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© Copyright 2010-2019

What Jesus teaches about divorce and remarriage
By Brother Mike (7-12-19; 30 minutes)
   

INTRODUCTION   

In this study, we ask the question, what does Jesus teach about divorce and remarriage? Most of the false churches of our day believe that there are legitimate reasons for divorce and remarriage even when both spouses are still alive, but what does Jesus teach? Are there righteous and holy reasons for divorce? And, when a divorce has taken place, does this mean that each spouse is free to remarry someone else? What is the truth on these matters? May our Lord, Jesus Christ guide us into all truth, and then grant us the will and power to obey His teaching in mind, spirit and body, amen.  


Mark 10:2-12  

We begin to see what Jesus taught about divorce and remarriage in Mark 10 where we read,  

2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him .
3
And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you ?  
4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away .
5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept .  
6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female .
7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife ;  
8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh .
9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder .  
10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter .
11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her .  
12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery .

Notice that the first thing we learn from Jesus is that divorce during Old Testament times was permitted, but not because that was the righteous and holy standard of the law that one who was seeking righteousness should follow, but because of the hardness, or we might say, sinfulness, of their hearts. Thus, divorce was not the right thing to do, and to do it revealed that you were hard-hearted, or sinful.   

But, now, if divorce was not ever the true standard of the law, what is the true standard of righteousness? Jesus said in verses 6-9,   

6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female .
7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife ;  
8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh .
9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder .   

Thus, we see that the true standard of the law is never divorce, as divorce is nothing more than a revelation of the hardness or sinfulness of your heart, but the true standard is that what therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. And, since the word translated as man in the command, let not man put asunder can be translated as a human, we are being taught to not let a human whether male or female bring about divorce. In other words, each spouse in a marriage, as well as any other humans, are being commanded to not bring about a divorce as the two have become one flesh. And, just as a human can easily recognize that to split asunder a living fleshly body in two would be terrible sin, so also let all humans, including the spouses, recognize that it would be terrible sin to split asunder a marriage, which means that the spouses of a marriage should always be willing to do whatever is necessary to keep a marriage together whether it be through good Christian counseling or something else. If one spouse gives up at any time and files for divorce, that spouse is in rebellion to God and becomes guilty to murder of the one fleshly body that has been being created by the Lord in the two becoming one flesh even if that divorcing spouse is not the root cause of the marital problems.  

Now, because this teaching of Christ that divorce is against the righteous standard of the law, Jesus's disciples were apparently amazed as they likely believed that there were legitimate reasons for divorce as that was the standard teaching of the day, so His disciples wanted to hear from Jesus again on this matter. We read,

10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter .
11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her
12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery .  

And, on another occasion, Jesus says in Luke 16,  

17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail .
18 Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whosoever marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery .

Thus, Jesus not only reconfirmed that divorce was against the law, but He expanded His teaching by saying that remarriage after divorce is adultery, and even the person who marries a divorced person commits adultery, which means that even after a divorce, God still sees the two spouses as being married; otherwise, He would not have said to His disciples that if either the man or woman divorce and remarry, they commit adultery. Yes, since Jesus taught that to remarry after divorce is adultery, the original marriage must still be in force after a divorce.


1Corinthians 7:10-11, 39 & Romans 7:1-3   

Now, this teaching of Christ that the two spouses of a marriage are still married in the eyes of God even if they divorce according to the law of the land runs in complete opposition to the mainstream view of our day. This view says that once a divorce has taken place according to the law of the land that the spouses are completely freed from the marriage to remarry. Yet, this is not what Jesus teaches. We read in 1Corinthians 7, 

10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband :
11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife

Notice first of all, that the Lord reconfirms that divorce is contrary to truth and so He commands, Let not the wife depart from her husband in verse 10 and Let not the husband put away his wife in verse 11. But, then, even though divorce is not the righteous standard of the law, Jesus recognizes that there will be times in which a divorce takes place according to, as we previously learned, the hardness of either the husband's or wife's heart, or both of their hearts. So, He says, But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And, why would Jesus say this? Well, this is in perfect accord to what we learned in Mark 10, namely that divorce does not end the marriage; therefore, if a divorce takes place, the spouses are not to marry someone else, for that would be adultery and so would violate the marriage, but they are to remain single or be reconciled back to their spouse because in God's eyes they are still married though they be separated by divorce. 

But, if a divorce takes place, how long are the spouses to remain single if reconciliation does not soon take place? Well, until God still perceives them as being married. And, how long does God perceive them to be married? We read in 1Corinthians 7,  

39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord .  

And, we read in Romans 7,  

1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth ?
2 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 .    
3 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 .   

Thus, we clearly see that a marriage remains in force as long as each spouse is still living, which means that if a divorce takes place, each spouse is to remain single or be reconciled as long as both of them are still alive. Indeed, marriage, according to the one who created marriage, is for life whether the spouses choose to remain married or not, which is why we just read, 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. And, it is to be assumed true for the husband as well: if while his wife lives, he be married to another woman, he shall be called an adulterer: but if his wife be dead, he is free from the law; so that he is no adulterer, though he be married to another woman. 

Now, with what we have learned that God continues to see a married couple as being married even if they divorce, marriage should never be entered into lightly. And, each couple should be educated on marriage before they enter therein. They must clearly understand and weigh the consequences: that if they enter marriage, it is a marriage for life even if later they divorce for whatever reason. If they do divorce, they are to remain single or be reconciled as long as they both still live because the marriage is still in force, which could mean that, for one to be faithful to the Lord, that one must remain single for the rest of his or her life if that one's spouse is not willing to reconcile and outlives the other spouse. Obviously, if one does not want to be single the rest of his or her life after divorce, that one should be willing to do whatever it takes for reconciliation, for there is no holy and righteous way out of a marriage to marry another as that would be adultery. The only righteous and holy thing to do is either reconcile or remain single for the entire life of the spouse as marriage according to the Holy Word of God is for life regardless of whether there is a divorce, and this is what the whole marriage institution of our day fails to recognize. In fact, it would be a righteous and holy thing to institute a law that is against the remarrying of divorced spouses to other people as long as their original spouses are still living. That would at least force people into a deeper and truer understanding of marriage. Afterall, when they give their marriage vows it is for as long as he or she may live, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, and, yes, even if they divorce. Indeed, marriage is for life, and nothing can change that; not even divorce, for the one to whom each spouse must ultimately give an account is God. 


Matthew 19:3-9, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 & Jeremiah 3:8    

But, given what we learned that Jesus teaches, that divorce is sinful and remarriage after divorce is sinful as long as the husband and wife are still alive, many have changed the teaching of Jesus to justify divorce and remarriage for adultery, and for this they primarily use Matthew 19 where we read,  

9 And 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 .

Notice, first, that this verse says, except it be for fornication divorce and remarriage is adultery. It does not say, except it be for adultery. Yet, since adultery is one type of fornication (as fornication is a broad term which includes all types of sexual immorality) we will concede to the notion that the exception clause, except it be for fornication, in Matthew 19:9 includes adultery. Yet, is this verse really teaching that fornication (sexual immorality) is an exception to allow for divorce and remarriage: that divorce and remarriage is justifiable if some type of fornication (sexual immorality) in the marriage has taken place? If so, this would be teaching that divorce and remarriage is lawful if fornication (sexual immorality) of some kind has taken place such as not only adultery, but also such things as viewing pornography (Matthew 5:27-28), incest (Leviticus 18:6-18), homosexuality, bestiality (Leviticus 18:23), sex during menstruation (Leviticus 18:19), and sexual lusting (Matthew 5:27-28). Thus, if we take this verse for what it literally says, divorce and remarriage would be lawful for simply having had sex while your wife was in menstruation, or even for simply having lusted for another. Obviously, this cannot be the case, so we must understand Matthew 19:9 in a different way, which is the same conclusion we would come to in the light of what we have already learned in the Bible about divorce and remarriage, namely that any cause of divorce and remarriage is adultery with no exceptions. So, let's look more closely at this verse in context to discover what it is really teaching. We read in Matthew 19,

3 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 ?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female ,  
5 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 ?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away ?
8 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 .  
9 And 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 .

Notice, first, that the Pharisees came to Jesus to tempt Him by asking, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And, with respect to this, we first ask, how were the Pharisees tempting Him by this question? Well, the Pharisees believed that divorce and remarriage was permissible if the divorce was due to fornication (sexual immorality) in the spouse. They based this on what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 24 where we read,  

1 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 .
2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife
3 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 ;
4 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 .    

You see, the Pharisees interpreted the uncleanness by which a man could divorce his wife as being fornication (sexual immorality), especially adultery as God Himself, they might argue, even once divorced Israel for adultery as we read in Jeremiah 3,

Jer 3:8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also .  

Thus, the Pharisees believed and taught that a man could divorce his wife and remarry for fornication, especially for the fornication of adultery, so that when the Pharisees came to Jesus, tempting Him with the question, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause, they were wanting to see if Jesus would answer correctly in an attempt to find something to bring against Him. But, as we shall see, Jesus ends up correcting the Pharisees in their misunderstanding of the law.

Well, now, as we continue in Matthew 19, Jesus answers the question of the Pharisees, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause, by saying to them, 

4 ... Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female ,
5 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 ?  
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder .  

In other words, Jesus teaches the Pharisees that divorce and remarriage is not the righteous and holy standard of the law; that what God has joined together in marriage are one flesh, so, therefore, do not let any man (or we could say, any human) bring about a divorce even if the cause is for fornication (sexual immorality). Thus, Jesus corrects the Pharisees in their false belief that sexual immorality (fornication) was a legitimate reason for divorce and remarriage.  

But, then, the Pharisees immediately said to Jesus,   

7 ... Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away ?
8 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 .  

And, so, we discover that Moses allowed for divorce and remarriage as written in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 not because that was the righteous and holy standard of the law that must be followed, but because of their hardness of hearts. Thus, Jesus made it clear to the Pharisees that fornication (sexual immorality) is not a legitimate reason for divorce and remarriage.

Yet, not only does Jesus teach that sexual immorality (fornication) is not a legitimate reason for divorce and remarriage, but He does more than that. He says, 

9 And 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 .

Now, what is the phrase, except for fornication really saying to us? First, let me say that it is unfortunately that except for fornication was so translated because, literally, it is better translated, if not for fornication, and our verse should read, 

9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, if not for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery .  

In other words, what this verse is saying is this: Whosoever shall put away his wife, if not for fornication (that is, if not for causes of fornication) and shall marry another, commits adultery. What we have here, then, is Jesus saying that whosoever shall put away his wife for causes other than fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery. Remember, Jesus had already taught the Pharisees that divorce and remarriage for fornication was not allowed by saying to them that whosoever God has joined together in marriage, let not any human bring about divorce or put it asunder, but, now, He is also teaching them that neither is divorce and remarriage allowed for any other cause. Therefore, the conclusion that we can make from Matthew 19 is that there is no legitimate reason for divorce and remarriage, not even fornication (sexual immorality), which is in perfect agreement with everything else that we learned previously in the Bible. Indeed, Matthew 19:9 is not giving an exception to divorce and remarriage being adultery, but it is teaching that there are no exceptions. Divorce and remarriage are sinfully wrong in every single case whether they are due to the hard-heartedness of the husband, or the wife, or both.


CONCLUSION   

In this study, we sought to discover what Jesus teaches about divorce and remarriage. We found that Jesus is against divorce for any reason because in marriage the two have become one flesh, and whosoever God has so joined together, we are commanded by Him to let not anyone bring about a divorce or put it asunder. But, nevertheless, Jesus recognizes that there are situations in which a divorce will take place due to the hardness or sinfulness of either the husband's or wife's heart, or both their hearts. Yet, when divorce does take place, both spouses are to remain single or be reconciled for as long as they both still live because Jesus teaches that the marriage is still in force even though a divorce has taken place. In fact, even if one of the divorced spouses remarries and so enters into an adulterous relationship, the other spouse is still to remain single for as long as the now remarried adulterous spouse lives, for Jesus still recognizes the first marriage as being in force for life. Furthermore, the divorced spouse who remarried not only commits adultery against his or her first spouse and is now married to two spouses, but, according to Deuteronomy 24:4, he or she is not ever now permitted to reconcile back with his or her first spouse, and must now live in an adulterous second marriage with his or her second adulterous spouse for life. 

Yes, Jesus is against divorce for any reason, and He is against remarriage for any reason as long as the original spouses in a broken marriage still live. For either of the divorced spouses to remarry is adultery.


Now, may the LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace .

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