I suppose everyone has an opinion about various passages in the bible.
Divorce and Remarriage is a thing of constant turmoil, fractiousness and division within groups of believers. Some call it continual adultery. Some say that just the very act of getting a legal divorce is sin. Even separating from your spouse is a point of contention. Some might even go so far as to say one could throw away their salvation if they commit this deed.
Who are the players in this passage? The Pharisees, the Disciples of Jesus and Jesus. What do these people all have in common? They are all pork abstaining, temple going, circumcised, Sabbath keeping Jews. Born under the Law of Moses.
These are not Christians. These are Old Testament Jews. Not gentiles. There is no New Testament yet as the testator has not yet died to put that testament into place.
I’m trying to put some context into the situation. (Nehemiah 8:8 ) Which brings us to the question put forth by the Pharisees. “Is it lawful?” they asked. How did Jesus answer them? Did he say no? Nope. He said…excuse my paraphrase…Look, in the beginning God created ya’all to be together forever, but when the Father had Moses write the Law He allowed you divorce because He knows all about your hard-heartedness. Jesus actually acknowledged that within the Law of Moses it is legal to divorce and remarry. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) I should mention that the passage in Deut does include the caveat that should a person get a legal divorce and then marry someone else that it would be an abomination for them to then go back to their former spouse were they to divorce the new spouse.
I’d like to point out right here that the scriptures tell us that “sin is the transgression of the Law.” 1 John 3:4. If there is no law against something there is no sin.
That said, I realize that there are many other verses used to debate this topic, but we need to understand first and foremost that Jesus said not one jot or tittle of the Law would pass away until all is fulfilled. Jesus said that anyone who broke the law and taught others to so would be the least in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19.
Now I’m going to lay out as many of those verses as I can so that you can get an idea of the “line upon line, precept upon precept” part of biblical interpretation.
Jeremiah 3:8 In this passage God actually divorces Israel and puts her away according to the law. Simply put, if divorce is a sin then we have a serious problem in that God himself would be a sinner.
Ezra 10:11 shows that it was believed that it would give God pleasure if the Jews would put away their heathen wives according to the law. I find this interesting that God would gain pleasure from such a thing and yet today if a Christian is married to an unbeliever they are told it would displease God if they were to divorce.
Malachi 2:16. Something is missing. It says that they put away their wives. It does not say that they gave them a bill of divorcement and put them away according to the law. God hates that. It was a treacherous thing for a man to do, since without that piece of paper to show they could remarry, women were forced into situations where they could be called adulteresses and stoned if they were to marry another. I realize that many bibles use the word divorce instead of put away, but the underlying languages behind the English translation us a word that can mean divorce because it implies dividing or separating, but it is not a reference to the legal term divorce, there is a very specific Hebrew word for that term which is not used in Malachi 2:16.
I want you to know that I believe Jesus when he said that when we get married we should stay together, but I understand that sometimes in order to be at peace it is better to separate. Still, working to fix our marriages is more rewarding than abandoning them, but I would never fault a woman for leaving an abusive husband or a man for walking away from a cheating wife. It’s not mine to judge another and certainly not in light of God having the same heart toward the matter.
According to the Jewish Law it is not a sin to divorce nor to remarry, so then what was Jesus saying in Matthew 5:31-32? The same problem exists here as in Malachi. The greek word for divorcement in verse 31 is a very definitive word describing a legal separation. The underlying greek word used for both “put away” and “divorced” in verse 32 is a different word that has no legal implications.
Jesus is saying the same thing here as he said in Matthew 19. That its been said that if you want to divorce you need to do it according to the law. You can’t just put her away and separate from her because you would cause her and anyone who married her to commit adultery according to the law. The bit about fornication…well if she’s caught…stoning was the only lawful recourse.
Jesus took them past that to something better…forgiveness. Not condemnation.
But what about Romans 7? First, note to whom Paul is speaking. Those who know the Law. Paul always seemed to be contending with Jews intent on cramming the Law down the throats of Gentile Christians. I challenge you to find a divorce in the passage. All I see is a woman who is married stepping out on her husband. Yeah, that’d be adultery and bigamy if she married someone else while still married to another.
I understand that the passage isn’t doctrinally about this topic, but people use it for that so I thought to mention it as well.
This brings us to 1 Corinthians 7. Verses 10,11 Paul says that if you are married, don’t separate, but if you do then stay unmarried. Paul isn’t talking with those who know the Law here. He’s dealing with Gentile Christians who did not have the Jewish law and so he is free to leave out the “lawful” aspects.
I want to make it clear that the word “unmarried” is defined here. It makes it clear that someone who is married and departs that relationship becomes unmarried.
You don’t take gentiles and cram Moses Law down their throats. That Law was meant for the Jews. The gentiles were a law unto themselves. They confirmed that the law was good when they did the things within it, but it was not part of their covenant. Theirs is a new testament.
Paul continues in verses 12-13 that if you’re married to an unbeliever you shouldn’t depart from that marriage. This gives a bit of a departure from the Old Testament’s Ezra 10. Signifies a difference between the O.T. and N.T. Contrary to that which some teach. The New Testament is not stricter than the Old. It’s just different.
Then Paul says that if the unbeliever leaves its okay to let them go. It’s better to be at peace with them. Verse 15.
Verses 27, 28 return to the theme of marriage. I would ask that you study the word “loosed”. Check and see how the underlying Greek word is translated in other passages. Its rather enlightening. I really don’t think I need to expound here, because it is so very clear to those who have studied line upon line, precept upon precept.
Finishing up with verse 39. A wife is bound by the law and we already know what the Law says. As long as she’s married to him she is bound to him and no other. When he passes she is free to marry.
Someone says, “Well of course she’s free to marry when he dies. Who doesn’t know that?” Actually there were those at that time who were teaching a heresy about just that. 1 Timothy 4:1-3 calls it a doctrine of devils to forbid people to marry.
I find the word of Paul to have embraced not only grace and truth of Jesus words in that we should forgive, but also the grace of God in allowing for our weaknesses through the grace given in the Law. In the end God, through Paul gave us the admonition of following the way it was in the beginning, but the way it was after the end of those perfect days in the Garden.
So that’s my take on the misunderstanding of this passage of scripture in Matthew 19. I believe that what I teach encompasses all the scripture and removes any contradictions without rending the scriptures. I believe I’ve accepted the scripture at face-value with a line upon line, contextual, exposition.
It is my hope that this will help some folks who may have suffered much at the hands of well-meaning, but ill-informed brethren.
It took me years of study and prayer and much patience to come to understand these passages and overcome the bias and prejudices of the brainwashing I received after first becoming a believer. I hope that you will be able to receive it with grace toward all.