But, yet, when Jesus was talking to the Pharisees (Actually, they had come to try and trap Him again with a loaded question), they tried to make the argument that God actually condones divorce. As a matter of fact, they asserted, Moses went so far as to command getting one. This conversation is recorded in Matthew 19:7-9:
7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”“But, see,” they accused. “Moses commanded that the husband give his wife a certificate of divorce.” They could only be referring to Deuteronomy 24:1-4. No other passage written by Moses even gets near divorce. But in this passage, Moses addressed the issue of a woman who was given a divorce and married someone else, saying that she could not be taken again as the first man’s wife. Try as you might in reading those verses, there is no way you can find a command to divorce. It simply acknowledges that divorce exists, and it commands that the man could not remarry his ex-wife once she had defiled herself. Jesus, of course, answered correctly that Moses made no command to divorce, Moses merely a concession.
8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And 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.”
Divorce wasn’t God’s intention. Divorce is the result of sinful men with hardened hearts who refuse to repent. Divorce, therefore, is merely allowed as a gracious concession allowing an out to the offended party. The one sinned against is not required to stay in an impossible situation. This is why divorce is never labeled sin in the Bible. Some divorces are allowed in limited situations.
Scripture is clear that divorce is always caused by sin, at least one of the marriage partners, but it isn’t always sin. Divorce is caused when one party persists in unrepentant sin and hardens their heart, and the other simply needs an out. So, no! Divorce is never God’s best and never God’s plan, but it is only God’s concession to protect the innocent victim of a spouse’s unrepentant continuing sin.
You can see this from the very next thing Jesus says in Matthew 19:9,
“And 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.”First, why does God consider it adultery if a man divorces his wife without cause and marries another? It is because God considers the first marriage to be still in effect. You cannot simply get rid of a spouse you don’t want any more. God does not recognize no-fault divorce, even though the human judge may.
The only exception Jesus gave in Matthew 19:9 is “except for sexual immorality.” The word is often translated as adultery, but it means much more than only adultery. The word in Greek is porneia, which gives us our English word, pornography. It refers to all kinds of illicit sexual sins including fornication, adultery, prostitution, and homosexuality. Granted this is a controversial passage, and there are many views as to what Jesus actually meant. Some commentators seek obscure meanings, while others take it at face value. We won’t take time now to examine all the various views, but usually you should take the plain meaning if it makes sense as the best.
There is a gracious exception if your spouse is involved in unrelenting sexual sin. This is the only exception given by Jesus – a one flesh bonding outside the covenant of marriage. The emphasis of Jesus seems to be to restrict divorce, not allow it for any reason. Paul seems to give a couple of other exceptions (The abandonment by an unsaved spouse, and possibly a divorce having taken place prior to salvation), but we won’t take time now to cover them.
What I do want to do before I close, however, is say this: My purpose has not been to hammer on divorcees adding guilt to the pain they have already experienced. If you were one of the innocent victims in a divorce who did everything in your power to keep the marriage together, there is no sin on your part. You need feel no guilt. You were the one who was sinned against by a hard-hearted spouse. The church needs to support and love you.
But either way, God forgives, and God comforts. He is in the business of strengthening His children and of putting lives back together. Our purpose is not dump on you, but rather to encourage those of you who are now in a troubled marriage to stick with it. Don’t throw in the towel. Keep fighting for your marriage.
You see what God says about marriage and divorce. Will you submit to the Bible’s teaching? The late Francis Schaeffer said, “If we believe the Bible is totally true, we cannot dodge its claim on our lives in sensitive areas such as divorce.” We don’t follow the lead of the world, we follow the teaching of Scripture.