DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE

barnes-matthew-5

Photo of Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Kregel Publications, 1970; p. 25.

By Dr. Stephen Kim

[Author’s Note: Readers are encouraged to read my paper entitled, Remarriage is Adultery, for a more extensive treatment of the topic of remarriage.]

“You shall not commit adultery.”  -God (7th Commandment, Exodus 20:14)

I once had an affluent couple visit my church.  After the worship service, they were glowing as they expressed their gratitude to me for the gospel work that I was doing in N.Y.C.  The woman was a graceful woman with elegant blonde hair.  The man was a quiet but astute observer–a veterinarian by trade.  As we began wrapping up our civil small-talk pleasantries, she revealed to me that this was her second marriage, and that her first marriage did not end due to adultery–but instead, it had terminated due to “irreconcilable differences.”  Her first marriage just simply, “hadn’t worked out.”

Situations like the aforementioned make pastoral ministry one of the most difficult vocations in the world.  Having to tell a couple that’s interested in joining your church that their current “marital” relationship is really an adulterous affair in the eyes of God, is painstakingly difficult.  There are few things harder in pastoral ministry than giving people the gracious gospel of Jesus Christ.  Why? Because the gracious gospel of Jesus Christ calls first for repentance prior to faith.  Faithful pastors, like faithful surgeons, must care for the soul–even at the risk of becoming the recipients of a patient’s short-term wrath.

And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

In a previous post, I quite thoroughly explained the four biblical purposes of marriage.  I will not, therefore, repeat the material in this article.  The purpose of this article is to simply teach, in a very straight-forward manner, on the topic of divorce and remarriage. (I am not going to teach on the issue of unbeliever initiated divorce in this article.)

WHY THE TOPIC IS SO IMPORTANT

As Christians, we often harp about how unrepentant homosexuals will not go to heaven (1 Cor 6:9).  It is true that the most loving thing we could do for a homosexual is to warn him of the punishment from God that is coming and direct him to the redemptive message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, sometimes we forget that adulterers are also forbidden from entering heaven–in the very same verse (1 Cor 6:9).

All Christians readily admit that adultery is a heinous sin that a Christian ought not commit.  (It is not an “unforgivable” sin, however, and adulterers can receive divine forgiveness through faith in Christ, repentance, and the discontinuance of the practice of adultery (John 8:11).)  What many Christians fail to see, however, is the fact that any second marriage–outside of the the first marriage dissolving due to marital infidelity–is adultery.  The teaching that claims that a second marriage “starts off as adultery, but is later to be considered a legitimate marriage,” is one of the deadliest errors floating around in our churches today.  Why?  Because if the Bible is correct, and the person dies while still in that second marriage, then the person dies as an unrepentant practicing adulterer.

My job as a pastor is to faithfully teach you to observe all that Jesus has commanded you (Matt 28:20).  Yes, I want to make sure that you gain admittance into heaven.  As a skilled surgeon, I want to save your life–even if it causes you some short-term pain.  I want your joy and that means I must teach rightly–irrespective of your emotional attachment to a person.  You will thank me in eternity for it. 

THE VERY WORDS OF CHRIST

The topic of divorce is, in my opinion, one of the clearest teachings of Christ in the entire New Testament.  Read the Scripture text above and you can quite easily see why I say that.  The text is very straightforward.  There’s not much ambiguity there.  There’s really not much to explain.  It is all quite self-evident.  For the sake of pedagogical efficiency , let’s just focus on Matthew 19’s teaching on this topic (other texts containing the same teaching include Luke 16:18, Matt 5:32, and Mark 10:12):

He said to them, “Moses, confronting the callousness of your heart, let you divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” But I say to you, “Whoever divorces his wife apart from adultery and will take another, commits adultery, and whoever will take her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9)

  • The word “divorces” used in that text is the Greek word apoluō, which always means “divorce” in contexts concerning marriage. Unlike what some propose, the word does not mean “separate” in any context describing marriage; and furthermore, in this context, the Pharisees (in verse 3) were specifically asking Jesus about divorce–not separation.  Hence, it is only logical to believe that Jesus, likewise, is talking about divorce in his response to them.  Finally, the remarriage exception given in verse 9 for the case of adultery makes no sense if the word did not mean “divorce.”
  • Divorce and remarriage were permitted by the Law of Moses in the Old Testament (Deut 24:1-4).  Hence, although divorce was not God’s original design from the beginning (i.e., “What God has joined together, let not man separate”), divorce and remarriage were permissible during the time of the Old Testament (which is why Jesus informs the Samaritan woman at the well that she indeed did have 5 husbands in the past (John 4:18)).  However, by the time we get to Matthew 19, Jesus lays down His standard for all future believers: Marriage is for life and divorce (except for sexual immorality) is never permissible.  (A woman may keep her distance–for the sake of safety–from an abusive husband, but she must not divorce him.)  The man who remarries after his first marriage ended due to “irreconcilable differences,” is an adulterer (and the same goes for a woman).
  • An exception is clearly given for the case of adultery.  By saying “apart from adultery,” Jesus allows the victim of adultery to divorce and remarry.  In that situation, the second marriage is not considered adultery, but rather, is a valid marriage.  However, the spouse who committed adultery does not receive the right to remarry.  He/she must repent and remain single for the rest of his/her life.  Furthermore, although Jesus grants the victim the right to divorce and remarry, it is not mandatory.  The victim could choose to forgive the sin and continue on in the marriage.
  • “Whoever divorces his wife apart from adultery and will take another, commits adultery.”  It is clear that any second marriage (outside of the exception) is not a valid marriage in the eyes of God because Jesus calls it, “adultery.”  In the eyes of God, the first marriage is still valid and in full effect.  By the way, let’s get this clear: Adultery is always adultery–the passage of time does not change the nature of the sin.  The apostle Paul confirms the on-going status of “adulteress” for the woman who persists to live in a second marriage by stating, “Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress” (Rom 7:3).
  • The popular ESV Study Bible has the following comment for Matthew 19:9:             “And marries another” implies that the second marriage, though it begins with adultery, is still a marriage. Once a second marriage has occurred, it would be further sin to break it up. The second marriage should not be thought of as continually living in adultery, for the man and woman are now married to each other, not to anyone else (ESV Study Bible, Crossway Publishing 2008, page 1861).  This explanation for the verse is groundless and irrational for two reasons: 1. If ESV Study Bible means that the second marriage act itself (and not the sex acts that occur afterwards within the second marriage) is adultery, then it is a groundless argument because there effectively is no marriage to honor.  It was just identified as adultery–not a valid covenant.  2. If the initial sex act within the second marriage is being identified as adultery, then it is preposterous to claim that it merely “begins with adultery” because repetition does not change the categorization of the act.  If the first act of intercourse was categorized as adultery, then it would only make sense that the act is still adultery when it is committed the second, third, or even hundredth time.  Again, the repetition of an offense does not change its illegality.
  • The words of Christ are as clear as they are inescapable.  Christ calls the remarriage adultery and therefore, if left unbroken, the remarriage will always remain adultery.  It is best to simply take Jesus at His word. The apostle Paul confirms the words of Christ for us in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 by stating, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.”  Again we see that divorce is forbidden, but if it has occurred, the divorcee must either remain single or reconcile back to his/her spouse in order to prevent adultery through a remarriage to another person.  (Take special note of how the Apostle still refers to the woman’s spouse as her “husband”–even after a divorce had taken place.)

HOW IS THIS INSTRUCTIVE IF I AM CURRENTLY SINGLE?

It is instructive because it shows the life-long permanence of marriage in the eyes of the Creator.  After your decision for Jesus, marriage is the second most important decision in life.  Divorce is not an option for Christian men and women.  Therefore, choose wisely.

Refer to these articles for some helpful guidance:

Ten Qualities Christian Men Want in a Women 

The 15 Marks of a Real Man

WHAT MUST I DO IF I AM IN A SECOND MARRIAGE?

Repent and leave it. Dissolve the marriage. Cling to Christ.

Yes, I understand, it’s hard–especially with the emotional attachment, but for the sake of your eternal soul, do what’s right.  You might have to pay child support for the children produced out of your second “marriage,” but you must dissolve the remarriage.  It is sin to remain in it. Jesus clearly said that if you are married to anyone other than your first spouse, then you are committing adultery.

Get a legal divorce from the state in order to be clean with the government concerning the second marriage; but remember, in the eyes of God, it was never a real marriage to begin with (hence, Jesus called it “adultery”). King Herod “married” Herodias, but it was nevertheless “unlawful” in the eyes of God and John called him to dissolve and forsake it. Yes, God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), but remember that because the second marriage was never a real marriage in the eyes of God, therefore, you are not “adding sin upon sin” by breaking up the remarriage. Instead, you are showing genuine fruits of repentance.  It is not a sin to end what Jesus called adultery.  You are turning from your sin to Christ, forsaking adultery and bearing fruits in “keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8).  To remain in the second “marriage” would be to continually commit unrepentant adultery for the rest of your life.  Forgiveness and redemption is available for you if you repent and forsake your sin.

The case is similar to a hypothetical situation in my state of New York.  Suppose two gay men were legally “married” in New York.  Imagine, that subsequently, they both came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  What must they now do with their current “marriage?”  Can they continue in it?  Of course not!  They must repent, turn to Christ, and immediately forsake the gay marriage.  Now, they might have to get a legal “divorce” from the state of New York for civil clerical legal purposes, but all that’s a formality.  The gay marriage was never a marriage in the eyes of God to begin with.  The same is true for all second marriages in which the first marriage did not end due to marital infidelity.

I do believe that due to the high divorce and remarriage rates with the Church, the clear words of Christ have been wrongly taught by many pastors and teachers (the fear of losing many members dominating their hearts).  Please, examine the words of Christ for yourself.  I implore you, unlike King Herod*, have the right response to Christ’s teaching.

For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:17-18)

*Historian Josephus informs us that Philip and Herodias had a divorce (Ant., 18.109-115).  Yet, interestingly, John the Baptist still refers to her as “your brother’s wife”–effectively not recognizing the divorce nor the  remarriage (even though the Bible uses the word “married” (Gk. ἐγάμησεν)  to identify the Herodias’ remarriage to King Herod).

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE:

Response to John MacArthur’s Grace To You‘s popular position on remarriage.

About Dr. Stephen Kim

Dr. Stephen Kim is the senior pastor of Mustard Seed Church in New York City. He has also served as Associate Director of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, NYC Extension Center. Pastor Stephen is the happy husband of one beautiful woman and the joyous father of four beautiful children. As a pastor and writer, he is passionate about accurately feeding Christians the Word of God: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?" (Matthew 24:45).
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91 Responses to DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE

  1. Hi Pastor.. Can you please explain to me in detail those who say a woman can not biblically divorce and remarry if her spouse was unfaithful !! Those who believe this to be true usually state that divorce is gender based and that God permits men and woman to divorce and remarry for different reasons..They also state that God specifically addressed men and not woman in the exception clauses in Mathew, therefore if this exception included women then he would have also included the word ” she” “her” etc. Please give me biblical feed back on this.. Thank you

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  2. susan says:

    Thank you as this helped me so much.

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  3. Teresa says:

    Everything sounds right on except for why don’t you take it a step further and have adultery be forgiven instead of an excuse to divorce. Besides the NIV doesn’t use the word adultery as an exception but sexual immorality. Yet the KJV uses the correctly used word fornication which is between two unmarried people.

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    • Dr. Stephen Kim says:

      According to reliable scholarship, the Greek word porneia definitely encompasses a host of various forms of prohibited sexual acts—not just pre-marital sex. The dictionary definition of the biblical Greek word porneia (Gk. πορνεία) is: “1. Unlawful sexual intercourse, prostitution, unchastity, fornication; 2. Participation in prohibited degrees of marriage, fornication; 3. Immorality of a transcendent nature, fornication” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Ed., The University of Chicago Press, 2000).

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  4. Jay says:

    Dr. Kim,
    I need some guidance in your bible expertise. This is an unusual situation. My first wife and I were married and divorced after a few years when we were young in our mid-twenties. I was never a church member nor was she. I remarried years later and that ended in a bitter divorce where my wife had an adulterous affair with a friend of mine. After the divorce to my second wife, I starting attending church and became a Christian focusing on the KJV. I now know my whole second marriage was actual adultery based off the scriptures. What is sad is even though I divorced my second wife due to her adultery, I too had an affair that she never knew about years prior to our divorce. I now feel depressed and realize now I need to repent of my own adulterous affair in the second marriage and contact her and tell her the truth. She married the man she was seeing. I have attempted to contact her via social media and even texting her for months and no response. Just recently, I learned my first wife passed away from heart complications after all this happened. I often wonder, can I remarry someone else the third time since I am now a Christian and still be in right in the eyes of the Lord? Thank you for your help.

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    • Cs says:

      Ive heard of too many women who have died from heart related issues after their spouse divorced them. It really proves just how violent of an act divorce is.

      Jay…I strongly recommend you repent, realizing the absolutly dire consequence of all of this on your first wife rather than considering marriage again.

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      • Jay says:

        Maybe the way I worded my entry did not make sense to help you understand my situation. My first wife and I divorced over simply being immature. Me and my first wife divorced on good terms as friends. After a few years later, I remarried in an unscriptual marriage. My first wife’s cardiac issues had nothing to with me as it was related to Type 1 Diabetes she developed in her late twenties long after we were divorced. Does this make sense? I hope this clarifies the issue and my scenario.

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      • I can’t believe you’re so insensitive and it sounds like he is more than eligible for a biblical remarriage .. Be blessed and may God give u peace..

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    • Dr. Stephen Kim says:

      Jay,
      Yes, you may remarry because your first wife (the only true wife in God’s eyes) is now dead. Hopefully, you’ve repented of all your acts of adultery (including your 2nd marriage). Be at peace, follow Christ, and go and sin no more: “So then if, while her husband lives, she is married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband dies, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she is married to another man” (Romans 7:3).

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  5. C says:

    I have a question for you—what about Esther? She married the King who essentially divorced his wife–wouldnt that make Ether (and the King) adulterers? However, if she had NOT married him–she would’ve been disobeying God–which means God was instructing her to commit adultery–in order to save the Jews. Would love to hear your opinion on this because the story in itself seems contradictory to the Bible in many ways.

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    • Dr. Stephen Kim says:

      C,

      In the OT, both polygamy (2 Sam 12:8) and remarriage after a divorce (Deut 21:1-4) were permitted by God. Hence, they were not sins. Once Jesus declared remarriage to be adultery in the NT, it became forbidden.

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  6. Sofia says:

    I completely agree with you and find it startling how the Church has allowed divorce and remarriage to run rampant, excusing it all the way. However, will you comment on 1 Corinthians 7:15? That is where it gets blurry for me. I take it to mean that the innocent person is free of the sin of the divorce but when applying the other marriage-based divorces, the spouse is still to remain single and/or attempt reconcilation.(such as in no fault divorce) Or does it mean to simply NOT attempt reconcillation in such cases as abandonment? What is your interpreation?

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  7. 9outof10 says:

    Your teachings re: divorced persons strike me as uncompassionate. There are many valid reasons why someone might divorce. The marriage may have started out good, but people can and do change…and not always for the better. No one should stay in a marriage that is physically and/or emotionally abusive. It’s unrealistic to think that divorced persons should have to hang their heads in shame all their lives and never be allowed to have a 2d change at love/happiness. Yet you are attempting to misinterpret scripture to impose that on people. Let’s get real. People get lonely and they need love and companionship. A 2d marriage would be better than fornication or masturbation or endless frustration, wouldn’t it? Even the Bible teaches it’s better to marry than to burn, and also if the unbelieving depart let them depart that a person is not bound. So there are valid Bible reasons for a 2d marriage and it’s no one’s business to judge. A 2d marriage among straight people can’t be compared to gay marriage and you know it.

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  8. alpha omega says:

    Pastor Kim thank you for your blog I just came across today. My question regarding marriage has to do with traditional marriages. In African culture one is considered engaged as soon as dowry is paid to the girl’s family. Often dowry is paid in instalments once a first payment is made you are considered married. In Morden times most Africans still practice both traditional and civil marriage.

    My question therefore is whilst dating my spouse he made another girl pregnant a few months into the pregnancy he paid dowry to her family and promised to marry her. He told me it was to deceive the girl’s family he still loved me. He later married me in a civil wedding a few years later. Since being born again I have questioned the validity of our marriage.Does God honour traditional marriages? Are civil unions the only recognised marriages in God’s eyes. Is my marriage therefore adulterous in His eyes.
    If we divorced would I be free to remarry or do I remain unmarried if our marriage is adulterous?

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    • Dr. Stephen Kim says:

      If your statement is true in Africa: “Often dowry is paid in installments and once a first payment is made you are considered married,” then he was married to that woman he made pregnant. Observe what occurred in the Old Testament:

      “If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death–the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you” (Deut 22:24).

      Notice that God calls the former virgin “another man’s WIFE (Hb.אֵ֣שֶׁת).”

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      • Gerry says:

        Aren’t you glad that we’re not under the law of Moses, which our ancestors were unable to bear?

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        • Dr. Stephen Kim says:

          Gerry,
          There’s a fallacy in your thinking.
          This is not about the law of Moses vs. the new covenant. This is simply about the authenticity of marriage within a certain cultural context.
          In Jewish culture, a man and woman were husband and wife if they were betrothed. Since the marriage was authentic and binding, a certificate of divorce was needed to break it up. In the New Testament, Joseph (the father of Jesus) is called a “just” man for seeking to divorce Mary during their betrothal period for supposed adultery:
          And her husband (notice the word “husband”) Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (Matt 1:19)

          They were not yet married, but for the Jews, if they were engaged, then they were already husband and wife.

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  9. Stephano says:

    Dr. Kim,

    I would like to know if Orthodox Christians (Russian, Greek, etc.) are true Christians. Also, are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church true Christians? Also, are members of the St. Thomas churches of India true Christians? And also, are Egyptian Copts true Christians?

    Thanks.

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  10. imsetfree82 says:

    But surely when we have been saved we are no longer under condemnation and our sins are wiped away. So why do we have to go back and fix our past mistakes?! I mean if we confess our sins to God He forgives us. So why must we go back and fix things to keep our salvation? When I’ve sinned I have simply confessed to God and tried hard not to sin again. Isn’t that enough?

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    • Rose says:

      “A husband must not divorce his wife.” 1 Corinthians 7:11

      “The Lord God All-Powerful of Israel hates anyone who is cruel enough to divorce his wife.” Malachi 2:16

      “The Lord was witness to the covenant made at your marriage.” Malachi 2:14

      “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” –Jesus Christ

      Thou shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14

      “The man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul.” Proverbs 6:32

      “Adulterers…will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9

      “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Hebrews 13:4

      “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” Romans 14:1

      “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives.” 1 Corinthians 7:39

      The bond of marriage ends with death. Romans 7:2-3

      Jesus calls remarriage after a divorce ADULTERY because…

      “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:39

      “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.” Romans 7:2-3

      Divorce does not make you single again.

      “A woman is married to her husband as long as he lives.” 1 Corinthians 7:39

      Signed,
      A Divorced Woman

      TRUE LOVE WARNS!
      http://www.cadz.net/mdr.html

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  11. RS says:

    Hi Pastor Kim. As a Christian trying to live a life pleasing to God I am struggling with this very issue. When I was younger, I did a business marriage for immigration purposes. The “marriage” was a strictly business arrangement which involved the signing of marriage documents, a monetary payment and absolutely no sexual involvement. I now wish to get divorced at law. Since there was no sexual union (I have actually only seen the guy twice in my lifetime), would you say I am considered married in Gods eyes? Also, if I were to end thus business marriage by divorce at law, could I get remarried? Could u also share scriptures? Thanks a lot.

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    • Dr. Stephen Kim says:

      Yes, it is a real marriage in God’s eyes. Therefore, a divorce must not be followed by remarriage or else it would constitute adultery (Matt 19:9).

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  12. troubled says:

    Hello Pastor Kim

    Thank you for your dedication and courage to preaching the truth and for your wisdom.

    I have a question that I would like for you to help answer.
    I married my wife, an unbeliever about 4 years ago. We now have 3 kids. She comes to church but isn’t really Christian as she still keeps idols and ashes that she prays to and with from her previous Hindu based religion.
    Our marriage isn’t going well due to her not committing to Christ and his principles as well as unfounded jealousy, fits of rage and rapid mood swings. We virtually have no friends as she has chased them all away.
    I’ve never been married before her. She was married. She says that he was unfaithful but after living with her for 4 years I realize that, that may be something she made up.
    I have always been in church but only very recently became aware of the truths of divorce and remarriage.

    The question I have for you is: Considering that we have 3 kids, are we committing adultery if we continue to be married( I don’t think her first husband cheated), even if I was ignorant of the truth about marriage. She remains an unbeliever so is that grounds for divorce?

    Thank you

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    • Dr. Stephen Kim says:

      Unbelief is never grounds for divorce. IF she lied about her first husband’s adultery as being THE REASON for her divorce, then you are living in adultery by remaining married to her. If she did NOT lie, then you MUST NOT divorce her all your days. Her unbelief and your children do not factor into the legality (or illegality) of marriage.

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  13. SC says:

    Hi, our pastor Victor Kim of Remnant Presbyterian Church was discovered of having a 10 year affair. since this has happened, he has not taken responsibility. I have included the site that has the details, evilpastors.wordpress.com. My friend can not understand how a well know, trusted pastor can do this to a congregation. He has not asked for forgiveness, how should we see him? he has abandon our church. should we forgive him even though he doesn’t ask for forgiveness? Any advice would help.

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  14. Henderson says:

    Hi pastor Kim,
    I thank God for your articles which have been a blessing to me.
    I’d like to ask some quick questions and I would really appreciate a response from you:

    a) My first question is in respect of your answer to Carl’s first question above. You said if a married couple gets divorced for a reason other than marital infidelity, even if one of them remarries after the divorce it is no justification for the second one to remarry since the original reason for their divorce was not marital unfaithfulness. But my understanding is that even after their divorce, they are still regarded as husband and wife in the eyes of God. If they are still husband and wife in God’s eyes, why shouldn’t the remarriage of one of them constitute adequate grounds for marital unfaithfulness which would then allow the other spouse to pursue a biblical remarriage? Why shouldn’t the other spouse be able to accuse his/her mate of infidelity and seek remarriage on that basis, even though the sexual affair took place after their divorce? Unless they are no longer husband and wife following their divorce.

    b) Suppose the couple only separated without a formal divorce. In this case, would a remarriage or sexual affair with a new mate by one of them constitute adequate grounds for the exception clause of Matthew 19:9, allowing the other spouse to pursue a biblical divorce and remarriage?

    c) If a spouse is guilty of marital infidelity and he/she (the guilty party) quickly initiates a divorce to divorce the innocent spouse, what should the innocent party do? The guilty party cited flimsy reasons such as irreconcilable differences as his reason for the divorce. In this case, the innocent party was planning on initiating a biblical divorce for marital infidelity but before she could make the move, the guilty party quickly divorced her so that she (the innocent party) became the “put away” spouse. What is the implication of this for the innocent mate’s remarriage? Is the innocent spouse free to remarry even though she is the one who has been put away? In cases of marital infidelity, does it matter who initiates the divorce and who becomes the “put away”?

    d) You said if a person got divorced as an unbeliever and he later becomes saved or born again, his only option is to stay single for the rest of his life? How about returning to his former mate whether or not his mate is saved? Since his former mate is still his spouse in the eyes of God, can he return to her even if she is still an unbeliever?

    e) In view of Deut. 24:4 which prohibited the return of a remarried wife to her first husband, is it proper today for a divorced and remarried person to return to his or her original spouse? I have read your response to Grace to You regarding this Scripture, but I am wondering what difference does it make whether or not divorce was legal in the Old Testament. The reason given for the prohibition of return to the first husband in Deut. 24:4 was the fact that the remarried woman had been “defiled” by her second marriage. I guess this means sexual defilement. The other interesting fact is that she couldn’t even return to her first husband following the death of her second husband. If it was simply because divorce was legal in the OT, you would expect that at least following the death of her second husband, she would be able to return to her first husband since her marriage covenant with her second husband was now effectively terminated with his death. But she couldn’t even return to the first husband after the death of the second husband. This means the reason for this prohibition is not simply because divorce was permitted in the OT.

    Is Deut. 24:4 still applicable today. If not, why?

    Thank you and God bless you.

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  15. Carl says:

    Addendum to Question 1:
    If we apply the above logic to all divorces, virtually all of them will end up with an apparent biblical grounds for at least one of the spouses to get remarried, because one partner will simply wait for the other one to remarry first, and then the first mate will claim adultery as a reason for him/her to get remarried too so that this second remarriage will resemble a biblically justifiable remarriage, which means reconciliation between the two original mates will never again be possible. In the end, it will be as if we’re moving round and round in circles.

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  16. Carl says:

    Hi Pastor Kim,
    I have two questions:
    1) Apostle Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 7 that a married couple should not divorce but if they do, they are to remain unmarried or be reconciled to each other. What if after an unscriptural separation/divorce, instead of both mates to remain unmarried, one of them goes ahead to either remarry or have a sexual affair with a new mate? What should the second spouse do in such a situation? Wouldn’t the first spouse’s remarriage be tantamount to adultery, thereby freeing up the second spouse to get remarried on grounds of the exception clause of marital infidelity?

    Consider a situation where a married couple got divorced in an unbiblical fashion due, maybe, to “irreconcilable differences”, and they both subsequently remarried new spouses. In this case, can you genuinely make a case for both of them to abandon their current marriages and be reconciled to each other? The reason I ask this question is this: following their divorce, as long as they both remained unmarried, it left the door open for reconciliation. But the moment one of them remarried or had sex with a new partner, it closed the door for any reconciliation because it can be argued that the first spouse to remarry did commit adultery thereby freeing up the second spouse to obtain a biblically justifiable remarriage. So, even though both of them eventually got remarried, the first one to remarry/have sex with a new partner could be said to have committed adultery while the second person’s remarriage can be considered a legitimate marriage occasioned by the adulterous remarriage of the other partner . In that sense, will it be correct to advise this couple to terminate their current marriage and come together again, since the second partner’s remarriage appears legitimate?

    2) If an individual got an unbiblical divorce when he was an unbeliever, and then he/she later becomes saved, is he free to remarry a believer after his salvation? I have seen a Church teach this sort of doctrine.

    Thanks.
    Carl.

    Like

    • Dr. Stephen Kim says:

      Carl,

      Once an unbeliever spouse divorces you and you accept the divorce, you (and the spouse that initiated the divorce) are called to perpetual celibacy. If the divorce-initiating spouse remarries, he/she is committing adultery. In any event, that does not permit you to remarry because your divorce (which you accepted and allowed to stand) was not “for” (Gk. ἐπὶ) sexual immorality. The reason for the divorce is what gives you the exception to remarry. The verse in question says:
      “But if the unbeliever wants a divorce, let it take place. In these circumstances the brother or sister is not bound. God has called you in peace” (1 Cor 7:15).
      Paul essentially said, “Let the divorce take place.” In other words, in this case, you will not be permitted to remarry because: 1. a divorce took place and 2. the cause was not adultery. Therefore, the “peace” that God calls you to in this situation is perpetual celibacy.

      1 Corinthians 7:11 states: “But if she does [get divorced], she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.” Notice how Paul uses the word “unmarried” (Gk. agamos) and “husband” in the same sentence. You are divorced (and unmarried), yet you still have a husband! Is it a divorce and are you unmarried? Yes. If you remarry are you committing adultery? Yes, for he is still your husband. Apparently, even though a divorce has taken place, you should stay unmarried–because you are (in God’s eyes) still married to your husband. People automatically assume that a biblically-permitted divorce allows remarriage. That’s not the case. In the cases of unbeliever initiated divorce, God calls you to perpetual celibacy as your “peace.” No remarriage for you–even if your spouse goes on to “remarry” someone else. You must remain “at peace” and unmarried in order to not become an adulterer.

      As for your 2nd question:
      2) If an individual got an unbiblical divorce when he was an unbeliever, and then he/she later becomes saved, is he free to remarry a believer after his salvation? I have seen a Church teach this sort of doctrine.

      No. Biblical marriage and divorce laws are universal to all humans–irrespective of their religious beliefs. Hence, “gay marriage” is wrong because God’s design for heterosexual monogamy is universal to all humans. A remarriage after an unbiblical divorce is always adultery–whether or not you were a Christian when the divorce occurred doesn’t matter. In addition, 1 Cor 7:12 makes it plain that the same divorce laws apply for persons married to unbelievers: If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. In other words, that unbelieving woman is still your wife.

      Hope I’ve clarified and helped.

      Like

      • Carl says:

        Hi Pastor Kim,
        Thanks for the clarification. God bless you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Carl says:

        1) So, you’re saying that 1 Cor. 7: 10-11 applies not only to believers but also to unbelievers? That is, whenever there is a separation or a divorce among unbelievers, there are only two options – reconciliation or celibacy? Why then do many people say this Scripture is applicable only to two believers who are married and not unbeliever?

        2) In 1 Cor. 7:10, Paul says a wife is not to “depart” from her husband. Does the word “depart” mean divorce?

        Like

  17. Martin Broz says:

    I never realized that divorce and remarriage were the unforgivable sin, i thought it was blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

    Like

    • Gerry says:

      All sins are forgivable upon repentance. The sin of remarriage after a divorce is forgivable upon ceasing the new marriage.
      The sin of ascribing the miracles of Jesus to the devil is strongly indicative of a hardened reprobate heart. We may not be able to infallibly discern such a heart, but Jesus could.

      Like

  18. alan says:

    I never understood this before I became a Christian, it always seemed unfair but now I realize that Gods rules are fair and created to keep us from self destruction.

    Like

  19. Bee says:

    @Don Q.,

    “…‘Statement on Divorce and Remarriage’ becomes a very messy document.”

    Do very many churches have such a document?

    The four different churches I have been a member of did not have a written document on this topic. I think having a written guidelines on this important topic is a great idea.

    Like

  20. Alexandra says:

    I don’t believe there’s ANY Biblical reason to divorce (other than to get out of an adulterous remarriage). “Marital unfaithfulness” is a mistranslation. The KJV says “fornication,” which actually refers to the betrothal period (keep in mind Matthew was written more for a Jewish audience). So once you say the vows, that’s it, there is no going back. And to divorce because of adultery would go back to having a hard heart–not forgiving the wayward spouse.

    My own husband is in an adulterous remarriage (he filed, I didn’t; I didn’t want the divorce). I keep getting told “he’s made his choice, maybe God has someone else for you.” Baloney! My husband is like Jonah–running in the opposite direction. He has yet to meet the huge fish if he hasn’t already. I believe God is able to restore our marriage. I am not free to remarry despite what people say (the Bible says in at least two different places that whosoever marries her who is put away–in this case, me–commits adultery). He and the other woman will have to divorce (legally), of course. I still love the man and still think the world of him despite what he’s done, and our son wants him home. New marriage vows do not cancel out the original ones. In God’s eyes he is still my husband, not hers. I’d also like to see my husband be saved.

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Alexandra,

      Thanks for your comment. I will definitely pray for you and I fully agree with you when you said, “In God’s eyes he is still my husband, not hers. I’d also like to see my husband be saved.” I love that sort of dedication to God, His Word, and your husband.

      On the issue of the “adultery exception” however, I do disagree. I will write an article shortly regarding this specific issue. However, with regard to your situation concerning your husband, you are correct and being very clear-headed and merciful. Praise God for your faithfulness!

      Loved your commitment to God and His Word. This part was excellent: “I am not free to remarry despite what people say (the Bible says in at least two different places that whosoever marries her who is put away–in this case, me–commits adultery). He and the other woman will have to divorce (legally), of course. I still love the man and still think the world of him despite what he’s done, and our son wants him home.”
      Amen.

      Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Caveat: Alexandra, my comments praising your commitment to your husband are only valid if his reason for divorcing you was not because of your marital infidelity. IF you were faithful, and then he divorced you, then you’re right–he is committing adultery and you have every right to demand your husband back from his current “wife.”

      Like

      • Cortney says:

        I am in a similar situation. I live in a no-fault state and my husband abandoned me (no sexual immoraity) and divorced me against my will and Gods. I deeply want restoration. But my question is, why isn’t restoration more common? It aligns with God’s will and while I understand the role of free will is at play, I don’t understand why God might allow so many spouses to pray for restoration but not receive it? Any thoughts?

        Also, I wanted to comment that beginning just a couple of weeks after my husband left, I had a church tell me to start dating and to pursue a divorce. I had a pastor tell me that God gave me a brain and I should use it and stop being foolish and move on (after about 4 months), and another pastor told me to fight for as much money as I could and that “these men” never come home. I was even denied when I asked them to follow Matthew 18 and reach out to the sinner and I was denied prayer for him. This came from four churches in total, as I attempted to find support. He now attends a Luthern church who preaches that divorce is a personal issue and not a church issue and Gods grace and mercy allow forgiveness and the ability to move on. (The pastor divorced his wife, stating she was “difficult.”) The same pastor taught that parents come before spouses (see the 10 Commandments on honoring parents) and because my husbands family didn’t want me in the family, he was permitted to divorce me. I could go on.

        I just wanted to share this because I am incredibly appalled by the amount of false teaching. I never found a church who actually teaches what scripture says when it comes to divorce and remarriage. It amazes me how many Christians are upset by the allowance of gay marriage despite the fact that the sanctity of marriage in this country and in the Church has been devalued long ago.

        I cannot tell you how much my heart breaks over what has happened to my marriage. I do feel that a part of my died. My husband was truly a wonderful man and husband up to the day he disappeared. I pray that he and his family will turn to God and read the Bible and know the TRUTH. I pray every day that he will come home. I hope you will pray that he will repent and come home as well.

        Thank you for teaching the truth.

        Like

  21. Richard says:

    Pastor Kim,
    So I have a question surrounding my confusion on this subject. Reading on how the second marriage is sinful and adulterous I have taken into deep consideration the possibility that this may be quite so. So here’s a little background information to this question:

    In 2010 I was a practicing Pagan and married a Unitarian who subsequently became Pagan as well. She chose to divorce me the next year and I didn’t contest it and have been officially divorced in the eyes of the law since exactly 1 year and 1 day after the marriage started, and I wasn’t saved until Mother’s Day of the following year.

    In some of my Christian circles I have heard differing opinions on this issue. One being similar to your stance, though it gave an exception of second marriage to a Christian who was saved AFTER the divorce thereby allowing the Christian to marry again because the prior marriage and divorce, though sinful, were invalid because it was a marriage of two heathens. The others were easily understood as being false and as such I won’t mention them here as they are not useful for this purpose.

    My question is essentially this: Could you clarify your stance on the subject of the second marriage based on the variables of my own relationships both with my ex-wife and with Christ as put out above?

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Richard,

      Thanks for writing. I am very glad to hear that you’ve come out of darkness into saving faith. Praise God!

      As for your question, the Bible makes no distinction between “marriages made before coming to faith” or “marriages made after coming to faith.” A marriage is always a marriage in the eyes of God, and it is a lifelong covenant. This is perfectly demonstrated by the fact that the apostle Paul instructs new converts to stay with their unbelieving marriage partners–even though the spouse may take a while (or may never) come to the faith. Why? Because a marriage is still a marriage. It is binding and lifelong.

      “And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him” (1 Cor 7:13).

      Hence, if the reason for your divorce was not due to adultery or sexual immorality, then you are not given the right to remarry until she dies. If you do so, it is considered perpetual adultery by Christ (Matt 19:19). A sin to immediately forsake, receive grace for, and repent of. The teaching you stated, “prior marriage and divorce, though sinful, were invalid because it was a marriage of two heathens” is incorrect. As shown by 1 Cor 7:13, the marriage between two unbelievers is never considered “invalid” in the eyes of God. God expects you to honor that marriage.

      Hope this helped.

      Like

  22. Matilda says:

    Dear Pastor Steven Kim, I married when I was 17 and that marriage lasted 7 years, ending in divorce. Then I married again at age 30 and was married for over 20 years until my family moved from the Catholic religion to a gospel Bible based church. This is when my husband and I made the conscious decision to divorce (even though we still loved each other and remain friends to this day) due to the fact we discovered we had been committing adultery in the eyes of the Lord because I had been previously married. It was NOT an easy decision! We both repented and I have been living a faithful and devoted life to Jesus Christ, my Saviour, ever since. Now, over 10 years since my second divorce, my first husband has passed away. Even though we have remained friends, I cannot remarry my second husband now because he has been married for nearly 5 years to someone else. Does this mean I cannot marry unless I outlive him? The reason I ask is because I have recently met a Christian gentleman. He has never been married (although he has had two long-term relationships). We are both in our mid-60s so the consideration of marriage at this point in our lives is mostly for companionship, although a sexual relationship within the bonds of marriage would also be welcomed. If it would be deemed an adulterous marriage however, then we have agreed we would not marry, nor live together, but would continue our friendship (no sex involved). We are eagerly awaiting your response. Sincerely, Matilda

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Matilda,

      Thanks for the very important question.
      If the man is indeed a Christian man (and has repented to God for his 2 long-term sexual relationships), then you may marry him. It is not adultery. You do not have to outlive your second husband for in the eyes of God, he was never your husband (it was adultery). Your first husband was your husband, and since he is dead, here is God’s Word for you:
      “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:39).

      Please carefully examine the “Become a Christian” tab of my website to review what it means to be a Christian, then make sure that both of you are indeed Christians that “belong to the Lord.”

      Take care.

      Like

  23. MJ says:

    Dear Pastor Stephen,
    Thank you for your posts, I enjoy them and feel they are helpful guidelines for wisdom in the Christian life.

    I know you’ve had many questions and I haven’t read them all but I have a question I don’t think was raised earlier at least the scenario I’m thinking of.

    I know that the topic of abusive spouses has come up, and no doubt they are tragic and I have no doubt that if someone must stay with such a person in marriage they should at least call the police every time they can. But I asked about this situation to a friend of mine, who is a godly man and truly saved and I’d love to hear your thoughts on his answer.

    I asked my friend if physical abuse would be considered marital unfaithfulness and he answered no, and I now understand it can’t be, but he did bring up something else. He said that in such a case, if the abused went to the church elders and asked for help, that they should then confront the abuser (which I agree anyone should confront the abuser and stop them as soon as possible). He then said that if they confronted him and the abuser refused to repent, he would then be subject to church discipline and treated as an unbeliever. And as far as I know (and I’m not sure about this) if the man refuses to repent (even if he says he is a Christian) and then he chooses to divorce the abused (which I know it’s contingent upon him choosing to divorce) then could the situation then be seen as one where an unbeliever (because he is unrepentant even if he says he believes) divorced a believer (the abused), thus meaning she could be free to marry?

    I know there’s a lot of contingencies there but I’m interested in your thoughts.

    Also, have you read and do you recommend Jay Adams book on Divorce and Remarriage?

    Thank you for being a light in Nyc. I used to live in New England and I know it is not an easy place. God bless you.

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      MJ,

      Thanks for the encouragement.
      No, I haven’t read Jay Adams’ book on divorce, but I did read his book on counseling (the counseling book was good!).

      As for your question, it has too many contingencies for me to answer seriously. (That’s the danger of hypothetical questioning.) I’ve learned not to answer such questions for the sake of all parties involved. It usually does more harm than good.

      If you have a real-life situation, I would be more than happy to try and prayerfully guide you. However, the hypothetical nature of your question makes it very difficult to answer.

      Like

      • MJ says:

        Lol, I understand pastor steven, that was a complicated post. I don’t have any real life examples, I feel at liberty to share, so I’ll just leave it there but thanks so much for responding. I really appreciate your articles, they are helpful in learning to discern a good spouse to marry. Thank you for sharing these truths.

        Like

  24. Don Quixote says:

    Thanks for your tolerance towards my views, I appreciate that. And I will not be offended if you choose not to publish the following:

    Please consider the order of God that Paul described in 1Cor.11:3, this order is not violated by the limited provision for divorce in the NT. In fact if you formulate divorce apologetics in a gender neutral fashion it actually dramatically increases the limited provision for divorce, and the resulting ‘Statement on Divorce and Remarriage’ becomes a very messy document.
    Alternatively addressing the subject in a gender specific way [as it’s written] will result in alienation from church and feminists.

    Like

  25. Don Quixote says:

    Could I say the point raised by Sojourner is interesting for a reason not mentioned so far in this discussion?
    Most of the New Testament teaching on this subject is gender specific, as in Roman 7:2-3. The exception clause is also gender specific in that it is only given to men, not to women. This valuable point is often overlooked in divorce apologetics, but it is vital to understand the topic. All the statics show that when a country has no-fault divorce it is the women who initiate most divorce, and christian divorce is no different from secular divorce. But nowhere does the Bible give a woman the authority to initiate a divorce.
    My apologies if this point is considered invalid by our host, but please consider the status of women during biblical times was nothing like today. We live in a feminised society, it is a curse.

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      I do not agree with you, however, I did graciously consider your comment and I’ve allowed it to appear on the “Comments” section.

      Like

  26. Daniel says:

    Question for Pastor Kim:

    This topic confuses me to no end, perhaps it is my emotional attachment to it that prevents me from thinking clearly. I am typically a clear thinker, with a back ground in Physics.

    Anyway, my ex-wife divorced me in 1998, with it becoming final after 2000, we were married for 14 years if you go all the way to 2000. We married in The Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The divorce decree states the reason for divorce was “Living apart for more than one year”. She filed for divorce and pursued it with a vengeance, getting everything she could from me and attempted to ruin me financially, and professionally. I attempted through a court ordered process to reconcile with her, which delayed the process, but she wanted no part of it. I refused to sign the divorce decree, even under threat from my attorney and the court, but stood my ground and to this day I never signed the divorce decree. At the time of the divorce I had my suspicions that she was seeing someone, but it was not until years later, that a patient of mine who lived in the town we had lived in asked in passing if my ex-wife had married the pilot that she had been seeing during our divorce. My ex-wife was a flight attendant. I haven’t talked to her or had contact with my ex-wife since approximately 1999, she is an aggressive and abusive person who attempted to keep me from our twin sons, but by the grace of God she failed. I obtained custody of our twin sons and raised them a few years after the divorce was final. Two weeks after I got custody and her child support stopped, she re-married a “good christian man” (Not the Pilot) who was also divorced and has been married to him since. They attend a mega-christian church, non-denominational and both are ‘very Christian’, according to my twin sons.
    One aspect that confused me during the whole process was she was attending Bible Classes, I would call them ‘fundamentalist’, not Catholic. At the time I was questioning the Church and Christianity as a whole, after all I was a “Science Guy”. After the divorce, I admit, I did turn away from God and the Church. Perhaps it could be said that they turned away from me. At one point the Catholic School upon order of the Court would not allow me to set foot on the school grounds where my sons attended. Early in the process I was barred from even seeing my children. I felt a bit like “Jobe”. It was a difficult and painful time. I have since reconciled in my mind and spirit with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but am still looking for a church to call home.
    I never pursued an annulment, but do have the paperwork in my top drawer, untouched, and have thought about it almost daily. I remained single until 2013, my sons were grown, they were 23 and had their own place, and I re-united with the girl I first kissed in high school, she had never married. We married in 2013, the marriage was performed by a non-denominational Christian pastor, although we were both raised Roman Catholic.
    OK, now on to the QUESTION ::))
    Who are the sinners and who are the saints in the above twisted tale ? I have spoken to a Catholic Priest, who said to me that my new wife and I were committing adultery in the eyes of The Church because I had not received an annulment and therefore could not receive communion. It doesn’t seem right to me, that we are being punished when it was my ex-wife who pursued the divorce, obtained the divorce and now is apparently happily attending church with her new husband. I just don’t get it, perhaps it is my Physics mind, for example take gravity, it is the same in every church, home, country continent, etc. it is a “Universal Law”, but trying to figure out the rules and regulations of every denomination, throw in county, state, and judge and it makes my head spin. Perhaps you can help. Thank you in advance.

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Dear Daniel,
      Thanks for the weighty question and thank you for bearing your heart out on a very public forum.
      First of all, I want to start off by stating that Roman Catholics are not true Christians. Due to their rejection of the doctrine of “Justification by God’s grace alone, through faith alone,” they deny the true gospel of Jesus Christ (see: Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

      A true Christian essentially is someone who believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ. What then, is the gospel? The gospel is: 1. God is holy, loving, and just. He therefore, must condemn all sinners to punishment in the flames of eternal hell; 2. You and I are all sinners who deserve nothing but God’s wrath in hell after our deaths; 3. God loved humanity so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus (who was fully God and fully man), to die on the cross for your sins. Jesus paid the debt for your sins and absorbed God’s wrath on your behalf; 4. If you repent (turn from) all your sins and personally put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord, God and Savior, then you will have eternal life. (For more information on the saving message of the gospel, click on the “Become a Christian” tab on NYCpastor.com.)

      As for your question, it’s rather straight-forward. Your first wife, is presently committing adultery in the eyes of God with her “good Christian man” second “husband.”
      As for you, the Catholic priest was at least right on this point: your current “marriage” is adultery in the eyes of God. If you had properly divorced your wife after you discovered that your first wife was now “re-married,” then, you would be free from that first marriage and clear in the eyes of God to marry your high school friend (since she was never married). The reason for this is the Matthew 19:9 exception given by Christ: a man or woman can have a God-sanctioned divorce and remarriage if his/her spouse was sexually unfaithful (Gk. πορνείᾳ).

      And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.
      (Matt 19:9)

      And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
      (Mark 10:11-12)

      However, in your case, since you “married” your friend without any proper termination (divorce) of your first marriage, you are, as the priest correctly said, “living in adultery.”

      Now, what can you do? Here’s the “tough medicine.” It is too late to sign the divorce papers for the first wife and then marry the 2nd wife. Jesus makes clear in Matthew 19:9 that there must be causation. In other words, the divorce must have occurred due to adultery, and the 2nd marriage should have occurred subsequent to the divorce, and the freedom from the first marriage as a result of the infidelity that occurred in the first marriage. All this is too late for you now. The godly recourse for you, therefore, is: 1. the forsaking of your current adultery, 2. life-long singlehood committed to Jesus Christ.

      This sounds like MIGHTY hard advice, but may God give you strength to do the right thing. I leave you with the following words from Christ:
      Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others–and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Matt 19:11-12)

      May God bless and guide you on this most difficult matter,
      Pastor Stephen

      Like

      • Daniel says:

        Dear Pastor Stephen,
        Thank you for your reply.
        The marriage to my first wife did end because of adultery, she was in the midst of an adulterous affair.
        The divorce to her did occur legally in civil Court, although I did not sign the divorce decree the judge did which apparently makes it legal regardless of my consent. Subsequently I gained custody of my sons which altered the decree, and I did in fact sign the decree of divorce at that time.
        Not sure if it changes anything, but perhaps at least it provides clarification.
        I do appreciate your kind words and thoughtfulness, may God bless you for your mission in Christ.

        Like

        • Daniel says:

          After some reflection I find your statement that “Roman Catholics are not true Christians” rather insulting, and in my opinion wrong.
          Regarding my first wife, I agree with your assessment.
          The Catholic Church has an annulment process which I plan to pursue, and I thank you for influencing me to proceed with that process. Once I obtain that, and there is no guarantee I will, I may choose to marry, but I will “Choose Wisely”, and will marry in the Catholic Church. I refuse to sign any Civil Marriage documents or obtain a so-called “Marriage License”, I believe in Holy Matrimony, not marriage between Church and State.
          As to my second wife, we will live as brother and sister, we have been anyway, and re-evaluate the situation after the annulment process is complete. If she leaves that is her decision, if she stays she may be my future wife, but I am putting that in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.
          I wish you well Pastor Stephen, and do appreciate your blog, and allowing a forum to discuss these important questions, we are brothers in Christ.

          Like

          • Gerry says:

            The reason Roman and other Catholics are not Christians, even errant ones, is that the Catholic Churches do not teach salvation according to the Scriptures. If a person is saved on Scriptural terms, they got it somewhere besides a Catholic Church.

            Liked by 1 person

  27. Sojourner says:

    Question for Pastor Kim:

    Doesn’t this statement from Romans prove that divorced people should not remarry?
    Romans 7:2-3
    For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
    So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Good question, Sojourner.

      What Paul is saying there does not contradict Jesus’ exception given in Matthew 19:9. For example, Mark 10:11-12 (11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”) has the same teaching, but minus the exception (just like Romans 7:2-3). Again, this does not contradict or negate the exception given by Christ in Matthew 19:9. The reason why I don’t think the exception is mentioned in certain places is because it was “a given” in the Mosaic Law that adultery had to end in divorce or even death (Leviticus 20:10). There was no need for Jesus, Paul, or the gospel writers to keep reiterating or clarifying that point. Hence, Jesus giving us the exception just once in Matthew 19:9 is enough. If it is in the Word, it’s in the Word (regardless the number of times it appears). Finally, I would recommend that even in the case of adultery, forgiving the guilty spouse and staying married is more Christ-like (i.e., Hosea). Again, thanks for the good question!

      Like

      • Gerry says:

        Where does one find one of these “Bible-believing” churches? Most except for rather liberal or modernist churches claim to be “Bible-believing.” I fear that I won’t live long enough to find one on my own.
        Just today the preacher was railing against Christians (both sexes) wearing “shorts.” several women were wearing “sundresses” that exposed their cleavage, the sides of their breasts, their shoulders and rather far down their backs. Some were wearing dresses or skirts that exposed their thighs when standing, so I know that when they sat, more thigh was exposed.
        Almost every time I encounter a woman wearing a low-cut top, she makes a point of leaning over toward me, displaying down between her breasts. Not just out in heathendom but IN THE CHURCH!!

        Like

  28. Jennifer says:

    Hi, I was wondering if I could ask a private question on this topic. Would it be possible to email me through the address that I leave?

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Jennifer,
      My intent with this website is to simply teach God’s Word. Hence, I will be glad to help you come to a better understanding of the Bible. I will not guarantee an answer to your question, but if you have a serious question on this topic, go ahead and leave your email address and your question. Again, no guarantees, but I will examine your question. Furthermore, your email will not be made public. It will promptly be deleted from the Comments section.

      Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Jenn, in addition to leaving me your question, I would highly recommend that you also consult with a Bible-believing church in your area and speak to a pastor or elder face-to-face about this most critical and vital life issue. Thank you.

      Like

  29. Seriously? Breaking up a family is a good thing? Abandoning your children is a GOOD THING? There have been numerous studies linking delinquency with being brought up in a broken home. So following your advice will make children more likely to become criminals. Thanks for the advice, I think I’ll pass.

    Like

    • flapjack says:

      The studies linking to delinquency, out of birth wedlock, being sexually active at a young age are indeed linked to broken families (most notably single mother families). However, shouldn’t you have considered these before divorcing your current spouse and committing adultery in the first place?

      It almost seems as if you are trying to justify the adultery by saying, “What about the children”???? Someone who cared about their children and believed in their faith would have taken this into account by vetting their partner well the first time and not initiating the divorce. And then not having children with the second, illicit relationship.

      Like

    • patti says:

      before we found the LORD we came from a mess. most of us anyway. we can’t always go back in time and “fix” all our mistakes. being “born again” is the starting point. NOW if you get married THEN you can’t get a divorce. VOWS are a very serious thing. yes, adultery is an out. if i married and my husband committed adultery, either of us may go to get the divorce, then i am free to remarry with the blessings of GOD. he or i being the one who committed adultery can remarry. there is NO point to have a second wife or husband and now run out and get a divorce. that is nuts. GOD forgives and gives mercy and grace and ask for forgiveness, stay married till death, and go on with life/church/GOD. now, you are comparing the homosexual union to the couple who remarried and, YES, they should stop their union and repent and either stay celibate or find a spouse of the oposite sex. lets apply some common sense to these situations and ask GOD for wisdome along the way.

      Like

  30. Don Quixote says:

    Hi Pastor Stephen, love your work.
    For an alternative explanation of the ‘exception clause’ please have a look at Once Married Always Married: http://oncemarried.net
    or check out the youtube thing:

    Like

  31. wyowanderer says:

    Wow-excellent explanation of this subject. I’m divorced three times, and single from now on. Thank you for honoring God with this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Iain L says:

    Read the Bible. Leviticus 20:21. “If a man takes his brother’s wife it is unclean
    ” Herod’s marriage to Herodias was unlawful because she had been his brother’s wife, which is why John keeps mentioning the fact. It had nothing to do with the fact she was a divorcee. (O imagine the fact that Herodias was Herod’s niece had something to do with it as well.)

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Iain,
      I’m sorry, but your reasoning is flawed. The fact that she had been his brother’s wife is NOT why John the Baptist kept on mentioning the fact. In fact, God’s command for levirate marriages (Deut 25:5-6) is proof of my point. Brothers were actually commanded in certain situation to marry women who had once been wives of their brothers. Iain, the problem was not because she had been his brother’s wife. The problem is the fact that, as John kept stating, she was still, in God’s eyes (even though she “had a divorce”), Philip’s wife–not Herod’s. In other words, if the divorce was valid, the remarriage would have been valid. However, God didn’t see the divorce as valid (even though the state did). Hence, John declared to Herod that his 2nd marriage to Herodias was “unlawful.” IF the marriage was legitimately terminated in the eyes of God (i.e., death of the husband), then it is perfectly lawful (and even commanded) for a brother to marry his brother’s widow. Herodias being Herod’s niece was also not the issue for the explicit fact that John kept pointing out the fact that she was his BROTHER’S wife. Hence, one can safely conclude that John’s reasoning for the illegality of the 2nd marriage had nothing to do with Herodias being Herod’s niece.

      Like

      • Gerry says:

        In effect, Herod Antipas (?) having his brother Herod Philip’s wife, Herodias, was a case of polyandry, which is not approved by God, in addition to adultery and incest.

        Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Leviticus 20:21, by the way, is a prohibition against sleeping with your brother’s wife. It has nothing to do with marrying a woman who was once your brother’s wife, but now is no longer his wife.

      Like

  33. Jon Modene says:

    Love your blog/writing.

    Agree with you on divorce and adultery.

    But . . . . does not the Word read differently?

    In my bible it says that the “exception clause” is for fornication.

    Fornication is not the same as adultery.

    Adultery is not the same as fornication.

    And I am not a Greek expert but the words are two different words in the Greek.

    So why say that any adultery is a license for divorce? Men commit adultery in their hearts. With their eyes. So that means ANY wife can legally, spiritually divorce?

    I think not.

    I think that any betrothed, unconsummated marriage (we call it an engagement in our modern culture) can be terminated with “no harm/no foul” to the offended party. But the sin of adultery does not in any way invalidate a marriage.

    If it does – than a Christian sinning could lose their salvation – for marriage is a picture of salvation.

    Why not just teach what Jesus taught? Married? Death is the only way to end your marriage.

    His followers were shocked at His teaching – and if there is an adultery loophole- men and women will find a way to use it.

    Like

    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Thanks Jon, for the praise. God gets all the glory.

      In response to your comment, I do certainly appreciate your high view of marriage and hatred against divorce. God has a similar heart, so it is applaud-able, Jon. However, as much as you would like to grant no exception for divorce, I cannot go beyond the words of Christ. Jesus said: “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” I am sorry. Jesus said it, so the exception stands.

      Like

      • kismet1412 says:

        I must agree with Pastor Kim on this, however Jon has brought up an interesting point that I myself am curious to discuss. Jon spoke of an unconsummated marriage. This sort of thing is quite rare in our modern culture, but it does happen. What would happen if a couple failed to consummate their marriage? Would we even be able to consider that a real marriage, without the seal of becoming “one flesh” i.e. sexual intercourse? What if that couple were to divorce due to the lack of consummation? Would remarriage to another therefore still be considered adultery, or was the original marriage invalid?

        Like

  34. I’m interested to see your opinion on this article which explains the Greek wording in the context of the two parts of divorce in Hebraic law — writing of divorcement and putting away:

    http://www.academia.edu/3622738/What_Jesus_Really_Said_Putting_Away_the_Mistranslations_about_Divorce

    You’ll note that Jesus uses “apoluo” for these verses where he talks about fornication and adultery specifically, whereas when he talks about the Father and letting man not separate he uses “aphiemi”. Likewise, Paul specifically uses aphiemi in 1 Cor 7 and not apoluo so there’s a case that Jesus is not talking specifically about “divorce” in the gospels but rather putting away (e.g. Roman divorcement) without giving a writing of divorce.

    That, after all, was the Pharisee’s trick to try to entrap Jesus on multiple occasions by pitting Roman law against Jewish law:

    1. Should we pay taxes to Caesar? If he says no, he’s subverting Roman law and they can accuse him to the Romans, if he says yes then he’s not a supporter of the Jewish nationalists and we don’t have to listen to him. Elegant solution of give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
    2. Should we stone this woman caught in adultery? If he says yes, then he’s subverting Roman law because they made it illegal for Jewish people to carry out capital punishment. If he says no, he’s subverting Mosaic law because adulteresses were to be stoned. Elegant solution: let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.
    3. Thus, when they asked Jesus for reasons to “put away” they’re pitting Roman divorcement (putting away) against Jewish/Mosaic divorcement (writing of divorce + putting away). Elegant solution: Let God put together let man not separate, and every man who puts away except for fornication commits adultery thus references Deut 22 specifically. He’s not specifically talking about divorce in this case only putting away.

    In this case, it’s Paul who specifically lays out the new covenant prescriptions in 1 Cor 7:10 if there is separation they should be reconciled to each other instead of marrying another. Thus, it’s a sin to not be reconciled; however, unlike the misinterpreted passages from the gospels Paul does not say that it’s adultery. It’s a rather big distinction as ‘adultery’ seems to be a hotbed issue, especially with it being one of the 10 commandments. This would fit neatly with Deut 24 where after remarriage the first husband cannot remarry that wife if she is divorced. This also neatly wraps up the gospels: there is get-out-of-marriage adultery clause. Jesus’ what God put together let man not separate stands.

    Like

    • Oops, second to last sentence should say: This also neatly wraps up the gospels: there is *no* get-out-of-marriage adultery clause.

      Like

      • pastorstephenkim says:

        Thanks for writing with a well-thought out question regarding a VERY important topic. However, I completely disagree with the article’s point (the article provided by your link). The author states,

        “Clearly, divorce is the result of sin, and contrary to the will of God. However, divorce is not the subject of Matthew 19. Quite the opposite is thecase. Jesus does not here condemn divorce; he upholds the teaching of Moses. What he condemns is the “sending away” (as in Malachi 2) withoutterminating one’s first marriage, and marrying another. We would call this bigamy.”

        Again, as my article states, Jesus is clearly going back and forth with the Pharisees about the legality of divorce–not some sort of “sending away.” Furthermore, Jesus does NOT uphold the Moses’ permission to divorce. Rather, he nullifies it and reinstates God’s original decree on marriage “from the beginning.” Verse 8 in clearly states the contrast: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” Then, Jesus lays down the law (nullifying the Mosaic permission) and says, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

        Finally, your own third point in your message to me is also erroneous. You wrote: “Thus, when they asked Jesus for reasons to “put away” they’re pitting Roman divorcement (putting away) against Jewish/Mosaic divorcement (writing of divorce + putting away).” Such a conclusion is not warranted from the 19th chapter of Matthew. The Pharisees are not pitting Jesus between Roman law and Mosaic law. In fact, Roman law is never even mentioned. Instead, they are clearly pitting Jesus against the authority of the Mosaic Law (verse 7: They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”) and Jesus, in amazing fashion (teaching as One who has authority) states that with His authority, he nullifies the Mosaic concession and makes all divorce (except for ones caused by adultery) a sin: “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery–unless his wife has been unfaithful.”

        Again, thanks for the question and the thoughtfully laid-out format. I hope I’ve helped.

        Like

        • @ Stephen

          Thanks for the reply. I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree on the first point then.

          “Thus, when they asked Jesus for reasons to “put away” they’re pitting Roman divorcement (putting away) against Jewish/Mosaic divorcement (writing of divorce + putting away).” Such a conclusion is not warranted from the 19th chapter of Matthew. The Pharisees are not pitting Jesus between Roman law and Mosaic law. In fact, Roman law is never even mentioned. Instead, they are clearly pitting Jesus against the authority of the Mosaic Law (verse 7: They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”) and Jesus, in amazing fashion (teaching as One who has authority) states that with His authority, he nullifies the Mosaic concession and makes all divorce (except for ones caused by adultery) a sin: “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery–unless his wife has been unfaithful.”

          Given the context of the situation, it seems clear to me that the Pharisees are pitting Roman law against Jewish at first since they are trying to trap Him. However, Jesus gives an answer they weren’t expecting: What God put together let man not separate. The Pharisees, not expecting that answer, then ask the follow up question which you quoted from verse 7: They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” as they were legitimately confused if that was the intent by God in the first place to which Jesus clarifies “8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to [d]divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.” Then Jesus answers the original question: 9 And I say to you, whoever [e]divorces his wife, except for [f]immorality, and marries another woman [g]commits adultery[h].”

          If you read the passage correct for what apoluo says then it should say:

          9 And I say to you, whoever [e]**puts away** his wife, except for [f]immorality, and marries another woman [g]commits adultery[h].”

          “put away” is not synonymous with “divorce” given how the Greek word apoluo is used in all of the other contexts of Scripture. Particularly, as I mentioned with Jesus saying man not separate he uses aphiemi rather than apoluo.

          Thus,

          1. Agreed that both Jesus and Paul make all divorce a sin.
          2. I don’t agree that there is lawful divorce for adultery: Mark 10 and Luke 16 do not have the so-called exception clause that Matthew 19 has.
          3. In support of #2, the Matthew 19 speaks directly to the clarification on sexual morality in Deut 22. That is husbands were able to put away without a certificate of divorce if the bride was not a virgin prior to marriage: this matches up exactly with Jesus’ statement in Matt 19, Luke 16, and Mark 10 — he who puts away, except for fornication (porniea — sex before marriage, or non-virginity) and marries another commits adultery (mochia — adultery).

          As you can see, this clarification neatly unifies all 3 gospels passages together: Matthew 5, Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 16 under the umbrella that Jesus was referring to the passage from Deut 22 and in the context of Roman/Jewish law. Paul’s discussion in Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7 stand alone and provide additional points of clarification to believers on separation and reconciliation.

          If we still disagree after this, then I’m ok with that. I wanted to present this argument so others could read it as well. Thanks for your time.

          Like

          • Lisa Conner says:

            I’m glad someone is on the same page with me. I had commented on a previous post from Pastor Kim. In the KJV version it uses “fornication” instead of sexual immorality. He was referring to the Jewish Customs and how It was frowned upon to marry a woman who was impure. Matthew 19 is interpreted highly out of context a lot of times. It doesn’t help that all these new biblical translations and versions are contributing to that.

            Like

  35. pastorstephenkim says:

    Dear Sojourner,
    I do not know whether or not you’re a Christian, but if you are, please find a Bible-believing church in your area and faithfully join it. It is healthy for your soul and it is an expectation from the Lord.

    Like

    • Sojourner says:

      All of the churches in Portland, OR are apostate. Many of their members not only approve or serial divorce and remarriage but they have members who not only cohabit but also go to strip clubs (Portland had the most sex parlors and topless dance clubs of any U.S. city). A christian is someone who approves of divorce, abortion and sodomy.

      Like

      • pastorstephenkim says:

        I am sorry to hear about the sad state of Portland. New York City is not too different! However, I will pray that you find a solid church to join in your city.

        Like

    • sanity clause says:

      Dear Pastor Kim,
      I am dreadfully sorry for your converts. The phrase “twice as fit for hell as you are yourselves” from Matthew 23 comes to mind.
      In one of those previous articles you link to, you ask, “what is the Gospel?” And you answer: “The gospel is: 1. God is holy, loving, and just. He therefore, must condemn all sinners to punishment in the flames of eternal hell”
      Well, of course a loving God must torture people for eternity for the sins of a finite and passing life. God is love, after all.
      Why would anyone worship such a God? There are drug lords that people do obeisance to for this reason: that they will torture and kill you and your family if you don’t. And this God who will torture you for all eternity if you don’t accept his lordship in this life is different, how? Bigger, I guess. But if this is ‘good,’ it’s hard to define ‘evil’ as something much worse.
      If that’s how God really was, I suppose I’d worship him in order to avoid those forever flames, but I can’t imagine witnessing to anyone about such a God.
      I say this as one who has known the Lord for 44 years and counting. And I will add to my prayers tonight: dear Lord, thank you for not being like that. Thank you for being a genuinely loving God, as we humans, even in our fallen nature, manage to understand the word.

      Like

      • Gerry says:

        All sins are forgivable upon repentance. The sin of remarriage after a divorce is forgivable upon ceasing the new marriage.
        The sin of ascribing the miracles of Jesus to the devil is strongly indicative of a hardened reprobate heart. We may not be able to infallibly discern such a heart, but Jesus could.

        Like

  36. Sojourner says:

    Thanks for the clear exposition. I am almost tempted to go back to church. So many of the churches excuse this nowadays.

    Liked by 1 person

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