What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?
Scripture includes the revelation of God, and as such it guides and forms our view of all things – including divorce. Too many churches and ministries avoid this topic for fear of the backlash from their congregations. It is time that we, as the Church, stood up in love and took a position on this issue.
Before we get into the scriptural passages about divorce, I want to say a couple of words of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. Our primary focus when it comes to divorce is not on the cause of the divorce or the classification of divorce but on the outcomes of that divorce when it comes to the millions of children who go through their parents’ divorce.
Whether you agree with the position set forth below, or hold some other view, the fact of the matter is that for children the divorce of their parents is a stressful, traumatic and life changing event. We should not, and cannot, let our views on divorce itself keep us from working together to help the children of divorce. Nonetheless, we do believe that God is our ultimate guide, and He has chosen to provide us with insight into divorce within scripture.
With that caveat, here is what we believe the Bible teaches about divorce. We have included scripture references for your review:
- God hates divorce. [Malachi 2:16]. We do acknowledge that there is disagreement related to the translation of this verse. While we acknowledge that some translators disagree about the translation of this particular verse, there are plenty of other verses throughout scripture that indicate that God hates sin. [e.g., Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, Proverbs 8:13, Psalm 45:7, Proverbs 6:16-19; Zechariah 8:16-17]
- God created marriage as a lasting covenant between the husband, wife and God. It was the first human institution created by God and is, therefore, the preeminent human institution. [Genesis 2:23-24, Matthew 19:4-6]
- Consequently, God has a high view of marriage. [Hebrews 13:4]
- One of the objectives of marriage, as defined by God, is godly offspring. [Malachi 2:14-15]
- Divorce, except in very limited circumstances as prescribed in the Bible, is sin. Those limited exceptions include only sexual immorality and an unbelieving spouse who is unwilling to stay married. [Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:2-6; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11; 1 Corinthians 7:12-15]
- Divorce is one of many sins. [Romans 3:23, Romans 1:21]
- The punishment for sin is death. [Romans 6:23]
- Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. [Luke 12:10, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11]
- God can and does forgive sin through Jesus’ death on the cross. [1 Thessalonians 5:9, Titus 2:11, 1 John 3:5]
- We need only to repent of our sins and trust in Jesus to be forgiven. [Ephesians 2:8]
In short, God created marriage as a lasting institution and intended that, once married, people would stay married. God does allow very limited exceptions where divorce is allowed, but not mandated, by scripture. Otherwise, divorce is a sin and sin has consequences. Divorce is not an unpardonable sin, and like any other sin was paid for by the death of Jesus on the cross. We need only to repent of our own personal sin and accept Jesus as Lord for that payment and forgiveness to apply to us.
At Hope 4 Hurting Kids, we understand that Malachi 2:15 teaches that one of God’s intentions in marriage is to produce Godly offspring. Malachi 2:15 says:
Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.
We hold that many of the consequences of the sin of divorce are played out in the children who are unwitting victims of the divorce. Further, we believe that it is the church’s job (in addition to parents), to reach out to these children to help ease these pains and point them to the healing that comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This article updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on July 20, 2011.