God instituted the sacred marriage union at the time He created Eve (Gen. 2:18). He instructed that a man should leave his parents and become one flesh with his wife (vs. 24). God expects marriage to be a lifelong commitment. Husbands are to love their wives, in the same manner as Christ loves His Church and cares for it (Eph. 5:25). Wives are exhorted to submit to their husbands, “…as unto the Lord” (vs. 22), just as the Church submits to Christ, “…the head of the Church” (vs. 23).
However, people do sin (i.e., break God’s laws – I John 3:4). We live in a world that is not perfect, one that is wrought with human flaws, wickedness, “hardness of heart,” unfaithfulness, irresponsibility, etc. Although God “hates putting away” (Mal. 2:16), in today’s society, divorces do happen.
What may a person do if he or she has already been divorced? Upon repentance, baptism and conversion, all of one’s past sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38; Psa. 103:1-3, 10-12), including unjustified divorce. The individual would be allowed to consider remarriage.
What about those who are already converted? In I Corinthians 7:27-28, the apostle Paul wrote that, under certain circumstances, it is not a sin for one who has divorced an unbelieving spouse to re-marry.
However, he also wrote (vs. 10-13) that a Christian cannot dissolve a marriage in which his or her unconverted spouse is content to maintain the marriage relationship. God considers it adultery for one to divorce his or her faithful mate and marry another person. Once God has entered the marriage and bound the couple for life, divorce and remarriage is not permissible, “saving [except] for the cause of fornication” (Matt. 5:32).
Fornication involves unfaithful conduct prior to marriage, while adultery involves unfaithful conduct during marriage. Jesus shows that when one mate defrauds the other by not revealing his or her involvement in fornication prior to marriage, this is a valid reason for divorce— in this case, annulment (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). To claim fraud, fornication prior to marriage would have to be disclosed very early in the marriage—not after the marriage had continued for years. You can find much more detailed information on this subject in our booklet Understanding Divorce and Remarriage.
If one mate repeatedly committed adultery after marriage, such a person would have shown evidence of being an unbeliever. This marriage could end, and the believing party could remarry within the faith, according to I Corinthians 7:12-15. This understanding applies to believers within the Church that Jesus Christ founded, but is greatly misused by the world in its attempt to justify divorce for any and every faulty reason.
All true believers who are Christ’s (I Cor. 3:23) should obey Him and seek to walk as He walked (I John 2:6). In marriage, this means they should mutually complement and encourage each other’s growth, and work at building their marriage into a relationship that mirrors Christ’s relationship with the Church.
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