The Scriptures allow both divorce and remarriage. Divorce is allowed for cases of marital infidelity and neglect. Remarriage of both parties is an assumed part of the context of Scriptures. This does not mean that the Bible encourages divorces, nor does it mean that remarriage is encouraged or always acceptable before God. The Bible strongly discourages divorce and even declares it to be caused by sin in every case. This is because of the reality of sin’s presence in the world; sin causes the breakdown of marriage. To demonstrate that the Bible allows for divorce and remarriage this paper will first have to give a biblical theology of marriage. Next there will be a discussion of what the Bible describes as infidelity and neglect, and how these are grounds for divorce. Finally there will be a concluding section outlining the biblical grounds and theological conclusion for instances of remarriage. Marriage is God given and all cases of divorce are grievous, but the Gospel narrative is one of forgiveness and new life. God brings marriages together, and God also binds the hearts broken by disastrous marriages and divorces.

  1. Biblical Definition of Marriage.

The Scriptures define marriage as a divinely orchestrated union of a man and woman.[1] This union is a marvelous mystery with dynamic implications. Scripture constantly discusses marriage, and in most cases uses marriage as a very positive example. Even inside of the negative examples of Scripture it is seen that marriage is meant to be a blessing to the man and woman involved, to the families involved, and to the surrounding community. This section of the paper will first look at the ideal marriage being a divinely created union of a man and woman. Second, this section will look at how marriage was created as a means for the provision of physical aide in accomplishing tasks, the provision of physical needs, and then how marriage is meant to be the provision of love and respect for all members of the family. Marriage is meant to be a blessing to the world. Fourth, it will be seen that the biblical expectation is that a marriage is meant to last until death. Finally, it will be shown that marriage is closest picture given to show what it means to be part of the covenant people of God.

From the onset of Scripture the picture of marriage is a blessed union of a man and woman brought together by God. This is seen in the first marriage is one when God recognizes that there is no suitable mate for Adam and then puts him to sleep and crafts Eve from his rib (Gen. 2:20-22). After crafting this woman there is a handing over of her to Adam (2:22; 3:12). From there the writer of Genesis points out that the provision of a woman to a man is a creation of a new entity, a one-ness (24). This one-ness is a special place, for in a God ordained union there is a beauty of intimacy. It is a place where a man and wife have nothing to hide, for they are giving up their bodies and lives to the other, and it is a wonderful thing (Gen. 2:25; cf. Prov. 18:22; Song of Songs). This fact that marriage is a God provided union of a man and woman by Jesus Christ when he was tested on his knowledge of the laws of divorce (Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-9). Christ recognizes that the story of Genesis is the God given design and intent for marriage and states “what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mt. 19:6; Mk. 10:9 NKJV).  Marriage is not meant to be a frail human construct; marriage is meant to be a beautiful and lasting gift by God to a man and woman.

Scripture attests to marriage as being a rich relationship where physical aide, emotional comfort, and spiritual support are meant to be part of the very fabric of the relationship. God provided Adam with Eve because God saw that he could not fulfill the tasks of filling the earth, subduing it, guarding it, keeping it, and having dominion over all the animals (1:28; 2:15). This shows that the provision of a spouse is because God recognizes that no man or woman is capable of fulfilling these commands alone. Marriage was meant to provide and empower the individuals that comprised the union. This is further seen in Exodus 21:10 where the second wife was not supposed to be brought into a marriage at the expense of the first wife, “If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish [the first wife’s] food, her clothing, and her marriage rights.” To understand this verse as simply food, clothing, shelter, and or sexual relationships misses out on the emotional aspects seen throughout Scriptures. A spouse is meant to be the very source of comfort in the midst of hardship (cf. 1 Sam 1:8; 2 Sam. 12:24). There is a reciprocal relationship of love and respect that builds up each spouse and this is also to be seen in the economic situation of a house. In Proverbs 31:10-31 a virtuous wife works hard and blesses the family, and the family in turn praises her “Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all” (31:29). It is because of her care and diligence in work that “her husband is known in the gates” (23). She is seen to be a provision to him “worth…far above rubies” (10). The husband is also to be practicing putting  his wife first, and his kids before his own needs; and in doing so he receives greater honor and submissiveness from them (Eph. 5:21-33).[2] A biblically marked marriage is marked by the desire to provide for all the needs of the spouse.

Marriage, as described in Scripture is also meant to have an outward focus and blessing. God brought Eve to Adam in order that they could fill the world with offspring, and then to rightly subdue and rule the world (Gen. 1:28; 2:15). This union is then seen to be a powerful union of two people that is a blessing to those around it. The creation mandates are meant to be fulfilled in marriage, but it is ultimately in the marriage of God’s people to Jesus Christ that the creation mandate is fulfilled.

Marriage is to be until death, and this is part of the two becoming one flesh. Jesus emphasized this point to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:4-6 and the parallel passage of Mark 10:6-9. They were looking for ways to end marriage rather than keep it healthy or to reconcile a dissolving marriage, so Jesus declares

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and femal,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall no longer two but one flesh.’ Therefore what god has joined together, let not man separate. (Mt. 19:4-9).


God gave marriage for a reason, and the two are to be building each other and blessing others. But more than that, it must be remembered that women in the biblical times were in need of a husband to provide protection for them.[3] Marriage gave social stability and financial provision. The divorce put a woman in a dire situation if a father or brother could not take her in.[4] This dire need existed because God had designed marriages to last, not to break.

God uses marriage as a picture of his relationship with his covenant people. The clearest examples of this would be the book of Hosea, Ezekiel 16, and Ephesians 5:22-33. Ezekiel 16 is the story of God’s relationship with Jerusalem. Jerusalem is metaphoric for the Israelites as the people of God. The Lord saw Jerusalem when it was a naked and abandoned child (16:1-5). God gave life to Jerusalem and made Jerusalem “thrive lie a plant in the field” (7), and then after Jerusalem matured God states “I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine” (8). God then provides clothing, food, honor and splendor to Jerusalem (9-13). In recalling these blessings and his provision for Jerusalem he declares, “Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed upon you” (14). It is because God entered a marriage covenant with Jerusalem that he poured such love and provision upon it, and it is also because of this covenant that when Jerusalem sought after other nations for provision, protection that the Lord was infuriated (vv15-34). But despite all of this unfaithfulness and “lewdness and … abominations” (58) the Lord God upheld his covenant and even promised “I will establish an everlasting covenant with you” (60). God’s relationship is a covenant marriage. He provides for all the needs of his bride Jerusalem, is faithful, and the relationship is said to be established forever.

This is the same picture given in Hosea. The Lord tells Hosea “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the Lord” (sic Hosea 1:2). God shows the kingdom of Judah that it is in a covenant relationship with God. By seeking out other nations and deities and by their offerings to them (2:8) it is spiritual adultery. The covenant has been broken by Judah, by the covenant people (2:2), yet the story is not that God is seeking divorce, but that there is a complete restoration of a relationship. God promises to restore not just a kingdom, but all of Israel (14:1). He promises to “heal their backsliding, I will love them freely” (14:4), and that “Your fruit is found in Me” (14:8). God shows that this relationship he has with his people is one that he will keep, and that he will always provide for his people.

Ephesians 5:22-33 is the Pauline passage which points to marriage being a direct picture of what God is doing in, with, and to his people. It begins by discussing the requirement for respect and love that husbands and wives are to give one another (22-25). This love and respect is then directly turned to the picture of Christ and the church. The husband is to mirror the sacrificial love of Jesus, and this sacrificial love has the end goal of sanctification of the wife (25, 28). Paul declares “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (25b-27). It is seen here that marriage is meant to be a blessing to the spouse, for a husband does not simply care for himself but also his wife. This is because they are one flesh. This mirrors how Jesus and the church are united together and that there is a reciprocal relationship that whenever Jesus pours into his people they are greater blessed, and when they are blessed he is honored more. Paul roots this logic back to the first marriage, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (31). Paul closes this discourse by explicitly stating that marriage is a parallel to the relationship of Jesus and the church (32). Marriage is a picture given by God to show what it is to be in relationship with him. It is a sacrificial union of two parties, and both parties are blessed by it “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it” (29). Marriage is a sign of a greater relationship.

Marriage is a beautiful and wonderful union of a man and a woman by God. This relationship is meant to be one of flourishing, blessing, growth, provision, love and honor. It pictures the greatest mystery of all time: that God would give himself to a people and be in an unbreakable relationship with them. Marriage is meant to be everlasting, just like God’s relationship with is people. This is the initial picture given in Scripture of marriage in Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:14-24), and it is also the ultimate picture given in Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). Believers ought to learn this, embrace it, and teach it as what the ideal picture of marriage should be.

  1. Biblical Grounds for Divorce?

Divorce was not intended to happen, and it breaks God’s heart. As the above section laid out, it is meant to be a beautiful and lasting union created by God. But sin is real in this world, marriages break down, and divorce happens. First, this section of the paper will first discuss Exodus 21:10-11 and divorce as means to protect a spouse from being neglected that which is necessary for life. Second, this section will discuss sexual infidelity as a ground for divorce. Third, there will be a discussion of divorce being allowed on grounds of abandonment by an unmarried spouse, as seen in 1 Corinthians 7:10 and15. Finally, there will be a survey of how sinfulness is the core cause of divorce and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ declares that sin has been defeated. Divorce is a painful and heart wrenching reality, but it is the last option.

The rabbis have interpreted the passage Exodus 21:10-11 as the root passage for divorce on grounds of neglect of necessary provisions.[5] The Ten Commandments were just given in 20:1-17, and then not very long afterwards a discussion of a slave girl being taken as a second wife. “If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her (the first wife’s) food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money” (21:10-11). Marriage is a union which provided great protection and resources to the vulnerable female of the ancient Near East context. When a man brought in a second wife, it was expected that the first wife would not suffer a loss of provision because of the second woman. This showed that marriage is meant to be a source of provision. Most often this is physical provision of food and shelter, but it also was interpreted to extend to sexual relations and respect.[6] Due to the powerless position which many women had, this passage protected them from those instances when marriage becomes the opposite of its God given intentions. But there is a very slippery slope that develops from over interpreting this text. Emotional neglect, lack of provision, and sexual satisfaction are all very ambiguous lines. A better term should be used when interpreting this text. That term should be abandonment. Abandonment is a more understandable term in a modern culture where marriage is more universally recognized as an equilateral union.[7] In abandonment there is a clearer picture of a spouse actually leaving the other spouse to fend for his or herself. Marriage is meant to be both parties bringing their strengths, wills, and capabilities together in order to make the other person, and the mysterious union of the two, to flourish. When one of the parties abandons their role it leaves the other person in an unnatural position, for the two had become one, and now one of the halves is no longer functioning. This passage allows that union to be recognized as dissolved, and declares that the abandoned party has become freed from fulfilling their duties. Abandonment is reason for a divorce.

Infidelity is the easiest grounds for divorce to define. Scripture recognizes the fact that when one person is joined sexually to another, there is a joining of the two souls, whether or not it is in a marriage covenant (1 Cor. 6:16). This union of two souls is meant for marriage, as Genesis 2:24 declares, and is echoed by Christ, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother.” God brings two people together to form a marriage, and in that marriage there is that union of heart, mind, body, and soul in sexual intercourse.[8] When one person in the marriage seeks out sexual relations with anyone other than the spouse it shatters the promise of the two becoming one.  This is why Jesus declares “whoever divorces his wife for any reason except for sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery” (Mt. 5:32; cf. Mt. 19:9). The Pharisees were seeking to see how Jesus took the Old Testament laws to be interpreted, but he chose to be above the debate of interpretation and give adultery as grounds for divorce. Jesus turns the tables upon the Pharisees and makes divorce a last resort, and not about something that ought to be pursued. He does not command that adulterous spouses must be divorced, but he concedes that when one party is no longer keeping marriage as a blessed and flourishing unit, the victim is allowed to put away the spouse. This empowers the victim. This means that if one is in a marriage where the spouse is looking to another for sexual fulfillment, and in essence is abandoning the call to one-ness, and then the victim can say “you are no longer being faithful to this covenant, if you do not end your adultery then we must dissolve this marriage.” It also allows the victim to have freedom to consent to a divorce that is being served to him or her. That victim is not in sin by allowing the adulterous partner to leave.

Paul is in the same line of thinking as Jesus when it comes to marriages dissolving. A marriage dissolves because one person in the union leaves. Paul states “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” (1 Cor. 7:10-11). Paul pushes marriages to be reconciled. But not all marriages will reconcile, sometimes a spouse will leave. No cause is given for why this spouse leaves. It can be speculated that this spouse might be attempting to become single like Paul (cf. vv. 1-7), but that is only conjecture. The only things known for sure is that often times in a marriage, one of the parties dissolves the relationship by leaving. This is Greco-Roman terminology for divorce, since divorce in the culture that Paul worked with in Corinth was simply one party telling the other to leave, or one partner deciding to leave.[9] Paul is saying that this happens, but it is not to be the action, or even the desire of believers who are married. This is explicitly seen in the next verses when Paul addresses the situation of when an unbelieving spouse initiates divorce, or leaves the spouse who follows Jesus: “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace” (15). Separation is not to be sought after since the spouse recognizes that “the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (14).  So Paul sets up this framework that abandonment is understood to happen, but if it is by a believing spouse then reconciliation is a must (11). And in the case of an unbelieving spouse, when that spouse desires to leave that marriage, it is viewed as acceptable. In either case Paul seems to recognize and end of a union, but it is viewed as an understandable case of divorce if an unbelieving spouse deserts a believing spouse.

Marriage is an incredibly difficult relationship involving two sinful people who live in a sinful world. Scripture paints this picture clearly and often. Divorce’s first explicit reference gives no cause for divorce. It simply says “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” (Deut. 24:1). This “matter of uncleanness” is not clarified in the Hebrew, nor is it clarified in the Septuagint Greek. Then the passage continues and she marries another man, but “the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house” (3). There is an assumed divorce culture happening during the time of Deuteronomy. People will find ways out of promises, covenants, and deals. People will find ways out because people are sinful. Jesus gives this as the reason for divorce being allowed Sinfulness is core. In the Gospel of Mark he responds to the question about divorce by asking “What did Moses command you?” (Mk. 10:3). The Pharisees new that Moses did not command for divorces to happen, so they responded that “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her” (4). It is at this moment that Jesus answers this response. It is not just that Moses permitted divorce, but that such passages as Deuteronomy 24 and Exodus 21:10-11 are “because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept” (5). This hardness of heart ties back to the long standing description of Israel in Exodus as being “stiff-necked.”[10] God recognized that people are sinful and selfish, so he gave divorce in order to protect the victim. Jesus is angered that the discussion would be about ways out of marriage, rather than how to stay in a marriage and make it stronger. Paul echoes this cry too. He found that people were using the cause of Jesus to abandon marriages, or at least to abandon marital sexual obligations, yet he declared that the marriage relationship, and the other’s best interest is to be pursued (1 Cor. 7:1-5, 11). Yet inside of this, there is a recognition that marriages dissolve. And the fact that marriages can, and sadly often do dissolve is because of sin.

In this section it is seen that divorce was a part of the Old Testament culture even though there are never clear grounds given for why a divorce should happen. Jesus and Paul follow in line with this trajectory and acknowledge that divorce happens, but they point to brokenness and sin. For Jesus it is explicitly that there is hardheartedness and that people abandon the one-ness of a union to have sexual relations with another. Paul on the other hand addresses the reality that the husband and the wife are only capable of controlling their own actions and that the spouse can desert them. Neither Jesus nor Paul says that divorce should be pursued, or even initiated by a follower of God. Paul explicitly states that reconciliation should be pursued and that marriage has a sanctifying affect upon the unbelieving spouse. But marriages do end, and sin does exist, and that is part of the biblical theology of marriage and divorce.

The Scriptures allows for remarriage for those who are divorced, but they teach that singleness may be the primary call for some who are divorced. The Bible does not require remarriage, nor does it give a recommendation for remarriage. It is actually difficult to see the clear teaching on remarriage in Scripture since the Old Testament passages are deeply couched in the ANE culture where women almost depended upon marriage to survive, and the New Testament passages are primarily indictments against the pursuit of divorce. This section will first discuss the biblical grounds for remarriage by looking at some select Old Testament passages which allow remarriage. Second, this section will look at the exception clause in the statement of Jesus on divorce and remarriage. Third, this section will look at Paul’s statement about remarriage. Finally, a discussion on singleness as the Christian response will be given.

ANE backgrounds: writ of divorce; assumed availability to remarry; NT Greco-Roman separation.

The Old Testament assumes that remarriage is allowed. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 has the divorced woman being free to remarry to any man after she has been given a certificate of divorce. This falls in line with what is known in the ANE culture as the “writ of divorce” which was a declaration that one party in the marriage was declaring the other party free from the covenant oaths of marriage and thus consequently free to marry whomever.[11] The only stipulation is that this woman is not meant to remarry her first husband after she has had a sexually consummated marriage (4). But the reasons behind this are very obscure and hidden inside of holiness codes and the promise of a land inheritance to Israel. Most likely this law was set up in order to protect her from being tossed around marriages without having any stability.[12] Deuteronomy was during a context when remarriage was an assumed part of a culture as a means to protect a vulnerable woman. God provide remarriage as a means of protection and provision.

The teachings of Jesus seem to contradict the understood culture of the Old Testament. In Matthew 5:32 he declares 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 remarriage clause in this verse seems to imply that remarriage of a divorced person is a sin. But the language needs to be carefully noted, and so does the context. This passage follows after Christ’s statement that “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (28), and in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is declaring what the ethics of those who follow God should look like (5:3-7:27).[13]Jesus is declaring that a stronger ethic should be followed regarding marriage and sexuality. But this divorce and remarriage clause seems to be pointing to fall in a context where Jesus is speaking against the pursuit of divorce in order to marry another wife. Jesus says that divorce is only allowed for cases of sexual immorality, but surely he does not mean that any man who looks lustfully after a woman gives a woman the rights to a divorce. That goes against his own teachings in Mt. 18 on forgiveness. This adulterous remarriage is likely meant to warn against the remarriage to a woman with whom a man is having an affair. Adultery is legal grounds to break a marriage, and a man can only marry a woman who is divorced, so this passage teaches against marrying adulterers to one another. Rather, the church should emphasize reconciliation. In Matthew 19:9 the exception clause places more emphasis on the fact that pursuit of another woman when a man is married is adultery. This is gender inclusive in today’s culture, and it needs to be expanded that Jesus is teaching that divorce done in order to marry another person is condemned and that union will not be blessed by God. Luke 16:18 is the most difficult passage when it comes to allowing remarriage, for it does not have a context of Jesus being tried by the Pharisees. But the language used is the same “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” The fact that all of these passages begin with an instance of divorce shows that Jesus is speaking to the situations where men would be divorcing in order to purse another woman. It is the pursuit of another woman that causes the remarriage to be unblessed. This is seen by the context of verse 15 where Christ says “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Jesus is saying that the system which had come into place in the Jewish laws where men could divorce women for any reason, or those men could think of pursuing divorce over loving their spouse, that that law system is an abomination. God is not amused by a system which belittles marriage and women. Divorcing an innocent partner is to sin against them. All of the statements of Jesus on remarriage must be read in light of the context of Jesus speaking against the unjust cause of divorce. Under the statements of Jesus adulterers are the only ones that are not allowed to be doing the remarrying.

Paul makes a weird statement that a believer is allowed to let an unbeliever go since “God has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15). Context does not give many clues as to what this implies about whether or not the believer is allowed to remarry. In verse 11 it is stated that the woman who departs “let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.” This might seem to imply that no remarriage is permitted. But verses 10-11 ought to be taken as statements regarding believers who are in a marriage that might be ending. The fact that Paul uses the adjective “but” in verse 12 shows that the unbeliever is a separate situation. Without the guidance of verses 10-11 it is understandable to look at other Pauline literature regarding marriage, separation, and remarriage. The only other seemingly comparable passage is Romans 7:1-3, which is often used as an argument against remarriage. “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 the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man” (2-4). But upon review of the book of Romans it is seen that this passage is actually Paul’s use of a general law in order to show that there has been a transition from the law to Jesus Christ. The argument that Paul is doing has nothing to with marriage. So 1 Corinthians 7:15 is shown to have to parallel or clear context to guide what it means for the divorced Christian spouse to be called to peace. This simply leaves the Greco-Roman culture of a spouse being allowed to remarry.

The Church must never rush to encourage a remarriage. Remarriages were primarily a case for the woman who was divorced and left helpless in the ANE context. This means that an assumed right of a person to be remarried does not necessitate a call to remarriage. This is also seen in the fact that neither Jesus nor Paul is recorded as encouraging the divorced spouses to seek new spouses. In fact it seems that both Jesus and Paul put forth a different option altogether for the divorced person. Jesus says that some “are eunuchs who are born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who are made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Mt. 19:12). The context of this statement is directly after Jesus states “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (9). Jesus is warning very strongly against entanglements of improper divorce and unblessed marriages. The statement of verse 6 is also sharply ringing in the foreground “So the, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what god has joined together, let not man separate.” To remarry is not a simple question, and Jesus seems to be offering singlehood for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. This is also where Paul seems to land. He states that Christians need to be reconciled to their estranged spouse (1 Cor. 7:11), that the believer is allowed to let an unbelieving spouse Go, since they are called peace (15), but then he encourages those who are unmarried to consider staying unmarried (32-34). The unmarried Christian “cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord” (32), in contrast to those in marriage who must be diligent to deal with the economic, emotional, and physical needs of a spouse and family (33-34). A Christian church must present this to divorcees, and must do so in a truly convincing manner. A church must provide a community that provides for the needs of a divorcee in a manner that does not leave that person lacking. That community must also disciple divorcees to show them how Jesus Christ is the source of all contentment (Phil. 4:11-13). Remarriage is not the only option.

Looking through Scripture shows that the questions as to what remarriages are allowed, and what the church should counsel shows that there is no easy answer. A church must know those who are seeking to be remarried very well before they declare God’s blessing on a future union. This is not because the Bible condemns remarriage, but rather it is because God takes marriage seriously. God hates adultery, and he will never condone a marriage founded upon adultery. The church can offer service to God for a divorcee to consider, but it must be done with actual backing, support, and discipleship by that community or else it is an empty offer.

  1. Conclusion

God gave marriage as an amazing gift. Sometimes that gift of marriage breaks because a partner commits adultery or deserts their spouse. This is grievous and should cause people to mourn. But God allows for these marriages to end in divorce. The divorced spouse who is the victim is free to remarry. But this remarriage ought to be thoroughly thought through, and it must not be rushed. A life of singleness and celibacy is also an offer which Jesus and Paul give. Divorce and remarriage are allowed under Scripture, but divorce is never to be pursued. The first advice that should be given is advice that can strengthen the marriage. This is pointing it to the Gospel and encouraging both parties to imitate Christ rather than seek selfish ends. Next, the party who is in danger should be protected and provided for. If the marriage still does not succeed, the adulterous partner will not quite, or the deserter will not return, then divorce is an option. After this, celibacy and singlehood are an option for both parties involved in the divorce. Remarriage is also an option for the victim. All options must be done in community and in prayer.


Green, Joel B. Dictonary of Scripture and Ethics. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011.

Instone-Brewer, David. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

McConville, J. G. Deuteronomy. Apollos Old Testament Commentary. Downers Grove: IVP, 2002

Spicq, Ceslas. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament. 3 Volumes.  Translated and edited by James D. Ernest. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.

Turner, David. Matthew. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.

Christopher J. H. Wright. Deuteronomy. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012

               [1] Throughout this section of the paper this term “marriage” is shorthand for “marriages of Yahweh followers, i.e. Jewish marriages, Roman Catholic marriages, and Christian marriages. There is not enough space to dip into the modern concept of marriage and the separation of divine action and personal action.  When discussing divorce and remarriage there will be some parsing out of marriages devoid of God, and civil unions.

               [2] This passage will be covered more in depth later in the paper.

               [3] Nancy J. Duff, “Singleness,” DSE, 733-4; Ruth Halteman Finger, “Widows,” 836-9.

               [4] This is another place where Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of marriage. The Gospel commands people to take care of the disenfranchised and the disadvantaged.

               [5] David Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 99-117.

               [6] Instone-Brewer, 103-110.

               [7] Surely not all nations have equal rights for men and women in marriages. This paper is not long enough to discuss social constructs in various countries, but rather it is assuming a predominately western culture readership.

               [8] It should be noted, and repeated, that this is only one of the facets of what it means for the two to become one flesh. As discussed in section 2 of the paper, the two becoming one also involves becoming of one mind and fulfilling the tasks God sets before them, becoming a reciprocal unit where the other looks out for the interests and care of the other, and are a joined financial and economic unit. When marriage is reduced to the sexual acts, it is taking away the very life and breath of a marriage.

               [9] Instone-Brewer, 190-191.

               [10] Ceslas Spicq, “σκληροκαρδια,” TLNT, 258-262.

               [11] Instone-Brewer, 28-31.

               [12] J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy, (AOTS; Downers Grove: IVP, 2002), 357-360; Christopher J. H. Wright, Deuteronomy, (UBCS; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 255-56.

               [13] David Turner, Matthew, (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 143-44.