“Bible Answers…Concerning Marriage and Divorce”

by Roger Hicks

In the past, there’s been a lot of wrong teaching concerning what God has to say about marriage and divorce. This has led to considerable confusion among Christians. Some preachers have even attempted to excuse people’s actions, by referencing “the times in which we live” … as if that’s justification for disobeying the Word of God. The Word of God says in Psalm 119:89: “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.”

According to Malachi 3:6, God said, “I am God, I change not”. So rather than listening to men and women who disagree with the Word of God, we’d do well to turn to the Scriptures as our authority.

“For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Romans 3:3-4)

The Bible even tells us that we should consider anyone who presents doctrine, which is contrary to the Holy Scriptures, to be a liar!!! That’s pretty strong language, but that’s what the WORD says.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Using the Scriptures as our authority, let’s see what God has to say about marriage and divorce among Christians, and make that our doctrine. You may find that not everything is like you thought!

The Bible reveals God’s very specific plan (God’s Divine Will) concerning marriage. In the Book of Genesis, (“The Book of Beginnings” or “The Book of Patterns”) we find the following:

“And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed … And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it … And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him … Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:8, 15, 18, 24)

God’s Divine plan included the assignment of a task, which each man is to accomplish during this life. Adam’s task was: “the garden … to dress it and to keep it”. (Genesis 2:15)

The Lord stated that it was not good for the man to have to accomplish this task alone, so He included a provision whereby HE would provide each man with a wife (a help) who will be “meet” (acceptable) to accomplish their assignment in life. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet (acceptable) for him”. (Genesis 2:18)

Included within God’s marriage plan was provision for an intimate husband/wife relationship (sexual relationship). They were not to be ashamed or embarrassed: they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”. (Genesis 2:24-25)

The Lord also intended that the husband and wife would “cleave” (hang on – with tenacity) to each other. This relationship was designed to have a permanency to it. It was to be closer than the closeness of the parental relationship. “… leave his father and his motherand shall cleave unto his wife(Genesis 2:24). Even though that was addressed to the man; it also applied to the wife. When a marriage takes place, the primary relationship (outside of one’s personal relationship with God) is the relationship with your spouse (not the parents … not the children … not other friends … but the spouse).

The Pharisees, in an attempt to ensnare Jesus, very pointedly inquired of Him … concerning marriage and divorce.

“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3)

The Pharisees asked if a man could lawfully (recognizing Scripture as the Law of God) divorce his wife for EVERY cause. They wanted to know if a man could divorce his wife for “any little thing”. People still want to know the same thing today … even within Christian circles. They often say, “We’re just not compatible” … or claim some other justification. The Pharisees wanted to know what Jesus had to say about acceptable reasons for divorce.

“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”. (Matthew 19:4-6)

Jesus responded by clearly teaching that marriage is an “Ordinance of God” … and as such … is to be honored, and not abandoned … even though considerable difficulties may be encountered along the way. In the process of answering their question, Jesus began by asking if they’d not read the scriptures … “What does God have to say about marriage and divorce”. “HAVE YOU NOT READ?”

“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:4)

The Pharisees then challenged Jesus, by referencing Moses’ actions:

“They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7)

Jesus hadn’t talked to them about Moses. He asked them if they’d read what God said about marriage and divorce. The Lord went on to explain that the people had so wearied Moses by the hardness of their hearts, that Moses finally “gave in” and allowed them to do something that God had forbidden. Then, Jesus reminded the Pharisees of God’s plan.

“He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8-9)

Jesus reminded them that there has always been a “Divine Law” from the beginning of mankind. Jesus stated that “He” (the Creator) was the one who established the husband/wife relationship as a Divine Ordinance: “Have ye not read, that he … ?” (Matthew 19:4)

When questioned about Moses’ actions concerning a “writing of divorcement”, Jesus indicated that it was never God’s plan to allow such a thing: (“from the beginning it was not so”). This statement could be paraphrased: “It was never God’s plan to allow divorce”.

Jesus explained that Moses had gone against God’s Law, by allowing divorce. Moses “became wearied” by the people because they were so hard-hearted. Moses had finally “had it” with them, so he “gave in” and issued decrees of divorce. He did this, even though God had clearly forbidden divorce … except in the case of fornication. In doing so, Moses violated God’s Divine Ordinance concerning Marriage!!!

It’s of note that this was not the only time that Moses disobeyed God. Disobedience will always keep a person from enjoying the blessings that God had previously reserved for them. In one instance, God told Moses to “speak to the rock” and it would give forth water … but instead … he “smote the rock twice”. Moses’ disobedience was enough to keep him from entering the “Promised Land”. (See Numbers 20:8-12)

Back to the questions concerning marriage and divorce: Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the intimacy, and permanency of the marriage union. He further stipulated that this marriage union was not to be abandoned or dissolved … under any circumstances other than for the cause of fornication. Jesus let them know that just because Moses had allowed divorce, didn’t mean that God had allowed it.

Even today, we find some Pastors justifying divorce among professing Christians in their congregation. Some have gone so far as to preach that it’s better to divorce than to live in strife … as if those are the only two choices. However, those are NOT the only two choices. We can learn to live in peace with each other! Every divorce has one thing in common … selfishness!!! One spouse decides: “We play my way … or I don’t play!!!”

At no point did Jesus ever say that God allowed a “writing of divorcement”. Jesus merely acknowledged that Moses had allowed it — however, that did not change the command of God! What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”. (Matthew 19:6) Again, His statement could be paraphrased, “It was never God’s plan to allow divorce”.

Jesus explained that because the people had hardened their hearts; refused to walk in love; wouldn’t walk in forgiveness; and refused to be reconciled … Moses grew weary of dealing with them … and “gave in” (allowing them to depart from the Marriage Ordinance of God). But God (who changes not) did not change His commandment for husbands and wives to refrain from divorce.

Jesus’ did not endorse Moses’ decision to allow divorce, He merely answered the Pharisees’ question, concerning why Moses’ “gave in”.

Jesus then revealed the only Biblical exception for divorce among Christians:

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)

Jesus made it very clear that if a man divorced his wife (unless his wife had committed fornication) and married someone else, then that man had committed adultery. He also said that if someone married the wife (who’d been put away for fornication), then he who married her … is also guilty of adultery. Someone might ask, “Why is that?”

The answer to that question is that God considers the marriage vow as an unbreakable covenant … between Himself … a Husband … and a Wife. He instructed us to take our vows seriously, and told us to never tell Him those vows were a mistake.

“When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6)

A popular “fad” among professing Christians today, is to decide, “I’m going to get me a divorce and go out and find my soul-mate.” That thinking is straight from the “pit of hell”. Those who do this are tempting the Lord by saying, “God, that marriage vow that I made unto you … well, it was a mistake.”

“LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? … He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” (Psalm 15:1,4)

God takes our vows very seriously … even when we don’t! It’s not possible to “walk” with God and be a “vow breaker”. So … if that’s been our mode of operation … we need to change!!!

Let me remind you that anything that occurred before a person was “born-again” is covered by the Blood of Jesus. The moment someone makes an unconditional surrender to Jesus, and is “born-again” … their past is gone. God does not hold them responsible for what the “old man” did. They now have a new, clean slate.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

But, we should also notice that once we’ve been born-again, God has given us a ministry. That ministry is one of “reconciliation”. To “reconcile” means to make right, or to correct. When someone is born-again, their principle ministry is to reconcile people to God; and to reconcile people to people. A new Christian should do everything within their power to undo the damage they did before they gave their life to Jesus. That includes “undoing any damage done during a marriage or a divorce”.

Let’s look at some further instructions from Word of God concerning marriage and divorce:

“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency”.
(1 Corinthians 7:1-5)

God’s plan is for the husband and the wife to have an intimate, tender, sexual relationship. The Lord made it clear that when two people are united in marriage, they have voluntarily surrendered control over their body … to their spouse. Their body is no longer theirs to control, but they have willingly yielded control over it to their marriage partner.

He used the word “defraud” to speak of the unwillingness to consummate a tender, loving, sexual relationship. To “defraud” means to take something that doesn’t belong to you.

God gave instruction that the only valid reason for withholding sexual intimacy within a marriage is for a special time of prayer and fasting … and then … only with the consent of the marriage partner. He instructed us that to do differently, opens the door for temptation from the devil, because there is then a missing ingredient in the marriage relationship. The following scriptures are especially pertinent in a marriage relationship:

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)

When there is a disagreement in any relationship, and especially in a marriage relationship, we are to remedy the disagreement quickly, in order to close the door to the devil.

To defraud one another in the marriage bed opens the door to temptation. Withholding sexual intimacy within a marriage, as some sort of “coercion or revenge”, or to get one’s own way … is not only childish but plays right into Satan’s hand.

Husbands and wives should value the sanctity of the marriage relationship so very highly that they both put aside any differences, and “come together” tenderly, lovingly, and with forgiveness. After all, what issue could possibly be large enough to give Satan a “free shot” at the marriage?

The Apostle Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave instructions to Pastor Timothy concerning those who would be in strife. He was instructed to go to them and recover them out of strife, because Satan could take them captive any time he chose, as long as they were in strife. That’s the very reason that Ephesians 4:26-27 speaks about quickly dealing with disagreements … lest we give place to the devil.

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

After instructing the Church at Corinth concerning the sexual relationship within a marriage, the Apostle Paul then informed the Church that what he’s about to say next … is his own opinion, and NOT thus saith the Lord.”

“But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” (1 Corinthians 7:6-9)

Paul said it’s better to have a husband or wife than to “burn with unfulfilled sexual desire”. He’s not speaking about spending eternity in hell … but speaking of having unfulfilled sexual desires that sometimes consume a person’s thoughts.

Once the Apostle Paul had given the Corinthians his own opinion concerning the celibate life (which he very clearly identified this as being his own opinion), he returned to teaching God’s plan … or … “THUS SAITH THE LORD”.

“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)

The Apostle Paul distinctly identified those words as being a direct commandfrom the LORD. That command was directed to those who are married, within the Church. He stated that the Lord commanded that if a Christian got a divorce (in disobedience to the Word of God) then that person is to remain single. (Wow!!! That puts an end to the mentality of: “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence”. And so much for: “I’m going to get me a divorce and go out and find my soul mate.”) However, he makes it clear that if the disobedient Christian repents and their former mate is willing to take them back … they may remarry … but only to their former spouse.

We should note: The faithful Christian spouse (the one who didn’t want the divorce) was released by God, from their marriage vows … but the rebellious mate (the one who got the divorce, despite the command of God to the contrary) was not released from theit marriage vows. According to the scriptures, the faithful mate is free to marry any Christian they please, and is not required to take their former, rebellious mate back. They’re not required to remarry them, but they may – at their option.

“But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” (1 Corinthians 7:12-14)

Once again, the Apostle Paul shares his own thoughts concerning those who have an unbelieving mate. (Just as a side note: The situation Paul is addressing normally occurs when neither of the mates were Christians at the time of the marriage, but one was later “born-again”. Now, the Christian finds himself unequally yoked.) Paul was teaching that just because the Brother (the new Christian) is now unequally yoked with an unbeliever, that’s no reason for divorce assuming that, the unbeliever wants to stay in the marriage. He was addressing the scriptural admonition (found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17) against being unequally yoked, in order to prevent Christians from using their “conversion to Christianity” as an excuse to “jump ship” in the marriage.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

While Christians are forbidden to marry unbelievers, two wrongs don’t make a right. Sometimes Christians have violated the Scriptures and married unbelievers, despite the command to the contrary. However, that’s not justification for them to violate even more Scriptures and obtain a divorce, providing there’s not been fornication (sex outside of the marriage).

Now we come to a seldom taught, and much misunderstood section of Scripture:

“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” (1 Corinthians 7:15-17)

“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.” (1 Corinthians 7:15) This Scripture instructs Christians (those who actually follow Christ and His teachings). It clearly defines who is attempting to leave the “Marriage Ordinance of God”. It’s the “UNBELIEVER”.

To place proper light on that Scripture, we need to be only reminded that an “UNBELIEVER” can be either someone who has not accepted the Jesus as their Lord and Savior … or it can be someone who “professes” to be a Christian but who does not follow the teachings of the Lord.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

If “professing Christians” don’t do the will of the Father, Jesus said they wouldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s telling it as it is!!!

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) There are many who profess to be Christians but selectively obey only those Scriptures that suit their own desires.

Getting back to 1 Corinthians 7:15: “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

The Word of God explicitly teaches that if a born-again Christian is married to either someone who has not accepted Jesus as Lord … or … to someone who is an “unbeliever” … in the sense that they profess Jesus as their Lord, but don’t actually follow His teachings … when it comes to marriage and divorce … then the believer (Christ following Christian) is to let them go. The believer is freed from the marriage vow … but notice … the unbeliever is not!!!

Sometimes people ask: “Why is it, that when a Christian man marries a divorced woman (who’s left her previous husband, for any reason other than fornication) that man is committing adultery?” (Adultery is when someone has a sexual relationship with another’s spouse.) Or they might ask: “Why is it, that when a Christian woman marries a divorced man (who’s left his previous wife for any reason other than fornication) that woman is committing adultery?”

The answer is that in God’s eyes … the UNBELIEVER (disobedient one) is still under bondage (bound to their marriage vows). The unbeliever is bound to that marriage … as long as they live … so anyone who marries them is having a sexual relationship with  “someone who is still bound by previous marriage vows”. The one who was disobedient (by getting the divorce) may only remarry their previous mate.

The Word of God says that the BELIEVER  (obedient one) is not under bondage (bound to those marriage vows) in such cases (when the disobedient departs). The BELIEVER is free to remarry (“only in the Lord” —meaning they may only marry a Christian).

“But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:11)

God, who is a “JUST God”, doesn’t punish the innocent for the deeds of the guilty. And because He is a “JUST GOD” … He releases the one who desired to remain in the marriage but was unable to prevent the divorce … at the same time that He holds the “guilty” … responsible for their disobedience.

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

According to the Word of God, Christians are held responsible for what they know. That stands to reason, since God is a “JUST GOD”. It wouldn’t be right for Him to hold someone responsible for something they didn’t know.

Sometimes people don’t understand how two Christians can do the “same thing”, and one sinned but the other didn’t. Let’s take a look at two different scenarios to see how this could be possible. For the purposes of this analysis, we’re going to stipulate that there was no “fornication” involved in either case:

  • If a certain Christian (ignorant that the Word of God prohibits divorce) divorced their mate … that Christian would not have committed sin. “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” They didn’t know … so they’re not held responsible.
  • However, if another Christian (who is well aware that the Word of God prohibits divorce among Christians) … got a divorce anyway … they are held responsible for that sin. “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” They did know … therefore, they are held responsible.

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” (Hebrews 10:26)

I once heard someone say, “Well, I’m going to do what I’m going to do … and God will just have to forgive me.”

Lest others be caught up in such deception (Satan’s trap) … that’s not how things work! You can’t just decide you’re doing to sin and plan to later ask God to forgive you. If you plan to sin and then plan to ask God to forgive you … you’re putting Jesus’ sacrifice to an open shame.

If a person knows what the Word of God has to say about some issue, and they decide that they want to disobey God (with the thought that they can later ask for forgiveness) that doesn’t work!!!

The GOOD NEWS is that divorce is NOT the unpardonable sin. The scriptures declare:

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. (1 John 1:5-9)

If you’ve been disobedient to the Command of the Lord (concerning marriage and divorce) you need only repent (acknowledge guilt; be sorry for your actions; have a change of heart about what you’ve done) and ask God to forgive you. And, if in the process of your marriage or divorce, you’ve done hurtful and harmful things to others, you need to ask them to forgive you, and (as much as is possible) make restitution. Then … and only then … can God bless you, as He would like.

Whether or not you’ve ever been married or divorced, why don’t you join me in this prayer?

“Heavenly Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus. Father, I thank you that you are Good and that your mercy endureth forever. Lord, I’ve sinned concerning your plan for my life. I’ve been disobedient. But Lord, I call on your mercy and I ask you to forgive me this day. Thank you Lord for that forgiveness! Please help me to “undo” any damage that I’ve done. I ask you to heal any heartache that I’ve caused. Lord, I also ask you to help me become more like Jesus, each and every day of my life. Thank you Heavenly Father. I ask all these things in the precious name of Jesus. AMEN”

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© Copyright 2017 Roger Hicks Ministries