Comfort & Counsel

Home  Articles  Site map

*Frequently asked questions*

The Bible, the written word of God, is our sole authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand. Please read the following with an open heart and a willingness to know God's ways and obey them. - Jacob Ninan

Marriage, divorce, remarriage

An introduction

The subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage is complex, because human beings are complex and human relationships still more complex. There is a lot of difference of opinion on what is right and wrong concerning this subject, especially when the Bible has not addressed it in an exact manner. Even godly men and Bible scholars differ on what the Bible teaches concerning details and also about what is to be done in different situations. We must avoid the tendency to want to mould the teachings of the Bible into our practical situations or to find an excuse for what we want to do. And we must equally avoid the tendency to sit comfortably in an armchair away from the practical realities of life and interpret the Bible according to the letter as if it is a legal document. We need to understand the spirit and also learn from God's dealings with different people as given in the Bible. We must remember what Jesus said that the law was made for man, and not man for the law (Mk.2:27).

As a counsellor I see the terrible pain people go through in different situations of life and I would like to help them to find a way forward. As a Christian and a student of the Bible I want to make sure that what I do and teach will be according to God's ways. It has not been an easy task to arrive at the present position on marriage, divorce and remarriage, and a lot of sincere and open-minded study and prayer have gone into the effort, trying to know more of God's heart. I have not only studied the Bible on this subject but also read many different interpretations Christians have, believing that they had some reason in their mind to believe what they did. While I was examining the different verses in the Bible in this connection I have tried not to restrict myself to the 'proof texts' but to look beyond the words to the heart of God which is revealed through His dealings with people throughout Scripture. I recognise that not everyone is going to agree on everything I write here. But here is the result of my sincere effort to understand the heart of God on this subject.

1. How did the arrangement of marriage start?

Marriage is not something that was invented by people or society. The Bible says that God created human beings as male and female and intended them to be fruitful and to multiply (Ge.1:27,28). Yet it was not just procreation that He had in mind. God brought Eve to Adam when He noticed that Adam needed a companion and a helper (Ge.2:18,22). (Actually they both needed each other. It is not good for a man or a woman to be alone.) God's intention was that they would complete and support each other and 'become one' (Ge.2:24). This 'becoming one' with each other is more than physical, and implies a merging of two people into one 'team' in every area of life as something that is not possible in any other relationship except marriage. (See Why get married?) Another goal that God has in marriage is the raising of godly children (Mal.2:14,15), because children need a healthy atmophere in the home that comes from the parents being one with each other and also because chidren need a lot of training before they can become what God wants them to be. Marriage is an institution that God Himself made for human beings from the time they were created. Apart from the relationship with God, the relationship between a husband and wife can be the most intimate and satisfying experience for mankind. Good marriages give stability not only to the families but to society itself.

2. What constitutes a marriage?

God refers to a covenant in relation to marriage (Mal.2:14). Irrespective of the form (depending on the particular culture) in which a wedding takes place, it is essentially a lifelong commitment between a man and woman to be united together in an exclusive relationship in faithfulness and loyalty. They make a conscious and deliberate vow to stay with each other no matter what may happen in future. This covenant is usually expressed before the public as well as government authorities, and these days a marriage is not valid unless there are human witnesses to the covenant and it is registered legally with the government. It is this covenant that constitutes the marriage in the sight of God. We must also recognise that God's intention is that this covenant between a man and a woman should remain till one of them dies. He warns that no one (including the couple) should cause them to be separated (Mt.19:6). When we look at marriages mentioned in the Bible we notice that in the early days there were no wedding ceremonies but there was a covenant commitment to each other. Wedding ceremonies add colour to the day and make it a memorable event, but it is the covenant that actually gives strength to the marriage.

At the same time we must recognise that now when couples get married in a socially and legally accepted manner, without really understanding or consciously making an exclusive lifelong commitment to each other, it is that kind of a commitment that is legally and socially implied in the wedding.

3. Is it not sexual union that consummates a marriage?

Marriage implies sexual union, and it is necessary for procreation. Sexual union is also the most intimate expression of love between a husband and wife. (See Sex with understanding) However, sexual union is not what constitutes marriage. Otherwise premarital sex would have constituted a marriage. Sexual union outside of marriage and with those other than one's marriage partner is sin. Premarital sex is sin (commonly referred to as fornication), and sex with others when one is married is adultery. A marriage without sexual relationship is still a valid marriage, and the couple can develop their companionship even though it lacks a major ingredient, because the spouses have taken each other for life as husband and wife. Even though civil laws recognise an absence of sexual relationship as valid grounds for divorce, it only implies that a major ingredient of a happy marriage is missing and it is not necessary that the marriage should end in divorce as a matter of course.

4. Some people say that marriage is between two extended families.

Our life on earth follows a cycle of families. When our parents got married they started a new family (our family of origin), and we were born into it. But when we get married we leave our family of origin and start a new family. When our children get married, they leave our family and start ones of their own. God tells us that for a successful marriage where the husband and wife can really become one with each other, there has to be first a leaving of the family of origin and then a cleaving to each other (Gen.2:24). (It is not just the 'man' who has to 'leave' his father and mother, but the wife too has to leave her family of origin. The use of 'man' in the above verse refers to the human being, and not just to the male. Actually, in some cultures, it is the woman who is forced to leave her father's family and join her husband's family!)

This 'leaving' essentially means a shifting of loyalties from the family of origin to the new family. After marriage, the husband and the wife become the most important people to each other (even more than their own children when they have them). They still need to 'honour their father and mother' (respect them, take care of them, help them in their needs, etc.) (Ex.20:12), but they don't have to obey them any more because they are no longer children (Eph.6:1). Without this 'leaving', there cannot be a good 'cleaving', and then there cannot be much oneness between husband and wife.

When the couple has children they also become part of the family, till the time comes when they leave in order to start their own families. An understanding of these changing boundaries can help much in preserving the unity between husband and wife. So even though two families of origin are brought together through a marriage, marriage is still to be considered as purely between two individuals.

5. Does God consider two people living together as a marriage? When there were no wedding ceremonies in the olden days, such relationships were recognised as marriage!

In the olden days when there were no wedding ceremonies when a man and woman decided to commit themselves to each other and lived together, it was the commitment that made them married. A man and a woman living together nowadays just as if they were married (with sexual relationships), without a legal commitment, does not constitute marriage in God's eyes even if it appears to be just like marriage in human eyes. If they really intended marriage, why don't they make it legal too? Generally people live like this because they do not want to make a lifelong commitment to each other and want to keep the option open for leaving if things do not work out. They usually express their desire to try things out. They have not made an exclusive, lifelong, no-matter-what-happens type of commitment to each other. But having sexual relations outside of marriage constitutes a sin (fornication) in God's eyes. Sexual intercourse is the ultimate and the most intimate expression of love between a husband and wife, and it is demeaning to have it just for physical thrill outside of marriage. If an unmarried couple says that they have made a covenant to each other and are living together without a formal/ public/ legal wedding it certainly looks suspect. The proof of a valid marriage is that the couple chooses to commit themselves for a lifelong, exclusive relationship, and takes legal and social steps necessary to announce it. We can also imagine the social chaos that would result from 'live-in' arrangements when we consider the plight of children born under such conditions, the trauma of broken relationships, etc.

6. If two people of the same sex make a marriage covenant and get formally/legally married will their marriage be acknowledged by God?

No. That is a homosexual relationship which God condemns as sin. Marriage is a relationship God made only for male and female together.

7. What constitutes a divorce?

Since marriage is based on a covenant which a man and woman make (before God) publicly and legally, divorce is a public and legal annulling of that covenant. When a couple takes a proper divorce they break off all relationships, ties and responsibilities with each other. They are no longer 'married'. They have no rights with each other (even if they have obligations regarding child care, etc.).

8. I thought covenants cannot be broken?

Some people argue that a covenant cannot be broken. Actually, even though a covenant is made with the hope that it will not be broken, it is also liable to be broken by one or both of the two parties. Think of the old covenant that God established with the people of Israel through Moses, which the people broke. When the people of Israel broke the covenant that they had made with God (the Old Testament - the old covenant), God 'divorced' them (Je.31:32;3:8). Even so with the covenant of marriage. God does not want anyone to break them, but some do.

9. What does God think about divorce? God hates divorce (Mal.2:16). His desire is that all married couples is that their union should be for as long as both of them are alive (Mt.19:4-6). In other words, He does not want a couple who once made a lifelong covenant with each other to break that covenant. This is the ideal that God has set before us. This is what couples agree to when they get married, making vows to say that 'whatever happens' they will be together till death. There are examples of many couples in real life who value their spouses and their covenant with them and stick with each other through thick and thin. The recognition of this committment towards each other acts as a great help when they face even insurmountable challenges.

But at the same time we must not think of divorce as a completely unacceptable option for Christians which, once accomplished, gets treated by other Christians as some unforgivable sin. Even though Jesus presented the ideal standard for marriage before the disciples, He also recognised that not everyone would be able to reach that level. We know that in the old covenant there was a provision for husbands to send away their wives by giving them a certificate of divorce (Deut.24:1). Jesus indicated that even in the new covenant God knew that there would be those who were not able to manage their marriage relationship according to His expectations. When the disciples commented to Jesus that it would be difficult to have that kind of a marriage relationship (Mt.19:10), He gave the answer implying that He understood and accepted that possibility (Mt.19:11,12).

God places so much value on the covenant between a man and a woman that even if they have gone through a divorce He would like them to be reconciled to each other (1Co.7:10,11), unless they have been remarried (De.24:1-4).

Does this not mean that God will not discard people who are unable to reach His best standards in this area, even though He would severely warn those who are contemplating divorce? Sad to say, some churches will not accept divorcees even though they accept murderers who repent! It must be recognised that even though God does not want divorce it is something that He may permit in special circumstances as the lesser of two evils. Let us look at some examples.

Hagar, the slave of Sarah and Abraham's wife through whom Abraham received Ishmael, was acting arrogantly towards Sarah because Sarah was barren (Ge.16:3,4). Sarah treated her harshly and Hagar ran away from Sarah with her child. What God told Hagar at that time was to return to Sarah and submit to her (v.9). However, later on after Isaac was born to Sarah and Ishmael started mocking Isaac, God Himself told Abraham it was alright to send Hagar away along with her son (Ge.21:12). God knew that things were becoming unmanageable and a separation (divorce) was the best option. Doesn't this example show that in some special cases God would choose the lesser of two evils? Increasing fighting between Ishmael and Isaac would be a greater evil than the evil of Abraham sending away his wife. (This is a great principle for us to keep in mind. Theologians call this the principle of objective moral relativism under which it is recognised that in certain cases one moral law may need to get violated in order to fulfil a higher moral law, e.g., killing a terrorist who is about to blow up a building in order to save the occupants. However this is not to be misused as an excuse for justifying wrong.) We can see that God does not consider divorce as some unpardonable sin as some Christians seem to make it.

(Some people argue that Hagar was not really Abraham's wife but only a slave or a concubine. But the Bible says that Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham as his wife (Gen.16:3). God also recognised this and treated Ishmael as Abraham's legitimate son. The same was the case with the sons of Jacob born through two women slaves who were given to Jacob as 'wives' by his wives Rachel and Leah, who became among the twelve heads of tribes in Israel.)

Imagine a wife getting beaten up by her husband and who even fears for her life. When some Christians unfortunately insist that she is bound to her husband as long as she is alive and tell her to 'submit' to her husband, will they not be held responsible for anything that might happen to her? Haven't such Christians forgotten to be compassionate and merciful in their zeal for the letter of the law (Matt.23:23,24)? Immediate physical separation may be required, coupled with all attempts to counsel and try to get a change of attitude and behaviour from the husband. If he refuses to budge and continues to threaten his wife, will not one of her options be divorce? Depending on her level of maturity and ability to deal with circumstances she may decide on other options such as staying separately without actually going for a legal divorce. But if she does choose divorce, will God be angry with her for that?

God who hates divorce went ahead with (metaphorically) 'divorcing' His 'spiritual' wife Israel (Jer.3:8). This teaches us that divorce is not an 'unthinkable' option but may be unavoidable sometimes. Of course, this example is only a figure of speech, and even here God's ultimate intention was that by waking up to the seriousness of the situation Israel would repent and return to Him.

The Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at a well had been married, divorced and remarried several times (Jn.4:18). (Some people point out that this is judgmental, because her five husbands could have all died one after another in which case there was nothing wrong with her remarriage! It is possible, but seems unlikely. Her living now with a man without marriage does indicate something about her.) Yet when she repented and believed, Jesus not only accepted her, but she became an evangelist towards her village. This shows us that 'sins', if any, of divorce and remarriage can be forgiven, and such people can even begin to serve God (1Co.6:9-11).

Let us consider the 'sin' of divorce. It looks as if Jesus said that if someone divorced his wife and married another, they would be committing adultery ("And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. Mt.19:8). Many Christians believe from this that remarriage after divorce would be adultery since the divorced spouses still have a covenant relationship with each other. Did Jesus ust give permission for divorce in the case of sexual sin, or did He also give permission to remarry after such a divorce? There is some ambiguity in understanding this quotation from Jesus. If remarriage is permitted after divorce in the case of sexual sin, why wouldn't it be permitted in other cases? Perhaps Jesus was not talking about divorce here, as we understand it. Remember this was an answer in the context of the Jews being required to give a certificate of divorce if they sent their wives away. If that certificate was given, the wife was allowed to marry again. Is it possible that Jesus was talking here only about 'not sending the wife away' and not about a full divorce? This can be cleared if we realise that there is a much more logical explanation than what is generally known. There are different possible meanings for the Greek word used for 'divorce'. Strong's lexicon gives the meanings of the word used in Greek for 'divorce' in this verse as "to free fully, that is, (literally) relieve, release, dismiss (reflexively depart), or (figuratively) let die, pardon, or (specifically) divorce: - (let) depart, dismiss, divorce, forgive, let go, loose, put (send) away, release, set at liberty." So Jesus could have meant here either 'to free fully' (divorce as we understand) or 'send away'. Just see what it would mean like this "And I say to you, whoever sends away his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." This means that if there has been only separation and no complete divorce, to marry another would result in adultery. On the other hand, when someone is fully 'divorced' freed fully from all ties, obligations and responsibilities from the earlier spouse, when there is no longer a covenant between them they are not 'married' any more. Can there be adultery if they marry another? Also, I imagine God will not be fooled if a spouse wants to marry someone else and divorces their spouse for that. This would be adultery in effect even though it looks legal.

In De.24:1-4, the warning is not against divorce itself, or remarriage after divorce, but against one who was remarried going back to the first spouse. Would God have permitted divorce or remarriage in the first place if they were of the unforgivable kind of sins?

Recognising the possibility that some people may not be able to come up to God's standards, Jesus said that divorce would be permitted (not necessarily required) in the case of sexual unfaithfulness on the side of the other partner. Further down we shall look at other possibilities.

Some people think that once two people get married, they are tied to each other for life. They misquote verses (1Cor.7:39;Rom.7:2) to think that even after a 'divorce', as long as the ex-spouse is alive they would be committing adultery if they get married to someone new. But what we need to remember is the fact that once the divorce is complete, they are no longer 'married' and they have no more connection with each other. The above verses are referring only to married people getting married to someone else!

This is not to be taken as a licence for divorce as an easy way out of trouble. There would be trouble in all marriages, and the challenge for Christians is to learn to love each other with the grace and wisdom God is willing to give. After counselling, intervention from friends and relatives, temporary separation, and every other step that can be taken have failed, then only divorce to be considered as a possibility.

Caution. I would suggest, in order to avoid being moved by emotions and to ensure maximum objectivity, that decisions on divorce and remarriage should be taken with great sensitivity, not directly by the people considering them but in consultation with mature Christian counsellors, well wishers and the church. Decisions should be made only after long and prayerful considerations and not impulsively spurred by emotions. It must be also remembered that circumstances vary much from couple to couple, and decisions must be made on a case to case basis.

10. What was the Old Testament standard for divorce?

Under the Old Testament (covenant), God tolerated men sending away their wives by giving them a bill of divorce (De.24:1). It must be noted that even here God did not command them to go for divorce in this way, but only tolerated it because of the hardness of man's heart (Mt.19:8). What happened was that people took this tolerance from God as a right, and started divorcing their wives if they found anything displeasing to them in their wives. Later some of the Pharisees interpreted it to mean that Moses had commanded someone who wanted to divorce his wife to give her a bill of divorce (Mt.19:7). Jesus corrected this position of the Pharisees from God's point of view saying that this was not what God had in mind (v.8).

11. What is the New Testament standard for divorce?

The new covenant brings people to the original plan that God had for people and that plan does not permit divorce (Mt.19:4-6).As Christians our aim is to live according to that standard and be pleasing to the Lord. In practical terms this would mean taking the marriage vows quite seriously and seeking God's grace to do everything to honour God through the marriage relationship. This may call for extra sacrifices in certain special situations and daily taking up the cross and denying oneself in order to do God's will (Lk.9:23). But God recognises that there may be some rare situations where things have become so bad that it would be better get divorced than to remain in the relationship, as we have discussed above.

Jesus gave the example of sexual sin on the part of one spouse as a case that might trigger a divorce. The Greek word used for 'sexual sin' (porneia) can mean any sexual sin including adultery, incest, homosexuality, etc. Any of these sins by a married person would amount to porneia. But even in the case of sexual sin which provides grounds for divorce there is no command from God to divorce the erring partner. The sin of adultery can be repented of and forgiven, and the spouses can be reconciled. God wants the erring partner to repent (turn away from that sin, express a strong desire not to repeat that sin, and decide to walk in obedience to God), confess his/her sin and receive forgiveness from the other partner. (But if the erring partner refuses to give up the unfaithfulness, would it be right for the victimised spouse to continue in that marriage? One serious option to consider is divorce. But certain practical considerations may compel some people to avoid going for a legal divorce. Counselling may help here.)

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to give another example where divorce could take place, in the case of a believer married to an unbeliever, as one of the exceptional situations. A believer is not expected to marry an unbeliever. But in case that has already happened, the believing partner is to stay on in the marriage with the hope that the unbelieving partner might become a believer and also because the children will have a Christian influence over their lives (1Co.7:12-14,16). However if the unbeliever chooses to leave the marriage, the believing partner will be set free from his/her obligations (v.15). This means that he/she can go for a divorce. When Paul wrote this, the application was obviously to unbelieving couples who were already married and then one of them became a Christian. Irrespective of the unequal aspect of the marriage, the marriage itself was recognised as a fact. The commandment for the present day is that a believer should not get married to an unbeliever (2Cor.6:14). However we can take it that if someone disobeyed this and got married to an unbeliever (for which he/she needs to repent and receive forgiveness) this same instruction will apply regarding divorce.

Going on from here, is it not right for us to think that there might be other exceptional situations also which are not explicitly covered in the Bible where divorce could be an option to consider? For example, what about when a husband is abusing his wife to unbearable limits, even threatening her life?

12. Some people are saying that under the New Testament standards, even in intolerable situations such as abuse or a threat to life there is no chance of divorce.

We discussed the example of Hagar above. That was an abusive situation, and God chose divorce as the lesser of two evils. The principle we need to follow in such situations is to honestly see if while divorce would be certainly wrong, continuing in the present situation would be far worse. It is best if this is not decided by the couple themselves but in consultation with others as given in Mt.18:15-17.

13. How can you you say this when Jesus said categorically that any divorce apart from sexual sin would be sin?

In the light of all that we noted above, what Jesus said was possibly that if a spouse was sent away without a final divorce and then one of the spouses got married again, that would result in adultery. Once a full divorce has taken place, the two are no longer 'married' to each other or in their 'status'. The best way to interpret verses is to compare it with the rest of the Bible. When we do that with this 'categoric statement' we find that we need to understand the verse differently than what appears in many translations.

14. What if one believing partner keeps committing sins (other than sexual sin) that cause unbearable suffering in the family? Can the other partner choose divorce as the lesser of two evils?

We must remember that in any marriage there would be differences between the two spouses, and some of these differences may give rise to problems for them. This is a part of real life, and these are to be dealt with appropriately rather than by saying that it is too difficult to live with the other person. But there may be other situations that may be life-threatening or unbearable which are not getting resolved even after counselling and intervention by the church. The best thing is to take recourse to the procedure set forth in Mt.18:15-17. Let the church finally decide the best course of action. (Hopefully the particular church is not one of those which follow the words of the law to the letter without compassion or understanding or one which takes the law lightly! If it is, then one has to probably reach out to the universal church. That means one has to consult several church leaders and take a considered view.)

15. What if one spouse develops an incurable disease or handicap that does not allow a normal married life? Can the other spouse go for divorce?

When they got married, there was virtually equal possibility that any one of them could become sick. They made vows to each other that they would take care of each other in 'sickness or in health'! The sickness could very well have come to the other spouse! One of the reasons why God puts two people together is that if one becomes needy the other can provide the support. It is, of course, one of the commitments the couple makes in marriage that whatever good or bad happens, they are going to stick it out together. One must believe that God will give special grace in special situations.

16. Are you not giving many loopholes for people to take divorce?

Of course, that is not the intention. But just as people take advantage of free grace to take liberties with sin, people will misuse the opportunity given for responsible behaviour to act irresponsibly. That should not foreclose the opportunity for those who will act uprightly to do so.

17. Jesus said that if a man looked at a woman with lust, he would be committing adultery with her in his heart (Mt.5:27,28). Do you think this would provide a reason for a wife to seek for divorce?

While adultery in the heart is a sin, one must recognise that there is a difference between that and a physical act in terms of the ability to judge and conclude that a sin has taken place, as well as the consequences. Jesus also said that if one got angry with someone it would be like committing murder. But one can see the difference in level in this too. A married man or woman fantasising about relations with someone else would also be committing sin in the heart. These have to be dealt with and forgiveness has to be obtained from God. What Jesus was trying to convey was that sin in the heart was as sinful as an external act. But that cannot be extrapolated to mean that the practical implications and consequences are also the same.

18. What does God say about remarriage?

Remarriage itself is not abominable to God. God freely allows remarriage in the case of death of one of the partners (1Co.7:39). In the case of young widows (and widowers?) remarriage is in fact encouraged (1Cor.7:9;1Ti.5:14). We must keep in mind the principle that while staying single is advisable for those who would like to serve the Lord without distraction (1Co.7:34,35), it is better to remarry than to burn with desire (1Co.7:9) or to become a nuisance to others (1Ti.5:13,14). The decision depends on one's ability to manage a single life (1Co.7:7).

Jesus said that remarriage after divorce except in the case of sexual sin would result in adultery (Mt.19:9). As explained earlier, this reference could be to someone who divorces the spouse in order to marry someone else. In view of other references given above, this passage should not be taken as one forbidding remarriage. We can take it that when a proper divorce has already taken place, the marriage covenant has been annulled, and that they are no longer 'married'. Then they would be free to marry again. Even in this case, God's suggestion is that they remain single or get reconciled to their ex-spouses. But He recognises that some will not be able to manage that (1Co.7:8,9).

"Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned" (1Cor.7:27,28). Look at the portion in italics! Because these sentences are split into two verses, many do not connect them together in meaning. What Paul says here is that it is not a sin at all for those who have been divorced (released) to marry again!

I think everyone would agree that if one of the spouses had his/her eye on another person, got divorced from the present marriage and married the other person it would be adultery. But what about a person who got divorced, not because of any desire to marry someone else but because he/she could not manage to live in that relationship? My opinion is that whether the divorce was because of sexual sin on the part of the other spouse (in which case the position is clear) or not, if the divorce is complete in every way and much time has passed since then to consider all possible options, such persons can consider remarriage after proper consultation with mature people. Remember, it is not good for men or women to remain alone, and it is better to remarry than to burn! Just because someone made one mistake in their life, we must not confine them to suffer for the rest of their life.

18. If two people have got divorced and remarried without proper considerations, are they living in adultery?

Getting remarried like that was a sin if the divorce was carried out in order to marry another one. Or it could have been done as a mistake because of weakness or ignorace. But once they are married, they have to be recognised as a married couple and treated accordingly. It would be wrong to ask them to separate or go back to their first marriage (De.24:1-14). Remember how Jesus accepted the woman from Samaria. At the same time, the couple should recognise that they may have sinned or made a mistake before God, repent and receive forgiveness. The act of divorce and remarriage in such cases may have been wrong, but living together now as husband and wife if they are now legally husband and wife and have set things right before God. When David slept with Bathsheba, Uraih's wife, it was adultery. But after the sin was confessed to God and forgiven, their subsequent life as husband and wife was acceptable to God. But Herod living with Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, was not right.

19. The Bible very clearly says that a wife is bound to her husband as long as he is alive (Ro.7:2;1Co.7:39). Even if one cancels the covenant as you say, will it not be adultery to get married to another person while the previous partner is still alive?

The point to remember is that when a full and mutual divorce takes place, the covenant of marriage is annulled, and the two persons are no longer 'married.' If they were indeed 'married' they would have, for example, conjugal rights. But properly divorced persons have no further rights with each other. The verses you have quoted only apply to married people (husband and wife). Once a proper divorce takes place, they are no longer husband and wife, and the ties mentioned in these verses do not apply to them.

20. Do you think you have arrived at the last word on this subject?

All I can say is that I have tried to make a sincere attempt without any knowingly selfish motive to understand what God thinks about the subject. I don't think my views are beyond question. I suppose as people continue to study this subject these views can be improved upon.

Use the form below to write if you have questions or comments about this subject.


A free online course on the Foundational Truths of the Christian life