If a Christian gets a divorce and remarries, is he or she guilty of a continuous sin for as long as the new marriage continues?
emarriage following divorce is an act of adultery, according to Jesus (you can read why in our article on Divorce), but does the sin of adultery continue as long as the new marriage exists? Is this couple supposed to divorce to correct for the earlier sin of adultery?
In a word, no. Although the new marriage was formed through an act of adultery, this new covenant is valid and must be honored. The new marriage is legitimate in all respects, and a "one-flesh" relationship has been formed. Therefore, like all marriages the man and woman are expected to remain faithful to each other until death.
We see this principle at work in many places in the Bible including the account of Jacob. Jacob was deceived into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. Did this mean his marriage was invalid? No. Furthermore, Jacob continued to pursue marriage with Rachel (wrongly) despite already being married to Leah. Jacob's marriage to Rachel was an act of adultery. In fact, Jacob took a total of four wives, nevertheless each marriage was legitimate and binding. Therefore, every marriage covenant must be honored, even one that was formed through an act of adultery.
Moreover, a second marriage following a divorce is not a "continuous sin" because marriage itself is never sin. Remarriage after divorce is sin because the marriage begins with an act of adultery as the new marriage is consummated. Having been consummated, however, the new marriage is then a true marriage and must be honored. Therefore, while the consequences of adultery may last a lifetime, the act itself is over in a moment.
For example, murder is a sin that occurs in a moment, and it results in consequences that last a lifetime (i.e., the murder victim remains dead thereafter). Nevertheless, we don't say that the sin of murder is "continuous" simply because the victim remains dead. We understand that the sinful act occurred at a point in time yet it resulted in ongoing consequences. Likewise, adultery is a momentary act that produces ongoing consequences.
So when a person remarries following a divorce, that person commits adultery against the first spouse. At the same time, they enter into a legitimate marriage that is binding for life. The person may not divorce the second spouse even to seek reconciliation with the first spouse since this would be a new act of sin, and the Lord doesn't command us to commit new sins in an effort to correct for past sins.
In fact, God's word does not allow a first marriage to be reconciled if a second marriage had already been formed. Moses taught Israel that if a couple divorces and one remarries, then the first marriage may never be reconciled:
A woman who divorces and remarries and then divorces a second time was not permitted to return to her first husband even if he would have her. The woman's second marriage precluded reconciliation with her first husband because she was required to honor her second marriage until death, and reconciliation with her first husband would require an act of adultery against her second husband. This is further proof to us that God views a second marriage as legitimate and binding.
In short, every marriage is considered legitimate, and the Lord expects us to honor whatever marriage we have. Event though a second marriage is considered an act of adultery, the sin of adultery is not ongoing because the new marriage is valid. Therefore, the new marriage is legitimate and must be honored.
If a Christian has divorced and remarried, he or she should acknowledge and repent of the sin of adultery, and then both spouses should honor the new marriage in peace knowing that they are forgiven their sins in Christ. From that point forward, they must commit to remaining faithful to this new marriage until death.