A Biblical Perspective on Divorce
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.” 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. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
/// MATTHEW 19:3-12 (NKJV)
Here are some statistics on divorce:
- 90% of the population in Western cultures will marry by age 50.
- 50% of marriages will end in divorce.
- 60% of second marriages end in divorce.
- 73% of third marriages end in divorce.
- Marriages that end in divorce last an average of 8 years.
This is our modern reality regarding marriage. In Israel in the days of Jesus, a man could divorce his wife at will. If she didn’t please him, he could send her away or divorce her. The Pharisees asked for Jesus’ view on divorce and marriage. Since Jesus is God, His view is the definitive word on marriage and divorce. In other words, it is the law that is to be followed if you want to walk in His ways. Let’s look at what Jesus commanded regarding marriage and divorce.
1. Marriage is a God ordained institution.
There are two points that make up the definition of marriage as God ordained.
- Marriage was created by God and defined by God.
You’ll notice that Jesus referred back to origin design when describing marriage. Marriage is designed to involve a man and a woman. These definitions are physical not psychological. Therefore, no provision is made for same-sex marriage. A new family loyalty is created through the union of man and woman. This loyalty surpasses that of the family of origin.
- Marriage is a product of God joining a man and woman.
Marriage is to be entered into only after seeking God and His will. The forbidding of marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is ancient and has its foundation in God forbidding the Israelites (His people) to marry people outside their nation. This is not racially prejudicial but is intended to protect the faith of the individuals in marriage.
2. Humans are not to break the covenant of marriage.
God shares His feelings regarding broken marriage in the book of Malachi.
“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it. Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord of hosts. “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear Me; so he feared Me and was reverent before My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity."
/// MALACHI 2:13-16 (NKJV)
After indicting Israel for marring people who serve foreign gods, God turns His attention to divorce. God equates divorce with violence in verse 16. How can you split one flesh without blood? God hates divorce.
3. Biblical reasons for allowed divorce.
Jesus gave only one reason for divorce: adultery. This continues the focus on the spiritual parallel between marriage and an individual’s relationship with God. Spiritual adultery occurs when a believer in God begins to serve another god. God equates Israel’s turning away from Him to other gods in such terms (Isaiah 50). Adultery in marriage is viewed the same way by God. Not only has the adulterous person turned to another but they have turned away from God. After the gospel began to spread beyond Israel to the Gentiles, the apostles faced the issue of pagans becoming saved while married to unbelieving spouses. Some of the unbelieving spouses were abandoning their spouses once they got saved. So, Paul listed abandonment as another reason for divorce:
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
/// 1 CORINTHIANS 7:10-16 (NKJV)
4. Reconciliation is God’s heart.
While a believer has the right to divorce after having adultery committed against them, the question should be asked, “Do I have a responsibility to work toward reconciliation?” Nothing is beyond God’s forgiveness when true repentance is present. If God forgives, so can we upon the presentation of true repentance followed by godly actions. Moses made a concession to the Israelites in allowing divorce for reasons other than adultery. Jesus stated that divorce is the product of a hard heart. Discuss abusive situations. Pray for healing for those who have broken these commandments in the past.
- Matthew 19:3-12 (NKJV)
- 1 Corinthians 7:39
- 2 Corinthians 6:14
- Malachi 2:13-16 (NKJV)
- 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 (NKJV)
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