John MacArthur on Divorce and Remarriage

John MacArthur on Divorce and Remarriage April 13, 2024

We are continuing today to look at different perspectives on divorce and remarriage from Christian leaders. Today we come to John MacArthur.  His views appear quite rigid. He believes that divorce should only ever happen after sexual immorality or desertion by an unbeliever (or someone labelled as such during church discipline).  He does believe remarriage is ok in those situations.

His words could have the effect of forcing someone to stay in a marriage they really don’t feel safe in. To threaten to expell them from the church seems harsh, and could be very dangerous in some situations.   The line about marriage being able to survive even the worst kinds of sin could easily be taken to mean someone should stay in a violent marriage.

Despite the rigidity, Macathur does state that if a Believer has had a second marriage and confesses that as adultery then they will be instantly forgiven and from then on should stay in the new marriage.

It is interesting to see differences not just in views but in tone among these leaders.  I can’t say the tone we see here is attractive to me. Here’s what MacArthur says:

God hates divorce. He hates it because it always involves unfaithfulness to the solemn covenant of marriage that two partners have entered into before Him, and because it brings harmful consequences to those partners and their children (Mal. 2:14-16). Divorce in the Scripture is permitted only because of man’s sin. Since divorce is only a concession to man’s sin and is not part of God’s original plan for marriage, all believers should hate divorce as God does and pursue it only when there is no other recourse. With God’s help a marriage can survive the worst sins . . . the believer should never consider divorce except in specific circumstances . . . and even in those circumstances it should only be pursued reluctantly because there is no other recourse . . .

The only New Testament grounds for divorce are sexual sin or desertion by an unbeliever . . .

Remarriage is permitted for the faithful partner only when the divorce was on biblical grounds . . .

Those who divorce on any other grounds have sinned against God and their partners, and for them to marry another is an act of “adultery” (Mark 10:11-12) . . .

Believers who pursue divorce on unbiblical grounds are subject to church discipline because they openly reject the Word of God. . .  If a professing Christian violates the marriage covenant and refuses to repent during the process of church discipline, Scripture instructs that he or she should be put out of the church and treated as an unbeliever (v. 17). When the discipline results in such a reclassification of the disobedient spouse as an “outcast” or unbeliever, the faithful partner would be free to divorce according to the provision for divorce as in the case of an unbeliever departing, as stated in 1 Corinthians 7:15. Before such a divorce, however, reasonable time should be allowed for the possibility of the unfaithful spouse returning because of the discipline . . .

In cases where divorce took place on unbiblical grounds and the guilty partner later repents, the grace of God is operative at the point of repentance. A sign of true repentance will be a desire to implement 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, which would involve a willingness to pursue reconciliation with his or her former spouse, if that is possible. If reconciliation is not possible, however, because the former spouse is an unbeliever or is remarried, then the forgiven believer could pursue another relationship under the careful guidance and counsel of church leadership.

In cases where a believer obtained a divorce on unbiblical grounds and remarried, he or she is guilty of the sin of adultery until that sin is confessed (Mark 10:11-12). God does forgive that sin immediately when repentance takes place, and there is nothing in Scripture to indicate anything other than that. From that point on the believer should continue in his or her current marriage.  John MacArthur, Grace Church 



Christian views on Divorce and Remarriage: A Spectrum

John Piper on Divorce and Remarriage

Tim Keller on Divorce and Remarriage

RT Kendall on Divorce and Remarriage

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