Bible Question:

What does God say about a person marrying someone who has been divorced?

Bible Answer:

God allows divorce in two situations: one spouse has been unfaithful and has committed sexual sin or an unbelieving spouse wants a divorce. When either of these conditions  has occurred, then God allows for a divorce. Such a divorce is called a biblical divorce.

Marrying A Divorced Person

The first divorce situation is given to us by Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32.

“It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 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 5:31-32 (NKJV)

The Greek word for “unchaste, also called immorality, is porneia. The word refers to sexual behaviors that include sex with someone or something that is not your spouse. It includes heterosexual and homosexual acts, as well as, incest and sex with an animal (bestiality).  If any one of these behaviors occur, God allows divorce. But He allows divorce because our hearts are hard (Matthew 19:8).  We must remember that God hates divorce. He designed marriage to be permanent (Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:14).

The second reason divorce is allowed is when an unbelieving spouse wants to leave. The apostle Paul gives us this condition in 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, 15.

If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases . . . 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, 15 (NKJV)

Now we understand the definition of a biblical divorce. So, we will ask two questions and answer both questions.

Can I Marry a Divorced Christian?

If you are a Christian who has either 1) never been married or 2) has had a biblical divorce, then you have the right to remarry with God’s blessing. If you desire to marry someone who has been divorced, then you must consider two issues. The first issue can be answered with a question, “Is the person you are thinking about marrying a believer in Jesus Christ?” God warns us to marry only Christians. In the Old Testament, He gives us the principle (see illustration in 1 Kings 11:1-8). The New Testament is even more precise.

A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:39 (NASB)

The second question is how does one know that the prospective spouse’s divorce was a biblical divorce? First, review the discussion above and start asking questions. You can also visit the studies in the “Suggested Links” section below. They will provide helpful teaching from the Scriptures. Second, if your prospective Christian spouse says that his/her former spouse was not a Christian then you are free to marry the individual if their former spouse filed for the divorce. Now we consider a sticky situation.

Can I Marry a Divorced Non-Christian?

It is common for some partners to doubt the salvation of another partner in a divorce, so they claim they were not a Christian. They think that the person would never have been so bad had they been a Christian. But such reasons are not valid. This is to be expected, given the bad situations leading up to most divorces. Physical abuse, “emotional abuse,” verbal abuse, desertion, “incompatibility,” for example, are common complaints. It is understandable that one partner wonders if the other partner was a believer. Among Christians, this is a common reason given for divorce. It is dangerous to conclude the “offending” partner was an unbeliever and then declare that you have the right to remarry. This assumes we KNOW the truth about their salvation. Unless the spouse has done something very obvious or rejected Jesus Christ, we cannot know for sure that he/she left the faith. There are some key tests that one can apply that may reveal if a person is a Christian. They can be found at “Are You A Christian? — Looking For Evidence


God’s design is that we marry one person and never separate. That was God’s desire.

FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’ Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. Matthew 19:5-6 (NASB)

God wants our spouse to be our friend for life (Malachi 2:14). The Hebrew word for “friend” is a special word having the sense of a “magical friend.” That is what marriage should be all about – magic and friendship! We encourage you to read the study “A Biblical Divorce.” It is probably the most important study.  Please note that a new Christian can marry again if they had a divorce that happened prior to their salvation.

Suggested Links:

A Biblical Divorce
Biblical Divorce and Remarriage
If you are divorced and remarry, are you living in adultery?
Is it a sin to divorce if you profess to be a Christian?
Should Christians date non-Christians?
How can the sin of adultery be forgiven? – Is the sin forever?
Are You A Christian? — Looking For Evidence
Divorce & Remarriage
Can I marry a divorced person? — What does the Bible say?