What if I was Divorced Before I Became a Christian?

There are many people who become Christians after they were divorced.  Obviously some have also been remarried before they became Christians as well.

God forgives all sins and this includes any involving divorce and remarriage.  A person is a new creation when they become a Christian.  Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

As Christians we are called to repent of past sins and not repeat them.  This doesn’t mean that a person who is remarried and is guilty of adultery because of it should leave their current spouse.  But it does mean that a divorced person should remain single if they have not remarried.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24:

17 Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.

There are numerous reasons for divorce.  In the article “Should I Get Remarried?” the times when remarriage is appropriate is discussed.  There are very few times that it is clear from scripture that remarriage is acceptable.  This applies to a person who was divorced before they became a Christian as well.

Even though the sins of the past are forgiven and a Christian is a new creation, there are still consequences of past actions.  This is no different from a prisoner who becomes a Christian.  Their crimes have been forgiven but they must still serve the sentence they have been handed.

We cannot change the actions of our past.  God has forgiven them and they are behind us.  But they are still a part of our history for better or worse.  We are responsible for our current actions however.  No matter what we may have done in the past, it is the decisions that we make today that matter most now.

This is why Paul tells the Corinthians to remain in the current situation.  All of 1 Corinthians 7 is about marriage which is why we know that Paul is addressing marriage in the passage above.  It is because the past is past that we should remain in our current situation.  We can’t change it no matter how much we may like to.  We are responsible for our actions now which is why we must make the best choices we can and to live for Christ.

A person who was divorced before they became a Christian has consequences of their past actions just as everyone who becomes a Christian must deal with consequences of their past actions.  A Christian must strive to not repeat sins of the past and instead strive to live their life according to the Word of God.

What Does God Say About Divorce?

The word divorce only appears 33 times in the entire Bible but few topics are as controversial in the church.  The Bible discusses divorce in clear terms in the Old Testament, in the teachings of Jesus, and by the Apostle Paul.  Despite thorough instruction on divorce in the Bible, there are still some questions that people have.

Far more than a lack of knowledge concerning divorce is the problem of the emotional side of divorce.  Marriage is the closest personal relationship with family coming second.  Anytime divorce is discussed it raises intense personal feelings on the topic because it affects the two deepest personal relationships in life.  For this reason we will stick strictly to what the Bible says on the topic.

There are three main passages in the Bible that address the subject of divorce.  Malachi 2 addresses how divorce had affected the Israelite’s relationship with God.  Throughout the gospels Jesus addresses divorce and remarriage.  We’ll examine Matthew 19 as it contains all of Jesus’ teaching on the subject.

Finally Paul speaks on the subject of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.  This is the most thorough examination of the rules of marriage in the Bible and ironically comes from a bachelor.  Nevertheless, Paul is writing with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and his words should be considered as coming from God.

All three passages are looked at in more depth on the following pages.

Malachi 2:13-16

Matthew 19:1-12

1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 39

Should I Get Marriage Counseling?

The short answer is that counseling can’t hurt even if a spouse will not go along.  Ideally both people will be willing to sit down and to discuss the problems of marriage.

There is a stigma about counseling to some people as it implies a weakness that a person cannot solve their own problems.  However, it is like a Christian who must acknowledge they can’t make it on their own and trust God to help them.  It takes more strength to admit that a marriage needs help than it does to ignore the problems and continue on in frustration.

Communication is a key to any good relationship and having an objective third party listen to each side’s frustrations can help a couple work through their problems.  Counseling can be avoided if a couple is open and honest about their feelings and if they discuss them regularly.  Many times however one person is more willing to talk than the other and that is when a third party is needed to draw out the feelings of both sides.

Many pastors have have some but limited training in counseling.  It is good to sit down with a pastor to discuss problems that are occurring.  These conversations should be kept completely confidential by the pastor.

Because pastor’s have limited time and limited training it is not uncommon to be referred to a professional marriage counselor.  This doesn’t mean that a couple’s problems are so great that they can only be handled by a professional.  It simply means that the pastor takes the marriage seriously and wants all of the needs addressed even if they are outside of his realm of expertise.

While marriage counselors abound, Christians should seek a Christian counselor.  There is often a lot of psychological advice given by other counselors that is not backed up by the Bible.  A good Christian counselor should stick to the Bible first a foremost and should strive for peace and harmony within a marriage.

Analysis of 1 Corinthians 7:10-11

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

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.


Paul speaks on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.  He offers advice for single people, married people, divorced people, and widows.  In these verses he is simply repeating the teaching of Jesus concerning divorce.

A person should not seek a divorce.  If they do get divorced, they are to remain unmarried or else return to their spouse.

Marriage is a lifetime commitment.  However when a spouse passes away, that commitment is broken and a person is free to remarry.  Remarrying after a spouse’s death is not a break of the marriage covenant.

Other passages concerning divorce

Malachi 2:13-16

Matthew 19:1-12

What Qualities Should I Look for in a Wife?

Proverbs 31:10-31 lists the qualities that a man should look for in a wife.  These qualities are ideals and the perfect wife or husband doesn’t really exist.  Nevertheless these are qualities all Christian women should strive for and men should desire in a wife.

“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.”

This is the beginning of the passage in Proverbs and it relays the difficulty in finding the right spouse.  A person of noble character is one who seeks what God wants for their life and shuns evil.

A wife of noble character takes care of her family.  She is a hard worker who is not afraid of doing the dirty work.  But she also doesn’t pick up the slack for her husband.  He works hard to support the family as well.

She is able to give out thoughtful advice to her children.  Her children recognize her wisdom and do not despise it when she corrects them.

She may be a beautiful woman but she does not trust in her beauty because she realizes that it will fade with time.  Instead she puts her trust in the Lord.

Other people will recognize the virtues of a wife of noble character.  They will take note of how she loves her husband and cares for her children.  They will not be able to escape the fact that her husband is able to trust her in all of his affairs.

Obviously some of these qualities can’t be observed until a person is actually married but there will still be evidence of them before marriage.  These are the qualities that a man should desire when they are looking for a wife.

What Qualities Should I Look for in a Husband?

A wife has a whole list of qualities that she should strive for as they are listed in Proverbs 31.  A man has only one thing that he must do in order to be a good husband but his job is far more impossible than the one expected of a good wife.

Ephesians 5 gives us instructions on how a marriage should properly work.  Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

The love of Christ is self sacrificial.  It gives up a person’s own will for the good of another.  We may be capable of doing this for short periods of time, occasionally doing what someone else wants, but we aren’t capable of doing it all of the time.

For a husband to love his wife the way Christ loves the church, he must protect her physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  He must protect her even at the expense of his own well being.

The love of Christ gives us a vague notion of being an immense love, but we must remember that Christ died for the church.  A husband should love his wife enough to give up his life for her.  This could be literal but in practice it means that he doesn’t hang out with his friends as much any more.  It could mean that he cuts back on his personal spending in order to afford raising a family.

A woman should look for a husband who is willing to give up his old life in order to start a new one in love with her.  This is the greatest quality that a woman should look for in a husband.

What is the Purpose of Dating?

In “Is Dating Biblical?” we discuss some of the unbiblical reasons that a person may be dating.  Despite the negative reasons that a person may be dating, there is a biblical purpose behind it.

The main purpose of dating is to find a person that we’re compatible with and to marry them.  This may seem too simple but the concept is lost on many people.

In a perfect world where everyone followed the will of God, compatibility wouldn’t be an issue.  Disagreements would be settled civilly and husbands and wives would love each other unconditionally.  It wouldn’t matter if spouses had different opinions because they would seek peace and compromise.

Unfortunately we live in a sinful world and differences in personality mean a lot about compatibility.  Because of this we need to know if the man or woman we’re dating is “the one.”

Dating should be used to get to know a person and to determine if you can spend your lifetime with that person.  If you already know that the answer is no because you disagree on religion or how to raise a family, end the relationship.  Dating a person who is not spouse material will lead down one of two roads.  It either prolongs a relationship that isn’t meant to be and causes a breakup to be more hurtful because of all the time spent together.  Or it will end in marriage because everyone expects it after a long enough period of time and you will overlook the problems that have existed in the relationship all along.  Those problems will become amplified in marriage.

Dating should be fun and relaxed but it has a serious side to it as well.  If you’re serious about finding the right person, ask that God would eliminate the wrong people for you.  The reason for this is simple.  Every person you meet and are interested in is going to have good qualities that you’ll focus on.  In the first weeks or months all you’ll notice is the good qualities and think that this is the perfect person for you.  And so will the next person and the next person.  If you ask God for wisdom, He will show you the qualities that you don’t want in a spouse and you will know a person isn’t for you.  Unfortunately it is much easier to spot those who aren’t meant for you than the one who is.  The sooner you stop dating a person who isn’t meant for you, the sooner you can move on to the right person for you however.

Is Dating Biblical?

In 1997 Joshua Harris released a book titled “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”  The premise was not that dating was bad but that there were better options than the frustrations of dating.

Dating as we know it doesn’t appear in the Bible.  But neither do cars, computers, or televisions.  So to simply say that people didn’t date in the Bible doesn’t make the idea of dating unbiblical.

Dating is a very recent idea compared to the history of man.  It wasn’t until the automobile in the early 1900’s that dating became popular or even really possible.  This allowed people to get away from their parents and get to know a person on a different level than before.

So the question of whether dating was in the Bible doesn’t answer the question of whether dating is in line with biblical principles.  For that we have to ask the question, “Why is a person dating?”  The motives behind dating tell us whether or not dating is biblical.  In the end, dating can be both biblical and unbiblical.  In “What is the purpose of dating?” we will discuss the biblical reason a person should date.  Here we will discuss some unbiblical reasons for dating.

For many people, dating has become equated with sex.  People hang out at bars looking for one night stands and ultimately someone to hook up with for a while.  There is no sense of commitment and a person won’t enter that phase until later when they are ready to “settle down.”  Sex outside of marriage is outside of God’s plan and should be avoided.  If this is the reason for dating, it shouldn’t be considered biblical.

Another reason people date is for a sense of conquest.  For many this is a sexual thing as mentioned above.  However for others it is a sense of pride.  A person derives self worth by their ability to find someone to date.  And the more attractive a date they can find, the better they feel about themselves.  We aren’t to derive our self worth from who we date but from God.  We are created in the image of God and therefore it doesn’t matter if others find us attractive or not.

These reasons aside, there is a good reason for dating that can be backed up with biblical principles.  This is discussed in “What is the purpose of dating?

Should I Date a Non-Christian?

The answer to whether a person should date a non-Christian is closely related to the purpose of dating.  That is discussed in another article so we’ll just summarize it here.

The goal of dating should be to find someone who is suitable to marry.  If a person is not suitable to marry, then no time should be invested in dating them.

So then the question becomes if a Christian should marry an non-Christian.  This article discusses biblical reasons why a Christian should not marry an unbeliever.

Many people do not take dating seriously and therefore if they date a non-Christian isn’t a big deal to them.  Some even view dating a non-Christian as a way of evangelizing and getting a person into church.  This is known as missionary dating.

The problem with missionary dating is its low success rate and high potential for dangerous repercussions.  The pitfalls are the same whether a person is actively trying to win their boyfriend or girlfriend to Christ, or if they are just dating for fun.

There are some success stories of people who were brought to Christ through the work of the person they were dating.  But for every success story, there is a hundred or even a thousand stories of Christians who were pulled away from Christ because of who they were dating.  Sometimes it is temporary, other times it is permanent.

The truth is it is far easier to lower one’s standards than it is to raise them.  A good illustration is that of a Christian standing on a chair.  As they reach out to an unbeliever standing on the floor, they do all they can to pull them up onto the chair.  It is hard work and often fails.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take much effort at all for the non-Christian to pull the Christian off balance.  A slight tip in the wrong direction and the Christian can be sent tumbling without the non-Christian even intending to do so.

Dating is not the same as marriage but a lot of the same rules apply.  What is most influential is the amount of time people spend together.  Because of this, many of the same biblical reasons for not marrying an unbeliever apply to dating an unbeliever.  For the biblical reasons against marrying a non-Christian see the article, “Can I Marry an Unbeliever?

When Should I Get Married?

There is no set age that is appropriate for marriage.  Much of the discussion comes down to the maturity of the two people who are considering marriage as well as what is acceptable culturally.

Genesis tells us that Isaac was 40 years old when his father Abraham sent his servant in search of a wife for him.  Rebekah was likely much younger than this when she married Isaac.

No ages are ever given for Mary and Joseph but many biblical scholars believe that Mary was young, most likely a teenager when she gave birth to Jesus.

Young teenagers are physically able to have children and start a family at the time of puberty.  This does not mean that they are mentally or emotionally ready for marriage.  When life spans were only 35-40 years people married younger out of necessity.  They did not have the luxury of waiting until their late 20’s or 30’s to begin having children if they wished to see them grow into adults.

Still today, women have a short time when they are capable of having children and if a woman wants children, this will certainly influence when they get married.  Guys do not have such an issue and this may be one reason why they typically are not interested in settling down until later than women.

There are other factors that influence when a person should get married that have nothing to do with the Bible.  First of all is the legal issue.  In many places a person can’t get married without parental permission until they are 19 years old.

Education is another factor to consider when getting married.  In earlier times when most women were content to be stay at home moms, education wasn’t a priority.  Today many women are going to college and pursuing careers.  This is a matter of choice and is neither good nor bad.  Each person needs to decide what their priority is.

Still another factor that must be considered before getting married is financial stability.  In a traditional marriage, the man was older and more established and therefore able to take care of his wife before he got married.  There were also far fewer things that required money.  Not long ago a person was expected to provide a home and food for the family.  Anything leftover after this was a bonus.

Today in addition to the basic needs of life, there are several more bills for things that most people can no longer live without.  Cell phones, cable tv, and high speed internet quickly cost a couple hundred dollars a month.  This is in addition to paying off high student loans that many people did not have to deal with a generation ago.

In short, there is no acceptable time to get married aside from once it is legal to do so.  The right time will depend greatly upon the couple and their goals in life.  Marriage is a major commitment and should not be rushed into.  Only after much prayer and consideration should a couple think about marriage, regardless of their age.