20 Jan 2019
Jesus said that in marriage, "they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. ” God's design since the Garden of Eden is that marriage is for life and any separation will bring great pain and misery. Divorce is also a difficult subject to deal with because there is a great diversity of views as to what qualifies for divorce and remarriage, even amongst Christian leaders. Nevertheless, the words of Jesus in this passage regarding divorce are most precious and worthy of your attention. Whether you are grappling with divorce or helping someone with this issue, we hope this sermon will be helpful for you.
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Let me begin this morning sermon with a simple story. A Sunday school teacher wanted to teach the children about animal cruelty, or cruelty to animals. And so she took out a picture, a picture of a cat that was pulled at both ends. One boy was pulling at the cat's head, the other boy was pulling at the cat's tail. And so, she showed this picture to the class and asked the class, “What Bible verse will describe the picture you see?
Everyone was silent, like you guys. And then one boy shot his hand up and said, “Teacher, I know. The verse is, ‘What God had put together, let not man put asunder.’” This boy is smart! It is true that it is God who puts the cat's head and the cat's tail together. It's one animal. It's one creature. It's one flesh. It's one organism. And you are not supposed to pull them apart. And if you try to pull the cat apart, it will be bloody, it will be painful, it will be gory, it will be cruel.
But we all know that, that verse in Matthew chapter 19, is not a verse applied to cats, it's a verse applied to marriage. You see, God tells us that, “Marriage is a relationship of one flesh.” Where a man leaves his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife. They two shall become one flesh.
And in the eyes of God, this one flesh, one creature, one entity should not be torn apart. If you tear a marriage apart, like you tear a cat apart, it will be bloody, it will be gory, it will be painful and it is extremely cruel. And that's why today we see so much pain and misery when marriages fail and when people go through divorce.
I was at Vivo City, just this weekend, in the new library there. The new public library. It's a wonderful place! And there's this new setup facility that allows you to sit in a comfortable port. They give you this wonderful ear phones and there are some video selections for your learning. I got onto it with my sons, they were watching some insects things and hero things. And I was looking at a video on marriage.
And I can't remember who the speaker was, on the TEDx Talk and he did say, “That there are some traumatic events in a person's life but ranking right up at number two, if I'm not wrong, number two in a most traumatic event in any man's life, is that of divorce. It is extremely painful to go through a divorce, especially when it is no fault of yours in some cases.
Maybe like myself, you are surrounded with people, having gone through divorce or are going through the process of divorce. I don't wish it for anyone of you. But that is a common reality today. Divorce is painful and the sad thing is that it is a growing trend all across the world., people are going to divorce more and more readily and easily.
One in three marriages in Singapore ends up with divorce. One in two marriages in the United States ends with divorce. So, this is a difficult subject because some of you have gone through this painful process. And now it feels like reopening this wound. This is also a difficult subject because there are various views even amongst Christian teachers and leaders with regards to what allows a man to divorce.
I will show you some examples, for example, Tertullian. He lived about 1900 years ago, is a someone lived very long time ago. He's a Christian man and to 2 million believed that no marriage is or remarriage is possible, even after your spouse dies. So, if you're married to one man and if he dies you are to remain single, no remarriage allowed.
Then you have someone later, like Jerome. He says, “You can divorce, but you cannot remarry as long as your spouse is still alive.” You can if he dies, but if he's alive, you can't.” So, there's a little difference already between Tertullian and Jerome.
And then Augustine, you might have heard of his name. He said, “Divorce is permissible, but there is no remarriage, even after death.” He agrees with Tertullian.
Then you jump ahead about a thousand years because from these 420 and onwards, it's about thousand years of dark ages. You can Google what that means. So, we jump ahead to Zwingli's time in about 1500. He says, “Adultery in Matthew 5 was intended only as one example, and not the most serious one, to which could be added other legitimate causes for divorce such as abandonment, endangerment of life and insanity.” So, Zwingli is a bit more liberal. He says, “Yah, you can divorce. And I will add to adultery, other reasons like abandonment and so on.”
Next, you have Martin Luther. You might have heard of his name. He believes adultery was the only cause given by Jesus. But there are other reasons not given by Jesus that are legitimate to him as well. Like, desertion of spouse and family and also things like continual conflict and hatred. So if there's continual hatred, conflict in your home that might be a just cause for divorce according to Luther. So, it's even wider now.
You have, John Calvin, one of the respected writers, commentators, in our church history. Like Luther, Calvin saw adultery as the one cause for divorce in the teachings of Jesus. He believes Jesus taught this, when you have committed adultery. The other may be allowed to divorce, but he also adds on other things. He also says, “If an unbeliever wishes to divorce a spouse on account of religion, the believer is no longer under marital obligation. In such a case, the unbelieving party makes a divorce with God rather than with her partner.”
So, he believes that if your spouse who is a non-Christian, says he wants to leave this marriage, can be annulled but in his practice he actually allows for more than these reasons. We see here, he has three grounds for divorce and remarriage other than adultery, impotence, extreme religious incompatibility and abandonment.
Very interesting! They are all are so different! By the way, I list all this not for you to memorize. I, I, I myself don't remember these things. I just want to share, allow you to appreciate the great diversity of views with regards to divorce and remarriage, even among Christian leaders, alright!
Then you have William Tyndale, from which you get the Tyndale Bible. He says, “Only in the case of adultery was divorce permitted.” He viewed adulteress, the adulteress as being someone under death penalty in the Mosaic law and therefore the first is not bound to her anymore and is able to remarry, so only adultery.
Likewise, for John Wesley, he did not allow divorce on the grounds of cruelty. He allowed remarriage for the innocent party that was cheated on.
Now, who is right? Very hard, right? Who would you follow? Difficult to tell. So therefore this subject is not easy to deal with because it's emotionally very difficult and there are also many, many controversial views and variances in this subject.
So, it will be probably easier for us to skip this altogether and say, “Let's move on. No one can really agree about it and we should just move to something more concrete.” In other words, turn a but, blind eye to this and pretend you don't have this problem.
However, having been in this church for quite some time and in full-time ministry for some time now, I realized, divorce and remarriage is a real problem that real people struggle with. And I think it is a growing problem. When I first came to Gospel Light 20 over years ago, there has been no talk of such problems or at least it was not surfaced.
Now, it is a it is a scary reality, we are constantly having to grapple with! There are real people with real issues; real questions. For example, some of you are divorcees, you have already divorce your spouse. And then only after that you came to know Jesus as your Saviour.
So now, as a divorced person and as a divorced woman, as a divorced man, you ask yourself, you ask people, “What should I do? Am I to go back to my former spouse? Am I allowed to remarry?” These are questions you have and these questions must be answered, don't you think?
I know some today who are betrayed by their spouse. Your spouse has been unfaithful to you and you're wondering, should I divorce? Can I divorce? Is there a difference if my spouse is habitually in adultery versus a one time, unfaithful event? What do you say to that? Some of you have a case where you are in an abused relationship. Your husband abuses you physically or emotionally with words. Are you allowed to divorce? Are you allowed to split and to leave him?
Or maybe some of you have your spouse passed away and you're wondering should I remarry? Can I remarry? So these are real people, with real situations today and the purpose of this message is to be helpful.
I understand, look at the diversity of views. I understand you may hold a different view from what is being taught this morning. We can all respect that. But I aim only to be helpful for you, alright? So, I'm going to share with you the Bible's teachings as I understand it. And I pray God will make this meaningful and helpful for your life.
The best place, the best way to understand about God's will with regards to divorce and remarriage is always not necessarily to hear from Calvin or Luther or Zwingli, but to hear from Jesus, isn't it? So, we are going to consider Jesus' teaching on divorce and remarriage, very succinct, just some seven verses there. But it gives us a whole wealth of understanding.
Let me read these verses to you, you have already read it just now, but very quickly the Bible says, “The Pharisees came up to Him and tested Jesus by asking, “Is it lawful, is it all right, is it permissible to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh, what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Or in the King James Bible, “Let not man put asunder.”
“They then said to Him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, because of your hardness of heart, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, “Whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality and marries another commits adultery.” [Matt 19:3-9]
So, let me try to address this subject in a very simple way. Looking at this text, first thing I want you to observe, together with you is the distortion of God's intent for marriage. The distortion that the people have come up with, with regards with marriage.
The Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” That is a problem! That is the distortion! They are practicing and allowing divorce to be on grounds for any kind of reason. They are divorcing for any reason they like. In fact, if I, if you study those historical records, tradition, they will tell you that a Jewish man can divorce his wife for reasons such as her wife or his wife speaking badly about his mother. So, the wife speaking badly about mother-in-law, the husband doesn't like it, he says, “I am going to divorce you.”
Another reason that is commonly listed is: this wife has been found talking to other men. And husband doesn't like it, “I divorce you.” Another reason listed is: that this wife cooked a meal and she burns his meal, the husband doesn't like it and divorces his wife.
So literally, the Jewish man in those days can divorce his wife for any kind of reason. The only thing they need to do is to make sure they write a certificate of divorce. What is this? We will come to that later. But the problem is that they're divorcing in a carefree and careless way.
Now, things have not changed very much actually, people still do that. We live in a day where we observe people divorcing for any cause too. For example, a few years ago, I read how in Beijing, divorce rates soared. Why? Because there's some loopholes in property tax with regards to how people are married or not. So, in order to pay less tax, they get divorce. Well, as long as it suits me, I divorce. I can divorce for any reason.
I read again, in our social media, sometime ago, divorce after three hours of marriage. Well, people divorce for any cause. So this is the problem! This is the distortion! And this is what they came to Jesus to ask, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” “This is what's happening. Jesus, what do you think?” If they asked me, I'll be very quick to say, yes or no, right, maybe you too.
But I found something interesting about the way Jesus answers questions, He usually doesn't address, answer a direct yes or no because He knows they're trying to trap Him. He knows they are to trying to catch Him. And so, He very wisely doesn't immediately answer yes or no, but He tells them about God's design for marriage. He doesn't quite address first the issue of divorce, but He brings them to an understanding of what is God's original plan.
And this is how He answers. Have you not read? Didn't you know? Have you not read that He who created them and so and so forth? In other words, “ler bo tut chek ah” [you are not schooled in hokkien dialect] “ler hmm chai ah” [you don’t know in hokkien dialect]. That's, that's the way he would have asked or answered.
Don't you know? I mean that is not a bad question, it's a good question. Why? Because the Jewish community grows up on reading the Bible, the males in particular. They, they grow up, memorizing the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. So certainly, this is a valid question. You asked me this question, “Is it often, is it lawful to divorce for any cause?”
I ask you, “Have you never read the Bible? Have you never read Moses? Didn't you read that when God created man and woman, he said this to them, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast, hold, hold tight to his wife and the two shall become one flesh?”
“So they are no longer two but one flesh, what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” What is God's, what is Jesus' point? No divorce. No separation. And he bases it on Scripture. He bases it on Genesis 2:24, they are one flesh and like a cat you don't split them apart, you don't split a marriage apart. It is not God's intent for marriage.
In fact, the Bible is very explicit that God hates divorce. In Malachi chapter 2:16, “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord God of Israel, he covers his garment with violence”. So, it's a hateful sin. It is a terrible thing to do if you should hate your wife and divorce your wife. That is not God's plan at all! So, what is Jesus saying? No divorce.
Now the Pharisees wouldn't take this easily. So, they came back with a counter question. They said to Him, “Why, aah, you said cannot, no divorce. Jesus, are you contradicting our great leader, Moses? Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” This is the crux. Because if Jesus is contradicting Moses, they know that Jesus is not the Son of God. That's what this trap is all about.
“Now Jesus, you answer, why did Moses give this command, to write a certificate of divorce?” If you say, “That Moses was wrong then you have just discredited yourself because we follow Moses.” So what is this all about? Is this true in the first place? Is there something called a certificate of divorce commanded by Moses?
Well, it is spoken of in Deuteronomy, chapter 24:1. Yes, Moses did, did write about it. In fact, God did tell Moses to write about this. “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, he writes her a certificate of divorce and can send her away”.
So it is there. Moses did talk about the certificate of divorce. Now, notice that this certificate of divorce is a formal kind of indication and letter that one writes to say, “One wants to divorce his wife.” But the condition here is when he finds some indecency in her. What is this indecency? I think this is something that is filthy, dirty not worthy, something that should not be spoken of. Why? Because later on this same word is found in the same chapter talking about excrement.
You say, “What is excrement?” Maybe I shouldn't say it here? A bit of a, eee [disgusting] word but don't ask me to use Hokkien to explain what this is. But you know what it is, right? So, when you when you can word indecent or indecency it refers to something that is filthy, smelly, ugly, unworthy, alright!
So, in this case it is that the husband has found something unworthy. Maybe something immoral in his wife. He doesn't want to forgive her and he wants to put her away. You ask, “Pastor, is it that she is found or she is caught in adultery?” “Is it because she is sleeping with another man?” The answer is no. It is not about adultery. Why? Because if a woman, a married woman is caught in adultery, she is not going to get a divorce, she is going to die, that's the Mosaic law. If a man is found lying with the wife of another man both of them shall die. The man who lay with the woman and the woman.
So when you look at indecency, it is not so much full blown adultery but something immoral, indecent unworthy that has been committed. The husband does not want to forgive her, the husband wants to divorce her. So, this certificate of divorce is now required. Get that? But the certificate of divorce is for the man to think twice, thrice. Why? Because if he really decides to put her away, write this certificate, sends it to her, she goes out and marries another man. And later on the husband says, “Aiyah, I miss my Jane ah. Aiyah, I miss Jane and I want Jane back. Let's go get Jane back.” The answer is, you can never do that the husband who has sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife.
So this certificate of divorce is given to formalize things, to make the man think twice and thrice, so that he knows he cannot enter into this carelessly. So, let me put it this way, Jesus now explains, “The reason why Moses had to give this clause, why God would command Moses to give this clause, is not, is not that God wants you to divorce. But because you are so hardened in your heart, that you would have gone ahead to divorce anyway, that now God puts in this stipulation to hinder you, to discourage you, to warn you. That if you, if you should divorce your wife, you can never have her back. So think thrice.”
In Singapore, if you want to go through abortion, you have to watch a video. Do you know that? You are mandated to watch a video on abortion, that process and what happens to the foetus. Now, why does the government make women going through abortion, watch a video on abortion. Why? Oh, because the government wants us to understand abortion to have more abortion? Is that the government's intent?
No, the government's intent is so that you may be discouraged from abortion. Now, you might have just gone ahead to do it anyway. So, we might as well have this stipulation to say, “Look at this, watch this perhaps you may repent and not do so.”
Now, it's the same with the certificate of divorce. The certificate of divorce command is not to say, “Go, oh, ahead and divorce as long as you give the certificate to us.” But it is to say, “Please re-consider your willingness to or your desire to divorce your wife. There are consequences to it, think thrice.” The reason why Moses gave it was not because God has changed His original design for marriage but because they are so hardened in sin that this is meant to hinder and discourage them.
Principle remains. It has never changed, 6,000+ years ago till today. God's will for marriage remains the same. Nothing's changed! What God has put together let no man put asunder. So in a chronological fashion, this is God's plan. In the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve are made, God said, “You two shall become one flesh.” Implicit to it, no divorce, hold tight to your wife. Never let her go. Never let her go. Clear? Never let her go.
But sin came in after the institution of marriage and now man's heart is depraved, corrupt, wicked and self-centred. And men became harsh on their wives. Men became cruel to their wives, men will just abandon their wives. And so in order to discourage that, God said to Moses, “Now, if men are frivolous in doing that, then make them at least have to face the certificate of divorce, but this is really to put a check on their hardened hearts and not to gain give them speed for their hardened hearts. So if there should be any indecency, you really want to divorce, you need to have this certificate.”
But when it came to the time of the Pharisees, this has been so corrupted. This has been so misunderstood. This has been so mis-taught. That now, with wicked twisted hearts, people say, “I will thank God for the certificate of divorce, as long as I sign this paper, I can divorce for any cause I like.” No wonder Jesus says, “From the beginning it was not so. Marriage is permanent! It is for life!” So, I want you to realize that the difficulty of understanding a passage like this did not come from God. It really came from man, Moses’ time. The Jewish people, the Jewish people during Pharisees time because of our wicked hearts. But what Jesus did is to restore God's will to the original plan, bring it together, and that is the clarity He gave us.
So the design for marriage - one flesh, what God has put together let no man separate. Is it true that I can divorce my wife for any cause? Of course not! God's will from the garden, in the book of Genesis is permanence. What about the certificate of divorce? Well, Moses was not wrong but you have totally misunderstood Moses’ intent. You've corrupted it to be an excuse for your divorce, when it is meant to dissuade you from your divorce. You guys have absolutely got it wrong!
Now, Jesus being a masterful teacher, I think, must have swept away all opposition now. But He did in this passage nonetheless, in the last verse, in verse nine, give us a cause for dissolution or the dissolving of marriage.
I think it's akin to indecency in Deuteronomy 24, because of the hardness of human heart. Whilst it is never God's intent for marriage to be dissolved, yet because of the hardened hearts of men and sin of man, there is that allowance when it comes to adultery. Because He says, “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality and marries another commits adultery. “
So the very simple way of understanding this verse is - if I divorce my wife, I commit adultery. If our wives commit adultery, and I choose, now I should not choose to immediate leave, immediately leave I think, but if I do choose to leave and marries another, I'm not guilty of adultery. Why? Because she first committed that adultery, so I think that's the exception clause, that Jesus gave. Not just here but Matthew chapter 5:32, “I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife except on the ground of sexual immorality.” So, this is the allowance.
This immorality is pretty close, I think to the idea of indecency in Deuteronomy 24. Not that we should but we can. It's interesting that God Himself also divorces Israel. It's an explicit statement given in Jeremiah 3:8, “She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce.” Wow, wow, for what reason? All her adulteries.
So I think this is a commonly held view. Yes, there are different views as I've mentioned from the beginning. But I think a vast majority today, would understand the exception clause and say, “Whilst adultery is not when, when there's adultery, it does not mean that you have to divorce. But, if you do choose to do so, you will not be guilty of adultery when you put away your spouse.”
Now, there's another reason why, now, we have moved from the teachings of Jesus already, but from other passages of the Bible, God also says that it is permissible for previously married man to now remarry. Do you know what reason? A previously married woman to now remarry. What other reason can there be, besides adultery? When your spouse dies. That's right! You're spot on!
So Roman 7:2-3 tells us, “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.” Can she remarry? Can. “Accordingly, she would be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive, but if her husband dies, she is free from that law and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”
So, if you're married to a man and you want to divorce him and not be guilty of adultery, there's a very simple way - kill him. Because when he dies you are freed from the law of marriage. Only problem is that you will be guilty of murder. You choose, alright!
But if you kill him, you're no more under this law of marriage, you're free to remarry again. Again, his is taught also in 1st Corinthians 7:39, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives, but if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” Good principle, you marry only a fellow brother, believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So divorce and remarriage I think is permissible, not required, not commanded, in the case of adultery. It's permissible in the case of the death of a spouse and there's one more reason. And that's found in 1st Corinthians chapter 7:15 “Then the unbelieving partner separates.”
So please note that this is when you are Christian and your spouse is not a Christian. This is not when you say to your spouse, “Ay, I'm a Christian, you're not Christian. I don't like you, I want to leave you.” Nope, it doesn't work that way! It must be from the initiation of the unbelieving spouse.
“So, if the unbelieving spouse wants to separate despite your best efforts then let it be so, in such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved, no more bound in the law of marriage, God has called you to peace.”
So I know it's long, it's complicated. So, let me summarize in five simple points. The concluding thoughts about these passages. Now, concluding doesn't mean my sermon is over. There are a few other things. But, just a summary of what we've gone through so far.
Number one, marriage is for a lifetime. Marriage is for a lifetime. There are exclusions, there are exception clauses. Don't get fixated on them, but be fixated about this clear concept, what God has put together, let not man separate.
Second point, divorce and remarriage is permitted but not required in adultery.
Third point, remarriage is permitted when one's spouse dies.
Fourth point, remarriage is permitted in abandonment by an unbeliever.
Number five, any other remarriages result in adultery and are not to be entertained.
These are the fundamental principles, I hope you can grasp. And if you get these principles in, then you will be able to deal with the various questions and situations of life. Let me try to illustrate with some case studies, FAQs or case studies.
Number one, I'm a Christian, but my spouse is not. Should I divorce my unbelieving spouse and try to find a believer to marry? Yes or no? I, I think some of you wish it's yes. “Ah, aiyah, can't stand this Ah Lau eh. I want to marry this, wah, look at this church guy, so good.” Oops! Wait a minute, can you do that? Well, the answer is very clear. No? Why? Why? Because I didn't show you these verses, I show it here. It's you don't even have to deduce, you don't even have to work from first principles. It is explicit!
1 Corinthians 7:12-13, “To the rest I say I, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her, if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.” Clear. No divorce. “But my husband not a Christian!” Stay there. “But my wife not a Christian!” Stay there, you cannot divorce him or her.
Why? “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband.” [1 Corinthians 7:14] In other words, your relationship with your husband brings blessings to your husband. Not that you're saved, means he is saved together with you like by diffusion and osmosis. Like you sleep together, your salvation just flood and flows over. No, it doesn't work that way!
But it does mean that when he or she watches your life, sees the way you are devoted to God, sees the purity of your life, is blessed, is encouraged, is come to that realization, is made to come to the realization that God is real and perhaps one day he himself will repent and believe in Jesus.
I think that's made a bit more is made clearer in 1 Peter chapter 3:1-2, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe the Word they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your life.”
So some of you say: I have a very difficult marriage. I'm a Christian, I want to come to church. My husband is not a Christian, he wants me to do a lot of other things. I don't want to submit to him. Well, this is the clear teaching of the Bible. No questions. Peter didn't say, “Wives submit yourself to believing, reasonable, kind, gentle, Christ-like husbands.” “Wives, submit to yourselves, submit yourselves to your husbands, even those who do not believe the Word.” Why? So that you can be a blessing to him, alright? So, case number one is simple.
Case number two: I'm a Christian, but my spouse who is not a believer, has left me and filed for divorce. What should I do? What should you do? I tell you what, throw a party! No, that's not what you should do. What should you do? If at all possible, seek to restore the marriage. However, if reconciliation is not possible, you're not obligated to remain in this marriage. Again, the verse, we have seen, if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved, God has called you to peace. [1 Cor 7:15]
Okay. Now, third scenario: I divorced my spouse for reasons that have no biblical basis, neither one of us have remarried. What should I do to demonstrate repentance and obedience to God's will? Very simple, you go back her, go back to him and you seek reconciliation so that you may be reunited in marriage to your former spouse. Admit your faults, confess your sins and ask forgiveness, want to reconcile. “To the married, the wife should not separate from her husband. But if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife [1 Cor 7:10-11] Alright, easy to say, I know hard to do.
Now, let's turn this situation around. What if your spouse is already remarried, you divorced him or her for a non-biblical reason. And now, he or she is remarried, what should you do? So that you yah, so that you may honour God, what do you do? Kill the other husband, is it? So that you can be reconciled? Well, you don't do that, of course.
Though divorce is a serious matter, it is not unforgivable. Confess your sin to your former spouse and ask forgiveness. From this time forward, now because he or she is already committed to another marriage your marriage bond is already in a sense, broken. You're released from the law. And I think you are free to remarry only in the Lord.
So, I think what is past cannot be undone unless you want to wait for the other spouse to die. Otherwise, from this point forward, commit to honour God's Word pertaining to marriage in your subsequent remarriage, if there should be one, alright?
Scenario number five, my spouse committed adultery. According to Matthew 5:32, I have grounds for divorce. Should I get a divorce, just because I can? I think the answer is very clear. I think of all the ways that we, as followers of Christ, commit spiritual adultery against God. God does not forsake us. His heart is always to forgive and reconcile us when we repent of our sin. So, I think we should and can extend this same grace toward a spouse. Divorce again is permitted but not required.
Okay so far, all these five situations I think are not so controversial, not so difficult. But number six, can I divorce based on spousal abuse? “Pastor, you see my ‘or che’ [blue black in hokkien dialect] here, I want to divorce him, you know.” Now, of course, it is not going to be so funny. It's going to be really difficult and terrible. So what would you say to someone who faces spousal abuse?
Now again, I understand that there are many people with different views on this. But okay, can I divorce based on spousal abuse? Yes? No? Simple. How many of you say, say, “Yes?” Wah, who so loud ah? How many of you say, “No?” A few more and of course, as usual, a lot don't know. So, I think this is difficult, because when I responded some years ago in a preaching, someone saw the video actually wrote in to me.
So anyway, let me tell you what my response is, I think the answer is no. Why? Because I don't find it in any passage of the Bible. If there is, let me know. But I don't find it in any corner of the Bible that God gives spousal abuse as an exception clause. I see that for adultery. I see that for the death of a spouse. I see that for abandonment by an unbeliever but I don't see that for spousal abuse.
Now, the person who heard me say, “No.” wrote to me. Because he said, “Pastor, you, you are not … you are cruel when you preach this, literally. Because he's a social worker and he has himself, personally journeyed with women who live in abusive relationships.
He says that “If they were to hear what I just preached and stay in that abusive relationship, they may just lose their life.” “Pastor, you don't understand. Jason, you don't understand what people have to go through. You can't teach this?”
I say to him, “I am saddened to hear how these women have to suffer and I wish very much that I could say something else. But I'm afraid, I'm not here to tell people what my opinions are. But I'm here simply to tell what, people, what the Bible has to say. And the Bible does not allow for divorce on spousal abuse.”
However, I said to him, “That does not mean that the woman then is to continue to be in that environment, subjecting herself to the dangers that may be posed her life”. So, I say to him, “No, we, we, we say yes, the, the relationship, the marriage is to remain but that does not mean she continues to put herself in that environment.” So, what we believe is that you must practice redemptive separation.
What is that all about? Well, it means in order to prevent harm to yourself and greater sin from your spouse, you may have to live apart from him or her for a period of time. But you still see him as your husband and you still pray for him. And you are still looking forward to the day that you can be reconciled.
Sure he needs help, you need help. Sure, he needs to recover. He needs to have a grip of his anger management, he, he, he, you may need a protection order, whatever that may be. But you should not say, “Because he abused me, I call it quits.” Because a marriage is for a lifetime, and God did not give an exception clause herein.
Now, I have, I'm, I'm not abused by Winnie so I can't say, “I'm in your shoes, but I think God knows what you go through and I think His Word is always to be honoured regardless of the cost.”
So I think these are the various scenarios that the principles of the Bible may help you navigate. I want to say that so far we are saying, “No divorce, no divorce, no divorce, don't do it, don't do it, don’t do it.” But I'm saying also that just because we say, “Don't do it. It doesn't mean it will not happen to you. It may.” Because if your spouse is so insistent that he wants or she wants a divorce, there really is nothing you can do to stop him or her. And I hope that as a church we will be compassionate. And be willing to serve and to love and accept many who come from broken marriages. Since we have come to Punggol, I know many of you struggle as single parents.
Winnie and I, the two of us, we struggle with our two boys, with our lives. And I can't imagine how difficult and hard it is for a single mom to have to earn and to take care of the kids. It is extremely difficult. It is challenging! And not only that, society heaps upon you shame and fear and guilt. And I think the last place we should be that heaps. We should be the last people in the world to heap shame, fear and guilt on people struggling today.
I think about Jesus who reached out to the woman at the well. She was living in adultery, but Jesus loved her and reached out to her. I think about Jesus, who saw the woman caught in adultery and when everybody wanted to condemn her, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
I pray we will not be a pharisaical church to think of ourselves as better, just because I have a, I have a, my marital status is married. We, we are equally vulnerable to many, many sins and we all are strugglers. And I hope Gospel Light will be a church that teaches the truth. We want to help people know what is right and wrong. But when people struggle, we are not here to put them down but instead we are there to serve and to have compassion and to be a blessing. I hope we will be a church like that.
Now some of you say, “Pastor, you're so old-fashioned, so old-fashioned to teach this old-fashioned truths.” “I mean, why would a couple be married when they are unhappy? We should be modern. We should be advanced in our thinking.” We should say, “If you're not happy, just quit.” And I say to you, “Yes, I'm very old-fashioned. In fact, I am 6000 years old. 6000 over years ago in my thinking because this is a teaching since 6,000 over years ago in Genesis. God has not changed and we are still to be a people of the Bible.
You say, “Pastor, but why should I hang on and in an unhappy marriage?” Let me tell you why? Do you realize that God does not promise us that our marriages will always be happy? I don't see a promise like that. But I see in the Bible that God is always doing something to make us holy. All things work together for good to them that love God. What is good? That they may be conformed to the image of His Son. God is always working all things so that you may be holy. All things is all things, including painful, difficult things like your marriage.
So if you feel that you're stuck in an unhappy marriage. Well, remember this, God is working something good in your life. He's molding and shaping you through adversity, through difficulties, like as many things in life, through trials of life to make you more like Him.
I saw this post on social media, I thought I'll share with you. “Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness and yet become something beautiful.” I think God wants to do that in your life. If you today are in a difficult, unhappy marriage. May the love of God strengthen you and comfort you in your difficult journey through life.
So, this is a Gospel application to the marriage, we have looked at 3 sermons so far - the purpose, the priority, today is about the permanence of marriage. I show this so that next week, wives you will remember to bring your husbands. I'm pretty sure you will drag them here by all means, because it is what the husbands would need to hear. I need to be reminded of.
And I want to say to you, “As wives when you sit in and hear the sermon next week, I hope you sit in and listen with a right attitude. Don't sit in and listen and jot down the five point is “Ah lau eh, ler wu chobo [Dear, have you done these in hokkien dialect] “Number one, you cannot leh. Number two, you also cannot. Wah lau, you … you.” You just keep criticizing.
I say, “The right attitude is to come in listen and pray for your husband.” Don't talk too much. After service, don't talk too much. Just, just pray for your husband, alright? Don't ask him, how's the sermon ah? Just let it be. Pray for him because the next week, he will ask you the same questions, alright? The role of the wife.
Father, we want to thank You for this day, in a world where there's so many opinions and actually a lot of confusion about this subject, we see the clarity declared in the Bible. God forbids our hardened hearts to continue sinning against You. But call us today to repent and to obey, whatever our situation in our marital life may be. I pray for the healing of the homes and I pray for the obedience of Your people.
Dear Lord, we pray also for people here who do not know Jesus and they are really going through hard times in their marriage, with all these pain they are going through, You are speaking to them and You're calling them to realize that they need You. So, would You show them their utter helplessness. Show them their sinfulness and then draw them to Jesus. Cause them today, to repent of their sin and to believe in Jesus Christ, Your Son. Bless all gathered here. Lord, bless our homes, we give our homes to You. We pray all this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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More Episodes from Pastor Jason Lim:
18 Aug 2019
11 Aug 2019
04 Aug 2019
28 Jul 2019
21 Jul 2019
14 Jul 2019
07 Jul 2019
30 Jun 2019
Episodes from other sermons:
21 Apr 2019
19 Apr 2019
10 Mar 2019
30 Dec 2018
25 Dec 2018
23 Dec 2018
16 Dec 2018
09 Dec 2018