Matthew 19:9. “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 doth commit adultery.”
I don’t think you can know how much I have prayed over this verse, wanting to teach it correctly and clearly as I can. This is such a hot- button issue in our churches today. Many people have been hurt because they’ve been made to feel they’ve committed the unforgiveable sin if they divorce for any reason other than adultery or fornication. I would just like to point out two things: One, divorce is NOT the unpardonable sin. Attributing the miracles of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is the unpardonable sin. It is denying the deity of Christ (Matthew 12:31-32). Two, if we had not descended into so much selfishness, lack of love for God and His Word; if we had not adopted a secular, hedonistic worldview into Christianity and into our churches, divorce would not have become so common among believers. We would not be having discussions about the rights or wrongs of it.
One more thing, and possibly the most important, is that God forgives. He is the God of second chances, the God of reconciliation and restoration. There is no reason a divorced or divorced/remarried person or couple cannot serve in the church in several capacities, once there is no question about their commitment to Christ.
Now, let’s look at the verse, understanding that there is much disagreement about the translation and application of all the scriptures that deal with the issue of divorce. As you’ve probably discovered by now, I’m pretty much an advocate of taking scripture in its literal sense.
In the Old Testament, adultery was punishable by death. Jesus, as the the divine Lawgiver, the great “I AM,” now gave a new law about divorce. He said it was wrong, except for the cause of unfaithfulness. There are those who dispute whether or not this so-called “exception clause” actually belongs in the verse. That is beyond my reach to discern.
If a person divorces for any other reason, that is wrong; the person who marries a wrongly-divorced person is committing adultery.
That seems very harsh to us, in this age of backward thinking, when hundreds of thousands of dollars can be spent on a wedding but there is little or no preparation for the marriage. We have to keep in mind what the symbolism of marriage is. It is the picture of Christ, the Bridegroom, Who gave His life for the church, His bride. It shows the sacrificial nature of the love required of the groom, and the reverent, respectful love the bride is to give in return for His servant leadership.
When I have a couple in my office who are only inches from the cliff of divorce, I always go to two places in scripture. The first place is I Corinthians 13, the great “love chapter.” The second is to Ephesians 5, which talks about the filling of the Holy Spirit and how that filling affects a Christ-centered marriage. Most husbands don’t seem to realize that the submission they seek from their wives could easily be theirs if they would simply obey scripture themselves, loving their wives sacrificially, nourishing and cherishing them as their own flesh.
Submission to that kind of love is easy. It is not a burden, because sacrificial love is not arrogant, demanding, and overbearing.
Please note that there is no condemnation to hell in Matthew 19:9. There is no demand that people be cast out of the church and shunned. There is no standing in haughty self-righteousness and holding our sacred white robes away from those who have sinned as we have not. I’m afraid most of those attitudes have come straight from the hearts of prideful people who have indeed made sexual sin the most horrible sin of all.
Again: God is the God of reconciliation and restoration. We need to consider that when we feel the need to judge a behavior that we ourselves have not committed.