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Eugene W. Prewitt

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EGW on Divorce and Remarriage

Marriage, Remarriage, and the Truth of God as Expressed by Moses, by Jesus, by Paul, and by Ellen




The work of Satan has always been to undermine the authority of the Word of God. This is often done by pitting one truth against another in such a way that one must appear wrong. Man finds the most motivation for reasoning this way when he is in danger of being reproved by the Word. It is the purpose of this paper only to show that God has ever been clear and unchanging in the requirements of the moral law regarding the married state of man.


The Civil and Moral Codes of Israel


The books of Moses provided both the Moral Laws that were to govern all men for all ages, as well as a set of civil laws that formed the national constitution of the nation of Israel. The moral laws governed even the thoughts and intents of the heart. The national laws extended only as far as the judicial system of the nation could oversee.


These codes were related to each other in many spheres. For example, the Law of God commanded the faithful Israelite to honor his mother and his father (Exodus 20) while the civil code specified that the son that cursed his mother should be put to death by the congregation (see Exodus 21).


The moral code specified that adultery is evil. The civil code also dealt with the civil rights of a bigamist and his first wife. While it did not condone the practice of having two wives, it made provision for the judges of the nation to know how to deal with the case. They were not to regard the first wife as a property to be bought and sold. Her husband would have “no power” over her of that nature. See Ex. 21:6-10.


The moral code was exceeding broad. It condemned attitudes, pride, selfishness, even impure motives for noble actions. National law could never take cognizance of these things. But God does.  In the judgement men will meet the precepts of His Law again.


It is a spiritual law and carnal minds are not subject to it. Ro 7:14; 8:7. Indeed, they can not be. It is for these carnal minds that civil codes have been ordained by heaven.


Those civil codes presupposed no converted heart. The system of them was designed, not to prevent the breaking of the moral code, but to limit the rights of men that would break it. It placed boundaries on the wicked choices of evil men. For this superficial appearance of permissiveness it has been faulted as condoning the evils that it restrained.


The laws of divorce and remarriage given by Moses were part of this civil code. To require an unbeliever to remain with his faithful spouse is more than even the enlightened apostle Paul would do. He wrote “let him depart.” I Cor. 7:15. Paul did not mean that the unbeliever is excused for his departing, or that the divorce that may follow is sinless. His counsel was only that the church was not to compel, either by its own authority or by civil action, the unbeliever to remain.


His counsel was in harmony with the civil code of Moses. Erring men were not to be forced by the state to fulfill their marriage vow. Because of the hardness of their hearts and because of their moral freedoms they were given national guidelines to govern even their ill behavior. The law was cognizant of their decisions and placed restrictions against the abuse of society by those that would choose the evil and hate the good.


Those that have misunderstood the sense of Christ’s statement about Moses’ law could be helped by a statement by Ellen White on Ezekiel 20:25. Adventist have been faulted at times for teaching Jewish fables. Against the Sabbath has been raised the argument that it was part of the law that was “contrary to us” in Colossians 2:14. A text many times cited by authors making this attack is Ezekiel 20:25, quoted in the following passage.

The Lord said of the children of Israel, “Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my Sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols, wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live.” Because of continual disobedience, the Lord annexed penalties to the transgression of his law, which were not good for the transgressor, or whereby he should not live in his rebellion. By transgressing the law which God had given in such majesty, and amid glory which was unapproachable, the people showed open contempt of the great Lawgiver, and death was the penalty.—1SP p. 265

God has never given laws that “were not good” in the sense that they were morally defective. His ways are perfect. When Jesus connected the civil divorce code of Moses with the hardness of the people, He was no more faulting Moses’ law than Ezekiel was faulting the Law of God.


Jesus was simply explaining that the civil code made provisions for evils that were never intended to afflict the human race—divorce being notable among them. The nature of these provisions should be of interest to those that are studying this sacred topic.


Here is the text of one of those civil laws.

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. Deuteronomy 24:1-4

This was God’s civil law and reflected His values.[1] Only He could define an “abomination before the Lord.” While divorce is allowed by God to wicked but civilized men, experimental marriage was not. No one was to think that they would be permitted to say “I am going to try marrying someone else, you can too. If it isn’t as good as our marriage, we can get back together.” God set a limit, the very best possible limit, that could be set for the civil law of the Jews.


Other views of the passage (Matthew 19:18) place us in great difficulty. If it is true that a prophet of God may give faulty counsel because of the hardness of God’s people, then the Bible is a faulty book and the Testimonies must be judged by a higher standard of righteousness than themselves. If inspired books may be faulty in their moral content, then our standard for judging has been removed, unless it becomes the opinions of our learned leaders.[2] Be careful reader before you judge a text of scripture.


There is another principle of interpretation that we should consider before approaching the issue of what the Bible teaches regarding Christians and Divorce and Remarriage. We can illustrate the principle by a statement Jesus made on this very topic.


Jesus and Marriage

And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Luke 20:34-35.

If this were our only passage by Jesus on the subject, there would be some ground for Christian celibacy. The contrast is between the “children of this world” and “they which shall be accounted worthy” to enter heaven. Members of the first class “marry and are given in marriage.” Those of the second do neither.


Luke left out some important information. Do we dare say it was by mistake? The Holy Spirit’s Breath ought not to be subject to criticism. What Luke left out, a basis for determining when the second class would not “marry” is found in most simple terms in two collateral passages.


“For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.” Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25.

What Jesus had to say about adultery and divorce is similarly stated various ways in the different gospels. Luke again presents the succinct version. The story around it he omits.


Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. Luke 16:18

If this were our only passage by Jesus on the subject, there would be some ground for believing in indissoluble marriage. The crime mentioned in both the case of the man seeking divorce and the victim of a divorce is the crime of remarriage. That remarriage is adultery.


Luke left out some important information. Matthew and Mark give more, and what they say throws light on Luke’s quotation of our Savior. This is in harmony with God’s chosen method of teaching. See Isaiah 28:9-10.

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, [Mark, “What did Moses command you?”] that he which made [them] at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Matthew 19:3-5. See Mark 10:2-8.

The question being answered was “Is it lawful to divorce a woman for a whim?” When Ellen White quotes these passages, this is precisely the issue that she deals with. Jesus answered the question first by enforcing the commands of Moses.

The apostles asked why Moses had given a  “command” to give a “writing of divorcement,” (Matt. 19:7) but Jesus softened the word and replied that Moses “suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives.” Moses never justified a divorce over trivia. See Matthew 19:6-8; Mark 10:9-10. This is important. He that justifieth the wicked is an abomination in the sight of God.

On the other hand, the civil code that God gave through Moses permitted divorce. Most governments do today. We do not fault our nation for allowing legal divorce. Legal divorce is better than illegal divorce or a cruel and neglectful polygamy.

But the civil law of Moses can not be rightly taken as a guide for Christian living. Moses allowed it for who? The regenerate? No. Jesus said it was for the hard-hearted. If a man stays with his wife out of principle, it is a very good thing. But if stays married because it is legally impossible to do otherwise, that legal impossibility is an unkindness, even a danger, to the unloved spouse.

Then Jesus came to the subject matter of Luke’s quotation.

“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.” “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” Matthew 19: 9. Mark 10:11-12.

The exception clause, “except it be for fornication,” is addressed by Ellen White a number of times, and was addressed earlier by Jesus, near the opening of His ministry.[3] When Jesus says “Whoever will divorce his wife, unless it be for fornication, and will marry another, commits adultery,” His words beg the question “and what if the cause is fornication?”


If the fornication of the guilty spouse is “adultery” while she is married to her husband, plain reading leads to the conclusion that it is adultery still when she marries her fornicating partner. This is the ground of the second clause in Matthew 19:9.


The woman that marries a divorced man risks adultery. If he has no grounds for his divorce, he has no right to remarry. And if he was the guilty partner in his divorce case, he has no grounds to remarry.


Jesus goes on with his point and does not restate the exception so apparent in the previous verse. The man has put away his wife for trivial reasons. The divorce is not moral. Then “whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”


He had already answered in the first clause the case of the woman whose husband had committed adultery against her. By exempting her from an accusation of “adultery” in her remarriage Jesus gave her grounds for another holy matrimony.


Mark’s quotation presupposes a trifling divorce, whether by the man or woman, and explains the last phrase of Luke’s quotation. In the Ethiopic version, the two verses are nearly identical in this way. [4]


Neither Luke nor Mark mention the exception of fornication, and there is more than one good reason. It really is no exception at all. Adultery nullifies the marriage covenant by breaking it. When commenting on the ability of the covenant to be broken, Ellen White uses that familiar phrase that should warn us against being wise above what is written. “I saw,” she wrote to Brother Day,


“that the church [at Monterey] has not taken the right view of scripture. A woman may be legally divorced from her husband by the laws of the land and yet not divorced in the sight of God and according to the higher law. There is only one sin, which is adultery, which can place the husband or wife in a position where they can be free from the marriage vow in the sight of God. Although the laws of the land may grant a divorce, yet they are husband and wife still in the Bible light, according to the laws of God.” 17MR 156

And she saw what that freedom entailed.

I saw that Sister _____, as yet, has no right to marry another man; but if she, or any other woman, should obtain a divorce legally on the ground that her husband was guilty of adultery, then she is free to be married to whom she chooses. . . .Sister Johnson is not clear in this matter. She has not been right or felt right. God’s Spirit has not guided you or her in this matter. You have prayed over it, Brother Albert, but your desire and wish to follow in a certain course has led you to take for light and evidence that which is no light and evidence, and the enemy has wrought here greatly to your disadvantage but to his own great advantage. – Part from the Adventist Home p. 344. Taken from 17 MR 155 where the whole text may be found.

That freedom is a right, and the removal of it belongs to no man. Not only had she seen the freedom in vision, but she saw nothing contrary to it in scripture.

Walter did not put his wife away. She left him, and put him away, and married another man. I see nothing in the Scripture that forbids him to marry again in the Lord. He has a right to the affection of a woman who, knowing his physical defect, shall choose to give him her love. The time has come when a sterile condition is not the worst condition to be in. I see wives who have borne large families of children, and they are unable to give them proper care. These women do not have time to recover from the weakness of bearing one child before they are with child again.—TSB p. 68

Paul on Marriage and Divorce

And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? I Corinthians 7:10-16

Separation, while not condemned as adultery, is made by Paul to be a not-optimal solution to marital problems. Remarriage is forbidden, and reconciliation enjoined as an alternative. Some might object that this is the very abomination that the Lord forbade through Moses, but I Corinthians 7:10 is recommending reconciliation to separated yet still-married people.

The departure or threatened departure of an unbelieving spouse should not prevent the conscientious practices of the believer. She should let him depart rather than feeling under bondage to submit to his authority in such cases, in cases of conscience. Paul does not contradict Jesus here in making a new rule that would authorize divorce for a reason other than fornication. We live in a wicked and adulterous generation, and it is doubtful that the unbelieving one will remain chaste, but to suppose he has done wrong it unwarranted. The time when she would be free to remarry, aside from the dissolution of the vow by adultery, is at the death of her husband. See verse 39.

Your ideas in regard to the marriage relation have been erroneous. Nothing but the violation of the marriage bed can either break or annul the marriage vow. We are living in perilous times, when there is no assurance in anything save in firm, unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. There is no heart that may not be estranged from God through the devices of Satan, if one does not watch unto prayer.—AH p. 341

Among the Jews a man was permitted to put away his wife for the most trivial offenses, and the woman was then at liberty to marry again. This practice led to great wretchedness and sin. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declared plainly that there could be no dissolution of the marriage tie except for unfaithfulness to the marriage vow. “Every one,” He said, “that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery.” – AH  340

The illustration in Romans 7, the first man being our old rebellious self and the second man being Jesus in the heart, assumes faithfulness on the part of the men. Nothing else makes sense in the illustration. As long as we are married to self, self does not commit fornication with anyone else. If we want to marry Christ, self must die.

And if this is taken too far as an illustration of Paul’s teaching on marriage, then it says that killing your husband is a fair way to be freed from the marriage law. Bible illustrations are truthful and accurate for what they are intended to say, and not for anything else that could be drawn out of the same illustration. Illustrations are picked for their power to express a thought in a most simple way. For that reason details added, assumed, or read into them may not express truth at all. Romans 7 makes no commentary on whether or not fornication is a Biblical grounds for divorce and/or remarriage.

Singleness Preferred in I Corinthians 7 and Matthew 19

His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. Matthew 19:10-12.

There are men that are “given” the gift of being able to bear singleness. These should “receive it.” The gift itself can not lesson the truth that Paul expressed.

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Hebrews 13:4

The reason that some, including no doubt a few of the apostles themselves, are given the gift is explained by Paul as well. There were two reasons, neither of which was the one that occurred to the disciples. They thought the vow too galling. The first reason given by Paul is the state of persecution the church would suffer from time to time and from place to place.

Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. I Corinthians 7:25-26.

To be married today, have a child on the way a few months from now, and to be burned in Rome before the child is born, that was the kind of grief from which Paul wished to save some. But he does not make a moral requirement out of his logic. “If a virgin marry, she hath not sinned.” But in time of great persecution, she has exposed herself to “trouble in the flesh.” In the midst of the great work that must be done, Paul would rather have some “without carefulness.”


Who is this counsel for? Jesus said “for those that can receive it.” Paul explained that those that are very attached to their loved friend and are behaving in a way that makes that love apparent are among those that can not bear it. And those that might not realize how much of their energies will be absorbed by entering into marriage are invited to consider the cost before deciding.


Getting married, for them, is “well” though not getting married for some would be “better” as he/she could better devote his/her energies to gospel work. See I Corinthians 7:32-38. Neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor Ellen tried to make this a norm, though, for Christian life. It is the papacy that “forbiddeth to marry.” And “a well-disciplined, well-ordered family exerts a more powerful influence in favor of Christianity than all the sermons that can be preached.” ST 12-11-01.


That some would be marrying during the scenes of the last distress was foretold by Jesus. Matthew 24:38.


The Letter about a Remarriage


Most of the New Testament is written in the form of letters. If we were to limit the authority of these letters to the portions of them that begin with a reference to a divine revelation, we would lose much of God has given us. The same is true for the writings of Ellen White. She wrote to one,

You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper, expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision–the precious rays of light shining from the throne. 5T p. 67

An involved letter by Ellen White, perfectly in harmony with the statements quoted earlier in this paper, also shines on the subject under discussion. The situations leading up to the letter are described generally in the letter.


Some have criticized the authority of its counsels based on the personal outcome of affairs in the lives of those mentioned. Let us not fault God for Lucifer’s fall, or for Adam’s. Let us not place the corpse of Judas at the feet of Jesus as an accusation. Obedience today and cherished sin tomorrow will never reveal the blessings that might have been derived from today’s obedience.

In regard to the marriage of your daughter with A_____, I see where you are troubled. But the marriage took place with your consent, and your daughter, knowing all about him, accepted him as her husband, and now I can see no reason why you should carry any burden over this matter. Your daughter loves A_____, and it may be that this marriage is in the order of God in order that both A_____ and your daughter may have a richer Christian experience, and be built up where they are deficient. Your daughter has pledged herself to A_____ in marriage, and to break her marriage vows would be far from right. She cannot now disannul her obligations to him. . . . I had a personal knowledge of his former relations with his first wife B_____. A_____ loved B_____ far too well; for she was not worthy of his regard. He did all in his power to help her, and sought in every possible way to retain her as his wife. He could not have done more than he did do. I pleaded with her, and tried to show her the inconsistency of her course, and begged her not to obtain a divorce; but she was determined and willful and stubborn, and would have her own way. While she lived with him, she sought to secure all the money possible from him, but she would not treat him kindly as a wife should treat her husband.

A_____ did not put his wife away. She left him, and put him away, and married another man. I see nothing in the Scripture that forbids him to marry again in the Lord. He has a right to the affection of a woman. . . .      I cannot see that this new union should be disturbed. It is a serious matter to part a man and his wife. There is no Scriptural ground upon which to take such a step in this case. He did not leave her, she left him. He did not marry again until she had obtained a divorce. When B_____ divorced herself from A_____ he suffered most keenly, and it was not until B_____ had married another man that A_____ married again. The one he has chosen I feel certain will be a help to him, and he can be a help to her. . . . I see nothing in the Word of God that would require her to separate from him. As you have asked my advice, I will freely give it to you.  [The whole letter is also in 17MR, this paragraph following is taken from it. 17MR p. 152, the initial is changed, the subject is the same]

I am truly sorry that you have taken upon yourself unnecessary burdens. Do you not see that in separating J and your daughter you would create two evils instead of curing one? Your daughter has married J, and there is no reason why she should be separated from him. You have no just excuse for desiring them to cease living and working together as man and wife. You may give publicity to the evil reports that may come to you, and be the means of making yourself, your daughter, and her husband miserable. Let those two, as children of God, unite their interests as their marriage vows require them to do;  let them consecrate themselves to God to do His will, to be vessels unto honor, meet for the Master’s use.  Letter 50, 1895, pp. 1-6; 1MR 162

How Jesus Relates to an Offending Spouse

And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. . . .Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: Jeremiah 3:8. See Isaiah 50:1, written about 80 years earlier.

The right of the offended partner to seek for reconciliation, even after divorce, may not be specified in scripture, but it is exemplified.




The civil codes of Israel allowed wicked men to divorce their wives for trivial reasons. This was not God’s intention for His children. He does not permit them to do so. Marriage is a mutual contract for life. That contract includes a promise of purity, a promise to reserve sexual intimacy for one’s lawful wedded spouse. When one party commits fornication, the contract is broken. Adultery is the dissolution of that contract by the breaking of the promise that solemnized it.


This was recognized by Jesus through Matthew and by Jesus through White. The breaking of the covenant may be rightly followed up with either forgiveness and a renewing of the vows, or by forgiveness and a legal divorce from the offending party. The legal divorce ratifies the dissolution of the should-have-been-life-long vow. That vow abolished, there is no reason, spiritually or legally, that the injured party may not seek again secure and intimate companionship. If a man, “he has a right to the love of a woman.” If a woman, to the love of a man.


No other view of the topic can harmonize with all the statements in inspiration. No other can both satisfy the law that forbids breaking the vow and the moral right of man to faithful intimacy.


It will never do to say of a prophet “he (or she) didn’t have the light.” Perhaps they did not understand what they wrote, but they wrote precisely the truth.


–The end





The following materials have not been put together yet into an article form but may be of interest to the reader.


A joint plea, issued by James and Ellen and signed by both, can be found in Adventist Home, page 346-347. It is an interesting call for thoughtfulness before marriage in view of the complications and perplexities of a broken vow, and a defense of one who might chose to stay with an offending spouse.



{Counsel given in response to the endeavor of a father to break up a long-standing marriage of his son to his second wife because many years before he had, without Bible grounds, divorced his first wife to make legally possible the second marriage. –Compilers.}

I have just read your letter concerning M. I regard the matter in the same light that you do, and think it a cruel, wicked thing that the father of M should take the course that he is taking. . . . I would say that his {M’s} case cannot be improved by leaving the present wife. It would not better the case to go to the other woman in the question.

I consider the case of the father one that is singular, and his record is one that he will not be pleased to meet in the day of God. He needs to repent, before God, of his spirit and his works. The best thing for him to do is to cease to stir up strife…. Let the father and brother make diligent work for themselves. They both need the converting power of God. May the Lord help these poor souls to remove spot and stain from their own characters, and repent of their wrongs, and leave M with the Lord.  {2SM 341.5}

I am so sorry for the man; for his course is in such a shape that it will not answer to be meddled with, for there are difficulties upon difficulties. I would say that the Lord understands the situation, and if M will seek Him with all his heart, He will be found of him. If he will do his best, God will pardon and receive him.

Oh, how precious it is to know that we have One who does know and understand, and will help the ones who are most helpless. But the rebuke of God is upon the father and the brother who would drive to destruction and perdition one who stands in the sight of God under no worse condemnation than themselves; and yet they will so use their gifts of speech as to dishearten, discourage, and drive M to despair.

M may hope in God and do the best he can to serve God in all humility of mind, casting his helpless soul upon the great Sin Bearer. I have not written a word to either father or son. I would gladly do something to help poor M to make things right, but this cannot be done as matters are now situated, without someone’s being wronged.–Letter 175, 1901.


Statements about marriage not related to the divorce issues above:


I do hope you will not be deceived, Addie, as this poor child is. I hope you will be an earnest, true Christian day by day, seeking God in prayer. Do not be so busy you cannot give time to read the Bible and seek the grace of God in humble prayer. Follow no one’s example or custom in dress or in actions. If they lead to indifference and worldliness, do not express vanity in dress, but dress becomingly, neatly; but seek earnestly to be meek and lowly of heart and be obtaining a rich experience in the things of God. Learn to overcome vanity which exists in the heart that is not sanctified through the truth. Do not be forward, but be retiring and modest.{DG 160.1}

You will now be looked to by many and criticized to see how you will come forth from Sister White’s teachings. Do not misrepresent me, but seek to give influence by your course of action. Ever be true, open, sincere, and frank. All affectation despise. Keep yourself aloof from young men. Let them know that there is one girl who will not be crazy and bewildered at their first notice and attentions. I want you to be prepared to travel with me and help me, if I want you.{DG 160.2}


I am surprised to hear that a mother forty-six years of age will imperil her happiness, her welfare, and her influence by marrying a young man of twenty. This is a strange matter, and reveals lack of sound judgment. The Lord would have this sister consider carefully the sure result of such a course of action.  {TSB 37.3}

In this matter, our sister must be under a strange influence–an influence contrary to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As the mother of three children, she should feel her accountability to God to move discreetly in all respects, that she may hold her influence over her children, and not pursue any course that they and many others would regard as so questionable. She should realize that her duty to her God and to her children demands the most serious consideration.  {TSB 37.4}

My sister, the Lord is not in this matter. Such a marriage would bring strange results–results that would destroy the influence that a mother should earnestly seek to maintain over her own children. This influence I entreat of you to guard sacredly. God has solemnly charged you, as the mother of your children, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. For you at this time to take a youth of twenty as your husband would be strangely inconsistent with your responsibilities as a mother of three sons now grown to manhood.

For the Word Doc, click here: Notes_on_EGWs_views_on_marriage,_divorce,_and_remarriage

[1] Not His values regarding marriage, but regarding the role of the state in enforcing morality. Regarding divorce itself, the Lord’s values are better revealed in His rebuke by Malichi.

“Yet ye say, Wherefore [will you cut us off?]? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. Mal. 2:14-16.

In this passage (see verse 12) God speaks of judgements, not from the state, but from heaven that would “cut off” the adulterer, the teacher and the student together.

[2] Our only safety is to rely on our prophets’ plainest teachings. No inspired statement of progressive truth has ever made the inspired writings of an earlier prophet faulty. But man has often fought against the plain statements of prophets. Regarding those that fought the fourth commandment we read:

Such, I saw, have the carnal mind, therefore are not subject to the holy law of God. They are not agreed among themselves, yet labor hard with their inferences to wrest the Scriptures to make a breach in God’s law, to change, abolish, or do anything with the fourth commandment rather than to observe it. They wish to silence the flock upon this question; therefore they get up something with the hope that it will quiet them and that many of their followers will search their Bibles so little that their leaders can easily make error appear like truth, and they receive it as such, not looking higher than their leaders. EW  69

[3] “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That 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 committeth adultery.” Matthew 5:31-32.

[4] Matthew Gill writes “The Ethiopic version reads this last clause, quite different  from all others, thus, “and whosoever puts away her husband, and joins to another, commits adultery”, agreeably to Mr 10:12.”

(47) Comments

  1. So just to clarify: when a married person commits adultery and the offended spouse divorces her/him, does that mean that the offender is also free to remarry or is he/she committing adultery if he/she remarries again?


    • The offender committed adultery while he/she was married spiritually and legally. When the hurt spouse divorced him, he was no longer married either spiritually or legally. His adultery and subsequent divorce ended his marriage. He may marry again, and maybe even should do so if he continues to see his mistress. But the church should, for a significant time, hold him accountable for his affront of moral law by his adultery that happened before his divorce. Unless he is sorry for this sin, regretting the pain that it caused, and unless his life shows that he has put the law of God above all sensual urges for a significant period, he should not be welcomed back into fellowship. The church should hold as gross such evil disregard of the 7th commandment.

    • He should be disfellowshipped. But he is thoroughly divorced, so there is no longer a moral law prohibiting him from remarriage.

  2. “A_____ did not put his wife away. She left him, and put him away, and married another man. I see nothing in the Scripture that forbids him to marry again in the Lord. ”

    -So this means that a man who was divorced by his wife because of the hardness of “her” heart, (and not because of adultery) can be remarried?

  3. Yes, but if she left him and she didn’t marry he is not free to marry is he. Only if she fornicates or marries.

    Another question: What if an unbeliever is an adulterer and is divorced, and then converts to God. Does he have to return to his wife if she hasn’t remarried or can he remarry.

  4. Here’s a good question about Matthew 5:32.

    What if the man divorces OR leaves his wife, and does NOT marry another. Does this mean that he is committing adultery or violated God’s law?

    • No. Rather, he is pressuring himself and partner to commit adultery while seeking to fulfill their needs for intimacy. The verb Jesus used was “cause.” He causes his ex to commit adultery. And as that is a very unkind thing to do, it is wrong to do it without reason.

  5. So if a man and a woman is married and one spouse commits adultery and was really sorry for what he/ she did and was forgiven by his / her partner, then later down in the marriage the partner who had forgiven their spouse committed adultery and was also forgiven by his/ her partner yet that same adulterous partner chose to give his/ her spouse a divorce and is now remarried, does the spouse who has received the divorce have the right to remarry

    • In short, Nick, I believe that when your spouse commits adultery, this only remains a reason for divorce if you do not take him/her back in and life with him as husband or wife. Sex is, when entered into knowingly, a renewal of the marriage covenant. Likewise, divorce after adultery ends the marriage covenant. But divorce after living as married after adultery is not recognized by heaven until sex with a third party happens again. At that point, the marriage is over in every where. So, yes, the forgiven partner is free to marry.

  6. I have a question.
    A couple is married. The husband goes to jail for a non violent crime. The wife divorces her husband under the counsel of her mother, she is told the husband abandoned her. The husband has not committed adultery and wants to remain married. The wife feels pressured to divorce him and do so. The wife not knowing she can’t remarry dates someone and the relationship doesn’t work out. The husband tries to return to the wife, but she is told by her mother to not talk to him and let him
    find God. The husband after years decide to date someone and moves on. He is not married but may have slept
    with the other person. The wife recognizes what she has done is not in line with scripture and decides she would reconcile if the husband return, but feels in her spirit God may be calling her to singleness. She knows if the husbands remarry he will be commuting adultery since neither one of them fornicated while married . Are the still married in Gods eyes since the divorce was not as a result of adultery?

    • Nat, I believe the couple are still married in God’s eyes. And when she finds her husband, she owes him a great deal of apology even if he has moved on and found another partner along the way. Abandonment is not grounds for remarriage. And being imprisoned is not equal to abandonment.

      • Sorry for bring is back to this.
        Abandonment actually is reason for divorce.

        See this 1 For 7:5
        Defraud ye not one the other, unless it be with consent for a time only, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not through your lack of selfrestraint.

        What the verse is warning us against is, ‘Abandonment leads to causing one to commit adultery’.

        By abandonment I mean willful negligence, not imprisonment as in this case.

        Consider this true story:
        A woman was married and they had a baby boy. From the time of conception on For the 3years the marriage existed, husband was disinterested in wife and never fulfilled his marital responsibilities. The wife had to literally force the husband to fulfil his marital obligation to her in regards to the marital bed, which he obliged to grudgingly and without passion.
        As a result, the wife felt neglected, unloved and slipped into depression. After careful consideration, the wife realised it was better for her to leave the marriage that be cheat of the neglectful spouse. This was after she had sought help from a marriage counsellor but the husband refused to attend the counseling sessions.

        In such a scenario, its unbiblical to require the wife to remain in the marriage which is far much less that what heaven intended the Union should be.

        This abandonment is even similar to when the unbelieving spouse chooses to leave he should be allowed to leave as in 1 For 7:15

        • I must imagine, Bee, that this is the same story as the one from “Mama” that I answered a few moments ago. I received both within a few minutes of each other some weeks ago.

          Yes, abandonment is grounds for separation. No, a terribly disappointing marriage is no grounds for divorce. Now divorce without grounds is a provocation, according to Jesus. But it is the remarriage that is the adultery. So this unfortunate lady, with a two or three-year old child, is not at liberty to seek another dad for the child. If her home is not dangerous to her, then it may be better for the boy that if she is elsewhere. But that is a question the two parents will need to resolve together.

          The disciples felt as you that if the case of a man with his wife be so, it is best not to marry. Jesus neither denied nor affirmed that value judgment. But He let his truth stand regarding divorce and remarriage.

      • Hi Eugene,

        A woman married a man who lost interest in her while pregnant with her 2nd child, spending time in the home of & with the jilted neighbour when the wife came out of hospital with second child. The wife left to return to parents for support in distress, the husband when confronted claimed he did nothing wrong, months later she moved back with him but no reconciliation had been resolved, he became violent, she had to leave many times, and he began to harass she was advised by every source to divorce which she did but he fought!
        She remarried but a relational disability (autism) on the part of the new husband prevented intimacy & caused ongoing trauma for which she was counselled to leave which the wife did many times finally being contacted by her first boyfriend from a young age who had suddenly disappeared but had dreams for 35 years to Recontact. This seemed right emotionally to her & seemed to fit michaels & David’s experience when he returned to be crowned king, however he didn’t follow up with action and her second husband wants her back but the issues are still there that cause her trauma & Emotional abandonment.
        She believes God repeatedly told her to divorce her second husband on the grounds of fornication.. while she is open to forgiveness & recommitting but he has been withdrawn and not participating in attempts to communicate to reconcile. What is her situation as you understand by the law?

        • Her situation it sad. She should remain unmarried for many years until she has enough sense to choose only a wholesome man. For that project of choosing, she should get help from successfully married persons that know her well. Until then, I advise her to marry no one and to have sex with no one.

  7. Hi Eugene
    A sincere apology was offered to the husband. They have two children together. They still see each other as a result of the children. The husband is very hurt, however he still cares for his wife, but says he doesn’t think he will ever re marry again. It was too much pain. He is in a relationship with someone else.
    The wife feels responsible, and has a hard time moving on. It’s pretty tough. She still loves the husband dearly and was hoping to reconcile. The husband Faith was challenged during the divorce and is no longer walking with God. The wife wants him to return to his faith. Really tough stuff .

  8. What constitutes “marriage”. If a man and woman come together in private with no witnesses and agree to be married, does this make them married.

    • God authorized human government to regulate marriage (as shown by the regulation of the same under Moses). The state needs to be involved because of issues like property and custody. Consequently, the state is authorized to say what makes a marriage legal. So ask your local government whether a private ceremony would do it. Where no government operates I suppose that men are authorized to set up their own local system as you might describe to recognize marriage. But woe to those men when time comes to negotiate a divorce.

  9. Am I free to marry again if my marriage was not disolved because of adultery? I divorced by husband. I had. breakdown and divorced him in that mental state. My ex husband has moved on, he is not married but has a girlfriend and is no longer walking with Christ.

    • Only when your ex-husband gets sexually involved with those girlfriends are you free to remarry. In the meantime, you may owe him a heart-felt apology for leaving him while in your distressed state. (And if that distressed state came because of his threats of violence, or abuse, then you owe no apology for leaving. But yet you are obliged to remain unattached until he finishes what he has started by uniting with another women.)

  10. Thank you for this helpful note.

    I have some questions:

    1. What is God’s biblical position on remarriage when a person divorced for a reason other than adultery before he was in the church? Is any remarriage after receiving Christ adultery?

    2. Please clarify the idea of perpetual adultery. By that I mean if the couple agreed to divorce for reasons other than adultery, they remain spiritually married. However, they both move on and have other sexual partners. One of them then finds Christ and repents of their sexually immoral lifestyle. The divorce is acrimonious and reconciliation is not possible. What is God’s position on the repentant divorcee’s remarriage?

    3. You referred to the Church as an institution that upholds the moral law. my understanding is that the Church should sanction divorce and remarriage within the church but not necessarily without. Neither can it sanction divorce and remarriage without because the heart of those without the church choose not to subject themselves to God’s moral law (although it applies even though they choose to reject it). What should the church’s position be on those who come in with that kind of history and what should the position of individuals be to those who come in with that kind of history?
    What is the balance between divorce, repentance, remarriage for converts particularly in light of the fact that if any man is in Christ he is a new creature, all things are passed away behold all things are made new?

    • My understanding of the data, which is not a criteria for anyone else in the judgment, is like this: Baptism does not affect marriage vows. But further, second marriages are enforced by the seventh commandment just as verily as our first marriages. Regardless of whether the marriage was entered into with proper grounds, it is a marriage. And its vows should be kept. The adultery that occurred at the outset of the marriage also (if added to a legal divorce) brought an end to the first marriage. So, no, the second marriage is not a perpetual adultery. Regarding your third point, it is partly obscure. But I think I may have answered it already.

  11. I have a question
    I was married both myself and my first husband committed adultery I divorced him and then remarried the man I committed adultery with. we both then repented and gave our lives to God. we are now being told that God does not reconoginezed our marriage and that I cannot be sealed.
    is this true

    • Dear Sharous,

      First, let me affirm that I am not the Judge of the Whole Earth. But I will gladly share with you my conclusion: Your adultery was adultery. It was a sin. Whether you have repented of it truly, I can not say. But let us say that you have done so: Your current marriage involved those sacred vows, “Til death do us part.” You are obliged by the seventh-commandment to remain married to the man that is your husband even if your union to him was sinful at the outset.

      Regarding the idea that your marriage is not recognized in heaven, that is just false. I think the data in my article shows this.

      Regarding whether you can be sealed, I think whoever told you that you cannot be sealed was being purely speculative in that conclusion. Invite him or her to send me any statement that they have to back up that strange conclusion.

      Now you didn’t ask this, but I would say, “the church is obliged to treat your initial adultery as a serious sin. The church is not obliged to recognize your repentance or to accept it as a basis of being readmitted into fellowship. The church can not read hearts. But to make sure that a serious voice is raised against adultery by commandment-keepers, this sin is to be treated as presumptuous sin. You and your husband may justly be kept out of the church for quite some time as the church judges appropriate. But that judgment does not deprive you of salvation by faith and through repentance.

      Be faithful,


  12. I am deeply troubled. I did not know all that a marriage entailed. I married a man who was my boyfriend before I met the Lord. Not long after, i realized this was the beginning of sorrows which lasted for fifteen years, where i suffered all the abuses. I lived in fear all my life. I decided I will not take anymore, that whom the Son makes free is free indeed, even to make a decision that is life threatening. I believed after praying all these years, that God had answered prayers and sent a gentleman my way. I decided to separate from my husband, then divorced. I married this man, but really did not know I was committing a grave sin. I followed my heart, but did not do as much reading into the issue on divorce and remarriage as I’m doing now. I know God forgives all sin, but we have to respect the Church’s position. Every time I read about marriage and divorce in the Bible, I feel guilty. I have no regrets leaving that forming husband at all as it became most unbearable, but now, something else is troubling my mind. Furthermore, my church family is terribly indifferent towards us as they believe the many lies and deformation of my character told by my former husband out of maliciousness and revenge. We worship elsewhere for peace sake most of the time. How do I get past this mess?

    • Dear Lorraine,

      I am pleased that you are studying. Truth is precious always and everywhere. But you asked one hard question: “How do I get past this mess?” My answer is: A) Confess to God the wrong in your remarriage. Believe that the Father, for Christ’s sake, pardons your sin. Confess to your former husband that you know you had no biblical grounds for your divorce and ask him to pardon you. (Don’t hold your breath). But also let him know in the same letter that it was perfectly right for you to seek to distance yourself from him because of the abuse. Let him know that you know that you are obliged to honor your current vows and that you intend to do so.

      Now talk and act as if you are forgiven for that transgression. You have confessed, repented, and done your part to make wrongs right. It is over. All finished.

      Now be faithful to your current husband. You are obliged to enjoy him. Do so.

      Regarding wagging tongues and malicious lies…let not these things trouble you. Reputation is better defended by good living than by active defamation-repair. And if church family is indifferent, then take Matthew 5 as your text. Bake bread for them, sing for them, visit them, ask regarding their welfare. Forget about yourself and become their servant. And maybe they will remain indifferent. But maybe not. And you, certainly, will get past these things.

  13. Dear sister sharon. Brother Eugen was right, though you have committed sin, God is merciful, “if” we repent and do not repeat what we’ve committed once. As Christ said to the sick and repentant sinner “go and sin no more” so He does today. But remember always that sin is sin, whatever the degree. God bless.

  14. Your a blessing brother Prewitt. May the torch you carry keep on burning till the end of time. May God bless you for guiding these lost souls who are seeking refuge in Christ. May God’s Law be lifted and honored above all laws. Amen.

    • If your spouse committed adultery, the marriage vow was terminated there. Then, after the courts ended the legal marriage, the innocent party is free to marry. (And, honestly, even the guilty party will be obliged to keep his/her marriage vows to his/her new partner.)

  15. Can anyone help me find a SOP quote on this issue I read years ago but can’t find; there was a couple attending church in EGW’s day who had gotten married even though one was divorced because they committed adultery so according to Jesus she couldn’t remarry so they “were living in sin” so the person asked EGW if the church should demand that they separate but EGW said no, they will have to meet God on the day of reckoning and he’ll deal with it but asking them to separate would be wrong because sin is so complicated there are no easy answers.

    • You are looking for the book titled Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, chapter 31, starting on page 218. Do read it again as it doesn’t say precisely what you might remember it saying.

      • I would like to know, and am seeking for answer as i wish not to be bias in this situation whatsoever. If a man committed adultery with another woman while livi g with his wife repeadtedly. And still is having intercourse with his wife and she didn’t know about the betrayal until lately after he confessed to his sins, and the wife forgave him and continues to maintain an intimate relationship with him. However not long after this confession he finds himself in the company of the woman with whom he betrays his wedding vows, assisting her economically ( picking her up at her house in the mornings for work and picking her up from work in the evening and carrying her home befire returning home and occassionally assist financially due to her situation). And during this gesture the same female (who is apart of the church) is asking for the man to have a sexual affair with her but this time she want a child to come from the union, after what had transpired before between them, and the repentant husband comes and informs the previously offended wife. Should he continues to assist her in that light of going to her place to pick her up in the mornings for work and puck her up fron work in the evening?.. ( though he said that he would never do such thing again) is the wife wrong in demanding of the husband to refrain from assisting her in anyway, as she believe that the church sister has no regards for her body, God or the marriage union?…
        Also the husband decided that he not refrain from asisting her irrespective of the wife’s plea. Is the wife at liberty to secure a divorce or is she still bound to the husband. And what should be done in this very delicate situation?. Should the husband persue this course knowing the desire of this woman??….

        • Poor wife. She is right to be terribly jealous and to object strongly and even to separate from such a callous husband who, to all appearances, is still having an affair. Poor wife. Evil man. Evil seductress.

  16. Thank you for this discussion forum. Its very informative.

    Let’s discuss neglecting the marital bed.
    A man with no know medical issue, who refuses his wife intimacy and refuses to seek medical help, both psychological or physiological.

    The few times they engaged in any sexual contact the guy has no problem raising to the occasion, but it only happens once in a blue moon (read less than 7 times in the course of their 3years marriage).

    (She suspects the guy has extramarital affairs, from his flirting behaviour and word on the street, but he denies and she’s never caught him.)

    The woman is depressed, suffers self esteem issues, and every other issue any unloved/rejected wife suffers.

    She vowed to never be unfaithful, and the guy even knows that she cannot step out.
    The guy is also psychologically abusive- always putting his wife down and claiming that she doesn’t measure up…comparing her with other women and telling her how pretty they are.

    With this background, is divorce biblically supported?

    From counsels of 1 Cor 7:5, and the obvious disobedience of biblical counsel, can she walk out of this trap (coz this is not a marriage… Communication between them is zero)

    What’s the proper biblically supported step in such a case?

    • Dear “Mama,”

      Stories sound so different from different perspectives. And this story from your perspective sounds pitiful and sad indeed. Adultery, known to have occurred, is the only grounds for remarriage. It is remarriage that is adultery. Divorce is not adultery, but is generally condemned by Jesus as leading to adultery.

      For the woman to share such intimate details with someone other than her spouse is unfortunate. I may need to know about danger so I can provide safety and sisters may need to know about neglect so they can provide some comfort. But sex seven times in three years, and etc., are the kind of details that marriage exists to cover.

      So she may leave him for an extended or indefinite time. That may give time for him to develop character, to actually fornicate, or to repent and seek reconciliation. But for her to seek another romantic friendship, or to allow one to develop, would be wrong entirely, prior to a divorce that coincides with marital unfaithfulness on the part of her husband.

      She is not in bondage to stay in his home. But her freedom to leave is not license to remarry.

  17. the wife is aggressive against her husband. (Violent, hitting, throwing stuff) and she filed for divorce after a big fight. They are divorced 3 years. In those 3 years she abused the 2 children and they are because of that living with the father. Are they 1. Still married in Gods eyes 2. Can they get remarried, because reconciling is not possible in the eyes of the man, but the woman wants to reconcile, but still shows aggression when mad.

    • Nothing but fornication breaks the marriage vow of “til death do us part.” Death ends the vow, but doesn’t break it. So while violence is reason to escape, it is not reason to remarry.

  18. My question is this , if a woman leaves her husband or husband his wife because of reasons which is not biblical for divorce and one of them remarried would that be considered as continual adultery or is it just adultery that can be forgiven and move on ?

    • Adultery ends when the first marriage ends in God’s eyes. So the first sex after the divorce is adultery. The second is either fornication (if no second marriage was yet formed) or holy (if sanctified by a second marriage). But a local church must take that initial adultery very seriously as it cannot well read the character of the penitent person. So it is right that the disfellowshipped person be kept out of the membership for a substantial time even after a second marriage occurs.

  19. If a wife is forgiven for adultery and the marriage continues with more children born together and recommitment to God… then years later the husband leaves, it turns out to take the neighbours wife and then divorces his own wife to be with the neighbours wife and live together (although doesn’t marry her) and openly confesses Jesus is no longer his Lord and Saviour is the wife after many years alone free to remarry?

    • When he remarries, she is free. But in view of how badly marriage has gone, and the sensitive reality of children with divorced parents, she should be exceedingly hesitant and slow to marry again.

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