Hard Teaching

We acknowledge that this study on Divorce and Remarriage may be hard to receive and may cause some to feel guilt, anger, irritation. We understand that it goes contrary to the teachings and/or practices of many churches. Because of this, some may ignore or disagree with scripture because the traditions of men have more influence on them than the Bible. Mark 7:7-8
'But in vain do they worship Me,
"Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."

Others have experienced legalism, condemnation, and unforgiveness from some churches or individuals. Even though the Bible teaches:
"Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted." Galatians 6:1

As one elder of a church stated: "As Christians we tend to be either unforgiving and legalistic or permissive and ignorant in regards to this subject."

2 Tim. 3:16
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;"

For too long the church has allowed, and at times, even encouraged unbiblical divorces and remarriages. There needs to be correction within the Body of Christ. There needs to be instruction. Whenever God, in His Word, gives guidelines, instructions, commands, it is for our benefit. It is to help us to live a righteous life and to experience an abundant life.

Hard Teaching
In Matthew 5:28-48 Jesus gives even stronger commands than the Old Testament in regards to some behavior. "You have heard it said that ....but I say to you that .....". Here Jesus replaced 'Do not murder' with 'Do not be angry'; he replaced 'Do not commit adultery' with 'Do not look lustfully at another woman'; he replaced revenge ('a tooth for a tooth') with submission ('offer the other cheek'); and he replaced divorce with lifelong marriage. Jesus concludes these sayings with the words "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Matthew 5:31-32
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: [32] But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication
{porneia}, causeth her to commit adultery {moiceia}: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery {moiceia}. KJV

When the disciples hear Jesus' teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage in Matthew 19:7-12, they state in verse 10 that "it is not good to marry". Why did they say this? Because they understood that Jesus was saying that when you get married, it is for life; whereas, the Old Testament in Deut 24:1 there were many reasons a man could use as a reason to divorce his wife. In Matthew 19:11 Jesus acknowledges that His words are hard to receive.

Matthew 19:10-12
[10] His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. [11] But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. [12] For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.


Even Harder Teaching
If you have been thoroughly reading these nuggets including all the Bible verses and reading the Greek definition of fornication and adultery, then there should be a question in your mind.
Why did Jesus say the only grounds for divorce was if there has been fornication {porneia} committed. He did not say if adultery {moiceia} has been committed. He certainly knew the meanings of each word. If a person is married and they are involved in sexual sin, would it not be called adultery instead of fornication? Yet Jesus said, fornication, not adultery.

Why does the Savior not use the word "adultery" throughout this passage and others? The reason is that he is making a distinction between fornication (illicit sex before marriage) and adultery (sex with a married person not one’s spouse). His exception clause deals with the only acceptable grounds for divorce: sex before marriage. I am sure immediately each of you are saying, hold on a minute. That would mean most people in our society would have grounds for divorce even before they got married, because most people (even Christians) have had sex outside of marriage. We need to look at the society of Jesus time and see how this principle would be applied.

We see a clear, scriptural example of this with the earthly parents of the Savior. Joseph wanted to divorce Mary when she was found pregnant with Jesus. Even though they were only engaged, he wanted to "put her away privily," Matthew 1:19 KJV. This is the only instance in the New Testament where divorce was condoned, and it fits perfectly with the only reason Jesus ever gave for divorce: illicit sex before marriage (fornication). Engagement had the effect of marriage in a husband-wife bond, Deuteronomy 22:23-24. In our culture, this principle would apply when a couple is engaged to be married and then one of the engaged parties commits fornication. The engagement would be broken off before there is a marriage.

When Scripture is studied accurately, it appears that Jesus gives no grounds for a divorce once a couple is officially married. The only exception would be fornication. Some may interpret this to also mean adultery. If a person gets divorced for any other reason, and remarries, they are committing adultery according to Jesus. Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives only one other allowable reason for divorce–an unbeliever abandons their spouse.

Some will say that this teaching is legalistic or too harsh. Jesus own disciples appear to feel this way. Jesus did not change His position because others did not agree with it. However, Jesus is not legalistic, harsh, unmerciful, condemning, judgmental. We must not forget that God is merciful, gracious, forgiving, and compassionate.

In the next nugget we will discuss why God limits Biblical reasons for divorce and how marriage on earth represents our relationship with Jesus Christ. Please be patient with us. In nuggets to come we will discuss the whole topic of bad marriages–abusive spouses, spouses with addictions, incompatibility. We will also discuss what should be the response of the church if someone does get divorced and/or remarried. It is our hearts desire to not be 'unforgiving and legalistic or permissive and ignorant in regards to this subject.' Please read all the nuggets on this topic of 'Divorce and Remarriage'. It is our goal to present God's holiness and His grace in regards to this topic.


Copyright @ 2001 Richard D. Dover. All rights reserved.
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Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations used are from the New American Standard Version (NAS)