By Donnie V. Rader
A clear and simple understanding of what the Bible says on divorce and remarriage is greatly needed. We are seeing more and more divorces. It is not an uncommon thing for there to be divorces in the family and in the church. We have people wanting to be baptized or place membership who are divorced and remarried. Some questions have to be answered. Is their marriage scriptural? If not, must they separate or can they continue in that relationship? Thus, we need to know what the text says.
Divorce and remarriage is a simple subject that has been made complex. What the Bible says on this subject is just as simple as what it says on baptism. Matthew 19:9 is just as clear and simple as Mark 16:16. Yet, both subjects become complex because of the human emotion and situations that cry out for a favorable answer from the word. In-depth studies on both subjects have become necessary when men pervert the simple text.
In this study we want to focus on Matthew 19:9. It is the first verse that comes to mind when we think about divorce and remarriage. This verse bears the burden of the study. John Murray said that Matthew 19:9 is “the most pivotal passage in the New Testament on divorce.” Martin Luther said, “Matthew 19:9 is a blunt, clear, plain text.”
Matthew 19:9 says:
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away cloth commit adultery.
What The Text Says
A. Other texts on divorce state the blanket rule: divorce for any cause is wrong. God has always hated divorce (Mal. 2:16). When Jesus was asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (Matt. 19:3), he responded by giving four reasons why the answer is no. (1) God made one man for one woman (v. 5), (2) A man is to cleave to his wife (v. 5), (3) The man and his wife are one flesh (v. 5), (4) God has joined them together (v. 6).
When answering a question sent by the Corinthians Paul stated that those who are married must continue in their marriage. Four times he affirms that they are not to divorce (1 Cor. 7:10-13). The parallel texts to Matthew 19:9 do not give an exception to the rule (Mark 10:11-12; Lukel6:18).
B. Only two texts mention an exception to the blanket rule. Those pas-sages are Matthew 5:32 (“saving for the cause of fornication”) and Matthew19:9 (“except it be for fornication”). The exception is when the divorce is for fornication.
C. Conclusion: there is one, and only one, scriptural cause for divorce fornication. It is the only one authorized. This is true whether the person intends to remarry or not. Now, that’s simple! Anybody can see that.
What The Text Says
A. Jesus makes a distinction in one who puts away and one who is put away. Some today tell us that it really doesn’t make any difference. The only difference that I know it makes is that Jesus made a difference. Look at the text: “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry an-other, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
Notice that Jesus makes a distinction between the one who puts away and the one who is put away. Now, that’s simple!
B. There are two parts to Matthew 19:9. Part A discusses the one who puts away. Part B discusses the one who is put away.
I learn two things from part A of our text. (1) One who puts away his mate (for a cause other than fornication) commits adultery when he remarries. (2) One who puts away his mate (for fornication) does not commit adultery when he remarries. Part B tells us that when the one who is put away remarries he commits adultery. There is no exception phrase found in part B of our text. It doesn’t fit there either textually or grammatically. Thus, this includes the one put away for fornication as well as the one put away for a cause other than fornication.
C. Conclusion: The only one who has a right to remarry is the one who puts away his mate for fornication. To know whether a particular person in a divorce has a right to remarry, simply find where he fits in the text. If the person in question put away his mate, he fits part A of the text. Now did he put her away for fornication? If so, he has a right to remarry. If not, he does not have that right. If that person is the one who was put away by his mate, he fits part B of the text. He does not have a right to remarry. Now, that’s simple.
The Order of the Text
There is an order that is implied in Matthew 19:9. The text says that a man may put away his wife for fornication and marry another. If he puts her away for fornication that tells us that the fornication must precede the divorce. Thus, the order is: (1) Fornication, (2) Divorce and (3) Re-marriage. It is not (1) Divorce for any cause, (2) Mate commits adultery, and then (3) Remarriage is justified.
The order of Matthew 19:9 is just as important as the order of Mark 16:16. (1) Believe, (2) Baptized and (3) Saved. It is not, (1) Believe, (2) Saved, and (3) Baptized. We cannot reverse God’s order.
Now, that’s simple!
We Must Have Bible Authority
A.We must abide within the authority of the Bible. We must do all things in the name of (by the authority of) Jesus Christ (Col. 3:17). To go beyond the doctrine of Christ means that we are out of fellowship with God (2 John. 9). The principle of Bible authority applies to the issue of divorce and remarriage just like it does to the work and worship of the church. If we affirm that someone has a right to re-many we must have Bible authority for what we say (1 Pet. 4:11).
B. Respecting Bible authority means that we respect the silence of the Scriptures. The silence of God is not permission to act. Rather the silence of God is prohibitive. Since our Lord was from a tribe of which Moses spake nothing concerning being a priest on earth, Jesus was not permitted to be a priest on earth (Heb. 7:14).
To illustrate, God was silent about instrumental music. That silence does not give us permission to have it, but his silence would prohibit it. God was silent about using grape jelly on the Lord’s table. Does that give us per-mission to use it?
Let us not be found seeking justification for some remarriage on the basis of the silence of the Scriptures. Now folks, that’s simple.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 3 p. 10-11
February 6, 1997