Sermon on the Mount: Jesus Teaches about Divorce

I pray God will show you his heart through this study.

Matthew 5:31-32, “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”


  • The Jewish religious leaders and Scribes were taking Moses’ law and twisting it into what they wanted and believed to be true (Deut. 24:1-4). Moses did not command divorce but he permitted it. Wiersbe explains, “He commanded that the husband give his ex-wife a legal bill of divorcement. But the wife could not return to her first husband after being remarried and divorced.” This made couples reevaluate their relationship and think twice before divorcing.
  • In first century Jewish law there were two schools of thought: Shammai and Hillel. The school of Shammai was strict and severe and the school of Hillel was more liberal and broad-minded. William Barclay explains, “To the school of Shammai there was no possible ground of divorce except only adultery and unchastity. On the other hand the school of Hillel said a man could divorce his wife if she spoiled his dinner by putting too much salt in his food, if she went in public with her head uncovered, if she talked with men in the street, if she was troublesome or quarrelsome, etc.”
  • Jesus was seeking to deal with the situation of moral depravity and the corruption of the structure of family life. God’s view of divorce is stated in Malachi 2:16, “‘For I hate divorce!’ says the LORD, the God of Israel. ‘To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,’ says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. ‘So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” God made man to leave his family to be joined to a wife and they become as one (Mt. 19:5). “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” (Mt. 19:6) Men in those days were using any and every excuse they could to get rid of their first wives. Jesus was clearing up and dealing with those who practiced divorce for their selfish desires.

The Sanctity of Marriage

  • God’s intention for marriage was for husband and wife to never break their bond. This is an illustration of God’s love for his people and his union with them. Wiersbe gives us 4 characteristics of marriage: 1) It is a divinely appointed union; no court of law can change what God has established 2) It is a physical union; the man and woman become one flesh 3) It is a permanent union; God’s original design was that one man and one woman to spend one life together. 4) It is a union between one man and one woman; Group marriages, gay marriages and other variations are contrary to the will of God, no matter what psychologists or jurists may say.
  • Jesus gives only one reason to divorce. Matthew 19:9 says, “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery – unless his wife has been unfaithful.” This does not mean that divorce should be quickly sought out as an option when a spouse is unfaithful. The Life Application Study Bible explains further, “The word translated “unfaithful” implies a sexually immoral life-style, not a confessed and repented act of adultery. Those who discover that their partner has been unfaithful should make every effort to forgive, reconcile and restore their relationship.”
  • D. A. Carson gives us some perspective when it comes to marriage and divorce in this day and time. “It used to be that divorce was a problem rarely found in evangelical circles. To our shame, that is no longer the case. Our society, including many professing Christians, has rejected biblical conceptions of both love and marriage. Love has become a mixture of physical desire and vague sentimentality; marriage has become a provisional sexual union to be terminated when this pathetic, pygmy love dissolves.” He definitely does not sugar coat it. But we need to hear the straight-up truth. He goes on to describe the beautiful biblical perspective of marriage. “In God’s Word, marriage and love are for the tough-minded. Marriage is commitment; and, far from backing out when the going gets rough, marriage partners are to sort out their difficulties in the light of Scripture. They are to hang in there, improving their relationship, working away at it, precisely because they have vowed before God and man to live together and love each other for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness as in health, until death separates them. Love is the determined commitment to seek the other’s good, to cherish, shelter, nurture, edify, and show patience with one’s partner. And this commitment, worked out because of deep-rooted obedience to God, brings with it the emotional and sentimental aspects of love as well. Amen.
  • God truly wants the best for us and marriage is something that represents his true intimate love for us.

If we build a marriage after God’s ideal pattern, we will not have to worry about divorce laws. -Wiersbe


2 thoughts on “Sermon on the Mount: Jesus Teaches about Divorce

  1. I am definitely stealing Carson’s “pygmy love.” John Donne calls it “dull, sublunary lovers’ love,” but nobody ever gets it when I quote him…lol.

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