31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery (Matthew 5:31–32, NKJV).”
God created, arranged, and sanctified marriage for man and woman (Gen. 2:21-25). Over time, people failed to honor marriage by introducing all kinds of corruption that defiled this holy union, including polygamy (Gen. 4:19), homosexuality (Gen. 19:5), adultery (2 Sam. 11:2-4), and divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). God restrained man’s cheapened disregard for marriage through the Law of Moses, placing restrictions on plural wives, divorce, and remarriage (Exod. 21:10; Deut. 21:15-17; 24:1-4). Yet, in the days of Christ, marriage continued to be minimized as a relationship easily discarded and replaced with a legal document (Matt. 5:31; 19:7-8). Jesus applied His authority over marriage, affirming its sanctity and exclusivity. The person who divorces his (or her) spouse for “any reason except sexual immorality (fornication) bears responsibility for the sin of separating what God joined, and the future sin remarriage produces (Matt. 5:32; 19:6). Only the reason of sexual immorality (fornication) suffices to put away a spouse without causing her to commit adultery through remarriage (Matt. 5:32). And, the person who marries one who has been divorced (put away) also commits adultery (Matt. 19:9). Jesus calls on everyone to honor marriage as God gave it instead of dishonoring it and losing our souls (Heb. 13:4).
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason” (Matthew 19:3, NKJV)?
Ending marriages for all sorts of reasons is commonplace in America and around the world. The deterioration of marriage does untold damage to families and souls. How Jesus answered the Pharisees’ insincere question settles God’s view of divorce. (1) “Have you not read” (Matt. 19:4). God’s word answers the question of divorce for all who believe. (2) God rules over marriage (Matt. 19:4-5). It is His gift to humanity, and we must obey His will in it. (3) Marriage is between a male (man) and a female (woman) (Matt. 19:4, 5). Same-sex “marriage” is a corruption of marriage and not God’s will. (4) God joins together the man and his wife (Matt. 19:5-6). God approves and joins one man and one woman in marriage (Rom. 7:2-3). (5) People are not to separate what God joins together (Matt. 19:6). Ending a marriage without God’s approval is sin (1 Cor. 7:10). (6) Jesus said God allows one reason for ending a marriage, fornication (Matt. 19:9). Divorce for “any reason” (Matt. 19:3) violates God’s will and is evidence of a hard heart toward God and marriage (Matt. 19:7-8). Christ permits putting away a spouse for the cause of fornication. By doing so, the one innocent of fornication has God’s consent to marry another. All other remarriages produce adultery, and those in them are not “joined together” by God (Matt. 19:9, 6). God’s way is not man’s way (Isa. 55:8-9). But all who want God’s blessing will abide in His will concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage (Matt. 19:10-12).
17 For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. 18 Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:17–18, NKJV).
Marriage is a stabilizing force of society. Any society cannot long endure when it devalues and distorts the marriage relationship between man and woman. God inaugurated marriage as a blessing for humanity in Eden (Gen. 2:18-25). It is not the product of the cultural development of societies through the ages. Jesus acknowledged the abiding truth that marriage is from God and for life (Mark 10:6-8). The divine arrangement of marriage is one man and one woman for life (Matt. 19:4-5; Rom. 7:2-3). History records marriage’s disfigurement and destruction by such sins as polygamy, concubinage, divorce for every cause, and cohabiting without marriage (Gen. 4:19; Mal. 2:13-16; Matt. 19:3, 6-8; Rom. 1:24-29). Today’s passage reminds us that not every marriage is lawful and good in God’s sight. Herod’s marriage to Herodias (his brother Philip’s wife) was unlawful. Herod and Herodias had divorced their spouses to enter this unholy union (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.5.1; 18.5.4). John would be beheaded because he rebuked their sin (Mark 6:19-29). Marriage is a commitment for life (Rom. 7:2-3). God gives one cause for ending a marriage with approval to remarry (Matt. 19:9). Let us uphold God-approved marriages but never approve relationships God’s word defines as sin (Matt. 5:32; Heb. 13:4).
13 And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. 14 Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. (Malachi 2:13–14, NKJV)
Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, and the one God who sanctions it (Gen. 2:24; Mal. 2:14; Matt. 19:6; Rom. 7:2). Men and women have corrupted God-designed, God-approved marriage in many ways, from multiple spouses, to adulterous remarriages, to same-sex agreements (Gen.4:19; Mk. 6:17-18; Rom. 1:24-28). The men of Israel dishonored their wives by divorcing and taking other wives (Mal. 2:16). By this, they dishonored God, who blessed their marriages. Honor for marriage includes respecting and maintaining its moral purity and exclusivity (Heb. 13:4). It includes following the position God set marriage in the parent-child structure. God’s arrangement is leaving parents – forming a “one-flesh” marriage (covenant approval by God) – then bearing children (Gen. 2:24-25; 4:1). Following God’s righteous order exalts a nation, “but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28, NKJV)
Sin, including the sin of adultery, begins in the heart. The actual sin of adultery puts lust into action. That is, adultery is the physical action of a lustful heart (Heb. 13:4). The sin of lust occurs in the heart, and it leads to the sin of adultery, which is committed with the body and against the purpose of the body (1 Cor. 6:18). Lust and adultery are two distinct sins, with one leading to the other. (This is similar to hate in the heart and murder – two sins, with one leading to the other, 1 Jno. 3:14-15.) Some say today’s passage justifies putting away a spouse who has committed a lustful action (such as viewing pornography). Viewing pornography is certainly a sin of fleshly lust, but it is not the sin of adultery (Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5-7). (One can lust without committing adultery, but one cannot commit adultery without lust being in the heart.) We cannot redefine adultery to include pornography, and then legitimize putting away a spouse for the cause of pornography. Viewing porn and committing adultery are distinct sins. Viewing porn is lewdness, uncleanness, evil desire, and sinful passion. But, it is not the sin of adultery. Let us help people repent and repair the damage done to their marriages by pornography. But, let us not sanction divorce and remarriage for the cause of lust (pornography), and call it “for the cause of fornication” (Matt. 19:9).
A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:39, NKJV)
The divinely mandated permanency of marriage is reiterated here. The word “bound” signifies to be obligated to – it describes a tie with obligations. While “friends with benefits” popularizes fornication and diminishes marriage, “marriage with obligations” is God’s directive (Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:27). Marriage is not “until we fall out of love” – it is “until death we do part.” This is why marrying another person while one’s original spouse is alive is adultery (Romans 7:2-3). Marriage cannot be ended on a whim, or on differences we deem to be “irreconcilable.” Only fornication gives the other party in marriage the freedom to put away the offender and marry another (Matthew 19:9). According to Jesus, all other remarriages constitute adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18). Death of the spouse to whom God joined you ends marriage’s obligation, freeing one to marry again in harmony with God’s will. We must return to honoring the serious, lifelong obligation one accepts when entering marriage. Otherwise, people will continue dishonoring marriage by putting asunder what God has joined together (Matthew 19:6). Be assured, this sin does not escape the attention of the One to whom we will give account (2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 13:4).
15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:15–16, NKJV)
What if the unbelieving spouse of verses 12-13 is unwilling to be married to a Christian? What if the unbeliever is not willing to accept the trials brought upon the home by the Christian’s faith (1 Cor. 7:26)? Should the Christian yield to the will of the unbelieving spouse and sacrifice faith for the sake of a peaceful marriage? No. We must obey God rather than any person, including a spouse (Acts 5:29). Verse 15 does not give another cause for divorce and remarriage (even though many use it to justify desertion as a cause for divorce and remarriage). Remarriage is not even in this passage. (The married have already been warned against divorce in verses 10-11.) Here, Paul affirms the Christian is not now and never has been in bondage to (a slave to) the unbeliever. God has called us to peace, but not by compromising one’s faith. The unbeliever who demands the believer abandon faith for peace in the marriage demands a price for peace that cannot be paid. If that demand occurs, then “let him (the unbeliever) depart.” You cannot yield your faith and become a slave of men (1 Cor. 7:23). Do you think the unbeliever will be saved by yielding your faith? Resolute faith influences an unbelieving spouse toward salvation (1 Peter 3:1-2).
10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10–11, NKJV)
Paul now addresses “the married” with a command that is mandated by and agrees with what Jesus commanded in Matthew 19:6, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate (“put asunder,” KJV).” Marriage is for life and must be entered with solemn commitment and earnest resolution (Matthew 19:4-6). God does not merely excuse ending a marriage He has joined together. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 7:12 does not give permission to do the very thing prohibited in verse 11 (i.e., to depart from the one to whom God joined you). In verse 11 Paul applies the principle of verse 10 to a marriage that ends without God’s approval (see Matthew 19:9 for God’s permission to put away a spouse “for the cause of fornication” and marry another without sin). To avoid adding sin upon sin when a marriage is sundered one must “remain unmarried” (because remarriage would be adultery, Luke 16:18) or else “be reconciled” to one’s rightful spouse (the one to whom God obligated you for life, Romans 7:2). The command and its consequences apply equally to husband and wife (v. 11). We sin against God when we end our marriage for any and every reason (Matthew 19:3). Let us uphold the honor of marriage by not separating what God has joined together.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13, NKJV)
More than a few times we have heard this passage misused to endorse accepting people in error and the immorality it produces. Such brethren defy the existence of absolute truth while tacitly accepting the moral relativism it produces. Since good and sincere brethren disagree on certain doctrinal issues (which they define as gray areas), they conclude each one will have to just “work out their own salvation” on the matter. This view is applied to divorce and remarriage. One of the problems with using Philippians 2:12 this way is it results in accepting adulterers as if they are faithful Christians. No longer is the sinner rebuked and called to repentance. Now he or she is tolerated and allowed to “work out their own salvation.” People “commit adultery” when they divorce and remarry in violation of Matthew 19:9. How do you “work out your own salvation” as an adulterer? God only forgives the adulterer when the sinner repents, prays and ending the adulterous remarriage. “Work out your own salvation” means to keep on obeying God (read verse 12 again). You bring your salvation to its full accomplishment by obeying God, not by remaining in disobedience.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed— 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. (Ecclesiastes 5:4–5, NKJV)
A vow is a solemn, voluntary promise made to God and to others. This reminder to swiftly pay a vow made to God is a rehearsal of the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 23:21-23). The law explained to Israel that God required them to keep the vows they made to Him; failure to do so was sin. No doubt, that is reflected in God having “no pleasure in fools” (those who make vow but do not keep them). This foolish treatment of vows occurs when marriage vows are broken for the most dismissive reasons. “Irreconcilable differences” is often legal code for “I don’t want to be married to this person anymore.” If you are married, you vowed yourself to your spouse before God and witnesses to be joined in marriage “for better and for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, until death we do part.” With such vows made in a God-approved marriage, He binds the husband and wife to each other for life (Malachi 2:14; Matthew 19:4-6; Romans 7:2-3). Take your vows seriously; God does. Keep your vows swiftly. God does not favor fool who do not keep their vows.