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Prior to getting saved, I had married and then divorced. Once I became a Christian, I married my second husband. God has blessed us with children and we have been married nearly twenty years. What is your take on a second marriage when your first is before becoming a Christian?

Whew, this is a tough question! It’s a really good one to ask, too, because the simple act of wondering about it indicates a desire to be obedient to God and an understanding that, in most cases, divorce is a sin- one that God takes just as seriously as other sins. And I think we forget that sometimes because divorce has become so prevalent in our culture and, sadly, even the church.

The reason this is a tough question is that there’s no particular Bible verse that specifically says, “Yes, it’s OK for you to marry again if your divorce was prior to your salvation,” or “No, it’s not OK.” So, we have to glean what we can from the Scriptures we have.

There are two main topics we need to examine here: what the Bible says about divorce and what the Bible says about salvation. We need to work backwards a little bit, so let’s start with divorce.

It is helpful to start off by reading what Scripture says about marriage and divorce. The central passages are Genesis 2:18-25, Malachi 2:13-16, Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:3-9, and 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. The Bible specifically cites two¹ biblically allowable grounds for divorce in the New Testament: adultery and abandonment by an unsaved spouse.

God does not require divorce in these situations. Indeed, as far as it depends on the Christian spouse who has been sinned against, and is possible, forgiveness and reconciliation – especially in light of how much Christ has forgiven us and reconciled us to Himself – should be the goal. I personally know of marriages that survived these situations and have brought much glory to God and hope to other couples as a result. Yes, it’s excruciatingly hard. No, it’s not fair. It was hard and unfair for Jesus to go to the cross for our sin, too, but He was willing because of His love for us and for the Father.

Seeking a divorce for reasons¹ other than these two – such as irreconcilable differences, “falling out of love,” etc. – are not allowed by Scripture for Christians.

But our sister asking the question wasn’t a Christian when she got divorced. How does that factor in?

Here, we need to recall the nature of salvation- the foundational differences between a lost person and a saved person. First Corinthians 2:12-14, John 14:23-24, Hebrews 11:6, and Romans 3:9-20 help us understand that – while a lost person might sometimes be able to outwardly behave in a way which appears to comply with Scripture – that’s not obedience to God. Obedience is an action of the heart that is made possible only by the transformation and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Only saved people are transformed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, which means only saved people can obey God and His word. So, not to over-simplify, but, basically, everything lost people do is sin because they are in a spiritual state (devoid of the Holy Spirit) that renders them unable to be obedient to God. This means that our reader’s divorce was sinful – regardless of whether or not it was for one of the two biblical reasons – because all of her behavior prior to salvation – divorce, driving a car, giving money to charity, eating breakfast – sprang from a heart that belonged to her father, the Devil.

(I know that’s pretty heavy, so if you’re not grasping it, or find yourself in disagreement, I’d encourage you to go back and read over the Scriptures I’ve hyperlinked above.)

But when someone repents and trusts Christ as Savior, all of that sin gets wiped out instantaneously. The old has gone, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us. Salvation is more than just new life, it’s also a death. It’s a death to sin. Death to the old man, the old desires, the old ways, the old thoughts. That whole sinful ball of wax gets crucified – nailed to the tree – with Christ, and dies. Including that divorce.

And when Christ resurrects us from that death, we are born into a new life. Baptism is a beautiful, visible picture of this invisible spiritual truth: we are buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk with Him in newness of life. The old has gone. The new has come. A new life. A clean slate. Life has just started for this sister. There is no biblical reason she should not have married a godly husband.

In closing, there are a few things that don’t pertain to this particular reader’s question (since her divorce, salvation, and remarriage are already a done deal), but which might be pertinent to others in similar situations.

1. This reader did not ask whether or not she should leave her second husband (nor does she want to- she is happily married). She already knows that would be wrong, and she’s correct about that. We don’t fix one sin by committing another.

2. If this reader had asked me this question prior to marrying her second husband. I would have urged her to first explore the possibility – depending on the circumstances¹ and with intense pastoral counseling – of reconciliation with her first husband. That is what 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 is all about.

3. Marriage is a huge thing. Divorce is a huge thing. Remarriage is a huge thing. Whatever your particular situation might be, search the Scriptures about it, ask God for wisdom and direction, and get wise counsel from your pastor.

4. This was a challenging question to answer. I’d like to thank my husband and two of my pastor buddies for their help. Thanks, guys. Y’all are awesome!


¹Physical and sexual abuse within marriage is a serious issue, but it was not a factor in this particular reader’s question, so I am keeping the scope narrow and not addressing the issue of abuse in this article. If you are being abused, please get yourself and your children to safety and seek help. If you know someone who is being abused, help her.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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