The Holy Covenant of Marriage - Part 4: Divorce

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9 NIV). 


If marriage is a Godly uniting of a couple together, then divorce is a secular process to separate what God has united.  The separation is not done with surgical precision and results in a “tearing apart.”   The result is ugly and does not honor God.

It is well known that approximately half of all first marriages end in divorce, and the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher. I think this is because most marriages involve people that do not understand the Holy covenant nature of their marriage. People cannot put into practice that which they do not understand. If couples did understand the marriage covenant, then they would realize that they should not place each other as number one in their life.  Also, the children should not be number one or even number two.  In a covenant marriage, God is always welcome, always present, and both parties are always seeking His face and place Him above all else.  They place each other as second.  Finally, any children are then third.  Of course, situations will arise in which the children need to become a higher priority, but this should be the exception and not the norm or the marriage will be harmed. 

The Bible makes it very clear that the responsibility of leadership in marriage falls squarely on the husband’s shoulders. 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches,

 “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

If God has created the marriage, then the couple can claim the promise of Romans 8:31. “If God is for us, then who can be against us?”  I think we can insert the word “what” in place of “who” in Romans 8:31 for an even broader understanding of the unlimited power and providence of our God.

Sadly, approximately half of all first marriages and a higher percentage of subsequent marriages end in divorce. God clearly grieves the Heart of God.  The Word teaches in Malachi 2:16, “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.”

The Bible only explicitly allows divorce for two reasons. Jesus specifically allowed divorce for infidelity. “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).  Adultery is forbidden by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 13:4. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).  In such a case, however, divorce is not mandated or even encouraged.  The Christian spouse should always strive toward forgiveness and reconciliation should be extended and pursued if possible. But divorce is allowed, especially in cases where the sinning spouse persists in an adulterous relationship.

“Paul adds a second exception, in instances where an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage. This would typically be the case when one of the two partners is converted to Christ at some point after marrying and the other person refuses to continue in the marriage. “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. Yet if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:14-15).

The idea for a couple to become married should be Divinely initiated by God and affirmed by the couple before they proceed with any wedding planning.  If God did not bless the wedding at the beginning and the Holy Spirit was not welcome during the marriage, then the marriage will likely end in divorce because neither party truly understood the Holy covenant nature of the marriage. 

Prayer:  Dear God, We know that your heart grieves each time a marriage covenant ends in divorce.  Help us to live out our wedding vows and to love our wives as You love us.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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