Is Matt. 19:9 (a) and (b) a sequence of events OR does (b) set forth a separate situation in which a woman put away for an unscriptural reason is married by a third party?
The passage explains which
divorces and remarriages God will accept as valid under the terms of his law and
which He will not accept. If a person sinfully and wrongfully rejects or
puts away his mate, his action is a farce so far as changing the obligations he
has to that mate under God's law. In terms of God's law, the man is still bound
to his mate so long as he lives.
If he has unlawful sexual relations with another (whether before or after he wrongfully puts away his true mate), his true mate has scriptural grounds to reject or put him away. That might involve countersuing in the courts if he has a suit for divorce pending. But if he has already been granted a divorce by the courts of man, the laws of man make no provision for her to act. So far as the courts of man are concerned, legal issues such as property rights have already been settled and there is nothing else to be said in the realm of human law. But if he commits adultery (before or after his action in the courts of man), there is something else to be said by divine law-by the moral and spiritual law of the court of God. She now may put away, reject, or divorce him as a moral and spiritual act. Some suggest that this would be a mere mental or emotional farce-a whim, or a meaningless abstraction. Certainly her intellect and emotions are involved, but the action involves her whole being. Just as once she bound herself to the obligations of marriage with her whole being under the law of God, now she looses herself from those duties with her whole being under the law of God. With her whole being she once accepted the bond and duties of marriage-now she rescinds that commitment. Her commitment was first made to God in her own heart. She made it known to the man who was asking for her hand. She was not ashamed for others to know she had made that commitment and so she stated her commitment in the formal manner customary to society and required by law. But now she puts away, rejects, or divorces that man as a spiritual and moral act under the law of God. This is first a decision and an act of her own heart-known only to herself and to God. She will make it known to the man who wrongfully rejected her that she scripturally rejects him. Society and the courts of men are not concerned with the moral and spiritual aspects of scriptural divorce (any more than with scriptural baptism or worship). Therefore, no provision is made by society or the courts of men for a formal statement of this divorce. Yet she would be willing to acknowledge her rejection of her husband to any and all interested parties, in private or public. Because the law of man does not recognize the law of God at this point, naturally they make no formal provision for it and make no record of it in human courts. Because of this failure of human society and law to recognize God's law on divorce and remarriage (that it must be for immorality), some Christians believe the man's wrongful act of rejecting his wife precludes her from scripturally rejecting him. This means that since the courts of men recognize his sinful efforts and ignore her righteous efforts, Christians must define acceptable divorce and remarriage according to the courts of men and not by the immutable laws of God. In other words, if the court after granting the man a wrongful divorce would at some time hear the appeal of the woman that her husband was living in adultery, would agree that it had erred in granting him a sinful divorce, and would grant her a rightful divorce, then she could remarry. This means that when the laws of God and men contradict on divorce and remarriage, God's law is not operative and applicable until men agree to make it so in their own courts.