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.
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23, NKJV)
It is quite disheartening to hear gospel preachers teach that Jesus was teaching the Law of Moses to the Jews while He was on the earth. They say this, it seems, to prop up their own false teaching about marriage, divorce and remarriage. They say we cannot use Matthew 5 and 19 to know about divorce and remarriage today, because He was teaching Jews how to be good Jews under the Law. But, Jesus was preaching “the gospel of the kingdom” – no plainer, simpler words could describe the content of Christ’s teaching. His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) was the gospel of the kingdom, not a rehearsal of how to keep the Law of Moses. Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets (which He did, Matt. 5:17-18; Lk. 24:44-47; Rom. 10:4), not to preach it. The miracles of Jesus did not confirm the validity of the Law of Moses, they confirmed the validity of the gospel Jesus preached. They showed Him to the be Son of God, not the defender of Moses (John 20:30-31). We may – and must – go to what Jesus taught while He was on earth, as well as what His apostles taught after He ascended, to learn His will on “all things that pertain to life and godliness” – including the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage.
12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her… 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. (1 Corinthians 7:12, 15, NKJV)
Some Christians question whether they must end their marriage to an unbeliever, in order to be faithful to Jesus. The apostle applies Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 19:6 – “what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” – and answers, “No.” Is the unbeliever is willing to allow the Christian to live his or her faith, do so and bring a godly influence into the home (1 Cor. 7:12-14; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). If that willingness is not present, and the unbeliever sunders the marriage (being unwilling to have his or her spouse to live for Christ, v. 16), the Christian is “not under bondage in such cases.” That is, the Christian is not now, and never has been a slave to the unbeliever (see 1 Cor. 7:23). This verse does not teach another cause for divorce and remarriage, that is, desertion. (Marriage is for life, with one cause for one party to be free to remarry, the cause of fornication, Matt. 19:3-6, 9.) Instead, it teaches the believer that his or her faith is not negotiable – even in a marriage. Do not surrender your faith for the sake of pleasing any person; “you were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). God has called you to be at peace with Him (v. 15). So, do the will of God, not the will of men.
10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” (Matthew 19:10–12, NKJV)
The disciples understood the words of Jesus. He said there is only one cause for divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19:3, 6, 9). “All cannot accept this saying” because all are not willing to accept it. This is equivalent to Jesus saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matt. 11:14-15). Some are willing to forego sexual relations for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and will refrain from marriage in order to be holy (Matt. 19:9). Self-denial rather than indulging oneself in sin is the mark of discipleship (Lk. 9:23; 14:26-27). God’s marriage law is rigorous, while men’s are very loose. Marriage must not be entered into lightly, but with reverent attention to its permanency and commitment. God’s marriage law has been given to mankind. All who marry are under the authority of God respecting marriage. When God joins man and woman in marriage, He does so for life. “Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Do you have ears to hear (accept) the words of Jesus?
And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9, NKJV)
After exposing the Pharisees’ attempt to pit what Jesus said of the permanency of marriage (Matt. 19:3-6) against Moses (Matt. 19:7-8), Jesus declared the result of sundering what God has joined together (Matt. 19:6). The person who ends his (or her, Mk. 10:11-12) marriage, except for the cause of fornication (porneia) and marries another person, commits adultery. Likewise, whoever marries one who has been divorced (put away) commits adultery. Jesus says only one person has the right to remarry when marriage ends in divorce; the one who puts away his or her spouse because they committed fornication (Heb. 13:4). This is the one exception God will accept for remarriage after divorce, and then only by the one who put away the fornicator (who introduced sexual defilement into the marriage bed). All other remarriages after divorce result in adultery (Matt. 5:32; Rom. 7:2-3). Remember, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Frivolous reasons for divorce will not be tolerated by the One who gave us marriage. Everyone who enters marriage is under the authority of Christ on this matter (Matt. 28:18). Solve your marital problems in godly ways. Divorce only increases pain – now and eternally.
7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:7–8, NKJV)
We should remember the Pharisees questioning Jesus were “testing” (“tempting”) Him in an attempt to discredit himself (Matt. 19:3). So, not content with His compelling answer that it was not lawful to out away their wives for any reason, they attempt to set Jesus against Moses. But, Jesus explained that Moses’ stipulations on divorce were due to the hardness of the people’s hearts, and not that God was satisfied with them putting away their wives. Moses strictly regulated divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4; God permitted putting away their wives under the stated conditions of that passage – not to encourage or endorse divorce – but to rein in their hardheartedness toward marriage and their wives! From the beginning God had wanted men to respect marriage, not sunder it. Here, the Pharisees are an example of what not to do when God’s truth exposes our sin and error. They tried to pit Jesus against the Scriptures (Moses), but Jesus’ original statement stood true. People still try to pit Scripture against Scripture to condone divorce (which God hates, Mal. 2:16) so they can feel justified separating what God joined together (Matt. 19:6). Don’t be like these Pharisees. Hear, believe and obey Jesus (Matt. 17:3-5).