What Does Jesus Say About Divorce And Marriage

What Did Jesus Say about Divorce?

Recently, the Western world has focused its attention on the subject of same-sex marriage, with the issue of divorce receiving less attention. Despite this, Christians and non-Christians alike continue to battle with the decision to divorce as well as the process of considering divorce. This is an area where we require clear direction. Despite the fact that the Bible’s teaching on divorce is extensive, we’ll limit our attention in this brief post to one crucial component of Jesus’ teaching from Mark 10:1–12—the prerequisites for divorcing a spouse.

Later, in private, the disciples requested Jesus to elaborate on His response (10:10).

He emphasized unequivocally that marriage is to be a long-term commitment between a man and a single woman.

The permanency of the marriage relationship was declared (and continues to be upheld) by Jesus.

  • What are the conditions in question?
  • The Greek term that Jesus used to describe “immorality” is the same one that we use to describe modern-day wordpornography.
  • Porne is the source of the word “prostitute.” The wordmolxeia, which is used particularly for adultery in Matthew 19, might have been used by Jesus, but He selected a more general phrase instead.
  • Porneia is deemed immorality in any scenario, though.
  • As a result, some researchers use the term in a broad sense and apply it to things like homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and other similar behaviors.
  • He was not the one who ordered it.
  • In such marriages, the ultimate objective is always and everywhere reconciliation.

I’m aware of one example when this is the case.

He just stayed to watch for a minute or two before turning the television off, feeling terrible and humiliated.

Finally, he came clean to his wife about what he had been up to.

His wife was adamant in her refusal to forgive him for that solitary misstep.

And, for a small period of time, she was able to do this.

What the man did in his hotel room was wrong, and I don’t condone it.

Divorce is a human decision, not something dictated by God.

That’s right!

It’s all over now!

A mood of “How can we work through this terrible rupture in our relationship?” pervades the process of seeking reconciliation.

To be sure, it is a severe, sad, and emotionally devastating act of disobedience and betrayal on the part of the victim.

In the middle of terrible betrayal, and you fear your marriage is on the verge of dissolution, please consider the difficult work of reconciliation before responding with the kneejerk reaction: “I’ve got grounds for a divorce, and I’m not stopping until I have it!” Most of the time, filing those documents will simply result in one heartbreak being replaced by another that is considerably more painful.

Divorce and Remarriage: According to Jesus, by Charles R. Swindoll, is adapted (Plano, Tex: IFL Publishing House, 2013). Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. retains ownership of the copyright. All intellectual property rights are reserved throughout the world.

About the author

For more than 40 years, Pastor Chuck Swindoll has dedicated his life to the accurate, practical teaching and implementation of God’s Word. Chuck has served as the senior pastor-teacher at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, since 1998, but his reach goes well beyond the confines of the church’s walls and into the community. Insight for Living has been a major program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, and it airs all around the world. In his roles as president of Dallas Theological Seminary and as chancellor of the seminary, Chuck has assisted in the preparation and equipping a new generation of ministers.

Jesus on Marriage and Divorce

In Matthew 19:1-12 — one of the most controversial passages in theBible— Jesus reveals more of God’s intent about marriage, divorce, andadultery.Back to the Plan of CreationDivorce was commonplace in Jesus’ day. Men andwomenhad ignored God’s ideal plan for marriage for a long time. Even so, some realized that divorce was not morally right; consequently, there was continuous debate within religious circles on when divorce was acceptable. The controversy centered on “something indecent” in Deuteronomy 24:1.Is it lawful to divorce for any reason? The Pharisees questioned Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife forany and every reason?”It was a loaded question. It guaranteed that almost any answer would offend someone and stir up controversy. Jesus responded to this question throughout the entire passage.By asking “Is it lawful…” in Matthew 19:3 (in context with verse 7), the Pharisees were referring to thelawof Moses. They believed that greater obedience to the law would raise one up another rung in the spiritual hierarchy. But was this the right question? Instead, purer hearts might have asked, “Is it lawful for a man to remain married to his wife when there are good reasons to divorce?” The Pharisees wanted reasons to break up a marriage; Jesus responded by emphasizing what keeps a marriage together — God’s way.Jesus reminded the Pharisees of God’s original purpose and design for marriage from creation. He went back to the original blueprint of the Master Architect rather than argue with some of the contractors over how they built the house. People may fail in the construction of their marriages, but God’s original design for husband and wife is flawless.“Haven’t you read,” Jesus asked the Pharisees, knowing they knew well the Creation account in Scripture, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female?’” God (actually, Jesus Himself — Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; Ps. 33:9) created one man (Adam) for one woman (Eve). God designed and created men and women for each other from the creation of humankind.In verse 5, Jesus confirmed that this creation ideal is the reasonanyone(without limiting this to Jews or any other group of people) leavesparentsand cleaves to his or her mate in a one-fleshrelationship. Anything that destroys the new family structure is contrary to God’s will. In verse 6, Jesus concluded by adding, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man notseparate.” God joins husband and wife together — not civil contracts or a sexual relationship. Spiritually they become like one person. No human being is to separate them. This is a creation law of God given before the law of Moses.How are two persons “joined together?” Marriage is both a binding and bonding commitment between husband and wife. They make lifelong vows of fidelity, and God is a witness to these vows. He yokes them together, and those in a single yoke cannot separate themselves without removing the collar.In context, the last part of verse 6 literally says, “and keep on not letting man separate”. This is a continuous command throughout a marriage. Can a husband and wife separate? Yes. Should they separate? No. Why? God’s will is that husband and wife remain yoked together as “one flesh.”Did Jesus answer the question of the Pharisees? The question was: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” The answer: “The Creator made male and female so the two become one flesh. What God has joined together, let man not separate.” The Pharisees understood that Jesus had answered “no” to their first question. Man and woman leave parents and cleave to each other in a one-flesh relationship. God joins them together. That’s the sum of marriage. No exceptions. Some may seek separation; they may want to end a marriage — but that was not God’s plan.Why did Moses permit divorce? The Pharisees heard Jesus’ response and believed they saw a contradiction with Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They immediately asked Jesus, “Why then did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”Jesus answered the Pharisees by giving them the reasoning behind Deuteronomy 24:1-4. First, Mosespermittedthe Israelites to divorce their wives; it was not a command as the Pharisees suggested. Nor did Mosescreatedivorce — it was already a common practice among the Israelites. The law of Moses was really a damage control measure as divorces occurred.Jesus told His questioners that divorce was permitted under Moses “because your hearts were hard.” Nevertheless, He quickly pointed out, “It was not this way from the beginning.” God never wanted divorce. It was not part of His plan for marriage. And, as Jesus said, this creation law still governs all humankind.Now we come to the most controversial statement of all. Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Jesus restored God’s creation law rather than merely commenting on the law of Moses. He spoke of two classes of persons who commit adultery: explicitly, husbands who divorce their wives without the cause of “marital unfaithfulness” to marry other women; and implicitly, women who marry husbands who have divorced their wives for reasons other than “marital unfaithfulness.” Let’s review the meaning of the operative words.The word “divorces” is the same term the Pharisees used in verses 3 and 7. It is the Greek word for “letting go.” Also, “marries” refers to the marriage bond between a husband and wife. These words grammatically link together and equally relate to the word “anyone”.What does the exception for “marital unfaithfulness” mean? The only divorce that does not lead to adultery arises from “marital unfaithfulness.” Its meaning is critical to understanding Matthew 19:9.There are differing views on whether this word modifies the word “divorces” preceding it or the word “marries” following it. But clearly Jesus is telling the world that divorce for marital unfaithfulness is the only divorce with God’s permission — not approval — that generally applies to all people from that time forward.“Marital unfaithfulness” in Greek isporneia, meaning “fornication and all forms of illicit or unlawful sexual intercourse in general”. The proper application of this single term is the most important key to understanding verse 9. Does this term require some sexual involvement on the part of a marriage partner? Can it simply mean breaking faith with one’s partner by forsaking the marriage relationship without any sexual involvement with others? According to Greek authorities, the word has a broad sexual connotation — including unlawful heterosexual relationships, homosexuality (also sodomy and lesbianism), incest, and bestiality. It appears to require more than mere covenant breaking, marital incompatibility, or disloyalty. Does the exception Jesus used for “marital unfaithfulness” refer only to adultery? No, Jesus did not use the specific word for “adultery” — the Greek root wordmoicheia. In emphasizing the purity of the marriage bond, Jesus spoke broadly againstanysexual involvement with others (porneia) that breaks the sexually exclusive bond between husband and wife. He did not restrict this sin to adultery only, but rejected both it and all other forms of sexual infidelity. Jesus permits divorce whenever a spouse commits anyporneia, which is not limited solely tomoicheia. How muchporneiamust a spouse commit before the exception applies? Is it a one-time act, or must it be a continual, unrepentant state of marital unfaithfulness? How does one know for sure if and whenporneiaoccurs, especially since it is usually a secretive act? The word and context do not tell us. The exception could apply immediately upon any sexual infidelity. The first act could break the exclusive sexual bond between husband and wife. It may also require a continuous and unrepentant lifestyle of sexual infidelity with a hard heart before divorce occurs scripturally. There is no clear consensus on this issue. But ifporneiais present and active, divorce is permitted. How does one prove marital unfaithfulness? Under Mosaic law, witnesses must verify adulterous behavior (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 17:2-7; 19:15-21; Num. 35:30). No such biblical requirement exists today. Apart from the Bible, some civil courts struggling with legal proof of adultery in divorce cases have resolved the problem this way: Because adultery usually takes place in secret or seclusion, proof thereof in most instances is by circumstantial evidence, through showingdesire, by evidence of mutual affection or otherwise, coupled withopportunityunder conditions or circumstances from which a reasonable judge of human nature would be led to conclude that adultery was committed. We must act wisely to arrive at an honest conclusion on this important matter. If reasonable Christians, aware of the relevant facts, believe that the circumstances (through desire and opportunity) support sexual infidelity (porneia), perhaps that is enough to fulfill the intent of verse 9. Divorce (except forporneia) and remarriage are adultery. If there is no marital unfaithfulness (porneia), divorce and remarriage to another person while both spouses to the first marriage remain alive cause both parties to the remarriage to “commit adultery”. (The Greek root word ismoikaomai, meaning “to have unlawful sexual intercourse with another’s wife; to commit adultery with”.) But does this term refer to a one-time act of adultery or a continuing state of adultery? For example, let’s say an unscriptural divorce occurs (withoutporneia). One spouse remarries another person; therefore, both parties to that remarriage commit adultery. But does this adultery continue? Some believe it does not. They argue that once an adulterous marriage occurs, there is no way to undo it. At that instant, the remarriage becomes legitimate. Alternatively, doesmoikaomaimean such a remarriage is a continuing state of adultery? As opposed to a one-time adulterous act, is it adultery that continues while the relationship exists? This may mean that anyone remarrying after an unscriptural divorce from a living spouse enters into a lifestyle of adultery (Col. 3:5-8). The debate on this critical point continues. However, if a continuous state of adultery truly exists in the remarriage, who would argue against terminating this relationship? Repentance would clearly require breaking off the adulterous relationship. Many questions arise. Does the exception Jesus made in verse 9 for marital unfaithfulness permit a divorce but not remarriage? I feel this is a very strict construction. Jesus clearly addresses a situation where divorceandremarriage have occurred, not each action as an isolated incident. May a spouse (the “divorcee”) divorced by a mate for reasons other thanporneiaremarry? Verse 9 does not tell us, but Matthew 5:32 indicates that the remarriage may be adulterous. What rights does the divorcing spouse (the “divorcer”) have whenporneiahas occurred? When the exception does apply, Jesus does not say whether the divorcer may remarry. However, by implication, if a divorce is permissible forporneia, then the marriage is broken. It is as if a death of the unfaithful spouse has occurred. What about the divorcee who is guilty ofporneia? Does he or she give up any chance to marry again? Jesus does not say anything about this person. The one engaging inporneiacommits a grievous sin in breaking the marriage bond. What are the consequences? Jesus does not mention any penalty in verse 9. Many say that the adulterer spiritually dies (as discussed earlier in this chapter). The only redemption is through repentance and forgiveness from God, but this may not allow for any remarriage. Others argue, however, that if the marriage ends in God’s judgment, why would both parties not be free to remarry another as if the marriage had never occurred? What happens to the divorcer who remarries after an unscriptural divorce? Jesus says in verse 9 that the divorcer commits adultery. If theremarriageis a continuing state of adultery, are the parties now required to end their new marriage as part of repentance? If they divorce, can the spouses ever marry again? Must they return to their mates from their first marriages? As you can see, many remarriage issues remain unanswered by Jesus. He does not tell us much about how a scriptural remarriage may occur after either a scriptural or unscriptural divorce. It appears that we are to answer these questions for ourselves, using the Scriptures as God leads us. What we do know from Matthew 19:9? We know Jesus reaffirmed the marriage bond of one woman for one man in a monogamous marriage for life.Porneiais a serious breach of fidelity and trust in a marriage. If it were not, God would not permit divorce even in that exceptional circumstance. By recognizing this exception, Jesus acknowledged that the marriage bond can be broken, but He did not say that a divorcemustoccur after marital unfaithfulness. He onlypermitsit. Even so, His focus throughout this conversation is not on divorce or the exception permitting divorce. He honors God’s ideal plan for marriage from creation. The teaching that an unscriptural divorce followed by remarriage is adultery is a very hard principle to receive. It shows how important the purity and longevity of a marriage is to God. Is it better not to be married at all? Verse 10 tells us that Jesus’ statements shocked His disciples. If this was the way God viewed divorce and remarriage, why marry at all? In saying this, did the disciples prefer easy divorces over being obedient to God’s plan for marriage? Were they so concerned about sin in marriage that they would turn their back on marriage entirely? The disciples show how far we all fall short of God’s ideal. They missed the point. Jesus did not tell anyone to avoid marriage. His focus was always on loving God with all of one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength; that must be the priority in this life. If marriage,money, or anything else keeps one out of the kingdom of God, then it is better to part with it. We have a choice, but it is impossible for people to enter the kingdom of God on worldly resources. Only with God is everything possible. How did Jesus respond? He did not equivocate or say that He was misunderstood. He only added: “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:11-12). He relied upon God to help them through any situation. This goes beyond the question of marriage and divorce. It is a faith problem. Will the disciples trust in God or themselves? Who can accept this teaching? In verse 12, Jesus added: “The one who can accept thisshould accept it.” Marriage is a matter of free choice; God does not coerce anyone into it. If anyone wants to marry, then he or she should accept the responsibilities of marriage. The couple should glorify God through their union as He intended from creation and honor its permanence and fidelity. Likewise, if anyone remains single, he or she should glorify God as an unmarried individual (1 Cor. 7:32-35). Further Teachings on Divorce and RemarriageThe circumstances of Jesus’ teaching the Pharisees in Mark 10:1-12 are very similar to Matthew 19:1-12. Very likely, they are different accounts of the same meeting — with some differences, however. In Mark’s passage, Jesus speaks first of a husband as the divorcer of his wife. If that man marries another woman, he commits adultery against his wife. Then He describes the wife as the divorcer of her husband. If she marries another man, she commits adultery. Important differences from Matthew 19 are these: Mark entirely omits the exception for “marital unfaithfulness” (porneia) in Matthew 19:9; and Jesus’ teachings apply to both husbands and wives if they are the divorcers.Since Jesus did not restate the “marital unfaithfulness” exception in Mark’s Gospel, some argue that Jesus either did not mean for the exception to apply at all, or He made a public statement to the Pharisees using the exception and another to His disciples privately without any exception, implying that different rules apply to non-believers and believers. But the missing exception in Mark does not nullify Jesus’ statement in Matthew’s version. Also, since Jesus rooted all His teachings in God’s creation plan for marriage, these apply to all people for all time without limitation to any particular group.The second difference is of particular interest since existing Jewish law did not allow a wife to divorce her husband. The mention by Jesus of women as divorcers affirms God’s view that men and women who divorce are equally accountable to Him.

Joseph Warren Kniskern is an attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina with more than 32 years of experience, who has been cited inWho’s Who in American Law. This article has been excerpted with permission fromWhen the Vow Breaks: A Survival and Recovery Guide for Christians Facing Divorce(B H Publishing Group, revised edition copyright @ 2008). Which divorce lawyer should you use?

What Did Jesus Teach about Divorce and Remarriage?

Part of the What Did Jesus Teach? series, this essay explores the teachings of Jesus.

What Jesus Said

However, despite the fact that the Mosaic law had laws for divorce, the Old Testament makes it plain that divorce falls short of God’s ideal (Mal. 2:16). When asked about divorce and remarriage, Jesus took his audience all the way back to the beginning, reminding them that God created humanity as male and female (Gen. 1:27) and stipulated that the man was to leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (Gen. 2:24) in a one-flesh union before God that people were not to break: “So they are no longertwobutoneflesh.” (Matt.

  1. Accordingly, “what God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt.
  2. In their answer, Jesus’ audience makes it apparent that they believed that the Mosaic restrictions had effectively supplanted God’s original objectives at the time of creation.
  3. 24:1–4), given the religious atmosphere of the day, in their thinking?
  4. 19:7–8, Mark 10:5; see also Matt.
  5. Marriage, on the other hand, was designed to be a lifelong, loyal connection between a man and a woman.

The Disciples’ Reaction

The first disciples of Jesus, although acknowledging the lofty standard set by Jesus, believe his viewpoint to be unnecessarily restricted, and say, “If that is the case. it is better not to marry” (Matt. 19:10). When they disagree, Jesus dismisses them and responds that, while a few people may truly be blessed with the gift of celibacy (Matt. 19:11–12), God’s original ideal for marriage continues to hold. The disciples’ response, according to some, demonstrates that Jesus’ standard must have been even stricter than Shammai’s “divorce on the grounds of adultery” view; the disciples’ response, according to others, demonstrates that Jesus advocated a “no divorce once the marriage has been consummated” position; and 1 However, the reasons presented above are somewhat inconclusive, especially given the fact that the disciples’ reactions were undoubtedly impacted by their surroundings and presuppositions.

In common with many of their Jewish contemporaries, Jesus’s followers may have assumed that the standard was a little more lenient—perhaps they even assumed that Jesus’s standard was a little more lenient based on his compassionate treatment of the adulterous woman mentioned in John 7:53–8:11—and as a result, they may have reacted negatively to Jesus’s severe-sounding pronouncement.

As a result, the fact that Jesus’ criteria for divorce was higher even than that of the conservative school of Shammai may be a sufficient explanation for the disciples’ shocked reaction to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19.

The “Exception Clause”

Much debate has concentrated on the one ostensible exemption offered by Jesus, according to which divorce may be acceptable in certain circumstances. Divorce is illegitimate “save in cases of marital infidelity” (NIV1984) or “sexual immorality” (NIV1989), according to this exemption, which is referenced in both Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. (ESV; ISV; NKJV; HCSB; TNIV; NIV). Due to the fact that the similar passages in Mark 10:11–12 and Luke 16:18 do not mention the exception, some have speculated that Jesus never truly stated the exception and that Matthew (or someone else) inserted it at a later point in the narrative.

Some of those who believe that Jesus did indeed utter the exception clause attempt to bring the Matthean exception clause into conformity with the absolute statements in Mark, Luke, and Paul by arguing that those passages, rather than Matthew, should be the ultimate point of reference in the interpretation of the gospel of Matthew.

The episode reported in Matthew 19:3–12 gets its starting point from the Pharisees’ query, “Is it permissible to divorce one’s wife for any reason?” The incident is recorded in Matthew 19:3–12.

19:3; see also Matthew 5:31).

According to Matthew 19:3 (and Mark 10:2), the religious leaders were attempting to force Jesus into a choice between competing theological schools while also placing Jesus in danger with Herod Antipas, much as John the Baptist had suffered for his denunciation of Herod’s illicit union with Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (see Matt.

  1. 11:2–3; Matthew 14:3–4; Mark 6:14–29).
  2. As a result, the Pharisees’ inquiry calls into play the differing viewpoints held by the various rabbinic schools in Jesus’ day, as previously established.
  3. Without a doubt, Jesus’ position was far more stringent than that promoted by the Hillel school of thought, which maintained that divorce was acceptable “for any reason” (see Matt.
  4. On the surface, Jesus’ stance appears to be much more similar to that of the school of Shammai, which held that genuine divorce (with the potential of remarriage) could only be granted in cases of marital infidelity.
  5. 5 Furthermore, in a very significant way, Jesus’ response transcends the legalistic squabbles between those two rabbinic schools and gets right to the core of the problem in which they were engaged.
  6. 24:1–4) to an earlier set of passages (Gen.
  7. 2:24), and thus relativizes the (chronologically later) reference as merely a concession that in no way mitigates the abiding principle established by the foundational texts.
  8. Apart from emphasizing marriage’s permanence as a divine rather than just human institution, he also argues that divorce is fundamentally at conflict with God’s purpose for creating the world in the first place.
  9. Despite regulations in the Mosaic law that stipulated equal treatment of men and women in regard to divorce (Lev.
  10. However, under Jesus’ teachings, the rights of husband and wife were placed on an equal basis.

As a result, Jesus taught that the desire for other women that exists in a man’s heart constitutes adultery (Matt. 5:28), which means that extramarital encounters are equally immoral for both men and women. 6

Competing Views

In light of the foregoing explanation, it becomes clear that the meaning of the termporneia, which is the fundamental phrase in Jesus’ “exception clause,” is the most important subject to consider when attempting to comprehend Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage. Although there is no general agreement among Bible-believing Christians on the actual meaning of the Greek word porneia, the many interpretations advanced by scholars may be simply classified into one of three contending viewpoints.

The second view understands sporneia to be a reference to adultery or sexual immorality and advocates for the biblical legitimacy of divorce and remarriage for the innocent The second interpretation understandssporneia to be a reference to some form of sexual offense, such as adultery, but maintains that while Jesus permitted divorce on the grounds of sexual sin, he did not condone remarriage (thus the phrase “divorce, but no remarriage”).

In a third interpretation of the exception clause, neither divorce nor remarriage are permitted in the present context (“neither divorce nor remarriage”).

Note that there are several subtleties and variations within each of the three positions discussed above, and that this is true for all three viewpoints discussed above.

Suggested Parameters

As an alternative to advocating for a specific point of view in response to the ideas expressed above, we would like to provide certain guidelines for forming one’s own perspective on Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage. First and first, it is necessary to clarify that the termporneiais used to refer to any form of sexual vice. The precise meaning ofporneiais always determined by the context in which the word is used; yet, the termporneiaalways refers to sexual immorality in its most general sense.

Second, given the divine design of the institution of marriage, the teaching of the Old Testament on divorce and remarriage, and the unambiguous portions of Jesus’ teaching on the subject, whatever one’s view of the “exception clause” on the subject may be, it must encourage the sacredness of the marriage bond, regardless of one’s point of view on the issue.

Because divorce and remarriage are so prevalent in contemporary culture, believers should exercise special caution in ensuring that their respective views are shaped by the biblical text, striving to avoid common errors such as conflating stringency with holiness or permissiveness with grace, among others.

Furthermore, in light of the divisions that exist among orthodox Christians on this issue, we encourage everyone to maintain their views on divorce and remarriage with charity and conviction, while being open to honest discourse with those who hold opposing views. Notes:

  1. 35. See Daniel I. Block’s chapter on marriage and family in biblical times, published as part of the edited volume Marriage and Family in the Biblical World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), which includes the following quotations: “Marriage and family in ancient Israel.” This work serves as a foundation for the conversation that follows. Ibid., 41
  2. Ibid., 47
  3. Ibid., 53–55
  4. Ibid., 66–68
  5. Ibid., 77–78

Marriage and Family: Biblical Essentials is written by Andreas Köstenberger and David W. Jones, who are also co-authors of the book. David W. Jones is a professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the director of the ThM program and the assistant dean for graduate program management at the seminary. Also a prolific writer, Jones is the author of more than a dozen articles that have been published in a variety of academic journals, and she is a frequent guest speaker at Christian events such as churches, ministries, and conferences.

Andreas J.

He is a prolific author, a famous evangelical scholar, and the editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, among other accomplishments.

He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Popular Articles in This Series

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What Does the Bible Say about Marriage and Divorce?

There are two parts to this series on marriage and divorce from a biblical perspective. This is Part 1 of 2.

What Does the Bible Say aboutMarriage

As a Christian counselor, I receive a lot of inquiries about what God intended for marriage and whether it is OK to consider divorce. Let us first consider God’s design for marriage before turning our attention to divorce provisions in the Bible. As a result, God made humans in his own image, in the image of God he formed them; he created them in both male and female genders. –Genesis 1:27 (NASB) If you are enjoying this information, please consider like us. These few verses convey a great deal about God and ourselves.

  1. We share many of the traits of the Lord, including love, mercy, justice, self-awareness, others-centeredness, grace, honor, and fidelity, to mention a few.
  2. Only the Lord is without flaw in any of the aforementioned areas.
  3. Adam’s transgression caused the image of God to be shattered beyond repair, and we will never be able to restore it.
  4. We will only be able to restore the damage caused by sin entering the earth in Genesis 3 if God performs a miracle for us.
  5. Consequently, on the cross, God displayed both mercy and justice to us at the same moment for our sins.
  6. That God’s image of a man and a woman is immediately followed by God’s picture of the connection between a man and a woman is one of the things I admire about Genesis 1:29.
  7. I also appreciate that mankind has gender variety, just as God has gender diversity within Himself, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, among other attributes.

Humans do not possess the attributes of self-existence, all-power, and all-knowing that God has.

Wives, submit to your own husbands in the same way that you submit to the Lord.

Just as the church submits to Christ, wives should submit to their husbands in all aspects of their lives as well.

In the same manner, husbands should treat their wives as if they were their own bodies.

After all, no one has ever despised their own body; rather, they nourish and care for it in the same way that Christ cares for the church – for we are all members of his body.

However, I am referring to Christ and the church here, so it is hardly a great mystery.

This important verse on marriage and the connection between husbands and wives, as well as the relationship between husbands and wives, reflects the image of God.

There is an order of function in the Triune God, just as the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and Jesus is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

He is to love his wife as Christ loved the church, and if necessary, he is to die for her in the same way that Christ died for all of us.

The advice of a Christian Counselor is highly recommended when a wife and her husband are at odds over a fundamental issue in their marriage.

He bears an enormous duty before God in terms of treating his wife with love, kindness, and respect.

Another aspect of this chapter that I appreciate is that men are commanded to love their wives, and wives are commanded to respect their spouses.

Husbands have an inherent need to be respected, and women have an inherent desire to be loved, as part of God’s purpose for marriage.

A wife’s respect for her husband is accompanied by her love for her husband, and a husband’s love for his wife is accompanied by his respect for her spouse.

The marital union must recognize and accommodate the differences in the manner in which a husband’s and a wife’s wants are addressed. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” says the Bible’s Ephesians 5:21, which succinctly summarizes everything.

Key Passages and Exceptions Where is Divorce is Allowed

Adultery Divorce is permissible under biblical circumstances for two distinct reasons. The first is adultery/sexual immorality, which is the most serious. ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must provide her with a certificate of divorce,’ according to tradition. Anyone who divorces his wife, for any reason other than sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery, in my opinion. Jesus said this in Matthew 5:31-32. Because the teachers of Jewish law (the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees) had applied Moses’ teaching on divorce in extremely general terms, they had avoided understanding God’s heart in the matter of divorce, according to the Bible.

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he discovers something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her, and sends her from his house, and if after she has left his house she marries another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to she, and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced According to the Lord, such behavior would be abhorrent.

Bring no sin into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

Examples include being dissatisfied with the way a wife dressed, questioning whether she was too old, questioning her ability to have children, and so on.

I’m sure they were also concerned with whether or not all of the necessary fees and favors had been provided to them in advance.

It also clearly demonstrates the sinfulness of solely concentrating on the ability to divorce without taking into consideration the evil consequences this has on the divorced wife in particular, but ultimately on families and Jewish society in general, as the passage in Deuteronomy demonstrates.

  • Thus it is: adultery has so many negative consequences that Jesus explicitly declares it to be an exception to the rule of honoring the marriage covenant.
  • As long as couples are willing to work through the consequences of a serious breach of the marriage covenant, the possibility of repair and healing in the marriage remains very much alive.
  • The Bible acknowledges the harsh reality of our human capacity for depravity and sinfulness in this passage.
  • I give the following command to the married (not I, but the Lord): A wife is not permitted to separate from her husband.
  • In addition, a husband is not permitted to divorce his wife.
  • As for women who have nonbeliever husbands, if the man is willing to live with her, they are under no obligation to divorce them.
  • Your children would be unclean if they were not holy, but they are holy as they are.

In such circumstances, the brother or sister is not bound; God has called us to live in harmony with one another.

Alternatively, how do you know whether you will be able to save your wife?

In fact, God holds this to be his ideal, to the point where he does not want unbelievers who are married to believers to divorce from their spouses.

When I read the passage, I get the impression Paul is thinking about how the unbelieving spouse would be more likely to leave the relationship than the believing spouse, which leads me to believe that the passage is focusing on the unbelieving spouse abandoning the marriage union.

As a result, this passage is equally applicable to a marriage between two believers.

When faced with such circumstances, Paul asserts that the believer is not bound, and that we are to live in harmony with our fellow citizens on this planet.

This is the crux of Paul’s argumentative thesis.

In these circumstances, Paul points out that the believer is no longer bound by or a slave to the marriage covenant, as stated by the apostle.

In Part 2, I will write more about a biblical stance on marriage/divorce and further issues that cause a lot of damage to a marriage.

Photos“Never Lost”, Courtsey of Bryan Minear, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Talk to the Hand”, Courtesy of Ibrahim Rifath, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Certificate of Divorce”, Courtesy of rawpixel, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Love”, Courtesy of Anthony Tran, Unsplash.com; CC0 License


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When Does the Bible Allow Divorce?

Your closest friend, Annie, has finally worked up the guts to schedule a coffee appointment with you and open up about her feelings for you. “I simply can’t do it anymore,” she adds, her eyes downcast as she traces the outline of her cup with her index finger and thumb. ‘I regularly find him looking at pornographic material; he continually puts me down; he is quite controlling in the bedroom.’ He’s lost his cool a few of times recently, which has caused the kids to be really afraid of him. I’m at a loss on what to do.

  1. What are your thoughts?
  2. It appears like he is incapable of doing anything correctly, and you are afraid that Monica has begun to obsess over what a “man of God” your church’s new, single pastor appears to be.
  3. You’re worried about her well-being.
  4. Meanwhile, Mary Ann, a third friend, is filled with remorse about the events of the past.
  5. Mary Ann is unable to correct this situation because her ex-husband has remarried.
  6. When we are faced with difficult marital circumstances (whether they are our own or those of our loved ones), we may find ourselves grappling with difficult concerns such as: What are the biblical grounds for divorce?
  7. Are my marital difficulties just the result of two sinners getting together?
  8. What role does God’s Word play in assisting me in discerning what is right?

Many Americans (and Christians) Are Divorcing Today

After months of convincing herself to meet you for coffee and talk about everything, your best friend, Annie, finally does it. When she draws the edge of her cup with her index finger, she adds, “I simply can’t do it anymore.” “I find him browsing pornography on a regular basis; he continuously puts me down; he is assertive in the bedroom.” His fury has gotten the better of him on a few of occasions recently, and the kids have been really terrified of him. Nothing seems to make sense to me right now.

  • And you, what are your thoughts?
  • You’re concerned that Monica has begun to obsess over what a “man of God” your church’s new, single pastor is, as though he can’t seem to get anything done properly.
  • Her well-being is a source of concern for you.
  • Another acquaintance, Mary Ann, is filled with remorse about the events of the previous year.
  • She is unable to correct the situation because her ex-husband has remarried.
  • The following issues may arise when we are confronted with difficult marital situations (whether they are our own or those of our loved ones): What are the biblical grounds for divorce?

Was it simply a result of two sinners marrying that my marriage has struggled? Do these disagreements constitute justifiable reasons for divorcing? When it comes to discerning what is proper, how may God’s Word be of assistance?

Marriage: A Lifelong Commitment

Throughout the Bible, the idea of marriage as a lifetime commitment is stressed repeatedly. In Matthew 19:6, Jesus portrayed the connection between a husband and wife in this way: “They are no longer two, but one flesh.” In order to preserve what God has brought together, no one should separate it” (NIV). This concept is critical, says Dr. Craig Keener, Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, who illustrates how important it is by stating that Jesus “reminds us that in the beginning God connected man and woman together.” “One flesh” is typically used to allude to one’s relatives or kin, and thus the husband and wife becoming “one flesh” should form a familial bond that is no less permanent as our families of origin.” ‘The biblical ideal of marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman who are both Spirit-filled disciples of Christ,’ explains Dr.

  • Andreas Köstenberger, Senior Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • The idea of two becoming one, he explains, is apparent in the spiritual union between Christ and the church (head and body; Ephesians 5:32).
  • Beth Felker Jones, Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College.
  • In the Scriptures, God is compared to a spouse, and God’s people are compared to a wife, and this is a significant image.
  • Marriages are meant to be long-lasting because they are representations of God’s unending love for us and the people in them.

Explicit Divorce Allowances

Divorce is only specifically permitted in the Bible for two reasons. He goes on to say that “Jesus went on to state one exception in which divorce is permitted: sexual immorality on the part of one’s spouse,” which is translated as adultery in this context (Matthew 19:9). “Jesus then proceeded to state one exception in which divorce is permissible: sexual immorality on the part of one’s spouse,” Köstenberger says. “In such a circumstance, however, divorce is not obligatory or even encouraged—instead, forgiveness and reconciliation should be extended and sought if at all feasible,” Köstenberger says.

What About Domestic Abuse?

Keener believes that these clear remarks are relevant to a broader range of situations, even some that are not explicitly referenced in Scripture. His reasoning is as follows: “If a husband is hitting his wife, it would appear that this is in violation of the ‘one flesh’ relationship.” In the case of self-mutilation, we would counsel mental treatment; in the case of domestic violence against his wife, who is meant to be one flesh with him, he is most certainly not treating her as one flesh. “Now, I don’t want it to be an excuse for people to get out of their marriages—someone claiming, she abuses me (because she doesn’t laugh at my jokes) or he abuses me (because he doesn’t laugh at my jokes),” Keener continues (because we had an argument).

  1. Nevertheless, there comes a moment when discretion is preferable to bravery.
  2. Those persecuted for their faith were instructed by Jesus to flee from one city to another in order to avoid persecution (Matthew 10:23), and the apostles did so on occasion (Acts 14:5–6).
  3. “While the Bible exhibits a persistent concern for justice and is concerned with safeguarding the weak, it also teaches that believers can praise God by bearing up in the face of unjust suffering,” Köstenberger asserts.
  4. Jones, the author of Faithful: A Theology of Sex, takes a comprehensive conceptual approach to biblical teachings on divorce, which is unique in the field.
  5. “When a partner violates the marriage bond by engaging in sexual immorality (porneia), there are biblical grounds for divorce,” she says further.
  6. This, I believe, is one of the ways in which Jesus defends us in a world ripped apart by sin.
  7. Porneia unquestionably involves adultery, because adultery is a violation of the one flesh connection that exists between man and woman.

“If perpetrating violence against the person who is meant to be ‘one flesh’ with you isn’t a breach of God’s plans for marriage as a faithful, one flesh connection, I don’t know what is,” Jones says emphatically.

Chronic “Hardness of Heart”

Leslie Vernick, a Christian psychotherapist and author of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, feels that the Bible provides a solid scriptural justification for allowing individuals to suffer the consequences of their wrongdoing (see 1 Corinthians 5:9–12; James 5:19–20; Galatians 6:7, for example). In spite of her belief in the sanctity of marriage, Vernick explains why she believes that God places a higher value on safety than on perfect fidelity to one’s spouse under all circumstances (see 1 Samuel 18–31; Matthew 2:13–15; Luke 14:5).

and there is no repentance or willingness to look at that and how that has affected the marital bond and the bond of trust,” according to Vernick, “chronic hardness of heart” is grounds for divorce.

While counseling women who are experiencing similar situations, Vernick recommends that they first have a wake-up call dialogue with their spouses, followed by separation if the husband does not repent.

As Vernick points out, there is a significant difference between a difficult or unsatisfactory marriage and a toxic marriage in terms of outcomes.

instead of being grateful and appreciative of what you do have.” When you’re disappointed in your spouse because they’re not as romantic or ambitious or spiritual or handy or whatever it is that you wanted out of that marriage, and you’re disappointed and Rather than grounds for divorce, Vernick believes that a disappointing or challenging marriage may be used as motivation to stay committed to one another.

What About a Past Divorce?

Even if you’ve been divorced for a long time and are reading this article, you may be grappling with your own doubts or feelings of guilt—particularly if you’ve come to the conclusion that your divorce was not biblically justified. It is quite easy to get burdened by the guilt of one’s previous actions and decisions. In interactions with others, there are sometimes long-term ramifications; yet, before God, “if we confess our sins to him, he is true and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all wrongdoing,” as the Bible states (1 John 1:9).

“However, it does imply that we make restitution to the greatest extent feasible, admitting and doing all in our power to make things right with the persons involved, including spouses, children, and anybody else who may have been harmed.” “Really messing up severely and then learning mercy is the most lovely thing that can happen,” adds Vernick.

God’s grace forgave us our failings and transgressions, and as a result, we were transformed into more gracious individuals who were more willing to share God’s love and compassion to others.

Navigating the Tension

We find a variety of answers to difficult marital difficulties within the church. Some may advise couples to divorce too quickly, encouraging them to forego the tough peaks and valleys that are a normal part of any marriage and, in essence, neglecting the great value that the Bible places on the commitment of a couple to one another. Others may respond with legalistic zeal, urging other Christians to remain in relationships that are manifestly unhealthy and dangerous. To some of these challenging problems, there are no easy or predetermined solutions.

The best a Christian can do when faced with a marriage that appears to be irreparable is to seek God’s wisdom in Scripture, consult with trusted friends who are familiar with the issue, and pray together for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

We will only be able to negotiate this conflict if we remain engaged with the entire Word of God.

In addition, she maintains a blog at RebeccaFlorenceMiller.wordpress.com and a Twitter account at @flatheadmama.

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