Luke 16:18

Marriage, Divorce, & Remarriage
Luke 16:18
Intro: Contrary to some outlying opinions, the concept of divorce is found in the Bible. The Scriptures recognize and regulate divorce. There are certain provisions made for divorce in God’s Word. Therefore, we must do all we can to understand it and follow God’s directives about it. Even though the Lord has declared, “I hate divorce,” (Mal 2:16), we must not take that statement to mean there is nothing about divorce that could be anything but detestable to Him. God is a divorcee Himself! “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all of her adulteries” (Jer 3:8, NIV). If God became involved in divorce proceedings with Israel, it is surely wrong to condemn all divorce out of hand. Yes, it’s true that God hates divorce. But He neither hates all divorces in the same way nor does He hate every aspect of divorce. He does hate what occasions every divorce – even the one He gave to sinful Israel! He hates the results that often flow to children and to injured parties of a divorce. And He hates divorces wrongly obtained on grounds that He has not sanctioned.  And yet, sometimes, in some ways, divorce, for some persons, under some circumstances is altogether proper and not the object of God’s hatred. So how do we know the difference?

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

Recall from part one of this series on marriage/divorce that God invented marriage. Today we note that divorce is a human innovation. 

Since marriage is a covenant of companionship, divorce is the breaking of that covenant.

Instead of speaking about divorce as part of God’s original order/plan, the Lord Jesus specifically recognized it as a departure from the norm – “…but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt 19:8). In that same verse, He further observed that it was only because of their hardened hearts that Moses “permitted” divorce. To allow for or permit a practice is nowhere near the same as  

We must develop a balanced, biblical attitude toward divorce – on the one hand, hating all those things that God hates about divorce, while recognizing that in this sinful world there are those situations in which it may be necessary to obtain one.

Indeed, it is noteworthy to discover that in all the NT vice-lists (the word banks of heinous sins – 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21; Rev 22:15), selfishness, envy, and other somewhat unexpected items (like slander) take their places side by side with drunkenness, murder, homosexuality, and adultery – but not once is unlawful divorce mentioned. (Noting this does not mean for a moment that we should tolerate improper divorce, or any divorce sinfully acquired – we simply should not treat it as unforgivable).

Even after divorce has been forgiven, it does not heal all the heartbreaks of children and in-laws, or the parties involved in the divorce. Even when it is proper to be divorced, we must remember that someone’s sin caused it. At best, then, divorce always brings misery and hurt. That is why God hates it.

What did Jesus say about divorce among two believers?

In addition to our key verse, our Lord addresses divorce among two believers in Matthew & Mark. Matthew gets the longest treatment.

Matt 19:3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

The question to the floor was simple: “Can a Jewish man divorce his wife when he gets the notion?”

Matt 19:4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’
Matt 19:5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  

Jesus will answer the question with a “no.” 

Before He gets there, he outlines two reasons: (a) it was God’s design from the very beginning of humanity that a husband and wife would join together to establish a new household (b) they would become companions for life

Being soulmates for a lifetime was such a holy enterprise, that it must not be defiled or destroyed.

Matt 19:6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” 

God is so compassionate that He gave very narrow divorce regulations for His own people.

One clear reason was that He wished to keep people from doing more damage to one another than they might otherwise. He also intended to discourage foolish and hasty divorce proceedings. 

So, Jesus draws the line at no divorce for the people of God – what He has joined together, man must not tear apart. 

It’s just that simple. Believers, of all people, should have the attitude that “for better or for worse” was not just a wedding ceremony cliché. 

There is one notable exception. For the sake of clarity, we will read it without direct comment.

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

The Christian stance, then, is that divorce is never desirable, and (among believers) it is never inevitable. It can and does happen.

Reconciling is always possible for believers under the care and discipline of the local church. 

While permitted for Christians in cases of sexual sin, divorce is never required.

What did Jesus say about divorce among the unequally yoked?

He did not address it in His earthly ministry.

What did Paul say about divorce among two believers?

1 Cor 7:10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 
1 Cor 7:11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 

Paul specifies that he is simply following the Lord Jesus’ commands already outlined in Scripture (“yet not I but the Lord”).

He means, “I have nothing to add here. Divorce among Christians is off the table, just as Jesus already said.”

Notice that both “depart” and “divorce” in these verses leave a person in the condition of being “unmarried.” They were married, and then they were not. 

Why does Paul instruct the Christian woman to remain unmarried after divorcing her baptized husband?

He is not forbidding her to ever marry again, per se. He is saying stay unmarried to all others. Or he says (better still), repent right away and remarry the man you wrongly left.

If she does remain unmarried for a time, it is to allow for the possibility of reconciling with her former husband. Marrying a different man precludes reconciliation – it precludes obeying a command of God!

Paul is targeting a reconciled and restored first marriage. He wants these two believers to put their marriage back together in a brand new and more biblical way. 

Since all Christians have the Word and the Holy Spirit, we have all we need to bring about not just reconciliation but also an example of a truly godly marriage. 

What did Paul say about divorce among the unequally yoked?

1 Cor 7:12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 
1 Cor 7:13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 

“I, not the Lord” means, “I am plowing new ground with the following instructions. The Lord did not specifically address these matters.”

It is one thing to contemplate divorce with a believer: (a) there are resources (the Word and the Spirit) for both parties (b) there is a basic commitment to obey Christ (c) there is the process of church discipline if one/both spouses refuse to deal with the problems

Because of these, there is every reason to insist upon reconciliation among Christians.

But when the marriage is of mixed faith, none of the resources mentioned above are available to the unbeliever. We cannot insist on the same reconciliation between a Christian and an unbeliever. The same sort of hope does not exist.

Indeed, Paul does not require it! 

Rather than commanding the believer not to divorce his unsaved partner regardless of what happens, the apostle requires something less: he/she must not divorce a partner who is willing to make a go of their marriage.

The believer is instructed to do all he/she can to hold the marriage together for the sake of both the unbelieving partner (hoping he/she will be saved) and their children (who would then be subjected to a hybrid-pagan upbringing).

1 Cor 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 

This verse sounds mysterious, but it simply means that there is great spiritual benefit for an unbeliever who is married to a Christian. 

To lose a believing spouse, especially when the unbeliever does not wish to divorce, would be incalculable loss. God forbids it. 

He is sovereign, and this may be His strategy to bring this non-Christian to faith. 

The likelihood for an unbelieving spouse to come to faith in Christ decreases when they are removed from the home of someone he/she loves who also follows the Lord. He/she must not be put out of the place of holiness, especially when they want to stay!

Their children are blessed to be in the home of someone God has saved.

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

However, if the circumstances of sin are so severe, and the believing spouse has done all he/she can, and the unbeliever does not wish to go further in the marriage, divorce is an acceptable alternative. 

1 Cor 7:15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. 

Suppose the unbeliever wants a divorce? Perhaps he says, “I didn’t sign up for this. Christianity was not part of the bargain when we first married. She is not the same girl. She won’t lie for me anymore. She won’t party with me and our old friends. She reads her Bible all the time and wants me to go to church with her. No thanks. I’ve had it! I want out.”

Under circumstances where the unbeliever wants to get out of the marriage, Paul says, “let him depart.” You are no longer bound to your vows.

Truth to Apply:


The modern view of separation is an anti-biblical substitute for the biblical requirement of either reconciling or divorcing. God has only given us these two options.

Modern separation settles nothing; it amounts to a refusal to face issues to set them to rest. 

The world may have no way of solving serious problems in a marriage. Unbelievers will often choose this uneasy cease-fire.

But the church does have solutions to these problems. If believers will only avail ourselves to the answers in the Bible.

Of all its weaknesses, separation in the modern form disrupts the peace of God He intended for us. 

It violates the command in 1 Cor 7:5 to “not deprive one another except with consent for a time.” It disregards its warning against the wiles of Satan, and it sets both husband and wife in the place of unnecessary temptation.

Can separation provide a “cooling off period” as some claim? If by separation you mean “moving out for an indefinite period of time,” then the answer is, “hardly, since it constitutes a violation of God’s commands.”

In 1 Cor 7, Paul views it as often leading to a heating up of the furnaces when they ought to be cooled; marriage alone cools them “if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor 7:9).

Separation heats us a desire that it should not, but cools concern that it ought not.

The cooling off that does occur is so deceptive. It comes from a sense of relief from the previous problems. 

But nothing has truly been solved, and because of this temporary feeling of relief, it is very difficult to get the separated parties to even consider reconciling.

Often, one or both spouses say, “This is great. I have never had it so good.” They dare not rock the boat.

Separation is another means of running from problems instead of solving them by God’s wise ways.

Two people living under separate roofs will find it nearly impossible to solve problems that occur when they are under the same roof.

Therefore, separation only widens gaps that need to close and deepens difficulties that need to be overcome. 

Modern separation most often leads to divorce, not reconciling.

GCC’s Law of Unity: “Conflict is inevitable. What is important is that you deal with it biblically.”

illus: When someone comes to you and asks, “Did you know that John and Sherry are getting divorced?” how do you respond? Do you gasp in shock? Or, in deep concern, do you express a truly biblical attitude? Perhaps say this, “I’m sorry to hear that. Do you think we could do something to help them work out their problems some other way?” Most people don’t think that there is much hope when people have gone that far. But there is! Take it from a veteran pastor who has seen many marriages turn around. In discussing the news about the pending divorce, we should also remark that “if we knew the facts, however, divorce, while always undesirable may be the only option open to one of them.” Answers like these help others to look at the situation in a realistic, concerned, biblical point of view that provides a response that focuses on facts/data rather than emotions/feelings.