There are a multitude of verses in the Bible concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage. While we as believers are under the New Covenant, all of Scripture is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and profitable for teaching and training. There is much information and principles concerning marriage that can be gleaned even from the Law of Moses which we are no longer under.
1) Divorce and remarriage was not called adultery, according to the Law of Moses, but was allowed for due to hardness of hearts (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Matthew 19:8). Jesus though expanded the definition of adultery to include remarriage (Matthew 19:9-9) and lust (Matthew 5:27-30). This is a transition period of transitioning God’s people from people of the letter of the law written in stone to people of the Spirit of the Living God with the New Covenant written on the heart (2 Corinthians 3:3-6). Christ is setting forth a higher demand than the Ten Commandments did (Matthew 5:20, Romans 10:5, Philippians 3:9). Only New Covenant believers are commanded to love as Christ loved them (Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25-27, John 13:34-35) giving themselves up as Christ did (Ephesians 5:2) The Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Christ (John 1:17). Otherwise, we would not have better things (Hebrews 6:9), a better Hope (Hebrews 7:19), a better Covenant (Hebrews 7:22), and a better Promise (Hebrews 8:6).
2) As we see in Matthew 19:7-9, divorce was allowed due to hardness of heart but it was not God’s best for mankind. Even though the intention for marriage from the beginning was one man and one woman, (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6, Matthew 19:8) God through Moses allowed for divorce and remarriage.
3) Adultery, according to the Law of Moses, was an act of taking another man’s wife (Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22) and the punishment was death (Leviticus 20:10, John 8:4-5). However, divorce and remarriage is not referred to as adultery under The Law of Moses. Actually many things we would call adultery today had provisions made for them. For example multiple wives while provided for in the Law of Moses (Exodus 21:10-11, Leviticus 18:18, Deuteronomy 21:15-17) are not acceptable for New Covenant believers (1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Timothy 3:2; 3:12; 5:9).
4) Divorce actually does break the marriage bond. Perpetual adultery proponents would claim that the wife was to return to her first husband because he was her “covenant husband” and the marriage was not broken. Marriage covenants can be broken, though it is not God’s best for us, as seen in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Matthew 19:6 (man can separate what God has joined together), and John 4:16-18. In 1 Corinthians 7:27, we are told to not seek to be free from a wife as NT believers, but it can be done. The woman at the well is not said to have one “Covenant” husband and four non-husbands. Jesus says she has had five husbands and the one she was living with was not her husband (John 4:18). Marriage Covenants can be broken and just a physical relationship does not create a marriage (John 4:18).
5) God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16, Mark 10:9, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11) yet He does recognize divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, 1 Corinthians 7:10-13) because He even gives Moses instructions concerning divorce for the Israelites in the Law. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is God speaking to Moses not just something Moses added on his own. Yet God instructs His NT covenant people to not divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-13). Israelites were allowed to divorce due to hardness of hearts (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Mark 10:5-9) but NT believers are told to not divorce (Mark 10:5-9, 1 Corinthians 7:10-13).
6) While Israelites under the Law were allowed to divorce and even remarry (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) due to their hardness of heart (Matthew 19:8) certain Israelites were instructed specifically not to divorce (Deuteronomy 22:19; 22:29) and Priests were instructed to not marry divorced women (Leviticus 21:7, 14; Ezekiel 44:22) for the sake of purity. Divorce and remarriage, while allowed, were not God’s best and God restricted who could divorce and remarry even during the Law of Moses.
7) Under the New Covenant, we as believers are a holy, Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9). We are not to divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-13) nor should we marry the divorced (Matthew 5:32).
8.) We are instructed under the New Covenant that we are not to divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10-13) however, if an unbelieving spouse leaves the remaining spouse is not in bondage, or enslaved, to them (1 Corinthians 7:15). The word here is the word used to refer to slavery, the left behind spouse is not in slavery to the leaving spouse. Thus a wife who was left behind by an unbelieving husband is no longer under submission to her husband (Colossians 3:18). However, never is this said to free the wife to remarry; that is not in the text. Also notice that this is concerning an unbelieving spouse. A spouse that leaves would be an unbelieving spouse or a rebellious sinning believer. The church should be involved in church discipline with a believer (Matthew 18:15-20). If Church discipline is unsuccessful then the leaving spouse is to be treated as an unbelieving Gentile (Matthew 18:17). Thus only unbelievers may divorce their spouse (Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 7:15). A wife should not even separate from her husband (1 Corinthians 7:10-11) but if she does due to a serious sin issue such as abuse, then she is told to either remain unmarried or to seek reconciliation (1 Corinthians 7:11). The expectation is that the Church is implementing Church discipline with the sinning husband. We then also have the instruction that the husband should not divorce his wife (1 Corinthians 7:11).
9) A believer is commanded to seek restoration of another believer and to forgive a believer who sins against them (Matthew 6:14-15, Galatians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 7:11, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12-13, James 5:19-20, Matthew 18:21-22). A believing spouse seeking a divorce is sinning (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Divorce is not forgiveness.
10) Divorce and remarriage were allowed in The Law of Moses due to hardness of hearts (Matthew 19:8); however, today there is no allowance for hardness of hearts in believers (Ephesians 4:17-24, Ezekiel 36:26, 2 Corinthians 3:3, Hebrews 8:10). Believers are given a new heart (Ephesians 4:17-24, Ezekiel 36:26). You are not a believer if you continue in hard-heartedness (Ephesians 4:32, 1 Peter 3:8). The unbelieving walk in hardness of heart (Ephesians 4:17-18).
11) A widow is free to remarry but only in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39) meaning only another believer (2 Corinthians 6:14).
12) The supposed exception clause in Matthew 5:32 is simple to read from the text itself.
Matthew 5:32 (ESV) But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Notice if you take out the parenthesis phrase, you end up with a man “who divorces his wife makes her commit adultery“. Now that is simple to understand. A divorcing Israelite would cause his wife to commit adultery because women did not typically remain single but were forced to marry again due to economic hardship. Remarriage would have been adultery (Mark 10:11-12). Now add in the parenthesis phrase “except on the ground of sexual immorality“. Now is this an exception to remarriage being adultery? No, especially if you add in all of the rest of the NT passages concerning divorce and remarriage. This is explaining that the husband is not responsible for the wife’s adultery because she had all ready been sexually immoral. The wife is held guilty and responsible for her own immorality.
13) Never is a NT believer commanded to divorce their present spouse and return to the first spouse. Actually 1 Corinthians 7:24 says to remain in the state in which you were called. This is not a license to remain in a homosexual relationship or an incestuous relationship (1 Corinthians 5:1-2) because those are not marriages according to God’s Word.
14) But such were some of you …
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Thankfully there is grace and mercy for those who once were one of these (Titus 3:3, Ephesians 4:20-24).
Are you truly washed (1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 10:22, Titus 3:5), sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11, John 17:19, Hebrews 2:11, 10:10) and justified (Romans 4:23-25, Romans 5:16-18, Romans 8:30, Galatians 2:21)?
Or are you crying Lord, Lord (Matthew 7:21-23)?
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