Remarriage and Matthew 19:9
Rev. Angus Stewart
1. Marriage is the "one flesh"
union between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24; Mal. 2:14-15; Matt.
19:4-5; I Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31) "until death us do part"
(cf. Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39) such that remarriage when one's spouse is
living is adultery (Matt. 5:32; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; Rom. 7:2-3).
This is also the position of the historic Christian church for its first
1,500 years or so with barely a dissenting voice. It is the traditional
view of Anglicanism and the Brethren, as well as that of the Protestant
Reformed Churches and their sister churches and mission works (in America, Canada, N. Ireland,
Singapore and the Philippines)
and many within the Dutch Reformed. It is also the conviction of people
within Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist and other churches.
2. Matthew 19:9 is the only
biblical verse which could, if taken all by itself, allow for the
remarriage of the "innocent party" while his or her spouse is still
living. However, this interpretation of the text is ruled out by the
following three considerations.
a. It would contradict many other
clear passages in the Word of God:
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 (Matt. 5:32).
Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth
adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and
be married to another, she committeth adultery (Mark 10:11-12).
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth
adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her
husband committeth adultery (Luke 16:18).
For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her
husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is
loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband
liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an
adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law;
so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the
wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain
unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put
away his wife (I Cor. 7:10-11).
The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her
husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only
in the Lord (I Cor. 7:39).
b. It does not fit with the
context. I have never heard anyone respond to the teaching that the
"innocent party" may remarry while his or her spouse is still living
as the disciples immediately did to Christ’s teaching: "If the case of
the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry" (Matt. 19:10).
The position that there is no remarriage (even for the "innocent
party") while his or her spouse is living frequently draws forth this
cry. Similarly, Christ’s reply to the disciples’ protest makes perfect
sense with the doctrine that no one may remarry while their spouse is
living but not with the view that the "innocent party" may remarry
while his or her spouse is living. Jesus states, "... there be
eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of
heaven’s sake" (v. 12). The Son of God points to divine illumination
as enabling one to "receive" His teaching: "But he said unto them, All
men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given ... He
that is able to receive it, let him receive it" (vv. 11-12). This
explains why some have difficulty accepting this truth of God's Word.
This is especially the case today for ours is an "adulterous
generation" (Matt. 12:39; 16:4) like that which followed the scribes
and Pharisees in the first century, many of whom taught "no fault
divorce" (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9).
c. It is excluded by I
Corinthians 7:10-11, where the Apostle Paul summarizes and states the
teaching of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry: "And unto the
married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart
from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or
be reconciled to her husband ..." Inspired Scripture here teaches two,
and only two, options for a divorced woman (or man): (1) remain
unmarried or (2) be reconciled to your spouse. No third option,
remarriage, is mentioned. Faithful to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5,
Mark 10, Luke 16, and Matthew 19, Paul does not give permission to
remarry while one’s spouse is living.
Thus the exception clause
("except it be for fornication") is not an exception enabling
remarriage (while one’s spouse is living) but an exception permitting
divorce: "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" (Matt.
3. The unbreakable bond of
marriage is biblical teaching, laid down by God at creation (Gen.
2:24), declared by the Old Testament prophets (Mal. 2:10-16), and
reaffirmed by Christ (Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18) and the New Testament
apostles (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39). It is a picture of the "great
mystery" of the union of Christ and His elect church (Eph. 5:32).