Divorce & Remarriage
By Pastor Dean Odle
There has always been a lot of confusion among Christians concerning what the Bible teaches about the divorce and remarriage issue. I guess that is due to a lack of study or care on the part of most pastors. Lately, the questions about divorce and remarriage or outright accusations of adultery toward all divorced and remarried people has seemed to increase. This has necessitated a more detailed response.
Unfortunately, there are two extremes in the church concerning divorce and remarriage. The first extreme is the group that pays zero attention to Jesus’ warning about the possibility of committing adultery through divorce and remarriage. These careless Christians just divorce and remarry over anything, or sometimes over practically nothing. And if those Christians do not have the Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage, then they are committing adultery.
The second extreme position comes from ignoring the Bible verses that spell out the exceptions that allow divorce and remarriage without committing the sin of adultery. And that is how most false doctrines are created...certain passages are ignored in favor of other passages that leave out important information. This is taking the Bible out of context is either done out of ignorance or intentionally, but regardless, it does great harm when we don’t pay attention to every word and the context of Scripture. Sound Biblical doctrine is established by looking at all the passages on a particular subject and then systematically laying out all the Bible has to say about it.
For instance, on August 16, 2018, a person left this comment on my YouTube channel, “Jesus said, ‘Anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’ Paul said, ‘A woman is bound to her husband as long as he live.’ Dean you are living in adultery according to these verses. Of course you will explain it away.” And if those were the ONLY Bible verses in the New Testament on the subject, then he would be correct. But because I studied this out thoroughly starting in 1987, I already knew that this false accuser was not quoting all the verses on divorce and remarriage, and it was obvious that he was ignoring when Jesus used the phrases “...saving for...” and “except for” in Matthew 5 and 19 when teaching about divorce and remarriage.
So let’s look at the three Biblical exceptions that allow for divorce and remarriage:
1. “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32). The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines the original Greek word parektos translated “saving” as except; with the exception of.” So it is clear that fornication (any sexual sin with someone other than your spouse) is a Biblical exception that allows the faithful spouse to divorce and remarriage without sinning against God.
2. Abandonment is another Biblical exception that allows for divorce and remarriage. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, “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…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” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 15). If a married person chooses to leave their spouse without Biblical grounds, then they are abandoning their spouse, breaking their covenant, and causing severe mental, emotional and spiritual damage. Thus, the Apostle Paul was clear, the abandoned person is not under the bondage to remain alone/unmarried the rest of their lives because of the bad choices of the spouse that left them. Why would God punish someone with being alone who did not want to be abandoned?
3. Thirdly, I see in the Word of God that physical abuse and terror/fear for one’s life is a Biblical ground or reason for divorce. 1 Peter 3:1-6 instructs, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”
The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon shows the original Greek word translated “afraid” in the above verse is phobeo. Thayer’s defines phobeo to terrify, frighten; to put to flight by terrifying (to scare away).
1. to be put to flight, to flee (Homer).
2. to fear, be afraid; the Sept. very often for יָרֵא; absolutely to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm: of those who fear harm or injury. The original Greek word translated “amazement” in the above verse is ptoesis and Thayer’s defines it “to be afraid with terror; to be put in fear by any terror.” So the Word of God through the Apostle Peter is instructing women to obey and submit to their husbands as long as they are not living in fear and terror for their life. If a woman is married to a man that beats her or causes her to live in terror from threats of violence or death, then that woman should get out of that marriage. I have always believed that God would allow a person to leave a marriage over an adulterous affair but then demand a person to stay in a marriage where they are getting physically abused and could potentially be killed by a violent spouse.
Yes…God hates divorce, but he did not create marriage to be a prison of torture or sexual unfaithfulness nor is it a prison cell of loneliness if your spouse abandons you. It is paramount to let the Holy Spirit lead you in all things. And lastly, a piece of advice, if you are going through or have been through a divorce, don’t jump immediately into another relationship. It takes time to heal to truly be ready for another person to come into your life. Wait patiently for God to bring the right one.
Blessings in Jesus Christ,
Pastor Dean Odle