The Expository Files

Divorce and Remarriage


Please examine carefully the Lord's words in Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18. A close examination of our Savior's words will reveal the following:

(1) There is one EXCEPTION or one CAUSE for divorce and remarriage. Matthew 5:32 - "...Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." Matthew 19:9 - "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."

Thus, in God's sight there is only one cause for divorce and remarriage; there is only one exception whereby one can divorce and marry another. The cause or reason for divorce is all-important because if a couple is divorced for some other reason than fornication, neither party is free to remarry. The question is sometimes raised, "If a couple was divorced for some other reason than fornication, would one be free to remarry if the other later  became guilty of fornication?" The answer is, "No!" The reason is that according to the Lord, there is only one instance in which one is free to remarry and that's when he divorces his companion because of fornication.

(2) The Lord's instructions with regard to THE MAN - mentioned in all four accounts. Matthew 5:32 - "...Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." Matthew 19:9 - "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." Mark 10:11-12 - "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her." Luke 16:18 - "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery."

Consequently, the man who divorces his wife for some other cause than fornication, does not have a right to remarry. If he does, he commits adultery.

(3) The Lord's instructions with regard to THE WOMAN. It is the same as for the man but is mentioned only in Mark's account. Mark 10:11-12 - "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."

Therefore, the woman who divorces her husband for some cause other than fornication does not have a right to remarry. If she does, she commits adultery. Paul said the same regarding the woman in Romans 7:2-3.

(4) The Lord's instructions regarding THE DISMISSED PARTY -- the innocent party who is dismissed -- mentioned in two accounts. Matthew 5:32 - "But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."

Mark 10:11 - "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her."

Thus, we have two reasons why a man should not divorce his wife, except for fornication, and marry another.

(A) "Causeth her to commit adultery." If he divorced his wife for other than the Scriptural cause, he opens his wife to great temptation to sin. See I Corinthians 7:8-9. Think of the jeopardy a man puts a woman in, when she married because she could not contain, and the man breaks the tie for other than the Scriptural reason in divorce. If she seeks to satisfy her desires outside of marriage, she sins, or if she marries again, she sins. Jesus is
showing that it is wrong for a man to open his wife to such jeopardy.

(B) "Committeth adultery against her." This shows the seriousness of the sin of adultery. He not only sins against God, but against his wife, and to obtain forgiveness, he must confess his sin to both. Some think that as long as they can hide their unfaithfulness, everything is all right; on the contrary, they have sinned against their companion, and if they want to be saved eternally, they must ask for forgiveness.

(5) The Lord's teaching concerning THE THIRD PARTY -- mentioned in three passages.

Matthew 5:32 - "But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."
Matthew 19:9 - "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."
Luke 16:18 - "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery."

Consequently, the third party who either marries one who was divorced without Scriptural grounds, or marries one who was divorced because of guilt of fornication, commits adultery.

Young people should be extremely cautious, to say the least, in dating those who have been divorced. Young people can't seem to understand why their parents get upset when they begin dating a divorced person. Perhaps with a knowledge of these things they can now understand why their parents so react. Young people should heed the warnings of their parents in this matter. What if a young person marries a divorced person thinking everything was all right only to find out later that it was not al lright? Such could only result in a wrecked life.

(6) The Lord's instructions regarding the GUILTY PARTY -- the one who is guilty of committing adultery against his married companion.

The guilty party does not have a right to remarry as seen in the expression, "...Whoso marrieth her that is put away doth commit adultery."  Furthermore, we have already seen that the only instance in which one is free to remarry is when he divorces his companion because of fornication. The guilty party does not fit this one instance.

Again, it shows the seriousness of the sin of adultery. Married persons should by all means avoid defiling the marriage bond. When one commits fornication, he sins against God and his companion. He should confess his sin and try to be reconciled to his companion. If the companion sees fit to divorce the guilty, the guilty must live in celibacy (the state of being unmarried) for the rest of his life, if he wants to go to heaven. The laws of God
promote purity in the marriage bond. Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge."

Any second marriage is sinful, unless the first marriage was dissolved by death, or by the innocent husband or wife divorcing their adulterous companion. Only the innocent party has a right to remarry. Our generation is truly an "evil and adulterous" one and needs to be taught God's law regarding divorce, and remarriage. Regardless of what the law of the land may recognize, God's law is always the same. The world may recognize easy divorce for every cause, but that doesn't change or make void God's law. Those who violate God's law and make no genuine repentance, will be
eternally lost in hell (Col. 3:5-7).

We sympathize with those who upon a study of the law of God find themselves in an adulterous marriage. We plead with them to not allow their physical relationship to become more important than their desire to please God and go to heaven. All relationships in this life are soon over. Don't be foolish and sell your eternal inheritance for a cheap price. "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright." (Heb. 12:15-16).
 

 By David J. Riggs
From Expository Files 7.2; February 2000


 

 

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