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Churches Of Christ/Husband divorcing me because I was married before


Hello Brother Norman,

I am requesting prayers for the salvation of my marriage.  My husband of 12 years is going to divorce me because he says we are in an "adulterous marriage" or ďadulterous relationshipĒ.  He is unsure what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:31,32 "Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality (fornication)[e] causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery; this last part is the clincher.  What does it mean? Who is Jesus talking about?  It looks like the innocent wife is an adulteress and her new husband is also committing adultery.  
My husband says fornication does not mean adultery included. He says if Jesus meant adultery why didnít he say adultery? In considering the last part of the verse, my husband says if the traditional view is correct in regard to MDR then why does the innocent party by implication commit adultery when she remarries.
He was a widower when we married and my first husband was unfaithful. We are both church of Christ. My current husband believed the "exception clause" when he said his vows to marry me but now after 5 years of studying online he is sure we are living in sin. He says, according to Luke 16:18b and the man who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. He says we are in perpetual adultery and will both go to hell if we stay together.  He does not want to divorce. He does not want to live alone and celibate the rest of his life but he says he must be obedient to God in this manner.  He disregards that God hates divorce. He says that God only hates the first divorce not the second divorce.  I say where does it say these things in the Bible.  He says I am still married "in God's eyes" to my first husband who is now married to the woman he was committing adultery with over 20 years ago.
I donít think anything but Jesus himself telling him he is wrong and will be committing the sin of divorce will change his mind. But I am still praying and hoping.  
I just donít believe that God meant for any man or woman to live alone and celibate the rest of their lives.  I donít believe divorce to repent is the correct option.  Committing a sin to erase a sin is just not what Jesus would say to do.  I canít even make myself believe the same way he does. Any input you could give me I will appreciate.
Please explain "and the man that marries the divorced woman commits adultery".  Why would Jesus/God put something in the Bible that would cause such controversy for hundreds of years? I say that if Jesus did not say to divorce then it is a sin and that my husbands new "permanence view" is doctrine of demons.

Thank you and God bless,

Hi Michelle,

I really am sorry to hear that your husband of 12 years is wanting to divorce you because he believes you are both in an "adulterous marriage". The saddest thing about it is that there is no such thing.

I hope my clarification and explanation of Jesus' words will help him and you understand Jesus more accurately and help to save your marriage.

Matthew 5:31,32 "Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality (fornication)[e] causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."

First, "it has been said" refers to Pharisees. Most of them were teaching that a Jewish man can divorce his wife for any reason...just give a certificate and it's done.

Jesus is correcting Pharisee error on the Law (Old Covenant). Jesus is NOT speaking to Christians nor is He giving NEW COMMANDS. Everything Jesus says is supporting Deut.24:1-4.

Jesus is telling JEWS..."Whoever divorces(one time act) his wife causes her to commit adultery and whoever marries(one time act) her commits adultery(one time act)....UNLESS the reason for the divorce is "fornication"...when Jesus said "except for fornication" He didn't mean adultery. I am convinced Jesus was referring to the reason Moses mentioned in Deut 24. IF the reason for divorce was "fornication" (under the Law of Moses), then NO ONE would be guilty of adultery. Regardless...the adultery would not be continuous. But NOTHING in Matthew 5:31,32 and Matthew 19:1-12 was instructions to and for Christians.

Your husband is correct that fornication doesn't mean adultery included. What he doesn't see is that in Matthew 5:31,32 - it is the action of divorce which causes the "innocent party" (the wife) to commit adultery. The reason is that if her husband divorces her, she is no longer able to fulfill her commitment to be his wife. Her husband divorced her and sent her away. The man who marries(one time act) her who was divorced when the reason was not fornication commits adultery (one time act) because according to the Law of Moses, her husband should never have divorced her and his marrying her doubly makes it impossible for her to return to her first husband.

The majority of the members of the church of Christ would see you both as free to marry because his wife died and yours cheated on you. I know there are some who believe there is NEVER an acceptable reason to divorce and that divorce NEVER ends any marriage. This belief is just ridiculous.

Luke 16:18 is irrelevant just as much as Matthew 5:31,32 and 19:1-12 because they ALL are speaking on the Law of Moses.

You are right that two wrongs never make a right (committing a sin to erase a sin is just not what Jesus would say to do ever.

There is no evidence anywhere in the Bible or in recorded history that divorce doesn't end a marriage. Also, there was a widely respected Bible scholar within the churches of Christ named Pat Harrell. He did a careful investigation of the first 400 years after the church was established in the first century. He found NO EVIDENCE of anyone ever being told they were in an "adulterous marriage". He found NO EVIDENCE that anyone was ever instructed they must divorce and either remain celibate or return to their first husband in order to be right with God. He found no evidence of anyone who was forbidden baptism due to their current marital state.  To me, the fact that there is no evidence of these things for over 400 years after the church was established says volumes.

Consider as well that there is not one recorded event in the New Testament of anyone being told they are in an "adulterous marriage" and must divorce and either live celibate the rest of their lives or return to their first spouse. Paul covers marriage and divorce and remarriage very well in 1 Corinthians 7. Paul encourages celibacy but only because the church was being persecuted at that time. He points out in the first 5 verses that even in a marriage it is important not to withhold sex from each other for very long because temptation to fornicate will become very difficult to resist. In verses 7-9 it is quite clear that Paul says any man who is not able to live celibate should marry because it is better to marry than to burn with passion. In verses 10, 11 - Paul speaks of separation and not divorce. In verses 26-28 it is clear that any man "loosed" from a wife was at one time "bound" to a wife. So it should also be obvious that Paul isn't concerned with HOW the person became "loosed" (divorce or death of spouse). Paul clearly says if the one who is "loosed" chooses to marry, they do not sin.

I do not understand why your husband believes what he does and I have no idea whether or not anything I say will convince him he is in error. I don't see anything that says God only hates the first divorce and not the 2nd or 3rd or more.God hates divorce period! You two have been married for 12 years. Your lives and your marriage have been centered on God. I pray he will realize his error and your marriage will continue until death parts you. I am so sorry you are in this situation and my hope is that you two will remain married.

In Christian Love, Joe Norman

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Joe Norman


I can answer questions regarding acceptable worship, organization of the church, or any apsect of the Christian life. I am the son of a preacher and have studied the Bible from cover to cover since I was 12 years old. I am strong in my research skills and do not follow teachings of men. Many will label me as conservative and some might label me as liberal, but I just seek to be biblical. I understand proper exegesis and hermeneutics and apply them. My desire is to share my knowledge of God's Word with others. Please always keep in mind that none of us who are listed as experts here are divinely inspired and therefore it is possible to get incorrect answers from any one of us. Study the Scriptures and decide for yourself if what is taught is true.


I am the 4th generation in my family to be a faithful member of the church of Christ. I was raised by a preacher and have studied the Bible everyday since I was twelve. I am 45 yrs old now. I am not a "scholar", but I am very familiar with the scriptures.

member of the church of Christ, served as a Deacon for a few years at LakeShore church of Christ in Waco, Tx. I currently live in the North Dallas area and am still very active within the church of Christ teaching, leading Bible Studies, and songleading as well. I am also actively involved in online ministry. I hope to open my own webpage eventually.

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