Divorce & the Divorced 1544

Matt. 5:31-32

Dan Lightfoot


A. We’re studying the sermon on the Mt. Jesus is touching on some of the most sensitive topics in a very simple way. “Look into your heart. Do the right thing. Fulfill God’s original intention from the heart.”

1. In vss 27-30 He discussed the look of lust. It’s the moral equivalent of adultery. Adultery breaks covenant with God, with spouse, and sends souls to hell. So discipline yourself to have the heart of God.

2. In vss 33-37 He discussed the breaking of oaths, & maintains that one God’s heart will be completely true to his word & his commitments.

B. Sandwiched between these 2 He says: Matt. 5:31-32“It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity (fornication or adultery), makes her commit adultery; & whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

1. It’s a subject that cannot be ignored. And one that can’t be exhausted in a sermon. Jesus points out the dif. between the law & people.

2. Jesus made some very unusual statements. In Mark 2:27— “Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

a. The law was made for man, not v.v.! That’s a life-changing, era changing statement. I grew up believing law was more important.

b. But the law is to protect & serve man. Lead him in the way that is right & best. The spirit of the law is the heart of God. Jesus wants us to have the heart of God.

3. E.g. — Lake has a sign that reads: “No swimming. City Ordinance #1234”. The purpose is to protect people from the dangers in the water. Sup- pose you happen by & see that someone has broken the ordinance & is in the water, in trouble & about to drown. What do you do? Obey the sign & let him drown? Swim in to save him? — The letter of the law says “Don’t swim!” The spirit of the law is to protect life.

C. So, how do we maintain the law — & help people?

I. The Law

A. The Jews had made the literal statement the important thing.

‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity (fornica- tion or adultery), makes her commit adultery; & whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

1. Now that’s the Law.

a. They had made it a commandment; saw it as permission to divorce.

b. Adultery was not a cause for divorce in the OT. It was an unpardonable sin, punishable by death. Divorce was for other reasons; many reasons — & Jesus calls us back to the heart of God, the spirit of the law — to protect marriage & exalt it & protect women!

2. The Law declared divorce sinful. Somebody has to sin for divorce to occur. (Law doesn’t make things wrong. God does. Law reveals it.)

a. He says it again in Mt. 19:9 — “...whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

b. Divorce for the wrong reason is itself adultery. (not cohabitation)

B. Paul says the same thing in I Cor. 7.

1. Sun. morn. is not the time to study divorce & remarriage.

a. Let’s see the law on divorce — & how God deals with the divorced. There’s a dif. between the law & how He will deal with the violator.

2. I Cor. 7:10-11 — “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, (Jesus had talked to them about this) that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), & that the husband should not divorce his wife.”

a. What’s the instruction? Do not divorce! That’s the Law.

b.He’s talking to a Christian married to a Christian.

c.But if you must, remain unmarried or be reconciled. Christians not only have a covenant with each other, but with God.

3. 7:12-16 — “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, & she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, & he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, & the unbelieving wife is sanctified thru her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”

a. The Law for the Christian is the same: Do not divorce! Married to a Christian or a non-Christian — don’t divorce!

b. But if the unbeliever gets a divorce, he has God’s permission to do so! “Let him leave”, let him divorce! (3rd person)

j You (2nd person), the Christian, are “not under bondage”.

(To the marriage or to the law.)

k Why? I’ve called you to peace. God wants peace in the lives of His children. — that’s the law, too.

C. In Mal. 2:16, God speaks His heart concerning divorce. He wants our heart to be the same as His. “I hate divorce!”

1. & how does He encourage us? “So take heed to your spirit,” — God is concerned with our spirit, our heart!

2. There is always sin involved in divorce in some way.

a. Divorce violates God’s law concerning marriage, & it violates the covenant we make with each other when we marry.

b. So, God hates divorce.

3. Malachi calls it treachery against the wife of your youth. 2:14

a. Especially in that day. Women had no means of livelihood once divorced — couldn’t go back to her father’s house & all that was left was a life of ill-repute or to sell herself into slavery. (treachery)

b. It caused great tears… 2:13 — & we understand….

j Anyone who has been thru a divorce knows that…

k Alan Qualmann— at my breakfast table Tuesday morn….“I wish I had died. I still do.”

l More stress & anguish than death … painful, tragic

m I’ve never known a divorced Christian who didn’t hate divorce even tho’ their live may have been more peaceful afterward.

4. That’s the law. Was that law made for man? Yes. Not man for it.

a. But my job is not to just tell you what the law is…. but to help you see how Jesus applies the law…

II. How Am I Benefited by this Law?


A. I’m not going to divorce my wife.

1. We’ll live in peace & harmony & fidelity. Divorce is not an option.

2. Hazel Russell said she had never considered divorce—murder, a couple of times! But never divorce!

B. Jesus teaches me how to treat law-breakers. Any law-breaker. Any sin.

1. Suppose I had committed adultery, divorced my wife and remarried;

I’ve come to faith in Christ and want to become a Christian — what do you say? What do I do?

2. How does the Bible… how does Jesus deal with violators of the law?

a. Is He merciful or mean? (I know how we are sometimes…)

C. Remember in John 8. Adulterous woman is brought before Jesus.

1. How would the law deal with her? (stone her)

2. How did the people deal with her? (As a thing, a means to trap Jesus)

3. How did Jesus deal with her? (read chap. 8 if you don’t know)

4. How would you like to be dealt with? (Law, people, or Jesus?)

a. Like Jesus did. Right

b. Jesus said, “Woman, I accept you. But stay away from sin from now on. This is your opportunity to change your life.”

c. “Now that you’re mine, more is expected of you. Now you are family, & you have the standard of the family to live up to.”

d. Before, she was under the Law. Now, she is under grace!

D. Go back to John 4.

1. Jesus is thirsty by a well. An immoral woman came to draw water after the townspeople drew theirs. They didn’t associate with her.

2. Jesus asked her for a drink. She wondered why a stranger would ask. ...a man ask a woman. ...a Jew would ask an immoral woman.

3. Finally, He said, “Call your husband & we’ll talk.” She said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said, “That’s right. You’ve had five. And the one you are living with is not your husband.”

a. He never came down on her hard—offered her a new life.

1. How would the law deal with her?

2. How did the people deal with her?

3. How did Jesus deal with her?

4. How would you like to be dealt with?

She was under the Law. Now, she is under grace!

III. I Cor. 7 — Paul’s Instruction

A. Remember that the apostles were guided into all truth, and that their words are the words of Christ.

1. Paul uses 5 verses to teach the church what to do in these cases.

2. We can’t exhaust the topic today...


B. We read these verses a few minutes ago. He told us what the law was.

— Now, let’s focus on v. 17 — “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk.”

1. Walk with God in the condition (marital) in which you were called.

a. Becoming a Christian, baptism… do not change your marital state

Come to God as you were called. He illustrates with the following:

b. It does not change your national state: Jew or Gentile (vv. 18-19)

v. 20— “Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.”

c. ...nor your social state — slave or free…

j Slavery isn’t good! (is it?) But becoming a Christian didn’t change that. Doesn’t upset the social order. But if you can gain freedom, do it. But you’re a Christian either way.

k v. 24— “Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.” (3 times He said “remain”!)

2. This verse tells me there is only one place where I can begin.

a. Where is it? Right where I am.

b. “Stand & sing right where you are.” Where else would I do it?

c. I can only begin where I am.

d. Aren’t you glad God accepted you where you were?

e. It may not have been a good place. (Does God want the drug addict to accept him where he is? or get clean first?)

f. Then what does He want of us? To move toward the better!

g. I have to preach the ideal… accept the real… & we work toward better. I can’t preach less than the ideal! But I accept you where you are & want to help you strive to be better.

j Jesus loved me where I was. Loved me along the way. Loves me now. Will love me where I am tomorrow.

If I come to God where I am, and am moving toward where He wants me to be, I’ll die right where God wants me.

l Walk in the light. ...toward the light. …seeking more light, & there’s no way you can go to hell.

m You’re acceptable to this congregation… & to God!

n & nobody who really believes in Jesus & His grace will put an obstacle in your path.

3. He gets real plain in vv. 27-28 — “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released (divorced) from a wife? Do not seek a wife.

(For whatever reason, he says it would be better to stay single (divorced).) 

28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin (single person) marries, she has not sinned.”

a. Now, is that the way we look at it? Or do we sometimes consider the law more important than the person?

b. Jesus wants you saved. He wants you saved now!

We want you to be saved. Now! Just as you are. With a frame of mind to walk with Jesus toward the better.


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