First, no matter what one thinks about divorce,
it is important to remember Malachi 2:16 where it is written, “I hate divorce,” says the Lord Almighty. According to the Bible, marriage is a lifelong commitment. “They are no longer two, but one body. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6). God realizes, however, that because two sinful people are involved in a marriage, divorce is bound to happen. In the Old Testament, God made certain laws to protect the right to divorce, especially regarding women (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Jesus says that these laws were given because of the hardness of men’s hearts and not because of God’s will (Matthew 19:8).
The debate over whether divorce and remarriage are permitted according to the Bible revolves around Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. The phrase “except for adultery” is the only thing in Scripture that gives God’s permission for divorce and remarriage. Many interpreters understand this “exception clause” as referring to “adultery” during the “commitment to marriage” period.
However, the Greek word translated “marital fornication” is a word that refers to adultery or any form of sexual immorality. It means fornication or fornication, prostitution, adultery, etc. Jesus may be saying that adultery is a divorce. Sexual intercourse is an integral part of the marriage bond: “They are one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31). Therefore, breaking the marriage bond through extramarital sex may be considered as a permissible reason for divorce. If so, then Jesus has remarriage in mind in this passage. The phrase “marry another” (Matthew 19:9) indicates that divorce and remarriage are permitted in an example of an exception clause, As if turning it upside down. It is important to note that only the innocent party is allowed to remarry. Although not mentioned in this passage, God’s permission to remarry after divorce is a grace for him or her against whom sin has been committed, but not for the adulterer. There may be instances where the “fate party” is allowed to remarry, but such a notion is not taught in this passage.
One cites 1 Corinthians 7:15 as another “exception” to allowing remarriage if an unbeliever divorces a believing spouse. However, this reference does not refer to remarriage itself but simply states that a believing spouse is not forced to remain in the marriage relationship if the unbelieving spouse chooses to leave. Others claim that abuse or adultery (husband, wife or child) are valid grounds for divorce, although the Bible does not state this. This may very well be the case, but it is never wise to take undue advantage of God’s Word.
Sometimes lost in the debate over the exception clause is the fact that, whatever the meaning of “marital infidelity or adultery,” it is an exemption to a divorce, not a requirement for a divorce. Despite committing adultery, a couple can, by God’s grace, forgive and rebuild their marriage. Surely we can follow his example and forgive even the sin of adultery (Ephesians 4:32). However, in many instances, one spouse continues to commit adultery without repenting. Matthew 19:9 may have been used there. Many even seek remarriage too soon after divorce when God may have intended them to remain single. God sometimes calls a person to be single so that his mind is not divided (1 Corinthians 7: 32-35). Remarriage may be an option after divorce in some circumstances, but that does not mean it is the only option.
It is unbelievable that the divorce rate of believers in the world is the same as that of non-believers. The Bible makes it clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that reconciliation and forgiveness should be the goals of believers’ lives (Luke 11:4; Ephesians 4:32). However, God knows that things like divorce will happen, even among His people. A divorced believer or a remarried believer should not feel shortchanged by God, even if their divorce or remarriage does not fall under the acceptable exception clause of Matthew 19:9. God often uses the sinful disobedience of believers to do great good.