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2021 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Good Grace and Divorce

Robert Jeffress - Good Grace and Divorce

Robert Jeffress - Good Grace and Divorce
TOPICS: Grace Gone Wild, Relationship, Marriage, Divorce

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. One of the saddest moments in anyone's life is the dissolution of a cherished relationship. And none is more painful than a broken marriage that ends in divorce. But to think that followers of Christ will never encounter such a tragedy, either first-hand or somewhere in your family tree is to deceive yourself. Today, I want to show you exactly what the Bible says and doesn't say about the volatile issue of divorce and remarriage. My message is titled "Good Grace and Divorce" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Well in our current series "Grace Gone Wild", we're looking at God's amazing gift of grace and how some people have perverted that gift, grace into a license to sin. If I'm forgiven, why can't I do whatever I want to do? And we've talked about the difference between good grace that encourages obedience out of gratitude and bad grace that perverts the doctrine of forgiveness. Last time, we began looking at how a proper understanding of grace should impact our view of marriage. And we said the perversion of grace, bad grace promotes three lies about marriage. We looked at the first two last time. Lie number one deals with the formation of marriage. It's the lie that says, "I can marry whomever I want to marry". Grace gives me the freedom to do that. The second lie has to do with fidelity in marriage. Bad grace says, "I can cheat on my mate without any lasting consequences". And today, we're going to look at the third lie about marriage that deals with the finality of marriage. Bad grace says, "I am free to divorce if I am unhappy, if I'm unhappy in my relationship, grace gives me the freedom to divorce".

Few topics generate as much controversy in the church as the subject of divorce. The hottest deacons' meeting I ever attended in my last church had nothing to do with church government or eschatological issues, it had to do with the subject of whether a divorced man ought to be able to serve as a deacon or not. Some in the group argued that even though the Bible may allow for divorce and remarriage, we ought to have a higher standard for leaders. Others in the group argued, "Shouldn't we be dispensers of grace especially to those who are hurt by an unwanted divorce"? And on and on the argument raged. How does a proper understanding of grace relate to divorce and remarriage? Admittedly, there are some who want to set an unreasonable standard, they say no divorce and remarriage for any reason whatsoever. And when they're shown passages in the Bible that seem to allow for divorce, they'll say, "Well, that may be true but we ought to seek God's best", they'll give some tortured interpretation of the text that makes no sense at all.

There are those who want to raise God's standard. On the other hand, there are those who try to lower God's standard in this area of divorce. They say that grace gives us a free pass to exit a troubled marriage in search of greener pastures. It's not just adultery, what if you and your mate are incompatible? Or what if you have different life goals? Or what if your mate is a financial time bomb getting ready to explode? Or what if you're unhappy? Doesn't grace allow you to exit an unhappy marriage? Certainly God doesn't want you to spend the rest of your life unfulfilled, does he? For a follower of Jesus Christ, the issue is not what makes me happy but what makes God happy. And so today, we're going to look at what the Bible says about grace and divorce. Now, I want to offer this disclaimer for those of you here and watching or listening to this service.

I realize I'm talking to many of you who have already divorced and perhaps remarried. And you're maybe a little bit defensive right now, a little fearful about what I'm going to say, the purpose of this message is not to heap a pile of guilt upon you. But there are others of you who are contemplating divorce right now. Maybe now or sometime in the future or you're giving counsel to somebody who is seeking a divorce. This message is a warning about the consequences of divorce and remarriage for other than biblical reasons. Yes, every sin can be forgiven but I don't know of any mistake that has more lasting consequences than divorcing for non-biblical reasons. And so today, we're going to be balanced in what we say about grace and divorce. When you look at the scriptures, there are two principles about grace and divorce that we need to understand. Principle number one, write it down. Good grace recognizes that divorce and remarriage are permissible in two situations, not three situations, not one, not none. There are two situations in which God allows divorce and remarriage. The first situation is adultery, adultery.

Let's go back and turn to Matthew 19 for a moment. Remember the pharisees were trying to trick Jesus, they were trying to test him, discredit him. And so some of the pharisees came to Jesus testing him and saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all"? Why was this a trick question? Because the Jews were divided on it. So, when they asked this question of Jesus, they were saying, "Which camp do you fall in, no divorce at all or divorce for any reason"? Whatever he answered, he was guaranteed to offend half of his audience. But notice how Jesus responded, verse 4, he answered them and said, "Have you not read"? You're supposed to be experts in the law, pharisees, go back to the beginning. "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female? For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. They are no longer two but one, what therefore God has joined together, let no man separate". That's God's plan, one man with one woman in a lifetime commitment called marriage.

Well, the pharisees asked question about what about the Old Testament law? There were some allowances for divorce and that Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, "I say to you, whoever divorces his wife except for immorality and marries another woman commits adultery". Jesus said, there's one exception to this one man with one woman for life and it is immorality, immorality. What is he talking about? Again, remember, I said there's some people who try to give this tortured interpretation. Some people say, "Well, what Jesus was talking about was the betrothal period, the engagement period, if one of the mates is unfaithful during the engagement period, you can break off the marriage just like Joseph was tempted to do with Mary". Well, that's illogical because it's clear he's not talking about the betrothal period, he's talking about marriage. That's what the pharisees question was about. No, it means what it says, immorality refers to adultery. If your mate commits adultery, you're not commanded to get divorced but you're allowed to get divorced.

Now, the Bible gives one additional exception, allowance for divorce and remarriage and it's found in 1 Corinthians 7. Turn there to 1 Corinthians 7. Remember Jesus ministered in the early 30s ad. 20 years later, Paul started ministering. And there were all kinda questions in the Corinthian church about divorce and remarriage and here's why. During that 20 years since the time of Christ and the apostle Paul, Christianity began to spread like wildfire through the Roman Empire. And it created all kind of problems that Jesus didn't address but Paul addressed them. And the major problem was, "Okay, what happens with all these people becoming Christians? What if they are married to a non-Christian? What if both were unsaved, one spouse becomes a Christian and is still married to a non-Christian, what are you supposed to do in that situation"? And so in verse 10, Paul starts by affirming what Jesus said, he said, "To the married, I give instructions and by the way, this is not i, it is the Lord. That is that the wife should not leave her husband".

Paul was affirming what Jesus said, that people are to remain married. But by embracing what Jesus said, obviously, he was embracing the exception of adultery as well. Paul says, "Okay, I'm going to give you three different scenarios here". Look at verse 11. She's to remain married but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband and that the husband should not divorce his wife. This is a case of where a woman, a Christian wants to leave her non-Christian husband for some other reason than adultery. Maybe again it is physical abuse. Paul said if you find yourself having to leave and you do leave, you can leave but you have to remain unmarried.

I want to be very clear here. Nowhere in the scripture does the Bible tell women who are suffering physical abuse to stay in that situation. Women, if you are listening to this message right now and you are suffering or you are being threatened or your children are with physical abuse, get out of that house. God does not require you to live in that situation. The sanctity of life refers more than just to life inside the womb. Life is sacred outside the womb too, God hates violence. Genesis 6 says that the reason God destroyed the entire world with a flood was because of violence, God hates it when people commit violence against one another. You are free under scripture to get out of that house and to protect yourself and your children but if you end up divorcing, Paul's instruction was you have to remain unmarried or go back to your husband. Verse 12, "But to the rest I say, not the Lord, if any man has a wife who is an unbeliever and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her".

If you're married to an unbeliever right now and he or she wants to continue the marriage, you are obligated to stay in that marriage situation. Situation number three, what if a Christian is deserted by his non-Christian mate? There are some teachers I've heard them say this, "Oh, you ought to do whatever you can to keep that marriage together". The marriage relationship is the most important thing in the world and if that means quit going to church, then quit going to church. That means quit tithing, quit tithing but keep that marriage together because after all, you might even end up winning that unChristian mate to the Lord. Is that what Paul says? Not on your life. In verse 15 he says, "If the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave". Let him leave, let him go. "The brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases for God has called us to peace". In fact, Paul goes on to say, "Why would you compromise your faith? How do you know if you are going to win that mate to Christ ever? How do you know if they'll ever become a Christian? No, if they threaten to leave, let them leave, you are no longer under bondage".

And we saw that in verse 39 1 Corinthians 7 that means you're free to remarry, to not be under bondage means a freedom to remarry. Now, the question always comes up when this deals with an unbelieving mate who leaves. What about your mate who is a Christian who leaves, what about that situation? I would just say they may say they're a Christian, you don't know if they're Christian or not but one thing is for sure, if they leave you they're acting like a non-Christian. And I believe under that situation, the same words apply. You're not under bondage, you can't control what somebody else does or doesn't do, God gives you the freedom to remarry. But even though good grace allows for divorce and remarriage in those situations, there's a second principle about good grace that we really need to understand and that is that good grace emphasizes God's desire for permanence in marriage. We ought to always emphasize God's desire for permanence in marriage.

Look at Genesis 2:24, therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh. That word cleave in Hebrew means to stick together in an indissoluble bond. You become one flesh, one emotionally, spiritually with that other person. It's an indissoluble bond. In fact, interestingly, that same Hebrew word is used elsewhere in scripture to describe our relationship with God. In Deuteronomy 10:20 God said, "You shall fear the Lord your God, you shall serve him and cling to him". Literally cleave to him "And you shall swear by his name". Look, when you become a Christian, you are cleaving to God, he is cleaving to you. When you become a Christian and you cleave to God, you say, "God, I'm going to love you with all of my heart, I'm going to serve you with all of my heart. Unless of course I find another God I like better. In case we fall out of love with one another God, then we're free to go pursue whoever we want to". No, that is unthinkable. It's an indissoluble bond we have with God and he has with us. The same is true with our marriage partner. Malachi 2:16 God says, "I hate divorce". He didn't say, "I hate divorced people", he said, "I hate the process of divorce".

And the reason God hates divorce is because of what it does to the people inside that marriage. A divorce is not just the destruction of a marriage, it's the destruction of the people who make up that marriage. Author Philip Yancey has cataloged just some of the natural results of the divorce and what it does to people. He writes, divorce dramatically increases the likelihood of early death from strokes, hypertension, respiratory cancer and intestinal cancer. Astonishingly, being divorced and a non-smoker is only slightly less dangerous than smoking a pack or more cigarettes every day and staying married. Divorce also disrupts mental health especially for men. The suicide rate for white males goes up by a factor of four with divorce and they have 10 times the probability of needing psychiatric care. Divorce also takes a devastating toll on children. Proportionately, twice as many criminals come from single parent homes.

Indeed, a family structure proves more effective than economic status in predicting a life in crime for children. Children from broken homes are also more likely to do poorly in school, abuse drugs and attempt suicide. That's why I say divorce not only destroys a marriage, it destroys the people inside of that marriage. And that's why good grace always will emphasize God's desire for permanence in a marriage relationship. Good grace acknowledges that divorce is unavoidable in some circumstances. Good grace doesn't heap guilt on those who divorce for biblical reasons. But good grace will also treat divorce as a last resort, not a first resort for a troubled marriage. And when given the opportunity to extend grace, good grace will always encourage us to be dispensers of grace for those who ask for it instead of dispensers of justice. After all, isn't that what we desire from God? Grace, not justice.
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