by Mark Herbster
God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), and so I hate divorce. The Bible is very clear that divorce is not something God desires. The first institution that God established was marriage (Gen 2:23-24). God’s desire was that man would leave and cleave to his wife until death they do part. In the New Testament quotation of Gen 2:24 God says “…What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt 19:6). No man would include every husband living! God does not want divorce to take place. His desire is one man for one woman for a lifetime.
Though God’s desire is no divorce the reality is that divorce will occur. We live in a sin cursed world and we are sin cursed beings. Moses in Deut. 24 allowed the people to give a bill of divorce. Matt 19 says that Moses did this for the hardness of the hearts of the people. Then God says “but from the beginning it was not so.” In other words God hates divorce.
Many people would like to use Matt. 19 to allow or even counsel one to get a divorce in the circumstance of fornication. To be consistent with the nature of marriage the picture of marriage and the direct commands of scripture we should conclude that this is not saying God allows or ever desires divorce. So, there must be a logical way to explain what is commonly known as the exception clause. In the context of Matt. 19 the religious rulers were testing and questioning Jesus to get him to agree with one or the other views of divorce. The one group believed divorce was allowable in any situation, and the other group believed it was allowable in only adulterous situations. Jesus did not agree with either one of the common religious views. The disciples were shocked and said “it is not good to be married” (v 10). They would not have been shocked if He would have agreed with the adultery view.
So, what was the difference in Jesus’ statement. Jesus is acknowledging that divorce will happen even though He does not like it. If a spouse is involved in fornication (continual pattern of sexual sin) and is not repentant, God allows for a separation to wait for repentance and reconciliation. He obviously does not acknowledge the possibility of a legitimate divorce because he says to remarry would be committing adultery. If it was legitimate to divorce, it would not be adultery to remarry. If the adulterous spouse divorces and remarries and there is no hope of reconciliation, then the “innocent party” is not in adultery unless he/she remarries.
The question is asked then, “why was this statement not included in the other gospels?” A possible answer is that Matthew was specifically addressed to a Jewish audience. The Jews were readily familiar with the two schools of thought promoted among the religious rulers. Therefore it was common for them to just assume that an adulterous marriage would result in a divorce. The gentiles, however, were in no need of clarification. When Jesus said in Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18, “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another committeth adultery,” there was no need for clarification. They simply took this to mean what it says. God hates divorce!
In a simple statement here is what I believe about divorce. God hates divorce in any circumstance. If divorce occurs against the will of God as the result of adultery (or any reason), there are only two options of resolving the situation; remain unmarried or be reconciled.
This view does agree with the other passages of scripture that deal specifically with divorce. In I Cor. 7:10-11 Pauls says “…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.” Romans 7:2-3 says that if you marry someone else, as long as your spouse lives, you commit adultery.