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What does the Bible teach on the subject of divorce and remarriage?

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The Bible tells us that marriage is a covenant relationship, ordained of God to last a lifetime. Therefore, ministers of the United Church of God counsel our single members to approach marriage with that view in mind, and we encourage our married members to resolve differences and work through difficulties rather than to seek a divorce.

However, we also recognize that some marriages may well end in divorce. The most obvious of these is when one partner simply ceases to perform his or her responsibilities and duties of marriage, and subsequently withdraws from the relationship, whether or not he or she withdraws from the home or initiates divorce proceedings. We read of this type of marriage breakup in 1 Corinthians 7:15 1 Corinthians 7:15But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace.
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. Other problems that might lead to a divorce include criminal or immoral behavior that one does not repent of or is habitual in nature.

Regardless of the reason for a divorce, we want to emphasize that it always brings about additional problems. Sometimes, they are unavoidable.

Concerning remarriage, we approach this matter differently if both parties are members of the Church of God than we do if one or both are not. The apostle Paul makes that distinction in 1 Corinthians 7:10-15 1 Corinthians 7:10-15 10 And to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother has a wife that believes not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which has an husband that believes not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace.
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. God here counsels the believer to remain in a marriage if his or her unbelieving spouse wishes to continue it. However, if the marriage breaks up because the unbeliever departs the marriage covenant (which he or she may do while still remaining in the home by refusing to fulfill the fundamental duties and responsibilities of marriage, a subject we elaborate on in counseling), the believer is free to remarry a fellow believer (1 Corinthians 7:39 1 Corinthians 7:39The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
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When a marriage between two believers ends in a divorce, they may or may not be free to remarry. Within the United Church of God, the ministry considers the circumstances that led to the failure of the marriage in order to make a determination in accordance with biblical guidelines (Matthew 5:31-32 Matthew 5:31-32 31 It has been said, Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorce: 32 But I say to you, That whoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery.
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; 19:3-9) whether the people can remarry.

Given your interest in this important topic, you may wish to read our article, “Divorce and Remarriage Within the Church,” which goes into more detail about the technical explanation of the pertinent scriptures than we have here.

For more information, please read our booklet Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension .

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