Every true disciple, whether in marriage or any other sphere, will always be committed to God’s will
In the ocean there is something called the Crush Line. This is the depth at which submarines will implode because the pressure of the water becomes too much. As long as a submarine stays above that line it will be fine. But if it descends to that line it will be crushed.
A lot of marriages today are reaching crush lines. A lot of marriages have descended to the point that they are imploding because of all the pressure.
We return this week to Jesus’ teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage. These are important lessons for anyone who finds their marriage on a descent – important and also heavy.
This is a heavy teaching we are in. Let’s be faithful disciples and study it honestly. My intention is not to shame or judge anyone. My intention is to exalt marriage in our minds. I want to be a faithful disciple and help all of us be faithful disciples. That means we can’t skip over passage we don’t like and be selective about what we will listen to and what we won’t. It also means we can’t twist Scriptures to mean what we want them to mean. I say this because this passage is hard. But I think God will bless us if we come humbly and faithfully to His word.
Maybe you’re listening and you’ve been divorced and you’re remarried. I hope you’re willing to humbly, and thoughtfully listen and study this passage with me. I have specific thoughts for you at the end of this message today.
Maybe you’re listening today wanting a divorce, but, I would hope these messages talk you out of it. If you’re marriage situation is such that divorce is allowable, then, I would hope you tread carefully in that direction. If you’ve been rationalizing your intention to get a divorce I hope you repent and recommit to the wife of your youth, as God says in Malachi 2. God hates divorce, those are His words, not mine.
If you’re in a good marriage, then, praise God! This message will strengthen your marriage.
Last week we looked at the Command. The Pharisees ask Jesus if a man can divorce his wife for any and every reason. Jesus points them to Scripture. He asks what did Moses say. They answer that Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife. Jesus then takes them back farther than Moses and the Law to the very beginning. Jesus takes them back to the creation of man and woman and marriage.
The Pharisees ask about breaking up a marriage, and, Jesus points them back to the beginning when marriage was created. They point to Moses, Jesus points them to God. They pointed to the exception, Jesus pointed them to the rule. The reason Jesus points them to Creation is to return them to the will of God concerning marriage. Every true disciple, whether in marriage or any other sphere, will always be committed to God’s will. Understanding God’s will in marriage therefore requires examining the creation of marriage at the beginning.
Often, what we see is that God speaks, and then men come along after Him and modify His commands to fit men’s wants. Jesus is correcting the deviation from God’s will by pointing back to God’s creating marriage in the first place.
Let’s take this passage in 5 points:
First, Created. Jesus quotes Genesis 2 and says, “In the beginning of creation God made them…” Man is not evolved from lower life forms. He is created by the highest life form – God. He did not arise accidentally through random natural processes; he came into existence on purpose by a Maker who designed him. Man and woman were created by God. They are His making, and, marriage is His making, not man’s. What this is underscoring is the authority of God behind what marriage is. Not God’s wishes, or suggestions or guidelines. But, His commands as the Creator for those entering into the covenant of marriage. Marriage is what He says it is, and, we are obligated to Him when entering into it.
Second, Complimentary. At the beginning of creation” Jesus quotes, “God made them male and female.” God not only created man and woman for Himself, but, He created them for each other. He designed them to go together in unity, as a pair. Man was made with the woman in mind, and, the woman was made with the man in mind. We see this in the wording of Genesis 2:18 when God says “I will make a helper suitable for the man.” We see it again when verse 23 says “God brought her to the man”.
If you keep in mind how God made the woman you’ll see it enhances this idea of them complimenting each other. God didn’t make the woman from the dust the same way as the man. He took her from the man’s side, which becomes the basis of their unity in marriage, expressed in the term “one flesh.” She was literally made from his flesh, she was of the same “stuff” as him. Then she was escorted by her Creator back to the man to be his wife. In a sense she returned to “his side”, and, Adam gets much more than just his rib back – in a far more wonderful way he becomes one flesh with the woman.
This one flesh term is important, and, it means much much more than just physical union, if it even means that at all. More importantly it is an identity. You and your spouse are distinct individuals, but, your identity is now a combined identity with each other. To think of Justin you think of Annie. That’s not to say I don’t have my own personality, my own interests, my own opinions and thoughts. It means that I’m now seen as one half of a whole – she’s the other half (certainly the better!). It means we and everyone else now see the two of us as belonging to each other, permanently, exclusively and totally.
Third, Combined – joined, by God. They don’t do this uniting themselves. The unity that results is performed by God, as Jesus quotes Genesis again, “What God has joined together….” Again, marriage is created by God and accomplished by God. It is not the product of society, it is not the convention of men, it is not something that humans have evolved to need or want. God designed it into the fabric of human existence. Under His blessing and joining together a husband and wife are to enjoy each other, help each other, to have children and multiply the human race on the earth, and to carry out the work and will of God in partnership together.
Fourth, Consecrated. They are set apart to each other. The Hebrew word for marriage is close to the word for holy, meaning set apart (MacArthur). The husband is set apart to the wife and the wife is set apart to the husband. They belong to each other exclusively. No other man has any claim to the wife and no other woman has any claim to that man. This is a total possession of the other, as 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 brings out, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent….” That is consecration: your whole person – including your body – have been set apart for your spouse. Not just you, but, you and your spouse. The whole man is the possession of the woman and the whole woman is the possession of the man.
The thought is still with the “one flesh” here. An illustration might help. Imagine two properties next to each other, owned by two different individuals. There is a fence splitting those properties. That fence marks the end of one property and the beginning of the other. Each property has its own unique features: decorative landscaping, trees, grass, a creek, etc. Now, marriage is like removing that fence, so that the two properties become one property. Both owners become co-owners of the whole combined property. Each owner has full rights to the whole property now. The property hasn’t changed, it still retains all its features as before, but, the line is gone, and ownership has been combined. That’s like marriage. The two, although retaining their individual personality features, have now become one. The husband is fully the property of his wife, and the wife her husband.
Now consecration of the husband and wife to each other involves the change in another relationship: that with parents. Of course parents are still to be honored, but, a husband and wife no longer live to please their parents first, but, their spouses. If this isn’t understood and applied, then marital unity is jeopardized.
Fifth, Committed. This union is a permanent union for life. We know this for several reasons;
#1: There is no indication anywhere in the Genesis account of a temporary nature to marriage. The whole thought here is a union that lasts for life.
#2: The Bible clearly says that a marriage dissolved at death. Romans 7:2 says, “by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.”
#3: Jesus said that in the next life no one will be married. In Mark 12:25, “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Someone may be saying “Amen, sweet Death!”
All this teaching is leading to the command, left until the very last in verse 9, “let man not separate.” The command is that man is not to undo what God has done; man is not to rip apart what God has joined. God brought the woman to the man, he is not to send her away. We know God hates that, as He says in Malachi 2:13-16…
The scene then moves from outside with the crowds to inside a house with the disciples. Now in private, they ask Jesus about His teaching and He explains more about divorce and remarriage.
At this point a lot of us may want to jump to the exceptions. Before we do that however, we need to study the actual command. We should not study the exceptions until we have studied the rule.
To remarry, Jesus says would be to commit adultery. This is consistent with the teaching of Dt. 24 where the Law said indecency was the reason for divorce. Now this is a serious statement from Jesus – the One we have to stand before at Judgment. Shouldn’t we all stop in our tracks and say, “Whoa, let’s look closely because I certainly don’t want to commit adultery, if that’s what Jesus is saying.”
What is adultery? It is to engage in sexual behavior with someone not your spouse. In the same way, it means to engage in sexual behavior with someone else’s spouse.
Adultery is committed in other ways too. Jesus said to look at a woman with lust was to commit adultery with her in your heart. I heard a guy tell me one time, “I can look at the menu as long as I don’t order.” No you can’t. Jesus says no you can’t. He demands absolute purity in marriage. Men: how do you look at other women? A lot of men have a real problem feasting on women with their eyes. Old as well as young. Their eyes scan and devour the bodies of women and their minds are already in the bedroom. This is a problem both “in person” and online, and it includes pictures hidden on phones.
Of course, men certainly aren’t the only ones lusting, women do it just as much. Remember Romance novels? Pornography comes in written stories just like it does in visual images. Written pornography creates the pornophraphic image in your mind to fantasize about. Incidentally, studies show women are becoming larger consumers of internet pornography. Lust is not a gender-specific issue, it is a human condition issue. That means adultery is a major human issue.
So can a husband look but not touch? Can a wife? Absolutely not. Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” (Job 31:1). Paul told men to “treat younger women with absolute purity.” (1 Tim. 5:2) “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Cor. 7:1)
Remember: Marriage means you and your spouse are set apart to each other and for each other. Your whole person belongs to your spouse. Your body is not to be given over to anyone else. Your mind is not to be given over to anyone else. Your heart is not to be given to anyone else. Your affections and emotions are not to be given to anyone else. Your time is not to be given to anyone else. Your eyes are not to be given to anyone else. Your imagination is not to be given to anyone else. Your sexual urges are not to be given to anyone else. All of you belongs exclusively to your spouse.
So a married person cheating on their spouse is adultery. Getting involved with a married person is adultery. Lusting in your heart for someone is adultery. What makes something adultery is that there is some level and way in which you are sexually engaging with someone other than your spouse – in your mind, with your eyes, in your heart, and/or with your body.
And yet, then, we see that Jesus teaches another form adultery: someone gets a divorce and remarries. This is hard. But again we can’t be selective about Scripture and just ignore or explain away passages we don’t like. That is not being honest with God and His word. As I said last week, we must have consistency with our approach to the Scriptures.
Are There Exceptions? Yes.
Now, does the Bible give any doorways out of a marriage? There are several teachings I see that do. The Bible does not command divorce, ever. And I want to caution us from taking these exceptions and stretching them so far that we make every reason a justifiable reason for divorce. The Bible allows for it in a few certain circumstances. A remarriage would be allowed if a prior divorce was biblically allowed. If a divorce were not allowed, then, I can’t see how a remarriage would be allowed.
First, is immorality. In Matthew 5:32 Jesus says, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Jesus says that remarriage after a divorce is adultery unless “marital unfaithfulness” led to the divorce. What is “marital unfaithfulness”? Some people think of adultery. However, Jesus doesn’t use the Greek word for adultery, He uses the word “pornea” in the Greek, where we get our english word porn. It means sexual immorality, which is a broad term that certainly includes adultery, but, is not limited to adultery. This is consistent with Deuteronomy 24 where “indecency” was the reason for divorce – a man found his wife to be indecent in an immoral way.
It needs to be stressed here that Jesus is not commanding a divorce to happen in this situation. It is not required. It is merely allowable. I know many people who remain married after adultery and other forms of immorality happen and do not seek a divorce. My counsel is that if someone is persisting unrepentantly in immorality then it is permissible to divorce, even though I do not push someone to do that. The immorality needs to be very serious, it needs to be ongoing, and, they need to show repeated disregard for abandoning the behavior.
Second, we see abandonment. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that in cases of abandonment a person can divorce. I want to read exactly what he says, and, then offer possible forms of abandonment. I don’t say these are exits necessarily, but, like adultery has different forms, so too does abandonment, I believe.
“If any brother has a spouse who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.” And then he says the same about a Christian woman. Then in verse 15 he says, “But if the unbelieving spouse leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances.”
In other words, if you’re a Christian you can’t divorce your spouse because they aren’t a Christian. But, if they refuse to live with you because you’re a Christian, and they want out of the marriage, then let them go. You are not bound, Paul says.
(Of course, you can’t make your marriage hell for them just to get them to divorce you either, because you are called to be a witness to your spouse and show them the holy and loving character of Jesus. They should be attracted to the changes they see in you even if they don’t believe. If they are repulsed by your hypocrisy, your venom, your bitterness, your contentiousness and a bunch of other ugliness then you’re failing to represent Christ to them (1 Peter 3:1-13).)
Now abandonment can happen in different forms. I’ll suggest a few that can be considered.
First, a spouse who just up and leaves. This includes Christian spouses. The abandoned spouse would not be obligated. Someone might say, “My spouse divorced me and I didn’t want a divorce.” Why did they want a divorce? Did they “abandoned” you because you made life so miserable for them?
Second, a spouse who is physically abused. Let’s not cheapen the reality that there is real abuse out there where women are living in terror of being pulverized by the fists of her husband.
Third, extreme neglect. Extreme neglect means you’re living out of a car because your spouse isn’t providing basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. This is very serious, 1 Timothy 5:10 says a man is worse than an unbeliever if he fails to take care of his family. Ephesians 5 says a husband is to care for his wife like he cares for his own body. This is all in reference to the husbands obligations to provide for his wife and family materially, physically.
Fourth, addictions. If a spouse’s addiction to drugs or alcohol have led to abuse or extreme neglect then divorce may be possible.
There could be more, but, they have to come under the umbrella of immorality and abandonment.
Now that we’ve covered this, I know many are on their second marriages, and you may be wondering what now? If your divorce and thus remarriage were not found on Biblical grounds, then, I offer 3 things: Conviction, Confess, and Commit.
- Conviction. Let your heart be convicted that it wasn’t actually right to get a divorce and remarry. Don’t self-justify, don’t rationalize, don’t blame-shift or excuse it. Like any other sin, take the attitude that says, “Okay, it was wrong, I admit it.” The only thing worse than when we sin is when we refuse to admit it. No blessing from God can come from that.
- Confess. Get on your knees and confess it to God. “If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Cleansing is an important concept there because God specifically says that divorce and remarriage defiles someone. Let the humble attitude come out in a humble, verbal acknowledgement that it wasn’t right. God is gracious and his grace doesn’t give us permission to go into sin instead it means He pardons us when we do sin.
- Commit. Commit to your current spouse. Just in case someone is thinking they need to divorce their 2nd spouse becuase it was wrong to marry them in the first place, I would emphatically say NO! You are married, your marriage is not 2nd class or somehow less than your first marriage. You are just as obligated to your current spouse as you would be if they were your first. Divorce would compound the problem even more.
- It is holy to God and thus it must be holy to us
- Marriage is a picture of Jesus and the Church. Think of how hard it is for Jesus to be married to us.