Question:

I met a beautiful amazing woman, and I want to marry her and start a family with her. She is a Christian, and we make a great team. However, there are some hesitations on my part.

  1. She had sex when she was younger to an unbeliever, but she didn't marry him. She left him.
  2. She has been married previously and is now divorced.
  3. During her separation period, she had a physical relationship with someone who was not her husband. This was after he already filed for divorce, so she technically committed adultery as well.

As for #1, the Bible in Deuteronomy states in chapter 22 that if a man lays hold of a virgin and sleeps with her, he is to pay the bride price, marry her and never be able to divorce her. (The Exodus version doesn't say he can never divorce her.) Would this apply to the first person someone has sex with? Would my girlfriend still be bound to this first boyfriend of hers years ago who ended up stealing her vehicle and going to jail? She said he was not a believer. She eventually left him after realizing the relationship was unhealthy for her. Reference Gordon Hugenbergers view on sex and marriage. Sex= marriage basically.

As for #2, she married an atheist years after. (Yes, I know, poor decision making.) She was not a strong believer at the time. She lost her way. He decided, after a year, that he preferred another woman. He had an affair and decided to divorce my girlfriend. She didn’t want the divorce, but she realized he was done and there was no changing his mind. She peacefully gave him what he wanted. He told her that he would “never stop seeing this new girl and he wanted to see where things went with her.” I know she didn’t file for the divorce and she was divorced against her will. Is she free to be married to me?

And finally, as for #3, during her separation time, when she was not yet legally divorced, she slept with a man in a moment of weakness and pain. She didn't know this was sinful and illegal until she met me and I pointed it out to her. She regrets it and has asked for forgiveness for it. She technically committed adultery as well since she was not legally divorced. Is she still able to be married to me? Should she marry the fellow she slept with according to Exodus? She and that guy seemed to mutually part ways and he is with another woman now. I am not sure if he was a believer or not.  Is she able to marry anyone at all now? Can she be forgiven of all this mess in her past and move forward with me in a marriage? If she is free to be married to me, I'll certainly take her! I can't speak for the other gentlemen in her past, but I certainly want her!

I just want to do the right thing. These events happened before I came into her life. I want to marry this woman and I want our marriage to be blessed by God. I know this is a super long email but I pray you will respond and help give me some clarity! I have lost sleep over this and have horrible anxiety over it.

Answer:

In regards to #1, sex does not create a marriage. First, we do not live under the Law of Moses (Why We Don’t Follow the Old Testament). Second, sex never created a marriage. Those under the Law of Moses who were caught committing fornication could be compelled to marry, subject to the agreement of the girl's father, but notice that the marriage was not automatic (Does premarital sex make you married or cursed?). Therefore, this woman was not married by fornication.

In regards to #2 and #3, who files for the divorce first doesn't matter in today's treatment of divorce. See Does it matter who files for the divorce? The cause of the divorce, in this case, was her husband's sin. She did sin, but it doesn't change the fact that the divorce was due to his infidelity. What is worrisome is that she seems to see fornication as something that is not sinful. I'm glad that you are showing her the truth from God's Word.

All sin is forgivable of a Christian when the sin is repented of. Her only marriage ended because her husband committed adultery, so that leaves her free to marry another man.

Question:

Mr. Hamilton,

Thank you so much for your quick reply and thoughts. I really respect your opinion and your work.

I just wanted to say I still struggle with the idea that she is "still married to her former husband in God's eyes." I do not wish to live in a state of adultery. Any reason why I would still feel this way?

What if the man wanted to change his ways and take her back and remarry her while she is with me, what would the Bible say about that? I just want to protect my heart and also do the right thing. I love this woman so much but I also love God and His commands. I really wish He would let me marry her.

Could it be years of church dogma and legalistic teaching that has scarred me? I am not sure why I still feel guilty.

Thanks for your help!

Answer:

When a couple divorce, they are unmarried (I Corinthians 7:10-11). But just because a couple ends their marriage, it does not mean that God automatically releases them from the covenant they had made (Matthew 19:4-6). I Corinthians 7:10-11 tells us that, in general, the covenant remains in place, so that they cannot marry anyone else. However, Jesus also stated that if the marriage ends because of fornication, the fornicator cannot marry anyone else, but the innocent party is released by God from the covenant and can marry again (Matthew 19:9).

If this woman's former husband repents of his sin and she decides she wants him back as a husband, she is welcome to marry him again. If she has already married another person, then her former husband is too late and must remain unmarried.

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