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What the Bible says…

About Marriage, divorce and remarriage

Matthew 19:6. 

"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

Today our world is in the process of changing dramatically.  Our great great grandparents   for example, lived in a world where only one marriage in 34 ended in a divorce (in 1870)!  By 1900 that number had risen to 1 in 12, by 1940 1 in 5, by 1970 it was up to 1 in 3.   Recently a reporter in Wichita, Ks determined that in our part of the country, the number was actually 7 out of 10. 


Those numbers are a little deceiving because a few folks get multiple divorces to the point it skews the numbers a little higher than the real (across-the-board) odds.  It is really hard to overlook the obvious, however. 


For the first time in our nation’s history… a majority of the young men now entering marriage were not raised by their biological fathers.  i.e. they are now attempting to build and live a successful family life… when they have not witnessed one.  A tough call.


If you were to choose a summary statement from scripture relevant to divorce what would it be? I think my choice would be….

"For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the LORD of hosts. "So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously!"  Malachi 2:16


Whether old or new testament this seems to be the basic attitude.  Part of the reason may be that, for God, this is personal.  God was divorced! 


 "And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.”  Jeremiah 3:8


This one infuriates Our Lord.  One of the likely reasons is that He knows it just doesn’t have to be this way…


During the ministry of Jesus, the Pharisees tried to use this volatile subject divide Jesus from His followers.  It is easy to see why, this one hurts!  In divorce, there are no winners, only losers and pain. 

“{Some} Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful {for a man} to divorce his wife for any reason at all?"  Matthew 19:3


Hmm, “any reason at all?” Does this mean every reason, or no reason?  Do you remember the same word games with Satan in the garden?  God had restricted one tree from the human race.  The tree of knowledge…. How did Satan word this in his temptation of Eve?  


“And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?"  Genesis 3:1 


Have you noticed Satan’s descent into plays on words in this subject? It is the same any time Satan manages to cross us over to making decisions rooted in base emotions rather than the intelligent thoughtful application of the word. 


Read Matthew 19:1-12


Let’s observe the obvious.  There are endless heaps of “what-ifs” surrounding this subject.  That is likely the very reason the Pharisees brought it up.  Their hope was to entangle Jesus into an endless quagmire.


1)  Let’s note one what-if.  “A Moslem presents himself for baptism.  He wishes to obey the gospel and wash away his sins.  He has only one remaining question (all others have been answered.). Which of his wives must he put away to obey the gospel?  He has two.  Eve and Jill.  He has married two sisters on the same day at the same time.  Choose!”___________________


The reality is that every question like this is going to be devastating to someone.  It will always affect someone’s life.  Dramatically!


Now focus on Matthew 19:3.  This question was asked of Jesus. 

2)  From the following verses, can you answer their question? __________________ 


3)  Is it lawful to divorce a woman for every reason that may come up? ______________ 


4)  Is it lawful to divorce for any reason whatsoever? ______________________


5)  Does the fact that questions like number 1 are difficult, mean that every question that comes up cannot be answered? _________________


6)  “As each one has received a {special} gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, {is to do so} as one who is speaking the utterances of God”…. I Peter 4:10-11a  If we are to be good stewards where must our speech both start and stop? ________________


"Cry aloud, spare not! Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins!" Isaiah 58:1.


Now focus on Matthew 19:4-6 

7)  Where did Jesus go to answer the question?  __________________  How many parties are a part of the marriage? _________________  Does a man marrying another man fit into Jesus’ picture? _________  Give a direct basis for this answer ___________________

______________________  Does a man marrying two women fit into this picture? _____

Give a direct basis for your answer.  ________________________________ 


8)  If asked to use verse 6 as a summary statement of God’s attitude for us.  What would that attitude be?  _______________________________________________________


Focus on Matthew 19:7-8

8)  What is their objection?  _________________  Does Jesus acknowledge that it in fact was this way? ________________________  What explanation does He give for this?  ______________________  What terminology does He use to describe the time before Moses? ____________________  So should we look to the time of Moses as our example of fidelity and marriage? ___________________


Focus on Matthew 19:9    

9)  Formulate the general rule for describing divorce and remarriage.  ____________________________  Is simply divorcing w/o remarriage described as adultery_____________________  Is there an exception stated here to the general rule? _______________ How many exceptions are there? ____________________________


"For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses {that} of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:20

Focus on Matthew 5:31-32

11) What famous sermon is this section of scripture a part of? _____________________


12) What comment does Jesus make before launching off into this part of the sermon?  Vs 20 ______________________________ What consequence? _________________


13)  What was once said? (see also Dt 24:1ff)   ____________________________  Is it going to be different under the NT? __________  See Dt 22:19, 29  Were there some absolute prohibitions of divorce in the OT? _________________________


14)  If a man divorces his wife improperly (i.e. she is innocent of fornication) what is he guilty of (or responsible for) afterward? __________________________  If a man married the improperly divorced woman what would the “other” man be guilty of? ____________


15) In any of the passages so far, does Jesus place a time restriction or waiting period on this behavior or it’s consequences? ________________ 


Paul’s application of Jesus’ teachings on this subject.

 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.  I Corinthians 7:10-11


16)  Matthew 5:32   What is Jesus’ teaching if “she” doesn’t remain unmarried as Paul instructs?  For her? ____________________________ For the “other man?” _______________________  Is the spouse who caused this situation guiltless? ________


Paul’s instruction where Jesus did not

Bu t to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.  I Corinthians 7:12


17)  Can a Christian divorce over “religious differences?” _________________________


18)  I Corinthians 7:15  If the other is determined to leave, is the Christian “bound” to the obligations of  Vs 1-8?  __________________

"The wife is BOUND by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.  I Corinthians 7:39

19)  Is the Christian still “bound” to the marriage in the same sense as vs 10-11?  See also Romans 7:1-3. ______________  How long is a marriage binding? _________________  As you compare I Corinthians 7:39 to Romans 7:1-3  Is the message consistent? ________ 


But what about the children of an “improper” marriage?

(The innocent victims)

I know of nowhere in the NT that the question is specifically addressed.  The NT does describe propriety and marriage in a variety of ways.  It forbids in no uncertain terms entering into marriages where one or more are already “bound” to someone else. 


Focus on Ezra 10:1-4.

20)   In this OT example, were there prohibitions against marrying certain folks? ____________  Would the particulars of that prohibition still apply if not also found in the NT? _____________ 


21)  Now for the practical relevance of the story to us… Did the fact that children  were involved nullify the commandments of God in the OT? __________________ 


22)  What was the resolution for this matter when discovered? Vs 3? ______________________ What was the resolution relevant to the children in this instance? ______________________  What was the reaction of almost everyone involved Vs 1? ______________________ 


23)  What was the admonishment of the people to Ezra? __________  Did Ezra have a responsibility in this matter? _____________________  What was the general population’s responsibility in this matter? _____________________________


Focus on Ezra 10:10-14

24)  What was the overall attitude of the population?  ________________________ 


Focus on vs 10. 

25)  What term is now used to describe those who are guilty of this offense? _________________ What is the result or consequence to all? _____________________________________


Focus on Ezra 10:15

26)  When you have something serious and destructive to the kingdom, what bad thing can you always count on? _________________________________ 


Ezra 10:44

27)  Where does the verse stand in relation to the rest of the book?  _____________________ Does the fact of children nullify the harsh things of God’s laws? ____________________


"My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds (preachers) have caused them to go astray," Jeremiah 50:6.


John and Herod

A case of illicit divorce and remarriage

Historically we know that in the background of these two passages from both scriptural and secular sources Herod had fallen in love with his Brother Philip’s wife Herodias.  She had divorced Philip and married another… Herod.

Focus on Matthew 14:1-12


28)  Vs 1-2  When Herod heard of Jesus’ miracles, what was his assessment? ___________________  Note that we have Matthew’s inspired editorial explanation of events.  Vs 3 Whose wife does Matthew (under inspiration )  consider Herodias to be?  _________________


Focus on Mark 6:14-28   emphasis on vs. 17-19 

29)  Note this is a parallel account of the above.  Vs. 17 Is John Mark’s editorial comment in agreement with Matthew’s? (Matthew 14:3) ie whose wife is Herodias? _______________________  What detail does Mark add in vs 17 that Matthew does not? ___________________  


Note: There is some legitimate discussion about whether the underlying problem is the fact that she was a “brother’s wife” before or just “somebody’s wife” before. We could bog down in technical theological detail… But, let’s note some of the obvious questions that can be seen from this example regardless of the underlying detail.


30) Mark 6:17  Even though men may recognize a divorce and a remarriage in the eyes of God is it a done deal? ________________  After the remarriage to Herod whose wife was Herodias in the eyes of God? ________________________ What would God call the marital act each time they entered the marital bed? ______________________ 


31)  In the eyes of God, was the matter settled once they were officially married in earthly terms? Vs 18 ____________________________  What assessment is made of Herod’s now ongoing marriage to Herodias (or Herod’s possession of her )?  ____________________________  Compare verse 17 and 18 does the text tell you that she is your brother’s wife, or she was your brother’s wife?  ___________  Is this also  similar to the ongoing question of our  time? (Is she another man’s wife, or not?) __________________


32)  Compare this situation to Jesus’ assessment already studied (Matthew 5:32) “whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”  Does John the Baptists OT assessment of the situation accord with Jesus’ NT assessment? ________________ Isn’t this exactly what Herod had done? ____________________   So, is the adultery a one time or ongoing act (s) Mark 6:17/Matthew 5:32? ________________________


33)   Hebrews 13:4.  “Marriage {is to be held} in honor among all, and the {marriage} bed {is to be} undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

 Is the marriage bed NEVER  defiled, no matter what? _________________ Harmonize what is said here with question 32? ______________________________ Is it possible to have a fornicator in a marriage bed and be bound for judgment? _____________


34)  Matthew 19:6.  "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."  Since John was obviously demanding Herod and Herodias separate, and lost his life for the truth…. What key is found in this verse to explain why? ____________________________


Ezekiel 16:48-52

"As I live," declares the Lord GOD, "Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done.  Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.” Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw {it.} Furthermore, Samaria did not commit half of your sins, for you have multiplied your abominations more than they. Thus you have made your sisters appear righteous by all your abominations which you have committed. Also bear your disgrace in that you have made judgment favorable for your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. Yes, be also ashamed and bear your disgrace, in that you made your sisters appear righteous.


“Shall not” vs. “should not”….

How serious is this really?


 Focus on Luke 16:14-18

35)  Vs. 14  What are the Pharisees surrounding Jesus at this point doing? ____________ Do you suppose this put Jesus into a friendly frame of mind? _______________ 


36)  Vs 15  they were the religious elite of Jesus’ day.  What part of their attitude destroyed their relationship with God?  _____________ What does God know?__________ So if we were to try to appear devout, and justify ourselves before men… while refusing the part of God’s law that we don’t like… Will it work? _______


37)  Vs 16-17  Were others in Jesus’ day wanting to come into the kingdom of God? __________  In the middle of this mocking of Jesus…. Jesus explains about the Word of God.  Can you just throw out the part you don’t like? ___________  What would happen before God would allow that? _______________________  How minutely is the Word of  God protected? ______________________________________


 38)  Vs.  18  What illustration does Jesus bring up to make the point you can’t just shred the part of your Bible that you don’t like?  ___________________________________________  How significant does this make this subject overall?  _______________________ 


Think through this. 

Of all the things people have messed with in the Word of God….

The one that Jesus brings forward as absolutely standing regardless of whether men want it to or not. . .  is God’s marriage law!

If people were taunting you concerning your faith in the word, what illustration would you bring forward as the most devastating aspect of the Bible that people throw out?  ______________________________________


39)  Vs 19 ff  What famous story follows this subject to drive it home?  ______________  What is the point of this story?_______________________  Vs 1-13  What parable precedes this overall  discussion and ridicule?  _________________  What is the point of this parable? ________________ 


So…. Be ready to die before.  Be ready to die after.  The Word of God stands whether you like it or not in the middle.  And the illustration of one thing they don’t like but God will enforce it anyway is God’s law on marriage, divorce and remarriage.  Hmmm….


How important is this subject really?

And He *said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her;  and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery."

 Mark 10:11-12


The preceding lesson was done by Jerry Blount