"A WRITING OF DIVORCEMENT"

Matthew 19.3-9

 

EXPOSITION:

1. Sometimes a man will put away his wife emotionally but not physically. That is, he will emotionally distance himself from her, will isolate himself from her and refuse her intimacy, without moving out of the house or throwing her out of the house. Women do the same thing. Whoever does it, God hates it.

2. Sometimes a man will go farther than emotionally isolating himself from his wife and will actually leave her by moving out of the house, by driving her out of the house, or by committing adultery. Adultery is when a married man leaves his marriage bed for another womanís bed. That, too, is putting away, but is made far more serious and damaging with the addition of the sin of adultery.

3. All of these things which tend to separate a husband from his wife are things which God hates, because He wants husbands and wives to be intimate with each other, spiritually, emotionally, physically. Anything which interferes with a married couple functioning as one flesh is something God is opposed to because it is contrary to His plan, His purpose, His preference.

4. Though God hates putting away, which I have briefly discussed, most people down through history have thought little of putting away and have had much stronger feelings about divorce. In how many western countries down through the centuries have people abandoned their mates, have people committed adultery, have men kept mistresses? But we mustnít divorce because thatís wrong.

5. Well, the fact of the matter is that sometimes divorce isnít wrong. After all, God divorced His spiritual wife, Israel, for her adultery, Jeremiah 3.8. If God divorced Israel how can divorce always be wrong? The fact of the matter is, divorce is not always wrong. What is always wrong is putting away. It is always wrong to refuse emotional and physical intimacy with your spouse, and it is wrong to abandon your marriage bed for another personís bed.

7. So you see, there is great confusion and error related to divorce. And this is not a new development. It seems there has always been confusion and error related to this matter of divorce. So, to address the confusion, and in an attempt to clear up some of the errors, letís turn to Matthew 19, where the Lord Jesus Christ responded to some questions asked by some Pharisees on the subject of divorce.

8. When you have found Matthew 19.3, please stand for the reading of Godís Word:

3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9 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.

9. For reasons I will go into next week, Lord willing, this passage of Scripture should be understood to have direct application only to marriages in which both the husband and the wife are converted. With that understood, letís examine these 7 verses.

1A. First, THE CONFLICT ADDRESSED

Just why did the Pharisees come to the Lord Jesus Christ to "tempt" Him, as verse 3 tells us, by asking this question about divorce, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"

1B. Is this the renewal of an earlier dispute?

Are the Pharisees men who hold a grudge? Are they seeking revenge for not being able to win any arguments with the Lord Jesus, for not being able to trick Him in front of the common people? Is that what this is all about, mean-spirited vindictiveness?

2B. Perhaps they are riling up Herodias

1C. The Lord Jesus Christ is now passing through the territory ruled by Herod, who, you may remember, took his brother Philipís wife to be his own, in violation of the Law of Moses.

2C. Also remember that John the Baptist preached strongly against that divorce and illicit marriage and ended up being beheaded because of that wicked and vengeful woman named Herodias.

3C. Are the Pharisees tempting the Lord Jesus in the hopes that He will say something that will enrage wicked Herodias and cause her to retaliate against Him?

4C. Remember, folks, there are few evils that are as wicked as a Herodias type woman, or a Jezebel type woman, who is set on committing sin and who is not stopped from committing sin by her wimpy and passive man, but who is rebuked by Godís man.

5C. You can almost always count on such a wicked woman to want to do anything she can to stop the preacher from preaching against her sin, by whatever means are at her disposal.

3B. These Pharisees are certainly trying to involve the Lord Jesus in a rabbinic controversy

1C. The hot dispute among the rabbis, who were the teachers of the Law, was What is meant in Deuteronomy 24.1? There Moses said, "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house."

2C. What was meant by the phrase, "some uncleanness?" The rabbinical school of Shammai limited this to refer only to moral transgressions. The school of Shammai recommended divorce only for sexual infidelity, but did not actually forbid divorce for other reasons.

3C. But the rabbinical school of Hillel felt such an interpretation was much too strict. The school of Hillel interpreted "some uncleanness" in the widest possible way, including failing to tithe the vegetables taken from the garden.

4C. Whose side of the issue was Jesus on? If He sided with the school of Shammai those of the school of Hillel would be offended. If He sided with the school of Hillel those of the school of Shammai would be angered.

5C. So you see, these adversaries of the Lord Jesus Christ were diabolically crafty, exhibiting keen political skills and cunning, and exercising careful planning in opposing and seeking His harm.

6C. But they were dealing with the Son of God, Who reminded them that Godís will is not to seek divorce from your wife. Godís will is for marriages to be preserved.

7C. They then asked Jesus a second question, verse 7: "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?"

2A. Next, LETíS JUST LOOK AT THIS "COMMAND" OF MOSES

Turn to Deuteronomy 24.1: "When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house."

1B. Please notice that this verse tells us what Moses allowed, not what he commanded

1C. Look at the phrase "and it come to pass." That translates a Hebrew word that is a hypothetical participle. In other words, Moses is in no way commanding that a man divorce his wife if he finds some uncleanness in her.

2C. This verse is simply an example of Moses considering a hypothetical set of circumstances in which a man would be permitted to divorce his wife, but is not commanded to divorce his wife.

2B. But why did Moses allow divorce in such a case, though he admittedly did not command divorce in any case?

1C. In Matthew 19.8 the Lord Jesus Christ tells us why Moses was inspired of God to allow divorce: "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so."

2C. Divorce results from sin. And not just sin. But sin and a hardness of heart to either refuse to repent of the initial sin or a hardness of heart to refuse to forgive the initial sin.

3A. We Move To Our Third Main Point, THE COMMENTS OF OUR LORD JESUS

1B. First, see what Jesus says about the will of God (3-6)

3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

1C. Notice that their initial question was concerning putting away. A husband would put his wife away as a prelude to actually divorcing her. On what grounds was a man justified in putting his wife away? These menís usual concern was "How can I justify doing this?"

2C. The Lord Jesus Christ points out that Godís will is that you look for ways to hold a marriage together, not quietly celebrate when you think youíve found a justification for dumping your wife so you can go shopping for another one.

2B. Then they ask him about the writing of divorcement (7-8)

7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

1C. Notice how these Pharisees twisted the Scriptures. They asked why Moses commanded a writing of divorcement to accompany the putting away of a wife? But he didnít command it. He allowed it.

2C. The Lord Jesus Christ correctly observes that Moses regulated divorce so that wives would not be put away and left to their own devices. Had Moses not regulated divorce when a wife was put away, husbands could have set their wives aside for another woman and effectively abandoned them without mercy and without recourse.

3C. But when a writing of divorcement is issued the marriage is dissolved, the couple are no longer one flesh, they are no longer a single legal entity, and the womanís dowry money has to be returned to her. Thus, divorce was regulated to protect the innocent woman from the financial ruin caused by a hard hearted husband who had already demonstrated that he didnít want her.

3B. Having explained what Moses did, the Lord Jesus Christ now adds to the revelation of Godís will given by Moses on the subject of divorce (9)

9 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.

1C. This is new stuff Heís giving. To paraphrase the Lord Jesus Christ: If you put away your wife (with divorce understood to follow), unless your reason for so doing is her committing fornication, her cheating on you, you will be committing adultery should you marry another woman. So Christian, divorce your wife for some reason other than her being unfaithful to you and you become an adulterer if you marry another woman!

2C. What if you are a guy who marries a previously married woman who is now divorced? If you marry a woman who has been put away by her husband, and she did not cheat on him, you commit adultery by marrying that innocent woman who has been divorced. Think about it.

4A. Finally, THE CONCLUSIONS WE DRAW

Do you understand that there are factors affecting this pronouncement the Lord made, such as what happens when a couple splits for reasons other than adultery but one of them remarries? What about marrying a woman whose husband has married again, though the divorce was not for adultery?

My friends, things related to divorce and remarriage are complex, and require careful consideration. And we have time limitations. But there are two conclusions that we can come to this morning.

1B. First, we conclude that both rabbinical schools were wrong on divorce

1C. The school of Shammai and the school of Hillel both looked for reasons to justify getting a divorce. But Godís will is that men look for ways to preserve a marriage, not end a marriage.

2C. After all, there is always forgiveness and reconciliation. So, His enemyís attempts to force the Lord Jesus to take sides failed, as had all their previous attempts to trick and trap Him.

2B. Second, we conclude that adultery is always a part of divorce and marrying again

1C. There will always be associated with a divorce and subsequent marriage the sin of adultery. Always. Either adultery will cause a divorce and marrying again, or adultery will be the result of a divorce and marrying again.

2C. If a man divorces for a reason other than adultery he commits adultery by then marrying another woman. If he marries a woman who was divorced for a reason other than adultery he commits adultery by marrying her.

3C. So you see, one way or the other, the sin of adultery is always and in some way associated with a divorce. Maybe it wasnít you who committed adultery to end a marriage or after the end of a marriage, but adultery was committed by someone if there was a divorce and a remarriage.

CONCLUSION:

1. The issue of divorce seems so terribly complex. But thatís one of the characteristics of sin; itís complicated. Obedience to God, on the other hand, is always the simplest of matters. Always.

2. Before this morningís sermon, in which I will attempt to personalize this entire issue, brother Isenberger will come to lead us as we stand to sing.

INTRODUCTION:

1. It is interesting to note that although we live in the state of California, the state that I believe pioneered the no fault divorce, we find that the Lord Jesus Christ is very definite in assigning blame for divorce.

2. Many people file for divorce or explain a marital breakup by using excuses like "irreconcilable differences," or "we drifted apart," or "I didnít love him anymore." But such reasoning doesnít wash because human beings are responsible for their decisions, responsible for their actions, responsible for their feelings.

3. Shall we deal with reality concerning this subject of divorce? Shall we open our eyes to the truth and face facts? Shall we use Godís infallible rule of faith and practice, the holy Bible?

4. Being open and honest, opening our eyes to face the truth, and using the Bible, allow me to lead you through some of your experiences to where perhaps you are now, and then take a look to the future.

1A. First, SOMEONE HAS SINNED

Sin is a terrible thing, a damaging thing, a damning thing. One of the sad characteristics of sin is the effect of sin on bystanders. In addition to rebelling against God when you sin, your sin creates a fallout effect that rains down on your spouse and your kids, as well as you. Letís consider the sin of putting away and the sin of adultery. When can these sins be committed?

1B. During marriage you can sin by putting away your spouse and by committing adultery

1C. Sometimes a wife puts her husband away by denying him intimacy, and he reacts to being put away by committing adultery

2C. Sometimes the putting away and the adultery are committed by the same person in a marriage, with adultery actually being the ultimate act of putting away your spouse.

3C. There are many scenarios, as you can well imagine, in which different combinations of actions and reactions by a husband and a wife, putting away and adultery, can occur in a marriage.

2B. But itís also possible to commit serious sin after a marriage has ended in divorce

1C. The sin of putting away your spouse cannot be committed after you divorce because when a divorce is final you are as away from your spouse as you are going to get.

2C. The sin of adultery can be committed by a single man or woman, however, according to the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is how: If you are divorced for a reason other than adultery and you marry another person you are guilty of adultery! If you marry someone who got divorced for a reason other than adultery then you are, again, guilty of adultery.

3C. The point that I seek to make is that divorce involves extremely serious sin, either during the marriage so as to cause a divorce, or after a divorce when a remarriage takes place to someone who was divorced for a reason other than sexual sin!

4C. And if sin was committed then someone committed that sin. So, someone sinned. And itís important to your future to find out who sinned, because you canít do much about someone elseís sins.

2A. Second, A MARRIAGE HAS ENDED IN DIVORCE

We move from consideration of the individual who was involved in a divorce to the divorce itself. Two questions simply must be asked by anyone who is concerned about Godís will for his life when contemplating a divorce or when considering marriage to someone who is divorced.

1B. First, is it a permitted dissolution of a marriage?

1C. Recognize that although Moses did not command divorce, he did permit divorce. Recognize also that although the Lord Jesus Christ did define what the grounds for divorce are, He did not overturn what Moses wrote. Moses wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God. And to challenge what Moses wrote is to challenge the inspiration of Godís Word.

2C. Now, granting that Moses did permit divorce, and the Lord Jesus Christ also permitted divorce (though He obviously made clear what the grounds for divorce must be), it must also be recognized that permission to marry again was totally dependent upon whether or not the divorce was permitted. There has to be adultery in the marriage to permissibly divorce.

2B. Or, is it a prohibited dissolution of marriage?

1C. Moses was not so clear, but the Lord Jesus Christ was very clear, that divorce was sanctioned, divorce was permitted, the dissolution of a marriage was allowed, only as a remedy for adultery. In other words, adultery is the only recognized cause of divorce that results in permission to remarry.

2C. But what if a Christian couple just didnít want to be married to each other anymore? Such a divorce is not sanctioned, is not permitted, is not authorized. And in such a case the ex-husband and ex-wife would be committing adultery by marrying again, and anyone who married such an ex-husband and ex-wife would also be committing adultery.

3C. This is very clear from Matthew 19.9: "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 (again, except it be for fornication) doth commit adultery."

3A. Finally, WHAT IS TO BE DONE NOW?

You know, people can really mess up their lives. Itís possible to become so tangled in a web of sin and bad choices that you look back and see a trail of broken hearts and broken lives in your past. Busted marriages? Broken homes? Kids living in different places? Visitation and custody and child support issues? Ex-husbands and ex-wives to deal with?

And on top of all this mess you find yourself in, I have shown you that there is a question you need to address about whether or not you should ever get married to the person you want to marry, whether or not you should ever get married again.

My friend, these are issues that are quite complex. And as I mentioned before, sin makes everything complicated. And you have ample evidence of how things turn out when you just do what you want to do. What I suggest now is that we ask four important questions about where you ought to go from here.

1B. First, what is to be done by you? You should ask, "Pastor, what should I do?"

1C. Stop. Just stop. Have you not been running and hustling and messing around long enough? Look at the mess youíve made of your life. You need to stop and think for just a minute.

2C. What are you doing? Where are you going? How are you getting there? If you continue doing what you are now doing, and what you have been doing, where will you be? And what will your life be like?

3C. I heard a definition of insanity on the radio some months ago. A guy said, "Insanity is when you do the same things and expect different results." Are you pleased with the results so far? How will things be different so long as you are the same person you are now?

4C. My recommendation is that you think very seriously about becoming a real Christian. And why not? Being a non-Christian doesnít seem to be working very well for you.

5C. So, what you should do is come to Church regularly, take stock of your life and destiny, and give serious attention to becoming a Christian. Letís talk. Iíll answer any questions I can.

2B. Next, what is to be done for you?

1C. You do your part and we will do our part. You attend Church and we will welcome you, will pray for you, will love you, will befriend you, will welcome you into our lives . . . so you can take a look around.

2C. Find out what Christianity is from us by watching us, by spending time with us, by gathering when we gather and playing with us when we play.

3C. When you spend time with us you will see that we are inconsistent. After all, we are very much sinners and not at all capable of living sinless lives. But we are also grateful for the Lord Jesus Christís work for us and on us.

4C. We remember when we were where you are. We remember when Church was a very strange and foreboding place, filled mostly with people we didnít know. We remember having no idea what questions to ask.

5C. If you will do what should be done by you, then we will do what we can do for you. And what will we try to do for you? We want to try and impress you with our Jesus, not impress you with ourselves. We want you to see Christ in us the hope of glory. If you catch a glimpse of our Savior then we have succeeded, by Godís grace. If you see nothing in our lives that seems to reflect the grace of God to sinners, then we have miserably failed you, and failed God, as well.

6C. But give us a chance. Remember, weíre not dealing with successful marriages and happy families here, only. Weíre addressing issues of eternity, heaven, and Hell, as well.

3B. Third, what is to be done to you?

1C. While you are in Church, and while we are trying to create a warm and friendly atmosphere for you, we will also be doing something to you. The congregation sitting here around you realizes that their role in this drama thatís playing out is to love you, to really love you, and to earnestly pray for Godís best for you.

2C. While they do that before Church and after Church, and during the week, I will be doing the same thing they are doing. But on several occasions each week my God-given responsibility includes preaching to you and counseling you.

3C. Turn to Second Timothy 3.16-4.2:

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

4C. So you see, Iím supposed to preach to you, using Godís Word to show you what is true, to show you where you are wrong, to show you how to fix it, and to show you how to keep it from getting broken again. And I am supposed to do that all the time.

5C. So, while our folks love on you and work to show you how welcome you are, my task is to convince you how sinful you are and how desperately you need Christ as your Savior.

6C. So, there you have it. What is to be done by you, for you, and to you. We have nothing to hide. No gimmicks. No manipulation. No hidden agenda. What you see is what you get.

4B. Finally, what is to be done with you?

1C. What is done with you depends on what you end up doing with Jesus Christ. Reject Him, which is to say, do nothing, and you are condemned. You are condemned now, as a matter of fact, if you are not genuinely converted.

2C. And the condemnation you will face as an unsaved sinner when you die is an eternity of torment. Our desire, rather, is for you to become a Christian.

3C. So you see, there are two alternatives for you to consider. Will it be life without Christ, or life with Christ? Will it be condemnation, or conversion? Will it be guilt, or glory?

CONCLUSION:

1. If you look around our Church you will not find many families who have been spared the pain and heartache of divorce. But you will find people who, in their darkest hours of life, when things seemed the most hopeless, can now say, with David, "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."

2. It would be nice if young men and women became Christians before they got married and were by and large spared the pain and suffering associated with divorce. But some people donít get saved until after they have married. Still others donít get saved until after theyíve divorced.

3. Wherever you happen to be, whatever your lifeís experiences to his point happen to be, there is room here for you at Calvary Road Baptist Church. More importantly, thereís room at the cross for you.

4. Jesus Christ suffered and bled and died for you, that you might have the forgiveness of your sins. He made it possible for sinners to be reconciled to God. I hope someday you will become a Christian.

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