Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage
We receive so many calls and questions about what are the rules for getting in and out of a marriage relationship.
What does the Bible say?
Did Jesus speak on the topic?
For the next few weeks, we will be looking at what the New Testament says about this controversial topic.
DIVORCE AND RE-MARRIAGE:
Why then is there such a thing as divorce?
Jesus answers this question by stating, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way (Mathew 19:8).”
A hard heart therefore, is the reason God permitted divorce.
We learn from scripture that there are two major manifestations of hardness of heart, which God states as allowances for divorce: sexual immorality and unbelief in Christ with a subsequent rejection of the Christian spouse.
First allowance for divorce with the subsequent right to re-marry: “Sexual Immorality.”
Regarding sexual immorality, Jesus says this, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery (Matthew 19:9).”
The following truths can be observed from this verse.
* Divorce without the cause of immorality and then a re-marriage to another person is not considered by God to be a marriage but rather “adultery”. The verb tense (present active indicative) clearly indicates that the second “marriage” is literally a continuing state of adultery. While a government may say that a re-marriage is legal, God states that the couple is in an adulterous relationship (Cf. Matthew 5:31-32; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11-12).
* In addition, it is noted that there is an exception to the rule that second marriages due to divorce are adulterous. This exception is the cause of sexual immorality. The words “except for the cause of” in Matthew 5:32, are the two Greek words parektos logou. The first of these, parektos, is an adverb, which means “to take out or to exclude from the enumeration or statement, besides or outside”. 3 The second word logou isdefined as an “assertion or report”. 4 Thus, divorce can have a correct reason that allows a re-marriage to be truly marriage in the eyes of God and not adultery. Namely, the report of sexual immorality on the part of one of the marriage partners.
* The Greek word pornea, is the word that is used in Matthew 5:32 and in 19:9. It is the basis for our English word “pornography”. It is a broad term, which incorporates every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, which includes adultery among married people, promiscuity among singles and homosexuality. Thus, divorce and re-marriage is not permissible unless one of the persons is involved in pornea, which allows the innocent party to initiate divorce and remarry without the Divine stigma of being called an adulterer. It is important to note here however that at no point is the innocent party constrained to exercise the divorce option (Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 18:22).
God has an extreme dislike for the failure to honor the sanctity of marriage.
Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let the marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
The hardness of heart among people is one cause for Biblical divorce because “adultery destroys what, according to its original institution by God, constitutes the very essence of marriage, the union of two in one flesh.” 5
Thus, sexual immorality is a Biblical allowance for divorce according to Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to note that John the Baptist even viewed this principle as a “law” of God that even applied to non – believers.
In Matthew 14:3-4, John the Baptist was arrested by Herod the tetrarch because he confronted him for taking his brother Phillip’s wife Herodias away from him, “For John had been saying to him, ‘it is not lawful for you to have her.’”
In Matthew 19:10-12, the disciples were so taken back by this very limited allowance for divorce as opposed to the liberal divorce codes within the Jewish culture of that day, that they exclaimed in response, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus responded in an unusual way.
Instead of expanding His thoughts on God’s “limited” divorce policy, He retorted,
“Not all men can accept this statement (the disciples’ statement about not getting married), but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs (those who do not marry and remain celibate) who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men (i.e. The Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8); and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (i.e. Paul in I Corinthians 7). He who is able to accept this let him accept it.”
His point is that only a few can accept the disciple’s statement “that it is better then not to get married” that isonly those who are eunuchs.
This means that the rest of us cannot accept this statement and thus, marriage is God’s plan for the majority of people.
Since this is the case, we are subject to God’s difficult views of marriage, divorce and remarriage.
Jesus then changes the subject and leaves the disciples with perhaps the same unresolved questions in their minds as we have today when we read various other topics of scripture, which seem to be difficult to understand.
To be honest with ourselves, some of God’s “limited ways of thinking” or “narrow ways” have been contested, debated and chaffed at for centuries such as the very Gospel itself in John 3:16, God’s sovereign choices John 6 and Romans 9 and the “narrow gate” spoken of in Matthew 7:13-14 just to name a few examples.
We hope this begins to make clear how God thinks and what his opinions are on this important topic.
Love and blessings,
Milan & Kay