Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
-Matthew 19:3-9, NIV
Today’s post is an idea I am “stealing” from my wise and godly father. He made the point about how divorce cannot always be considered sin for another reason than God having divorced Isreael (Jeremiah 3:8, Isaiah 50:1). This is so because Scripture gives God’s people permission to divorce. Does God ever give His people permission to sin? Is sin ever encouraged in His people?
Of course, not.
In fact, the trap here in Matthew is to get Jesus to contradict Scripture–i.e. the Law. Notice, Jesus does not correct the Law. Instead, he corrects a permissive interpretation of such Scripture allowing divorce “for any and every reason” (vv.3). Then he makes it clear what exception is acceptable: the grounds for divorce must be sexual immorality and adultery certainly qualifies under this category.
Are there other grounds for a divorce besides sexual immorality? Possibly, it depends on one’s interpretation of I Corinthians 7, and the Apostle Paul’s teachings on these matters. However, I am not writing this post as a catch-all for Biblically-warranted divorce.
My point is that divorce must not be a sin or God gave permission for His people to sin, and Jesus did not correct this when confronted with this permission.
If God does not condemn those who divorce over sexual immorality (including adultery), who are we to condemn?
And I would add that Jesus does not put a number on sexual immoral instances in a marriage for the faithful spouse to qualify for filing a godly divorce. Once means it qualifies as Scripture teaches here.