Marrying After Divorce
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 19:9 (Holman) “And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for
sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
This famous “exception clause” is difficult to know how to apply. We start by making sure we know the issue here is not divorce, but remarriage after divorce.
The Biblical ideal is for the divorced to remain single and celibate. The second best option, remarriage, is better than the third option, promiscuity. One reason for marriage is to reduce the number of sex sins (I Corinthians 7:2).
Our text has been so battered by the arguing of Christ-followers that it is easy to miss the chief message Jesus presented here. Its main emphasis is grace.
Under Old Testament law, sexual immorality was punishable by death. Jesus commuted this death sentence to divorce. The guilty, though spared from capital punishment, had committed an act equal, under the Old Law, to having died.
Had the guilty one died, the innocent could have married without guilt. Since God’s grace to the guilty should not penalize the innocent, the text extended grace to the innocent, sexually pure, spouse, who can remarry without guilt.
Based on this principle of fairness, the early Church looked with favor on a divorcee entering with humble repentance into a marriage. Not till the Middle A