I am preparing a doctrinal treatment on the topic of divorce for our Church and I felt compelled to share a small portion from this treatment here (I will post the full treatment online when I am finished):
Biblical doctrine is full of the glory of God; far from being cold and heartless, it vividly expresses God’s heart and illuminates His divine character in ways that call God’s true worshippers upwards to Him in spirit and truth! That is our highest aim here today, to bring the whole of who we are before God in the true worship of spirit and truth!
With this in mind, the reality that beloved brothers and sisters have deep wounds caused by divorce is of great concern. The purpose of doctrine is not to hurt wounded souls! Rather, sound Biblical doctrine calls the flesh and pride of mortal beings to the cross while restoring the soul and rejoicing the heart!
Psalm 19:7, 8 “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul… the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart!”
When we humble ourselves before the Lord and place our trust in Him, we have confidence that hope shall arise upon the hopeless! The following will be difficult words to accept, but those who do will enter the liberty of truth and find hope to carry them home.
SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Jesus places divorce in the greater context of adultery and confronts us with the reality that adultery is being perpetuated among the people of God through the mechanism of divorce.
Matthew 5:27-32 “27 You have heard that it was said by the ancients, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. For it is profitable that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell.
31 It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.
The Jews were defending themselves by saying that they were not adulterers because they had the written certificates of divorce. But Jesus preaches against their adultery by saying that adultery begins in the heart through lust and is multiplied in the land through divorce.
Jesus exposes the catastrophic sin of adultery among them and it is imperative that we grasp the goodness of Christ in doing this; adultery disqualifies from the kingdom of God (1st Co. 6:9-10), but the Pharisees were deceiving the people by mishandling the Law of God to justify illegitimate divorces that were bringing the people of God into exponential adultery!
The wickedness of adultery is evident to all who have been victims of it. Those who have lived in marital unions that have been compromised by lust readily understand the searing pain of adultery that comes as the heart of their spouse increasingly grows cold towards them; they are all too acquainted with the fights, arguments, and quarrels that arise from the increasing distance between their hearts. Likewise, those who have gone through a divorce know the terrors involved in dividing a family; it is a terrible, wretched, and violent process that leaves deep scars. And Jesus is preaching against this sin and fully exposing it for the wickedness that it is.
The holy union between a husband and wife must not be broken, and when it is broken, the consequences are very painful no matter how you slice it. Jesus merely exposes that divorce does not lessen the consequences and havoc wrecked by adultery, it actually perpetuates it!
But a closer look is warranted:
Matthew 5:31-32 “31 It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
Mark 10:11-12 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Illegitimate divorce perpetuates adultery coming, going, and staying! When someone divorces their spouse and remarries, they commit adultery against their true spouse, they lay a stumbling block before their true spouse to cause them to come into adultery if they remarry, and they cause whoever they remarry to come into adultery! Rightfully God has said that, “He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence. Therefore, take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously!” (Malachi 2:16)
Perhaps the most shocking statement made by Jesus is in the first half of verse 32, where He says “whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery”. These are not easy words to accept at first, however, upon further examination the purity of Christ’s words become clear.
Firstly, the sacred union between a man and a woman is God’s ordination and it cannot be undone by man, therefore, “whomever God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:9). Jesus is demonstrating the glory of God’s work in holy matrimony that cannot be simply undone by the certificates of human courts. If someone divorces their spouse for any reason other than sexual immorality, their divorce is invalid; this places a stumbling block before the divorced spouse by giving them the false option of remarriage that would bring them into adultery if they were to go ahead and remarry.
While we cannot focus on the syntactical side of the Greek Grammar involved in Matthew 5:32, I will note that the verb for “adultery” is used twice in Matthew 5:32, once in the passive voice and once in the middle voice, which in English the nearest equivalent is the active voice (Gerhold L. Lemke , Dakota-Montana District Fall Pastoral Conference, Nov. 6th, 1973):
μοιχευθῆναι (moicheuthenai – moicheuo) – Aor. P. Inf. – commit adultery, seduce to
μοιχᾶται (moichatai – moichao) – Pres. P. Ind. 3s. (Durative) – commit adultery.
For this reason some translations have wrestled with how to demonstrate the Greek sense of differentiation between these two verb forms in a way that would not acquit the guilt of the “passive adultery” but that could convey its passivity.
Thus the Berean Study Bible’s offers this translation of Matthew 5:32:
“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, brings adultery upon her. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Secondly, it must be noted that this teaching is not gender dependent.
The last half of Matthew 5:32 is repeated in Mark 10:11 and then directly reversed in Mark 10:12 to acknowledge that what is true of a man is likewise true of a woman. Therefore, “if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12). This indicates that the first half of Matthew 5:32 can also be read to say “if a woman divorces her husband, except for sexual immorality, she brings adultery upon him”.
Without fail the prophets give us their timely warning:
Malachi 3:5 “And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien – because they do not fear Me.”
God takes adultery very seriously, and divorce perpetuates and multiplies adultery!
The conclusion is that whoever divorces their spouse, except for fornication, and remarries another, enters into adultery and causes both the one they remarry and the one they leave (if he or she also remarries) to commit adultery! Jesus is not permitting them to deceive themselves any longer; He is ripping their lies to shreds in order to set them free by the truth!
Here is my chief aim in bringing this here: adultery is being perpetuated and multiplied among God’s people through divorce, and no one is standing up to lovingly, mercifully, and truthfully call the Church to account on this sin. We act like we are righteous if we just don’t have homosexuality in our midst. We must be fervent and bear fruits in accordance with our repentance!
To the one who is wounded by these words, my heart reaches out to you as one who has been pierced by the word of God myself; and I say “run to Christ”. You have questions that need the answers of the King! Turn to His word and pay attention to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.