But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and forever.  Amen.

2 Peter 3:18




“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  (Exodus 20:14)


“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”  (Matthew 19:9)


Our Lord here shows how serious he considers the marriage bond to be.  No divorce is allowable, except it be for fornication.  Many today insist that fornication means only premarital sex.


They claim a marriage can only be dissolved if, while engaged, one finds that his or her future marriage partner had premarital sex.  They use Joseph's concern about Mary's pregnancy as an example.  Are they correct?




The Greek word translated fornication is porneia and means whoredom.  It is derived from the Greek word porne, which is translated (in the KJV) eight times as harlot and four times as whore.


We also get our Modern English word pornography from porne.  Will anyone argue that pornography deals only with premarital sex?  Does anyone believe that no wife has ever played the whore on her husband after her wedding?


“And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.”  (Jeremiah 3:8)


God divorced the northern kingdom of Israel for spiritual adultery (idolatry).   Adultery (extramarital sex) is grounds for divorce.  The southern kingdom of Judah played the harlot also.  Whoredom equals adultery in Jeremiah 3:8.


Therefore, fornication (whoredom) refers to more than just premarital sex.  It refers also to extramarital sex (adultery).  This can also be seen in the following verses.


“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.”  (1 Corinthians 5:1)


Notice this verse does not say “his father’s widow”.  The man was sleeping with his father's wife (perhaps his stepmother).  It was a clear case of adultery. Thus, in this verse also, fornication includes adultery.


“Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.”  (1 Corinthians 10:8)


Nowhere do we read that the 23,000 people who fell in one day for committing fornication (whoredom) were all unmarried singles.  Much more likely, is that at least some of the fallen were married adulterers and adulteresses.




What if adultery occurs in a Christian marriage?  Shouldn't a husband or wife forgive the offending spouse?  The answer usually given is an unqualified yes.  But let's see what our Lord Jesus has to say.


“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”  (Luke 17:3)


If an adulterous spouse truly repents of (turns away from) his or her adultery, they should be forgiven.  The marriage is wounded, but not dead.  Love and trust will be more difficult now, but not impossible.


As Christians, we should always be ready and willing to forgive an offending brother or sister.  “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”  (Ephesians 4:32)


But while we should be ready and willing to forgive, no real forgiveness and restoration is possible while the offending spouse continues in unrepentant adultery.  Does God forgive those who refuse to repent of their sins?




It is not divorce, but putting away that God hates (Malachi 2:14-16).  Divorce was a merciful provision of the Law to permit a woman who was put away to remarry (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).


There are two grounds for divorce in the New Testament.  They are fornication (Matthew 19:9) and its twin sister, desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).  A brother or sister is not under bondage (no longer bound in marriage) in such cases.


“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

(1 Corinthians 7:15)


In cases of unrepented, continual whoredom by a spouse, the "innocent party" is free to put the wanton partner away and marry another.  The “except it be for fornication” applies to the remarriage part of Matthew 19:9.


“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”  (Matthew 19:9)


It’s the same with permanent, willful desertion by an unbelieving spouse.  There is no longer a marriage bond.  For example, desertion becomes irreversible when the unbelieving spouse marries another.


In such cases, the “innocent party” is free to remarry.  I say “innocent party” because in a divorce there are only relative degrees of innocence.  The “innocent party” shares some blame.


He or she may have committed no adultery, nor deserted anyone.  But either the innocent party has a defect in personality that contributed to the divorce or he or she used poor judgment in their choice of a marriage partner.


Caution should be applied by anyone considering divorce.  Is forgiveness and reconciliation possible?  A true Christian will ask, “Is there something I can do differently to save the marriage?”




“The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.”  (John 4:17-18)


Many sincere Christians believe that a divorced person should never remarry.  They argue that the divorced couple are still married in God's eyes.  But our Lord Jesus never laid that burden on the woman at the well.


He did not say, “Go back to your first husband.”  He did not argue that she had only one husband, four former lovers and one current live-in-mate.  Rather, He agreed with her, that she had no husband.


Yet today, some pastors will actually counsel a remarried person to break up their current marriage and go back to their first spouse.  They tell the remarried person that their current marriage is unscriptural.


If the first spouse will not rejoin the remarried person, these pastors demand that the remarried person live in celibacy (even if the remarried person does not have the gift of celibacy).  Our Lord denounces such religious fanatics:


“For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”  (Matthew 23:4)


These pastors might think twice if they had an unsuccessful marriage.  They might rethink their views if they were told to live in celibacy.  Those who forbid divorced persons to remarry should consider the following Scriptures:


“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”  (Genesis 2:18)


“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”  (1 Corinthians 7:2)


“But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”  (1 Corinthians 7:9)


Unless a divorcee has the gift of celibacy, he or she has only one alternative to remarriage.  What is that alternative?  Fornication.  Thus, there is a very real need for remarriage.


Caution should also be exercised by any divorcee contemplating remarriage.  A true Christian will ask, “What did I do to contribute to the breakup of my prior marriage?  What do I need to change, by God’s grace?”


This is a difficult subject.  It is charged with emotions and preconceived ideas.  But for those interested in learning God's whole counsel on the matter of divorce and remarriage, there are three good booklets listed below.




Boettner, Loraine DIVORCE.  Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 1979.


Murray, John DIVORCE.  Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 1972.


Murrell, Conrad MARRIAGE, DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE.  Bentley, Louisiana: Saber Publications, 1977.



The Eigth Commandment

George Theiss is a combat veteran of Vietnam who now follows the Lamb of God.  He and his wife, Christy, have been married 42 years (in 2019).  They have 8 grown children.  You can contact George at support@tulipgems.com

Copyright © 2002 through 2019 by George Theiss