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).
4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4–6, NKJV).
Jesus gave three distinct reasons why it is not lawful “for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason” (Matt. 19:3).
(1) The Genesis of Marriage (v. 4). God created marriage, not humans. His purpose for marriage between “male and female” is the final word on the matter.
(2) The Oneness of Marriage (v. 5-6). Marriage is a “one flesh” relationship. When joined by God, the man and woman are no longer two, but “one flesh.” Divorce violates the unity God formed between the husband and wife.
(3) The Prohibition of God (v. 6). Christ declared we are not to separate (put an expanse between) what God joins together (i.e., the husband and wife). We must solidify in our hearts this unchanging edict from God: Marriage is given by God, it is between one man and one woman, and it is for life. (Jesus will give one exception to this rule in Matthew 19:9, and that is exactly what it is, an exception to the rule.) It is a transgression against God to sunder what He has joined together.
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)
Disregard for the permanency of marriage did not begin in our day. Millions and millions now live together without marriage; it is accepted as natural and normal. Millions more marry without the expectation of it lasting “until death we do part.” They marry “as long as our love lasts.” These would fit right in with the Pharisees who scrutinized Jesus on the subject of divorce. But, in His answer, Jesus exposed their low regard for marriage. Not a few who are married are looking for a way out – for some rationale with which to vindicate themselves as they prepare to separate what God joined together (Matt. 19:6). God, who gave marriage, made it a lifelong covenant, with His law obliging each spouse to the other (Rom. 7:2). Jesus will go on to tell these Pharisees that it is not lawful, “for just any reason,” for man to separate what God joins together (Matt. 19:6). God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16)! How strikingly from today’s advice: Don’t marry in the first place. Or, if you do, go ahead and divorce at the first sign of trouble. We do well to define and arrange our marriages according to God’s word. Marriages will thrive when God’s will for marriage is honored and obeyed.
1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Corinthians 6:1–2, NKJV)
What a truly carnal action it is to take a fellow Christian to court to settle a dispute. “For where there is envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men” (1 Cor. 3:3)? Yet, Christians divorce without Scriptural cause, and claim it as “the only solution.” No, sundering what God has joined together is not a solution (Matt. 19:6). When matters arise that disrupt harmony among God’s people, we must be willing to let faithful Christians help us resolve the turmoil, whether it is in business, a marriage, in a family or among friends. “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated” (1 Cor. 6:7)? Pride and prejudice interfere with reconciliation and restoration of godly relationships. Put such sins to death, and pursue peace (Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:11).
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)
Jesus was not teaching the Law of Moses in this passage. In contrast to the legal contingencies and stipulations of the law of Moses concerning divorce stated in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Jesus spoke to the moral accountability of the person who ends a marriage. When one sends away his spouse from the marriage “for any reason except sexual immorality” (“saving for the cause of fornication,” KJV), he bears responsibility for the adultery she commits through remarriage. And, the one who marries such a person also commits adultery. These immoral realities of divorce and remarriage are rarely discussed and honored. But, they are real, and binding upon all who enter marriage (Matt. 19:3-6; Heb. 13:4). So, choose your mate carefully, and nurture your marriage wisely. Marriage is for life, and God will not accept every frivolous and selfish reason for ending what He has joined together (Matt. 19:6).