Today we’re looking at divorce and remarriage a third time. Is it adultery in God’s eyes to be married again after a divorce? Should Christians who were divorced in the past but are now married divorce their current spouses? And, if possible, should they get back to their previous spouses? In God’s eyes, are they still married to their previous spouses?
The Most Strict Literal Interpretation of Jesus’ Words
I can understand how folks can up with these questions based upon Jesus’ words about how whoever divorces and marries another commits adultery (Matthew 19:3). But to take the most strict literal interpretation of those words would seem to be foolish in light of other evidence from Scripture.
Jesus said elsewhere,
If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell.
– Mark 9:47
No one takes Jesus in the strictest literal sense in this verse! They look for the real meat of what He was trying to get across. And what He was trying to get across in this verse is that if there is something that is causing you to stumble, cut it off. Of course your physical eye can’t actually cause you to stumble, so it would be foolish to try to remedy your situation by throwing it away!
I heard someone say once,
Plucking out an eye doesn’t solve the lustful man’s problem. He just becomes a one-eyed luster!
Lust is something that’s in the mind and in the heart. That’s where you’ve got to make adjustments. You have to cut off the temptations and the things that would cause you to stumble into lust.
How the Apostles Interpreted Jesus’ Words About Divorce and Remarriage
There are so many things that Jesus said that nobody takes in their strictest literal sense.
It is obvious that the apostles didn’t take Jesus’ words about divorce and remarriage in their strictest literal sense. There is no place in the New Testament where you can read about any of the apostles telling people to divorce! Much less telling Christians to divorce because they’ve been previously divorced prior to their salvation or some time in the past. This conclusion is just not found outside of a very strict literal interpretation of those four divorce and remarriage passages that the synoptic gospel writers recorded.
The Biggest Death Blow to the ‘Divine Divorce Doctrine’
Probably the biggest death blow to the ‘Divine Divorce Doctrine’ that some are promoting is something Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians. There’s a whole chapter in 1 Corinthians that is all about marriage and divorce and widowhood and immorality and what’s right and what’s wrong in these cases. And never once does Paul intimate that anybody should be divorcing anybody.
He tells Christians emphatically, “Don’t divorce! If you don’t listen to me and you do separate, remain single or else be reconciled.” And then he tells Christians who are married to unbelievers, “Don’t divorce! If the unbelieving one is willing to stay, stick it out. Maybe you can win them.” But he says “if they want to go, let them go, you’re not under bondage in such cases.”
The passage from 1 Corinthians 7 below shows, unequivocally, that Paul did not buy into this ‘Divine Divorce Doctrine’ that is being promulgated in some circles today.
What Paul Believed About Divorce and Remarriage
Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called. Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. 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. – 1 Corinthians 7:24-26
Virgins in these verses are those people who have obviously never been married, who have never had a sexual relationship with somebody. The present distress could only have been some wave of persecution that was passing through at the time. And persecution does generally come in waves. It ebbs and it flows. And so Paul’s saying, “Right now, if you’re a virgin, I wouldn’t be thinking about marriage right now. This is not a good time to think about marriage.”
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. – v. 7a
Of course! Paul has already said over and over again that you shouldn’t be seeking a divorce. You shouldn’t be seeking to get out of your marriage.
Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. – v. 7b
That fits the advice Paul just gave to virgins. But now he’s saying it those who have been divorced. “Are you released from a wife? You had a wife, now you’re released. Don’t seek a wife. It’s better, at least right now, to be single.” But now listen to verse 28, addressed to the person he has been addressing, who has been released from a wife:
“But if you marry, you have not sinned. v. 8
Christian Couples: You Are Not In Adultery
This passage certainly is the death blow to the idea that you are sinning and living in adultery if you were previously married, divorced and are now remarried.
Of course, divorce always involves sin, right? There’s got to be selfishness in one or both of the parties that drove them to get a divorce. When they got married, both parties loved each other. They were expecting ’til death do us part. That’s what they said. That was the promise they gave.
But they let selfishness enter in. I’m not going to point my finger at anybody. I’m just going to say that we can all agree that when there’s a divorce, there’s sin. It doesn’t please God.
God never intended divorce. But, He made provision for it because He knew that it was probably inevitable in light of the hardness of people’s hearts. So under the Old Covenant, divorced women were allowed to get remarried. Israelite men were allowed to marry divorced women. The only exception were priests.
This is the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law. But the New Covenant is the same.
How Can You Know For Sure?
Paul said, if you marry, you have not sinned. But some will say, “Well, how do you know? How are you sure that Paul is talking to the person who’s been released from a wife?”
I’m sure because in the next clause of this same verse he says, “And if a virgin marries, she has not sinned” (1 Corinthians 7:28). Clearly when he says “But if you marry, you have not sinned,” he’s not talking about the person who’s never been married. He’s talking about the person who has been married and has been released from a wife.
We’ve devoted three little lessons to this subject of divorce and remarriage, and these are ‘Little’ Lessons! But I encourage you to look into this subject deeper. I’ve written a more in-depth article about divorce and remarriage that I encourage you to read if you want to know more.
Thank you so much for joining me on this Little Lesson! Hope to see you next time.