No Divorce, Except for Sexual Immorality

Fourth, Divorce is Allowed Only on the Ground of Sexual Immorality.

Ricky, age 10, answered the following question. How would you make a marriage work?  He said, “Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.”

“But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery” (Matt. 5:32; cf. 19:9) The word for “sexual immorality” is porneia, “prostitution, fornication, of various kinds of unlawful sexual intercourse” (Gingrich).

“(1) generally, of every kind of extramarital, unlawful, or unnatural sexual intercourse fornication, sexual immorality, prostitution (1C 5.1);
(2) when distinguished from adultery (moikeia) in the same context extramarital intercourse, sexual immorality, fornication (MT 15.19);
(3) as a synonym for moikeia (marital) unfaithfulness, adultery (MT 5.32)” (Friberg)

The word refers to all sexual sins, including adultery. (D. A. Hagner).

In Jesus’ day, there were two schools of Pharisees that debated on the reason for divorce in Deut. 24:1. Deut. 24:1 says, “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house.” The school of Hillel taught that Deut. 24:1 allows divorce for any reason, such as burning his dinner. Can you imagine that? You burn your husband’s dinner. He divorces you for burning his dinner. It’s as trivial as that.

The school of Shammai was more conservative. It taught that Deut. 24:1 allows divorce only for sexual sins. Jesus’ view aligns with the Shammaites.

One can divorce his wife for sexual sins. That is the exception. But the point of Jesus is not to make exceptions to the rule. The main point of Jesus is that marriage is to be unbreakable. No one should break it. To break it is to cause one to commit adultery. In the will of God, marriage is indissoluble. It is to be permanent.

This is the lifestyle required by the kingdom of God. Do not break the divine union. This is the righteousness of the kingdom required of Christ’s followers. This is the standard of the kingdom of God. All who follow Christ must live by this standard. To do so is to gain a righteousness that exceeds the Pharisees.

It is a strict kind of righteousness that honors God. It was so strict that the disciples reacted to Jesus. In Matthew 19:10-11, they said, “The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.’”

In their culture, any Jewish man can divorce his wife for any reason. Now they realize that God forbids it, except for sexual sin. So they reacted, “It is better not to marry.” The word, “better,” means, “advantageous, beneficial, and profitable.” It literally reads, “It is advantageous not to marry.” The converse is, “It is disadvantageous to marry.” I think they are correct in their conclusion.

Guys and girls, that is worth thinking. Before you get married, think about it. Know that God disallows divorce. Realize that marriage is to be unbreakable. If you think that you can live with that girl for the rest of your life, then maybe you can marry her someday. But if you think that you cannot live with her for the rest of your life, then do not marry her. It is advantageous not to marry.

It’s okay if your aunts and uncles joke about your unmarried status. It’s okay if you will become an old bachelor, or an old maid. You do not need to bow down to the cultural dictate that everyone should get married. Jesus said that not everyone can receive this saying. Not everyone needs to get married. God calls some to be single. Sometimes, it is really better not to marry. That is still the will of God.


I encourage you to think through these lessons on marriage and divorce. The will of God is the permanence of marriage. God disallows divorce. If you divorce your wife, you make her commit adultery. Divorce is allowed for reason of sexual sin.

But then again, since God has joined you together in marriage, find a way to preserve that marriage. Find a way to preserve the divine union.

What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

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