Share This Episode
Summit Life J.D. Greear Logo

Difficult Marriages and Divorce

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 13, 2023 9:00 am

Difficult Marriages and Divorce

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1005 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

March 13, 2023 9:00 am

Broken marriages affect so many of us in the church, and we often fail to apply gospel hope to this painful experience.But the Apostle Paul offers real-world wisdom and gospel hope to those who are divorced, those who have considered divorce, those who have been hurt by divorce. Essentially, to all of us.


Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Jesus had a totally different approach to marriage than most people in their cultures did.

Most people in our culture do too. Marriage was never designed by God, Jesus says, to be a contract where you have a buyout option. Marriage is a fusion, a covenant of their life into your life that makes a new single one-flesh entity. Welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovich, and I'm so thankful that you joined us. Today, Pastor J.D. addresses an issue that sadly is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago, the topic of divorce. Broken marriages affect so many of us in the church, and we often fail to apply the gospel hope to this painful experience. But the Apostle Paul offers real-world wisdom to those who are divorced, those who have considered divorce, or those who have been hurt by divorce, essentially to all of us. So let's listen intently as God's Word shines a light of hope on this difficult situation. Grab your Bible for today's teaching titled Difficult Marriages and Divorce. Let me just start this message from 1 Corinthians 7 with a little pastoral confession time, okay?

Here it is. I came this close, and I'm telling you this close to skipping this passage because it is all about marriage and divorce, which is always relevant, of course. But y'all, we've had quite a run of sermons recently, have we not? I mean, working back over the last six weeks, I was like, we talked about church discipline, we talked about sex, then we talked about singleness, and now I'm supposed to welcome you back to our study of 1 Corinthians with some smooth talk about divorce. That would be like chapter one in the book, how to drive people away from your church.

People are like, man, we are ready for some feel-good messages about Christmas, God's promises for dog owners or something like that, right? But my thought was, genuinely, listen, genuinely, my thought is, let's just, I don't think that many people noticed this passage was in there. I'm sure I could just skip right over it, go to 1 Corinthians 8 and 9, and very few people would be the wiser.

They will not notice. One of our pastors said, you cannot do that. Me and y'all, I just couldn't. God put this in there for a reason.

Somebody out there needs to hear it. It's like I've told you, I don't choose what the Holy Spirit includes in his scriptures. God stocks the pantry, so to speak.

I just prepare the meal. But let's just acknowledge that the last few weeks have been challenging, maybe as challenging as any you've been through in church. And I want to acknowledge that right up front. And it's taken some toughness for you to get through this, but you're still here.

Look around. You're still here at all of our campuses, and I appreciate it. Let's pray for that toughness, toughness of spirit here again this morning. Y'all, we know this, divorce has affected a lot of people in this church. Some of you have gone through it. Many of you have watched your parents go through it. Some of you have had to watch your kids go through it. Some of you had a close friend walk through it this year. Some of you are going through it right now. I want you to know from the beginning that I do not come to you judgmentally today. I know that for many of you, the situation was very complex. I know for many of you, divorce was the most painful time of your life, and it is something that if you could have avoided it, you would have.

Let's just acknowledge right up front. Some Christians talk about divorce like it is the unforgivable sin, as if it is the one thing that you can't ever really come back from. It's the Scarlet D, so to speak, that you got to carry with you for the rest of your life that makes you a second-class Christian. But that, listen to me, that is a lie.

I'm going to show you that today. I also want to acknowledge that while there may be a few of us who haven't had divorce in our immediate families, all of us have experienced brokenness in our families. For many of us, the worst pain that we've ever experienced came at the hand of somebody in our family.

All I have to say is we need to look with humility and courage and gospel hope with what God has for us today. It's not just about divorce. It's about marriage. It's about conflict.

It's about how to care for people who have been through a divorce. Most of all, it's about the love of Jesus. 1 Corinthians 7, verse 10, to the married. To the married, Paul says, I give this charge, not I, but the Lord. Now, stop there and ask, what does that phrase mean, not I, but the Lord?

This is not me talking right now. This is the Lord talking. And you are like, but wait, Paul, didn't you write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?

Wouldn't that make everything that you said from the Lord? Well, yes, but all that Paul is trying to indicate here is that he is now referring to something, catch this, that Jesus himself had taught. Jesus had taught really clearly on divorce. It's recorded in Matthew 19, which we'll actually jump to in a minute, but there in Matthew 19, what Jesus says is the wife should not separate from her husband. And Paul's referring back to that.

He said, I'm not going to talk this. Jesus taught it. He says, you, wife should not separate from the husband. And the Greek word that Paul quotes and that Jesus uses is the word korizo in Greek, which is just the vernacular for divorce. Our Bibles translate it separate, but it's the common word they use for divorce. Verse 11, he says, but if she does get divorce, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And the husband also should not divorce his wife.

Pretty straightforward, right? Not a whole lot of nuance or ambiguity there. But then verse 13, Paul throws in a wrinkle. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. She should not korizo.

She should not separate from him. All right, here was the situation. The Corinthian church, you know, was pretty new.

Paul had just planted it. And so it was filled with new converts. And some of the spouses of these converts did not understand their new faith. And so their homes felt like spiritual battlegrounds.

Their spouses, their unbelieving spouses mocked them and antagonized them. And so not surprisingly, some of these new believers thought, you know, this would just be a lot easier if I wasn't married to some spiritual dead weight. I mean, surely God does not want me to be in a home where I get no spiritual support, not even no spiritual support, but negative spiritual support, where he or she is always dragging me down. Just think about how much easier this would be if I was married to somebody who encouraged me and we prayed together every night and we prayed over each other and we partnered up with a kid.

Think about how much easier that would be. So for spiritual reasons, God probably wants me to get divorced. That's not a bad line of reasoning, you got to say. But Paul says, no, no, no, even if you think, even if you think it's better for you spiritually to be separated from your spouse, you should stay with them for two reasons. First, he says, marriage is a covenant union that God established whereby you promise loyalty and union to somebody else until death do you part. That's from Jesus. When Paul points back to Jesus's words in Matthew 19, when verse 10 in 1 Corinthians 7, he points back to Matthew 19, that was Jesus's main point. God created marriage in the beginning to be a picture of his love for us. And so it was supposed to be a permanent union, dissolvable only by death.

We'll look more at that in a moment. But Paul goes on to a second reason that you should stay married in that situation. He explains in verse 14, he says, God in his sovereignty has put you in your unbelieving spouse's life for a reason. Watch this, 14, 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 would be unclean. But as it is, because you're in the house, they're holy.

Now, that can be really confusing. How does being married to an unbeliever make them holy? That's not how holiness works.

You know that. It's not holiness by osmosis, you know, where I just give you some of mine by being in the same room with me. No, Paul is using a Jewish metaphor, so to speak. You see, holy, I've told you this the last few weeks, holy in its purest context means set apart. Paul is saying that the fact that you were in the house as a believer means that your unbelieving spouse and your kids, if you've got them, they have been set apart for a special opportunity to hear the gospel and see it lived out up close.

That's an incredible privilege. Your very presence in the home increases their exposure to the gospel, and if you leave, you're going to short circuit what God had appointed. A guy once told me that the only Christian in his family was his grandmother. He said, none of my grandfathers, none of my aunts, my mom, my dad, my uncles, nobody else. She was the only one. And she faithfully stayed in an environment where she was lonely, often ridiculed, she said, but over 20, 30 years of faithfulness, one by one, they all started to get saved.

She said, now every single grandchild of that grandmother is now a believer. And he says, sometimes now I look back and realize how difficult it was for her to stay, but because she stayed, we're all saved. Maybe that's your role. And maybe it's not really a fulfilling role for you. But Paul says, God has a purpose for you there. And I know it's not fulfilling right now, but find your happiness and your fulfillment in doing the will of God and in being a vessel of his purposes. That's how Jesus found it. Jesus found his purpose, not by living his amazing life.

He found it by laying down his life. And that's what you're being called to do, even if it's not the greatest situation in marriage. Now watch this, 1 Corinthians 7, 15. But if the unbelieving partner separates, remember separate, karizo is a word for divorce, let it be so. In such case, the brother or the sister, the believer who's left behind is no longer bound. In that context, the phrase not bound means you're no longer restrained by the marriage covenant, and thus you are free to remarry. So here, watch this, we have an exception to Jesus' don't ever get divorced teaching. And what is Paul's rationale for why this is okay?

Well, look at the next phrase, because it's really important to understand what's going on here. He says, you can do that because God has called you to peace. If an unbeliever in the marriage says, I can't take this, and they divorce you, they walk out on you, you don't have to pursue them for the rest of your life, even though you once stood at an altar before God and said, till death do us part. And why is it okay to let the unbeliever leave?

Why is it okay there? It's because God has called us to peace. They walked away from the covenant.

The covenant is now dead. God did not intend it that way, but that's what it is now, and thus you are no longer bound. So what you see there is that Paul gave an exception to Jesus' never get divorced teaching. So here's the next question you should ask if you're reading with your mind on. Are there other exceptions? Or is the only justifiable reason for divorce in the Bible abandonment by an unbelieving spouse? That's a great question.

So glad you asked. Let's take a look. Let's go back to Matthew 19, the passage that Paul bases this teaching on, and let's see what Jesus says. Because what I'm going to argue to you is that Paul felt the freedom to make the exception that he made in 1 Corinthians 7 because of the logic that Jesus used in Matthew 19.

So let's look at the logic Jesus used, and then I'll show you how Paul employed it. Thanks for joining us today on Summit Life with JD Greer. Before we get back to our teaching, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about our featured resource this month. It's a study guide called Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in 1 Corinthians. Are you looking to deepen your understanding of the book of 1 Corinthians? These 14 sessions are designed to help you do just that with short studies that fit easily into your busy schedule. This resource is a great way to grow deeper in your faith, or it could be a great gift for a friend.

Regardless of how it's used, the goal is to get us plugged into the Bible on a regular basis and see what God might have to teach us personally. To get your copy of this resource, just give us a call at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or visit us online at Now let's return for the conclusion of today's teaching. Once again, here's Pastor JD. Verse three, Matthew 19. Pharisees came up to Jesus and they tested him.

There's a key word there to understand what's going on. This is not an honest pastoral question. It is a theological trap. They were attempting to set Jesus up with a difficult question so that no matter how he answered, he's going to be in trouble with somebody.

Here's the question they asked him. Jesus, is it lawful to divorce one's wife for just any cause? Jesus answered, verse four, he answered, Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother, and hold back his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but they are one flesh now. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

So Jesus' answer is, hard no. It is not okay for a man to divorce his wife for just any cause. Jesus then quotes from Genesis 2, where God establishes marriage, and he points out that marriage was designed by God to be a lifelong covenant, a union lasting until death. No man or woman should ever separate, dare separate themselves from a union that God established. In marriage, he has made you one entity, a new entity, one new body.

It is dissolvable only by death. And when it happens before that, it's like amputation. Verse seven, so they said to him, Well, then why, why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away? Now they're feeling good. They're like, aha, walk right into the trap. Jesus walked right into the trap. God, you see, see, Moses said in Deuteronomy 24, verse one, If a man takes a wife and marries her, and then he finds some indecency in her, goes on to say, then he is free to divorce her. So they're like, well, I mean, Jesus, if you're saying we shouldn't get divorced, and Moses says we can get divorced, you're kind of contradicting Moses. So because you're contradicting the Bible, we are forced to conclude that you are a false teacher. For the record, you should never get in a battle of wits with Jesus, particularly over Bible facts, but they're going to have to learn this the hard way. So he says to them, verse eight, Because of your hardness of heart, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, it was not so. Jewish scholars had long taught a difference.

Follow this. It was your nerdy moment for the day. They've long taught a difference between a command in the law and a concession in the law. A command was something that God wanted all people everywhere to do. A concession was something that God allowed in the law because of man's fallen, weakened condition in order to keep peace in a society 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 our fallen state and how messed up and weak everybody is around us, and they're not all spiritually mature. The Pharisees actually knew that. That was a well-known distinction in the Jewish law, which brings us to the second part of their trap, probably the more deadly part, which concerns...

This is what they wanted to get to. What did Moses mean by something indecent? Again, Moses had said, if a man takes a wife and marries her and he finds some indecency in her, in Hebrew, it's the phrase erwat dabar. Kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Erwat dabar, just something indecent.

If you find something indecent in her, then you can divorce her. So the question, the controversy was, what qualifies as erwat dabar? That was an ambiguous phrase, and there were at least two dominant schools of thought.

There was what we call the school of Rabbi Shammai. And Rabbi Shammai said the only thing that indecent meant, it meant sexual indecency, meaning that Moses was saying that only if a man discovered that his wife had been sexually unfaithful could he divorce her. This is what we call the conservative position. It was the biblical literalist position. You can only divorce for sexual immorality. On the other side, you had this guy named Rabbi Hillel.

Rabbi Hillel was more, let's just call him progressive using our terms. Rabbi Hillel said indecent, erwat dabar, meant anything, anything you didn't like about her. Maybe she has indecent behavior. Maybe she has indecent cooking skills, indecent morning breath. I'm actually not joking about this.

We have him. There's a record of him saying if she consistently burns her, burns the bread, erwat dabar, you can divorce her. Hillel said if you fall out of love with her, that's erwat dabar.

If anything about her feels indecent to you, erwat dabar, you can divorce her. Here's the thing. The majority of the Jewish world in Jesus's day was on the side of Rabbi Hillel, at least the male side of the Jewish world. They were on the side of the progressive one. So the Pharisees are trying to get Jesus on record, taking the hardline position so that he'd fall out of favor with all the people. Plus, and here was the genius of their trap, John the Baptist had just been executed for speaking out against casual divorce and remarriage. Remember, he criticized King Herod for leaving his wife and taking another, and Herod beheaded John the Baptist for that reason. So the Pharisees are probably thinking, look, if we can get Jesus to publicly take the same positions that John the Baptist took, then we can probably get him killed too. So what's Jesus's answer? Verse nine. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality, and marries another one, they commit adultery. Jesus comes down pretty decidedly on the side of the conservative position.

In fact, he strengthens it. Not only is it wrong to divorce someone because you just want to be out of the marriage, he says, if you get remarried in that state, God actually considers your new marriage to be adulterous, at least in the beginning, since in his eyes, you were still married to that first person. Jesus bases this on Genesis 2. Genesis 2, marriage, he said, was designed by God to be a relationship in which two lives fuse into one. In marriage, your names become one. Your finances become one. Your bodies become one flesh and sex. Your futures and your families become one. Marriage is supposed to demonstrate the unconditional love of God for his children.

I am binding myself to you no matter how much you disappoint me or let me down. That's why God established marriage. In fact, Paul would later explain that marriage was a unity that was supposed to demonstrate the unity of the Trinity itself. The Trinity is three distinct persons, one essence. That's what marriage is. Two distinct persons, one new essence.

That kind of unity, he says, just cannot be walked away from. It's written in theologically into the fabric of the universe. Marriage was never designed by God, Jesus says, to be a contract where you have a buyout option. Marriage is a fusion, a covenant of their life into your life that makes a new single one flesh entity. And so Jesus says, verse six, therefore God is joined together. Let no man ever dare separate. No comma, no dash, no asterisk, no fine print, no recommended reading, period. End of sentence.

You see that? Jesus had a totally different approach to marriage than most people in their cultures did, and most people in our culture do too. Most people in their culture and ours, especially ours, approached marriage as if it were a consumer relationship. A consumer relationship is one where you figure out what you need and who can best meet that need.

And listen, there's nothing wrong with consumer relationships. I have a consumer relationship with my grocery store. I go because it is convenient to my house. It has fairly good prices.

It's got a really, really good sandwich deli and a coffee shop, and they keep the Ghirardelli chocolates right up there at the front so I can just grab them on my way out. And that's everything I need to feel happy in the grocery store. But if I find one that is more convenient or cheaper, I'll go there. And that's fine. That's a consumer relationship. So it's okay to have consumer relationships, but there are other relationships I can't have. I can't have that kind of relationship with my kids, for example.

I don't go to one of my kids and say, you know, this is just not working out for me. It's not you, bud. It's me.

It's me. I've changed. I get that, but I've actually been hanging out with the neighbor's kids, and I'm kind of a little bit happier with them now. So I think it's going to be best if we... No parent in here would do that because even if the worst stage is your kid annoys you, and you question, did they actually come from me?

I mean, you've had that moment where you're like, did you come from me? You know that your relationship with them is not a consumer relationship. That's a covenant relationship. I'm not bound to you because of what you do for me.

I'm bound to you because we're family now. So the question is, which kind of relationship is marriage most like? Now you want to say, you're like, I know covenant, but if you get divorced because it's just not working, or because your desires have changed, or because they annoy you, or they're just not doing it for you anymore, then I don't care what you say it is, you function like it's a consumer relationship. According to Jesus, marriage is a covenant in effect until death do you part.

So if that's the case, is it ever okay to divorce? Now, Jesus says you can do it in the case of adultery. Paul expands that to say, abandonment by an unbeliever. So let's ask, why would those be exceptions? Y'all, the logic of this is very important.

Here's why. Because both adultery and abandonment by the unbeliever, both of those kill the covenant. When your spouse unites themself to someone else sexually, they have destroyed the one flesh covenant with you. So you are no longer bound in that one flesh covenant and you are thus free to remarry.

You don't have to do that, but it is an option. And if your spouse leaves you and divorces you, well, they've killed the covenant and that means you're free to remarry. In both cases, God has called you to peace. This is Summit Life with J.D. Greer and a message titled Difficult Marriages and Divorce. If you missed any previous messages from our series in 1 Corinthians, visit us online at As part of our mission to help you grow in your faith and share it with others, we've created a booklet of 14 five minute devotional studies in the book of 1 Corinthians. Whether you use it for personal growth or as a tool to study the Bible with a friend, these studies will help you cut through the noise and focus on what's truly important.

The study is titled Cutting Through the Noise and it is a great companion to all we're learning here on the program. To get your copy of this resource, simply make a donation to support our ministry today. Give us a call at 866-335-5220.

That's 866-335-5220. Or give online and request your guide at That's Before we close, let me remind you that if you aren't yet signed up for our email list, you'll want to do that today. It is the best way to stay up to date with Pastor JD's latest blog posts.

And we'll also make sure that you never miss a new resource or series. It's quick and easy to sign up at I'm Molly Vidovich. Join us again tomorrow as we continue this series called Cutting Through the Noise on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-13 10:14:32 / 2023-03-13 10:25:00 / 10

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime