This is a presuppostional apologetic of the permanency of marriage firmly rooted in the word of God. This apologetic will rely on the New Testament for accuracy. It is clear that Jesus often used the word of God to make His point. When I say that Jesus used the word of God, we refer to the Old Testament as the foundation of the Law. When we refer to Jesus, we refer to the One who fulfilled the Law and it was through Him that we have a better way to salvation. Men inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote both the Old and New Testament to give us complete revelation to God and His promises for humankind.
In Matthew’s Gospel, there are two instances Jesus addresses marriage. The first is at the Sermon of the Mount, and the second is His teaching in Judea beyond the Jordan River. He first addresses marriage and divorce on the Sermon of the Mount. This teaching is lumped in with many teachings that always point to the heart of men. Jesus speaks with authority by comparing to what the people know about the Law to what He has to say is the truth of the Law. Since He is the author of both the Old and New covenants, His teachings center on the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer and the Golden Rule. These are based on life in the spirit and not in the flesh.
Matthew 5:31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:32 But I say unto you, That 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.
In these two verses, we see two distinct proclamations. In verse 31 Jesus says… “It hath been said,”…Jesus is saying, “You heard it this way.” Or “You read this…Jesus always points to the word of God. In verse 32, Jesus says … “But I say unto you,.” This is a new commandment.
In verse 32, we have the most misused scripture in the entire Bible. “saving for the cause of fornication,”. What is most obvious is that this “exception clause” is not mentioned in the other two synoptic Gospels (Mark and Luke). If we apply this “exception” to a certain action, it contradicts other scripture. In addition, since this exception clause is not mentioned in Mark or Luke it may be because the exception clause was not applicable to the Romans and Gentiles. So the question must be answered…What is the “exception clause?”
The Greek word used in the “exception clause” is porneia. A common misconception is that this“exception clause” refers to sexual immortality within a consummated marriage. If this were the case, the Greek word for adultery would apply. Of course, one could say that any type of sexual immorality is grounds for divorce and porneia could still apply in a consummated marriage. If this is the case, then the exception clause should be applicable for the Romans and the Gentiles. However, both Mark and Luke exclude this exception.
Another important thing to note is this. In verse 32 of Matthew 5, we see Jesus says…whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. Adultery can ONLY be committed if a marriage is still valid. If a person “marries” a divorced woman, why would Jesus call this adultery and not sexual immorality/martial unfaithfulness/porneia? This verse itself explains that divorce NEVER ends a one-flesh marriage covenant.
We must be careful we do not take scripture out of context. If this “exception clause” is applicable for a certain instance, then we must not apply this as a dominating statement for the other Gospels. There needs to be clarity and if there is clarity, we must accept this as truth. Should the exception clause prove to be for a certain instance, then this would have significant consequences for those who remarried after a divorce. If this scripture does not offer a reasonable explanation for the other Gospel accounts, it would become a contradiction. Therefore, it is imperative that if the “exception clause” never refers to sexual immorality in a consummated marriage, then we must consider the many remarriages due to this case.
The apologetic for this scripture will show that Matthew corroborates with the other Gospels by explaining the difference between a Jewish betrothal and a consummated marriage of the Gentiles. Matthew’s account is only separate from the other two Gospels because of this “exception clause” showing that there is a distinct difference to the definition of “marriage” under Jewish customs compared to Romans and Gentile marriage customs. There is no exception clause in the other Gospels. This apologetic will make a case that this “exception clause” always applies to a betrothed Jewish couple. A great apologetic example found in the very same Gospel of Matthew. This is concerning the Jewish betrothal of Joseph and Mary, both Jewish descendants from the line of David.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused(betrothal marriage) to Joseph, before they came together,(consummated marriage) she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example,was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife(consummated marriage) for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not(Joseph vowed to consummate the marriage, but waited until AFTER Jesus was born)) till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
In verse 18, we see that Mary was “espoused” to Joseph. “When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph.” This word “espoused” refers to the Jewish betrothal. This is not unlike a modern day engagement the “exception” being a man and woman espoused in this Jewish culture were “husband” and “wife”. We know this was a betrothal because the words, “before they came together, indicate that the marriage was not yet consummated. In addition, Joseph did not consummate the marriage until after the Lord was born.
Matthew 1:24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him,and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
If we take notice here, Joseph takes Mary to be his wife even though she was pregnant. (vs. 24) This was an obvious marriage ceremony. Even though Joseph had the “right” to put Mary away quietly because she was not a pure virgin, he considered the dream (Matthew 1:20-23) and married her. The reason Joseph had the right to put Mary away is found in the law. (Deut 22:13-30)Under these laws, Joseph could prove that Mary was no longer a virgin by exposing her lack of virginity.
Deut 22:16 And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;
17 And, lo, hehath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.
18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him;
19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel:and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.
20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:
21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men ofher city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.
Regardless, Joseph had a dream that proved that Mary was with a child who was the Messiah. Thus, his taking Mary to be his wife despite her pregnancy was acceptable even under the law if it was proved Mary became pregnant under the law.
Deut 22:23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. 25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her:then the man only that lay with her shall die.26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death:for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
This Mosaic Law could certainly apply if Mary was raped in the city, and thus never cried out, she could lose her life. (Deut 22:23, 24) If someone believed Mary was raped in the country, only the one who raped her would die. (Deut 22:25-27)This says much about Joseph and his faith in God because the rumors someone may have raped a betrothed Mary, could make things difficult for them both. Regardless, Joseph showed compassion on Mary when many would not. Joseph was a just man. (Matthew 1:19)
The second instance of the “exception clause” in the book of Matthew of where Jesus talks about marriage and divorce is in Matthew 19. This scripture aligns with Mark’s account and the only exception is the “exception clause.”
Matthew 19:1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;
2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife:and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to puther away?
8 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.
9 And I say unto you, 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.
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
This exhortation mirrors what Mark wrote in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Mark. (Mark 10:1-12) The only exception is the “exception clause” in verse 9. It is important to note that as in Mark’s Gospel the Pharisees have no comment once Jesus makes His statement with authority. The disciples do see the severity of what Jesus is saying because their comment is that it is better not to marry. (vs. 10) Jesus also states that some will do whatever it takes for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. (v.12)
Something to consider is this, if Mark’s Gospel uses the “exception clause”, it may have caused confusion for the Romans who would believe that a person could divorce from a consummated marriage in the case of sexual immorality. Either way, Luke 16:18 makes no mention of the exception clause. In addition, if the “exception clause” refers to sexual immorality within a consummated marriage, this would contradict Mark 10:11,12; Luke 16:18, Romans 7:2,3; 1 Cor 7:10,11, 39.The case for the betrothal does not contradict other scripture and in fact, enhances the seriousness of a hardhearted decision to divorce. In addition, when we combine all what was written for the case of marriage, we have a complete picture for the permanency of marriage.
Matthew’s account is clear that the“exception clause” always refers to the betrothed couple and not a consummated marriage. Jewish Christians clearly understood the exception clause because it referred to Jewish betrothal. The three Gospels do not contradict each other and they each apply to those who needed to hear the clear words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke make a case that marriage is a one-flesh covenant binding until death that no man may put asunder.
It is also important to note that this popular and inaccurate “exception clause” creates confusion for those who were divorced and remarried, and for those who recognize divorce and remarriage. How does anyone know if a divorce or remarriage is legitimate? If someone divorced and remarried for other reasons beside this exception clause, how would we know?
An example of this confusion is a ficticious marriage of Joe and Mary:
Joe commits adultery with Sue. Joe’s wife Mary, seeks church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17), yet Joe remains in adultery and is impenitent. If Mary uses this “exception clause” as a means to divorce from Joe, she is telling Joe this:
Mary: “Joe is in adultery, and will not repent; Therefore, I will divorce him according to this “exception clause.”
Joe: “Mary divorced me, now the marriage is over and I can remain with Sue, AND get married to Sue.”
Those who believe that the “exception clause” is a valid excuse to divorce MUST believe this: Mary divorced Joe because he refuses to repent. Mary has the “right” to divorce and remarry because Joe is impenitent. Mary remarries Steve, a single man who never married. (However, Matthew 5:32 says that Steve must not marry Mary because she is divorced,…right?) Joe has NO “rights” to remarry, because he is in adultery. Joe cannot remarry anyone, and MUST remain single even after he repents,…right?
Is this what happens? No…this is what happens: Mary divorced Joe because he refuses to repent. Mary has the “right” to divorce and remarry because Joe is impenitent. Since Mary divorced and remarried, Joe believes his marriage with Mary is over. Joe seeks to marry Sue, and fortunately, for him, the church across the street believes that since his marriage with Mary is over because she divorced him and remarried someone else, Joe can marry Sue. In this case, Mary actually encourages Joe to remain in adultery because she commits adultery herself by entering a remarriage with Steve.
This SHOULD be the church’s response to Mary: “Mary, if you divorce Joe, you break the vow of your one-flesh marriage covenant to Joe before GOD, and, Joe will believe that his marriage is over with you and he will believe that he can continue in his sin. Joe will also believe that he can marry Sue. Mary, you must remain single in your covenant one-flesh marriage until Joe repents or dies less you cause him to remain in his adultery. If you divorce and remarry while Joe is still alive, you commit adultery against God and Joe. You also give Joe the green light to believe that because you divorced him, he can remain in his adultery with Sue and then marry Sue. You must have faith to believe Joe will answer to GOD for his impenitent heart”
[This SHOULD be the church’s response to Joe: “Joe, you have committed adultery against GOD and Mary because you are still in a one-flesh marriage covenant that you vowed to Mary before GOD. Therefore, you must remain single the rest of your days if you remain in your adultery, unless you repent of your sin. Your relationship with Sue is adultery an nothing more, and remains adultery unless you break the relationship, repent of your sins and reconcile to Mary. No church, pastor, minister, or justice of the peace will marry you to Sue because this “remarriage” is adultery, and they too would be guilty of allowing and promoting adultery.]
In conclusion, there are no misconceptions, miscalculations, confusion, or further sin if divorce is NOT an option, and ANY remarriage after divorcing a living spouse is nothing more than adultery. The permanence of a marriage is what Jesus and Paul taught us. There are no exceptions, no excuses. Jesus says that divorce is hardheartedness and remarriage is adultery. This is not very difficult to understand. It only becomes difficult and confusing when you create loopholes to allow for reasons to divorce and remarry. Question: Who has the courage and the faith to come forward to repent of this tragic abuse of God’s word? There is still time.
In Christ’s love,
(edited after posting:  )