Divorce & Remarriage

Luke 16:18 "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery..."

Divorce & Remarriage

Divorce & Remarriage

Truth overview: Marriage is until death. God hates divorce, divorce and remarriage is adultery, and there are no exceptions. Over 50 percent of marriages end in divorce today, homes are ruined, children are without two parents, and it is because lukewarm churches and lukewarm Christians have chosen emotions over God's word -- sin over obedience. This atrocity will continue to spiral out of control and plague generation after generation as long as Christians remain silent, afraid to speak the truth in love. Jesus Christ was bold in His rebuke of adultery. Christians must be as well.

LIE #1: "God permits and recognizes divorce"

Nowhere in the Bible will you find God's permission to or acceptance of divorce. Nowhere in the Bible will you find an example of a Christian who divorced (or remarried). To be clear, the Bible says that God hates divorce, that mankind should not divorce, and that marriage is until death regardless of a piece of paper issued by man.

Malachi 2:14-15 "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one?..."  

Malachi 2:16 "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."

The Pharisees directly asked Jesus his stance on divorce and Jesus gave a direct, unmistakable answer that is recorded both in Matthew and Mark. He said that marriage makes two people one and that they are never again two, just as it tells us in Genesis and Malachi.

Matthew 19:4-6 "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 [means never again] twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Mark 10:4-9 "And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

And, in case we're not sure what Christ meant with his answer, or perhaps He misspoke, His disciples asked Him again inside the house:

Mark 10:10-12 "And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."

As shown in Matthew and Mark, Jesus said that Moses introduced divorce as a means to govern hard-hearted people, but that it has never been viewed as acceptable in God's eyes. Jeremiah 3 is further proof of this as it directly rebukes Moses' teaching in Deut. 24:1-4, calling it the words of men ("they say"), and then showing that God's way is, as it is throughout the Bible, reconciliation.

Jeremiah 3:1 "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord."

Having learned from Jesus' teaching and being inspired by God, Paul later wrote four times "no divorce!" in I Cor. 7:10-13. Christians are disobeying God's clear command when they file for divorce.

1 Corinthians 7:10-13 "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 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."

But what if your spouse divorces you against your will, or perhaps you made a mistake earlier in life by divorcing your spouse? You're still married regardless of the piece of paper issued by man because marriage is until death. God does not honor mankind's institution of divorce. He didn't honor the precept written by Moses (which Moses introduced only as a way to govern the wayward Israelite people), and he does not honor the precept written by worldly judges today. We'll touch more on this later.

Matthew 19:7-8 "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."

But didn't God get divorced? No, God uses the concept of marriage and divorce with Israel only as an illustration of spiritual truths. It is interesting to note what can be learned from the illustration though. The power of mankind's made up "bill of divorcement" can be seen in Jeremiah 3. In this chapter, God uses marriage as an analogy when he says that Israel has been "adulterous" in whoring after other gods, that this has caused him to "divorce" Himself from Israel (a term used purposely because it was well understood by the people), and yet God says He is still married to Israel just a few verses later. The takeaway is that unfaithfulness, divorce, or even a combination of the two does not end a marriage in God's eyes.

Jeremiah 3:8, 14 "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 ... Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion"

Isaiah contains the same lesson. God divorces adulterous Israel, yet God still says that Israel is His wife. The analogy is completely at odds with the idea that adultery destroys the marriage covenant which will be talked about later.

Isaiah 50:1 “Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.”

Isaiah 54:4-7 “Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.”

The only thing that ends a marriage is death.

1 Corinthians 7:39 "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."

Romans 7:2-3 "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."

So what should a person do if a marriage isn't working out? The Bible is very clear: (1) Try to reconcile and do not divorce because God hates divorce and commands you not to, (2) Try to reconcile and do not divorce, (3) Try to reconcile and do not divorce, (4) If your spouse no longer wants to live with you, perhaps even divorces you, let them go (you're not responsible for this according to I Cor. 7:15) but do not marry another. What if your spouse has cheated on you, perhaps multiple times, how many times should you forgive him/her for this despicable, heart wrenching, evil act? Jesus Christ gave us the answer in Matt. 18:21-22.  

Matthew 18:21-22 "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven."

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife."

Stay together because (1) God commands it, and (2) it is the best thing for those involved, especially when kids are involved. Note: part-time custody is not conducive for raising Godly children. 

1 Corinthians 7:12-14 "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."

Examples to follow from the Bible: Not surprisingly, there are no, absolutely zero, examples of believers -- Old Testament or New -- who divorced or remarried. No, the examples in the Bible are all about forgiveness, reconciliation, and staying together! As mentioned before, you can read from cover to cover about how God does not put away "adulterous" Israel despite its continual unfaithfulness. Additionally, God's promise to take the Church as His bride, despite the unfaithfulness of New Testament saints, is a critical doctrine to hold to -- as critical as eternal security itself!

Another example is that of Hosea. Hosea's wife committed adultery, perhaps even had two children as a result of the adultery (Hosea 1), yet God tells Hosea to take his wife back. This is the counsel God would give someone in Hosea's situation today. No, adultery isn't a "get out of jail free card" as we'll discuss in a moment, it is a time for a spouse to step up to the plate and practice turning the other cheek, forgiving 70 times seven, and sometimes even following Jesus' commandment to love our enemies.

Hosea 3:1-3 "Then said the Lord unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee."

Matthew 5:44 "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;" 

LIE #2: "Divorce and Remarriage is OK"

Considering God hates divorce, Jesus said divorce is wrong, and Paul declared four times (I Cor. 7:10-13) that there should be no divorce and was inspired to twice write (Romans 7, I Cor. 7) that only death ends a marriage, to presume that remarriage after divorce is Biblical is sheer Biblical ignorance. Divorce and remarriage is adultery, and adultery is a very serious sin.

Luke 16:18 "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery."

Mark 10:10-12 "And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."

Matthew 5:32 "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 19:9 "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."


In our upside down world, often the churches and Christians who take a loose stance on divorce and remarriage are praised as the loving, understanding, mature Christians. The exact opposite is true. It may provide a short-term emotional fix, but encouraging someone to disobey God is never loving. Love is to speak the truth and tell people that the sin of adultery is a serious and continual sin that wrecks families and destroys a person's very soul. It is love to warn people against it.

Hebrews 13:4 "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge."

Proverbs 6:32 "But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul."

You can see how God views the taking of someone's spouse in Gen. 20 when He was about to kill Abimelech for taking Abraham's wife (even though he didn't know it was Abraham's wife).

Genesis 20:3 "But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife."

Continual sin: And to be sure, getting divorced and remarried is not a one-time sin that exists only at the start of the adulterous relationship. No, it is adultery every time those individuals have sexual relations with someone other than their real (first) spouse! In other words, to say that divorce and remarriage is wrong but God forgives is like saying God forgives theft so you can keep stealing. God can forgive, yes, but you're still sleeping with someone who isn't your spouse -- committing the very act of adultery! We'll touch more on this later.

John 8:4 "They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act."

While divorce and remarried individuals may feel that they have just one spouse, the fact of the matter is that they now have multiple "spouses" just like the woman at the well. Jesus told her that the "husband" she now has is actually not her husband, and He would say the same thing to a divorced and remarried individual today.

John 4:16-18 "Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly."

The book of Romans makes it clear that those who are married to someone else while their original spouse is still living is called a -- present tense -- adulterer or adulteress. 

Romans 7:3 "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."

An institution created by God: To understand the topic of divorce and remarriage, it is helpful to understand that God Himself created and ordained marriage. Mankind didn't create it and mankind cannot define or change it according to his circumstances. God told us in Genesis that a husband and wife come together to form one flesh both physically and spiritually. And what God puts together mankind cannot put asunder. The permanence of marriage is seen across cultures and continents because it is an innate truth given by God. Our wedding rings represent an unending bind, our oaths at the altar are "until death do us part," and even human biology points to the fact that marriage is sacred.

Genesis 2:24 "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

Matthew 19:6 “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

What God does cannot be undone by man.

Isaiah 14:27 “For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” [how can man disannul God’s plan for marriage?]

Ecclesiastes 3:14 “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.”

Regarding biology, scientists have concluded that there is no physiological purpose for the hymen and this leads many to believe that God created the hymen for a spiritual purpose instead: an indicator of virginity and mark of a God-sanctioned union. The God-given role of the hymen can be seen in Deuteronomy. This speaks to the sanctity of marriage and also is helpful to note when we later talk about Jewish rules regarding sex before marriage (fornication) which are referred to in the Jewish book of Matthew.

Deuteronomy 22:13-17 "If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city." 


Many Christians choose to take what they say is a "balanced" position on the topic. They say that marriage is until death except for one or two, or maybe five exceptions. Along with the fact that this flies in the face of all of the verses mentioned above regarding God's hatred of divorce, the permanence of marriage, and the commandments to never remarry, the specific passages used to prove the exceptions also have serious flaws. In the end, one must conclude that marriage is either permanent or not -- and for those who decide it isn't, they hold a position that cannot be defined or defended Biblically and have helped further open a Pandora's box for this adulterous and sinful generation (Mark 8:38).


Proponents of the theory that adultery is proper grounds for divorce and remarriage rest their case not just on one verse of one chapter in one book of the Bible, but on one word and a secondary meaning of that word. It's a stretch to say the least, yet this is probably the most popular argument given by Christians to "lawfully" divorce a spouse and marry another.

The verse in question is Matthew 19:9 (note Matt. 5:32 is similar, however, it does not speak of remarriage). Some say this verse proves that if your spouse cheats on you, you have the right to divorce and marry someone else. In other words, you can forget about all of God's calls for reconciliation and forgiveness if this one sin occurs. But alas, the Bible as a whole doesn't say this, the context doesn't say this, and even the word used doesn't say this.

Matthew 19:9 "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."

Fornication vs. Adultery: One huge hint that this passage isn't talking about adultery as an exception is because it doesn't say adultery -- it says fornication. According to scripture, these are two separate sins. One is before marriage and one is after. And while the word fornication may have a broader meaning in some passages, whenever it is listed alongside the word adultery, as it is in Matt. 19:9, it is always utilizing the primary definition of the word. Examples of this can be seen throughout scripture (Mark 7:21, I Cor. 6:9, Heb. 13:4, Hosea 4:13, etc.) including just a few chapters earlier in Matthew:

Matthew 15:19 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:"

The primary definition of fornication in both modern and early English dictionaries is sex between single persons. For example, Robert Cawdrey's 1604 dictionary, published just before the 1611 debut of the King James Version (known to be the peak of the English language), says that fornication is "uncleanness between single persons." To be sure, the KJV translators chose to translate "porneia" in Matt. 19:9 using a word that had a very strict definition at that time, instead of using other words that were available such as "infidelity" which is defined as "unfaithfulness" in the 1604 dictionary.

Every English dictionary within 110 years of the KJV translators, defines fornication as sex between single people.

Edmund Coote’s (1596): vncleannes between single persons.
Robert Cawdrey’s (1604): vncleannes between single persones.
Thomas Blount’s (1656): Whoredom, Leachery, spoken of single persons, if either party be married then tis Adultery.
Brown’s (1719): Whoredom committed between single Persons, whereas if either, or both Parties so offending be married, it is called Adultery, and is punishable with Death by the Common Law.
John Kersey’s: the Act of uncleanness between single Persons, so call’d because usually committed in Stews, under Vaults or Arches, in Latin, Fornices.

What this means is that Matt. 19:9 is talking about a sin that took place before the marriage (during a betrothal/engagement period) that would void the binding power of the marriage ceremony altogether according to Jewish law. This is exactly what the case was for Joseph in Matthew 1 as he thought Mary had committed fornication during their betrothal period and he was "minded to put her away" in a private manner. We'll talk more about the betrothal period in a bit.

To show that the KJV translators knew what word they were picking and knew the ramifications of it, it should be noted that Lancelot Andrewes, the chief translator overseeing the entire project, offered his opinion on the topic of divorce and remarriage. His quote on remarriage is as follows:

“First, I take the act of adultery doth not dissolve the bond of marriage; for then it would follow, that the party offending would not, upon reconciliation, be received again by the innocent to former society of life, without a new solemnizing of marriage, insomuch as the former marriage is quite dissolved, which is never heard of, and contrary to the practice of all Churches… in my opinion, second marriages (where either party is living) are not warranted by the word of God.

If you think the KJV translators were alone in deciding to use the word fornication you’re wrong. Over 60 of the earliest English Bible translations use the same word. It is interesting to note that only modern, corrupt translations such as the NIV have decided that fornication is the wrong word. Notice how its translation of Matt. 19:9 says exactly what the remarriage crowd needs it to say, however, the translation "marital unfaithfulness" has no backing by historical manuscripts at all. This is called wresting the scripture to our own destruction (II Pet. 3:16). Along with the word definition problem, below is a quick list of 10 reasons why Matt. 19:9 is not talking about adultery. 

Matt. 19:9 [NIV] “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 reasons the exception in Matt. 19 is not teaching adultery is grounds for divorce and remarriage:

  1. Opening context: The context of the passage begins with Jesus stating that marriage is permanent in 19:6.
  2. Didn't say adultery: The word used is fornication (porneia) instead of the universally accepted term for marital unfaithfulness: adultery (mocheia). If He is teaching that adultery is grounds for divorce Jesus would have said so and Matthew would have recorded it as such. Note: Every time the words fornication and adultery are used side by side in the Bible they are distinguishing between two types of sins. We see this in Matt. 15:19 and throughout the Bible.
  3. Jesus doesn't agree with the Pharisees, ever: Jesus never agrees with the Pharisees, however, if you think Jesus is teaching that adultery is grounds for divorce He would be in agreement with the more conservative Shammai (Pharisee) belief system.
  4. Disciples respond in shock: The disciples respond to the words of Jesus in shock as if it is something they’ve never heard of before. They even say it’d be better not to marry at all (if there is no way out of a bad marriage). By the way, all of this talk came during the private conversation recorded in Mark where Jesus just restated his position as without “exception.”
  5. Mentions eunuchs: Jesus ends his words with encouragement for eunuchs who must remain unmarried for the kingdom of God’s sake. If you can just get remarried, why would he be making this point at all?
  6. Contradicts Himself, Mark, and Luke: Such a teaching would contradict Jesus’ clear teachings in Mark and Luke. His words in Mark, as noted above, come during a private conversation “inside the house” when His disciples ask Him – as they do many times -- to clarify exactly what He meant. And the conversation in Luke, which probably comes later in Christ’s ministry, specifically teaches that even the “innocent” party in a relationship is not free to remarry.
  7. Contradicts Paul: Paul the apostle did not reiterate this exception in any way, shape, or form. In fact, he contradicted it.
  8. Early history: The first 300 years after Christ and Paul, well before the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church, the Christian church held strictly to the permanence of marriage view. Given the customs of the times, the Church would have no reason to come to this distinct conclusion unless it had been God sent – through Jesus and Paul.
  9. Not a high standard: In Matthew 5, during which Jesus says putting away your wife is adultery except for fornication, the chapter is all about Christ introducing higher standards. He says anger is bad like murder, lust is bad like adultery, etc. and in this context we are to believe that he is telling the Jews that marriage and divorce is the one area for which there is not a higher standard? I think not. He is introducing a higher standard than the common conception for marriage too and the standard is that neither the conservative Shammai nor liberal Hillel views are correct!
  10. No examples given in the Bible: Not one lawful divorce and remarriage is recorded anywhere in the Bible and marriage was instituted at the beginning of time. Isn’t it a stretch to believe that divorce and remarriage is a lawful and even common practice when not one example of it is shown in the Bible? To contrast, take another universal truth like tithing. It is shown throughout scripture!

Summary of the divorce and remarriage for adultery view: The argument that it is Biblical to divorce and remarry for adultery hinges upon one book, one chapter, one verse, one word and taking the secondary meaning of that word. Surround the whole thing by a context in which Jesus says marriage is until death and that it is possible to live as a eunuch. And follow it up with the fact that no Christian writings – including Paul's – for the next 300 years mention anything about an exception. Even an Old Testament reference (somewhere during marriage’s 4,000 years of existence) of a lawful divorce and remarriage would help, but there is no such reference. As such, this belief should be a bridge way too far for any honest student of God’s word.

Unanswered questions: To espouse the "for adultery" view leaves many unanswered questions -- a living nightmare for those looking to instruct others in the way of truth. Chief questions among these are: what puts a marriage asunder? If it is adultery, then how much does it take to end the marriage? Surely it cannot be just one act because, as Lancelot Andrewes pointed out, how would reconciliation ever be possible? But if not one, how many times? (Also, what if the adultery is prompted because one spouse is defrauding the other of the marriage bed?) The answers are undefinable by scripture. Or, if the answer is that adultery doesn't put the marriage asunder but the divorce does, how can it ever be lawful for a Christian to issue a divorce when God says not to (and also says he doesn't recognize mankind's made up bill of divorcement)? Another question not answered in the Bible would be whether the offending party can remarry or not? If adultery and/or a divorce actually ends a marriage covenant, then the offending party would be "unmarried" as well, and what would hold them back from remarrying? These questions are confusing to say the least, and this should be a red flag for any Bible believer as we know "God is not the author of confusion" (I Cor. 14:33).

What is Matt. 19:9 talking about then? Many interpretations of Matt. 19:9 exist today. The strongest explanation in this author's opinion is that the apostle Matthew includes the exception about fornication to explain to the Jews that the Old Testament betrothal rules were still in place. This would be a needed distinction for his audience as Jewish betrothal practices existed then and still exist today. (Jewish writings and marriage traditions by the way are filled with references to how marriage is the fusing of two souls together as one -- not just the joining of two bodies together in sex. This is one area where Christians could probably benefit from studying Jewish practices). To further expound, here are 10 reasons why "fornication" in Matt. 19:9 is referring to sexual sin during the betrothal period, a Jewish time of engagement prior to marriage, and not during an actual marriage.

10 reasons the exception in Matt. 19 is talking only about the Jewish betrothal period.

  1. Written to the Jews: The betrothal view explains why the exception is listed in Matt. 5 and 19, but not in Mark or Luke. Both passages would need to explain to Jews that betrothal rules were still valid (the gentile audiences of Mark and Luke would not know anything about this). Note: the fact that the exception is listed in both chapters in Matthew undermines the assertion that the exception was given only in Matthew because only in Matthew is the Pharisee's questioned phrased "for every cause."
  2. Explains the use of the word "fornication": It provides an explanation for why the word fornication (porneia) is used in Matthew's exception clause instead of adultery (moicheia), and squares with Matthew's own use of porneia to indicate premarital sex in Matthew 15:19.
  3. Validates Joseph: It fits the demands of Matthew's wider context concerning Joseph's contemplation of putting his wife away during the betrothal period (Matt. 1:19). Showing that Joseph was a just man.
  4. Has Biblical precedent (Deut. 22): The view is in line with Deut. 22 which goes over the rules of virginity and betrothal.
  5. Is called for by the term "wife": The Bible teaches that betrothed individuals called each other husband and wife (as the term fiancé wasn’t invented until the 1800s) but that they were not officially married yet. This explains how the clause is related (speaking of husbands and wives) yet not in contradiction with other passages that say marriage ends only in death.
  6. Confirms betrothal laws are still in tact: Matthew was written to the Jews and when telling Jewish people that husbands cannot put away their wives. Matthew would absolutely want to make clear that fornication during the espousal period was still a valid reason to put a wife away.
  7. Doesn't contradict New Testament: It does not force Jesus/Matthew to contradict the plain, absolute meaning of Mark, Luke, and Paul, including the permanence of marriage teaching in Matt. 19:3-8.
  8. Explains disciples' shock: It explains why the disciples expressed shock at the teaching instead of just understanding that "Jesus sided with the dominant Shammai view of the day."
  9. Explains eunuch talk: It explains why Jesus went on to teach about eunuchs for the kingdom of God’s sake
  10. Jesus is not siding with the Pharisees: It is consistent with Jesus’ normal approach to dealing with opponents and not siding with the Pharisees

Advocates of the desertion "exception" hang their argument upon I Cor. 7:15. Like most Bible topics, if just one verse is read and the context is not considered, one might think the argument has merit. But basing a major doctrine upon one passage, especially an ambiguous passage (as is done with Matt. 19:9), is never very wise.

1 Corinthians 7:15 "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."

One major problem is that the chapter is concluded with the frank statement in verse 39 that a person is bound to their spouse as long as the spouse is living.

1 Corinthians 7:39 "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."

No, I Cor. 7:15 is simply teaching that a person will not be held accountable if their spouse separates from them, perhaps even pushing through divorce papers. This is in line with the context shown by I Cor. 7:10-14, and also in agreement with the rest of God's word.

The disciples were so shocked by Christ's teaching on divorce and remarriage that they suggested it is better to not marry at all than to be tied to a spouse that didn't work out -- perhaps even deserted them. Jesus' answer to this complaint is also revealing. He responded that living celibate without a spouse (or a faithful spouse) is quite possible and many do it (and later Paul reiterates this message in I Cor. 7 as shown above). 

Matthew 19:10-12 "His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."


The idea that because you were not saved when you mistakenly married someone early in life is emotionally compelling, yet is contrary to scripture. Yes, salvation turns a person into a new creature, but the consequences for sin remain. For example, just because a thief gets saved while in prison does not mean he automatically gets released. The same is true for the individual bound to the wife of his youth.

Galatians 6:7-8 "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Malachi 2:14 "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant."

Romans 7:3 "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.


While abuse certainly gives a spouse reason to seek safety (and safety should be sought immediately), it does not end a marriage. The Christian's counsel should be: seek safety and remain there, contact law enforcement if necessary, pray for the offending spouse, and hope God changes his/her heart so that reconciliation can begin. If change never occurs, however, stay in safety and do not remarry.


Similar to the "not saved when it happened" exception above, the belief that a divorce or remarriage was sin but that it is OK if you ask God to forgive you is wrong as well. Sadly, even many who hold a strong stance against divorce and remarriage adopt this fallacy as a way to appease the masses and grow congregations. The answer is that marriage is until death and while God does forgive, He cannot and will not look past the fact that you're sleeping with someone who is not your husband or wife. As mentioned earlier, asking God to forgive you for stealing is great, but it does no good if you plan on stealing the very next night! And this is a fitting example considering committing adultery is the stealing of someone's current or future spouse.

If all it takes is a prayer asking for God's forgiveness, then preachers like John the Baptist have been way out of line. What right did John have in condemning Herod for marrying his brother's wife? How did he know whether Herod had asked for forgiveness or not? The "God forgives exception" is no different than the adulterous woman of Proverbs 30 and is an affront to God's laws regarding the sanctity of marriage. Romans 7:3 uses the present tense "she shall be called an adulteress" because putting away your wife and marrying and having relations with another is continual adultery.

Proverbs 30:20 "Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness."

Romans 7:3 "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.

Malachi 2:14-15 "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth."


One tactic often used by those advocating for divorce and remarriage is to say that they are in the majority on the issue and that only a few "ultra fundamentalists" hold an opposing view point. Well, friends, the first point is misguided because we should never judge right or wrong based on how many people believe something (Matt. 7:14). Having said that, however, the idea that the permanence of marriage position is obscure and has been obscure throughout history is just plain wrong.

If “exceptions” exist, and, in fact, have been so prevalent that Mark, Luke, and Paul did not even need to mention them, then you would expect to see early Christians holding this belief. Instead, it is indisputable that the early church did not at all, at least for the first 300 years after Christ, permit or teach remarriage. To be sure, the early church heeded Christ's hard saying that marriage was until death, and as a result this is what early saints (like Paul) taught. And the belief in the permanence of marriage didn't disappear with them. We've mentioned the KJV translators, but men like John Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation and translator of the ever-important Wycliffe Bible, held a very strict belief of separation only for adultery and no remarriage at all.

"...Christ commands that no man separate them that God has joined; but only for adultery that party that keeps himself clean may depart from the other's bed and for no other cause, as Christ himself says. And in this case the clean party has the option to either live chastely for as long as the other lives, or else be reconciled again to the other party."

It is true that many of the reformers took a stance permitting divorce and (for some) remarriage, but the spiritual weight of this group pales in comparison to Jesus and Paul. The reformers were strong, courageous men, but they weren't right on everything. For instance, many of them were beguiled by the error of Calvinism.

It should also be noted that the emergence of divorce or remarriage is a relatively new thing in the United States. Divorce and remarriage barely existed in the colonies, and many states didn't begin granting divorces until the 1900s. For example, South Carolina went nearly 250 years before granting its very first divorce in 1949.

Note on "broken" covenants: It was once argued that the term "break wedlock" in Ezekiel 16:38 proves that the covenant of marriage can be dissolved by a single act of sin. The term is just a figure of speech, similar to that of "breaking the law." The law is broken, yet the law remains. It is the same for wedlock. The same phrase is used in Isaiah 24, yet the thing "broken" is everlasting, proving that the figure of speech has no bearing on the continuation of a covenant.

Isaiah 24:5 “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.”


Deciding where you stand on divorce, remarriage, and adultery is important for you, those around you, and especially the next generation. If Christians do not know where to stand on this issue, the world will not know what to do and marriages and families will continue to be destroyed by the plague of divorce and remarriage. It is our prayer that you will prayerfully consider all of the verses listed above, and should you have any questions on the topic please do not hesitate to contact us.

Psalm 50 likens those who go along with (and sometimes even encourage) divorce or remarriage to someone consenting with a thief. Just as you watch the thief take something that isn't his, you stand by idly as someone takes a spouse that belongs to or will belong to someone else. Will you not say something about it? Will you not speak the truth in love?

Psalm 50:18 "When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers."
Matthew 14:3-4 "For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her."

If John the Baptist were here today he'd be preaching against this sin at every turn, just as he rebuked Herod for his adulterous marriage. "Christians" would be calling John hateful, mean, a legalist, and an ultra fundamentalist, but he would be the one in the right!

Be a John the Baptist. Be brave, bold, and in line with the truth of the scriptures to fight against this defining, destructive, and abominable sin of our age.