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Doctrine of Marriage and Divorce - VII

February 5, 2023 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Topic: Doctrine of Marriage and Divorce Scripture: Matthew 5:27–32, Matthew 19:3–9, 1 Corinthians 7:8–17

Review/ Introduction

Last week we took a small side trip to understand a little bit of the background and historical settings of perhaps why the Pharisees chose they place they did to ask Christ about divorce.

Remember it was in the region of Perea?

And Perea was the region ruled by Herod.

  • He was divorced.
  • His new wife was divorced.

As the Bible puts it, they came “tempting him.”

Then we talked about the manner in which Christ responded to and dealt with their question.

How we turned our attention to the Scriptures.

  • Away from self-guided interpretations
  • Towards a wholistic view of Scripture

We saw the great hermeneutical principle that our Lord has laid down in this passage.

Instead of setting Moses against Moses

Christ, in His infallible hermeneutic, finds harmony.

  • He brings those two teachings together.
  • Harmonizing Moses with Moses

He shows us what Moses was really teaching.

The other thing that the Lord says is there is an action of God in marriage.

  • What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Now, if we were to stand back from that and think about that for a moment.

  • we might say something like:
    • Well, no, wait a minute. It wasn't really God that joined them together.
    • They were married by a justice of the peace.
    • They weren't even married at the church.
    • They were married by some false religion on some desert island somewhere.
  • We might say something like:
    • How is it that Christ can say, What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

To properly understand marriage, we need first to understand two foundational points.

Point 1: Ordinances Through Man

Matthew 5.27-32, 19.39, 1 Corinthians 7.8-17, Acts 13.1-3

Many times, in Scripture, we see the ordinances of God, the actions of God.

  • done through the hands and actions of men.
  • This is not a principle that is unknown in the scriptures.

Let’s start with Acts 13

How did the Holy Ghost send Barnabas and Saul for the work that he had called them?

  • by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery
  • by the eldership sending them and giving them a call and a commission to go

Acts 15.2329

Recall the Synod in, in Jerusalem.

  • They met as a court of the church.
  • The apostles and elders came together, decided a matter then agreed on a particular course.
    • on four particular matters to be sent to all the churches.

Notice how this is characterized.

  • This is what seemed good to the Holy Ghost.

How does the Holy Ghost work?

How does God as Christ says here in Matthew 19 that God joins people together?

  • He does it through the ordinances of men.
  • He does it through the ordinances that He himself has established.
  • He does it similarly through the marriage ordinance.

And he has indeed, granted to us to participate in that joyous estate through the hands of men.

  • there is no lightning bolt.
  • there is no handwriting on the wall.
  • there is no inspired profit speaking,
  • there is no supernatural event that would tell you, certainly God had joined you together.

There was an ordinary and natural event that tells you just as certainly that God joined you together.

Jesus says, For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh, what God has joined together, let not man tear apart.

So then, in their question to him, shall we put away our wives for over salting our roast...

Jesus responds, in effect:

  • shall you put away the one to whom God has joined you.
  • shall you put away the one whom God has given you to be joined together as one flesh?

We see that God does indeed join man and woman together and He does that through the ordinances of man.

Wait, we weren't really ever married.

Let’s first get rid of this excuse.

How does God join a couple together?

  • Today, people say “I do” before some authority.
    • They make certain promises.
    • They make certain vows.
    • An authority confirms the ceremony.

But we don't, because of the deficiency of the ceremony, or the deficiency of the thought process

  • Say, Well, I wasn't really married.

You see, it is the action of God that joins a husband and wife together.

The question then becomes:

  • “Did you stand before an authority?”
  • “Did you say I do?”

Then you had a marriage.

  • Then God joined you together.
  • That's how he does it.

There is not some invisible thing that has to take place that makes it a marriage.

  • God joins a couple together by the authority of Jesus Christ Himself.
  • What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.

Now, if God has joined them together.

  • That means that God regulates marriage.
  • That means it is up to God.
    • It is not up to us as to how marriage is to be ordered and regulated.

If it is God that has joined them together.

  • Only He can say when they are no longer joined.

Point 2: God Regulates Marriage

Again, It is God that regulates marriages.

God has divine right to regulate marriage.

  • As our sovereign creator.
  • As the one who established marriage.
  • As the one who created the race for which it is prepared.

God alone has the right to dictate the terms.

  • as to what is right in marriage.
  • as to what is wrong in marriage.

Christ also tell us the Lord regulates marriage.

  • this regulation was given first at creation.
  • this regulation was reinforced by Moses,

Christ, the Lord was not changing what He had written before.

Remember the Pharisees wanted no-fault divorce?

  • they had a predilection toward unrighteousness.
  • they misused scripture.

Jesus brings them back to the Scripture.

Do you think that God would regulate one way and then the opposite way later?

  • Of course not.

He says in Genesis 2, that you are to leave your father and mother to cleave your wife.

  • That is God regulating marriage.
  • That is God commending things pertaining to the marriage relationship.
  • That is God exercising his sovereign prerogative, as our Creator and as the author of marriage.

God says, this is right → to cleave to your wife, to be one flesh.

  • Christ interprets that for us as saying, God joins them together.

Therefore, if God joined them together:

  • Why would He allow them at any whim to split apart for just any cause?

This is the point Christ is making.

The reason the Pharisees had interpreted that passage in that way was because:

  • They desired to be rid of their wives.
  • They desired to go any place they wanted and do anything they desired at any time.
  • They desired to pursue any woman they wanted.

But they also desired to be declared righteous as they followed their own desires.

  • Do you see the conflict?

If God is the author of the joining:

  • the implication is that only God can dictate the terms of no longer being joined.
  • We must find a way to harmonize Moses with what Christ and with the apostles.

Our presupposition is that God:

  • has spoken to his prophets, to his apostles, and through His Son.
  • that God speaks in a unified voice.

When the apostles, when the prophets and when the Son speak on the topic of marriage, or any other topic for that matter.

  • they speak with a unified voice.
  • we must seek to understand the unified voice and unified message.

3 Lawful Ways: Divorce & Remarry

With those foundations laid, we will look at some of the practical questions concerning marriage.

  • And when it is lawful to marry again
  • And when it is not lawful to marry again

In every case of the ending of a marriage:

  • there has been some kind of severing, or
  • there has been some kind of offense, or
  • there has been some kind of ending that which God has joined together.

We see in Scripture there are accommodations made.

We see in Scripture there are exceptions in which:

  • a divorce may be had.
  • a person may marry again.

Does God say, from time to time, that certain marriages are now dissolved?

  • Yes, he does.

There are 3 instances in scripture where God says that marriage is no longer binding.

Lawful Way 1: Death (1 Corinthians 7.39)

If you are married to someone and they die, you are free to marry whom you will.

  • But, as the Apostle says, only in the Lord.

In some pagan cultures, death was not sufficient.

  • If the husband died
    • the wife was put to death on a funeral pyre.
  • Hindu practice of “Sati, “ now banned in India
  • Ancient China and Southeast Asia

But God says when one person dies, the other is free to remarry.

There is an obvious principle that hasn't been so obvious to some darkened cultures.

Lawful Way 2: Fornication/ Adultery (Matthew 19.3-9)

This is an expansion on Matthew 5.

Christ talks about divorce and remarriage.

Some will teach that remarriage is never permitted under any circumstances.

  • under no circumstances may a divorcee remarry.
  • that they must remain celibate for the rest of their lives without marriage

I don't think that is what Christ says here.

  • 9the actions of one party has rendered the one flesh relationship null and void.

Notice what our Lord says here in verse 9.

Let's look at it carefully.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife.

  • There is someone who is putting away his wife.
    • to put away means to divorce.
  • aorist subjunctive looking forward in time to something happening, “if you were to…”

except it before fornication

and marry another.

  • another aorist subjunctive

committeth adultery

And whose marrieth another which is put away does commit adultery.

Christ is talking about the occurrence, the condition of a man putting away his wife.

  • Mark 10 has the same understanding applies but this time with respect the woman.
An aside:
  • The Bible is not a sexist document.
  • The Bible doesn't afford more rights or less rights to people based on their gender.
  • The Bible does recognize differences in gender, and different duties with regard to gender.
    • And that is not sexist.
    • That is speaking to our differences, and different roles as men and women.
Returning to Matthew 19

Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another.

  • Notice the section between the commas.
    • They are setting apart some information in relation to the main thought.
    • It could be said this way.
      • Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another, except it be for fornication, committed adultery.
    • When Jesus interposes that exception phrase between those two identical phrases
      • He is not destroying what He has said.
      • He is simply putting it so that we will consider it all together.

There is indeed an exception that is given for the innocent party.

  • Jesus says this exception is for fornication.
    • He is using the word “porneia.”
    • This word is a more general sense meaning any kind of sexual ugliness.
    • It is broader than the word for adultery.
  • He has been using the word “moichoao” (mee-how) which is the literal word for adultery.
    • Porneia is a broader term than just adultery.
      • any kind of sexual immorality in the marriage is grounds for a lawful divorce.
      • and then a lawful remarriage by the offended party
        • by the innocent party

Jesus says, if that person goes on to remarry, the innocent person, after his spouse or her spouse has committed fornication…

  • if they go on to remarry that they have not committed adultery

If the person puts away his wife for any other reason:

  • That is not porneia.
  • That if they remarry, they commit adultery.

Let’s look at the semi-colon:

And whoso marrieth her, which is put away doth commit adultery.

  • It alerts us that this is a related thought.
    • Whosoever shall put away his wife.
  • The implication here is that the wife has been put away properly, lawfully.
    • For the cause of fornication.
  • The implication here is:
    • The innocent party is free to remarry.
    • The guilty party is not.

Do you see what Christ is saying?

  • He's drawing the distinction between
    • The lawful putting away
      • And the unlawful putting away
    • How adultery is constituted in remarriage
      • And when it is not.

Adultery occurs if remarriage takes place outside of the exception of fornication on the part of the spouse.

  • any other reason Christ says is adultery.

Divorce is Not Required

Let me you → fornication does not require divorce.

  • there can always be forgiveness and restoration.

While divorce is lawful, for an offended party, in the case of fornication:

  • it is not required.

Remember what Christ said regarding Moses:

  • Divorce was given for the hardness of heart.

We spoke about the hardness of heart of the husbands, perhaps concocting stories of infidelity to rid themselves of their wives.

  • And the book of cutting, the bill of divorcement to protect the wives.

But there could also be a different approach to the hardness of heart in the forgiving your spouse.

Although there has been an exception given to us as God's people.

  • It is not an exception we are commanded to take.
  • It is one that our Lord does indeed allow here.

But it is important to notice that there are no other exceptions here in Matthew 19 for a lawful divorce or a lawful remarriage.


Today we have examined two foundational points that are important for our understanding of marriage.

  1. God joins man and woman together through the ordinance and ceremonies of man.
  2. God alone regulates, sets the conditions for that marriage.

With those two foundations, we see that marriage is not to be entered into lightly.

  • Nor is it to be ended lightly.

We spoke about 3 lawful ways in which a marriage might be ended, and the innocent party remarries.

  1. Upon the death of the spouse. In this event, Scripture clearly frees the surviving spouse to remarry.
  2. Upon the occasion of fornication (porneia). In this event, the innocent party may divorce the spouse but the offending party, the guilty party may not remarry.

Remember, we said divorce is never mandatory.

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