Is it true that I can’t remarry after my divorce without committing adultery?


Author: Roger Barrier



Thank you for your column here first of all. In Mark 10:11-12 Jesus says, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." I am a Christian who believes in our Lord and Savior but I am divorced from my first wife and have remarried. Can you explain what Jesus meant? Thanks for your help and God Bless.


Dear Paul,

Jesus set out in Mark’s gospel a rather clear-cut teaching about divorce: Divorce and subsequent remarriage is adultery. I think He meant exactly what He said. It is not surprising that He set such a high standard. He simply was reiterating God’s divine intention that marriage is a partnership of one man and one woman for one lifetime (Genesis 2:18 and 2:22-24). In God’s eyes marriage is never to be broken. Therefore, when a marriage fails, to remarry is to commit adultery.

However, Paul, there is much more to this story. We will better understand the issue if we look at the context which led to Jesus’ statement in Mark 10:2-12:

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

"What did Moses command you?" he replied.

They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."

Jesus acknowledged that His Father allowed Moses to lessen the Godly standard. A “certificate of divorce” from husband to wife could end a marriage. Two rival interpretations were put forth in Jesus’ day to explain when a divorce certificate could be granted. The school of Hillel took the liberal approach and said that divorce could be granted for “any and every reason”—or without any reason whatsoever! The school of Shammai took a more conservative approach and said that adultery was the only grounds for divorce.

Let me share a few more thoughts on the matter and then get personal with your own situation.

In sorting out Jesus’ teaching on divorce, remarriage, and adultery Matthew also recorded this teaching from Jesus—but he recorded that Jesus gave one exception to the rule: “Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery’” (Matthew 19:8-9). Matthew quoted Jesus as allowing adultery as a ground for divorce. This is often called, “the exception clause.” Some deal with this exception for adultery by declaring that Jesus never said these words at all. They postulate that the clause, “except for marital unfaithfulness,” was inserted by a scribe when he copied Matthew’s gospel for distribution to others. Frankly, I have never read a satisfactory explanation that reconciles the difference between the two passages.

The word translated “adultery” is the Greek word, “pornea.” This is the root word for the English word “pornography.” “Pornea” is in no way limited to adultery. It includes any sort of illicit sexual behaviors from reading pornographic materials to bestiality and everything in between.

Paul laid down the rules for divorce in the Christian community. I wonder, if while believing one man and one woman for one lifetime, he also yielded to the “hardness of hearts” in outlining divorce and remarriage rules for Christians (1 Corinthians Seven). Let me refer you to my previous Ask Roger answer, “How Do We Handle Divorce and Remarriage Issues in Our Church?” for a more detailed discussion of the “rules” for divorce and remarriage.

Let me give you a quick summary of Paul’s teachings.

First, “pornea” is always grounds for divorce. However, just because one partner is guilty of “pornea” does not automatically mean a divorce should proceed. Paul advised that the marriage may well be salvaged through counseling, prayer and a short separation to allow heated emotions to subside.

Second, a Christian whose partner commits sexual improprieties is free to remarry. Unfortunately, the guilty party seems left in a “limbo state” where remarriage would be considered adultery.

Third, Christians married to non-Christians are to remain married as long as the unbeliever wants to stay. If the unbeliever wants a divorce then the divorce proceeds and the Christian is free to remarry.

Fourth, Biblical grounds for divorce always include the right to remarry.

Paul, let’s get personal for a moment. I don’t know the circumstances of your situation; but, if your first marriage partner was guilty of “pornea” then you unquestionably have grounds for divorce; don’t worry that you are committing adultery. Enjoy your remarriage.

On the other hand, if you were the guilty party—or, if neither of you committed “pornea” and the marriage failed for other reasons, then look to John 8 for guidance. Jesus acknowledged the sin of the woman caught in adultery, forgave her, restored her, and told her not to commit adultery any more.

A state of adultery need not go on forever. Confess to God your part in the marriage failure and receive His forgiveness. Then, pick up the pieces, go on with your life, and don’t worry about it again.

I hope this answer is helpful. Have a great remarriage and may you live happily ever after in Christ.

Love, Roger

Read "How Do I Handle Divorce and Re-marriage Issues in my Church?"




My new husband married me 5 years ago while living in Malaysia. He now is saying that because I was divorced when he married me he has committed adultery and this gives him grounds to divorce me. However he told me to divorce my former husband so that I could marry him and sponsor him to Canada. Now he is using my divorce from the previous marriage as grounds for dicorcing me now after our 5 year marriage. I feel this is truly unfair and can not be right. This marriage break down has been happening just a couple weeks after my husband became a canadian citizen. We have had our problems, but still he said he would love me forever and never leave, but married me for life. My heart is grieved by this. Pleas any advise for me on how to cope with this.
Shelley-Jo Abidoye , 01/25/11 07:05 PM
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Westeart neaxiceseeake , 12/28/11 12:55 PM
You say that if a spouse commits adultery then it is okay for the other spouse to remarry. However i dont think the bible says that ,I do think that the way things are worded leads one to assume that that may be the case but it is never said. In fact in other scriptures the bible says - "Mark 10:11-12 [Jesus] answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
Of course you will answer back with Matthew 19 8 "Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
So you are assuming that in verse matthew 19:9 that since it mentions his wife commiting adultery and then remarriage afterward that that it is okay if it happens because of adultery . I however look at it in a different context. It does not say that it is okay to remarry if adultery has been committed it says if a man divorces his wife for any other reason than adultery Commits adultery, and if he remarries he is also committing adultery. Jesus is answering them about moses permitting them to divorce and remarry. I just don't believe that any preacher should ever tell anyone that it is okay if your spouse has committed adultery that you can remarry. The bible does not say that. I would tell people that they should seek the spirit of god and ask him. After my 38 years here on earth and many years of prayer and experiences in life i do not believe that jesus was giving the okay to remarry in the case of adultery. But he knows that i just wrote this so lets ask his spirit which is aware of this website. Please oh lord and savior jesus the son of the creator. Shed irrefutable light to this discussion to all who are involved in any way. In jesus name i ask Amen.
Sam Hobson , 01/29/12 09:41 AM
I cheated on my husband and his next line of action is to put me out of his life,house and fill for a divorce. After so much plea and remorse for my action, he agree that i stay but he said i should be ready to face the wrath of my action like him becoming a flirt, not showing any commitment, no more trust and so on. What do i do please or what do you advise?
OLA OLLY , 01/22/13 08:06 AM