Moving right along…
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
This text has baffled me. Initially studying it weeks ago I was really torn because Jesus reference of Deuteronomy 24 did not seem to agree with His context in chapter 5. It did not appear that the pornea He qualified as the “Matthean exception” for divorce agreed with Deut 24 as “some indecency in her”. So let me tie all the pertanent passages together and hope to make more sense of this section.
First Matthew is the only text that allows for divorce (hence the Matthean exception). Mark and Luke neither include an exception for divorce. “Any man who divorces his wife and marries another woman adulterates his wife, and if she who has divorced her husband marries another man she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12) “Every man divorcing his wife and marrying another woman commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18) Hang with me as this will get more confusing before it hopefully becomes clearer.
So Bruner (Fredrick, not Emil…phew) made the observation that Mark made the case from the woman’s point of view as well as a mans where as Luke explained only from a mans, but neither heard the exception. Now we bring in Paul’s canonized perspective in 1 Corinthians 7. “10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 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. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Co 7:10–16). So to confirm, in context he’s addressing divorce as separation. He goes on to qualify that.
Ok so we’re going to add another twist to this lifelong commitment as called out in Genesis 2:24 and Jesus corroborated in Matthew 19:6 (what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate). Jesus in Matthew 5 sees divorce as forcing the woman into adultery (makes her commit adultery), whereas the Jesus of Mark and Luke (I’m not saying there are multiple Jesus just multiple perspectives of what He said). along with the Jesus of Matthew 19 see the adultery committed not with the divorce, but with the remarriage (while the other partner is still alive). “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her” (Mark 10:11). “Everyone divorcing his wife and marrying another commits adultery” (Luke 16:18). Now Jesus in Matthew chapter 19 states “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife for any cause other than immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (19:9). Based on this it seems it is the remarriage, not just divorce, that adulterates.
If I haven’t confused you enough, to try and land this. Lets discuss what we know for sure. We know this topic of divorce is significant to God, as He warns us not to violate the covenant of marriage, and He has taken great care to emphasize throughout examples in Scripture its significance. He explains that the relationship His Son has with the church is exactly like the bride and groom’s marriage (Eph 5, Col 3, as a believer would you be in favor of that divorce?). He warns that no man (including the married couple) should separate what He has joined together. We need to understand that the pornea as described in our memory work is a little bigger than just adultery, but can include technically the breaking of a marriage. What exactly did Israel do to qualify as adulterers as a nation? They let their heart and affections be drawn away from their commitment to love God (think Shema) , this was revealed in what they worshipped. The exception that Matthew gives us for divorce makes a little more sense when we bring in Paul’s direction in 1 Corinthians 7. Paul claimed “if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved.” So he appears to be letting the unbeliever off the hook in regards to marriage and divorce. But is He? I don’t believe so, because Jesus cleared up what really defiles a person in Matthew 19. 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.(Mt 19:3–8)
So let me ask you another question… what is an unbelievers real issue…his heart. His hard heart (Heb 3:13). This series of verses answers a lot of questions about our SM verses this week. Notice the many things that are going on here. He takes them back to the beginning and like the Sermon on the Mount He corrects their interpretation. Their question in verse 7, which wasn’t a question “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” Was corrected with “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.” (vs 8) God’s plan from the beginning was a marriage that was for life that no man should separate. But because of the hardness of heart, this was violated. So the question was much like the Pharisees hang up, on what someone was eating. So when Jesus corrected their bad doctrine in Matthew 15:17-20 “Do you not see that what ever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”
So is “what are the grounds for divorce” the real question? NO, where is your heart, that is the real question. Does it mourn, does it hunger and thirst for righteousness, is it merciful? These are just a few of the qualities of a heart that is from God (See Jer 31:31-34 and Eze 36:26-27).