The Sins of Divorce, Adultery, & Fornication

There is an on-going human catastrophe which is having such devastating effects that it threatens to destroy one of the oldest of mankind’s institutions. It is both social and spiritual and nature, and it eventually reaches into almost every facet of human life. Not only those directly involved are affected, but also those who are closely associated with them feel the heartbreak and agony of this human tragedy.

It is such an infraction of God’s perfect will and purpose for humanity that both natural and spiritual calamities which result are coming to the surface to expose the rottenness of the core of human society.

The calamity to which this is referring is the number of marital break-ups, divorces, and remarriages which are sweeping the world like a fast-moving contagion that attacks everyone in its path. This catastrophe should be recognized for what it is – an instrument of the devil himself to ensnare, entangle, and involve unwary and spiritually-blinded people into a life situation that is next to impossible to get out of, and which will lead to eternal destruction. The bait to this trap is enticing and appealing; even being entrapped in this condition is often so pleasant and gratifying that one doesn’t realize he is caught until the times comes for giving an account to God. At that time, the person realizes how completely he is bound and how tragic the consequences are to himself and those nearest and dearest to him.

The devil makes divorce look like the only alternative to a difficult and unrewarding marriage. The professional reasoning applied to this situation seems so credible that those who are not aware of the laws of God governing the marriage relationship readily accept this as a valid solution to their dilemma. However, in the end, you will not be responsible to your sociologist, your marriage counselor, or even your minister for your decision in the matter. Eventually, you will face Almighty God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, for what you have done about His standard of life and conduct.

Marriage: Let Not Man Put Asunder

The very first divinely sanctioned institution recognized by God was marriage. After God created man in His own image, He declared that it was not good for man to be alone. He then caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam. Taking a rib from Adam’s side, He created woman.

Upon presentation of the woman, Adam declared, “…This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh:…” (Genesis 2:23). It is further declared, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The institution of marriage, when performed by the proper authority, is divinely sanctioned by God, and the man and woman are recognized as being one flesh so long as they both shall live.

Jesus points this out when discussing the subject of divorce with the Pharisees. He explained that no one has the authority to dissolve this union which has been sanctioned by God.  “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Jesus continues, “…Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8).

During the time of the apostle Paul, God’s plan for marriage was once again in need of clarification. Roman law allowed for divorce by a simple declaration that affection no longer existed in the marriage. Divorce and remarriage became a common practice throughout the empire. Some researchers estimate the divorce rate during Paul’s day to have been fifty percent.

Paul, addressing the issue, wrote, “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man” (Romans 7:2, 3). Paul explained to the Romans that the death of a spouse freed the person to marry again, and the person who marries under these circumstances is not considered to be in adultery as long as the person married does not have a living companion.

Paul also wrote to the Church at Corinth regarding the same subject: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10, 11). Paul’s instruction to married couples in the Church at Corinth is in keeping with Jesus’ command regarding divorce. Divorce is not a part of God’s plan. However, Paul, understanding that divorce could not be prevented in many instance under civil law, pointed out that if divorce does occur, that one must remain unmarried or be reconciled to one’s spouse.

Fornication: The Just Cause for Divorce

The only allowable exception for marrying another after divorce is fornication. Jesus said, “…That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:32).

Fornication, in many instances, is misinterpreted as permission to remarry due to the unfaithfulness of a spouse. However, upon close examination of the Scriptures, it is revealed that the Word of God gives a very precise and definite description of fornication.

The sin of fornication is defined by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:2, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” One cannot have his own companion if that person is already part of a one flesh relationship which God joined together. There is no way under heaven that one can be joined together in one flesh in the state of fornication.

The definition of fornication, as it relates to the marriage situation, is quite simple. Since God has never recognized divorce, one cannot legally put away one’s spouse in the eyes of God. If unfaithfulness were a legitimate reason to divorce, one could deliberately become unfaithful so as to provoke the other divorce, thereby creating a cause.

Remember, Jesus explained to the Pharisees, “…What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). One who joins himself or herself to a divorced individual is therefore joined to another’s spouse. This marriage arrangement is improper, and it is not recognized by God. A single person married under these circumstances is therefore free to pursue divorce and marry someone who does not have a living spouse. Paul further explained, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39).

It is quite evident through each of the aforementioned verses of Scripture that a person married or joined to a person that has a living spouse would be in fornication. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, gives specific instructions to the Church regarding a member in fornication: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:9, 10). Paul clearly reminded the Church that he was not speaking of sin in the world, but sin within the Church. He promptly instructed the Church to put away that wicked person.

The Sin of Adultery

The sin of adultery can take on two forms. First, it is unfaithfulness or sexual lust. Jesus said, “…whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

Second, Jesus clearly explains the condition people are in when they divorce and remarry: “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Luke 16:18). The words of Jesus are also recorded in another of the four Gospels, “And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:12).

It is permissible in the secular world for divorce to be granted for infidelity, unfaithfulness, or an affair by one’s spouse. While this is adultery, it is not biblically correct to grant a divorce on such grounds. “…What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”(Matthew 19:6). Paul wrote, “What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh” (1 Corinthians 6:16).


When a man and a woman are joined together in holy matrimony, wedding vows are exchanged before the proper authority. God recognizes this authority and hears the vows exchanged. A vow before God is very sacred. The Old Testament states, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?” (Ecclesiastes 5:2-6).

Many use the excuse that they could not have known in advance the circumstances surrounding their marriage. However, just as Jephthah made a rash vow and had to sacrifice his own daughter (Judges 11:30-40), we are held responsible for our vows even if made under less than desirable circumstances. While man’s law has made allowances for the putting away of one’s spouse for every cause, God’s Word holds man accountable for the vows he has made.

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