Sermon: Divorce and Remarriage
Scripture: Matthew 5:31-32
In this week’s lessons, we look at the subjects of divorce and remarriage, and learn what the biblical standards are for those who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Theme: The Key Passages
It should be evident from everything that has been said thus far about marriage that, according to the teaching of God’s Word, marriage is for life. In Christian marriage, a man and a woman are joined to each other as a Christian is joined to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the relationship in each case is permanent—the one for this life, the other for this life and for eternity.
We know, of course, that not all marriages attain this permanence. As a result, we are faced again and again, both within society at large and within the Church, with the problems of estrangement, separation, divorce, and remarriage. What is to be the Christian position in these difficult and tragic situations? Is divorce a permissible option for the Christian? Is it entirely forbidden, or are there conditions under which it is possible? If there are such conditions, is it possible for the Christian then to remarry? Moreover, what is to be the position of the Church toward those who have done whatever of these things are wrong? All of these questions are raised for us, not only by the fact that they arise quite naturally out of our previous studies of marriage, but also by the fact that the Sermon on the Mount goes on from the verses we have been studying to raise these problems directly.
In Matthew 5:31-32 Jesus says, “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, except for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
These words should be taken together with a closely related passage in Matthew 19, in which almost the identical words are repeated. The Pharisees had come to Christ testing Him with an interpretation of the major Old Testament passage regarding the grounds for divorce. The passage was Deuteronomy 24:1-4, and they asked on that basis, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Jesus answered, “Have ye not read that he who 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 two shall be one flesh? Wherefore, they are no more two, but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together let not man put asunder.” At this point the Pharisees asked him, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” And Jesus answered, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted 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 whosoever marrieth her who is put away doth commit adultery.”
Because each of these passages contains the phrase that gives the one permissible ground for divorce—“except it be for fornication”—both of them have always been at the heart of any discussion of these questions.
What is the context of the Pharisees’ question to Jesus in Matthew 19? When they refer to Deuteronomy 24, how does Jesus respond?
How does society view marriage, divorce, and remarriage? How is the Church to think and act differently?
Reflection: What do your church’s doctrinal statements teach about marriage, divorce, and remarriage?