Where I Stand #6 - R.Earl

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery. (Matthew 19:9, ASV)
The verse mentioned previously has been a source of heartache, tension and church uproar for many. Preachers have been hired and fired for what they preach concerning the words of Christ in Matthew 19:3-9. Anytime we consider “hard topics” or “difficult” scriptures we must keep one thing in mind, what matters is what God has said and not what we want Him to say or wish He had said. Emotions often are high when dealing with topics that affect so many, but the truth of God’s Word cannot be silenced because of the emotions and feelings of others.
Christ makes it clear that from the beginning of time God desired for the husband and wife to become one flesh and that no one should be allowed to separate the two. “
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:3-6, NKJV)
The Pharisees of verse three only desired to “test” Christ. Sadly, many still approach these verses not for the truth but instead to “test” individuals. When man wants truth, He will find it and when he doesn’t want truth, hardheartedness will keep it from him. The Pharisees did not desire truth instead they only wanted something they could use against Christ. The Pharisees did not go away when Christ reminded them of these truths instead they appealed to the actions of man, in this case Moses. “
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:7-8, NKJV)
Christ puts the fault not with God’s commands or with Moses but on the heart of man. Moses permitted (suffered, ASV) them to put away their wives. Suffer is a good way to translate this idea since Moses had to suffer through a lot of complaining, stubbornness and a “stiff neck” attitude from the people of Israel. Christ however reminds them that this was not what God had intended for the marriage bond, “from the beginning it was not so.” Christ then tells them the terms of divorce according to God, not man.
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery. (Matthew 19:9, ASV)
The Greek term used here is “fornication”. While there are things that may be sexually immoral, or immoral in general, neither “sexual immorality” (NKJV) or “immorality” (NASB) are the correct term for what Christ is referencing. Fornication can be a reference to spiritual unfaithfulness, as we see it used many times in the Old Testament. Here in verse nine the term is used in reference to sexual unfaithfulness to a spouse. Thus, the only grounds for divorce that Christ names is sexual unfaithfulness. This means that there are no other reasons given by Christ, thus no other reasons that are acceptable to Christ, for divorcing one’s spouse.
While there are numerous occasions where one party or both parties, are abusive to the other and while such actions are not pleasing to God, they are not scriptural grounds for divorce. In such occasions both parties should turn to God with these issues and seek counsel from a godly marriage counselor who will encourage repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, healing and not an unscriptural divorce.
While Christ gives one reason for divorce we find that here, unlike in Ezra 10, divorce is not commanded. All that is given is the one reason God will accept for divorce. While a person may have the scriptural right to divorce their spouse this is not what God desires (Matthew 19:4-6). God desires the husband and wife to remain together. It seems we do not necessarily need to preach more about divorce and remarriage but more on forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Then perhaps divorce will not be considered but instead forgiveness and love. Let us desire to be faithful to one another, love one another and not allow divorce to become an option. Join me next time as we discuss when divorce does take place, who then can remarry.
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