The Family: Foundations are Shaking

Table of contents
Go to section 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.
Previous: Honor Required of Children

11. God's Will Concerning Divorce

(Matt 5:31,32;19: 3-8)

Rev. Barry Gritters

No married couple lives without experiencing friction of one kind or another in marriage. The cause of this is sin. Whether the problem is that the husband fails to live with his wife, giving himself to her; or whether the wife nags or rebels against her husband; or whether the problems are financial, sexual or child related - there are always problems. The common solution to the tough problems in marriage is that the husband or wife says, "We'll get a divorce and begin again." This is so common today that when someone, as we do here, would dare to raise a question about the propriety of divorce, the question is dismissed almost without a hearing.

We ask you to give consideration to what is written in this pamphlet. There is a wave of trouble passing over the church in the form of the breaking up of marriages. We grieve for those who know the pain of marital problems. We weep with the children who see their parents at enmity. May God's Word speak to every one of our troubles.

It's important that we guard ourselves, especially here, against the temptation to form our own opinions on the matter of divorce. It's a real danger because persons, families, and feelings are involved-often our own. As with every other question of our behavior we ask, "What is God's will in this matter?" This will help steer clear of the related temptation to say, "You are'nt sympathetic to me in my troubles." If anyone is sympathetic to our troubles in marriage the Lord is, Whose will for marriage we follow.

In Matt. 5:31,32, Mark 10:2-12, Luke 16:18, Rom. 7:1-3, and I Cor. 7:10, we have the New Testament Word of the Lord about divorce. That Word in these passages is: "NO DIVORCE." This is the same word Jehovah brought in the Old Testament: "For the LORD, the God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away," where putting away is divorce (Mal. 2:16).

The reason the Church must preach against divorce is that God hates it. However, God hates divorce because of His love for marriage. The Church must hate divorce, especially because She must love marriage.

God made marriage in the beginning as a bond between two parties. (Marriage is not a contract. That false notion is one reason for so many divorces these days.) Marriage is a bond made by God. Matthew 19:5,6 says that husband and wife become "one flesh" and that they are "joined together." This is Jesus' teaching.

It makes sense that earthly marriage is a bond, because that is what the heavenly marriage is. The relation between Jesus and the Church is a bond, symbolized by earthly marriages. God's people are bound to Jesus! (See Rom. 7:1-4 and I Cor. 7:39) This relation certainly is not a legal contract; it is a bond uniting us to Jesus as intimate friends. Now, as God did this binding, so He does the binding in our marriages, so that Matt. 19 can say, "What God has joined together, let not man put asunder."

In other words, the Bible says, "Since God made marriage, let not man break it"! It does not say, "Since divorce causes untold grief, don't divorce." It says, "What God joined together, let not man put asunder."

This seems to go against an Old Testament teaching about divorce in Deut. 24:1-4. This passage should be read carefully, because this was the passage the Pharisees used in Matt. 19 to criticize Jesus when He prohibited divorce. Three things ought to be said about Deut. 24: First, Moses was not approving divorce, but simply acknowledging that many divorces were occurring. A careful reading of the passage shows this (see NKJV where a better translation is given than in the KJV). That's why Jesus said that "Moses suffered it." He did not approve it, but "put up with" it. Second, this was the exception in the Old Testament, certainly not the rule. From the beginning the word was "No divorce" (read carefully Matt. 19:8 where Jesus said, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so"). Third, about Deut. 24, we need to see that this was not the final say about divorce. In light of Jesus' teaching in Matt. 19:9, how anyone can appeal to Deut. 24 to support divorce is amazing.

Jesus gives one exception to His prohibiting of divorce: the sexual uncleanness of one of the spouses. Note, there is one exception. The Pharisees asked Jesus if there might be many reasons for divorce: "for every cause?" Jesus said, "For one cause." Many today take the position of the Pharisees, so that if one would ask if divorce were permitted, the answer seems to be, "Of course, and for just about any reason."

Search the Bible through and you'll find one allowance for divorce: "except it be for fornication" (Matt. 19:9). If a man's wife is unfaithful to him (or a woman's husband to her) he may put away the unfaithful spouse, without coming under the judgment of God or the discipline of the church. Far better if these alienated partners seek reconciliation and forgiveness; but if this is not possible, Jesus says, to paraphrase Him here, "Divorce is permitted in this case."

This shows how serious fornication is! The world makes fun of this unfaithfulness, of "tomcatting," of running around. It's the stuff of television, magazine, and cartoons. The Bible sends a different message: "Adultery is so serious, it's the only ground for divorce." Adultery strikes at the very heart of marriage - - the intimate unity of a husband and wife - - spiritual, emotional, and physical.

For this reason, the church must call its members (and all who love God) to refrain from entertaining themselves with the sexual uncleanness on television and video and at the movie, in the magazine and book. In the name of Jesus we command them to be chaste in their dress, on the beach and elsewhere, calling them to "flee fornication!" (I Corinthians 6:18). We warn them from the Word of God: if they refuse to heed this call to flee fornication, even in their hearts (Matthew 5:27,28), their marriage stands in jeopardy!

The main word couples must hear (married and those looking forward to marriage) is this: "Jehovah hates divorce!"

Who does not grieve for and weep with the little children whose hearts are pierced with the terror of fighting and separating parents? Who knows better than they the agonizing results of failing to live in marriage as God commands? Pray for the children! Besides the care for the children, Jesus prohibits divorce because unbiblical divorce lures the divorced spouse to commit adultery by sex outside of marriage, or by remarrying (see Matthew 5:32 and the next chapter, 12, "God's Will Concerning Remarriage"). What a misery all this causes those who live apart from God's will!

Obedience to God's command regarding marriage brings blessing and joy. This is not to say that obedience is not difficult! Every married person knows it is. Jesus never said that obedience to Him would be easy. Obedience does mean blessing and reward, in this life and in the future (see Mark 10:28-30).

To the young people, I say: be careful whom you marry. Marry only "in the Lord" (I Corinthians 7:39). When you marry, make a life-long commitment, "for richer for poorer. . .till death do us part." Nor may you forget Who stands as a witness when you make those vows. He doesn't forget.

To the married: when trouble comes, the way out is reconciliation. Pray for the grace and wisdom of God to reconcile. God brought you together. Perhaps you will say, "This was all a mistake." Remember, however, that God joined you together. What God joined together, we may not put assunder. Seek the elders or pastor for counsel. With the temptation, God will also make a way to escape (I Corinthians 10:13).

Next: God's Will Concerning Remarriage
Return to the sermon, article, and pamphlet listings.
Return to the literature page.
Return to the Loveland Protestant Reformed Church home page.
Last modified, 26-Apr-1998