Many people say a person can divorce according to what they say is mentioned in Matt. 19:3-9, “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.”
Many people (Christians and non-Christians) say this passage is referring to both adultery and fornication. Many who want to divorce their former spouse and marry another person, say the above passage gives an “exception clause” to sanction divorce when there is adultery (the proper Greek word is fornication, as used in the KJV). However, if that is the case, that poses a major contradiction to what is stated in Rom. 7:1-3, “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 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. 3 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.” It seems that Matt. 19:3-9, and Rom. 7:1-3 are in contradiction, because Romans states the woman is bound by God’s law to the husband as long as he is alive. There is no “exception clause;” God still considers them married. If she remarries another man, when her husband is still alive, God calls her an adulteress; that also makes the man an adulterer. According to this passage, both of them are now living in adultery. 1 Cor. 7:39 also states, “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.” So how do we Biblically rectify the passages in Matthew with Romans 7:1-3 and 1 Cor. 7:39 without twisting the scriptures? This is of paramount importance.
Many Jews recognize a very important marriage concept, and that is of “betrothal.” When a woman accepted the man’s proposal, she and the man were considered married. Joseph was espoused to Mary; espoused is the same thing as betrothed. The betrothal period typically often extended through the end of the wedding celebration, which usually took place about 1-year later. The husband would build his house (during the betrothal period) for his wife- which usually was an extension of his parents house. The betrothal period ended at the consummating of their sexual union (their first time). If the man found out she had committed fornication, he could Biblically divorce her at that point; the nuptial cloth (explained in next paragraph), would not have any blood. Her hymen would have been pierced previously from a sexual union. It could be argued that the hymen could also be pierced during much excessive regular physical exercise. Even so, to marry a person whose has been previously married, whose spouse is still alive is adultery. Betrothal did not originate as a Jewish Custom, but is based on the Word of God. It could be argued that the hymen could also be pierced during much excessive regular physical exercise. Even if so, to marry a person who has been previously married whose spouse is still alive is adultery.
Betrothal is mentioned in Deut. 22:13-19, “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, 14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid (not a virgin): 15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: 16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; 17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. 18 And they shall spread the cloth (the betrothal cloth) before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; 19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.”
The Bible states that “the tokens of the damsel’s virginity” (we could call it the nuptial cloth) being stained with blood- her hymen being pierced after the betrothed couple had sexual union (at the wedding marriage ceremony) would be given to her parents as evidence that their daughter was a virgin. Then if the man wanted to divorce her at some time in the future, the parents would show proof of their daughter’s virginity; Biblically, the man could never divorce her. However, if the man found out she was not a virgin, because the cloth did not have any blood on it, he could divorce her. This is what Jesus was referring to in Matt. 19:9. Also, if the man discovered she was pregnant, before their sexual union, he could put her away (divorce) her. This was the case with Joseph and Mary, as he thought she had committed fornication, being pregnant (but not from him). Joseph understood from God’s law in Deut. 22:13-19 that divorce was permitted under this condition. Matt. 1:18-19 states, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused (betrothed) 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 publick example, was minded to put her away (divorce) privily.” What Jesus is stating in the passage of Matthew 19 about fornication, is in reference to the betrothal period.
Not all Jews accepted this, “Matt 19:7, “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” Jesus further expounds in the next 2-verses of 8-9, “He saith unto them, Moses (not God) because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication (during betrothal), and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” God states in Gen. 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” After the sexual union, the man cleaves (no divorce takes place) to his wife, and they are one flesh.
What Jesus is explaining in Matt. 19. is referring that at the end of the wedding ceremony when the man and the woman had sexual union for the first time and discovered she had committed fornication, then he could Biblically divorce her. Fornication (or any other reason) at a later time is not a valid Biblical reason for divorce, they are bound until death- they are one flesh. Therefore, Rom. 7:1-3 are in harmony to the passage of Matt. 19:3-9. If the betrothal matter is discarded and not understood, then the related passages in Genesis, Deuteronomy, Matthew and Romans appear to be in contradiction. When Matt. 19:3-9 are properly understood, the so-called “exception clause,” doesn’t exist and is an erroneous misinterpretation. That is why Rom. 7:1-3, and 1 Cor. 7:39 state as long as the husband is alive. Marriage is a covenant, and a covenant is Biblically binding unto death. Therefore, Matt. 19:3-9, Rom. 7:1-3 and 1 Cor. 7:39 are in complete agreement. Thus, when a person marries another person whose spouse is alive, the Bible calls it adultery. This is also stated in Matt. 5:32, Mark 10:11-12, and Luke 16:18. You should see that the Bible calls remarriage when the original covenant spouse is still alive is adultery; the woman and man would be adulterers.
However, can a person marry a Christian who had been divorced when he (or she wasn’t a Christian, even if the spouse is living), but then later on became a Christian? 2 Cor 5:17-19, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”
The person becomes a new creature- not a “renewed person,” but a new creation, a new person. Therefore, there are no longer any old things that sill remain, but old things are passed away; they are gone! The Bible, emphasizes this, because the next 6-words (KJV) states, “Behold, all things are become new.” The next 5-words of the next verse states, “And all things are of God . . .” Then, the next verse states that God, “not imputing their trespasses.” In other words, God no longer imputes any of the old or previous trespasses; they are gone (however, the person needs to walk in the new Christ nature, and not in the old former ways).
For example, if a person (Lynn) was previously married and divorced when she was not a Christian (even if her spouse) is still alive, can Lynn later on marry if she became a Christian after the divorce. According to 2 Cor. 5: 17-19m Lynn can remarry because she is a new person.Old things have passed away, old things are become new, and God no longer imputes her former trespasses (including her previous divorce to a non-christian abusive man, who was abusive. God sees Lynn as a new person, and she can remarry- though the Word says she needs to marry a Christian (1 Cor. 7:39). Years later she meets a Christian man, he was never married, who never had sexual relations after becoming a Christian. They marry in a Christian Church (the year after they met).
Some people could say the man could not marry a woman who was previously married if Lynn’s former spouse is still alive. However, in light of 2 Cor. 5:17-19, that is not correct. The following will help make this clear. A person was charged for a “cold-blooded murder.” The person was found guilty, and because the murder was so terrible, that person was given the death penalty by electrocution. Minutes before the electrocution, a priest had given the gospel to the murderer. The prisoner confessed his sin of murder, and was truly sorry and asked Jesus to be his (or her) Lord and Savior. The person was cremated the same day. Will the person go to hell or heaven? Most will say the person would go to heaven. There is a scripture that clearly provides the answer.
The passage is about the 2-thief’s that were also being crucified with Jesus. One thief said- Luke 23:41-43, “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Jesus, through His atoning blood, paid for the of that thief; Jesus did not hold the sin of the thief against Him, and allowed the thief to go to paradise that day. Before Jesus rose from the dead, those who had lived a righteous life, went to paradise, but after His resurrection, they go to heaven).
Similarly, a person who was previously married and divorced before becoming a Christian, is no longer bound by Jesus to their previous marriage- they are a new creation, a new person and can remarry, but that person needs to be a Christian (1 Cor. 7:39). In man’s law the person is still required to make any restitution that the court may require.
Some people say because Herod married his brother’s wife, that means Christians can only marry someone who has never been married, or someone who was married- but their spouse is deceased. The scripture is, Mark 6:18, “For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.” It appears there is a contradiction between that scripture and 2 Cor. 5:17;19. The Bible never contradicts itself- so how do we correctly explain this. First of all, Mark 6:18 is in reference to marrying a close relative or family member, and is not referring to marrying someone who is not a close relative or family member. The scripture in Mark is referring to Lev. 18:16, “Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.” Verse 18 provides more clarity, “Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.” In Leviticus 18:7-18 there are at least 12 examples of what would be a close relative or family member. When God delivered the Israelites from under Pharaoh in Exodus, he gave them instructions which were in various Laws; these were given primarily in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy has a lot more information and laws about marriage, divorce and remarriage than Leviticus, and certainly more than the one verse that in Mark 6:18. Mark 6:18 is referring to marrying a close relative or family member; we can’t use it to make it an all encompassing scripture about marriage without incorporating other key related scriptures.
Mark 6:18 does not negate or nullify that a person who became a Christian after that person had divorced (a non-christian person) can remarry even if their previous spouse is still be alive. Obviously, the person must not marry a close relative or family member. The Bible also states that Christian is not to marry some who is not a Christian, but someone in the Lord (a Christian- 1 Cor. 7:39).
More important scriptures will be provided about divorce, adultery, and remarriage in the following sections.