Marriage - Other NT Passages



Part Eight – Other NT Passages on Marriage & Divorce


The first six studies of our series were centered on our Lord’s answer to the question of divorce and remarriage as found in Matthew 19:3-12. In review, the reason so much time was spent on this particular passage and those relating too it is because it is such a pivotal passage to most in determining God’s will on this matter. Having completed the study of Matthew 19, the next logical step is to review all other Scriptural passages that lend additional information on this topic. Last week we focused two additional OT passages, Ezra 9-10 and Malachi 2:13-16. This week we will review several NT passages beginning in Matthew and ending in 1 Corinthians.

1) Matt. 5:31-32. This is an earlier teaching of our Lord on divorce and remarriage. He will return to this in Matthew 19:2-10 but in greater detail. Jesus once again declares the only grounds for divorce is porneia (porneia) or sexual immorality which is committed before an individual takes the vows of marriage at the time of the betrothal. In light of OT law, this is further defined to be pre-marital sex between a man and a woman. All other forms of sexual immorality committed before marriage required the death penalty such as in the case of the sin of homosexuality or incest. If the grounds Jesus gave had to do with sexual immorality after the individual was married He would have used the Greek word moichao (moichao) which means adultery. Any type of sexual immorality committed by a married individual is a violation of the vows they have made with their mate and it is the act of adultery. 

Under the OT Law adultery in all its forms required the death penalty leaving no need for a bill of divorcement and the innocent party would now be free to remarry. Only if heterosexual immorality was committed before the marriage vows did the law call for a lesser penalty than death. The only conclusion left is that Jesus is addressing a situation where after the betrothal it is discovered that the wife had been involved in pre-marital sex (pregnancy) and is carrying the child of another man other than her husband. Since it was pre-marital and did not violate any marital vows, it was not consider adultery and the death penalty was not required by the law. If the husband was willing to forgive his wife and be willing to raise her child as if it was his own than the marriage would continue. However, if the heart of the husband was hard toward his wife and he could not forgive her sin, he would be allowed to divorce her and both would be free to marry another. This exception was part of the Mosaic law, only pertained to the Jewish people it was given too and passed from existence when Christ fulfilled the Law through his life, death, and resurrection.

It should be noted that this is followed up with God prohibition against the breaking of vows or commitments made to others (33-37). In Jesus view, the divorce and remarriage of any person is the violation of the vows they made to their original mate. God hates the breaking of all promises that men make to God or to other human beings and that is particularly true of the marriage vows. All of God’s promises made to men are based in His truthfulness in fulfilling what He has declared to do. Since He considers His oaths sacred He expects the same from all men and women. 

2) Mark 10:11-12. This is a parallel passage to Matt. 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:9 however there are two key differences. First of all, there is no mention of the divorce clause. Jesus clearly makes a statement here that any one divorcing their mate and marrying another is committing the act of adultery. In this statement there are no exceptions given. The reason being that this book was written to the Romans or the Gentiles who were not given the Jewish Mosaic Law to follow nor did they have the marriage practices of the Jewish people. In essence, Mark understood that our Lord gave no exceptions for divorce and remarriage to Gentile people nor to those Saints of the Church Age. Therefore there is no need to mention the divorce clause since to his readers this is mute point.

Another important difference is that Mark shows that divorce and remarriage goes both ways. In Matthew Jesus speaks only of men divorcing their wives however in Mark Jesus addresses it as going either way. In Gentile society divorces were possible for both men and women whereas in Jewish society only the men could divorce. Therefore Mark chose those teachings of our Lord that fit the practice of the Gentile people. 

3) Luke 16:18 Unlike Mark’s account, this parallel account of Matthew 5 and 19 is an exact quote of what is found in Matthew with one important exception. Like Mark, Luke leaves out the exception clause. This is because Luke’s gospel account is written to a Gentile man (Lk.1:3) and ultimately to the church as a whole. The Gentiles in the Church did not practice the Jewish customs of marriage nor were bound by the Old Testament Mosaic Law in which is found the exception clause. Therefore since this exception has no bearing of the Church Age there is no need for Luke’s to include the exception. It therefore clear that Mark and Luke understood that the Lord taught that there were no exceptions given in the Church Age for people to divorce and remarry. 

4) Rom. 7:1-6.  In this passage Paul is using the marital union under the law as an illustration of what it means to be dead to the law and alive unto Christ. Paul declares that a woman who is married is bound by that marriage as long as her husband is alive. However, if the husband dies she is freed from her obligation to him and may remarry. This coincides with Jesus words in Matthew 19:6 where He states, “Therefore what God has joined together let no man put asunder.” Jesus was indicating that God alone has the authority to dissolve a marriage and He does this through death. Paul goes on to say if while her husband lives she marries another man, she shall be known as an adulteress. 

Paul’s point was if the Mosaic Law was still in effect or alive, the Saint of God would be violating his obligation to the Law by coming to Christ for salvation. Some of the Jews wanted to continue to hold on to the law and yet embrace salvation through Christ. Paul’s point is that if the Law is still in effect, to embrace salvation would be to violate one’s obligations to the law. In other words you can not be married to both without committing the sin of adultery. Paul, however, points out that the Mosaic Law died due to the work of Jesus Christ. Therefore the Saint is to leave the law buried and now live in his new relationship of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

If it was possible through a divorce clause to remarry another man without committing adultery than the illustration Paul used would not have been a valid one. The fact that Paul saw marriage as a life long relationship dissolved only by death is an indication that God does not grant any reasons for a person to remarry after a divorce.

5) 1 Cor. 7:10-11. Paul in Chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians is discussing the matter of marriage and celibacy. In verse 10-11, Paul indicates that what he is about to write is not new revelation but rather the teaching of Jesus during His 3 year ministry. Paul states it was Jesus’ position that a married woman should not depart (divorce) her husband, but if she does depart she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. Likewise the same holds true of the husband. Jesus made it clear here that divorce may be a necessity in severe cases such as when the welfare of the mate is at risk, but God does not grant them the freedom to marry another as long as their mate is still alive. The state may recognize the divorce as the end of the marriage, one’s friends and family may view it as the end, and even one’s church may view it as such but God does not! It is God’s will that matters.

6) 1 Cor. 7:12-16. Paul now switches from what the Lord previous had taught to new revelation from God. He is dealing the situation in which one finds himself in an unequal yoke. One mate is a believer and one is not. Now it should be noted that God opposes such unions so Christians are commanded not to marry or even date unbelievers. Christians are not to enter into such unions though many Christians do in sinful rebellion against God. Though it opposes God’s will yet God still considers it a marital union. There is another way one may find himself in a unequal yoke. An unbelieving couple may find themselves in an unequal yoke when one of the mates comes to Christ. 

The question Paul is addressing is what should the believing mate do since God is against unequal unions? Paul answer is to make the marriage work if possible. If the unbeliever is willing to continue on with the marriage it is God’s will for the believer to stay with his/her unbelieving mate. There are several good reasons for doing so. First of all the unbelieving mate is sanctified by the believing mate (14). The idea of “sanctified” mean to set apart for a particular reason or a particular work. In this case the unbeliever is set apart to God’s work of redemption. By living with their believing mate they will have a living testimony of their need of a Savior. As Paul sums it up in verse 16, how do you know if you will be used of God to save your mate. This leads to the second reason for staying in the marriage. If there are children, it means the children will also be set aside through the believer’s walk for the work of the Spirit to bring them also to salvation (14). The idea of the children being “unclean” paints the picture of a break up of the marriage and the unbeliever taking custody of the children. The children will be raised a part from the work of God in a pagan environment.

The question is raised, what does this have to do with divorce and remarriage. Verse 15 addresses this matter. If the unbelieving mate no longer wants to maintain the marriage since they are now married to a Christian, the Christian not under bondage in such a case. Some have taken the word “bondage” as an exception for divorce. In other words if you are married to an unbeliever and he/she divorces you, you are now free to remarry. However, there two flaws with such an interpretation.

The word “bondage” in the Greek is the word doulous (doulous) meaning to be a slave or in bondage. The idea here is that the believing mate is not to be a slave to keeping the marriage together if the unbelieving mate has made up their mind to leave. They are to accept this as the will of God and to be an example of peace and love to their departing mate. Paul goes on to say that by not struggling over this the believing mate may so impact the life of the unbeliever that they come to Christ. God, as was stated earlier, does permit divorce in extreme and unusual cases even seen in verse 10-11.

Though the Saint is not under bondage to hold the marriage together, nothing is mentioned about them being free to remarry. To say that the believing mate is free to marry is to add to the text. Nothing in the text would imply this and it would be in contradiction to the immediate context of verse 10-11 as well as the rest of the teaching of Scripture. 

7) 1 Cor. 7:39. Paul ends his chapter on marriage by restating what he wrote to the Romans. It is his understanding that a woman is married to her husband as long as he lives. No exceptions.

The conclusion that must be drawn from viewing all of the Scriptures on divorce and remarriage is that God designed marriage to last a life time. God realizing that fallen man would at times not live up to the responsibilities of marriage, would make it necessary for separation and divorce. However because these measures are taken, does not grant the individual the freedom to remarry someone else. God gives no exception for divorce leading to marriage.

This is not the end of our study. Several aspects of God teaching must be covered including how does this apply to the married individual on a practical level. This will be covered in the lessons to come.