"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"
The Treachery Of Divorce (Mt 5:31-32)
1. We live in an age of easy divorce…
a. Many if not all states have "no-fault" divorce laws
b. In some cases, all it takes is for one person to decide to have a
divorce, and their spouse can do nothing to prevent it
2. What does God think about divorce?
a. What was His view of divorce in the Old Testament?
b. What does He think of it now?
3. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus addressed the issue of divorce…
a. As He taught His disciples concerning the righteousness of the
b. In which He described the effects of divorcing one’s spouse
[In this lesson, "The Treachery Of Divorce", we shall use Mt 5:31-32 as
our text. To understand Jesus’ comments in their context, let’s first
determine what was…]
I. THE "TRADITIONAL" INTERPRETATION
A. "WHOEVER DIVORCES HIS WIFE, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF
DIVORCE" – Mt 5:31
1. This was the "traditional" interpretation of Deu 24:1-4;
handed down orally
2. In applying the Law, they had focused on the idea of giving
certificates of divorce
3. They concluded divorce was permissible as long as a
certificate of divorce was given
B. IS THIS WHAT THE LAW ACTUALLY SAID?
1. Please read Deu 24:1-4 carefully…
a. Verses 1-3 simply describe a particular situation
1) WHEN a man is displeased with his wife and gives her a
certificate a divorce and sends her out of the house…
2) WHEN she has left and becomes another man’s wife…
3) IF her second husband detests her and gives her a bill
of divorcement and sends her out of his house, or if the
second husband dies…
b. It is in verse 4 that Moses actually commands what must not
1) Which was: "her former husband who divorced her must not
take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled;
for that is an abomination to the Lord"
2) This passage is simply forbidding a man to remarry his
wife after she had been married to another – cf. Jer 3:1
2. Note also Paul’s understanding of the Law – cf. Ro 7:1-3
a. A woman was bound by the Law to her husband as long he
b. If she married another while her first husband was still
living (implying a certificate of divorce was given), she
became an adulteress (i.e., defiled)!
[So the scribes and Pharisees had interpreted the Law to permit divorce
as long as a certificate of divorce was given to the wife. We have
tried to point out that was not the case. What does Jesus say?]
II. JESUS’ INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION
A. "WHOEVER DIVORCES HIS WIFE FOR ANY REASON EXCEPT SEXUAL
IMMORALITY CAUSES HER TO COMMIT ADULTERY" – Mt 5:32
1. The only acceptable grounds for divorcing a wife is SEXUAL
2. Otherwise, divorcing a wife "causes her to commit adultery"
3. How? By placing her in a position where she is likely to
remarry, in which she becomes an adulteress
4. This is what the Law implied in Deu 24:4 and Jer 3:1
a. That is why the first husband couldn’t take her back
b. Even if her second husband had died!
c. Because the wife had become "defiled"!
5. Notice these comments by KEIL & DELITZSCH…
"The second marriage of a woman who had been divorced is
designated by Moses a defilement of the woman…a moral
defilement, i.e., blemishing, desecration of the sexual
communion which was sanctified by marriage, IN THE SAME SENSE
IN WHICH ADULTERY IS CALLED A DEFILEMENT in Lev 18:20 and Num 5:13
"Thus the second marriage of a divorced woman was placed
implicit upon a par with adultery, and some approach was made
towards the teaching of Christ concerning marriage (Mt 5:32
"If the second marriage of a divorced woman was a moral
defilement, of course the wife could not marry the first again
even after the death of her second husband…because the
defilement of the wife would be thereby repeated, and even
increased, as the moral defilement which the divorced wife
acquired through the second marriage was not removed by a
divorce from the second husband, nor yet by his death."
6. Jesus simply made clear what the Law itself implied: To
divorce a woman for any reason other than sexual immorality
would cause her to be defiled (when she remarried)!
7. Therefore, I believe that a careful study of the Law
concerning divorce reveals…
a. That Jesus’ teaching was really in harmony with the Law
b. But the "traditional interpretation and application" of the
Law had missed the mark by placing emphasis upon the
mention of giving a certificate of divorce
B. "WHOEVER MARRIES A DIVORCED WOMAN COMMITS ADULTERY"
1. Jesus goes on to say that anyone who marries a person who has
been divorced (lit., "put away") also commits adultery!
2. Jesus does not use the definite article in reference to one
put away, therefore He seems to refer to ANY "put away"
person! In other words…
a. A person put away for reasons OTHER than adultery cannot
1) Because such would "cause them to commit adultery"
2) Or to put it in O.T. terms: "become defiled"
b. Nor can a person "put away" for the reason of adultery
1) For such a person is an "adulteress" or "adulterer"
2) As such, is "defiled" and would thereby cause anyone who
married that person to commit adultery!
1. Jesus later taught more concerning the subject of divorce and
remarriage – Mt 19:3-12
a. Defining who has the right to divorce their spouse and remarry
b. Indicating that some might need to "make themselves eunuchs" for
the sake of the kingdom of heaven
2. But in our text (Mt 5:31-32), Jesus reveals "The Treachery Of
a. A man who divorces his wife for any cause other than sexual
immorality causes her to commit adultery (by placing her in a
situation where she is likely to remarry and become defiled;
i.e., an adulteress)
b. Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery
— The harmful effect of divorce is seen in that it creates
situations where adultery is committed!
3. Perhaps we can better understand why God hates divorce – Mal 2:13-16
a. When we put away our spouses, we treat them treacherously!
– Mal 2:14
b. When we divorce our spouses, we cover our garments with violence!
– Mal 2:16
4. Making divorce "legal" does not change the facts of the matter…
a. The one put away still becomes defiled (commits adultery) if they
b. Whoever marries the one put away still commits adultery
— It is still a "treacherous" act!
As difficult as Jesus’ teaching on the subject of divorce might seem in
today’s permissive and immoral society, those who respect the authority
of Jesus Christ will abide by His teaching.
Have you found yourself in an adulterous relationship? There is hope
in Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Co 6:9-11 )! Yet true repentance requires that
you stop committing adultery, even if it means becoming a "eunuch" for
the sake of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 19:11-12 ).