Matthew 19:3-9

A. Divorce has reached epidemic proportions in our society. Almost every family has been touched, in some manner, by this terrible malady.
B. Forty years ago divorce was viewed by the majority of the public as a shameful and disgraceful thing. Today, it has lost its shame and disgrace and is viewed by that same public as a viable alternative to an unhappy married life.
C. It is not surprising that such a moral climate in the world should have its effect upon the church. Only the most naïve could refuse to see how much the attitudes toward divorce in the world is now seen in members of the church. Perhaps an accurate spiritual barometer of this is seen in our leaders…
1. In conversation with an older preacher some time ago, he assured me that he could list 50-60 elders and preachers whose homes had been torn asunder by divorce over the past few years.
2. In addition, I can name a number of preachers who no longer preach what they used to preach on the subject, but have changed their positions to accommodate either the moral climate or their own circumstances.
3. Brethren, if this is happening among the leaders (and it is) I assure you that it is even worse among other members.
D. There is another thought I want you to keep in mind as your guiding star as we approach this highly emotional subject: We must have faith that all of God’s commands are for our good and ultimate benefit
1. Deuteronomy 10:13
2. Psalm 19:7-9
3. There are some things we may not understand about this subject but WE MUST HAVE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN GOD!
E. The fact that the relationship between husbands and wives is often ruptured is nothing new…it is as old as recorded history.
1. But God has always had laws to guide man in his various and sundry relationships, and this is no exception.
2. Thus, our task is to understand the mind of God on the subject of divorce and remarriage and then be guided by it.
F. In this study, I want us to take an exegetical view of Matthew 19:3-9.
1. Because of time constraints, we’re going to confine our comments mainly to this passage.
2. It is the central passage on the issue and other passages will only reinforce the teaching found here…
1. The motive for the question – The Pharisees were testing Jesus; trying to find something against him, perhaps some slip of the tongue whereby they might put him to some disadvantage and turn the popular opinion against him.
2. But, why this particular question? How could they use this question to their advantage? As we view the historical background to this question, there are three possible explanations.
a. It is possible that they were trying to involve Jesus in one of the major controversies of the day between two rabbinical schools. This controversy centered on the proper understanding of… Deuteronomy 24:1-4.
1) The school of Shammai taught that one could only divorce his wife for the cause of adultery (giving emphasis to the word “uncleanness” in Deut. 24:1 to mean “adultery”)
2) The school of Hillel, far more liberal, emphasized the phrase “finds no favor in his eyes” in the Deuteronomy passage and understood “uncleanness” to refer to anything the husband found undesirable in his wife.
3) The tragic results of all of this controversy is obvious – the position held and advocated by the school of Hillel prevailed and was the most popular position in Palestine at the time of Jesus.
4) If Jesus took the popular, more liberal view of Hillel, His opposition could deride His claims to be a Teacher of superior morality. If Jesus upheld the stricter view of Shammai, he would arouse the enmity of the majority who had accepted this position. Either way Jesus chose, it seemed to the Pharisees, their purpose to entrap him would be accomplished.
b. Very closely associated with this controversy was the question prompted by the case of Herod and Herodias… Mark 6:17-19
1) To take the liberal view of Hillel would be to repudiate the teaching of John the Baptist (the people held him to be a prophet)
2) To accept Shammai’s position not only would have offended the majority, but it might possibly have involved Jesus in the same trouble with Herod that John had faced.
3) The Pharisees, knowing that Jesus had already spoken clearly on the matter (the Sermon on the Mount… Matt. 5:31-32), could have been seeking the same fate for Jesus that John had suffered.
3. THE POINT OF THE QUESTION that the Pharisees asked is this: Is marriage a precarious relationship, uncertain, subject to be dissolved at the mere whim or pleasure of either party? Is divorce permissible for just any reason at all?
1. It should be first noted that Jesus answers the Pharisees question, “is divorce permissible for just any cause” – with a resounding NO!
2. Jesus calls as witness the marriage relationship as it was “in the beginning.” Adam and Eve were created for each other and for no one else; their union was necessarily complete and unbreakable.
3. Jesus said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (v. 6), emphasizing the permanence of that relationship.
1. God “joins” two together in marriage.
a. “Join” comes from SUZEGNUMI which means “yoke together, couple…; esp. in marriage,…; to be coupled with, paired; of wedded union.” (Liddell and Scott Lexicon)
b. This “yoking together” does two things according to the Law of God:
1) OBLIGATES one to leave father and mother and cleave to his wife – Matthew 19:5
2) RESTRAINS one from sexual relations with another – Romans 7:2-3
c. The fact that God acts in “joining” two people together shows that He alone has the authority to free one from this yoke so that they may contract another marriage without sin.
d. In essence, the marriage relationship, when bound by God, is more than a covenant between two parties (man & woman), it involves three (man, woman, & God).
2. Man is not to “put asunder” (separate) what God has joined together.
a. “Put asunder” comes from CHORIZO and means to separate, divide, put asunder… or divorce
b. Some have taken this to mean that man CANNOT separate what God has joined together. But this is not true…
1) If it were, it would render this command meaningless…
2) Matt. 19:9…one CAN divorce his mate unlawfully and MARRY another, this committing adultery (cf. Herod & Herodias- Mark 6:17-18)
3. The third thing I want to notice about Matthew 19:6 is that, in reality, Jesus was making an absolute pronouncement against divorce for ANY cause!
a. But, these word of Jesus do not take into account the matter of adultery which, according to the Law of Moses (Deut. 22), was punishable by death – thus obviously, giving the right of the survivor to marry.
b. I have no problem believing that, from the very beginning, God has authorized fornication as grounds for the dissolution of the marriage relationship with the right of remarriage for the one who was innocent of such-
1) In one dispensation, the sin was punishable by death, obviously giving the living party the right to marry.
2) In the Christian dispensation fornication is the only grounds whereby one might divorce and marry another without sin.
3) In essence, Jesus, in this passage, is rebuking the Jews and demanding a return to God’s marriage law as it had been in the very beginning and remains so till this day!
c. The emphasis in this verse is to the effect that the act of divorce itself (except under the conditions we’re going to talk about in verse 9) is SIN! … Malachi 2:16
1. The Pharisees immediately attempt to throw Jesus into conflict with Moses. They are thinking, “If Moses had COMMANDED men to give their wives certificates of divorce and divorce them, who was Jesus to say it was not so?”
2. The error of the Pharisees was in the fact that MOSES NEVER COMMANDED DIVORCE, it was PERMITTED because of Israel’s hardened and sinful hearts. Moses only REGULATED a practice in which the sinful Jews had already been engaged.
3. Moses NEVER COMMANDED divorcing or the giving of a bill of divorcement! If he had, this would have contradicted the Law of God “from the beginning”!
1. Jesus here gives a general law and makes one exception (He makes the laws, and only He has the authority to grant the exceptions).
2. The general law… “Whosoever shall put away his wife…and marries another committeth adultery.” THIS IS THE REAL POINT OF THE ENTIRE TEXT AND THE POINT WE NEED TO EMPHASIZE!!
3. The single and only exception to God’s general law on divorce…”except for fornication” (sexual immorality)
a. The force of any exceptive clause says that the general law does not apply under certain conditions. This is easily understood when we consider other passages…
1) Acts 8:1 “…they were all scattered…EXCEPT the apostles”
2) 2 Timothy 2:5 “…If a man also strives for the masteries, yet is he not crowned, EXCEPT he strive lawfully.”
3) Luke 13:3 “EXCEPT you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”
b. The force of the exceptive clause in Matthew 19:9 is simply, “if a man divorces his wife for the CAUSE of fornication and marries another, HE DOES NOT commit adultery.”
c. Please note that divorce must be for the CAUSE of fornication… that is, fornication must be the motive for the divorce.
4. Finally, the third element of Jesus’ teaching in this passage, “whoso marrieth her which is put away (i.e. one who has been divorced) doth commit adultery.” The point is simply this…to marry one who is unscripturally divorced is to commit adultery.
5. To sum up… Matthew 19:9 addresses…
a. The man who divorces his wife FOR FORNICATION and marries another DOES NOT commit adultery…this is the force of the exceptive clause
b. The man who divorces his wife NOT FOR FORNICATION and marries another commits adultery.
c. The man who marries a woman who has been divorced (put away) commits adultery (necessarily implied is that the divorced woman commits adultery also. The man could not be committing adultery without her being guilty as well).
A. When talking about marriage, divorce, and remarriage, I think it would be good for us to look at marriage from another angle…
1. First, remember that we must have authority for everything we do
a. Colossians 3:17
b. 2 John 9
c. Revelation 22:18-19
2. Then ask, “Who has the authority to marry?” The answer is plain:
a. Those who are single and never been married
b. Those whose first mates have died (Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39)
c. Those who have divorced their mates for the CAUSE of fornication (Mat. 19:9)
3. Those who do not have the authority from God to marry are called adulterers.
a. This is indeed a grave sin, one that will cause a person to lose his soul
b. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
B. It is also a grave sin to have fellowship with brethren who are adulterers
a. 1 Corinthians 5:6ff
b. Ephesians 5:11
c. Revelation 2:14, 20-22

Tom Moore
P. O. Box 107
Hamilton, Texas 76531

About from the Preachers PC

Gospel Preacher for the Park Heights church of Christ in Hamilton, TX. I stand for and defend the truth of God's word. All other degrees and diplomas mean very little in comparison.
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