The Difference Between
Cause & Consequence

By Jeff Belknap 

Those who advocate post-civil-divorce “putting away” for post-civil-divorce fornication justify their doctrine by asserting that Jesus emphasized the “CAUSE” for the divorce, not the procedure (cf. Mt. 5:32; 19:9). 

However, these brethren seem to neglect the obvious difference between “cause” and “consequence.”  In Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, Jesus spoke of both of these elements.  He specified the one and only scriptural “cause” for putting away, and He outlined the consequences of divorce (cf. II Tim. 2:15; I Pet. 4:11). 

Cause: “1 The power or efficient agent producing any thing or even. 2 Any rational ground for choice or action; reason. 3 Any rational ground for choice or action; reason. 4 A great enterprise, movement, principle, or aim.  5 Law An action or suit; also, a ground of action. 6 Obs. Behalf; interest. 7 Philos. The object or end for which anything is done or made; purpose; aim. – v.t. caused, causing. To be the cause of; produce; effect; induce; compel” (New Illustrated Webster’s Dictionary; p. 162).


Consequence: “n. 1 That which naturally follows from a preceding action or condition; the effect of a cause; result. 2 The conclusion of a syllogism; inference; deduction. 3 The relation between an antecedent and a consequent; causal or logical consecution; sequence” (New Illustrated Webster’s Dictionary; p. 214). 

Those who promote a second “putting away” for the “cause” of post-civil-divorce fornication, build their assumptions upon ignorance of the significant difference between cause and consequence. 

Matthew 5:32, “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (emp. jhb). 

Notice that the root word, “cause,” is found twice in Matthew 5:32a.  Jesus taught that fornication must be the cause of the divorce, NOT the consequence of it.  Jesus stated that when a man unlawfully puts away his wife for any other “cause” than fornication, he then “causeth her” to commit adultery (the consequence). 

In addition to placing a stumbling block before his wife, when a man perpetrates an unlawful divorce, he compounds his error by rejecting his only approved companion to “avoid fornication” (cf. I Cor. 7:2; Rom. 13:14).  Succumbing to his own incontinency would be another consequence of his sin.  Yet, some brethren are actually claiming that the consequence of an unlawful divorce can be mysteriously turned into the cause for a lawful divorce.  Amazing! 

The Lord taught that when one puts away for a cause other than fornication, he has no right to another.  Jesus also taught that when put away, one commits adultery upon their marriage to another

Matthew 19:9, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (emp. jhb).  Cp. w. Mk. 10:11-12 

Jesus specified the only lawfulcause” to put away.  He then revealed the consequences for violation of that law: the impossibility of lawful remarriage (to another) for either party, while their bound spouse lives (Rom. 7:2-3). 

Indeed, Jesus authorized men (and women) to put away an unfaithful spouse (i.e. sunder the marriage) for the “cause” of fornication.  However, no scripture can be found to authorize a second “putting away” (after the couple has become unmarried – I Cor. 7:10-11) based upon the consequence of post-civil-divorce fornication (cf. Mt. 19:12)! 

Post ScriptConsider the sequence of events in Luke 16:18: “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”  Here, when the unjustly put away person remarries even after the fornication of her bound mate, she becomes guilty of adultery nonetheless. 

Regardless of who marries first (after an unlawful divorce), adultery is still the result for both when they marry another.  There is simply not one shred of Bible authority for any put away person to remarry another, while their bound spouse lives (Rom. 7:2-3).  The possibility to exercise a post-civil-divorce “putting away” for post-civil-divorce fornication in order to remarry another is an exception that originates only in the creative minds of men (cf. Isa. 8:20). 

The idea that the exception clause can be exercised by the one who is put away is shown to be baseless at the following link:

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM