If we would take the basics of the Christian faith seriously, then we must begin with what Jesus actually said.
Of Condemnation of Divorce

Jesus said: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6).

By His words, Jesus sets forth the fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith concerning divorce. His words were an answer to the leaders of the people and their question about divorce, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" (Matthew 19:3) The leaders desired to teach that divorce for any reason was acceptable. In answer, Jesus first pointed them to the unbreakable bond of marriage which God established in the beginning in Genesis 1:27; 2:23, 24, and concluded, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6) Jesus forbids divorce.

The leaders of the people did not want to hear this doctrine, as the church today so often does not want to hear or understand. Out of their own sinful lusts and hardened hearts, they wanted to be able to divorce and justify it. The leaders asked Jesus, "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" (Matthew 19:7) The leaders turned to the book of Deuteronomy, 24:1-4, which gave a law regulating divorce and particularly forbidding the taking again of a divorced and remarried spouse because of the uncleanness of divorce and remarriage. Not understanding the spiritual principles of God's law, they would have twisted His law to justify divorce, as if God approved of it.

Jesus exposes their unbelief. He answered them, "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." (Matthew 19:8) God, Who made marriage in the beginning, did not approve of their sin of divorce. Divorce is an evidence of the depravity and hardness of man's heart in sin. It was so among the wicked in Israel. It is an evidence of the same hardened unbelief not only in the world, but also in the church of today. The law, whether of Moses or the government today, cannot change a sinful heart. That law can only "suffer," that is, control, regulate, or outwardly restrain the sins which men do. Saving grace alone changes that hardened heart.

Divorce that leads to remarriage is a form of adultery. Jesus said, "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery." (Luke 16:18) Divorce itself causes the spouse to be tempted to commit adultery by remarrying (Matthew 5:32).

But is there no exception? Jesus sets forth only one exception to His condemnation of divorce. He said, "that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery, and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery," (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). This is the only exception: when fornication or adultery has already so wounded the marriage relationship, and it cannot be healed, Jesus does not require, but permits divorce. Properly, also in this case, there should be forgiveness and reconciliation which are the only true healing.

Because the doctrine of the apostles continues in this truth, we read, "And unto the married I command, yet not I but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." (I Corinthians 7:10, 11) The apostle applies this even to the case of the marriage of a believer and unbeliever in I Corinthians 7:12, 13.

Do you believe in this Jesus and His word concerning divorce? Does your church? Is Jesus Lord also of your marriage? Or do you seek to cover and excuse sin?

By Rev. Thomas Miersma, Missionary Pastor

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