Bible Question:

It is clear from Matthew 5:31-32 that Jesus allows a divorced man to marry another woman. But it appears that God does not allow a man to marry a divorced woman. If he does, he commits adultery. Is this correct?

Bible Answer:

What does the Bible say about divorce? This is an important question since there are many divorced people today. You may be wondering can I marry a divorced person? The purpose of this article is to provide you with some help.  You will discover if God allows a man to marry a divorced woman and if He allows a woman to marry a divorced man. Since an unbiblical divorce is a sin, these are  important questions.

Can I Marry A Divorced Person?

Does God Allow Men to Remarry?

Matthew 5:32 teaches us several principles. We will consider both of them. Here is the verse,

But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:32 (NASB)

The first principle is that the Bible says a husband cannot divorce his wife and marry someone else if his wife did not commit adultery. That is, if his wife did not engage in sexual sin (porneia) with someone, then he is not free to divorce her and marry another woman. This principle is clear if we temporarily (to emphasize this point), remove the “exception clause.” Then the passage would read as follows:

But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife . . .  makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:32 (NASB)

The assumption in Jesus’ statement is that both the husband and wife remarry. So, the illustration assumes the husband divorces his wife and both of them marry again, but neither engaged in sexual activity with someone outside the marriage. In this case, both of them then commit adultery by remarrying.

During Jesus’ three to four-year ministry, He repeated His teachings. This is obvious in the gospels. One would expect that He might change His wording on different occasions. So, when we read the gospels, the wordings are slightly different. Luke is one example. Sometimes a different gospel just left out words or captured a different phrase. Teachers frequently restate their teaching in different ways for emphasis. The gospel writers did the same thing. But Jesus never changed the truth or the meaning of what He taught.

Luke is one example of Jesus’ teaching about divorce and adultery. Luke 16:18 captures Luke’s summary of Jesus’ statement. He wrote this,

Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery. Luke 16:18 (NASB)

Here Luke simply left out the exception clause.

The second principle in Matthew 5:23 is that the Bible says a husband can divorce his wife and remarry if she committed adultery. That is, if the wife engaged in sexual activity (porneia) with someone else, then the husband’s divorce is called a biblical divorce. A biblical divorce exists when God allows divorce. A second reason for a biblical divorce will be discussed later. This principle is clear if we keep the “exception clause.”

So, does God allow men to remarry? The answer is, “Yes,” only if his wife committed adultery or sexual sin. But since she was the one who committed adultery, she is not allowed to remarry.

Does God Allow Women to Remarry?

Next, does  the Bible allow a woman to divorce and remarry?  Mark 10:11-12 answers the question.

And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.” Mark 10:11-12 (NASB)

It should be noted here that Mark did not record the exception clause that Jesus included in Matthew 5:32. Mark 10:11-12 clearly teaches that normally divorce is not allowed. If divorce does occur, adultery is committed unless the husband previously was unfaithful. Jesus gives two different situations here. The second situation occurs when a wife divorces her husband. That is, women could divorce their husband too! Today, two-thirds of all divorces in the United States are filed by women.

Therefore, when a wife divorces her husband, she may commit adultery in the process. We must remember that the exception clause from Matthew 5:32 also applies. We cannot pick and choose the verses from the Bible that we want to follow. For example, the Bible does not teach everything about a subject in just one passage of Scripture. Jesus did not teach everything about Himself, prayer, or divorce and marriage in one passage.  We must remember that Scripture never contradicts itself. So, a wife can divorce and remarry but only if her husband committed sexual sin with another person.

So, does God allow a divorced woman to remarry? The answer is only if her husband had committed adultery or sexual sin.

Can I Marry a Divorced Person?

Now there are two more issues that must be discussed.

The first issue is that there is another reason a man or woman can be free to remarry. That reason is found in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. That passage teaches that if an unbelieving spouse wants a divorce, then the believing spouse must let them leave. This is the second reason for a biblical divorce.

The second issue is that a person may be free to remarry, but what about the person they want to marry? The answer is that the other person is only free to marry if they have never been married or have only had a biblical divorce!

So, can I marry a divorced person? Yes, if you have never been divorced or have only had a biblical divorce and if the individual you wish to marry had biblical grounds for their divorce.

Conclusion:

Can I marry a divorced person? Does God allow a divorced woman to remarry? Does God allow a divorced man to remarry?  The answer is yes, if the man and woman have only had a biblical divorce.

Suggested Links:

Divorce & Remarriage
When and Why God Permits Divorce
A Biblical Divorce
Can a new Christian marry after an unbiblical divorce?
Can I remarry if I was against my husband’s divorce?
Am I bound to my wife the rest of my life?
Does Romans 7:2-3 prohibit divorce and remarriage?
Does Matthew 5:31-32 say that even the non-adulterer is guilty of adultery?
Am I bound to my wife the rest of my life?
If I committed adultery and my wife divorced me, can I marry again?