Jesus teaching on marriage said:

Matthew 19:9 (NKJV)
9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Yet regarding divorce Paul writes says:

1 Corinthians 7:15 (NKJV)
15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.

What church doctrines touch on the issue of divorce and take into consideration both of these verses? Specifically, how would each doctrine apply to a case where one partner gets saved after being married?

If there are different interpretations of these text, what would each doctrine say about my case? I was saved after I was married. My husband was not happy with my Christian faith. He decided to file for divorce.

What teachings need to be considered in order to determine whether I am no longer “under bondage” as it states in the 1 Corinthians reference or if I would be committing adultery if I wanted to, at some point, marry again?

  • 3
    Related question: Under what conditions does the Bible support divorce?
    – styfle
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 5:55
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    @newwings I have edited your question in order to avoid two possible issues. One was that pastoral-care/counseling questions are off-topic here. I tried to leave your personal background so it's a real question but made the question about doctrine and teachings. Secondly there are multiple different doctrines on the issue so you can't just ask for a "right" Christian answer here. In order to keep this from becoming a vote contest, I tried to make it so that a valid answer will be one that covers several different teachings on this issue. Hopefully knowing the various teachings will helpful.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 8:11
  • What makes a good focused question?
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 8:20
  • I gave it +1 for the doctrine mention. However, it would be very useful if you helped us out by limiting the set of doctrines that you're willing to consider. Is Mormonism a consideration? What about Quakerism or Catholicism or the Jehovah's Witness doctrine or Orthodoxy?
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 11:33
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    I was trying for interpretation of scripture (NKJ). Not necessarily a particular doctrine. It is difficult to determine what, exactly, "under bondage" means. Perhaps, that should have been my question?
    – new wings
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 14:45

1 Answer 1


An important consideration is the audience to which each of these statements was made. Jesus was speaking to Jewish people living under the Law of Moses prior to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Paul, however, was speaking to believers in Jesus Christ, who may have been Jewish, but had a spouse who was not a believer.

From a purely biblical perspective and very strict adherence to biblical standards, a Christian is bound to the marriage vows until they are dissolved, either by death or marital unfaithfulness--whether before or after divorce.

A key thing to note is that once a couple is divorced, the departing spouse commits marital unfaithfulness upon either remarriage or a sexual relationship with a new partner. At that point, the requirement of marital faithfulness has been met, and the other partner would then be free to remarry.

So, a believing spouse whose partner departs is freed after a divorce when the departing spouse engages in marital unfaithfulness with another partner.

Paul adds the exemption of a departing unbelieving spouse as well. This condition would not have existed at the time of Jesus' word. The New Covenant went into effect upon the resurrection of Jesus, which then gave rise to divisions between believing and unbelieving partners.

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    Not to split hairs, but not all Christians believe that unfaithfulness is grounds for a dissolution of sacramental marriage leaving the spouses free to remarry. Between the baptized, "a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death." ccc 2382
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 15:11
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    I understand that Christians can believe different things, but from Jesus' own words, it seems clear that marital unfaithfulness is legitimate grounds for the dissolution of marriage. I did note that I was coming from a "purely biblical perspective."
    – Narnian
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 15:21
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    While it's difficult for me to see how this passage could be interpreted differently, I do recognize that. So... it seems that a common interpretation would be that sexual immorality is, indeed, a biblical reason for divorce.
    – Narnian
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 15:36
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    The other interpretation I'm familiar with, is that Jesus is saying that "If you divorce your wife, you're forcing her to commit adultery. If she has already committed adultery, though, then you can't be held responsible for this." One possible application being that even in cases of adultery, divorce is wrong. Other translations make this interpretation more plausible. I'm not saying I agree with this interpretation, just that I think there's room for it.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 15:42
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    @new wings The internet is the wrong place to be going for advice like this. If this is a real life situation, please go and talk to your pastor, a counsellor, or if you can't find those a wise and experienced Christian for advice. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 16:18

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