What Does The Bible Say About
By Betty Miller
What are the spiritual consequences of divorce? Is there
scriptural precedence for a divorced person to ever remarry? Can a divorced person fill a
place in ministry? How are we to deal with those who have suffered in this area? With
so many extremes being taught on this subject, it is difficult to have the proper
perspective of this problem in the church. In this teaching we will examine how to deal
with these complicated issues, in a spirit of both righteousness and mercy.
In today's society, divorce is a fast way out of an unpleasant
situation. In the United States, roughly half of all marriages now end in divorce. This
statistic is almost as high in the church as it is the world. What are we to make of this
flood of broken covenants that wash across our land? Many are drowning in its tide, beaten
by their own broken words and failure. Some are dying under a flood of guilt, while others
sail merrily along, unaware that their boat is rotting and will soon sink under the waves.
Is there a cure for this marital epidemic of broken promises, blame, guilt, unforgiveness,
discontent and wounded children? Can God truly heal even the most broken of marriages?
Although God hates divorce, He loves the divorcee and will help
all who call upon Him. He wants to teach us how to love the way He loves. The definition
of true love is "God is Love." Unless God is brought into a marriage they will
never experience true love. People can experience an emotional feeling we call
"love", however this is only one aspect of love in a marriage. The kind of love
that is needed for any marriage to be successful is the the God kind of love because this
love is not a selfish love. God's kind of love, loves even when that love is not
reciprocated. One attribute of love is faithfulness and loyalty. A Christian marriage is
based on trust in God and each other.
Love is a Choice
Another thing we must understand about love is that it is a
choice. True love is not something we trip into and out of easily. God's love for us
endures all things and does not change, even when we do. He doesn't love us for measuring
up to a certain standard. He loves us because He is love Himself. There is not one thing
He does that is not motivated by love. When we fail, He does not reject us, but in
compassion reaches out to restore us. Though He sees the hardness, blindness and hypocrisy
in our hearts, He still loves us. He loves us enough to not overlook these things, because
He knows they will destroy us. He loves us with a consuming, passionate, holy, jealous and
gentle love. He loves us so much that he continually offers us forgiveness, comfort,
encouragement, peace and joy. Finally, Jesus showed that He loves us more than His own
life when he laid it down His life for us.
Because He loves us in this way, so we also are to love each
other. Nowhere is God's love for us better illustrated than in marriage.
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church
and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the
washing of water with the Word, that He might present the church to Himself in glorious
splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things--that she might be holy and
faultless. Even so husbands should love their wives as (being in a sense) their own
bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh, but
nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church. Because we
are members (parts) of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his
mother and shall be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is
very great, but I speak concerning (the relation of) Christ and the church. However, let
each man of you (without exception) love his wife (being in a sense) his very own self;
and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband--that she notices him,
regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to
him, praises him and loves and admires him exceedingly" (Ephesians 5: 25-33,
In this verse we see that the union between man and woman is a
portrayal of the divine romance between Christ and the Church. The only reason man
and woman are attracted to each other and desire to build a life together, is because this
principal is true in a spiritual sense. The natural realm is an illustration of the
spiritual realm, and all spiritual truths existed long before the natural ones were
manifested. In the same that way men and women seek each other to become one, so our
spirits are also seeking oneness with God--and He with us.
Just as Eve was brought forth from Adam's side, so the church
was brought forth from the wounded side of Jesus. We are "bone of His bone and flesh
of His flesh." God is a "family man" seeking to establish a union of love
between His son Jesus and His Bride, who is the church. Together, they will rule His
creation and bring forth many offspring, just as Adam and Ever were originally
commissioned to do.
God hates divorce because it is a perversion of the holy picture
of the His Son and the Church. This is also why He hates homosexuality, sexual promiscuity
and other sexual and gender-related sins. All of these have their source with the Evil One
who seeks to pervert all of God's truths until they are a twisted lifeless shamble of what
they once were. When God's truths are twisted, instead of being instruments of life and
freedom, they become tools of death and destruction. What can bring us the greatest
happiness can also bring us the greatest sorrow. God took a great risk when He put so much
power in love. He knew it could both heal--and hurt--us more deeply than anything else He
created. Yet, if this is true for us, it is even more true for God Himself. He also, is
deeply touched and wounded by love. Yet, because He is willing to risk His very heart for
the sake of love, so we must be willing to take that risk as well. He is our example.
God's love alone has the deepest power to fulfill us. However, it can only fulfill us to
the extent that we use and understand it properly--and we cannot know true love unless we
The most basic principal of true, godly love is this: Love lays
down its life for others. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down
his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
This "laying down of our life" can be manifested in
many ways. Basically, it includes loving others more than ourselves, thinking of their
welfare, honoring them, forgiving them, wanting the best for them, etc. This is to be
practiced for both those who love us and those who hate us. Furthermore, this is to be a
way of life--not an occasional mood, when we are feeling benevolent towards the world!
Love is a deliberate choice.
Generally, the farther away one is from us, the easier it is to
love them. We can love them in a broad way. The closer we get to someone however, the more
they are magnified to us. We see both their faults and strengths more clearly. It is here
that love must become a choice. Will we continue to love them despite their failures, or
will we back off? Because marriages are the closest of all relationships, they are also
tested the most. If we have found that we are peering at our mate continually through a
magnifying glass, it may be time to step back a bit and refocus on the "big
picture." Likewise, if all we see is the "big picture" we can lose the
intimacy in the foundation of marriage. When we peer closely at our loved ones, their
faults are magnified, but so is their beauty as well. We need to continually seek the Lord
for His perspective, so we can see the loved one through His eyes of love and mercy. After
all, He sees us closer than anyone, and yet still loves us!
By studying God's love for us, we can learn that love takes
work, patience, commitment, faithfulness, and the willingness to take a risk. How
different from the way the world tells us love is--an effortless, easy emotion! Emotions
are a beautiful part of love, but nonetheless, they are only a part. They are the frosting
on the cake, the harmony on the melody, the bloom on the flower. They cannot stand on
their own, but rest on and grow from something else entirely.
The Spirit of Division
There is a rampant spirit of division in the earth today that is
seeking to destroy not only marriages, but all of our relationships. We must recognize
this attack of the enemy and resist it. Satan especially seeks to destroy and belittle
marriage, because of its spiritual parallel between Christ and the Church. It is our
responsibility to recognize that the real enemy is not each other, but the devil and our
own sin. Blaming each other or even our own inability, is the easy way out. Through
Christ, we can do all things. He makes us strong where we are weak. He gives us the Holy
Spirit to empower us. He gives us tools to overcome the enemy. In short, He gives us all
we need. Every time we overcome the spirit of division with love and forgiveness, we bind
the enemy and grow stronger ourselves. The following verse is an excellent list of
spiritual tools that will overcome any attack of division:
"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to
knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs
together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Finally, be ye all of
one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing: knowing
that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love
life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they
speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace and ensue it. For the
eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the
face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (I Peter 3:7-12).
It is understandable how those outside of Christ end up with
broken homes, but how sad it is that now Satan is even destroying the homes of God's holy
people. Perhaps it is because we have not been taught how to overcome the enemy or die to
self. Whatever the reasons, there are many who are on the brink of, or have already
suffered the trauma of divorce.
Those in bad marriages should not use divorce as an escape just
because they are in an unpleasant situation, but should seek God for the healing of their
relationship. The Lord desires to use such circumstances for redemptive purposes. He wants
to heal and deliver the partner that is not committed to Him. This is perfect soil for the
growth of the fruits of long-suffering (patience), faith and love to take place in the
mate who is hurting due to lack of love in the marriage. God's kind of love can overcome
in the situation, and a mighty miracle of healing can come to that marriage and home.
What About Those Who Have Already
First we must call divorce what it is--sin. Then we must look to
God's Word to see how He deals with this, or any other sin. Divorce causes one to commit
the sin of adultery.
"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).
Now let us look at a case concerning a woman who was caught in
the act of adultery and see how the Lord deals with her.
"They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in
adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned:
but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him,
But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them
not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that
is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down,
and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience,
went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left
alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none
but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man
condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn
thee: go, and sin no more" (John 8:4-11).
From this account we see the Lord extending mercy to this woman
and forgiving her of her sin. We also notice that He made an important statement, "He
that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."
The Lord treats all sins alike as far as redemption is
concerned; sin is sin. The answer to every sin problem is the acceptance of Jesus and His
sacrifice that cleanses us from sin. If we turn to Jesus, no matter what sin we commit, we
will find forgiveness and mercy. The Lord did not say she had not sinned, but forgave her
and admonished her to "sin no more." The sin of divorce is not the unpardonable
sin. No matter what sin we have committed in our lives, whether it be lying, cheating,
stealing, murder or divorce, Jesus made a way for us to cleansed and forgiven. When the
Lord forgives sin, He also ceases to remember it. God's love and forgiveness is so
different from man's. Hebrews 10:17 says, "And their sins and iniquities
will I remember no more."
What About Remarriage?
Yes, divorce is a sin. We can plainly see the damage it does to
the lives of all involved. It is straight from the pit of hell. Yet, there is hope and
forgiveness for the divorcee. Satan often lies and tells people that God is doing the
separating, but it is not God. God is not the author of divorce. However, His Word does
give instructions to those whose unbelieving mates desire a divorce.
"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" (I Corinthians 7:13-15).
If this happens, the mate that is left is not under any bondage
to this marriage. He is free to remarry should the Lord lead him to do so.
Much conflict about Christians remarrying has arisen in the
church because of Jesus' words in Matthew 19:3-9:
"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, Hath 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. They say unto him, Why did Moses then 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. 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."
The Lord points out that those who divorce their mates have
"hard hearts." God did not mean for divorce to happen. In the beginning His
perfect will was for man and woman to remain married their entire lifetimes.
Does this statement of Jesus leave no room for remarriage? This
verse has brought much bondage on those who have not looked at this Scripture in the light
of the entire Word of God. First of all we must understand that the Pharisees here were
attempting to trick Jesus into disagreeing with the Mosaic law so they could discount His
ministry. Jesus knew this. Because the question asked here was in regard to divorce, Jesus
quoted the perfect law concerning it. He, being perfect, could do no less.
Had the Pharisees asked him, "Master, is it permissible to
lie or steal?" He would have quoted the perfect law in regard to these sins. Exodus
20:15-16, "Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy
neighbour." Jesus also knew that man was not perfect and that man would fail, so
other portions of His Word deal with the problem of sin. Man could not keep the perfect
law; he failed. But the perfect God made a way for imperfect man to be forgiven of his
sins through the blood of Jesus. Therefore, no matter what sins we have committed, we can
find forgiveness and cleansing through Christ. He not only forgives the sin of divorce,
but because of His perfect forgiveness, He forgets the sin and it becomes as if we had
never committed it as far as He is concerned. Praise God! We have a new start in Christ as
the old is wiped away.
However, emotional healings are still needed for all who come
out of split homes. In divorces, children suffer as much (or more) than their parents. God
is healing and restoring those who seek His way. Those who continue in the world will only
suffer more heartache until they allow the Lord to completely rule in their lives. God
alone can "pick up the pieces" and put them together in a second marriage.
Without God, a second marriage will only compound the existing problems. Men and women
should seek God diligently in regard to this important step in their lives. Only by
following God's plan and His Word will marriage be the fulfilling and beautiful
relationship it was meant to be, regardless if it is a first or second marriage.
The Lord has a compassionate heart and He wishes us to have the
same attitude toward those who have committed this sin. In fact, the Word of God deals
with any transgression of the law as a serious offense. It matters not how big or little
we might consider the sin to be. In God's eyes, sin is sin, and all sin must have the same
remedy of Christ's cleansing. If we point our finger at other's sins without dealing with
our own, we are bringing judgment upon ourselves.
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend
in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do
not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor
of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth
against judgment" (James 2:10-13).
From this Scripture we see that if we commit that least sin (one
point), we are still guilty of the whole law (murder, adultery, etc.) Therefore we should
not judge those involved in the sins of divorce and adultery without mercy, or else we
will be judged the same way. We could be judging others critically in this area while
committing the same sin in our hearts.
One can commit adultery without divorcing his mate, as this sin
can be committed in the heart.
"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman
to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew
We are to minister to others compassionately in the area of
divorce, for we have all sinned and fallen short of His perfection in many areas of our
Can Divorced People Minister?
To ban people from ministering because they have suffered a
divorce or to deny them the privilege of a Christian marriage is not in accordance with
God's nature. If people have repented of their sin of divorce, then in God's eyes their
sins are gone and forgotten. The true church should have the same compassion and
understanding in its heart.
Some use the Scripture in I Timothy 3:2 to disqualify
those who have been married before from ever becoming an elder or bishop. "A
bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good
behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach." The reason for the specification
of "one wife" here was that in Christ's day some were still practicing polygamy.
Christ's teaching was calling people back to God's original plan of one man for one woman.
In the Old Testament, polygamy had been introduced to God's people by the nations around
them. The Lord had to purge His people from this evil as well as one of "divorce for
every cause." The hardness of man's heart had led him a long way from the intended
purposes of God.
However, we are warned in Scripture that we are not to use our
liberty as a license to sin. "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty;
only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another"
(Galatians 5:13). Divorce is never God's highest and best. Those in ministry
who would lightly seek a divorce and desire to continue ministering, need to examine their
hearts. Any obvious sin such as divorce can definitely weaken our testimony. If we are
recently divorced, or in the in the process of one, or having marital problems, it would
be good for a season to step down from any and all positions of leadership within the
church. We can do very little good in our public life if our personal one is in shambles.
However, because God makes all things new, there is a new day of
ministry, even for those who have been divorced. He can restore the worst of marriages and
restore the worst of sinners. The question He asks of us is, "Are you
If we are willing to believe and submit to God, nothing shall be
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But
the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13: 13).
Excerpt from the book Neither Male Nor
Female (Click here to order)