Jesus on Adultery, Polygamy, and Divorce

For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. (Rom 7:2-3)

The Mosaic Law was one-sidedly in favor of the man. The man could be polygamous, could divorce his wife, and also keep concubines. On the contrary, the woman could be married to only one man and was tied to him as long as he lived. She could not divorce her husband.

However, Jesus changed that when He drew the attention of the Lawyers of His day to the Original Ruling in Genesis 2. In Matthew 5:31-32, He ruled: “Furthermore it has been said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 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.” (Mat 5:31-32). This ruling doesn’t still call the man who divorces his wife as adulterer, but says that the divorced woman was caused to commit adultery. How can a mere divorce cause a woman to commit adultery? This ruling is pretty hard. It implies that the act of divorce, if not for the reason of sexual immorality, makes an adulteress of the woman. In other words, by trying to invalidate a marriage through divorce, after having had sexual relationship with a woman within marriage, a man has made the woman an adulteress (since she has already been in relationship with him, but is not now his wife as he claims). This is so because in the eyes of Jesus, no marriage is revocable. So if there is a relationship within marriage, it is pure; however, if there is a divorce subsequent to this so that the man is no longer the woman’s husband, then she has been made an adulteress for having had consensual sex with a man who refuses to call himself her husband.

In Matthew 19:3-9, Jesus gives the ruling more in favor of the woman.

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?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “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’? “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 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.” 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.”

Jesus makes it clear that a married couple, joined, become one flesh; that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of people’s hearts, but this is not the natural law of God for humans; that a man who divorces his wife for any reason except for sexual immorality and marries another, commits adultery. In other words, firstly, such divorce is invalid. Secondly, if a man marries another woman while his wife is still living, it amounts to adultery. Obviously, this implies an argument also against polygamy. In other words, Jesus makes it clear that it is not just not the case that a woman cannot marry another man while her husband is there; neither can a man marry another woman while his wife is still there (the divorce is invalid). But, it also means that a man cannot have more than one wife.

But, what about cases in which the man is abusive and a threat? What about marriages that are non-consensual? What about a woman who has been divorced or a man whose wife leaves him? The Bible has answers for all such questions. However, our objective here has been chiefly the ruling of Christ in favor of the original law of God in Genesis.

There Are Some Standing Here Who Shall Not Taste Death

Passage 1:
“Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)

The other Gospels mention kingdom of God or kingdom present in power (Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27).

There are a number of interpretations of this, but the more prominent ones relate to the Resurrection of Christ, His Ascension, and the subsequent Outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

1. The Mediatoral Kingdom View. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge by R. A. Torrey suggested this coming to refer to His coming in the “mediatorial kingdom which our Lord was about to set up, by the destruction of the Jewish nation and polity, and the diffusion of the gospel throughout the world.” However, Matthew 16:27 refers to this coming as being in the glory of the Father to reward each man according to his works.
2. The Resurrection and Pentecost View. Commentator John Gill suggested that Jesus spoke “rather, of the appearance of his kingdom, in greater glory and power, upon his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension to heaven; when the Spirit was poured down in an extraordinary manner, and the Gospel was preached all over the world; was confirmed by signs and wonders, and made effectual to the conversion and salvation of many souls; which many then present lived to see, and were concerned in: though it seems chiefly to have regard to his coming, to show his regal power and authority in the destruction of the Jews; when those his enemies that would not he should reign over them, were ordered to be brought and slain before him; and this the Apostle John, for one, lived to be a witness of.”
3. The Transfiguration View. Some suggest that the coming referred to Christ’ transfiguration on the Mount of Transfiguration in the next chapter. 2Peter 2:17 talks of this event as Christ’s receiving honor and glory. Yet, it certainly was not the kingdom come in power.
4. Receiving the Kingdom. Others suggest that this referred to Christ’s receiving the Kingdom and glory from the Father as prophesied in Daniel 7:13-14. This looks quite probable. The Son of Man as the Resurrected Lord announces all authority given to Him (Matthew 28:18). Yet, this receiving is not the same as His coming in His kingdom. Still, among the ones who stood there, the disciples were the ones who did see Christ in His power after the resurrection. There is no doubt that Christ as King now reigns till all the enemies are made His footstool (Heb.10:13; 1Cor.15:25). But, His Coming in glory to judge the world is a future event (Matt.24:30).
5. What About the Ones Who Didn’t Die? We know of Enoch and Elijah in the Old Testament who never tasted death. Now, we read in the next passage: “after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.” (Matthew 17:1-3). Elijah, specifically, as we know never tasted death. Could it be that Jesus is referring to Elijah and Enoch as standing here? In fact, Enoch already had a vision of the Lord coming in glory (Jude 1:14-15). Were they standing there? Not impossible, seeing that heaven is not about geographical location.

Passage 2:
“When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:23)

This is a mixed commission, for while it commissions the disciples to not go beyond the house of Israel, it also talks of their persecution by the rulers (which only happened later on). The commission is also eschatological and embraces the Last Days of the Tribulation, which is amplified further in Matthew 24. So, it is not the 12 Disciples who are meant literally, but the witnessing church founded on the apostles and the prophets. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Mat 24:14 NKJ). The reference to the towns of Israel, however, put the focus on the Jewish nation.

Passage 3
Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. (Mar 13:30 NKJ)

Some have understood “This generation” as meaning the generation that sees the re-formation of the State of Israel in May 1948 (or the budding of the fig tree mentioned in Mark 13: 28,29).

John Gill understands “these things” as “the destruction of Jerusalem, the signs of it, and what, should immediately follow upon it.” [AD 70 and beyond]. However, the passage more specifically talks about signs of the Last Day, including the abomination of desolation prophesied by Daniel (Mark 13:14).

Apparently, it seems that “this generation” must be interpreted as “these kind of people” (i.e. of one nature), especially referring to the rebellious house of Israel.

“But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like little children sitting in the marketplaces who call to their playmates, We piped to you [playing wedding], and you did not dance; we wailed dirges [playing funeral], and you did not mourn and beat your breasts and weep aloud.” (Matt.11:16-17)

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, Someone more and greater than Jonah is here!” (Matt.12:41)

And He groaned and sighed deeply in His spirit and said, Why does this generation demand a sign? Positively I say to you, no sign shall be given this generation. (Mark 8:12).

“You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” (Act 7:51-53 NKJ)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say,`If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matt 23:29-36 NKJ)

Does Faith in God Make us Invincible and Devoid of Responsibility to Lock our Doors? (Matt 2:22)

“But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.” (Matt.2:22)

Faith-life in this world is doesn’t mean that we should not lock our doors. It is not about supernatural invincibility and perfection all the time. Sometimes, God can also guide us through rational fear. A few verses earlier, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt. Joseph could have argued, “Why flee? Isn’t God powerful to protect us? Is Herod greater than God?” But, Joseph didn’t; he just obeyed. And, then we may argue that God could have averted the death of so many infants. Why didn’t He send legions of angels for the protection of the little ones? But, He didn’t. There were times when Jesus Himself hid. It was not possible for the High Priests and his soldiers to find Jesus without having got a traitor like Judas on their side. The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 not only received their dead raised to life again; some were also “tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (Heb.11:35). Doctrines that teach full invincibility and divine protection without any personal responsibility or action are strange to the Bible. Christians do go to hospital, use locks on their doors, and drive on the correct side of road; they are normally expected to.

The Narrow Gate (Matt.7:13,14)

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt.7:13,14)

narrow road

To enter through the narrow gate means to leave every worldly luggage outside of the gate. One must save his own soul. Therefore, Christ said that he who wished to be His disciple had to deny self and all earthly relations, then take up his own cross, and follow Him. The cross is another symbol of the difficult road. For Peter and John, it meant to leave their business and life of security in order to follow Christ. For the rich young man, it meant to sell off his wealth, distribute it to the poor, and follow Christ. The rich man wasn’t willing to leave his baggage behind; therefore, he refused to enter the narrow gate and chose the wide one instead. Jesus said that it would be easier for a camel to enter through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They say that there was a gate called the “Needle’s Eye”, which was both narrow and low, and so caravan camels would have to unload their baggage and bow low in order to enter through it. The rich man wasn’t willing to either unload his earthly baggage nor willing to bow low to a life that Christ chose to live Himself. How miserable is the state of a person who chooses the temporary enjoyment of this world and spurns the treasures of heaven!

To enter through the narrow gate also means to take the difficult path. Remember the gate is narrow and the road is difficult, but it is not crooked. It is still the King’s Highway. However, it is not an easy road; firstly, because the road is given to us in a world that is now under the sway of Satan. We are just foreigners and pilgrims here. The devil has wide and broad roads in his kingdom; however, no matter how embellished and pompous they look, they are all going to perish with the world and the devil. The broad roads are roads to destruction. However, though the road of our Lord is very narrow and difficult, it is solid, strong, and secure. It will last forever. It leads to life.

Secondly, the gate is narrow and the road difficult because the gate is opposed to our natural inclination. Our natural inclination, after the Fall, has become sin and sinful pleasures, that is anything other than the enjoyment of God. Therefore, for a sinner, spending a few hours in worship is more difficult than a sports event, prayer is more tiresome than a day’s labor, spending time with the Father is more difficult than spending time with friends and family. For the degenerate, even spending time with family is painful because he longs for sinful company. But, as a person becomes spiritual, the lusts of the flesh die and the things of God give more joy than anything else in the world (Rom.8:1; 1Jn.5:3). Yet, this doesn’t mean that the flesh will not feel pain. However, the beauty of the narrow road is that one can rejoice even in the midst of pain and suffering (James 1:2; Acts 16:25; Phil.4:4).

Read Also: Heb.13:12-14; 2Cor.4:8-18; 1Pet.4:1; 1Pet.2:21-23

Mourning and Repentance – Matthew 5:4

Matt.5:4 – “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Repentance involves mourning and death. One mourns because he is dead to God because of his sins. And, the depth of mourning and sorrow over the sins determines the depth of repentance. Many people are still not delivered from sin, because they have not mourned enough, they have not mourned genuinely. Deep inside they still somehow cherish that besetting sin from which they have not turned away. They may say, “I hate that sin”; however, when the occasion comes they realize that their flesh is not yet crucified with Christ, and they are still dead in their sins. However, when there is intense and sufficient mourning, then there comes comfort; for the Spirit of Grace shines and like a thunderbolt puts the deeds of the flesh to death, and by that same one act also quickens us to life by virtue of the resurrection of Jesus. Then, we truly become dead to sin and alive to God; then, do we have true comfort of no longer being dead to God but having been reconciled to God in holiness and peace.