The Sanctity of Marriage: What God says about Adultery, Divorce, and Remarriage

Matthew 5:27-32

 One way we can be salt and light to our world is through our marriage and singleness.

Marriage is created by God.  It is a covenant before God, husband, wife, and community.  It is the foundation of family and therefore society.  Marriage is a picture of the love relationship that Jesus has with his people.  We can be light by showing God’s love to the world through our marriages.

Singleness can be either a season in life or a calling for life.  God’s Word tells us that singleness is a gift that can be used to deepen our relationship with Jesus and allows us to be used by God in ways that may not be possible when we are married and have a family.  We can be Salt and Light in our singleness by loving Jesus deeply and by pursing sexual purity until God may allow us to marry.

Jesus teaches us things that hit very close to home and for many may be painful.  His word is meant to ultimately bring healing.  Sermons are meant not to condemn but to convict.  There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.  The Spirit brings conviction to lead us to repent of sin, turn to Jesus, and find forgiveness and healing in him.


I.                    The sanctity of marriage is defiled by adultery.

The seventh commandment says “Do not commit adultery.”  God says such sin must not be among his people.  It breaks a Holy covenant before God.  It brings a third person into a relationship that we promise before God will be between only a husband and wife.  Since marriage is a picture of the world of our relationship with Jesus, adultery says that Jesus is not faithful to us or we are not faithful to Him.  Most in both the church and community at large would agree that adultery is sin although there is minority that is beginning to disagree.  There is even a website out that promises to help people by setting up secret affair.

II.                  The sanctity of marriage is defiled by lust.

Jesus goal here is not to bring condemnation upon one who has sinned but to confront the self-righteousness of the Pharisees.  They were condemning others publicly for adultery and Jesus will show how they too are breaking the seventh commandment.  Lust is not attraction.  It is not sin for a single man and woman to be attracted to one another.  One who gazes at another engaging mentally in act of unfaithfulness.

·         Purity of Mind

Don’t dwell on sinful thoughts of any kind – You can’t keep the birds from flying overhead, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Phil. 4:8

I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.  Psalm 101:3

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Rom. 12:2


·         The Escape Route

Be diligent against sin and not putting yourself in situation where you are tempted to sin

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor. 10:13

Flee from sexual immorality.  1 Cor. 6:18

But Joseph left his garment in her hand and fled out of the house.  Gen. 39:12

Video Clip from Fireproof: The couple’s marriage is on the rocks.  He is enslaved to the sin of pornography.  While looking at purchasing at boat, a window pops up. Watch what he does.


III.                The sanctity of marriage is defiled by a culture of easy, no fault divorce.

The Bible says God hates divorce.  He loves those who have experienced divorce but he hates divorce nonetheless.  The problem in first century Israel was very similar to ours.  Men were divorcing their wives for no reason.  They simply felt that they were unhappy in their marriage and they rationalized that the way to honor God was to divorce their wife and marry whoever they were attracted to.  Jesus says that no matter how much they rationalize this practice is adultery.

One reason God created marriages was for our happiness.  But our happiness is not the ultimate purpose of marriage.  The ultimate purpose of marriage is the glory of God.  By being faithful to our spouse unconditionally, we are glorifying to God and portraying to the world God’s unconditional love.  And, even though all marriages will experience seasons of pain and difficulty, true happiness can ultimate arise only in a marriage where unconditional love and faithfulness exist.

Does the Bible ever permit divorce?

The question itself is difficult to ask.  We don’t ask the question to find a loophole to get out of marriage.  We ask it to know how to address our culture and move forward in a way to honor God.

They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”  Matthew 19:7-8 (See Duet.24:1-4)

The Pharisees justified divorce because of an obscure verse in Deuteronomy 24.  It speaks of a man divorcing his wife because he found some indecency in her.  Rabbis began to teach what type of indecency could be found in a wife to justify divorce.  Notice that they begin by saying Moses commanded divorce; Jesus make it clear that divorce is never commanded by was only allowed but in every situation, reconciliation should be the goal.

The School of Akiba taught a man may divorce his wife if he “found another fairer than she.”

The School of Hillel taught a man may divorce his wife if “she spoiled a dish.”

Jesus says that if a man divorces his wife for these trivial reasons he commits adultery and by teaching these things the religious teachers were creating a culture of adultery.


·         Adultery

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery. Matt. 19:9

The only reason a man may divorce his wife is because she committed adultery.  That’s it.  The spouse is not commanded to divorce, in fact the best option is still reconciliation but divorce is permitted in this situation.


·         Abandonment

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so.  In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved.  God has called you to peace.  1 Cor. 7:15

Abandonment is not a temporary separation; in fact, God may use a season of separation to bring reconciliation to a marriage.  Abandonment is one spouse ending a marriage while the other is striving to keep the marriage together.  Hence, abandonment isn’t technically grounds for divorce but the Bible makes it clear that if a spouse is trying to hold a marriage together and the other spouse ends the marriage (divorces) the spouse who was trying to save the marriage is “not enslaved.”  Which I take to mean is no longer bound to that marriage covenant, is free from the guilt of divorce, has the promise of God that He will provide and be with him or her to bring healing in time, and that he or she is free to remarry.

      ·         Abuse

If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights.  And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.  Ex. 21:10-11

The Bible is not as clear on the issue and therefore not all other pastors will agree with me.  Whereas the bible is explicit on adultery and abandonment, the bible is not as obvious on abuse, but personally I think the Bible infers that ongoing, physical abuse is grounds for divorce.  I do not feel God wants a woman to stay in a situation where she and her children are in continual danger.  Still, I don’t what to base my beliefs on what I feel but on what the Bible teaches.  It seems to me however, that when Jesus says that God allowed divorce because of the “the hardness of man’s heart” he was making it clear that divorce was never part of God’s plan for marriage but that God permitted divorce to prevent man’s sinfulness leading to even greater evil than divorce.  The times of the Old Testament were a male dominated culture.  Male domination was never God’s plan but the result of the fall.  The headship of the husband was God’s plan and was part of creation.  There is a big difference between a demanding dictator and a loving leader.  But in the culture of the OT, male domination was the norm.  In surrounding nations, men could treat their wives basically however they wanted.  In their sinfulness, this lead to men neglecting and abusing their spouses. God said this evil must not be true of His people, if a man was going to abuse and neglect his wife, the wife was to be free to go, and because she was given a certificate of divorce she would be free to remarry without accusation of wrongdoing.  God allowed divorce in the Old Testament to protect women in a male dominating society.  I don’t think Jesus’ point is to stop protecting women but to stop the practice of a man divorcing his wife for trivial reasons.  The only biblical grounds for a man divorcing his wife is adultery, but this not undo the fact that a woman who is being abused is free to remove herself from that abuse through ending the marriage, and, if God permits to marry in the Lord.  Again, not everyone will agree with me here, so you need to prayerfully study the Bible to gain God’s thoughts on the issue so that you can speak relevantly and Biblically but not emotionally to others.

Let’s turn these around.  If these three things are grounds for divorce, doesn't it make sense that God wants the very opposite of these things to characterize the marriages of His people?  Instead of marriages characterized with adultery, God wants marriages characterized by absolute faithfulness that displays the faithfulness of Jesus to the world.  Instead of marriages characterized by abandonment, God wants marriages characterized by sacrificially meeting one another’s needs.  Instead of marriages characterized by abuse, God wants marriages characterized by lovingly protecting and providing for one another.


IV.               Forgiveness of all sin, including sexual and marital sin, is available through Jesus.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold the new has come.  2 Cor. 5:17

I said I don’t want anyone leaving this morning feeling condemned but rather convicted to embrace God’s plan for marriage more deeply.  It is interesting that Jesus speaks differently to self-righteous religious leaders than he does to those who have experienced the pain of divorce and the sin of adultery.  To the woman at the well who had been divorced 5 times and then was living with a man who was not her husband, Jesus offers living water – healing and eternal life in Him and calls us her to a fresh life of worship from that day forward.  To a woman who was caught in the act of adultery and then thrown on the ground before Jesus while being encircled by religious leaders, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

No matter what your past has been, Jesus offers forgiveness, new life, and healing in Him.  If you have committed marital or sexual sins, I plead with you, repent of those sins and commit to live this day forward in obedience to God and for His glory in every area of your life including your marriage.  There are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom.  If you have been injured by the marital and sexual sins of others, know that in His time, God brings healing, allowing us to forgive, and live life with His fresh blessing and joy upon our life.


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