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The Biblical Position on Marriage and Divorce

2/11/07 CC/AM

1 Corinthians 7:10-16, Matt 19:3-9

Introduction: A new study released by The Barna Group, of Ventura, California, shows that the likelihood of married adults getting divorced is identical among born again Christians and those who are not born again. Among those who have been married, more than one out of every three (35%) have also been divorced. One out of every five adults (18%) who has ever been divorced has been divorced multiple times.

The research revealed that Boomers continue to push the limits regarding the prevalence of divorce. Whereas just one-third (33%) of the married adults from the preceding two generations had experienced a divorce, almost half of all married Boomers (46%) have already undergone a marital split. This means Boomers are virtually certain to become the first generation for which a majority experienced a divorce.

It appears that the generation following the Boomers will reach similar heights, since more than one-quarter of the married Baby Busters (27%) have already undergone a divorce, despite the fact that the youngest one-fifth of that generation has not even reached the average age of a first marriage.

Although many Christian churches attempt to dissuade congregants from getting a divorce, the research confirmed a finding identified by Barna a decade ago (and further confirmed through tracking studies conducted each year since): born again Christians have the same likelihood of divorce as do non-Christians.

Among married born again Christians, 35% have experienced a divorce. That figure is identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35%.

George Barna noted that one reason why the divorce statistic among non-Born again adults is not higher is that a larger proportion of that group cohabits, effectively side-stepping marriage - and divorce - altogether. "Among born again adults, 80% have been married, compared to just 69% among the non-born again segment. If the non-born again population were to marry at the same rate as the born again group, it is likely that their divorce statistic would be roughly 38% - marginally higher than that among the born again group, but still surprisingly similar in magnitude."

Multiple divorces are also unexpectedly common among born again Christians. Barna’s figures show that nearly one-quarter of the married born agains (23%) get divorced two or more times.

The survey showed that divorce varied somewhat by a person’s denominational affiliation. Catholics were substantially less likely than Protestants to get divorced (25% versus 39%, respectively). Among the largest Protestant groups, those most likely to get divorced were Pentecostals (44%) while Presbyterians had the fewest divorces (28%).

“Born again Christians" were defined in these surveys as people who said they have made "a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today" and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "born again." Being classified as "born again" is not dependent upon church or denominational affiliation or involvement.

This morning we are going to examine what the Bible has to say about marriage, divorce and remarriage.  It is an issue that today’s church must consider.


1.   The Scriptural directives for marriage

a.    God designed marriage to be: (Matt. 19)

                                                            i.      Between a man and a woman

                                                         ii.      A one flesh relationship, exclusive of all others

                                                      iii.      For life

                                                      iv.      Mutually satisfying

b.   Paul reaffirms the permanence of marriage in 1 Cor. 7:10. The wife should not leave her husband and likewise the husband should not send his wife away.

c.    If for some reason it became necessary that they be separated their options were to be reconciled to their spouse or to remain unmarried.

d.   Paul also addresses the situation of what to do when one becomes a Christian.  What was the Christian to do when they found themselves unequally yoked together with an unbeliever?  Should they get a divorce?

e.    Paul says that if the unbeliever is to become the mission field of the believing spouse.

f.     A believer should never knowingly enter into a relationship with an unbeliever.  Christians are admonished to only marry those who are in the Lord. (verse 39) and 2 Cor. 6:14 where believers are not to be unequally yoked with non believers.

g.    There is to be a sanctifying effect on both the children and the spouse when one parent is a believer.  Stay in the relationship and try to win your spouse to the Lord.  One person can make a difference.

1 Peter 3:1-2 (NCV) In the same way, you wives should yield to your husbands. Then, if some husbands do not obey God’s teaching, they will be persuaded to believe without anyone’s saying a word to them. They will be persuaded by the way their wives live.
2 Your husbands will see the pure lives you live with your respect for God.

2.   The Scriptural position on divorce

a.    Old Testament  (Deut 24:1,2)

                                                            i.      Allowance made for divorce primarily for the protection of the women.  Without an official release from her husband, she could have been put to death for being involved with another man.

                                                         ii.      Women had no right to divorce their husbands.

                                                      iii.      A woman could not remarry her former husband if she was married to someone else after him.

                                                      iv.      (Deut. 22) Under certain circumstances men were not permitted to ever divorce their wives.

                                                         v.      Malachi 2:16 says that God hates the putting away.  He might allow divorce but He doesn’t like it and never commands it!

b.   New Testament

                                                            i.      In Matthew 19, Jesus is questioned on the subject of divorce by the Pharisees.

                                                         ii.      Notice that they were trying to trap Him and get Him to settle a long running dispute.  They asked Him the question: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any reason?

                                                      iii.      If you look back at Deut 24, you might see where they were coming from.

                                                      iv.      Some took only the part that they wanted from the passage, “If she find no favor in his sight”, and they forgot the rest of the verse, “because there was some uncleanness”.  Uncleanness means nakedness referring to infidelity. There were those who felt that it was OK to divorce their wife if she lost favor in her husbands sight for any reason.  She burnt the toast, squeezed the toothpaste from the wrong end, or put on a few pounds. Etc.

                                                         v.      Note Jesus answer:  first, marriage was supposed to be a one man, one woman relationship for life.  Second, because of the hardness of your hearts the Law gave the opportunity for divorce.  Third that divorce was only permissible when the other party had committed adultery.

                                                      vi.      Jesus is describing what was meant in the Old Testament and also clarifies His position by saying “I say unto you, whoever divorces his wife except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.

                                                   vii.      Paul adds the only other reason in which divorce and remarriage is acceptable.  He says when a unbeliever abandons a believing spouse that they are not under bondage in that case.

                                                viii.      I believe that it is clearly stating that the one abandoned is free to remarry.

                                                      ix.      Paul does make it clear, however, that it is much better to live in peace and to desire that God uses the believing spouse to win the unbelieving spouse to the Lord.

3.   Five ingredients to strengthen your marriage

                                                            i.      Lifelong commitment Gen. 2:24

                                                         ii.      Loving leadership Eph. 5:33

                                                      iii.      Lots of respect Eph. 5:33

                                                      iv.      Listen intently 1 Peter 3:7

                                                         v.      Look for help Proverbs 11:14

Conclusion: Understand this, although God hates divorce He loves those who have been divorced.  He wants to enlist those who are divorced to help to build His kingdom.  As we will look at next week, God wants us to live for Him starting right from where we are today!  His desire is that every marriage prospers.  If yours isn’t great right now, it can be!

1 Corinthians 7:10-16 (NASB95)
10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, 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), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.
13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through 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?

Matthew 19:3-9 (NASB95)
3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”
4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

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