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?
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 other than their spouse (bestiality, homosexuality, heterosexuality, or incest) or because a 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 and 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, moicheuo, is in the aorist passive tense meaning that the act of divorce occurred and Jesus assumes the wife remarries. Consequently, the ex-wife and the man who marries her commits adultery. More information is provided in Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18. In Mark 10:11-12 Jesus uses the illustration of a wife divorcing her husband.
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, gameo, is also in the aorist tense meaning that the woman committed adultery at some point in time when she married another man. 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 is also translated as immorality or porneia.
These passages reveal that the man or woman who does not remarry is then not guilty of adultery. If either of the divorced spouses marry, he or she will be an adulterer or an 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 called an adulterer or she called an adulteress? The answer is that they committed the sin of adultery.
What Should I Do? I Have Committed Adultery.
Adultery can be forgiven, but that does not change the fact that it was a 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 when they should not have done so have wondered if they should divorce so that they can undo the adultery. The answer is no, because that would result in another sin. Committing another sin does not undo a previous sin. If the couple has honestly, sincerely from the depth of their hearts confessed the sin of adultery, it has been forgiven. God has forgotten it (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 38:17; Jeremiah 31:34; Micah 7:19). 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” again 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.
A person confesses their sin to God when they name the sin and admit that they sinned. For additional detail, please read the article “How can the sin of adultery be forgiven? – Is the sin forever?”
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 when it is confessed. He forgave King David who killed the husband of the woman with whom David 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.
Suggested 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”?
How can the sin of adultery be forgiven? – Is the sin forever?
What is the meaning of the Greek word porneia in the Bible?