Ethics-Part 2- Marriage Divorce Remarriage

SERMON TOPIC: Ethics-Part 2- Marriage Divorce Remarriage

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 27 February 2022


Sermon synopsis: A Christian perspective on marriage, divorce and remarriage.
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Marriage is considered a universal culture. It is the process by which two people who love each other make their relationship public, legal and permanent. It is the formal joining of two people of opposite gender in a bond intended to last until death.


The Bible opens and closes with a wedding. It starts with the marriage of the very father and mother of the human race. It ends with the spiritual marriage of Jesus and his bride.

A Christian marriage is a couple’s public declaration of love and commitment to each other in the eyes of God.


The first negative judgment we find in Holy Writ is a judgment on loneliness. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” *

Gen 2:18-24 (ESV) Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

* The Intimate Marriage, p. 43 by R.C. Sproul (1939-)

Gen 2:21-24 (ESV) So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Despite what the cynics say, the Bible says in Proverbs 18:22: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the LORD.” (NIV)

Prov 19:14 (NIV) Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.

A wife of noble character is praised in Proverbs 31.

Prov 31:10-30 (NIV) A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value… Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”



We are cautioned not to marry an unbeliever.

2 Cor 6:14-16 (NIV) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 


 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.


1 Cor 7:39 (NIV) A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.

Jesus said unbelievers have Satan as their father (John 8:44).

If you marry an unbeliever, you have the devil as a father-in-law. I can’t imagine worse in-law problems.

Hi. I’m Satan but you can call me ‘Dad’.

The celibate Jerome wrote in AD 393 that even in marriage, sex was only justified for procreation. * Then he took this procreation versus pleasure attitude to its logical conclusion, “He who is too ardent a lover of his own wife is an adulterer.”

His contemporary, Augustine (354-430 AD) had been extremely promiscuous before his conversion to Christianity. He writes in his “Confessions” that before his conversion he would pray, “Lord give me chastity, but not yet”. He was slightly more lenient than Jerome and left some room for indulgence, “It is one thing to lie together with the sole will of generating: this has no fault. It is another to seek the pleasure of flesh in lying, although within the limits of marriage, this has venial fault.” [In Catholic theology a venial sin is a “forgivable” sin as contrasted with the more serious “mortal” sin.]

* “Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?” - Against Jovinian (AD 393)



Both Jerome and Augustine were mistaken on this point. The Bible does not portray sex as something inherently dirty. If you read the Song of Solomon, the beauty of a woman’s body is praised and the desire her lover has for her is used as a metaphor for God’s love for his bride – us!

God instructed Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). He created them not only with the ability and freedom to have sex, but with the instruction to do so!

Sex was created by and blessed by God and - within the context of marriage - it is ordained and approved of by God.

Heb 13:4 (NIV) Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Sex is God's good gift for intimacy (Matt 19:4), pleasure (Prov 5:18,19) and procreation (Gen 1:28) but must only take place within the marriage relationship. *

Prov 5:18-19 (NIV) May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

* https:// resources/ publications/ content/ ?context=article&id=1330


When God first made Eve and “brought her to the man” (Gen 2:22), Adam appears to be in awe at God’s handiwork (v. 23). We then read, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24, ESV). This is the very passage Jesus uses to illustrate the divine institution of marriage (Matt 19:4-6) in his argument against divorce. Paul also quotes it in Ephesians 5:31 in the context of marriage.

While the two becoming “one flesh” might have a secondary meaning of unity in purpose, it clearly has a sexual connotation as well. In fact, Paul applies it this way in his condemnation of unchastity.

1 Cor 6:16 (ESV) Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

So there’s no implication that sex is inherently evil.


Assuming there is no medical condition preventing sexual activity, Christian couples should not deprive one another except (a) by mutual agreement and (b) for a limited (short) period.

1 Cor 7:3-5 (NIV) The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. 



 Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The implication here is that God gives “self-control” as a temporary gift to those devoting a period to prayer, and once this purpose has been accomplished, a couple must continue to fulfill their natural, physical marital obligations. Failure to do so will enable Satan to exploit one’s natural lack of self-control.


Withholding sex in marriage should not be used as a “weapon” to punish your spouse. The only legitimate spiritual reason for a husband and wife to abstain from sexual contact is to devote themselves to prayer (i.e., in a denial of the flesh, like a fast).

Prolonged physical separation between husband and wife should, therefore, never be a norm for a Christian couple. It’s no coincidence that the Bible mentions that the apostles brought their wives along in the course of their ministries (1 Cor 9:5).


Marriage is used by God as a picture of the relationship between him and his people:

Isa 62:5 (NIV) … as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

Rev 19:7-8 (NIV) Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)


Wives submit to their husbands “as to the Lord” not because women are somehow inferior to men.

Col 3:18 (NIV) Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Eph 5:22-24 (NIV) Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

The act of voluntary submission by a Christian wife is a powerful testimony to an unbelieving husband.

1 Pet 3:1-5 (NIV) Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands…



The Bible details the mutual love and respect that should exist between husband and wife.

Col 3:-19 says, “Husbands, love your wives”.

Wives too must love their husbands:

Titus 2:2-5 (NIV) Then they [older women] can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.


The wife must respect her husband.

Eph 5:33 (NIV) … and the wife must respect her husband.

Likewise the husband must respect his wife.

1 Pet 3:7 (NIV) Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect …


A husband must love his wife as his own body (as Christ loves his own body – the Church).

Eph 5:28-33 (NIV) In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself…

A husband’s love for his wife should emulate Christ’s example. They are commanded to love their wives sacrificially.

Eph 5:25-27 (NIV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Col 3:19 (NIV) Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Lack of consideration for his wife will hinder a man’s spiritual life.

1 Pet 3:7 (NIV) Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.



Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 AD) – the early North African Church father, wrote:

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in home, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice… Nothing divides them either in flesh or in spirit… They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake God’s banquet, side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts… Seeing this Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present.



God requires faithfulness in marriage:

Heb 13:4 (ESV) Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Marriage is a contract (covenant).

Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a social union or legal contract between people called spouses that establishes rights and obligations between the spouses, between the spouses and their children, and between the spouses and their in-laws. *

* http:// wiki/ Marriage


One reason sexual sin matters is that it destroys the picture of the covenant that God has with his people.

The Bible uses marriage as a metaphor to describe the covenant relationship Jesus has with His “bride,” those whom He has bought with His own blood (Revelation 19:7; 2 Corinthians 11:2). In the Old Testament, God often compared rebellious Israel to a wayward wife, using adultery as a picture of the most heinous of sins (Jeremiah 3:6). God created the sex act to be a consummation of a covenant relationship—a covenant in which God has participated (Malachi 2:14; Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9). The marriage covenant illustrates God’s unbreakable covenant with us. To engage in sex outside of marriage violates God’s intention and brings serious consequences. *

* https:// sexual-sin.html


God always honours his covenants, unlike people who often make covenant vows and then dishonour them. The marriage covenant where people swear “until death us do part” with God as a witness, and then disregard this is but one example.

Malachi 2:13-16 (NIV) … You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings… You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his … So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD …

Many claim: “Christians are just as likely to divorce as non-Christians.” Is this really the case?

This statement is often attributed to a 2008 study by the Barna Research Group that indicated that those who identified as Christian were just as likely as non-Christians to be divorced. *

The claim … builds upon the common assumption that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. But, according to the latest research, those statements about the divorce rate, among Christians in particular, are untrue. Harvard-trained social researcher and author Shaunti Feldhahn, in her book The Good News About Marriage says that the data reveals a different story about the divorce rate. *

* https:// Christian-divorce-rate.html


Feldhahn states that the “50%” figure was not based on hard data; rather, the number came from projections of what researchers thought the divorce rate would become after states passed no-fault divorce laws. “We’ve never hit those numbers. We’ve never gotten close,” she writes. According to her study, the overall divorce rate is around 33%. *

Partnering with George Barna, Feldhahn reexamined the data pertaining to the divorce rate among Christians and found that the numbers were based on survey-takers who identified as “Christian” rather than some other religion. Under that broad classification, respondents were as likely as anyone else to have been divorced. The “Christian” category included people who profess a belief system but do not live a committed lifestyle. *

* Ibid.

However, for those who were active in their church, the divorce rate was 27 to 50% lower than for non-churchgoers.*

Nominal Christians—those who simply call themselves “Christians” but do not actively engage with the faith—are actually 20% more likely than the general population to get divorced. *

Putting it all together, what these findings tell us is that religion itself cannot insulate us from the stresses that pull at the fabric of our marriages. But there’s definite good news regarding divorce rates and Christians: contrary to what’s been reported for years, the divorce rate is not 50%; it’s more like 30%. *

* Ibid.

And then we find that people who keep God at the centre of their home and family stay married at far greater rates, and even thrive within those marriages. *

One of the reasons for this is that those whose first commitment is to the lordship of Jesus put fewer expectations upon their spouses to meet emotional needs that only God can meet. *

The lessening of unrealistic expectations gives marriages a stronger foundation upon which to withstand difficult times. *

* Ibid.


In the 1st century BC to the 2nd century AD there were two schools among the Jewish rabbis, that of Shammai and that of Hillel.


Shammai and his followers maintained that unchastity or adultery was the only crime justifying a man divorcing his wife. *

Hillel and his disciples went to the other extreme. They placed great stress upon the words, “if she find no favour in his eyes” (Deut 24:1), and contended that divorce should be granted for the flimsiest reason: such as the spoiling of a dish either by burning or careless seasoning. *

* https:// encyclopedias/ isbe/ divorce-in-the-old-testament.html

Some of the rabbis boldly taught that a man had a perfect right to dismiss his wife, if he found another woman whom he liked better, or who was more beautiful (Mishnah, GiTTin, 14 10). *

Here are some other specifications taken from the same book: “The following women may be divorced: … She who goes out on the street with her hair loose, or spins in the street, or converses (flirts) with any man, or is a noisy woman. What is a noisy woman? It is one who speaks in her own house so loud that the neighbours may hear her.” *

* Ibid.

But Jesus said that God is displeased at divorce for frivolous reasons.

Matt 19:3-6 (NIV) Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”


Matt 19:7 (NIV) “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Deut 24:1 (NKJV) “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house…

The provision for divorce in the Law was an allowance made due to the hardness of people’s hearts.

Matt 19:8 (NIV) Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

Moses' aim was to regulate and thus to mitigate the effects of an evil which he could not eradicate.


Jewish Law allowed only a man to divorce his wife. The wife could only request the husband to divorce her. But Roman women could divorce their husbands. In fact, when divorce became fairly widespread. Seneca (d. 65 AD) jokingly said that Roman women didn’t count years by the names of the consuls, but according to their names of their husbands.

Hence Mark – writing to Romans – extends Jesus’ restrictions to the wife as well.

Mark 10:12 (NKJV) And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

In the early years of Roman society, the husband had the right to divorce his wife for major faults - such as adultery - or drunkenness, or making copies of the household keys. *

As time went on, husbands acquired the right to divorce their wives for other failures. These included not producing children; since the wife was not viewed as being at fault, however, the husband had to return her dowry so she could re-marry. **

Roman law also allowed consensual divorce, accomplished by a declaration in front of two witnesses. This was effectively a “no-fault divorce” in which the dissolution of the marriage did not require a showing of wrongdoing by either party.

* https:// wiki/ Marriage_in_ancient_Rome ** https:// pr/ 91/ 911203Arc1041.html

In the 1st century BC, Emperor Augustus promulgated a law changing adultery from a matter for private settlement into a crime. The law called for severe penalties, including confiscation of property and exile, and allowed for a plea of justifiable homicide in some cases if a husband came home and found his wife in bed with another man.*

* https:// pr/ 91/ 911203Arc1041.html


In the OT, divorce was explicitly denied in two cases:

The man who had falsely accused his wife of antenuptial infidelity

Deut 22:19 (NKJV) and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.

A man who had married a virgin he had seduced.

Deut 22:28-29 (NKJV) If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.


Strictly speaking, adultery was not grounds for divorce in the Mosaic Law – as the penalty was death. It is, however, a question whether the extreme penalty was ever enforced.

Deut 22:22 (NKJV) If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman…

But Jesus permitted divorce for marital unfaithfulness i.e., one party has broken the marriage covenant.

Matt 19:9 (NIV) “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

It was because he was a “just man” that Joseph contemplated divorce for what he perceived as infidelity.

Matt 1:18-19 (ESV) … When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her [apolysai] quietly.


Paul also makes provision for divorce when there is desertion by unbelieving partner.

1 Cor 7:12-16 (NIV) To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. … But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

NOTE: The latter part – in context – indicates that there is no guarantee that the unbelieving partner will be converted – God has given all people freedom of choice.

So a believer is not obliged to leave an unbelieving partner – but to rather be a good Christian witness where possible.

1 Pet 3:1 (ESV) Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives

It also allows a continued sanctifying influence on the children – if divorce would mean separation from them.

1 Cor 7:14 (NIV) For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.


What about abuse – in particular, when the person’s life is in danger?

There are differences of opinion in this regard.

GotQuestions has this take:

The Bible is silent on the issue of spousal abuse as a reason for divorce, although it is obvious what God expects a marriage to look like (Ephesians 5:22–33), and abuse is contrary to everything godly. Physical violence against a spouse is immoral and should not be tolerated by anyone. No one should remain in an unsafe environment, whether it involves a family member, friend, employer, caregiver, or stranger. Physical abuse is also against the law, and civil authorities should be the first ones contacted if abuse occurs. A spouse who is being abused should immediately seek a safe place. If there are children involved, they should also be protected and removed from the situation. There is nothing unbiblical about separating from an abuser; in fact, it is morally right to protect oneself and one’s children.*

* https:// abuse-divorce.html

The Bible never commands divorce, even in the case of abuse. … Since the Bible does not list abuse as an acceptable reason for divorce, we are careful to limit our advice to separation. God allows divorce in the event of abandonment and adultery, but even those circumstances do not automatically trigger divorce proceedings; divorce is still a last resort. In the case of infidelity, it is better for two Christians to reconcile than divorce. It is better to extend the forgiveness and love that God freely gives us (Colossians 3:13). Reconciliation with an abuser, however, is far different. Reconciling with an abusive partner depends completely on the abuser proving his or her reliability, which could take years—if it happens at all. Separation from an abusive spouse is likely to be long-term. *

* Ibid.

There are a number of “red flags” to look for before entering a permanent relationship. Unfortunately, these indicators may not be visible until after the wedding takes place, since many abusers are skilled at hiding their true natures. However, a short list of things to look out for includes irrational jealousy, the need to be in control, a quick temper, cruelty toward animals, attempts to isolate the other person from his or her friends and family, drug or alcohol abuse, and disrespect for boundaries, privacy, personal space, or moral values. If you see any of these warning signs in a person you are entering a relationship with, please seek advice from someone familiar with abusive situations. *

* Ibid.

Joshua Sharp, a graduate of George W. Truett Theological Seminar, has a different take on the issue of abuse:

God hates divorce, and it is not part of his original design for marriage (Malachi 2:16; Genesis 2:24). Nevertheless, Scripture presents cases where divorce is permissible. In the New Testament, the two explicit exceptions to the general rule against divorce are adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15). But are these the only exceptions? Since there is no explicit exception for abuse, many Christians assume abuse must not be legitimate grounds for divorce. But this perspective fails to consider important cultural background information. *

* https:// opinion/ voices/ abuse-is-biblical-grounds-for-divorce/

Sharp writes:

What were the Jewish views of Shammai and that of Hillel in this regard? … both schools of thought affirmed that a woman being neglected or abused by her husband had the right to receive a divorce, and Jewish courts could go so far as to beat the neglectful and/ or abusive husband until he agreed to give his wife a certificate of divorce, thus legally freeing her to remarry. When Jesus says a man may divorce his wife only for porneia, he is not providing a comprehensive manifesto on divorce and remarriage; he is addressing a specific intramural Jewish debate of his day. On the question of “any cause divorce,” Jesus sides with Shammai. *

* https:// opinion/ voices/ abuse-is-biblical-grounds-for-divorce/

While God hates divorce he also hates abusers and those who oppress the weak and vulnerable.

Psalm 72:4 (ESV) May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!

Psalm 12:5 (ESV) … because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”

Psalm 34:18 (ESV) The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 103:6 (ESV) The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

Rikk Watts, Regent College's Professor of New Testament (1996-2016), says: “The Scriptures assume divorce’s reality (Deut 24:1-4), and all Jews accepted that it was legal; they debated only its grounds. Everyone agreed that adultery and other similarly weighty offenses—e.g., abuse, cruelty, humiliation, persistent refusal to provide requisite food or clothing, wilful conjugal or emotional neglect (cf. Ex 21:10–11)—were clear cause for divorce and required the punishment of the offending party.”

Ex 21:10-11 (NIV) If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

* NIV Zondervan Study Bible,

Justinian I was a Byzantine emperor and devout Christian. The Justinian Code was a collection of laws developed from 529 to 565 AD under Justinian’s sponsorship.

It allowed women to divorce her husband if he was a criminal, an adulterer, or one who had “consorted with dissolute women” (prostitutes). But it also allowed a woman to divorce her husband “if she should prove that he had beaten her” * or if he had attempted to murder her (“by poison, or by the sword, or in any other way” * – in other words, for physical abuse. (The converse was also true for men seeking divorce.)



For centuries there was debate over the issue of divorce in the Roman Catholic Church. While Augustine (354-430) supported adultery as a valid reason for divorce given in Matthew 5:32, at the Council of Trent in 1563 the indissolubility of marriage was added to the canon law. Since then, Catholic doctrine has been that divorce is unacceptable, but the separation of spouses can be permitted. *

Based on Matthew 5:32, Protestant churches generally accept adultery as a valid grounds for divorce ... Some translators believe that this verse means divorce is allowed on greater grounds than just adultery. Swiss reformers Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger both read porneia as referring to all manner of marital immorality, including spousal abuse and abandonment. *

* https:// wiki/ Matthew_5:32


What about remarriage after divorce?

According to a 2013 Pew Research, remarriage is on the rise for Americans 55 and older, while younger generations are becoming less likely to remarry. Men are more likely than women to remarry. Some 64% of eligible men had remarried, compared with 52% of women.

There are 4 Christian views on the issue of divorce and remarriage:

divorce and remarriage are not permitted;

divorce is sometimes permitted, but not remarriage;

divorce and remarriage are permitted on grounds of adultery or abandonment

divorce and remarriage are also permitted under other circumstances.

1 Cor 7:10-15 (NIV) 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. And a husband must not divorce his wife… But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances

Some interpret this passage as permitting divorce while denying remarriage whereas others view this as permitting divorce and remarriage in certain circumstances.

But the following verse seems to indicate that the remarried person is only committing adultery if they divorced without having Biblical grounds.

Matt 19:9 (NIV) I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Matt 5:32 (NIV) “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality [porneia], makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.


Can a remarried divorcee hold office in the church?

The deacon and elder must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:12, 1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:6) In all cases the Greek is literally “to be a one-woman man”. Some have read this term very literally and use it to exclude women and remarried divorcees – from holding office.

But a strict literal interpretation would then exclude single men, widowers and remarried widowers. Actually this phrase is an idiomatic term and does not exclude those who are:

Single - (either never married or widowed). Since Paul (and probably Timothy also) was unmarried (1 Cor 7:7-8; 9:5), this isn’t his reference.

Widowed and remarried - Since Paul encourages widows to remarry (1 Cor 7:39), this isn’t his reference.

Polygamy? It’s also unlikely that this is what Paul is referring to. While polygamy was practiced among the Jews in the 1st century, it was extremely rare. But Paul is writing in the context of Greco-Roman culture to Gentile churches in Ephesus (1 Timothy) and Crete (Titus).

Marriage in ancient Rome was a strictly monogamous institution: a Roman citizen by law could have only one spouse at a time. The practice of monogamy distinguished the Greeks and Romans from other ancient civilizations, in which elite males typically had multiple wives. *

* https:// wiki/ Marriage_in_ancient_Rome

Divorced and remarried? Since the NT permits divorce and remarriage by the innocent party in the case of marital unfaithfulness or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse, this probably isn’t his reference.

So what is Paul referring to? A “one-woman man” is an idiom referring to sexual faithfulness within the marriage.

1 Tim 3:12 (NIV) A deacon must be faithful to his wife…

So in short - if not single or widowed, the deacon/ elder must be in a faithful, monogamous marriage. They must not be an adulterer.


What about those who divorced without Biblical grounds – but they were unsaved at the time?

Whatever sins you committed in the ignorance of your unsaved state are not held against you when you are converted.

1 Cor 6:9-11 (ESV) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at Sychar, “you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (John 4:18). Yet this 5-time divorcee who is currently living in adultery (in addition to being a woman and a despised Samaritan) is his instrument of choice to evangelize the city.

John 4:39 (NIV) Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

Remember God’s grace! Despite giving directives on murder and adultery that are more stringent than the Mosaic Law, Jesus showed grace and forgiveness to the woman caught in the act of adultery (even though the Law stipulated a death penalty for the offence).

John 8:11 (ESV) And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of http:// or from http://

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV: Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http://