There seems to be a difference of opinion as to whether a divorced Christian can ever remarry. When, and under what conditions, is this permissible?

It is difficult to sort out Jesus’ teaching on this, partly because, when he addressed the problem, it was in the context of settling a dispute between different rabbinical schools of the day. The religious scholars came to Jesus and asked about the lawfulness of divorcing—a man divorcing his wife for this cause or that cause. Jesus, in responding to that, reminded the Pharisees that Moses did give a provision for divorce in the Old Testament, but that at the same time the original design for marriage did not include the concept of divorce. He acknowledged Moses’ provision, but he’s not rebuking Moses for doing that, for Moses was simply an agent of God at that point. So God, in the old covenant, did clearly give provision for divorce.

However, because Jesus speaks to that and reminds them that the original purpose was no divorce, some have concluded that what Jesus was doing was removing the Old Testament provision for divorce and saying that there’s no justification for divorce whatsoever.

Now how you view divorce will have tremendous bearing on how you view the question of remarriage. If you take the position that divorce is never legitimate, then you would have to say that the remarriage of a divorced person is never legitimate either. So before you can talk about the legitimacy of remarriage, you first have to settle whether or not there are any legitimate grounds for divorce. I take the position that there are in fact legitimate grounds for divorce: Sexual infidelity is one, and the other one is separation of the unbeliever. Paul says that if an unbelieving spouse wants out and departs, the believer is then free. Now he doesn’t define what free is. Does that mean free just to let him go and then live a life of celibacy and singleness? Some people take that view. I think that Paul means free from the marriage contract, from the oaths and obligations; that person is now considered single and, I would say, free to remarry.

So I take the position that an innocent party in divorce is free to remarry. Now, when we say innocent or guilty, we recognize that everybody contributes to the breakdown of a marriage. By “guilty party” I mean the one who committed the sin serious enough to dissolve the marriage. But I would also say that even the guilty party can get remarried if there is authentic repentance.

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©1996 by R.C. Sproul. Used by permission of Tyndale.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.