As we continue to examine the Commands of Christ, our subject today is His leading on divorce and remarriage. This is a very painful and confusing subject for many of us. I will lay out an overview of the Bibles teaching, focusing especially on Jesus words and the Historical context into which He spoke. I will also try to summarize Pauls instructions. Finally, I will describe my own goals as a pastor when ministering to those considering divorce.
To begin with I must acknowledge my dependence on a book I read in preparing for this message. It is by far and away the most scholarly and reasonable work on this subject I have read. I am largely quoting or paraphrasing from it in my overview of Biblical teaching. The book is entitled: Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, by David Instone - Brewer (Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K, 2002).
-A marriage was a contract between two families and two individuals. It was often a recorded document with financial arrangements spelled out in advance in case of divorce. Many of these documents have been found from the 7th century B.C.
-A covenant was broken if the promises werent kept. The penalty for breaking the marriage contract was divorce with the loss of the dowry.
2. Deuteronomy 24: 1-4
-By giving this command God was stating that a divorced woman did not belong to the man for the rest of his life. She had the right to remarry and not be reclaimed by the first husband.
-He had to write her a legal certificate.
-No other near eastern culture had this protection for women.
3. Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah present a picture of God married to the nation of Israel, and then to the sisters Israel and Judah (when the nations divided). Israel was unfaithful and was divorced. Judah was even more unfaithful but God mercifully reconciled after separating for a season. Malachis criticism of divorce is aimed at those who cause the divorce by breaking their vows.
-Though God hates divorce Israels persistent refusal to repent forced Him to divorce her.
4. In first century Judaism there were four grounds for valid divorce:
1) Infertility (Jesus removed this)
2) Sexual unfaithfulness
3) Material neglect
4) Emotional neglect
-Women could ask a court to persuade their husbands to divorce them if they suffered neglect.
-A new controversy had erupted between two schools of thought about divorce:
1) Hillel: interpreted Dt. 24:1 to mean that divorce was allowed for any matter (See: Mt 19:3)
2) Shammai: said that any matter divorces were invalid. Moses said there must be a serious cause, a matter of indecency (See: Mt 19:9).
-remarriage after divorce was expected, though remarriage after an invalid divorce was considered adultery.
5. Jesus teaching (Mt 5:22-32; 19:3-12; Mk. 10:2-12; Lk 16:18)
The Pharisees brought the controversy over divorce to Jesus. They were asking, Do you agree with Hillel or Shammai? Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any matter? Jesus said:
1) A man who marries an invalidly divorced woman commits adultery (Lk 16:18; Mt 5:32)
2) A man who invalidly divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery (Mk. 10:11; Mt 19:9; Lk 16:18).
3) A man who invalidly divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery (Mt 5:32).
4) A woman who invalidly divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery (Mk. 10:12)
-Marriage should be monogamous.
-Marriage should be life long.
-Divorce is never compulsory.
-Divorce should be avoided unless the erring partner stubbornly refuses to repent.
-Marriage is optional (singleness may be Gods will).
-Hillite any matter divorces are invalid.
Jesus apparently agreed with the Biblical grounds in Exodus 21:10, 11 as historically understood by Israel. If He had disagreed He would have to had said something because every Jew listening to Him assumed those grounds to be valid.
6. Pauls teaching (I Co. 7)
-Roman law allowed men and women to divorce their partners simply by separating from them - sending them away or moving out of the home. Paul told the Corinthians that Christians should not divorce in this way, and that they should never cause a divorce. However, if they were divorced by a non-Christian who refused to be reconciled, they were free to remarry, though they must marry a Christian.
-A believer should never cause a divorce either by separating from his or her partner or by neglecting marital obligations, but if the marriage ends despite the best efforts, he or she is entitled to divorce and is free to remarry.
7. Church History
The knowledge of the Jewish debate (Hillel/Shammai) to which Jesus was speaking was quickly lost after A.D. 70. His words were taken out of context and used legalistically.
8. Pastoral conclusions
Divorce is allowed only on the grounds of broken marriage vows and the decision to divorce can be made only by the injured party. A believer should never break the marriage vows and should try to forgive a repentant partner. If under these circumstances divorce, does happen remarriage is permitted.
9. A Pastors role
-Do everything possible to call for repentance and restore the marriage.
-Encourage patience and forgiveness.
-Encourage believing prayer for a miracle.
-Protect those who are victims of severe abuse.
-Guide believers to make Biblical choices so that they will be truly blessed by God, not just find an easy way out.
-Watch for false excuses
-Underlying motives such as a hidden intention to marry someone when I get rid of this person.
-Watch for two broken people
-Is the problem between them or is the problem in them?
-If the problem came with them into the marriage they wont be able to get along with anyone.
-Provide support for marriages through mentoring, seminars, retreats, literature, etc. to help people learn about marriage.