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Our Christian Faith
What Does The Bible Say About Divorce?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 2:00am

What does the Bible say about divorce? You would be surprised at how often this question comes up in churches, in Christian counseling sessions and on Christian radio programs across the United States.

There are millions of Christians in the U.S. alone who have either been through a divorce or who are in failing marriages where divorce is being looked at as an option. Sadly, the divorce rate in most Christian denominations is about the same as it is in the rest of society.

In today's world, divorce is often viewed as an easy way to get out of a bad situation. But is it appropriate for Christians to divorce? If so, under what circumstances?

The truth is that the Scriptures are very clear about how God feels about divorce. In fact, in Malachi 2:16 God tells us that He hates divorce....

"For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel..."

But God also knows that man is sinful and that this is an imperfect world. He knows that husbands and wives are going to cheat.

In the The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:32), Jesus explains: 

"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."   Matthew 5:32

In Matthew 19:3-9, Jesus explained to the Pharisees why some divorces were allowed under the Law of Moses and under what circumstances divorces are permissible for Christians.... 

"Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."  Matthew 19:3-9

In the above passages, Jesus is addressing the Jews during the Age of Law (pre-Cross).  But the unmistakable characteristic of the Church Age/Age of Grace, which followed the law and Jesus' death, is forgiveness and reconciliation.

In the Church Age, we are to love others as Christ loved us (Ephesians 5:2, 25, Romans 15:7, I John 4:19).  And Christ loved us with TOTAL forgiveness for ALL things, even when we sin over and over.

Also, in the Church Age we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us that offers us the ability to forgive and move on, not remembering a "wrong suffered" (I Corinthians 13:5).  That leaves no room for divorce under any circumstance.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,"  Ephesians 5:25

The way that many couples divorce and remarry so casually today is an abomination to God.

While the rules for divorce that the Bible sets forth may seem harsh to some, the truth is that God considers a married couple to be "one flesh".  He never intends for them to split up and intended that marriage be forever ... for better or worse, and unfortunately some of you got the "worse.".

Divorce should be avoided by Christians at all costs - even if the spouse is an unbeliever.

... a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; ..."  I Corinthians 7:13-14

It makes no difference if your husband is a Christian or not. God says you are to stay married. He does not distinguish between a Christian husband and a non-Christian husband.

1 Corinthians 7:39  "A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord."

But, it is important to note that at times it may be appropriate for Christian couples to separate (though not divorce) if the circumstances call for it so that problems can be worked out at a safe distance. In extreme circumstances a separation may need to extend over a long period of time.

I know a Christian woman in another state who had to get out of a situation where she was experiencing mental and verbal abuse due her husband's heavy drinking.  The problem is that once a legal divorce is sought, you are, in effect saying that you could no longer trust God to deal with or change the circumstances of your marriage. You were also telling your husband that he was beyond your forgiveness.

It may not be wise to contact your husband in person or to be in his company at this time, but you can communicate that you love him and that you desire to follow God's plan. It makes no difference if he is in sin, or not in sin, because that is God's area of responsibility, not yours.  You may be looking for an "out," and truly not wanting to wait for God's plan to fully unfold. What if God has him on a 15 year plan? Or 30 year plan. Do you want what GOD wants, or do you want what YOU want?

If you sincerely want what is best, trust God to be in control of this situation and allow Him to use you mightily. Pray for your husband, for reconciliation, and for a strong marriage. You may want to pray about finding new spiritual leaders that will give you advice based on the unwavering and unchangeable Word of God.

Mark 10:12  "and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

The Bible is also clear that you should prayerfully seek reconciliation.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11  "But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife."  

Further more, if God doesn't allow reconciliation, you have the promise of an incredible life ahead of you. Being single allows time to develop a much deeper relationship with God.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35  "But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord."

God promises to honor your obedience and trust in Him in ways that will count for eternity.

While this may come as extremely disappointing news to those stuck in incredibly unhappy marriages, the truth is that God's ways are higher than our ways. He knows what is best. He wants us to work our marriages out.

The United States is filled with millions of men, women and children who have had their lives devastated by "easy" divorces. The institution of the family is being destroyed in modern society and it seems like families are generally less happy than they used to be.

If people would just obey God's laws and follow His design for marriage and the family, things would work out so much better for them. God knows what is best, and when we follow His plan we will truly have the best chance to be blessed.


A note to Christians who have divorced and remarried: God paid for ALL sin on the Cross, so move on with your new spouse. It's not the unpardonable sin!

Philippians 3:13 ". . . forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead."

Belief beyond proof is faith. Belief in spite of proof is folly.

Call or email me if you have questions.


Pete, Sr.


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