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What Does the Bible Say about Divorce and Remarriage?

The Bible is explicit about divorce and remarriage. In the Old Testament, Moses permitted a man to obtain a divorce on just about any grounds (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Later on, in the New Testament, when Jesus was asked about divorce, He replied that Moses gave permission to divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. He said that in the beginning it was not this way. Jesus continued, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:4-6).

Before God, marriage is a lifetime relationship that should never be severed by human action. In the book of Malachi, God says that He hates divorce (see Malachi 2:16). God's perfect will is the preservation of society and future generations by the preservation of marriages. God will give anyone great help in sustaining a marriage relationship or in the reconciliation of estranged marriage partners. In extreme cases, there are only two grounds for divorce and remarriage.

When adultery has taken place, a divorce can be obtained, because adultery has already severed the marriage relationship and divorce is a formal acknowledgment of what has already taken place.

The apostle Paul added to the teachings of Jesus what is called the "Pauline privilege." According to this concept, Paul taught that if an unbelieving spouse leaves a believer, the believer is not bound to the marriage relationship, but is free to remarry (see I Corinthians 7:15). And some people recognize such a thing as a "constructive desertion," which would be when a husband so brutalizes his wife that it is impossible to live with him any longer; or when a wife has so harassed or brutalized her husband that it becomes impossible for him to stay with her. When that happens, whether or not the person actually moves out, the situation is the equivalent of desertion, and divorce and remarriage are permissible.

Except for these reasons, there is no justification given in the Bible for divorce. No grounds exist for divorce on the basis of incompatibility, lack of love or differing career goals. Frankly, it seems impossible that two born-again Christians who are dedicated to serving Jesus Christ can find any grounds for divorce.

Obviously, when a person who does not have biblical grounds for divorce remarries, he or she is technically committing adultery.

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