What the Bible Says about
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

John Coblentz

What if the divorce and remarriage occurred
before one was saved?

Pages 65 - 67

"Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4).

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

God recognizes the marriages of the ungodly, and He sees their marriage sins also and holds them accountable for them. To think that adultery is excused because it was entered before one was saved is to think wrongly. The sins we commit before we are saved may well have lingering effects after we are saved. Zacchaeus said, "If I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house" (Luke 19:8, 9). Salvation brings us to the place where we reckon with our sins. Where we have done wrong, we must make right to the extent we are able -- we restore what we have stolen, we repair what we have broken, and we break off that in which we have been wrongly engaged.

John the Baptist confronted Herod for taking his brother Philip's wife. Without apology, he said, "It is not lawful for thee to have her" (Matthew 14:4). Notice, he did not say, "If you believe in Jesus, you can be forgiven for your relationship with your brother's wife, and then you may keep her." The only credible understanding of John's words is that Herod should put her away. We might note that this relationship fell under the forbidden marriages of the Old Testament (see Leviticus 18:16). According to Jesus, however, ANY remarriage while the former partner is living is forbidden.

Trying to make a distinction between what occurred before conversion and what occurs after runs us into the following problems:

  1. It creates confusion and debate about when one was actually saved. Some say, "Well, I was going to church, but I don't know if I was really saved at the time." Others, "Well, I had made a commitment to Jesus when I was young, but I was backslidden." And still others, "Well, I was going to church, but no one ever told me this was wrong." The variations are endless.

  2. It leaves an incorrect impression on the young and unmarried. The reasoning is, "As long as I'm not a Christian when I do these things, I can just ask for forgiveness and go on from there."

  3. It leaves an unclear testimony to the world. What credible witness against other adulterous relationships can a divorced/remarried couple give? Or for that matter, what minister would have credibility in speaking as John the Baptist did against the sins of the ungodly if he permits such things in his own congregation?

  4. It sets up a double standard among believers. Suppose a divorced/remarried couple receives Christ and is taken into the church. At the same time another divorced/remarried couple, whose marriage problems occurred while they were members in another church, seeks membership with your church. Would you tell the one, "You're forgiven and may remain together," but the other, "You must separate"? Besides creating negative feelings within the church, such a position would create confusion for the onlooking world.

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