Reasons for Divorce: What Does the Bible Say?

by Jack Wellman on October 29, 2011 · Print Print · Email Email

Are there acceptable reasons for getting a divorce?  What are not acceptable reasons for divorce?  What does the Bible say about divorce?  Are there biblical grounds for divorce?

Are There Acceptable Reasons For Getting a Divorce?

What are biblical reasons that are acceptable for divorce?  Some may reason that if there is violence in the family it is at least time to move out.  One reason to have a person separate themselves would be when a husband or wife is abusive to their spouse and also to their children.  There is no reason that a person should put up with this.  The first thing might be to move from that location and separate and hope that the abuser gets some counseling and help.  It is not lawful to abuse another person.  Sexual abuse of children is also against the law and should be reason to relocate immediately and the one doing the sexual abusing should be turned into the law.  No one should endure such abuse – God would not look down or think it sin if a person or a spouse’s children are being abused and they are removed from whoever is molesting the chiild.  They have every legal right to defend their children from this and to protect themselves and their children from this.

Marital infidelity, drug abuse, and non-support are also seriously considered for separating but since we know that God hates divorce, the person or couple should seek marital counseling (Malachi 2:16).  Of these, ongoing sexual immorality, that is divorce,  is a biblical reason.  Finding a good Christian counselor is a good first step.  As a former Mental Health Case Manager, I have seen the damage done to women and children – and even some men – and it destroys lives and the ability to trust again.  Some carry lifelong scars from things that occur in homes that are unspeakable.  You can forgive others but you can not ever undo something that leaves its mark for life.

Reasons For Divorce

What are the Reasons For Divorce?

What Are Not Acceptable Reasons For Divorce?

I have heard many reasons about people seeking and getting divorces – even among Christians.  The reasons are many but none of these are acceptable to God:

“I fell out of love with my wife/husband.”

“I just don’t have anything in common with her/him anymore”

“My husband/wife just doesn’t love me anymore.”

“This just can’t be God’s will for my life anymore.”

“We are incompatible.”

“He/she lied to me before we got married.”

“It wasn’t really genuine in ‘God’s eyes’”.

“They would be happier without me.”

“I would be happier without him/her.”

There are dozens more that are not listed here but none of these that are mentioned are acceptable and only those mentioned in the Bible are acceptable reasons for divorce.  This does not counting abuse or unrepentant, ongoing sexual immorality.  The Bible says it is sin to divorce unless you have biblical grounds for it, which will be mentioned at the bottom of this article.

What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?

Clearly God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) because “What God has joined together, let man not separate . . . I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:6, 9). Jesus said that, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12).  Being unequally yoked with unbelievers was mentioned prior to marriage but God is just as clear that divorce is not permissible just because one is not a believer and the other is not.

Paul writes, “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him” (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).  There are many such marriages where a spouse is a believer and married to an unbeliever but this is not grounds for divorce. In fact, the believing spouse may lead such a life as to bring the unbelieving spouse to faith in Christ.  First Corinthians chapter 7 is an excellent overview of marriage and sexual relationships for the single believer.  Here Paul lays down the command “for all churches” to continue living and being married to the unbeliever.  First Corinthians 7:17, 20 says, “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.”

If a husband or wife dies, then that person can remarry and not commit adultery, which is what Paul was specific about in I Corinthians 7:39, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” So the unbelieving spouse can remarry but it must be to a believer as to not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever.  If a spouse is married to an unbeliever Paul writes, “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? ” (I Cor 7:12-14, 16). This is an amazing passage of Scripture.  Paul says that it is possible – in fact it has happened many times – that an unbelieving spouse comes to faith in Christ by the believing spouse.

Paul clarifies it by saying, “…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” (I Cor 7:15).

Are There Biblical Grounds For Divorce?

There are biblical grounds for getting a divorce and it is ongoing, unrepentant adultery.  Some believe if there is physical abuse against a spouse and physical or sexual abuse of the spouse’s children that is never resolved, they may divorce.  That is a person’s decision after they counsel with a pastor or Christian marriage counselor.  At the least they should move out immediately and report this to the police.

Sexual immorality or adultery that is unrepentant and ongoing is reasonable before God’s eyes for permitting a divorce.  Jesus said that, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife [and husband of course], except for sexual immorality, makes her [or him] the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt 5:37. 19:9). Adultery is breaking a serious commandment (Ex 20:14). But if the adultery and sexual immorality committed by the sinning spouse stops and they repent, then there should be every chance given to the person to forgive them (Mark 11:25, Luke 6:27-28).  God is all about forgiveness and we are told to forgive our brother or sister when they fall and want to be restored.

Divorce is a last resort but if there is no other choice and adultery persists with no signs of remorse, repentance, or change, then divorce is permitted.  God hates divorce but He would not expect a married person to remain married to a spouse that remains in an adulterous situation.  It is hoped that there is always room for repentance, counseling, and reconciliation – but if it doesn’t occur, and sexual sins outside of marriage persist, the victim of such a marriage is not bound by the law and God would not call that sin.

Do you have something you want to add on this topic? Please share it in the comments.


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{ 1967 comments… read them below or add one }

JC August 30, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Please GOD in JESUS’ name Soften my wifes heart. I hurt her with words and am deeply sorry. Please JESUS help her to love me again.


Jack Wellman August 31, 2014 at 4:30 am

I will join with you in begging intervention on your behalf my friend. I am so sorry for such heartbreak.


Allie August 31, 2014 at 11:56 am

Hello Pastor Jack, I have continued to follow the posts and pray for myself and those on the site. I have a first and maybe final hearing for divorce with my husband on Tuesday. I am asking for prayer that I can accept God’s will but I continue to also pray for reconciliation. I have solicited the prayers of my pastor and church but it is such a challenge to “let go and let God”. Do you have any advice for me during this time of challenges?


Jack Wellman August 31, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Allie, how good to hear from you again> I love that you are praying to accept God’s will. Wow, that is precious my friend. I respect that of you so much. I don’t know how many other women could do what you do after going through what you have gone through. As for any advice in this time of challenge, I’d say to keep doing what you have been (solicit prayers and keep praying), maybe fast (if you don’t have any medical or physical complications), and I am going to join you too in this. I have been trying to fast on a regular basis and what more important of a reason is there than to petition (no, beg) God to save marriages….In the meantime, I want you to go slowly through Psalm 103, Psalm 90 (the only one that I know of written by Moses that I really love) and this article I wrote some time ago on Psalm 37 when we are waiting on God’s answer and His will to be revealed at this link based upon Psalm 37 at: This is where the words of Psalm 37 are clear; wait, rest, trust, and know. Also, stay in the Bible regularly, (likely you already are). The Psalms may be your present help now. Praying on….


Allie August 31, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Thank you Pastor I have began to study the Scriptures you gave and they have blessed my heart and eased my mind of worry. These last few days have been difficult but I have to learn to trust God in all of this. I believe in my heart that God wants families to stick together and that marriage is the foundation for that. Fasting has been on my mind for several weeks and I would love to stand with you in prayer and fasting for families and marriage. Thank God for you and your work through this ministry as it gives hope to us that there are still people who believe in marriage.


Jack Wellman August 31, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Allie…your response is so precious to me. Oh, that God would grant you the strength to endure. We can stand in our trials but only on our knees. I find it interesting that you said something to me that made me cry….you thanked God for me. This is interesting because just when you commented, I finished an article that will be published on Patheos (Christian Crier) in Sept called “Top 7 Bible Verses on Thankfulness” and as I was writing the very last paragraph, you commented and here is what I wrote:

I Thank God for You

First Corinthians 1:4 “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ.”

One of my favorite lines to help edify and encourage others is one that I give to my friends in both written form and to their face, verbally; “I thank God for you.” Here Paul is thanking God for those in the Corinthian church. Paul has a good habit of doing this. Imagine someone telling you: “I thank God for you.” What a feeling that is. I rarely hear that. Do we regularly thank God for our friends, our church members, our pastor, and anyone else that deserves our thanks? I thank God for all who read this because the vast majority of you are all my brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, let me thank God for you too my dear sister in Christ…for standing strong, fighting for marriage, and honoring God by trying to preserve what the Enemy wants to destroy. I do still believe in marriage, God does too, and I believe He is working through faithful, godly women like you! That is why I thank God for you and so many others who write and comment on this article. Let’s all fast (if we can) and pray for one another.


Allie September 1, 2014 at 6:19 am

Pastor Jack thank you so much! Now I am crying :), I know God will bless through this ministry…Thank you Pastor!

mel s August 31, 2014 at 10:19 pm

My heart is hurting for you today. I pray for you daily. I’ve earnestly praying today that God will intercede and stop your divorce. I understand what you’re going through!


Allie September 1, 2014 at 6:31 am

Mel I have been thinking about you and praying for you and your family. Thank you for thinking enough of me to pray for my marriage. It is a blessing to have this community of believers standing when people physically around you want you to give up, but I believe in my heart that God will show his power in our situations not so we can get the glory but so that we’ll use our trials as testimonies to encourage and strengthen others. God bless you Mel, you have been a Christian sister to me in this season and I wish you all the joy God can bring you!


Christina August 31, 2014 at 4:41 pm

I have committed adultery and my husband has bedded another mans wife, my husband seeks to divorce me and marry his mistress. I have asked for God’s forgivenes for my sins, my husband holds anger in his heart and will not forgive me. I pray my marriage can be made clean and my husband is forgiven for his adultery, just as I have been. God guide me to mend my marriage and rid us both of adulterous acts. I pray my husband will forgive me. Lord here my prayers.


Jack Wellman August 31, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Christina, I am so sorry for such a tragic spot you are in. You are an inspiration though to many because you are determined not to give up on this marriage. What a godly woman with strong faith and please know that we are all sinners so since God has forgiven you, I hope you will forgive yourself. God has and that’s the most important thing to know. As for your husband, I am concerned for this man’s soul for you asked for forgiveness and so I do not believe he has biblical grounds for divorce at all. He has been forgiven much so if he doesn’t forgive, a person that doesn’t forgive Jesus said “And neither will My Father Who is in heaven forgive you….” (meaning your husband. Will pray for you and for your husband to be convicted of his sin, repent of this divorce and remarriage, and trust in Christ (perhaps for the first time). Praying for you and him Christina. God is pleased you are striving mightily to save this marriage.


Allie September 1, 2014 at 6:34 am

I’ll be praying for you and your family Christina!


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