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The Words of Jesus On Divorce, Episode X
Jesus' Teaching On Divorce
Because the words of Jesus on the subject will be examined in great detail in a later paper we will only look at a few basic points in this chapter.
The Psalmist writes "The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting" (Ps 119;160 NASB). Therefore, basically, it should be said, that before we pretend to know what Jesus thought on the subject of divorce, we should have, at least, read all (the sum) His words which have been recorded on the subject. Because the nature of the Gospels is such that no one evangelist recorded all Jesus said on any one topic. It is, therefore, imperative that we compare all (the sum) of the writings. Each Gospel must be overlaid, each upon the others, in order to arrive at the total truth. For example: if one read only the Marcan or Lucan account, of Christʼs words on divorce, one would come away with a very hard stance on the subject which would reject the institution of divorce completely (see Mark 10:2-12, and Luke 16:18). Neither Mark nor Luke include the “Except Clause” found in Matthewʼs Gospel (see Matthew 5:32; 19:9). Therefore, Matthewʼs “except it be for fornication” softens the harshness of both Mark and Luke. But even Luke acknowledges Jesusʼ teaching, that a disciple may have an occasion to put away his wife for the sake of the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:29-30). Furthermore, Luke records Jesusʼ saying that such a disciple would have the wife he lost (because of the demands of the Kingdom) restored to him. So, then, we have not arrived at the truth of a matter until we have the "sum" of His word, and have those words harmonized so that no part contradicts any other.
For the purpose of easy reference the words of Christ concerning divorce are given below:
• “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, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).
• “... Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. ... Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered 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: ...” (Matthew 19: 4-9).
• “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29).
• “... For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. ... Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:5-9; 11-12).
• “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Luke 16:18).
• “... Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, our brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of Godʼs sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Luke 18:29-30).
• “... Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly” (John 4:17-18).
All particulars of these texts will be examined in future writings; therefore, in this episode it should be sufficient to state that Jesus allowed divorce (and remarriage) for the cause of fornication (see Matthew 5:32 and 19:9). It has already been established that all sexual immorality is indeed fornication. One must note that this allowance is authoritative, even though Mark and Luke failed to record it. If one is an honest student of Godʼs Word, he, or she, will “rightly divide” (2 Timothy 2:15)—which requires taking into account ALL that the Bible has to say concerning any given subject, before interpreting its teaching.
Also, from the words of Christ, we notice that He assumed some disciples would be forced to leave wives in order to accomplish the work of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:29; Luke 18:19-20). Those who make such sacrifices, according to Jesus, would receive a restoration in this life that would exceed that which was lost: namely, a wife who would be a blessing to the disciple, a true companion, one who would be compatible to the mission of the kingdom.
Lastly, when Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman at the Well of Jacob (John 4:1-18), we must acknowledge that he accepted five of her previous partners as legitimate husbands, but rejected the man she was then with as being her husband. Now, it would be unlikely, in the extreme, that this woman had been widowed five times. By far, the most logical reasoning would be that most (if not all) of her former marriages had ended in divorce. In fact, the particulars surrounding the encounter indicates a woman not accepted by her townʼs social order: i.e. she came to the communal well at noon (John 4:6); a time when she was not likely to meet any other women of the town. At such a well, women normally congregated in the morning and evening. Her familiarity with the men of the town (John 4:28-30) indicates a woman who was not accustomed to the normal propriety of a wife. All this would have been likely if the woman had a string of men still living, to whom she had been a companion; and especially probable since she had not bothered to marry her present partner. Her life, even though Jesus acknowledged five of her men as being legitimate husbands, made her suspect to her community.
One may draw the following conclusions from this chapter: When all the words of Jesus are taken into account, they present a picture of Christ as allowing divorce and remarriage for the cause of fornication, and for the demands of preaching the gospel. Also, we have read the narrative of the woman at the well of Jacob, who, Jesus admitted, had lived with five different men who were her legitimate husbands; though she was not married to her present partner. Therefore, the words of Christ, when taken together, show a Jesus who defended the sanctity of marriage, but understood the weakened human element that required the Bill of Divorcement to bring balance, justice, and mercy to the human state.
While it is true that divorce is always the result of someoneʼs sin, divorce itself is not sinful. And the sin which brings about divorce is not the unpardonable sin. Christ forgives the sinner and restores the divorcees to their full citizenship in His Kingdom.
☩ Jerry Hayes
Own this book today. Click on the link below for more information.
"Finding God's Grace in Divorce and Remarriage" is an in-depth study of the subject of divorce and re-marriage. Bishop Hayes does a scholarly exegesis of virtually every passage of the New Testament that is germane to the topic. This treatise will attempt to draw back the curtains of misconception and stigma, and view with unprejudiced eyes the naked truths of Holy Scripture concerning divorce and re-marriage. The Christian teaching is that: religiously, divorce originally lay outside God's will, but politically had to be allowed because sin entered into the human family. Therefore, in the tension between the religious high ground of an idealistic state of no divorce, and the practical reality of political necessity which allows it, there are two basic ethical questions asked by Christians: 1,) Is a Christian ever justified in seeking a divorce? 2.) Once divorced, may a Christian re-marry? This is a book that declares the grace of God to be extravagant in its reach.
Read More From the Bishop on Divorce and Remarriage
- Christian Divorce and Remarriage
This series of articles answers the all consuming question: May a Christian divorce and remarry? This is the first of many article to come on the subject. Be sure to read them all.
- Christian Divorce and Remarriage, (Egalitarian)
This article concludes the introduction to Christian Divorce and Remarriage. Here is discussed the egalitarian aspect of Divorce.
- Marriage, As God Intended (Episode III, Christian Divorce & Remarriage)
This article examines the intention of God for marriage, in the beginning. What the Bible declares marriage to be is shocking to most. This is required knowledge for an understanding of divorce.
- Divorce and Remarriage, Words of Institution
Moses sets forth the "Words of Institution" for divorce and remarriage. In this writing we will review those words in an expository study.
- Certificate of Divorce (Diviorce and Remarriage, Episode V)
Here, for the first time we discuss the power of the "Certificate of Divorce" as a licenses to remarry - both for the guilty and innocent parties.
- Biblical Grounds for Divorce and Remarriage (Divorce and Remarriage, Episode VI)
Here we explore the biblical reasons for divorce and remarriage. Many are convinced that the Bible gives no reason for divorce, others accept only 1, but this writer demonstrates. at least, 4.
- Yahweh Hates Divorce? (Divorce and Remarriage, Episode VII)
Since the Bible states that God hates "Putting Away," it is important to harmonize this with God allowing divorce, and participating in it Himself. This article addresses that particular issue.
- Biblical Examples of Divorce, Episode VIII
Examples are great teachers. A greater lesson can not be had that to witness how a biblical command was biblically executed. IN this study we will see just that in biblical examples of divorce.
- The Apostolic Church, On Divorce - Episode XI
In this episode on divorce and remarriage we examine what the apostolic church (the Lord's church of the 1st century) had to say on the subject.
- The Biblical Status of the Divorcee, Episode IX
In this 9th episode on Divorce and Remarriage we examine the status of divorcees in the Bible. Here we answer the question: "What place does the divorced person hold in biblical society?"