Key Verse: Mark 10:9
I. God Intended Marriage to Be Permanent, but He Did Make Provision for Those Whose Spouses Are Unfaithful
A. In the Old Testament God instituted marriage to be one man and one woman joined together for life (Gen 2:24).
B. Mal 2:16 states that God "hateth putting away."
C. In Deut 24:1-4, however, God gave a procedure for divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Mark 10:5).
1. When a man put away his wife, he had to "write her a bill of divorcement."
2. The bill of divorcement was really a certificate of innocence because, had the woman been immoral, she would have been stoned under the Law (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:21). The fact that she "may go and be another man’s wife" shows that the charge against her was a fabricated one and that she was in fact innocent of unfaithfulness.
D. Jesus reiterated this view of marriage in the New Testament (Matt 5:27-32; 19:2-12; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; Rom 7:1-3; 1 Cor 7:1).
II. Divorce Is Not the Same Today
A. In biblical times when a husband or wife would dismiss (
apolúœ) his or her marital partner unjustifiably without giving that partner "a bill of divorcement," they wanted others to conclude that there must have been inconstancy on the part of the dismissed person. They were not concerned that this innocent partner would be considered an adulterer. The Mosaic Law, when applied, protected such an innocent party.
B. Today, on the other hand, a judge can declare a marriage dissolved for any reason; a wife or husband cannot dismiss a marital partner on his or her own. The court does not necessarily distinguish between the unfaithful and innocent party. Therefore, there is no "bill of divorcement" to protect the innocent and condone remarriage.
III. Christ Condemned the Guilty but Not the Innocent Party
A. God is a just God who executes justice (Rom 2:5; 1 John 1:9; Rev 15:3; 16:5,7; 19:2).
B. He does not condemn the victim of a crime.
C. In the case of marriage, one of the two partners may decide to leave the other. Such divorce is sin if the dismissed partner is innocent of infidelity. The one that dismisses his partner in this instance must suffer the consequences of his own sin (Deut 24:4).
D. But is it even conceivable that Christ, the holy and righteous God incarnate, would equally condemn the guilty party and the innocent partner who has been divorced? Impossible!
IV. Christ Allowed for Divorce in the Case of Infidelity
A. In the case of infidelity, Jesus gave the innocent party the privilege of divorcing the guilty partner. This is the only basis on which divorce is permitted: ". . . for the cause of fornication. . ." (Matt 5:32).
B. The believer’s body is the temple or the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) and a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 6:15). If the believer is joined to a harlot (pórn¢), he defiles not only his own body, but also the whole body of Christ. If an innocent wife continues to be joined together with a husband who engages in extramarital sex, then she contributes to the defilement of not only her own body, but likewise the body of Christ. The wife has to make the choice of either remaining married, with the hope that the fornicator will repent of his sin, or divorcing him (in which case she does not sin).
V. A Study of the Greek Verbs Shows the Distinction Jesus Made Between the Innocent and Guilty
A. The verb meaning "to commit adultery" in Greek is
moicheúœ. It is used in the active voice in Matt 5:27,28; 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 16:18.
B. The phrase "to commit adultery" might also be expressed in Greek by the verb moicháœ. This verb occurs in the New Testament only in the middle form moichômai. It can be in the active, middle, or passive voice: commit adultery, commit adultery against oneself, have adultery committed against oneself, respectively.
1. In Matt 5:32, "But, I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication [passive voice], causeth her to commit adultery [moichásthai, causes adultery upon her]: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." The verb here for "committeth adultery" is
moichátai, the middle voice, which means he "causes adultery to come upon himself."
2. Matt 19:9 is correctly translated, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery [moichátai the middle voice, meaning 'commit adultery against himself ']: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery [moichátai, the middle voice meaning 'causes adultery upon himself ']."
3. Mark 10:11,12 states, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her [moichátai, active meaning]. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery [moichátai, deponent active meaning]."
4. Luke 16:18 says, "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery [moicheúei, the active verb]: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery [moicheúei, the active verb]." The expression "her that is put away from her husband" may be mistaken as the innocent, dismissed wife. In this instance, the Greek is "the one who dismissed herself from [her] husband," showing that she is the guilty one and her husband, the innocent one. Therefore, whosoever marries this woman, commits adultery. However, when one is innocent, he does not commit adultery if he remarries.