I got married right out of high school (34 years ago), and my husband committed adultery and divorced me a year later. Neither of us were Christians. I married someone else four years later, and two years into our marriage, my husband and I became Christians.

Is it considered “committing adultery” if:

—My previous husband had committed adultery while we were married?
—We weren’t Christians when we did all this?

Are we STILL committing adultery by remaining married?? A few years ago, we wanted to join a church, and they said we couldn’t because I had been married before. And they said we needed to seperate because God did not recognize our marriage and we are still committing adultery by staying married. We have been happily married for 26 years now, with two wonderful children. What should we do??????

Dear friend,

I’m sitting here shaking my head at the insensitivity, not to mention the biblical misunderstanding, of the church that gave you such lousy counsel. It sounds to me like that was God’s way of saying, “This is not the place for you, beloved!”

Bottom line: neither you nor your husband are committing adultery.

God specifically says in His word that when one person commits adultery, the other is free to remarry without committing adultery. Your first husband broke your marriage covenant, giving you freedom to marry your present husband to the glory of God. (And it would appear that God is glorifying Himself through your present marriage!)

In Matt 5:32 and 19:9, Jesus says that if someone divorces a spouse for any reason other than adultery, they commit adultery when they remarry. This is because the divorce is illegitimate, and the second marriage is bigamy since the first marriage is still in force regardless of what the civil authorities say. But if the other spouse has committed adultery, then that act has broken the sacred covenant, and it is not bigamous (and thus not adulterous) for the sinned-against spouse to remarry.

That church may have been standing on the second part of Matt. 5:32, which says “whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” It’s important to understand the culture of that day. There was a popular movement in Jewish culture that said a man could divorce his wife for any reason at all, including burning the toast. (I am not kidding.) Such a wife, thus divorced, was single in the eyes of the culture, but still married in the eyes of God, so any man who married her committed adultery since she was still a married woman.

You did not fall in that category. When your first husband committed adultery, that dissolved the marriage in God’s eyes (in a manner of speaking), and you were free to remarry. I am so sorry that church refused to check into the circumstances of your divorce. If Jesus made an exception for adultery, and then Paul, writing with the very words God gave him, made an additional exception for abandonment by an unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:15), then the church needs to follow ALL of scripture and not just one verse.

You did not commit adultery when you married your present husband, and you are not committing adultery by remaining married to him, and the Lord bless you for staying together for 26 years! Way to go!!! <smile>

I wish you were in Dallas. I’d invite you to our church where you would be honored and affirmed.

I hope this helps!

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries

P.S. I do want to make a distinction here: adultery does not mandate divorce, but God does allow divorce as a consequence of adultery. It’s even better for the unfaithful spouse to repent, for the violated spouse to forgive, and for them to forge a new, stronger relationship. This isn’t always possible due to the hardness of some people’s hearts, and God understands and allows for it.

Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 40 years. She is a speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Connections), and serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. Sue is on the Bible.org Women's Leadership Team and is a regular contributor to Bible.org's Engage Blog. In addition to being a professional calligrapher, she is the wife of Probe's Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their two grown sons. Her personal website is suebohlin.com.

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.

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