I. There are Four Basic Views Concerning Divorce.
A. Divorce and remarriage are not allowed under any circumstances.
B. Divorce is allowed in some circumstances, but remarriage is never permitted.
C. Divorce and remarriage are both permitted in all circumstances.
D. Divorce and remarriage are permitted in very limited circumstances.
II. Confusion about the subject of divorce and remarriage does not come from God!
A. "God is not the author of confusion."
B. What is confusing about this issue is our preconceived ideas that blurs our vision of the Truth.
C. The only proper attitude that we can have toward God's Word is one of obedience.
III. The Biblical Concept of Divorce in Old Testament.
A. Divorce is of human institution, not like marriage, which was instituted by God.
B. God does recognize, permit, and regulate divorce.
1. NOTE: To allow for (or permit) a practice is not the same as establishing it.
2. We do not know when divorce started but it must have been before God gave the Law to Israel.
3. NOTE: Leviticus 21:7, God's instructions to the priests establishes the existence of the practice.
4. NOTE: De. 22:19 is the first place we find God regulating the practice of divorce.
a. In this passage a man who questions the purity of his espoused wife - and is found to be wrong - may not divorce his wife ever!
b. However if he was found to be correct in his charges the wife would be executed for her deceitfulness.
C. Note the process in De. 24:1-4.
1. There was a written bill of divorce.
a. Writing the bill made the divorce a legal matter.
b. The bill was protection for the one who received it. Protection from:
1) False accusations
3) Questions concerning marital status
c. It required time so to make the act deliberate and premeditated.
d. A person could not, in anger, divorce someone verbally (as in other cultures).
2. The bill must be served.
b. It was placed in the person's hand
c. No third party was allowed
3. Finally, the divorced person must be sent from the home.
a. An actual break in the relationship was required.
b. The divorced person was not allowed to remain in the home.
c. The marriage covenant was to be broken.
4. The process could be repeated over and over - but remarriage was not allowed to take place to a former marriage partner.
D. God is not commanding nor is He approving of divorce here, He is simply regulating an already existing practice.
1. God's attitude toward divorce is still the same.
2. Malachi 2:16a, "For the Lord God of Israel saith, that He hateth putting away..." (divorce)
E. Observations on divorce in the Old Testament.
1. Divorce was only the prerogative of the husband; the wife could not initiate a divorce.
a. Certain men could not divorce.
b. A man who seduced a virgin. De. 22:28-29
c. A man who falsely accused his wife of impurity. De. 22:13-19
2. Priests could not marry divorced women. Lev. 21:7,14
3. Divorce was permitted on the basis of two circumstances.
a. "Uncleanness" De. 24:1
1) Not pre-marital sex. cf De. 22:20-21
2) Not adultery. cf De. 22:22
3) The Hebrew word means: nakedness, shame, or indecency.
b. "Mixed marriages" Ezra 10:1-3
1) Expressly forbidden by God. De.7:1-4
2) Now divorce was permitted the sake of the purity of the nation.
3) But this wouldn't last -they would do it again. cf Neh.13:23, 10:30
IV. Jesus' teaching on divorce.
A. Two prevalent schools of thought on the matter existed.
1. Rabbi Shammai held to a strict interpret- ation of De. 24:1 and taught that divorce was permissible only in cases which involved some hideous moral sin.
2. Rabbi Hillel held to a broad interpretation of De. 24:1 and taught that if a man found anything, about his wife that displeased him he could divorce her.
3. Historians agree that in the first century the broader view was embraced and practiced by the Jews.
B. Matthew 5:31-32
1. Note the location of these verses.
a. They are part of the "Sermon on the mount"
b. Here Jesus takes the principle of the law and expounds on them to give us a clearer understanding of how we ought to live as believers.
c. He takes what is commonly accepted principle of divorce and He clarifies and defines the principle.
1) No longer can anyone just put away his wife by giving her a bill of divorcement.
2) Now to do so meant forcing her into an adulterous situation (NOTE: she would be forced to marry another in order to survive).
3) Now the basis for an allowable divorce was because of fornication.
4) NOTE: It wasn't mandatory that a person divorce in cases involving fornication; still God's original plan was for permanence in marriage -it was, however, permissible if forgive- ness and reconciliation could not be reached.
2. Marriage is a permanent physical union which can only be broken by a physical cause either:
b. Sexual Sin
1) NOTE: Under O.T. law the sinner was stoned to death
2) But today the local church does not bear the sword of judgment - we operate under the principle of grace and forgiveness
C. Note: Mt. 19:1-12
1. The Pharisees were tempting or testing Jesus: they were not looking for an answer to their question. v3
a. From their question it can be seen that they followed the school of thought propagated by Hillel.
b. They took a very broad interpretation of De. 24:1
c. They asked, "...for every cause?"
2. Jesus took them back to the original plan of God, which made no provision for divorce. (NOTE: This principle was given prior to man's fall. v 4-6)
3. Their next question was in defense of the common practice of divorce for every cause. (v7)
a. They were mistaken on two counts.
b. Moses never commanded divorce.
c. They misquoted the principle -because it was only permissible in the case of "uncleanness".
4. Jesus answer reflects their heart attitude and that of their fathers. (v8)
a. Because their hearts were hardened.
1) The phrase "hardness of heart" is used 3 times in the N.T.
2) Twice concerning the divorce question, but the third time it was used in Mk. 16:14.
3) Here it is used to describe the disciples who refused to believe the testimony of those who had witnessed the resurrected Lord!
4) Their hearts were hardened toward the Truth.
b. Jesus repeats the principle He had given earlier. v9
c. The disciples' response indicates how prevalent casual divorce must have been.
d. Jesus points out that celibacy is an acceptable option, but not for everyone. (v 11-12)
D. Note: Mark 10:1-12
1. This is a parallel passage to the one we've just considered, but there are some variations.
2. NOTE: v 3 "What did Moses command you?"
a. Jesus was referring to the original command in Gen. 1:27, 2:23-24
b. The Pharisees mistakenly assumed He was referring to De. 24:1 which was not a commandment by Moses.
c. In His reply, Jesus returns to God's original plan for marriage.
3. Note v 11-12
a. Here the emphasis is placed upon the common practice of divorce which resulted in adultery.
b. A reference is also made in this passage to divorce initiated by the woman.
1) This was not permitted in O.T. times
2) However it was common among the Romans - and it seems to have been practiced by the Jews under Roman rule.
E. Note: Luke 16:18
1. In this brief passage Jesus is illustrating a common mistake of the Pharisees
2. NOTE v 15-17
a. The Pharisees were guilty of trying to use the law to justify their sinful practice.
b. One such practice was the divorce for "any cause".
c. Jesus drew attention to the fact that the Pharisees were guilty of breaking the law by committing adultery as a result of divorce.
1. Jesus condemned the Jews' common practice of divorce because it led to adultery for all involved.
2. He clearly defined the only basis for divorce was the violation of the marriage bond by sexual sin
3. However this was not commanded -rather grace and forgiveness ought to apply.
a. Note: Jn. 8:3-11
b. Note: Jn. 4:16-18
4. When we look at the Scriptures concerning divorce, we must evaluate all of the gospel accounts to get the total picture of what was said or what took place.
a. Sometimes on writer includes details that another writer leaves out.
b. This does not constitute a contradiction, it points to the need to look at each of the gospel accounts.
c. Another example: cf Mt. 8:28 & Lk. 8:27
V. Paul's Teaching on Divorce. 1Co. 7
A. He addresses married believers. v 10-11
1. "let not the wife depart...let not the husband put away his wife."
a. In this Paul re-establishes God's original standard for marriage -that it be permanent.
b. Wives shouldn't leave their husbands and husbands shouldn't divorce their wives.
2. "but and if she depart..." v11
a. Paul has previously stated that she shouldn't, but if she does, she has limited options.
b. She must remain unmarried (note: that means her departure has broken the marriage bond).
c. OR she must be reconciled to her husband.
d. Since both husband and wife are addressed these limited options would apply to both regardless of which one initiated the divorce.
e. Remarriage to another is not an option to do so would be to commit adultery.
f. If and when that would happen then reconciliation would not be possible.
B. He addresses "mixed" marriages. v12-16
1. This situation was not specifically addressed by Jesus in His teaching.
2. Paul speaks with authority under the Holy Spirit's inspiration.
3. The situation is where one person is a Christian and the other is not.
a. If the unbelieving partner wants to remain married, the believer should not divorce them v 12-14
b. NOTE: this negates the principle of divorce due to religious incompatibility that we found in Ezra and Nehemiah.
c. Because the presence of a believer in the home sets the home apart (sanctifies it) and gives a Christian influence to it and those involved.
d. However, if the unbeliever departs let them depart. (NOTE: this is the same word Jesus used in reference to divorce putting asunder what God had joined together). v 15
1) In such cases the believer is no longer bound to the spouse by marriage.
2) The unbeliever should be allowed to leave in peace.
3) There is no way to know if the influence of the believer would ever bring the unbeliever to Christ.
C. Other Observations:
1. Note: v 27-28 to divorce or not?
a. v 20, Paul said, "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called."
b. If we were married when we were saved we are not to seek a divorce (even if our spouse is unsaved).
c. If we have been loosed from a wife (whether by death or by a divorce) we are not to seek a wife.
d. But if one marries it is not a sin! and if a virgin marries one who has been "loosed" it is not a sin although there will be trouble that must be dealt with
e. "I spare you" - Paul is giving this instruction in order to spare us these problems in the flesh.
2. Remarriage is permissible but with limitations v 28, 39
a. When released by death.
b. When released by proper divorce.
c. In either case believers are not to marry unbelievers.
VI. Summary thoughts on divorce.
A. It was not God's original plan for marriage to be anything less than permanent.
B. However, God permitted and regulated divorce among His people in the O.T. and the N.T. under very limited circumstances.
C. God's Word and His principles must be our guidelines for faith and practice. (We must not allow ourselves to be swept away with this world's philosophy and practice)
D. Divorce should never be the first option in attempting to resolve marital conflict.
E. Only under very limited circumstances should it ever be considered. (Forgiveness and reconciliation should always be our first goal).
F. Terms to avoid:
1. "Married in God's sight"
a. This term is unscriptural when used concerning marriage and divorce.
b. Note: De. 24:3, the terms used are husband and wife, hence God considered them to be married after a divorce.
c. Note: 1 Co. 7:11, "After the wife departs she is considered 'unmarried'.
2. "Living in adultery" or "living in sin".
a. Adultery is a sin that is committed.
b. Note: Jn. 8:4, "Taken in adultery, in the very act"
c. Once a person commits the act of adultery they are an adulterer.
d. Adultery is a sin, and sin can be repented of, confessed, and forgiven.
e. It is not, nor should we make it, the unpardonable sin!
f. In this we do not seek to minimize the in or its effects, but rather we maximize Christ and the power of the cross.
G. Questions to consider.
1. Can or will God bless a marriage when there has been a divorce previously?
a. God's blessings are dependent upon our attitude toward Him.
b. Consider David and Bathsheba:
1) Here we have in view adultery, murder, and polygamy.
2) And yet God blessed them - through them came the Messiah.
3) But remember the repentance and forgiveness. cf. 2 Sa. 12:13, Ps. 51:2
c. Rather than trying to justify a divorce, our attitude ought to be repentance and confession that we have sinned.
d. When that is accomplished then the door is opened for God's blessing.
2. Can divorced persons take part in church?
a. Once again it is dependent upon their attitude - have they truly repented and been cleansed?
b. If so, then they should be able to take an active part in their local church.
c. Certain areas of service, however, may not be open to them.
1) We must all live with the consequences of our sins even though they have been forgiven.
2) The circumstances of an individual's divorce and/or remarriage may be such that a person for years afterward (or possibly for the remainder of their life) would fail to qualify because of the bad reputation that they bear as a result
3) NOTE: 1 Tim. 3:2,7; Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:8-10
3. What about Christians who keep reminding a person that they have been married before and on their second marriage?
a. They are no doubt spiritually immature.
b. They are judgmental and in violation of God's Word. cf Mt. 7:1, Ro. 14:10
c. They are destined for a fall. cf. Gal. 6:1-3