Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible

Dispensationally Considered

For the purpose of this paper, marriage will be defined as a physical union between a man and a woman that is recognized by God as righteous and is legal according to the laws of the land. The author also allows that there are different dispensations or time periods within the Bible where God deals differently with certain things. There will be more detail on this later.

There are many circumstances concerning Old Testament marriage that are not valid for Christians today. We must determine what the Lord says is valid for us by "rightly dividing" our King James Bible and believing what it says. Paul's epistles contain doctrine for today's Christian as he is the apostle to the Gentiles. Let me say right here, that if you don't believe there are dispensational differences in laws and rules in the Bible that your understanding of this study may not be clear. I would ask, however, that you would just read what is written and note for yourself the differences that will be evident in God's instructions concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

Old Testament Marriage Distinctives

The things that follow are mainly to show how God changes his directives concerning marriage as the history of man progresses throughout the Bible.

 Genesis 2:23,24
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
This began as the ideal marriage. Both the husband and the wife were in communion with God and each other. But as you know, the fall into sin ended that close fellowship with the Lord, and from that point on, marriage became work as well as pleasure.

Now in Genesis before the Law of Moses there are some distinct marriage rules that are not in effect today. The most obvious is that of marriage between close blood relatives. The correct answer to "Where did Cain get his wife?" is clear if one believes the Bible. He married one of his sisters. (Genesis 4:17) The only possible spouses available at that time were Adam and Eve's children and they married each other. Even Abraham married his half sister.

Genesis 20:12
And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
Obviously today we do not condone marriage between close blood relatives. In fact in most places it is also illegal according to the law of the land. Now this particular rule of marriage changed when the Mosaic Law was instituted. Leviticus 18 gives the new rules concerning marriage between blood relatives and in-laws. Where before the Law they were allowed, under Mosaic Law God changed his rules and they were now forbidden.

There are two other rules of marriage that were common both before and after the Law, but not applicable to us. The first was that marriages were arranged or contracted by the parents. Sometimes the daughter was even given as a reward for service rendered.

Genesis 24:4
But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

1 Samuel 18:17
And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the LORD'S battles.

The second common rule concerned marrying a dead brother's wife if he left no children.

Genesis 38:8
And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

Deuteronomy 25:5
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.

These are only four of many verses which show that these rules were commonly practiced both before and after the Law. Neither of these apply to a Church Age Christian. Remember if you want to take one rule you must take them all.

Now Mosaic Law has its own set of distinctive marriage rules that are not applicable for us today. The rules for arranged marriages, marriages to dead brothers' wives, and marriages between close blood relatives have already been mentioned. Of the other rules I will list only a few to give you the idea.

Under the Law God allowed the Jews to steal a wife, buy a wife, (It may also be construed that Jacob purchased Rachel in Genesis.), take a wife captured during war, and have multiple wives. Not all these may have been the Lord's perfect will, but they were all at least his permissive will. He did not send his prophets or priests to the people who practiced such to tell them they were sinning. Jewish men were also forbidden to marry "strange" women. These women were Gentiles from the surrounding heathen nations and not part of the nation of Israel.

Deuteronomy 7:3.4
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
4 For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

These next verses show the previously listed permissible ways of obtaining a wife.

Judges 21:21
And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

Hosea 3:2
So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley:

Deuteronomy 21:11
And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;

II Samuel 5:13
And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.

These cases cannot be considered even close to correct doctrine for us. The same is true as we now look at the rules for divorce.

Divorce under Mosaic Law

Before the Law there was no mention of divorce or "putting away." I personally don't believe that means there was no divorce, but that rather God hadn't given any specific rules concerning it at that point. As you read the verses concerning these divorce rules keep in mind what you have been taught. Some Christians believe things that are absolutely opposite of what God has said.

Now one of the marriage rules concerned a captured wife. Here are the verses.

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,
11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;
13 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.
14 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.

This captured woman also had to be a virgin. (Numbers 31:18) These young virgins became proselytes to Judaism thus making them acceptable and no longer "strange." If the captured wife, however, did not live up to her husband's expectation she was freed with no obligations on the husband or the woman. Both could remarry with the Lord's consent. If this is doubted look at the verses only three chapters from here.

Deuteronomy 24:1,2
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.
2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.

These verses are very clear if they are read as they stand and nothing is inserted into the text which is not really there. Under Mosaic Law the man could divorce his wife for "some uncleanness," and she could marry another man with the Lord's consent."Some uncleanness" gave the husband extreme latitude. She could be divorced for being a nag or being lazy. There is no mention of adultery or fornication, but just "some uncleanness."

Indeed adultery and fornication were death offenses under the Law.
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.
 

This last verse is a reference to a woman having been found not to be a virgin on her wedding night. The chapter goes on to say that if the new bridegroom slanders his wife and says that she was not a virgin when she actually was, that he loses for all time his right to divorce her for "some uncleanness." He cannot put her away for as long as she lives.
Deuteronomy 22:21
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.
 

Deuteronomy 24 continues with a prohibition.
Deuteronomy 24:3,4
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;
4 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.
This woman was not allowed to remarry her first husband if she had married another man after the divorce. To do so would have been an abomination to the Lord.

Now, not only was divorce allowed, sometimes it was actually required! I have included many of the verses from Ezra 10 in order to present the complete picture. In this particular case these Israelite men had married "strange" women which was forbidden to do. This had happened during the time of Ezra and the nation knew they needed to get right with God.

Ezra 10:1-17
Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.
2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.
3 Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
7 And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;
10 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.
11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.
16 And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.
17 And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.

According to verse 10 these men divorced their wives and sent away their children to do the Lord's "pleasure." Their marriages had not been legal in the eyes of God because they were against what the Lord had initially commanded, and now both the husbands and wives were free to remarry and begin again. Remember marriage is an institution for God's people. The heathen of the Old Testament and the lost during the Church Age are guided not by God and the Bible but by their base instincts of self gratification. Be not unequally yoked is found in both testaments.

Let me say at the end of this section that divorce was never what the Lord had in mind when he instituted marriage.
Malachi 2:16
For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away...

He allowed it, however, because of our fallen, sinful human nature, and he regulated it according to specific rules he laid down. These are the rules that apply to those who were under Mosaic Law.

1. Husbands could divorce their wives for "some uncleanness."

2. Divorced husbands and wives were free to remarry.

3. Wives were not allowed to initiate divorce for any reason.

4. Divorced and remarried wives could never remarry their first husbands.

5. Israelite men married to "strange" women must divorce them in order to be right with God.

6. Adultery was punished by death.

7. A woman found impure on her wedding night was put to death.

8. A husband who slandered his wife about her not being a virgin when they married was never allowed to divorce her.

One could not pick and choose which of these to obey. They were all enforced under Mosaic Law.

Now we have come to the New Testament.

Before we examine the differences in the divorce laws that Christ initiated I am going to briefly explain how the New Testament is "rightly divided."
 
 

Rightly Dividing the New Testament

One of the great commandments of the Bible is found in II Timothy.

II Timothy 2:15
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Although it is a commandment, it is for the most part either ignored or misunderstood. God commands us to divide his word. Disobedience to that command is the cause of almost all doctrinal differences between Christians. Misunderstanding, confusion, and heresy are the result of an undivided Bible. For instance, the Bible says that you shouldn't eat pork or shellfish in Leviticus 11. Yet I Timothy 4:1-5 says you can eat anything. Either the Bible is contradicting itself or there is a division somewhere that must be observed. This example is an obvious one, however, and the division between the Old Testament and the New Testament is easily recognizable and accepted. There are also divisions within the Old Testament. The most obvious two are before the Law and after the Law. Noah could eat anything (Genesis 9:3), but Israel could not (Leviticus 11). Abraham and Sarah married with the Lord's blessing even though they had the same father (Genesis 20:12), while the Israelites were forbidden to marry close kin (Leviticus 18:6). God never changes, but he does change his rules and regulations in his dealings with different people at different times. That is why he commands us to "rightly divide!" If we don't, then there are contradictions in his instructions!

A most common misconception is that all the New Testament automatically applies doctrinally to the Church. But it is in that very New Testament that a Christian is commanded to "rightly divide!" The New Testament has divisions. If they aren't observed there will be apparent contradictions.

The Bible says that the New Testament didn't come into effect until Christ died (Hebrews 9:15-17). Doctrinally speaking the four gospels before Jesus death are still dealing with Jews under Mosaic Law. Jesus himself was a pork abstaining, Sabbath keeping, orthodox Jew. Abraham was chosen to be the Father of the Hebrews in the book of Genesis. In Exodus the Jews were organized, and God claims them as his chosen nation. The entire rest of the Old Testament deals with the nation of Israel. As Matthew begins it is obvious that God is still dealing with them. Luke confirmed that in the book of Acts.

Acts 3:25a,26
Ye are the children of the prophets...26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, having sent him to bless you.

Acts 5:31
Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Paul corroborates that Jesus' ministry is to Israel.

Romans 15:8
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm to promises made unto the fathers.

Of himself Jesus said:

Matthew 15:24b
...I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Jesus commanded his disciples to go to Israel only!

Matthew 10:5b,6
...Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Jesus prophesied that Israel would lose its standing.

Matthew 21:43
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

This is temporary, according to the Bible, and in the future Israel will become God's blessed nation again.

Romans 11:25,26
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that the blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved.

The coming of the Messiah is the fulfilling of Old Testament Jewish prophecy. (Matthew 5:17,18) All through the Old Testament the Jews are waiting for their King to come, sit down on the throne of David, and set up his kingdom. John the Baptist preached that the "kingdom is at hand." Jesus preached the "gospel of the kingdom." (Matthew 4:23; 5:12; 10:7) Simple reading shows that this is not the gospel of I Corinthians 15:1-4. The gospel Jesus preached was the Old Testament kingdom gospel that he preached to Jews. Paul's gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord that should be preached to everyone.

These verses show three distinct time periods or divisions. The first is a continuation of the Old Testament into the gospels where God is dealing with the nation of Israel. The second begins when God temporarily displaces Israel with the Gentile Church Age. Paul writes to us from Romans to Philemon. These books contain doctrine for today. The third is the future time when God deals with his chosen nation, Israel, again. This is the time of the Tribulation when once again the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached. During this time the doctrines in the gospels during Christ's earthly ministry will be in effect again.

There are differences in the Lord's instructions in these periods, and they are contradictory unless these Bible divisions are recognized.

Divorce Regulations given during Christ's Earthly Ministry that will apply during the Tribulation and Millennium

Matthew chapters 5 through 19 are the constitution for the Millennial Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. For 1000 years he will sit as King on the throne of David and rule the entire earth. The constitution of this future kingdom is not the same as the Old Testament Law of Moses. In Matthew Christ made many changes that have to do with the "spirit" of the Old Testament laws. I thought that first we would look at some of the other things that he changed before we look at the new rules for divorce.

Matthew 5:21
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

Here is a clear restatement of the sixth commandment. The penalty for murder was death. There was no prescribed sacrifice for murder under Mosaic Law and without the shedding of blood there was no available forgiveness. A murderer was put to death and he went to hell.

Leviticus 24:17
And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.

But Christ expanded and changed that commandment in the next verse.

Matthew 5:22
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Here is a great change. It can be better understood by looking at a few more scriptures. Being angry "without a cause" can easily lead to hate. Look at the progression of the verse. Christ, as the example, was hated "without a cause."

John 15:25
But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

This kind of hate takes the side of the world against a brother in the Lord.

Luke 6:22
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.

Brothers should not take the part of the world and hate other brothers. But the next verses show the true condition of the "hater." Remember these verses are talking about Jews and that doctrinally I John is not a Pauline epistle. Even though Christians can get much devotional application from I John, the doctrine is not for us."Brothers" are Jews, members of the nation of Israel. These verses are not about Church Age Christians.

I John 2:9
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

I John 4:20
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

I John 3:15
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

That last verse tells it all. During this time a "brother hater" is lost and on his way to hell. That was the reason for Christ's warning when we started back in Matthew 5. Anger "without a cause" can lead to hate, and hate leads to hell.

This is not Church Age doctrine. A Christian is forgiven of all sins: past, present, and future. That would include hating another Christian. But just as murder was an unforgivable sin under Mosaic Law so is "hate" during the Tribulation and Millennium. Reread I John 3:15. The difference being that murder cannot be undone while hate can be. That was the reason for Christ's warning.

What follows are other pairs of verses where Christ expanded Mosaic Laws. Your Bible's cross references would be helpful if you wish to study them. They are quoted here just to give you other examples so you will better understand the change in divorce laws.

Matthew 5:27
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

* * *
Matthew 5:33
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne;

* * *

Matthew 5:38
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

* * *

Matthew 5:43
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

* * *
The changes Christ made had to do with the spirit of the Law. The Law was our schoolmaster to bring use to Christ and his changes were designed to show the sinful nature of man. A man could be righteous under Mosaic Law. The Bible gives us such examples as Elisabeth, Zacharius, and Paul as having this kind of righteousness. Indeed if righteousness hadn't been granted under the Law then everyone would have died and gone to hell. But Christ's changes pointed to man's inner wickedness instead of the outward acts of wickedness that were condemned. Now, lusting after a woman was adultery not just the act itself.

During Christ's earthly ministry that is recorded in the gospels, the Mosaic Law was still in effect and enforced, but Christ taught a higher standard. That standard could only be fulfilled in him. He instituted these changes so that man might see that the wickedness of outward disobedience came from the sinfulness of the heart, and that the heart was so sinful that no Law could cleanse it. One more passage exemplifies this perfectly.

John 8:3
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

Note first of all that they were trying to tempt the Lord into doing something wrong so that they could accuse him of being a Law breaker himself. The woman that they dragged before him was caught "in the act." Where was the man? The Law was very specific that both the adulterer and adulteress were to be put to death. Why was the man not brought as well? It has been suggested that this woman was "set up" so her case could be used to tempt the Lord. It has also been suggested that the Lord wrote the actual law in the dirt.

Leviticus 20:10
...The adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

As he wrote they continued to badger him.

John 8:7a
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them...

I can picture their frustration as he ignored their "righteous" indignation, and they probably thought "Just what is he writing that is so important that he would dare ignore us?" If you were questioning someone and he began to write in the dirt wouldn't you look to see what was being written? Then Christ spoke.

John 8:7b
...He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

No doubt their hearts were pierced. Even if the suggested scenario is completely false we know this is true, because no one cast a stone. Here is the "spirit" of the Law pointing out the total wickedness of the human heart. None of those present could deny this truth. Here was proof positive that the Mosaic Law was not answer to the sinfulness of man. Each one recognized that fact. Now an honest man who truly wanted to be right with God, and suddenly recognized his own sinful condition, had no where to turn except to the Lord Jesus Christ. A dishonest man could find an excuse under every rock.

The woman remained, even after everyone else was gone.

John 8:10b
Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She didn't make excuses for herself. She waited expectantly to see what would happen. She knew she deserved death and she knew that she stood before a righteous man who was without sin. That was the qualification he had given for the right to stone her. Of all men, he alone could have claimed that right.

John 8:11a
She said, No man, Lord.

This is so like the thief on the cross. She recognized her condition, and that sin is ultimately against God not man; and she recognized WHO stood in front of her. He was the LORD.

John 8:11b
And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Praise God! Here is grace fully manifested. She had committed a sin that demanded death under the Law. But the God-man who could forgive her, did forgive her, and she was free from the penalty of her sin.

John 1:17
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

To understand the changes we will look at the Lord's conversations in both Matthew and Mark. These gospels record different details of what was said. The records compliment each other to give us a complete picture. This is what is done with the events of the resurrection. We compile the different details given in each of the gospels to get a complete, and accurate account.

The Pharisees approached Christ with another question to tempt him.

Matthew 19:3
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?

This, of course, is a reference to Deuteronomy 24 where the husband is allowed to divorce his wife for any reason. It has been said that people don't ask questions like that unless they already know the correct answer. No honest sinner asks "What's wrong with drinking whiskey?" because he already knows. This question reveals that the Pharisees truly understood the "spirit" with which Christ was interpreting the Law. They figured that he couldn't answer that question without contradicting what was written. But, as usual, he catches them in their own words.

Mark 10:3
And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.

The Pharisees had just quoted their authority: Moses. Christ is going to refer them to a higher authority of which Moses himself wrote. This is an authority they can't contradict.

Matthew 19:4-6
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 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?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Those Pharisees could not answer that. The authority they cited was Moses, while the authority Christ cited was God. Moses had even written the Genesis account. Once more their mouths were stopped. Christ had not spoken against the Law and had answered in such a way as to confound them.

At this point Christ stated the new rules that conformed with the spirit of the Law. In Mark he answered the question about "every cause" and stated emphatically that a divorce of this nature would no longer be recognized by God as righteous.

Mark 10:11
And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

Here is the first change. No divorce for just any reason.

Mark 10:12
And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

Here is the second change. Now, a wife has the same option as the husband. She may divorce her husband, but again it may not be for just any cause. In Matthew the Lord stated the only valid reason.

Matthew 19:9
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.

The Pharisees got much more than they bargained for when they tried to bait the Lord. The husband could no longer divorce his wife if she got old, or became a nag, or couldn't bare children. Only if she committed adultery could he be rid of her. And now she could be rid of him if he got caught "fooling around." That had never been her option before. And if she did divorce him he couldn't remarry without committing adultery and living in sin.

The Lord's instructions recognized "guilty" and "innocence" parties. The innocent party was free to remarry but the guilty party was an adulterer and remained one. His remarriage would make him and his new wife both adulterers living in sin. Let me give a different kind of example. Suppose a man murdered his wife with a hunting knife. He went to trial and got off because of a technicality. He is now free from the law but he is still a murderer. The adulterer is freed from the marriage by divorce so that his former spouse can remarry. But he is still an adulterer. The divorce does not change that. If he remarried his new spouse also would also become an adulterer as well.

So then Christ has stated new regulations regarding divorce that will be in effect during the Tribulation and Millennium.

1. A divorce for "any cause" will not be recognized as legal.

2. The only valid cause for divorce will be physical fornication.

3. Both the husband and wife will be allowed to divorce an adulterous spouse.

4. The innocent party is freed from the previous marriage and allowed to remarry.

5. The guilty spouse is an adulterer and cannot have a valid remarriage.

6. If the guilty party remarries he and his new spouse are living in adultery.

These rules may sound very familiar to you because these are the rules that many Christians claim for the Church today. Please notice that at time the these were given Christ hadn't even been crucified and resurrected. There were no Christians present, only Sabbath keeping, pork abstaining Jews. He was not addressing Gentiles during the age of grace. Things that are different are not the same. You have seen the changes that were made concerning divorce laws between the Law of Moses and the time of Christ's earthly ministry (which changes will be in effect again during the Tribulation and Millennium.) After the resurrection, and the nation of Israel's rejection of Christ through the preaching of Stephen in Acts 7, a new dispensation begins. The Ethiopian eunuch is saved by grace through faith in Acts 8. Paul the apostle to the Gentiles is saved in Acts 9. Peter preaches to the first group of Gentiles ever, and Cornelius and his household are also saved by grace through faith in Acts 10. In Acts 11 Peter recorded how he rehearsed what he was going to say to his fellow Jews because he knew it would be hard for them to believe that unclean Gentiles had received the promise, and that by faith alone with no works involved. There was such a problem with the new relevation that salvation was now open to the Gentiles, and that it was now by grace through faith, that they had to have a big apostolic meeting in Acts 15 to confirm the two CHANGES concerning salvation. A new dispensation had begun and once more the divorce laws are going to change and this time the changes apply to Church Age Christians!

Today's Church Age Christian

I Corinthians 7 is the chapter in which Paul laid down the rules of marriage and divorce and remarriage for today's Christian. But before we go there we are going to look at something else Paul wrote. In Romans 7 Paul is using marriage under the Law as an example of the Christian's relationship to the Law today.

Romans 7:1
Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

In this verse, and those proceeding, Paul assumed he was addressing people who were thoroughly knowledgeable of the Law of Moses. He is about to compare something from the Law with which they are familiar, to help the readers to understand something in the Church Age which they have yet to comprehend. The first verse alone tells you that he is going to relate something that is past, because "the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth" cannot possibly apply to a Church Age Christian.

Romans 7:2
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.

This verse confirms that under the Law a woman was not allowed to initiate a divorce. She was married until her husband died (or put her away.) At his death she was free from the Law of marriage and was able to remarry.

Romans 7:3
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.

There is no mention of divorce anywhere in this passage. This woman had a living husband, not a former husband. Remember that under the Law a former husband was perfectly possible. If she had been divorced or put away by her first husband then according to the Law she would have been free to marry again. This is not the case here. She was still legally married to one man when she married another man. That made her an adulteress, because she was not free to marry.

In these verses Paul is not stating divorce and remarriage rules for Christians. He is using an example with which all those reading are familiar. Now is he going to apply this example to explain a new concept.

Romans 7:4
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Here then is Paul's entire point. Under the Law of Moses a woman whose husband had died was free to marry another. If he was alive she was not free to do so. A Christian is "dead to the law" because of the body of Christ. A Christian is "in" the One who kept every jot and tittle. Since Christ kept it for us, we are not in bondage to it. We are no longer bound by the Law and may now freely serve God.

Romans 7:5
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

These last verses are an entire subject unto themselves, but suffice to say that this passage is not about Christian divorce laws. Paul just used a Mosaic marriage to compare with the Christian's relationship to the Law.

Paul does devote an entire chapter to the subject of marriage in I Corinthians. Chapter 7 is where we will find everything a Christian needs to know about it.

The theme of this chapter might be entitled "This is Best." Paul gives instructions for "what is best" in all situations regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
 

Here then is the reason for marriage, and it is not to "propagate the species." God understands the human sexual drive. The reason for marriage is so that men and women might be able to fulfill their sexual needs with the blessings of God. Any sexual activity outside marriage does not have God's blessing and is fornication.
I Corinthians 7:1,2
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

So then here is a "best." In order to avoid fornication it is best for each man and woman to be married. These verses are very clear that the purpose of marriage is so that sexual needs can be fulfilled, so that the devil will not have that particular leverage to tempt the Christian into a sexual sin.
I Corinthians 7:3-5
Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
4 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.
5 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.

Paul was not married and he believed that staying single was the best choice, but he also recognized that not everyone could do so. Remember the admonition in verse 2.
I Corinthians 7:6
But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
7 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.

Here is another "best." If a person is unmarried (for whatever reason) or widowed then it is best to stay that way.
I Corinthians 7:8
I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

The next "best" thing for an unmarried person who is burning with lust is for him to marry. If that person remains single the devil will have that leverage to tempt him to sin.
I Corinthians 7:9
But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

So far Paul has addressed single Christians. Now he instructs Christian couples.

Here begins Paul's discourse on divorce. There is no problem with the meaning of "put away" in verse 11. We know from other verses that this means divorce. This term is probably used for the husband because of its familiarity from the Law. But the word "depart" in verse 10 also means divorce. We know this because it continues "let her remain UNmarried." If a wife who has "departed" is "unmarried" there must have been a divorce!

In these verses Paul tells married people it is "best" to stay married. Neither the husband nor the wife should seek a divorce. But if there is a divorce the "best" thing to do is to remain unmarried or be reconciled. Now refer back to verses 8 and 9 where Paul is addressing the unmarried. He has already said that it is "best" to remain so, BUT he continued that remarriage was allowed. Also notice that no where in any of these verses are there any reasons given for the divorce. There is no mention of adultery or any other sin. We have come full circle and are back to a divorce for "every cause." It was allowed because of the "hardness of your hearts" under the Law of Moses and it is allowed again in the Church Age for the same reason. The only way a person can read adultery into these verses is to "transplant" it from the gospels where the doctrine is for the Tribulation and the Millennium. We Bible believers who understand dispensations would never dream of doing that with another subject, but it is done without shame for divorce.

The instruction in verse 11 to "let her remain unmarried" is not a commandment but rather another instruction as to what is "best." This will become even more clear shortly.
I Corinthians 7:10,11
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

These next verses address the Christian who is married to a lost spouse. It could be that the Christian got saved after his marriage or that he married an unbeliever even though he himself was saved.

I Corinthians 7:12-14
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.
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
14 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.

The "best" thing for the Christian spouse is to remain married to the unbeliever who is willing to stay with the him. In doing so the Christian may be able to lead his spouse to the Lord. If the Christian truly loves his spouse this, of course, would be the thing he most desires.

Verse 14 once again shows that marriage is for God's people. I don't know if God recognizes the marriage of two lost people but this verse implies to me that he does not. The children of a "mixed" marriage are "holy" not "unclean" because one partner is saved. This implies that the children of lost people are not holy. Not in respect to their person, because obviously all people are sinners, but in respect to their birth. If the marriages of lost people are not recognized by God, the children that come from those marriages are not considered to have had a "holy" birth. Don't misunderstand what I am saying. These children can grow up, get saved, and begin to live the life God would like all saved sinners to lead. But certainly children of saved parents should have a "head start" to their own personal salvation ahead of the children of lost parents.

I Corinthians 7:15
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.
16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save they husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

There is the word "depart" again. It means divorce because the brother or sister will no longer be bound by the marriage vows. But again in verse 16 Paul reiterates that it is still "best" to try to stay together so the unbeliever might be saved.

At this point I would like to point out a truth of English grammar that is often overlooked. The word "him" in verse 15 is "gender neutral." If refers to either the unbelieving husband or the unbelieving wife which is obvious from the rest of the verse. The word "men" in verse 7 is also "gender neutral." Paul is not speaking to males only. He is speaking to men and wo"men". Because of modern day ignorance of the rules of English grammar verses can be misinterpreted. There have been many other gender neutral words in the previous verses. I mention it here in verse 15 because the blatantness of the grammatical construction cannot be missed.

This next verse also has gender neutral words, and these next few verses sum up Paul's entire teaching concerning what is "best" in marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
I Corinthians 7:17
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.

"Every one" confirms the "man" in this verse is a reference to both sexes of Christians. Paul tells Christians that they are to "walk" as they have been called. The first example he gives in the next verse is obviously not gender neutral but it is also obviously not possible. Paul is just using an example with which the readers would be familiar.

Now Paul is going to restate his point from verse 17. He will restate it twice more to explain exactly what he means before the chapter is over.
I Corinthians 7:18,19
Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Now he is going to use another example that all can understand.

Notice the "calling." A slave is a slave and cannot change his calling, just as an circumcised man cannot become uncircumcised. A Christian is to be content in the calling in which the Lord has put him and use that calling, whatever it is, to serve the Lord. Slave or free the Christian can and should serve in the calling he is in. Paul is soon going to make an application to marriage and divorce like this.
I Corinthians 7:20
Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

I Corinthians 7:21,22
Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called being free, is Christ's servant.

There is another gender neutral "man." And in the next verse Paul addresses virgins - both male and female.
I Corinthians 7:23,24
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye servants of men.
24 Brethren, let every man, wherein, he is called, therein abide with God.

Here is another "best." Paul says that it is best for Christian virgins to remain that way. In a few verses he will "wrap it up" and explain why.
I Corinthians 7:25,26
Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord
26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

Another restatement of what is "best." Don't seek a divorce but if you are divorced don't seek to remarry. Notice again there is no mention of the reason for the divorce, just the mention of the fact of it. There is no adultery, no fornication, just a divorce. More than likely a divorce for "every cause."
I Corinthians 7:27
Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

Another restatement of what is "best." Don't seek a divorce but if you are divorced don't seek to remarry. Notice again there is no mention of the reason for the divorce, just the mention of the fact of it. There is no adultery, no fornication, just a divorce. More than likely a divorce for "every cause."
I Corinthians 7:28
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 states emphatically that a divorced Christian who remarries has not sinned. Remember marriage is to prevent fornication. And Paul has already told the "unmarried" that it is better to marry than to burn. The "unmarrieds" in verse 8 include divorced, widowed, and virgins. Marriage, however, is not necessarily the solution to a Christian's fleshy problems. In fact it just initiates another different set of problems.

Paul would rather a Christian stay single and thus avoid the "fleshy troubles" that marriage will cause.
I Corinthians 7:32a
But I would have you without carefulness...

Here then is the reason for staying unmarried. The unmarried Christian can devote his full time to serving the Lord instead of the necessary time it would take to be a good spouse.
I Corinthians 7:32b...
He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

Now I said as we began to study I Corinthians 7 that the theme of what Paul wrote might be "This is Best." So in conclusion I am going to recap what Paul said to be the "best" concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
I Corinthians 7:33-35
But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
35 And this I speak for your own profit: not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

WHAT'S BEST?

1. It is best for the unmarried to stay that way.
This thought is conveyed in verses 1, 7, 8, 11, 26, 37, and 40. It is addressed to anyone who is not married, including virgins, divorced, and widows. Specifically in verse 11 "let her remain unmarried" is not a commandment any more than "let him not become uncircumcised" is in verse 18. Once more it is only a statement of "what is best." It is best for those divorced to remain unmarried.

2. It is best for those married to stay married.
This is addressed to Christian couples and to the Christian who is married to an unbeliever in verses 10-13, 16, and 27.

3. It is best to "abide in the same calling wherein he was called."
Paul says this in verses 17-24. These verses are his conclusion to the first two points.

These points are Paul's "best" conclusions concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage. All the unmarried would be better off to stay unmarried, and all the married would be better off to stay married. Now even though Paul tells us what is "best" he also knows that the hardness of our hearts deceive us into doing something else. So for this reason he also allows for another choice.

WHAT'S 2nd. BEST?

1. It is second best, but allowed, for those unmarried to marry.
This is stated in verses 2, 9, and 28. These verses are addressed to anyone who is not married. That includes virgins, widows, and those who are divorced. A divorced person is NOT married. And let me state one last time that there are no given grounds for divorce in this Pauline epistle because legal divorce (even in the eyes of God) is now granted for "every cause."

2. It is second best, but allowed, for those who are married to divorce.
See verses 10-15. Divorce was NOT God's original plan. He says that he hates it. But he also allows it because of our wicked, deceitful hearts. If HE allows it, who are you to disagree?

I am not advocating divorce but it makes me sick to see the horror done to good brothers and sisters who are informed by the Godly Pharisitical brethren that they are forbidden to remarry. Where is the grace that comes with being in Christ? Just from a practical sense we all know brothers and sisters who have suffered because of self-righteous brethren who have made their lives miserable over this issue. Christians have left the church and given up on their Christianity because of this. The Bible is very clear.
Acts 15:10
Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

Galatians 5:1
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Paul is also very clear about the teaching that divorced Christians are forbidden to remarry. He calls it a doctrine of devils!
I Timothy 4: 1,3
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 3 Forbidding to marry.....

In conclusion, the Bible is a dispensational Book. We cannot even hope to get an accurate understanding of Gods instructions about things unless we recognize his dividing lines as we are commanded. True dispensationalists recognize that there are contradictions in the Lord's instructions unless dispensational lines are drawn. We would never think of teaching that our justification is earned by faith plus works the way it is in James. We understand that there is a dividing line and that that particular doctrine applies to the Tribulation and that justification in the Church Age is by faith alone. Why then, when it comes to marriage and divorce regulations do some of us want to UNdivide and blur the lines that are clearly drawn? In the gospels Christ is giving the constitution for the coming Kingdom. The rules of divorce in that time are not the same as those under the Law of Moses or during the Church Age. Things that are different are not the same. There is no scriptural justification to transplant those rules into the Church Age. To do so divides the body of Christ into first and second class Christians and causes untold heartache. The person who transplants those rules takes the side of the devil. The devil himself used perfectly good scripture to try to get the Lord Jesus Christ to sin during his wilderness temptation. Misapplying scripture is the devil's trademark. Don't side with him.

Written by

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D.J. Root
Pensacola, FLorida, USA

D. J. Root
AV1611Root@juno.com
 

The King James Bible is the final authority for all doctrine,
faith, and practice. Any deviation from the text is purely inadvertent.