By Jeff Belknap

Due to the soaring rate of divorce and remarriage taking place in America today, it is important to seriously consider some things revealed to us in God’s Word.  Learning more of His will for man regarding this topic (and others) gives us the means to help prevent this terrible tragedy. 

In recent years, some have asserted that “sin” is not committed at the time of divorce, but that “the sin” is committed at the time of remarriage.  The unspoken implication in such a statement is that it is alright to divorce, as long as one doesn’t remarry.  Now, it is true that the sin of adultery isn’t committed at the time of an unscriptural divorce, however, sin does take place when someone divorces their mate for an unauthorized reason.  (Moreover, even in a divinely authorized divorce, the sin of fornication has taken place.)

In this article, we will focus on the sins committed by divorcing without scriptural authority:


The Bible teaches us, that when we pursue an unscriptural divorce, we put asunder what God hath joined together (Mt. 19:1-9).  In the third verse, Jesus was asked if it was lawful to divorce for any reason.  In verse 6 He responded, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”  This is God’s rule!  [The only exception to this rule is revealed in verse 9, in which infidelity then becomes the reason for a scriptural divorce.  Except means, “if and only if.”  cp. w. Mt. 5:20; 18:3; Lk. 13:3; Jn. 3:5]

Two different sins are condemned in this context of scripture.  (Sin # 1) The violation to the rule in verse 6:  putting asunder what God has joined together for any reason other than fornication, and then (sin # 2):  marrying another after the unscriptural divorce (i. e. living in adultery).  In other words, all who put asunder what God has joined together, commit sin (except those who do so for fornication, v. 9), regardless of whether adultery has taken place. 

Sometimes brethren think that a greater allowance for divorce is authorized because of I Corinthians 7:10+11, but actually Paul is teaching the exact same thing the Lord did in Matthew 19:6 (cp. Mk. 10:9).  Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:10+11, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” 

Contrary to the way many understand I Corinthians 7:10+11, God has never given a specific command [i.e. “let not the wife depart” (put asunder)] and then sanctioned it’s transgression.  Is "let not the wife depart” a command (law)?  Is not violation of the law transgression?  Is not transgression sin?  Are not the wages of sin death?  The instruction to “remain unmarried” necessarily implies that a violation of the command (“let not the wife depart”) has taken place, whether the departing be in the past or present.  The wife (v.10) or husband (v.11) who departs (puts away) unlawfully, is acting contrary to God’s prohibition (divorce).  To then enter into a life of adultery would only be compounding the problem.

Yet many affirm that this passage unconditionally provides for two satisfactory options:  to remain unmarried or to be reconciled.   Both of these, however, are not acceptable options in every circumstance.  This is true because the choice to remain “unmarried” (when reconciliation is possible) does not reflect repentance for the sin of an unscriptural divorce.  The word reconciliation denotes a bringing back of what was broken, and is the only “fruits worthy of repentance” to repair a wrongful divorce.  However, when one is willing to turn from their sin by seeking reconciliation, but their ex-spouse refuses (II Cor. 8:12), then he / she has no choice but to “remain unmarried” and become “a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Mt. 19:12).   

Expecting one to do everything in his / her power to reconcile and repair their wrongs is not ignoring the phrase, “let her remain unmarried.”  Neither is the phrase “let her” or “let him” necessarily a guarantee of divine approval.  God has always given man the freedom of choice (Deut. 30:15, 19; Rom. 6:16).  Note I Corinthians 7:15, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.”  Is this option (“let him depart”) scriptural and pleasing to God?  Are not unbelievers amenable to the Word?

In I Corinthians 14:37+38, Paul told the prophets that his instructions were the Lord’s commands, and if any refused to acknowledge this he said, Let him be ignorant.”  To those who were bent on their own will (as opposed to God’s), the Lord has said to “let them”.  In I Corinthians 11:5+6, after Paul taught that a woman was to be “covered”, the gospel of Christ says “if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn...”.  To the women who blatantly disregarded this order, Paul (in essence) said to make their shame complete.  Cp. w. Ezk. 3:27; 20:39; Hos. 4:17; Rom. 11:7-10; Gal. 1:8+9; Rev. 22:10-12

These words appear to be used sarcastically, with the intention of opening up one’s eyes to their own glaring opposition to God’s Word!  When people have their minds made up and refuse to be “confused” with the facts (direct and specific commandments of the Lord), God is willing to give them up (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28)!  Every sinner (including the mate who departs unlawfully) has the same choice that Joshua offered in the long ago when he said “choose you this day whom you will serve...”, Joshua 24:15.


In I Corinthians 7:2-5 Paul says, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband...Defraud ye not one the other...”.  One of the blessings shared in marriage, is the intimacy that enables us to avoid sexual immorality (Heb. 13:4).  Needless to say, when someone pursues or chooses to maintain an unscriptural divorce, they rob their mates of their due. 

[Note:  Those spouses whose lives are in danger may have to flee / separate for their safety.  (i. e. While David was under subjection to King Saul, he went only as far from the king as he had to, for temporary safety.)  However, permanent separation is not necessary in such predicaments.  There are numerous options for those in very difficult circumstances (seeking the assistance of law enforcement and / or professionals).  Divorce is only authorized by God for one reason.]   


In Matthew 5:31+32, Jesus said, “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery...”.

Again, Jesus has only sanctioned one cause for putting away our mate.  Therefore, an unscriptural divorce puts a stumbling block before those whom Jesus loves and gave his life to save.  And Jesus said, “Woe unto the world because of offences!  For it must needs be, that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh” (Mt. 18:7)!  cp. w. Mt. 13:40-42


To seek an unscriptural divorce, makes us a liar (Mt. 5:37; Jas. 5:12).  Revelation 21:8 tells us that all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire!  When people exchange their wedding vows, they make solemn pledges before the Almighty, “until death do us part”.

Ecclesiastes 5:4+5 says, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”  (cp. w. Psa. 76:11)  We do not have to marry, yet if we make that commitment, we are expected to keep our word!


In I Timothy 5:14 & Titus 2:3-5, Paul Instructs the older women (as well as the younger) about the importance of the home.  He revealed to us what should be taught about marriage and our roles in the home, to prevent the devil from gaining an advantage over us, “that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

In Romans 2:21-24, Paul rebuked his brethren for acting contrary to the word of God.  Their sin of hypocrisy gave the Gentiles cause to blaspheme.  When our family life is out of order, we are giving an occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully! 


Since there is no authority for an “unscriptural” divorce, it is iniquity (lawlessness).  From all such sins, we are to depart (II Tim. 2:19), since iniquity (lawlessness) is that which the Lord hates (Heb. 1:8+9).  [In contrast, we are specifically forbidden to depart from our spouse (Mt. 19:6; I Cor. 7:10+11).]


In Malachi 2:15+16, the Bible says, “...Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.  For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away...”.

God hates all unauthorized practices (Heb. 1:8+9), including unauthorized divorce.  The Bible teaches that when we commit this offense, we are doing something that God hates (i.e. mistreating our mate).  What God hates, we ought to hate as well!  Romans 12:9 tells us, “Let love be without dissimulation (hypocrisy).  Abhor that which is evil; and cleave to that which is good.”  cp. w. Psa. 97:10

A permissive attitude towards unauthorized divorce does nothing to encourage marriage partners to work through the difficult times.  It is imperative that we learn to live with our spouses according to Biblical principles, making our marriages what God would have them to be.  We must get back to the commitment and seriousness of marriage, lest Satan should get an advantage of us, in his effort to divide and conquer (I Cor. 7:5; II Cor. 2:11).

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM