'Til Death Do Us Part

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Ro 7:1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. (NKJV)

Every now and then an opportunity presents itself in Scripture to talk about issues that need to be talked about because they have become epidemic in our culture and subsequently in the church.

For instance, I don’t think I need to apologize for preaching on the subject of abortion or birth control when a certain passage in Scripture appears that might cause us to consider these matters. As an example, look at Romans chapter 1:26

 Ro 1:26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. (NKJV)

Now the context of that verse is in the matter of sexual relations between two women, but I have unashamedly used that text to bring up the matter of abortion. Is not abortion also an unnatural use of a woman’s body? You better believe it is!  When a woman becomes pregnant certain things begin to happen to her body and to interrupt these things is unnatural. Women were built to have babies....men were not.

So I talk about abortion and birth control when I have the opportunity because it is such a huge problem, a here and now problem in our culture and in the church. But more importantly, it’s a sin that greatly grieves God!  It’s forgivable, but it greatly grieves Him when we commit it..

The shedding of innocent blood is listed as one of the seven things that God hates in Proverbs 6:16-19. Yet over 3000 children are dying each day at abortion clinics in the land and no one seems to give a rip about it, or what God’s Word has to say about it. Few desire to look at this issue through the eyes of the God .they claim to love.

Our text today, in context, speaks about the power of the Law over the “old Nature,” but it gives us an opportunity to talk about another huge problem in our culture and in the church, namely divorce and remarriage. And what does God say about divorce? He hates it!

Mal 3:16, “For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce.”

Something just doesn’t add up when on one hand we say we love God and on the other we do things that He hates. Kill babies and kill marriages. We need to see divorce and remarriage as God does, not as our flesh, or our culture, or the false teachers in the church see it.

A website called “divorce wizards” says that in 1997 there were 19,400,000 divorced adults in America. 1,163,00 divorces in that year alone.  We have no reason to believe that those statistics have decreased since then.  Put a pencil to that number and you see that 3,186 marriages are dying in the U.S. every single day.

Isn’t it interesting to note that the figure for abortions and divorce are almost identical?  Houston, we have a problem, and the problem seems to be that people aren’t content with what God has joined together.

What God has joined together, (whether fearfully or wonderfully knit together in the womb or in the super glue cleaving of holy matrimony)...let no man put asunder! Let no man tear apart!

People have told me that I preach the hard truths of Scripture. Well maybe,  but I would rather say that I preach the “forgotten” truths of Scripture, because God’s truth is not hard, it only seems hard because we have become accustomed to the lies of the world, and the false teachings in the church.

We are not alone...Jesus’ disciples were in the same boat. When Jesus gave His teaching on divorce and remarriage, it flew in the face of the two major schools of thought that were out there in the OT church concerning divorce.  

One school said a man could get a divorce for any reason. Another school said you could only divorce for the reason of marital unfaithfulness. Those same schools are around today and enrollment is at an all time high!  But this is not the school of Jesus.

He gave them a teaching that dropped their jaws to the ground!

 Mt 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.  10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry  (KJV)

This was a hard truth for them, but it wasn’t hard it was just forgotten. Buried under the prevalent culture of the day and the false teachings of the Pharisees.

Jesus was saying that remarriage after a divorce for any reason except fornication, caused both parties to commit adultery.

Given the statistic that 80%  of divorced men and 75% of divorced women remarry, you begin to see that we have a huge adultery problem in the culture and in the church. I wonder how many in the church today realize that they are living in adultery.

Now don’t drift away, don’t lose me here. I want to be as kind and as loving and as compassionate and yet as firm as Jesus was and is on this matter as I speak to you today. Many of you today, upon hearing the words of our text,  have just been caught in the act of adultery.

But unlike the woman who was brought before Jesus, you had no clue. You never heard about this stuff in the church down the street. But just because you haven’t heard about it does not change the words of Jesus. Remarriage after divorce is adultery.

So, caught in the act of adultery, what did Jesus say to the woman?

 Joh 8:11 "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." (NKJV) He says the same thing to you today! We might add, go in peace, knowing that you are forgiven and don’t make the same mistake again.

Go and no longer commit adultery. Confess, agree with Jesus, that your remarriage after divorce constituted adultery, and like any other sin, receive His forgiveness and His complete lack of condemnation, and purpose in your heart to never do it again. Stay married this time, until death parts you and your spouse.
Some of you are likely bristling at these words, but they are the words of Jesus not mine. I wonder did any of you know these words before you got remarried?

Likely not. Because your pastor, your church, your Christian friends, did not explain them to you. Well, this pastor and this church will. Because this pastor and this church desires to be faithful to the Word of God and to attempt by the grace of God to put an end to rampant divorce, by restoring this forgotten truth in the hearts and minds of our young people. We want to stop  the bleeding.

Remarriage after divorce is adultery, but God forgives this sin as He does all others. If we confess our sins He is faithful and Just to forgive us and cleanse ius from all unrighteousness.   Confess it, receive God’s forgiveness and don’t commit the sin of divorce again.

For those of you who have not remarried, stay single or be reconciled to your spouse. Those are the only options that Jesus gives us.

 1Co 7:10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.  11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.  (NKJV)

Even if the wife separates (puts the marriage asunder by divorcing her husband in spite of this clear command from the Lord,)  she is not to compound the sin by remarrying, she should rather seek reconciliation with her husband.  And a husband is just flat out not to divorce his wife.

Again, if you have already remarried, stay married! Just admit the sin and move on, seeking to build a godly marriage and home, and at the same time admitting to others your mistake, in order to keep them from falling into the same sin.

If you are not yet remarried, stay that way, seeking to reconcile if possible, but if not learn to embrace your singleness and remember that as a Christian you do have a spouse....Jesus Christ. Seek to build a stronger marriage with Him as you love, honor, and serve Him in this world.
Let go and trust that He will be your fulfillment. Remember, God does not require anything of us including singleness that He will not provide the means and the strength to accomplish it.

But there is more going on in Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees concerning marriage. Let’s look at this passage and it’s context more closely especially as it relates to the so called “exception clause.”.

 Mt 19:3 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?"

In other words, “Jesus, which school of thought is right concerning marriage?
 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."

That’s the answer of the Lord. Marriage is permanent. It is not to be torn apart by man. Say what you will about the Pharisees, but they knew exactly what Jesus was telling them. The Pharisees understood what he was saying. He was saying there are no grounds for divorce period and so they protested...

 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.

First of all, Jesus corrected the Pharisees by reminding them that Moses permitted it, but he did not command it. He permitted it because of the hardness of their hearts, but One is here now who is superior to Moses and intends to set marriage back on its original footings.

Just as He set the other commandments back on their original footings.  In Matt 5 Jesus set the commandment concerning murder back on its original footing when He equated hatred of another with murder. He set the commandment concerning adultery back on its original footing when He equated looking at another woman with lust to adultery.

And please note what He said right after He discussed the “lust” thing.

 Mt 5:31 "Furthermore (Furthermore, as long as we are talking about adultery) 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 (fornication) causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.  (NKJV)

We like to make a big deal about the lustful look thing, but no one seems to want to talk about the “Furthermore” of Jesus.

Moses gave in because of the hardness of heart of the people, but the Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit and hardness of heart should not be an issue!

And Jesus goes on to say in Matt 19, “this is what I have to say about divorce and remarriage.

 9 "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."

Now here is where it gets a little tricky for the modern day Christian. Ask any Christian to state the grounds for divorce and inevitably they will say, on the grounds of one of the spouses committing adultery.  

Every one of you have had that drummed into you by every pastor at every church you ever attended. But that is not what Jesus is saying here and to understand this, you must first look at the context.

People have taken what we will call the “exception clause” and built a whole doctrine out of it without considering the rest of Scripture, and the rest of Scripture including our text in Romans today makes it clear that marriage is until death...no exceptions.  

In order to understand this you must first understand the picture of engagement and marriage which was in the mind of Christ as He addressed the Pharisees. You must understand the wedding customs of the day.

When a Hebrew man desired to marry a Hebrew woman, he traveled to her home and discussed with her the father the price he must pay to secure her hand in marriage. Once the man paid the purchase price the marriage covenant was established. The man and woman were now regarded as man and wife. Even though they did not live together.

The groom then returned to his father’s house and remained there for a period of time as he prepared a place in his father’s house for his bride. When the preparations were complete he came back for the bride.

The procession took place at night so they came by torchlight. As they neared the brides home, there was a shout. The bride and her attendants were prepared and waiting expectantly, and the entire bridal party then returned with the groom to his father’s house. There in the bridal chamber the marriage was consummated with a physical union.

If during that period of separation, (the betrothal period) the bride had been unfaithful, the groom had the legal right to divorce her. This is the true meaning of the “exception clause” and it does not apply to unfaithfulness after the consummation of the marriage.

“That’s not fair!” Maybe, and we are not trying to minimize the terrible sin of adultery. This awful break of trust, this breaking of a sacred vow, is inexcusable. But there is great wisdom in not allowing it to be cause for divorce.

Think it through. If adultery were grounds for divorce, and Jesus defined adultery as just looking at another woman with lust, then every woman in America would have grounds for divorce.  Exceptions create problems Let me show you how granting such an exception would lead to rampant divorce.

In 1973 the Supreme Court legalized abortion with the Roe V Wade decision. Roe only legalized abortions for the first trimester, but there was a companion decision to Roe, namely Doe V Bolton which provided for abortions up to the delivery of the child if the woman’s health was deemed in danger.  

Well any woman could claim that her physical or mental health was in danger and this exception opened the door to unlimited abortion on demand.

Do you really think that God, who hates divorce would make such a provision for blanket exceptions in His Word? What kind of wishy washy God are we worshiping? There are no exceptions. God hates divorce! What God has joined together let no man put asunder!

Still one more reason that this passage has been misinterpreted is some Bible translators who have bought into the lie of Erasmus who resurrected this exception school of thought in the 15th century. The church until that time held to the “no exception” teaching of Jesus.

The wording of this passage has been carelessly handled and fornication has become “sexual immorality” and sexual immorality has become “marital unfaithfulness.”  But that is not the meaning of the original term that Jesus used.

He used the term “fornication.” This is significant. To keep this as simple as possible let me just say that fornication is generally defined as what? Living together and having sex before marriage.  In biblical times, if the groom could prove that the bride that he purchased was damaged goods, he had the right to “put her away” or divorce her. He could back out of the marriage.    

This was the situation with Mary and Joseph. Mary was with child and Joseph had the right to put her away because he knew it was not his child. But even in this instance, it wasn’t a command only permission, of course when he heard the whole story he went through with the marriage.

This was the meaning of the exception given by Jesus.  

What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. The Words of Jesus, not mine. “For the woman (or man) who has a husband (or wife) is bound by the law to her husband (or wife) as long as he (or she) lives. But if the husband (or wife) dies , she (or he) is released from the law of her husband. The Words of Jesus through the Apostle Paul, not mine.

Now before you get any ideas about eliminating your spouse, remember,  God also says thou shalt not kill!  When you exchange vows on your wedding day, maybe you left out the part “til death do us part,” but God didn’t.

 “What about physical abuse? What about desertion?  

The Bible is strangely silent on the matter of spousal abuse. It seems the best advice we can give  is make sure you report it to the proper authorities. God works through the government to provide protection for it’s citizens. Use these channels and don’t delay! Don’t blow it off, at the first incident, report it! The abuser needs help!

But remember the goal is your protection, then reconciliation and healing not divorce.

What about desertion? That matter is discussed in 1 Cor. 7: 13-15,

 1Co 7:12 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.  13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.  14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.  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. (NKJV)
In other words if the unbeliever leaves let him or her depart  The believer is not under bondage.

The believing spouse is no longer bound by civil law to her husband, but she is still under God’s Law,  and God’s law says seek reconciliation for as long as it is possible and do not remarry ever, for God has called you to the ministry of peace.

And guess what the word peace means in the Greek? It means to join, to set at one again. Reconciliation is the goal. Look at the very next verse!

 1Co 7:16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (NKJV)

If the departing spouse remarries, reconciliation is out of the question. But the Lord has still called you to a ministry of peace, a ministry of reconciliation. Maybe not with your spouse but certainly with others including your children as you seek to keep their relationship with God strong.

Till death do us part. What God has joined together let no man put asunder. There are no biblical grounds for divorce.

In closing let me speak to the young people here today. This message is for you more than anyone else. Listen to the words of Jesus concerning divorce and remarriage. Base your attitude about marriage on the Word of God, not what you have observed in the church or in the world.

Would you forgive us? Would you forgive what our generation has done to the institution that God loves? By our own actions and words we have given you a distorted view of what God says about marriage and divorce.

Please, I beg you, draw a line in the sand today and purpose that your generation will be different. Purpose in your heart to not marry until you have found a Christian mate who understands this teaching of Jesus as well as you do. . What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

Oh Father, Thy Word is truth. It is not hard truth, but many times it is forgotten truth. I pray that your church will again remember what you have said about the permanence of marriage and your prohibition against remarriage after a divorce. We have grievously sinned. Forgive us, give us the strength and the commitment to go and sin no more. And let us be bold and guiltless as we receive Your forgiveness and share this truth with others. O God, be with those who have been divorced and are not yet remarried. Convince them that you still have a plan for them and that plan includes reconciliation where possible, or singleness for the single hearted purpose of working in Your kingdom for Your glory and honor. This I pray in Jesus name, Amen.