A Marriage without Sex–A Reason for Divorce?

Question from a Site Viewer
If a Christian woman asks for a divorce (after being married for 20 years) for reasons other than adultery and remarries will she lose her salvation? Will she ever enter heaven? If that committing adultery? If a married couple doesn’t have a sexual relationship at all is this not a reason for divorce?

Tim’s Answer
I appreciate your question. Sometimes life does not give us what we hoped or dreamed and we feel defrauded. And in a real sense we are. To be married to someone and have that person withhold the intimacy that is part of the commitment of a married relationship is to be defrauded by one’s spouse (1 Corinthians 7:5). I know that sometimes people translate the Greek word “apostereo” in different ways, but you may know that the word comes from a word with a root meaning “to rob.” Sexual relationships are part and parcel of what marriage is meant to be. To withhold such relationships is to rob one’s spouse.

I can easily answer the questions you ask. If a person divorces and remarries, they do not lose their salvation. They will not go to hell for such matters. I am confident in this matter. If what we do causes us to lose our salvation, then our salvation is truly on shaky ground. It is not our righteousness that brings salvation. Nor is it our righteousness that keeps our salvation. We are saved through faith in Jesus and His righteousness (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5) and we are maintained through that same faith in Him (Galatians 3:3-5; 5:1-14; Philippians 3:8-9). I know others disagree with me on this matter, but I believe Scripture is clear. Our salvation is by faith and faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9).

Yet, there is another truth that informs the questions you ask. The first and great command is to love God with all of our hearts, souls, strength, and mind (Mark 12:29-30). The second is like to it, that we should love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). If faith saves us and keeps us, love marks us as His children (John 13:34-35). Through love we are to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). And this extends not only to those who love us in return, but it extends even to our enemies (Matthew 5:44-48). Love is so central to Christians that John tells us that if we do not love, we do not know God (1 John 4:8; 16).

So the question is not whether God will strike us from His book if we divorce and remarry. The question we who seek to follow Christ should ask is much more complex. What does God want us to do in this situation? Our love for God drives us to seek His will on this earth as it is done in heaven. This is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemene. The woman in the situation you describe has a will. She would like to get out of that situation. Jesus also had a will. He wanted to avoid the crucifixion. But Jesus had another desire which was (and is) to please the Father. His choice to please the Father led Him to choose the Father’s will over His own will. That choice brought us eternal life. We all face similar situations many times in life. We want out. But more than that, we want the Father’s will to be done on earth and in our lives. We surrender our desire to our greater love for our Father. And in doing so we live out the gospel message.

I understand the devastation that unhappy marriages can be. And I understand that in such a situation we can look around and imagine a situation that is much better. But, ultimately, in my thinking, if we never have sex but we gain heaven, we are blessed indeed. And if we give up sex in seeking to please the Father and seeking to love the unlovable, God will not forget that sacrifice in the life to come. The Apostle Paul taught us that the sufferings of this life mark the life of the true believer (Philippians 1:29) and bring us incredible glory in the life to come (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). If we suffer in doing good and we take it patiently, we are commended by God (1 Peter 2:20). We each suffer in different ways. I know men and women who have longed all of their lives to find a spouse that would love them, but God never opened that door for them. They have lived out their lives in fear of God without a spouse. Others could have had a spouse but deliberately chose to remain single for the sake of the gospel of Christ. I do not doubt that there is a special place in heaven for them. I know men and women who have struggled with cancer, and have lived their lives out to please God and serve others. God will honor them. I know men and women that have experienced the tragedy of life-altering accidents and have lived out their lives in serving God, not allowing themselves to be bitter or resentful. The world is not worthy of these people (Hebrews 11:38). They are God’s special treasures. They are saints. When our dreams are shattered, and we continue to seek to do the will of the Father, we demonstrate in a real way that our love for Christ is supreme.

The question that I would be asking is not whether divorce and remarriage is an option, but whether loving the husband despite his failings is not the better path for the believer. The woman in the situation you describe is in a much better situation than her husband. It is always better to be defrauded than it is to defraud. It is better to be robbed than to rob. It is better to suffer injustice than to be unjust. And is better to be unloved than it is not to love. As a follower of Jesus, I cannot help but think that maybe God has brought that woman into that very situation in order to work out His greater purpose in her life. In surrendering her hopes and dreams to the One who cares for us all, that woman might find herself the most blessed of all women. If she chooses to love her husband though he does not love her, she is modeling Christ in ways that others are not able. She is doing exactly what her Father has done and would do (Matthew 5:46-48). She is blessed by God.

I do not say that a person cannot divorce and remarry. I do not think that such will consign one to hell. Saints in Scripture did much worse things. King David committed adultery and then killed his friend in order to cover up his adultery. I have no doubt he will be in heaven. Judah intended to have sexual relations with a prostitute, not knowing that it actually was his daughter-in-law. I have no doubt that Judah will be in heaven. The ultimate question is not whether what we do will, or will not, keep us out of heaven. The ultimate question is whether what we do will, or will not, please our God.

My encouragement would be to seek to please God. Let the woman pray to God about her desires and train her mind and life to walk with Him every step of her way. In this way, she will be like the holy women of old. In this way she will be known as a saint of God. And in this way, she will find a God who is delighted with her.

May the Lord Jesus and His Spirit give you wisdom in these matters, and an abiding vision of the hope we have in the appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

a fellow servant,


7 thoughts on “A Marriage without Sex–A Reason for Divorce?”

  1. The paragraph regarding the loving unconditionally is a visual picture of what loving the unlovable looks like… turning the other cheek.

  2. The only thing I would add to this which was not brought up is , why Is there no intimacy in this marriage ? ,,has there been council ?
    As a pastor I always ask those questions , there must be a reason either phiiscal or emotional ,sometimes both. It is not for anyone married to deny the other , we see this in Ephesians , there are many temptations in this world and a spouse should be restful and safe , not rejecting. So if this woman seeks GOD yes she will honor him , but there will be consequences in the relationship, she will always feel distant from her husband and that is a virtuous circle to live , I would suggest some counseling to find out more. But the advice you give brother Tim is solid and well in wisdom .

    1. Thank you Pastor Paul and also Tim. Both helpful suggestions with very biblical reasonings behind all aspects covered. I appreciate your advice for my own marriage.

  3. You never actually answered the question. “Yes” or “no”…. is a sexless marriage where one spouse refuses to have sex grounds for divorce?

  4. Our marriage was normal regarding intimacy until our early seventies. For some reason, I was not able to perform. I loved my wife and she loved me. It was biblical love. We continued to grow closer and felt our marriage was of God. We were truly one.

  5. Thank you for this!!!! It’s exactly what I needed in this moment! I’ve felt unloved for my whole marriage. It’s been five years. But this confirms what I believe God has been telling me lately. Especially the paragraph fourth from the last. Thank you so much!

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