Why is it written that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery?


How do you comment the Bible verses that say that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery?

This statement is mentioned by the Lord Jesus several times in the New Testament when talking about the sin of adultery.

The context defines the meaning

For the first time this statement is found in chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus said the following about the sin of adultery:

You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:27-32)(NASB)

The whole passage shows what is adultery and how serious its consequences are, one of them is divorce, or separation. Adultery is a reason for a man to leave his wife, and if a man leaves his wife out of the grounds of adultery, he makes her commit adultery. If he divorces because she has committed adultery, whoever will marry this woman will commit adultery because he marries a woman who has committed adultery.

The Law for divorce

This thing is seen best when looking at Old Testament passages that Jesus made reference to when He reminded the certificate of divorce. That passage regulates the divorce cases and it says the following:

When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife. (Deuteronomy 24:1-2)(NASB)

When the Pharisees wanted to know what reasons for divorce involve this commandment they asked:

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 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’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9)(NASB)

This passage shows that God called the man to give his woman this certificate of divorce just to protect her against his husband’s hardened heart, seeking any reason to divorce her, as the Pharisees said in the beginning of their discussion with the Savior. That’s why God asks the man with a hardened heart to give his wife a certificate of divorce, i.e. a document, a certificate under which the woman could remarry and God allowed this woman to remarry without saying that the man who remarried her would do something wrong. Lord Jesus specifies that a man commits adultery only if he marries a woman left by her husband because she has committed adultery.

The principle applies to men too

In the Gospel of Mark Lord Jesus added:

And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)(NASB)

So, let no one believe that only the man who marries a woman divorced on grounds of adultery commits adultery. The woman who agrees to marry a man who was left by his wife because of adultery also commits adultery.

How does this principle apply to Christians who are remarried?

It is normal that the reader may ask another question: How do these principles apply to a woman or a man who divorced because of the adultery s/he had committed before, but then s/he turned to God wholeheartedly, entered into the New Covenant with Jesus and now live in complete obedience to Him? Can they remarry? Will the person who accepts to enter into marriage with such a Christian commit adultery? No way.

Everyone who turned to God with all his heart, if s/he entered into the New Covenant and was born again, then s/he became a new creation, as the Scripture says:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)(NASB)

He who returned to the Lord is free to start a family in the Lord and the one who will marry with that Christian will not commit adultery, because he does not marry the immoral of the other time, but the man or the woman who have become a new creation in Christ. The old things passed away; behold new things have come.

Translated by Felicia Rotaru