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7 Biblical Reasons For Divorce And Practical Steps For Each

Are there ever Biblical reasons for divorce? As a Christian Marriage Mentor, I think my answer will surprise you. It is controversial even.


There are many reasons a Christian could file for divorce Biblically. Among them are 7 Biblical grounds for divorce that we will look at today!

  1. Adultery
  2. Treachery
  3. Virtual Infidelity
  4. Abandonment by an unbeliever
  5. Lack of peace, leading a spouse away from the Lord.
    • There are many other legitimate reasons for divorce. Period. Including:
  6. Abuse
  7. Addiction
    • Personally, I believe addiction could fall under abuse but it could stand alone.
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Why Are We Talking About Biblical Reasons for Divorce?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Why are we talking about Biblical reasons for divorce today?

On this website, I, Tiffany (Hi, it’s nice to meet you) share what God has been teaching me about living with hope and joy within a difficult marriage. Over the years that has surpassed 300 topics ranging from:

and everything in between.

Then, every week I sit down and open the emails sent to hopejoyinchrist. I pray over them, each person and every situation is special and often heartbreaking.

Men and women come to this site searching out how to take their faith to the next level of Spiritual maturity and how to thrive in any season of marriage. Many of those marriages are beyond difficult and they begin asking other questions.

I am asked this question in various forms almost weekly through email.

On what grounds is divorce allowed in the Bible?

We Need An Answer From God’s Word About Divorce & Biblical Reasons for Divorce

Every week I pray over these emails deeply, asking God how to answer them. My answer about divorce is controversial as I’ve heard echoed back so many times.

So hear my heart, I just want to offer hope and support for those who are in a hard place.

A few years ago I felt God prompting me to share this answer publically.

That is why we are talking about divorce today on the site for marriage help and faith advice.

Divorce is in the Bible.

Not Your Pastor’s Answer About Biblical Reasons For Divorce

I’ve walked this road myself. My first marriage ended in divorce. While it was falling apart I began asking so many questions:

  • What are the Biblical reasons for divorce?


  • On what grounds is divorce allowed in the Bible?

My heart was broken in so many pieces and I couldn’t make any sense of what was happening to me.

I asked every pastor I knew to help me figure out what the next step was Biblically. The answers I got back hurt almost as much as the betrayal I was experiencing in my marriage relationship.

While some want to say there is a clear-cut, black-and-white answer to the question, “Is divorce allowed in the Bible?” I disagree.

I have studied the Scriptures and personally believe divorce is a gray area. Shocking?

Divorce Is Not The Unforgivable Sin

What I heard from pastor after pastor and Christian friend after Christian friend was the same message.

“God hates divorce. You have to stay in your marriage. Just pray more. Pray harder. Be more gentle. Be a better wife and things will turn around. God is bigger than this struggle. Have more faith and everything will turn out in the end.”

The same message.

Over and over.

These people didn’t know each other. They had no conspiracy to deceive me.

The message they shared is one of the religious traditions of the Protestant faith. I hear it in those emails every week. Regardless of what harm has been done in the marriage the husband or wife is told God demands they stay in the marriage.

The message they are given is that God holds divorce as an unforgivable sin.

  • It’s okay that they are abused… God can forgive their spouse for abusing them.
  • It’s okay that they are cheated on… God can forgive their spouse for infidelity.
  • It’s okay that they have been left… God can forgive their spouse for abandonment.

God Can Forgive Anything Except Divorce?

Is that true? Is there some sin God can not or will not forgive?

They should stay and be at risk of further abuse, disease, or repeated abandonment because God is okay with that as long as they do not commit the unforgivable sin of divorce.

That is NOT in the Bible!

I get so angry when I read that another spouse has been told to stay and be abused… that God is okay with abuse but not divorce!


Pastors! Stop telling people to stay and be in danger. Stop telling them that prayer will change an abusive or unfaithful spouse. That God cares more about appearances than the safety of His children.


Listen to what they are telling you.

Take the whole council of God’s Word into consideration when you counsel a broken marriage.

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God Can Save Marriages Miraculously

I don’t usually write about divorce. Honestly, I believe God can save any marriage.

There is no marriage beyond the healing touch of Jesus Christ! Period.

Anytime someone comes to me to talk through the details of their broken marriage I start with that.

God saves marriages.

God fixes marriages.

I’ve seen it.

When only one was willing. When there seemed no hope. God steps in and crazy, unexplainable reconciliation happens!

The power of the Holy Spirit at work overwhelms such circumstances as led to the thought of divorce at all.  It’s crazy!

Learn More about Finding Hope and Joy in My Marriage Online Marriage Course for Wives Only ( #findinghopeandjoyinmymarriage #ChristianMarriage #ChristianMarriageadvice #BiblicalMarriage #Relationshipadvice #ChristianLiving #HopeinMarriage )

3 Steps Before Thinking About Divorce

The Holy Spirit is part of God, living in us, desiring to hold this marriage covenant together.  He works to move in powerful ways to heal the marital relationship!  
It’s amazing.

There is no rhyme or reason to it that I can see.

One wife prays for years and nothing changes. Another wife prays for months and things shift.

I don’t understand it. But I believe it. God is in the miracle business.

If you are thinking in terms of divorce I counsel the same plan every time.

  1. Prayer and fasting.
  2. Learn to forgive.
  3. Be still while you wait.

If after all of that, divorce is the only way forward, educate yourself on exactly what the Bible teaches so you can walk in peace.

How To Handle Problems In Marriage

Often our first step is to bring in a Christian counselor when there are marital issues.  And yes, a Biblical counselor can be a good thing, but it shouldn’t be the first step.  

I am a strong advocate of church guidance and church discipline. Jesus Himself tells us how to handle serious problems between believers. That includes your spouse.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector…” (Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)

Church Discipline and Divorce​

God’s laws are laid out clearly in Scripture.  You took marriage vows at your local church.  When the subject of divorce comes into play, the church leadership can help you walk through a process of healing.  

Married couples greatly undervalue the lifelong commitment of the local church!  They are there to help you, teach you, and guide you along life’s path.  

Talk to your pastor and the elders about what is going on and begin getting their help as you walk along this path.  If it’s just you, that’s okay.  The help will still add value.

And if the added help and accountability of the local church does not make things better… then it’s good to know what the Bible says about divorce.

What Does The Bible Say About Divorce?

What does the Bible say about divorce?

“For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16 NASB)

When my first marriage was failing because of his infidelity and lying, all of my church friends and several preachers quoted Malachi 2:16 to me.

Stay in your marriage. 

Fight for your marriage. 

A wife has no Biblical grounds for divorce in the eyes of God.

Those are words that cause hopelessness to sink into the soul of a wife as little else can.

I, of course, tried to fight for that marriage.  I set boundaries, scheduled appointments for marriage counseling, prayed for healing, and waited for a miracle.

Through the process, I learned something I try to be very honest about with the wives I counsel today.

It takes two willing people to reconcile a broken marriage.

There are at least 7 Biblical Reasons For Divorce. Learn about the Practical Steps For Each! Share on X

Read The Bible In Context

Let’s just camp out for a moment in Malachi 2 since that is the go-to Biblical reasons for divorce verses. We all know the beginning of verse 16 but do you know the end?

““For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, (NOTICE THE COMMA HERE IS NOT A PERIOD) “and him who covers his garment with violence,” says the Lord of armies. “So be careful about your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16 NASB)

So, if we only examine this verse alone we see that God is not okay with divorce or violence. So you can’t say to an abused spouse that divorce is the only sin to deal with. The violence is also clearly called out as sin!

But let’s go back just one sentence into the paragraph that this verse is pulled from, please.

“Be careful then about your spirit, and see that none of you deals treacherously against the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15 NASB)

This is not just a warning that God hates divorce. Nope. In fact, this is a warning to spouses to stop treating their partners in such a way that leads to divorce. God hates seeing His children treated badly, treacherously in fact.

2 Biblical Grounds For Divorce: The Only Reasons For Divorce In The Bible From Malachi 2

Now, Malachi 2 is an intense passage where the prophet is laying into Israel about all their sin. They are a hot mess. A Hot Mess of sin and hypocrisy.

He is judging Israel for the generations of idolatry that had led them into, war, captivity, and hopelessness. It is awful. My heart aches for them just reading it.

  • Verses 1-9 outline how the religious leaders had failed.
    • We should read with fear as the Western church could fit this bill easily today.
  • Verse 10-17 outline how family units had failed.
    • Brothers sinned against brothers.
    • Men married foreign women.
    • Worship had become a spectacle.
      • A show of outward religiousness rather than heart-deep repentance and submission.
      • Again, a huge warning to us today!
    • They accused God of not listening but they would not listen to God.
    • Husbands dealt treacherously with their wives.
      • Husbands justified this by claiming they desired offspring (indicating infidelity)
    • There is divorce – that God hates.
    • There is violence – that God hates.
      • The Lord of Armies says to be careful about your spirit. (What a huge reminder of who it is that they are trying to manipulate and blame for their sinful hard hearts.)
    • They wearied the Lord by saying evil was good and blaming God for injustice.

Malachi 2 does not give a black-and-white answer about the only reasons for divorce in the Bible. In reality, what I see is that God is angry about all of what they are doing.

God hates seeing spouses treat their partners treacherously. Treating your spouse treacherously leads to divorce.

God hates both things. Both things are sinful.

This passage clearly shows a cause and effect. Treat them badly and there will be divorce. Who is then responsible for the divorce?

Which Is Worse, Treachery or Divorce?

Okay, so maybe that’s not the question we ask yet. How about this one? We are looking at the question:

What is Biblical justification for divorce?

What makes a person just to file for divorce?

Malachi 2 suggests treachery and we see infidelity and abuse alluded to in the text.

Treachery leads to divorce and God hates it. We have to re-frame the conversation this way. Instead of beating down the abused, betrayed, broken spouse who is trying to find some way free of the pain…

We have to talk to the other spouse and say, “God hates violence and treachery. God hates to see you deal falsely with the spouse of your youth.”

Why do we say divorce is the unforgivable sin when the text says God hates the treachery and the false repentance?

When are we going to face this issue honestly and say that one leads to the other and that breaks God’s heart?

Which is worse; One person hurting another, or the hurting person finding safety?

If I look throughout Scripture I see that God defends the hurting, the weak, and the brokenhearted.

What about you?

Understanding Divorce Biblically

There is some debate about the Biblical definition of divorce and how many reasons there are for divorce in the Bible.

Divorce happens when you legally dissolve the contract between a man and a woman.

However, Biblically, marriage is not a contract. You are not in business with each other, sharing assets for a mutual advantage.

A Biblical marriage is a covenant. A covenant marriage is a binding seal between two parties where they cease to be individuals and become one flesh.

God’s Covenant of Marriage

A marriage is a covenant that joins together two hearts and souls.

Picture it like two pieces of construction paper that were superglued together for a project. Upon realizing you made a mistake you attempt to pull the pages apart. Neither comes apart untorn. Neither are ever whole again and part of the other is always with the one.

This is why divorce hurts so deeply. You are separating a sealed bond. The one flesh is attempting to revert back to two parties and neither will be whole or without parts of the other again.

The tearing hurts. I believe this is why God hates divorce. He does not want to see His children hurting.

The Bride and Groom Biblically

Now obviously, there are deeper reasons God hates divorce.

The Bible paints a clear picture of marriage. The Christian marriage represents the relationship between God (the Groom) and the church (the Bride). Divorce mars that picture.

I’ve heard it taught and preached countless times. Wives are to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ. (Yes, the Bible teaches that clearly.)

If marriage gets tough, you press in through faith and believe God to move in powerful and mighty ways. (Yes, the Bible also teaches that about any difficult situation.)

Loving the unlovable… enduring all things, bearing all things, and hoping all things… shows the lost world the power of God to love unconditionally and change hearts and lives. (Yep, that’s all in the Scriptures.)

Related Post: 13 Powerful Ways to Show 1 Corinthians 13 Love in Marriage

Called To Fight

I firmly believe we are called to fight for our marriages. Don’t misunderstand me. Most divorce today is a result of cultural Christianity…

We have assimilated a cultural worldview of love and marriage into the church.

We fall in love and get married. Something goes wrong and we allow distance to creep in. Distance leads to disputes and bickering. After a while, we can’t remember why we married. When that “in love” feeling passes us by we believe we deserve love and file for divorce.

Most marriages end with little to no fight put up to save the relationship. That is wrong.

A healthy marriage is hard work. The “in love” feeling will fade but we are called to choose love anyway.

We are called to pray for each other. It is critical that we cultivate healthy communication and have fun together. We have to support each other, correct each other, and keep being intentional.

Both need to mature and grow together in their faith.

We are called to fight for our marriage!

Not All Fights Can Be Won

What I am talking about in this article are the cases where the difficult marriage has taken a tailspin and is broken. When you have been fighting and nothing is getting better. When you are at the end of yourself and you’ve been pressing into God and there is no change… What then?

What can you do when it has been years of fighting and nothing is shifting?

If your struggles are beyond the issues of preference the Bible speaks to your situation.

What Are The Biblical Reasons For Divorce?

Okay, so we could spend a lot more time in the Old Testament, but the New Testament gives us very clear guidance about living together as believers. So if we are looking for divorce in the Bible, New Testament verses are much more easy to understand.

There is some back and forth among the minority who see this in Scripture. Some say there are 4 Biblical reasons for divorce, while others say there are only 3 reasons for divorce in the Bible.

What Are The 3 Biblical Reasons For Divorce?

Yes, there are grounds for divorce in the Bible. Below I will share several grounds for divorce Bible verses that helped me work through this confusing topic!

In the camp of 3 Biblical reasons for divorce are the Big A’s.

  1. Adultery
  2. Abandonment
  3. Abuse

Let’s dig right into the Scripture for those.

Adultery and divorce in the Bible are tied together pretty firmly.

Bible verse about adultery and divorce:

“but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity (sexual sin), makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32 NASB emphasis mine)

Adultery is in the Bible specifically as a reason for divorce.

Adultery tries to join together two who are not in a covenant. It breaks the trust of the two who ARE in a covenant.

Adultery selfishly seeks to satisfy something in itself that should be taken to God and your partner. It puts your partner at risk for disease.

Adultery is wrong on every level. It deals treacherously with the spouse of your youth.

2. Is Virtual Infidelity Grounds for Divorce Biblically?

In today’s culture, we are bombarded by sexual images, videos, and sounds. Sexual addiction is a real sin struggle almost as equally among the saved as the lost.

The question has come to me over and over again about how to handle a spouse struggling with pornography addiction, sexting, and emotional affairs.

Sometimes the question comes in disguise:

Is a sexless marriage Biblical grounds for divorce? What is the cause of the lack of sexual intimacy in the marriage?

  • If some kind of sexual addiction is at the root, then possibly.
  • If a physical impediment is at the root, no.
    • The body is not for physical pleasure (such as food or sexual satisfaction 1 Corinthians 6:13–20) but for glorifying God and sex is not the only purpose of marriage.

Virtual infidelity can lead to divorce. There is so much more to cover though so if you are struggling with that in your marriage please click through to learn more here ~> Is Virtual Infidelity A Ground For Divorce Biblically?

Can A Marriage Survive Adultery

Yes. In some cases, the couple can work through the hurt, find a pathway toward forgiveness, and move on to something healthy and whole.

Boundaries are required to rebuild trust.

A time of separation is often required to set those boundaries and slowly gain trust and intimacy.

Much prayer is needed to center yourselves in the Lord and allow His Word to lead you forward.

I’ve known many who have successfully navigated infidelity in marriage who now have a healthy godly marriage.

Read: Is There Hope for My Marriage After Separation? Hope for the Separated from My Story

Not All Marriages Can Survive Adultery

However, not all marriages can survive adultery. It takes two parties who genuinely desire change and are committed to intentionally walking through the process for this work.

Now, I have seen miracles happen. There have been many cases where only one was willing to do the work at first and over time things changed. Through prayer and consistency, God brought about miraculous healing. Over time the resistant party softened and both began to work toward healing. I love those stories.

They don’t always happen.

Sometimes one party desperately desires change but the other does not. After years of prayer, no change happens.

Separation drives them away instead of driving them toward desiring reconciliation.

Boundaries make them angry and push them further away instead of creating a safe place to rebuild trust.

Sometimes adultery can not be overcome and divorce is necessary. Only you and the LORD will know when things get to that point.

Forgiveness But NOT Reconciliation

Another point I want to be 100% clear about as we discuss Biblically reasons for divorce is on the topic of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is for you. It is between you and God.

Reconciliation is between you and your spouse. It is a process that holds them both accountable to change.

Reconciliation is only possible when both parties are working toward rebuilding trust… over time, trust is earned by repeated believably changed behavior.

When both parties are not working toward rebuilding trust, forgiveness is possible between you and the Lord, but reconciliation must wait.

The next clear-cut reason for divorce in the Bible is abandonment.

“Yet if the unbelieving one is leaving, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us in peace.” (1 Corinthians 7:15 NASB)

To clarify this passage is specifically talking about those who become saved while already married.

An unequally yoked marriage can cause a great deal of struggle. You will not agree about the most basic things in life at a fundamental level.

In those cases, the Apostle Paul says divorce is fine. Isn’t that interesting? We are called to live at peace in marriage. When peace is not possible because you can’t agree in this way it is better to be divorced.

4. A Lack Of Peace Leads To Divorce For The Unbelieving Spouse

That is HUGE. Huge.

Earlier we saw that when there is abuse (violence), and infidelity, and treachery it can lead to divorce. Now we see that being married to someone of a different faith can lead to divorce.

Now, to be clear, that was part of the problem in the Malachi passage as well (they had married women who worshipped foreign gods), but it is crystal clear in 1 Corinthians.

So when you are unequally yoked, you could be divorced Biblically because it is better to be at peace…

I imagine it is also because the lack of peace would drive the unsaved spouse further from the Lord which is counterproductive to the goal of every Believer.

  • Save the Lost.
  • Disciple the saved.

Unequally Yoked Marriages Lead to Divorce

Let’s take this a bit further, please. What does it mean to be unequally yoked?

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15 NKJV)

The Apostle Paul is talking telling the church at Corinth that Christians have no business marrying non-Christians. Specifically, he mentions immature Believers in the verse above.

Paul is saying that when you do not believe the same, when you are not growing toward the Lord, maturing in your faith there will be no peace.

When one spouse is lost they can’t understand why the saved spouse acts certain ways, avoids certain things, desires certain things. When one spouse is immature, there is the same problem.

There is no peace in the home and connecting intimately is difficult.

Can An Unequally Yoked Marriage Be Saved?

Yes. Paul says in the passage that if the lost or immature one agrees to stay in the marriage try to work things out. It could lead to their salvation.

If however, they want out, if the unbelieving partner separates, let them go in peace. The Scriptures don’t clarify if it refers to an unbelieving husband or an unbelieving wife.  This specific situation is a legitimate reason for divorce.

Now… their words and actions have to match here. If they say they want to stay, but they are abandoning you in every other way, they may really want to go.

This will be a point of prayer for the believing or mature spouse. Ask the Lord to bring to light the true intentions and move in powerful ways.

Related Post: How To Fight For My Unequally Yoked Marriage

Abandonment Between Believers

Okay, so what about when for no explainable or for no Biblical reason a Christian spouse abandons their marriage?

What can you do in this case?

Every situation will be different so there is no one-stop answer. But in general, I treat this as the unbeliever who wants out and lets them go in peace.

Only God knows what is in their heart, but you can’t force someone to stay.

Often there is an issue of mental health or addiction or infidelity. But at times there is just fear or unforgiveness. That will be between them and the Lord to work through.

You will need to focus on forgiving, healing and slowly stepping out in faith with the Lord into whatever He has next for you.

Divorce After Abandonment

In the case where you can not reconcile whatever has led to the abandonment, divorce protects you. Divorce severs your financial connections, protecting you from anything the other spouse may do or have done unwisely.

I hate to counsel a husband or wife to file for divorce, but I have seen too many have to file for bankruptcy because the spouse who abandoned, then made harmful choices.

Now, the issue of divorce in the case of abuse is very controversial. Up to this point, I have agreed – at least partially – with mainstream Christianity about divorce. Here we diverge.

I believe abuse is a Biblical reason for divorce.

Let’s look back at our text from Malachi 2:16.

“and him who covers his garment with violence,” says the Lord of armies.

God hates divorce proceeds God hating Him who is violent. In fact, we get the impression that God is saying that from a battle position. He is the King of kings, leading the armies of Angels to defend His children.

If divorce is wrong, abuse is wrong. Violence is wrong.

Dealing treacherously paints a picture of someone who is physically violent, verbally violent, emotionally violent, financially violent, and Spiritually violent.

This seems black and white to me. I don’t understand how Bible-believing Christians can look me in the face and tell me God wants me to be abused… that God gave permission to a son or daughter of His to abuse me or anyone else.

I don’t see it.

Do you?

Separation Instead of Divorce for Abuse – Their Solution

Mainstream Christian experts say this is a gray area. To stay in God’s good graces the abused spouse can separate from their partner but not divorce them.


Let’s examine that advice.

Separation is a way to set boundaries in a marriage relationship where trust has been broken. The space and time allow both parties to draw near to the Lord and change.

In some cases, this is effective. Change happens and you can build trust and reconcile.

But what if it is not effective?

In the case of abuse, I advocate strongly for the safety of the abused spouse. Abusers are experts at masking abuse. It is easy for them to fake change from a distance.

At what point would you know for sure that it was safe to end the separation? Only to be back together completely for a few months and then notice the traits of abuse slip back in…

I do not believe it is safe to counsel spouses this way.

Safety First Approach

We serve a Big God who is fully able to change and heal in any circumstance. I believe that. I’ve seen that! Hear me clearly. I am NOT saying an abusive spouse can not change.

I am saying it is difficult to gauge the change in an abusive spouse.

Abuse lurks undetected until it springs out at you.

I advise safety first.

  • Separation.
  • Counseling.
  • Pastoral counseling with full disclosure to elders and leaders in your circle.
  • Lots of eyes and accountability at every step.
  • Clearly set goals and boundaries to mark progress.
  • An anger management or AA problem to help teach new skills.
  • Slow. Slow. Progress.

When To File For Divorce After Abuse and Separation

But what if, even when taking it safe and slow, there is no change?

Abuse can be so slick and sneaky that you doubt your sanity. You question if it was abuse at all. You question if it was your fault.

In the safety-first approach, I recommend there will be clear boundaries and benchmarks set. This is to give you accountability. It gives everyone involved a clear way to see progress or the lack of progress.

Boundaries take the guesswork out of the question of when to stop fighting.

When a boundary is crossed or a benchmark is missed repeatedly or ignored repeatedly you have a clear sign.

Special Advise For The Spouse of A Narcissist

Narcissism is a hot topic in the culture today. I tend to not address it because I believe it is greatly overhyped but undiagnosed.

Narcissism is a mental health disorder where the person is grossly self-involved. At it’s extreme the person believes they are always right, you are always wrong. You are not doing anything right, everything wrong is your fault. Everything good is from them, everything bad is from you.

A narcissist abuses subvertly at first. You don’t even realize how badly they have put you down until you do realize it.

When you confront the narcissist to change they make it all out to be your fault anyway and you doubt who is mentally healthy.

A narcissist can not change without professional help. You can’t be good enough or try hard enough. Until there is real pressure to change they will not seek help.

It may take you leaving to push them to get the help they need… but they may not seek help when you leave either.

Be careful if this describes your spouse. Get professional help yourself in setting boundaries and making a plan. Be safe.

Bible Verses About Abuse

The Bible speaks out against violence. This is why I do not agree with mainstream Christian pastors or counselors who advise the abused party that divorce is not okay.

Here are a few verses to help us focus on God’s voice of abuse. There are actually a lot and I can’t narrow it down so I will separate them into two parts.

  • New Testament Scripture on Abuse
  • Old Testament Bible Verses About Abuse

See these articles for more on this:

God’s View of Abuse in the New Testament

““You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22 ESV)

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV)

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20 ESV)

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:17-21 ESV)

God’s View of Abuse in the Old Testament

“The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” (Psalm 11:5 ESV)

“From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.” (Psalm 72:14 ESV)

“On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master’s house with violence and fraud.” (Zephaniah 1:9 ESV)

“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.” (Psalm 140:12 ESV)

What Did Jesus Say Was the Reason for Divorce?

It seems best to begin with the Words of Jesus surrounding the issue of divorce. However, Jesus does not speak to just the issue of divorce. Nope, Jesus talks about divorce and remarriage in the Bible.

The two are tied together as Jesus addresses this topic. Why? Because Jesus knew the heart behind the questions being asked of Him.

The people asking Jesus about divorce were not concerned with safety or peace. They were concerned about which Rabbi’s Philosophical view Jesus would side with.

One Rabbi believed women were inherently bad and so a man should divorce one for any reason where she displeased him. (This is an oversimplification but not by much.)

The other Rabbi held that divorce was only permissible in the case of infidelity by the woman. If the wife was unfaithful the husband could divorce her.

Biblical Reasons For Divorce From The Sermon on the Mount

Now enter Jesus into the debate.

““Now it was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away is to give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32 NASB)

Jesus states clearly that adultery is an acceptable reason to divorce. The religious leaders of the time would have understood that Jesus was saying you can not divorce your wife for just any reason.

He was speaking to the heart of the issue!

If you divorce your wife for just any reason you force her to sin.

I love that about Jesus! He calls things out as they are!

It won’t just be that they sin, they will cause someone else to sin.

Biblical Reasons For Divorce and Remarriage According To Jesus

Now we see Jesus again address the issue of Biblical divorce and remarriage. We will look at it in Matthew 19:3-12 and Mark 10:2-12.

Matthew 19’s Account About Divorce and Remarriage

This is a Tiffany paraphrase of Matthew 19.

The Pharisees ask Jesus His beliefs about divorce. Jesus answers that God created male and female to marry and become one flesh. Once they become one flesh no one should separate them.

  • Divorce is not God’s plan.

The Pharisees counter that Moses allowed divorce.

Jesus, (I imagine with a righteous tone of voice) tells them divorce came because people become hard-hearted but it was not God’s plan. If they must divorce, it should be for adultery.

BUT, if a man divorces his wife and remarries he commits adultery.

  • God sees marriage as a covenant issue… a piece of paper does not dissolve a covenant.
    • I bet the Pharisees didn’t see that coming!

The disciples are confused by this and ask Jesus if it’s just better not to marry at all. He answers that not all can be unmarried. Some can and if he can, great.

Marl 10’s Account About Divorce and Remarriage

There is much debate about these two passages. Did they happen at two different times or are they parallel accounts of the same conversation?

I don’t know, but most of it is the same. We see a difference, however, in how Jesus answers in Mark 10:11.

“And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

We still see Jesus choosing the side of the Rabi who was more strict about divorce, however, in this account, Jesus elevates the woman.

If she sins he can divorce her.

If she divorces him and remarries, that is adultery.


  • The issue here is not divorce but divorce and remarriage in the Bible.

Luke 16:18’s Account of Divorce and Remarriage From Jesus

The topic of divorce seems to be an afterthought in at the end of a parable. Here Jesus teaches that we must be faithful with a little to be trusted with a lot. This was to teach the Pharisees that God sees what is in the heart and they are not hiding their sin from Him.

Jesus goes on to say that law will not fail before reminding them that they desired divorce to be for their benefit to gain the better thing they pleased.

What a long train of thought… but I shared it because we know something that took place later.

The Law

A bit earlier in the Sermon on The Mount, Jesus made this statement:

“Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.
For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished! 
Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19 NASB)

Jesus then went on to make the Law of Moses even more impossible to keep.

What was His point?

We can not keep the law.

We are not perfect.

Jesus would be perfect.

Jesus would take the consequence for our sin on Himself at the Cross of Calvary.

We will break the law…

  • Think in anger about someone – murder. (Matthew 5:21-26)
  • Look with lust on another person – adultery. (Matthew 5:27-30)
  • Divorce and remarriage – adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
  • Make an oath – be labeled beyond evil. (Matthew 5:33-37)

On and on Jesus went making it crystal clear that we could NEVER keep the law perfectly.

What was His point?

When we fail, turn to Him for forgiveness, grace, and mercy.

God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness! (1 John 1:9)

The Real Question About Biblical Reasons For Divorce

Here’s the truth. What you are really asking is not “Are there Biblical reasons for divorce?”

Nope. You are asking:

  • Is it a sin to get a divorce?
  • Is remarriage a continuous sin?
  • What if I divorce and remarry the same person?

I’ve shared with you what the Bible says about divorce. Now I want to briefly touch on what the Bible says about sin.

Is Divorce Sin?

Now. Just getting a divorce is not sinful. There are 5 Biblical reasons for divorce and 2 extra that we can infer from what we know about the Lord.

  1. Adultery
  2. Treachery
  3. Virtual Infidelity
  4. Abandonment by an unbeliever
  5. Lack of peace leading a spouse away from the Lord.
    • There are many other legitimate reasons for divorce. Period. Including:
  6. Abuse
  7. Addiction
    • I personally believe addiction could fall under abuse but it could stand alone.

But there could be many other reasons.

Since we live in a fallen world, death and destruction are eroding everything around us. Marriage is hard.

If after trying everything to make a marriage work… you can’t… divorce may be necessary.

Divorce and Remarriage Are Sin

What we see from the words of Jesus and others in Scripture is that divorce is not usually where people stay. We long for companionship and intimacy. There may come a time you desire to marry again.

We serve a covenant God who doesn’t see a legal document as covenant-breaking. What then?

If God sees you forever married to your first spouse (unless there was infidelity or they were an unbeliever who abandoned you) what can you do?


1 Corinthians 7 Take on Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible

The Apostle Paul gives clear direction regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

But if they (unmarried people) do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife is not to leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband is not to divorce his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:6-11 NASB)

There are two parts here of interest.

  • God intended marriage to be forever.
  • Marriage is preferred to sexual sin.

Basically, Paul teaches that if you have self-control, it is better to remain unmarried. If, however, you do not have self-control, it is better to marry.

So if you are divorced and remarried, that is a sin, but it is preferable to… sin…

What I see here is that sin is sin.

What Does God Say About Sin?

We will all sin. All fall short. ALL!

We just will.

Divorce happens.

Are there Biblical grounds for divorce? Yes.

Does that make remarriage okay?

In two cases the Bible says yes, that is a sin-free choice.

In every other case, it is sinful. Sexual sin is sin.

I serve a God who forgives sin.

Let that sink in, please.

Somewhere along the line with this topic, we have forgotten this.

God does not expect perfection from us. If He did, there would have been no reason for Jesus.

We all sin.

Pride. Self-righteousness. Profanity. Greed. Idolatry. Gluttony. Lust.

Why has divorce become a sin that God could never forgive?

I don’t know about you, but I sin every day. And every day I confess that sin and He forgives me.

Is Remarriage a Continuous Sin?

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NASB)

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our wrongdoings from us.” (Psalm 103:12 NASB)

If you are here searching out the Biblical reasons for divorce, this is probably on your mind. Maybe you asked Google for four Biblical reasons for divorce. You really wondered about how God treats sin… if divorce is sin (and usually it is).

God forgives sin.

He then removes the record of our wrongdoing from His memory.

The Lord doesn’t bring it up or make us ashamed once we have dealt with the issue through confession and repentance.

Jesus doesn’t do that for any other sin issues. Why would divorce and remarriage be any different?

What Are The Biblical Consequences of Divorce?

So, yes there are Biblical reasons for divorce.

But, in reality, we will probably not have the self-control to stay single and serve God with a single-hearted devotion like Paul the Apostle.

So we will remarry and that is sinful.

But we can confess our sins and God will forgive us and give us a fresh start.

Thank You, Jesus, for mercy and grace!

But… there is this nagging question in the back of your mind… or there was in the back of my mind. Will there be consequences? Biblical consequences of divorce?

Divorce Hurts

What are the Biblical consequences of divorce?

At the covenant of marriage, God joined two hearts, souls, and bodies together as one. Tearing that oneness apart hurts.

Now, is that pain a “Biblical consequence?” I can’t say but it is a reality.

Divorce Could Damage Our Testimony

The world is watching Christians, especially in the area of marriage. When we divorce each other for petty things they see no difference between us and them. They see no reason to want our Jesus.

So I said divorce could damage our testimony, not that is always does damage.

Staying in a toxic marriage, staying in an abusive environment, staying when everyone around you can see the damage ABSOLUTELY damages your testimony.

The lost world sees that, hears you say the preacher says you can’t get a divorce where there are clearly legitimate grounds… Why would they want that Jesus?

Why would they want to serve a God who says they should stay and be hurt?

Divorce Should Be A Last Thing

I think the idea that anything could damage our testimony beyond repair is crazy… God can turn any mess into a message.

So, be careful, be mindful but be real throughout it.

Don’t allow the fear of losing your witness to keep you in a place of harm.

Allow the fear of losing your witness to drive you to fight for your marriage before turning to divorce.

Fight first.

  • Intentionally invest.
  • Pray hard.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Get counseling.
  • Separate for a time.
  • Get accountability.

Don’t start with divorce.

But if you end up divorced, remember who God is.

He sees you. He cares for you. God loves you. The Lord forgives you. God fights for you. Our Father wants abundant life for you right here.

Take it to Him and find healing and hope.

Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible

One more thing before I finish. There are divorced people in the Bible. There are adulterers in the Bible. The Bible is filled with stories of sinners who God forgave and then used to serve the Kingdom.

I want to include this because many believe that if you are divorced or divorced and remarried you can no longer serve the Lord. That does not line up with clear Biblical teaching.

David Committed Adultery

David sinned. He slept with a married woman, got her pregnant, then killed her husband. God forgave David.

God called David a man after His own heart. The Lord used David in mighty ways.

A son from that remarriage became the next king of Israel.

Pause for a moment.

David sinned with Bathsheba. He then married her after killing her husband. Yes, she was a widow, but do you think God saw it as okay to marry her? Um… that’s sin.

Their child died but the next child was Solomon. Were they still living in sin? Nope. God forgave them and blessed them.

God forgives sin.

Adultery is a sin God forgives.

The Samaritan Woman

Just one more example of God’s forgiveness and desire to continue to use us when we are far from perfect. The Samaritan woman is a beautiful example of God’s redemption.

“The woman answered and said to Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this which you have said is true.” (John 4:17-18 NASB)

This woman has been married 5 times and is not living in open sexual sin. Jesus does not disqualify her from serving the Lord.

In fact, Jesus chose her to be the first person to publically know He is the Messiah.


Not only was she divorced, she was living with a man in sexual sin. This was not unforgivable. This did not disqualify her from serving the Lord… serving the Lord in a public way!

God Loves Sinners And Uses Them To Serve Him

Know that God loves you.

You sin.

Divorce and remarriage in your case may well be sin.

God forgives sin!

If God forgave the Samaritan Woman 5 divorces, He will forgive you.

If God used her and David after sexual sin, He will can you.

Take heart and move forward. He is with you!

This will not be the one sin that broke the cross or stumped the throneroom of God.

A Prayer For Strength During Divorce

Father God,

Marriage is tough in certain seasons. We all went into marriage believing we would grow old together. There was a dream of lifelong companionship, trust, and deep intimacy. Something went wrong along the way. They didn’t plan it or want it to go that way. But it did.

I am asking today that You step into this situation in a way that is undeniable to both parties. Let them see Your hand moving, hear Your voice calling, feel Your arms surrounding them. Stand up over this marriage and fight for them. Bring hope, bring healing, please, bring restoration as only You can!

Where restoration is not possible, please give closure in a clear way. Bring peace and community. Remind them that You catch every tear in your bottle and that You never leave them or forsake them.

Remove guilt except where it serves to show areas that have been unconfessed. It takes two to make or break a marriage and so there are things that need to be talked through with You. Show those things. Forgive those things. And then help them move past those things.

Give clarity, wisdom, and discernment about what is next. Help them walk in Your will every step of the way. Be glorified in this in some way. Amen.

What Will You Do With These Biblical Reasons For Divorce?

Yes, there are Biblical reasons for divorce. We saw 3 to 5 clear Biblical grounds for divorce:

  1. Adultery
  2. Abandonment
  3. Abuse
    • Addiction
  4. Possibly a lack of peace or other treacherous behaviors

But we also saw that when people are looking for justification for divorce Biblically there is another set of questions they are often afraid to ask.

  • Is divorce a sin according to the Bible?
    • We saw that no, divorce is not called a sin.
      • Be safe!
  • What about divorce and remarriage in the Bible?
    • Yes, in many cases remarriage is called a sin in the Bible.
      • This is not an unforgivable sin, however.

So, if you have tried everything and there is no saving your marriage, divorce may be the next step. In a fallen, sinful and dying world, divorce is a painful reality.

What can you do if you feel divorce is your next step?

  • Lean into the Lord.
  • Learn to forgive… your spouse, yourself, and God.
  • Be still while you wait for Him to guide your steps.

Then walk in freedom because you are a forgiven child of the King.

If and when re-marriage becomes the topic… that’s another situation. You will have to walk that through with the Lord. Talk through issues of sin and decide what is the next right step.

*I’ll write more on divorce and remarriage soon.

Until then, be safe, be wise, and trust God to move in remarkable and unexpected ways.

in HIS Love,

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Tiffany Montgomery

Tiffany of Hope Joy in Christ inspires Christian Women to grow in faith, live out Biblical Marriage Principles and raise Godly Children.  Join the Wives Only Facebook Group here or keep up with her through Pinterest.