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Is Divorce Biblical?

Matt Carter    /    Mar 24, 2013


Matt Carter speaks on Mark 10:1-12

Series: Normal Christianity





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Sermon Transcript

Over the last twenty years, I have found today’s topic as one of the most difficult to preach on. It’s intellectually difficult. Answering the question under what circumstance can a person get divorced or remarried is not black and white in Scripture. If anybody tells you that, they’re wrong. I’ve been studying it in depth, trying to uncover every rock. It’s just not straightforward in the Bible. It’s also socially difficult. As you look in the scripture, it becomes clear that divorce is a really big deal to God. But there are tons of people that have either been divorced or have been impacted by divorce. When you start looking at how seriously He takes it, you begin to feel the weight of it and it hurts. 


Our cultural view towards divorce has swung to far on the pendulum and is too laid back. We need to know God’s view of divorce.


And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:1-9 (ESV)


Whether or not a person can divorce or remarry is debatable in the Scripture. But how God views marriage and divorce is without debate. It is absolutely clear how God feels about both.


God’s View on Marriage


What is God’s view on marriage? There are three things we learn by what Jesus said:


• Divorce is a result of sin.


And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. Mark 10:2-5 (ESV)


The Pharisees came up and tried to test Jesus, asking if it was cool for them to divorce. They argued Moses said it was okay. Jesus responded by explaining Moses allowed it because their hearts were hardened and were not submissive to God’s plan. Divorce was not something God intended and designed. It was a result of sin. It’s a result of the fact we have hard hearts and refuse to submit to God’s view and purpose of marriage. It was never the intention of God. 


• God is the inventor, architect, designer and definer of marriage.


But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Mark 10:6-8 (ESV)


The word holdfast means ‘to cleave, to join, to submit’. It’s a very strong word in the Greek, meaning ‘to be bound permanently together’.


There is a miracle that happens in marriage; God takes two people and forms them into one. The only time in history that two equals one. God is the inventor of marriage. He is the architect of it. That is critical. Man did not think up, design and define the institution of marriage, God did. 


• God is the One who creates and forms this binding covenant between the husband and wife. 


When you and your spouse stand at the alter, you cleave together and become one flesh. God binds you together. The pastor doesn’t form you into one union. Nor does the Justice of the Peace. Nor do you or your spouse. It is God. That is why Jesus says, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” We need to understand that when you get divorced, you’re breaking apart something that God put together.


This brings us to the question: Why did God create marriage? Why does He create one flesh out of a man and woman, which is never to break apart? 


Why Did God Create Marriage?


When we understand why God created marriage, we have a better understanding how He feels about divorce. 


31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32 (ESV)


Anytime you see mystery in the scripture, especially in the New Testament, its referring to something that has been hidden, but now is being revealed. Paul quotes Genesis, God creating and designing the first marriage, then calls it a mystery. But there is meaning to it that is profound and he explains what it is. The whole thing is about being a picture of God’s unbreakable, never ending, and unalterable covenant of love for us, the Church, through Jesus Christ.


Marriage is a picture of God’s unbreakable love for us, the Church.


God didn’t create marriage primarily for your happiness. That’s what the world thinks it’s all about. But it’s not. Hopefully you will be happy when you get married. But the primary purpose of why God created marriage is to display to the world His unbreakable love for us.


By the way that you love each other, you can show the world what God’s love looks like. Its unbreakable, it never ends, it never fails.


How God Views Divorce


In light of what marriage represents and why God created it, how do you think God views divorce?


13 “This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. 16 For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi 2:13-16 (NASB, emphasis added)


He doesn’t say He has a problem with it or advises against it. He says He hates divorce.


When the word hate is used in the Old Testament, it is almost always in reference to an enemy, either an enemy of Israel or God. So when God says He hates divorce, He’s saying that divorce is His enemy. 


He forms us into covenants that are to be pictures of His never-ending love for the Church, through Jesus Christ. When we break that apart, He hates it. 


Why would He say divorce is His enemy? That is such strong language. What kind of picture do we paint of God’s love when a marriage, a representation of His unbreakable, never-ending love, is ended? What message does that send to the world? 


It sends the message that God’s covenantal love for us can end. It can be broken. 


God hates that message. 




The application is debatable. But how God views marriage and divorce is absolutely clear. 


College Students & Singles:


In light of God’s view of marriage and divorce, we need to be certain that God’s view is your view. Take some time before you get married, pray and get your mind around this. You need to know why God created marriage. Before you ever do it, you need to ask the Lord to change your heart and give you the view of marriage that He has. Do not take that lightly. The moment you get married, you become a picture of God’s never-ending, unbreakable love for His bride, the Church. That ought to flip you out a little bit. 


You also need to make certain the person you marry has that same view. It would be the biggest mistake of your life to marry someone that doesn’t have God’s view of marriage. A person who doesn’t have the same view will split when the marriage ends up not being what they wanted or when it gets too difficult. They’ll just leave.


In the movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, there is a character that asks, “What if you meet the love of your life, but you’re already married to somebody else? Should you just let that person pass you by?” Honestly, that is a great question...if you’re not saved. If the whole point of getting married is you being happy and fulfilled in life, then it’s a very poignant question to ask. But, if you understand why God created marriage and what it represents, that is an absolutely ridiculous question. The love of your life is the one you married. You are to spend the rest of your life displaying the love of Christ to them. No matter who comes in your path.


Married People:


What if you’re unhappy in your marriage? It’s not turning out the way you thought it would. People change. Your spouse has not committed adultery, but it’s just not working out. Is it okay to get divorced? You know that God will forgive you. You’re going to intentionally sin because you know God will forgive you? A believer would never make that statement. A person indwelt with the Spirit of God cannot continually walk in sin. The Spirit won’t let a person do that. His purpose is to glorify Christ. He exalts Jesus, not us. Believers don’t use the blood of Jesus as an excuse and license to sin. The mark of a believer is a person running away from sin, not running to sin.


What if you have the same view of marriage as God and the desire to display His love, but you’re in an abusive marriage? Can you get divorced? I want you to understand that I get that is probably one of the most difficult circumstances that life can offer. I’m so sorry. But, ff you can get divorced is probably not the first question you should be asking. In light of what marriage means and represents, a picture of God’s unbreakable, never-ending covenant love for us, you should be asking how you can display that love of Christ in your really bad, abusive relationship. It doesn’t mean you stay in the abusive situation. You absolutely separate and get out of the situation. Get the kids out. Get the church involved. But as you do, you remain abstinent and faithful to that person. You pray like crazy that God would restore the marriage and save your spouse.


What if your spouse has cheated on you? In light of Matthew 19, what people refer to as the sexual immorality clause, can I get divorced? This is when it gets complicated.


He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:8-9 (ESV)


Jesus said if you divorce your spouse and remarry, you commit adultery. Except in the case of sexual immorality. There are a couple of problems with taking this literally. 


First, the word in the Greek is not adultery; it’s sexual immorality, which is a blanket statement for all sexual sin. So if you take the word literally, what Jesus is saying is that if your spouse commits any sexual sin whatsoever (even a split second of lust), you are lawful in divorcing them. In light of God’s view of marriage and divorce, that seems a little weird Jesus would say that.


In all the other gospels, including when Paul talks about divorce, the immorality clause is not there. In the other gospels, Jesus says the same thing, but with out the clause. You get divorced, you get remarried, and you commit adultery. It’s only in Matthew you see this immorality clause.


Hermeneutics 101, the first thing they teach you is biblical interpretation. When you’re interpreting scripture and talking about the same subject, you always interpret the one verse in light of the many. You never interpret the many verses in light of the one. So in order to take Matthew 19 literally, you have to break Hermeneutics 101. 


Then why did Jesus say that? A lot of theologians believe Jesus was talking about betrothal, not marriage. Since He was speaking to a Jewish audience. Betrothal is engagement. Back in the day, if the person you were betrothed to was sexually immoral, you could divorce them. But they don’t believe He was referring to the breaking of the marriage covenant.


Choosing Marriage Over Divorce


Make your decision in light of God’s view of marriage and divorce.


There is zero biblical evidence for divorce and remarriage apart from sexual immorality. When sexual immorality is there, the biblical evidence for divorce is thin, at best.


There is an overwhelming body of evidence for fighting for your marriage, even in the midst of sexual immorality. There’s a whole book in the Bible that talks about it; Hosea. God comes to Hosea and tells him there is a girl He wants him to marry. She is a prostitute. So he does what God asks and marries her. Then after, she goes and starts cheating on him. She leaves him and attaches herself to another. Over and over again. If you were Hosea’s best friend, what advice would you be tempted to give him? To divorce her. But that’s not the advice God gives him. He tells him to go after her again, to keep pursuing her, and try to win her heart no matter what.


Who does Hosea represent? Jesus. Who does the prostitute represent? Us. The book of Hosea is a picture of God’s never-ending pursuit of us, His prostitute bride.


I’ve cheated on Jesus a thousand times, with a thousand lovers. He has never left me. You have done the same. He has never left you. When you get married, that is the love you represent and display. 


Forgiveness in the Cross


If you’re here today and you’ve messed this up already, you might be asking the question if God is angry with you. Maybe you’re wondering if you’ve lost God’s blessing in your life. No. You have not lost His blessing, nor is He angry with you. Thanks to Jesus Christ.


24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 7:24 – 8:1 (ESV)


If you have failed in this area, there is no condemnation for you. God still loves you, values you and cherishes you. 


38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)


I don’t care what you’ve done. You are completely forgiven and loved by Jesus and by this church. We love you and accept you.