If a man marries someone who lies about her right to marry, is he an adulterer for the rest of his life?


Dear Jeff,

I would so greatly appreciate hearing from you. I have read the material on your web site regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage. But I have a special situation I feel unable to sort through regarding a very dear brother in Christ.

He was deceived by his first wife. She lied about why she had divorced her first husband, so that my friend would believe that she had the right to remarry according to the Bible. After they had had a child, it came to light that she had deceived him, and that she did not have the right to marry again. When he found out, he immediately divorced her. He did remain a good father to the child they had had together.

Later, he met a woman who had been married and divorced because her husband had molested their male child. My friend felt that her former husband had committed adultery by his acts with the child, and that she was allowed to remarry, so they married.

When the church they were attending found out, they disfellowshiped both of them stating that my friend did not have the right to remarry according to the Bible. They said that my friend, being deceived into marrying someone who was not eligible to remarry, made him an adulterer, and therefore not allowed to remarry. They did not deal directly with whether the woman he married who had been previously married to the child molester was allowed to remarry or not. But only that she could not marry my friend because he was an adulterer as far as they understood the Bible.

Would you please tell me your evaluation of this spiritual situation? It is very important to me to have the correct understanding of what God has said in the Bible to apply to a situation like this. My friend is still faithful and attends another church, teaching private Bible studies that result in people being baptized, preaching gospel meetings in still another church, and doing good works serving others. His wife says she was so wounded by the church that disfellowshiped them, that she wanted no more to do with any church of Christ, and so stopped attending church completely. Recently she has returned to attending occasionally with her husband due to his good example.

Thank you greatly for caring to reply.


I can explain what the Bible says, but this doesn't stop people from making mistakes.

The man's first marriage was wrong because his wife did not have the right to another marriage. So long as he remained in the marriage he was committing adultery. He did so unknowingly, but his knowledge of the situation didn't change the fact that sin was taking place. He rightly ended the marriage and in doing so, he ended his involvement in adultery. This is the fact that the church missed. The reason a marriage cannot properly exist when a person divorces for the wrong reason is that marriage creates a situation where the two people are committing adultery. "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery" (Luke 16:18). When the wrongful marriage ends, the adultery also ends.

Since his marriage should never have taken place, he still has a right to a legitimate marriage.

In the second marriage, the woman's husband was involved in sex but with a male child. It is particularly gruesome form of homosexuality because it preys on an innocent child (I Corinthians 6:9-10; Matthew 18:6-7). She did have a right to divorce her husband and because of his fornication (sex with someone you are not married to), she was allowed to marry again.

Based on what you told me, the church they had attended made a grave mistake.