Some Preliminary Thoughts on Divorce and Remarriage

Editor’s note: Baptist Bulletin ran a three article set on the topic of divorce and remarriage in the November/December 2020 issue. Below is the first, an introduction by the magazine’s managing editor.

By David Gunn

In some ways, marriage and other family relationships is where the rubber meets the road for Christian ministry and living. Here, in the daily hustle and bustle of human lives lived in close proximity to one another, theory and doctrine are put to the test. Sometimes we rise to the challenge and glorify God in and through those relationships. Sometimes we don’t.

Marriages present Christian ministers with some of the thorniest issues they’ll ever deal with. Probably chief among them is the issue of divorce and remarriage. Does Scripture permit Christians to pursue that course? And if so, under what circumstances and according to what guiding rules and principles? Gallons of ink have been spilled exploring these questions, and no decisive consensus seems to be forthcoming. 

Among Regular Baptists, two views on the subject appear to be dominant: some hold that the Bible does permit (although it does not command) divorce and remarriage under a limited set of circumstances. Others hold that divorce and remarriage are never Scripturally authorized. Sometimes these views are referred to as the “exception clause” and “no exception clause” views (although that verbiage is probably too narrow, as it doesn’t reflect the full range of passages and issues the discussion entails).

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What About Divorce?

Divorce is a hot button issue among Christians today. It seems to have been a pressing issue in Christ’s day as well. Needless to say, divorce involves a wide range of opinions and engenders serious disagreements. Some state that the Bible teaches no divorce for any reason for any Christian ever. Others consider divorce an unfortunate, but unavoidable fact of life that should cause no undue concern for the people of God.

In truth, the Bible teaches neither of these positions. Let us examine one of the most extensive passages on this difficult subject, namely 1 Corinthians 7:10-16.

Divorce Among Believers

The passage opens with the words, “now to the married.” The Apostle Paul directs his attention to married members of the church in answer to their questions about divorce. This follows instructions already given to singles asking if it is OK to remain single (1 Cor. 7:1), married church members about the propriety of celibacy within marriage (1 Cor. 7:2-7), followed by questions from Widows and Widowers regarding remarriage after the death of a spouse (1 Cor. 7:8,9). Now Paul returns to married believers to field their questions about divorce.

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