Matthew 5:31-32

31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’

32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

I made some notes on these verses from other commentaries, but everything I wrote down is covered comprehensively by Stam.

Few people are aware of the fact that the subject of marriage, divorce and re-marriage also has a dispensational aspect. God’s original instructions regarding marriage (Genesis 2:24) were amended — by God — as time passed and circumstances changed.

Under the Law

Under the Mosaic Law it was comparatively easy for a man to procure a divorce. In certain cases if he merely did not “delight” in his wife he could dismiss her (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). Indeed, under the Law it was possible for any man to divorce his wife merely because she found “no favor in his eyes” because he had found some “uncleanness” (Lit., something offensive) in her (Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In that case the husband merely had to write “a bill of divorcement” (stating the reasons why he did not wish to keep her) and then “give it unto her hand and send her out of his house.”

It must not be overlooked, however, that the reason for these laws on divorce is clearly given by our Lord in response to the Pharisees’ question, “Why did Moses then command to give her a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” 

“He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8).

Under the Kingdom Program

Under the program of the kingdom there was only one justification recognized for divorce. This was adultery: “And I say unto you. Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery” (Matthew 19:9).

Unquestionably this has a dispensational significance, for Jehovah was about to divorce His wife, Israel, for adultery, and call her “Lo-ammi,” “not My people” (Hosea 1:2, 9). In the light of much Old Testament prophecy and the record of the book of Acts, Jehovah and Israel are now divorced and estranged. But they will be reconciled and reunited when He returns to earth as Israel’s Deliverer at the close of the Great Tribulation (see Isaiah 62:4-5; Zephaniah 3:17; Romans 11:26-27).

Under Grace

Under the present “dispensation of the grace of God,” however, there is no Scriptural ground for obtaining a divorce. The command is: “Let not the wife depart from her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:10), and conversely the husband from his wife (v.11). Realizing the great pressures that sometimes bring on divorces, and recognizing the fact that some will depart from their mates regardless of the Scriptures involved, he continues: “But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And [i.e., and likewise] let not the husband put away his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:11).

Thus the married person who is unhappy and seeking a divorce, should ponder the consequences a thousand times, for the person who obtains a divorce is prohibited by Scripture from ever marrying again.

We realize that there are technicalities involved as to which party did the “departing” (i.e., who was really responsible for the divorce), the matter of contesting the divorce suit, the question of the unsaved mate, etc. 1 Corinthians 7 sensibly answers these and other questions, but the basic imperative for the dispensation of grace is clear: Nowhere in Paul’s epistles do we find any justification for departing from one’s mate or for obtaining a divorce. Grace will forgive the erring partner and show him the love of Christ. — Stam, pages 107-110.

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