Friday, May 9, 2014

Popular NIV exceptions and restoring a marriage...

  Matthew 19:9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (NIV)

I have used the ever popular edition of the New International Version to ask a few questions. According to this “exception clause”, an “innocent” spouse of sexual immorality may divorce the “guilty” spouse… I would like the answers to these questions concerning this exception clause as delivered to us from the NIV …
  • Is the “guilty" spouse of this “except for sexual immorality” divorce a born again believer?
  • If you answered no, is the innocent spouse disobedient to the word of God if this unbelieving "guilty" spouse desires to remain in the marriage?  
1 Cor 7:12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. NIV 
  • May a “guilty” spouse of this type of divorce remarry someone else since the innocent spouse divorced him or her?  According to the word of God, the guilty spouse "remains" in sexual immorality until they repent of this sin. Therefore, a remarriage is not possible according to the church (the body of Christ, not a particular denomination) because they prove they are, and remain an unbeliever. 

  •  Is it adultery if a "guilty" spouse of this divorce remarries? According to this verse, anyone who is divorced must not remarry less it be adultery.Also, if a guilty spouse was divorced because they lack repentance from sexual immorality, how can the church accept them in fellowship let alone remarry him or her in God's sight?

  •  Is it adultery if an "innocent" spouse remarries after divorcing a "guilty spouse? According to this verse (Matthew 19:9), a "remarriage" after divorcing a living spouse is adultery. Now is this regardless of whether you were the innocent party or not? If it is believed the divorce terminates a marriage, then why did Jesus say that no man may separate what God has joined, and Paul says that the law states that only death breaks a marriage covenant? (Romans 7:2,3; 1 Cor 7:39) Thus we can conclude that a divorce should promote reconciliation of a marriage and not a licence to remarry someone else...
  • How can a “guilty” spouse come to repentance of their sin of sexual immorality? We know that those who come to repentance acknowledge their sins to God by believing by faith that the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty of our sins by His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. We know that His substitutionary atonement and resurrection from death gives us eternal life. We know that at the moment of repentance and faith in Christ we receive the Holy Spirit. We essentially become a new creation in Christ. No longer a slave to sin, but a slave to righteousness.

  •  If the “guilty” spouse repents, is the innocent spouse required to forgive the repentant “guilty” spouse? The Lord Jesus Christ says that we are to forgive 70 x7 for those who repent of their sin against us. (Matthew 21-35) 

Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

  • If a “guilty” spouse repents, can he or she remarry the innocent spouse? If death is the only way a marriage covenant is broken, it could be said that a divorce by an "innocent" spouse never ends a marriage covenant, thus a repentant guilty spouse need only reconcile a marriage that was already in place.  

  •  If a “guilty” spouse repents, can the innocent spouse remarry the repentant guilty spouse? If an innocent believer is a husband that is commanded to not divorce in the first place, and a wife must not leave and IF she leave, she is to remain single or to reconcile to her husband, then it appears a divorce never breaks a marriage in the first place. 1 Cor 7:10And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

  •   Is the innocent spouse guilty of adultery if he or she remarries someone else AFTER the spouse he or she divorced repents?  This verse (Matthew 19:9) would indicate that "remarriage" is  adultery regardless of innocence or guiltiness. It also corroborates with Mark's account 10:11,12 and Luke's account 16:18.

  •  Is the innocent spouse guilty of adultery if he or she remarries someone else BEFORE the spouse he or she divorced repents? If an innocent spouse remarries before a guilty spouse repents, he or she not only enters into adultery themselves, they may cause the guilty spouse to believe there is no hope to reconcile the marriage. Thus even should the guilty spouse repent, is the "innocent" spouse setting a standard of unforgiviness by remaining in a remarriage? Is the innocent spouse really innocent after all?    

As you can see, if we answer these questions according to God’s word as it pertains to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can see that the “exception clause” does not end a one-flesh covenant of marriage. This abuse of the exception clause only causes contradiction, confusion, and more sin. The very least, this exception clause allows for divorce with the purpose of reconciling the marriage Never is it intended to allow for remarriage...which in all forms is the sin of adultery. Also, a person who divorces with the intent to remarry someone else exhibits the example of a person with a hard heart.

. The Lord Jesus Christ said…
Matthew 19:4Have 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.

In Christ’s love,




This is very, very good. I was raised in an extremely conservative Christian home. My dad retired about 4 years ago after preaching for over 45 years. I've heard lots of sermons & lectures on Marriage/Divorce/Remarriage and this makes the most sense ever. It's so simple. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Neil, I hold a permanence view but how do you exegete the Matthew 19:9 text alone to be saying that an "innocent" remarriage is adultery? I'm not following you.

Neil Novotnak said...

Dear anonymous, this post is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, though far from silly. If you read all of my posts, I hold to a view that marriage is a sacred one-flesh covenant that no man may break. I believe that divorce does not end a marriage and that only death ends a marriage. I believe this permanence of marriage corresponds with the whole context of God’s word that centers on the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ. I understand that no one this side of eternity is perfect. Therefore, the “innocent” tag is more of a predetermined title for Matthew 19:9 and the “exception clause.”

Many assume that an “innocent” spouse or the victim of “sexual immorality” is free to remarry if they put away his or her spouse because of unrepentant sexual immorality. However, I used other scripture and centered on the Gospel that point to the fact that an “innocent” spouse is not so innocent if they believe that God cannot restore an unrepentant spouse. The Gospel is about a perfect God coming to save us while we were yet sinners. This is undeserved grace. Surely, God requires the believer to live in this grace within a marriage. Thus, divorce is out of the question for the believer. This would speak against the “exception clause.”

I believe it is inherently dangerous to believe that we as imperfect humans have the foreknowledge that a prodigal spouse will never come to repentance. What is even more dangerous is to believe we are self-righteous into believing that we are innocent in the first place.

I hope this answers your question.

In Christ’s love,