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What Did Jesus Teach About Divorce and Remarriage

R.J. Stevens
Kemp, Texas

The teachings of Jesus on the subject of divorce and remarriage need to be read over and over in the homes and churches throughout the land today. There is one thing on which we all agree and that is that there are too many divorces and remarriages in our society. The major reason for this problem is the ignoring of what the Lord taught in his word on this subject. Many have read and listened to what men think Jesus meant instead of reading and meditating on what Jesus said.

Let us notice Matthew 5:31,32 – "It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 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." This is from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus was teaching his disciples to hear him and do his sayings.

What is Jesus teaching them and us on this subject? The Jews had a tradition that allowed men to put away their wives and give them writings of divorcement for any cause. It really doesn't matter whether this was a tradition of that day or if it was a tradition of Moses taught in his day. Jesus said the tradition is not pleasing to him and his Father in heaven today. We must always remember that Jesus spoke the will of his Father (Jn. 12:49-50). Jesus is plainly teaching that if a man puts away his wife for any cause other than fornication, and she marries again, that man is the cause of her adulterous marriage. When a husband and wife "cleave to," "love" and are "one flesh" to each other there will be no divorce or thought about marrying again as long as they both shall live. The greatest safeguard against divorce and remarriage is for both to love one another as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25).

It is sinful to be a party to murder, stealing and adultery. The put away companion and his/her new spouse are guilty of adultery when they marry, but the one who did the unlawful putting away is the cause of that adulterous relationship. In Matthew 18:7 Jesus said, "Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling! For it must needs be that the occasions come; but woe to that man through whom the occasion cometh!" (ASV) The man who causes his wife to commit adultery because he unlawfully put her away is in serious trouble with the Lord. This ought to cause a man to think long and hard before he puts away his wife for burning the biscuits or because she is not as healthy and pretty as she used to be. However, if the companion was guilty of fornication while they were living together, Jesus says the innocent party has the right to put away such a companion and is not the cause of an adulterous marriage if he/she marries again. Matthew 5:32 doesn't say anything about the husband who has unlawfully put away his wife marrying again. It stands to reason that if the unlawful putting away of his wife causes her to commit adultery if she marries again, there is no question that the unlawful putting away would cause him to commit adultery should he marry again. It is implied in Matthew 5:32 that neither of them has the right to remarriage when fornication is not the cause of the divorce. The apostle Paul quoted Jesus in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 – "And unto the married, I command, yet not 1, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." This needs no comment. In Luke 16:18 Jesus taught, "Whosoever putteth away his wife and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery." The exception of fornication is left out of this passage and if you leave the exception out of Matthew 5:32, it is perfectly clear that neither of them has a right to remarry when an unscriptural divorce has taken place.

In Matthew 19:3-9 Jesus taught some more on the subject when questioned by Pharisees.

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 not 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.

In Mark 10:2-12 the same thought is repeated. The chief thing under discussion in both of the above passages is this: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Jesus answered the question by urging them to go back to the beginning and not put asunder the one flesh relationship that God has joined together. They continued tempting him by turning to Moses about their question. I have never fully understood why Moses because of the hardness of their hearts allowed them to put away their wives. In fact I have never read anything that makes any sense why this was allowed. But it is revealed that it was allowed. If God had wanted us to know why it was allowed in the Mosaic age, he would have revealed it in his word. But there is one thing for sure, God has not revealed that such behavior is allowed in the gospel age. We are not subject to the law of Moses and we will not be judged by it. We are subject to God's Son, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, and we will be judged by him and his word (Jn. 12:48). In Matthew 19:9 it is clearly taught by Jesus that there is only one cause for putting away a companion and marrying another, and that cause is fornication. The marrying again is for the innocent party and not the one who is guilty of fornication. Surely we can see that if a wife not guilty of fornication marries again and commits adultery, a wife guilty of fornication who marries again also commits adultery. The rest of Matthew 19:9 teaches the same thing taught in the other passages we have previously discussed.

In this article we have tried to have more quotes from Jesus than comments from this writer. What the Lord taught about divorce and remarriage can be understood and doesn't need to be propped up by some uninspired man like myself. As we have heard through the years, a fellow would have to have a lot of help to misunderstand what Jesus taught about divorce and remarriage.

Beware of the philosophies of men and those who wrest the Scriptures on this subject (Col. 2:8; 2 Pet. 3:16,17).

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