Churches Of Christ/adultery, and remarriage


I was reading a essay written by a coc preacher saying that adultery laws in the bible does applied equally to both men and women. He says if a wife ever divorced against god,s law she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled back to her husband.He says that if the husband is dead she is only at liberty to marry in the lord. He quote's Mt5:32,19:9,Mk1611,12 Lk:16:18,1Cor7:39,1Co7:10,11Rom7:2.3. Your thought's on this.

Hi Garry,

I would like to read the whole essay from the church of Christ preacher but I will share my response to what you did share with me. First, the teaching is based more on assumptions than what the scriptures actually say and also, he is making the same major mistake so many within the Lord's church are making on this topic. They are combining Old Covenant teachings with New Covenant teachings.

I would like to ask you and especially this preacher some questions and the first question I have is this: Where are the New Testament instructions on how to perform a marriage ceremony for Christians? Another question: Are the only marriages that are recognized by God the ones performed by a church of Christ minister?

It just seems to me that people forget some facts. One fact is that there are no instructions given to Christians regarding how to perform a "Christian" wedding. There are no instructions regarding how to officially give a "Christian" divorce.  I believe there is a reason for this too. The reason is that God knew Christians would be made in different countries and cultures and that each country and culture would have their own way of performing wedding ceremonies and for filing for divorce. We are to submit to the laws of the land we live in so long as they do not contradict God's Word.

Now let me examine the scriptures that the preacher used and my hope is that it will help you to see the preacher's error and better understand the truth of God's Word.

First, he quoted from Matthew 5:32. I believe we should examine 31 and 32 together.
Matthew 5:31, 32
31 "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 causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

If you examine the whole chapter, you clearly see that Jesus is consistently correcting Pharisee error regarding the Old Covenant Law. This is no different. As you probably know, in the time of Jesus, there were two main schools of teaching on divorce and remarriage among the Pharisees. There was the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. Shammai taught that the Jewish man could only divorce his wife for the reason Moses gave in Deuteronomy 24.

They did not have one specific cause for divorce that was authorized but made it clear that divorce would only be done for a serious offense to the marriage covenant. The reason Moses gave is also not limited to just one cause but it was clearly a serious offense. The Hebrew word is "ervah" and covers more than one thing. It was something shameful and which causes the wife to lose favor in the eyes of the husband but it is not adultery because that would result in being stoned to death and there would be no need for divorce. Now Hillel taught that a Jewish man can divorce his wife for any reason. This teaching was the most popular and widely accepted in the time Jesus was on earth.

Jesus was correcting this error along with many other errors on the Old Covenant Law. The version of the Bible I am using is the New King James Version. I do prefer the word "fornication" in the place of "sexual immorality" but the point is that it definitely was NOT adultery but was a serious offense of the marriage covenant. The other point is this is teachings to Jews on the Old Covenant and was not new commands for Christians. I do want to point out some things unique to verse 32 that are not made anywhere else.

First, the act of divorce is what makes the wife guilty of adultery so adultery is not literal...not physical.  It simply means the husband forces her to be unfaithful to the marriage because he divorced her without serious cause. Second, whoever marries the woman who was divorced for no serious reason, commits adultery by the act of marrying her. Again this is not physical or literal adultery. But a point many ignore as well for both Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 is that if the divorce was for the reason of fornication, NO ONE would then be guilty of adultery by the divorce nor the new second marriage.

Let's look at Matthew 19:9 together now.

Matt 19:9  And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."

You are able to go back and review the first 8 verses and see how the Pharisees came to Jesus to test Him on the Law of Moses. Their question was clearly based on what Hillel taught and they wanted to see if Jesus would contradict what they believed to be the correct understanding of God's Word regarding divorce.

Jesus tells them that if a man divorces his wife for any reason other than "fornication", they commit adultery by the act of the divorce and whoever marries the woman who was divorced for reasons other than "fornication" is also guilty of adultery. Again, if the reason for the divorce was "fornication" then NO ONE would then be guilty of adultery in the divorce or in the new second marriage.

Now look to Mark 10:11, 12 and Luke 16:18

Mark 10:11, 12
11 So He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery
against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits

Luke 16:18
18 "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her
who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Mark and Luke cover the same event but do not include the "exception clause".  It is there in the Matthew account and so we must look at all of them to get the full picture. The bottom line is that everything Jesus said was to Jews regarding the Law of Moses. The only thing that applies to Christians that Jesus said was the fact that God made man and woman with the desire that one man and one woman would become one flesh for life. This is still true today.

Now let's look at Romans 7:2, 3 together.

Romans 7:2, 3
2  For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But
if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3  So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

It is wrong for anyone to look to this passage and try to bind it to anyone as proof that this has anything to do with divorce. Paul is making a comparison to the marriage relationship and the Christian relationship with God. There are definite similarities between the two types of
relationships. They are both to be a commitment for life. Death should be the only thing to end
either relationship too.

But there are differences too and any analogy comparing two similar things will at some point
fail. Divorce is never even mentioned in the Romans passage. Now it is possible for man to fall
from God's grace and be separated from Him just as it is possible to end a marriage without
death. There is no evidence in God's Word at all that divorce does not end a marriage. It ends
any marriage even when the divorce is for the wrong reasons.

Now let's look at 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11

I Cor. 7:10, 11
10  Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11  But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.

First, notice Paul begins these verses with "To the married," and did not begin with "To the divorced," or  "To those considering divorce,". This passage is NOT about divorce. It is about separation or abandonment. The original word that is translated as "depart" had never been used in the Bible to mean divorce. It literally means to put space between. Also, if the couple has been divorced, there is no possible way for them to "reconcile". They can only choose to get married to each other again. I do believe divorce is intended at the end of verse 11 because I believe Paul is telling the husband whose wife left him that he must not divorce least until it is clear she has no intention of ever coming back to him.

I am puzzled that the preacher avoids a majority of chapter 7 and only then goes from verse 10 and 11 to verse 39. Why? Why ignore verses 26-28?

1 Cor.7: 26-28
26  I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is: 27  Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28  But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.

Now notice the obvious above. If a man has been "loosed" from a wife, then obviously at one time, this man was bound to a wife. Paul does not specify loosed by death but only says loosed. So it could be this man is divorced or a widower. Paul felt a need to also say that if the man who is loosed chooses to get married, he does not sin by getting married. Also if you look back at verses 6-9 you will see that if a man is lacking self control, it is better for him to marry than to burn with passion. These are important and should not be avoided or ignored.

Now let's look at verse 39 together.

39 A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

I believe we should always encourage anyone who is considering getting married for the first time to make it the only time in their life and that the marriage will be long and happy as they grow old together. I believe this is what Paul is doing here too. God's desire from the beginning of Creation is for one man and one woman to become one flesh for life. They are bound to each other until one of them passes away. The widow is free to marry whomever she wishes if her husband dies but I do believe it should be a Christian man. I don't believe any other understanding of that makes sense..."only in the Lord" makes sense that Paul wants the widow to marry a Christian. It is never wise to marry someone who is not a Christian.

I pray that my response has been helpful to you. If you have more questions please feel free to ask me and I will do my best to give you a solid Bible answer.

In Christian Love, Joe Norman  

Churches Of Christ

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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.

School of hard knocks

©2017 All rights reserved.