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29677
“Divorce and Remarriage”
by Art Sadlier   
December 13th, 2016

God in grace, love and mercy, gave certain institutions and regulations for the benefit of all mankind.

God gave the Institution of Marriage to be a blessing for all mankind. God said it is not good for man to be alone. Marriage is beautifully designed to protect and bless the family. Those who have experienced a good marriage can give testimony to the love, joy, peace, security, companionship and happiness it is designed to give. It is intended to preserve individuals and society from corruption and degeneration.

The home is the place where right living is modelled and promoted. A place where right values are inculcated into the child and where children are nurtured and trained. It is a place where loyalty and faithfulness are taught.

The Lord holds both marriage partners accountable to Him to carry out His pattern for the home. Those who break God’s pattern and purpose for marriage by committing adultery, forfeit the privilege of marriage. They are forbidden to marry again.

God gave Capital Punishment for the protection of the nation. It is given to protect the lives of its citizens and to spare the nation from being a place of violence and chaos.

God gave the Sabbath Law for the blessing of individuals as they are commanded to rest one day a week. It is to be a day when men remember their creator and worship Him.

These were general laws which God intended for all mankind. He later made them specific for Israel.

Then for the benefit of the called out Bride of Christ, the church, He made adjustments to the rules for marriage and to the way in which the Lord’s Day was to replace the Sabbath.

When the dispensation of the law came to an end and the dispensation of grace began, there were changes made to the requirements laid down in the old economy under the law. Our Lord draws our attention to some of these changes in Matthew chapters 5-7.

The Sermon on the Mount was intended for believers in the church age. For example He said in Matthew 5:13-16, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

No one would argue that these statements are not for the Christian.

Over and over again Jesus states what the requirements of the law had been then He uses the statement, “But I say unto you.” With that statement He raises the standard of the law. That which is required under grace is a much higher standard than that which was required under the law.

Just in chapter five alone, I count eight times that Jesus used the term, “But I say unto you” to heighten the standard of the law.

I suspect that this is because under grace believers have the Holy Spirit to help them. Remember this is for believers only; unbelievers could never keep this standard.

For example, in Matthew 5:21-22, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

The standard of that which is called murder is raised from actual killing to angry thoughts against someone. Here Jesus heightens the standard of the law.

Another example is found in Matthew 5:38-39, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Under the law a man could strike another man if he had hit him. That standard was raised. Instead of striking back, under grace we are to turn the other cheek.

These are a few of the standards Jesus raises under grace. There are others.

In verse 32 Jesus deals with the matter of divorce and remarriage. “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commit adultery.”

In this exception clause Jesus plainly states that there is an exception to the prohibition that forbids divorced people to remarry. The exception is for the innocent party who has not committed adultery. That person is free to remarry according to the statement of Jesus.

In Matthew 19:9 Jesus repeats this change in the requirements under grace and He makes it clear that the issue is divorce and remarriage. “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.”

Here again Jesus raises the standard for divorce and remarriage. No divorce and remarriage for any reason except fornication. That is a major rise of the standard concerning divorce and remarriage.

Under the Mosaic Law there was allowance to divorce and remarry for many reasons. Apparently, if your wife burnt the toast you could divorce her. Now Jesus is making a change. He is giving a whole new standard. Adultery is now the one and only ground for divorce and remarriage.

Anyone who divorces and remarries another for any other reason than fornication will be committing adultery with that new wife. That is a big change as to the requirements for the “age of grace.” Notice that Jesus does not do away with divorce and remarriage, He simply changes the rules.

I believe it is clear what Jesus is saying in this verse. He gives permission for the innocent party in a divorce to remarry.

In Exodus 20:14 the Lord condemns the one guilty of adultery. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” It is obvious that the one who has kept this commandment is not under condemnation.

When Jesus comes to the issue of divorce and remarriage He heightens the requirements for both divorce and remarriage after divorce. He stated that the old law which allowed divorce and remarriage for any reason was now amended. Under the new age of grace, divorce and remarriage would only be allowed where adultery had been the cause of the termination of the marriage. Only the innocent party could remarry.

Remarriage under the law was the purpose of the law concerning divorce. “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.  And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife” (Deuteronomy 24:1-2).

Jesus is teaching that under grace divorce and remarriage is still permissible but only where adultery by a former spouse is the grounds for the divorce.

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?” The Pharisees came to Jesus to test Him. They were trying to put Him in opposition to the Mosaic system.

They brought a problem to Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” That is the issue.

Jesus answers them in verse 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.”

The Lord takes them back to the beginning, back to God’s ideal for marriage. God’s intention for marriage was permanence. Verse 5-6, “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? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

That was God’s original plan for men and women before sin entered the human race. Divorce was not God’s original plan. Why? Because sin was not God’s original plan and divorce is always the result of Sin. So here in our text the Lord took them back to original plan of God.

Later we discover that the Mosaic Law permitted divorce and remarriage on a broad base. I repeat Deuteronomy 24:1-2, “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. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.”

The Pharisees question why Moses permitted divorce for any reason if divorce was not God’s plan? “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7).

Jesus gives the answer in verse 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.”

Marriage is to be the ultimate, tender, sweetest and most wonderful relationship known to man. There is nothing like it in all of man’s earthly experience. Actually marriage is representative of the love relationship between Christ and the church. Only believers can set forth this high and holy relationship, although unbelievers can enjoy marriage.

However when men and women fail to experience this ecstatic relationship, it is because of sin and the hardness sin brings to the human heart. A marriage that is intended to be a blissful experience will become like hell on earth when sin and selfishness enter in.

Now under grace it is adultery that breaks the marriage bond. The offended one may forgive and renew the marriage vows if the offender repents and returns to the marriage.

Because of the hardness of the human heart, God permitted divorce. God is merciful, but His ideal is never divorce or any other sin. Though God hates divorce, God is a God who forgives sin where there is true recognition of that sin and there is true repentance.

He can forgive a murderer or an adulterer or any other sin but first there must be recognition and repentance before repentance and restoration.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

The Lord can forgive any sin and restore the sinner to Himself. Those who have suffered a divorce before salvation are cleansed and forgiven and are not living in sin in a second marriage which took place before salvation. “Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (1 Corinthians 7:24).

The problem with the sin of divorce, other than for adultery, is that when a couple or an individual deliberately divorce knowing it to be contrary to the Word of God; the matter of repentance then takes on a whole new difficulty.

When we come to 1 Corinthians 7:15 we have a different situation, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” The term “Let him depart” refers to divorce.

This situation involves a believer and an unbeliever. A believer is clearly not permitted to marry an unbeliever. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

No doubt, at Corinth when the gospel came to town some men were possibly saved and their wives remained unsaved. The same possibility applied to women. So we have a situation where an unbeliever walks out on a marriage to a believer. What does the believer do?

Paul gives the answer, “Let him depart.” Let him divorce. “A brother is not under bondage in such cases.

If the unbelieving spouse chooses to terminate the marriage, the believing spouse is released from the marriage bond. Does this allow the believer the freedom to remarry? The word bondage is used and I would refer that to verse 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.”

The word bound to the law is reflected in the word “not under bondage” in verse 15. Verse 39 is a principle, but Jesus does give an exception in Matthew 19:9, “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.”

Adultery is another situation (an exception) in which a spouse can be freed from a marriage.

I repeat. This is confirmed in verse 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.” Bound refers to the marriage relationship. The exception clause is not in view here, but that does not negate it.

In Romans 7:2-3 we see the word bound used again, “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. 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.”

These two verses are a simple analogy, using marriage law to illustrate a point Paul has just made about the law’s jurisdiction. This passage is not teaching that only the death of a spouse frees a Christian to remarry, it is not teaching about divorce and remarriage at all. Both Christ and Paul have fully addressed those issues elsewhere (Matthew 5: 31-32; 19:3-12; 1 Corinthians 7: 10-15).

I believe 1 Corinthians 7:16, contains a caution that we should endure difficulty in the marriage on order to win the unbelieving spouse to Christ. “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” But again, if the unbeliever divorces the believer he or she is no longer bound by the marriage.

Paul does in verse 15 allow the unbelieving spouse freedom from the marriage that has been dissolved by the unbeliever in walking away from the marriage. “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 we have another situation, this situation deals two married believers. “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”

In this verse Paul is talking to believers where adultery is not involved. Forgiveness and restoration is the will of God and believers have no other option. It may mean some suffering and endurance to attempt to bring about the restoration of the marriage.

Even if adultery is involved, there is to be forgiveness and if the partner responds the marriage can be restored and vows renewed. Ultimately, adultery is grounds for the termination of the marriage and remarriage is permitted.

In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul is dealing with things concerning divorce and remarriage that Christ did not deal with in Matthew. Paul in dealing with these things has the mind of Christ. In other words Christ is dealing with things previously unsaid and He is using Paul to do that in 1 Corinthians 2:16, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Indeed, all of the epistles are the mind of Christ. There is no contradiction of Christ’s teaching in the epistles but rather the further expounding, by the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, of Christ’s teaching.

We need to remember that the marriage of two believers is a type of the relationship between Christ and the church. This puts a very serious responsibility on the believer in such a case.

The word bondage refers to the marriage bond. This is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 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.” The word “bound” refers to the marriage relationship. The exception clause is not in view here, but that does not negate it. Notice, when the bond is broken there is the freedom to remarry.

Divorce is granted for the purpose of allowing the innocent person to remarry. We see that in God’s purpose in the Mosaic Law. Deuteronomy 24:1-2, “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. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.”

1 Corinthians 7:26-27, “I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.”

What is this all about? Paul tells us that the situation in Corinth was very distressing. There was a situation in which there was excessive immorality and lawlessness. Paul calls it a present distress indicating that he thought it would not continue. His suggestion was to not marry at this time.

He goes on to say in the next verse, “But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.”

I believe that the Lord has given us, in His Word, everything we need to know about all of life’s situations. I believe that if we do not search out the answers to life’s situations in His Word they will come back to affect us. We are accountable to know the whole Word of God and we have the Holy Spirit to open it up to us.

Art Sadlier

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