There are many views on what the Bible says about marriage, divorce and remarriage. The following are just four of the most prevalent. Let's take a look at them in light of the Scriptures.
This was the view of some Pharisees: They took Deuteronomy 24:1-4 to mean that they could divorce their wives for any reason they wanted. This passage, however is what is known in Hebrew as a "vav consecutive" passage. "Vav consecutive" means that all the statements begin with the Hebrew letter "vav" which serves to link all of the statements together, in this case in a list of "if" statements followed by a "then" statement. In other words, if a man takes a wife, "and if" he finds some uncleanness in her, "and if" he gives her a writing of divorcement, "and if" she goes out of his house and becomes another man's wife, "and if" that man dies or puts her away, "then" the original husband could not take her back because she is defiled.
The passage was not written to give permission for divorcing under any circumstance, nor was it written to allow the woman to be "defiled" by becoming another man's wife while she still had a living husband; it was written to keep men from sinning further by taking a wife back after she had been remarried to another man!
Some of the Pharisees focused on "writing of divorcement" and not the cause for such. Their error was pointed out by the Lord (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:1-12; Mark 10; Luke 16:18ff). The only "uncleanness" for which a woman might be put away is "fornication."
Yet this error persists today. The laws of our nation offer "no fault" divorces, so that anyone can be divorced and remarried without any real reason whatsoever. Even some brethren in effect teach this by adding to and taking from the plain statements of Scripture.
The force of the verbs in Matthew, Mark and Luke are continuing action, "continues to commit adultery." Part of repentance is to turn from that sin, get out of the adulterous marriage (See Ezra 9 and 10 and Nehemiah 13:23 and following).
1 Cor. 7:12-15, it is said, permits Christians to remarry if their unbelieving husband or wife runs off. This is simply not so. It is saying that we are not required to run after the departing unbelieving spouse if they decide to leave. There is nothing in Paul's instructions in 1 Corinthians 7 that gives permission for a Christian to remarry if their unbelieving spouse departs. To do so would be to negate what the Lord commanded on the subject in Matthew 5.32 and 19.9.
Most, though, want baptism (becoming a Christian) to wash away the guilt of continuing adultery and make it "okay." But the person who is in a adulterous marriage "continues to commit adultery." Repentance means to cease in that adulterous marriage...get out of it.
Others try to convince us that the Lord is only dealing with an Old Testamentsubject and that this law is not a part of the New Covenant. However, Matthew 28:20 says that we are to teach disciples "to observe all things whatsoever I (Jesus) have commanded YOU (the apostles)...." These commandments were given to the apostles who wrote them for our admonition and for us to learn to observe.
All these are taught by those in the world, and even brethren, and they all make the word of God of no effect. They ultimately allow divorce for any cause and allow remarriage without any stain of sin.
These say "fornication" of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 refers to sexual activity before marriage; that "fornication" is not adultery and vice versa. But 1 Corinthians 5:1 says that a man who had his father's wife was committing "fornication." Adultery is a form of fornication and it can be committed within a marriage.
They claim that to understand these two verses to permit remarriage is to cause them to contradict Mark 10 and Luke 16. But "Precept on precept, line upon line...." God's will is revealed. We must consider ALL that is said concerning a subject before we come to any conclusions. The plain statements of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 are to be taken WITH those in Mark and Luke to give us the whole picture of God's will.
Another view is that the "fornication" of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 refers only to those marriages between those of close kin or the spouses of close kin. They point to John the Baptist\'s condemnation of Herod for having his brother Philip's wife as proof that this is so. It is said that Herod had an unlawful wife only because he had married the spouse of a close relative, his brother! It is further explained that what the Lord was speaking of in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 was this: If a person was in one of those marriages between close kin or the spouse of close kin, then and only then does he have the right to divorce and remarry without committing adultery.
This defies all laws of natural use of language and puts the understanding of theseverses out of the reach of the "common man," who heard Him gladly. It is the same error that is made when we take the covenant of Moses and try to live by it today. The Lord's intention was to teach the apostles His commandments on marriage, divorce and remarriage, and for them to teach it to us. I am convinced that this is exactly what they did.
Thanks for reading.
Comments written, and material arranged, by Roger Lindsey. Contact me by email.