Jesus Teaching on M, D, & R – Gary L. Grizzell

Gary L. Grizzell

The teaching of our Lord in regard to divorce and remarriage can be seen in Matthew 5:31-32; 19: 3-12; Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18. There are a number of other scriptures relating to the binding effect of Jesus’ teaching and the time period wherein his teaching would be authoritative.

Analysis of Matthew 19:3-12

The Pharisees sought to put the master debater, our Lord, in an intellectual dilemma. They asked Jesus if a man could scripturally (with God’s approval) put away his wife for every cause (vs. 3). Jesus rebuked their ignorance of God’s Word and quoted Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 implying that they had ignored the very law which they had claimed to know well. Then he pointed out that God’s original intention was that of one man-one woman-for life (vs. 4-6). Their flimsy reply is seen in reference to their misplaced allegiance (vs. 7). He reveals the reason for the laxity of Moses’ Law, then shows that the divorce practice was not in God’s original intention (vs. 8). The “beginning” refers to the beginning of the institution of marriage (Gen. 2:18-25, Adam and Eve). The key verse in this passage is verse 9 where Jesus teaches his new, higher law in regard to divorce and remarriage: “And I say unto you”—The one we are to listen to is not Moses or Abraham, but “I” (Jesus). He is now the authoritative leader in the religious realm. (Matt. 28:18; Col. 3:17).

Whosoever”—This is a universal term. Therefore, Jesus’ teaching is binding on Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond or free, two Christians, two non-Christians, or the Christian and the non-Christian who enter the institution of marriage. All are amenable (accountable) to Christ’s law of marriage, divorce and remarriage in the Christian Age.

Put away”—This refers to civil divorce.

Fornication”—This word is from the Greek word porneia and here refers to “unchastity, prostitution, fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse; of the sexual unfaithfulness of a married woman or man (Arndt & Gingrich Lexicon);” “of illicit sexual intercourse in general (Thayer’s Lexicon);” “fornication, whoredom, concubinage adultery, incest, lewdness, uncleanness (Analytical Lexicon).” “The word fornication (porneia) is all-inclusive of every kind of sexual immorality.” (Maurice W. Lusk, III, The Spiritual Sword, Jan. 1975, p. 48).

And shall marry another”—This refers to marrying according to civil law by an authorized agent such as a preacher or the Justice of the Peace.

Committeth adultery”—This expression is from one Greek word moichatai and “This verb is in the present tense, the force of which is continuous action. It means ‘keeps on committing adultery.’” (The Spiritual Sword, Jan. 1975, p. 17).

Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery”—The third party is brought into an adulterous union as a result of marrying a scripturally ineligible person.

The reaction of the immediate disciples of Christ is seen in verses 10-12. The disciples thought Jesus’ teaching was too strict and suggested that celibacy would be better than being married (vs.10). This was simply a lack of understanding and faith.

Next, Jesus taught that those who determine to do the will of God on this issue can do it, but those who choose to do the damning will of Satan will reject the teaching on this issue (vs. 11). Jesus then listed three classes of eunuchs (a eunuch is a neutered male). 1). Those born with a physical defect. 2). Those made eunuchs by men. 3). Those made eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. This third group is a spiritual group of people, not a physical group. Specifically, Jesus’ reference is to those persons who insist upon living celibate lives to avoid living in adultery. It is sometimes wise for some to be eunuchs for the kingdom’s sake as was the case of the Corinthians: “By reason of the distress that is upon us” (1 Cor. 7:26).

Jesus then stated, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it,” i.e., acceptance of this doctrine will be based upon the spirituality of the person’s heart and will. This spirituality is a matter of personal choice.

Lessons to be Learned From Matthew 19:3-12

  1. Divorce practice was not in God’s original intention for marriage (vv. 4-6; 8b). So, instead of men today complaining, we should be thankful for at least one way out of a corrupted marriage. (1 Cor. 10:13).

  2. There is only one acceptable reason for a divorce and remarriage among living companions (vs. 9). Fornication on the part of one’s companion is that only reason for an acceptable divorce and consequent remarriage. This must be in the innocent party’s mind at the time of the civil divorce.

  3. It is possible to live in adultery (vs. 9). As explained earlier, “committeth adultery” means, “Keeps on committing adultery.”

  4. Those living in an unlawful marriage must separate in order to be pleasing to God. This is repentance. Without separation what has one repented of? (cf. Matt. 14:4). One must avoid living in sin even if it means that one must become a spiritual eunuch for the kingdom of God’s sake (Matt. 19:12; Luke 13:3).

An Exhortation

The subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage involves the deepest of feelings and emotions, but the child of God should never disregard the teaching of the Lord because the load of His cross is at times heavy. Christianity tugs at our heart strings for repentance and sets in motion the wheels of obedience. After complete submission the load becomes lighter. All who truly wish to obey Christ, enter the pearly gates and walk the streets of eternal life will not for any personal reason reject the Master’s teaching, but will say with the great apostle Paul, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him” (Philp. 3:8-9).

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