Question:

Good afternoon!

I am reaching out because I have been combing through the collection of divorce articles on your website and believe you have an extensive biblical understanding of the subject. I hope that you can offer some clarity on a certain situation that I am receiving conflicting counsel about.

I am seeing a man who was previously married. The details of his marriage and divorce are this: He was married, and his wife committed adultery. He wanted to save the marriage, but she did not and left him. He did not file for divorce, hoping for reconciliation. During the separation, he made a bad choice and had a sexual partner. Sometime later, they forgave each other and decided to reconcile.

Almost immediately she began cheating again. He still was committed to saving the marriage, believing that was what God would want him to do. Finally, she became pregnant with another man's child, yet he had been living faithfully to her since their first attempt at reconciliation several years prior to her getting pregnant.

He put her away and legally divorced her because of her continued adulteries after reconciliation. He is a faithful Christian in the Lord's church and has been single since his divorce.

Now that we are companions it is important to get clarity on his issue. I am scripturally able to marry, but would he be? We believe that Matthew 19 covers his situation because when his spouse committed adultery he was an innocent party. Also, the fact that they forgave and reconciled after he messed up also would make this a clean slate. Her subsequent adultery would make her once again the guilty party and him an innocent party.

Can you please offer clarity to this? We have asked so many brethren for wise counsel on the issue, and the majority say, yes, he is eligible for remarriage, but also there are a few who believe the answer is no. In trying to live a godly life we definitely want to study it as much as possible and know how far our companionship can go with certainty. Can you please offer scriptural evidence to go with your answers?

Thank you for any attention you can give to this issue!

Answer:

It sounds like your boyfriend, though guilty of adultery, repented of his sins. Evidence of that is seen in the fact that he and his former wife reconciled for a while. Thus, that part of his life is no longer a consideration.

It comes down to the fact that he divorced his wife because of her continued acts of adultery. That leaves him free to remarry according to the implication in Matthew 19:9.

Those who claim he doesn't have a right are ignoring the fact that he repented of his sin.

Question:

Thank you, Mr. Hamilton, for your response to this!

We definitely believe the Bible teaches that he has repented.  The couple of brethren who have given a "no" answer have counseled that just because a person is forgiven of his or her sin that does not mean they aren't carrying the consequence of it.  The example given is a murderer or thief may be forgiven but they would still have to serve jail time.  They say this applies to his adultery even though they forgave each other and attempted reconciliation, and he sought forgiveness from God, repented, and has lived righteously.

I understand that many try to twist the scripture to make it fit, and we definitely don't want to do that, but the fact is she was put away for adultery after reconciliation seems to be a vital element that makes his situation still applicable under Matthew 19.

How do you recommend we scripturally proceed with a discussion when given the murder/thief analogy?

Again, thank you so very much!

Answer:

If a person was divorced because he had committed adultery, then he has lost the right to another marriage until his spouse has died (Matthew 19:9; Romans 7:2-3). He can repent of his sin, but it won't change the consequence.

What is missing in the argument presented is any proof that adultery permanently prevents a person from marrying again. Matthew 19:9 gives two conditions:

  1. A person is divorced because of fornication on his part, and
  2. The person marries someone else

When those two conditions are met, then the marriage is adulterous.

In your case, his marriage ended because of adultery on his wife's part. His adultery was not a factor in that divorce because it had been forgiven years before. Therefore, his situation does not match the first condition. To claim a consequence for something not done is to misapply God's teachings.

What I suspect is that these people are not convinced that he didn't cause his wife's adultery because of his own adultery. However, it would seem that her prior running around proves he was not the cause. If anything her adultery is what led him to sin (not that it excuses his sin). He came out of the sin. As Paul stated in II Corinthians 2:5-10, continued holding a forgiven sin against someone will cause people to give up on God.

Response:

Thank you so much, Mr. Hamilton!

I will share your counsel with my boyfriend so we can continue to study and pray.  I appreciate your getting back to me so efficiently!

Thank you!

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