The Truth about Divorce in the Bible: Scripture Quotes and Meaning

Divorce is mentioned several times in the Old and New Testament and there are very few exceptions where divorce is condoned in the Bible.

The Truth about Divorce in the Bible: Scripture Quotes and Meaning

Divorce in the Bible

Divorce is mentioned several times in the Old and New Testament and there are very few exceptions where divorce is condoned in the Bible. God created marriage and intended it to be good for us. When sin entered, so did the breaking of relationships. Unfortunately, divorce has become common today, even among Christians. Let's take a look at the Scriptures that mention divorce and remarriages.

What does the Bible teach about Divorce?

I do believe that the Bible gives two clear-cut grounds where divorce is possible. Never mandated, but it's possible. And those are the classic grounds of adultery and desertion by the unbeliever. And that said, there are also some grounds that really make you, they're not trying to throw a flood gate open on easy divorce, but where you've got criminal violence is one of those that thoughtful Christians of all generations have really wrestled with. There's something so wrong with that. And it's such both desertion and adultery, like violence, are such betrayals of the fundamental call of marriage to dwell lovingly with one another.

But let's say you've got a person who has been divorced. As a church process that, seeks to help that man or woman, the first thing that I think that's going to be on the table is was it a biblical or unbiblical divorce? Was it just for convenience? Was it groundless or irreconcilable differences, which is kind of a catchall for just means we didn't get along? And there may well be that the first step is to really think through is there repair work, a reconciliation that can be done.

Now, let's say the former spouse is still unmarried. It really does open up the possibility of a humble, patient process of seeking to at least explore whether reconciliation is possible. Let's say the other person has married already. Then there's no possibility of a reconciliation. And the church has to wrestle through, now, is there the possibility of remarriage here? And my own view would be that one wants to work carefully, pastorally with that person, to think through the gift of singleness. They are single. The Bible never makes the gift of singleness some magic thing. It's if you are single, you, at this point, have the gift of singleness and it's worth seriously thinking through the advantages of singleness. At the same time, I would believe that you cannot forbid a proper marriage in the Lord to that person. Where there are grounds for divorce, where there's no possibility of reconciliation, that there is also the possibility of a new marriage being conducted.

You notice in my answer that I put a huge place for the body of Christ. This is not one of those decisions to try just figure out in a vacuum and to try just figure out as though it's only a matter of what's right, what's wrong, or what am I allowed to do, what am I not allowed to do. It's one of those where pastoral process, and let's really walk through this slowly, is extremely important.

Slightly different question, this is like pre-divorce, but even if where a couple is contemplating divorce, even where there's been serious betrayal, say with adultery, there too, the role of the church is to slow down the process and not just say, "We want to do more than just adjudicate. Do you have grounds? We want to walk this through slowly, patiently, seek to bring about genuine Christian growth, explore the possibilities of a genuine, hardy fruitful reconciliation. And let's leave the, you might say, the more casuistic judgment call question for later."

A good book on the topic that I think just very sweetly reasoned, comprehensive, is Jay Adam's book, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible. It's just sound, sensible, good, balanced teaching reflects what I think is probably, as you look at the whole 2000 years of church history, has been the consensus view of the church's wise, thoughtful theologians.

Bible Verses about Divorce

Luke 16:18

“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Matthew 5:32

But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

1 Corinthians 7:15

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

Matthew 19:6

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

Matthew 19:9

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

Malachi 2:16

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Matthew 19:8

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Romans 7:2

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.

Matthew 5:31-32

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Photo credit: Getty Images/Pamela D McAdams


Originally published May 07, 2021.