Now, what about divorce? Is this the 'unpardonable sin' that some people adhere to? Edward Watson once received a harsh email that exclaimed, "Well, you can't teach the Bible and pastor people since you've been divorced and remarried!"
This man never even asked Ed Watson in compassion about his unique set of circumstances and had no concern or love but only condemnation to offer. The question is, how can someone truly claim to be a Christian and yet speak in such a condemning way? If this
man would have taken the time to calmly listen, Ed Watson would have kindly explained to him that God is able to and deeply desires to forgive any sins that resulted in divorce in the same way that He desires to forgive any other sin! We can see this clearly
from the story of the woman at the well who had five husbands. Jesus never told her that she was beyond hope but spoke in compassion to her with the desire to forgive.
Yet many fundamentalists hold to this "Romish" (Roman Catholic inspired)
teaching of divorce without understanding the truth of what the Bible really says concerning the subject. They preach "liberty to the captives and the truth will set you free", but then they turn around and bind people by the letter of the law rather than
by the spirit of which it was written.
Matthew 19:3-9 (parallel Scripture: Mark 10:2-12) is one of the main Scripture sections that is used to try to bind the divorced. Matthew 19:3-9 tells us:
(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 flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder. (7) They then said unto Him, Why did Moses then command to give
a writing of divorcement and to put her away? (8) He said 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, Whoever shall put away his
wife (put away without a written bill of divorcement as Moses commanded) except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her which is put away (put away without a writing
of divorcement as Moses commanded) commit adultery."
Many people love to isolate these verses to try and prove that if someone is divorced and marries another that they're living in adultery, but these are people
who are not reading these verses carefully and are not referring back to Old Testament teachings on the subject to understand the full truth. In the verses above it is important that people first of all understand that it is not God's desire for married men
and women to separate from one another. God desires for men and women to continue in a marriage that glorifies God and that shows love and respect for one another (vs. 4-6). Next, we read that even though it was not God's desire for married men and women to
separate, yet Moses could not stop them from separating due to the hardness of their hearts and their insistence on separating. Because of this, Moses has the command for these men who insisted on putting away their wives, to give these women
a legal written bill of divorcement (vs. 7).
Many of the Jewish men in Moses' day were simply "putting away" their wives for sinful, selfish, and petty reasons without even wanting to legally divorce them. These hardened
selfish men may have done this in order to keep the dowry money from the woman's family. They also many times did not want to legally divorce their wives because they were selfish and did not want to see the woman they put away (got rid of) become another
man's wife. Without a bill of divorcement, this woman was still not free to remarry and was still legally bound to her husband, and if she did marry another without being properly divorced, then she would be seen as an adulterer
(see vs. 9 above). Not only were these hardened, selfish Jewish men causing their wives to commit adultery, but they were also committing the terrible deed of adultery against their wives since they were simply putting away their wives without legally divorcing
them and then marrying other women! (see vs. 9 above). So therefore, we read in verse 7 above that the remedy for dealing with these adulterous behaviors, was for men to "put away" their wives in the proper and legitimate way by commanding these men to give
these wives a written and legitimate bill of divorcement as we can read clearly about in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. To give a bill of divorcement was a command from Moses and it was a legal agreement that the couple was truly and legitimately divorced and therefore
could legitimately remarry (Deut. 24:1-4). Moses' law that he commanded was the cure to all of the evils that were going on. When Jesus later explained this law to the Pharisees in Matthew 19, He was NOT telling them the popularly known wrong teaching of our
day that says "if you divorce and marry another you commit adultery", instead he was saying that "you cannot put away your wives in YOUR way, but must do it in GOD'S way" and this is done by giving your wives a written
legal bill of divorcement.
So it is now very easy to understand that divorce and remarriage are far from being any sort of "unpardonable sin". Deuteronomy 24:1-4 very clearly speaks about the fact that people had legitimate remarriages
in the Old Testament days, and it was not referred to as being an "unpardonable sin". In fact, if a person has no desire for a divorce but is still being forced to divorce against his or her desires, then that person is not guilty at all. Those who desire
a divorce out of selfish reasons, however, such as lusting after another man or woman and other such hurtful reasons are obviously in sin. But of course, these people can be forgiven of their sin, in the same way, that any other sin is forgiven, if they genuinely
repent and place their faith in the Lord for His healing and merciful forgiveness.
An interesting note concerning this area is that the term 'remarriage' does not even occur in scripture! An unknown author wrote that: “The
term “remarriage” does not even occur in the Bible! The Bible does allow for certain people once married to marry again. For example, the scriptures teach in several places that a widower can marry again, but the term “remarry”
or “remarriage” is never used in such scriptures. The people are simply told that they can “marry”. This is significant for the following reason. Once a marriage is legitimately dissolved, whether by death or legitimate
divorce, then that marriage is considered utterly null in God’s eyes. In other words, it is as if the marriage (the legal aspect of the institution) never was. They are free in the purest sense.
Another key verse
from above that people like to take to the extreme is the verse “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. (separate)” But the question is: Does God join everyone together who says some vows? Does God join together
two Satan worshipers who decide to marry? Does God join together a Muslim man who decides to marry a 9-year-old girl? Does God join together a couple who are drunk in Las Vegas and decide to make a quick trip to the wedding chapel? Does God join
together a saved person and an unsaved person when the Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever? The answer to all of these is "No" --- God does not join together such unions as these. What God joins together is two true
believers and these are the couples who are never to divorce for God wants these couples to remain in godly, committed, and faithful relationships. We will discuss this area in more detail later in this study.
The following are some helpful words from Phil Johnson answering the concern about "are people who remarry in danger of committing perpetual adultery?"
"What is the status of a Christian who divorces without biblical grounds and remarries?
Is he living in perpetual adultery? What about the concept of forgiveness? If someone has remarried unbiblically and seek forgiveness, is he forgiven?
In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus says, “It has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him
give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”
Jesus is saying that
the act of remarriage is an act of adultery. He is not teaching that the ongoing conjugal relationship with the new spouse is a state of “perpetual adultery”--as if God refused to recognize the remarriage as legitimate in any
If that were the case--if the ongoing physical relationship between the remarried couple constituted one long, continuous, adulterous affair—the proper remedy, and the only way to end the chain of adultery, would be to dissolve the second
marriage and insist that everyone return to his or her original spouse. On the contrary, Scripture teaches that the new marriage is now binding. In order to avoid further acts of adultery, the remarried person needs to remain faithful to the new spouse.
As a matter of fact, in the same passage where Moses permitted husbands to issue a certificate of divorce, the law added this restriction: “When she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband
detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife
after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD” (Deuteronomy 24:2-4,
Clearly, the second marriage—whether biblically justified or not—becomes as binding as the original marriage was supposed to be. A return to the original spouse is strictly forbidden.
So Jesus’ words in Matthew
5:32 (and Mark 10:11-12) mean simply that entering into an illegitimate remarriage is an adulterous act. Nevertheless, once that new marriage covenant is sealed, the remarried couple needs to remain married and be faithful to one another. A remarried
couple's ongoing physical relationship is not to be thought of as “perpetual adultery.”
On the other hand, as long as they remain unrepentant about the illegitimate remarriage, they cannot expect God’s blessing on their marriage. Like
all sins, that unauthorized remarriage must be confessed and repented of.
Because marriage entails a covenant that God deems holy, any remarriage (even remarriage after an unbiblical divorce) cannot be—and should not be—forsaken as we would
forsake virtually any other sin. But people who have entered into such a relationship do need to seek God’s forgiveness with sincere repentance.
And yes, God does grant forgiveness for such sins to those who seek His pardon in Christ."