MDR: Luke 16

The final Gospel passage regarding divorce is Luke 16:18 —

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Edwards points out that the original Greek in this passage requires that the actions translated as “divorces” and “marries” must occur simultaneously with the verb “adultery” — eliminating any possibility that Jesus is suggesting that the adultery occurs after marriage — it occurs at the same time as the divorce and remarriage — not later.[1]

“Divorces” and “marries” are participles in the Greek, and parallel participles ordinarily express simultaneous action.

Why is the remarriage “adultery”? Because in this case the divorce was in order to remarry — the temptation to be with another woman led to the break up of the first marriage, making the second marriage a direct product of the sin that triggered the divorce. Hence, this passage is entirely consistent with our view of Matthew 19.

Thus, Jesus’ point is that it’s sin to divorce in order to marry someone else, as you are to be entirely loyal to your spouse as long as you’re married. You may not fall in love with someone while married to someone else. If you do, you may not divorce in order to be with your love.

Christianity is about serving other people. Getting your way at the cost of harming others is not in the cards. Repentance means submission to God and to others. God doesn’t promise you heaven on earth — or even a soul mate. Heaven comes later.

There are many New Testament passages where spouses are urged to make sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom (e.g., 1 Cor. 7:12-13; 1 Pet. 3:1), and one sacrifice is to love your spouse and not go looking for a better one. Of course, there are exceptions, but the exceptions aren’t about anything remotely selfish.


[1] Edwards, pp. 150-151.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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6 Responses to MDR: Luke 16

  1. Lee S. says:

    I really have appreciated your articles on marriage and divorce. I was a preacher in the Church of Christ for 20 years and unfortunely went through more than one divorce after leaving the ministry. I caused the first divorce by being sexually unfaithful as well as emotionally. When I was married again, my wife decided after a year that she didn't want to be married anymore. No attempts on my part during a long period of time could convince her to go for counseling together or anything else. We finally filed for divorce. I am now married to a wonderful, spiritual Christian lady and we've been together for several years. I used to be concerned that since my second divorce wasn't "Scriptural," that this put me in a bad state even though I had fully repented and no longer want to ever break a marriage vow again! Many would think I'm living in adultery and should be single for the rest of my life. Most passage of Scripture on this subject I've come to some (I believe) healthy understandings. But the latter part of vs. 18 here has caused me some confusion. It sounds like it's saying that if a man divorces his wife to marry another woman that is adultery(which I agree with), but the woman who was put out, if she remarries after her husband has divorced her to marry another, is she sinning?

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Lee,

    Thanks for raising the question. The same issue arises in the Matthew 5 passage, which says much the same thing. As I wrote at http://oneinjesus.info/2008/09/20/mdr-matthew-5-p…,

    As God hates divorces and wants his disciples to honor their covenants, he expects divorced couples to reconcile whenever possible, just as Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 7:11. Although a couple is divorced, they are still bound by their covenant and should honor it if possible by reconciliation and repenting of the sin that led to the divorce.

    However, if the wife remarries, she makes reconciliation impossible. Moreover, so does her new husband. Both have made it impossible for the couple to reconcile. In fact, once the second marriage occurs, reconciliation can never happen without violating Deuteronomy 24. Hence, the second marriage makes the first covenant impossible of performance. And covenant breaking is adultery.

    This, I think, is at least the heart of Jesus’ point. Remarriage is not sin (Paul said so), but remarriage that prevents a possible reconciliation is. Of course, not all marriages have any hope of reconciliation, but many do. Therefore, it is very unwise, even wrong, to quickly remarry after a divorce. Marriages “on the rebound” are notoriously unlikely to work, and they often occur before any serious effort can be made to work through the problems that led to the first divorce.

    After all, divorces happen for reasons, and sometimes the reason is that the divorcing spouse has ungodly attitudes or other issues that will cause the second marriage to fail as well.

    From a pastoral standpoint, the parties to a divorce should be honest and vulnerable enough to do some self-discovery before entering into another marriage. They may well find that once they learn the causes of the first divorce, they can reconcile. Or even if reconciliation is unrealistic, they’ll make a much better second marriage.

    As discussed there as well, the "adultery" is the marrying, not the sexual relations thereafter, as the Greek implies that "commits adultery" and "marries" are concurrent.

    I should not be read as saying the second marriage is always sinful. Rather, I'm just saying that the marriage shouldn't happen while reconciliation is possible. Much the same thinking drives most divorce laws which prohibit a marriage for a time — typically 6 months — after a divorce. Not all marriages can (or should) be reconciled.

  3. R.J. says:

    Maybe this was merely a censor against the pharisees who oversaw marital problems. One Scribe would see a man with an attractive woman come to him for guidance. Maybe he would divorce his own wife secretly(if he had one). Instead of helping, this teacher of the law attempts to cause this married couple to fight until irreconcilable. He would then woo this girls heart until she wants him instead. The pharisee would insist the husband divorce the girl(giving her a get). Then attempt to marry her secretly(so as not to be stigmatized). Thus, the Scribe commits adultery even if he wasn’t formally married because he deliberately sundered another matrimonial union to steal her heart away. Showing utter contempt to the sanctity of marriage.

  4. R.J. says:

    In Luke 16:18b, the verb for “divorced” is in the passive perfect tense. But it’s also a participle. Should it be rendered as a past action with present repercussions or something that is presently complete with future results? In other words, is there a such thing as the future perfect?

  5. Jay Guin says:

    RJ,

    In the Greek, the verbs are indicative present active. The sense of time comes from context, and “marries” and “divorces” are both aorist participles, and hence simultaneous and point in time. Jesus’ is criticizing divorcing a spouse in order to marry another — and this is the adultery he charges them with.

  6. R.J. says:

    Oh I agree. I meant the second part of the verse where he says “and he that marries a divorced woman commits adultery”. According to http://biblehub.com/lexicon/luke/16-18.htm, the Greek term for “divorced” here is a participle in the perfect tense passive voice. At least according to the Majority Text.

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