Remarriage And Matthew 19:9
1. Marriage is the “one flesh” union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24) “until death us do part” (Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39) such that remarriage when one’s spouse is living is adultery (Matthew 5:32; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3) This is also the position of the historic Christian church for its first 1500 years or so with barely a dissenting voice. It is the traditional view of Anglicanism and the Brethren, as well as that of the Protestant Reformed Churches (in America, Canada, N. Ireland and the Philippines) and many within the Dutch Reformed. It is also the conviction of people within Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist and other churches.
2. Matthew 19:9 is the only biblical verse which could, if taken all by itself, allow for the remarriage of the “innocent party” while his or her spouse is still living. However, this interpretation of the text is ruled out by the following three considerations.
a. It would contradict many other clear passages in the Word of God:
… whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery (Matthew 5:32).
Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery (Mark 10:11-12).
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery (Luke 16:18).
For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man (Romans 7:2-3).
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39).
b. It does not fit with the context. I have never heard anyone respond to the teaching that the “innocent party” may remarry while his or her spouse is still living as the disciples immediately did to Christ’s teaching: “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry” (Matthew 19:10).
The position that there is no remarriage (even for the “innocent party”) while his or her spouse is living frequently draws forth this cry. Similarly, Christ’s reply to the disciples’ protest makes perfect sense with the doctrine that no one may remarry while their spouse is living but not with the view that the “innocent party” may remarry while his or her spouse is living. Jesus states, “… there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Matthew 19:12). The Son of God points to divine illumination as enabling one to “receive” His teaching: “But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given … He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (vv. 11-12). This explains why some have difficulty accepting this truth of God’s Word. This is especially the case today for ours is an “adulterous generation” (Matthew 12:39; 16:4) like that which followed the scribes and Pharisees in the first century, many of whom taught “no fault divorce” (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9).
c. It is excluded by 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, where the Apostle Paul summarizes and states the teaching of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband …” Inspired Scripture here teaches two, and only two, options for a divorced woman (or man):
(1) remain unmarried or
(2) be reconciled to your spouse.
No third option, remarriage, is mentioned. Faithful to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5, Mark 10, Luke 16, and Matthew 19, Paul does not give permission to remarry while one’s spouse is living.
Thus the exception clause (“except it be for fornication”) is not an exception enabling remarriage (while one’s spouse is living) but an exception permitting divorce (after which clause it is added): “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:9).
3. The unbreakable bond of marriage is biblical teaching, laid down by God at creation (Genesis 2:24), declared by the Old Testament prophets (Malachi 2:10-16), and reaffirmed by Christ (Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18) and the New Testament apostles (Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39). It is a picture of the “great mystery” of the union of Christ and His elect church (Ephesians 5:32).
By Angus Stewart