DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE
The disregard of God's marriage law in the New Testament has nearly devastated the marriage institution as God planned it. The result has been a shocking increase in rate of divorce and re-marriage. It has produced a generation who have not been taught the will of God regarding divorce and re—marriage. It has become quite common today for young and old to ignore marriage completely. Society is demanding the right to divorce and remarry without restraint or restriction. Moreover, this is being done with the approval of civil law. We live in a changing world, with changing ideas, and changing laws. Although civil laws may change from generation to generation, the laws which Jesus Christ gave to this world are unchangeable. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” This simply means that the teachings of Christ constitute an unchanging law for a changing world. In this discussion we shall consider the law of Christ on divorce and~ remarriage. We shall study the ground upon which the marriage bond may be dissolved, and the cause for which a divorce may be obtained. Furthermore, we shall ponder what Jesus said about remarriage after a divorce. It is important that we realize that Jesus Christ, not civil law, is the highest authority on this subject. We are to do what Jesus commanded, for he commanded the apostles in Matthew 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded
you. The law of Christ on divorce and re-marriage is recorded in Matthew 19:3—9, “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, 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 the two shall bcome one flesh? So then they are no more two , but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They say unto him, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” He said to them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whoever divorces his wife, except it be for sexualimmorality and and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery”(New King James Version). Jesus was in a conversation with the Pharisees, the strictest sect of the Jewish religion, on the subject of divorce. They knew the teaching of Moses and it was quite clear that Jesus was teaching something radically different on the subject of marriage.
To draw Jesus out on the subject they said, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” In the Jewish religion divorce was permitted by God for incompatibility. If the Jewish husband thought that he and his wife were incompatible, he could divorce her for almost any cause. If the Jewish wife displeased him in any way he could divorce her, even for trivial reasons (Deuteronomy 21:13,14). In other words, incompatibility was an allowable cause for divorce under the law of Moses, and there were many different causes for incompatibility. The Old Testament also permitted men to have more than one wife. The marriage laws of the Old Testament gave man the advantage over the woman who doubtless was often mistreated because she could be divorced for such trivial reasons. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to comment onthe Old Testament law on divorce and said, “Is it lawful for a man to put his wife away for every cause?” Jesus answered them by referring to the law of God in the beginning when he created man and woman and instituted marriage. “In the beginning,” Jesus said that God did not permit divorce for trivial reasons. God made one woman for one man and said, “What God therefore has joined together, let not man separate.” If it were God̓s will from the beginning that man and woman not divorce, the Pharisees next said, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement and to put her away”? The Pharisees thought they had Jesus in a contradiction. If it were God̓s will from the beginning that man should not divorce his wife, how then could Moses, who spoke for God, give the Jews the right to divorce their wives for many different reasons? They referred to what Moses permitted and to what God permitted under the Old testament. The answer of Christ to this question is recorded in Matthew 19:8, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” The original marriage law of God is expressed by Jesus in these words, “What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.” It was not God's will that man should divorce his wife. But this original ]aw of marriage was relaxed during the Old Testament because of the hardness of men's hearts, but from the beginning it was not so. The Jews reminded Jesus that Moses gave them liberty to put away their wives, but Jesus reminded the Jews that God only tolerated this because of the hardness of men̓s hearts. God never did approve of the divorce laws of Moses; he only tolerated them. The law of Moses did not abolish the original law in the garden of Eden; it was only a temporary concession for the protection of women. From the beginning it was God̓s will that man not divorce his wife, but men were so selfish and undisciplined that they would rather have killed their wives than live with them. Divorce was allowed under the Old Testament as a concession to women who were in danger of violent mistreatment by men had divorce not been permitted. God tolerated divorce for incompatibility but never approved of it.
God permitted divorce for trivial reasons under Moses but it never was right and God allowed it only because he did not want women to suffer violence and severe mistreatment by unloving men. This was an amazing revelation on the subject of divorce in the Jewish religion. Jesus tells us what was in the mind of God when Moses delivered the divorce laws of the Old Testament; namely the well being of women. Following this Jesus startled the Pharisees by announcing an entirely new law relative to divorce and remarriage. However it was under the religion of Moses, it was to be different under the religion of Christ. In the Christian religion the mistreatment of woman was to end, and she was to be elevated to a place of respect and dignity in marriage. The law of Christ on divorce and remarriage is stated in Matthew 19:9, “And I say unto you, Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” Every word in this statement should be analyzed and carefully studied, for Jesus said what he meant and meant what he said. Under the New Testament no concession is being made by God to man or woman in the matter of divorce. The original law of God in the garden of Eden regarding marriage has been restored in the religion of Christ. This law was temporarily relaxed under the law of Moses because men were uncontrollable and violently disposed. Under Christ, God's original idea in marriage is restored to the human race.
Let us analyze carefully the law of Christ on divorce and remarriage. The first word in his law is, “Whoever.” It says, “Wboever shall put away his wife, etc...” We learn from this word that the marriage law of Christ applies to both saint and sinner, to those who are in the church and to those who are Out of the church. The word whoever cannot be restricted to Christians, for this would imply that people in the world who are not Christians are not really married. In I Corinthians 6:9—11 Paul said to Christians, “Neither fornicators,nor idolators, adulterers, no homosexuals, nor sdomites...will not inherit the kingdom of God, and such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Paul says that some of the Christians at Corinth were fornicators and adulterers before they were baptized. They had transgressed God's marriage laws. This proves God's marriage laws apply to all mankind, Christians and unbelievers. How can the Bible call people in the world fornicators and adulterers if they are not accountable to the marriage laws of God. If this law law does not apply to the alien sinner, a couple would have to get married again after baptism. Believe that if you can. I cannot. A clear evidence in the Bible that God considers the marriage of unbelievers as valid is found in Mark 6:17, “For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for you to have the wife of your brother.” Herod was a heathen ruler and had taken Herodias to be his own wife. But John told him it was unlawful because she was still the wife of Philip. as far as God was concerned.” Herod, Herodias, and Philip were not God's people but God recognized that Herodias was still Philip̓s wife even though Herod had stolen her. John the Baptist lost his life because he commanded Herod, a heathen ruler, to give up the wife of another man. If Herod had become a Christian he could not have remained married to Herodias. Jesus said to preach the gospel to every creature. Every creature is amenable or accountable to the marriage law of Christ. Next, we shall consider the meaning of the words, “shall put away his wife.” The words “put away” means to release, to divorce, to liberate. The subject of this statement then is divorce, and the meaning is “Whosoever shall divorce his wife.” These words are followed by the expression, “except it be for fornication”(Old King James Version). The word “except” means to exclude or leave out. This places a restriction on the statement being made. The statement made is true but has an exception. When the exception is not present, the statement is true. But when the exception is present, then the statement is not true. The law of Christ on divorce has an exception clause which must not be ignored or misunderstood. The exception which affects the law of Christ on divorce is fornication. Fornication is a general term for sexual immorality and is a broader term than adultery. Fornication includes unlawful sex acts by single people, married people, relatives and even homosexuals. In the context of marriage and this divorce law, it refers to sexual relations with one other than one̓s own wife or husband. This exception clause has a monumental importance to any divorced person who has remarried. We have defined the terms in the statement, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication...” The next clause says, “and shall marry another, commits adultery.” The words “and shall marry another” indicate that the subject of~ this statement is not simply divorce, but divorce and remarriage. Jesus is speaking of a man who divorces his wife and marries another woman. Hence, what is said applies equally to remarriage as well as divorce. The two verbs, “Shall put away or separate and “shall marry” are identically related to the subject, “whoever.” The words, “Except it be for fornication” is an adverbial phrase which modifies the verb phrase “shall put away” and the verb phrase, “shall marry another.”
Grammatically, the exception clause must be applied to remarriage as well as divorce. The next words, “commits adultery,” refer to the sin a married person commits when one has sex with one other than one's own wife. The final words in the statement are, “whoso marries her who is put away commits adultery.” This means whoever marries a divorced person commits adultery or has sex with another man's wife. I realize that in defining the terms in this statement that the clear meaning does not emerge. However with the correct definition of terms we are now ready to put it all together and see its meaning. The law of Christ on divorce and remarriage contains a general law and an exception to that law. It is best to study first the general rule first and then the exception. The general rule becomes quite plain by simply removing the exception clause from the statement. The general law on divorce and remarriage is as follows: “Whosoever shall put away his wife....and shall marry another commits adultery.” This rule is based on the fact that Jesus Christ forbids divorce and remarriage £ or trivial reasons. Jesus permits divorce and re—marriage for one reason and that is sexual immorality of all kinds. He permits it for no other reason. Moses allowed divorce and remarriage for incompatibility, for almost any reason. But Jesus said I am going to change that law. Jesus eliminated the trivial causes which obtained during the law of Moses. The general rule in the religion of Christ is that you cannot divorce and remarry for trivial reasons. Trivial means all causes except sexual immorality. A great problem arises just here because civil law permits divorce and remarriage for trivial reasons, but the law of Christ does not permit divorce for trivial reasons. Furthermore, civil law cannot change the law of Christ. Hence, when people divorce for trivial reasons according to civil law they are in fact not divorced at all, unless the cause was sexual immorality. They are simply separated. God does not recognize that divorce, and in his sight they are still married and will be married, unless the divorce is caused by sex with another other than one's own mate. In the day of judgment our eternal destiny will be determined by the law of Christ and not civil law. Consequently, when a man divorces his mate for trivial reasons and marries another person, he is married to two wives in the sight of God, and this constitutes adultery. A civil divorce for trivial reasons cannot break the marriage bond in the sight of God. To be married to more than one woman is polygamy. The woman divorced for trivial reasons commits adultery by marrying again. She is still married in the sight of God, and when she has sexual relations with the new husband she commits adultery. She commits bigamy and now has two husbands, for God did not allow the marriage bond with her first husband to be broken. Sex relations with a person other than your own husband or wife is
adultery. To live in a relationship where the act of adultery is repeated over and over again is to live in a state of adultery (Colossians 3:5—7). Forasmuch as a person who has been divorced for trivial reasons is not really divorced, the law of Christ forbids anyone to marry that person. Matthew 19:9 says, “And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” This is true because a civil divorce for trivial reasons does not really terminate the marriage in the sight of God. A divorce granted by civil law for any reason other than sexual immorality can only bring about a separation of husband and wife (I Cor.7:10,11). In spite of a civil document which says they are divorced, they are still husband and wife and only in a state of separation. If either one marries during this time, adultery is committed and the person who marries one of these unlawfully divorced persons also commits adultery. The general law in the religion of Christ teaches that married people cannot divorce their mates for incompatibility and remarry. This means a person cannot divorce a mate simply because he is a drunkard, mean, lazy, and hard to live with. Married people have to put up with everything but sexual immorality.
Next, let us study the exception to that rule which Jesus gave. The exception to the general marriage law is, “except it be for sexual immorality.” This nullifies everything said in the general rule, and the general rule does not apply when the divorce and remarriage is because of adultery or fornication. The word, “except,” means that sex with one other than one's mate is the only grounds upon which there can be divorce and remarriage. The Lord teaches that the only person who has a scriptural right to put away his companion and to marry another companion is the person whose companion has been guilty of sex with someone else. It must It must be granted that the phrase, “except for fornication”, has great significance. Among other things, it obviously
was intended to stress and to protect the rights of theinnocent party, the mate sinned against by a unfaithful companion. This marriage law of Christ gives the innocent party the right of remarriage but it does not give the guilty party a right to remarry. I am unable to find anywhere in the New Testament the authority for a man to remarry who has destroyed his marriage by sexual relations with another woman. If you know of a New Testament passage that authorizes the guilty party to remarry in a divorce granted by God, I would appreciate it if you would send that information to me. The New Testament is not silent on remarriage. It authorizes the innocent party to divorce a fornicating companion and remarry, and it also authorizes a widow to remarry (I Corinthians 7:39). But where does it authorize a fornicating husband or wife to re—marry? We have learned that sexual immorality is the one and only cause permitting divorce(Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9). We have also learned that there are two causes in the scriptures permitting remarriage. One is death (Romans 7:2; I Corinthians 7:39). The other cause is divorce for fornication(Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9). In I Corinthians 7:14,15, Paul said, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” This passage speaks of a non—Christian willfully deserting a Christian wife. Willful desertion in itself is not a cause for divorce and remarriage. Simply because a non—Christian runs away and deserts a Christian wife does not end that marriage. Although separated they are still husband and wife and will be to the end of life, unless divorced for sexual immorality. When separated, married people must remain unmarried or be reconciled to their mate (I Corinthians 7:11). However, Paul says that a Christian wife is, “not under bondage, ” if a non—Christian husband wilfully deserts her over religion. I suggest this means that the Christian wife is not to give up Christ and his religion in order to hold on to her husband. The bond that binds us to Christ is stronger than the bond that binds the Christian to a non-Christian mate. The law of Christ is that a Christian is to hold on to Jesus even if it means the loss of a non—Christian mate. This may mean a life of celibacy for the Christian, for they are still husband and wife, even though one has run away. On the other hand if she has been a faithful Christian wife to her unbelieving husband, and her husband wilfully deserts her and marries another woman, then sexual immorality has occurred. It is my studied opinion that this would give her just grounds for divorce and remarriage. The marriage law of Christ applies also to a Christian whose mate has deserted her. The one cause for divorce and remarriage is sexual immorality. The law of Christ on marriage is kind and benevolent. It raises woman to a place of dignity and respect in society and protects her in marriage. She can no longer be divorced and thrown out by her husband at his slightest whims. The New Testament law also protects children who suffer so unbearably because of broken homes. May God bless this message and deepen every impression made for good.