The “Except” List: Where It Is Necessary to Divorce and Remarry

By Timothy Sparks


Those who seek God’s favorable authorization for divorce and remarriage may point to passages where they see “except”:

  1. Mt. 5:32—exemption from blame, not permission to divorce and remarry (see also What Is Jesus Saying in Mt. 5:32? and The Exemption Clause)
  2. Mt. 19:9—Many see Jesus saying, “Whoever divorces his wife for the exception of fornication and marries another does not commit adultery.”

Notice the following Scriptures where people must insert “except” to have God’s blessing for divorce and remarriage:

  1. The “one-flesh” law is permanent (Gen. 1:27; 2:23-24; Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-8)except when people want to divorce and/or remarry
  2. A person must forgive his/her spouse of any and every sin an unlimited number of times (Mt. 18:21-22, 35), except the sin of adultery, which carries with it the consequence of divorce if the “innocent spouse” chooses to execute the divorce penalty upon his/her spouse
  3. “Therefore what God united, a human cannot divide” (Mt. 19:6; Mk. 10:9)except when people think they have the ability to do so
  4. Jesus does not endorse being hard-hearted (Mt. 19:8; Mk. 10:5), except when people want to divorce
  5. In the context of Jesus’ time, God’s law was the death penalty for adultery, and Jesus did not change God’s law before his death (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10; Jn. 8:3-7; Heb. 9:15-17), except when people decided to divorce for adultery
  6. God did not institute divorce in the beginning and Jesus did not institute divorce; so divorce neither came from God in the beginning nor existed within God’s will to Jesus’ present time [notice the force of the Greek perfect tense: “but from the beginning it has not existed this way” (Mt. 19:8)], except when people want Jesus to state exactly the opposite and would have Jesus instituting divorce for fornication in the very next verse (Mt. 19:9)
  7. Marriage to another person is adulterous (Mk. 10:11-12), except when a person wants to divorce and marry another person
  8. Again, marriage to another person is adulterous (Lk. 16:18)except when a person wants to divorce and marry another person
  9. God forbids taking a believer to court (1 Cor. 6:1-8),  except when a believer wants to divorce a believing spouse 
    • “Christians are banned from taking other Christians before the law courts of this world (1 Cor. 6:1), which belong to Satan. Yet the only way to obtain a divorce is to go to Satan to obtain it, which he will be only too ready to hand out” (McFall, p. 126).
  10. The believer is commanded not to separate or abandon the unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:10-13)except when the believer wants to divorce the unbelieving spouse
  11. When people are united by God in marriage, they are bound for life and released only by death (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:39)except when people want to divorce and/or remarry
  12. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), except when people want to divorce


*Unless otherwise stated, translations are mine.

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