Jesus and Divorce



Matthew 5:31–32 ESV
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
I heard a story about two men who went to prison at the same time. One was a murderer and the other was in for embezzling money. While there they both became Christians. The embezzler’s wife didn’t want to be married anymore so they got a divorced. The two men got out at the same time and joined the same Baptist church. Two years later they were both nominated to be deacons. The church accepted the murderer but turned down the embezzler on the basis of his divorce. One night they were having dinner together and the guy who was the new deacon said to his friend, “Sam, if you’d killed her, you’d be a deacon now.”
We get a weird on some of this stuff. This is a hard text. We must be careful not to make it say something it doesn’t but also to not dismiss it as unimportant. Don’t make God’s commandments say something they don’t. It’s dangerous.
Don’t run from hard texts. Let them do their work in you. The texts that are hard, that make us wince because of what they say and how they talk about our sin are good. They are good because they push us toward Jesus.
Divorce is a difficult subject to preach on. There are a variety of reasons for this.
There is always the chance that someone in the audience has gone through or is currently going through a divorce and is still emotionally raw. It’s hard for them to hear the message while they are still like an exposed nerve.
You are forgiven and God starts where you are.
Those who hear may be people who are divorced but didn’t want it and now find themselves second guessing themselves.
There may be people who are present and had biblical grounds for divorce and only reluctantly pursued it and are still troubled and disappointed. They’re mourning the end of their dream.
There are some whose marriage is teetering on the edge. They’re all out of answers and energy and their spouse has already given up. To them this message may sound like announcing their doom.
There may be some here who are unbiblically divorced and are so defensive that they have never come to grips with their own sin.
Some who sit and listen may think the Biblical teaching on divorce is unrealistic or out of touch with today’s culture.
Some have friends and family who are divorced or going through a divorce currently and it’s hard for them to think about the subject.
Then there are those who are deeply concerned about the marriages in our church and are frustrated that more isn’t done about it. They are worried about the effects on children and grandchildren in these families that are hurting and confused.
So while it is truly difficult to talk about divorce, we must talk about it because Jesus spoke about it. Part of why I primarily preach expositional sermons through books of the Bible is because it forces us to address topics that we might avoid because they are hard to think about.
Jesus raised a challenge to the way the rabbis had handled
Deuteronomy 24:1 ESV
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house,
They distorted the original meaning of this text.
2 schools of thought among the rabbis on this:
Very serious subject and only when adultery has occured
If you want one, get one, and enjoy… (spoiled food, wasn’t fit enough)
But Jesus did not give these same kind of exclusions. He held true to the heart and spirit of the law, which he was the fulfillment of.
Don’t make God’s commands say something they don’t. That will keep you from running to him.
Begins with a slow leak not a total blowout...
Don’t make God’s commands say something they don’t. That will keep you from running to him.

8 truths we know from scripture regarding marriage and divorce.

I. God designed marriage as one man and one woman for life.

marriage is of divine origin - instituted by God
because God has ordained it, only he can end it.

II. Sexual immorality constitutes Biblical grounds for divorce.

Divorce is almost always wrong.

III. Divorce and remarriage without biblical grounds constitutes adultery.

Pushes the other spouse into adultery if they remarry
You are in adultery if you remarry.

IV. The Old Testament law on divorce was designed to protect the woman from frivolous divorce and character assassination.

-allowable because of the hardness of the hearts of the people.

V. Divorce permitted in specific circumstances but never commanded.

Divorce is not something that should ever be entered into or used with the excuse that God told you to. Divorce is never commanded in scripture. There is a difference between something being allowed and something being commanded.

VI. Even if Biblical Grounds for divorce, God’s desire is for reconciliation and restoration.

VII. Adulterers should repent and newly pursue God’s standards of sanctity in marriage.

I don’t believe that if you are remarried you are continually sinning in adultery without any way out.
If one or both of the parties are remarried they should remain in those marriages and not divorce their new spouse to reunite with their former spouse.
When God meets someone where they are, He bids them to take up their cross and follow him. It’s dying to our sin daily. From this moment on we live a life of repentance walking in submission, love, mercy, and forgiveness.

VIII. Jesus expects divorce to be the rare exception and not the rule within the community of faith.

Our goal as church members is healthy marriages in our churches. We want our marriages to be healthy and we want healthy marriages for others. Divorce should be far less common than it is in churches. We have gotten pretty good about putting on our game face and going along with whatever reason someone has for divorcing their spouse, all the way up to justifying it to ourselves or to them in a way that scripture and Jesus Himself never did.
If we want healthy marriages we must first look at the hardness of our heart toward the Lord and toward our spouse.
If we want healthy marriages then we have to be willing to get into the mess of one another’s lives and help.
Here is why our marriages are so critical in the body of believers:

IV. Marriage is a picture Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:22–32 ESV
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Danger of dismissal or arrogance.


I heard a guy who preached on this passage say, I’m going to explain the text to you and then I’m going to tell you something better. See, the law is important. We need to love the law. We need to obey the law. But we need grace. We need to live in the middle of the grace of the gospel. Because we can’t fully uphold the law. We sin. That doesn’t mean we get a pass or that we let things go easily. But it means Christ has made provision.
You may be sitting there and someone who is divorced.
You may be remarried after a divorce and you hear these words and feel condemnation for your sin.
I have good news for you. God starts where you are. He starts where you are. Where you are now...
If it stings and you feel guilty or convicted. That’s okay. But it’s not forever. God meets you where you are and he offers forgiveness. You can live in that forgiveness.
I want to show you how Jesus treats people who are divorced or who have committed adultery.
John 4:16–18 ESV
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
John 8:2–11 ESV
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Heart matters.
Divorce is a consequence of lust and discontentment.
See things the way God looks at them.
Gospel here.
Difference between I messed up, I hope Dad doesn’t find out and I messed up, I better call Dad.
Romans 8:1 ESV
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Walk by the spirit.
No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus
Run to him and let him love you.
Blessed is he who’s sin is forgiven.
Take the law seriously but look like you’re loved.
Daniel Doriani writes:
Matthew, Volumes 1 & 2 The Word of Grace

The greatest source of healing in a marriage is the grace of God poured into our hearts. That grace has two facets. First, God is patient and faithful toward us, despite our sins and flaws. As we behold our Lord and live in union with him, we participate more and more in his character. Then we grow into his patience and faithfulness.

Second, God graciously forgives our sins and flaws. Drinking deep at the fountain of his mercy, we have mercy for others. Some days our spouse’s failures loom large. Sometimes the virtues of a friendly and attractive person of the opposite sex loom even larger. Just as we cannot control our angry hearts, so we cannot repeal the heart’s tendency to become discontent, to wish for a better spouse.

What then? Remember God’s grace and providence. The church is the bride of Christ, and we are hardly the perfect spouse to him. Yet God tells us,

I will betroth you to me forever;

I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,

in love and compassion.

I will betroth you in faithfulness,

and you will acknowledge the LORD. (Hos. 2:19–20)

So God’s faithfulness inspires us. More than that, the Lord gives grace to forgive our sins and to make us new. With this grace, he can build a strong marriage, with all the faithfulness and contentment that two sinners can know.

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