Divorce and Remarriage

By Frank Jamerson

This is an outline study of divorce and remarriage, with special emphasis on four theories that circumvent the teaching of the Bible.

A. Who has the scriptural right to marry?

One who has never been married (Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 7:36).

One whose companion has died (Rom. 7:1-3).

One who has divorced his companion “for fornication” (Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Mk. 10:11,12; Lk. 16:18).

One who has divorced may remarry the one he/she has divorced (Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:10,11).

B. Unscriptural doctrines on the subject:

1. Some are re-defining “adultery” as the act of divorcing and remarrying. (They interpret “commits adultery against her,” Mk. 10:11,12, to mean just divorcing her and going through a wedding ceremony with someone else. They say it has nothing to do with a sexual act.)

The word “adultery” is defined by authorities as “unlawful sexual intercourse with the spouse of another” (see W.E. Vine and Thayer).

What was the woman “caught in adultery” doing? (Jn. 8:4) (Did they catch her in “the very act” of getting married to another woman’s husband?)

In Matthew 5:28, what was the man doing who “committed adultery” in his heart? (Was he fantasizing about a wedding ceremony with someone’s wife?)

Matthew 5:32 says the man who marries a “woman who is divorced, commits adultery.” (This does not say that he caused her divorce, nor that he had been married before. He would not have had to divorce a wife in order to have committed adultery with her; nor would he have had to marry her in order to commit adultery!) Furthermore, if a man commits adultery and his wife forgives him, the covenant is not broken (they are not divorced), but he still committed adultery.

Why was the man “committing adultery against” his wife in Mark 10:11,12?

Leviticus 18:20 — The man who “lies carnally” with his neighbor’s wife defiles himself; it is against himself.

Psalms 51:4 — David said that his sin was “against you, you only.” His major concern was that he had sinned against God.

I Corinthians 6:18 — One who commits fornication “sins against his own body.”

Mark 10:11,12 — The man who divorces his wife and marries another “commits adultery against” her — he sins against his wife. (Wuest’s Word Studies says “the expression may mean either ‘to the prejudice of her [the first wife], or with her [the second],”‘ Vol. 1, p. 198).

2. Some contend that Matthew 19:3-12 does not apply to non-believers. It is called a “covenant passage,” meaning that one must be in “covenant relationship”with God before it applies to them.

When Jesus was asked about divorce, he went back to the beginning of time — not the beginning of the Jewish law.

Paul specifically said that unbelievers had been guilty of adultery (1 Cor. 5:10,13; 6:9-11; Rom. 1:26-32).

The fact that God permitted polygamy, concubinage, and divorce and remarriage in the Old Testament period does not prove that it was not against his universal moral law.

A six-year-old who shoots another would not be punished as an adult. This does not mean that the law against murder is not in effect.

God obviously allowed some things before the complete revelation in Christ that he does not permit today.

God progressively revealed much of his law, but today it has been completely revealed in Christ and it applies to everyone (Matt. 28:18-20).

d. There are things in the law of Christ that do not apply to unbelievers, just as there are things that do not apply to all believers. God’s teaching on repentance and baptism only applies to believers; his teaching on the Lord’s supper only applies to those in the kingdom; his law on loving your wife only applies to those who are married; likewise his teaching on divorce and remarriage only applies to those who are married.

3. Some say that when the guilty party is put away, he/she is no longer married, and therefore may remarry, just as the innocent party.

This is based entirely upon human reasoning. No passage of Scripture gives the “put away fornicator” permission to remarry. In fact, Scripture specifically says that the one who marries the put away fornicator “commits adultery.” (Would it not be strange if the single man who married the divorced fornicator was sinning, but the divorced fornicator was not?)

Argument by analogy (“if two people are chained together and the chain is broken, both are free”) is not scriptural proof. (An analogy that fits the Scripture is a ball player who is under contract to a team. He may refuse to play for that team, but that does not free him to play for another — unless he is freed from the contract of the first team.)

Just because two people are divorced does not give them the right to marry someone else (1 Cor. 7:10,11).

God is the one who has “bound” us, and he did not free the guilty party to remarry!

4. Some say that baptism washes away sins, therefore those who were living in adultery before baptism may continue to live with that companion after baptism.


a. Some also say that the Christian can repent and pray and continue to live in a relationship that was formerly adulterous. (If God’s law of pardon for the alien would permit his remaining in adulterous relationships, then his law of pardon for the erring Christian would permit the same.)

b. When the Jews violated the law of God on marriage, what did they have to do? (See Ezra 10:3-5,18,19.)

c. But, some say “celibacy is too difficult a penalty.”

Is it too difficult for the innocent party who hasbeen put away but cannot marry another (1 Cor. 7:10,11)?

What did the man in Corinth have to do (I Cor.5:1)? (Questions: Was the woman a believer? If so, why was she not disciplined? Or, was she, but it is not mentioned? Would it have made any difference whether, or not, she was a Christian?)

d. “Committeth adultery” (Matt. 19:9) is in the pre-sent tense which indicates continuous action. Romans 7:1-3 tells how long it would be adultery.

e. Baptism washes away sins, but we must repent and turn away from them. Baptism does not change a relationship from sinful to righteous. What would a polygamous man have to do if he repented of polygamy? If people were involved in homosexual “marriages” and wanted to be baptized, what would repentance require?

f. I am sympathetic to Christians and non-Christians who have violated God’s marriage laws, but I can-not change what the Bible says.


The Pharisees understood that the teaching of Jesus on this subject was strict, and said, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (Matt. 19:10). Jesus said that not everyone could accept their saying, but some were eunuchs and others could “make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (v. 12). The worst thing in the world is not being celibate, but being lost (Matt. 18:8,9).

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 7, p. 22-23
April 1, 1993