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The Word on Divorce and Remarriage

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by Pastor Steven R. Key

 

Scripture: Matthew 19:1-12

 

Text: Matthew 19:9

 

Having considered this morning the seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," I decided that, not being in the middle of any sermon series, we have a fitting opportunity today in the second worship service to address a related subject that has become a matter of great importance in our day, affecting almost every broader family.

 

In our country the number of divorces each year nearly equals the number of first-time marriages. And of the number of marriages that are conducted in the U.S. each year, just a little more than half of them are first-time marriages for both partners. Which means that nearly half of the marriages conducted in our country involve remarriage for at least one partner. And with few exceptions, percentage-wise, those remarriages are not those of widows or widowers, but of those who have been divorced at least once. Almost every family in our day, even in our own churches, have family members, if not immediate family members -- brothers or sisters, sons or daughters, at least extended family members who are divorced and remarried. For that very reason we ought to consider these words of Jesus as timely and important for us.

 

In addition, it is important that we are reminded of what Scripture teaches concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage, because also in this area if we follow the ways of the world, even the church world in our day, we shall be led far astray from God's ordinances, into the pathway of grievously dishonoring holy marriage. It is no secret that almost every denomination of churches in our country, including most churches that were historically of Reformed persuasion, have made allowance for divorce and remarriage, even for every cause. Even though divorce is called a tragedy, and the consequences of marital breakups are seen as devastating for children, most churches turn the other way, so to speak, and proclaim a certain forgiveness for divorce and remarriage, allowing such members who divorce and remarry to remain members in good standing, who also have a rightful place at the communion table in fellowship with Jesus Christ. And, in fact, this practice has become so common, that most church members hardly give a thought as to what the Bible says about marriage, divorce and remarriage. If the church allows remarriage of divorced parties; if the church winks at divorce for every cause, it must be that such is acceptable. Even though on that day that he says, "I do," a man perhaps would hope for his marriage to last, in the back of his mind he probably recognizes that if it doesn't work out there are other options open to him. He may look for another woman with whom perhaps he may be more compatible, and may marry again. What else should he think, when divorce and remarriage is so openly accepted in the churches of our day?

 

But although the extent of the divorce-remarriage problem is greater today than at any time in history, and although the United States, the so-called "Christian nation" tops the list in this problem, it is not a new problem. Not at all. It is a matter that is addressed by Holy Scripture. The problem was seen already way back in the Old Testament, and continued to affect the church when Jesus made his earthly sojourn.

 

In the passage before us, Matthew 19, we find that the Pharisees used the issue of divorce and remarriage in an attempt to trap Jesus, Whom they hated. While Jesus continued to preach and perform His wonders of healing among the multitudes who followed Him, "The Pharisees also come unto him," we read. But their purpose in coming to Him is exposed by Matthew, as well as by Mark (in Mark 10). The purpose of the Pharisees was well recognized by Jesus. They didn't come to Him with the sincere desire to hear His preaching, or to acknowledge His Godhead as revealed in the wonders He performed. They came "tempting him." It was their purpose to find something for which they could accuse Him, preferably something so serious, that it would involve Him in charges by the government, which would lead to His demise or even His death. This is just one occasion, of course, where we find the Pharisees attempting to catch Jesus in their trap of deception. But it is striking how they approach Him. They say unto him, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"

 

What were the Pharisees looking for, when they presented this question to Jesus? How were they looking to trap Him by such a question? The historical context will answer that question -- if not entirely, then certainly in part. We read in verse 1 that Jesus came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan. That would be on the east side of the Jordan River, which was the region of Perea. That area of Judea belonged to the territory of Herod Antipas. It was very dangerous territory, therefore, to take any sort of a strong stand against divorce. You remember that Herod had taken as his wife, Herodias, who had been married to his brother Philip. He was married, therefore, to a woman who had been another man's wife, and whose husband was still living. It was precisely because John the Baptist had spoken to Herod about his unlawful marriage, that John had been imprisoned and finally executed. Of that we read in Matthew 14. Furthermore, we read in Mark 3:6, that the Pharisees had taken counsel with the Herodians against Jesus, "how they might destroy him."

 

It appears, therefore, that on the one hand they were setting a deliberate trap, thinking that when Jesus' answer would be reported to Herod, it would lead to His execution, as had been the case with John the Baptist. If that plan did not work out, there were still other possibilities arising from this approach. Undoubtedly the Pharisees also took into account the kinds of people who followed Jesus. Many of them followed the rather prevalent teaching of the day that divorce could be readily obtained for virtually any cause. The Pharisees probably thought that if Jesus would set forth a strict view on divorce and remarriage, many of his followers would turn against Him. If Jesus' answer still would not bring Him into that trap, the Pharisees were convinced that they would be able to catch Him contradicting the law of Moses. So they had reason to use divorce and remarriage as the subject with which they would attempt to take Jesus down. God, Who sovereignly governs all things, had something else in mind, however. He would use this occasion to show us how Christ restores and maintains the holy and unbreakable bond of marriage.

 

I call your attention to this text under the theme:

 

THE WORD ON DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

 

And when I speak of The Word, I refer to God's Word, not mine. Any objection against the teaching of Holy Scripture is not to be leveled against me. Christ speaks here concerning divorce and remarriage. I can only expound the Scriptures in this regard, calling you before the Word of God. His, after all, is the Word, the authoritative Word before which we must bow. That is why I refer to THE WORD ON DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE.

 

We shall notice:

 

I. THE PERMANENCY OF MARRIAGE

 

II. THE CONDEMNATION OF DIVORCE

 

III. THE FORBIDDING OF REMARRIAGE

 

I. THE PERMANENCY OF MARRIAGE.

 

IN THE CONTEXT -- AND THAT SERVES AS THE VERY FOUNDATION OF VERSE 9 -- JESUS TEACHES US THAT THE VERY INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE WAS AS AN UNBREAKABLE BOND.

 

The Pharisees, in the context of society's widely accepted practice of divorce and remarriage, ask Jesus: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Very striking was Jesus' response. "Have ye not read?" That is, what does the Bible say? How many today are willing to stand before the teaching of Scripture in answer to the question of whether or not divorce and remarriage is lawful? Christ immediately points us to the Scriptures. They alone provide the authoritative answer. So Jesus says, "What is the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the question you present to me?" And then He quotes from the second chapter of Genesis. "Have ye not read, 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?" That is Scripture. And therefore Jesus draws out the necessary, the inescapable conclusion: "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

 

Marriage is a divine institution, says Jesus. It is a bond that God alone establishes. It is important that we understand clearly the significance of this. Our Lord is not merely saying that when a man and a woman are united in marriage, it will be difficult, and perhaps cause psychological damage, to pull them apart. He is saying more. By pointing us back to the institution of marriage as established by God Himself, He is saying that God Himself is involved in the marriage bond. God has joined together. Marriage does not begin with man. Marriage is not simply the establishment of what one man and one woman desire. Adam and Eve did not discover marriage for themselves. The origin of marriage, of every marriage, is with God, and therefore God rules over it; God determines what it is; God determines its duration and its permanence.

 

GOD HIMSELF JOINS TOGETHER ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN IN AN EXCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP, WHERE THE TWO ARE MADE ONE FLESH.

 

One man and one woman, brought together in marriage, dwell in an exclusive relationship in which they are to cleave one to another. Two are made one flesh. The permanency of this exclusive relationship of marriage is the emphasis in its very institution. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Let no man come along and claim a higher authority than Him Who established marriage as an unbreakable bond. Let no one attempt to wipe away the declaration of God. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.

 

"Thus saith the Scriptures," says Jesus. "And on that basis I maintain the doctrine of marriage in the New Testament kingdom of God." So likewise must we, beloved. And we have not only the institution of marriage as found in Genesis 2, together with all the other instruction concerning marriage in the Old Testament. We have besides the Word of God in the chapter before us, and in Matthew 5 and Mark 10, Luke 16:18, the opening verses of Romans 7, as well as I Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5, and we could go on. Scripture throughout teaches the permanency of the marriage union.

 

It is not man's right to sever the marriage bond. And ultimately such severance is not even possible, so long as the husband and wife live. Only the death of either the husband or the wife can break the marriage bond. The permanency of this cleaving is exactly this: as long as they both shall live. That is confirmed in Romans 7:2,3: "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man."

 

It is, of course, possible in our day, as it was in Jesus' day, to secure a divorce legally. The magistrates make it very easy in our day to obtain a divorce decree. Especially easy is it, if there are no children involved. But even when there are children involved, to obtain a divorce is made easy. The hang-up may only come over the distribution of property and child custody. The grounds themselves for divorce in our day have been made indisputable. But our Lord, pointing to the institution of marriage from the beginning, and the significance of the fact that God alone establishes that bond, says, "It is impossible to undo what God has done. God has joined a man and a woman together. They have become one flesh. To divorce is to take up a separate bed and board, but it does not dissolve that which can only be broken in death.

 

This reference to the institution of marriage is worthy of an entire sermon. But that is not what I would consider with you as the main theme today. I have preached that in your hearing before, during the series from the early chapters of Genesis, particularly Genesis 2:18-25, MARRIAGE'S DIVINE INSTITUTION. The tape of that sermon is still available, I am sure, should you want to review that text once again. But I call your attention today in this first point to the PERMANENCY OF MARRIAGE, as the background for that which Jesus teaches in Matthew 19:9. Jesus here makes a statement that was astonishing even to his disciples! It is found just as amazing in our own day. He says that whatever takes places legally in divorce does not break that marriage bond in the eyes of God.

 

II. JESUS ALSO SETS FORTH THE DIVINE CONDEMNATION OF DIVORCE.

 

BUT IT IS RIGHT HERE WHERE THE PHARISEES THINK THEY HAVE JESUS IN THEIR TRAP.

 

The Pharisees well understood what Jesus was teaching. But they would set Him at contradiction with Moses. They would accuse Him of departing from God's law given through Moses. "They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" "Jesus has just maintained that marriage is an unbreakable bond. He has prohibited divorce. He shows Himself, therefore, the enemy of God's law! See, we have exposed Him! So think the Pharisees. They refer here to Deuteronomy 24. And certainly it is necessary that we consider that passage in this connection. This is what we read in Deuteronomy 24:1-4: "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour 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." A rather striking passage, isn't it. It would seem, on the surface, to contradict Jesus' words. Perhaps the Pharisees have a case! But wait; let's see how Jesus answers.

 

"He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." Now there are a couple things that we need to notice in Jesus' response. In the first place, He points out emphatically that Moses never commanded divorce. He did not command it; he didn't make it legitimate; he didn't excuse it. He suffered it. He permitted; he allowed that which was wrong. For Jesus says, "From the beginning it was not so." Moses gave permission to put away one's wife in some circumstances, and for the order of society gave specific legislation concerning such putting away. But he did so -- and this is also a point of emphasis here: "Because of the hardness of your hearts." There is an element in Deuteronomy 24 which speaks condemnation to the children of Israel for violating the divine ordinance of God concerning marriage.

 

Deuteronomy 24 reveals what Moses observed happening among some of the hard-hearted Israelites. They were putting away their wives, not for adultery. The Old Testament law commanded the adulteress to be stoned to death. This wasn't a matter of adultery. Men were putting away their wives for some uncleanness, something in their wives that didn't satisfy them. They were so hard of heart toward the Word of God, and toward the institution of holy marriage, that they were putting away their wives, attempting in that way to find freedom to seek self-satisfaction in another woman.

 

What Moses does in effect is to say, "If you are so perverse as to put away your wives because of something in her that doesn't satisfy you, that is displeasing in your eyes, then I will at least make it less easy for you. You men may not merely throw your wives away. You may not simply walk away from your marriage. Not only so, but when you divorce your wife, I will make it impossible for you ever to have her back, should she marry another. There will be no reconciliation. Should you find that the grass isn't, after all, greener on the other side of the fence, you will not be able to return to the pleasant pastures of she whom God had given you. Moses' commandment, you see, was only a regulation for the order of society, and particularly for the protection of the wives. It was not a blessing upon divorce. It was something that he found necessary because of the hardness of your hearts.

 

But, Christ says, from the beginning it was not so. Jesus does not find fault with Moses. He points to the hardness of heart among the people with whom he labored. Still more, Jesus confronts his very audience with the accusation, "because of the hardness of your hearts," Moses suffered it. But from the beginning it was not so. Moses' allowance because of the hardness of their hearts, was an allowance that was not according to what God had established at the beginning. To appeal to this suffering of Moses, in support of the perverse prevalence of divorce and remarriage, reveals a hard heart against God's divine institution of that holy and unbreakable bond of marriage.

 

That is evident not only from what Jesus says here; but that is evident also in the Old Testament from what we read in Malachi 2:14-16. There the Lord lays charges against the children of Israel for their breach of holy marriage. They continued to put away their wives with the same treachery as observed by Moses. And Malachi says, "the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously." That treachery is clearly set forth in verse 16. They had been putting away their wives. But God says this: "yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant." What you have done, in putting away your wife, has not set aside the fact that she is your wife. "For did not God make one?" Malachi says. "Let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away." The Lord upholds the same truth here: Moses suffered it, because of the hardness of your hearts, "but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you -- I, Who am the greater than Moses, -- "I say unto you, 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."

 

BUT NOW IN VERSE 9 WE FIND A VERY SIGNIFICANT EXCEPTION TO OUR LORD'S CONDEMNATION OF THE PUTTING AWAY OF ONE'S SPOUSE.

 

"Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery." In all of the passages which speak of "putting away" one's spouse, there is only one exception which allows for that "putting away." That exception is the sin of fornication. There are two questions that must be faced in this connection. In the first place, what is meant by the "putting away" of one's wife? Does that refer to a divorce which breaks the marriage bond, and thus confers the right to remarry? The only alternative, you understand, is to insist that this "putting away" refers only to a separation from bed and board, what we might call a "separation divorce," in which case the marriage bond is still in existence before God, and would forbid remarriage in any instance. The second question has to do with the placement of this "except clause." Does this except clause speak only to the "putting away"? Or does it apply also to remarriage? These questions stand very closely related.

 

To answer those questions it is necessary to look more carefully at the sentence itself and at the sentence within its preceding context. Let us understand that the point of this statement by our Lord was to emphasize that divorce and remarriage is forbidden, because it is adulterous. And if you question the application of the except clause, then we will say that the purpose of this statement is to emphasize that divorce and remarriage, at least in most circumstances, is forbidden, because it is adulterous. (I will show how remarriage is forbidden in all circumstances; but you must concede that the point of this text is to show, at least in most circumstances, that divorce and remarriage is forbidden.) It is forbidden because of the permanency of marriage's divine institution in each case. That is Jesus' point here. The point is not the exception. The main point is to maintain the permanency of the marriage bond and the condemnation, therefore, of divorce.

 

And what is the point of this word of our Lord in its context? It is to add weight to Jesus' answer to the Pharisees' question. It is not right to divorce, because God the Creator, from the beginning, made the marriage union which not only must not be broken, but cannot be broken, because to remarry after divorce is adultery. So the whole point of this text in its context is to reinforce the command not to divorce.

 

Now, without taking away from the thrust of His argument, Jesus slips in this exception, to permit a "putting away" in the case of fornication. The except clause applies only to the "putting away." If Jesus had wanted to teach that fornication is also an exception to the prohibition against remarriage, He would have put that exception after the words "marry another." Then the text would have read this way: "Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another, except it be for fornication, committeth adultery." The text does not read that way. Our interpretation is also in harmony with the clearer passage of Matthew 5:31,32. There we read: "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."

 

So, in summary, the putting away of one's spouse is forbidden by God, with one exception. In the matter of fornication, the marriage may be brought into such a state of upheaval that it becomes necessary for the two to live separately. And fornication, as I explained this morning, is any form of sexual sin. It is a very broad term, encompassing a wide realm of perversity. Adultery is the narrower term, referring to sexual sin against the marriage union. Jesus does not command the "putting away" in the case of fornication. The marriage may yet be spared in the way of repentance and reconciliation. And all praise to God when such a wonder work of His grace is seen! But our Lord recognizes that the sin of fornication, committed by either the husband or the wife, can so mutilate the marriage bond, that the two must live separately. There may, in such a case, be a putting away, a separation from bed and board.

 

But such a horrendous attack upon marriage by a sinful husband or wife, is not an action which breaks the bond so that the marriage is dissolved in God's sight. It does not make way for another marriage. Couples can live separately--although they should not, except in the case of fornication. Couples can even become legally divorced in the eyes of the state, separating not only physically but financially, and making custody arrangements for their children. But what they cannot do is destroy the oneness God gave them when they married. They can undo their own work; but they cannot undo the work of God. God has joined together. And together they remain, until God Himself comes to put them asunder in death.

 

III. OUR LORD CLEARLY FORBIDS ALL REMARRIAGE OF DIVORCED PERSONS.

 

A. THAT FORBIDDING OF REMARRIAGE IN EVERY INSTANCE WHEN ONE'S ORIGINAL SPOUSE IS STILL LIVING IS TAUGHT IN EVERY PLACE WHERE THE BIBLE SPEAKS OF REMARRIAGE.

 

Hear the Lord in Luke 16:18: "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery." One of the fundamental principles of Bible interpretation is that where you have two similar passages, texts which address the same truths, the more difficult are always to be interpreted in the light of those passages which are more clear. Luke 16:18 is clear. The same is taught in Mark 10. Jesus does not contradict those passages with what He says in Matthew 19:9. He says, The man who puts away his wife and married another commits adultery. He is guilty before God. The husband in this case is altogether in the wrong. He put away his wife. She was not an unfaithful wife. She did not commit fornication. He simply put her away. He was unfaithful to her. Is not she then free in such a case? She, after all, would in our day be regarded as "the innocent party." May she not then marry again? The Lord says "no." "Whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery." And because it is impossible to commit adultery alone, she is also guilty of adultery in marrying another man.

 

This is the Word of God concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage. This is the rule for all who would be citizens of the kingdom of heaven. This is the narrow way concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage, the narrow way that leads into the everlasting kingdom of God's dear Son.

 

When Jesus teaches that remarriage involves one in the sin of adultery, a continuous sin, this can only be because the original marriage -- the oneness, the joining together -- still exists. That is why a divorced Christian, even when reconciliation is no longer possible, must continue to think: "I am still married, and therefore not free to contemplate marriage to anyone else." While married, we would not think of marrying a second partner. But that married person's divorce, in the eyes of God, changes nothing. He is still married, not free to enter a second marriage, so long as he first mate lives. Exactly the same applies to a single person who is attracted to one who is divorced. If that single person is a child of God, he or she would not think of marrying one who is already married to another. But exactly the same must apply, when he or she meets a divorced person. Even though that person may be living alone, that person is still married in God's eyes. You and I must consider that divorced person as married, lest we fall into the sin of adultery. For we know that no adulterer, i.e., no one who continues impenitent in that sin, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

 

We recognize that for many this Word of God is a hard saying. It is exactly this position that stunned not only the Pharisees, but Jesus' own disciples. That also confirms what we have taught today in the exposition of this Word of God. If Jesus had merely reiterated the conservatively accepted position which held to the right of a man to divorce and remarry in the case of his wife's marital unfaithfulness, certainly we would not have seen the reaction of the disciples in verse 10. They were stunned by Jesus' teaching! "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....He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Will you receive this Word of God?

 

I AM VERY AWARE OF THE DIFFICULTY IN WHICH MANY OF GOD'S CHILDREN FIND THEMSELVES.

 

I am also acutely aware of the emotions that are stoked by this whole matter, especially when it involves those who are close to us. I say again, there is hardly one of us who is untouched, at least in our broader families, by the sin of divorce and remarriage. And particularly in the case of one who would be acknowledged as the innocent party, we have an instinctive sympathy. There are children of God, even in our own churches, who in sins of youth married unbelievers who later showed themselves unfaithful. There are others who married those who called themselves Christian, who were even Protestant Reformed; but who proved to be unspiritual and unfaithful, also to the holy marriage bond. (That, by the way, ought to serve as a reminder to our youth, Be careful whom you date and whom you marry. You must marry in the Lord. That is God's command. You may not be unequally yoked with one who is not with you spiritually. But don't be deceived merely because one calls himself or herself Christian, or even Protestant Reformed. See evidence of spiritual-mindedness and godliness, a submissive heart toward the Scriptures.) But we recognize those who have been forsaken by a spouse who was unfaithful, who divorced their mate, leaving them single in the church. And we sympathize with their difficult state.

 

If I could change the rules to allow the innocent party to remarry, I would. But I have no such authority. Sometimes, not just with divorce and remarriage, but with respect to many sinful practices, church members want us to change the rules, to make allowances, to wink at sin. Beloved, we have no authority to change the rules! We have no authority to change the precepts of God! Marriage is God's institution. The rules of Christ concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage are unchangeable. They constitute the inviolable law for the citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

 

We must maintain the holy bond of marriage, an unbreakable bond. Such marriage, according to Ephesians 5, is a symbol of the relationship between God and His people in Christ. God is our husband and we the Church are His wife, His bride. God is faithful to us. He never divorces us, to marry someone else. He made an unbreakable promise to us who are in Christ Jesus, a promise that is as unchangeable as He Himself. I will be your God, your Husband, your Savior, forever. He is faithful, beloved. And by grace we also are faithful to Him. We own no other husband or lover. We give ourselves exclusively to Him. That, after all, is the Christian life. We give ourselves to Him also when He calls us into submissive to His doctrine of marriage.

 

Our culture must not determine our stand on marriage, divorce and remarriage. Even the church at large must not determine our stand. The church, after all, most often stands with the world. God Himself determines our stand. We submit ourselves to His Word. What do the Scriptures say? That is the question for us. And therefore as churches we take this stand. This is to our blessing. To walk in obedience to God in this regard has been for the strength of our churches, of our homes, our families, and our enjoyment of God's covenant with us and our children. Yes, there will be those who suffer hardship, severe hardship, in the way of obedience to this ordinance of God. Discipleship is costly--to me in one way; to you in another. To follow Christ is to live a life of self-denial. Count the cost. But then take up your cross and follow Him. "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."

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Enjoyed reading your post! I know divorce is a sin and that no one can separate what God brought together; however, how do you know if God "brought the two together". I have been married for over 10 years; however, I do not know who I married due to that my wife is a chronic liar. Do you think that maybe God did not bless our marriage?? Is every marriage bound together by God whether it is a healthy relationship or not??? I am not saying he didn't; however, I find it hard to believe that God would want someone to be married to someone they do not know and will never know because of the lies. Just food for thought!

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how do you know if God "brought the two together".

 

Did you make a vow - a real covenant with your wife under God? This is a yes/no question. Judges 11:35; Proverbs 20:25; Jonah 2:9; Ecclesiastes 5:5,

 

Just curious, Paul, are you non-denominational? If you have an opportunity, please fill out your profile information. Glad you joined us.

 

God bless,

William

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I did get make a vow in a church! I was only asking a question did not think of that. Obviously I know where you are going with that. Yes I am non-denominational; however, I currently attend a Southern Baptist church.

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I did get make a vow in a church! I was only asking a question did not think of that. Obviously I know where you are going with that. Yes I am non-denominational; however, I currently attend a Southern Baptist church.

 

Personally, Paul, I believe divorce and remarriage is prohibited. That is, unless one comes to faith afterwards understanding the greatness of their sin and repenting from it in the new marriage. The Covenant of a first or second marriage is real. I think it is a matter of knowing before hand the seriousness of one's breaking of a Covenant. I asked whether you were non-denominational because non-dems usually run 20-30% higher in divorce rate than do Reformed Protestant denominations. Interesting, I'm sure you think so too.

 

This is my opinion, Paul: On the issue of your wife's lying, I suspect that you're only speculating? If I were you, and this were something so severe as wanting a divorce, I would approach the party your wife is accusing alone and ask them directly. Let them know that one party's lies may result in a serious outcome to your marriage. Someone needs to confess and repent. Offer James 5:16 and prayer. Regarding something so serious, do not speculate. Then it would be a matter of deciding who is lying or none at all. You vowed to your wife, I'm sure in sickness and in health. Have you thought that she may be sick? She may be flashing back to traumatic incident? Have you thought about your responses when listening to her, even your body language? Whether you're so critical that she may be lying in order to avoid conflict? Some people do that because it the easier way out. Again, there are no grounds for divorce and remarriage, arguably infidelity, and other than that God's decision to take one of you to Himself after life, but yes, there are grounds for separation when faced with such issues as abuse etc. I would recommend seeking church counseling. Ask your pastor if he would be willing to see you both through these trials. Don't let anyone come between your wife, you, and God, Paul. Don't let anyone try to unjoin what God has joined together. It is my suggestion that you fight for your marriage, and that you strive with your wife towards holiness.

 

I'd also like to share with you a sermon from John Piper on Divorce and Remarriage.

 

 

God bless,

William

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I have written about this somewhere else on this forum already today - but it is my belief that people are starting to see the bible as guidelines rather than rules, and as a result of this they may not be living their life in the way that they really should be. I honestly think that this is an absolute shame, because the bible is there to guide our way. I personally believe that marriage is for life. Okay, so perhaps divorce is necessary in certain circumstances, but I definitely do not believe in remarriage - with the exception of where one partner dies, and in this case I think that it is acceptable to marry again after a suitable amount of time has lapsed. It worries me quite regularly that the bible is not taken as literally as it should be, and it seems that far too many people are straying from the way that we should really be living our lives.

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I think it's hard for anyone to get mad about people getting divorced when most of the guy's in the Bible had multiple wives. Abraham was married to Sarah and Keturah and had an affair with Hagar, who was Sarah's handmaid. We don't as a society, condone polygamy. So why would we get upset if people get divorced? If we want to decrease divorce, we need to encourage our children to not get married until they have finished college and are sure who they are and have their own money. I don't mind the 28% who divorce for infidelity, it's better to be divorced than stuck with a cheater for the rest of your life. I also don't mind if divorce if it's because of abuse or drug addictions. We aren't nomads with sheep who need to be safe with our family. Divorce is a logical solution if you aren't happy with your relationship. While it's not biblical to get divorce. There are quite a few things that are in the Bible that we don't do anymore, like slavery, polygamy (unless you're Mormon), selling our kids, and sacrificing animals.

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Marriage is incredibly hard work and effort, that's for sure. And for many people, they don't even attempt to take that responsibility despite marrying each other and listening to the sermon by their priest. I know, not every marriage is perfect, mine isn't as well. But that's what makes it difficult and challenging, waking up everyday and finding a reason to love your partner. I have had my share of doubts and questions early in my marriage. Questions like, "Did I make the right decision?" or "What if we just nullify our marriage?" And despite these troubles, here we are right now and still together. Why? Because I made a vow to him and to God and I intend to keep that vow.

 

Of course, certain situations like death of the partner, abuse or anything worthy of divorce can be accepted. But as much as possible, I still think that married couples have to work hard to preserve their marriage. It isn't like eating something hot and spitting it out when you get hurt. Marriage doesn't work like that, you're in it through the good and through the tough times. Every day is a struggle, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. As long as you fight and make up and as long as you have love and as long as God is in the centre of the relationship, believe that it will work out.

 

For me, marriage is holy and shouldn't be done in a haze or if you're not sure if that person is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. Being married means being forgiving. Being married means being loving. Being married means being there for each other. And being married means being understanding.

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It would have been wonderful to have married a good man. But it was not so. My first husband, claimed christianity. Oh how it was not so. He wouldn't work. I stayed till our daughter married and moved out, then I left. I worked 2 jobs, 7 days a week, to support us. I would leave early, and come back when they were asleep. I was killing myself working. In fact, at one point, I believe I died because I saw my spirit rise from my body. Then it floated there looking at me and then zoomed back to my body and I sucked air. I had to leave. It was a most horrible marriage. I couldn't love him. I couldn't respect him. I stayed because the church said me and my daughter would go to Hell if I left. Me and my daughter suffered tremendously by me staying! So I remarried 5 years later. So I guess there is no hope of Heaven for me because I remarried. We all might as well just give up, huh? I should have left my first husband years before I did. Then perhaps I and my daughter would have been fine. He screwed us both up. He used Hell, Hell, Hell, to control everything. My daughter resented that I was always working. I hated not being at home but someone had to provide. It was the church that pushed me to marry him. They mocked my intuition when I said I didn't feel I should marry him. So I obeyed. Just have faith and obey they said.

 

I heard a preacher say once, that if a person was depressed, God wouldn't hear their prayers. This was man's way. Not Gods.

 

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1 hour ago, ElenaCM said:

 It was the church that pushed me to marry him. They mocked my intuition when I said I didn't feel I should marry him. So I obeyed. Just have faith and obey they said.

 Sad to hear that. I think it is a personal decision for each potential spouse to consider. I can see if you asked and they gave you advice...not sure it went that way though.

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If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.   Romans 7:1-3, Do you not know, brethren—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during his life? 2 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning her husband. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.   6.1 Both of these passages (1 Corinthians 7:39; Romans 7:2) say explicitly that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. No exceptions are explicitly mentioned that would suggest she could be free from her husband to remarry on any other basis.   7. Matthew 19:10-12 teaches that special Christian grace is given by God to Christ's disciples to sustain them in singleness when they renounce remarriage according to the law of Christ.   Matthew 19:10-12: The disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.' 11 But he said to them, 'Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.   7.1 Just preceding this passage in Matthew 19:9 Jesus prohibited all remarriage after divorce. (I will deal with the meaning of "except for immorality" below.) This seemed like an intolerable prohibition to Jesus' disciples: If you close off every possibility of remarriage, then you make marriage so risky that it would be better not to marry, since you might be "trapped" to live as a single person to the rest of your life or you may be "trapped" in a bad marriage.   7.2 Jesus does not deny the tremendous difficulty of his command. Instead, he says in verse ll, that the enablement to fulfill the command not to remarry is a divine gift to his disciples. Verse 12 is an argument that such a life is indeed possible because there are people who for the sake of the kingdom, as well as lower reasons, have dedicated themselves to live a life of singleness.   7.3 Jesus is not saying that some of his disciples have the ability to obey his command not to remarry and some don't. He is saying that the mark of a disciple is that they receive a gift of continence while non-disciples don't. The evidence for this is l) the parallel between Matthew 19:11 and 13:11, 12) the parallel between Matthew 19:12 and 13:9,43; 11:15, and 3) the parallel between Matthew 19:11 and 19:26.   8. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 does not legislate grounds for divorce but teaches that the "one-flesh" relationship established by marriage is not obliterated by divorce or even by remarriage.   Deuteronomy 24:1-4: When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man's wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.   8.1 The remarkable thing about these four verses is that, while divorce is taken for granted, nevertheless the woman who is divorced becomes "defiled" by her remarriage (verse 4). It may well be that when the Pharisees asked Jesus if divorce was legitimate he based his negative answer not only on God's intention expressed in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, but also on the implication of Deuteronomy 24:4 that remarriage after divorce defiles a person. In other words, there were ample clues in the Mosaic law that the divorce concession was on the basis of the hardness of man's heart and really did not make divorce and remarriage legitimate.   8.2 The prohibition of a wife returning to her first husband even after her second husband dies (because it is an abomination) suggests very strongly that today no second marriage should be broken up in order to restore a first one (for Heth and Wenham's explanation of this see Jesus and Divorce, page 110).   9. 1 Corinthians 7:15 does not mean that when a Christian is deserted by an unbelieving spouse he or she is free to remarry. It means that the Christian is not bound to fight in order to preserve togetherness. Separation is permissible if the unbelieving partner insists on it.   1 Corinthians 7:15: If the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace.   9.1 There are several reasons why the phrase "is not bound" should not be construed to mean "is free to remarry."   9.11 Marriage is an ordinance of creation binding on all of God's human creatures, irrespective of their faith or lack of faith.   9.12 The word used for "bound" (douloo) in verse 15 is not the same word used in verse 39 where Paul says, "A wife is bound (deo) to her husband as long as he lives." Paul consistently uses deo when speaking of the legal aspect of being bound to one marriage partner (Romans 7:2; l Corinthians 7:39), or to one's betrothed (l Corinthians 7:27). But when he refers to a deserted spouse not being bound in l Corinthians 7:15, he chooses a different word (douloo) which we would expect him to do if he were not giving a deserted spouse the same freedom to remarry that he gives to a spouse whose partner has died (verse 39).   9.13 The last phrase of verse 15 ("God has called us to peace") supports verse 15 best if Paul is saying that a deserted partner is not "bound to make war" on the deserting unbeliever to get him or her to stay. It seems to me that the peace God has called us to is the peace of marital harmony. Therefore, if the unbelieving partner insists on departing, then the believing partner is not bound to live in perpetual conflict with the unbelieving spouse, but is free and innocent in letting him or her go.   9.14 This interpretation also preserves a closer harmony to the intention of verses 10-11, where an inevitable separation does not result in the right of remarriage.   9.15 Verse 16 (“For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?) is an argument that you can’t know, and so should not make the hope of saving them a ground for fighting to make them stay. This supports the understanding of verse 15 as a focus on not being enslaved to stay together, rather than not being enslaved to say single.   9.16 Paul did not see the single life as a life of slavery and so would not have called the necessity of staying single a state of being enslaved.   10. 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 does not teach the right of divorced persons to remarry. It teaches that betrothed virgins should seriously consider the life of singleness, but do not sin if they marry.   1 Corinthians 7:27-28: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. 28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin.   10.1 Recently some people have argued that this passage deals with divorced people because in verse 27 Paul asks, "Are you free (literally: loosed) from a wife?" Some have assumed that he means, "Are you divorced?" Thus he would be saying in verse 28 that it is not sin when divorced people remarry. There are several reasons why this interpretation is most unlikely.   10.11 Verse 25 signals that Paul is beginning a new section and dealing with a new issue. He says, "Now concerning the virgins (ton parthenon) I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy." He has already dealt with the problem of divorced people in verses 10-16. Now he takes up a new issue about those who are not yet married, and he signals this by saying, "Now concerning the virgins." Therefore, it is very unlikely that the people referred to in verses 27 and 28 are divorced.   10.12 A flat statement that it is not sin for divorced people to be remarried (verse 28) would contradict verse ll, where he said that a woman who has separated from her husband should remain single.   10.13 Verse 36 is surely describing the same situation in view in verses 27 and 28, but clearly refers to a couple that is not yet married. "If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his virgin, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin." This is the same as verse 28 where Paul says, "But if you marry, you do not sin."   10.14 The reference in verse 27 to being bound to a "wife" may be misleading because it may suggest that the man is already married. But in Greek the word for wife is simply "woman" and may refer to a man's betrothed as well as his spouse. The context dictates that the reference is to a man's betrothed virgin, not to his spouse. So "being bound" and "being loosed" have reference to whether a person is betrothed or not.   10.15 It is significant that the verb Paul uses for "loosed" (luo) or "free" is not a word that he uses for divorce. Paul's words for divorce are chorizo (verses 10,11,15; cf. Matthew 19:6) and aphienai (verses 11,12,13).   11. The exception clause of Matthew 19:9 need not imply that divorce on account of adultery frees a person to be remarried. All the weight of the New Testament evidence given in the preceding ten points is against this view, and there are several ways to make good sense out of this verse so that it does not conflict with the broad teaching of the New Testament that remarriage after divorce is prohibited.   Matthew 19:9: And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.   11.1 Several years ago I taught our congregation in two evening services concerning my understanding of this verse and argued that "except for immorality" did not refer to adultery but to premarital sexual fornication which a man or a woman discovers in the betrothed partner. Since that time I have discovered other people who hold this view and who have given it a much more scholarly exposition than I did. I have also discovered numerous other ways of understanding this verse which also exclude the legitimacy of remarriage. Several of these are summed up in William Heth and Gordon J. Wenham, Jesus and Divorce (Nelson: 1984).   11.2 Here I will simply give a brief summary of my own view of Matthew 19:9 and how I came to it.   I began, first of all, by being troubled that the absolute form of Jesus' denunciation of divorce and remarriage in Mark 10:11,12 and Luke 16:18 is not preserved by Matthew, if in fact his exception clause is a loophole for divorce and remarriage. I was bothered by the simple assumption that so many writers make that Matthew is simply making explicit something that would have been implicitly understood by the hearers of Jesus or the readers of Mark 10 and Luke 16.   Would they really have assumed that the absolute statements included exceptions? I have very strong doubts, and therefore my inclination is to inquire whether or not in fact Matthew's exception clause conforms to the absoluteness of Mark and Luke.   The second thing that began to disturb me was the question, Why does Matthew use the word porneia ("except for immorality") instead of the word moicheia which means adultery? Almost all commentators seem to make the simple assumption again that porneia means adultery in this context. The question nags at me why Matthew would not use the word for adultery, if that is in fact what he meant.   Then I noticed something very interesting. The only other place besides Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 where Matthew uses the word porneiais in 15:19 where it is used alongside of moicheia. Therefore, the primary contextual evidence for Matthew's usage is that he conceives of porneia as something different than adultery. Could this mean, then, that Matthew conceives of porneia in its normal sense of fornication or incest (l Corinthians 5:1) rather than adultery?   A. Isaksson agrees with this view of porneia and sums up his research much like this on pages 134-5 of Marriage and Ministry:   Thus we cannot get away from the fact that the distinction between what was to be regarded as porneia and what was to be regarded as moicheia was very strictly maintained in pre-Christian Jewish literature and in the N.T. Porneia may, of course, denote different forms of forbidden sexual relations, but we can find no unequivocal examples of the use of this word to denote a wife's adultery. Under these circumstances we can hardly assume that this word means adultery in the clauses in Matthew. The logia on divorce are worded as a paragraph of the law, intended to be obeyed by the members of the Church. Under these circumstances it is inconceivable that in a text of this nature the writer would not have maintained a clear distinction between what was unchastity and what was adultery: moicheia and not porneia was used to describe the wife's adultery. From the philological point of view there are accordingly very strong arguments against this interpretation of the clauses as permitting divorce in the case in which the wife was guilty of adultery.   The next clue in my search for an explanation came when I stumbled upon the use of porneia in John 8:41 where Jewish leaders indirectly accuse Jesus of being born of porneia. In other words, since they don't accept the virgin birth, they assume that Mary had committed fornication and Jesus was the result of this act. On the basis of that clue I went back to study Matthew's record of Jesus' birth in Matthew 1:18-20. This was extremely enlightening.   In these verses Joseph and Mary are referred to as husband (aner) and wife (gunaika). Yet they are described as only being betrothed to each other. This is probably owing to the fact that the words for husband and wife are simply man and woman and to the fact that betrothal was a much more significant commitment then than engagement is today. In verse 19 Joseph resolves "to divorce" Mary. The word for divorce is the same as the word in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. But most important of all, Matthew says that Joseph was "just" in making the decision to divorce Mary, presumably on account of her porneia, fornication.   Therefore, as Matthew proceeded to construct the narrative of his gospel, he finds himself in chapter 5 and then later in chapter 19 needing to prohibit all remarriage after divorce (as taught by Jesus) and yet to allow for "divorces" like the one Joseph contemplated toward his betrothed whom he thought guilty of fornication (porneia). Therefore, Matthew includes the exception clause in particular to exonerate Joseph, but also in general to show that the kind of "divorce" that one might pursue during a betrothal on account of fornication is not included in Jesus' absolute prohibition.   A common objection to this interpretation is that both in Matthew 19:3-8 and in Matthew 5:31-32 the issue Jesus is responding to is marriage not betrothal. The point is pressed that "except for fornication" is irrelevant to the context of marriage.   My answer is that this irrelevancy is just the point Matthew wants to make. We may take it for granted that the breakup of an engaged couple over fornication is not an evil "divorce" and does not prohibit remarriage. But we cannot assume that Matthew's readers would take this for granted.   Even in Matthew 5:32, where it seems pointless for us to exclude "the case of fornication" (since we can't see how a betrothed virgin could be "made an adulteress" in any case), it may not be pointless for Matthew's readers. For that matter, it may not be pointless for any readers: if Jesus had said, "Every man who divorces his woman makes her an adulteress," a reader could legitimately ask: "Then was Joseph about to make Mary an adulteress?" We may say this question is not reasonable since we think you can't make unmarried women adulteresses. But it certainly is not meaningless or, perhaps for some readers, pointless, for Matthew to make explicit the obvious exclusion of the case of fornication during betrothal.   This interpretation of the exception clause has several advantages:   It does not force Matthew to contradict the plain, absolute meaning of Mark and Luke and the whole range of New Testament teaching set forth above in sections 1-10, including Matthew's own absolute teaching in 19:3-8 It provides an explanation for why the word porneia is used in Matthew's exception clause instead of moicheia It squares with Matthew's own use of porneia for fornication in Matthew 15:19 It fits the demands of Matthew's wider context concerning Joseph's contemplated divorce.   Since I first wrote this exposition of Matthew 19:9 I have discovered a chapter on this view in Heth and Wenham, Jesus and Divorce and a scholarly defense of it by A. Isaksson, Marriage and Ministry in the New Temple (1965).   Conclusions and Applications   In the New Testament the question about remarriage after divorce is not determined by:   The guilt or innocence of either spouse, Nor by whether either spouse is a believer or not, Nor by whether the divorce happened before or after either spouse's conversion, Nor by the ease or difficulty of living as a single parent for the rest of life on earth, Nor by whether there is adultery or desertion involved, Nor by the on-going reality of the hardness of the human heart, Nor by the cultural permissiveness of the surrounding society.   Rather it is determined by the fact that:   Marriage is a "one-flesh" relationship of divine establishment and extraordinary significance in the eyes of God (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8), Only God, not man, can end this one-flesh relationship (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9—this is why remarriage is called adultery by Jesus: he assumes that the first marriage is still binding, Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11), God ends the one-flesh relationship of marriage only through the death of one of the spouses (Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39), The grace and power of God are promised and sufficient to enable a trusting, divorced Christian to be single all this earthly life if necessary (Matthew 19:10-12,26; 1 Corinthians 10:13), Temporal frustrations and disadvantages are much to be preferred over the disobedience of remarriage, and will yield deep and lasting joy both in this life and the life to come (Matthew 5:29-30).   Those who are already remarried:   Should acknowledge that the choice to remarry and the act of entering a second marriage was sin, and confess it as such and seek forgiveness Should not attempt to return to the first partner after entering a second union (see 8.2 above) Should not separate and live as single people thinking that this would result in less sin because all their sexual relations are acts of adultery. The Bible does not give prescriptions for this particular case, but it does treat second marriages as having significant standing in God's eyes. That is, there were promises made and there has been a union formed. It should not have been formed, but it was. It is not to be taken lightly. Promises are to be kept, and the union is to be sanctified to God. While not the ideal state, staying in a second marriage is God's will for a couple and their ongoing relations should not be looked on as adulterous.

      in Marriage

    • When is it acceptable to get a divorce?

      I was told while growing up that when a man and woman married they would be married forever in the eyes of the church and god until death. Divorce was allowed only in cases were adultery has occurred.   In all honesty I got divorced under those grounds. I haven't blink any eye since the judgement was passed. Now that I have come clean about it. What do you think about divorce and when is it acceptable?

      in Theological Debate

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