God allows divorce for one reason

April 14, 2007 Matthew Keedy Clifton Bible 'Quick Notes'

From the beginning of creation, God had a plan for marriage. The idea was for a man and woman to pledge themselves to one another and stay together for life.

Our modern society chuckles at the idea of divorce being against God’s will. The Bible, however, says God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). This being so, we should seek to understand more about what the Bible teaches about it.

One time the Pharisees approached Jesus and asked him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” (Matt. 19:3). Jesus responded by telling them,

Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. — Matt. 19:4-6 (ESV)

You see, Jesus affirmed this plan for marriage that God instituted when he created them both, male and female. The idea was that a man would leave the home of his parents, and be joined to a woman forever! They are no longer two, Jesus said, but one. And this being the case that God joins two in marriage, man has no right to separate.

The Pharisees were quick to point out that Moses allowed divorce (Matt. 19:7). Jesus responded that yes, because of the hardness of the people’s hearts, Moses allowed it. But from the beginning, it was not so!

During the time when the Law of Moses was in effect, divorce was allowed. But under the New Covenant of Christ, we have a different rule for divorce:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. — Matt. 19:9 (ESV)

Here we see the one reason God allows divorce under the New Covenant of Christ: sexual immorality, or more accurately “fornication.”

There have been many attempts to circumvent God’s law in this matter by claiming divorce is allowable in cases of “mental adultery” or “committing adultery in the heart.” However, Jesus says specifically that “fornication” (Greek porneia) is the only allowable cause for divorce.

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