A Different View

But, of course, God sees things differently. The “indecency” of which He spoke in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 for divorce must have been something very immoral, probably something just short of adultery.[1] That is, a husband could lawfully divorce his wife if he discovered that she was promiscuous before or during their marriage.

In God’s mind, the imaginary man I’ve just described is no different than an adulterer. He has broken the seventh commandment. In fact, he’s even more guilty than the average adulterer, because he is guilty of “double adultery.” How is that? First, he’s committed adultery himself. Jesus later said, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9).

Second, because his now-divorced wife must seek another husband to survive, in God’s mind the Pharisee has done the equivalent of forcing his wife to have sex with another man. Thus, he incurs guilt for her “adultery.”[2] Jesus said, “Everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery” (Matt. 5:32, emphasis added).

Jesus may even have been charging our lustful Pharisee with “triple adultery” if His statement, “and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt. 5:32), means that God holds the Pharisee accountable for the “adultery” of his former wife’s new husband.[3]

This was a hot issue in Jesus’ day, as we read in another place where some Pharisees questioned Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?” (Matt. 19:3). Their question reveals their hearts. Obviously, at least some of them wanted to believe divorce was lawful for any cause.

I must also add what a shame it is when Christians take these same scriptures about divorce, misinterpret them, and place heavy shackles on God’s children. Jesus was not talking about the Christian who was divorced when he or she was a sinner, and who, upon finding a wonderful potential mate who also loves Christ, marries that person. That is not anywhere close to being equivalent to adultery! And if that is what Jesus was talking about, we’ll have to change the gospel, because no longer does it provide forgiveness for all the sins of sinners. From now on we’ll have to preach, “Jesus died for you, and if you repent and believe in Him, you can have all your sins forgiven. However, if you’ve been divorced, make sure you never get remarried or else you’ll be living in adultery, and the Bible says that adulterers will go to hell. Also, if you’ve been divorced and remarried, before you come to Christ you need to commit one more sin and divorce your present spouse. Otherwise you’ll continue to live in adultery, and adulterers aren’t saved.”[4] Is that the gospel?[5]


[1] Under the Old Covenant, those who committed adultery were to be stoned.

[2] Of course, God doesn’t hold her accountable for adultery when she remarries; she was just the victim of her husband’s sin. Obviously, Jesus’ words make no sense unless she does remarry. Otherwise, there is no sense in which she could be considered to be an adulteress.

[3] Again, God would not hold the new husband accountable for adultery. He’s doing a virtuous thing, marrying and providing for a divorced woman. However, if a man encouraged a woman to divorce her husband so he could marry her, then he would be guilty of adultery, and that is more likely the sin Jesus had in mind here.

[4] There are, of course, other situations that could be addressed. For example, the Christian woman whose unsaved husband divorces her is certainly not guilty of adultery if she remarries a Christian man.

[5] In a later chapter about divorce and remarriage, I address this issue more thoroughly.