Summary: Marriage is sacred institution, ordained and instituted by God, and is to be treated as sacred.
A Messiah Who Teaches Part 3: Honoring Marriage
Text: Matt. 5:31-32
1. Illustration: Another major contributing factor in our problems as a nation is the decline of the family. In a recent Barna Research study, we find that among those who have said their wedding vows, one out of three have been divorced at least once. Among adults who have been married, the study discovered that one-third (33%) have experienced at least one divorce. That means that among all Americans 18 years of age or older, whether they have been married or not, 25% have gone through a marital split (http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/15-familykids/42-new-marriage-and-divorce-statistics-released).
2. An even more troubling fact is that the divorce rate in the church is almost as high as outside the church, and let’s be honest, we have not always been kind to those who have gone through a divorce in the church.
3. In considering Jesus teaching concerning divorce, we must consider:
a. What Jesus said about divorce
b. What Jesus meant about divorce
4. Read Matt. 5:31-32
Transition: First, let’s take at face value...
I. What Jesus Said About Divorce (31-32)
A. A Man Can Divorce His Wife
1. Once again, we see that Jesus is dealing with misconceptions or erroneous interpretations of the law.
2. Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’"
a. The text that Jesus is referring to is found in Deut. 24:1-4.
b. However, a closer look shows that Jesus is not actually quoting the text, but misquoting based on an erroneous teaching by some the teachers of his day.
c. The actual text of that passage actually reads more like “Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes her a letter of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house."
d. These false teachers where saying that this is a command, and that in fact, God is giving them permission to divorce their wife for any reason.
e. However, what the Lord is saying is more like "what if."
3. In fact, they didn’t even need a legitimate reason for divorce.
a. Notice that what Jesus quotes actually says, "by merely giving her a written notice of divorce."
b. Palestinian Jewish husbands could divorce for virtually any reason, explicitly including their wives disobedience, and even burning the toast (Keener, 123).
c. Divorce required no legal hearing, merely the husband’s decision (France, 207).
d. In other words, if a husband was just tired of his wife, or found someone he would rather have, he just gave his wife a letter that said they were divorced and she was out on the street.
e. The ease of divorce made it possible to avoid open adultery. Only a little paperwork was required to legalize their lust.
4. We must also keep in mind that being a divorced woman in Jesus day was a tremendous hardship.
a. Women generally did not work outside the home and were dependent upon their husband for their very existence.
b. In addition, being a divorced woman made further prospects of marriage unlikely.
c. This limited a woman’s options to prostitution, being a beggar, or not surviving at all.
5. However, Jesus says, "But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery."
a. Why does Jesus say that to divorce and then remarry is adultery?
b. The reason that it is considered adultery is that God never approved of the divorce and sees it as invalid (France, 211).
c. In other words, they may have been divorced in their eyes, but not in God’s eyes.
d. To the legalistic, self-righteous scribes and Pharisees Jesus was saying, "You consider yourselves to be great teachers and keepers of the law but by allowing no-fault divorce you have caused a great blight of adultery to contaminate God’s people.
e. By lowering God’s standards to meet your own, you have led many people into sin and judgment."
B. The Problem With Divorce
1. Illustration: A recent study by the University of Chicago showed couples who stay in an unhappy marriage and endure it are more likely to be happy 5 years later than those who decide to divorce. The study noted that even if no work is done on the marriage, ongoing problems were often viewed in new perspective over time. And when both spouse worked on the marriage, many problems were solved and communication improved. Finally, if only one spouse worked on the marriage, there was improved happiness in the one spouse despite a mediocre marriage.
2. One reason that divorce is a problem is that it cheapens marriage.