By Rev.Ted Pike
13 Aug 12

Barna Research reports that the divorce rate of those who call themselves evangelical Christians is now identical to the world's. At the same time, legalistic extremes on the subject are gaining popularity among many fundamentalist believers.

In this article, I will consider the true Christian standards concerning divorce and remarriage as enunciated primarily by Jesus. Although Jesus' statements on the subject are terse in the extreme and usually misunderstood, I believe that, as we carefully explain what He did and did not teach, we will see that God's law on marriage and divorce is clear and simple.

I will also refute particularly legalistic and oppressive views on remarriage espoused by popular Calvinist Bible teacher and author John Piper. Piper, an author of many books including the famous Desiring God, is a leading authority for Christians seeking deeper spirituality. His position paper on divorce and remarriage may be found on the Internet under the title "Divorce and Remarriage: A Position Paper," click here.

Here are Piper's two primary errors. He believes:

  1. That marriage is so sacred that adultery cannot dissolve it, only death. Thus, the innocent spouse from an adulterous marriage remains one flesh with the adulterous partner until death.

  2. That the innocent spouse from an adulterous marriage, even after divorce, commits adultery if he or she remarries.

What is Jesus' response to Piper's claim that adultery does not dissolve marriage? In Matthew 19:9 He says: "Whosoever shall put away [divorce] his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery." "Porneia" is Greek for "fornication" in this verse. Thayer's Lexicon defines it as "fornication" and "illicit sexual intercourse in general." Jesus does not say it is sin to separate/divorce as long as both partners remain single. In fact, to remove one's self from financial and legal obligations to one's estranged spouse, even a Christian may have to go through divorce court. Nevertheless, He is saying remarriage by one partner is adultery. The man and his original wife are still one flesh in God's eyes.

Regardless of a divorce court's decree, the bond of marriage continues unless there is sexual union by one of the partners with another individual (adultery). Incompatibility, spiritual backsliding, mental or physical abuse, lack of sexual satisfaction, pornography addictions, etc. by a partner do not free one to remarry.

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