Is Any Divorce Acceptable?In a general sense, God allows only three reasons for the dissolution of a marriage.
- The first reason is obvious—death of one of the individuals in the marriage. See Romans chapter 7, verse 2 (Romans 7:2).
- The second reason is adultery or immorality on the part of one of the individuals (Matthew 5:31,32 19:9, and so forth).
- The third reason appears in First Corinthians 7:12-16. (Note that when Paul wrote “I say, not the Lord” in that passage, he did not say that this was not from God, but rather that Jesus had never addressed this topic Himself.) Here Paul states that “if the unbeliever departs” the Christian is not “under bondage.” The same concept is used again in verse 39 where the clear context of being “under bondage” was that you could not remarry. As a rule of hermeneutics, you allow the author to define the terms by what is stated in other areas of the same document. This is the author’s intended meaning. Thus, a Christian is not bound to their marriage if the unbeliever leaves them.
Now let’s look at a situation that does not include one of these “acceptable” divorces. Many people do believe that remarriage after such a divorce constitutes continuous adultery that cannot be repented of (if you remain in the marriage). They would say that these people should divorce again and either be reunited to their original spouse or remain single. They would cite Romans 7:3 as a proof of this position. It is a possible position to take. (Still, remarriage to the same spouse after being married to someone else in between violates Deuteronomy 24:4.)
It is important to note that Romans 7:3 was not designed by Paul to be the “end all” statement of divorce and remarriage, it was actually using marriage in general to illustrate a point about the Law. Obviously God did provide for marriage to end in two other ways besides death. This is not to say that God is soft on divorce. Jesus said that it was only because of our “hardness of heart” that God allowed divorce (Matthew 19:8 and others). Ezra chapters 9 and 10 are sometimes used to support getting a divorce to obey God. However, the reason for divorce in these chapters was to keep the Jewish people pure for the Messiah to come through their lineage. (They had intermarried with those other than Jews, which was in direct violation of God’s commandment to them.) The situation was very different from our situation today. Malachi 2:16 says that God hates divorce, and we think everyone knows that divorce is wrong before God.