"Don't they know anything except Matthew 19:9?" That was the intermission discussion between auditors of a day-long series of lectures concerning "Marriage-Divorce and Re-marriage." Several preachers ably and faithfully examined passages touching the theme. Critical book reviews compared permissive schemes regarding divorce and re-marriage with pertinent Bible texts.
Vocal members of the congregation perceived that Matthew 19:9 was a thread common to each discourse. They were unhappy with conclusions drawn from Matthew 19:9 and related verses by the contingent of lectures that day.
Between the close of the series on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, the elders had been moved by voices of dissent to retract their commendation of the speakers. Further, to appease their aroused constituency the elders labeled the preachers of the previous day as false teachers. An elder spokesman tenured a summary, appealing explanation to the subject of marriage, divorce and re-marriage. "Whatever the law of the land allows, God will recognize and accept."
At other times and in other places brethren pose emotionally charged questions tainted with bias. "Would you really tell a husband and a wife that they have to get a divorce?" One sister asked. "My husband is a drunkard and my life with him is miserable; can I divorce him and marry someone else?"
At best, a preacher is a mailman for God! If a preacher accurately and compassionately presents a message from God, he has discharged his duty in the matter (Acts 20:20, 27). Sometimes the auditors of his message recognize and accept it as the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Sometimes people reject God's Word (Romans 10:15-16) and may castigate or harm the bearer of an unwelcome message (Acts 7:57-60). Many mailmen of God have been thought to be enemies of even religious people because of the divine mail they delivered (Galatians 4:16).
Simplified, what does the Bible teach about marriage, divorce and re-marriage? First, God instituted the home or marriage shortly after creation (Genesis 2:18-25). Clearly, God intended marriage to consist of one man and one woman for life. However, mankind later introduced polygamy and divorce (Genesis 4:19; Deuteronomy 24:1).
Second, not every marriage historically has been acceptable to God (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). God through his prophets commanded divorce in such cases, even when children were involved (Ezra 10:2-5, 9-12, 44).
Third, though God through Moses "suffered" divorce, Jesus restored the divinely given institution of marriage (Matthew 5:32; 19:3-9). Whereas in the beginning marriage was universal among men, Jesus restored marriage to its original status among all mankind. The Gospel according to Mark was written to Romans and included the restoration of marriage to its original state (Mark 10:11-12). God's marriage laws apply to Christians as well as non-Christians (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).
The New Testament only reveals two reasons for which any person may enter into a subsequent marriage. First, re-marriage is permitted by God if one's marriage partner has died and the widowed mate opts to marry a biblically qualified candidate (Romans 7:1-3). Second, Jesus in Matthew 19:9 permitted the innocent party of a divorce for adultery to marry another biblically eligible candidate. Jesus through the apostle Paul commanded that couples who divorce for other reasons to remain separate or reconcile (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
John the Baptist told a king that he had no right to his brother's wife (Matthew 14:3-4). The message was not popular, so much so that consequently John was executed because of it (Matthew 14:5-12). Any other message, condoning Herod's adultery, would have brought upon John a worse consequence than death (Matthew 10:28).
"Don't they know anything except Matthew 19:9?" To whom should we go for instruction in this matter if not to our Lord Jesus? All the emotional investment in the subject of marriage, divorce and re-marriage does not change the divine message at all.