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Divorce and the Bible

Updated on October 14, 2012
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I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.


Divorce Not Part of God's Plan for Humanity

Divorce is clearly not part of God's original plan for humanity. In the beginning the Lord created man and woman, and the marital relationship was the first human institution. Indeed marriage and the family is the foundation upon which society itself is based. In Genesis 2:23 Adam states concerning Eve, his wife:

"This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."

We further see in the next verse that marriage was meant to be permanent. It states:

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (2:24).

While the man leaving his parents and being united to his spouse does not end his responsibility to honor them, it does indicate a new loyalty and a new and primary responsibility. The word "joined" here carries the sense of a permanent and indissoluble union.

And the idea of "one flesh" implies a complete unity of parts making a whole. So the marital union was complete and whole with the two people coming together. This also implies their sexual completeness. One man and one woman constitute a pair to reproduce another person created in the image of God.

Not only is divorce not part of the original plan for humanity, the Bible says that God Himself hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). And our Lord Jesus has this to say regarding a married couple:

"So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matthew 19:6).

Also, we see in the writings of the Apostle Paul that marriage has a further design as a picture of Christ and His Church. Jesus will never divorce us, leave us nor forsake us (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Despite all of this, the Bible is realistic in it understanding that, since we are dealing with two sinful human beings, divorce could occur. And it gives reasons as to when God allows for divorce and remarriage.

I. Marital unfaithfulness.

One reason that is given by our Lord Jesus Himself is found in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. They tell us:

"But I say to you that whosoever shall put away ( i.e. divorce) his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery" (5:32).

"And I say to you, whoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery" (19:9).

Sexual relations are an important part of the one flesh marital bond. They are a seal of the marriage covenant (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31) Fornication breaks the covenant.

The Greek word translated 'fornication' here is a word which can mean any form of sexual immorality. It can refer to such things as adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, or any number of sexual sins. In any case, it is an exception to the general rule of no divorce, and allows for it. But this is not a command. The spouse could choose to stay with the offending partner and work things out, if he or she is repentant.

II. Desertion by An Unbelieving Spouse

The Apostle Paul gives another possible exception to the no divorce and no remarriage commands in the Bible. I Corinthians 7:15 talks about an unbelieving spouse who deserts the believer. He states:

"But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace."

While there is nothing that specifically says that the believer is free to remarry here, it seems to be implied in the phrase that he or she is "not under bondage in such cases."

III. Things Not Mentioned in Scripture

It is interesting that marital unfaithfulness and desertion by an unbelieving spouse are the only possible exceptions given in Scripture for divorce and remarriage. We wish that God had covered such things as desertion by a person who claims to be a believer, and spousal abuse.

Though I can never be dogmatic where the Bible is silent, I personally believe that these two fall under the second exception of desertion. I Timothy 5:8 tells us that:

"If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Any Christian who deserts his family is certainly not providing for them. He is acting like an unbeliever in this case. The same is true of a spousal abuser. In that case he, if it is a man, is abandoning or deserting his marital duties to love, cherish and protect his wife.

Although this may be a stretch in the case of wife abuse, the Bible in no way forces a person to remain in such a relationship that could lead to their death or maiming. At the very least, this couple needs to separate until the other is repentant and goes through intensive counseling and possible incarceration.


The sad thing is that many Christians don't seem to take marriage any more seriously than the non-believing world. The divorce rate among Christians today is nearly as high as those who don't profess the name of Christ. Even though God does recognize that divorce may occur in this sin-cursed world, believers should be those who are characterized by love, forgiveness and reconciliation. The Lord Jesus Christ can bring hope to even the most hopeless situation, if we will but allow Him to do so. If divorce has occurred, and there is still a chance of reconciliation, then believers should seek it.

And what of those who are already divorced and have no hope of reconciling due to the fact that one or both of you have remarried? Those who have been divorced shouldn't look upon this as the end of life, or as the unpardonable sin. It is not. Rather, God can take your situation as well, and make it into something that can honor and glorify His name. We first need to accept by faith the salvation that the Lord Jesus Christ offers us. If we have done this then we have the ability to start afresh. If it is a believer who has sinned by divorcing, then I John 1:9 applies here:

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Our God is the God of second chances. He will take what was evil and bring good out of it. We need simply to turn our lives and our new marriages over to Him. He can use this for His purposes and bring beauty from the ashes of a dissolved relationship. What a wonderful God we serve!


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    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      7 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      Thanks lifegate for your views. I have a book on divorce and remarriage that gives 4 different perspectives on this subject from 4 different evangelical scholars. My view is certainly not the final say on the subject. However, we can agree that marriage is a sacred institution and a covenant that is made with God, the husband and the wife. It was intended to be a permanent union and sin, whether on the part of one or both, is what destroys it. We need more people who will take their wedding vows as seriously as God does.

      Tak care!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      7 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Thanks for another good hub. My views on divorce are pretty narrow and most don't agree, and of course that's fine. The only reason I see for divorce in the Bible is what you called the desertion of an unbelieving spouse.

      Please don't think I'm trying to be argue. I'm just expressing what I believe to be taught in Scripture. I don't see an exception in Matthew 5. "But I say to you that whosoever shall put away ( i.e. divorce) his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery" (5:32).

      I base this on two things. Scripturally marriage is a picture of our union with God as the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5). Jesus would never divorce us for any reason. Even though in the Old Testament Jewish economy, Israel many times played the harlot God was always reaching out to them to bring them back.

      I forget what the proper term is for the clause, ". . .except for the cause of fornication", but the clause can be removed and the sentence still make sense. In other words, "But I say to you that whosoever shall put away ( i.e. divorce) his wife, . . . causes her to commit adultery: and whoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery. The emphasis seems to be that if fornication is already taking place, then a divorce would not cause fornication. I hope that made sense. I understand what I'm trying to say - just having a bit of a problem getting it from my brain to my fingers.

      I certainly do believe in times of separation as a means of the other getting help and coming back to the Lord, both in sexual infidelity and abuse situations.

      Anyway, that's just my two cents! Thanks again

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      7 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      You seem to be making the statement that I made about God's plan for humanity more complicated than it was intended. I was simply saying that God intended the husband and wife to live in a one flesh union that was not to be broken. However, because of man's sinful nature, which God did not create, divorce has become part of this sin-cursed earth. No sin, including divorce, was part of God's original creation. He created it in a perfect state. He even pronounced it "very good." (Genesis 1:31). Then came the fall and made a mess of the very good world that God created.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      7 years ago from now on

      On the other hand God's purpose for humanity would never change and a purpose is not a plan. Are we just disagreeing over semantics?

    • tsadjatko profile image

      7 years ago from now on

      I inferred from your comment "Divorce is clearly not part of God's original plan for humanity" that God's original plan for humanity was something different than his current plan for humanity. I was wrong in making that inference if what you say is God's original plan for humanity

      "Man was created in the image of God to bring glory to Him. He was created to live eternally and to live in harmony with God and other men."

      is the original plan because I see it as his current plan for humanity - I see no difference so why would you call it his original plan if my inference was correct?

      I can only conclude that you did not mean the original plan changed. Just that divorce was not and still is not a part of his plan. That is why I said that your statement was not his original plan but his purpose for humanity which has never changed.

      I am just trying to think this through - please don't think I'm being a wise guy. Just trying to understand what the difference is between God's original plan and his current plan, if you meant there is a difference, because I see no difference in what you stated is the "original" plan. To me original implies the plan has changed and I see no change in what you stated is the plan..and that is why I said you can't have it both ways. You can't have an original plan that is the same as the current plan and say one is original.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      7 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      You'll have to excuse me. I totally missed your point. What can't I have both ways?

    • tsadjatko profile image

      7 years ago from now on

      I agree wholeheartedly that is explained in scripture but is that a plan for humanity? Or is it the purpose for humanity because if it is the plan then the original plan hasn't changed has it? God's plan is still Man was created in the image of God to bring glory to Him. He was created to live eternally and to live in harmony with God and other men. Is it not? You can't have it both ways.

    • GodTalk profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Shirley 

      7 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      Tsadjatko: On the contrary, it is explained very well in Scripture. Man was created in the image of God to bring glory to Him. He was created to live eternally and to live in harmony with God and other men.

      And God's plan for marriage was outlined very well in the book of Genesis. Also, we see Jesus, in his teaching on marriage, goes back to the book of Genesis to show God's original intent.

      rgmg50: Thanks for reading and for your comment.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very good article on a difficult subject.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      7 years ago from now on

      "Divorce is clearly not part of God's original plan for humanity"

      I can't disagree, but then almost everything going on since the fall is not part of God's original plan for humanity (or is it since he created everything, is ultimately in control of everything and knows the past present and future before they even occur?).

      Do you really know just what exactly was God's original plan for humanity because it seems to me it has not ever been explained by God...has it?


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