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Divorce, Remarriage and Honoring God

Now, think about that. What does that imply?

It is true that the Greek—that includes this text here—does not have a different word for husband and man or husband and male. So, it could be translated: You have had five men and the man you now have is not your man. But even if you translate it that way, it doesn’t make sense unless you distinguish this sixth man from those other five in some way, because he says: This is not your man. Those were your men. This is not your man. This is not your husband. Those were your husbands. What was the difference? Well, the only thing I know to suggest is that they had somehow formalized the relationship in a ceremony in which they took some promises to create the relationship that was known as marriage—or husband and wife. So, it seems Jesus put some stock in calling those five men real husbands different from five live-in boyfriends that she never married.

3) Here is the third one. Interestingly enough, I was talking this over with all the team of the Together for the Gospel guys, and I won’t say who said it, but one of them, I thought, very provocatively pointed this out: Jesus does use the verb marry for what they should not do and do when he is forbidding them from doing it. Let me show you what I mean. “Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32).

He doesn’t say whoever presumably marries or tries to marry. He says marries. He doesn’t say presumes to marry or tries to marry—as if, yes, this is a real marriage being created. It should not be created and it is like committing adultery when you enter it. He says a similar kind of thing in Mark 10.11–12″>Mark 10:11–12. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

So, if Jesus is willing to call wrongfully entered relationships marriages, then it seems to me that we should hold people to the expectations of holiness and permanence implied in the word marriage, till death do us part. I take the warning that remarriage involves adultery, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery,” not to mean that sexual relations in a wrongfully entered relationship can never be sanctified through repentance and forgiveness, but rather that an unholy relationship involves unholy sex until that relationship is newly consecrated to God through repentance and forgiveness. That relationship remains tainted at every level.

4) One last thought. If this seems strange that a prohibited relationship can become a consecrated and holy one, consider the example—and there are several in the Bible—of the kingship of Israel. The people came to Samuel in 1 Samuel 8:6–7 and said, “‘Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.’” And yet, in spite of this evil origin of this new relationship of king and people and God, God made the kingship an integral part of his plan for Jesus to come as the King of kings and Lord of lords and as the Son of David.

So, for those four reasons, examples, kinds of texts in the Scripture, I would appeal to those in a marriage they should not have entered to remain there and consecrate themselves by confession and repentance and consecration so that henceforth they will keep their sacred promises.  

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John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.