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Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

Below is Dr Matt's Answer
to a Burning Question


Divorce and Christianity: The Celestial Standard

Dear Dr.Matt,

I am coming to you for some advise on a very touchy subject for me. My friend said that you were a Christain and would help steer us in the right direction because your awesome at what you do. Let me start at the beginning so you know the senario.

My girlfriend is a saved Christain and I am also, however the difference between us is that she is divorced. We both want to marry because we feel it in our hearts that we are perfect in every way. We want a marriage and have a family together so badly, but it says in Matthew 5:32, that we would be sinning and basically go to hell if we married, because marrying a divorce woman is adultery.

Please, any advise or insight on this will be so appreciated...
Thank you,

Dear Ned:

I will give you a full answer within the next couple of days.

First, please tell me how old you and your girlfriend are, and in which state you reside?  In the mean time, here are some ideas to think about:

Pay attention to the implications of Matthew 5: 31 and Deut. 24: 1.  Why allow a "bill of divorcement" with the Law, if by so doing, one goes to hell?

Matthew 5: 31 & 32 does not say that anyone is "going to hell" if they divorce, or marry someone who is divorced.   Even adultery can be repented of, and forgiven (John 8: 7-11).  Also, remember that "lusting" is equated to committing adultery (Matt. 5: 28) and in this regard, you are no better than your girlfriend—you are both sinners, as are we all (Rom. 3: 23).

Thus, this issue should not be just about her—because she is divorced—but also about you, because you have most likely committed adultery in your heart by lusting. 

Read these verses from the Old Testament and realize how long God's Highest Expectation of "no divorce" has been around:  Leviticus 21: 7, 14; & Deut. 24: 1-4. As you will come to understand, God is very serious about keeping vows of Holy Matrimony:

"What therefore God hath brought together,
let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19: 5-6)

Finally, read the implications of Matt. 19: 11-12 and see if you can figure out the answer that I will share with you very soon; and be sure to read the entire context—Matthew 19:  3-12.

Again, introduce yourself a little bit more, and I will give you a full answer.

Best Regards,
Dr Matt

Dear Dr Matt,

I am 30 and my girlfriend is 27. We both live in North Carolina.  I do understand that God takes marriage and divorce very serious. I know that this day and age people think they can marry whoever they want and divorce when they want. However my girlfriend and I do not agree with doing that.

She had a divorce with her husband because the two of them got married for the wrong reasons
and had nothing to save. We both agree that when or if we get married it will be till death and we want to serve the Lord while doing so. We want His blessing.

You are right, I have lusted for her before and her for me. We both are guilty and we repented of that. But we do love each other and want to make things good in the eyes of Jesus.  Of course we also love God more then each other and we want His will for us, and not our own. Which is why I am consulting with you, a Christian, who is knowledgable in this area.

Any help you could give is a blessing.
Thank you!

Dear Ned:

From the beginning, God commanded Adam and Eve and their children to cleave unto their spouse in a sacred marriage covenant, and stay true to that covenant forever: This is God's Perfect Standard. His Highest Standard means an eternal union—never to separate or divorce.

It makes sense that God would begin with nothing less than the His Highest Expectations. To emphasize the importance of keeping the marriage covenant, God has equated the breaking of this covenant to the sin of adultery.

This Highest Standard for keeping the marriage covenant was revealed to Moses, but the hardhearted children of Israel could not live it, so a lower law was introduced that allowed for a "bill of divorcement" (Deut. 24: 1).

Why would God do this?

Because God is faithful and will not suffer us to be tempted above our capacities to obey (1 Cor. 10: 13), thus, he nurtures His children "with milk, and not with meat" (1 Cor. 3: 2). God helps us learn to walk, before he requires us to run. Jesus acknowledged that not all will live to the Highest Standard:

All men cannot receive this saying, . . .
he that is able to receive it, let him receive it (Matt. 19: 11, 12).

Let me add that committing an adultery-level sin does not necessarily mean that "hell" is the eventual consequence. The simplistic assumption that God's final judgment ONLY involves rewards of Heaven or Hell . . . is not congruent with the whole of Bible teachings.

The Apostle Paul taught that in the resurrection there would be those who receive the "glory of the Sun" (1 Cor. 15: 40-42). These are they who "soweth bountifully" (2 Cor. 9: 6); and for those who "soweth sparingly" (2 Cor. 9: 6); meaning, they may not have committed grievous sins, but neither were they bountiful in their obedience—these also shall reap as they have sown.

A "sparing" reward will be given proportionate to the mediocre faithfulness they have"sown," as is the the Lord's promise (Matt. 16: 27). Such "sparing sowers" will receive a lesser glory of "the moon." As for those who are habitual and unrepentant ten-commandment breakers, by His gracious generosity, even evil-doers will be rewarded a kingdom of glory—the glory of "the stars."

After these three Glories—these three Heavens (2 Cor. 12: 2)—there is also a hell reserved for those who commit "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" from which there is no forgiveness (Matt. 12: 31).

Again, because God is faithful in feeding His children "milk before meat," a lesser law was established allowing for a "bill of divorcement," primarily so that a faithful spouse was able to divorce an unfaithful partner, and then remarry someone who would be faithful. Jesus mentioned this allowance for justifiable divorce:

Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication,
and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her
which is put away doth commit adultery (Matt 19: 9).

Note the exception: Because God knew that all would fall short (Rom. 3: 23), He made an allowance primarily for the benefit of the spouse who remained faithful to vows of Holy Matrimony—while the other partner would betray them. Thus, the "bill of divorcement" accomodates a faithful partner who is granted a fresh opportunity of being yoked with someone of equally faithfulness. The Apostle Paul taught that we should not be "unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6: 14).

Anyone who would commit adultery—though they profess to believe in Christ with their lips—shows by their actions to be an "unbeliever." But beyond the serious and literal act of adultery, even the lesser sins of selfishness are elevated to the seriousness of adultery, when such short-sighted sins lead to divorce.

Of course, marrying a non-believer from the start is to begin marriage on the wrong footing. Ned, you mentioned that your girlfriend entered into her first marriage "for the wrong reason." So, with the rest of us, she gets to repent of a short-sighted mistake; and a she sincerley repents and offers to God the sacrifice of a broken-heart and contrite spirit (Psalms 34: 18; & 51: 17), she will be washed clean through the shedding of our Savior's precious blood.

Through the miracle of Christ's redemption, all repentant souls can present themselves to their future marriage partner as a "virgin" (Isaiah 62: 5)—this is the blessing of becoming a "new creature in Christ" (2 Cor. 5: 17).

Because all decisions to divorce—except for the cause of "fornication" (Matt. 19: 9)—equate to the seriousness of committing adultery; and all "lusting" equates to the seriousness of adultery as well (Matt. 5: 28); this means that no living soul should judge or condemn others for their "literal" acts of adultery. Those you lust, and those who divorce because of their "hardness of heart" (Matt. 19: 8) are grouped with who commit literal adultery—this according to God's Judgments.

By equating all acts of divorce to the seriousness of adultery, the Lord in His wisdom is admonishing all of humanity to be humble and to refrain from judgment (Matt. 7: 1-7).

But, whether one's sin is literal adultery or an adultery of the heart, there is forgiveness for both, as one sincerely repents and completely forsakes this particular sin (John 8: 7-11). I say "this particular sin" for a reason. Consider His words to the adulterous woman:

"neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more"

Christ was essentially saying: I know that you will fall short in the future (Rom. 3: 23), but if your repentance for "this particular sin" is complete and sincere, you will NEVER return this specific sin again.

Moving forward to higher levels of living and repenting of our next level of weaknesses, is what it means to press forward upon the "strait and narrow path " (Matt. 7: 14). This means, we continue to be "sinners," yet are ever-moving forward to the next level—as opposed to habitually returning to the same old sins.

Ultimately, at higher levels our short-fall will cease to be sins of commission—breaking the commandments—and will steadily IMPROVE to sins of omission: Failing to be as forgiving, kind, and charitable to the "least of these" (Matt. 25: 40) as we should.

Individuals who habitually return to old ways, as a "dog to his vomit" (Proverbs 26: 11; 2 Peter 2: 22) and die in this unrepentant pattern will lose the Celestial reward—the Glory of the Sun ((1 Cor. 15: 40-42))—and be rewarded a lesser kingdom of glory.

Again, God has emphasized the seriousness of living to His Highest Expectations—the Celestial Standard—by firmly declaring from the beginning that anyone who would choose to divorce, for selfish and short-sighted reasons, commits a sin comparable to adultery.

Obviously, divorces do happen and all parties who make the conscious decision to divorce get to own their specific contribution to that demise—and if they will, they may repent of their short-sighted selfishness and become clean through Christ.

Ned, that basicially answers your question, but here's another issue that should be of concern:

The marital vows that most couples exchange aren't congruent with the Celestial Standard: meaning, vows of "till death do you part" are a contradiction to what God has ordained. The Celestial Standard establishes that neither man nor death can put asunder what God has joined together.

The Lord intended that Celestial Marriages would extend beyond this life (Matt. 16: 19). This means that one should not only be baptized by God-given authority, but should also be married by one holding the "keys of the kingdom"—the same keys that Peter received directly from the Lord. Being married by this authority means that marriages are "bound in Heaven"—they are eternal.

"whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven . . .
what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Such "keys" are given by the laying on of hands by one who had been given that authority (Deut. 34: 9). Moses received the "keys of the kingdom" directly from God at the Mount, then passed this authority on to Aaron.

Ned, both you and your girl friend have the opportunity to repent and be clean, and give yourselves to each other as "virgins," completely clean, a fresh beginning. Further, if you desire His Celestial Sun to shine upon a marriage that will last longer than "till death do your part," then you will need to find a man who have been given the "keys of the kingdom"—only then can your marriage be bound in Heaven.

If you truly desire to do His Will—and not your own—then the Spirit of God will graciously guide you in finding someone who holds His "keys," His authority (Hebrews 5: 4). He will do this as you ask of Him and obey His Voice.

Dr Matt

Dear Dr Matt,

Thank you for your reply. I have to really read this and do some thinking and praying. I do have a question for your you though, Matthew 5:32, says if a man divorces his wife UNLESS she has been unfaithful causes her to commit adultery.

Ok, my girlfriend and her ex were unfaithful. They were not saved of course, but he cheated on her one month after he married her and she cheated on him 5 months later. What are your thoughts on Matthew 5:32 in her situation. She doesn't want to willingly commit adultery and asked  me for advice. I figured I would ask you.  She has repented and so has her ex husband.

Being that they are both unmarried now and repented, living for Christ, she wants
to know will she be willingly commiting adultery by marrying me. Thank you!


Dear Ned:

Here are the "English" words recorded in Matthew 5:32

"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 commiteth adultery"

This verse is LITERALLY SAYING in "English" that YOU, David, will commit adultery by marrying your divorced girlfriend, but this is the NOT the meaning Jesus intended for this passage of scripture, as applied to your situation.

Now it is true that your girlfriend has already committed a sin commensurate to adultery as she ended a marriage that was unwise from the start—she divorced for short-sighted reasons. For this choice, she gets to repent. If she repents fully and wholly, she will vow to do two things in the future:

            1) To never again enter into Holy Matrimony upon the wrong footing, and
            2) To never again bring an end to Holy Matrimony for selfish and short-sighted reasons.

If she marries you, and then divorces from you years later—for selfish and short-sighted reasons—then her original repentance was not really complete, and she will return as a "dog to his vomit."

To safeguard that this will never happen, BOTH OF YOU get to put on the armour of God every day for the rest of your lives (Ephesians 6: 10-18), that the powers of darkness will not lead you down to deception and divorce. Let's revisit Matt. 5: 32.

"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 commiteth adultery"

The "English" words here are metaphoric; they are NOT literal. The following interpretation is based upon a composite understanding of what the entire Bible has to say on the subject. The "English" words recorded in Matt. 5: 32 of King James Bible convey the following meaning:

My Celestial Standard is that man and wife cleave to one another and remain faithful for all their mortal days and into eternity. Divorce is unacceptable. And when anyone divorces for hardhearted, selfish reasons, they commit a sin commensurate to adultery.

Again, short of the cause of "fornication" by the unfaithful partner, all other reasons for divorcing are unacceptable to God, and choosing to divorce for these unjustified reasons is equivalent to committing adultery in seriousness.

But you may say to yourself, but the words say . . . that I will be committing adultery if I marry my divorced girlfriend. YES, that is what the "English" words literally say. But it is our object in reading the scriptures to discern what Jesus MEANT and INTENDED for this particular passage.

You have to remember that Jesus did not speak these words in English at all, and what you read in the King James Bible is a translation of what Jesus said in Hebrew. These are NOT the literal words that he spoke.

When you examine the words of the Bible written in the original Hebrew, many subtle meanings are clarified. For example, one of the ten commandments declares: Thou shalt not kill. But when the Hebrew text is examined, the INTENT of what was MEANT in this commandment was really:
Thou shalt not murder.

As you know, there is much justified killing done in the Old Testament with God's direction, protection,
and approval (Joshua 10: 14-20). It is the Creator's prerogative to give and take life (Deut. 32: 39) according to His infinite wisdom, to further His eternal plan.

Now, back to the issue of justified and unjustified divorce:

Truth be told, I absolutely know that the Spirit of God has led numerous faithful souls out of their unequally-yoked marriages, due to the chronic unbelief, and/or emotional abuse, and/or physical abuse of an unfaithful spouse.

Just as it is God's prerogative to end the life of the wicked, it is also His prerogative to end a marriage, when one of the partners persists in being unfaithful—which means they stubbornly resist changing their unfaithful ways—they refuse to fully and wholly repent.

So, the Bible says: Thou shalt not kill, yet there is much killing in the name of the Lord, AND
the Bible says: Divorce, save for the cause of fornication, is like unto adultery, yet there are many unequally-yoked marriages ended by the direct guidance of God, where adultery is not involved.

Because the words written the Bible were initially recorded in a different language, the answer you seek should not focus upon one single passage of scripture, written in "English"—if you do . . . you risk deriving the wrong conclusion.

The best interpretation will take in account all that is said on the subject, and all other issues that are interwoven with this subject—this is precisely why I've referred you to many passages from the Bible. And then, finally, after diligently studying ALL that the Bible has to say, we rely upon the Spirit of God to reveal the MEANING and INTENT of the symbols (2 Peter 1: 20, 21).

So, as you read my explanatory narratives, you must diligently read every passage of scripture that I have cited, and then prayerfully ask the Father in the name of Christ to reveal His intent and meaning by the witness of the Holy Ghost.

For by the witness of His Spirit, you may know the truth of all things, and this truth will set you free. Free from the bondage of ignorance; free from the bondage of sin; free to embrace a fullness of joy.


Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

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Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

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