Divorce & Remarriage
Pastor David Green

Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. 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. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 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.” (I Corinthians 7:24-28)

This subject is one that is very controversial, and is seldom preached, but it an important topic for us to consider. Many preachers look at divorce and remarriage as the “unforgivable sin.” They lack any compassion and will break fellowship with other preachers and churches who disagree with them. These men have hardened their hearts and have not really looked into God's Word to see what He says about the subject.

Today I want to look into this subject. There will be some who will disagree with me over this. As soon as it is heard on the internet, there will be preachers who no doubt will beak fellowship with me. If that is the price I must pay for preaching the truth, then so be it.
Let me say at the beginning, I am not divorced, nor do I plan on ever being divorced. My wedding vows are important to me and I love my wife dearly.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (II Timothy 2:15-16)

My intention this morning is not to encourage divorce, but to look into a subject that I believe needs to be looked into. We are Baptists, and as Baptists we believe that the Bible is the final authority for faith and practice. Let us rightly divide the Word of God on this and every other subject we consider!

First, let us consider the subject of 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? 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 19:3-6)

Divorce is not an ideal situation and it is not the answer for every situation. Marriage between a man and a woman is supposed to be for life. The vows the couple take ought to NEVER be taken lightly! And that is why when a young couple ever talks to me or any other God-called preacher we counsel them before they ever marry. And if a saved and an unsaved want to marry...or if a Catholic and a Baptist want to marry we discourage it. (See II Corinthians 6:14).

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.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)

Divorce is not always sinful, but it always happens because of sin. It is a sin to break any vow, and in this case we mean the wedding vows. The day you married your spouse you better have meant what you said! When divorce happens, it is because someone broke the vows. That's why God hates it: For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16)

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 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 19:7-8)

God allows divorce in His law. Moses acted as God's spokesman allowed for divorce. No, God did not institute divorce, but neither did He condemn it. He regulated it and praise be to God He did. Can you imagine if divorce were not regulated by God? Well, that would not be hard to imagine because we see it on the news everyday. Divorce is all too common in our day. People get divorced over the silliest things.

But on the other hand can you imagine if God forbid divorce? For the innocent party, this would be absolutely horrible. Women who are beaten, cheated on, etc would be left to stay in such an abusive environment. There is a way to be freed from such things!

And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.” (Jeremiah 3:8)

Now, I ask those who believe that divorce is a sin, why did Jehovah give Israel a bill of divorce? Was He sinning? Those modern-day Pharisees who sit in judgment of every man or woman who has ever been divorced would have to accuse God of sin in order to be consistent.

The Bible very clearly grants two reasons for divorce:

  1. FORNICATION – 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 5:32)
    Note: According to Strong's Concordance, this word fornication means harlotry (including adultery and incest) Also according to John Gill this “must not be taken strictly for what is called fornication, but as including adultery, incest, or any unlawful copulation.”

  2. DISSERTION – 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. 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?” (I Corinthians 7:12-16)

Notice, the Bible does not command divorce in these situations, but it does permit it. I believe that if a marriage can be saved, then it ought to be. Even difficult situations like sexual sins can be worked out between couples. Divorce should always be the last resort.

I will also say that there may be areas where the Bible does not give a chapter and verse permission of divorce, but I would encourage it. For example, if a woman is being abused by her husband, then I believe she can and should seek a divorce. For the safety of herself and the children, she should not be told to stay with such a man. Some folks may disagree with me here, but I could not with good conscience advise that woman to stay in such a relationship. If I am wrong, then pray the Lord will show me.

There are reasons that America will allow a divorce to occur but these are not right or proper. For instance, incompatibility comes to mind. No two people are completely compatible, and these things must be worked at. Jesus is the answer for such things...not divorce!

"Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." (Matthew 12:31-32).

There are those who seem to think that divorce and remarriage are unforgivable sins. Notice divorce does not even come into this passage at all. It is forgiven! A pastor of another church near here gave me a book called Adultery in the Church several months back and I still have it on my shelf even though it is not worth the paper it was printed on. The author (Steve Flinchum) praises a church somewhere in Ohio for having the following in their by-laws:


Resolved, That we take the strongest stand possible against divorce – God hates it according to Mal. 2:16 and so should we.

Accordingly, any person who has been divorced and remarried (in the eyes of the civil law) either before or after "salvation" is living in the habitual act of adultery before God’s eyes and consequently disqualified for membership in this church. What should they do? They should separate from that adulterous relationship and live a life of sexual purity and deny their fleshly lusts. They should not seek another divorce. However, it is acknowledged that this may lead to their partner seeking a civil divorce. Such as return to a life of purity may be considered for membership. It is acknowledged that since God never intended divorce, as we know of it today, the Holy Scriptures do not give us specific verses to deal with these matters.

Anyone who has been divorced but has not remarried may seek membership in this church. The admonition for that person is:

a. They are not to remarry, and
b. They are to live a life of sexual purity, and
c. They are to seek, with all sincerity, to be reconciled to their wife or husband.

No divorced person will be allowed to hold any church office.

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:1-4)

That church in Ohio is no different than the Pharisees. Since when is a divorced and remarried person disqualified from being a church member? And since when is a divorced man not allowed to hold any office? Where is the Scriptures to support such things? Not many healthy adults can do what these people are asking them to do. (See I Corinthians 7:1-5, 8-9).

We have hinted at it, so let us now consider the subject of remarriage.

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? 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. 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.” (Romans 7:1-3)

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.” (I Corinthians 7:39)

Remarriage is permissible after the death of a spouse. I do not think anyone disagrees with that.

Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. 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. (I Corinthians 7:27-28)

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 5:32)

Remarriage is also permissible after divorce, if the divorce is done on the proper grounds. The Bible is as plain on this subject as the nose on my face, but some people refuse to accept what the Bible has to say here, instead insisting that it is sin for a person to be divorced and remarried.

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

Some folks claim that if a person is divorced, that person is still married in God's eyes. If that were the case, then this verse would make no sense, unless of course God is here encouraging polygamy.

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;” (I Timothy 3:2)

This verse is used to support the idea that a divorced and remarried man cannot be pastor or missionary. Yet, we have already seen that the Bible teaches that it is possible for a person to be divorced and remarried, if it is done under the Scriptural grounds listed above, namely fornication (which includes adultery, sodomy, bestiality, and all sorts of sexual sins) as well as if the unbelieving depart. But what if a man was divorced for all the wrong reasons and then remarried? Would a church be wrong in asking him to pastor their church? Or, let's say for arguments sake that all divorce is sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

I believe that if a divorce was not scriptural, then the man ought to confess his sins and I also believe he can be forgiven of those sins. Same as if that man were a drunkard, an adulterer, persecuted the church, etc.  If God can take the “chiefest of sinners” and use him the way He did Paul, then God can use a man who was divorced and remarried for His honor and glory!

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (I Timothy 3:1-7)

This passage, in the whole, has a whole list of qualifications for pastors. Yet, the only thing people ever talk about is being the husband of one wife. Let me make a couple of observations:

  1. The “husband of one wife” clause in this passage is speaking of polygamy, the sin of having multiple wives. If a man has been divorced and remarried, then this passage is speaking of his current wife.

  2. If the “no divorce” crowd were consistent, they would say a man could not pastor a church who was not married.

  3. Why is it that these “no divorce” churches make such an issue about divorce, but not on anything else? I remember when I was going to New Mexico as missionary, the question was asked me, “Are you married?” At that particular time, the answer was no. It was then followed with “Have you ever been married.” I was never asked about my views on hospitality, wine, or anything else for that matter.
    While studying for this message, I came across an old forum question about this subject in the Baptist Examiner. I thought Bro. E.G. Cook had a good point when he wrote, “We have all known preachers who have failed to meet other qualifications that are so clear and plain that they are not debatable. Still I have never heard of people making much of an issue of it. I Timothy 3:4 says a preacher must rule his own house well. And don't tell me you have never known a preacher who was so hen-pecked he almost looked like an apple that had fallen in the chicken yard...” (The Baptist Examiner 05/06/1972)

Why is it people bring up divorce but nothing else when it comes to the pastorate? They have made a verse say something that it simply does not say and then they have turned this into their “pet doctrine.” Be careful about speaking against the man God has called into the ministry. If God can use me, an old depraved sinner saved by the grace of God then God can use a divorced and remarried man. I am sure some questioned Paul being the preacher he was. And there may be some who question me being the preacher I am.
Romans 14:4 says, “Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”

Conclusion.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (II Timothy 2:15-16)

Let us not be harder on God's people than what God is. As we study God's word, let us make sure we are rightly dividing it, and everything else is nothing more than profane and vain 

OTHER RESOURCES ON THIS SUBJECT:
I have included some other resources on the topic which may be of further help as you study this out,

"The Evils of Divorce" by Elder Troy Sheppard  (MP3)
"Marriage After Divorce" by Elder Sam Wilson  (MP3)
"Divorce and Remarriage" by Elder David Green (MP3)

RETURN TO ARTICLES