10/10/15 “Can I Divorce My Spouse Because of Adultery?” – Pastor Shane Idleman


Complete Sermon Notes

Can I Divorce My Spouse Because of Adultery?

Introduction: Move cautiously and carefully – only God can really answer this question.

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I’m a big fan of restoration

Michael Reagan, the son of Ronald Reagan, wrote of his parents’ divorce:

“Divorce is where two adults take everything that matters to a child—the child’s home, family, security, and sense of being loved and protected—and they smash it [to pieces], leave it in ruins on the floor, then walk out and leave the child to clean up the mess.”

Lay The Foundation: Matthew 7:24-27 (NKJV) “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them [even when separated, even when marriage is difficult], I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

We live in deception when we fight against obedience.

The Battle: do what is right regardless of feelings. This is why obedience to God’s Word and a genuine relationship is so IMPORTANT.

Feelings are wonderful – it’s one reason why we’re not ROBOTS, but they were designed to follow choices not influence them.

                                    . . . Not talking about spiritual discernment

Matthew 19 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.2 And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.

3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” 10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

“The two shall become one flesh’?” A Survivor of the Holocaust wrote, “The emotional pain and brokenness that I experienced from divorce was greater than the pain of the concentration camps.”

PERSPECTIVE: I would prefer the environment of a difficult marriage over the living conditions of most of the world.

Unless God rebuilds the foundation, those divorced may find themselves in the same situation with the second, third, or fourth spouse.

Experience Plays a Role:

  1. Piper married many years

  2. A young adult who finds themselves single and hopeless

  3. A young parent with little kids

We don’t interpret Scripture in light of our experiences; we interpret our experiences in light of Scripture. BUT EXPERIENCES CAN HELP TO ILLUSTRATE TRUTH AND THE HEART OF GOD.

4 things that prevent hearing from God:

A] In a hurry – not waiting and contending for restoration. God blesses and strengthens a “waiting” heart – a heart that “rushes” is always confused.

B] Not seeking God through His Word, prayer, and fasting – this is a battle – pull out the BIG guns

If you’re not spending extended time in worship, prayer, and fasting, but instead, are busy, bitter, and belligerent [hostile and aggressive], you will not get clear direction.

                      . . . You’ll get direction, but not from God.

C] Looking for loopholes rather than scriptural truths

D] Giving up because we see no evidence of change: I believe that if the Scriptures on divorce were fully taught, it would create more serious consideration before marriage, and would be a deterrent to divorce…there would be fewer divorces without cause and more reconciliations. Lack of regard for the Scriptures has taken us to the other extreme—no fault divorce.

TWO SIDES: The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 24:6, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage.


MacArthur, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Piper, etc.


WHY TWO SIDES? Because the Scripture is clear that God hates divorce. The Scripture is clear that adultery is a serious sin, but there are also areas of differences in interpretation.

  1. “Except for sexual immorality.” – Just the fact that this is added into the command is important.

MATTHEW 5:31 “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.

Me Epi Porneia – morality [God’s standard]; immorality [perverting God’s standard]

A Clear Reading would have been: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason causes her to commit adultery.”

~ Some say – Why does Matthew use the word porneia instead of the word moicheia [moy-hi-ya], which means adultery?

~ Some say it’s incest.

~ Some say it’s when the husband finds out she was not a virgin.

PIPER: Several years ago I taught our congregation in two evening services concerning my understanding of this verse and argued that “except for immorality” did not refer to adultery but to premarital sexual fornication which a man or a woman discovers in the betrothed partner.

In both cases, these are sexual sins – PORNEIA … as is “adultery”

Marriage – the union of two as God designed it, is established through consummation – the point at which something is complete or finalized.

“Adam knew his wife” – The actions of another cannot cause me to sin

Why is it okay if a spouse dies – because the union / the Covenant is broken

He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Remarriage is not the issue here; manipulation and abandonment are – “the certificate of divorce was to protect the woman.”

I appreciate the words of commentator J. Nolland on this point:

“The normal understanding of Mt. 5:32b runs the danger of leaving the woman involved a double victim: she has been divorced by a husband who may well have rejected her at his own whim (as per v. 31) and is now to be barred from any new relationship because she bears the stigma of the ‘divorcee’.

Twofold warning: 1) Do not divorce without cause. 2) Do not pursue a relationship with someone who has abandoned their spouse.

Clearly understand that I’m not advocating divorce, nor am I saying that if you are currently separated, that divorce is an option because better opportunities await you. God hates divorce and anyone who has been there knows why. I believe, first and foremost, in reconciliation and restoration, and that most people give up too soon.

That’s why a personal relationship with Jesus, along with genuine brokenness and repentance, are vitally important. Through that relationship, and only through that relationship, can we make the right decision.

CLOSING: Hope for the Hurting: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, “God forbid that there should be anyone who feels that he or she has sinned himself or herself outside the love of God or outside His Kingdom because of adultery. No; if you truly repent and realize the enormity of your sin and cast yourself on the boundless love and mercy and grace of God, you [will] be forgiven.”

If your spouse has left, and you’ve waited and have done all that you can do biblically, I believe that God looks at your heart. King David was not able to build the temple because of his past—he was a man of war, but God said, “Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well in that it was in your heart” (2 Chronicles 6:8). Contextually, this verse is not dealing with marriage, but the overlapping principle applies: Because David’s heart was right, God continued to direct him.

Many often thank the Lord for using divorce to bring them back to Him. I don’t believe that God causes divorce, but He does use it to bring the prodigal son home. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin; rejecting Christ is.