Remarriage After Divorce — Is it Adultery?

Question from a Site Viewer
There is one topic that Jesus talks about that I doubt I will ever hear in my church and that is the subject of divorce. Divorce is a big problem in this country and “Christian” couples seem to be just as likely to get divorced as non-Christian couples even though it should not be this way. What I read and understand from Jesus is that God wants married couples to remain married (Matthew 19:6, Malachi 2:16). Paul also says not to get divorced (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). I also read that if a couple does get divorced for anything other than unfaithfulness and then either the husband or wife remarries, they are committing adultery in the new marriage (Matthew 19:9, Matthew 5:32, Mark 10:11-12). My question to Tim is this: if a Christian couple gets divorced for any reason other than unfaithfulness, and then either or both remarry, are they committing adultery? If they are committing adultery, are they forgiven by God even though they are continually sinning in this new relationship? Since repentance is the turning away from sin and not wanting to do it (a change of heart and mind), I do not understand how a divorced couple that has been remarried is not sinning. In my mind, when Jesus said it’s adultery, I believe it to be adultery. This concerns me for several of my Christian friends because I do not see how their second marriage is a sanctified marriage. I have friends who try to justify their actions but for me sin cannot be justified but can and will be forgiven by God with repentance. I appreciate and thank you for your time in reading this note and hope you have the time to respond with your thoughts on this subject.

Tim’s Answer
I appreciate the question you raise concerning second marriages following divorces. If, as Jesus states in Matthew 5:31; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; and Luke 16:18, a person who remarries following a divorce is committing adultery, should not the person who seeks to follow Jesus stop committing adultery by breaking off the second marriage?

I believe that the answer from the Scripture is that the adulterous nature of the second marriage never justifies a second divorce. I am led to this answer by the words of Jesus and Paul. But I acknowledge that this is a difficult question theologically. Let me explain my understanding of the relevant texts.

Jesus in Matthew 5:32 states that the person who divorces his wife “causes” her to commit adultery. Now, she does not commit adultery unless she remarries or otherwise has sexual relationships with another man. Jesus, however, seems to presume that this will happen, as He states that the divorcing husband causes the divorced wife to commit adultery. I think this is very consistent with Jesus’ statements in Matthew 19:11-12 that not everyone has the ability to live alone. Paul states the same thing in 1 Corinthians 7:2-9. God created humans for relationship, so much so that He said that it was not good for man to be alone. Those who have been married and then divorced do not suddenly obtain a power of singleness that the rest of humanity does not have. It is because there seems in Jesus’ mind to be a presumption that the divorced one will remarry that Jesus places the responsibility back on the divorcing husband.

But what is this second relationship? We know from Jesus’ words that it is adultery. But Jesus sees it as being more than adultery. Jesus uses the word “marries” when he talks about the divorced person entering into another covenant relationship. The second relationship is more than adultery, it is a marriage as well. In Jesus’ view, there is a difference between this covenant relationship and simply shacking up. Jesus addresses the woman at the well and tells her that she has had five husbands and the person with whom she was with at that time was not her husband (John 4:18). Jesus seems to be calling out her moral situation, as well as the hurt in her life. (Given the context, I do not think it is a reasonable answer to presume that the first four husbands all had died.) Each of the first five were marriages. The last one was not. Marriages are sacred before God, whether they are conceived in sin or not. The God who hates divorce does not have an exception for subsequent marriages. It seems to me, if a person were to divorce their second spouse, they would be doing the very thing Jesus is saying not to do in the various passages. They would be divorcing and by this act causing their spouse to commit adultery with someone else. I see the thrust of what Jesus is saying in each of the relevant passages is “do not divorce.” Divorce is not loving to one’s spouse and not loving to the God of the covenant relationship.

What Jesus seems to imply, Paul makes more explicit. He writes to the Corinthian church, a church birthed in a city given to sexual immorality; to a people, some of who were fornicators, adulterers, and homosexuals (1 Corinthians 6:9). He tells them that in order to avoid sexual immorality, let each of them have their own wife and husband (1 Corinthians 7:2). He does not except those who have been divorced. He says that it is good if they remain unmarried, but if they cannot exercise self-control they may marry (1 Corinthians 7:9). He also tells them that if they are bound to a wife, they should not seek to be loosed from their wives (1 Corinthians 7:27). If divorce was the answer to adultery, then Paul had a great opportunity to command this action in this sexually active community. He does not. To the contrary, he is with Christ in stating that divorce should not be sought. And in making this statement, Paul like Jesus does not limit what he is saying to those who are on their first marriages. I presume that there were second and subsequent marriages among the Corinthians as divorce and remarriage was a problem throughout the Roman world. Paul simply commands the believers to stay with the spouses that they had. This, I believe is the Biblical command for any marriage, whether it is the first or the thirty-first. One does not rectify the adulterous relationship of a subsequent marriage by divorcing one’s spouse which will then cause that spouse, in the words of Jesus, to enter into another adulterous relationship. The best way to honor God is for a godly spouse to love and serve his/her present spouse.

I further note that in the Deuteronomy 24:1-4 passage, the second and subsequent marriages by the person in whom is found some uncleanness (which I see as sexual uncleanness in light with what Jesus says in Matthew 5:31 and 19:9), are treated as valid marriages. I find it most instructional that the second marriage breaks the first marriage in ways that are irreparable. God says that once the second marriage has been consummated, the first marriage may never be reconstituted. Such would be an abomination before God. Thus, the second marriage even in the Old Testament was more than adultery; it was a covenant that broke the first marriage.

I realize that this creates the theological problem of whether God is condoning sin. My answer to this is that Jesus is not condoning sin. But Jesus is dealing with the human condition. There is a parallel situation in the very passages we are discussing. God’s answer to hard hearts (a sin) in the marriage relationship was to grant divorce (an action God hates) (Matthew 19:8). God allowed divorce even though such fell short of God’s glory and was accordingly sin (Romans 3:23). It is better to divorce than live in bitterness towards your spouse.

If God permits divorce, something that is contrary to God’s expressed will; then it is no surprise to me that God permits marriage, which is something that God created and intended for people to live within. God’s answer to the human condition of humanity’s desire for sexual relationship is marriage. One’s desire to be married and have a family is no different for the 19 year-old divorced person than it is for 19 year-old virgin. As Paul states, young women will desire to be married (1 Timothy 5:11-14). The same is true of young men. Though the remarriage is adultery, Jesus presumes it will happen. Living in an unmarried state is not presumed in Scripture, except for certain people. Paul states that marriage is a better situation than uncontrolled passions. And, though the marriage may be founded in adultery, it can be lived out in a life pleasing to God; just as David’s marriage to Bathsheba, though founded in adultery and murder, was lived out before God honorably.

For these reasons, I say with Paul, if a person is presently married, do not seek to be loosed from the bonds of marriage. If a person is unmarried and does not have the ability to live alone, then let them marry. But if they can live alone, then the better course for those who are divorced is to live for the will of God in their singleness.

I realize many hold different positions on this subject. I provide you my understanding, not as the final solution to the many passages, but because I find it to be the most persuasive solution in my mind to the textual language. I find that other solutions create tensions in the texts that do not exist with the above solution.

I hope this helps.

a fellow sojourner,


Related Articles:
Divorce & Remarriage in Scripture

47 thoughts on “Remarriage After Divorce — Is it Adultery?”

  1. But the 2nd marriage would not be sanctified by God, so not recognized as a true Christian marriage. Therefore, adultery is the sin if they remain together. No adulterers will be in heaven 1Cor 5, etc. We should be careful about subjects pertaining to Salvation…satan loves turning His Truth 180. Remember, His ways are not ours and ours not His, His ways are much higher. We struggle trying to think like Him…we should just follow His word. The 2nd marriage is not a marriage to God, just a piece of man made paper pretending to be a Christian marriage…this is dangerous territory to teach anything otherwise. They are committing sex outside of marriage in God’s eyes….because of the original marriage, it is called adultery. We justify many things because we don’t like the Truth if it affects our lives contrary to our comfort, especially if we have to teach it to others that may not want to hear it…conflict can be ugly. Just teach His Truth and let others decide. Don’t spend any time on emotions other than sharing how much God wants to bless those that follow His commandments and love them regardless…but eternity is a long time to live regretting a bad choice, or a faulty belief. ‘My people perish for lack of knowledge.’ Hosea 4:6 God forgives us our ignorance on such subjects and turn us toward You, change our wicked sinful hearts to serve You alone, no matter the cost. You are worthy….Your grace is so sufficient. God bless us all as we see Your face.

    1. The scriptures show that God clearly recognizes a second marriage even of a sinning partner. Even if there is sexual immortality which we all know allows one the option of divorce even though reconciliation is prefered, a second marriage literally ends the option for reconciliation. Here we see God clearly showing a difference in treatment of a situation because of a second marriage. How would this be possible if, in God’s eyes, the second marriage is not real?

  2. I understand your logic. My problem is trying to reconcile what you say with Scripture. In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, God clearly recognizes the second marriage as a valid marriage, going so far as stating that it would be an abomination for the spouse to return to her first husband after a second marriage. So, a second marriage while the first spouse is still alive is viewed by God as a valid marriage. Jesus references this very passage in Matthew 19:8-9. In John 4:18, Jesus noted that the woman at the well had 5 husbands and was living with a person who was not her husband. Jesus uses the word “marries” in talking about a second marriage in Mark 10:11-12, showing that He viewed the second marriage as a marriage. And we know from Scripture that those who are married are not to seek a divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-13). Accordingly, I cannot agree with you that God would desire those in a second marriage to divorce. I understand your argument that since those who enter into such a marriage commit adultery, that adultery is a sin, and therefore the Christian should stop adultery as adulterers will not enter into heaven. However, the Scriptures drive e to a different conclusion. Jesus understood that most people are not able to live alone. This is what He says when He notes that those who divorce their spouses causes them to commit adultery. The only way this is true is the divorced spouses remarry. Jesus knew that they would and He places the cause of such adultery, not on the person who remarries, but on the person who caused the divorce in the first place (Matthew 5:32). These are Jesus’ words, not mine. The God who allowed divorce because of the hardness of hearts I believe also allows remarriage because of the weakness of the flesh, even though both hard hearts and adultery are sins before Him. He calls the remarriage a marriage. I think this is the way He views it. And if it is a marriage, then a subsequent divorce violates His direct command. Thus, I do not think your logic accords best with the Biblical instruction. In fact, by encouraging the second divorce, you would be causing the divorced spouse again to commit adultery, if I understand what Jesus is saying Matthew 5 rightly.

    1. God allows a lot of things, but just because he allows them it does not mean they’re right in his sight or that he is pleased with them. Divorce is sin period second marriage is adultery also a sin God’s own words not mine. God’s standards are very high and we christians try to justify our sins yes God is a forgiving God but he also is a righteous God who will not change what he has said just so we can feel happy about the wrong choices we make.
      Death is the only thing that ends a marriage if a second marriage occurs while the first spouse still lives that it’s not a marriage it’s adultery. You say God approves of this marriage because he says if a person marries-this does not mean he considers this a marriage in His eyes. Yes he knows we are sinful and will satisfy our fleshly desires, so he knows second marriages will occur but he still calls this adultery no matter how we want to see it.

      1. We do not disagree that a second marriage is adultery if the divorced spouse is alive on this earth. We also agree that adultery is sin and is not God’s intent. Yet, as noted, Jesus seems to assume that remarriage will happen, as He notes that the one who divorces a spouse “causes” the spouse to commit adultery. Paul says that those who are unable to exercise self-control should marry, and this is in the passage before he addresses virgins. It seems to us that just as divorce was granted because of the hardness of hearts, so a second marriage is granted because of the lack of self-control. Both are sin, but neither prevents one from continuing life in a way that pleases God. Divorce and remarriage, like a lack of love and empathy, are failings that show we are not yet made fully in God’s own image. The history of a God is that He uses imperfect people. Look at David and His many wives, including one he murdered to get.

        Do you not think that the Samaritan woman was married 5 times in the sight of God? Jesus called them all husbands, except for the sixth one with whom she was living.

        1. God is a JUST God. If someone was married and got divorced and remarried ignorantly not knowing scriptures they will be forgiven and need to remain as they are and sin no more but those who know scriptures and commit adultery need to split and reconcile to their ex or remain single. No adulterer will enter the kingdom of heaven it’s a very dangerous subject and should be felt with very carefully by Gods word and not human emotions and feelings.

          1. What do you mean by split (Divorce) ? to witch the writer explained is a sin also to my understanding.

          2. I’m so confused I’m freaking out. I was married 3 times before I ever got saved and I divorced my 3rd. I was reading bible saw dueteronomy. We spoke and got remarried and now he’s giving his life to the lord as well. Now I’m further in and worried we are both going to hell. The other 2 cheated and both were unbelievers. He did as well but I forgave him. And now I feel like I just need to tell him this to is sin and divorce. This hurts so bad. But the Lord’s will be done.

        2. Suppose all five of her husband were already dead during that time? This could be very possible; Of course the Bible did not give us anymore information than what is written.

        1. Malachi was dealing with a specific serious problem in that time with hebrew men divorcing their hebrew wives and then marrying pagan women.

      2. Love exactly what you said. I am right there with you sister dear.That is exactly how i see it as well. But my question would be , ( what about re – marriage to your original spouce, even though he DIVORCED me, and decided to come back, would that be ok???) Or is it considered abomination).

      3. I had to post this to back up Tim’s answer and throw more light, as some people seem to be struggling with guilt
        It’s a response from a site and I think it is highly appropriate, very correct, and a befitting answer, in my opinion.

        QUEST: Is divorce and remarriage considered a “continuous” sin?

        In light of its adulterous beginning, is such a marriage still valid? Jesus says yes in Matthew 19:

        You can read the full article here :

    2. So I have a if a man was force into a marriage because his wife got pregnant and she is Christian and he’s not but because she got pregnant she wanted to get married to look good in the eyes of the church..was that bless by God???…now the guy is miserable and he’d living like that because now everything was done out of now what is he to do ..???

    1. I agree. Thank you Tim for reminding us that Jesus makes a way when there seems to be no way. I love how you said Jesus was dealing with the ” human condition.” Your explaination is full of truth and has common sense. God bless you.

  3. Wow! This was incredible. I’ve been praying for some sort of clarity on this issue. Thank you for taking the time to write this out. I had been married for five years to an incredibly abusive man. Finally he left me and eventually I remarried. I think some guilt and shame lingered but not now!

    1. Now I can see how clearly that God wants me to embrace my current marriage. How he fully accepts and desires us to be completely committed. This may sound weird because of course I’m committed, but a part of me still wondered how fully accepted and precious our relationship was to God. Know I know.

  4. When we ask forgiveness and Repent, our Sins are forgiven. And remembered no more! By his Grace we are forgiven and made Righteous before the LORD, JESUS CHRIST!! There is only one unforgiven sin. One sin is no greater than the other outside of this. Jesus did not die for the perfect; But sinners

  5. Do not waiver in his forgiveness in any of these matters, for it is vain. Bottom line is Jesus said he forgives all sins. Everyday Christians still are tempted and fail; BUT THRu HIS GRACE WE ARE FORGIVEN. His death was not in vain, he laid down his life so we can be made righteous in Gods eyes .

  6. I too have struggled with this issue and quite painfully. My divorce was not a biblical one, and one which I did not want. The short of it is, there is a strong desire for companionship that is not met anymore. Divorce did not change that. The struggle to stay true to my vows is tough.

  7. So am I to understand correctly that if I am the one who committed adultery and remarried that my current marriage is adultery? Have I lost any hope for salvation? I have repented for my sins and went before everyone that I could possibly know was effected and asked for forgiveness.

  8. I couldnt abstain from giving my 2 cents here. But the person that engages in a dultery, divorces, and then remarries, has engaged in gross sin! That marriage isnt welcomed by God at all. On the other hand, God will allow the innocent spouse to remarry or stay single. It is that simple!

    1. I disagree.
      If God forgives horrible sins …then he will forgive the truly repentent sinner for this sin. Most dont know how 2nd marriages change you into wanting to please God w every fiber of your being…but there still being others that want to condemn and believe that God wont forgive.

    2. Why would God bless David and his marriage to Bathsheba? He was a godly man and took another mans wife and then had him killed? I think it’s very easy for someone that has been married to sit and point the finger at people that have been divorced. Someone once told me “you just didn’t try hard enough”. Even thinking about that now frustrates me. And yes, it was a Christian that said that. Until you walk in someone else’s shoes, please don’t be so quick to say “it’s that simple” because in fact it is not.

    3. When Jesus talked to the woman at the well, he told her all about her life so that she would believe. If she was married, would he have said to her “go divorce your husband because he isn’t the first one”? I am not a bible scholar believe me, but I refuse to live my life in constant grief and condemnation. I can tell you that I have seen time after time, Jesus has answered my prayers over the 10 years I have been married, and this is NOT my first marriage. I can list so many times that God has answered prayers that NO ONE has even known about that God shows me just how much he loves me.

  9. God will allow ANY bad thing. I was in an abusive marriage – he had a porn and drug problem – he said and did terrible things in front of our infant/toddler daughter. I fought divorce because I thought it was a sin. I prayed for change it just got worse. It took finally opening up to others and having my eyes opened to have courage and faith God wouldn’t abandon me through divorce. I do hope to remarry if it is right. And I am doing a lot of reading on this subject so thank you.

  10. I am one of these sinners. My circumstance was my wife took off to other parts of the world and I sat
    around for years. I was told by some that it did not matter that we had a piece of paper. Her leaving walking out of the marriage was a spiritual divorce. Yes I played up for a few years but on marrying my current wife I have found a better understand of Bible Christianity and repentance. Yes father God I am absolutely sorry for all and every sin. I try my best every day.

  11. Thanks Tim for your insight. Some of the comments following your explanation Lead me to believe that If one ends up divorced, “you’re a loser to God and He will not offer redemption and one will be going to hell no matter what”. So why bother being a part of the faith any longer after divorce . Going to hell anyway.

    1. Rob, Your comment reminds me of a wonderful minister who has to remind his flock that the Christian army often “shoots its wounded.” I believe any sin is forgivable if the confession and prayer for forgiveness is real. Jesus came to save us John 3:16. Not to turn his back on believers. Just because someone’s sin is different – EVERYONE is a sinner.

      1. Yes, all have sinned. All can repent and follow God’s laws and Christ’s example. All sin has already been forgiven and erased – but the believer needs to accept that sacrifice & gift!

      2. Yes…your feeling is common among 2nd marriages. But my think8ng is that God knows how sorrowful I am over my past sins and we have a forgiving God. I believe Im forgiven. No matter what anyone says. And I thank Tim for his scriptural teaching

  12. I am currently getting divorced after being married for 21 years. My ex was married and divorced before we married doe this mean that we were commiting adultery and our marriage was never right in God’s eyes. Where does that leave me am I now able to marry or am I in the same position now and can cause another to commit adultery?

    1. Ask yourself this; What is the reason for you getting the divorce. Do you happen to know the reason for her 1st divorce? Were they Biblical reasons? Search the Scriptures, one being 1 Corinthians 7.

  13. Ask yourself this; What was the reason for her divorce? And, why are you divorcing! Search the Scriptures, one being 1 Corinthians 7!

  14. My current husband was married and the divorce was verbal .he convinced me that the other party committed adultery in the course of their marriage .and so he tried to forgive her but it couldn’t work .So now he is with me .l struggle everyday now that l am a devoted christian seeking to please God l am not sure about the status of our marriage before God’s eyes .When we met l was just a Luke warm christian

  15. Tim, you have no idea how much your article has helped me from immense guilt and shame. I believe your explanation is the most balanced one. When the enemy tries to condemn me and tell me that I’m going to hell for remarrying, I will read your writings on it again, and keep trusting that Jesus has truly forgiven me. I have repented, but it does not mean that I should leave my second husband of 34 years.
    Repentance means to agree with God about my sin, be sorry for it, and never do it again.

  16. Tim cities Matt. 19:11-12 and 1 Cor. 7:2-9 that says it is not good to live alone.
    He cites 1 Cor. 7:2 and 1 cor. 7:9 that says to marry to avoid sexual immorality.
    And he cites 1 Cor. 7:27 that says to not seek to be free from a wife if you are bound to one.
    But if the so called “marriage” or remarriage was adultery according to Scripture, how are you truly, Biblically bound to that wife??? To me you are already free of that woman you claim as your wife as you were never bound to her in the first place as it has been adultery the whole time.

  17. In this order. I was married. I committed adultery. I was divorced. I remarried. I was born from above. And now am continuing in my 2nd marriage. My current wife is not a believer, and we are in an tumultuous marriage relationship. She is very abusive to me and my children.

    I do understand that I am to remain married for that is the situation I was in at the time of my rebirth. I am seeking Jesus for clarity on all of this.

    If I murdered someone, repented and was born again, I would not continue murdering for it is sin. So is the act of sex in my current marriage adultery? Why is this not so clear to me?

  18. God is both forgiving and just. In this life we must run from mortal sin. Deliberately offending God by continuously committing mortal sin cannot be forgiven. Breaking a first marriage covenant under Jesus by divorce and remarrying means you have chosen to commit mortal sin. Anything else is rationalizing to satisfy cravings of the flesh. If you still interpret the Bible differently, you better be right because in the next life, God will be just and hold us accountable for any unrepented sin. Remember, this life is like a grain of sand on an infinite beach. The next life is eternity. Wrong choices in this life can have devastating consequences which last forever!

    1. David had many wives, as did other men that Loved God…How could God say that David was a man after his own heart if David was commiting a continuing mortal sin every day by having so many wives?
      Surely you would consider having 20 or 30 wives as being more of a mortal sin as having a 2nd marriage?

      1. David did not sin by doing what the Law of Moses permitted, but a Christian sins if he follows the Law of Moses to do things Christ has forbidden.

  19. Hi Tim, I stumbled across your blog because lately I’ve been running into a lot of people in this “permanence of marriage” movement that teach that any second marriage needs to be broken up.
    My story: I was a virgin in the fear of the Lord until I married, waaay too late in life. I waited and waited and then I married a man whose wife had cheated on him, a lot, who would not come clean on the topic and fully repent, and demanded her husband separate from her. Eventually he divorced her, and she remarried. 20 some years later, he and I got married.
    I really did a lot of soul-searching before marrying him as I had no desire to become an adulteress. But from what I understood at the time, because she had cheated on him and was not repentant, it was his legitimate choice to divorce her and then he was free to remarry. Even then I wouldn’t have married him, because any two people could become reconciled — but she had already remarried. And from what I understood, she was then defiled and could not return to him, so reconciliation was off the table at that point. So I believed I was free to marry him.
    But then I run into all these people who dogmatically state that there is never a Biblically justifiable reason for someone to get married again. And hearing it over and over makes me feel like crap. For one thing, it means I can never have fellowship with any of these Christians unless I would decide to divorce my husband. For another thing, it feels really unfair. Like, I spent years waiting and waiting, and married this man with a good conscience. But all these people are so smug and certain in their righteousness because I guess they were more socially acceptable than me and were able to find a spouse who had never been married first, and were able to marry in their 20s to someone who had never been married, compared to having to wait until you’re 40 something which was hard enough… It feels like they were priviledged in the dating game compared to someone like me, and they look down their noses at all of us whose options left us with the second round of folks. But also, I dont understand either a God who would be so passionate about marriage that he would call divorce “violence” and yet simultaneously be a God who doesn’t care at all about the feelings (violence) of being wripped away from one’s spouse who happened to be married before. (In my husband’s case, he waited 26 years between the end of his first marriage and his marriage to me. A lifetime.). It seems arbitrary that God would care so much about first marriages and nothing about second marriages except to condemn them all. And THEN, these same people tell me that even though I was a virgin and waited and waited before my “mistaken” second marriage, that I can still never marry again. What are these people anyway, that they get off on binding such heavy yokes on others? Surely they will never experience the pain of what they are asking others to go through, I am just astonished though at the lack of compassion and mercy that they decide to be so dogmatic in the face of others’ pain and build their righteousness and doctrinal pride on the rampant destruction to other peoples’ relationships and lives that they smugly decree.
    I ask myself, can I imagine Jesus demanding that marriages be destroyed, even if they were entered into wrongly? If this is the same God that can make an exception “for hardness of hearts” under Moses, is Jesus really then less merciful than Moses was?
    So then I found your blog. And at least there’s a little bit of mercy there. Thank you for the cup of cold water.

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