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Divorce Proof Your Marriage

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Divorce Proofing Your Marriage

Goal: Present Jesus’ clear teaching about divorce and show that in part his teaching was to reveal our inability to succeed without coming to Him.


How’s this for a cartoon?1

As we are working our way through the Sermon on the Mount and looking at Radical Christianity, we come to one of the most difficult verses: Jesus’ statement about divorce.

Before reading it, let me remind you of the flow of Jesus’ message.

Jesus begins addressing His disciples and the crowd that was listening with the Beatitudes.

When you read them, just at face value, Jesus is saying things that are diametrically opposed to what people believed.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Rejoice because people persecute you…”

“You are salt and light, let your light shine…”

“Your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees.”

Then Jesus ends the first part (5:48) with,

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Sandwiched between “your righteousness must surpass the Pharisees” and “be perfect” Jesus contrasts what the Pharisees taught and His teaching with, “you have heard it said, but I say to you…”

The overarching purpose of chapter 5 is to establish that no one can do what He is teaching. The standard is absolute perfec­tion.

Let’s read our verses for today.

NAU Matthew 5:31 ¶ "It was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; 32 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.

I. Jesus’ Teaches about Divorce

A. Lust like divorce leads to adultery

1. The whole Greek construction brings to­gether the previous passage on lust with this one on divorce.

2. Both lust and divorce lead to adultery.

B. Basic Interpretations on Divorce2

1. There are 4 possible positions when it comes to divorce.

a. Divorce is not permitted under any cir­cumstance.

b. Divorce and remarriage is permitted for any circumstance.

c. Divorce may be permitted under certain circumstances but remarriage is never permitted.

d. Divorce and remarriage are permitted under certain circumstances.

2. As always when sin is involved humanity tries hard to find ways around God’s teaching.

C. The Pharisee’s Teaching

1. The generally accepted teaching was the most liberal of the 4.

a. A Jewish man simply needed to give a certificate of divorce to his wife.

b. With that certificate she was divorced from him and had to leave.

2. The certificate read something like this:

Let this be from me your writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation, that you may marry whatsoever man you will.3

a. The certificate needed to be given in the presence of two witnesses.

b. But with it, she was required to leave.

3. Since a Jewish woman, especially at the time of Jesus, had no means of support, she would often become destitute.

a. She would need to find a means of sup­port.

b. If she could not return to her parents she had to remarry.

c. If she could not remarry she had to find some way of supporting herself.

D. Key thoughts in vs. 32

1. unchastity – Greek porneia

NLT – unfaithful

ESV, NKJV – sexual immorality

NIV – marital unfaithfulness

a. The Greek word refers to sexual im­morality of any sort.

2. divorce – lit: to send away, to set free, to let go, to release, to divorce.

a. The concept of divorce always carried with it the right to remarry.

b. Even in this verse Jesus is making ref­erence to Deut. 24:1-4.

c. A woman divorced would remarry, but in remarrying she could never return to the first husband.

3. Remarriage, except for adultery, is adultery.

a. In making this statement, Jesus estab­lishes again the stark contrast between Him and the Pharisees.

b. Remember, the standard is the perfec­tion of God the Father (5:48).

c. Since Jesus always takes His listeners back to the beginning, what did God teach about marriage?

II. God’s Teaching about Marriage

A. Marriage is a Divine Institution

1. Unless you do not have any knowledge of the Bible you have heard of Adam and Eve.

a. In Gen. 1 & 2 we have the account of creation.

b. In ch. 2 we have the detail of the cre­ation of man. (Turn to Gen. 2)

c. God formed man from the dust of the ground.

NAU Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man be­came a living being.

d. Adam is then given work to do and in accomplishing the task he would discov­er his uniqueness.

e. 2:20 tells us:

NAU Genesis 2:20 … but for Adam there was not found a helper suit­able for him.

f. God then “fashioned” Eve and brought her to Adam.

g. Then in vs. 24 God institutes marriage:

NAU Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

2. The first celebrant of a marriage cere­mony was God Himself.

3. Marriage is a divine institution.

B. A Husband and Wife Complete each other in Marriage4

This information is from pre-marriage course I use.

1. God said,

NAU Genesis 2:18 ¶ Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone;…”

a. Everything in creation was good.

b. Yet here, by God’s own declaration there is something “not good.”

c. It’s not that Adam was “not good,” but that his “aloneness” was not good.

2. God’s solution, a “helper.”

NAU Genesis 2:18 ¶ “… I will make him a helper suitable for him."

a. Helper doesn’t mean “servant,” or “chattel.”

b. Moses wrote this only 1500 years before Jesus, but in so doing he elevated the existing position of women.

c. In fact, he uses a term actually ap­plied to God.

NAU Psalm 30:10 "Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper."

C. Couples are to multiply a godly legacy

NAU Genesis 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, …”

1. Having children is a reward and a bless­ing.

a. But it is also an essential part of God’s plan to pass His Word on to the next generation.

b. This is another reason why God places so much emphasis on fathers and mothers passing on the truth of God to their children.

2. The home was to be a divine greenhouse.

a. A nurturing center where children grow up to learn character, values, and in­tegrity.

b. Children learn to relate to God in their family!

D. Couples are to mirror God’s image.

1. We were created in God’s image.

NAU Genesis 1:27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

2. God chose to reveal part of His essen­tial character through our relation­ships.

a. We are to love as God has loved us.

b. We are to forgive as God has forgiven us, and so forth.

3. When we come together in marriage, with God at the center of our relationship, WE WILL REFLECT HIS IMAGE!

III. Consequences of Divorce

A. Emotional/Psychological Consequences

1. Anger, leading to:

a. Bitterness, often leading to:

b. Hatred, which often leads to violence

2. What was our text a few weeks ago:

NAU Matthew 5:21 ¶ "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22 "But I say to you that every­one who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

B. Economic Consequences

1. Poverty is the single greatest obvious conse­quence.

a. Few escape unscathed financially.

b. I don’t know the precise statistics but we know that the largest single group living in poverty in America is di­vorced or single parents.

2. No one wins in a divorce. No one!

C. Familial Consequences

1. Children raised with only one parent.

a. But that may not even really be true.

b. If the one parent has to work two jobs to put food on the table,

c. in essence children are reared without parents.

d. Or they are reared by grandparents.

2. There is increased crime and drug and alcohol abuse, by the children.

3. The very fabric of the nation is being torn apart.

4. Teen suicide

a. This is a statistic you can not truly confirm because once a teen has taken his/her life you can’t ask.

b. But many teenage suicides are linked to the parent’s divorce.

c. Children feel responsible.

4. One writer sums it up like this:5

When the detrimental effects on children, other relatives, and soci­ety in general are added, we see that few practices match divorce for destructiveness. It not only causes further sin but also confusion, resentment, hatred, bitterness, despair, conflict, and hardships of every sort.

Since Jesus' point in the passage is not so much teaching about divorce as setting a standard, “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” how can we divorce proof our marriage?

IV. Divorce Proof Your Marriage

A. Make Sure You Belong to Jesus

1. Being a Christian does not guarantee success.

a. But one thing is absolutely certain.

b. Since God instituted marriage having a personal relationship with Christ gives us the presence of His Spirit.

2. To begin then, simply turn your heart over to the Lord.

B. Let the Holy Spirit Reign in You

NAU Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dis­sipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

1. Being filled with the Spirit is not some mystical, spiritual experience.

2. The very next 3 verses in Eph. 5 de­scribe what that filling looks like.

NAU Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 ¶ and be sub­ject to one another in the fear of Christ.

3. It is a choice to live in obedience to God's word.

C. Cleave to your spouse

1. This is the most important element from the human perspective.

KJV Gen. 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

a. The old KJV uses the word “cleave.”

b. Cleave: to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly

c. Newer translations use words like, to be joined; to hold fast; to be united.

d. A picture image is taking to pieces of wood, some Elmer's glue and gluing the two pieces together.

e. Once that glue has hardened stress on the wood will not break the wood at the point of the glued joint.

2. This speaks to the commitment to the marriage.

a. Divorce is not an option!

b. There needs to be a commitment that ab­solutely cannot be broken.

3. To Young couples a second element is: leave your parents

a. Next to finances in-law problems are at the root many divorces.

D. Husband, love your wife

1. Back to our Ephesians passage Paul writes:

NAU Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

NAU Eph 5:28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

NAU Eph 5:33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself,

a. Our society has so messed up the word love it is virtually incomprehensible.

b. Love is not sex.

c. Sexual intimacy is to be an expression of true love.

d. Love always seeks the well being of the object loved.

e. Love puts the one loved before one's self.

f. Love is sacrificial.

g. I choose to love; I choose to give.

2. Husbands need to work on loving their wives, it will not come naturally.

a. Why do you think Paul repeats it three times?

E. Wife, respect your husband

1. Just as wives need the unconditional love of their husbands,

a. husbands need the unconditional respect of their wives.

NAU Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

b. Just as unconditional love does not mean you must approve of sinful behav­ior,

c. neither does unconditional respect mean you have to respect sinful behavior.

2. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs explains this con­cept very well in this 3 minute video.



As we conclude today I expect there will be one of several responses on the part of you who are here.

1. I don't care what God says, I'll do what I want anyway.

2. I do care what God says and I'll do ev­erything I can to succeed.

3. I want to be obedient, Lord, but in my own strength I can't, give me both the will and the ability to do all you ask of me.

If you have never come to Christ in faith, that is obviously the first step.

Second though, is to determine that you want to be obedient to the Lord and to seek His strength.

NLT Philippians 2:13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

1Rainey, Dennis, Preparing for Marriage, pg 60

2 QuickVerse 7; MacArthur Commentary, Matthew 5:31 (Matthew 1-7, ch. 29)

3 Barclay, Wm., The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, pg. 149

4 Rainey, Dennis, Preparing for Marriage, pg. 66ff

5 MacArthur

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