Jesus’ Teaching on Marriage and Divorce
The Bible says in Genesis 1:31, “And God saw every thing that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Have you ever seen the beauty of a sunset? Have you ever stopped to listen to the song of birds in springtime? Have you ever closed your eyes and let the cool breeze of autumn caress your face? Have you ever looked in the eyes of the one you love and seen that brilliant gleam, just like the glimmer of a midnight star? Then you know that God created a world of beauty and love; a world that in abundance declares how God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
Jesus said in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” If you want to walk through this life and be blessed then you must first turn from your sins and turn to Jesus. But even for the Christian, if you want to enjoy life and let the good creation of God fill your soul the way that God intended it to, then you must use the things of God in the way that they were intended to be used. Psalms 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” As sinners we can always rely upon the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. But to see the goodness and mercy of God in its fullest extent its necessary that we make our best efforts to do what is right and to have a Biblical perspective on the way that God created this world to function.
One of the many wonderful and perhaps the most wonderful of God’s creations in this physical world is marriage. The Bible has many things to say concerning marriage. Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
God created everything in the world to be a certain way. And anything that goes contrary to the way that God created is an abomination and is utterly wicked. There are several truths about the way God designed marriage to be. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Marriage was designed by God to be a permanent life-long relationship. And any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage is sin.
Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” The fact that there are two distinct sexes is enough for us to realize that marriage is between one man and one woman. And we know that God intended marriage to be permanent because the Bible says in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave His father and His mother, and shall cleave unto His wife: and they shall be one flesh.” And Jesus said in Matthew 19:6, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” But this paper is not being written to explain in detail what the Bible says about marriage but rather what the Bible says about divorce. Certainly, the most logical question then that you might ask is; if God intended marriage to be permanent then would God allow divorce?
The Bible says in Song of Solomon 8:7, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.” There are many good reasons to get married: for companionship and friendship, to have someone help you serve the Lord, to have children, and to satisfy your physical and emotional needs of love. These are all good reasons that God created for marriage.
When you come to the Bible to see what God says about divorce you need to understand first what God intended marriage to be; a life-long relationship between a man and a woman. The Bible emphasizes marriage. The Bible emphasis many good reasons to get marriage and to stay married. Proverbs 18:22 says, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor with the Lord.” I Corinthians 7:9 says, “But if they cannot contain let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” And the Bible says in Proverbs 30:18-19, “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.” Marriage is good. The Bible emphasizes that under most circumstances its good to get married. Marriage pleases God; as does anything in life that is used the way God created it to be.
And one of the basic secrets to being happy in this life is to simply take the things that God created and use them the way that He created them to be used, for His glory. The joy of companionship, the strength that is found in love, the poetic way that two halves become whole in personality and emotionally, the blessing of sharing the deepest parts of who you are, with another person, the pleasures and satisfaction of sex, and the great rewards, joys and inheritance of raising children for God: these are things that can only come to its fullest and most wonderful extent-through the life-long permanency of marriage. The blessings of marriage go on and on: having someone to pray with you, to encourage you, to comfort you, to help you feel good about your self, someone to help you face your own fears, and help you make big and important decisions in life, and someone to just be there when you need them. If you really want to know the riches of God’s grace then rely on His grace to live life the way that it was meant to be lived.
Now, concerning divorce Jesus taught in Matthew 19:3-12, “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? And He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 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 no man put asunder. They say unto Him, why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 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. 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. His disciples say unto Him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
The very first thing that Jesus did when replying to the deceitful Pharisees was to emphasis the way that God created and intended marriage to be. It should be obvious when we look at the world around us, that despite the way God created things to be, most men will live contrary to the way God made life to be. Marriage should be permanent but most often it is not, why? Well, ever since Adam disobeyed God, all of mankind has been sinning and disobeying God. But people are blind. If we could only see and understand the riches and goodness of God’s grace; we would desire even greater to do what is right, because it is so worth it in this life and the next. Adam messed up big time. We can see the results of Adam’s sin by studying human history and looking at the world today. But God has promised in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” Even though Adam sinned and was kicked out of the garden. When we read Revelation chapter 21 we can easily see how the end for mankind will be even better than it was in the beginning in the garden, that is the great grace of God. And that very same grace of God will be given to those who fail in a marital relationship and truly seek forgiveness.
In Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce; we see that first Jesus emphasized the way marriage should be, and then He gave an example of when divorce would be ok: for fornication. The word fornication is found commonly enough in the N.T. and it refers to all sexual immorality. Here Jesus used it to refer to adultery. Of-course Jesus did not say that if your spouse was unfaithful that you must put them away, but only that it was permitted. It is always best to forgive and forget. But there are many practical reasons why one might divorce an unfaithful spouse, for example, if the person is not repentant and intends to do it again. Divorce is a breaking of the marriage bond. When one spouse is unfaithful then that bond has been broken already.
The Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to put away one’s wife for every cause. Jesus replied by giving an example of when it would be ok to divorce. But He did not say it was the only situation in which divorce was permitted. Paul said in I Corinthians 7:15, “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.” Here we know that Paul is talking about the marriage bondage by reading the previous verses of the chapter. So here Paul gives an example of when divorce is permitted. A marital relationship takes two people. But it only takes one to ruin it. In today’s society a person can get divorced without the consent of the other spouse. If you’re spouse chooses to leave you then have you sinned? No? Then does that mean you can never again remarry or enjoy the blessings of marriage because of someone else’s failure to keep their commitment? Well the Bible doesn’t say so. Another example of when divorce would be permissible is found in the last part of I Corinthians 7:15, “God hath called us to peace.” Also Proverbs 21:9 say; “It is better to dwell in the corner of a house top, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.” In situations where one spouse is violent and abusive toward the other spouse and the children would divorce be permissible? Well, I Corinthians 7:15 says, “God hath called us to peace.”
Not only did Jesus give an example of when divorce was permitted but He gave an example of when it is not. The Pharisees asked Jesus of divorce was permitted for every cause. And Jesus did not say for every cause, only for certain situations; other situations would be outright sin. Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, “And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doeth commit adultery.” In other words, it’s a sin to divorce someone just because you are lusting after some other person and want to marry them instead. There are many situations in which divorce is wrong. There are only a few in which divorce is permitted. But even in the situations in which the Bible permits divorce often times though who are living for the Lord will seek to forgive just as Christ forgave them. Hosea had a wife that continually committed adultery and He never divorced her. And spiritually speaking, we commit adultery against God and He will never divorce His bride.
But what kind of people would just throw aside their spouse like an old rag? And what kind of people would place little value on the way that God created this life to be? The Bible says in Romans chapter 1:18-32 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. “
And the Bible also says II Peter 2:12-17 says, “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease form sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest: to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.”
What kind of people would be unfaithful to their spouse? What kind of a person would just toss aside his or her spouse like an old rag? People that are without natural affection, people that are selfish, people that do not seek the will of God, people that are liars, and covenant-breakers, covetous, people that have eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, people that are spots and blemishes and wells without water, people that live for themselves and do not care about how much they might cause others to suffer and care not how ungodly of a testimony they might give to the world around them. What kind of people; the children of the devil, and the carnal Christians of the world.
The forgiveness of God is the greatest possession in the world. Colossians 1:20 says, “And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
The forgiveness of Jesus Christ covers both: things in earth and things in heaven. Marriage is something that is earthly. And the forgiveness of God covers it just as God’s grace would anything else. The Greek word for forgive literally means to “let go, depart, or, put away”. Forgiveness means justification. Justification means, “just as if I had not sinned.”
One of the problems with understanding divorce, is that many Christians do not understand God’s forgiveness; or at least when it comes to the issue of divorce they do not understand God’s forgiveness. God’s grace is never a license to sin; it’s a license to do what is right, to serve God. If you have ever failed at a marriage, it’s not the end of the world. If you have ever divorced for the wrong reason, God will forgive you if you truly repent. And of course true repentance means a change of mind. A person who once had the wrong attitude about marriage will change and view the marriage bond the way that God intended it to be life-long faithfulness to one person. And true repentance also means a change from a lack of character to character over time. People who divorce and remarry again and again are people that have not truly repented of their sins.
There are some Christians who teach that a divorced person is somehow limited in the way that they can now serve God. Some say it means they are now never able to be qualified to be a pastor or even a deacon in a church. It is true that I Timothy 3 says “the Husband of one wife.” And this verse means what it literally says. And some Christian people say that one of the punishments for the sins of divorce is that a person can never remarry. But where does God’s grace and forgiveness fit into these teachings?
The Bible does say in Galatians 6:7-8, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
There are consequences to sin. Every choice, every action has a consequence. If you do what is right you will reap positive fruit. And if you do what is wrong you will reap suffering and destruction. But consequences are not something that we ourselves determine or have any power over. Such consequences, in the temporal sense, are determined by God. And He has partly determined them by the way He has designed this world to function. The ultimate consequence for any sin is death: eternal damnation in the lake of fire. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
There are definitely many very terrible consequences to divorce in this life. There is great emotional suffering that is caused by divorce to both spouse and children. There is also the horrible testimony that is given to the people in the world. For those who ruin their marriage through sexual immorality there is also the very possible consequence of horrible sexual diseases. To just discard the blessings and to just turn away from the person that God has placed in your life is completely foolish and destructive on your own life and opportunities. But to say that not being able to remarry is a consequence of divorce is not Biblical, because the Bible doesn’t say that.
There are always those who will use the grace of God as an excuse for their own sins. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. But we must understand God’s forgiveness. It’s same in the area of divorce as it is for any other sin. When God forgives, He eternally forgets. He sees us just as if we had not sinned. Psalms 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” A person that was once a liar by the blood of Jesus Christ, will be just as if they never were a liar. A person that was once a murderer will be just as if they never were a murder. And even a person that was divorced will be just as if they never were divorced.
Murder is a much worse sin than divorce. Paul was a murder; a mass murderer. But He turned from His sins and turned to Jesus. And by the grace of God He eventually became the leader of Christianity in His day. Would God say that a mass-murder could through His forgiveness became a great leader in Christianity but that someone who was divorced could never work in the ministry as a pastor or even a deacon? Such teachings that divorced people are second-class Christians is unbiblical. It is a legalistic teaching that contradicts what the Bible teaches about the eternal forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
The Bible says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Sprit.” Be careful who you condemn and who you oppose; especially if the person you oppose is seeking to do the work of God.
The Bible says in James 2:10, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” The Bible also says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” If I am a liar, then I am also an adulterer and a murder because he that offends in one point is guilty of all. Christianity is all about the grace of God. It’s not about who you are, or what you have done; because who you are is a sinner and what you have done is sin against the Almighty, Holy, Lord of Hosts. All opportunity to serve God is by the grace of God and based on the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, not based on what sins you have or have not committed. True Christians are people that serve God because they are thankful that Christ has forgiven them of their sins and bought them out of the bondage of spiritual slavery with His own precious blood. Christians are not good people, they are just sinners forgiven of their sins by Jesus. And it’s the grace of God that transforms a man into the image of Christ. If you are involved in organized religion, remember this truth before the next time you tell someone what they can or cannot do for God because of any sins they might have committed.
The Bible says about God in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “And He hath made all things beautiful in His time.” Just remember that the wonderful blessings of marriage and of serving God, are given only by God’s grace. Those who have failed morally before they were married or even while they were married, and those who have been divorced, can by the grace of God still have the such blessings if it is the Lord’s will. Don’t underestimate the grace of God. Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Human beings are very good at messing their own lives up and destroying the way that God created things. But is so much better at making things right. Romans 5:20 says, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Just remember it’s not man’s place to decide who should or should not get married and who should and should not serve God. God will decide these issues and put such desires in the hearts of those that He would have marry or work in the ministry because where sin did abound grace did much more abound.
Copyright; 2003 by Charles
F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved