Divorce and separation are so commonplace in modern society that they seem almost the norm. It is estimated that 40% of all marriages end in divorce while as much as half end up in separation. Interestingly, divorce is increasing in church as well. Even though God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), there are instances in scripture where He permits it.
Scripture permits you to remarry if God releases you from marriage. For instance, if your spouse dies, you are allowed to remarry. You can also be released from marriage on grounds of being abandoned or if your spouse cheats. In such a scenario, you choose whether or not to remarry.
Let us look at some of the Biblical foundations for divorce below.
The Bible is categorical in forbidding divorce. Jesus was especially firm on the subject by clarifying that the law of divorce was given due to the hardness of hearts but God’s original design was that the union of marriage should be permanent. However, Jesus gives a way out for those with cheating spouses by suggesting that such a spouse would be allowed to divorce.
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. Mathew 19:9
This means that God can release one from marriage if their spouse commits adultery. However, this does not mean that infidelity should automatically be counted as grounds for divorce. It is possible for a couple to work through a bad experience and use it as a stepping stone to a stronger and healthier union. If however, the infidelity turns out to be a habit rather than an isolated incident, then divorce
According to the teaching of Paul, abandonment is another ground for divorce. Check it out;
For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 1 Corinthians 7:14-15
The scenario here is that of two non-believers who get married and then one of them gets saved. In such a union, the non-believer may not support their spouse’s decision and the new way of life may result in a strain on their relationship. If this happens and the non-believer walks away from the marriage, then the believing spouse has been released from the marriage.
Even under the Old Covenant, the Bible was against the union of believers and non-believers. For instance, in Ezra 9-10, God commanded Israel to let go of their heathen wives because it amounted to spiritual betrayal.
Death is another way in which God can release one from marriage. Here are two scriptures to this effect:
A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Romans 7:2
A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:39
It makes sense that one would be released from the marriage union if their spouse dies. Marriage is a covenant and for a covenant to work, the parties of the covenant need to be alive and well. If one dies, the covenant ceases to exist.
Are you free to remarry if God releases you from marriage?
The Bible teaches that separating from your spouse and getting married to someone else will be counted as committing sexual immorality. This is based on the fact that you were joined with your original spouse and were made one. As a consequence, those who got divorced were forbidden from remarrying. However, an exception is made for those God released from marriage through the three ways discussed above (death, abandonment, and infidelity). In such a case, one is allowed to remarry.
When remarrying, it is a good idea to use the lessons learned from the first marriage to avoid repeating the same mistakes. For instance, if you were abandoned by a non-believer, it is best to avoid being unequally yoked again. You should look at the second marriage as a second chance which you should therefore not squander.
However, just because you are free to remarry doesn’t mean you should. After God releases you from marriage, you may want to find out if God’s will is for you to remain single and focus on spiritual things. In his epistle to Timothy, Paul mentions that widows can use their bad situation as an opportunity to draw closer to God.
The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 1 Timothy 5:5
Even Jesus used a widow in his parable on why men ought always to pray and not faint. In the parable, Jesus used the picture of an oppressed widow and how she did not relent in her pursuit of Justice until she got help. The widow in the parable is meant to paint the picture of how widows can use their newfound free time for spiritual devotion. A perfect example is given in the gospel of Luke;
Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. Luke 2:36-37
So in a nutshell, when God releases you from marriage, you are free to remarry but you can also choose to remain single and focus on spiritual devotion instead.
To sum it up, there is a difference between releasing yourself from marriage and God doing it. There are only three instances where God will release you from marriage. These are the death of your spouse, being abandoned by a non-believing spouse, and infidelity. In the event of any of these, you will be free from the marriage thus allowing you to remarry if you please.