May I Divorce My Wife and Remain Unmarried?

Wayne Jackson
When is divorce permissible? May a marriage partner divorce his or her spouse simply because they have tired of the marriage? Is “authorization” from God required for a divorce? Study this challenging issue with us.

“A Christian couple recently separated. The husband claims (to use his expression) that he has ‘fallen out of love’ with his wife. He says he has no interest in another companion, he simply wants to live the solitary life that he enjoyed before his marriage. Accordingly, he has decided to obtain a divorce. Since he has no intention of remarrying, what is his status before God?”

Clearly, this gentleman is embarking upon a course of sinful conduct. Why is this the case? For the following reasons:

Marriage Is a Permanent Arrangement

Once a marriage has been entered, unless it is dissolved for a biblical reason (i.e., death or sexual infidelity — Rom. 7:2; Mt. 5:32; 19:9), it is a lifelong obligation. “The woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth (i.e., as long as he remains alive)” (Rom. 7:2; cf. 1 Cor. 7:39). The Bible is very clear on the abiding nature of marriage.

God Is the Author of Marriage

God is the author of the marriage institution. It is he who joins the man and woman together in marriage (Mt. 19:6). It is, therefore, the Creator, and him alone, who determines when a divorce proceeding may be initiated.

The simple fact of the matter is, Jehovah has authorized divorce solely on the basis of fornication (Mt. 5:32; 19:9).

To initiate a divorce proceeding upon any other basis is, therefore, to go beyond what is authorized by divine law (cf. 1 Cor. 4:6, ASV). Such an action is a presumptuous transgression of Heaven’s marriage law and is sin (1 Jn. 3:4). No person is eligible to marry without conforming to God’s marriage law.

Similarly, no person is eligible to divorce without the sanction of New Testament authority.

Marriage Is a Binding Covenant

When one enters the marriage relationship, he or she enters into a covenant agreement with a companion that is witnessed and sealed by God (see Ezek. 16:8; Mal. 2:14). To divorce a marital partner, without divine authority, is to become a “covenant-breaker,” a sin strongly condemned in the Scriptures (Rom. 1:31). Read the catalog of sins discussed in the context to get an impression of how God views this transgression.

Marriage Carries Inherent Responsibilities

When a person assumes the responsibility of entering a marriage covenant, he or she accepts certain obligations of that relationship (see 1 Cor. 7:3-5; Eph. 5:22f; 1 Tim. 5:8). To vacate a marriage by reason of an unauthorized divorce is to flaunt these sacred responsibilities.

Unscriptural Divorce Brings about Temptation

When a person initiates an unauthorized divorce, he subjects his mate to the temptation of yielding to unlawful sexual fulfillment. This is likely the thrust of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 5:32, when the Savior declared that a man who divorces his wife, for a reason other than fornication, “makes her an adulteress.”

One possible view of this language is that he who initiates the divorce subjects his or her spouse to the temptation of finding another companion, hence, entering an adulterous relationship. Are we so naive as to think that God will not hold an individual accountable who has contributed to this sin?

Yes, unquestionably, it is sinful for men and women to divorce their mates without biblical authorization. This has become a common practice, however, and, tragically, the leadership of the church is failing to deal with it in terms of teaching and admonition.