Intro: We live in an hour in which the home is under attack. Presently,
51% of all marriages will end in divorce. That is a rate of more than 1 of every 2
marriages. In some places like Knox County Tennessee, the divorce rate for first marriages
is a staggering 66%. 2 out of every 3 marriages in the Knoxville, TN. area end in divorce!
I see that as a great tragedy, and I am sure the Lord does also. Now, I realize that this
is an unpleasant topic to preach about, but it is one which touches every life in this
room in one fashion or another. My desire this evening in talking about the matter of
divorce and remarriage is to be sensitive to those who have been affected by this terrible
thing, but at the same time, I am obligated to share the truth of God's Word with you as
it has been revealed unto me.
What I want from you this evening is for you to forget everything you
have ever heard about this matter. Forget your prejudices and your preconceived notions
and allow the Word of God to speak directly to your heart. This is an area in which I have
devoted much study and prayer, because I wanted to arrive at the truth of this matter. As
a result, my view tonight is somewhat different today than it was 10 years ago. I realize
that not everyone who hears me tonight is going to agree with all that I say. That's all
right! However, I challenge you to be open to the Word of God and if you find that you
have believed incorrectly about this matter, then I challenge you to get in line with God
and His Word. With these thoughts in mind, I would like for us to turn our attention to
the Word of God and allow this Book to guide us in understanding this matter of divorce
and remarriage, as we consider together God's Word To The Separated.
I. V. 10-11 THERE IS A CLEAR WORD
A. In beginning this section, Paul is addressing Christians who may be
experiencing strain in the marriages. His word to them is simply this, "Do not
divorce!" While some may feel that this is a tough stand, that is the clear word from
God in the matter. In fact, Jesus himself said the same thing while He was here on the
earth - Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18.
B. Perhaps a little understanding of the social conditions in Paul's day
will be helpful in our understanding of his position. History tells us that in Corinth and
in the culture as a whole, divorce was running rampant. It was not uncommon for people to
have been married 15 or 20 times during the course of their lives. Paul is simply telling
the Corinthian saints that God has a higher standard than that of the world. While the
divorce and remarriage rates aren't any where near those that prevailed in Paul's day,
there is still a serious problem in our society in regard to this matter.
C. The clear implication from these verses is that when 2 people are in
a marriage relationship they become as one, Gen. 2:24. They also become a living
illustration of the relationship between Christ and His people, Eph. 5:22-33. When that
union is severed by divorce, we bring disgrace upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
D. Ill. Surely some will say, "Well, doesn't the Lord allow for
divorce at all?" The answer is "yes" and we will get to that before the
message is concluded. For now though, we need to understand that God's perfect will is
that husbands and wives stay together until death separates them one from the other, Mark
10:9. Now, having said that, I do not believe the Lord would have a woman continue to live
in a situation where her live is threatened. Neither do I believe that she should keep her
children in such and environment. There are situations where the physical and emotional
abuse is so strong that the couple cannot continue to live under the same roof and
according to these verses, separation is a possibility, but divorce is not an option in
such cases! Please note that most divorces today stem from what are termed
"irreconcilable differences" between Christians, there is no such thing! The
Bible strictly forbids remarriage in these cases. In those cases where a divorce is
obtained and granted then verse 11 tells us the Lord's mind in the matter. The separated
people have one of 2 options available: 1.) Be reconciled, or 2.) Remain unmarried. That
may sound narrowminded and strict, but that is the Word of God and not the opinion of this
preacher! What if they remarry anyway? Then, according to the word of Jesus in Mark
10:2-12 and in Luke 16:18, they are guilty before the Lord of adultery. I do not believe
that the Bible teaches that it is possible to live in a constant state of adultery. My
feeling is that it is the act of the new marriage and the consummation of it that
constitutes the adultery.
(Ill. In cases such as this, all I can say is that the divorce was a sin
and that all the people involved can do is repent before the Lord and He will forgive
their sin. Then, they are to live for the Lord to the best of their ability and forget the
past. Their duty is to serve the Lord in their new relationship as best they can. Some
would counsel the couple to divorce and for the partners to be reconciled to their former
mates, but 2 wrongs never make a right! The best that can be done is that men and women
serve the Lord in the place they presently find themselves.)
E. Ill. It would be impossible for us to exhaust every possible scenario
in dealing with this matter. We can always produce another "What if?" case. What
Paul is doing is simply laying down a biblical principle for life that can either be
accepted or rejected by those who read it. To accept it will bring blessing, to reject it
will bring judgment!)
F. Can anyone argue the plain truth that God forbids divorce among His
people? There are some statement that need to be made here that need to be heard and
1. God never intends for anyone to get a divorce.
2. A Christian couple should never divorce, but by the help of the Lord,
they should reconcile their differences. No sin is too great to be conquered if both
partners are walking in love one toward the other!
3. Divorce should be eliminated from the Christian vocabulary. It is
never an option!
4. Divorce is never commanded in any situation.
5. Divorce and remarriage disqualifies you from certain positions within
the local church.
6. Divorce is a sin, but no greater than any other sin and can be
forgiven by the Lord.
7. Those who have been through a divorce are not second class citizens
in the church and should never be treated as such. If God forgives, then His people must
forgive as well!
I. A Clear Word
II. V. 12-16 A CONDITIONAL STATEMENT
A. Paul now turns his attention upon couples where one is a believer and
the other is not. Apparently, these relationships came about when one spouse or the other
was saved after they had been married. Sometimes, though, this situation arises when a
saved person steps outside the clear teaching of the Scriptures and marries an unbeliever,
2 Cor. 6:14. This, too, is a sin and must be repented of by the guilty party.
B. Paul's statement here is clear. He tells us that if the unsaved
partner is willing to live with the saved partner, then the saved man or woman is not to
seek a divorce. However, if the unsaved person wishes to dissolve the marriage, then the
saint of God has no choice in the matter and should be peaceful about the situation and
not stand in their way. Please note, that the Christian is never to seek the divorce!
C. Paul's reasoning becomes clear in verses14 & 16. In these verses,
he tells us that the saved partner has the opportunity to lead their spouse to the Lord.
He also lets us know that because one of the partners is saved and serving the Lord, then
the blessing of God is upon the home. Whereas, if no one there were saved, this would be
missing. By virtue of the fact that there is a believer in the home, the smile of God is
upon the house!
D. Verse 15 states that if the unbelieving partner leaves the marriage,
the believer is not under "bondage" in such cases. Does this mean they can
remarry? This question is answered by Jesus in Matt. 5:35 and 19:3-9. Let's turn there as
we continue to think about this important matter.
I. A Clear Word
II. A Conditional Word
III. Matt.5:23; 19:3-9 A CLARIFYING WORD
(Ill. In these two passages, Jesus addresses the area of divorce and
remarriage. He establishes a clear principle that must be followed if we are to be right
with the Lord.)
A. V. 3 A Challenge From The Pharisees - Their
question was one of much debate in their day. It seems that there were two schools of
thought in Jesus' day about divorce and remarriage. There were 2 rabbis whose teachings
had gained widespread influence. One, a rabbi named Shammai taught that a divorce could
only be granted because of sexual immorality. Shammai taught that any kind of sexual sin
broke the marriage covenant and released the innocent party to marry again. The other
rabbi, a man named Hillel, taught that a man could obtain a divorce for any reason. If his
wife burned his breakfast, spoke to another man in the street, developed a wrinkle, or if
he simply saw another woman that he thought was prettier, he could write her a bill of
divorcement and send her out of the home. By the way, this was the prevailing view in
Jesus' day, and as a result, divorce was running rampant in that society. Both of these
views arose out of differing interpretations of Deut. 24:1-4. The term in verse one,
"find no favor" was the one in dispute. It needs to be noted here that the real
issue at stake was not marriage and divorce, it was simply that the Pharisees were trying
to trap Jesus and cause Him to lose favor with the people. As usual, He simply out
B. V. 4-8 A Confrontation From The Master - They
came to Jesus and said, "What about divorce?" Jesus simply responded by asking,
"What about marriage?" He reminds them that when a couple comes together as a
husband and wife that they become one flesh. He plainly states in verse 6 that this is a
union that is not to be dissolved by man. Then, the Pharisees want to know why Moses
allowed them to divorce. Jesus answered by reminding them that divorce was allowed for one
reason, namely, the hardness of men's hearts. According to Jesus, marriages are intended
to be lifelong and ended only by the death of either spouse. God's intention is that there
be one husband for one wife for one lifetime! In fact, it is helpful to note that God
Himself expressed His feelings concerning divorce in Malachi 2:16. In this verse, God says
that He hates divorce.
Ill. I think that this needs to be said right here. Instead of worrying
about how we can get out of a bad marriage. Instead of fretting about what God allows and
doesn't allow, why don't we try to make our marriages successful? A happy marriage is not
a myth, but a very real possibility when people do it God's way!
C. V. 9 A Condition From The Master - In this
verse, Jesus gives the only legitimate exception from the no divorce rule. He says that in
the event of some illicit sexual activity on the behalf of one spouse or the other,
divorce is permissible. The Bible allows divorce on no other ground but this! Now, a
little deeper study into this verse will be helpful at this point.
1. What does Jesus mean by "fornication"?
This word is translated from the Greek word, porneia- This word is defined as: 1) illicit
sexual intercourse a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with
animals, etc. b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18 c) sexual intercourse
with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12, and is the word from which we get our modern
word pornography. Since within the marriage relationship is found the only valid place for
sexual expression, anything of a sexual nature that happens outside that marital union
constitutes "fornication" and is grounds for divorce.
2. Does it refer to a one time act? No, the
tense of the verbs indicate that this verse refers to a lifestyle of sexual perversion. If
one partner falls into sin and then repents and seeks forgiveness and reconciliation, then
there is to be no divorce. Both partners are under the obligation of doing everything in
their power to ensure the success of their marriage. (Ill. I realize that this is a lot to
ask of the innocent partner, but marriage is an illustration of the Lord's love for us and
He doesn't throw us away when we fall! Remember the Lord parable in Matt. 18:23-25. We are
to forgive and by the Lord's help and through His grace, the marriage can be saved!
3. Is the innocent partner required to seek a divorce?
No, I think that was answered in the last point. Divorce is allowed, but is never
commanded! The person who refuses to attempt reconciliation and who refuses to practice
forgiveness is just as guilty as the one who committed the sexual sin.
4. Does the Bible allow for remarriage in the case of
"fornication"? I think the principle is that when the Bible allows
for a divorce, it also allows for remarriage. When preachers and others say that the Bible
allows a divorce for a certain reason, but that it does not allow for remarriage, then I
think we have entered the arena of producing our own Scripture. From my personal study, I
have concluded that there are three scenarios in which the Bible seems to permit divorce
1. In the event of the death of a spouse - 1 cor. 7:39;
2. In the event that a believing spouse is abandoned by an
unbelieving spouse - 1 Cor. 7:15. This situation supposes that the spouse who
departed did so in a desire to be united to another husband or wife, otherwise, they would
have remained with their spouse, 1 Cor. 7:12-13. This, therefore, constitutes adultery and
severs the marriage bonds. The abandoned spouse, it would appear, is free to remarry.
However, if one spouse leaves the home and does not join himself/herself to another
partner, then it would seem that remarriage is not permissible.
3. In the event that one spouse or the other is engaged in a
lifestyle of unrepentant sexual immorality. This has already been covered
previously and in reality, illicit sexual sin seems to be the ONLY grounds upon which
divorce and remarriage is ever permissible. That may sound narrow, but that is the Word of
(Ill. I realize that many preachers take a very different viewpoint from
mine. In fact, many feel that divorce is never allowed and that remarriage is also out of
the question. I respect that point of view. I just want you folks to know that I
have agonized over this thing and have reached my position not because of what some friend
preaches, or because of what I was taught in school, or to try and fit in with any group
of men. I reached this position because I think it is what the Bible clearly and plainly
says. However, if you feel differently than I do, then that is fine! You have to take your
stand on the issue and then face God with the decisions you make in regard to it. I do
feel that we can disagree about this issue and still enjoy fellowship one with another!)
(Now, allow me to clarify one more point before I close this evening. I
do not perform weddings for those who have been previously married. I take this position,
not in an effort to condemn anyone, but because only the people involved in the previous
marriage and God in Heaven know the real reasons why it failed. If I were to start doing
those types of weddings, I would have to play judge and try and make a godly decision
based upon circumstances of which I have no personal knowledge. Therefore, since I am not
commanded to perform weddings, I choose to marry only those who have never been married
before. By the same token, I won't marry a couple where one is saved and one is lost. That
is a clear violation of the Word of God and if someone is going to deliberately sin, I
want no part of it! While it would be perfectly acceptable for me to participate in the
remarriage of a believer who is divorced on Scriptural grounds, it would never be right
for me to unequally yoke any couple together.)
Conc: We have covered a lot of territory tonight. I hope
we are all clear on exactly what the Bible teaches concerning divorce and remarriage.
However, instead of concentrating on what to do when the bottom falls out, we need to
focus on making the marriages that do exist as strong as possible. Make your marriage a
focus of prayer. Work at making it better.
To those who have been divorced, please know that the Lord loves you and
if you have asked Him, He has forgiven you of your sin. You are not a second class citizen
and have no need to fell guilty about your past. Neither I, nor this church, nor the Lord
above condemns you for your past. Your duty is to submit yourself to the lord and to His
will for your life and then serve Him with all your heart and ability as you travel
through life. The Lord has a plan for you, Jer. 29:11, "For I know the thoughts
that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you
an expected end."