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The Law and Gospel views on Christian Marriage and Divorce

By Pastor Moyibi Amoda

Introduction: The nature of the exposition

“You have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shall not kill; and whosever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I (Jesus) say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mathew 5:21-22).

Moses says that you should not kill; but I say to you if you are angry with your brother without cause you are already a murderer, even though your brother is alive. Moreover I say unto you if you insult your brother you are in danger of the council; and if by your word you hold your brother in contempt, you are in danger of hell fire. Condemnation is not a matter of conduct says Jesus but matter of disposition. How is a sinner then to keep the Law?
“It has been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 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.” (Mathew 5:31-32).

True enough, Moses says you can put away your wife by giving her a writing of divorcement (Deuteronomy 24:1; Jeremiah 3:1) but if you are to obey God you must not commit adultery, nor cause your wife to commit adultery through divorcing her. If you are not to be guilty of causing her to commit adultery, then you cannot put away your wife except for the cause of fornication. But the Law of Moses had no such restriction for Moses was only dealing with your decision to put your wife away; because you are not pleased with her.

“When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write him a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.” (Deuteronomy 24:1).

The Lord Jesus says such an act causeth her to commit adultery because she is free to marry another; and he that marries her also commits adultery. The Law of Moses obeyed in this case of divorce causeth the man, the divorced, and he that marries the divorced to sin against God. The conclusion is that you are not keeping the Law of God when ye obey the law in one aspect and do not continue to obey all the other aspects of the Law. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Galatians 3:10).

Mankind under sin cannot keep the Law of Moses. The Law itself declares that if you keep God’s commandments in part, you have defaulted in the keeping of all God’s commandments. “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” (Galatians 5:3).

Yet no man can keep the Law for all have been concluded under sin; all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The Law on marriage cannot be kept by Israel under bondage to sin. Paul puts it another way. He that is under sin is married to sin and only by death can such he delivered from the bond of sin.

“Know ye not, brethren, how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 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. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Romans 7:1-4).

The Law is the Law of Moses and it is the truth of that the law that Jesus reveals in his Gospel teachings. This is the truth, although the Law permits a man to divorce his wife, that same Law stipulates conditions that negate the liberty he has under the law. So as long as he lives the wife is under the law of her husband and remains his wife. Only death can free her from the law. The law was thus not a regulator of conduct but a revealer of the subjection of Israel to the power of sin.


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