3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away doth commit adultery.
1. Some say, “This teaching applies only to Christians,” or, that the New Testament is a law only for Christians and not for unbelievers.” (Sometimes this is called the ‘Covenant Law.’) The conclusion to this new law would be that a non-Christian is not under the New Testament law and therefore does not have to comply with this teaching and can remain in an unscriptural marriage after he is converted.
Jesus’ audience at this time (the ones he was directly addressing) was the Pharisees (Matt. 19:3). They were not his disciples. Considering his audience, this teaching was originally addressed to unbelievers and, therefore, if it applies to anyone today, it obviously still applies to unbelievers as well as believers.
Jesus also applied his teaching to “whosoever.” There is no qualification to the term ‘whoseover.’ It applies to “whosoever,” both Christian and non-Christian (Matt. 19:9).
Jesus was reaffirming God’s intention for all men from the beginning of the creation (Gen. 2:24).
2. “A person can repent from the sin of an unscriptural divorce which means his first marriage is dissolved and he can continue in the second marriage.” (i.e. those who have been unscripturally divorced and remarried can “repent” and continue to live together with the second husband or wife).
God joins the man and the woman in the covenant of marriage. Except for fornication, He will not break that bond (Matt. 19:6-9). As long as bond between a man and a woman remains, God will not join that man or woman to yet a third man or woman. Wouldn’t we be guilty of blasphemy by saying that God would bind a third man or woman with a man or woman already bound together and thus make two bonds? Can we accuse God himself of aiding and abetting polygamy? We must recognize that unless God breaks the first bond, that man and woman are bound together no matter what other relationship they think they enter into.
Civil court of law does not govern God’s actions. God makes the bond when the man and woman made the vows before Him, which is before it was registered in the civil court. If a marriage is registered in a civil court, it is because God commands His children to obey the law of the land (Rom. 13:1-7). God does not wait until the civil court registers the marriage to join the man and woman together. (There are times when the officiate mails or waits several days to register the marriage. Does that mean the man and woman are living in adultery or committing fornication until the civil authority puts the record in its books? In the same way that the civil courts do not join the man and woman together, the civil court cannot force God to break the bond he has made between a man and woman.)
Under the Old Testament, repenting from an unscriptural marriage required separation from the mate (Ezra 10:10-14). What constitutes an unscriptural marriage has changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament because the covenant has changed; however, God has not changed (Mal. 3:6) and what He requires for repentance has not changed. Therefore, in the New Testament, repenting from an unscriptural marriage also requires separation. There is a difference between the sorrow of the world and godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:9-10). True repentance requires 1) confessing, and 2) forsaking the sin (Pro. 28:13).
Marriage is not just about the physical relationship but a contract made between a man and a woman before God and witnesses. Many today claim their marriages were never “consummated” because they did not have relations after the wedding. They feel justified in getting those marriages annulled and marrying someone else.
Let us consider the account of Joseph and Mary. Joseph was espoused (stronger term than our engagement today) to Mary before she was found to be with child. Then God appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take her to wife (complete the contract begun with the espousal) and “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS” (Matt. 1:24-25).
You can see by the inspired words of God that Mary is called Joseph’s wife long before the marriage was consummated. God says several times that Joseph and Mary were married even though Joseph did not have relations with her. That has to be understood that the vows are what make the marriage and not the sexual union. If sexual union is what makes a marriage, then everyone committing fornication (even with a prostitute) is married to that woman.
3. Some say, “The only sin is the act of remarriage, not the relationship which follows” (i.e. those unscripturally divorced and remarried do not live in adultery).
Again, this ‘law’ ignores the fact that God joins the man and woman in marriage. Unless God breaks the bond, the man and woman continue to be married. It is true that the act of ‘remarriage’ is a sin, because the man/woman put away his/her wife/husband and married another which opens the door to adultery. If God recognized the ‘second marriage,’ he would not declare that they are living in adultery (Matt. 19:9). This erroneous view fits closely with the prior one.
Several scriptures clearly teach that a sin can be “lived in” (Rom. 6:2; Col. 3:5-7; Titus 3:3; 2 Pet. 2:18). Obviously, adultery is a state which can be (and too often is) lived in.
The word “adultery” is a word which describes sexual relations. Therefore, the sin is not restricted to what takes place at the altar or before the justice of the peace in entering an unscriptural marriage.
The verb “commits” is NT: 3429 “moichao (moy-khah’-o)” This is a present, middle, indicative verb. In Greek, this is continuous action. This is not punctiliar action. In other words, the Greek tense of this verb carries the meaning “keeps on committing adultery.” It is not just a one-time action. Therefore, those guilty of being in an unscriptural marriage are living in a state of adultery. That is why the only way to repent of this sin is to separate from the unlawful mate.
4) Some say the guilty party can remarry after he/she repents.
Matthew 19:9 (and 5:32) plainly says that “whoso marries her, which is put away doth commit adultery.”
The phrase “except it be for fornication” applies only to the innocent party, the one who is divorcing his or her mate. There is no exception given for those who are divorced (i.e. the scripture does not say, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away, except it be for fornication, doth commit adultery.”).
Therefore, if a person is put away for adultery, one who marries him or her is entering into an adulterous relationship. The fact that God uses the word “adultery” in Matthew 19:9 does not give license to the one put away for fornication to remarry.
It is sometimes argued that since the word “adultery” is used in the statement “whoso marries her which is put away doth commit adultery,” that word cannot apply to those guilty of fornication because God sanctions that divorce and, therefore, both parties become unmarried. It is argued that the one who did the divorcing cannot be regarded as no longer married while the one divorced is still regarded as married. And since “adultery” is the word used in the above statement, it does not apply to the guilty party because “adultery” requires the person to be married. This argument is false.
God sometimes uses a word which fits the majority of cases while it is to be understood that the teaching still applies to other cases in which the word used may not apply specifically. That is certainly true of the word “adultery.” For example, in Matthew 5:28 the Lord says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” The fact that God uses the word adultery instead of fornication in this verse does not mean that if one unmarried person lusts after another unmarried person (in which case it would technically be fornication that is committed in the heart, not adultery), he is not guilty of sin. To be consistent, those who argue that Matthew 19:9 does not apply to those put away for fornication since the word “adultery” is used must also argue that Matthew 5:28 does not apply to an unmarried person who lusts after another unmarried person. That is absurd.
Such word games could also be played with the gender of the pronouns in Matthew 19:9, Matthew 5:28, etc. Can any man who is divorced scripturally remarry because God only says that “whoso marries her, which is put away doth commit adultery”? Or can a woman lust after a married man without being guilty of committing adultery in her heart since God only says that a man who lusts after a woman is guilty? That would be the same so-called logic that says the guilty party can remarry since God uses the word “adultery” in Matthew 19:9!
How thick would the Bible be if God had to word every verse to satisfy these kinds of people? Here is a sample of how Matthew 19:9 alone would have to read:
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery and whosoever shall put away her husband, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away, except it be for fornication, doth commit adultery and whoso marries him which is put away, except it be for fornication, doth commit adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away for fornication doth commit fornication and whoso marries him which is put away for fornication doth commit fornication.
The fact still remains that God says, “Whoso marries her, which is put away doth commit adultery.” God nowhere gives the guilty party freedom to remarry. Those who argue that the guilty party can remarry are creating a right which God did not give! They are giving a new law which Jesus never gave.
Finally, one who espouses this false doctrine (that the guilty party can remarry) is forced to take the position that one who is divorced because they burned their husband’s dinner is not able to remarry, but one who is divorced because they committed adultery can remarry! Though that doesn’t prove that the position is erroneous, it should indicate that something is wrong with this view, because God is just and fair in His judgments. God does not bind the innocent and pardon the guilty.