Divorce, Gospel

Divorce: What is God’s Will?

Divorce in this age has become the order of the day. It has become the escape route to what was supposed to last till death do part and to many, it is now the first and only option that comes to mind as a solution when going through marital difficulties.

In such situations, we need to first pause and think and ask ourselves, if there is another way to go about this, if this is the only option right now, or does God have a better way other than this?

To know God’s stance on this, you need to search the word of God in the Bible to know exactly what God is saying concerning this. Don’t just solely rely on what the society, law, or even what the local church or Pastor has said or has to say concerning divorce. (Please don’t get me wrong, it is good to listen to what your pastors say, but you must also check to make sure it is in alignment with the Word of God in the Bible).

So why is it important to search the Word of God for guidance? This is because we will all stand before God alone on the Day of Judgment with only the Word of God (The Bible) to judge us.

John 12:48 KJV
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

You have an obligation to know what God says in His Word so that His word doesn’t judge you in the end. God Himself said in Hosea 4:6 KJV “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”

Therefore in every aspect of your life before finalizing on any decision especially life changing decisions, it is you responsibility to first personally and honestly seek what God’s Word has to say and ask for His grace to faithfully obey it.

Having said this, now let’s take a look at what God’s Word is saying concerning divorce and remarriage while your first spouse is still alive. I pray as you read, that God opens your heart to honestly see the truth and give you the grace to obey it faithfully and pass on the information to others.

The Things God Hates

Lets start by looking at some of the things God hates in the verses below

Proverbs 6:16-19 KJV
“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: [17] A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, [18] An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, [19] A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Deuteronomy 16:22 KJV
“Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the Lord thy God hateth.”

Psalm 45:7 KJV
“Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”

From the few verses above we have a picture of some of the things that God hates, now let’s look at another thing God hates in Malachi 2:16a KJV “For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away:”

Notice how God uses the same word ‘hate’ (hebrew word ‘śānē’) to express His view point on murder, pride, lies etc, to also express His view point on ‘putting away’ (divorce). God mentions that judgment is awaiting unrepentant lairs, murderer’s etc, and all who practice such things he hates (in Revelation 21:8 and James 4:6), do you think he hates divorce any differently than murder? Do you think He see’s divorce as lesser sin to murder or even a simple lie, or proud look? I will really like you to take a deep look at the weight of God’s Word here.

Please ponder on this before you continue reading….

What Jesus taught

Now let’s look further into the New Testament and see what Jesus taught about divorce. The bible says in

Matthew 5:31-32 KJV
“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: [32] But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Also in

Matthew 19:3-9 KJV
“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? [4] And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, [5] And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? [6] Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. [7] They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? [8] He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. [9] And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

Notice that in both verses Jesus uses the word “Fornication” and not adultery as a reason for divorce. Fornication is sexual intercourse between people who are not married, while adultery is sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse. Why then did Jesus use the word fornication as a reason for divorce when you cannot grammatically fornicate once you are married? If Jesus was referring to adultery as a reason for divorce, He would have stated it clearly.

You might say, well some other bible translations use the word “sexual immorality” in the place of fornication, however, if you go back to the original Greek word “Porneia”, this word was used through out the entire Bible to only denote the word Fornication. Below are some references to the Greek word “Porneia ” as used to indicate fornication

VerseUsed byReference in KJV
Matthew 5:32Jesus…saving for the cause of fornication,  causeth…
John 8:41Jews…We be not born of fornication; we have….
Acts 15:30Elders of the Church…from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and…. 
Romans 1:29Paul the Apostle…filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness..
1 Corinthians 5:1Paul the Apostle…that there is fornication among you…
1 Corinthians 7:2Paul the Apostle…to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife…
Galatians 5:19Paul the Apostle… Adultery, fornication, uncleanness…

Galatians 5:19 is a good reference to look at, because in this verse both fornication and adultery are mentioned, however the original Greek word for both varies. The Greek work for adultery in this verse is “Moicheia” while that of fornication is still “Porneia”.

Therefore, Jesus was definitely not referring to adultery as a reason for divorce in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. What then was Jesus referring to?

Except for Fornication, What does it mean?

You need to understand that Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience and according to ancient Jewish tradition there were two major ceremonies that had to occur before a wedding was finalized, and these two ceremony have an interval of time in between.

The first ceremony was the betrothal and then (about and a year later) the final wedding ceremony takes place.

After the first ceremony, the woman remains in her father’s house, however the relationship between her and her betrothed was seen and considered as a legally binding marriage that needed a divorce to be broken. At the second stage which is the wedding ceremony, the lady is then brought from her father’s house to the groom’s house and the union will then be consummated.

If either the man or woman is caught having sexual intercourse with someone other than his/her betrothed before the final ceremony, then he/she would be accused of fornication because the betrothed union has not been consummated yet.

This is what Jesus was referring to. He was not referring to adultery as a reason for divorce but to fornication which could only happen before the final wedding ceremony (i.e before the union was consummated).

Just like the case of Joseph and Mary the earthly parents of Jesus, they were betrothed, but Mary was not yet living with Joseph because the final wedding ceremony was yet to take place. That was why when Joseph realized that Mary was pregnant, he thought to put her away privately because he didn’t want to put her to public shame, but the angel of the Lord came to him and explained to him that the baby in Mary’s womb was of the Holy Spirit, and that he should not put her away. Matthew 1:18-20;

Matthew 1:18-20 KJV
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. [19] Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. [20] But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”

Notice that Mary was referred to as Joseph’s wife and Joseph was referred to as Mary’s husband even before the final ceremony.

With this you can further see and understand how God see’s divorce. With God, adultery or an unfaithful partner is not an acceptable reason for divorce. I have heard so many people use this verse of the scripture in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 as a to scriptural reference God’s acceptance of divorce, however, that is not what God was saying there. Jesus says if you put away your spouse because of adultery and marry another, you are committing adultery and causing your spouse (who is married to another) to also commit adultery. We really need to weigh the Words of God here and consider its meaning.

Please ponder on this before you continue reading….

Other statements on divorce in the Bible

Let’s now look further and see what the Holy Spirit also said through Paul the Apostle concerning divorce in the bible

The Bible says in

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 KJV
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: [11] But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

God clearly says here that neither the husband nor wife should leave their matrimonial home, but if he/she must leave, then he/she must remain unmarried or return to his or her spouse. This is a clear commandment by God.

The common misconception of 1 Corthians 7:15

Lets look at the scripture below

1 Corinthians 7:10-15 KJV
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: [11] But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. [12] But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. [13] And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. [14] For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. [15] But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

Verse 15 above says, “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace“.

Looking at only verse 15 above, a lot of individuals use it as another Bible reference in support of divorce, but if you read the passage from verse 10, you will notice that Paul gave an express command from the Lord Jesus that there should be no separation in marriage, and if there is, they must remain unmarried or return back to her spouse.

Knowing that the Bible can never contradict it self, we cannot therefore say that verse 15 means that if a partner leaves you are free to get married. If it did, it will contradict what God said in 1 Cor 7:10,11; and Matthew 19:9;

What does verse 15 therefore mean? It means if an unbelieving partner leaves you (notice the word ‘unbelieving’ hence not for believing God fearing sons and daughters of God to do), you cannot use force to ensure that your partner stays with you, you can let him/her go at their own will, however, as long as that spouse is still alive in accordance to 1 Corinthians 7:10&11, you must remain unmarried.

The Covenant in a Marriage

God uses the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church as an example of the kind of relationship that should exist between man and a woman, with Jesus Christ being the Groom and the church being the bride.  We can see this in the bible verses below

Ephesian 5: 22-25 KJV

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything. [25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it;

The basis of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church is a covenant relationship that is sealed by the blood of Jesus as stated Luke 22:20b KJV “This is the new testament (covenant) in my blood, which is shed for you.” Therefore the basis of the relationship between a man and his wife is also a covenant relationship sealed by God Himself. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 19:6b; KJV “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

So, if the relationship between Christ and the Church is seen as a covenant one, then, in like manner, the relationship between the man and his wife is also seen as a covenant relationship. Therefore as God does not break His covenant, as stated in Psalms 105: 8 KJV “He hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.” He expects us His children to keep to our promises and never break our marital vows.

As the Bible clearly states in Matthew 19:6b, it is God who joins a couple in marriage, not just the Priest, Pastor or Court. So even if an induvidual is divorced, in the sight of God, that individual is still joined to his/her first spouse (If still alive).

God’s Stand on Divorce

It is thus clear that God hates divorce and warns against it. Although our society sees nothing wrong in it, and are embracing and using it as an exit route out of marriage, in the eyes of God it is wrong, no matter how you might try to justify it in your eyes, God has no place for it in His Kingdom.

According to the Word of God, a divorcee is not permitted to re-marry as long as the first spouse is still alive. Regardless of whether the society or the law accepts or embraces divorce or not, God is not in support of a person divorcing his/her spouse to marry another person. He sees it as adultery. Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

Infidelity, financial difficulty, constant arguing, incompatibility, irreconcilable difference etc are not reasons for divorce.

It is known fact that many marriages are full of challenges, many endure instead of enjoy marital bliss. Some women are abused constantly, while some men wish they never got married because of the how their wives treat them. Many couples face difficult situations with divorce looking like the only option. Some have reached a cross road in their marriage which has made divorce look justifiable. I do not dispute these realities, I even pray that as many marriages that are at the brink of divorce will receive the light of Christ. My point is that no matter the challenges we face in marriage, the Lord commands us to do our best to make it work. However, if after you have done your best and your spouse still wants out, then like the Lord commands, you can let him/her go but you have to remain unmarried.

This might not look honourable in the sight of the society but in the sight of God whom we live to please, it is honourable. For what shall it profit a man if he gains remarriage and loses his soul eternally?

I pray this post opens your eyes and heart to the truth in God’s word and helps you avoid making a mistake.

Please feel free to share and forward this post to as many as you believe need to read this now in their life, also If you have further questions or need prayer or counselling, please contact me by clicking here

Thank you for reading

End Notes

  1. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ancient-jewish-marriage/