Remarriage After Divorce
In 1974, Dramatic Changes were Implemented to the Church’s controversial Policy Regarding a Member’s Eligibility to be Remarried after being Divorced. That earlier Policy Originated with a more Literal Understanding of a number of Specific Biblical passages. Not all Appreciate their Clarity and Relevance.
Living in times such as these, where such a high percentage of society is made up of people lacking moral character, with sexual permissiveness being such a major component in society and its prevailing lifestyles, the marital problems resulting from that have to inevitably draw-in profound considerations among believers and the ministry. God says plainly that He hates divorce, not so much as just a matter of being over-restrictive, but more, taking into account its negative impact on the happiness and emotional well being of those individuals involved, and even more, the structure of families and the moral bearings of the coming generation who are impacted by such situations.
Christ Himself saw need to address the matter, as did the Apostle Paul. In fact, each saw need to comment rather specifically. It obviously was an issue of that day as well, as evident by the questions which led to each of their lengthy responses. The major question today is, where do we stand on these direct and seemingly clear statements found in the New Testament? We’ll consider these many statements here, with comments to follow.
Matthew 19:3 “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? 4: And he answered and said
unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at
the beginning made them male and female,
5: And said, For
this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall
cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one (#3391)
6: Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7: They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8: 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. 9: And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away doth commit adultery. 10: His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11: But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12: For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Matthew 5:31 “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32: 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 commits adultery.
Divorce’s Imposed Limitations
Mark 10:2 “And
the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful
for a man to put away his wife? tempting
him. 3: And he answered and said
unto them, What did Moses command you?
4: And they said,
Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put
her away. 5: And Jesus answered and said
unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you
6: But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7: For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8: And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9: What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10: And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11: And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her. 12: And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she commits adultery.
Obligations when Married
1st Corinthians 7:1
“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto
me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife,
and let every woman have her own husband.
3: Let the husband render unto the wife
due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the
husband. 4: 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.
5: 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. 6: But I speak this by permission, and
not of commandment. 7: 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. 8: I say therefore to the
unmarried and widows, It is good for
them if they abide even as
I. 9: But if they cannot contain,
let them marry: for it is better to marry than to
And unto the married I command,
yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her
husband: 11: But and if she depart, let
her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her
husband: and let not the husband put away his
12: 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. 13: And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14: 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. 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. 16: For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? 17: 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.”
Priorities When Under Distresses
1st Cor. 7:25 “Now
concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet
I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of
the Lord to be faithful. 26: I suppose therefore that
this is good for the present distress,
I say, that it is good for a man so to be.
27: Art thou
bound unto a wife? seek not to be
loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife?
seek not a wife. 28: But and if thou marry, thou hast not
sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned.
Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I
spare you. 29: But this I say, brethren, the time is
short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as
though they had none;
30: And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; 31: And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. 32: But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34: There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
35: And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 36: But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. 37: Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. 38: So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. 39: The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.  40: But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God”
Romans 7:1. “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
Here the Apostle Paul remains consistent with both Old Testament Law and the words of Jesus in Mark 10 and Matthew 5.
Husband of One Wife.
What may be insightful in this matter is the list of qualifications for being an overseer or deacon in the Church administration. Its positive and repetitive emphasis leads us to certain considerations.
1st Tim. 3:1 “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2: A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3: Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4: One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5: (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6: Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7: Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8: Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9: Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10: And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11: Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12: Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13: For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Titus 1:6 “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7: For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8: But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9: Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
Defining Key Words
Bishop: Strong’s #1984 / 1985 ĕpiscŏpē / ĕpiscŏpŏs, generally, an overseer or superintendent to a church, implying an office with a broader scope of aware-ness and responsibility.
Deacon: #1247/8/9 diakŏnĕō / diakŏnia / diakŏnŏs, a ‘minister’ in the sense of being in service to others. Mark 10:43-45 provides a concise definition, the word diakonos being used three times, contrasted in verse 44 with the word #1401, dŏulŏs, a state of being in servitude. Though occasionally translated ‘office’, it in no way accurately suggests hierarchical supremacy (the common perception). Our word minister, besides often being translated from diakonos is also translated from the Greek ‘hupērĕtĕō / hupērĕtēs, indicating an official in subordinate service.
One: #3391 mia, ‘one’ (with implication: a first one) also properly translated ‘first’ by itself. e.g. Rev. 6:1, (He opened the ‘one’ before the second), also Rev. 9:12, Tit. 3:10. It can also imply a specific or exclusive one. e.g. Jn. 10:16
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism…” in Ephesians 4:5 is translated from two different Greek words: The ‘one’ preceding ‘Lord’ and ‘baptism’ are hēis, #1520, but the one preceding faith is #3391, mia. Suggesting not just any faith, but that faith which is the first one, the faith once (originally) delivered. This choice of a different word for ‘one’ supports the qualification of the use of the Greek word mia as having reference to a one which is a first one, whereas hēis could suggest that ‘one’ which isn’t necessarily a first one but an only one.
Regarding 1st Timothy 3 and the issue of ‘one wife’, JF&B Commentary  has this: “husband of one wife -- Though the Jews practiced polygamy, yet as he is writing as to a Gentile Church, and as polygamy was never allowed among even laymen in the Church, the ancient interpretation that the prohibition here is against polygamy in a candidate bishop is not correct. It must, therefore, mean that, though laymen might lawfully marry again, candidates for the episcopate or presbytery were better to have been married only once. As in 1 Tim. 5:9, "wife of one man," implies a woman married but once; so "husband of one wife" here must mean the same. The feeling which prevailed among the Gentiles, as well as the Jews (compare as to Anna, Luke 2:36,37), against a second marriage would, on the ground of expediency and conciliation in matters indifferent and not involving compromise of principle, account for Paul's prohibition here in the case of one in so prominent a sphere as a bishop or a deacon. Hence the stress that is laid in the context on the repute in which the candidate for orders is held among those over whom he is to preside (Titus 1:16). The Council of Laodicea and the apostolic canons discounten-anced second marriages, especially in the case of candidates for ordination. Of course second marriage being lawful, the undesirableness of it holds good only under special circumstances. It is implied here also, that he who has a wife and virtuous family, is to be preferred to a bachelor; for he who is himself bound to discharge the domestic duties mentioned here, is likely to be more attractive to those who have similar ties, for he teaches them not only by precept, but also by example… (1 Tim. 3:4, 5).”
Have we considered enough biblical evidence to this point to be able to address these questions?
1. In what circumstances is a divorced person free to re-marry? Romans 7:2, 1st Corinthians 7:39
2. Are ‘adulterous’ situations entered into before conversion something that needs to be reversed as a pre-condition of full conversion? Matt. 19:12
3. Was the Apostle Paul still married at the time of his ministry? 1st Corinthians 7:7-8
4. Are marriages to individuals outside the Church acceptable before God? 1st Corinthians 7:39
5. Is there a marital law applicability distinction between persons ‘in the Church’ and those not in the Church? 1st Corinthians 7:14
6. On what basis do we establish a distinction between marriages bound and those not bound?
7. Why is it sufficiently important to mention a person’s marital situation in connection to appointment to ecclesiastical office, even one as minor as a deaconship? 1st Timothy 3:4-5
In what circumstances is a divorced person free to re-marry? From statements of both Christ and Paul, it would appear that marriage is binding until the death of one mate or the other. The Apostle Paul summarizes Old Testament Law with regard to the question, in 1st Cor. 7:39 and Romans 7:2. Christ is reported to have affirmed the same in places such as Mark 10:11-12. The matter is doubly confirmed in passages such as Matthew 19, where this poignant explanation is offered, right after declaring to the general public that remarriage after a divorce is adultery. “10: His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. In other words, being such a high risk situation, where a poor choice in a mate could later obligate a person to virtual celibacy, they from a carnal perspective considered it too great a risk in far too many situations. 11: “But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12: For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: (some will not ever find an acceptable mate) “and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: (certain occupations required that servant be celibate) “and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. This is the one with greatest interest to us and which conveys a more profound consideration! We need to ask ourselves, In what situations would it be necessary to make ones’ self celibate “for the Kingdom’s sake”? Does this also reflect on question two? Is a disregard for this situation (being in an adulterous union) relevant to ones’ inclusion (or at least his reward level) in the Kingdom? “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” In other words, as alluded to in verse 11, it’s a hard thing for many to accept.
Are ‘adulterous’ situations entered into before conversion something that needs to be reversed as a pre-condition of full conversion? This question is partly addressed above. A person ‘making ones’ self a eunuch’ suggests situations where a marital state would be detrimental to ones’ quest for the Kingdom. It could be posed that a dedication to service on behalf of God and the Church would satisfy this situation, bolstered by Paul’s statements in 1st Corinthians 7:35. However, that premise seems to be countered by his statement just seven verses prior. More logically, ones’ situational ‘celibacy’ would be if when divorced, the other was re-married, barring any hope of reconciliation, that (sole?) re-marriage option presented divorced persons in 1st Corinthians 7:11 with respect to any re-marriage option.
Was the Apostle Paul still married at the time of his ministry? While some may wonder why this would be relevant, it is important in light of the pre-qualifications stated for bishops and deacons and his statements in 1st Corinthians 7:7-8. While it would have been highly probable that Paul was married in his early life, as evidenced by his attainment to a voting status in the Sanhedrin (Ac. 26:10) which would have required him to be so, the absence of mention in later years suggests her being either deceased or separated by the time of his post-conversion ministry. We know that other apostles were married, including Peter. Those qualifications he gives for bishops and deacons may be further enhanced by his not entering into a second marriage, as even a second marriage following a death of a mate would cause questions of a candidate for office and would raise question as to his choice of the Greek word mia and not the word hēis, if he meant a quantitative one (wife) as opposed to referring to a man’s original one.
Are marriages to individuals outside the Church acceptable before God? Before posing an answer, we should distinguish between those married prior to conversion and those married after it. As to the first condition, marriage prior to conversion, the admonitions in 1st Corinthians 7:12-14 indicates an acceptability. In fact, those in such a situation are pointedly encouraged to maintain their marriages. But in situations where the mate is deceased, the Christian is free to re-marry, but is expressly discouraged from marrying anyone not ‘in the Lord’! (1st Corinthians 7:39) Where some in recent past have become inventive is with verse 15 of the same chapter, “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.” That phrase ‘under bondage’ has been equated with the word ‘bound’ in places such as verse 39, or as in Matthew 19:6, God having joined them together. The deduction being that some marriages were not ‘bound’ (by God) and thus that individual remains completely free to re-marry. Further examination of the context of verse 39 shows that it indicates a person is not obligated to strive to maintain a contentious marriage when the unbelieving mate is fully disinterested in continuing it, with the obvious personal distresses and interpersonal battles that such counter-effort would incur. (Notice the word peace.) But to go a step further and conclude a person in such a situation is free to remarry another is a leap of logic that contradicts other passages on the subject. Think how easy it would be for one mate to make the unconverted person’s life so miserable as to drive him or her out, the converted offender thinking it would leave one free to take on another mate. This idea would contradict the instruction and intent of verses 12-14 immediately prior.
Is there a marital law applicability distinction between persons ‘in the Church’ and those not in the Church? Here again, partly based on 1st Corinthians 7:15, presuming marriages entered into prior to conversion are ‘not bound’ should the unbelieving mate choose to divorce, the modern interpreters again injected presumptions that cause many to err. In fact, God created and binds marriages without distinction as to ones’ conversion status. Marriage was made for all mankind, not just the converted. (Matt. 19:4-5) Paul certainly had opportunity to allude to such distinction, if there were one, in places such as 1st Corinthians 7 and Romans 7.
On what basis do we establish a distinction between marriages bound and those not bound? As explained above, that distinction is purely deductive reasoning on the part of ‘inventive theologians’, not on any clear word of scripture!
Why is it sufficiently important to mention a man’s marital situation in connection to appointment to ecclesiastical office, even one as minor as a local deaconship? As the JF&B Commentary explains, on page 4 above, in order for a minister of whatever level to faithfully represent such teachings, it is incumbent on him to represent these values by example also. The early Church recognized these things, as did their Judaic counterparts of the day.
Another passage elevated to particular significance relative to the issue of eligibility for re-marriage in ‘74 is Matthew 9:12. “…Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away doth commit adultery.” The explanation was given that should the offending mate engage in ‘pŏrnĕia’ (the Greek word there) then divorce is justified. With that divorce being justified, it was further alleged the offended mate was then free to re-marry. (In that the divorce was deemed justified.)
What we failed to notice was the ‘slight of hand’ at the time that allowed a ‘justified’ divorce to legitimize eligibility for re-marriage in direct contradiction to the remainder of the sentence. Also overlooked apparently is the fact that the word fornication would not properly be applicable to a person in a married state! Such conduct, as porneia allegedly means, would be more properly referred to as adultery! Keeping in mind the intent of the Pharisees question, whether every instance of divorce is permissible, His answer was effectively ‘NO’, except in the case of porneia. We presume that use of the word refers to some sexual perversion. Would it be possible that the condition referred to is that described in Leviticus 18:6-17, marrying one of nearness of kin, in which it would be wrong for that couple to remain married, as is indicated in 1st Corinthians 5:1-5, a situation also referred to using that same word, porneia, where a member married his widowed stepmother?
Another verse we might consider is 1st Corinthians 7:11 where the person from whom a wife is ‘unmarried’ (divorced?) is still regarded as ‘her husband’! How could that word choice be true if the person wasn’t still considered her husband even after being separated through divorce?
We’re obviously considering a matter that has many wide-ranging ramifications, especially in today’s world where so many are affected by divorce. These are matters that call for Spirit-led judgments. Though it’s all too often the inclination of the official ‘ministry’, especially since 1974, to disregard these clear statements, even those of Jesus Himself, or explain away their explicitness, it remains the responsibility of each individual to allow the clarity of these words to effect the personal decisions we must each settle upon. Ω