Defeating Divorce (1)

As in our own time, so in Jesus’ day, divorce was rampant. Among Jews, the only question was, For what cause could a man put away his wife? (See Matthew 19:3). But Jesus had an entirely different approach. He acknowledged that God had instructed Moses to regulate divorce in order to protect the rejected woman and to preserve the sanctity of marriage (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). But He insisted the divorce was not God’s original intent (Matthew 19:8). Here, He states two things quite plainly: - There is only one legitimate ground for divorce, and that is “fornication.” Scholars have debated the meaning of the word translated here as “fornication.” Some believe it means any sort of sexual sin, including marital infidelity. Though that is sometimes the word’s meaning in Paul and other writers, Matthew always distinguishes “adultery” – sexual sin committed by married people – from “fornication.” The best interpretation seems to be that fornication refers to pre-marital sexual sin. Joseph, for example, was about to break his engagement with Mary when he discovered she was pregnant (1:18-19). Since an engagement was considered binding, breaking it was equivalent to divorce. Thus, according to Jesus, only pre-marital sexual sin, discovered after engagement, makes divorce legitimate. - After divorce there can be no remarriage. Though in this passage only the husband is prohibited from marrying a divorced woman, Mark records Jesus’ words, “If a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12). To emphasize this point, Jesus repeats His prohibition of divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:4-9, and both Mark (10:5-12) and Luke (16:18) record His teaching on the subject. May God give us grace to ponder the words of our Lord very carefully.