Bible Question:

If you get divorced and then get married again, aren't you committing adultery? I know God will forgive you, but what I do not understand is if you stay married are you living in adultery?

Bible Answer:

Living In Adultery

The study “Biblical Divorce and Remarriage” describes under what conditions  a couple can end their marriage by divorce. The study explains what God considers to be a biblical divorce. A biblical divorce has the right of remarriage with God’s blessing. In brief, a biblical divorce is a divorce that occurred because the offending spouse committed sexual sin with someone else (bestiality, homosexuality, heterosexuality, or incest) or because the non-Christian spouse obtained the divorce. Anyone who has a biblical divorce has the right to remarry with God’s blessing. Any other divorce or remarriage does not have God’s blessing. Divorce for any other reason is sin.

How To Commit Adultery

Matthew 5:32 records the first statement about divorce and adultery that Jesus made in the gospels.

. . . 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. (NASB) Matthew 5:32

The easiest way to understand the meaning of this passage is to remove the key phrase “except for the reason of unchastity.” Here is the same verse with the phrase  removed.

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

The Greek words for “commit adultery” and “commits adultery” come from the root words moicheuo and gameo. The first word is in the aorist passive tense meaning that the act of divorce  occurred and assumes both spouses remarry. Consequently, both spouses commit adultery. This is the message of Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18.

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for  immorality, and marries another woman  commits adultery. Matthew 19:9 (NASB)

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)

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)

Causing Someone Else To Commit Adultery

The second word is also in the aorist tense meaning that the woman committed adultery at some point in time when she married another man. Now notice that every divorced spouse who remarries commits adultery and causes their new spouse to commit adultery, unless the divorce was “for the reason of unchastity.” Unchastity refers to sexual activity with someone else.

These passages reveal that the man or woman who does not remarry will not be guilty of adultery, under any condition. If either divorced spouse marries, he or she will be an adulterer or adulteress according to Romans 7:3.

So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Romans 7:3 (NASB)

Why is he still an adulterer or she still an adulteress? Because God says they should never have divorced in the first place. This is difficult for most couples to accept.

What Should I Do, I Have Committed Adultery?

Adultery can be forgiven, but that does not change the fact that it is sin. A stigma is sometimes attached to the terms “adultery,” “adulterer” and “adulteress.” But that is not biblical. God has not asked us to wallow in our sins after we have confessed our sin to Him and accepted His forgiveness.  Romans 3:23 reminds us that everyone has sinned.

. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . Romans 3:23 (NASB)

Everyone sins and many have committed adultery too! The apostle Paul harassed, abused and threatened many Christians (Acts 8:3; 9:1, 4). In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul called himself the foremost (protos) of sinners. Yet, in Philippians 3:13 he said that he ignored the past and pressed forward in serving Christ.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I  press on toward the goal for the prize of the  upward call of God in  Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:13-14  (NASB)

This means that once we confess our sins (1 John 1:9), we are forgiven.  Paul then urges us to forget and move forward thanking God for His forgiveness.

I Committed Adultery, Should I Undo It?

Some couples who have committed adultery by marrying have wonder if they should divorce so that they can undo the adultery. The answer is no, because that would result in another sin. We must never forget that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:14).

Other couples wonder if they should divorce their current spouse and return to their ex-spouse. The answer is no because divorce is a sin, unless the current spouse has engaged in sexual activity with someone else. Also, the remarriage of the ex-spouse is not possible due to Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

Conclusion:

Divorce was not in God’s original plan. God only allows it because of the hardness of our hearts (Matthew 19:8-9). The effect of this sin is like any other sin; there are always consequences that are unavoidable. But do not forget that God forgives this sin. He forgave King David who killed the husband  of the woman with whom he committed adultery. There is no sin God does not forgive, except the unforgivable sin.  God also does not forgive sin when our confession is not sincere and we are not really repentant. Repentance means that we are committed to never repeating the sin.

Reference Links:

A Biblical Divorce
Biblical Divorce and Remarriage
What does God say about a person marrying someone who has been divorced?
Is it a sin to divorce if you profess to be a Christian?
Does Matthew 5:31-32 say that even the non-adulterer is guilty of adultery?
Should Christians date non-Christians?
Is it possible to remarry and have a happy marriage?
Why does one have the “right to remarry” after a “Biblical Divorce”?