Matthew 5:31-32 Decoded: Divorce and Remarriage in Jesus' Words

Discover the secrets to a happy, lasting marriage! Uncover the true meaning behind Matthew 5:31-32 and learn powerful strategies to protect your relationship.

Last Updated:
December 25, 2023
8 Minutes

Background and Context of Matthew 5:31-32

To fully understand the significance of Matthew 5:31-32, it is essential to grasp the background and context in which it was written. When Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount, the culture in Judea was heavily influenced by Pharisee practices. The Pharisees held a prominent position in Jewish society and significantly shaped religious and legal norms.

One particular issue that the Pharisees had a strong influence on was divorce. In Jewish law at that time, divorce was relatively easy for men to obtain, while the process for married women was more complicated. This disparity in divorce practices and unequal treatment of married women was a reflection of the society's views and societal norms.

These practices were motivated to interpret certain biblical passages, particularly Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which allowed for divorce under specific circumstances. However, the Pharisees, in their meticulous adherence to the law, interpreted these passages in a way that favored men and often left women vulnerable and marginalized.

It is against this backdrop of unfair treatment and discrimination that Jesus speaks directly to the issue of divorce in Matthew 5:31-32. He challenges the prevailing norms and offers an alternative perspective rooted in compassion and justice. By advocating for the preservation of the marital bond and reframing divorce as a violation of the sacred covenant between husband and wife, Jesus seeks to restore balance and dignity to women who were often unjustly subjected to divorce practices in their society.

What Does Matthew 5:31-32 Mean?

The passage of Matthew 5:31-32 addresses the topic of divorce and its implications within the context of marriage. Jesus provides insights into the meaning and significance of divorce, emphasizing the importance of commitment and faithfulness within the marital relationship. This passage interprets divorce laws in Jewish tradition and offers guidance for believers seeking to understand their responsibilities in marital unions. By exploring the words of Jesus in this passage, we can gain deeper insight into the value of marriage and the consequences of divorce, and the significance of maintaining commitment and fidelity in the sacred institution of marriage.

Verse 31

"Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'

Verse 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 Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus addresses the issue of divorce, providing insight into its moral implications. He states that whoever divorces his wife, except in cases of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. This verse reflects Jesus' stance on marriage and emphasizes the gravity of divorce.

The Pharisees held a more lenient interpretation of divorce, permitting it for trivial reasons. They relied on Mosaic Law, specifically Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which allowed divorce due to some indecency found in a wife. However, Jesus challenges this interpretation, highlighting that divorce should only be pursued in cases of marital unfaithfulness or sexual immorality.

Jesus' teaching emphasizes the sacredness of marriage and the lifelong commitment it entails. By allowing divorce in cases of infidelity, Jesus acknowledges that the marriage covenant has already been breached. However, he condemns divorce for trivial reasons as it undermines the unity and permanence of the marriage bond.

According to Jesus, the consequences of divorce and subsequent remarriage are severe. He asserts that by divorcing and remarrying, one commits adultery. This suggests that there is a continuous state of adultery in subsequent marriages after divorce. Jesus' teachings aim to discourage divorce, urging individuals to work towards reconciliation rather than dissolution of the marital bond.


Biblical Commentary on Matthew 5:31-32

In this biblical commentary, we will explore the verses Matthew 5:31-32, focusing on Jesus' teachings on divorce and remarriage. These verses are part of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus addresses matters of the heart and reveals a deeper understanding of God's intentions for marriage. Through his words, Jesus challenges the prevailing cultural norms of the time and provides profound insights into the nature of marriage, commitment, and the sanctity of the marital covenant. By examining the context, cultural background, and theological implications of these verses, we can better understand the teachings of Jesus and their relevance to our lives today.


Meaning of Divorce According to Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32

In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus addresses the topic of divorce and shares His teachings on the matter. According to Jesus, divorce is the dissolution of a marriage contract that results in the separation of two individuals who were once united in matrimony.

In this passage, Jesus emphasizes the seriousness of divorce and its implications. He states that "whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery." According to Jesus, divorce should only be permitted in cases of sexual immorality, thereby highlighting the significance of fidelity within the marital relationship.

Furthermore, Jesus goes on to explain that anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. This teaching underscores the sanctity and permanence of marriage. Jesus discourages remarriage after a divorce, except in cases where the divorce was due to sexual immorality.

The teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32 regarding divorce and remarriage hold immense significance. They emphasize the idea that divorce should not be taken lightly and should only be considered as a last resort. Jesus encourages faithfulness, commitment, and reconciliation within marriage. These teachings promote the preservation of marital relationships and discourage the erosion of the sacred union between two individuals.

Interpretations of Jesus’ Teaching about Divorce in the Early Church

In the early Church, there were varying interpretations of Jesus' teachings about divorce. These interpretations shaped the early Church’s understanding and application of these teachings.

One interpretation of Jesus' teaching on divorce, as seen in Matthew 19:9, emphasized the indissolubility of marriage. According to this perspective, divorce was not permitted under any circumstance, except in cases of adultery. This interpretation held that marriage was a sacred covenant that could not be broken, and any divorce and subsequent remarriage would be considered adultery.

However, as seen in 1 Corinthians 7:15, another interpretation allowed for divorce in cases where an unbelieving spouse abandoned the marriage. This perspective acknowledged that there were exceptional circumstances where divorce was permitted, but it still stressed the importance of preserving the sanctity of marriage.

Within the early Church, there were also differing perspectives on the role of forgiveness and reconciliation in divorce cases. Some believed that divorce was a permanent and necessary solution to irreconcilable differences, while others emphasized the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation, even in the face of marital difficulties.

Modern Interpretations of Jesus’ Teaching about Divorce in Matthew 5:31-32

In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus addresses the topic of divorce, offering his teachings on the matter. To understand the modern interpretations of Jesus' teachings, it is essential to consider the prevailing practices of the day and the different schools of thought, including Shammai and Hillel.

During Jesus' time, divorce was a common practice among the Jewish community. However, there were disagreements regarding the grounds and procedures for divorce. The school of Shammai held a more conservative stance, allowing divorce only on the grounds of sexual immorality. On the other hand, the school of Hillel had a more lenient interpretation, permitting divorce for reasons as trivial as a burnt dinner or a displeasing appearance.

In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus challenges these prevailing practices and interpretations. He emphasizes the sanctity of marriage by stating that anyone who divorces his wife, except for cases of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. Furthermore, Jesus declares that anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.

These teachings sparked debates among the religious leaders of the time. The key point of contention was the interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which mentioned "finding some indecency" as a reason for divorce. Shammai interpreted this phrase narrowly, focusing on cases of sexual immorality. Conversely, Hillel took a broader view, allowing divorce for various reasons.

Modern interpretations of Jesus' teachings on divorce range from strict adherence to his words to more liberal interpretations that consider the broader context of his teachings on love, forgiveness, and the redemptive work of Jesus. Some interpret his teachings as condemning divorce in all cases, while others believe that divorce may be permissible in cases of abuse, abandonment, or persistent unfaithfulness.

Implications of Matthew 5:31-32 for Today

In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus addresses the topic of divorce, providing crucial insights into its implications for today's society. These verses contain Jesus' teachings on the significance of marriage and the severe implications of marital dissolution. By delving into the context and essence of this passage, we can gain valuable understanding of how these teachings can be applied to contemporary relationships and their lasting impact on individuals and society.

The Marriage Covenant & Bond as a Sacred Institution

The marriage covenant and marriage bond is often regarded as sacred due to its profound significance in various religious and cultural traditions. This union is viewed as a divine and sacred bond, bringing two individuals together in a committed relationship intended to last a lifetime.

The sacredness of marriage lies in the vows and promises exchanged between the couple, which God and the community witness. It is believed to reflect God's love and commitment to his people. The marriage covenant symbolizes the unbreakable bond between two individuals, and it is a commitment to love, honor, and support one another through thick and thin.

Understanding what breaks the marriage covenant becomes essential in protecting marriages. Adultery, abuse, abandonment, and irreconcilable differences are some examples of actions that can break this sacred bond. Couples can work towards reconciliation and strengthen their relationship by acknowledging and addressing these issues.

Biblical teachings on divorce and remarriage guide this matter. In the Bible, divorce is seen as a tragic departure from God's original plan for marriage. Jesus teaches that divorce is only permitted in cases of adultery. Remarriage after divorce is allowed but discouraged, particularly if the divorce was due to reasons other than adultery. The Bible emphasizes the importance of forgiveness, reconciliation, and commitment in marriage.

Grounds for Divorce According to Scripture

According to Scripture, two main biblical grounds for divorce are mentioned in the Bible. The first one is sexual immorality, which is often referred to as adultery. In Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, Jesus stated that if a spouse commits adultery, it is permissible for the innocent party to seek divorce. This perspective focuses on the violation of the marital covenant by committing adultery, which breaks the trust and faithfulness necessary for a healthy marriage.

The second biblical ground for divorce mentioned in Scripture is abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, it is stated that if an unbelieving spouse chooses to leave, the believer is not bound in such circumstances. This perspective emphasizes the importance of maintaining the peace and spiritual well-being of the believer when the marriage is no longer viable due to the unbelieving spouse's departure.

While these two grounds are explicitly mentioned, different interpretations and perspectives exist. Some argue that divorce should be allowed in cases of physical or emotional abuse, as these go against the biblical teachings of love, respect, and care within a marriage. Others believe that divorce should be limited to the two grounds explicitly stated in Scripture and that all efforts should be made to reconcile the relationship.

Victim of Adultery and Unbelieving Spouse

When faced with the challenging situation of being a victim of adultery and having an unbelieving spouse, it is important to understand and address the issue with sensitivity and wisdom. This article briefly overviews the relevant information to help individuals navigate this difficult experience.

Being a victim of adultery can be emotionally devastating, and it becomes even more complex when the unfaithful partner does not share the same faith. It is crucial to approach this issue with empathy and compassion, recognizing the pain and betrayal experienced.

One important aspect to consider is seeking support from a trusted counselor or therapist who can help navigate the emotional turmoil. They can guide how to communicate, establish healthy boundaries within the relationship, and offer strategies for processing emotions and finding healing.

In addition to seeking professional help, reaching out to a supportive community, such as a church or religious organization, may also be beneficial where individuals can find understanding and guidance in their faith-based journey. Connecting with others who have faced similar experiences can provide encouragement, resources, and a sense of belonging.

Frequently asked questions

What are some practical ways to protect and strengthen marriages?

  • Strengthen your marriage with effective communication and active listening
  • Build trust and understanding with shared activities and hobbies
  • Make time for date nights to nurture your relationship
  • Show empathy and respect for each other's needs
  • Remain devoted to your partner and your marriage through love and commitment

How does the concept of forgiveness play a role in protecting marriages?

Forgiveness is an essential tool for protecting and strengthening marriages:

  • It allows couples to let go of past hurts and rebuild trust.
  • It creates a safe space for vulnerability and growth.
  • Forgiveness is a continuous choice to release resentment and choose love.
  • It helps couples move forward together and deepen the bond.
  • Nurturing emotional intimacy through forgiveness is essential for a strong and lasting marriage.

What Should I Do? I Have Committed Adultery.

  • Adultery is a sin that deeply affects one's relationship with God and their spouse (Exodus 20:14, Matthew 5:27-28).
  • Acknowledge the severity of the sin and take responsibility for one's actions (Proverbs 28:13).
  • Sincere repentance is necessary, involving genuine remorse and a firm commitment to change (Acts 3:19).
  • Seek forgiveness from God through prayer, confession, and seeking spiritual guidance (1 John 1:9).
  • Make amends with the wronged spouse through open and honest communication, acknowledging actions, offering a heartfelt apology, and expressing a willingness to make things right (Ephesians 4:32).
  • Seek wise counsel from church leaders or a Christian marriage counselor to understand Biblical teachings on divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:6, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11).

Does Scripture Permit Me to Remarry After Divorce by Desertion from an Unbeliever?

  • 1 Corinthians 7:15 states that if an unbelieving spouse chooses to depart, the believer is not bound in such cases.
  • Matthew 5:32 suggests that divorce should be avoided, except in the case of sexual unfaithfulness, and remarriage after divorce is considered adultery unless the divorce was due to sexual immorality.
  • Matthew 19:9 supports the exception of sexual immorality as a valid reason for divorce and reinforces the idea that divorce and remarriage are only permissible in cases of adultery.
  • Scripture permits divorce and possibly remarriage in cases of desertion from an unbeliever.
  • The exceptions and conditions outlined in 1 Corinthians 7:15, Matthew 5:32, and Matthew 19:9 should be carefully considered and followed to align with the scriptural stance on divorce and remarriage.

Is there any biblical support for couples separating or taking a break from their marriage?

  • Marriage is a sacred covenant that should be cherished.
  • There is no explicit biblical support for couples separating or taking a break from their marriage.
  • Decisions to separate or take a break should be approached with caution and wise counsel.
  • Marriage is a journey that requires perseverance, forgiveness, and a commitment to working through challenges.
  • Strengthen your marriage through communication, understanding, and love.

What steps can individuals take to avoid falling into sexual immorality and adultery?

  • Establish boundaries and accountability in your marriage.
  • Nurture emotional intimacy and prioritize communication.
  • Seek guidance from mentors or counselors.
  • Surround yourself with a supportive community.
  • Make the conscious effort to choose love and fidelity.

How can couples navigate the challenges of divorce if it becomes the only option?

  • Divorce can be a challenging process, but you are not alone.
  • Build a support system, seek professional guidance, and prioritize self-care.
  • Allow yourself to grieve, process emotions, and focus on rebuilding your life.
  • Divorce does not define your worth, and healing is possible with time.
  • Stay strong and have faith - brighter days are ahead.

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Christian Pure Team
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Christian Pure Team
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