Although there are numerous reasons for divorce, in this brief article I will discuss four biblical reasons for divorce: repeated sexual sin by one or both parties, irreconcilable differences that cannot be reconciled, an unbeliever who abandons their Christian partner, and abandonment by an unbeliever.
I’ll also offer a scriptural rebuttal to anyone who disagrees with my reading of scripture.
Divorce can occur for a variety of reasons. This I know for a fact. Even as a pastor, I have counseled many individuals and families whose marriages have reached the end of their usefulness. Divorce is sometimes the only option. It isn’t always the case.
What are the only biblical grounds for divorce?
True faith, according to the Bible, will result in a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian who is really surrendered to Christ would desire to honor Him in all aspects of life. Marriage is included in this.
The Bible makes it quite plain that God despises divorce (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:8) and that He designed the marriage relationship to be permanent (Matthew 19:4-6). Even in the most amicable divorces, divorce involves anguish, brokenness, and hurt.
As a result, God’s Word gives extremely precise instruction on whether divorce may be an appropriate decision for one or both members of a married relationship. Some individuals believe that if a couple feels their marriage is gone, any cause for divorce is appropriate.
But we have listed four biblical reasons for divorce.
Four biblical reasons for divorce
Divorce is a sensitive subject, and many people are unclear about when it is acceptable for a Christian to divorce their spouse.
Many Christians believe that if the Bible forbids divorce, then you cannot get divorced for any reason, but this isn’t the case.
There are four biblical reasons for divorce:
1. If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,
2. and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man,
3. and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies,
4. then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance
~ Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (NIV)
Because there are biblical reasons for divorce and remarriage, pastors should research this matter thoroughly so that they can teach the truth in love and not limit individuals who have a biblical foundation for ending their marriages.
If a person divorces for one of these four biblically permissible reasons, he or she has not sinned.
Marriage partners should not desert each other since they have formed a covenant, according to the Bible. When one partner abandons the other, they have violated the covenant, which means they have also violated their vows as a married pair.
The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
~ Leviticus 20:10 (NIV)
Adultery, like abandonment, is grounds for divorce since it violates the pledge of monogamy made during the wedding ceremony.
According to the Bible, when someone commits adultery in their heart, they have already committed it physically; thus, both mental and physical adultery is grounds for divorce under biblical law.
While adultery is undeniably a valid basis for divorce, it should not be treated lightly. Adultery is a serious offense against marriage and God’s plan.
While I believe that divorce is sometimes necessary, I believe that we must always attempt to forgive and never give up on our marriages. There will always be the temptation to sin, but when we rely on the strength of God’s grace, we have the ability to make wise choices for our life.
Take heart if you or someone you care about has committed adultery in your marriage! Through repentance and forgiveness, God can heal you and restore your relationship.
But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.
~ Matthew 5:32 (NLT)
When one partner causes emotional pain to another by yelling at them or demeaning them in any way (including constant criticism), this can be considered cruel punishment on the offending party’s behalf—yet another reason why it may be appropriate to separate from this person under biblical guidelines for marriage relationships.
You’ve probably heard about the dangers of verbal abuse. It is a type of abuse in which the victim is controlled and subjugated through the use of language.
Verbal abuse is defined as berating, demeaning, criticizing, threatening, name-calling, humiliating, or otherwise verbally attacking your partner; it can take many forms, ranging from harsh tone to full-fledged screaming tantrums. It can be even more subtle than that.
Verbal abusers are experts at manipulating words to acquire power over you and bring you anguish – not just in the moment, but also in the future.
When they realize their statements were cruel, they will frequently say things like “I was only teasing you” or “Can’t you take a joke?” This type of abuser tries to keep their victims guessing by employing this strategy, so they don’t know what will set off their spouse the next time.
(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
~ 1 Corinthians 7:11 (ESV)
If there is no way that the two of you will ever get back together again, and if there is no hope of reconciliation between the two of you, then this is another reason why divorce may be appropriate for a couple who has been married
Yet another reason for divorce is when there are irreconcilable differences between the husband and wife. If a person feels they can no longer live with their spouse because of a deep-seated hatred that was never resolved, then this would be a good reason to get divorced.
But what if there is no way that the two of you will ever get back together again, and if there is no hope of reconciliation between the two of you? Then this is another reason why divorce may be appropriate for a couple who has been married.
In this case, although it is sad that the marriage failed, it is better for both parties involved to end their marriage and move on with their lives.
Questions about Biblical Reasons for Divorce
This section covers frequently asked questions on biblical reasons for divorce
Are there biblical reasons for divorce?
It is a common misconception that the Bible does not allow for divorce. In fact, the Bible does give people a few reasons to end their marriages. However, we must remember that the Bible never speaks of divorce as divine will and instead teaches us to exercise patience and humility in our relationships.
When Jesus was asked about divorce, he responded by stating that “any man who divorces his wife, except for immorality, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32). Divorce is certainly never God’s will; he hates it (Malachi 2:16).
But he also gives us permission to dissolve marriages when they are abusive or unhealthy and when they encourage sinful acts. Here are four biblical reasons for divorce:
Sexual Immorality (Matthew 19:9)
Desertion by an Unbeliever (Matthew 19:9)
Abuse (1 Corinthians 7:15)
Irreconcilable Differences (1 Corinthians 7:11)
What are the biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage?
Because of the overwhelming prevalence of divorce, the subject of divorce and remarriage is a very important one. This is especially true in light of the fact that many professing Christians have been divorced and are now involved in second marriages.
There seems to be an increase in those who would justify their divorce (and subsequent remarriage) by appealing to the Bible. However, there is little justification for using the Bible as a basis for divorce and remarriage.
The only ground for slavery permitted in Scripture was just war (Exodus 21:2-6). In other words, justice must be done to those who rebelled against God’s people or those who oppressed God’s people. The proper treatment of slaves was important to God, as well (1 Timothy 6:1-2; Ephesians 6:9).
The only ground for divorce permitted in Scripture is adultery (Matthew 19:9). That’s it. There may be other grounds that allow a person to leave an adulterous marriage and remain single after that separation. But there are no other grounds given by God that would permit someone to remarry after a divorce, except for adultery committed by one’s spouse (Matthew 19:9).