An Outline of Biblical Teaching on Divorce

  • God’s ideal will is the lifelong union of man and wife.
This is especially for the sake of the children and stability in society.
  • But OT Law allows divorce as a concession to human weakness
  • Moses allowed men to write a certificate of divorce
  • Only men in that society could take divorce proceedings
  • (Mark 10:2-5; Deut 24:1; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8; Matt 1:19)

 



  • In NT times men could divorce their wives for trivial reasons
  • for burning food or for putting too much salt in food
  • for going out without a head covering
  • for talking to a man in the street
  • for speaking disrespectfully of her in-laws
  • for being troublesome or quarrelling

 


  • Jesus, especially concerned for divorced women who were destitute financially tightened this up to allows divorce if one partner is sexually immoral.

 

  • this means any sort of sexual misdemeanour
  • His concern is to restrict divorce by contrast with the superficial reasons in section 4. (Matt 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-20)
  • He was not speaking to women who might be suffering e.g. violence.
  • But we know that God hates, violence, pride, dishonesty, false witness,  divisiveness and all kinds of evil (Deut 16:22; 12:31; Psa 11:5; Prov 6:16-19; Isa 1:14)

 


  • Paul allows divorce in the case of desertion for religious reasons.
  • Paul deals with a situation where an unbeliever divorces a Christian for his/her faith and said the partner is “free” to remarry. 1 Cor 7:12-15

 

  • Some matters of morality have to be decided on the basis of the lesser           of two evils. It is not black and white.  Divorce is possible when it is the
  • lesser of two evils
  • God is a God of mercy, forgiveness and new beginnings
  • Killing is wrong but God allows killing in self defence or in war when it is the lesser of two evils.
  • The Sabbath is holy but Jesus allows it to be broken for human need or an animal fallen in a pit.
  • Paul says Christians must obey the authorities (Rom 13:1-7) but the apostles disobey the authorities as the lesser of two evils Acts 5:27-28.

 

  • The Bible does not provide a total list of subjects to which its principles  apply but only a few examples
  • So there is (of course) no reference to abortion or in vitro fertilisation or transplant surgery.
  • Nor is there reference to every possible marital offence which warrants divorce.
  • God expects us to apply the principles, not just the “letter”, we find in Scripture

 

  • God in his love would not expect a woman to live in a situation of physical    or mental abuse, cultic control, or where trust has broken down e.g. over money etc.
  • God would also not want such a woman to live a life of singleness.

© Tony Higton: see conditions for copying on the Home Page