Unquestionably the most commonly held view on divorce in Christian circles states that our Lord offered adultery as the sole biblical grounds for divorce in what is called the exception clause (Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9). Our Lord was correcting the “divorce for any reason” doctrinal position of the Pharisees, but he was not teaching the complete doctrine on divorce. For this reason students of the bible should not have taken the position that adultery alone provides biblical grounds for divorce.
Nevertheless, this view is still the most common out there, but what if scripture provided at least one additional biblical ground permitting divorce beyond Christ’s pornia clause? Logically, Matthew 5 & 19 could no longer rightfully be used as our Lord restricting divorce solely for those who can prove that their spouse committed adultery. Well, Paul provides at bare minimum at least one additional biblical ground for divorce in 1 Corinthians 7 when the unbelieving spouse refuses consent to live with the believing spouse. This biblical ground for divorce is traditionally called abandonment (sadly another misapprehension by our church leaders), and Paul says, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15). Paul’s instructions do not introduce the concept of abandonment, but Paul is providing another biblical ground for divorce. Many bible students refuse to acknowledge Paul’s clear portrayal of another biblical ground for divorce because they understand that doing so would logically mean that Jesus did not intend his correction against permissiveness to restrict divorce to adultery cases only.
Nevertheless, since God’s word unmistakably teaches at least one additional legal ground for divorce, then it is not logically correct to continue teaching adultery as the sole legal grounds for divorce all the while claiming our Lord as the source of this teaching. Obviously, Jesus was saying that the Pharisees’ “divorce for any reason” doctrine was 180 degrees off. In Jesus’ use of the Greek word ‘pornia’ he was elucidating that it would take very serious violations of the marriage covenant’s conditions such as adultery to justify dissolving the marriage. Jesus was arguing that dissolving a marriage takes serious violations by one or both of the marriage partners. Once covenant conditions have been broken, then dissolution of the marriage is justifiable, but without such treachery a divorce action is tantamount to adultery because the marriage covenant has not been broken, which is to say it is still a valid and legitimate agreement between two parties.