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The Real Meaning of Divorce

Matthew 5:31-32“ It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” I. The Real Meaning of divorce. A. Explanation: 1. I will discuss divorce first. 2. I will discuss the views of the Early church as pertaining to divorce and remarriage. And explain the Greek and Greek scholarship where needed. 3. I will try to take my time and go over all these things very carefully. 4. My purpose is not to condemn any, nor to give license for people to divorce and remarry like they are drinking water. 5. It is to seek a balance between lawful divorce and remarriage and unlawful divorce and remarriage. 6. It has never been my purpose to tell anyone if he or she should divorce. I simply will lay out the case as seen by the Scripture and the Early church. It will be a great unveiling of answers to many questions. B. (5:31-32) Introduction to Matthew 5— 1. Divorce: throughout history there have always been two schools of thought when interpreting the laws of society—the strict, conservative interpreters and the broad, liberal interpreters. 2. In Jesus’ day, the strict interpreters were known as the school of Shammai; the broad interpreters were known as the school of Hillel. 3. In dealing with the subject of divorce, Shammai said the words “some uncleanness” found in Deut. 24:1 allowed for divorce, but the words meant adultery and adultery only. 4. Hillel said “some uncleanness” meant that anything that destroyed unity was a justified reason for divorce. a. that perfect unity had to be maintained in the marriage state. 5. Such allowance had disintegrated into the position that anything displeasing to a man was reason enough for divorce. 6. A person can easily see which school human nature and most societies followed. 7. Divorce had become so common that society itself was threatened. 8. All a man had to do to divorce his wife was to have a Rabbi write out a bill of divorcement and hand it to his wife in the presence of two witnesses. 9. The divorce was immediate and final (Deut. 24:1-4). C. (5:31) Divorce: the law against divorce was given for three reasons. 1. To protect the family. a. ”But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:6-9). 2. To protect the land or nation, preventing national disintegration. a. ”By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked” (Proverbs 11:11). b. ”Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). 3. To prevent a person from becoming an adulterer (see outline—§ Matthew 5:27-30 and notes—§Matthew 5:27-30). a. ”And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:9; cp. Luke 16:18). D. (5:32) Divorce: the real meaning of the law is that divorce is disallowed. 1. Enormous protection is seen in this pronouncement. 2. There is protection of the family, including the wife, husband, and children. 3. There is emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual protection—protection against a family being ripped apart and having to undergo all the strain and disruption that follows. 4. Divorce is one of the most traumatic experiences of human life. For many it is the most traumatic experience. 5. Divorce touches so many. It touches… a. husband b. wife c. children? parents d. friends e. Employer & employees 6. Divorce affects each person it touches, affects them ever so deeply. It affects… a. mind b. spirit c. behavior d. joy e. security f. hopes g. plans h. peace i. faith j. emotions k. love l. possessions m. control n. purpose o. estates 7. Divorce drastically changes each person’s life. It changes… a. personal life b. private life c. home life d. parental life e. recreational life f. social life g. dream life 8. Because divorce affects human life so much, it is of critical concern to Christ. 9. When anyone hurts, Christ hurts. And because divorce hurts so much and hurts so many, Christ sets out to correct man’s corrupt concept of marriage and easy divorce. 10. Teaching, preaching, and living by strict principles takes enormous courage. a. Christ demonstrated enormous courage by going against the grain of society and demanding strictness in marriage. 11. There are four attitudes to marriage, three of which are loose attitudes that often lead to divorce. a. A back-door marriage: “If it works, OK; if it doesn’t work, OK.” b. A cheap, sensual marriage: based upon some reason other than love, some reason such as attractiveness, sex, or finances. c. An adventuresome marriage: the marriage is entered into for the experience and the adventure of being married. d. A marriage of commitment: the full conviction of both spouses that they should fulfill the solemn vows taken—a conviction before God. 12. There is only one basis for marriage that can absolutely prevent divorce: a true union, both a spiritual and physical union. a. ”What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9). (1) Notice what God had joined together, not what lust, family, fortune, or man’s will had joined together. b. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord….Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephes. 5:22, 29). E. (5:32) Adultery— Fornication: the exception for divorce is the sin of fornication being committed by one of the spouses. 1. The great tragedy of fornication or adultery is that it breaks the union and attachment between husband and wife. 2. The union and attachment and all that goes with it—faith, hope, love, trust, assurance, confidence, and strength—are broken. 3. If the husband and wife are not believers, then the physical union and the mental union of the marriage are broken. 4. If they are believers, then all three unions are broken: the physical, mental, and spiritual. 5. Two facts should be noted in the brief words of Christ here and elsewhere in the gospels. a. Christ does not stand with either the conservative or the liberal school discussed in note one. He does not mention either school or either position. b. Christ says two things about divorce. (1) Divorce is not the purpose of God. This is silent, but clearly understood. (2) Divorce is allowed only if one of the spouses has committed adultery. 6. What Christ is trying to prevent is what history shows. a. Societies have tragically ignored the command of God. They have planted the seed of national disintegration, that is, broken homes. b. This brief statement on divorce shows the great need to protect men, women, children, and the home. It points to the immense value of all three. c. Divorce should never be the first solution or action, but only the last solution or action, Reconciliation should be tried. 7. There are more exceptions pointed out in the note on 1 Cor. 7:12. Some of the sins that cause divorce are also discussed in 1 Cor. 7:12-16. 8. It should always be remembered that adultery is not the only sin that can break the union of a marriage. a. Faith, hope, love, trust, assurance, confidence, strength—all can be dashed upon the rocks of selfishness and meanness. 9. Matthew 19:3-9 (5:31,32) – What God has joined together, man must not put asunder. Some of the exceptions. a. Adultery (Fornication). (1) A broader definiton of adultery (fornication) as seen by the Ancient Church Fathers shall be discussed. b. Unequally yoked together. c. Paul’s privilage (1 Cor. 6-9). (1) That would also include some type of physical, emotional, spiritual, or sexual abuse. It would have to be severe. (2) According to Paul, it is better than a person does not remarry; however, Paul bluntly states, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. (1Co 7:8-9 KJV). (3) This does open the door for the person who is not at fault in reference to the divorce to be married again. (4) This is the person who does not commit adultery, fornication, nor does not do another type of severe sin. It is the offending party who is at fault. 10. In 1 Cor.7: 10:14 Paul acknowledges that husbands or wives must not divorce. If they do, they are to remain unmarried or else be reconciled. This evidently points to unwarranted (unlawful) divorce wherein the marriage is not dissolved; for Paul addresses one legitimate reason for divorce later on in his letter. a. There are unlawful divorces and lawful divorces. 11. The Bible says, “The woman is bound so long as her husband liveth,” and She shall be called an adulteress, if whilest her husband liveth, she be married to another man (Romans 7:2-3). a. This scripture has no reference to lawful divorce and remarriage according to Greek scholarship and other views in the early church. 12. Since verses 1 Cor. 7:12-15 provide for one instance of legitimate (lawful) divorce, it is not summarily ruled out in the case of New Testament believers – unwarranted (unlawful) divorces are in view. 13. In consideration of verses 12 to 15 which Paul does provide for an instance of legitimate (lawful) divorce and remarriage, we may conclude that Paul does not rule out all cases for divorce. What he does prohibit evidently are unwarranted (unlawful) divorces. 14. Notice that Paul implies that marriage between an believer and an unbeliever is not advisable – to the point of indicating that divorce is an option unless the unbeliever chooses to remain in the marriage. 15. A believer/spouse is advised by Paul to let an unbeliever/spouse separate from the marriage who chooses to separate, i.e., signifying an exhortation to divorce an unbeliever/spouse who abandons the marriage (1 Cor. 7:10-15). II. The Early Church. A. More than one marriage. 1. The Early church did not condemn second marriages if they were lawful following conversion (baptism). a. By lawful divorce. b. By the death of the spouse. 2. In such parts of the church, second marriages were seem to have been something of public discipline exercised against such persons, if they were unlawful. 3. If the second marriage was unlawful, then it was seen as polygamy. So is true for the third, the fourth, and so on. 4. In the earliest times of the Church, it was forbidden for a person to be a bishop if he was twice married after conversion (Baptism). 5. In the earliest times of the Church, second marriages, even lawful, excluded man from high offices in the Early Church, if after conversion (Baptism). 6. Many people had been married several times before their conversion. a. This was common in Roman Times. b. These marriages were not held against them, but if they married a second time after conversion, it was held against them in the service of the Lord in the earliest times of the church. c. However, in some cases, a bishop or one of high office had been married twice. d. As time went on though, more and more men married twice were brought into the high office or service of the Lord. e. No man could do service to the Lord married to many wives. f. The second marriage had to be founded upon a lawful devorce or the death of the spouse (wife). 7. There was no universal celibacy accepted for ministers in the Early Church before the fourth century. a. It is generally agreed that bishops and other ministers lived in a state of matrimony without any prejudice to their ordination of function. b. It is as evident from all councils of the early church age that the married clergy were allowed to continue in the service of the church, and no vow of abstinence required of them at their ordinance. c. It is generally agreed that most of the Apostles were married. Some say all of them, except St Paul and St John, were married. Others say St Paul was married also, because he writes to his yoke-fellow, whom they interpret his wife (Phil. 4:3). (1) The major part of the Ancients believed that Paul always lived a single life. 8. Some bishops allowed up to four marriages, if there were three lawful divorces. Marry right the first time! a. While it was in certain cases permitted, it was discouraged. b. Others rejected such notice. c. If it were your spouse’s fault each time, It could well be understood. (1) If your spouse broke the bonds or broke the union of marriage by sin. 9. Augustine said that he dare not condemn any marriages for the number of them, if they are lawful. a. He writes, “Our Lord himself did not condemn the woman that had had seven husbands. And therefore, I dare not, out of my own heart, without the authority of Scripture, condemn any number of marriages whatsoever. But what I say to the window that has been the wife of one man, the same I say to every widow, Thou art happier if thou so abidest…” 10. The purity of a minister in marriage must be upheld, and that includes even in the bedroom. But this is true for all believers. 11. The imperial laws and many of the Early church Fathers allowed and approved of marrying again after a lawful divorce. B. The Ancients were divided in reference to divorce. 1. Divorce should never be the first solution, but only the last solution, Reconciliation should be tried. 2. The ancients saw a difference between lawful divorce and unlawful divorce. 3. There was no universal view of the question of lawful divorce. There was a division of views. 4. Many were against marrying after a lawful divorce, yet there were some bishops in the times of Origen who permitted a woman to marry while her former husband was living. The Bible says, “The woman is bound so long as her husband liveth,” and She shall be called an adulteress, if whilest her husband liveth, she be married to another man (Romans 7:2-3). a. This scripture has no reference to lawful divorce and remarriage according to Greek scholarship and other views in the early church. 5. Many bishops did not think it evil who allowed men and women to marry after lawful divorce. 6. Constantine made a law that a man for three crimes might lawfully put away his wife and marry another. a. Adultery, sorcery, or a harlot. b. Woman, if her husband was a murderer, sorcerer, or a robber of graves. 7. Ambrose wrote, “A brother or a sister in such a case is not under bondage. If Esdras cast out the infidels, and allowed the faithful to marry other wive: how much rather, if an infidel departs of his own accord, shall the believing woman have liberty, if she pleases, to be married to a man of her own religion?….Because an indignity offered to the Creator dissolves the obligation of matrimony with respect to him who is deserted, so that he is excused, though he be joined to another , forasmuch as an infidel is injurious both to God and to matrimony itself desertion.” 8. The earliest opinion of the church as a whole was, “that though the clergy were prohibited from marrying a second wife after the death of the first; yet the people were not only allowed to marry again in such a case, but also in case of divorce, if a separation was made upon the account of fornication, or adultery, or any such criminal evil, and a man thereupon was joined to a second wife, or a woman to a second husband, the word of the God did not condemn them nor exclude them from the church nor eternal life, but tolerated them because of their feebleness; not that a man should have two wives at the same time, but that, being divorced from the first, he might lawfully be joined to a second… 9. In the case of adultery men and women were allowed to divorce themselves from the offending party. 10. There can be reconciliation even if the woman or man having an lawful reason decides not to divorce and the offender repents. 11. The term fornication or adultery was seen to mean. a. Some in the Early Church took the term fornication or adultery only having reference to sexual sin. b. However, many saw the term fornication or adultery to included. (1) All sexual sins. (2) Spiritual fornication. (3) Idiolatry. (4) All forms of severe criminal evils, such as murder, alchoalism, incest, rape–husband raped another person or wife raped another person, sorcery, witchcraft, molestation, attempting anything against the government, guilty of perjury, robber of churches, trying to kill one’s mate or spouse, and the like. (5) Backsliding, apostasy, or heresy. c. Some felt that all sins equal to fornication were included in this notion of fornication or adultery. d. It was seen that the Apostles thought it hard and burdensome that a man should retain a woman full of all wickedness and have to bear such in his house. Chrysostom said this…. e. So was the opinion of Augustine that adultery or fornication was to be understood in a little more extensive case. (1) He wrote, “that for unlawful lusts, not only such as are committed by carnal uncleanness with other men or women, but also for any other lusts which make the soul by the illl use of the body go astray from the law of God, and deadly and abominably corrupt it, a man may without crime put away his life, and a wife her husband, because the Lord excepted the cause of fornication….. f. Hermas Pastor wrote, “adultery is not only in those who defile their own flesh; but every one commits adultery that makes an idol. Therefore, if a woman so commits adultery, and perseveres therein without repentance, depart from her, and live no longer with her; for otherwise thou wilt be partaker of her sin.” g. Permission was given; but permission did not have to be accepted. h. The Christian man or woman could well stay in the marriage. i. Very important note (1) The Ancient believed that the woman should be given the power to put away her husband if crimes and other violations had been committed against her or their marriage. But this was permitted. She did not have to divorce her husband. 12. In the Early Church, some rules only dealt with believers, not the Catechumens. a. Most cases of divorce and remarriage dealt with the believers, not the unsaved in the writings of the Ancients. 13. They saw unlawful divorce as adultery or fornication. They saw a second marriage after an unlawful divorce as polygamy. a. They saw an unlawful divorce and second marriage even in cases where the man has committed adultery with a woman, the woman divorces her husband, and married the man whom she committed adultery with. On the other hand, Austin says that such a marriage may be lawful. (1) If it is lawful, it would be due to repentance alone.

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