Divorce

Divorce is an important topic to address and thankfully the Bible has a lot to say about it. The Bible clearly explains when it is permitted but God generally hates divorce.

"So, then, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate."

- Matt. 19:6

"For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one's garment with violence," Says the Lord of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously."

- Malachi 2:16

Divorce occurs when someone has married the wrong person as God will clearly guide the Christian who is listening to God's voice. The Bible makes this clear and I clearly heard God's voice in my own life and married the right person. Unfortunately some people marry before they are Christians or as Christians marry the wrong person. A lot of Christians think they have married the wrong person but that doesn't neccesarily mean they should get divorced.

Let me clearly explain what the Bible says for every possible situation.

BOTH SPOUSES ARE CHRISTIANS

Married Christians are not to get divorced but since sexual relations form a bond of oneness between two people (1 Corinthians 6:16), sexual sin on the part of one marriage partner can be grounds for divorce. The Greek word translated "sexual immorality" (pornea) is a general term and would include adultery, homosexuality or any type of sexual perversion. It should be noted that Jesus does not insist upon divorce in such cases nor command it -- nor even encourage it. Considering the Scriptures as a whole, it would seem that divorce should be a last resort, reserved only for cases of repeated and/or flagrant sexual violations. Short of this, forgiveness and reconciliation are to be sought after and the marriage preserved. If a divorce is obtained because of sexual immorality, remarriage is permitted.

"But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."

- Matthew 5:32

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."

- Matthew 19:9

"A wife is not to depart from her husband. But if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife."

- 1 Corinthians 7:10-11

ONE SPOUSE IS CHRISTIAN, THE OTHER IS ABUSIVE OR SEEKS DIVORCE

Sometimes a spouse can be abusive. Clearly there needs to be a seperation if the abuse warrants this and the Bible doesn't forbid seperation for a time.

Ideally the married couple will get counseling, and if the abuser needs to become a Christian this will happen, and the abuse will hopefully stop. Sometimes the abuser is not a Christian and refuses counseling. This has happened to several friends of my wife and I. The abused needs to hear from God and be led by Him on what to do. The abused wants to be happy and it is difficult, especially with children, to continue to be married to someone you are seperated from. THe abused also needs to pray and fast for their spouse, which can be difficult. We have counseled numerous couples in this situation but every situation is different. The most important thing is to always go back to God and His Word for direction. We show them clearly what God says while praying, fasting and helping them however we can. When the abused is a Christian, praying and fasting for their abusive spouse, inviting them to get help and counseling, and living righteously, the abusive spouse will usually turn around or get divorced. If they get divorced, the abused is then free to remarry if God guides them into this. Regardless they should pray for the other person's salvation. They can also seek restoration and reconciliation as God can mightily work in the heart of the other person.

"But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to dwell with him, let him not divorce her. And the woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to dwell with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?"

- 1 Corinthians 7:12-16

So the principles here are very clear:

1. If the unbelieving partner desires to preserve the marriage, the believing partner has no freedom to divorce him/her.

2. If the unbelieving partner chooses to leave and get divorced, the believing partner is to let him/her depart. In such cases the believing partner is free to remarry, but "only in the Lord," to a Christian. (1 Corinthians 7:39)

In some cases, two people got married as unbelievers, and one becomes a Christian:

1. If the new believer is presently separated from his/her spouse, he/she must seek genuine reconciliation with the estranged partner (1 Corinthians 7:11). If the partner refuses, and seeks and receives a divorce, the believer is free to remarry "in the Lord" according to 1 Corinthians 7:15.

2. If the new believer is presently divorced, he/she must seek genuine reconciliation with the divorced partner (1 Corinthians 7:11). If the partner refuses, the believer is free to remarry in the Lord according to 1 Corinthians 7:15.

3. If the new believer is presently divorced and his/her former spouse has since remarried, the marriage bond has been broken and the new believer is free to remarry "in the Lord." To have the remarried partner obtain a second divorce to reconcile with the new believer would be a violation of the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

4. If the new believer's former spouse has remarried and is now divorced again, the new believer is not allowed to take the former spouse back (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) but is allowed to remarry "in the Lord."

5. If the new believer is presently remarried, but his/her original divorce was not biblical, he/she should not dissolve the present marriage to seek reconciliation with the former partner. To do so would be a violation of the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). The new believer should confess his/her sin, receive God's forgiveness, and make his/her present marriage honoring to God.


© Todd Tyszka
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