“Issues in Discipleship”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Mark 10.1-31
In the past few weeks, I came across a cartoon. It’s a picture of a preacher standing behind a pulpit, like I am this morning, with medieval armor on. And the caption of a cartoon quotes him saying, “Today, I would like to speak to you on the topic of divorce and remarriage.”
I trust, that I don’t have to feel like I need to wear medieval armor on today. And I trust that you won’t find a chink in my armor so as to do me any harm.
Leave it up to Pastor Greg to preach on divorce and remarriage on Palm Sunday. Next week we’ll highlight the resurrection, of course.
Our whole time is taken up with this topic this morning. And I do not have all the answers to this, let alone all the questions. Likewise, this is my teaching on it this morning. I trust that as we all grow in Christ, you will allow me growth in this area as well. And if I err from the Scripture’s teaching on this, or any doctrine, please inform me, first privately, of course. If I do not conform to the Scripture’s clear teaching, please let me know.
And if you have any questions on this, please ask. As is characteristic of me, I do desire and will eventually have all the answers to everything known to man.
So we’ll treat divorce and remarriage this morning, topically. Are you ready?
A Disciple of Jesus Must Not Divorce or Remarry (10:1-12)
Jesus’ point here in Mark chapter 10 is that a disciple of Jesus must not divorce or remarry. A disciple of Jesus must not divorce or remarry.
So everyone knows for certain, my counsel for anyone who is divorced and remarried is to remain married to the spouse you are married to now. We’ll see that from 1 Co. 7.
My position I’ll state from the outset here; it’s this.
No divorce except for
unrepentant sexual immorality or
when an unbeliever desires a divorce, or
probably spousal abuse.
No remarriage to a different spouse; If you are divorced, the Scripture allows you to be reconciled to your original spouse. Otherwise, God’s counsel is for you to remain unmarried. No remarriage to a different spouse.
We’ll cite a possible exception to that, but it’s not in my position.
Counsel: Remain married to your present spouse and repent if you did not follow Scripture’s teaching on this and ask for forgiveness.
Set up and test (10:1-2)
Mark 10:1 (NASB) Getting up, He *went from there to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan; crowds *gathered around Him again, and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them.
Now, as Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees came up to him. And Mark notes in verse two that they were testing him. They set up a test for Jesus and they questioned him about divorce. How is asking Jesus a question about divorce a trap? That’s the word for test there. Well, I can relate to this morning. I myself feel like I am in a trap.
However, in Jesus time, it was a trap in the sense that no matter what Jesus answered, Jesus would be in trouble. And the reason for that is there were only two options, in the Pharisees’ mind, on how he could answer. One option said that divorce and remarriage was allowed only in cases of adultery, that was the conservative Shamma-ite Pharisee position. The other option was that divorce and remarriage was permissible in any case…that was the liberal Hillel-ite Pharisee position. The debate of the day assumed remarriage after divorce. That’ll be important in Matthew, when we turn there. The debate of the day assumed remarriage after divorce.
The question is a trap then, because, if Jesus takes one of these sides, Jesus will alienate the other side. Thus, he will further their purpose of attempting to bring him down. But of course Jesus’ goal is not to take sides, but to teach his position. And so Mark 10:3 (NASB) And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”
And without revealing their intentions, they say divorce was permitted. Mark 10:4 (NASB) They said, “Moses permitted a man TO WRITE A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY.”
Now this is a quotation from Deuteronomy 24. We’re not going to investigate that passage this morning for the sake of remaining in the New Testament. But Jesus tells them in verse five that even though this passage exists in the law, it is there to accommodate hardness of heart. Mark 10:5 (NASB) But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.
But Jesus teaches God’s ideal from verses 6-9.
Mark 10:6-9 (NASB) 6 “But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. 7 “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, 8 AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Jesus uses God’s example from Genesis of bringing people together, which is goes back further, before the time of the Mosaic Law from Deut. 24 found in there in vv.4-5. Verses 6-9 teaches that God made humanity as male and female. When a man leaves his father and mother, he becomes one with his wife. They are no longer two, but one.
And because God made them male and female and when the male leaves his parents to be joined to his wife, it can be said now from Mark 10:9 that God was the one who joined them together.
And because God has joined them together, man must not separate them. It is a commandment here that man must not divorce what God has brought together.
And so Jesus escapes their trap by asserting his own position, and that is, there is no good reason for divorce and remarry. Both of their positions they are debating were wrong. Man must not seek a divorce and remarry in light of the hot debate of the day, whether it was permissible in the case of adultery only or in any case. Regarding that debate, man must not seek a divorce and remarry. Man must not seek a divorce, it says. Keep in mind men at this time were divorcing and remarrying for all sorts of reasons, including because the woman didn’t do her hair right or because she talked with another man, but also for adultery. In light of this debate, Jesus’ position is, man must not seek divorce and remarry.
And like you, the disciples had some questions. And it’s these verses in 10 and 11 that are at issue.
It is these verses that really contribute to our understanding of the Scriptures counsel for us regarding divorce and remarriage. Before we get into this study, let me assure us of some certain things.
No matter who you are, you are a great sinner.
No matter what you’ve done, Jesus is a great Savior.
No matter what has happened in the past, God’s mercy is new for you each morning.
And we must be clear regarding the Scripture’s teaching on this, as well.
Jesus is teaching here that divorce plus remarriage equals adultery. It is not unclear. Jesus is quite clear here. The clarity of these verses is well known.
Mark 10:11-12 (NASB) 11 And He *said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”
It works both ways. If a man divorces his wife and remarries, he commits adultery against his first wife. If a woman divorces her husband and remarries, she commits adultery, too. So, in light of the debate of that day, if you want to discuss the issue of divorce and remarriage, Jesus’ answer is no divorce and remarriage. You must not divorce and remarry. It’s adultery.
One has to ask, “Why?” Why is it that when a man divorces his wife and marries someone else, he commits adultery? The same kind of question that the Bible answers here is this, “What is the nature of the sin of adultery when it does happen in divorce and remarriage?”
Matthew 5: Divorcing a woman causes her to violate the 7th commandment
To answer that, let’s turn to Matt. 5. Again, we’re trying to answer the question, “What is the nature of the sin of adultery when it does happen in divorce and remarriage?” That answer is found in Matt. 5. Adultery may not happen in every divorce, we’ll attempt to determine that. But what is the nature of the sin when it does happen?
In Matthew 5, Jesus is preaching his Sermon on the Mount. And in the sermon, he effectively forces us to consider petty sins to be very serious. Sins that we would normally think light of, Jesus teaches are actual very serious violations of commandments. Jesus confronts us about how serious our petty sins are …sins that we don’t think are very serious.
For example, look at Matthew 5:21-22. Here, Jesus teaches that anger is a violation of the commandment not to murder.
21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ [there it is…] and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 “But I say to you [now we have Jesus’ teaching…] … everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
So, Jesus makes anger as serious as murder in the sense that they are both violations of the same commandment, “Do not murder.” The nature of the sin of anger is that it is a violation of God’s command not to murder.
Now, on a practical level, is Jesus’ point here to say that we should be exercising capital punishment for those who get angry? Of course not. His point is to say that anger is a violation of the 6th commandment, “You shall not murder.” It is serious sin! Just like murder is serious, so also is anger serious.
Similarly now, same context, Matthew 5:27-28 (NASB) In these 2 verses Jesus compares a lustful eye with adultery.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Once again, Jesus makes a lustful eye as serious as adultery in the sense that they are both violations of the same commandment, “Do not commit adultery.”
Same question before, on a practical level, is Jesus’ point here, ladies, that if your husband looks at another woman with a lustful eye, and it grieves his righteous soul, that you should you divorce him just like as if you caught him in repeated fornication? Of course not. He’s not teaching practical applications of the violations. His point is to say that a lustful look is a violation of the 7th commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” It is serious sin! Just like adultery is serious, so also is a lustful eye serious sin. But, we’re not talking practical application on what to do about the sin.
But you ask me now, “Why is anger or a lustful eye a violation of those commands?” Answer, because Jesus said it was. Now, we could surmise that there is a relationship between anger and murder.
For example, we could go beyond the text here and say that anger may lead to murder; therefore, anger is a violation of that commandment. That makes sense, but are we willing to say that Jesus is saying that? No, because the text does not. It’s the same with the lustful eye. There is a relationship between a lustful eye and adultery. We could say that a lustful eye may lead to adultery. But are we willing to say that Jesus is saying that? No, because the text does not explicitly indicate he does.
Why then is anger a violation of the 6th commandment and a lustful eye a violation of the 7th commandment? Because Jesus says that it is. In other words, anger and a lustful eye are violations of the 6th and 7th commandments. They are just as much a violation of them as murder and adultery are.
And that same understanding carries over to Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage beginning in verse 31. Matthew 5:31-32 (NASB) 31 “It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity [or fornication, some sexual sin…apart from that if you divorce your wife, you], make her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Here, Jesus clearly teaches that unless a wife committed sexual sin of some kind in the marriage, ….apart from that, every man who divorces his wife … get this now…every man has a relationship to his wife’s future sin of adultery. Did you get that? Every man who divorces his wife has a relationship to his wife’s future sin of adultery, unless she already committed fornication of some kind.
Let’s look at the verse again; Matt. 5:32 … “but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
The verse touches on what responsibility a man has with reference to his wife’s future sin…he “makes her commit adultery.”
What this verse is not teaching is whether or not it is OK to divorce. We are not to infer from this verse that it is OK to divorce. That’s not Jesus’ burden. His burden is to determine responsibility in a divorce based on whether or not there is fornication.
If you were to ask a question of Matthew 5:32, your only question that is answered from this verse is, “if I divorce my wife, am I held responsible for her future adultery?” This verse does not answer the question, “may I divorce my wife?” This verse does not address allowances to divorce and remarry. This verse addresses whether or not a man is responsible for his wife’s sin.
So, given the right situation, a man is responsible for his wife’s adultery if he divorces her. What is that situation?
It is as the text says: unless the wife commits some sort of fornication against her husband, apart from that situation, if he divorces his wife, he is at least partly, perhaps fully, responsible for her adultery. But if she already committed some sexual sin against him while in the marriage, and if he then goes ahead and divorces her, he no longer is responsible for her adultery. Why? Because she already committed fornication in the marriage, is the likely explanation on that. So, when she remarries, he’s not responsible for her sin; she already committed it while they were married.
And that last phrase in v.32…
“whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Our understanding of this woman here is likely restricted to its context. Is this divorced woman referring to any kind of divorced woman? Probably not. It’s probably a specific kind of divorced woman as determined by Jesus’ burden. Jesus’ burden is to demonstrate who is responsible for the woman’s sin. In light of the hot debate of the day and that men we divorcing their wives on a whim, it is likely that the woman in view here is the woman who is at fault when she was divorced because she committed fornication in the marriage. If a man marries a woman and it was this woman who committed fornication in a previous marriage, that man commits adultery when he marries her, especially if he was the one who participated in that sin during her first marriage.
Now, we turned to Matthew 5 to answer the question, “What is the nature of the sin of adultery when it does happen in divorce and remarriage?”
The nature of the sin in divorce and remarriage is governed by this context. What sins are in the context. Anger, murder, lustful eye, and adultery. Just like anger is the sin of murder and just like the lustful eye is the sin of adultery, so also, under the right circumstances, is divorce and remarriage the sin of adultery. It’s in the same sense.
And this is not meant to minimize the sins involved in anger, the lustful eye, or, under the right circumstances, in divorce and remarriage. We should not minimize the sins. The point, in fact, is exactly the opposite. Jesus’ point is to heighten these sins of anger, lustful eye, and divorce and remarriage, for what they truly are, as violations of God’s clear commands.
So, the question then becomes, what are the circumstances in which divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery?
Our passage in Mark 10:11-12 leaves no room for anything. I’ll read Mark 10 again and then we’ll turn to another passage. What are the circumstances in which divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery?
Mark 10:11-12 (NASB) 11 And He *said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”
No room. So, what are the circumstances in which divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery? Answer, when someone actively divorces and then remarries another person, that is the circumstance in which adultery is committed. There are no exceptions… in these verses.
Young person, you let that sink into your heart. If you think you’ll be married someday, Jesus is telling you that if you actively divorce your spouse and remarry, you are committing adultery. You are violating God’s commandment not to commit adultery.
Matthew 19: No Divorce apart from sexual sin.
Now, the big question is, are there any exceptions to this rule? To answer that, let’s turn now to Matthew 19. Matthew 19. Right now, all we know is that if a man or a woman divorces their spouse, and remarries, he or she commits adultery.
So the question is, are there any exceptions to this rule? Matthew 19 seems to give the only exception. Now, this is Matthew’s version of the same story in Mark 10. This is Matthew’s account of what happened. The differences between the two accounts serve the specific purpose of the author. We’re not going to detail the differences this morning only to draw out Matthew 19:9, where Jesus says…
Matthew 19:9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
And, of course, there is a point of debate on what this actually is saying.
Now, let’s just say with the verse says, but leave out the exception clause first, and then we will come back to the exception clause. If you do that, it sounds exactly like Mark 10. Jesus says Matt. 19:9…taking out the exception clause…, “whoever divorces his wife… and marries another woman commits adultery.” So you can see then that, unlike Matthew 5, which addressed whether the man has responsibility to the wife’s sin, this passage directly addresses men and whether or not they themselves are committing adultery as it relates to divorce and remarriage.
Now, let’s consider the exception clause. Without this clause, we have no difference from Mark. Now the issue here is, “what does this clause give exception to?” The two answers that you will find are either that the verse is giving exception to just divorce or both divorce and remarriage. Grammatically speaking, what does that clause modify? The answers that people give are either both divorce and remarriage are allowed in cases of fornication or just divorce is allowed in a case of fornication.
Now, what I’m arguing for this morning is that the exception only relates to divorce and that remarriage remains a violation of the 7th commandment “do not commit adultery.” I’m arguing then that apart from a case where fornication is involved, divorce itself is adultery and that remarriage, regardless of whether or not there was adultery, is adultery.
I will argue this on three points. So my position here is that Matthew 19:9 only allows for an exception to divorce, not to remarriage.
First, technically, grammatically, the exception clause is modifying the verb “to divorce.” If someone were to say, “Whoever divorces his wife commits adultery”… there is an exception to that rule. If a wife commits fornication in a marriage and then the husband divorces the wife, the husband does not commit adultery.
So grammatically, the exception clause is modifying the verb to divorce. The exception clause does not modify “marries another.” So, there is an exception to the rule that divorce results in adultery. If a man divorces his wife because his wife committed fornication while they were married, if he divorces her, he does not commit adultery.
But if you wanted to talk about actually marrying another woman, that is a different story. The act of divorce is what has the exception, not the act of marrying another. Marrying another in this verse, I’m arguing, always results in adultery.
My second reason for holding this position, that remarriage is adultery and divorce is not if there is fornication, …my second reason for holding this is the way Jesus’ escapes out of the Pharisees’ trap. In stories of confrontations with the Pharisees, the Pharisees attempt to get Jesus to commit to one side of a debate of the day. Jesus always gets out of their trap. On more than 1 occasion, he gets out of their trap by not taking sides, but teaching his own position. Jesus sprung lose from their trap in Mark 8 over the sign from heaven as well as paying taxes to Caesar in Mark 12. Both times, Jesus was being forced to take a side and both times, he didn’t. He taught his own position on the matter.
And in Matthew 19:1-12, it’s happening again, another test. Jesus can take one of two interpretations, according to the Pharisees. Either he can take the Shamma-ite Pharisee position or He could take the Hillel-ite Pharisee position. Like the other confrontations, Jesus is about to get out of the trap that the Pharisees have set. And it would make the most sense, and we would expect, that He gets out of the trap by not taking either of those two positions. The Pharisees think Jesus must choose either remarriage for any reason or remarriage only in cases of adultery. It makes the most sense that Jesus picks neither.
And both of those positions of the Pharisees allow for remarriage. That Jesus picks neither of those positions, is what we would expect. Therefore, we would expect Jesus not to allow for remarriage. So, it makes the most sense that Jesus is going to get out of the trap by taking a third position, His own position, which is that remarriage itself is adultery.
“Except for fornication, divorce is adultery. Remarriage is adultery.” That’s what I’m arguing Jesus is teaching.
And my third reason for arguing that remarriage is adultery is because of Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 7. So let’s turn over there now to the 1 Corinthians 7.
Before Matthew 19, all we understood from Mark 10 was that any spouse who divorces and remarries commits adultery. And from Matthew 5, all we understood was whether or not a man is responsible for the wife’s sin if he divorces her. Before Matthew 19, we did not have any information concerning whether or not there are any exceptions to these rules. And from Matthew 19, we argued there is an exception. There is an exception for those who divorce. For those who divorce, they do not commit adultery if their spouse already committed fornication in the marriage. Otherwise, they commit adultery.
Now, does Paul’s counsel in 1 Co. 7 line up with Jesus’ teaching?
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul’s burden is to say that no matter what marital status you find yourself in now, the best counsel for you is that you remain as you are. So, I can say on the authority of 1 Corinthians 7, that in no matter what marital state you’re in right now, whether you are married or divorced, or remarried, the best counsel for you is to remain as you are.
And Paul clearly gives this counsel and one way to easily trace this through 1 Corinthians 7 is to note the references to the word “remain.”
For example, 1 Corinthians 7:8 (NASB) But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. [single, that is…it’s best if they remain unmarried, like Paul was unmarried.]
As well, he will again give counsel to ‘remain’ as you are, for example, v. 10. 1 Corinthians 7:10 (NASB) But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband [if you’re married, don’t divorce. Remain.].
Look at verse 11. “She must remain unmarried.” Remain, don’t change. And verse 11, “should not divorce his wife.” Notice the end of verse 12, “he must not divorce her.” Notice the end of verse 13, “she must not send her husband away.”
My point is to say that these verses are teaching a principal and that is that no matter what marital condition you are in right now, God’s counsel is that you stay that way. That’s Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 7:20 (NASB) Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.
But, verse 21, it’s different for slaves. If you can be set free, go for it. However, v.24… “Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.”
What about those who are single during times of persecution? In light of the distressing circumstance of persecution, Paul also encourages singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:26-27 (NASB) 26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
But of course, singleness is encouraged here only in light of what it says in verse 26, in light of the “present distress,” which likely refers to persecution. Otherwise, singleness would not be Paul’s counsel.
Now, what is Paul’s specific counsel then regarding divorce and remarriage? Does Paul’s teaching line up with Jesus’ teaching…at least, as we have concluded Jesus to be teaching? Does Paul teach what we have that Jesus teaches and that is no remarriage and divorce is only allowed in cases of fornication? Does Paul teach this? He does, in fact he specifically cites the Lord Jesus.
Back up in 1 Co. 7:10, we have instruction for the wife. 1 Corinthians 7:10 (NASB) But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband
Paul is saying in verse 10 that the Lord Jesus taught that the wife should not leave her husband. That’s what Paul is saying when he says “I give instructions, not I, but the Lord.” This is not just me talking, Paul says, but Jesus giving the instructions on this. And the instruction here is clearly that the wife should not divorce her husband. But if she chooses to divorce her husband, verse 11, she must remain unmarried. Now, there is an exception to her remaining unmarried, as it states there in v.11. Paul allows for her to be reconciled to her first husband. That’s for the wife.
Now, for the husbands. At the end of verse 11, the husband should not divorce his wife. That’s what Jesus teaches.
Married to an unbeliever?
But what if you’re married to an unbeliever? Paul gives specific counsel for a Christian man or woman who is married to an unbeliever in verses 12-13. And the counsel again is that the believer must not divorce, as it says at the end of verse 12 and at the end of verse 13. And for that relationship to continue, the unbeliever must be consenting to live with the believer.
Now, what happens if the unbelieving spouse leaves? Paul gives counsel on this in 1 Corinthians 7:15 (NASB) Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.
The believer is to let the divorce take place if the unbeliever wants one. Now, if the spouse is a believer, that’s a different story. Divorce is adultery and that spouse should be rebuked with Jesus’ teaching.
And it is based on this verse that many Bible teachers give allowance for remarriage in cases of, what is called, desertion. The brother or the sister, verse 15 it says, is not “under bondage” in such cases of an unbeliever leaving a believer. This, they say, may allow for a believer to remarry.
2 passages help us with this. One is Ro. 7:1-2 and the other is 1 Co. 7:39.
And the argument is based on the word “bondage” in 1 Corinthians 7:15 …the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. “
That same word is found in Ro. 7:2 as well as 1 Co. 7:39. We’ll just look at 1 Co. 7:39, where this word ‘bound’ is used.
1 Corinthians 7:39 (NASB) A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
So, based on this verse, when is a married woman allowed to remarry? When her husband dies. It’s when that happens, that she is no longer ‘bound’ as it’s put there, “a wife is bound as long as her husband lives” but if he dies, she is not ‘bound.’ Remarriage is permissible if a spouse dies, but only to a believer. … only in the Lord, Paul says.
That word bound there in v. 39 is the same word ‘bound’ in 1 Corinthians 7:15 “…the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.”
Now, if an unbeliever leaves a believer, it could be that the believing spouse is not under bondage in the same sense that the widow is not under bondage. Just like the widow is free to remarry, they argue, so also is the believer who was deserted by an unbeliever free to remarry. The problem is, the text doesn’t explicitly say that. That teaching is merely inferred from the usage of the same word for ‘bound.’ “Bound” in 1 Co. 7:15 could merely be referring to freedom from bondage from keeping the spouse in the marriage. “Don’t do that, God has called us to peace.” It could be saying that as well.
So, I hasten to clarify my position. It could be teaching those who are deserted may remarry. I am not dogmatically teaching that remarriage is possible in cases of desertion, but it could be teaching that.
So, does this line up with Jesus’ teaching?
Yes. First, regarding divorce. Paul’s teaching on divorce lines up with Jesus’ teaching on divorce. As we saw, Paul never counsels a believer to seek divorce. 1 Co. 7:10-13 clearly teaches that.
Likewise, Jesus never counsels divorce.
There is no case in which a believer must …required to…seek a divorce. However it is explicitly allowed in one exception. If, like Jesus says, there is a case involving fornication, divorce is not adultery.
That’s lines up with Paul’s teaching, when he says “if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave.” Jesus in Matthew 19:9 lines up with Paul in 1 Co. 7:15. Jesus’s exception to divorce in cases of adultery and Paul’s exception to divorce in cases of the unbeliever leaving are addressing similar circumstances. Either sexual sin on the one hand, if you are talking to Jesus or if you are talking to Paul, if they are seeking a divorce, you let them leave. Putting Jesus and Paul together then, my position is that in cases of unrepentant sexual sin or if an unbeliever desires to leave, divorce is permissible. Either way, for the believer, if the spouse is unrepentant in his or her sexual sin or the unbeliever desires to leave, either way, it can’t be said that they are consenting to live with the believer.
Now, someone may ask about abuse. Is abuse grounds for divorce? Scripture does not give us a clear chapter and verse, but a large point of the marriage laws in the Old Testament were to protect the wife. So I would say based on the spirit of the Law, that abuse is likely grounds for divorce. You can’t exactly say that an abusive spouse is consenting to live with the believer, either.
But apart from that, a believer must not divorce an unbeliever who consents to live with him. But the believer ought not fight against having a divorce if the unbeliever wants one.
So, Jesus’ teaching lines up with Paul’s teaching when Jesus says in Matthew 19:9, unless there is fornication, if someone divorces they commit adultery. This lines up with Paul’s teaching when he teaches nothing to the contrary in cases of fornication. He adds teaching concerning a believer’s response to an unbeliever’s desire for divorce.
Both Jesus and Paul teach that unless there is unrepentant sexual sin, a believer must not divorce. “No divorce except for unrepentant sexual sin.”
Now, secondly Paul’s teaching lines up with Jesus’ teaching concerning remarriage. As it concerns sexual sin, like Jesus, Paul gives no allowance for remarriage. Jesus gave no exception for remarriage in Matthew 19:9; so also Paul gives no allowance for remarriage in the 1 Corinthians 7. All of Paul’s counsel…the entirety of Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 7 for those who are unmarried is that they remain that way. The exception is the death of a spouse, for certain. This may, as well, exclude desertion, when an unbelieving spouse leaves the believing spouse. But I can’t be dogmatic on that.
So, my position on divorce: no divorce. Exceptions to this include
Unrepentant sexual immorality
When an unbeliever desires a divorce
Probably in cases of abuse.
Otherwise, when you divorce your spouse, you commit adultery. You commit adultery in the same sense that anger is murder and a lustful eye is adultery. Divorce, anger, and a lustful eye are all equally violations of the 6th and 7th of the 10th Commandments.
Now, my position on remarriage is this: no remarriage to a different spouse. Scripture never gives clear counsel for believers to remarry another spouse. If you divorced your spouse, you may be reconciled to your original spouse, 1 Co. 7:11. Otherwise, remarriage is adultery. The only possible exception for remarriage of a divorced person is in cases when the unbelieving spouse has left the believing spouse, in cases of desertion. And that exception is questionable.
God’s ideal from the beginning has been one man married to one woman for life. And within that ideal, there is not found any divorce or remarriage. And obviously, Christians are commanded to follow God’s ideal. Apart from what we’ve discussed, God desires that you do not seek a divorce. And if you failed that command, God’s desire for you is not to remarry. Now, what do you do if you failed that and did remarry, and you really feel like you made a mess of things?
God’s counsel for you first, is that you remain married to the spouse you are married to today. We know that from 1 Corinthians 7. Remain, Paul says. His principle of remaining in the marital condition you find yourself in today must apply as well to cases of remarriage.
Some may ask, “Am I in an adulterous relationship if I am remarried?” The only way in which remarriage can be considered an adulterous relationship is in the same sense that anger is murder and a lustful eye is adultery. The question is asked on that level.
The answer is no, if you repent. Just like someone who asks for forgiveness for anger is freed from the consequences of the guilt of murder and just like someone who asks for forgiveness for a lustful eye is free from the guilt of adultery, so also someone who asks for forgiveness for divorce and remarriage is freed from the guilt of adultery. But you must ask for forgiveness.
What repentance in this case means is that you ask for forgiveness and endeavor by God’s grace never to divorce and remarry again. That’s repentance. You endeavor never to be angry again; you endeavor never to have a lustful eye again…you must endeavor never to divorce and remarry again. Stay married to your spouse. Practically speaking, you repent from divorce and remarriage just like you would anger or murder or a lustful eye or adultery. But this is not to minimize these sins, of course. How sinful is any given situation?
Practically speaking, what do you do with those who have committed murder? The Mosaic Law required capital punishment, Ex. 21:12-14. What did the Old Testament law require of those who committed physical adultery? Capital punishment. Leviticus 20:10 (NASB) ‘If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Now, what Jesus is not teaching is that we should execute those who get angry and execute those who have a lustful eye. Jesus does not teach that. Jesus’ point in Matthew 5 is not to give practical application concerning what to do in cases of sin. His point again is to teach that all of these sins are equally violations of the 10 Commandments.
So just like we don’t execute those who get angry and just like we don’t execute those who have a lustful eye, so also the practical applications of the consequences of divorce and remarriage are different as well. Therefore, one ought not counsel anyone to ever get a divorce because they are remarried.
Secondly, God’s counsel is to repent. If you are angry and if you have a lustful eye, repent. If you remarried, repent. Ask for forgiveness, and Jesus will cleanse you of your sin. You may feel that you divorced for the right reasons, but it does not necessarily follow remarriage can happen. God never counsels anyone, except for widows, to remarry in the Scripture. It’s only called adultery.
My Position (Again)
No divorce except for unrepentant sexual immorality and when an unbeliever desires a divorce, and probably abuse.
No remarriage to a different spouse; you may be reconciled to your original spouse, 1 Corinthians 7:11. Otherwise, remain unmarried.
I would personally not be able to remarry any individual, no matter what the cause. God’s counsel in 1 Co. 7 is to remain in the state you are in.
Repent. Like anger and a lustful eye, God will forgive you when you ask for forgiveness and endeavor to do marriage God’s way from here on.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Mark 10.1-31
You know in all of this, God is merciful; did you know that? God is merciful in any and every circumstance, including to me, if I didn’t handle this correctly. Again, this is a hotly debated issue. But young person, any believer who has seen the effects of divorce and remarriage would be on God’s side on this, you better do it God’s way first time. Not because you’ll go through deep waters of trial, although that is a deterrent, but because we’re talking about violations of God’s commandments. That is very serious, infinitely more serious than your difficult times.
It is very interesting to me that every time divorce occurs in the Gospels, it’s always next to Jesus’ teaching on hell. Every time. Look it up. Why is that the case, I don’t know,…maybe you do. But God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and is ridiculously compassionate toward you.
Amazing grace, 247.