SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Image Map
Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : Not Under Bondage–Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage -taylor

Print Thread (PDF)

Goto page ( Previous Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 )

Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
Independence, Missouri

 Re: Not Under Bondage–Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage -taylor

The Scripture clearly say he that marry another mans wife commit adultery doesn’t it?

We have hashed this over into such a depth in the past I can better serve you by pointing you to the SI search engine. I have written very extensively on it from every angle any of us could think of. Truly I think the issue has been taken down to the smallest particles.

In short, adultery is definitely grounds for divorce, always has been and always will be. It was the death penalty in the Old Testament. Just as surly as if a Christian lies with Allah is [i]idolatry[/i] a man that lies with another man's wife has broken wedlock (William Tyndale's definition of Adultery). It does not have to result in divorce, but nothing can possibly be more plainer than this. David understood the seriousness of what he had done and it's why he killed Uriah the Hittite after trying unsuccessfully to deceive him.

Although I have met and respect Dean I disagree with Him on this. The full counsel of God tells us plainly in two places in Matthew that fornication is grounds for divorce. Moreover, I will not be drawn into conflict with Dean either as I consider him a dear brother. I think we can disagree on this subject so long as folk don't start calling everyones souls into judgment; that is biting and devouring. Paul says if we bite and devour each other we run the risk of consuming each other.

When someone calls my marriage an [i]adulterous marriage[/i] it is 'biting' me. When I'm around folk that are of that persuasion I am always discouraged. I wonder what they are thinking and saying about me. It's like being a convicted felon or something. And I know I speak for many others here also because I have been fielding e-mails and phone calls.

Robert Wurtz II

 2009/1/23 10:51Profile

Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
Independence, Missouri


Could Jesus only forgive her because she was technically not remarried since she was divorced from her last remarriage according to the law and therefore, as it stands, divorce is the only forgivable state?

If I recall our discussion of this in the past the Jews did not recognize a person on the 5th marriage. This could be why she was not married to the man. Bear in mind that the Greek uses the term for 'man' in place of husband. As in - the one you are with is not your [i]man[/i].

Jesus gave this women [u]no[/u] direction at all. We do not know what He told her to do. Truly there was [u]no[/u] practical answer to her situation that would fulfill the requirements of all the law. And in an evil and adulterous generation as existed in that time, there is absolutely [u]no[/u] mention of mass marital breakups, etc. This goes back to my point about Job. It takes the counsel of God to speak to some situations and not someone trying to figure it out based on their limited knowledge of the scriptures and the facts at hand. We are simply not called to sit in judgment of each other like that.

Robert Wurtz II

 2009/1/23 11:01Profile


Understood Robert. But I guess my question is: What allowed Jesus to forgive the woman at the well? Was it the law that allowed Jesus to forgive (meaning that the woman fit a legal technicality or loophole that could not contrain His authority) or was it His sovereign authority and mercy?

 2009/1/23 11:26

Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
Independence, Missouri


CCrider: Was it the law that allowed Jesus to forgive (meaning that the woman fit a legal technicality or loophole that could not contrain His authority) or was it His sovereign authority and mercy?

I will try to answer this last question and I must leave off. These conversations simply do not edify the body. It is serious discouragement on my end. But the reality is, there was no way for the woman to right her wrongs. She was married 5 times meaning she was probably unchaste or very hard to live with. Jews could divorce for any reason. Jesus challenged that. She could repent and confess her sins and trust Christ to take her from where she was at and into holiness.

But would it be reasonable for Jesus to tell the woman to go back to the first man? Not under the Law because that would have been an abomination because she was married after they divorced. There was no real solution that would satisfy everyone. This is what grace and mercy is about. Christ forgave because God is faithful and [u]just[/u] to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He is just to forgive because the penalty was paid in full at Calvary.

As Christians we have to decide if we are going to preach the Gospel or something else. If there is no hope for this evil generation and for folk like myself then what is all this about? What are we preaching for? There are a lot of twisted lives out there. They need the [u]good[/u] news. There is simply nothing good about news that there is no forgiveness or hope for those in families that had previous marriages. But there is good news in knowing that God loves us and desires us to be saved.

Robert Wurtz II

 2009/1/23 12:21Profile


RobertW.... thank you for your input. I know you have wrestled tremendously in these areas with an open mind and open heart. I too wrestle and am glad I am not alone in these things.

 2009/1/23 12:36

Joined: 2008/2/15
Posts: 83


I must thank Greg for posting this message by Brother Dean. After intense study, and seeking Gods will, the position Brother Dean has taken is the one that I have come to believe.

There is always the measure of grace when it comes to God's relationship with humanity, and while some may not be able to handle the best that God has for them due to hardness of their hearts, that does not mean that God won't show them mercy.

As for me, when my wife left me for another man, God used that to turn me to Him. I asked Him, Lord, what is your will in this? How is this destruction of a marriage covenant, glorifying to you? Do you have someone else for me, was this marriage out of your will the whole time? And through multiple means God resoundingly said, that the marriage vows made still stood. And that if I truly wanted the best, then I must learn to not just say I trust Him, but to really trust Him. That I must wait upon Him, and watch what He does. Through scripture God lead me to know that for me, regardless of what anyone else says, that for me I must remain single, until He moves a mountain of sin and adultery and reconciles my wife and myself.

Then, in an absolute moment of breaking me of some pride, God showed me How what I had done to Him by living my life the way I had been was the same as the adultery my wife was now committing against me. If He could forgive me, then I could forgive her.

And finally, for this posting anyway, he asked if I loved her. I honestly told God yes. He asked if I was willing to let her slip into hell, because no one else was willing to pray for her as I would be. The Bible makes it very clear that adulterers have no place in the Kingdom of God, and unless she repents and is saved, she will spend her eternity in Hell. I told God I didn't think that would bring Him the glory that saving her and restoring a broken marriage would. That I wasn't willing to do nothing and let the woman I loved so much as to marry go to hell simply because my ego was hurt by her adultery.

So, as one living the situation at hand out, It is not easy to not "move on with your life" as so many recommend. It means lonely nights and much heartache. It also means much prayer and drawing closer to God. For those facing this situation, My recommendation is to think about what your vows were you made, do you hate your spouse so much as to willingly not pray for their souls, and above all else, in honest prayer, seek God and His will. And if you so choose to stand and fight for your spouse and the covenant you made between God and your spouse, know that you are not alone. You are in the minority, but there are others out here like you, and we'll stand beside you in prayer and any other way we can.

Praying for the reconciliation of broken marriages,

Jason Smith

Jason Smith

 2009/1/23 16:56Profile

Joined: 2006/9/13
Posts: 3156


This matter has been heavy on my heart as I did not understand how the Lord could require something that seems so impossible.

These are the verses that He brought forth this morning as I prayed:

John 4:16-18 (the woman at the well)
Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

John 8:10-11 (the woman caught in adultery)
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Luke 14:25-26
And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

But above all, it was these words that struck deepest:

What the Lord requires, He will also provide.
If we turn our heart towards Him in obedience, [u][b]He[/b][/u] will make the way.

And I can attest that in my life, time, and time again, He has done precisely that - provided for that which He has required - many times before the requirement ever arose. That we would believe He would box us in a corner, with no way out, must cause Him much grief. He has the answer ready, if we would but only believe.

 2009/1/23 17:32Profile

Joined: 2008/6/19
Posts: 1257


Dear Brethren,

I just couldn’t stay away. Here is a website that I recommend on marriage over all others. It is the most biblical on marriage I have seen. The website is and here is a brief excerpt on divorce/remarriage.

(3) You should not divorce because of the extreme harm it causes to everyone involved. Divorce is as hurtful and destructive as ripping a person’s body apart while they are still alive. The Bible declares that a marriage begins when two people are united as "one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). This phrase literally means one body or one person. Therefore, if you divorce you rip apart something that God has joined together. Remember, "What God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt. 19:6).

Even though I have never been divorced, I do have personal experience with the devastation of divorce. I grew up in a family where I saw my father leave my mother, and I watched the anguish, tears, and destruction first-hand. I know what it’s like being used as a bargaining chip between parents. I know the struggles of growing up in a single parent family with no father. I’ve personally lived through this destruction. I can say without a doubt, that it is a cruel and harmful experience that you don’t want. God knows that divorce is not just one person’s problem, it’s an entire family’s crisis.

My point is this, God calls us to keep our commitments. I know some of you are in difficult marriages right now. But remember, Paul declared, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18). I quote this passage often when I do marriage counseling. Notice again, Scripture always makes your personal responsibility the primary issue. Paul says, "as much as depends on you." In other words, you are responsible to do all you can to honor your commitments. Are you taking heed to your spirit? Are you doing all that is within your power to live peaceably with your spouse? Are you seeking God for His grace to keep your vow of love?

However, there is a balance within this passage. Paul also said, "If it is possible." That phrase obviously implies that sometimes it is not possible to live at peace with someone. That is a sad situation, but it happens. Let me make this clear, it takes two people to make a marriage work. If you are reading this and your spouse has run off with someone else and divorced you, I don’t want you to feel condemned by these statements. All you should consider is, did you do all you could to save the marriage? Remember, God only holds you responsible for your actions. If your spouse chooses to resist reconciliation there is very little you can do about it. However, whenever I make statements like this, people usually ask, "Are you saying that there are some cases where divorce and remarriage may be permissible?" My answer is, yes, there are reasons given in Scripture for divorce and remarriage. Then people say, "But isn’t this a contradiction of what you’ve just said?" No it isn’t. Let me explain.

Let me give you two biblical reasons for divorce and remarriage. Jesus gives the first reason when He answers the Pharisees’ question in Matthew 19: "The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ " (vs. 3). The question is, can someone divorce for any reason. Jesus plainly teaches that you can’t divorce for any reason, because God’s desire from the beginning was for one woman to be married to one man for life (vs. 4-6). The Pharisees responded with another question. "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" (vs. 7). Jesus explains that Moses did not command people to divorce; it was only permitted or allowed because of the hardness of men’s hearts (vs. 8). Jesus admits that divorce is permitted in Scripture. Then Jesus gives the reason it is permitted: "I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (vs.9).

Note that Jesus is the one who gives the exception to the rule, not me. He said, "except for sexual immorality." This exception is not a command; it’s an allowable release. I have seen many couples where adultery took place, and the offended partner chose not to divorce because of the humility and repentance of the offending spouse. Many of these marriages have reconciled and become stronger as a result of their reconciliation. However, when a person continues to practice sexual immorality and refuses to repent of his or her offense, or he or she runs off to marry into the adulterous relationship, I believe that this is evidence of a hardened heart -- the reason Jesus gave this exception.

Regardless, there are many Christians who believe that there are no exceptions allowing divorce. I believe that this position is indefensible based on the teachings of Christ in Matthew 19. Judging from the letters and e-mails I get from people on this topic, many Christians are confused about what Scripture teaches. For any teacher to deny the exception of sexual immorality as an option for a Christian, I believe, is to take away from God’s Word. Scripture clearly states that adding to or taking away from His Word is a very serious offense (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:5-6; Rev. 22:18-19).

Paul also gives a second reason for divorce and remarriage: when an unbeliever abandons and wants to divorce a believing spouse. We will cover this issue later in this study. This reason is found in 1 Cor. 7:15.

However, before we go any further I know many people reading these words are having problems with the idea of exceptions. Many people have said to me, "When you give an exception to the marriage covenant, you give people an easy out. They look for a loophole and simply run from their responsibility. They take this option as their first choice instead of as a last resort."

First, let me say that divorce never offers an easy out. It harms and scars all concerned because it rips apart a marriage and a family. Unfortunately, I have to agree that some people do look for loopholes and don’t take responsibility for themselves and the commitment they have made. This is his or her own loss. But, I can’t change God’s Word and remove an option because I want to force someone to be responsible. No one has the right to put his or her own opinions into Scripture just because he or she has gone through a messy divorce. Yes, I do believe you should work with everything you have to seek reconciliation with your mate. But, if he or she refuses to reconcile, continues in an adulterous relationship, or determines to abandon you, divorce is an available option.

Others say, "But shouldn’t you continue to strive to make the marriage work?" Yes, you should strive for reconciliation, but there is a point at which you can strive contrary to reality. Even God Himself has said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever" (Gen. 6:3). God saw the reality, "that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). God made this statement concerning mankind and then brought the flood upon the earth. The Lord took the same action with the Jews who were unfaithful to Him. He pursued them, striving to bring them to repentance. But, when it was clear that they would not turn from their idolatry, He sent them into captivity and turned away from them (2 Chronicles 36:16; Deut. 32:15-20). There are husbands and wives just like the Jews, who harden their hearts and stiffen their necks, who will not respond. No matter what overture of love you make toward them, they reject it. In these situations you need to understand that you can’t force someone to do what they willfully refuse to do.

The Command To Christians Who Do Divorce

Paul now turns his attention to Christians who do choose to divorce without biblical grounds. He declares, "But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife" (vs. 11). Paul first states the ideal in verse 10 that Christians should not get divorced, but then turns right around and acknowledges that he knows some will depart from each other.

If you have divorced without the biblical grounds of adultery or the abandonment of your unbelieving spouse, what does Scripture command you to do? Paul makes it absolutely clear that you have only two options: You must remain unmarried or be reconciled to your mate. Notice again that this instruction continues to communicate the overall biblical priority of being faithful to your marriage vows.

What should you do if you have already disobeyed this command and have divorced your spouse and remarried another? This question is usually followed by two additional questions. Have I committed an unpardonable sin and should I divorce the new spouse and remarry my previous partner?

Let’s deal with the second question first. Should you divorce your new spouse and remarry the one you divorced? Absolutely not! This would be total confusion and would only tear apart more lives. You should simply ask God for His forgiveness and remain in the marriage you’re in now. Let me explain the biblical principles upon which I base this counsel.

(1) Remain in the state you are in. After Paul explained the principles of marriage and divorce in 1 Cor. 7:1-16, he then encouraged all believers not to try to escape their present circumstances. He gave two examples: That of circumcision and being a servant of another person. He concluded with the general principle: "Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called" (1 Cor. 7:24). Paul then applied this same principle to marriage. "I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress--that it is good for a man to remain as he is: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife" (1 Cor. 7:26-27). In other words, Paul was explaining that they should simply stay in whatever relationship they were in.

(2) In the Old Testament, Moses commanded the people not to return to a wife they had divorced after marrying another because that would be an abomination. "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man's wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD" (Deut. 24:1-4). People often ask if this concept can or should be brought into the New Testament. I believe that you should accept this principle because this is the same passage Jesus used to allow someone to divorce in Matthew 19. Therefore, if Jesus used this passage to allow for divorce due to moral uncleanness in a wife, shouldn’t you also consider the rest of the passage concerning returning to a previous marriage partner?

To answer the second question: When people divorce and marry another without biblical grounds, is this an unpardonable sin? It surely is sin, but it is not an unpardonable sin. Jesus said, "Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men" (Matt. 12:31). I would emphasize the word every in this text. I bring this issue up because there are those who would deny forgiveness for this sin. However, I can not do that! If I did declare this sin was unforgivable, then I would be adding to the Word of God again. Let me be absolutely clear. There is only one unpardonable sin, which is the rejection of the Spirit of God and the testimony concerning Christ until the day of a person’s death. That is the only unpardonable sin. See Heb. 10:29 and 1 John 5:10-16.

Consequently, when I make these statements about forgiveness people have said to me, "With this philosophy of forgiveness, you are giving people the license to sin." My response is this: If someone takes God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness and uses it as a license to sin that would obviously be wrong. I can’t keep people from doing that. However, I will not give people incorrect or unbiblical counsel to try and keep them from sinning or scare them into obedience. That would be equally wrong on my part.

In addition, if you were divorced and remarried before you became a Christian, then you can also be assured that you have a new and cleansed standing in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul declared, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). He does not say some things become new, but all things become new. All your failures and sins are washed away and you have a new start with God. Praise Him for His grace.

Blessings to you all!

 2009/1/23 19:17Profile

Joined: 2006/1/19
Posts: 1406


Divorce & Remarriage: A Position Paper

By John Piper July 21, 1986


Note (added May 5, 1989): Readers of this paper should be sure to consult the official position paper of the Council of Deacons of Bethlehem Baptist Church entitled, A Statement on Divorce and Remarriage in the Life of Bethlehem Baptist Church . That document, dated May 2, 1989, represents the position on divorce and remarriage that will guide the church in matters of membership and discipline. The paper you hold in your hands is NOT the official church position on divorce and remarriage. It is my own understanding of the Scriptures and therefore the guidelines for my own life and teaching and ministerial involvement in weddings. But I intend to respect the official statement (having written the first draft myself) as our guide in matters of membership and discipline. I make this paper available so that the basis for certain statements in the official paper can be readily obtained.

Background and Introduction
All of my adult life, until I was faced with the necessity of dealing with divorce and remarriage in the pastoral context, I held the prevailing Protestant view that remarriage after divorce was Biblically sanctioned in cases where divorce had resulted from desertion or persistent adultery. Only when I was compelled, some years ago, in teaching through the gospel of Luke, to deal with Jesus' absolute statement in Luke 16:18 did I begin to question that inherited position.

I felt an immense burden in having to teach our congregation what the revealed will of God is in this matter of divorce and remarriage. I was not unaware that among my people there were those who had been divorced and remarried, and those who had been divorced and remained unmarried, and those who were in the process of divorce or contemplating it as a possibility. I knew that this was not an academic exercise, but would immediately affect many people very deeply.

I was also aware of the horrendous statistics in our own country, as well as other Western countries, concerning the number of marriages that were ending in divorce, and the numbers of people who were forming second marriages and third marriages. In my study of Ephesians 5 I had become increasingly persuaded that there is a deep and profound significance to the union of husband and wife in "one flesh" as a parable of the relationship between Christ and his church.

All of these things conspired to create a sense of solemnity and seriousness as I weighed the meaning and the implication of the Biblical texts on divorce and remarriage. The upshot of that crucial experience was the discovery of what I believe is a New Testament prohibition of all remarriage except in the case where a spouse has died. I do not claim to have seen or said the last word on this issue, nor am I above correction, should I prove to be wrong. I am aware that men more godly than I have taken different views. Nevertheless, every person and church must teach and live according to the dictates of its own conscience informed by a serious study of Scripture.

Therefore this paper is an attempt to state my own understanding of the issues and their foundation in Scripture. It serves, then, as a Biblical rationale for why I feel constrained to make the decisions I do with regard to whose marriages I will perform and what sort of church discipline seems appropriate in regard to divorce and remarriage.

If I were to give exhaustive expositions of each relevant text the paper would become a very large book. Therefore, what I plan to do is to give brief explanations of each of the crucial texts with some key exegetical arguments. There will be, no doubt, many questions that can be raised and I hope to be able to learn from those questions, and do my best to answer them in the discussion that will surround this paper.

It seems that the most efficient way to approach the issue is to simply give a list of reasons, based on Biblical texts, why I believe that the New Testament prohibits all remarriage except where a spouse has died. So what follows is a list of such arguments.

Eleven Reasons Why I Believe All Remarriage After Divorce Is Prohibited While Both Spouses Are Alive
1. Luke 16:18 calls all remarriage after divorce adultery.

Luke 16:18: Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

1.1 This verse shows that Jesus does not recognize divorce as terminating a marriage in God's sight. The reason a second marriage is called adultery is because the first one is considered to still be valid. So Jesus is taking a stand against the Jewish culture in which all divorce was considered to carry with it the right of remarriage.

1.2 The second half of the verse shows that not merely the divorcing man is guilty of adultery when he remarries, but also any man who marries a divorced woman.

1.3 Since there are no exceptions mentioned in the verse, and since Jesus is clearly rejecting the common cultural conception of divorce as including the right of remarriage, the first readers of this gospel would have been hard-put to argue for any exceptions on the basis that Jesus shared the cultural assumption that divorce for unfaithfulness or desertion freed a spouse for remarriage.

2. Mark 10:11-12 call all remarriage after divorce adultery whether it is the husband or the wife who does the divorcing.

Mark 10:11-12: And he said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.'

2.1 This text repeats the first half of Luke 16:18 but goes farther and says that not only the man who divorces, but also a woman who divorces, and then remarries is committing adultery.

2.2 As in Luke 16:18, there are no exceptions mentioned to this rule.

3. Mark 10:2-9 and Matthew 19:3-8 teach that Jesus rejected the Pharisees' justification of divorce from Deuteronomy 24:1 and reasserted the purpose of God in creation that no human being separate what God has joined together.

Mark 10:2-9: And some Pharisees came up to Him, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. 3 And He answered and said to them, 'What did Moses command you?' 4 And they said, 'Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.' 5 But Jesus said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, 8 and the two shall become one flesh; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.'

Matthew 19:3-9: And some Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?" 4 And He answered and said, "Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 Consequently they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 7They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate and divorce her?" 8 He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery."

3.1 In both Matthew and Mark the Pharisees come to Jesus and test him by asking him whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. They evidently have in mind the passage in Deuteronomy 24:1 which simply describes divorce as a fact rather than giving any legislation in favor of it. They wonder how Jesus will take a position with regard to this passage.

3.2 Jesus' answer is, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives" (Mt. 19:8).

3.3 But then Jesus criticizes the Pharisees' failure to recognize in the books of Moses God's deepest and original intention for marriage. So he quotes two passages from Genesis. "God made them male and female. ...For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (Genesis 1:27; 2:24).

3.4 From these passages in Genesis Jesus concludes, "So they are no longer two, but one." And then he makes his climaxing statement, "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

3.5 The implication is that Jesus rejects the Pharisees' use of Deuteronomy 24:1 and raises the standard of marriage for his disciples to God's original intention in creation. He says that none of us should try to undo the "one-flesh" relationship which God has united.

3.6 Before we jump to the conclusion that this absolute statement should be qualified in view of the exception clause ("except for unchastity") mentioned in Matthew 19:9, we should seriously entertain the possibility that the exception clause in Matthew 19:9 should be understood in the light of the absolute statement of Matthew 19:6, ("let no man put asunder") especially since the verses that follow this conversation with the Pharisees in Mark 10 do not contain any exception when they condemn remarriage. More on this below.

4. Matthew 5:32 does not teach that remarriage is lawful in some cases. Rather it reaffirms that marriage after divorce is adultery, even for those who have been divorced innocently, and that a man who divorces his wife is guilty of the adultery of her second marriage unless she had already become an adulteress before the divorce.

Matthew 5:32: But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

4.1 Jesus assumes that in most situations in that culture a wife who has been put away by a husband will be drawn into a second marriage. Nevertheless, in spite of these pressures, he calls this second marriage adultery.

4.2 The remarkable thing about the first half of this verse is that it plainly says that the remarriage of a wife who has been innocently put away is nevertheless adultery: "Everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her (the innocent wife who has not been unchaste) an adulteress." This is a clear statement, it seems to me, that remarriage is wrong not merely when a person is guilty in the process of divorce, but also when a person is innocent. In other words, Jesus' opposition to remarriage seems to be based on the unbreakableness of the marriage bond by anything but death.

4.3 I will save my explanation of the exception clause ("Except on the ground of unchastity") for later in the paper, but for now, it may suffice to say that on the traditional interpretation of the clause, it may simply mean that a man makes his wife an adulteress except in the case where she has made herself one.

4.4 I would assume that since an innocent wife who is divorced commits adultery when she remarries, therefore a guilty wife who remarries after divorce is all the more guilty. If one argues that this guilty woman is free to remarry, while the innocent woman who has been put away is not, just because the guilty woman's adultery has broken the "one flesh" relationship, then one is put in the awkward position of saying to an innocent divorced woman, "If you now commit adultery it will be lawful for you to remarry." This seems wrong for at least two reasons.

4.41 It seems to elevate the physical act of sexual intercourse to be the decisive element in marital union and disunion.

4.42 If sexual union with another breaks the marriage bond and legitimizes remarriage, then to say that an innocently divorced wife can't remarry (as Jesus does say) assumes that her divorcing husband is not divorcing to have sexual relations with another. This is a very unlikely assumption. More likely is that Jesus does assume some of these divorcing husbands will have sexual relations with another woman, but still the wives they have divorced may not remarry. Therefore, adultery does not nullify the "one-flesh" relationship of marriage and both the innocent and guilty spouses are prohibited from remarriage in Matthew 5:32.

5. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 teaches that divorce is wrong but that if it is inevitable the person who divorces should not remarry.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11: To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

5.1 When Paul says that this charge is not his but the Lord's, I think he means that he is aware of a specific saying from the historical Jesus which addressed this issue. As a matter of fact, these verses look very much like Mark 10:11-12, because both the wife and the husband are addressed. Also, remarriage seems to be excluded by verse ll the same way it is excluded in Mark 10:11-12.

5.2 Paul seems to be aware that separation will be inevitable in certain cases. Perhaps he has in mind a situation of unrepentant adultery, or desertion, or brutality. But in such a case he says that the person who feels constrained to separate should not seek remarriage but remain single. And he reinforces the authority of this statement by saying he has a word from the Lord. Thus Paul's interpretation of Jesus' sayings is that remarriage should not be pursued.

5.3 As in Luke 16:18 and Mark 10:11-12 and Matthew 5:32, this text does not explicitly entertain the possibility of any exceptions to the prohibition of remarriage.

6. 1 Corinthians 7:39 and Romans 7:1-3 teach that remarriage is legitimate only after the death of a spouse.

1 Corinthians 7:39: A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

Romans 7:1-3, Do you not know, brethren—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during his life? 2 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning her husband. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

6.1 Both of these passages (1 Corinthians 7:39; Romans 7:2) say explicitly that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. No exceptions are explicitly mentioned that would suggest she could be free from her husband to remarry on any other basis.

7. Matthew 19:10-12 teaches that special Christian grace is given by God to Christ's disciples to sustain them in singleness when they renounce remarriage according to the law of Christ.

Matthew 19:10-12: The disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.' 11 But he said to them, 'Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuches who have been so from birth, and there are eunuches who have been made eunuches by men, and there are eunuches who have made themselves eunuches for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.

7.1 Just preceding this passage in Matthew 19:9 Jesus prohibited all remarriage after divorce. (I will deal with the meaning of "except for immorality" below.) This seemed like an intolerable prohibition to Jesus' disciples: If you close off every possibility of remarriage, then you make marriage so risky that it would be better not to marry, since you might be "trapped" to live as a single person to the rest of your life or you may be "trapped" in a bad marriage.

7.2 Jesus does not deny the tremendous difficulty of his command. Instead, he says in verse ll, that the enablement to fulfill the command not to remarry is a divine gift to his disciples. Verse 12 is an argument that such a life is indeed possible because there are people who for the sake of the kingdom, as well as lower reasons, have dedicated themselves to live a life of singleness.

7.3 Jesus is not saying that some of his disciples have the ability to obey his command not to remarry and some don't. He is saying that the mark of a disciple is that they receive a gift of continence while non-disciples don't. The evidence for this is l) the parallel between Matthew 19:11 and 13:11, 2) the parallel between Matthew 19:12 and 13:9,43; 11:15, and 3) the parallel between Matthew 19:11 and 19:26.

8. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 does not legislate grounds for divorce but teaches that the "one-flesh" relationship established by marriage is not obliterated by divorce or even by remarriage.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4: When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man's wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.

8.1 The remarkable thing about these four verses is that, while divorce is taken for granted, nevertheless the woman who is divorced becomes "defiled" by her remarriage (verse 4). It may well be that when the Pharisees asked Jesus if divorce was legitimate he based his negative answer not only on God's intention expressed in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, but also on the implication of Deuteronomy 24:4 that remarriage after divorce defiles a person. In other words, there were ample clues in the Mosaic law that the divorce concession was on the basis of the hardness of man's heart and really did not make divorce and remarriage legitimate.

8.2 The prohibition of a wife returning to her first husband even after her second husband dies (because it is an abomination) suggests very strongly that today no second marriage should be broken up in order to restore a first one (for Heth and Wenham's explanation of this see Jesus and Divorce, page 110).

9. 1 Corinthians 7:15 does not mean that when a Christian is deserted by an unbelieving spouse he or she is free to remarry. It means that the Christian is not bound to fight in order to preserve togetherness. Separation is permissible if the unbelieving partner insists on it.

1 Corinthians 7:15: If the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace.

9.1 There are several reasons why the phrase "is not bound" should not be construed to mean "is free to remarry."

9.11 Marriage is an ordinance of creation binding on all of God's human creatures, irrespective of their faith or lack of faith.

9.12 The word used for "bound" (douloo) in verse 15 is not the same word used in verse 39 where Paul says, "A wife is bound (deo) to her husband as long as he lives." Paul consistently uses deo when speaking of the legal aspect of being bound to one marriage partner (Romans 7:2; l Corinthians 7:39), or to one's betrothed (l Corinthians 7:27). But when he refers to a deserted spouse not being bound in l Corinthians 7:15, he chooses a different word (douloo) which we would expect him to do if he were not giving a deserted spouse the same freedom to remarry that he gives to a spouse whose partner has died (verse 39).

9.13 The last phrase of verse 15 ("God has called us to peace") supports verse 15 best if Paul is saying that a deserted partner is not "bound to make war" on the deserting unbeliever to get him or her to stay. It seems to me that the peace God has called us to is the peace of marital harmony. Therefore, if the unbelieving partner insists on departing, then the believing partner is not bound to live in perpetual conflict with the unbelieving spouse, but is free and innocent in letting him or her go.

9.14 This interpretation also preserves a closer harmony to the intention of verses 10-11, where an inevitable separation does not result in the right of remarriage.

10. 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 does not teach the right of divorced persons to remarry. It teaches that betrothed virgins should seriously consider the life of singleness, but do not sin if they marry.

1 Corinthians 7:27-28: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. 28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin.

10.1 Recently some people have argued that this passage deals with divorced people because in verse 27 Paul asks, "Are you free (literally: loosed) from a wife?" Some have assumed that he means, "Are you divorced?" Thus he would be saying in verse 28 that it is not sin when divorced people remarry. There are several reasons why this interpretation is most unlikely.

10.11 Verse 25 signals that Paul is beginning a new section and dealing with a new issue. He says, "Now concerning the virgins (ton parthenon) I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy." He has already dealt with the problem of divorced people in verses 10-16. Now he takes up a new issue about those who are not yet married, and he signals this by saying, "Now concerning the virgins." Therefore, it is very unlikely that the people referred to in verses 27 and 28 are divorced.

10.12 A flat statement that it is not sin for divorced people to be remarried (verse 28) would contradict verse ll, where he said that a woman who has separated from her husband should remain single.

10.13 Verse 36 is surely describing the same situation in view in verses 27 and 28, but clearly refers to a couple that is not yet married. "If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his virgin, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin." This is the same as verse 28 where Paul says, "But if you marry, you do not sin."

10.14 The reference in verse 27 to being bound to a "wife" may be misleading because it may suggest that the man is already married. But in Greek the word for wife is simply "woman" and may refer to a man's betrothed as well as his spouse. The context dictates that the reference is to a man's betrothed virgin, not to his spouse. So "being bound" and "being loosed" have reference to whether a person is betrothed or not.

10.15 It is significant that the verb Paul uses for "loosed" (luo) or "free" is not a word that he uses for divorce. Paul's words for divorce are chorizo (verses 10,11,15; cf. Matthew 19:6) and aphienai (verses 11,12,13).

11. The exception clause of Matthew 19:9 need not imply that divorce on account of adultery frees a person to be remarried. All the weight of the New Testament evidence given in the preceding ten points is against this view, and there are several ways to make good sense out of this verse so that it does not conflict with the broad teaching of the New Testament that remarriage after divorce is prohibited.

Matthew 19:9: And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

11.1 Several years ago I taught our congregation in two evening services concerning my understanding of this verse and argued that "except for immorality" did not refer to adultery but to premarital sexual fornication which a man or a woman discovers in the betrothed partner. Since that time I have discovered other people who hold this view and who have given it a much more scholarly exposition than I did. I have also discovered numerous other ways of understanding this verse which also exclude the legitimacy of remarriage. Several of these are summed up in William Heth and Gordon J. Wenham, Jesus and Divorce (Nelson: 1984).

11.2 Here I will simply give a brief summary of my own view of Matthew 19:9 and how I came to it.

I began, first of all, by being troubled that the absolute form of Jesus' denunciation of divorce and remarriage in Mark 10:11,12 and Luke 16:18 is not preserved by Matthew, if in fact his exception clause is a loophole for divorce and remarriage. I was bothered by the simple assumption that so many writers make that Matthew is simply making explicit something that would have been implicitly understood by the hearers of Jesus or the readers of Mark 10 and Luke 16.

Would they really have assumed that the absolute statements included exceptions? I have very strong doubts, and therefore my inclination is to inquire whether or not in fact Matthew's exception clause conforms to the absoluteness of Mark and Luke.

The second thing that began to disturb me was the question, Why does Matthew use the word porneia ("except for immorality") instead of the word moicheia which means adultery? Almost all commentators seem to make the simple assumption again that porneia means adultery in this context. The question nags at me why Matthew would not use the word for adultery, if that is in fact what he meant.

Then I noticed something very interesting. The only other place besides Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 where Matthew uses the word porneiais in 15:19 where it is used alongside of moicheia. Therefore, the primary contextual evidence for Matthew's usage is that he conceives of porneia as something different than adultery. Could this mean, then, that Matthew conceives of porneia in its normal sense of fornication or incest (l Corinthians 5:1) rather than adultery?

A. Isaksson agrees with this view of porneia and sums up his research much like this on pages 134-5 of Marriage and Ministry:

Thus we cannot get away from the fact that the distinction between what was to be regarded as porneia and what was to be regarded as moicheia was very strictly maintained in pre-Christian Jewish literature and in the N.T. Porneia may, of course, denote different forms of forbidden sexual relations, but we can find no unequivocal examples of the use of this word to denote a wife's adultery. Under these circumstances we can hardly assume that this word means adultery in the clauses in Matthew. The logia on divorce are worded as a paragraph of the law, intended to be obeyed by the members of the Church. Under these circumstances it is inconceivable that in a text of this nature the writer would not have maintained a clear distinction between what was unchastity and what was adultery: moicheia and not porneia was used to describe the wife's adultery. From the philological point of view there are accordingly very strong arguments against this interpretation of the clauses as permitting divorce in the case in which the wife was guilty of adultery.

The next clue in my search for an explanation came when I stumbled upon the use of porneia in John 8:41 where Jewish leaders indirectly accuse Jesus of being born of porneia. In other words, since they don't accept the virgin birth, they assume that Mary had committed fornication and Jesus was the result of this act. On the basis of that clue I went back to study Matthew's record of Jesus' birth in Matthew 1:18-20. This was extremely enlightening.

In these verses Joseph and Mary are referred to as husband (aner) and wife (gunaika). Yet they are described as only being betrothed to each other. This is probably owing to the fact that the words for husband and wife are simply man and woman and to the fact that betrothal was a much more significant commitment then than engagement is today. In verse 19 Joseph resolves "to divorce" Mary. The word for divorce is the same as the word in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. But most important of all, Matthew says that Joseph was "just" in making the decision to divorce Mary, presumably on account of her porneia, fornication.

Therefore, as Matthew proceeded to construct the narrative of his gospel, he finds himself in chapter 5 and then later in chapter 19 needing to prohibit all remarriage after divorce (as taught by Jesus) and yet to allow for "divorces" like the one Joseph contemplated toward his betrothed whom he thought guilty of fornication (porneia). Therefore, Matthew includes the exception clause in particular to exonerate Joseph, but also in general to show that the kind of "divorce" that one might pursue during a betrothal on account of fornication is not included in Jesus' absolute prohibition.

A common objection to this interpretation is that both in Matthew 19:3-8 and in Matthew 5:31-32 the issue Jesus is responding to is marriage not betrothal. The point is pressed that "except for fornication" is irrelevant to the context of marriage.

My answer is that this irrelevancy is just the point Matthew wants to make. We may take it for granted that the breakup of an engaged couple over fornication is not an evil "divorce" and does not prohibit remarriage. But we cannot assume that Matthew's readers would take this for granted.

Even in Matthew 5:32, where it seems pointless for us to exclude "the case of fornication" (since we can't see how a betrothed virgin could be "made an adulteress" in any case), it may not be pointless for Matthew's readers. For that matter, it may not be pointless for any readers: if Jesus had said, "Every man who divorces his woman makes her an adulteress," a reader could legitimately ask: "Then was Joseph about to make Mary an adulteress?" We may say this question is not reasonable since we think you can't make unmarried women adulteresses. But it certainly is not meaningless or, perhaps for some readers, pointless, for Matthew to make explicit the obvious exclusion of the case of fornication during betrothal.

This interpretation of the exception clause has several advantages:

It does not force Matthew to contradict the plain, absolute meaning of Mark and Luke and the whole range of New Testament teaching set forth above in sections 1-10, including Matthew's own absolute teaching in 19:3-8
It provides an explanation for why the word porneia is used in Matthew's exception clause instead of moicheia
It squares with Matthew's own use of porneia for fornication in Matthew 15:19
It fits the demands of Matthew's wider context concerning Joseph's contemplated divorce.
Since I first wrote this exposition of Matthew 19:9 I have discovered a chapter on this view in Heth and Wenham, Jesus and Divorce and a scholarly defense of it by A. Isaksson, Marriage and Ministry in the New Temple (1965).

Conclusions and Applications
In the New Testament the question about remarriage after divorce is not determined by:

The guilt or innocence of either spouse,
Nor by whether either spouse is a believer or not,
Nor by whether the divorce happened before or after either spouse's conversion,
Nor by the ease or difficulty of living as a single parent for the rest of life on earth,
Nor by whether there is adultery or desertion involved,
Nor by the on-going reality of the hardness of the human heart,
Nor by the cultural permissiveness of the surrounding society.
Rather it is determined by the fact that:

Marriage is a "one-flesh" relationship of divine establishment and extraordinary significance in the eyes of God (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8),
Only God, not man, can end this one-flesh relationship (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9—this is why remarriage is called adultery by Jesus: he assumes that the first marriage is still binding, Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11),
God ends the one-flesh relationship of marriage only through the death of one of the spouses (Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39),
The grace and power of God are promised and sufficient to enable a trusting, divorced Christian to be single all this earthly life if necessary (Matthew 19:10-12,26; 1 Corinthians 10:13),
Temporal frustrations and disadvantages are much to be preferred over the disobedience of remarriage, and will yield deep and lasting joy both in this life and the life to come (Matthew 5:29-30).
Those who are already remarried:

Should acknowledge that the choice to remarry and the act of entering a second marriage was sin, and confess it as such and seek forgiveness
Should not attempt to return to the first partner after entering a second union (see 8.2 above)
Should not separate and live as single people thinking that this would result in less sin because all their sexual relations are acts of adultery. The Bible does not give prescriptions for this particular case, but it does treat second marriages as having significant standing in God's eyes. That is, there were promises made and there has been a union formed. It should not have been formed, but it was. It is not to be taken lightly. Promises are to be kept, and the union is to be sanctified to God. While not the ideal state, staying in a second marriage is God's will for a couple and their ongoing relations should not be looked on as adulterous.


© Desiring God

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: Email: Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

 2009/1/23 19:44Profile

Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Affiliate Disclosure | Privacy Policy