Is Remarriage an Option for an Adulterous Spouse?

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My post yesterday has raised questions about remarriage for the adulterous spouse and pool of divorced potential mates for divorced faithful spouses (see comments on this post here). I am going to summarize those questions into this one question:

Is Remarriage an Option for an Adulterous Spouse?

First, this statement only makes sense asking a Christian pastor–i.e. me–if the person asking cares about the authority of the Biblical witness. It is obvious that someone legally divorced has the option to remarry. So, I am taking this question as a question regarding morality as govern by Scripture. In other words, the question is about whether an adulterous spouse who claims Jesus as Lord has the option to remarry without sinning if his faithful spouse divorced him.

The Scriptural witness is actually very clear on this matter. The answer is: “No.

[Jesus] answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

-Mark 10:11-12, NIV

Divorce and remarriage is not an option for an adulterous spouse who claims to faithfully follow Jesus. This is another reason why the adulterous spouse ought to be incredibly grateful for every chance a faithful spouse gives him or her to repent. They are staring at the remainder of their lives as single because of this sin.

Put this in another way, one is not able to remarry without sin unless one has been legitimately and Biblically released from the marriage covenant. Adultery releases the faithful spouse. It does not release the adulterous spouse.

So, if my former spouse, for example, decides to remarry, she will be committing adultery again as Jesus words tell us from Mark 10. Such an action would put her in perilous waters spiritually for her own soul’s sake as well as the man who chooses to remarry her. That is what Scripture says.

Furthermore, Malachi 2 is explicitly addressing the sort of practice of using divorce as a means to move onto another more “attractive” mate (see post here). The marriage covenant to the older Jewish wives is still valid in God’s eyes even though the Jewish men have divorced and remarried. God is attacking this sort of abuse of divorce as He is calling out the Jewish men for attempting to work the system to look righteous while actually committing adultery.

The marriage covenant is not a disposable relationship in the eyes of God. Something very serious must happen to break this covenant like one spouse committing adultery (e.g. Jer 3:8 and Mt 19:9). And this only frees the innocent party to the adultery.

As I wrote about “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” forgiveness is offered but that does not mean the prodigal son received back the inheritance he squandered. He did not. It was gone permanently. Similarly, one of the costs of committing adultery as a Christian spouse is forfeiting the freedom to remarry without sinning if one’s faithful spouse decides to divorce (and never remarry the adulterous spouse).


Is Remarriage an Option for an Adulterous Spouse?


PS I recognize life can be messy. God forgives all our sins. Adultery is not unforgivable. However, I do not think Scripture allows for a remarriage blessed by God if the spouse committed adultery in a previous marriage. That said, I do not think God would want a marriage broken up after the fact either. He is gracious. But His Word still calls such a remarriage adultery (see Mark 10:11-12). Also, an argument can be made that the adulterous spouse is relieved of this obligation to remain single when his/her faithful spouse dies as then he/she would be a widow/widower. Some may or may not find such an argument convincing.

4 thoughts on “Is Remarriage an Option for an Adulterous Spouse?”

    …my NOW exhusband was divorced when we met.Because of the military’s, strong sense of family and getting the 1st wife pregnant, my EX says he married his 1st wife. she abandoned him 1yr later stating that she made a mistake.. so she moved away and filed for a divorce….

    18yrs ago, i married THIS man, my first and only husband. 3 yrs ago, he had an long affair with a married woman. who divorced her husband, only to marry my husband. he divorced me 8mos ago. and the two of them married a week later.
    during our marriage, my husband got saved, filled with Gods spirit and became an orrdained elder. 3yrs ago he backslide and left the church. exactly the same time that he met this married woman.
    our family is shattered but im trying to pick up he pieces and live.
    after feeling cheated and like a loser, i started thinking, wait a minute, how can i call him an adulterer for marrying another woman?? truthfully, biblically, he belonged to the first wife, RIGHT?

    1. I do not think you were an adulteress by marrying him from what you shared. The Apostle Paul states that abandonment by a non-believing spouse is grounds for divorce (see I Cor. 7:15). His first wife abandoned him according to the story he apparently provided. That means he no longer was tied to her or belonging to her. He was free to remarry you as I read the Apostle Paul.

      And I am sorry to hear how he abandoned and committed adultery against you and God. You are not a loser! That is a lie of the Devil. You were bought with God’s precious blood. You are very dear to God. He loves you very, very much!

      Blessings and hugs,

      1. I agree that he was no longer bound to his first wife. So, you were not an adulteress when you married him. Also, because your ex-husband committed adultery, you would not be an adulteress if you got remarried. (Matthew 19:19). Plus, an argument could be made that your ex-husband was an unbeliever, at that point, and he abandoned you, making you free to remarry on two grounds (1 Cor. 7:15)

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