By Timothy Sparks
Those who seek God’s favorable authorization for divorce and remarriage may point to passages where they see “except”:
- Mt. 5:32—exemption from blame, not permission to divorce and remarry (see also What Is Jesus Saying in Mt. 5:32? and The Exemption Clause)
- Mt. 19:9—Many see Jesus saying, “Whoever divorces his wife for the exception of fornication and marries another does not commit adultery.”
- Jesus actually says, “Whoever dismisses his wife not over fornication and marries another commits adultery.”*
- The Jews could not under God’s law grant divorce for adultery or fornication (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10).
Notice the following Scriptures where people must insert “except” to have God’s blessing for divorce and remarriage:
- The “one-flesh” law is permanent (Gen. 1:27; 2:23-24; Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-8), except when people want to divorce and/or remarry
- A person must forgive his/her spouse of any and every sin an unlimited number of times (Mt. 18:21-22, 35), except the sin of adultery, which carries with it the consequence of divorce if the “innocent spouse” chooses to execute the divorce penalty upon his/her spouse
- “Therefore what God united, a human cannot divide” (Mt. 19:6; Mk. 10:9), except when people think they have the ability to do so
- Jesus does not endorse being hard-hearted (Mt. 19:8; Mk. 10:5), except when people want to divorce
- In the context of Jesus’ time, God’s law was the death penalty for adultery, and Jesus did not change God’s law before his death (Deut. 22:22; Lev. 20:10; Jn. 8:3-7; Heb. 9:15-17), except when people decided to divorce for adultery
- God did not institute divorce in the beginning and Jesus did not institute divorce; so divorce neither came from God in the beginning nor existed within God’s will to Jesus’ present time [notice the force of the Greek perfect tense: “but from the beginning it has not existed this way” (Mt. 19:8)], except when people want Jesus to state exactly the opposite and would have Jesus instituting divorce for fornication in the very next verse (Mt. 19:9)
- Marriage to another person is adulterous (Mk. 10:11-12), except when a person wants to divorce and marry another person
- Again, marriage to another person is adulterous (Lk. 16:18), except when a person wants to divorce and marry another person
- God forbids taking a believer to court (1 Cor. 6:1-8), except when a believer wants to divorce a believing spouse
- “Christians are banned from taking other Christians before the law courts of this world (1 Cor. 6:1), which belong to Satan. Yet the only way to obtain a divorce is to go to Satan to obtain it, which he will be only too ready to hand out” (McFall, p. 126).
- The believer is commanded not to separate or abandon the unbelieving spouse (1 Cor. 7:10-13), except when the believer wants to divorce the unbelieving spouse
- When people are united by God in marriage, they are bound for life and released only by death (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:39), except when people want to divorce and/or remarry
- God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), except when people want to divorce
*Unless otherwise stated, translations are mine.