Analyzing the Viewpoints: Remarriage for a Divorced Individual? (2)

Does the Bible allow for the remarriage of a divorced individual? This and the companion article in this issue both relate to this question. The purpose of presenting opposing views is not to create controversy but simply to help you understand the two sides of the issue. We recognize this has been a longstanding debate, and we urge God’s people not to show partiality based on one’s beliefs on this issue, nor to use these articles to foment division.


The issue of divorce and remarriage raises many emotional issues. However, the important words in the title’s question are “the Bible.” It is the only basis for an authoritative answer. Extra-biblical issues usually dominate when there is a desire to give a positive answer to the above question. For example, what would happen to children (this question could now be asked after the salvation of a “married” homosexual)? Or what if there have been subsequent remarriages of the divorced partners, etc.? While these are desperately important issues and, of course, have to be carefully and prayerfully considered, the crux of the matter is in the inspired and inerrant Scriptures.

When Are a Couple “Married”?

A couple become “one flesh” the moment they are pronounced “husband and wife” by the officiating officer at the wedding ceremony. This is confirmed in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave … and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”[1] Eve was his “wife” at that moment of presentation to Adam, and at that same time “they” were “one flesh.” It did not depend on consummation.

A physical act neither makes nor breaks a husband and wife relationship. If they are not husband and wife before the act of consummation, then it is an act of fornication!

Romans 7:2-3

“For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”

There is hardly need for further elucidation. The context is “the law” as that to which we have died (v4). It is no longer the basis of regulating our behaviour. Our marriage to the risen Christ is only possible on the basis of our previous death to the law. Paul’s argument depends on assuming the inviolability of marriage. Only death breaks the marriage bond; so that “if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress.”

Some may argue that Romans 7 is not primarily about marriage/divorce. In a similar vein, some of the best biblical testimonies to the deity of Christ appear in passages where the inspired writer is not directly addressing that doctrinal issue. Paul often simply assumes Christ’s deity. It is a great demeaning of the apostle’s character to refuse the straightforward meaning of these verses. The verses equally apply to the male (“man” [anthropos] = human being in verse 1), since the apostle is dealing with the law of marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:39

“The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.”

In chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians, Paul has been giving instructions on the principles of marriage (vv1-7) and then addressing the unmarried and widows (8-9), the married (10-24), virgins (25-38), and now again the widows (39-40). All throughout, his main premise has been to emphasise the sanctity and permanence of the marriage bond. These final two verses bring his argument to an unambiguous conclusion, giving the only possibility for remarriage as the death of the marriage partner.

The Question of Remarriage

While no single verse or passage of Scripture stands isolated from the whole, it can never be inconsistent with the whole or contradicted by any other verse or passage. Therefore the conclusion from the above inspired verses is clear: If a person is divorced and the marriage partner is still alive, 1 Corinthians 7:39 does not allow for the remarriage of the divorced individual, and if it does take place, then according to Romans 7:2-3, it results in perpetual adultery. Every other Scripture has to be interpreted in the light of the above as well as its context.

There are, however, other confirmatory passages in the NT. “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Luk 16:18). Mark 10:11-12 not only effectively repeats the above but gives the same truth from the additional perspective of the woman.

Thus, remarriage after divorce introduces the candidate into a state of perpetual adultery. The attempt to change the meaning of the English to signify that only the first act after remarriage is adultery beggars belief and is clearly contradictory to the teaching of the Lord.

Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 cannot be construed to change the straightforward meaning of Luke and Mark. Scholars are generally agreed (although it is not critical to the argument) that Mark was in circulation before Matthew. If Matthew permits remarriage and Mark doesn’t, there was a hiatus “when you couldn’t, then you could”! Matthew is to be interpreted in the context of a dispensational gospel with a Jewish background and the betrothal and marriage laws of the nation of Israel. In the above passages, “fornication” means pre-marital infidelity and “adultery” means post-marital infidelity.

Can a Remarried Divorcee Be Saved?

Of course! Salvation is for all, no matter the background (1Jn 2:2). Post-conversion life has to be in keeping with the tenets of Holy Scripture. The thief, the drunkard, the homosexual and the adulterer necessarily need to change their ways after salvation – this is not salvation by works. Good works result from salvation (Eph 2:10). The woman in John 4 evidently could not continue with her adulterous relationship, and the woman in John 8 had to “sin no more.”

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.