Divorce and Remarriage - Does the Bible Allow It?
George Barna, who does the polls on religious statistics has published some significant data on the state of Christian marriages. The findings are that among Christians who have said marriage vows, one out of every three has been divorced at least once. This is the same as the average among all adults. However the statistics cannot be compared strictly across the board, as there is a difference from group to group. Four out of every five adults (actually 78%) of all adults have been married at least once. This rate varies from group to group. Born-again Christians top the percentages of marriage at 84%. Non-Christian faiths are at 74%, and atheists and agnostics are only at 65%. This is due to the fact that more non-Christians choose to simply live together. Born-again Christians that are non-evangelical have the same divorce rate as the national average, 33%. Evangelical born-again Christians are slightly lower with 26%, but when combined into an aggregate class the rate is only slightly lower than the the average at 32%. However, born-again Christians are 3% higher than people who call themselves Christians, but do not identify as born-again. Atheists and agnostics have a 30% divorce rate, however as they only have a 65% marriage rate versus the 84% rate of the born-again Christians, the odds of a dissolved relationship is probably the same as the average divorce rate. Protestants have a 34% divorce rate versus Catholics with a 28% divorce rate. Going from the highest to lowest divorce rate by denomination we have non-denominational fundamentalist churches at the top (Bible churches), followed by Baptists, mainline Protestants (Methodist, Presbyterians, etc.), and Catholics/Lutherans (tied). Jews have a 30% divorce rate and Mormons a 24%. The lowest is the Unification church at 17%. The divorce rate is the highest in the Bible belt, and lowest in the Northeastern states. There is something seriously wrong here.
All of these statistics show that faith in God has not altered the behavior and commitment of people. In fact, those that are supposedly the most fundamental and hold the Bible as inerrant and infallible have the highest divorce rate. On a par with the world, fully one third of the born-again evangelicals, who supposedly believe the Bible is the true Word of God and seek to obey its precepts, are getting divorced. What the statistics do not show is how many of them believe remarriage is acceptable and/or do remarry, nor does it show how many who are not divorced believe that divorce and remarriage is an acceptable practice. I am inclined to think that that statistic is much higher than a third. I deduce that from the fact that, although the Scriptures are clear about divorced men in positions of church leadership, even the most fundamental evangelical churches (and some are nationally well-known) are allowing even their pastors to be divorced and remarried men, much less their elders and deacons. Having divorced leaders in churches is a common practice, which means that the congregation is giving their approval, whether openly or tacitly, to this practice. This would raise the statistic as to belief in this as an approved practice to a much higher level.
While it has become a common and acceptable practice to divorce and remarry, the question is, does the Bible give its approval to it? To determine that we must take a look first at the Old Testament laws, then what Jesus and the epistles have to say about it.
Genesis 2:18, 24 "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him... Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. "
God is the creator of the institution of marriage. After He created Adam, he saw that Adam needed a companion like himself that would be a fit helper through life. So God created Eve. God created man with the intention of there being one man with one woman. Matthew 19:4-5 “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” In Genesis, the Hebrew word for cleave is “dabaq” which means” to fasten together” in a permanent way. A derivative of this word means “to solder,” which as anyone who has ever soldered anything knows, is pretty permanent. In Greek the word cleave is “proskollao” which means “to glue”. This is also a permanent idea. This would indicate that God did not have divorce in mind when he created the institution of marriage. Nor did he have polygamy in mind, as two were to become one. It was not long, however, before polygamy was practiced. While there is no way to know when it began, it was practiced, as the Scriptures tell us that Adam's great, great, great, great, grandson Lamech had two wives. Genesis 4:19 “And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.” From Yeshua's words, we know that God created male and female to become one flesh. He did not say that man would cleave to several wives and they would become on group together. So in spite of the fact that polygamy was practiced, and even blessed by God in some cases (Jacob with Rachel and Leah plus their two handmaidens), it was not God's intention that polygamy be the practiced form of marriage. While this is important to know, it does not address the question of divorce and remarriage.
Next we will look at the laws given to Moses regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage. First of all it must be understood that the Mosaic Law assigned a very low status to women. They were virtually chattel and could be treated as such. A woman belonged to her father until she married, then ownership was transferred to her husband. The laws that applied to a woman did not always equally apply to a man. A man could divorce his wife for a variety of reasons, but a woman did not have the same recourse. She could annoy her husband until he divorced her, but that was the extent of her options. He also was not guilty of adultery if he took more than one wife, while she could not be with another man.
The first law about marriage has to do with a daughter who is sold into a bondservant type of marriage (on the idea of a concubine) for the sake of money.
Exodus 21: 7-11 "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.”
If a man sold his daughter as a maidservant, she was not allowed her freedom at the end of the time period, as other bondservants were allowed to go. The next sentence may explain why. While she was sold, it appears she was sold not only as a servant, but as a betrothal. As such she was now the permanent property of her master, his servant-wife. If she did not please him, he could allow her to be redeemed back by her family. He was not to sell her into slavery, nor deal deceitfully with her in any way. If he, instead of betrothing her to himself, betrothed her to his son, he was to treat her as a daughter. If she were his wife, and he took another wife, he could not diminish her rations of food, clothing, nor deny her sex. If he did not keep this bargain, she was free to leave without having to have to be redeemed for money. Of course without a bill of divorcement, she was not free to remarry, and women did not work for a living, so she would be destitute unless family took her in.
The next type of law regarding marriage was that of the prisoners of war.
Deuteronomy 21:10-14 “When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.”
If a soldier went to battle and among the captives a beautiful woman captured his fancy, and he wanted her as his wife, there were certain ceremonial obligations that had to be observed. First, he had to take her to his house. She was then required to shave her head, cut her nails and remove her beautiful clothes. Just as women today do, pagan women then wore beautiful clothes, did up their hair, painted their faces and grew their nails. By shaving her head, cutting her nails, removing her pretty clothes, and one assumes she no longer had make-up, she made herself as unattractive as she could possibly get. Added to that, she was to mourn her family for a full month. Through that month, the man could not touch her. This gave him a good amount of time to see her in at her most unattractive. At the end of the month, if the man still wanted her, he could take her as his wife. If however, he decided he did not want her after all that, he was not allowed to sell her, because he had “humbled” her. This word “humble” can mean defiled or ravished. It is assumed by most that he would have no delight in her only after he forced intimacy on her, but it is also possible that after a month of looking at her with no hair, she had lost her appeal, and he had merely humbled her in the respect of making her look very unattractive. Either way, she was free to go. However, that would leave her destitute, so it was not much of an improvement over being forced into a marriage.
There was some protection for the virtuous woman whose husband would accuse her falsely.
Deuteronomy 22:14- 21 “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.”
If a man took a wife, then decided he did not like her, and sought to ruin her reputation out of spite by saying that she was not a virgin when they married, her parents could step in and legally do something about it. This is why they had the customs they did about the marriage ceremonies. While the guests feasted, the couple were sent into a room where they would consummate the marriage. As back then women who were chaste still usually had a hymen, the penetration would cause bleeding. This bloodied sheet would be shown to the parents or even guests as evidence of her virginity. The parents, if they were smart, kept this as evidence of her virginity, should the husband do what this husband was seeking to do - accuse her so that he could have reason to be rid of her. The parents would take the sheet to the elders as proof and accuse the man of lying. The elders would then chastise him and make him pay her father 100 shekels of silver for trying to ruin the family's reputation. Not only that, he was forbidden to put her away or divorce her the rest of his life. That ensured that she would not find herself thrown out of the house and destitute from his obvious hatred of her. If her parents could not produce evidence, she was brought to the door of her father's house and stoned to death as a whore, which made it a really good idea for parents to save the evidence of her virginity from the wedding.
Adultery was a capital punishment affair.
Deuteronomy 22:22 “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.”
If a man slept with a married woman, both of them were stoned. So men did have some rules.
If a betrothed virgin were assaulted, she needed to be sure she cried for help.
Deuteronomy 22:23- If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.”
If a betrothed virgin were alone in the city (which was not the best idea anyhow), and a man lay with her, both of the people were taken to the gate of the city and stoned, because it was assumed that it was with her consent, as she did not cry out for help. In the city, someone would have heard her and come to her aid. Therefore it was considered that she was guilty of adultery or fornication. He was also guilty, as she was, in essence, a married woman, being betrothed. If however she was out in a field and was assaulted, it was considered that she was innocent, as even if she were to yell for help, there might not be anyone there to hear her cries of distress and save her. It was considered rape, an act of violence the same as murder, and she was not guilty, so she went free. The moral was, if you were in the city and being attacked, you should yell at the top of your lungs. Otherwise it was a death penalty.
How they dealt with rape or consensual sex of a virgin that was not betrothed.
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.”
This passage implies that it was not consensual, but a girl could always claim that even if it were not. If they were found, (and she had better hope they were or she would be discovered to not be a virgin at some point and that could be bad), the man had to give her father money (fifty shekels of silver) and it was a shotgun wedding, as they say. He also was not allowed to ever put her away (separate from her) or divorce her all his life. Somehow I can see a lot of this type of setup going on. It ensured a daughter's marriage, plus the fact that the husband could never put her away or divorce her. There were ways for women to get around some of these laws that were not in their best interest, if they were smart. Now maybe it is more apparent to men why women trap them into marriage. It is a long-ingrained protective instinct.
A man was not to sleep with his father's wife. (It is assumed this is his stepmother, not his mother).
Deuteronomy 22:30 “A man shall not take his father's wife, nor discover his father's skirt.”
The next passage has to do with divorce and remarriage.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
When a man got married and the wife did something "unclean", which caused her to lose his favor, he could write her a bill of divorcement. First, the uncleanness could not be adultery, for that was a stoning offense. Nobody really knows what this uncleanness was, but it fell short of adultery. What was important was that he must write her a bill of divorcement. Men could simply “put away” their wives, or throw them out. Should they do so, and not give the woman a bill of divorcement, she could not remarry, as that would be adultery. Thus a separation or abandonment left a woman destitute with no means of support. She needed a bill of divorcement to remarry. Should she remarry, and the second husband also wanted to get rid of her, and he also gave her a bill of divorcement, or should he die, she could not go back to her first husband. She was defiled for him, from having been with another man.
This next verse really does not have any relevancy to the topic, I just find it a great verse. This is some honeymoon. Would it not be nice if it were the law today? Of course the question has to be asked, how did he support them over the course of the year? I guess that is why a man built a room on his parents' house for himself and his bride when he got married. The parents must have supported them.
Deuteronomy 24:5 “When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.”
When a man died childless, there were obligations on the part of his brother.
Deuteronomy 25:5-6 “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel."
A man was forced to take his brother's wife as his own, if his brother died childless, so that his brother's name would not die out. If he refused, he ended up with public notoriety the rest of his life.
There was a distinction made between married women who were free and those who were in servitude.
Leviticus 19:20 "And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.”
This case deals with a woman who has been sold into servitude as a wife or concubine. As such, not being a free woman, the sin committed is not considered the same as if a free woman were involved, as this woman really is property. The man is guilty of a sin that requires a trespass sacrifice, and she is scourged, but they are not put to death. Only when a man dishonors a free wife, is it the sin of adultery. Leviticus 20:10 “And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”
We know that the laws of divorce were given not because they were acceptable to God, but because the people's hearts were hard. Matthew 19:8 “He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” The reason for bills of divorcement was the hardness of the husbands hearts in that they were “putting away” their wives, throwing them out, or abandoning them when they no longer wanted them. As a man could be polygamous, there was no problem with him marrying again. However, without the bill of divorcement, a woman was still considered married to her husband and could not be with another man without suffering the penalty of death. That left her without any source of protection, food, roof over her head, or anything. And if she had children, they were probably thrown out with her. This took a really hard heart, but it was done. For the protection of the women, God allowed divorce so that the woman could marry again without being convicted of adultery. Marriage was her only source of livelihood. It was God's mercy on the woman for the hardness of man's heart. But He did not like it as we see in Malachi.
Malachi 2:14-16 “.... the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”
The whole objective of marriage is to raise up a godly seed (children) unto the Lord. Marriage is a covenant, and God has covenanted with us. He does not break His covenants and He does not approve of us breaking ours. He hates it when a man deals treacherously with his original wife. He hates it when men put away their wives. Technically this may not include a bill of divorcement and may only be speaking of throwing the woman out without allowing her the means to remarry, but then again, it may be speaking of divorce too. God considers it a violence against the woman to do this to her.
Now that we have looked at the Old Testament laws regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage, we must look at the New Testament to see what new revelation Yeshua brought.
Just as a background note, during Yeshua's time there were two schools of thought on this subject. One was the School of Shammai which said that nothing short of adultery or unchastity was grounds for divorce. The School of Hillel said that any reason was good enough. Pity the poor woman whose husband was a follower of Hillel. She dare not burn his supper.
The first mention of the subject of divorce comes in the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 5: 31-32 "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
For the first time, the people are hearing new ways of living. These new ways are ways of mercy, forgiveness, and sacrifice. They do not demand retribution or recompense, as the law did. They demand more. They demand a loving, forgiving heart. A heart of peace, meekness, and humility. Yeshua is teaching these new ways, because He knows He will be sending the Holy Spirit to indwell people, and with that indwelling comes the ability to have these characteristics. So now, instead of allowing men to put away their wives when they are displeased, they are told that whoever puts away his wife, or divorces her, except for the cause of adultery (fornication), causes her to commit adultery. First, if she is put away without a writ of divorce, she remains married, so to look to another man for protection guarantees that she is committing adultery, as is the man who is with her. But Yeshua goes further. He says that if she is divorced, and a man marries her, they commit adultery. God sees the marriage as a permanent commitment, so even if man has laws of divorce, God does not acknowledge them. He sees it as adultery. Yeshua does allow though for divorce in one circumstance. That is the case of adultery. If a woman is sleeping with another man, she is first dishonoring him, second any children might not be his, and third, we know that disease can be passed around that way in this day and age, and it most certainly was back then. So for adultery, a man could divorce his wife. Therefore according to this Scripture, there is one reason, and one reason alone for divorce.
The next mention of divorce comes when the Pharisees were trying to trip up Yeshua by making Him say something for which they could condemn Him.
Matthew 19:3-12 “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
Now we look to the epistles to see what they say.
Rom. 7:2-3, "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
This verse tells us that when a marriage is dissolved by the death of one of the spouses, it is perfectly acceptable to remarry. If, however, he "husband liveth" while she is married to another man, she is considered an adulterer. Now, knowing that to marry while she is still legally married to another man is bigamy and a crime, as well as a sin that is punishable by death according to the Law of Moses, it is obvious that the reference to her "living husband" is not a reference to a legal husband, but to a divorced husband. Therefore what is being said here is that regardless of man's law, God considers the first husband the husband, and as he is still living, she is still married to him in the eyes of God, even if she is divorced by man's law. Therefore to marry another makes her an adulteress. Needless to say, Yeshua made it clear that this goes both ways, so the man would be an adulterer also.
1 Corinthians 7:1-17 “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.”
In this passage, Paul has a number of things to say. First, he is of the opinion that celibacy is better than marriage. Paul was biased this way, as this was his way of life, but it is not a commandment of the Lord. Obviously if this were, Christians would stop having children, and the world would soon be populated by nothing but people who reject God. I do not think Paul properly thought this through when he wrote it. He does say though that to avoid fornication, people should marry. Apparently Paul did not have an active libido. He then tells the married couple that they need to give each other what each one needs and to remember that their spouse is the one who "owns" their body. They are not to withhold sex, unless it is by mutual agreement for fasting and prayer, but then only for a short time, so that they are not tempted to go astray due to lustful desires that are not being met. Again, Paul is conceding this, as he would like everyone to be celibate as he is. Again, he seems to be very biased in this point, and has not thought through the ultimate consequences of his bias. He does say that the unmarried and widows should marry, because it is better to marry than burn with sexual desires that are overtaking their lives. Next he addresses married couples. He tells women that they should not leave their husbands, but if they do separate (and there are cases where this is necessary, such as physical abuse), they must remain unmarried (if they go so far as to divorce) or be reconciled to their husband. Husbands are told not to separate from or divorce their wives. Paul then gives instructions that he says are not from the Lord (Yeshua did not say anything about this, it is coming from Paul, but we know that all Scripture is inspired by God), but from himself. He says that if a believer is married to a non-believer, they should not leave them. That by staying, the spouse is sanctified and may become saved, and the children are made holy when they could have been made unclean by the divorce. However, if the unbelieving spouse wants to leave, they are not under bondage to the marriage anymore. Now, that leaves a question open as to whether that means that the believer can remarry. It would seem from the other verses not, as Yeshua never qualifies whether the people in the marriage are believers or not, but then the Law was not given to the world, but only to Israel. So these are rules for God's people, which would seem to indicate that what Yeshua said applied to people who were believers. Thus if one of the spouses were not a believer, the believing spouse is not under the yoke of permanent marriage, if they are not in bondage to it. Whether that leaves the door open to remarriage to a believer in this case or not I am not sure. I would not want to judge someone on this issue.
1 Corinthians 7:21-28 “Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.”
Paul says that God has given no commandment concerning virgins, but he has a few suggestions himself. He suggests that given the conditions of the world and the persecution Christians are suffering, that it is better for a person to not be married. This makes sense, in that it only makes it harder on a person when they have loved ones about whom they are worrying. But, if they are married, they should not seek to divorce. And if they are divorced already, they should not get remarried. But, if a virgin does marry, it is not a sin. Nevertheless, there would be hardships brought about by the marriage. Again, the persecution of the day predicted that. One would have to look at one's own time and the level of persecution in one's own environment to see if Paul's suggestion of celibacy was appropo for themselves.
1 Corinthians 7:36-38 “But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.”
This is a passage that has puzzled me, as I am unsure if Paul is speaking euphemistically in some respects or exactly what is meant. I went looking to see what others thought on this and saw that there are several interpretations. One is that the virgin being spoken of is a man's virgin daughter. Some say it is that he makes her take a vow of celibacy, but that if she is passing the flower of her age and seems to have yearnings herself, that he should let her out of her vow and let her marry, as it is good for her to marry. However, if he can remain steadfast in his decision to dedicate his daughter as a perpetual virgin for the Lord, he does well. The problem I have with that is, and maybe it is just that I am reading it wrong, it seems to indicate that he is not acting appropriately toward her, and the implication is sexually. The solution is said for them to marry. A father cannot marry his daughter. Then it says that if he can remain steadfast, keep his self-control and can keep his virgin, he does well. Well again, it seems that he is struggling with some desire of his own toward his daughter and is struggling to maintain her as a virgin. That interpretation just does not seem to work for me. The second interpretation is a little better. This one says that the virgin is a man's betrothed. Remember that betrothed is not quite the same as married. Betrothal is the legality of marriage, but not the intimacy of it. It is more than an engagement, as it can only be annulled by divorce, but it is not a full marriage in the sense of two people living together as man and wife. In this case it would be understood that if he is getting sexually aroused by his fiancee, and she is of an age to marry, then they should get married. But if he can exercise self-control and maintain their virginity towards each other, it is even better. This makes a great deal more sense, but if they are betrothed, I can see no reason why they should not go ahead and get married, and why maintaining a celibate marriage is better than consummating it. My own, possibly erroneous idea has always been that Paul was trying to talk about sex in a euphemistic way, as it probably made him uncomfortable to talk about this in a letter to a church group, especially as he was a single celibate man himself. I read it this way, and I may be very wrong. If a man is behaving himself unseemly toward his own virginity, in other words he is possibly masturbating to relieve his sexual urges, because he is past puberty and has needs, then he and his "virginity" should find a girl and get married. But if he can remain steadfast toward his celibacy and has no need to satisfy sexual urges, and can maintain his self-control in this area, having decided to maintain his virginity, that is really good. So, if he cannot control his sexual urges and marries to alleviate the situation, that is a perfectly acceptable thing, but if he can maintain celibacy without having to give in to his sexual urges, Paul sees that as better. Given that Paul is really a big proponent of celibacy, I see this as a distinct possibility that it is this to which Paul was referring.
1 Corinthians 7:39 “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.”
This is a repeat of what was said in Romans. As long as a spouse lives, a person cannot remarry, but if the spouse dies, they are free to marry whom they will, but only another believer. Since a person who is married and not divorced cannot get married again, this is saying that even if divorced, the person is still considered the spouse.
2 Cor. 6:14 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
This is one rule that many Christians tend to ignore. We are not to marry (nor should we be legally bound to in business or any other way) non-believers. It generally only leads to heartache and problems. A non-believer will never understand your relationship with the Lord and much harm can come from it. If, however, a person becomes a believer after marriage, then one needs to remain in the marriage as advocated above, as the spouse might become a Christian too.
Ephesians 5:20-33 "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself; For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
This passage is one that was dealt with in my article about women submitting to the husband. For more on that, read my other article in the archives. The main gist that is relevant to this articles is that men are to love their wives, women are to reverence their husband, and they are to be one flesh and be permanently joined to each other.
1 Tim. 5:14 "I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”
It is advisable for young women to marry, have children, and keep busy at home so that they do not give occasion for gossip. This was especially important in Bible days, as women did not have occupations and careers. Today with women being able to support themselves, they have plenty to keep them busy from getting into trouble and causing gossip. Thus they can wait a little longer to marry, which often proves to be a good thing, as sometimes they make a better choice when they are a little more mature.
Having covered basically everything that could be found on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, I think it is clear what the Bible teaches on it. While divorce and remarriage was allowed by God during the Old Testament times, it is not what He likes, and Yeshua made it clear that Christians are not to be doing it. The only excuses for divorce are adultery and if an unbelieving spouse leaves. If there is a need for separation (and I think abuse would qualify as a need for that) one should not necessarily seek a divorce. Remarriage is not allowed for any reason, except for the questionable case where a believing spouse is not under bondage, if an unbelieving spouse leaves. What being out from under bondage exactly means and whether that allows for remarriage is not clear, so I would not judge anyone on that issue myself.
As to what should one do when one was not aware of these precepts and finds oneself divorced and remarried, one should remain in the condition in which they find themselves. Divorcing again would only add more sin to the situation. One can only repent and make sure it does not happen again.
One case that has come up in discussion with others is, what does one do when a person has been divorced before they became born-again. Does that restrict them from then marrying a Christian? It was decided by those in the discussion, and whether right or wrong, I tend to agree, that the sins one commits before being saved are forgiven at that time, and come under the former life. Therefore if one is a new creature, all things are new, and they should be able to marry again, as the commands we see given in the Scriptures are to believers, not unbelievers, and the unbeliever was not responsible to be obedient at the time of the divorce. Maybe I am in error, but I believe God allows remarriage in this case.