Summary: A sermon on understanding and applying the intent of God’s word in our lives.
"It has been said, ’Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4 "Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator ’made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." Matthew 19:3-9
I. Understanding The Intent of God’s Word
The issue is not whether these statements are to be taken seriously, but precisely what Jesus intended to imply. He meant to oppose divorce but did he mean to forbid remarriage to the faithful victims of divorce or even repentant participants of divorce?
A. Who & what Jesus is addressing ...
· Jesus is addressing those whose "hardness of heart" led them to seek other wives by legal concession. Against their understanding that such legal concession left them righteous and pleasing to God, Jesus says "you have put her out as a woman married in God’s eyes." The challenge is not against those put out but those who self-righteously are putting another out in order to take another.
B. The form of Jesus’ expression ...
· In using hyperbole, a form of rhetorical exaggeration, Jesus is calling forth a higher righteousness than the letter of the law rather than constructing a new law based on a literal application of His words. Every statement surrounding this make such an intent perfectly clear. His point was that the heart will be judged by God, not that anger and name calling should literally be treated as murder (vv. 21-26), not that lust should literally be treated as adultery or lead one to pluck out their eye, (vv.27-30), nor that those improperly divorced should be treated as an adulterous.
C. The "exception" as a given ...
· The exception to "marital unfaithfulness" may refer to the broader principle of violating the bonds of marriage; not simply a single act of sexual union with another but any unfaithful state of giving oneself to another. The "exception" is not so much an exception as it is officially confirming the divorce the unfaithful partner has already rendered.
· God always hates divorce because he provided marriage as an expression of love. To recognize there are times when God approves of divorce only recognizes that there are times when He hates its alternatives more; that is, when there is a greater offense to marriage that must be confronted even at the risk of divorce. The concessions most find fitting of God’s heart include:
· adultery - one’s partner giving himself or herself to another.
· abandonment - departure or total estrangement by one’s partner.
· abuse - significant and unstoppable threat to one’s basic safety.
The intent of Jesus is to show the inappropriate divorce for what it is, not to condemn or forbid remarriage to faithful victims or repentant participants.
To seek concessions from marriage is categorically wrong, but to accept concessions from marriage is not categorically wrong.
II. Applying the Intent Of God’s Word
1. The central challenge in marriage is to guard our hearts from hardness.
2. God’s provision is marital partnership more than the particular partner. Compatibility is only a relative ideal...and often a deceiving one.
3. Jesus did not intend to establish a new letter of the law but to restore the spirit of the law; and He intended for those who would advance the Kingdom (His Church) to advance such principles of righteousness through their fellowship and submission to one another. (Matthew 18:15-20).
4. While God categorically declares His hate for divorce, He does not categorically judge divorced people... and neither should we. Where there is faithfulness let there be honor and healing. Where there is unfaithfulness let there be repentance and restoration.
5. The proper process of restoration and remarriage can be experienced by all through openness and submission to others, particularly those who Christ has set apart as pastors / elders / overseers of His Church.
6. Whether in marriage or divorce, there is always hope... the Lord is a God of hope and healing... forgiveness and restoration.