The divorce rate in America is incredibly high. In fact, the United States has the highest divorce rate in the world.1 More than 40% of marriages end in divorce. That 40% applies to those who profess to follow the Bible and those who don’t. You might think that people who follow the Bible would have a much lower divorce rate, but that is not the case.2

People who are truly committed to Christ know that Jesus does not permit the kind of capricious divorce that characterizes our culture today. Informed Bible students understand that Matthew 19:9 gives only one cause for divorce and that is if sexual immorality has occurred.

Matthew 19:9

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

If sexual immorality has occurred, then the innocent party has the Scriptural right to remarry.  The guilty party, on the other hand, is not only prohibited from remarrying, but the passage even says that anyone who marries the guilty party is also guilty of adultery. 

Jesus is plain, “except for sexual immorality.” That’s it. Yet, some people think 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 also gives permission to divorce. There is a lot of misunderstanding on this passage, and that misunderstanding has impacted many churches.  Some Christians, rather than being committed to their marriages, think they find a Scriptural reason to leave in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Yet, a casual examination of the text will show otherwise.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.  But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.

Verse 10 emphatically warns that a Christian woman is not to depart from her husband. This prohibition applies equally to the husband. They are not to depart. However, sometimes people find themselves in situations where these Bible commands are not followed. Perhaps a person disregarded the Bible and departed anyway. Later they learn of their mistake and decide to repent and go back to the spouse only to learn that they will not be taken back. What do they do? That is the situation under consideration in verse 11. If a Christian has violated the command not to depart and has departed anyway, then they must try to reconcile.  If the other party refuses to take them back then they have only one option left, to remain unmarried. But be very clear on this point, the Bible said that the separation should not have occurred to begin with. Some have mistakenly concluded that they have not committed sin if they disobey the command not to depart so long as they do not remarry. It is not just an unscriptural marriage that would be sin, but the original departing was sin itself!  Remember the command:  “A wife is not to depart from her husband.” God could not have been any clearer.

Do not buy the foolish reasoning that some make: That the Bible prohibits the departure in verse 10, but gives permission to depart in verse 11. That kind of reasoning is illogical and makes verse 11 contradict verse 10.

So, to answer the question, “Can’t I divorce if I just plan to stay single?” No. The Bible prohibits the divorce. What should you do if you find yourself in a situation where a divorce or separation has already taken place? The Scripture is clear, you must seek reconciliation.


2 Article: “Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians”
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