The Bible makes it clear that when a person remarries after divorce they commit the sin of adultery (Matt. 5 & 19; Mark 10; Luke 16). When a man and woman enter into a marriage union they become one flesh. This one flesh union lasts “as long as you both shall live.” Marriage is “unto death do us part.” There is no act of man that can cause the one flesh bond to cease. Neither legal decree nor sin by either spouse can cause the one flesh union to end. This is because “what God has joined together let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Because the one flesh union remains until the death of either spouse when either spouse remarries after a divorce they commit adultery. The reason that it is considered adultery is because in God’s eyes they are still one flesh. If they were not still married then it would not be called adultery. One can only commit adultery if at least one party in a sexual relationship is married.
When one sins against the living God confession and repentance for sin is required. To confess means to say the same thing about one’s sin that God does. There can be no excuses as to why one commits a sin and no down playing of the significance or severity of the sin. When we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Along with confession of sin comes repentance.
In the same passage of Scripture John warns his readers “if we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness we lie and do not practice the truth” (I John 1:6). Those who profess the name of Christ are expected to obey the teachings of Christ. They are to walk as Christ walked and repent of their sins. Christ came to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32) and warned that “unless you repent you will likewise perish (Luke 13:3). Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach that men should repent (Mark 6:12). John the Baptist warned people that they should bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). The Apostle Paul warned those who had sinned and not repented of their unclean acts and sexual sins (2 Cor. 12:21).
The Greek word translated repent is metanoia. Literally it means to “changes one’s mind.” It can also mean to show remorse for sin. In a general sense it means to have a change of mind regarding sin in general and a conversion to belief that Jesus is the Christ. In a limited sense it can be used for changing one’s mind about specific sins. The context of usage shows that the change of mind leads to the change of actions. The Bible knows nothing of academic repentance that changes only one’s mind without a change in actions. In order for actions to change the mind must first be converted. It is the converted mind that leads to the change in one’s actions.
Since the Bible teaches that the sin of adultery is committed when a divorced person remarries it must be determined what constitutes biblical repentance. There are some who believe that they have not sinned by remarrying after divorce. The New Testament states seven times in six passages that remarriage after divorce is adultery. Just because some do not believe these actions are sinful does not make it so. They will still be judged according to the biblical standard.
There are some who believe that repentance for remarriage after divorce needs to be academic or intellectual only. One must only give a verbal confession for sins committed. They admit that remarriage after divorce is adulterous but do not believe that repentance should lead to a change in actions. The Bible teaches that when a person enters into a marriage with a divorced person they enter into an illegitimate sexual relationship with another person’s spouse. That is why it is called adultery. Since this relationship is adulterous at its inception the only logical conclusion is that it remains adulterous through its entirety.
Some believe that remarriage after divorce is a sin at its inception but then somehow either instantly or gradually ceases to be sin. This is impossible. Continuing in sin cannot cause it to cease being sin. Since sexual relations following remarriage after divorce are called adultery each subsequent sexual act committed must also be considered adultery. One cannot have sexual relations with his neighbor’s wife and then claim that since he committed adultery with her once he is now free to continue sexual relations with her. Jesus did not say that they commit adultery only during the first sexual act and then it stops. Paul uses the future tense when he states that the remarried woman “will be called an adulterous” (Romans 7:1). This is contrasted with his statement “And such were some of you” (I Cor. 6:11). Paul uses the imperfect tense to show that they were forgiven of the sins listed in verses 9 and 10. He warns them against further practicing theses sins because those who do “will not inherit the kingdom of God”.
Repentance in Scripture means to change one’s mind about sin and then to change one’s actions to align with that belief. Admit it and quit it if you will. In order to repent of any sexual sin one must cease that sin. The case can be made that people do fall into sin and then need repent. This repentance would include a conscious decision to try to avoid further committing the sin for which they claim to be repentant. One could fall into the same sin again after repenting but divorce and remarriage cannot be considered this type of sin. Remarriage after divorce is a conscious deliberate act. One does not fall into the sin of remarriage after divorce. To remain in this type of adulterous relationship is a conscious deliberate act.
If a practicing homosexual comes to Christ it is expected that they repent of their sin and refrain from further homosexual acts. If a person continues in this sin his conversion is suspect since the fruit that is borne does not match the verbal profession. If a professing Christian enters into homosexual relations they should be disciplined by the local fellowship for sexual sin and treated as an unbeliever until they repent (Matt. 18; I Cor. 5).
If an unwed person in a fornicating or adulterous relationship comes to Christ it is expected that they repent of their sin and refrain from further sexually immoral acts. If a person continues in this sin his conversion is suspect since the fruit that is borne does not match the verbal profession. If a professing Christian enters into adulterous relations they should be disciplined by the local fellowship for sexual sin and treated as an unbeliever until they repent (Matt. 18; I Cor. 5).
The Bible calls remarriage after divorce adultery. Those who are remarried after divorce should be encouraged to cease their adultery. If a divorced and remarried person comes to Christ it is expected that they repent of their sin and refrain from further adulterous acts. If a person continues in this sin his conversion is suspect since the fruit that is borne does not match the verbal profession. If a professing Christian enters into adulterous relations by remarrying after a divorce they should be disciplined by the local fellowship for sexual sin and treated as an unbeliever until they repent.
Adultery committed by remarrying after a divorce can neither instantly nor gradually cease to be adultery. If it is adultery at its inception it remains adultery as long as sexual relations are continued. Those who claim that a person who has committed adultery by remarrying may then continue to commit adultery by remaining in that marriage are in error.
There is only one logical and biblically consistent position: If a person wishes to repent of the sin of adultery committed by remarrying after divorce they must cease further sexual relations. They must admit it and quit it if you will. True repentance is not verbal admission only. This concept is foreign to Scripture. One must cease or at least try to refrain from continuing in a sin in order to claim biblical repentance. Remaining in a relationship which God calls adulterous does not bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Biblical repentance requires both admission and action.
Copyright 2008 by Joe Fogle. All rights reserved.