How Serious is Remarriage?

How Serious is Remarriage?

Richard Hollerman

Many religious people, ones who are good church members, enjoy hearing sermons about the love of God.  They may even read books that speak of self-achievement and self-fulfillment with God’s help.  But when it comes to instruction on the will of God, they turn away in unconcern.  Some even are repulsed when it comes to teaching from Scripture that makes demands on their life.

Let’s discuss a matter that is utterly relevant in our age and we just can’t escape.  I refer to the troublesome issue of divorce and remarriage after divorce.  We all know of family members who have experienced divorce and we probably also have friends and members of our immediate and extended family who are living with a second spouse.  It is part of modern day life.  Divorce was relatively uncommon 100 years ago and it was nearly unheard of 200 years ago in the United States.  One needed to prove infidelity or desertion to even consider initiating divorce.  Today is far different for “no fault” laws allow marriage parties to divorce at will.

Since divorce is so common and remarriage often follows a divorce, many people just assume that this is acceptable to God.  Or they may admit that it is not part of God’s “perfect will,” but He will accept it as part of His fallen creation.  After all, He is a loving and merciful God and surely He will not hinder our happiness in life, including our romance and love life.  He is not a demanding God, One who issues commands and really expects obedience.  So goes the common ideas of our society.  Sadly, it is also the perspective of far too many religious and church people and not only the entirely unchurched society!

Since we are not that concerned about what society believes on spiritual and moral topics, let’s seek to know the mind of God on this subject.  We’ve written longer expositions on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, but presently let’s only briefly deal with this subject.  We sometimes are amazed at how people just don’t know the basic truths of Scripture.  They are unaware of what God says about many different matters that affect our life.  This is dreadfully dangerous!  Jesus said that only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 7:21).  Only those who do God’s will shall live forever (1 John 2:17).  Only the ones who does God’s will shall inherit God’s eternal promises (Hebrews 10:36).  This is why it is so important to know and obey what God says!

How Serious is Remarriage?

First, Jesus said that God created marriage from the very beginning and stated that one man and one woman would be joined in holy wedlock—for  life (Matthew 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12).  This is God’s will and those who deliberately violate this commit sin and will incur serious consequences.

Second, the Bible says that it is wrong to divorce one’s husband or wife.  The Lord Jesus said, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).  We’ll not deal specifically with unusual cases such as extreme physical abuse of a wife or child physical or sexual abuse by a father.  Further, some believe that God permits divorce and remarriage on the basis of one’s spouse’s unrepentant adultery.  In other words, if a husband or wife chooses to live a life of sexual immorality (commits adultery), the “innocent” party may divorce that adulterer or adulteress and remarry another person (Matthew 19:9).  This is a controversial matter that we’ll not discuss further at this time.  We will just look at most cases of divorce and remarriage and not deal with the exceptions—if there are any or not.

Third, the consequence of remarriage after an illegitimate divorce is adultery.  Jesus says that a married person must not divorce his spouse and marry another person.  This is the way He put it:  “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).  Do not overlook what this is saying.  Jesus says that if a man divorces his wife and then marries another woman, he commits adultery against the first wife.  Likewise, if a woman divorces her husband and then marries another man, she commits adultery against her first husband.

Other Biblical verses supplement this basic statement of God’s will.  Consider Luke 16:18: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.”  Jesus’ statement here not only says that it is wrong to divorce and marry again, but we read that it is wrong to marry a woman who is divorced from her first husband.  This would also constitute adultery.  Therefore, to marry a woman after a wrongful divorce is adultery, plus to marry a woman who was divorced from her husband is also adultery (cf. Matthew 5:31-32).

Paul the apostle expresses similar teaching: “The married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.  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 7:2-3).  Basically, this says that if a woman’s husband dies, she may marry another man.  However, if she marries a second husband while the first one is still living, she becomes an adulteress.  She commits adultery.

We know that many church-going people minimize this for they turn on the TV and see nationally known speakers, preachers, evangelists, and teachers who have divorced their mate and married another person.  They seem to be accepted by their church, by other pastors, and by their followers who support them.  People who don’t know the Bible just assume that this is agreeable with the Bible.  Or they may concede that this is not God’s “perfect will” but God accommodates Himself to the frailties and disobedience of His children.  Therefore, adultery is not really that bad.

However, what does the Bible say about the seriousness of remarriage and the consequent adultery?  God’s Word says something that some people wish was eliminated from the Bible.  It says something that embarrasses people, that causes discomfort to people, that hurts people’s conscience, and that disturbs the life of many people.  They wish that God had not even addressed the subject and that Jesus had not spoken of it.  Yet it is in God’s Word and we must face it if we would be true to God and if we value our own soul.

Simply stated, God says that one who commits adultery and remains in adultery and does not repent of the adultery cannot be saved and go to heaven.  The Bible puts this in a variety of ways but it amounts to the same thing.  For instance, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says that one who commits adultery will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Galatians 5:19-21 likewise says that adultery will prevent one from entering God’s kingdom.  In Ephesians 5:3-8 and Colossians 3:5-7 we read that those who commit “fornication” or “immorality” will not inherit the kingdom and the wrath of God will come upon those who remain in this sin.  The word for “immorality” is porneia, meaning sexual immorality of various kinds, including adultery (as well as fornication or living with someone, homosexuality, etc.).  In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Paul says that one who commits sexual immorality (including adultery) rejects God.  We also read in Hebrews 13:4 that God will “judge” the adulterer.  Finally, in Revelation 21:8 we read that all fornicators or immoral people (including adulterers) will be cast into the lake of fire.

Maybe some who are reading these words are offended by such a charge.  They may be hurt or disturbed or even angered that one would suggest that to remarry results in adultery and to commit adultery results in God’s wrath, judgment, and the lake of fire.  But we can only speak what God has plainly revealed in His Word—even if that word sometimes is difficult and brings sorrow.

Just another comment.  Scripture seems to say that divorce itself is not adultery.  It is wrong and against God’s will, but the adultery occurs when there is another person (a second husband or a second wife) involved in the relationship.  We might also remember that one may commit adultery, at least in thought, when a divorced person becomes romantically involved with someone other than the original spouse.  This can occur before or apart from an actual remarriage.  God looks at the heart and not just the act of adultery.

Someone may wonder if their life is over if they have remarried after an illegitimate divorce.  Will such a person suffer the wrath of God in hell?  There is the good news for such a person!  Even the sins of divorce and remarriage, including the sin of adultery, may be forgiven by a gracious and merciful God!  Jesus said, “All sins shall be forgiven the sons of men” (Mark 2:28)—and this includes adultery!  If one is forgiven of adultery, that sin will not drag one down to hell!  The forgiven adulterer is free and released from the sin of adultery and may go to heaven!

The key about this is repentance.  God says that anyone who wants to be forgiven must repent of his sins!  Peter says, “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19).  Peter also said to Simon when he sinned: “Repent if this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you” (8:22).  This repentance (a change of heart and life) must be seen in a change of thought, life, and action.  “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).  “Repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20).  In Proverbs 28:13 we read, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”  Notice that repentance means that we must “forsake” the sin and not continue in it.  We must fully turn away from the sin in our heart and life if we expect to be forgiven by a merciful God.

We know that this teaching of Scripture is difficult, particularly if you, yourself, happen to be in an adulterous relationship.  It can be especially grieving to find oneself in an adulterous remarriage when there are children.  There may be children from the first marriage, along with children from the adulterous marriage, and perhaps even children from the mate’s first marriage.  This kind of “mess” is utterly sad and life-dominating.  And then to discover that we must not continue in the adulterous marriage if we wish to be forgiven and go to heaven—this compounds the problem!  But it is never wrong to do God’s will.  It is never a mistake to obey His commands and walk in holiness.  When I learn that someone has divorced and then remarried, I am especially saddened if I also learn that the adulterous couple have had a child or children.  This just compounds a bad situation for it makes repentance (leaving the adultery) all the more difficult!

If you are presently married in God’s sight, I implore you to stay in your marriage, regardless of how difficult it may be.  If you are single, please keep these sobering truths in mind when you consider a life-long commitment of marriage.  If you are in an adulterous marriage, remember that God loves you and will help you to obey His will even when this is difficult.  It is never wrong to do right!  It is always wrong to do wrong.  God’s will is best!  And His will doesn’t include adultery through remarriage!



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