Preachers tend to avoid this topic—as well as teaching on bible prophecy. We must expound the bible systematically, missing nothing. We need not only preach on what interests or pleases us, but on what is written down for us in His holy Word. The main text we will consider is in Matthew 5:31-32.
“And it was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Jesus, in this text is comparing the false interpretation of the law of the Pharisees and Scribes with His own teaching. He was not correcting the law of Moses, but the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees. He was honoring the law of Moses by teaching its whole truth.
What Did the Law of Moses Teach?
First of all, before we even get to the teaching on divorce, we need to be clear that anyone who was found guilty of adultery had to be stoned. Hence, if the wife was found guilty of this sin there was no need to divorce her because she would soon be dead. So, beyond adultery, there were three laws for divorce (from Deut. 24:1-4).
- Divorce was permitted when there was some natural, moral or physical defect in the wife, and it had to be established by two witnesses.
- He had to give her a bill of divorcement to protect her.
- The man was not allowed to marry again, but she was allowed.
The Teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees
- A man was commanded and urged to divorce his wife under certain conditions—for all kinds of reasons.
- He had to give her a bill of divorcement, but it did not have to state the reason why he was divorcing her.
Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce
Jesus also used Matthew 19:3-9 in His teaching.
And some Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
- Jesus goes back beyond Moses to the law given by God, where He explains that the two become one flesh. This is all important.
- God made a concession through Moses because of the hardness of the heart. It was a temporary legislation.
- There is really only one reason to divorce—fornication, because in fornication the one flesh bond has been broken.
- Divorce must not be because he or she is not a Christian. In that case God will help the believing one to convert the children (1 Cor. 7).
- If one divorces another for any other reason than fornication, you cause the one being divorced to commit adultery, because when he or she remarries, they will break the one flesh bond.
- If a man divorces a wife for fornication (or visa versa) he is allowed to remarry, because she has broken the bond and he is innocent. But she is not allowed to remarry because she has committed fornication and has broken the marriage bond.
Source: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones