What does the Bible say about remarriage after divorce?
There is much debate among Christians about whether divorced people may remarry. But what does God’s Word say?
The words in the Bible are encouragements, exhortations and commandments given to disciples, those who want to follow Jesus and who have an ear for what the Spirit says to the churches – words that give blessing to those who obey, both in this life and the life to come. What does God’s Word say about marriage, and about divorce and remarriage? The following verses are from the New Testament, the words of Jesus Himself, speaking to His followers, and the words of the apostle Paul:
Jesus on divorce and remarriage:
“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 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.”
“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?’
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 ”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’
They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’
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. 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.’
His disciples said to Him, ‘If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’
But He said to them, ‘All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given …’”
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.”
Paul on divorce and remarriage:
“Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.”
1 Corinthians 7:10-11
“Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 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.”
It is very clear from God’s Word that He has instituted marriage to be between one man and one woman, and that the marriage contract is binding as long as both partners are alive. Even though the Bible does open for divorce in some cases, it also makes it very clear that this does not lift the commitment to faithfulness for either partner, and they may not remarry as long as the other partner is still alive.
There is much debate among Christians as to what Jesus and Paul “really” meant by their words on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage after divorce: what the cultural and religious context of the time was, if it applied to the innocent party, if there were exceptions in cases of unfaithfulness, etc. etc. But we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and it is the sole basis of our faith. The words Jesus spoke were to His disciples – those who want to follow Him, take up their cross and lay down their life. In the Scriptures we find no indication that God’s law can be adjusted to shifting opinions and times, but we find that by living according God’s commandments gives blessing, peace and harmony!
“… knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20-21.
“I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing …” 1 Timothy 6:13-14.
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.