Even though the solutions for some problematic situations were mentioned based on Christ’s teachings, everyone’s situation is very different. If you face some difficult situations in life, pray to God who can work a better solution in this adulterous and sinful generation. Therefore, it is very important to choose your spouse wisely. Please read the followup post for resolution on the marriage paradox which was not discussed here.