WHAT WE TALK ABOUT
Biblical. Practical. Relevant.
The Bible broken down into plain language with direct application to meet you where you are.
The Bible broken down into plain language with direct application to meet you where you are.
We live in a culture of divorce. But that’s nothing new. We’ve always lived in a culture of divorce. In fact, marriage not being held in high regard isn’t monopolized by western civilization and it’s not a modern phenomenon. Divorce’s roots were planted in the soil of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve chose rebellion over reverence. And with each passing century those roots have grown deeper and more expansive, resulting in the devastation we see all around us today.
Now don’t get this twisted: God hates divorce. It wasn’t ever a part of His plan for humanity. But it didn’t catch him off guard. He knew man would rebel and that sin would disfigure His perfect creation. That’s why before He ever spoke anything into existence He developed the plan of redemption, where He Himself would descend from the heavens to become a man to pay for sin Himself in order to redeem His creation - and anyone who would believe - back to Himself and rid the world of sin forevermore.
And that’s good news.
I’ve asked you this previously, but before we go any further, I’m going to ask you again. Which came first? Marriage or the Church? Marriage did. Here’s why: Marriage was designed by God to be the building block of society. Not only does marriage represent the gospel, but the byproduct of marriage (the nuclear family) was intended to make up the very fabric of the Church, built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
The family is the single most important institution on the planet. And divorce shatters families. Divorce is Satan’s attempt to undermine God’s design because Satan HATES God and Satan HATES the family. The vast majority of the chaos we’re experiencing as a society can be traced back to the destruction of the family. And the majority of the time, when you find a family in ruins, you’ll find divorce.
So, if the marriage and the family is God’s idea, that would naturally lead us to believe that Christians should also value marriage and the family as much as God does. Which should mean Christians divorce less than non-Christians, yes?
According to the Barna Research Group, the divorce rates of people who identify as “born-again Christians” are statistically identical to people who don’t claim the name of Christ at all.
George Barna (the founder of the Barna Research Group) received some pushback from churches over the data he reported. In response, he stood by the validity of his research and was quoted as saying:
“We rarely find substantial differences in the moral behavior of Christians and non-Christians.”
While you’re trying to digest that, here's what Barna’s project director, Meg Flammang, said to support Barna’s statement:
“We would love to be able to report that Christians are living very distinct lives and impacting the community, but…in the area of divorce rates, they continue to be the same.”
Statistics show that Christians’ behavior, in areas of morality (including divorce), is indistinguishable from non-Christians. That, dear friends, is a problem. A life characterized by faith in Jesus MUST be different from one that is enslaved to sin. That’s why Paul instructed his audience, in 2 Corinthians 13:5:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.
No one is perfect – that much is sure. But what you say you believe has, at some point, got to line up with what you do. I certainly am not saying that a divorce bars anyone from Christianity. The redeeming blood of Jesus is way more powerful than a scheme of Satan. So if you’ve been a part of a divorce, before you became a Christian or even after you became a Christian, know that forgiveness can be found in Jesus! 1 John 1:9 says this:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Jesus paid for all sin, including divorce! It isn’t out of His reach or beyond His ability. So confess your sin, repent of it and move forward living in the freedom Jesus provides! Let that encourage you! Divorce is not the unpardonable sin! Forgiveness, healing, and restoration are available in Jesus.
After saying all of that, Can A Christian Get A Divorce? Matthew 19:3-9:
(3) And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” (4) He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, (5) and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (6) So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (7) They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (8) He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed 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.”
Let’s break this down. Pharisees, arrogant Jewish leaders, are trying to use divorce to discredit Jesus. They were probably doing more than only trying to discredit him, though. Just a few chapters earlier, in Matthew 14, John the Baptist was actually beheaded because he confronted king Herod about unlawfully having his brother’s wife. So, it isn’t a huge stretch to conclude the Pharisees knew about what happened to John the Baptist and were hoping to catch Jesus taking the same stand so His fate would be similar to John’s.
Look at verse 3 carefully:
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?”
Did you catch that? The last two words of that verse? Any. Cause. In other words, can a man divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever, or for no reason at all, any time he feels like it? Ha! What a dumb, 1st century question, right? Well, did you know that in 2017 in the good ole US of A, there is such a thing as no-fault divorce? And do you know what no-fault divorce does? It gives a person, male or female, the ability to end a marriage for no reason at all, even if their partner wants to stay married. Stupid 1st century question? Nope. Even if it was asked in arrogance. Relevant then. Relevant now. For our guidance. Notice Jesus’ answer:
(4) He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, (5) and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (6) So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Jesus responds to this question of divorce by affirming God’s creation of marriage! Do you see that? Even more, Jesus asserts God’s designed intention for marriage: one man, one woman, one flesh, one lifetime. How’d He do it? He used – don’t miss this – Scripture! First, He alluded to Genesis 1:27:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
And then he quoted Genesis 2:24!
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
He finishes up by saying that man should not separate what God has designed, determined and defined. Ok, so stop. Can A Christian Get A Divorce? No! Right? Let’s keep reading...
(7) They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”
Oh. My. Gosh. Becky. They got Him! Jesus just said that divorce for any reason, or no reason at all, is a violation of God’s creation of marriage, didn’t He? But yet these Pharisees remind Jesus that Moses, a man who talked to God face to face, commanded anyone who was unhappy with his wife to divorce her. What’s left to say? They got Him! Or did they? Pay attention…
(8) He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”
Did you catch it? The Pharisees said Moses commanded divorce. Not true. Moses didn’t command any such thing. Jesus reminds the Pharisees that Moses allowed or permitted divorce, “but from the beginning it was not so.” Jesus is referring to Deuteronomy 24. The Nation of Israel had forgotten the value and sacredness of marriage. Instead, they pursued convenience and the passions of their flesh. They were so sinful that God handed down laws to regulate their sin (divorce). And even though this wasn’t God’s intention for marriage, none of it caught him by surprise. The plan of redemption was already in place!
See, the Pharisees haven’t caught Jesus in anything. Jesus just took them all to school on the Judaism 101 bus.
Jesus and these Pharisees were debating what we now know as the Old Testament. There were only a certain few portions of Scripture that Jews thought were inspired by God and Deuteronomy was one of them. So even though they presented it falsely in order to trap Jesus, because they were devout Jews, they believed Deuteronomy to be the actual Word of God. Why is that important? Verse 9 shows us…
(9) And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Do you get it? Who, did Jesus show the Pharisees, regulates divorce in the Old Testament? God. The One who created marriage. And right off the heels of that lesson Jesus says, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” So, who was Jesus claiming to be? Yeah. God. And He just regulated divorce. Because He created it.
Can A Christian Get A Divorce? The answer is YES. But here’s the catch: there are TWO, potentially three, biblical allowances for divorce. We see the first here in Matthew 19:9, sexual immorality.
And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
The Greek word translated “sexual immorality” in this verse is the word porneia. Sound familiar? It should. It’s where the English word “pornography” comes from. Porneia literally means, “to sell off.” To sell off what? One’s sexual purity by pursuing promiscuity of any and every type. Engaging in any type of sexual activity outside of the covenant of marriage in the context of Matthew 19:9. So you might be thinking, “Ok. Got it. Sexual immorality is an automatic reason for divorce.” Well, no. Sexual immorality makes divorce potentially permissible.
Jesus is teaching this immediately after Matthew 18, which is all about forgiveness. Remember, God hates divorce. It’s not His desire for any marriage. His desire is restoration through forgiveness. That’s the message of the gospel. So the offended spouse should seek restoration of the marriage. But if the offending spouse is absolutely unrepentant, then divorce is on the table. Why? Because adultery is egregious. It smears the one-flesh union of marriage and therefore shames the gospel. And so, Jesus opens up the possibility of divorce in the case of adultery. We good?
That brings us to the second biblical allowance for divorce: abandonment. 1 Corinthians 7:15:
But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
The situation is simple, really. If a Christian is married to a non-Christian and the non-Christian is desperate to leave the Christian, despite the Christian’s love for the non-Christian, divorce is not only allowable but preferable in that scenario. David Platt says:
“We don’t initiate this kind of divorce, but we don’t have to fight it if someone insists on leaving.”
So, we’ve got sexual immorality and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. Some people (I’m one of them) include physical abuse to the list of possibilities for divorce based upon the last statement of 1 Corinthians 7:15, “God has called you to peace.”
God has called us to peace through the gospel of Jesus Christ, of which marriage is a picture. A representation of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. Jesus would never be unfaithful to His bride. Jesus would never abandon His bride. And Jesus would never intentionally do physical harm to His bride. Unrepentant domestic violence makes divorce possible. Those are the only biblical allowances, once again, for the possibility of divorce.
Now, Can A Christian Remarry After A Divorce? This is really easy. The answer is YES, but only for the offended spouse of a biblical divorce. David Platt says it this way:
“Remarriage is permissible when divorce is permissible.”
In other words, if a divorce is unbiblical, a remarriage is unbiblical.
Please remember what I said earlier: divorce is not the unpardonable sin! Jesus’ blood paid for divorce! So if you’ve been divorced and remarried under unbiblical circumstances, confess that sin, repent of that sin, and move forward seeking to honor God in your marriage! He’s the God of second chances! If you’ve been divorced for a biblical reason, rest in your singleness and be devoted to Him. Should He allow you to remarry, seek to live that marriage out in a way that brings Him glory!
And for all the rest of us, understand what marriage is. Understand that it’s purpose is to communicate the mystery of the gospel. Understand how precious it is in God’s sight. Then once you understand all of that, live it out for the world to see, all for the glory and fame of Jesus.