Speaking the Truth in Love
Is It Lawful To Divorce for Just Any Reason?
Tonight we want to examine a question that the Pharisees asked Jesus in Matthew 19:3. Many people in the state of Tennessee and throughout our country have divorced without the Lord’s approval and have remarried without the Lord’s approval. That has resulted in many people all around us in sin. We need to remain faithful to the Lord’s commands and also understand the commands well enough to reach out to our friends, neighbors, and brethren who are in adultery or have unlawfully divorced their spouses, and turn them to the Lord. Let’s all read Matthew 19:1-12 together.
Question from the Pharisees
IS IT LAWFUL FOR A MAN TO DIVORCE HIS WIFE FOR JUST ANY REASON? (Matthew 19:3)
“Have you not read that He who made (created) them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
Jesus first points them back to the very beginning and the intent God had for man and wife.
“Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8)
Again, Jesus points these Jews back to the beginning. The only reason divorce had been granted for just any reason was because of the hardness of their hearts.
And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (fornication), and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)
Jesus gives one of the consequences of divorcing a spouse for just any reason. If someone does this and remarries, they commit adultery. Another result is that whoever marries one who has been divorced for just any reason commits adultery. Adultery is a terrible sin and a terrible place for someone to be in. If they remain in adultery, they will be lost eternally.
God’s View of Adultery
Leviticus 20:10 – Those who commit adultery were to be put to death.
Proverbs 6:32 – One who commits adultery destroys his own soul.
Galatians 5:19 – Adultery is a work of the flesh.
James 4:4 – Friendship with the world constitutes spiritual adultery toward God.
What Man Says About Divorce
Some say that divorce for any reason is “a way out” of a bad marriage. Is that what Jesus said? Refer to Matthew 19:1-12.
Some say divorce and remarriage for any reason is acceptable as many times as it takes for one to find true happiness. Is that what Jesus said? Look at Romans 7:1-3.
I have heard some say they can divorce their spouse for unlawful reasons as long as they do not remarry. Is that what Jesus said? The only reason the Lord gives for divorcing a spouse is for the cause of fornication. In this case the innocent party has the right to divorce the one guilty of fornication for that reason and may marry again (Luke 16:18, Mark 10:11-12, Matthew 19:9, Romans 7:2-3). If a wife or a husband divorce their spouse for any reason other than for fornication, they not only sin by violating the command of the Lord in Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, but they violate other commands in failing to fulfill their responsibilities to one another as man and wife (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1-7, 1 Corinthians 7:2-6, Matthew 19:6). To divorce for a cause other than fornication is sinful.
Some say divorce is acceptable to God in some cases when one is forced to divorce their spouse in order to keep other commands of God. I studied with a man at length about this, and he said that under extenuating circumstances there could be hundreds or possibly thousands of acceptable reasons to divorce a spouse. Is that what Jesus said?Jesus only gives one acceptable reason and that exception is when one’s spouse has committed the sin of fornication with another (Matthew 19:4-9).
There are those who say that the act of adultery is a one time sin that breaks the marriage covenant. If one has a spouse they do not have a right to, they say that they can simply repent of the initial adultery and then they are free to stay with their present mate. Is that what John told Herod to do (Matthew 14:1-4)? Is that what Paul told the Corinthian brethren to encourage the man in sin to do (1 Corinthians 5:1-13)? Is that what Jesus said? Did Jesus say if one finds himself in an adulterous relationship, they need to simply repent of their sin and then they can remain in that same relationship? What about homosexual relationships? When they find the Lord can they simply repent of their sin and remain together?
Some have said that if you are divorced and unscripturally remarried prior to becoming a Christian; because you were not a Christian at that point, you are not under the law of Christ and therefore not accountable for those sins. They say if you are baptized into Christ, not only does the baptism wash away your sins, but it also makes your current marriage acceptable to God, no matter how many unscriptural divorces and marriages you have had prior to becoming a Christian. Is that what Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20? Is that what Paul said in Acts 17:30-31? Is that what 1 Corinthians 6:9-11says, that these people in sin could continue in their sins after they were sanctified by the Lord. Is that what Romans 12:1-2 teaches us? Some have studied God’s teaching on marriage and divorce and discovered that they did not have a right to the man or woman they were married to. I have known Christians who have given up these relationships to obey the Lord. Those in the days of Ezra (Ezra 10:2-4, 12) also gave up wives that they did not have a right to. In some ways this is very sad, but in another way this is a reason for rejoicing. People have given up their sinful relationships so they can be pleasing to God and have the hope of Heaven!
Some say that a person who has been divorced (put away) for reasons that are not scriptural, can remarry if their spouse who divorced them (put them away) later remarries. They say that the spouse who put them away then has committed adultery toward them and they can mentally put them away. Is that what Jesus said? Did he say that one who is put away, if they were innocent, could mentally put away their spouse if that spouse later commits adultery against them? No, he says that anyone who marries a divorced (put away) person (guilty or innocent) commits adultery (Matthew 19:9). The result is that when a person who has been divorced, remarries, Jesus says they are then in the sin of adultery.
Some teach that if there is adultery in a marriage and there is a divorce, the innocent and the guilty party have the right to remarry. Is that what Jesus said? Jesus says in Matthew 19:9, that the only one who has a right to divorce and remarry is the innocent when they put away the guilty. Jesus says a put away person, whether they were put away for scriptural or unscriptural reasons does not have the right to remarry. He says if they do this they commit adultery.
Some say the way to work out marital problems is to separate or legally separate. Is that what Jesus said? The separation talked about in the Bible is not one of living apart but rather forgoing physical pleasure in order for spouses to give themselves to fasting and prayer (1 Corinthians 7:1-9).
The result of man’s erroneous teaching on divorce is that one or more people end up in the sin of adultery. The Bible calls adultery “sexual immorality” and in 1 Corinthians 6:18 this sin is put into a unique category of being a sin against one’s own body. We have already talked about how God views adultery and the fate of those who die in this sin. It is amazing how complicated man can make a clear command from Jesus. We need to follow and trust the Lord above the teachings of man (Matthew 15:9).
Jesus answers the question
NO, IT IS NOT LAWFUL FOR A MAN TO DIVORCE HIS WIFE FOR JUST ANY REASON! There is only one acceptable reason (or exception) for divorce!
Notice the disciple’s reaction
His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man and his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)
The disciples understood the seriousness of the Lord’s teaching; do we?
How about you tonight? Are you divorced from the Lord? Are you in adultery with the Lord (James 4:1-4)? Has something else taken His place in your life? Now is the time to repent of those sins and turn back to Him! We hope to see you next time on "Speaking the Truth in Love"!