Summary: This message looks at the major passages in the Bible on this difficult subject.
- “A divorce is like an amputation: you survive, but there’s less of you.” - Margaret Atwood.
We will look at what the Old Testament has to say about divorce and remarriage, then what Jesus has to say, then what Paul has to say. We’ll follow up with how that all comes together in specific situations.
The Old Testament on Divorce and Remarriage:
1. God hates divorce (although that is not to be confused with the thought that God hates divorced people.)
2. There were instances where divorce and remarriage were permitted.
- Why no reconciliation? Perhaps to make the person think seriously before pursuing divorce? I can’t find a great answer to that question.
- Divorce was not just allowed in cases of adultery, because adultery was a capital offense (Deuteronomy 22:22).
- That capital penalty was often not carried out. David’s affair and Solomon’s many wives would both be adulterous based on the one-woman-and-one-man original standard. Mary and Joseph is another similar situation. The woman caught in the act of adultery is another example. At some point in Israel’s history, the response to adultery shifted from death to divorce.
3. These instances were allowed because of the Israelites’ hard hearts.
4. That divorce was allowed in certain circumstances is also implied from God’s choice to spiritually divorce and remarry Israel.
Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage:
1. Jesus’ four most important points on marriage and divorce:
1. Marriage is sacred.
2. Marriage is sacred.
3. Marriage is sacred.
4. Marriage is sacred.
- Two camps in Jesus’ day: one (Rabbi Hillel) arguing that divorce was justifiable for even the smallest offenses; the other (Rabbi Shammai) arguing that only the woman’s adultery (especially the discovery of premarital sex) justified divorce OR under no circumstances was divorce allowed.
- The Pharisees were major proponents of the easier divorce standards.
- On the lack of exceptions in two of the passages, the idea to remember is that clear teachings are often stated without a repetition of the exceptions (see Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-16; cf. to Acts 5:29).
2. In a stark rebuke to the self-righteous Pharisees, Jesus declares that divorce that does not originate from adultery leads to adultery. divorce that does not result from adultery results in adultery.
- Jesus emphasizes the sanctity of marriage by stating that remarriage after an unjustified divorce is an adulterous relationship.
- The word used is “porneia,” which is a term that covers a wide range of sexual sins (including incest, prostitution, homosexuality, and bestiality). Given the context of marriage here, the primary focus in on adultery. The term generally means “sexual immorality.”*******
- To pursue divorce for the wrong reasons is to start a chain of events that results in multiplied adultery.
- This is yet another reason to take your marriage vows seriously.
3. Jesus’ focus seems to be on the person initiating a divorce for unjustified reasons and that person understanding they are preparing to commit adultery.
4. They were concerned about “knowing where the line is;” Jesus was concerned about “knowing where God’s heart is.”
5. The fact that such a standard seems a little harsh means we’ve properly understood what Jesus was saying (because that was exactly what the disciples thought).
Paul on Divorce and Remarriage:
- Paul adds to the teaching of Christ because he writes on the other side of the resurrection and the creation of the church. The “mixed marriage” that Paul is addressing did not exist when Jesus spoke.
1. The general rule is: If you are a Christian and you seek divorce against your spouse who is a Christian, you are sinning and getting remarried is also a sin.
- The instructions in vv. 10-11 are for two married believers.
- Paul echoes Jesus’ words with his strong emphasis on the fact that marriages should not be ended.
2. Paul adds another exception: if someone is a believer and their unbelieving spouse has left because of that belief.
- This allowance for divorce in cases of abandonment does not include all abandonment situations, but only the specific situation noted in vv. 12-13.
The Bible on Divorce and Remarriage:
When you’re thinking of initiating a divorce for the following reasons. . .
a. “I don’t love him anymore.”
- Initiating divorce is a sin; remarriage after divorce is a sin. Your efforts should be to redeem the marriage.
b. “We’ve just drifted apart.”