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Divorce is a no-win situation for everyone involved. And God hates divorce (cf
Malachi 2:16). Forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are almost always a superior course
to pursue. There are, however, three situations described in the Bible in which divorce may be justified,
excused, and in some cases even necessary.
1. Fornication is specifically defined as: Sexual intercourse between partners who are not married to each
other. Therefore, if a married man or woman should have sexual intercourse with anyone other than their own
spouse, that, according to the Word of God in the Bible, would be valid grounds for the violated spouse to divorce
the spouse who committed the fornication.
- Fornication see Matthew 5:32 and 19:9
- Desertion see 1 Corinthians 7:15
- Excommunication see Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
Even though divorce may be justified in such cases, it is important to remember and emphasize that God would
still rather see forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation ... unless the offending spouse is an unrepentent
Regrettably, many Bible versions mistranslate Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 to substitute "adultery" or "marital
unfaithfulness" for the word "fornication." Such mistranslation grievously dilutes and distorts the Word of God and
in so-doing makes divorce too easily allowed. Both "adultery" and "marital unfaithfulness" have broader
meaning and can occur in many ways other than by fornication, however nothing other than fornication (sexual
intercourse between unmarried partners) is intended to be a valid justification for divorce in this declaration.
2. Desertion is a one-word summation of the provision of 1 Corinthians 7:15 which reads: "If the
unbelieving depart, let them go. A brother or a sister is no longer in bondage in such cases ..."
Now, some try to argue over what actually comprises "the unbelieving" and what is meant by the word "depart" in
this Scripture; but it is rebellious foolishness to try to make such arguments. The complete context of 1 Corinthians
chapter 7, especially verse 10 ("do not let a wife separate from her husband") and verse 11 ("do not let a
husband put away his wife") and "verse 13 ("do not let her leave him"), among many other references in the Bible,
make it abundantly clear what God's intent is. His clear intent is, as He stated in Matthew 19:5, that when a man
and woman are joined together in marriage: "What God has joined together, do not let anyone separate."
God established marriage to be a permanent, life-long commitment.
"The unbelieving" is anyone who, by their words and/or actions demonstrate that they do not believe the Word of
God and do not want to heed God's mandate that what God has put together, no one should ever separate.
If a husband or wife unjustly leaves/abandons/deserts their spouse, then they are unbelievers, period.
However, if a husband or wife "departs" to go on a business trip, or if a husband or wife feels that their spouse is
ignoring and not paying enough attention to them, or if a husband and wife should "separate" for a few hours, or
even a few days, for whatever reason, that does not comprise abandonment or desertion, though some will
foolishly try to make a case for something like that.
Desertion is what occurs when either a husband or a wife initiates a divorce against their spouse or they just
"clear out" and make it very clear that they are through with the marriage and want nothing more to do with it.
Even so, "desertion" should have the concurrence of godly counsel before a deserted spouse gives up on a
deserting spouse. To eliminate any doubt, God established the third provision, described next:
3. Excommunication is a man-made term, not a biblical term; but it accurately sums up the final step in
God's procedure for conflict resolution.
Some ask: "What about abuse? What about drunkenness or drug addiction? What about
irresponsibility and neglect? What about crime and illegal activity? Are these and many other
things not justifiable reasons for divorce?"
Rest assured, God has covered all the bases.
If either a husband or a wife has violated his or her spouse by abuse, drunkenness, drug addiction, illegal
activity, irresponsibility, neglect, or in any other way, then the procedure outlined by the Word of God in
Matthew 18:15-17 provides an orderly way to resolve the matter.
Step#1 (see v15): The violated spouse should go to the offending spouse privately, and in a
spirit of meekness, (not yelling and screaming, see Galatians 6:1), to communicate his or her concerns and
seek a peaceable solution. If the offending spouse will not listen or is unresponsive, then go to step
Step #2 (see v16): Seek godly counsel so that "in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every
matter may be established." If that does not produce a satisfactory resolution, then go to step three:
Step #3 (see v17): If an offending spouse remains unresponsive even to godly counsel, then it
may become necessary to take a third and final step. This, however, should be initiated by the godly
counsel in step #2, to involve a larger number of godly individuals -- perhaps a local church governing body, or
in some cases an entire church body. Then, if it becomes very clear to everyone that the violating spouse
is entirely unresponsive, the scriptural stipulation here and especially in 1 Corinthians 5:13 is: "... put away from
among yourselves that wicked person." In other words, excommunication. In verse 11, we are
instructed to not even eat with such a person.
In conclusion ... two very important final points ...
#1. Some truly are innocent victims. If a victim of divorce has never initiated a
divorce, but they are a victim of divorce having been thrust upon them against their will, and if they were
not in any way an instigator of divorce, then they are not guilty of having committed divorce and
the Word of God says that such victims are no longer bound. Please refer to: 1 Corinthians 7:15
and also Matthew 18:18.
#2. Any sin can be forgiven. Therefore, if someone has, in fact,
initiated a divorce in the past which was not justified by one of the three just causes described above,
then they need to squarely confront that mistake and own up to it, not try to rationalize, justify, and excuse
what they did, but repent of their sin and seek forgiveness, both from God and from the former spouse
against whom they committed the grievous sin of divorcing their spouse.
Click here to learn
How to obtain forgiveness
for having committed the sin of unjustified divorce.
Make sure that you consult with a godly pastor
before you make any decisions pertaining to divorce.
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