Jesus says: Don't Get Married Twice.

I once knew a man that was married. But over the years, he fell in love with somebody else, and stopped being in love with his wife.  And, being a deeply moral church-going man who didn't want to break one of the Ten Commandments, it is my understanding that he refused to sleep with his new love interest.

So, wanting to be righteous and proper, he eventually divorced his wife and married the one he was in love with.  In doing so, he thought what he was doing was the righteous thing.  After all, he loved God and he didn't want to sleep with somebody that wasn't his wife, and commit adultery.  So he found a loophole that allowed him the freedom to marry and sleep with somebody else, and he found this freedom in divorce.

What do you think?  Was this man righteous in the eyes of God?

According to Jesus and His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus would say that this man committed adultery in what he was doing.  The Lord said:
"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."  (Matthew 5:31-32; NASB)
Jesus's teaching on marriage is pretty simple and straight forward.

Jesus says you should only get married once, and unless there has been an affair that destroys your marriage, you shouldn't get divorced.  And, should you do get divorced on other grounds anyway, then you definitely should not get remarried.

Jesus equates getting remarried under such conditions with being fundamentally no different than committing adultery.  A divorce decree is just a loophole we use to justify what amounts to adultery.

That's some pretty heavy teaching, and the Lord taught on this subject more than once.  For divorce and remarriage was just as much a problem in His culture as it is in ours today.  So heavy are the implications that when the Lord later taught on the same subject again in Matthew 19, the apostles were astonished that Jesus was teaching such a thing, and challenged him on the matter.  To which Jesus told the apostles that if they wanted to be a part of the kingdom of God, that it would be better off for them to become like a castrated eunuch than to get married, divorced, and remarried.

You see, in the eyes of Jesus, marriage is fundamentally a spiritual act.

"To be fruitful and multiply" was the first thing human beings were commanded to do by God, and God designed mankind for marriage at the very start of creation.  One might say it's in our DNA to seek out romantic companionship and to long to be married.  And in getting married, a spiritual transaction takes place whereby we become "one" with each other.  And since it is a spiritual transaction mediated by God,  no amount of divorce decrees issued by a judge can undo what God Himself has joined and knitted together.

Therefore, once you are married, you are permanently married.  And in the eyes of God, the only thing that can destroy the bonds of matrimony is death, where you cease to exist, or adultery, wherein you become one with somebody else.

Yet in our society today, and even in the eyes of many Christians, a divorce decree is all that we feel like we morally need in order to make it ok to pursue other romantic interests. And for some people, it doesn't even take that.  Many people in our society begin dating again as soon as they get separated, and before they are even officially divorced.  In fact, I remember when I was single and on some dating websites, "separated" is an official relationship status that I would occasionally come across.  

In the eyes of Jesus, all of this is adultery.

Of course, in saying all of this, I am often reminded of my own family history, which makes me teaching this matter particularly personal.  One of my parents was previously married.  And I would not even exist today were it not for divorce and remarriage.  Had my parents done everything by the book, you would not be reading this blog today.

So in saying these sorta things, I am intimately and personally aware of the ramifications of the Lord's teaching on this matter.  But, I say these things with a heart full of compassion.  I'm casting no stones, as I've not been flawless when it comes to doing everything by the book in the romance department.  I have my own sins, and I know how challenging the teachings of Jesus can be for me!

The words of Jesus on this matter are no more comfortable for me to say than they are for most to hear.  I'm aware of the toughness of the Lord's teaching on this matter.  And, it was a hard thing for the apostles to hear when it came from the lips of Jesus himself.  So, believe me, I understand why people get upset at hearing this teaching today, especially because it is delivered by flawed men like me, who aren't Jesus.  And I understand why so many pastors shy away from this doctrine.  It simply gets up in our business like few other Biblical teachings.

In fact, I remember a time I preached a sermon on this very topic in a church, and at the end of the message during the invitation, somebody stood up and said "I am mad!"  That's not exactly something they train you to handle in Bible college, and I was pretty shocked when it happened.

Such a teaching is hard to hear.  And it does make us mad.  It makes us mad because it makes us deeply uncomfortable about the way we've lived or are living our lives.  We realize that the standard that Christ establishes for marriage is very high, and many of us know very well that we've failed in this department time and time again.  And we know what a beautiful thing marriage can be as designed by God, and we know how much we've allowed the devil into our lives to destroy that sacred and beautiful thing.  Such teaching makes us mad at others, ourselves, and the devil.

Ultimately, I truly believe it is the teaching of Jesus regarding our romantic lives that we most desperately need to allow to penetrate our hearts and minds if we are going to be full blown followers of Christ.  For, there are few things in our lives and in our culture that we regard as more important and sacred than our romantic relationships.  We are cool about Jesus talking on just about any other topic, but when it comes to what happens in the bedroom and between who and when, even we are tempted to tell the Lord to mind His own business, as we pursue the things our hearts want.

However, I believe there are few areas that test our commitment to being disciples of Jesus Christ than the area of surrendering our romantic lives to the Lord.  For if we allow the word of the Lord to deeply penetrate the depths of our heart so as to capture even our sexuality, then it is safe to say that there isn't any area in our life that is off limits to Jesus.

The heart wants what the heart wants.  And its matters of the heart that are often the most complicated.  But I'm convinced that if Jesus can take hold of that thing that beats so wildly in us, then He will have captured us lock, stock, and barrel.  For it is ultimately our hearts that the Lord wants above all things.  But we have to be willing to give it up and over to Him.


  1. You are misinterpreting the 'exceptive clause' of Matthew 19 Jimmy. Before the reformation hardly any expositor took the view that adultery was an exception - then Erasmus got involved! Take a look at this...not because of the author but because it explains my position exactly after I had independently come to exactly the same conclusion with exactly the same reasoning.

    Best wishes, and don't shoot the sherrif's horse ;-) !



    1. Thanks for sharing the link and your feedback. As much as I respect Dr. Pipers interpretations of Scripture on a number of issues, I'm going to have to part with him here. My reasoning is pretty simple. It is a common feature throughout the Gospels to have stories and teachings that are very similar, but have additional characters or teachings from the same event that one Gospel author decides to include that the others, for whatever reason, did not include.
      In this instance, I don't believe the absoluteness of Mark or Luke's citation of Jesus's teaching forces an absolute interpretation of Matthew's citation anymore than differences in other stories or teachings lacking certain details force any other interpretation. Especially when the Gospel of Matthew is pretty well known for taking a "softer" view on some "harder" sayings of Jesus at times.
      The easiest and plainest way to understand the exception clauses of Matthew 5 and 19 regarding divorce is that these exception clauses are truly that. Trying to say that they are only exceptions granted during the betrothal period prior to marriage is a bit of a stretch, as there is nothing in the text that even remotely indicates that is what the Lord was even hinting at. And trying to tie the teaching to Joseph's troubles with Mary and the accusations of the Pharisees that Jesus was illegitimate is not an idea the texts even remotely suggests. how the good Dr. Piper even reached that conclusion is not a clear line of thinking that I can in good conscience follow. It just doesn't make sense, and there is a good reason why his opinion is admittedly at odds with the majority of the major commentators on Matthew.
      Either way, I think we can all agree that divorce is something the Lord spoke strongly against, and is something that Christians would do well to not entertain.

  2. Don't seem to be able to edit the above! I should have added, Jesus's strict teachings have those contemplating marriage in mind, in my view, as confirmed by the disciples' reaction: "If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry", rather than as a stick to beat up those who have messed up without having been convinced of this! If it was properly taught, understood, respected and implemented, messing up would be less common!

    1. Without a doubt! While this teaching is seldom hinted at in most Christian circles these days, when it is suggested, the ideas put forward can be done in a very abusive and heavy handed manner. Much grace and mercy is needed in this regard, as a lot of folks are getting married and divorced and remarried out of absolute ignorance of what Christ taught on the subject. Such people need much love and mercy. However, there are a few people I've known over the years that do know better, but choose to willfully ignore God's word to them on these issues. For example, one of my uncle's is on his 7th or 8th marriage. And he knows what God's word says on these things. People such as my uncle just need to be taken to the woodshed, if anything, to prevent him from hurting some other woman.