Marriage was the first institution established by God in the book of Genesis, chapter 2. It is a holy covenant that symbolizes the relationship between Christ and his Bride, or the Body of Christ. Most Bible-based Christian faiths teach that divorce is to be seen only as a last resort after every possible effort toward reconciliation has failed. Just as the Bible teaches us to enter into marriage carefully and reverently, divorce is to be avoided at all costs. Honoring and upholding the marriage vows brings honor and glory to God.
Sadly, divorce and remarriage are widespread realities in the body of Christ today. Many Christians have questions about divorce and remarriage. Generally speaking, Christians tend to fall into one of four positions on this controversial issue:
Position 1: No Divorce – No Remarriage
- Marriage is a covenant agreement, meant for life, therefore it must not be broken under any circumstance; remarriage further violates the covenant and therefore is not permissible.
Position 2: Divorce – But No Remarriage
Divorce, though not God’s desire, is sometimes the only alternative when all else has failed. The divorced person must remain unmarried for life thereafter.
Position 3: Divorce – But Remarriage Only In Certain Situations
Divorce, though not God’s desire, is sometimes unavoidable. If the grounds for the divorce are biblical, the divorced person can remarry, but only to a believer.
Position 4: Divorce – Remarriage
Divorce, though not God’s desire, is also not the unforgivable sin. Regardless of the circumstances, all divorced persons who have repented, should be forgiven and allowed to remarry.
The following study attempts to answer from a biblical perspective some of the most frequently asked questions about divorce and remarriage among Christians. I would like to credit Pastor Ben Reid of True Oak Fellowship and Pastor Danny Hodges of Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg, whose teachings inspired and influenced these interpretations of Scripture pertaining to divorce and remarriage.
Q1 – I am a Christian, but my spouse is not. Should I divorce my unbelieving spouse and try to find a believer to marry?
No. If your unbelieving spouse wants to be married to you, stay faithful to your marriage. Your unsaved spouse needs your continued Christian witness and may likely be won to Christ by your godly example.
1 Corinthians 7:12-13
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.(NIV)
1 Peter 3:1-2
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (NIV)
Q2 – I am a Christian, but my spouse, who is not a believer, has left me and filed for divorce. What should I do?
If at all possible, seek to restore the marriage. If reconciliation is not possible, you are not obligated to remain in this marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:15-16
But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?(NIV)
Q3 – What are biblical reasons or grounds for divorce?
The Bible suggests that “marital unfaithfulness” is the only scriptural reason that warrants God’s permission for divorce and remarriage. Many different interpretations exist among Christian teachings as to the exact definition of “marital unfaithfulness.” The Greek word for marital unfaithfulness found in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 translates to mean any form of sexual immorality including adultery, prostitution, fornication, pornography, and incest. Since the sexual union is such a crucial part of the marriage covenant, breaking that bond seems to be a permissible, biblical grounds for divorce.
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.(NIV)
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (NIV)