What Did Jesus Say About Divorce? – Matthew 19

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 19 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Divorce is a Touchy Subject

If you personally have not been directly affected by it, many of your close friends have been. It was a touchy subject back in Jesus’ day as well. The religious leaders wanted to get Jesus to say something controversial, so they ask him,

“Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Matthew 19:3

Divorce is Not What God Intended 

 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4–6

Jesus’ appeal to creation is showing us what God originally intended for us before sin entered the world and messed everything up! God created man and wife to live their lives holding fast to each other.

God’s design is for two to become one flesh, and once they are made one then they are not to separate. When two things are glued together with super glue the only way to speaparte them is breaking both. Unfortunately, this is exactly what divorce does; it breaks the hearts of all involved: husband, wife, and kids.

What About the Old Testament Command That Allowed It?

“They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:7–8

The law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 was regulating an already widespread practice of divorce in the Old Testament era. Jesus said it was put in place because of “your hardness of heart.”

The purpose of the law was not to promote divorce but to guard people against taking it lightly and paint divorce in a negative light. Again, Jesus again refers back to God’s design with creation by saying “from the beginning it was not so.”

The Biblical Grounds for Divorce

“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9

Marriage is a permeant physical and spiritual bond where two become one flesh. The only way to break that bond is through a physical act of sexual immorality. Jesus is saying that sexual immorality is a legitimate grounds for divorce, but he is not saying that it has to end the marriage.

When adultery happens, sometimes the damage is virtually unrepairable. Though if both parties decide to make it work it can be healed by God. Reconciliation and forgiveness is still the ideal.

The other Biblical grounds for divorce is found in the case of an unbeliever separating from a believer.

“But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. ” 1 Corinthians 7:15

In the case of an unbeliever leaving a believer, then the believer is not bound to that commitment and can remarry.

Jesus Forgives

If you are reading this and you or your parents have been in an unbiblical divorce, then know that Jesus forgives. No one is perfect and the only kind of people he accepts are those willing to admit they are sinners.

If you or a loved one has divorced and remarried unbibically, don’t live in shame; confess your sin to God and make it a priority to honor the marriage you are currently in. Jesus loves us in the midst of our failure and sin; this is the heart of the gospel.

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About David Worcester

I am the founder and director of a campus ministry at San Diego State called Challenge. I am also serving as an ordained elder at Mission Trails Church. I love speaking and writing about college ministry, gospel appointments, and practical ways to live out God’s Word! I am also passionate about: leadership training, learning, missions, church planting, surfing, hiking, sports, photography and traveling (So far I’ve visited 23 countries & all 50 states). I’m married to Jessica Worcester who I fell in love with while doing college ministry together and we have a two year old son named Samuel. I graduated from from the University of Oklahoma (OU) with a degree in Film & Video Studies. And I received my Masters in Theological Studies from Gateway Seminary. I am an ordained minister who loves speaking and writing about practical ways to live out God’s Word in life and ministry.

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