Can a Christian Remarry if they were Divorced as an Unbeliever?
A common assertion these days is the idea that if we were divorced before we were born again, after becoming saved we are free to remarry. This is based on the contention that as saved people we have become new creatures in Christ. Old things have passed away and all things have become new.
But is this kind of teaching biblical?
Actually, this teaching is quite unbiblical. First, it does not recognize that God’s laws apply to all mankind. For example, the commandments “thou shalt not kill” or “thou shalt not covet” apply to the unbeliever as well as to the believer. The only difference is in the response to these commands. The true believer earnestly desires to be obedient to all of God’s commands, while the unbeliever pays little or no attention to these rules.
The true believer knows that all of the commands of the Bible are to be obeyed. There is no statement of the Bible he would disregard. Therefore, if the Bible says he is not to remarry after divorce, then he will remain single. And this is true whether he was divorced before or after he was saved.
Secondly, becoming a new creature in Christ does not necessarily nullify the physical results of our sin. For example, a murderer is sentenced to the electric chair. While waiting to be executed, he becomes saved. This means he will never be threatened with hell for murder or for any other sin he committed. He now stands absolutely blameless before God.
But does this mean that now he can leave death row and avoid execution?
No, he still must be executed for his crime, unless he receives a very unusual pardon from the governor.
The same is true of a drunkard. Because of his continued drunkenness he is told he is dying of liver disease. But then he becomes saved. All of his sins, including drunkenness, have been covered by Christ’s blood.
But does this also mean that he will not die of liver disease?
Not necessarily. Normally, the effects of his drunkenness continue with him. Likewise, the man who has a messed up his life because of divorce can be forgiven of this sin along with every other sin he has ever committed. When he becomes saved he can know that he will never have to answer to God for any of these sins. But much of the impact of those sins remain with him. What God’s Word teaches concerning marriage and divorce still stand. Even if he becomes saved after he was divorced, he knows that the Word of God prohibits remarriage while his former spouse is living. Therefore, he will remain single as God has commanded.
This leads us into another question.
Is it really true that God expects those who were divorced to live the single life in total celibacy?
Isn’t that asking too much?
Surely a loving, forgiving heavenly Father would not expect this.
These questions can be answered from two vantage points. First of all, let us look at a marriage that was broken by God. Consider the example of a widow with five children, one of whom is a child with special needs. God has taken her husband by death.
Biblically she is free to remarry, and in the eyes of men, if any family needs a husband and a father, it is certainly this one. But in actuality, marriage for this widow is highly unlikely. It would be difficult enough to expect a new husband to become the instantaneous father of five children. But it is well nigh impossible for a new husband to be willing to take on the additional responsibilities of a child with special needs and cares.
Now, did God leave this poor widow in an impossible, terrible situation?
Surely God is perfect in His actions and His wisdom!
Therefore, when God took this husband by death God knew full well that the widow could continue a meaningful and happy life without the presence of a husband and father for her children.
True, it would be a life that would be different from what the world considers to be ideal. She would certainly need the help of others. And she would have to constantly cry out to God for wisdom and patience. But she would find that God’s grace is truly sufficient. In fact, she could experience in an especially dynamic way the reality of such promises as “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee:” (Hebrews 13:5).
So, if God’s grace is sufficient for those whose marriages have been broken by His own action, surely we can expect that His grace will be sufficient for those whose marriages have been tampered with by man’s action of divorce.
There is a second emphasis here that must be kept in mind. In our sinful, finite mind we think that because the intimacies enjoyed in our marriage were such a seemingly necessary part of our life, that it would be nearly impossible to live a celibate life after divorce.
“How can I be expected to live the rest of my life without any further intimacies with the opposite sex? Surely a good God does not intend that for me,” we reason.
But God is the one who has designed us. It is God Himself who has put the body chemistry within us so that we can enjoy the intimacies of marriage. It is also God who assures us that it is possible for humans to live very happy lives without the benefit of such intimacies.
God declares in I Corinthians 7:27… “Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.”
He adds in verses 32-34:
1 Corinthians 7:32
But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
1 Corinthians 7:33
But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
1 Corinthians 7:34
There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
These verses clearly show that there are some special advantages that are available to the unmarried. In these verses God is not speaking to a certain group within the company of the believers. He is speaking to all who have become children of God.
Jesus spoke to this question in Matthew 19:12 where He taught:
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
The strict definition of a eunuch is someone who is not physically equipped to perform the sexual act. But Jesus is teaching that some people make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. But He is not implying that they are to have themselves physically altered. Rather, they choose to live without the physical intimacy of the marriage relationship. In denying themselves this intimacy, they gain all kinds of new and wonderful ways to live to God’s glory.
True, the world in which we live has put an enormous priority on sexual intimacy. Listening to the advertisements, the novels, the TV programs, the psychologists of our day, we have been brainwashed into thinking that if we cannot have this kind of intimacy, we are being deprived of the greatest blessing known to man.
But this is a lie. God’s Word is the truth.
While God indicates there are certain blessings within the marriage relationship – particularly in the rearing of godly children – there are even greater blessings to be realized in the single state. This is what we learn from I Corinthians 7:32-34.
The single person has the advantage of having more time to serve the Lord by doing such good works as caring for the lonely, the children of broken homes, and the elderly in nursing homes. They also have more time for Bible study and prayer.
Married people should also be involved in denying themselves so that their lives might be as fruitful as possible for Christ. But it is in the lives of the unmarried that these ideals can be realized to the highest degree.
And it is this spiritual dimension that can make the big difference in the lives of widows, widowers, divorced people, and those who have never married. God has given this special comfort and promise to all those who are single. But it is only as they live in accordance with God’s principles that these added blessings become evident.
If the single person listens to the advice of the world, the feeling that the single state makes a person a deprived, pitiable, second-class citizen can be overwhelming. This in turn can set the stage for a fall into fornication. Only when God’s rules are followed can the life of the single person become even more victorious than that of the married person.