Did I get married too young?

David Lapp got married last year when he was 22 years old and his wife was 21. By today’s standards, that is really young. But in today’s Wall Street Journal, Lapp makes the case for early marriage. He writes:

“Did I get married too young? I may not have the freedom to globetrot at my own leisure or to carouse at a bar late into the night. But when I step into our 500-square-foot one-bedroom apartment, warmly lighted and smelling of fresh flowers and baked bread, I do have the freedom to kiss my beautiful wife and best friend—the woman I pledged to always love and cherish, and to raise a family with. I have no regrets.”

After you finish reading Lapp’s article, go read Albert Mohler’s take-away on this subject for Christians. He writes:

“The delay of marriage is a huge problem, and Christians should be in the forefront of seeing and understanding the problem — and countering the arguments against early marriage. Churches and parents need to ask why we are not getting young adults ready for marriage. Abdication to the ‘hooking up’ culture of young adulthood is just not an option.”

Read the rest here.


  • Phil B

    We got married when we were both 20. We were poor as dirt — both had low-paying, part-time jobs (actually I didn’t have a job at all but got one about a month after the wedding) and were both juniors in college. We used to spend our Friday nights going to the grocery store looking for discount meat and bread. 12 and 1/2 years later, we don’t have a lot more money, but we do have 2 beautiful boys, lots of great memories, and a very happy and satisfying marriage. Despite criticism from others (even some in ministry), I unapologetically tell people to get married early with two caveats — both of you need to be totally committed to the Lord first and foremost, and divorce is NEVER an option.

  • Donald Johnson

    It is not a question of when to marry, but whom. Marrying the wrong person is a mistake, marrying the right one is a blessing. Claiming one wants to get married early or late is not what one should be concerned about.

    And divorce is ALWAYS an option if the other party consistently breaks marriage vows, just like in any Biblical covenant.

  • Darius

    “And divorce is ALWAYS an option if the other party consistently breaks marriage vows, just like in any Biblical covenant.”

    Praise the Lord that God doesn’t believe that, or we would all be in a heap of trouble.

  • Jessi Bridges

    I think getting married young is great. My husband and I married 6 years ago, when I was 18 and he was 20. We decided to get married and everyone thought we were too young. But, we were ready to make the commitment and there were no reasons to wait. I hate when I hear that a couple has dated for 4 years and is engaged for 3. Why wait? Marriage is a wonderful thing!! Plus, in putting it off, you’re just living in temptation. For example:

    My brother and his wife got married at the same ages as my husband and I: 18 and 20. Her mom wanted them to wait longer until they had “more life experience” but they explained to her that they knew they were going to get married eventually. Why would you hold off and live in temptation?

    And Phil, I absolutely agree with you! Those were our two requirements before we married. Divorce isn’t even in our vocabulary. It makes it easier to bring up disagreements and to work through issues. We each know that the other is there for the long-haul, no matter what it takes.

  • D.J. Williams

    Amen, Darius.

    As for timing, it varies on the couple in question. My wife and I were married when I was 22 and she was 20, but actually got a lot of questions about why we were “waiting” due to the fact that we dated for four 1/2 years prior to marriage and intentionally waited until one of us finished college to provide some financial stability. So, while we seem to have “married young,” some would still say we put it off and wondered why we didn’t just “trust God” and do it sooner.

  • Donald Johnson

    God most certainly believes it, as God got a divorce.

    God’s intent (God’s perfect will) is for marriage to last a lifetime and that should be the intent of all marrying.

    But God allows (God’s permissive will) divorce due to the effects of sin when the covenant vows are broken. If someone teaches differently, it is because they have a fundamental misunderstanding of covenants.

  • Scott

    Ah yes! The “marry them young so they don’t screw up” strategy.

    I completely agree with Don on this. Who you marry is infinitely more important than when you get married. The divorce rate among evangelicals who marry before 23 is shocking.

  • Charlie

    I hear both points made by the writer of the article and the commenter Donald.

    There is a tension between marrying young and being to young to marry. On one hand there is an obvious problem that someone is intentionally putting off marriage for unholy reasons: money, etc. Godliness found in a life of purity is much more valuable than mammon.

    But on the other hand there are several guys that I know who I would not advise to get married. Their character is not one capable of lovingly leading a wife into Christ likeness. Yes, a lot is constructed in marriage (especially if you go into it knowing that you can’t get out. If the metal can escape the mold then the image will not be formed when put under pressure. It will find a way to leek out). One has to have something to start with, do they not? I cannot imagine handing a daughter to a guy that is enslaved to a sexual sin. Or a guy that spends his money foolishly before he gets it.

    So I guess what I am saying is that broad sweeps of “get married early” are only somewhat helpful.

    What I would propose would be a focus on getting men and women ready for marriage when they are young. I believe that we can blend both points into one. Lets call young men and women to live under the grace manifested to them through the gospel that they might live a life that is in a manner worthy of the calling that they have received. We should have the focus of leading men and women to find satisfaction in the Christ, rooted and built up in Him. And when we see them developing the qualifications of being a spouse to another child of God then we can push them marry. and yes, one can have very unrealistic expectations about what is needed for marriage. but that is not what I am proposing. any wise man or woman can know when someone is capable of marrying. And in the end, if our Father wants them to hold back for a few more years so that He can work on them, He will do it. and if we don’t have them young, then we can work with them till they have the needed character.

    And also. There are single people in your congregation that would love to get married if given the chance. But God has not seen fit to bring them someone that can be a suitable marriage partner. not that you have to be silent on the topic of the need to get married. But only calling people to get married will no encouraging word to them will either frustrate or dispense despair to them who are unable to fulfill the command.

  • Larry S

    In my view, I hope kids getting married get real pre-marital counselling by a liscenced psycologist – not just a few sessions with a pastor or a marriage seminar. actually any couple contemplating married should do so.

    and I hope they get some personality testing

  • Matthew Staton

    We married in our early 20’s (I was 24, she was 21) with the approval and good will of both sets of parents and our church. There was a stated belief by some that we were too young but we felt that we would grow up together – which we are doing and wouldn’t change a thing. Well, I’d change lots of things, but not the fact that we got married! This year will be our 13th anniversary.

    I have seen some parents subtly or even overtly pressure their kids to marry young, often someone of the parents’ choosing. If it is more about parental control than it is about supporting the young adult as they leave and cleave then it is wrong-headed.

  • Brian Krieger

    Well said, Charlie! The man I would consider my spiritual father always said “get yourself together so you can give yourself away”.

    In my view, I think that we’ve put too much emphasis on man-based marriages. Today, it seems all about “finding the right one”. There is too much of a reliance on personality, predilection, and, well, feelings. While those things impact a marriage, marriages should be rooted in God first. Getting that right can overcome anything else. NOTE: Neither am I saying that we should ignore all personality traits and/or perceived compatibility. But as your marriage grows, even some of those original signs of compatibility will likely wane or disappear.

    And Larry, if you are pointing to the replacement of biblical counseling with pop psychology and personality tests, I have to say what a dangerous proposition that is (at best). I agree that one or two sessions with a pastor or a day seminar isn’t it. Get a good mentoring couple. Seek out the greybeards in your church. Find godly people to pour into you, don’t go and drink the sewage of current culture and what’s currently fashionable. Psychologists can often get the symptoms right, but a solution divorced from God is doomed to failure*. And that, I think, is where the church has often failed. From the replacing of biblical counsel with current psych trends to a jettisoning of discipleship and any semblance of church authority, the church has fostered the undermining of marriage (and, in turn, family).

    * – i.e. there are godly psychologists who marry the tools of analysis available with God’s word, but they are few, at least based on my experience and anecdotally speaking.

  • Polarbear

    I enjoyed the articles and the comments on here. Timing is in God’s hands, not ours. We should not try to rush it or delay it. Preparing ourselves is what we need to focus on. I knew that I wanted to marry my wife two years before God gave me the go ahead to ask her for our first date! Then a few months later He sent me to China for a year. Did I want to wait? No. God was still preparing me to be a husband and a father and He was preparing her to be a wife and a mother.

    Now, since we seem to be opening cans of worms in the comments section, let me open another. Delaying marriage is one issue, but another more serious issue is delaying having children. Young people are delaying marriage for selfish reasons and even more young people are delaying having children for selfish reasons. Children are a blessing, not a curse (you can look it up!) We are so infatuated with money that we deny ourselves God’s blessings whether through marriage or children (natural or adopted).

    One other point, who says that every 18-year-old has to go to college. It makes no sense for a young person to essentially take on an educational mortgage when they do not have a plan to use that education. Education can be wonderful and is required for some professions (I have a master’s degree for the record), but to go and get a degree in “general studies” is ludicrous without a clear path for using a degree.

    Ok, I’m off my soapbox now.

  • Darius

    “God most certainly believes it, as God got a divorce.”

    I’m guessing you’re basing this on Isaiah 50… if so, that’s just terrible exegesis. Read the ENTIRE Bible, Donald, not just the parts that favor your pro-divorce view. Plus, even if we allow your claim that God “got a divorce,” the logic is strained. By your logic, it should also be okay for us to kill our child to pay someone’s punishment because God did it.

  • Scott

    I’m just curious why we assume that every one who delays getting married or having children is doing so for “selfish reasons.”

    I can’t imagine ever advising a young person not to get a college degree. Ever. Even if it is in general studies. We’re getting to the point where a master’s degree is now the expectation, not the norm.

  • Darius

    “I can’t imagine ever advising a young person not to get a college degree. Ever. Even if it is in general studies.”

    College degrees aren’t for everyone. Some people aren’t cut out for “book learnin'” but they make great tradesman.

    The overemphasis on college degrees in our society is a plague which only further alienates those who want to just work with their hands for a living. College education is the new class warfare.

    Note: I have a Bachelor’s degree, as do my parents and my three siblings. So, obviously, I think quite highly of education. But I also see the danger in overvaluing it.

  • Jessi Bridges

    “College degrees aren’t for everyone. Some people aren’t cut out for “book learnin’” but they make great tradesman.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more! There is much to be said for those who decide to learn a trade either through school, an apprenticeship (sp?), or joining the military.

    I personally have a Bachelor’s because my father pushed me to get one. It’s currently in a file somewhere because I am a homemaker now and want to be a mother who stays home to homeschool my children. I think the emphasis on college education can be dangerous especially when parents and students start to go into large amounts of debt. Is that really what God calls us to? I would say no.

  • Darius T

    That said, I also don’t like it when people think that the only value in a college education is the job it can lead to. Sure, that ultimately should be a major reason you rack up huge student loan debt, but a college education also opens your horizons in many other ways.

  • Donald Johnson

    Is 50:1 is not the main verse, Hos 2:2 and Jer 3:8 are, patricularly the latter. The northern Israelites (Ephraimites) became “not my people”.

    I am not “pro-divorce” but in a sinful world sometimes it is be best way forward, which is why God ALLOWS it for violation of covenant vows but does not require it.

  • Mark

    I agree with Don and Scott. It’s not about how old you are when you get married but who you get married with. Now, I don’t mean that you should avoid marrying a certain person because he or she has different interests or habits than you do. For example, she likes rock climbing and you like pottery making. Or she likes to arrange her books by genre and you like to shelve your books by the authors’ last name. However, a consistent pattern of ungodliness (and it doesn’t have to be gross sins like selling illegal drugs to kids or anything of that sort) should disqualify that person as a potential marriage partner (think of being too self-absorbed or always going off the handle for some small thing).

    I also agree that under certain circumstances that divorce is permissible before God. However, this is not the ideal but a permission by God because of our fallen nature.

  • John Holmberg


    You make some pretty bold claims, brother. Jesus himself allowed for divorce in certain circumstances (e.g. adultery). The marriage covenant is sacred, but a “covenant” is not unconditional but entails mutual obligation. We should view marriage as sacred & an ordinance, and we should have the mindset that divorce is not an option, but the reality of our sinful world sometimes causes us to behave otherwise, and God makes this concession for us. Constant abuse & unfaithfulness come to mind. And yes, God is said to have divorced Israel a few times in the OT, and if you deny that then you’re the one with faulty exegesis. And that was downright low of you to say Don has a “pro-divorce view.” I guess you would say the same for Jesus. Maybe by your statements I can claim you have a pro-adultery or pro-violence view?

    One final note: God did not “kill his child.” The Romans killed Jesus. Can you tell me where it says that God killed Jesus? Also, your logic simply does not work in that statement, which is ironic since you claimed Don’s logic to be faulty. The imatatio Dei & imatatio christi are well-attested Christian & biblical norms. Just because there may be one or two exceptions to this doesn’t mean that it’s not mainly the case (e.g. just because God judges sin & we’re not supposed to does not mean we don’t imitate God on other things such as love & patience. . . that’s faulty logic).

  • Darius T

    “Jesus himself allowed for divorce in certain circumstances (e.g. adultery).”

    John, this is a common misconception. What Jesus allowed was the “divorce” between betrothed couples who hadn’t become one flesh yet. He never allowed for divorce. It makes no sense that he would make one allowance for sin when he wouldn’t make such an allowance anywhere else (“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”).

    As for who killed Jesus, “it was the will of God to crush him.”

  • Darius T

    As for Don’s view of divorce, it most certainly IS pro-divorce. I say the same thing of someone who is supposedly “pro-choice”; they’re in fact pro-abortion. Don is encouraging sin… woe to him, Jesus didn’t appear to kindly to those who help others to sin.

  • Donald Johnson

    Divorce is not a sin when it is done for a Biblical reason, it is a sin if it is done for no reason at all, i.e., for convenience.

    It is not true that divorce was only alllowed for betrothed couples, altho that was one case. Again, I recommend Instone-Brewer, if you have not read what he says you are almost certainly making mistakes in interpretation.

  • Matthew Staton

    Darius, would Deuteronomy 24 and Ezra’s large-scale divorce also qualify as pro-divorce?

    I’ll be honest, it’s grating to hear one brother say “woe to him” to another brother.

  • John Holmberg


    Really? Just because it was God’s will meant that he did it? Wow. A lot of things are God’s will but he is not the agent. The Romans killed Jesus, not God, but it was God’s will that he die.

    Also, that’s some nice exegetical gymnastics about divorce. Never in the text does it say anything remotely close to that. You have to distinguish between two different kinds of “will” here. God’s antecedent will is that divorce is never an option, but on account of the heinous sin of humanity sometimes his consequential will may be divorce. I mean, have you actually thought how your view works itself out practically? Let’s say a husband beats his wife on a daily basis, is sleeping with 5 other women, and shows not one ounce of regret or repentance over the course of years. What is the wife to do? Just tough it out, suffer through it? I do believe there has to be an attempt at reconciliation, but if he does not change then she needs to get the heck out of there. Divorce is not always “sin” in every circumstance. In 95% of them, maybe, but not in 100%. I understand you trying to take a hard-line stance on this & your desire for absolutes, but it’s not always so cut & dry.

    And Don is not encouraging sin any more than you’re encouraging abuse & adultery. Maybe the “woe” should be directed elsewhere.

  • Darius

    It’s grating to hear divorce treated flippantly by other brothers. I guess it does confirm that people will do or say what is right in their own eyes before they will just rely on what God said.

  • Darius

    As DJ alluded, if that isn’t the case, then a bunch of non-English speakers in other parts of the world have no idea how to interpret the Bible. Hopefully Lord Brewer will pay them a visit, otherwise…

  • Scott

    I never knew that 1st-century Judeans were “married” just like 21st-century Americans!

    I have a hard time distinguishing between betrothal and “marriage” itself. The Romans didn’t allow non-citizens to get married. Even if Roman law did not extend into Judea, it’s still quite a stretch to presume a sharp distinction in significance between the Jewish betrothal and the “marriage” ceremony. I don’t think Jesus would have separated the two in principle.

  • David Vinzant

    Here’s what the “perfect law” says in Deut. 24 about divorce:

    1 “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.”

    Yes, I realize Jesus later explained this away, blaming it on Moses and hard hearts – but there it is in the law God gave to his people. Given all the other parts of the law that were hard to keep, Jesus’ exegesis is very odd.

    Then, there’s this, from Ezra:

    10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. 11 Now make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”

    Divorce is here commanded.

    God must not hate THAT much.

  • Matthew Staton

    BTW, it’s an interpretive decision to make the phrase πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ mean “whoever puts away the woman who was betrothed in a Jewish ceremony to him but has not married him yet…” I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that most scholars do not hold the line that Darius proposes on this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the most literal, on-it’s-face interpretation is simply “whoever divorces his wife”. It’s funny how we argue for a literal hermeneutic except for when we don’t.

    I find it interesting that Deut 24, Ezra, Jesus, and Paul all dealt with separate exception.

    (Deut 24 is the case of marry-divorce-remarry-divorce-remarry-first-husband, Ezra encouraged a mass divorce, Jesus addressed adultery and Paul addressed abandonment).

  • Donald Johnson

    It is a puzzle about how to put together all the verses on divorce into a consistent teaching, since they may seem to contradict one another.

    It is very easy to think that some of them say something they do not, due to the use of rabbinic phrases that the reader may not know, etc. From the 2nd century until 1856 almost no one could understand Mat 19:3 in cultural context, for example, and many still do not today.

    And when some divorce text is misunderstood, the common result is condemnation of members of the body of Christ; that is why I speak out.

  • Darius T

    “Given all the other parts of the law that were hard to keep, Jesus’ exegesis is very odd.”

    Funny, I thought it was Jesus’ right to interpret Scripture as He liked. And please, please, please, stop using a prophetic text to defend divorce… learn to read the Bible within its genre and authorial intent. Seriously.

    Matthew, regarding the “except for immorality” clause… Piper exegetes it well in his book This Momentary Marriage. It’s a great book, I highly recommend it.

  • Darius T

    Hmm, I’ve tried to quote Piper several times and it won’t post it. Hopefully it will show up later, but I’ve given you, Matthew, an excerpt explaining how to properly read the divorce “exception.”

  • Donald Johnson

    I found Piper’s book in the Desiring God website, thanks for indicating it was online. I just downloaded it.

    I find it makes a hash of the text, he fails to bring a Hebrew understanding to the text, which means he misses a LOT. Study Instone-Brewer.

  • Donald Johnson

    Right, the NT we have is in Greek, it is possible some books were first written in Hebrew, some ECF say this.

    But except for Luke they were all written by Hebrews who thought like Hebrews and Luke was the disciple of Paul, the greatest rabbi after Jesus IMO.

  • David Vinzant

    Actually, Donald, all four gospels – including the one we call Luke – were written anonymously. The names were attached at a later date based on conjecture, hearsay and tradition.

    Darius – are you saying that Ezra is prophetic literature?

  • Darius

    No, I wasn’t talking about Ezra (sorry). Ezra is just like what Paul says regarding new believers. If their spouse is not a believer, then the option to divorce is available to the unbeliever. Paul says not to force them to stay. This is the only allowable instance of divorce, and that is because such a marriage won’t point to what it was meant to represent: Christ and His Bride. But God desires even there for believers to stay married if their spouse is willing.

  • Scott

    Who/what is the ECF that claims some of the NT books were first written in Hebrew? Are they referring to the gospel of Matthew (re. the fragments of the gospel & Papias). Otherwise, I have never heard it mentioned that ANY NT book was first written in Hebrew.

    As for the NT authors, yes they were Hebrew. But, they were thoroughly Hellenized. We’re talking about Asia Minor, GREEK Asia Minor. I’d suggest reading Engberg-Pedersen & not just Instone-Brewer.

  • Donald Johnson

    Ezra is NOT like what Paul said about nonbelievers. Paul says that an unbeliever can divorce and the believer cannot do anything about it, so accept it. Ezra says for Israelites to divorce/annul marriage their wives.

    Yes, Papias about Matthew.

    Some of the terms found in the NT match those found in the Mishnah, a rabbinic commentary; if you do not know those meanings, you will misunderstand what is being said. This includes Mat 19:3 for 2 terms, one might be figured out but the other not so much.

  • Matthew Staton

    Ezra is actually opposite Paul. Paul said, “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.” 1 Cor 7:12

    In Ezra’s case, the men proactively put their unbelieving wives away. Different situations getting different treatment.

    Darius, it seems to me that your exegesis in comment #39 is a serious blunder; you say exactly the opposite of what I believe God’s Word says in this case. The issue is not saved vs. unsaved. The issue is abandonment, specifically an unsaved spouse abandoning a saved spouse. It is more of a practical matter, not a spiritual this-spoils-the-picture matter.

    It’s a difficult subject. It has real-life consequences. No matter what stand you take, there are tensions and difficulties. It is right to take the stand that you believe is most faithful to God’s revealed Word. But it calls for grace when speaking to others, not calling down woe on them. Yikes. Gentleness and respect ought to mark us, all of us. And I point a finger at myself in saying that: I am often no stellar example, either.

  • Donald Johnson

    The Mishnah was written down about 200 AD, but it contains debates between Hillel and Shammai who lived before Jesus. There are things in the Mishnah that are referred to as the “traditions of the elders” in the NT, as it was oral at the time, called the Oral Torah.

    Instone-Brewer is working on a series of books with an acronym of TRENT – Traditions of the Rabbis in the Era of the NT, trying his best to extract the parts of the Mishnah that was the oral tradition at the time of Jesus and Paul.

  • Darius T

    “But it calls for grace when speaking to others, not calling down woe on them.”

    I’m not saying “woe” to those who are involved in a divorce, cause that would indeed be heartless without personal knowledge. I’m saying “woe” to those who, like Donald, would encourage people to sin and violate God’s standards. I despise false teaching like that.

  • Matthew Staton


    As far as interpreting Matthew 5:31-32 – out of curiosity, I just checked 7 sources.

    Dr. Constable, a long-time prof at DTS (online notes),
    Donald Hagner (Word commentary),
    Michael Wilkins (NIVAC),
    Douglas Hare (Interpretation commentary),
    David L. Turner (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT),
    Daniel Doriani (Reformed Expository Commentary), and
    Ben Witherington III (Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary). One of them, I think it was Wilkins, quotes Instone-Brewer. Also scanned the pertinent section in the online IVP commentary at Biblegateway. If I had an ESV, I would check that, too, but I don’t so I can’t.

    None of these even seriously considered the interpretation of the passage only referring to a betrothed-but-not-married spouse. The most surprising one to me was Witherington, who believes Jesus was essentially only referring to incest. Most of them basically contrasted the easy come, easy go attitude of Jewish divorce of the day, obtainable by a writing for any reason, with Jesus saying “don’t do it” but making an exception for the real-life experience of an unfaithful spouse.

    I don’t think Piper represents any sort of scholarly consensus on this passage at all, if he says what you say. Perhaps he is right and they are wrong, but even so it would call for a measure of grace in discussing it.

    And surely we can all agree that researching a passage means something different than reading one source and calling down woe on all who disagree with it 😉

    Well, I’ve had my say. I better get back to what I’m supposed to be doing! Grace and peace.

  • Scott


    I’m very familiar with TRENT and the debates between Hillel and Shammai. I’m just not sure how much of the “traditions” we can accurately trace back to the first century! It’s a fascinating discussion, however!

  • Darius T

    “I don’t think Piper represents any sort of scholarly consensus on this passage at all, if he says what you say. Perhaps he is right and they are wrong, but even so it would call for a measure of grace in discussing it.”

    This is true, and Piper admits that he is one of only a handful who interpret that way. The grace belongs to those who do divorce over unrepentant adultery or abuse and to those who remarry… NOT to those who would push divorce as a viable option. Many people leave a marriage WAY too early and just move on to a new life… this is tragic and should NOT be encouraged.

  • Matthew Staton

    Darius, I suspect that you have in mind some situations where people used divorce as the convenient way out and are reacting to that. I would agree with you about those cases. I know plenty of them and the heartache for them and the kids of the resulting fractured families is horrible. In addition to the fact that sin is sin.

    There are people in the church, sometimes leaders, who put the guilt trip and blame on victims of abuse, abandonment, etc. They fail to speak up for the oppressed. I know one person whose husband would lie like crazy to the church leaders and cover up his unfaithfulness and they would believe him over her. They would give her the same old song and dance about submission and marriage and all that but it was a sham. In this case, they were wrong for not realizing what she was going through and sticking up for her. The evidence was there (emails, lingerie, etc. etc.) they just didn’t want to see it. Another case, a wife lied about her husband to the police and got him locked up; he lost his job. She made it clear she was going to keep doing so when she didn’t get her way. Another case, a wife continued to do drugs in front of the children. After the husband got saved, he needed to leave her in order ot quit enabling her and to quit endangering the kids. I’m talking about very bad situations where people’s lives and bodies are in danger.

    Some people say “God hates divorce” to these situations, which is a twisting of Malachi (the context there is men who were trading in their older wives for trophy wives, so to speak). This is a case of theology being more important than people.

    You supposedly stand on the authority of God’s word to call down woe on someone who disagrees with you. And no, he was not flippantly throwing around cheap divorce. Yet, you hold a minority position on Matthew 5, didn’t deal with Deut 24, and bungled Ezra and bungled 1 Cor. Yet you remain convinced that your position is straight from God and the only reason anyone disagrees with you is the hardness of their heart. Brother, it’s possible it’s YOU who has decided what he wants to believe and is ignoring God’s word! It’s not about flippantly being pro-divorce, as you charged. It’s about how you deal with real-life terrible situations and it’s about dealing fairly with how the text handles exceptions.

  • Donald Johnson

    Divorce is always a result of sin by someone, so if there was no sin, there would be no breaking of covenant vows and no cause for divorce. Even if there has been breaking of covenant vows, the other party can choose to stay, there is no requirement for divorce, contra 1st century Jews.

    There are some pretty exact matchs in the NT with what the Mishnah says in quite a few places. I see it as indispensible to understanding the cultural context of the NT.

  • D.J. Williams

    Yep – there’s a difference between separation and divorce.

    And yes, Darius is right-on about what Piper’s interpretation is. I think it’s very plausible and makes sense within the context of Matthew’s gospel (and why said exception isn’t present in Mark or Luke). I don’t know that I’m 100% convinced, but even if you allow for it as a general adultery clause, it joins divorce initiated by an unbelieving spouse as the only two clauses in Scripture. I don’t find Instone-Brewer’s arguments for additional caveats compelling.

  • Donald Johnson

    What you are probably doing is missing the context where the scope is limited in each of Mat 19 and 1 Cor 7. In any case, one needs to explain why Mat. gives one exception with no mention of another and Paul gives another with no mention of Matthew’s. The solution is that both answers are in terms of a limited scope question, but many miss this.

    In the 1st century a separation WAS a divorce among gentiles AKA Greco-Roman culture. In any case, mapping today’s categories automagically back to the 1st century is a way to misunderstand, unless one first understands what the text meant in 1st century terms.

  • David Vinzant

    I’m trying to find where Jesus or Paul encouraged anyone to marry young. Instead, both of them, by example and teaching, encouraged people to not marry at all.

    Matthew 19

    “10The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

    11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage[or have made themselves eunuchs]because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

    1 Cor. 7:

    27Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. 29What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none.”

    I’m curious as to how often either you, Denny, or Albert Mohler preach sermons encouraging people to not marry.

  • D.J. Williams


    The reason Matthew doesn’t record the exception Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 7 is because Jesus didn’t talk about it. There’s no reason to think he did. The exception in 1 Cor. 7 is valid, but there is no reason to believe that Jesus discussed it in that discourse.

    What I’m pointing out is that in three recollections of the exact same discourse by Jesus, only Matthew records the adultery exception. Mark and Luke do not. Piper provides a plausible explanation for why.

  • Donald Johnson

    Yes, the exception condition needs to be explained why it is in Mat. and not Luke and Mark. They are not teaching exactly the same thing in each case, they need to be merged into a comprehensive teaching. P.S. This comprehensive teaching shows Jesus’s egalism, of course.

    Instone-Brewer gives an explanation. In terms of Greek thinking and my terminology, Hebrew allows truncation, which is an invalid Greek logical operation; this is what trips up so many in interpreting these verses.

    That is, to a Hebrew, unstated things are assumed as part of their worldview, they are auto-filled into the text when reading it. To a Greek, one needs to state all the assumptions in a neat proof. That is why one needs to know the teaching of the sages from the Mishnah in order to fully understand Jesus in May 19, as he is correcting 7 misunderstandings of Torah that they had. But if you do not know what they taught, you do not even see that he is correcting them and/or what he is correcting.

    And yes, in 1 Cor 7, Paul is discussing something Jesus did not say, but why did Jesus not say it?

  • Donald Johnson

    I went and read Piper’s explanation of the exception clause. He gives a Greek explanation, which is totally wrong, but is one that can be done innocently when one does not know the Hebrew context. It is plausible only outside of the context in which the text should be read.

    The right way is to know the Hebrew context and to interpret the text in a Hebrew way, as Instone-Brewer tries to do.

  • D.J. Williams


    Could you explain exactly what about Piper’s explanation is “Greek” and therefore “totally wrong?” I’d like to see the content of your case (and please don’t tell me to read Instone-Brewer).

  • Matthew Staton

    It’s a valid question: if Jesus’ teaching was intended to be the black and white final word on the subject, 100% disallowing any other exceptions, how to explain Ezra’s pro-active encouragement of divorce and why would Paul come along later and add another rider?

    People are more important than rules, not the other way around. It seems to me that different situations have called for different responses. We know that the old saw “God wants you to be happy, therefore dump the bum” is always wrong.

    But Ezra saw a situation where God’s national people needed a clean start. Paul saw situations where abandoned spouses needed permission to move on.

  • D.J. Williams


    Did I ever say Jesus teaching was intended to be the end all? Of course not. I believe that the same Holy Spirit inspired 1 Corinthians that inspired Matthew, Mark and Luke. We need to see the witness of Scripture as a whole. However, that necessitates seeing each part of the whole in context. Paul’s exception in 1 Cor 7 and Jesus’ in Matthew (whatever it may be) are the only two instances that I can see in Scripture where divorce is allowed in the life of a NT believer.

    The account in Ezra is a descriptive passage. Making it prescriptive on us today (when we have since received clearer revelation on the topic via Jesus and Paul) is not a wise hermenutical move.

  • Darius

    You know, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with divorce if people stayed divorced. While it is debatable whether or not the Bible supports divorce in certain situations, it seems much more clear that God never supports remarriage except in the case of death. So fine, get divorced if you absolutely must, but don’t get remarried. What is interesting is that the Scriptural support for this was written when having a spouse was almost a necessity to survival.

    God seems to make it clear that once you’re “one flesh” with another person, you’re not to break that bond as long as you’re both alive. It’s up to God to break that bond via death.

    This is a hard teaching, and not a popular one. I have several friends who have recently gotten remarried after having their unrepentant first wives cheat on them and leave them. It’s nearly impossible to say anything since it would come across as something “easy for me to say” since I’m married and don’t have the prospect of a long single life ahead of me.

  • Matthew Staton

    DJ, if I sounded combative with my question in #61, sorry. I was honestly stating my understanding of the subject.

    What I find significant is that it looks in the text like Jesus is giving the final word. But then Paul adds something else. My question would be, how do we know that Jesus and Paul would fold their arms and shake their head to every future person in every future situation? I find it very significant that Paul added a new teaching in a new situation. It is hard for me to see how Paul’s teaching arises naturally out of what Jesus said or what the Law had said, other than applying the spirit of God’s teaching to his contemporary situation.

    Some teaching about divorce and remarriage strikes me as very, very rigid, preferring rules over people. One book teaches that a remarried couple is committing adultery every time they are together, so they should never be intimate. It builds up a view of marriage that God never recognizes a divorce – he forever sees the original marriage as one flesh. As an unintended consequence, this book has contributed to more divorces – hardly a triumph.

  • Polarbear

    I have watched this debate with fascination as I see so clearly, the American mindset. We are infatuated with our rights. Our culture skews our mind in this way. We don’t have a right to marry or a right to divorce or a right to suck air! Everything blessed marriage, every devastating divorce, every breath we take in is by God’s grace. That is what it boils down to. God is in complete control of every situation in every life. Rather than split hairs over trying to define the rules, how about we all, myself included spend more time revealing who God truly is to people.
    Divorce is a serious thing. I know as my parents are both on their third marriages respectively. We don’t have a “right” to it in any situation. God chooses to allow it in some extreme situations, but it is not a guarantee, just remember Hosea. God has a purpose in bad marriages just as He has a purpose in good ones. We won’t always understand that on this earth. Our goal is to be totally surrendered to God’s will, however, “bad” that is in our eyes. That is the context through which God’s word in totality appears to view every life situation. Just my two cents.

  • Donald Johnson

    To claim that remarriage after divorce is wrong is to misunderstand divorce in its cultural context, a divorce cert in the OT specifically stated one was allowed to get remarried.

    Piper’s explanation is trying to use Greek logic on some text written/said by Hebrews, who thought like Hebrews. I agree it is an honest possibility, but that does not mean it is not wrong. It does not start from the correct premises, which are how the Jews understood marriage and divorce in the 1st century (rightly and wrongly) based on their understanding and interpretation of Torah. To rip these verses from their cultural context as Piper does means he has essentially no chance of getting it correct. He DOES make sense in a Greek logical context, and that is one reason why it is perhaps hard to see why he is wrong, unless you know the Hebrew context.

    That is, there are a few verses that can be understood in a Greek way or in a Hebrew way, both SEEM to make sense on the surface. If you do not even know the Hebrew way, you will just assume the Greek way is what is intended and sometimes it is, when Paul is writing specifically to gentiles, for example.

    But when Jesus the Hebrew is talking to Pharisees which are Hebrews or when Paul is writing some text to Jews, it does not make sense to read it as a Greek.

    Here is a simply example: interpret Mat 19:3 as a Greek, the Pharisees are asking Jesus if there is any reason for divorce. This is totally wrong but that is an example of the Greek way of understanding it without knowing the cultural context. What is really going on are the Pharisees are asking if Deu 24:1-4 allows for a divorce for Hillel’s “Any Matter” or just for indecency ala Shammai. But this is very unlikely to be guessed if you do not know the Hebrew context.

    The scope in the Hebrew understanding is a specific question with limited scope, the scope in the Greek understanding is unlimited, covering all of divorce.

  • Donald Johnson

    And of course another point is that if one does not understand the question, it is almost certain to misunderstand the answer. As I have said, in Mat 19 Jesus corrects 7 misunderstandings of the Pharisees about the Torah on divorce, but if you do not know what they taught (from the Mishnah or other Jewish writings) then how would one figure this out?

  • D.J. Williams


    No, no combativeness taken. Reading back over it, my response sounds pretty defensive though. Sorry about that.

    My response to your overall question would be that our task is to simply take the teaching of Jesus and Paul and all the rest of Scripture (all of it inspired by God himself and in perfect harmony), understand it in its context, and apply it to the situations we face. In doing that, the teaching I see in Scripture is that divorce is forbidden (or rather, maybe it should be said that the marriage vow is upheld – since it is the sacredness of that vow that is what truly matters here), save in the case of abandoment by an unbelieving spouse (with no indication given that remarriage is okay) or perhaps in the event of adultery.

    Sure, sometimes people love rules more than people. The proper response to that, though, is not to compromise what the Scripture teaches in the name of love. Love demands that we wisely and graciously apply God’s word to people’s lives (starting with our own). For example, what of the book you mention that teaches continual adultery (and I assume would demand the breaking of that marriage to seek reunion with the previous spouse)? I would respond by saying that Deut. 24 and Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well indicate that second marriages – even if initially sinful – are still viewed by God as actual marriages, and breaking those (legitimate) vows is not the way to rectify a former sin (deciding to make those vows to begin with). The fact that some apply truth without love doesn’t mean we jettison truth.


    I certainly agree that Deut. 24 is what’s being addressed by the Pharisees in Matthew 19. However, I think you’re so preoccupied with the question they’re asking that you miss the significance of Jesus’ response. He’s elevating their understanding of the Law to a whole different level. They’re asking “which interpretation of Deut. 24 is right?” He’s answering “forget Deut. 24 – it was a concession to your sinful hearts. Go back to Genesis 1 if you want to understand God’s commands concerning marriage.” Just as Jesus didn’t deny the Law but elevated our understanding of it (fulfilling its true intent) with his “but I say to you” sayings in the sermon on the mount, so here he is saying that they are thinking about Deut. 24 in entirely the wrong manner. So, I don’t disagree about any of the contextual data you provided. It’s not news to me, and I promise you Piper’s quite well aware of it as well. I just don’t think that your understanding of the context leads you to the right conclusion here. Yes, the Pharisees are asking a specific question with a limited scope, but Jesus (as he often does) is shattering that scope with a sledgehammer.

  • Donald Johnson

    No, Jesus would NEVER say to disregard Torah. Jesus correctly interprets Torah, he does not negate it in any way or he would be a false prophet, per Moses, and could not be the Jewish Messiah.

    Jesus does go beyond the scope 6 times and answers the actual question being asked, so I agree he goes beyond the scope. But he is always correcting their misunderstandings of Torah, not shattering anything.

    It is hard to discuss in a forum like this, but I have taught it in a class that takes most of a day.

  • Nate


    You misconstrued what D.J. stated. He did not say that Jesus disreguarded the Torah, but that He taught an even better way. Just as He explained to them that hatred of a brother was tantamount to murder, which they would have denied because the Torah said murder. Yet, Jesus redined murder or perhaps we should say that He kicked it up a notch. In the same way, divorce, even for reasons provided for under the Torah, was only due to their hardness of heart. If they wanted to know the essence of marriage, they should go back to the beginning and realize that divorce had no place in the beginning, nor should it have a place in their lives, certainly not for their “no fault” logic.

    However, divorce does happen, but your insistence that Jesus believes it is no big deal, and would sanction the ease of divorce in their day or ours, is the point that others have attempted to reason with you about. You also have only provided one source for your argument. Where are the Patristic Fathers on this? Where are the Reformers? You insistence that Instone-Brewer is the final word on this subject is somewhat troubling.

    And from my standpoint I will not allow Rabbis who don’t follow Christ to interpret Christ for me. While they may provide Hebrew context, they do not have spiritual insight into what Jesus was trying to teach.

    Divorce is a difficult matter, but it is not something the church should just “deal with and tolerate.” And Jesus transcends the Torah because He wrote it, which allows Him to give commentary and further revelation concerning it.

  • Donald Johnson

    A few points.

    1. Hardness of heart did not go away, it is still with us as a possibility.

    2. Yes, Jesus ref’ed Gen, this was to show mistakes in other things that the Pharisees believed that were more fundamental that the question they asked.

    3. Yes, divorce for any matter is not valid, Jesus says this. He does not say that divorce itself in invalid as that would be contra Torah.

    4. Divorce always involve sin by someone, so I do not think Jesus thinks it is no big deal, but the person getting the divorce may simply be acknowledging that the covenant vows have been broken and cannot be repaired.

    5. I agree on not trusting rabbis who do not follow Christ to interpret Christ for you. That is not what I claim. I claim these sages (Hillel and Shammai) were before Christ and provide the context for the discussion that Jesus gave, since that was what the Pharisees asked Jesus.

    6. Yes, Jesus transcends written Torah, he is the living Torah and he can certainly give commentary and correct interpretation of Torah.

    7. Jesus does not say divorce is not in Torah and could not say that.

    8. What you seem to think is Jesus’s response to the question is not his response to the question, it is fixing another misunderstanding. His direct response comes later, he declines to answer the question at first.

  • Adriana Freeport,Grand Bahamas

    Wow when my husband and i got married he was 22 and i was 21. it was hard at first. but with team work we are making it work. God has blessed us with 2 beautiful girls.later i pray to have twin boys. having God as the foundation is the key to having a great marriage.

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