There has been some recent discussion about this issue in my part of the woods. As with some other issues, I am open to amending my theology, especially when it is in an area of great controversy such as this. In fact, I have nuanced and refined my stand on this issue since I last wrote on this. I know how much many Christians who love the Lord struggle with great distress concerning divorce, remarriage, and what is expected of the committed Christan.

The question is: Can there be remarriage after divorce for the committed Christian?

This is not an easy question to answer by any means. While I was on pastoral staff at Stonebriar Community Church, I could not dodge this issue by reducing it to some objective theological position as I would have liked. Practically speaking, it was always before me. I performed many marriages while I was at Stonebriar, so much that I was called the “marrying man.” In many of the marriages I performed, at least one of the two people had been through a divorce. Each pastor on staff had a different position concerning the issue of remarriage after divorce; I think mine was one of the most liberal (relatively speaking). Stonebriar gave us some freedom in our decisions of whom we would marry. If another pastor did not feel comfortable performing a ceremony, they would probably just say “I will send you to Michael, he will marry anyone!” (That is not really true, but there was only one1 that I turned down in my six years in the pastorate.)

As briefly as a blog will allow, I want to give you my current position on the matter and hope that you understand what a struggle this is. I am in no way dogmatic about this, but I do have some thoughts. Generally speaking, I believe that people are either too liberal or too rigid when it comes to this issue. I think that there needs to be a middle ground (as I do with many issues). I hesitate while I write this due to the fear that people will find in my view an excuse for divorce, which is the last thing I want or intend. Yet at the same time, I believe that if what I propose is true, it, like all truth, will always undergo the risk of misapplication.

First let me say that the argument is not over whether divorce is bad. Everyone agrees that divorce is a result of sin and that healthy reconciliation is the perfect will of God. Well, let me rephrase. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). Let me make this a bit stronger. God always hates divorce. This much is true. We must, however, keep this in perspective: there are a lot of things that are the result of a fallen world that God hates. God hates death (Ez. 18:23). God hates war. I believe that God hates hell, deformities, addiction, and cancer.  But God also, to be sure, hated that he had to divorce Israel:

“And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.” (Jer. 3:8; see also Isa. 50:1)

So for God to say “I hate divorce” helps us recognize that divorce, as a part of the fallen order, is a result of sinfulness in the world and it is this that God hates. It also helps us recognize that divorce, like death and war, is sometimes a necessary part of a fallen world due to sinfulness.

Having said that, there are many disagreements about the issue of remarriage after divorce. I think that the primary passage that causes this particular trouble in dealing with divorce is Matt. 5:31-32 (and parallel passages):

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Christ here uses divorce as an illustration for our consistent inability to live up to the standards of God’s perfection. I say “illustration” because it comes in the context of Christ’s shocking statement, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (v.20). What a terrifying statement that must have been. Christ then goes on to demonstrate how the traditional way that people view the law and righteousness is insufficient. “You have heard it said . . . But I say to you” was Christ’s way of telling the people that what was said before needs to be rethought and intensified. Why? Because fulfilling the requirements of what was said before does not make one righteous unless it is understood correctly. Christ shows that just because someone has never committed the act of murder, this does not make them innocent of the principle that prohibits murder; the spirit of the fifth commandment includes a benevolent disposition to others (vv. 21-26). He then does the same thing with adultery, teaching that the commandment prohibiting adultery goes much deeper than the actual act. One must have fidelity in his thoughts as well (vv. 27-30).

By saying these things in such a way, Christ is turning the Jewish people’s worldview upside down. The scribes and the Pharisees were the best-in-show. Surely, if they could not enter the kingdom by their righteousness, everyone is without hope. The Jewish leadership felt at ease with themselves because, according to their estimation, they had lived pretty good lives. They had not broken any of the commandments, so they were safe. Christ seeks to level the playing field by showing that all people are sinners, even the Jewish leaders. Why? Because everyone has broken the principles of the laws, even if they had managed to avoid breaking a particular expression of the law.

What we must realize about this entire section is that Christ’s argument employs much hyperbole and extreme rhetoric. Speaking of how serious it is, Christ says concerning lust, “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out.” I don’t know about you, but I have never seen even the most conservative Christian who has followed Christ’s advice here. Why? Because they understand it to be hyperbolic. This is not meant to water down the seriousness of Christ’s admonition, but to show that Christ, like any good teacher, used hyperbole to get a point across. Everything that Christ says in this section must be taken in the spirit of its intent. It is in this context that Christ makes his statement about divorce:

“It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Mt 5.31-32)

Ouch! These are very shocking and hard words. But, we must realize that they are no less shocking and hard than the two previous admonitions concerning hatred and lust. I believe (albeit very timidly) that Christ’s words that anyone who divorces his wife makes her commit adultery, etc., must be taken in the same vein as the rest of His teaching in this context. In other words, Christ was using the same methodology to bring shock to his listeners so that all would see the drastic need that everyone has, no matter how good they think they are, for God’s mercy. This is not to say that what Christ says about hate, lust, and divorce are wrong and he really did not mean it; it is just to say that we need to keep this in perspective.

Let’s entertain for a moment the propositions that Christ did intend for us to follow this teaching about divorce literally in every case. What would happen? Well, I think we would have to interpret everything in this context the same way (including the gouging out of eyes and cutting off of hands). The outcome would be disastrous in many ways. This is what could conceivably take place: lusting itself would be an excuse for divorce since it is adultery (v. 28). As well, if you were to lust before you are married, and by lusting you have literally had sex with that person, then you are in God’s eyes joined to that person and are required to marry them (by Pauline extension in 1Cor 6:15). So, if this is the case, is it then God’s perfect will for me to find the first girl I lusted after and be “rejoined” to her so that she does not commit adultery? Of course not.

Craig Keener also provides some insight to this passage in Matthew 5:31-32 when he says,

“If He [Christ] intended this statement literally, the new union is adulterous; hence, sin occurs during every act of intercourse (not simply during the remarriage ceremony). In this case, we should not merely forbid divorced church members to remarry; we should regard their remarriages as adulterous unions and thus seek to break them up, even if the remarriages preceded their conversion” (Mark L. Strauss Remarriage after Divorce in Today’s Church, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2006, p. 104).

Let me take a brief moment and deal with 1 Corinthians and Paul’s comments on the subject. First Corinthians 7 is unique and deserves a fair amount of attention, but I will be brief. It is hard to understand many of Paul statements concerning the issue since many of the situations seem to be unique. Others are hard to reconcile and find one course of action that is always right. For example:

1 Corinthians 7:15 “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” What is the bondage here? Does it refer to the bondage of the marriage?

1 Corinthians 7:20 “Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.” Does this represent a universal Pauline stance that a single person should never get married?

1 Corinthians 7:26-27 “I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” Is it because of the “present distress” that this entire passage is written? What is the “present distress” that makes Paul think the unmarried should not be “bound”? If the “present distress” is not present does this mean that the one “released” (divorced?) from his wife can seek to be bound to another? Are we, today, out of the “present distress”? If so, what does that do to the series of admonitions of 1 Cor 7?

1 Corinthians 7:29 “But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none.” What does it mean to be married and live as though you had no spouse? Is it hyperbolic rhetoric to demonstrate the seriousness of our mission?

1 Corinthians 7:11 “But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband.” But what if she burns (lusts)? Would this admonishment bend according to 7:9? In other words, Paul says that it is better to be married than to lust for sex (1 Cor 7:9), but that a divorced person must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to their former spouse. What if reconciliation is not possible, yet the person’s sexual drive is difficult to control (i.e. they are “burning”)? Which admonition takes priority? It is like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object!

Divorce itself is bad, but I don’t think that these passages can be used to justify a strict admonition requiring perpetual celibacy in every case. I just don’t believe that the Bible is as clear here as many suppose, and as I have demonstrated.

Forgiveness and grace is something that we can take literally and act upon. For the person who has lusted in the past, we offer forgiveness, not a bride. For the person who has hated his brother, we offer grace, not the death penalty. For the person who has been divorced, shouldn’t we do the same?

This is what it boils down to and what I discuss during marriage counseling: is there any way possible to be reconciled to your former spouse without sacrificing your family’s safety? If so, I believe it is the Lord’s will to pursue this. If not, then grace and forgiveness are offered. At this point the practical issues of responsibility and maturity come into play. I suggest to people to make sure they have worked out the reasons for the previous divorce to be sure that any personal spiritual issues (including commitment) are not unresolved.

If you have been divorced and have remarried, by God’s grace and mercy enjoy the blessing of your marriage and build your family in a godly way. Don’t spend your time second guessing your decision to remarry. It will drive you nuts and create more problems than it might solve. After all, there is no decision that we make that doesn’t have some precursor of sin. As God’s providence finds its realization, we must understand that lives riddled with sin are all he has to work with. If this is not true, then grace is no longer grace.

In the end, I want to reiterate how difficult these issues are. I am not saying that there are no answers or that we should just throw our hands in the air, wipe the sweat off our brow, and opt for moral subjectivism. But we do need to tread these waters with great humility and timidity as the Scriptures present some ambiguity with regard to divorce and remarriage.

1 It was because of obvious unresolved issues of a woman who had been divorced and remarried many times that I did not perform the ceremony. She simply did not take marriage seriously and I could see that. The couple went to the church down the street!


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    186 replies to "Can a Divorced Christian be Remarried?"

    • Eloquorius

      @Citizendon:

      “Your identification of one who refuses to ‘love, forgive, repent, confess, etc.’ as ‘unregenerate’ is incredibly presumptuous. No born again believer starts off with a fully compliant slate of Christian virtues. To refuse to love or forgive in some particular situation (e.g. a troubled marriage) is more likely a sign of immaturity or lack of understanding than an unregenerate nature.”

      I respectfully disagree. Jesus was clear that one who refuses to forgive another is unsaved (Matt. 6:14-15, 18:21-35; Mark 11:25). Anyone who stubbornly refuses to walk in love is not saved (1 John 2:9, 3:15, etc.). After confrontation (Matt. 18:15-17), someone who refuses to repent of unloving/unforgiving disposition must be treat as an unbeliever. This is not a “presumptuous” standard of judgment, but a wholly Biblical one.

      Instead, we must love the stubborn soul by warning them, as Jesus and the Apostles did, that they are walking in darkness and face Hell. And if such an unregenerate wishes to leave the marriage, the believing/regenerate spouse “is not bound in such circumstances” (1 Cor. 7:15)

      “Using your logic, one could claim the ‘Pauline Privilege’ any time a spouse behaves in any way inconsistent with Christ as evidence of being ‘unregenerate’.”

      No, you could not claim that “any time.” Do not put words in my mouth. I specifically referred to the case of where a non-Christian (demonstrated by unregenerate stubbornness) has left a marriage. I NEVER said that a believer could initiate a divorce simply because the *other* party appeared/acted unregenerate.

    • MzEllen

      If remarriage is a sin, then avoiding it isn’t legalism; it’s holiness

      If you’re painting remarriage with a very broad brush (no discernement required), then you’re best to avoid it.

      IF you consider that there MAY be times when remarriage may not be a sin, then using that broad brush to disallow it in all cases IS legalism.

    • Chris Krycho

      I think you just summed up the preceding 100 posts quite adroitly! 😛 The question, of course, is when remarriage is a sin. I hold that it is a sin any time the ex-spouse is still alive. You don’t. We are presumably both doing our best to be faithful to Scripture… so the accusation of legalism, IMO, falls flat.

      Legalism, I think, is best defined as (1) believing that our good works earn merit with God or (2) believing that ascetisicm will keep us from sin, and so prescribing certain rules. (1) is defeated by the entire Bible, and (2) is quite specifically refuted in several of Paul’s epistles, especially Galatians.

      In any case, I don’t think legalism is the problem here so much as our different reading of the texts. After all, I am not accusing you (or CMP, or anyone else on the thread) of liberalism on this issue; I think your view is wrong, but not for lack of desire to honor God. 🙂

      If you said no remarriage despite your views, it would be legalistic in category (2). For Hodge, myself, etc., not so much!

    • Eloquorius

      So it looks like this debate — whether or not remarriage is ever possible — is coming down to a central contention: Is the marriage covenant indissoluble by anything but death?

      I think that those who found their wholesale opposition to all remarriage upon the indissolubility of marriage have quite a Scriptural challenge on their hand.

      1. If God sees all marriage as indissoluble for life, why did God’s Law regulate remarriage (e..g, Ex. 21:10, Deut 24, etc.)? And can you really defend your explanation to this question without also saying that an Holy God regulates — rather than prohibits — the practicing of sin?

      2. If God sees all marriage as indissoluble for life, why do the provisions for divorce exist as they do in Scripture? Why not a consistent “Thou shalt not…” sort of ban, like adultery, stealing, lying, etc.? Why all the various regulation and provisions?

      3. If God sees all marriage as indissoluble for life, what then is divorce for, if not for severing the marriage covenant as a consequence of covenant violation? Please explain your answer vis-a-vis God’s divorce (Jer. 3:8 and Isaiah 50:1).

      4. If God sees all marriage as indissoluble for life, why did He — through Ezra — command that all men of Israel divorce their foreign/pagan wives or else be cut off from the land? If marriages cannot be broken by anything but death, this form of repentance is nonsensical in the extreme.

    • mbaker

      Good questions, Eloquorius,

      I think that you are right on several points. I see divorce, having been there, done that, as a last resort kind of thing, something on which I think the anti-remarriage folks will agree.

      Where I depart from the attitude of some of the more legalistic views here is that singleness itself often then becomes a life long punishment in the church, rather than a process of recovery and re-establishment. On the other side of the coin, I had many people in the church ask me why I didn’t remarry!

      To remain single, and which I did for the greater part of my daughter’s life, still carries the stigma of divorce for the single Christian. So one way or another, it’s a no-win situation because a single and divorced Christian in many cases is either considered a burden or a threat. A remarried one is actually considered ‘safer’ in many circles because they aren’t so much a threat to the married folks.

      So lots of hypocrisy in the church both ways.

    • Torey

      ” I know how much many Christians who love the Lord struggle with great distress concerning divorce, remarriage, and what is expected of the committed Christan.”All I can say is: Right On!

    • Dave Z

      Eloquorius makes a good point. nothing Jesus said cancels out Old Testament principles, including those on remarriage, but this discussion has been focused almost exclusively on NT passages. Almost as if the NT supercedes the OT.

      Also, the “God hates divorce” quote came up pretty quick. Two issues there:
      1) do our English translations render the Hebrew accurately?
      2) we must remember that in spite of hating divorce, God divorced Israel.

    • Eloquorius

      @Dave Z”

      Also, the “God hates divorce” quote came up pretty quick. Two issues there: 1) do our English translations render the Hebrew accurately? 2) we must remember that in spite of hating divorce, God divorced Israel.

      RE: #1, on Mal. 2:16…

      The NIV and NASB maintain the KJV-influenced “God hates divorce…” mistranslation. ESV scholar C. John Collins noted the KJV’s departure from accurate Hebrew translation and called it “an innovation in the history of interpretation.” Truly it was…

      The Vulgate (5th century A.D. Latin translation of the Bible) reads:
      “If you hate, divorce, says the Lord God of Israel, but iniquity will cover his garment, says the Lord of hosts; guard your spirit and do not despise.”

      The Luther Bible (1545) reads: “Indeed, he who bears her ill will and repudiates her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with iniquity, says the LORD of Hosts. Therefore in this way watch over your spirit, and do not despise her.”

      Calvin translated it as: “If you hate (anyone hates), let him divorce (his wife), says Jehovah, the God of Israel; and he conceals (or, weaves) violence under his garment, says Jehovah of hosts: therefore be guarded in your spirit lest you defraud.”

      The early English versions, including the Coverdale translation (1535), the Great Bible (1540) and the Geneva Bible (1560) all followed Calvin’s reading: “if he hate her, put her away”.

      As you can see, the “hating” is not on God’s part, but on the part of the man who divorces out of hatred. (The KJV and derivatives get the speaker wrong.) The passage is silent, therefore, on covenant-justified divorce.

    • PJ King

      Hello all,

      I am the other party from Pillar on the Rock to which Chris Krycho has so often referred. Allow me to offer some context to the articles on divorce and remarriage which I wrote with much difficulty.

      Both of my parents are divorcées. They are married to each other, but they both were previously divorced. Mom was in a physically abusive marriage and eventually left. Dad was married for six months and came home from a business trip to find his wife gone. Later, they met, married each other, had some kids, and are still married – 30 years strong.

      I was raised in a Christian home, and the issue of divorce and remarriage has been close to my heart since I knew my parents’ history. I realized that there were scriptural prohibitions, and it seemed like there were some exceptions. I didn’t want to have to articulate a clear position, because I did not want to think my parents did anything wrong, especially given the difficult situations regarding their divorces.

      Eventually, I got to a place where I needed to determine my position (we run a webzine on the church, obviously this is a relevant issue), despite any emotions I might have toward the subject. Honestly, I began my research intending to find an allowance for remarriage, at least in the cases of an unbelieving spouse’s departure and adultery.

      Despite my intentions, the scriptural evidence was much clearer than I had expected and was in opposition to my presuppositions. My parents each (probably) had an allowable divorce, but their marriage to each other was an act of sin. Trust me, that’s a difficult conclusion to accept.

      If you read my position, please keep in mind that I did not want to agree with my conclusions emotionally. But I fully agree with them doctrinally.

      Series (the first two are mine)

    • Ed Kratz
    • PJ King

      Series… sorry, had an extra quotation, apparently.

    • MzEllen

      My question is not whether I can remarry – it’s a question of who I can remarry.

      Since I became “suddenly single” I’ve studied authors on both sides of the question and there is a ground between “all remarriage is sin” and “all remarriage is okay.”

    • PJ King

      MzEllen:

      Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18 are rather explicit in saying that marrying a divorced woman (and, presumably, a divorced man) is an act of adultery.

    • MzEllen

      One of the books that I own, and give away on a frequent basis, is Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible by Jay E. Adams.

    • MzEllen

      As I said, for me, it’s a matter of who I remarry and I have found Adams to be very helpful.

    • Chris Krycho

      @Eloquorius:
      1. Why did God regulate, rather than prohibit, divorce? Jesus answers: “Because of your hardness of heart.” I have no need to avoid that statement: clearly, God did regulate some sins rather than outright forbid them in the Mosaic law. We might also look at how God regulates issues like slavery, stealing (demanding reparations), various degrees of murder (from the death penalty to reparations), etc. In short, that’s not a problem for our view.

      2. See above and Deut. 22:28-29: why didn’t God just forbid rape? Why did he regulate it? There is no question that it is sin. The Mosaic covenant often dealt with what to do when people did sinful things. As to why he didn’t say, “Thou shalt not divorce,” why didn’t he say, “Thou shalt not rape,” or “Thou shalt not abuse,” or any number of other clearly sinful actions? I don’t know, but it doesn’t override the rest of Scripture.

      3. Important distinction: literary device vs. explicit commands. Especially given that this “divorce” was one that explicitly promised to end in God’s remarrying the same bride—his chosen people. The New Covenant was a renewal, not God choosing some completely unrelated bride. Again, not an argument against our view.

      4. This one is the hardest, but I’ll first note that the circumstances were outside the pale of ours (unless there are some closet polygamists in the conversation). Setting that aside, the two issues at stake seem to have been (1) covenant defilement via intermarriage and (2) abandonment of first wives when taking second—two issues also addressed by the Deuteronomic covenant. Following that covenant, sending away the women and their children would have required continuing to support them financially, and it would not have involved remarrying anyone else.

      In any case, both (3) and (4) are at most examples of divorce—neither address remarriage.

    • Hodge

      1. If God sees all marriage as indissoluble for life, why did God’s Law regulate remarriage (e..g, Ex. 21:10, Deut 24, etc.)?

      I think you’re misunderstanding the law code. He regulates rape as well. Is rape OK in certain instances. If not, let’s drop this line of argumentation.

      2. If God sees all marriage as indissoluble for life, why do the provisions for divorce exist as they do in Scripture? Why not a consistent “Thou shalt not…” sort of ban, like adultery, stealing, lying, etc.? Why all the various regulation and provisions?

      Because the law doesn’t address every evil in the world, and God sees a greater importance in conveying economic restitution to the wronged party, so that they are taken care of, rather than list everything that is bad. We know that things like rape in the law are thought to be bad within the covenant community (Jacob’s and David’s sons kill the offender for it), yet it is given provision in the law. Why? Because God knows that even with a “Thou Shalt Not” it’s still going to be done. What then will become of the wronged?

      3. If God sees all marriage as indissoluble for life, what then is divorce for, if not for severing the marriage covenant as a consequence of covenant violation? Please explain your answer vis-a-vis God’s divorce (Jer. 3:8 and Isaiah 50:1).

      God’s divorce is an analogy. He’s not literally married to Israel through a one flesh union. He’s not flesh to begin with. BTW, this is said as a rebuke. God never does divorce Israel because the covenant is eternal and based on Him alone.

    • Hodge

      4. If God sees all marriage as indissoluble for life, why did He — through Ezra — command that all men of Israel divorce their foreign/pagan wives or else be cut off from the land? If marriages cannot be broken by anything but death, this form of repentance is nonsensical in the extreme.

      Because they were seen as illegitimate unions in the first place. It was sin to marry them and they were being unfaithful by it. The purpose of marriage is to bring up covenant children. Kind of hard to do that with foreign wives. BTW, this would show that one remains in sin while married to someone to whom they were not to be married (e.g., a second marriage); but I wouldn’t use it this way. It was the purpose of the returned exiles to replenish physical Israel. Also difficult to do when marrying foreign women. This, however, should not be taken as prescriptive, since it does deal with Israel replenishing themselves after the exile and the breaking of the covenant made with God to marry them.

      According to Mal 2, the women that had been married were second wives. That also puts something interesting into the mix.

    • Hodge

      Chris,

      I just read your post after I wrote mine. I see that great minds think alike. 😉

    • Chris Krycho

      Hodge,

      I saw your comments come in via my subscription and chuckled to myself. :p

    • John From Down Under

      PJ King Post # 107

      Are you torn over your position? What is your relationship with your parents like now, after reaching this position? I would be genuinely interested to hear your thoughts on the following:

       If your parents committed a sin, but continue to remain married to each other, they are in essence living in unrepentant sin? Do you then interact with unrepentant sinners and perpetual adulterers?

       If they come to the same understanding as you, what should they do to restore their position before God? Repentance isn’t going to be enough unless followed by separation as ‘fruit of repentance’?

      As much as I agree that doctrinally there is no loophole for remarriage other than death, I seriously struggle with the idea that a 25 year old is condemned to loneliness for the rest of his life, because his wife left him and married the man with whom she had an affair AND had children with him (true story). This guy has no chance of reconciliation AND is the victim of her unfaithfulness.

      The interpretation of 1 Cor 7:9 then is that while an unmarried person can find sexual solace in marriage, the divorcee even if they ended up in divorce against their will (as in example above), they are stuck with loneliness and ‘burning’ for the rest of their lives.

      And here’s another red herring. A friend of mine who does mission work in the Middle East was saying that occasionally Muslim polygamists who turn to Christ are faced with a situation of 4 wives (or more) and usually kids from all of them. Should he only keep his first wife and get rid of the other 3 and continue to support her children?

      Scrambled eggs!

    • PJ King

      John,

      Thanks for visiting our webzine!

      My relationship with my parents is as normal as ever – and they even read all of my articles!

      I do not believe that remarriage after divorce is a repetitive sin, so I do not have difficulty in associating myself with my parents. I think repentance in their (and others’) situation is quite straightforward. They must admit their sin in marrying each other. If there is forgiveness and reconciliation needed with the former spouse (and any involved children), then that forgiveness and reconciliation should be sought.

      However, just because the remarriage was a sin, does not mean that the marriage is somehow invalid. Similarly, if a Christian woman sinfully marries a non-Christian man, you would not think her marriage is null, would you?

      As far as your true story goes – I believe that the scripture clearly affirms that a divorcee remarrying is adultery, as it is also adultery for someone to marry a divorcee. Although a difficult situation in our eyes, I do not believe the young man is “condemned to loneliness for the rest of his life”. I see about three possible outcomes: 1) The Lord is faithful and calls the man to celibacy so that the young man will not sin by breaking his end of the marriage covenant. 2) The Lord is faithful and kills the adulterous wife, thereby ending the marriage without sin on the part of the man (I know a man to whom this happened, but he remained single anyways). 3) The man commits adultery by being intimate with another women, married or not. Either of the first two situations would be consistent with 1 Corinthians 7:9.

      I don’t have room for the polygamist question, but it is intrinsically different than divorce and remarriage. In short, the non Christians wives would be allowed to leave, but the man would be required to financially support all remaining wives and children. If he is allowed to maintain sexual intimacy with any of his wives, then it should be only the first…

    • John From Down Under

      PJ – you gotta give up that late-night-blogging before the marriage begins to suffer 🙂

      You said:

      I do not believe that remarriage after divorce is a repetitive sin…

      Exegetically, I struggle with this interpretation somehow and IMHO I think it borders on eisegesis. It’s not that it is an unforgivable sin, but how can repentance be valid if you continue to live in the very sin you repented of? Isn’t the ‘staying in the marriage’ an ipso facto continuation of the sinful act (remarriage) that was committed? If you repent of stealing, you stop stealing or give the stolen goods back. If you repent of anger, you stop being angry.

      Generally, genuine repentance would produce a cessation of the sin repented of. How can you repent of an illegitimate union of you continue living in that union? If the union is not recognized as legitimate before God, does repentance legitimize it somehow?

      Having said all that, emotionally and rationally I struggle with this text, period! I wish it wasn’t there. In fact part of me hates it! If I was in your shoes I’d be doing exactly the same, I would not be able to distance myself from my parents. I have strong ties with a couple who is in your parents situation, I just can’t close my heart to them. I’ve also come across others whose second marriage seems to have worked out better than the first and from a human viewpoint, they display strong signs of a ‘healthy marriage’ as well as fruitful spiritual lives.

      But if I want to remain faithful to the interpretation of the text I would have to err on the side of ‘all or nothing’ not the ‘yes, but’ reading. Maybe I sound like a hypocrite, but I honestly wrestle with this issue.

      As far as your interpretation of the 25 year old guy’s example, I’d have to bite my tongue and agree with you but would hope I would never have to be the one to pronounce his death sentence 🙁

    • jim

      Chris: #99

      I was completely agreeing with you until the latter part of your statement “Marriage may make you happy, but it’s designed much more to make us holy.” If this is true, then why the prohibition to “Not marry”………..

      Overall, after reading every point of view expressed here, I can see both sides of this argument bibically speaking. Again I guess it comes down to not so much our interpertation of scripture but application of it to fallen lives. A bleeding man runs into your house screaming he’s after me, he disappears into your bedroom. Another man comes to your door with a knife in his hand asking you if you had seen that bleeding man. Do you lie? I guess I used to live in what I thought was a black and white world…as I struggle with these issues from a Christian perspective I must remember to show love, gentleness, and respect to a colourful sinful world bearing in mind that Christ is holy and hates sin.

      In him,

    • Chris Krycho

      Jim, I’m certainly not saying that marriage doesn’t make you happy—mine certainly does! But Thomas argues fairly persuasively in Sacred Marriage that marriage first makes you holy, then makes you happy. It may even do both equally… but if it only does one as you’re pursuing God, it’s likely to be the former.

      As for your example: the trick is, from the view we hold, telling somebody remarriage is okay is more like letting the guy with the knife at the bleeding fellow than it is lying to send the knifeman away. We should never encourage more sin; the harm it will do is far worse than whatever benefit we perceive. It is, in my opinion, a matter of trusting that what God says is best really is—even, and perhaps especially, when that butts up against our natural inclinations.

      Of course we extend forgiveness and preach the full covering of God’s grace over every sin people have committed… we just don’t encourage them to commit more!

      John From Down Under: what if you repent of having committed adultery, having raped someone, having killed someone? The act cannot be undone, but real repentance is still possible. (Paul is living proof!) One can repent of divorcing his/her spouse, even repent of having remarried… but to divorce again would be to break a second covenant relationship.

      Further, we note that though there were certainly remarried believers among those Paul was writing to at Corinth, and though he addressed a host of issues relating to marriage and sexuality, he did not suggest (nor did Jesus) that divorce was the right step for those people. Those who were married were to remain so. As with remarriage itself, a previous sin having been committed is not justification for commiting further sin (as another divorce would be).

    • Nazaroo

      “4. If God sees all marriage as indissoluble for life, why did He — through Ezra — command that all men of Israel divorce their foreign/pagan wives or else be cut off from the land? If marriages cannot be broken by anything but death, this form of repentance is nonsensical in the extreme.”

      First of all, you have to read Ezra with intelligence and wisdom.

      Ezra was a misguided racist, and his policy of casting away all foreign wives and children was a great evil, and not the will of God.

      Nor was this act of ‘tribal cleansing’ in any way necessary or beneficial to Israel, or the restoration of the Temple cult for the future coming of the Messiah.

      God could obviously keep the line of the Messiah pure in any case, whether or not Israel as a group of tribes generally kept their ‘racial purity’. Any argument to the contrary is just nonsense.

      Nor was there any requirement for the mother of the Messiah to be “racially pure”. It is obvious that the whole point of the Incarnation was an act of humility. Christians have understood this ever since the story was told about the lowly birth in a manger, the community scandal of a ‘virgin’ birth, and the entire ministry of Jesus, living among the marginalized, DISENFRANCHISED, and outcasts of society.

      If we read Ezra as if it condoned racism or the concept of racial purity, then we have failed to understand why the story is even included in the Bible in the first place.

      Its there to show us in the most clear and unambiguous light that the Babylonian Jews who returned from Exile to rebuild the Temple, Jerusalem, the southern kingdom of Judah, and Israel, were utterly depraved and unworthy to do so.

      Their ‘holier than thou’ elitism, forbidding the remnants of the Northern tribes of Israel to help them rebuild and participate in the return of Israel just shows beyond all doubt that their program was doomed to failure due to the gigantic “mote” in their own eye.

      Ezra may have been…

    • Nazaroo

      …sincere, but he was a complete jerk.

      peace
      Nazaroo

    • PJ King

      John,

      I understand the perspective of the second marriage being an illegitimate marriage. However, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 paints a different picture. A woman is sent away (and divorced) from her first husband, then she marries another man. If the second man dies, she is not permitted to rejoin her first husband because she is “defiled” and the LORD finds it “detestable.”

      Now, I don’t understand the particulars of the defilement, but this much is clear: if the second marriage was considered to be illegitimate, surely the woman would be encouraged to return to her first husband. However, her return is detestable. Therefore, the second marriage is not null and should not be considered a lesser marriage.

      Consider this: If a man remarries, the sin is not the marriage itself – it’s the breaking of his first marriage covenant, through remarriage, which is the sin. This is a big deal. However, if he ended his second marriage, Deut. 24 would prohibit his return to the first. Therefore, remaining in the second marriage is not a continual breaking of the first covenant because his part of the first covenant was absolutely broken when he remarried. The creation of the second covenant was sinful, but abiding in the second covenant is not.

      (I think the concepts of this passage apply today, because the situation being described is “detestable in the eyes of the LORD”. Old covenant or new, I don’t think that God changes his mind on what is “detestable.”)

    • jim

      Chris:

      Two thoughts:

      Why the prohibition on marriage re” to not marry”
      if marriage is intended to make one holy?

      Who does one repent to of re-marriage?
      Could one repent to God alone, or does it
      require the church leaders? Can it be between
      those actually involved with divorce alone?

    • Eloquorius

      ….how can repentance be valid if you continue to live in the very sin you repented of? Isn’t the ‘staying in the marriage’ an ipso facto continuation of the sinful act (remarriage) that was committed?

      This is a good points, John From Down Under!

      For those that believe in the indissolubility of the marriage covenant and that second marriage is explicit adultery, then it’s utterly illogical NOT to contend that each act of intercourse in the second marriage (that is, outside the first marriage) is somehow anything other than continual adultery. Example: If a married man has relations with a prostitute, would we not tell him that each act apart from his marriage was adultery? Of course! Would we not tell him that repentance meant mortifying the flesh and turning from the sin? Of course. And why? Because the whoremonger man is still married, of course.

      Likewise, that believe in the indissolubility of the marriage are speaking out of both sides of their mouth when they advocate for anything other than ceasing the behavior they call adulterous (i.e, sex on an illegitimate second marriage). And they speak doubly when they advocate against “breaking up” or “divorcing” the second marriage, if in fact the second marriage really is no marriage at all because (as they allege) the man/woman is actually still married to their first spouse. You can’t have it both ways, gentlemen.

      I have met some indissolubility proponents that do maintain the intellectual consistency to advocate leaving the (allegedly illegitimate) second marriage and the (alleged) adultery happening therein. But I find that many indissolubility proponents don’t have such consistency between their doctrinal conclusions and their recommended application.

    • Eloquorius

      Ohhh… just for kicks l’d like to throw this out here:

      The third case for divorce is that in which one of the parties deprives and avoids the other, refusing to fulfil the conjugal duty or to live with the other person. For example, one finds many a stubborn wife like that who will not give in, and who cares not a whit whether her husband falls into the sin of unchastity ten times over. Here it is time for the husband to say, “If you will not, another will; the maid will come if the wife will not.” Only first the husband should admonish and warn his wife two or three times, and let the situation be known to others so that her stubbornness becomes a matter of common knowledge and is rebuked before the congregation. If she still refuses, get rid of her; take an Esther and let Vashti go, as King Ahasuerus did [Esther 1:1 :17].

      Here you should be guided by the words of St. Paul, I Corinthians 7 [:4-5], “The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does; likewise the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does. Do not deprive each other, except by agreement,” etc. Notice that St. Paul forbids either party to deprive the other, for by the marriage vow each submits his body to the other in conjugal duty. When one resists the other and refuses the conjugal duty she is robbing the other of the body she had bestowed upon him. This is really contrary to marriage, and dissolves the marriage. For this reason the civil government must compel the wife, or put her to death. If the government fails to act, the husband must reason that his wife has been stolen away and slain by robbers; he must seek another. We would certainly have to accept it if someone’s life were taken from him. Why then should we not also accept it if a wife steals herself away from her husband, or is stolen away by others?

      — Martin Luther, “The Estate of Marriage” (1522)

      This seems consistent in principle and application with Ex…

    • Eloquorius

      PJ King: “Consider this: If a man remarries, the sin is not the marriage itself – it’s the breaking of his first marriage covenant, through remarriage, which is the sin.”

      But they’re calling it “adultery”, which (if I can point out the obvious) is a sexual sin; against God and spouse. While indissolubility proponents might consider entering the second to be sinful in its own right, the consummation would certainly be such, at least if one is going to throw around the term “adultery.”

    • […] C. Michael Patton asks if a divorced Christian can get remarried. Also, what constitutes a […]

    • nazaroo

      I didn’t want to leave this subject without a final post. But this is untimely because it took till now to get the article up at the link I am posting.

      http://adultera.awardspace.com/AE/Erasmus-Hardlook.html

      The article discusses Erasmus’ view on divorce/remarriage.

      The point is that one very bad side-effect of the Protestant Reformation, or rather what immediately followed, was that the whole protestant world moved very significantly away from both the traditional view of the Church, and more importantly, the teachings of Christ.

      By the time this motion was completed, in modern ‘no fault’ divorce, the whole of North America had become a nation of adulterers and adulteresses, without any clue as to what a Biblical marriage even was, and no hope of fulfilling the Biblical requirements to qualify for one.

      In a nutshell, Protestants opted for easy solutions to non-Biblical problems, like dumping a barren queen for a new model.

      Protestantism uncritcally adopted Erasmus’ nonsense on marriage en masse, and the result was the most depraved era of “Christian nations” since the Roman Empire.

      peace
      Nazaroo

    • Christian

      Maybe this will clear it up. Romans tells us a wife is bound to her husband while he lives. If he be dead, she is free to be married to another. However, if while he lives she be married to another, the bible tells us she shall be called an adulteress. The bible also teaches us that no adulterer has inheritance in the kingdom of God. There are many who sin against God and remarry thinking they are ok with God. There are some that will persuade them they are ok. However, if we continue in sin, we will be destined to the lake of fire. Period. The bible may not always seem pleasant to some, but we must live by every word of God, and these scriptures cannot be thrown out under any circumstances.

    • nicola perry

      Practically speaking, Divorce and Remarried between partners will not be succeeded that’s why divorce is a necessary tool to move forward.

    • Mark

      Is this debate still going? If so I had a few comments to make, as I am a remarried Christian man that came to Christ long after my second marriage.

    • Phil

      Hi Mark,

      I don’t know if the debate is still going, but I’m active in the topic and subscribed to the thread, so I got email notice of your comment today. Feel free to post your questions or comments and I’d be happy to dialog with you if you like. This is one of those endless, polarizing topics where people of wildly varying degrees of education on the topic hash things out passionately, ad nauseum. I’ve been doing the topic extensively for about eight years.

    • jen

      Hello,
      I would like to the bible’s recommendation for one half of divorced couple (Not as a result of adultery)who really didn’t want a divorce and fought to save the marriage but didn’t succeed.
      Can this person remarry without it being adultery since their divorce was due to circumstances beyond their control?

    • Phil

      Hi Jen. I’m still monitoring comments on this topic, so I just got notice of your comment.

      The answer to your question is “Yes” and the reason is clear from 1 Cor. 7:15: “But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances.”

      Generally speaking it’s always been understood that the abandoned party is considered the offended/innocent party in the divorce; the abandoning spouse would be the guilty spouse. Paul is clear that in the case of abandonment that the innocent spouse is free to remarry. “But what if the person who abandons is a Christian?” Not likely. But even if they are a professing believer, then they should be given the opportunity to repent, and if not, should be counted as an unbeliever… in which case 1 Cor. 7:15 applies all the same.

      Remember, the marriage covenant is three-fold: 1. leave, 2. cleave, 3.become one flesh. Abandonment sunders the covenant; i.e., the abandoned believer is “not bound”…

    • […] Can a Divorced Christian be Remarried? | Parchment and PenJul 26, 2010 … There has been some recent discussion about this issue in my part of the woods. As with some other issues, I am open to amending my … […]

    • Spencer Barfuss

      Hey Michael, was going to see what you thought about John Piper’s recent take on the 1 Corinthians 7 passage on divorce. Here it is – http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/i-dont-think-so-doug

    • jen

      thanks for your very helpful reply Phil.
      I’m yet to be married and have always been terrified of divorce and commiting adultery if I marry again.
      I pray this won’t be the case because I really would like a golden + wedding anniversary, God willing.
      Nothing like two people who’ve grown up and old together.
      However divorce has become the norm even among Christians.

    • Phil

      Hi Jen. You’re welcome:-) Your fear of divorce nowadays is understandable. But also understand that — contrary to erroneous “surveys” — divorce is NOT just as common among Christians as unbelievers. Over 80% of the U.S. will answer “Yes” if asked, “Are you a Christian?” But looking at the divorce statistics of merely professing “Christians” is nowhere near the same as rate among active, praying, church-attending, Bible-believing Christians. Also, the so-called “statistics” don’t take into account those who are divorced but became Christian later.

      But whatever the surveys show, you can only let fear rule over you so much. Eventually you must trust fully in His wisdom, power and sovereignty and thus move forward wisely. And remember, you will bring just as much sin into the marriage as whatever sinner you marry. The transformative power of the Gospel is the first and best defense against divorce, NOT legalism nor asceticism (Col. 2:21-23). Feel free to keep the…

    • Phil

      Spencer: I’m not answering for Michael, but in the few minutes I have before running to work I want to point out something. What Piper misses or simply won’t acknowledge is that Pauline language for marital covenant throughout 1 Cor. 7 is the language of being “bound” and “loosed”. The so-called topic change in v.25 doesn’t change that, even if Piper wants to play textual isolationism.

      Thus I believe that v.25 & 26 is a parenthetical statement that belongs attached to the preceding group. The advice to virgins makes more sense as part of what is often titled “Live as You Are Called” section (v17-24), does it not?

      Also notice how in v.27 Paul change tone and prose; from statement to didactic question statements. This, too, is important and further distinguishes it from the preceding verses.

      We must also point out — as even Piper acknowledges — that Paul’s commandments are framed by “this present distress” and this must affect our attempts at universal…

    • Drew Stevenson

      Chris Krycho says:
      July 27, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      What it actually means is that the seemingly ambiguous passage ought to be interpreted in light of the clear ones. It should be seen as a nuance to, rather than a contradiction of, the other passages.

      I have to say, I agree, but to a greater degree:

      The Bible says what it says. GOD is strict in his ways; yet people use grammar (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) to assign meanings to passages, that fit THEIR needs.

      It is forbidden to ADD TO, or TAKE AWAY from the Scriptures, but it’s been increasingly the case for so many that seek the truth.

      The problem is, people are selfish, and they can’t get past the reality that everything they do, think or feel is subject to the scrutiny of GOD’S WORD.

      I have recently come to this realization; I have been married and divorced twice, but I didn’t know, but I am aware now that I can’t remarry, ever….it’s not a pleasant thought. Stop reading into the Bible what isn’t there.

      If you do something as a child of GOD that you know is wrong, I believe that you MAY be forgiven, but that will not always be the case if you continue in willingfully sinning.

    • Drew Stevenson

      I admire this author’s command of grammar, however, in my opinion, this IS interjection of his thoughts, based firstly on his knowledge, but more importantly, possibly based on a need to bring the Scriptures more in-line with his thinking:

      http://www.esv.org/assets/pdfs/malachi.2.16.collins.pdf

    • Drew Stevenson

      The Scripture are not open for private interpretation

    • Drew Stevenson

      Let me say this, and apply this to YOUR life:

      “Few are they that enter the gate”
      what I am proposing is NOT the easy way; GOD made us in HIS image. Our christian lives are not promised to be easy, or well received by US. It IS a daily WORK to remain true to GOD because we ARE sinful by nature.

      I have no selfish agenda. I am coming to terms with the EXTENT of my sins, and I accept GOD’s word as the absolute RULE for my life. Is that in my best interest where I am concerned? NO. It IS the Law. Stop lying to yourselves, if that is the case.

      I would readily believe that I could remarry, or was not a fornicator or adulterer, but the Bible speaks for itself.

      Please, for your sakes, look into your hearts and be honest; stop trying to justify your thinking or your actions, and live by the Word that is in the Book.

      BTW, I don’t even come close to proclaiming to be perfect or holy; I AM a sinner, but I am able to be honest with myself about what a am, am not, and about the TRUTH of THE LORD. Not easy.

      I found this a good resource:

      http://www.pillarontherock.com/2010/05/divorce-and-remarriage-what-does-god.html

    • Drew Stevenson

      Let me say that EVERYTHING that we/I do should always be to the Glory of GOD. I want to re-state what I said earlier: I WANT to please GOD, so I am not just “following the rules”. When I asked if it was in my best interest to follow the Bible, and said NO, what I meant was that in my own selfish life, that is absolutely not in my best interest as a sinful human; trying to impart that fact that I am doing my best to thing of everything with GOD first, and not MY life on this earth as a mortal. For almost every person, this is an inconceivable concept, but with GOD, all things are possible.

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