Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage

Matthew 19:9 NASB

9          “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”[1]

The ESV Study Bible Note:

19:9 Every phrase in this verse is important for understanding Jesus’ teaching on divorce. whoever divorces his wife. “Divorces” is Greek apoluō, which always means “divorce” in contexts concerning marriage. Some commentators have claimed that apoluō means “separates from, sends away” in this verse (implying separation but not divorce), but this is not persuasive because (a) this word has not been shown to include the sense of “separate” in any other contexts concerning marriage and (b) the same word clearly means “divorce” in the Pharisees’ question in v. 3 (the current dispute among Jewish rabbis was about divorce, not separation), and therefore it should be understood to have the same meaning in Jesus’ response to their question in vv. 8 and 9. except for sexual immorality (Gk. porneia). (1) This implies that divorce and remarriage on the grounds of sexual immorality are not prohibited and thus do not constitute adultery. This is the one exception Jesus makes to the requirement that marriage be lifelong, for sexual immorality grievously defiles and indeed corrupts the “one flesh” union (v. 5). (2) The parallel passages in Mark 10:11–12 and Luke 16:18 omit “except for sexual immorality,” but that was probably because everyone, whatever their position in Jewish disputes over divorce (see note on Matt. 19:3), assumed that divorce was allowed in the case of adultery (i.e., the question of divorce because of adultery was not at issue in the immediate context in Mark 10 and Luke 16). But Matthew includes this fuller account of Jesus’ words, with the exception clause, perhaps to prevent any possible misunderstanding in other contexts, and perhaps to explicitly situate Jesus’ teaching within the context of the Jewish debates, for the benefit of his Jewish-Christian audience. (Also note that Matthew sometimes includes clarifying exceptions not included by Mark and Luke; e.g., Mark 8:12 quotes Jesus saying “no sign will be given to this generation,” whereas Matt. 16:4 says “no sign will be given to [this generation] except the sign of Jonah.”) (3) Some have claimed that porneia in this context refers to a very narrow, specific kind of sexual immorality, either sexual relations among close relatives or sexual immorality discovered during the betrothal period. Those who hold this position then argue that divorce in any other case is always prohibited, or else if divorce is allowed, remarriage is never allowed. But porneia had a broader range of meaning in ordinary usage, referring to any sexual intercourse that was contrary to the moral standards of Scripture, and nothing in this context would indicate that this should be understood in such a restricted sense (see note on 5:31–32). and marries another, commits adultery. (1) If a divorce is obtained for any reason other than (“except for”) sexual immorality, then the second marriage begins with adultery. Jesus is prohibiting divorce for the many trivial reasons that were used so frequently in the first century, leading to widespread injustice, especially for women whose husbands suddenly divorced them. (2) “And marries another” implies that the second marriage, though it begins with adultery, is still a marriage. Once a second marriage has occurred, it would be further sin to break it up. The second marriage should not be thought of as continually living in adultery, for the man and woman are now married to each other, not to anyone else. (3) If the exception (“sexual immorality”) occurs, then the implication is that remarriage to “another” does not constitute adultery and is therefore permissible. (4) Divorce, it must be remembered, is permitted but not required in the case of sexual immorality. Since God’s intention is that marriage should be for life (19:4–8), this provides good reason to make every reasonable effort to achieve restoration and forgiveness in marriage before taking steps to dissolve a marriage through divorce. This makes Jesus’ teaching fundamentally different from all of first-century Judaism, which required divorce in the case of adultery. (On the question of divorce and desertion, see 1 Cor. 7:15 and note.)[2]


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 19:9.

[2] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1860–1861.

An Introduction to Discussion, or Dialogue or Debate with Me

Hello and welcome! If you’re reading this you probably met me on Twitter and are discussing the truth claims of Jesus Christ with me. You are also probably an Atheist, since that is the group I focus on debating. I’m writing this introduction for you, so that you know where I am coming from and what you can expect from a dialogue with me.

I am a Protestant Christian Presuppositionalist. That means I start out in debates by assuming the truth of the Bible. I do not just assume the truth of the Bible for arguments sake, but I begin every conversation with the unquestionable knowledge that the Bible is God’s holy word. I never question the fact that the Biblical narrative, including the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is the truth. Right about now you might be wondering how I know the Bible is true. I know the Bible is true through God’s self-disclosure in creation and Scripture.

Regarding creation’s proof of God, we read in Romans 1:18-22:

Unbelief and Its Consequences

  18      For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

  19      because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

  20      For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

  21      For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

  22      Professing to be wise, they became fools,[1]

We see a briefer statement of this same fact from the Old Testament in Psalm 14:1:

1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;

There is no one who does good.[2]

Regarding Scripture’s proof of God, we read in Romans 10:17

  1. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.[3]

But Scripture adds in 1 Corinthians 2:14:

  1. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.[4]

So we see that God has thoroughly proven himself, but at the same time, God does not force sinners to accept the proof he has given. This preserves free will. Sinners are able to enter into a relationship with God if they want to, but if they would rather reject God, they are able to make up excuses to do so.

These truths are extremely significant for how I go about defending the Christian faith. If someone says they are an Atheist, I will use philosophy and science to establish the existence of God. I do not argue for the resurrection of Christ however since the word of God says this truth is “spiritually appraised.” In fact, speaking to this issue at a little more length, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31:

The Wisdom of God

  18      For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

  19      For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

  20      Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

  21      For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

  22      For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;

  23      but we preach aChrist crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,

  24      but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

  25      Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

  26      For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;

  27      but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

  28      and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,

  29      so that no man may boast before God.

  30      But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

  31      so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”[5]

That is why I do not evidentially argue for the miracles or resurrection of Christ. Rather, when someone chooses to accept the fact of God’s existence, I discuss the Bible with them. My hope is that they will accept the teaching of Jesus, spiritually discerning that he is our great God and Savior.

Lastly, I must point out that I’m on the internet to have educational conversations of substance. That requires that we discuss substantive educational materials. For this reason I often share articles or videos. People I’m discussing with sometimes complain about this, trying to justify their cowardly and intellectually lazy refusal to read or watch these resources, by saying I should present my argument in the comments myself. That is absurd, I am not going to write an article’s worth of information into comments, tweets, etc. Rather, my interlocutors will read or watch the materials I offer, and then we can do our best to discuss the information presented. If you are unwilling to engage with me and the resources I present in this way, then I will not waste my time talking with you.


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 1:18–22.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 14:1.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 10:17.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 2:14.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 1:18–31.

Was Jesus a failed eschatological prophet?

I recently came across a fascinating blog post titled, On One of the Main Reasons Why I Think Christianity is False: An Inference to the Best Explanation: Jesus as a Failed Eschatological Prophet.

The author of this post is very well read, and argues for his position very well indeed. Here is an excerpt from his conclusion:

It needs to be emphasized that this line of reasoning isn’t controversial among mainstream, middle-of-the-road NT critics. I’m not talking about a view held by the Jesus Seminar, or earlier “radical” form and redaction critics like Norman Perrin. Rather, I’m talking about the kinds of considerations that are largely accepted by moderates who are also committed Christians, such as Dale Allison and John P. Meier. Indeed, conservative scholars of the likes of none other than Ben Witherington and N.T. Wright largely admit this line of reasoning. Why are they still Christians, you ask? I’ll tell you: by giving unnatural, ad hoc explanations of the data. For example, Meier gets around the problem by arguing that the false prediction passages are inauthentic (i.e., Jesus never said those things; the early church just put those words on the lips of Jesus, and they ended up in the gospels); Witherington gets around the problem by saying that what Jesus really meant was that the imminent arrival of the eschatological kingdom might be at hand(!); Wright gets around the problem by adopting the partial preterist line that the imminent end that Jesus predicted really did occur — it’s just that it was all fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem (Oh, really? So are we also to think that since he’s already come again, he’s not coming back? Or perhaps there will be a *third* coming? But even putting these worries aside: why does Paul tell various communities very far *outside* of Israel about the same sorts of predictions of an imminent end that would affect *them* — one that, like the one Jesus talked about, involved judgement, destruction, and the gathering of all the elect? And again, what about the author of Revelation’s detailing the end-time judgment, which includes the Roman Empire *outside* of Israel, during the reign of Nero?). Are you convinced by these responses? Me neither. And now you know why nobody outside of orthodox circles buys them, either.

In response to his blog post, I offer Pastor Mike Winger’s video titled, Why Jesus Was NOT A Failed Apocalyptic Prophet.

The Secret to Getting God to Grant Your Prayer Requests

Mark 11:22-26

  22      And Jesus *answered saying to them, “Have faith in God.

  23      “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.

  24      “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.

  25      “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.

  26      [“aBut if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”][1]

Here the ESV Study Bible notes are helpful:

11:22–23 Have faith in God. Jesus’ response must have surprised the disciples. (What does faith have to do with the cursing of the fig tree?) His point is that they should trust God to remove whatever hinders them from bearing fruit for God. Moving a mountain was a metaphor in Jewish literature for doing what was seemingly impossible (Isa. 40:4; 49:11; 54:10; cf. Matt. 21:21–22). Those who believe in God can have confidence that he will accomplish even the impossible, according to his sovereign will.11:24–25whatever you ask. God delights to “give good things to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:11) and is capable of granting any prayer, though we must ask with godly motives (James 4:3) and according to God’s will (1 John 5:14). believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Those who trust God for the right things in the right way can have confidence that God will “supply every need … according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19), knowing that he will work “all things together for good” and will “graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:28, 32). Some have misused this verse by telling people that if they pray for physical healing (or for some other specific request) and if they just have enough faith, then they can have confidence that God has already done (or will do) whatever they ask. But we must always have the same perspective that Jesus had—that is, confidence in God’s power but also submission to his will: “Father, all things are possible for you.… Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).[2]


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mk 11:22–26.

[2] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1919.

What Comfort Does God Offer People Who Suffer?

The world is full of suffering and evil because of humanity’s rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden. We have been cursed by God with pain and death because of our disobedience. But the Bible also teaches that God loves us, despite our sin, and has died on the cross in the person of Jesus Christ to redeem us from our sins. It is wonderful news that by faith in Christ, we can live with God in heaven forever once this life is over. But God offers even more comfort to those who suffer. First, God promises to avenge us in this life or the next, for the wrongs we have suffered in this life:

Romans 12:17-21

New International Version

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[b]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is a great comfort, because as Christians, we can know that people who abuse us will not get away with it, God is on our side.

Not only this, but God goes further, and promises to glorify us for the things we suffer as Christians:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

New International Version

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

God gives us “eternal glory” for the things we suffer in this life as Christians; this also is a great comfort. God will not allow us to be defeated by evil, God is on our side.

So we see that God offers much comfort to those who suffer.

What about all the errors in the Bible?

A question Christians sometimes struggle with is, “Why are there so many errors in the Bible if it is the word of God?” There are many books in the Bible that are forged, they were not written by the people whose names are ascribed to them. In addition, the Bible teaches false doctrine. We know this because the Bible contradicts itself, so some of its teachings must be false. For example, some passages in the Bible teach that we have free will and choose to believe in or reject God, but other passages teach that God chooses for us whether we will believe in him or not. Both teachings cannot be true because they contradict each other. I personally choose to believe that we have free will, but that is where I enter into the equation, since my view cannot be simply determined by reading the Bible.

So what is a Christian to believe about the Bible? Is the Bible Scripture, is it God’s word, or is it just made up by people? The answer, I believe, is both. Much of the Bible is just made up by people who believed in God, but some of the Bible really does contain a message from our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. So we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We must continue to read the Bible and strive to discern what is truly from God.

God never told humanity that he would give us a perfect book, so it is not as though God is being dishonest. Rather, God is testing us, finding out if we will seek him regardless of imperfections in the Bible. Clearly the message of Jesus Christ is God’s truth, so we must decide if we will do the right thing and follow the message of Jesus, or do the wrong thing and use the many errors in the Bible as an excuse to reject Christ.

We must remember that the Bible is a collection of historical documents; we have no right to expect them to be without error. What we can clearly see though, is that the overall message of the Bible is true.

What about those who never hear of Jesus?

People often wonder what happens to those who live their whole lives and never hear of Jesus Christ. The simple fact is that the Bible is not clear on this issue. God has therefore decided that the fate of the unevangelized is none of our business. That sounds terse, but it is the truth.

So what are we to do with our question about the unevangelized then? What we are to do, is live our lives according to God’s commandments, and trust that he will do the right thing with the souls of those who never get the chance to hear about Jesus. Some people die as babies, some people are so mentally handicapped that they cannot understand the Gospel, and some people live in remote parts of the world where they never hear of Jesus.  What we know, is that God is perfect and righteous, so he will do exactly the right thing with the unevangelized. What we need to do, is what God told us to do. We need to spend our time concerning ourselves with our own lives.

Why Can’t We See God?

It is often asked by those who don’t believe in Jesus, “Why can’t we see God?” The answer is that if God allowed us to see him, we would indeed choose to love and worship him, but it would be by force. Out of fear of Hell we would love and worship God, and that is not what God wants. God wants people to choose to love and worship him of their own free will.

So how is God to preserve free will, and at the same time, make it possible for people to know him? God’s system is this, he proves his existence through the creation, and he proves his specific identity through his word. This means everyone knows a God exists when they look at the world, but they don’t have to come to Jesus if they don’t want to. They can choose not to read the New Testament, they can choose not to spiritually seek Jesus, they can choose to go their own way – even choosing to deny the existence of a God at all.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” And John 8:31-32 tells us, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” So God has given his word to us in such a way, that if we study it and live it out, we will know that it is true. This is not accomplished by our own abilities, but is a work of God. And God is even more gracious, as Jesus said in John 15:26-27, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” So every time someone hears the Gospel, the Holy Spirit testifies to them that it is the truth.

But again, God does all this in such a way that he is not forcing belief on the sinner. We have the free will to reject the Holy Spirit’s testimony and refuse to read and live by God’s word. Thus God makes it possible for us to have a voluntary relationship with him, to choose to love and worship him of our own free will.

Great chess advice and a helpful review!

I saw this description of the chess book Side-stepping Mainline Theory: Cut Down on Chess Opening Study and Get a Middlegame You are Familiar With, and thought I’d share it, because it has some really valuable advice for the average chess player:

The average chess player spends too much time on studying opening theory. In his day, World Champion Emanuel Lasker argued that improving amateurs should spend about 5% of their study time on openings. These days club players are probably closer to 80%, often focusing on opening lines that are popular among grandmasters. Club players shouldn’t slavishly copy the choices of grandmasters. GMs need to squeeze every drop of advantage from the opening and therefore play highly complex lines that require large amounts of memorization. The main necessity for club players is to emerge from the opening with a reasonable position, from which you can simply play chess and pit your own tactical and positional understanding against that of your opponent. Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins recommend the Old Indian-Hanham Philidor set-up as a basis for both Black and White. They provide ideas and strategies that can be learned in the shortest possible time and require the bare minimum of maintenance and updating. They deliver exactly what you need: rock-solid positions that you know how to handle. By adopting a similar set-up for both colours, with similar plans and techniques, you further reduce study time. With this compact and straightforward opening approach, Welling and Giddins argue, club players will have more time to focus on what is really decisive in the vast majority of non-grandmaster games: tactics, positional understanding and endgame technique.

Following this, I read this review of the book, and found it particularly helpful:

Steven

4.0 out of 5 stars It works as a universal opening, every time. Stop messing with opening theory and just use this one.

Reviewed in the United States on May 1, 2020

Verified Purchase

There are basically two universal openings that I’ve heard of. The first is the Hippopotamus Defense. The other is the Old Indian – Hanham Philidor that gets recommended in this book.

I bought another book on the Hippo Defense first, before buying this book. Although is Hippo is useful and truly universal, it requires a much greater knowledge of other openings because it can evolve into the middle games of of those openings. And you don’t have a lot of control over which ones the opponent will choose in order to attack your Hippo Defense. So the Hippo is best for advanced players.

The Old Indian is different. The author does an amazing job researching this. Using the opening lines recommended, it’s nearly impossible for the opponent to stop you from setting up your bread and butter position each time. Well, he could stop it…but only if he’s willing to accept a major disadvantage to do so.

You will emerge with a solid Old Indian position every time. You won’t get tripped up in the beginning with clever tactics. And it guarantees a positional style middle game, slow and steady. You opponent won’t be able to create sharp, tactical situations in the beginning. This will leave you with a greater margin of error to make sub-optimal moves later on.

It’s a really great book.