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Studies │ Remarriage after Divorce

Now let us focus upon Matthew 19:9, page 1534 and the use there of the word “immorality.”  1The Greek term for “immorality” (“πορνείᾳ”) covers several sexual sins. For example, the same word occurs in 1 Corinthians 5:1, pages 1786-1787, to describe the fact that a man has his father’s wife. The word also describes the acts of a harlot in Revelation 19:2, page 1936. The word also appears in conjunction with “impurity (“τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ”) and “sensuality” (“ἀσελγείᾳ”) in 2 Corinthians 12:21, page 1818. Notice that in Matthew 19:9, page 1534, Jesus distinguished the sin of “immorality” from the sin of “adultery.” 4The Greek term for “adultery” (“μοιχᾶται”) means to be unfaithful sexually in a marriage context, but it also describes the spiritual sin of breaking a marriage covenant with God by seeking idols (see Jeremiah 5:7, page 1196, where God says that the sons of Israel have forsaken God and committed adultery as they “trooped” to the harlot’s house by swearing by those who are not gods. See also Ezekiel 23:37, page 1335, and Hosea 4:13, page 1416). Jesus clearly intended some difference between the term “immorality” and “adultery,” because two different terms are used in the Greek text. Some commentators have limited the term “immorality” to mean sexual activity before marriage, citing the example of Joseph seeking to “divorce” Mary when he discovered she was pregnant. 2Some commentators have argued that the story of Joseph and Mary must mean that the word “immorality” (“πορνείᾳ”) must be limited in meaning to sexual activity before marriage, in the sense of fornication. In essence, they argue that Matthew called Joseph a “righteous” man, even as Joseph contemplated “divorcing” (“ἀπολῦσαι“) Mary before they were formally married. Matthew used the same word for “divorced” in Matthew 1:19, page 1502, and Matthew 19:9, page 1534. So, to avoid any inconsistency between the acts of Joseph, a righteous man, and the teachings of Jesus later in Matthew and the other Gospels, these commentators argue that “immoraltiy” should be limited to just “fornication” before marriage. One significant problem is that their argument lacks clear textual support. The word “immorality” never occurs with Mary and Joseph, and they only prove that Joseph was justified in putting Mary away before marriage. They intend to limit the meaning of the term “immorality” in Matthew 19:9, page 1534, to just premarital sexual activity. In their view, the only marriages subject to divorce without sin would be those people only engaged, but not formally married. But, that meaning does not fit with the context of formally married people seeking divorce, which we see in Matthew 19. Otherwise, to adopt the limited view of “immorality,” all the divorces Jesus has in mind in Matthew 19 were those “divorces” before the couples were actually married, or sexual acts committed before marriage. In the alternative, following the logic of this view, Jesus meant that you could divorce any time during the marriage if you could show that your spouse had been guilty of pre-marital infidelity. But then the example of Joseph would not apply, because Joseph sought to put Mary away before they were married. Such limitations do not fit with the question of the Pharisees who had in mind that any man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever. The proof for limiting the term “immorality” in Matthew 19:9, page 1534, to mean only “fornication” (referring  to premarital acts) does not appear convincing, but very interesting. Yet, when you compare the Pharisees questions with the idea that “fornication” only covers pre-marital sex, it does not seem to fit the context. So, it seems better to recognize that the term “immorality” has a broad meaning here, indicating that Jesus included all forms of sexual activity with someone other than the spouse. Based in part upon 1 Corinthians 6:18, page 1788, we see that the “immoral” man sins against his own body. 3In 1 Corinthians 6:18, page 1788, the term “immoral man” (“πορνεύων”–present active participle, indicating, perhaps, continuous present action) suggests a close connection to bodily acts of a sexual nature.   So, we observe that “immorality” includes sexual bodily sins of different kinds, in contrast to the term “adultery” which means sexual infidelity while married, but specifically seems to indicate sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse.

So, in conclusion, Jesus taught that all divorce is sinful, because the person seeking divorce has a hard, unforgiving heart toward the spouse. We will call that sinful act of filing for divorce Hard-Hearted Sin. We also saw that Hard-Hearted Sin can be compounded by Adultery Sin, where the husband filing for divorce marries another person.  The only way to avoid Adultery Sin is to show that the wife committed “immorality” while married. Remember, Hard-Hearted Sin still remains, because the husband had a hard heart in seeking a divorce. If you file for divorce, Jesus taught that you have a hard, unforgiving heart–no exceptions, no excuses. You sin against God by filing for divorce. Not many people will like that answer from Jesus, but please take the time to study the passage for yourself and draw your own conclusions from the Bible, being led personally by the Holy Spirit into all truth. All sins can be forgiven by God, but willfully sinning by filing for divorce will only lead to discipline from God. 5Hebrews 12:9-11, pages 1884-1885–all discipline seems sorrowful for the moment. Godly sorrow in turn leads to repentance. 2 Corinthians  7:9-11, page 1811. We should also look at the Sermon on the Mount for concise teaching on divorce, as Jesus contrasted the Old Testament with the New Testament, with greater revelation regarding God’s gracious plans for our lives.

Matthew 5:31-32, Page 1508

“”It was said, “WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’: But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'”

Jesus provided basic teaching on divorce and remarriage in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-7:27. In Matthew 5:31-32, page 1508, Jesus taught that a man should not divorce his wife, as we have noted above in Matthew 19:1-9,  Page 1534.

References │ Page Numbers Below Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The Greek term for “immorality” (“πορνείᾳ”) covers several sexual sins. For example, the same word occurs in 1 Corinthians 5:1, pages 1786-1787, to describe the fact that a man has his father’s wife. The word also describes the acts of a harlot in Revelation 19:2, page 1936. The word also appears in conjunction with “impurity (“τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ”) and “sensuality” (“ἀσελγείᾳ”) in 2 Corinthians 12:21, page 1818.
2. Some commentators have argued that the story of Joseph and Mary must mean that the word “immorality” (“πορνείᾳ”) must be limited in meaning to sexual activity before marriage, in the sense of fornication. In essence, they argue that Matthew called Joseph a “righteous” man, even as Joseph contemplated “divorcing” (“ἀπολῦσαι“) Mary before they were formally married. Matthew used the same word for “divorced” in Matthew 1:19, page 1502, and Matthew 19:9, page 1534. So, to avoid any inconsistency between the acts of Joseph, a righteous man, and the teachings of Jesus later in Matthew and the other Gospels, these commentators argue that “immoraltiy” should be limited to just “fornication” before marriage. One significant problem is that their argument lacks clear textual support. The word “immorality” never occurs with Mary and Joseph, and they only prove that Joseph was justified in putting Mary away before marriage. They intend to limit the meaning of the term “immorality” in Matthew 19:9, page 1534, to just premarital sexual activity. In their view, the only marriages subject to divorce without sin would be those people only engaged, but not formally married. But, that meaning does not fit with the context of formally married people seeking divorce, which we see in Matthew 19. Otherwise, to adopt the limited view of “immorality,” all the divorces Jesus has in mind in Matthew 19 were those “divorces” before the couples were actually married, or sexual acts committed before marriage. In the alternative, following the logic of this view, Jesus meant that you could divorce any time during the marriage if you could show that your spouse had been guilty of pre-marital infidelity. But then the example of Joseph would not apply, because Joseph sought to put Mary away before they were married. Such limitations do not fit with the question of the Pharisees who had in mind that any man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever. The proof for limiting the term “immorality” in Matthew 19:9, page 1534, to mean only “fornication” (referring  to premarital acts) does not appear convincing, but very interesting.
3. In 1 Corinthians 6:18, page 1788, the term “immoral man” (“πορνεύων”–present active participle, indicating, perhaps, continuous present action) suggests a close connection to bodily acts of a sexual nature.
4. The Greek term for “adultery” (“μοιχᾶται”) means to be unfaithful sexually in a marriage context, but it also describes the spiritual sin of breaking a marriage covenant with God by seeking idols (see Jeremiah 5:7, page 1196, where God says that the sons of Israel have forsaken God and committed adultery as they “trooped” to the harlot’s house by swearing by those who are not gods. See also Ezekiel 23:37, page 1335, and Hosea 4:13, page 1416).
5. Hebrews 12:9-11, pages 1884-1885–all discipline seems sorrowful for the moment. Godly sorrow in turn leads to repentance. 2 Corinthians  7:9-11, page 1811.