The Ancient Faith

Home               Salvation               The Church of Christ               Acceptable Worship               Christian Ethics               Doctrinal Issues     The Holy Scriptures               Special Pages



Jerry Cutter

In this article we wish to show that Christians divorced for committing adultery cannot remarry. We will base our understanding on Matt 5:32,which says: “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and WHOSOEVER SHALL MARRY HER THAT IS DIVORCED COMMITTETH ADULTERY.” Of course, we believe a Christian who divorces his spouse for adultery can remarry (Matt 19:9).

We know a Christian divorcing for reasons other than adultery cannot remarry (I Cor 7:10-11). However, it is rather commonly believed that a Christian divorced for adultery CAN REMARRY. In short, it takes committing the greater sin, adultery, before one can receive the right to remarry. In this article I will be opposing the doctrine that WILL NOT allow one to marry a Christian divorced for trivial reasons (which is correct), but WILL ALLOW one to marry a Christian divorced FOR ADULTERY. This doctrine allows one to have what otherwise would be denied them, namely, ANOTHER PERSONS SPOUSE.

The doctrine that I am opposing is built upon the idea that when the innocent divorces the guilty that they BOTH become free. The innocent cannot be FREE and the guilty BOUND. Thus, the one divorced (or dismissed) for adultery can repent, ask forgiveness, and then be completely free to remarry, EVEN A CHRISTIAN.

The question isn’t so much concerning whether the guilty is still BOUND to the marriage, for they aren’t, but rather whether they are FREE to remarry. Far too much emphasis is put upon BONDAGE and FREEDOM and not enough upon Scriptural RIGHTS. What are the RIGHTS of the innocent as opposed to those of the one guilty of adultery? As far as marriage is concerned, the guilty, by virtue of the adultery, destroyed the fleshly bond. Even though this bond is destroyed they are not FREE. What rights did the guilty forfeit by virtue of their destroying the fleshly bond? For one, they do not have the right to DISMISS (or divorce) the innocent. Everyone can think of cases of where the guilty divorced the innocent. However, we are not discussing what people have done; we are interested in their God-given rights. ONLY THE INNOCENT CAN SCRIPTURALLY DISMISS THE GUILTY. That is their RIGHT. Even if the guilty has divorced the innocent they are not free, for that last tie can be severed only when the innocent makes his intentions known formally and publicly. Of course he cannot go through the divorce court again, but he can put it in writing, and tell it to the church, removing all doubt for the present and the future.

After the innocent has exercised his right to the dismissing, where does this leave the guilty? Can they now repent, pray, receive forgiveness and MARRY AGAIN? All this could have been done BEFORE the divorce. In other words, they didn’t gain the right of remarriage by exercising their right to repentance and prayer, no matter when they exercised this right.

We have shown that the innocent and the guilty do not have the same rights, and that the guilty remains in his same unhappy position even after the innocent exercises his rights.

It still remains a mystery to me as to how some can get the Scriptures to say it is sinful to marry one divorced for trivial reasons, but it is not sinful to marry one divorced for adultery. If one can commit adultery, be divorced, repent and pray for forgiveness, and then remarry, then what is the purpose of the exception to begin with? This position will allow every Christian to commit adultery, be very sorry for it, remarry, and REMAIN in good standing with the church. This, in fact, is not only believed but PRACTICED. However, a Christian who is divorced for adultery forfeits the RIGHT OF MARRIAGE, though not the forgiveness of sins.

I have before me a diagram of Matt 5:32 from six different sources, one being original Greek. Of those asked to diagram the verse, none was told the reason, or that anyone else was being asked. All the diagrams are in agreement. The verse makes TWO points, not ONE. Jesus said: 1) “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away (dismisses) his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery. 2) AND (I also say unto you) WHOSOEVER SHALL MARRY HER THAT IS DIVORCED COMMITTETH ADULTERY.”

Under the new law of grace and mercy, those guilty of adultery are spared the ignominy of being stoned to death. The old law says: “And the man that committeth adultery with another mans wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbors wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Lev 20:10). We should not take advantage of Gods forgiveness by sinning even worse than Israel.

We should neither teach nor tolerate sin. One of the tragic mistakes of Israel of old was their unholy, unscriptural marriages. Ezra told the people: “You have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God…separate yourselves… from the strange wives.” The priest “gave their hands that they would put away their wives…” “All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children” (Ezra 10:10-44).

In conclusion, as we have seen, there are two sides to the coin: 1) does the guilty have a right to remarry, and 2) does a Christian have a right to marry one put away for adultery? If the guilty is indeed free, then they are indeed free to marry anyone, and anyone is free to marry them. In the case of divorce for adultery, the basic rights of the innocent and guilty differ. If the guilty is as free to remarry as the innocent, then why did the Lord mention the exception? We have seen that it stretches the imagination to believe it sinful to marry one divorced for trivial reasons, but not sinful to marry one divorced for adultery. Jesus second point is very clear: “WHOSOEVER SHALL MARRY HER THAT IS DIVORCED COMMITTETH ADULTERY.” A Christian cannot marry a divorced woman, much less one divorced for fornication.

[Published in the January 1, 1986 issue of the OPA].

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”