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When is it OK to Divorce and Remarry?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
December 12, 2022 9:00 am

When is it OK to Divorce and Remarry?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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December 12, 2022 9:00 am

When the joy of the honeymoon wears off, most couples discover that their spouse isn’t the saint they imagined. So is it ever okay to divorce and remarry?

Love Worth Finding
Adrian Rogers
Summit Life
J.D. Greear
Our Daily Bread Ministries
Various Hosts
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Conflict is inevitable in a marriage. God intended it, however, to not destroy your marriage. It actually, He intended it to make you more like Him, and He intended it to be something that would ultimately strengthen your marriage, and so learning how to think through this is a crucial dimension of any family, certainly any marriage. Welcome back to another week of solid biblical teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. As a young couple plans their wedding day, you know, they're full of excitement, anticipating to live happily ever after, just like the fairy tales promise. But as the years tick by, they often discover that the butterflies fade and the person that they married isn't the saint that they imagined, and in many cases they're looking for a way out. So today we are tackling the painful topic of divorce.

It's an issue that's touched the life of nearly every American in one way or another. So what does God have to say about it? That's the challenge Pastor J.D.

addresses as he asks a simple question. When is it okay to divorce and remarry? Whenever Jesus was asked a question about marriage or sex or relationships, He almost always would base His answer on what God had established from the beginning, and so using that same logic and teaching, we are looking at our toughest questions about marriage and sex and relationships. This week we're going to look at how to get through difficulty in marriage and what to do after a divorce, or basically what the Bible says about divorce. Divorce has affected a lot of people in our church and in our communities. Some of you have gone through it yourselves. Some of you are going through it right now. For many of you, you watched your parents get divorced and it affected you deeply. I want you to know that whatever situation that you are in, I do not come judgmentally on this. I know that for many of you, this was one of the most painful times in your life, and it's something that if you could have avoided it, you certainly feel like you would have done whatever you could have to avoid it, and you just felt like for whatever reason you couldn't. And so I'm not coming judgmentally to you. Some Christians talk about divorce as if it is the unforgivable sin, as if it's the one thing you can never really come back from.

You walk around from that point with a scarlet D attached to your chest or whatever, but I want to show you that that is a lie. And while not everyone is divorced, of course, we all have brokenness in our relationships. In fact, that's probably the one thing that we all have in common. The one thing we have in common in relation to our families and our relationships is conflict, very hurtful conflict, and learning to press through that and to keep the family intact is something that's very difficult, and it's something that is one of the most essential skills that you have to develop in being in any kind of relationship, and certainly in family, because going into marriage, conflict is not really on your radar screen that much. Veronica and I were in premarital counseling together. The one session that we ran out of time for was conflict resolution.

I kid you not, Veronica reminded me of that this week. And at the time we thought, it's okay, we never really fight. That was a strategic oversight. In fact, this week, my wife said, she said, why do we do premarital counseling before people get married? And I said, well, because it's called premarital counseling. And she said, no, no, no.

I mean, like, why? She said, because when you're leading up to marriage, none of this stuff sounds relevant. It just goes in one ear and right out the other. She said, if you would have said this stuff to me after or during our first year of marriage, I would have grabbed a hold of it like a drowning man to a life preserver or something like that. It's probably a great point, but the big idea, conflict is inevitable in a marriage and it destroys a lot of marriages. God intended it, however, to not destroy your marriage. It actually, He intended it to make you more like Him. And He intended it to be something that would ultimately strengthen your marriage. And so learning how to think through this is a crucial dimension of any family and certainly any marriage. First, what we're going to do is we're going to start by looking at what Jesus teaches about divorce.

And then using that, we're going to address some of the questions that you and I have surrounding that. So let's go to Matthew chapter 19, verse three. Matthew 19, verse three. And the Pharisees came up to Jesus and they tested Him. This is not a real question.

This is a trap. They say, is it lawful, Jesus, to divorce one's wife or any cause? And He answered, have you not read that He who created them from the beginning, ding, ding, ding, there's our series title, made them male and female. You see what He did?

He goes back to the beginning and says, let's look at how this was set up. Have you read this? Therefore, a man, based on this, shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. And the two in marriage shall actually become one flesh.

That's a quote from Genesis 2. So they are no longer two individuals. They are now one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

Not another man, not you, not your spouse, nobody separates it. Verse seven. So they said to Him, well, why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?

It was true. Moses had said in Deuteronomy 24 one, when a man takes a wife and he marries her, if he finds some indecency in her, he could divorce her. And so they're like, well, Jesus, you know, you're saying that we shouldn't get divorced, but Moses said we could.

Gotcha. For the record, you should never get into a battle of wits with Jesus. Especially not about the Bible. I, you know, a friend of mine got me into this. I think it's called the Bible quiz app on your phone or whatever, but you, you know, they, you just play somebody random around the United States. And I go into that pretty confidently. I'm not going to lie to you. Cause I'm like, I got a PhD in theology. I teach the Bible for a living. I strut into that pretty constantly. I got matched up with some guy in Idaho who kicks my tail every, and I keep re-challenging every time I lose. And I'm like, what do they know about the Bible in Idaho?

How am I losing? In fact, I even thought, you know, where the Bible says that we sometimes entertain angels unaware. I'm like, maybe this guy is an angel that God has put to humble me because every single time. So I don't know who this guy is. I don't know if you're listening to our podcast, but Thief in the Night 4212 hats off to you, my brother, because you have got it going on. And some of you are like, well, what's your name? I want to, I'm not telling you my screen name because I don't want you quizzing me and then beating me.

No, I'm kidding. I'll tell you it's Guns and Moses is my, my screen name. So anyway, how I feel with this guy is how the Pharisees felt with Jesus. Cause they were, it was always just, I mean, they could never win with him, but they kept doing this. And so he says to them, because of your hardness of heart, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, there it is again, it was not so. Rabbis at the time taught a difference between what they called a command in the law and a concession. A command expressed God's heart. A command showed what God had desired from the beginning. That was different than a concession, which was something that God allowed in the law because of man's fallen condition in order to keep peace in the society that was filled with people at various levels of spiritual maturity. This allowance for divorce, Jesus said, was not a command. It was a concession due to man's fallen nature.

The Pharisees actually knew that. Many of the rabbis at the time taught the difference between a command and a concession, but this was their trap. What did Moses mean exactly by something indecent? Cause that's what he'd said, is you could divorce your spouse if you find something indecent in her.

What did that mean? Because the words in Hebrew, or wat dabar, something indecent, were actually really ambiguous, even for people who spoke Hebrew. And there were generally two schools of thought about what those two words meant.

Rabbi Shammai, representing one school of thought, he taught that indecent meant sexual indecency, meaning that Moses was saying that if a man discovered his wife had been sexually unfaithful, then he could, or wat dabar, he could divorce her. His represents the conservative position of the day. On the other side, you had Rabbi Hillel. Now Hillel was a little bit more of the progressive type.

He lived in Chapel Hill, he drove a Prius. Hillel said indecent means anything you don't like about her. Maybe she has indecent behavior at a party, or indecent cooking skills, or indecent morning breath.

And I'm actually not really even exaggerating about that. We have record of Hillel saying if she consistently burns the bread, or wat dabar, you may divorce her. Hillel said if you fall in love with her, or wat dabar, marry somebody else.

If you fall in love with somebody else, or wat dabar, divorce her. Here's the thing, the majority of the Jewish world was on the side of Rabbi Hillel, right? They were a little bit more on the progressive side. And so what they're trying to do is get Jesus to say something deeply unpopular. Furthermore, John the Baptist had just been imprisoned and executed for speaking out against casual divorce and remarriage. And so the Pharisees think, okay, if Herod killed John the Baptist because John the Baptist speaks out against casual divorce and remarriage, maybe we can get Jesus to say something similar, and maybe we can get him imprisoned and executed too. So what is Jesus' answer? Verse nine, and I say to you, whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality and marries another, here's the big thing, commits adultery. Jesus actually goes farther than Rabbi Shammai.

He's more conservative than the conservative side because he gives something stronger than that. The basis of his answer, and this is the key part, is what God had established from the beginning. This is not just, you know, for sexual immorality. You're the one that's committing adultery if you divorce your spouse and marry somebody else. Marriage, he says, is a relationship in which God fuses two lives into one.

That's the idea. The two, according to Genesis 2, become one flesh. Now I've explained, in marriage your finances become one. Your bodies and your emotions become one in sex. Your families and your futures become one. Marriage is more than a contract where you find a mutually beneficial relationship.

It's more than companionship. It's more than an ideal setting for procreation. It is the literal union of two distinct persons into one. Paul would go so far as to say it demonstrates the Trinity. The Trinity. The Trinity is distinct persons, one essence. Paul says that's what's happening in marriage. Two persons, one essence, and that kind of unity can't just be walked away from. Jesus and Paul would both say it's not a contract where you negotiate terms and have a buyout option. It's a fusion of your life into their life that makes an entirely new entity.

So verse six, what therefore God has joined together, let not man, not you, not your spouse, not anybody, let nobody separate it. Period. End of sentence. No common, no dash, no asterisk, no fine print, no recommended reading.

Finish the end. Done. Old Testament chapter per day and focuses on some of the teaching passages and books of the Bible that you'll hear taught on Summit Life in 2023. Be sure to include time with God in your daily routine in the new year. Contact us now and receive the 2023 Daily Planner with your gift to the ministry. Call 866-335-5220 or check it out at Now let's get back to the conclusion of today's teaching. Here's Pastor JD.

You see there were two visions of marriage in Jesus's day just like there are two today. There's what we would call the consumer approach and there is the covenant approach. A consumer relationship is where you figure out what you need and who or what can best meet that need. Now listen, there's nothing wrong with consumer relationships in the right context. I have a consumer relationship with my grocery store. I go to my grocery store, I know the people, I like them there. I know them by name, they know me by name, but, you know, I go there because they're close to my house and they have good prices.

If I find a grocery store that is more convenient, if I find one that has better prices, then I begin to go there and that's okay because it's a consumer relationship and there's nothing wrong with that. I do not have that kind of relationship with my children. I do not go to my kids and say, you know, Raya, this is just not working out.

Honestly, it's not you, it's me, but I've actually been hanging out with the neighbor's kids and I'm kind of happier with them to be honest with you and so I'm going to have to, you know, of course not. Nobody would do that because, none of you would do that, because you know that your relationship with your kids is not a consumer relationship. So the question is what kind of relationship is sex and marriage? Well see, if you're sleeping with somebody and you're not married to them, then you look at it as a consumer relationship. Or if you are the kind of person that just gets divorced because it's not working out for you, then you are treating it like a consumer relationship. But according to Jesus, it's not that kind of relationship at all. Marriage is a, not a consumer, but a, say it, covenant.

So is it ever okay to divorce? Well, Jesus says that divorce because of this should not be an option except in the case of adultery. Now why would that be an exception? The logic of this is very, very important and the logic is more important than you just fixing on the one exception because the logic is actually going to help you explain some other places in the Bible and some other questions you and I might bring to this.

So listen to the logic. Adultery kills the covenant. When someone unifies themselves to another person sexually, they have destroyed the covenant with you. This is the reason, the same reason, by the way, you're free to remarry after your spouse dies. Your covenant with them is dead because they're dead. Well, adultery kills the covenant, which makes divorce a legitimate option.

You say, well, is that the only exception? In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul seems to employ the same logic and actually apply it to a different situation. That's why I say the logic is important.

Listen to this. 1 Corinthians 7, 10, to the married I give this charge, not I, but the Lord. In other words, I'm quoting Matthew 19.

He's referring back to what we just read. The wife should not separate korizo in Greek, which was the vernacular term for divorce. The wife should not separate from her husband, but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

Here was a situation in Corinth. There was a bunch of new Christians, first generation church, and a lot of people's spouse had not become believers. And many of those unbelieving spouses were not only not going to church with them, they were mocking them and making things really difficult for them. And so a lot of these people thought, well, it would just be so much easier if I was married to somebody whose faith was like mine. Surely God does not want me to be in a home where I get no spiritual support, where I'm mocked all the time. God wants me to be with somebody who would encourage me spiritually. So for spiritual reasons, I feel like it's best for me and the family that I get divorced and remarried. And Paul says, no, not even for spiritual reasons.

Even if you think it's better for you spiritually to separate, you stay married because marriage is not a contract where you figure out what the best way that you can be benefited is. It's a covenant where you've actually become one with somebody else and you're now one body. That's a fundamentally different type of relationship. Plus, Paul says, God has you in the unbeliever's life for a reason.

It's not about you anymore anyway. Look at this, verse 14, for the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife. And the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children will be unclean, but as it is, they're holy.

Now, what does that mean? He's certainly not meaning that because you're saved, everybody in your family is automatically saved. The word holy there, it implies that you're separated. And it means that when you've got a believer living in a house, his or her faith ends up being the front row theater for everybody else to get a really good glimpse of what the gospel looks like.

That is a unique privilege. He says, do not abandon that. There's a guy in our church who told me that in his family, the only person who was a Christian was the grandmother, not the grandfather, not any of the aunts, not any of the uncles, not his parents.

He said, today, every single grandchild is a follower of Jesus Christ. There are some of you that are in that exact situation. And Paul's like, you're there for a reason. And you want to look back and you want to say, but God, it's just not fulfilling to me. And it's just miserable.

It's miserable for me. And Paul says, hey, I'm not trying to be mean with this, but it's not about you. Jesus didn't die on the cross as an act of self-fulfillment.

He did it to save us. And so that's how you ought to approach everything in your life, including your marriage now. Verse 15, chapter seven, he keeps going, but if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases, the brother or sister is not enslaved. Probably a better translation there is bound. And what that means is you're no longer bound in that marriage covenant and you're free to remarry.

Why is that? Because God has called you to peace. That means when the unbeliever says, I can't take this and they leave, then you're no longer bound to the marriage because they have, listen to this, killed the covenant. You see, it's the same logic that Jesus used. The covenant stands until it has been killed.

And when it has been killed, then you are free. So people say, well, what if there's technically not adultery? And what if it's not technically an unbelieving spouse that has left? But what if one spouse is abusive or they're involved in illegal activity and they keep putting your family in danger?

Well, first of all, you should definitely get yourself out of the situation of danger immediately. As far as divorce goes, many Bible scholars say that the logic of Paul and Jesus's statements here may allow for divorce when a spouse has killed the covenant by getting to a place where they are unable to be lived with. You and your kids, for example, are in danger because of it. That does not mean that they've gotten annoying to you or that they're a different person, or they're just not doing it for you anymore. It's talking about something extreme like adultery or this kind of abuse. I would just tell you because I can't get into every situation and without even knowing your situation is the kind of thing that you ought to do under close advisement of the elders and pastors of your church and Christian counselors. That's why God gave you a church. I know many times the space of separation may be in order, perhaps even a long one, to give one spouse a space to repent. If they refuse to, after a long period of time, they may have, in effect, have left the marriage. And so 1 Corinthians 7.15, you would no longer be bound.

But the bigger point that I'm trying to make that I'm not trying to get into all the specifics, the bigger point is this. From the beginning, God established marriage as a covenant, not in any way as a consumer relationship. The two become one. Divorce should therefore be as radical as amputating an arm or a leg. There are times when amputation is necessary, but any doctor that just prescribes amputation on a whim is going to be run out of practice. You need to come in with a hangnail. He's like, nah, let's amputate it. You got a sprained ankle? Amputate it.

Amputation is the last thing that you would do because you want to keep the body intact. It's the same way that Jesus says that's how we think about marriage. The two is not a contract. It is a covenant where the two have become one. So using the time that I have left, let me use that logic and that teaching to deal with three very practical questions that I get most often about this. The first one is how do I stay in a difficult marriage? Number two, if I am divorced, should I get remarried? And then number three, if I'm divorced and remarried, how does God see me?

So here's number one. How do I stay in a difficult marriage? First of all, you need to reject once and for all the right person myth. The right person myth says that there is a right person out there for you and a happy life is determined by you finding that person. And if you don't find that person, you're going to be unhappy. And if you're unhappy now in your marriage, it's because you didn't find the right person. You may have thought when you were young and stupid that they were the right person, but then you got married and now your tastes have matured and you recognize what you don't want in a spouse and this person no longer fits that. And so it's probably better to just acknowledge that you got married to the wrong person to cut bait. This is the myth that is pervasive in our culture and it destroys singleness and it destroys marriages and you need and you need to just get rid of it out of your mind altogether because you always marry the wrong person because you're a sinner and they're a sinner and they're not God. Therefore, they're going to be the wrong person for you. And furthermore, you change in marriage.

I read this the other day. A sociologist was saying, you know, if you get married when you're mid-20s and you got to stay married until you're 70, he says, there's like you're at least five different people through that time. And the best you can hope for in marriage, I told you, is less of a bad match.

That's the best you can hope for since everybody ends up being a bad match. And then you realize that God's purpose in marriage is not to restore the missing part of your soul. His main purpose in marriage is to make you more like him by teaching you to love an annoying sinner like your spouse, the way that he loves you.

Right? I mean, because that's really what's happening. He said, I want to teach you to love like me. I'm not trying to say that you don't really genuinely love your spouse.

I so love my wife. I just feel like every year there are new deaths to her and just her beauty. I mean, so I don't want to just make it dismal. I'm just saying that God's main purpose is not to make me happy in giving me the lost missing part of my soul. His main purpose, Gary Thomas says, is to make me holy, not happy, but holy by making me be more like him.

Have you bought into the right person myth? As we soak in the truth of God's word, our minds are transformed and so are our relationships with others. As we look ahead to a new year, a lot of people are setting goals for themselves and whether that's a financial goal, a health goal, whatever it may be.

JD, do you have any thoughts for our listeners as they're kind of looking ahead and making these plans? You know, I once heard a wise man say that no matter what you do or how much you own, you cannot add a single second to your day. It doesn't matter if you are the poorest person on earth or the richest person, you get the same amount of seconds. So what you have to do is learn to make the most of those seconds and those minutes, those hours. And that takes planning, something that would help assist us in establishing priorities, putting what some people call the big rocks in place so that you can organize your day around that. I want to give you a tool that I've used throughout my life to really make me more productive.

It helps me keep the main things, the main things. It's this planner. It has a daily Bible reading plan built into it that's going to align with what we're teaching here at Summit Life. It'd be a great way to start a relationship with you if you become one of our gospel partners or just go to and it'll explain the different ways that you can partner with us and us with you. And this would be a great thank you gift we could give to you. Thanks, JD. With your generous gifts, we can continue to expand to new stations across the country, transforming hearts and lives as people dive deeper into the gospel with us. Be sure to ask for a copy of the 2023 Summit Life Planner when you give a generous end of year gift today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or request the planner when you give online at I'm Molly Vidovitch and please listen again tomorrow as we learn that God's laws are always created for our good and thankfully His grace is sufficient to cover even our biggest regrets. See you Tuesday here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program is produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-18 19:42:54 / 2022-12-18 19:53:48 / 11

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