God, the Originator of marriage, designed it to be a permanent union. But is there any Scriptural reason for a person to divorce his or her mate, and one that would allow for the possibility of remarrying? Jesus addressed this matter by declaring: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9) Sexual infidelity by a mate is the only ground for a divorce that will allow the innocent mate to remarry, or the death of the husband or the wife..
In addition, the Bible’s words at 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, while encouraging marriage mates to stay together, allow for separation. Some, after trying very hard to preserve their marriage, feel they have no choice but to separate. What can be acceptable Scriptural grounds for such a step?
One is willful nonsupport. When getting married, a husband assumes the responsibility of providing for his wife and children. The man who willfully fails to provide the material necessities of life “has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8) So separation is possible.
Another is extreme physical abuse. So then, if a mate physically abuses his wife, the victim may separate. (Galatians 5:19-21; Titus 1:7) “Anyone loving violence [God’s] soul certainly hates.” Psalm 11:5.
Another ground for separation is the absolute endangerment of a believer’s spirituality, one’s relationship with God. When a mate’s opposition, perhaps including physical restraint, has made it impossible to pursue true worship and has imperiled the believer’s spirituality, then some believers have found it necessary to separate. Matthew 22:37; Acts 5:27-32.
However, if divorce is pursued under such circumstances, one would not be free to enter a new marriage. According to the Bible, the only legitimate ground for divorce that permits remarriage is adultery or “fornication.” Matthew 5:32.
The Bible allows only one reason for getting a divorce that frees a person to remarry, and that is fornication (Greek, porneia, gross sexual immorality). If fornication is committed, then the innocent mate may decide whether to get a divorce or not. Matthew 5:32.
After telling the Pharisees that the Mosaic concession of divorcing their wives was not the arrangement that had prevailed “from the beginning,” Jesus said: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.” (Mt 19:8, 9)
Marriage involves two people with differing personalities learning to develop common interests and working together toward common goals. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, not a casual agreement that can be lightly abandoned. In many countries, divorce is not difficult to obtain, but in the eyes of a Christian, the marriage relationship is sacred. It is ended only for a very serious reason. (Matt. 19:9) Christian spouses can avail themselves of wise counsel from the Bible, support from fellow Christians, and a close, prayerful relationship with God. A successful marriage endures, and over the years, it brings happiness and contentment to husband and wife. More important, it brings honor to God, the Originator of marriage.