What is the Lutheran Theology on Divorce and Remarraige?

I have a Lutheran relative, LCMS, who’s wife passed away and he’s starting to date a woman who has been divorced twice. She’s Christian but not Lutheran. What is the Lutheran theology on divorce and remarraige? If I stay to bible alone, I don’t see where Christ gives permission for divorce with the exception of immorality in Matthew 19 (interpretation of this exception could be the subject of it’s own thread). Mark 10 below:

2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,[a] 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Reading the ECF’s, they appear to be consistent with Christ’s words, holding that marraige is a covenantal bond that can not be broken and in the case of my relative, he would be committing adultery with this divorced woman.

Appreciate any insights here from a Lutheran view. Is he committing adultery or not by dating this woman? What if he married her?


It would depend on why the woman is divorced.

Here is an LCMS treatment on the issue.


Luther didn’t consider marriage a sacrament, so it does not matter if its 1st, or 5th marriage, done at church with a pastor or in at the courthouse with a judge. If you consider yourself married and live like you are, then its recognized.

That’s not at all how it works for Lutherans. Please read House’s link above.

Lutherans define a sacrament as something that is 1.Instituted by Christ, 2.Bestows Grace and 3.Has an outward sign (water in Baptism, for example). Marriage was instituted at the dawn of Creation, it doesn’t get us to Heaven or bestow Grace of itself, nor does it have an outward sign (maybe the kiss counts? :P), so Lutherans don’t call it a sacrament. That doesn’t make it any less holy and sacred. Divorce is serious.

I Corinthians 7 would also govern New Covenant law in this regard as well as the verses in the Gospels.

In the confessional Lutheran church bodies, generally, only divorce and remarriage for reasons of adultery or abandonment would be considered legitimate. While we don’t consider marriage a sacrament in the same sense as Baptism, Absolution or the Supper, it is still an ordinance of God and is, normally, indissoluble.

Okay but marriage was instituted by Christ he compared himself with it and the Church. Like a bride and the bridegroom.

Its an outward sign done in front of eachother and others.

And his Grace is given to you at the wedding.

Baptism is one thing that gains us eternal life but that’s not it.

Marriage was instituted by God long before the coming of Christ. He also compared himself to a vine and the Church to branches. I don’t see that as reason to tie twigs to ourselves. The Lutheran objection here isn’t based on analogies or parables. It’s a simple issue of definition. Just because Lutherans define marriage differently does not mean that we somehow profane it. Divorce is very, very serious.

I should clarify. Baptism has water that is given power by the Word to begin a new work in the Spirit and bestow Grace. Communion has wine and bread that is given power by the Word to become the actual Body and Blood of Christ and bestow Grace. Weddings have… none of those things, because even the heathen can marry. Marriage is an ancient institution set by God at Creation, not part of the New Covenant - that is, it had meaning and purpose before Christ attended a wedding in Cana or chastised the Pharisees on divorce. He reaffirmed its sacred nature; He did not give it a sacred nature as if it never had one.

I am, in regard to heaven, no better or worse off being married than celibate. Might I receive Grace through the Christian living of my marriage with my wife? Sure. In fact, I’d even say I have. But this is not because of my marriage. It would be because my wonderful wife and I, to the best of our abilities, live according to the Word.

Indeed, Baptism is only the beginning of a marvelous thing!

Hopefully, that makes a bit more sense.

But was it not said that Marriage is not a Sacrament?

a Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.

Marriage in indeed an outward sign and signifies and communicates grace. Marriage between 2 Baptised Christian believers is a true Sacrament of the New Covenant.

And I am sorry to disagree but Marriage is a part of the New Covenant. If you check out the CCC it explains this to much better of a degree.

How serious is divorce? if unlimited marriages are allowed, is divorce really that serious?

Apparently we’re just as serious as Catholics: Lutherans and Catholics share the same low 21% divorce rate.


I think in many Protestant communions in the case of adultery the party innocent of adultery is considered free to divorce and re marry.

According to the linked document:

. . . 3. A person who divorces his/her spouse for any other cause than sexual unfaithfulness and marries another commits adultery. Anyone who marries a person so discarding his or her spouse commits adultery. . . .

  1. When a spouse commits fornication (i.e., is guilty of sexual unfaithfulness), which breaks the unity of the marriage, the offended party who endures such unfaithfulness has the right, though not the command, to obtain a legal divorce and remarry. . . .

. . . . 5. A spouse who has been willfully and definitively abandoned by his or her partner who refuses to be reconciled and is unwilling to fulfill the obligations of the marriage covenant despite persistent persuasion may seek a legal divorce, which in such a case constitutes a public recognition of a marriage already broken, and remarry. . . .

So, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod permits divorce and remarriage in cases where adultery or abandonment caused the dissolution of a prior marriage.

How much discretion do LCMS pastors have in interpreting or applying these guidelines to specific cases?

Yes, sadly the rates are similar across the spectrum. However, that points more towards acceptance of secular ideas.

Here is a link to a discussion of these guidelines: Divorce and Remarriage

This is just a discussion among Lutherans, not official practices - in my own experience, it was a matter for confession and repentance, but also “a point of the past beyond reconciliation.”

Perhaps that’s how it looks to Catholic eyes, but for us the Lutheran theology about Divorce isn’t a mirror of secular ideas - it’s a form of mercy granted by God for sin that can be outside individual control - and a removal of a stumbling block to the Cross.

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