God created marriage to glorify himself and to be the foundation for families and raising children. The relationship also provides for the physical and emotional needs of men, women, and children in many practical and spiritual ways. Yet, marriages sometimes end. This leads many people to wonder if God will bless a second marriage.
Historically, Christian traditions haven’t agreed on the answer to this question. Catholicism has taught that if a person’s first marriage ended in divorce, God won’t bless a second one. Many Protestant traditions hold that since there are biblically justifiable grounds for divorce, God can bless a second marriage.
What are the basic views on the topic of remarriage? Why is there widespread disagreement about remarriage in Christianity? Do Christian traditions agree about remarriage when a person’s first spouse dies? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Divorce and remarriage in Christianity
Remarriage is a highly debated topic in Christianity and has been for two thousand years. Not only do people in different traditions often disagree with each other, but it’s not uncommon for people in the same tradition to not agree. Some churches hold to strict parameters for remarriage, which other traditions consider legalistic. Other churches affirm certain freedoms regarding remarriage, which other traditions consider licentious.
Why is there widespread disagreement about remarriage in Christianity? Part of the reason why there is widespread disagreement about remarriage is because there is significant conflict about the permissibility of divorce and on what grounds. Catholicism has historically taught that marriage can’t be dissolved. Protestants generally believe it can be, but sometimes disagree about which grounds are permissible. If two traditions, denominations, churches, or individuals disagree about the validity of a divorce, they will surely not agree on the validity of remarriage after divorce.
Do Christian traditions agree about remarriage when a person’s first spouse dies? There is more agreement about remarriage when a first marriage ends because of the death of a spouse, but even then there isn’t universal agreement. For example, the early church father Tertullian (155-220), believed that remarriage was wrong even when a person’s first spouse died. Yet, most disagreements concern when divorce occurs between two spouses that are still living.
Why do Catholicism and Protestantism disagree on remarriage? In general, the disagreement comes from the Catholic Church’s belief that marriage is a sacrament, which makes it a channel of God’s grace (along with baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, and other practices). The consequences of violating a sacrament are of great significance. Protestantism contains only two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The Westminster Confession, which is a Reformed belief statement that some Protestants look to for guidance, reads, “In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce, and after the divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.” (Chapter 24, Section 5)
What are the basic views on the topic of remarriage? Some believe that remarriage after divorce is never permitted, though God will forgive guilty parties. Others believe that remarriage is permitted only when a person’s first marriage ended in a biblically justifiable divorce, like adultery (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:9). A third common view is that remarriage is permissible in general because of God’s grace and forgiveness regarding divorce.
“I am convinced that if a strict view on divorce and remarriage were taught in our churches, there would be fewer divorces among believers. Marriage would be entered into with more caution, and marriage partners would seek to preserve that union at all cost.” Carl Laney, The Divorce Myth, p. 123
10 Important Bible Verses about God, Marriage, and Divorce
- Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
- Luke 16:18, “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”
- Matthew 5:32, “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
- 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, “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.”
- 1 Corinthians 7:15, “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”
“Even adultery is not the unforgiveable sin. It is a terrible sin, but God forbid that there should be anyone who feels that he or she has sinned himself or herself outside the love of God or outside His kingdom because of adultery. No; if you truly repent and realize the enormity of your sin and cast yourself upon the boundless love and mercy and grace of God, you can be forgiven and I assure you of pardon. But hear the words of our blessed Lord: “Go and sin no more.” ~ Pastor and theologian Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
- Matthew 19:9, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
- Malachi 2:16, “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
- Romans 7:2, “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.”
- Matthew 5:31-32, “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
“Marriage is not a mere civil thing, but is partly spiritual and Divine, and therefore God alone has the power to appoint the beginning, the continuance, and the end thereof.” ~ Author A.W. Pink
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