Nepaug Bible Church - - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes -

Matthew: Jesus As Israel's Messiah And His Kingdom
Part XI: Christ As Israel's Messiah By His Surpassing Righteousness
F. The Biblically Consistent Righteousness Of Christ's Subjects Regarding Divorce
(Matthew 5:31-32 et al.)
  1. Introduction
    1. When Jesus said that one's righteousness had to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees if he were to be a part of the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20), He had to clarify to His Hebrew listeners how that could be, for the Pharisees adhered to the principle of Halacha, "concern for every jot and tittle of performance" regarding the Mosaic Law, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, volume Four, p. 748.
    2. Matthew 5:21-7:6 provides many illustrations of Jesus' point, with Matthew 5:31-32 commenting on how His kingdom righteousness regarding divorce far surpassed the righteousness of the Pharisees as follows:
  2. The Biblically Consistent Righteousness Of Christ's Subjects Regarding Divorce, Matt. 5:31-32 et al.
    1. The rabbis of Jesus' era were divided into two schools on divorce: rabbi "Shammai held that a man could not divorce his wife unless he found her guilty of sexual immorality" where followers of rabbi "Hillel" allowed "divorce for many, including trivial, reasons," Ryrie Study Bible, KJV, 1978, ftn. to Matt. 19:3.
    2. However, divorce undermines the very sanctity of the home that the prohibition of adultery in the seventh of the Ten Commandments meant to protect (cf. Bible Know. Com., O. T., p. 140), so Jesus clarified how any divorce is itself a form of adultery that is forbidden in His Messianic Kingdom in Matthew 5:31-32:
      1. Continuing His address on the sin of adultery begun back in Matthew 5:27, Jesus added in Matthew 5:31 NIV that the Jews of His day taught that "(a)nyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce." The belief held Moses had called for divorce by his Deuteronomy 24:1-4 order.
      2. However, Moses did not there command divorce: the "then" clause does not begin in Deuteronomy 24:1b with " . . . then let him write her a bill of divorcement . . ." as in the KJV, but in Deuteronomy 24:4 with " . . . then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again . . ." as reads the NIV. Moses only tolerated divorce due to Israel's hardness of heart, but he commanded that if a man divorced his second wife, he could not rewed his first one!
      3. As divorce undermined the sanctity of the home that the Ten Commandments prohibition of adultery countered, Jesus said that he who divorced his wife "saving for the cause of fornication" caused her to commit adultery, and that whoever married her that was divorced committed adultery, Matthew 5:32.
      4. Now, this "exception clause" can not mean "except for sexual immorality" in a general sense, for that sin was punishable by death, which punishment would eradicate the need for a divorce, cf. Deut. 22:22.
      5. In addition, the Mark 10:11-12 report of Jesus' stand on divorce contains no such "exception clause," leading many to feel that there is a logical contradiction between Matthew and Mark on this subject.
      6. Yet, understanding the readership of these books removes the discrepancy and clarifies Jesus' idea:
        1. Matthew was written for the Jew (Ibid., Ryrie, p. 1337) and Mark for the Gentile, Ibid., p. 1397.
        2. Accordingly, the Jew defined three circumstances as "fornication" and bases for divorce that were unique to the Jew: (1) marriage between a Jew and a Gentile, requiring a divorce to keep Israel's Biblical lineage pure (Ezra 10:9-11); (2) marriage between close relatives in violation of the Law (Lev. 18:8) and (3) immorality during a betrothal period in violation of Jewish customs, Matt. 1:18-20. (Howard Hendricks, Christian Counseling For Contemporary Problems , 1968, p. 112-113)
        3. However, none of these circumstances apply to Gentiles: (1) no Gentile is under a divine order to marry within a particular people; (2) secular laws and not the Mosaic Law govern who a Gentile can even qualify to marry in regards to his relatives, and (3) a Gentile betrothal can be broken without divorce proceedings in contrast to ancient Jewish customs. Thus, Mark had no "exception clause," where Matthew's Gospel to the Jew needed to have the clause to meet the standards of Jews.
      7. Thus, these Jewish standards are unapplicable for us, so we ignore the "exception clause", and Jesus, like Paul (1 Cor. 7:10-11), unconditionally forbids divorce in order to guard the sanctity of the home.
Lesson Application: May we not commit adultery, nor the thought nor any act leading up to the act itself, and may we not practice divorce or divorce and remarriage to protect the sanctity of the home.