Question:

Hi Jeff,

I talked about the subject of divorce and remarriage with a preacher. I listened to what he said carefully but couldn't prove him wrong. I don't want to let my biases get in the way, but we're not in agreement. I told him I won't preach on the subject in the pulpit out of respect for him, but I wouldn't teach his position on this topic to someone in private. His sincere concern in that, although not in the pulpit, I would teach someone "false" information on marriage and put them and myself in jeopardy.

His position is: once somebody divorces their spouse because of adultery, they are divorced in the Lord's eyes, and no longer husband and wife. Therefore, Matthew 5:32 restricts the guilty spouse from remarrying anyone, including the former spouse. He also said that I Corinthians 7:10-11 isn't applicable here because Paul is discussing a divorce for non-adulterous reasons (reason being that they have to remain unmarried). Thus, he said that what God decides in regards to the consequence of the guilty spouse is not up for debate.

We didn't progress in our discussion. I don't see where his argument can be completely invalid. Can you help me see any inconsistencies there might be in his point? I want to be clear in my mind.

Thanks


Answer:

I had to think about this for a while. Something kept nagging me in the back of my mind and I finally realized what it was this evening. The problem is that the preacher is not considering all the verses on divorce and remarriage. He only focuses on "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32). But there is a similar verse in Matthew 19 that contains additional information that is repeated in the parallel accounts:

"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 19:9).

"So He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10:11-12)

"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery" (Luke 16:18).

The Greek word heteros means "someone different" in this context. Jesus is not precluding a return to the spouse after a divorce, whether the cause was fornication (Matthew 19:9) or not (Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18).