HOW SACRED IS YOUR MARRIAGE?

Does God really care about the quality and commitment of your marital relationship?

It is important to remember Malachi 2:16: “I hate divorce, says the Lord God. According to the Bible, marriage is a lifetime commitment. The issue of remarriage after a divorce is addressed directly in 1 Corinthians 7:10–11: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.

We have two possible exceptions to this foundational principle, one of which Paul addresses in the same context: a believer abandoned by an unbelieving spouse “is not bound” (1 Corinthians 7:15). And Jesus says, “Except for sexual immorality” in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. So, depending on the exact meaning of bound and sexual immorality, there may be some cases in which remarriage is allowable after divorce.

Taking a closer look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, the phrase except for sexual immorality possibly gives God’s permission for divorce and remarriage. Many interpreters understand this “exception clause” in Matthew as referring to marital unfaithfulness during the betrothal period. In Jewish custom, a man and a woman were considered married even while they were still engaged or “betrothed.” According to this view, immorality during this betrothal period would be the only valid reason for a divorce.

However, the Greek word translated “sexual immorality” is a general word that can mean any form of sexual sin. It can refer to fornication, prostitution, adultery, etc. Jesus is possibly saying that divorce is permissible if sexual immorality is committed. Sexual relations are an integral part of the marital bond: “The two will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31). Therefore, breaking of that bond by sexual relations outside of marriage might be a permissible reason for divorce.

Jesus’ teaching seems to be that adultery unties the marriage knot.

If desertion dissolves a marriage, then is remarriage permitted? The context of 1 Corinthians 7:15 does not mention remarriage, except in verse 11, which says a divorced person cannot remarry. But, if “the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other” (verse 15, NLT), then it is reasonable to assume that remarriage is allowed. It seems in verse 15 Paul is giving an exception to the rule of verse 11.

The Bible makes it clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that reconciliation and forgiveness should mark a believer’s life (Luke 11:4; Ephesians 4:32). However, God recognizes that divorce will occur, even among His children. A divorced and/or remarried believer should not feel any less loved by God, even if the divorce and/or remarriage is not covered under the possible exception clause of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9.

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