6 Ways Jesus Radically Altered Marriage

Jesus radically altered the meaning and purpose of marriage in his day which sent shockwaves throughout history.

Jesus provides the means in this life to flee immorality, lust, and adultery through the marriage of one man to one woman. The Lord does not take this institution away but rather shows how grace triumphs over sinfulness. Christ first shows us how far sin enters our hearts, how deep the river of sin runs, but then shows how we are redeemed.


When God’s Word comes to us, his commands don’t function to only condemn us. His Word speaks of the redemption that he has provided for our deepest failings—he provides a way out. Jesus’ teachings on marriage radically altered its meaning and purpose from the common assumptions of his day. He did this by stepping into a conversation on adultery and divorce.

You shall not commit adultery. – Exodus 20:14

Christ unpacks this commandment in Matthew 5:27–32 and 19:1–12. He not only provides redemption from condemnation but also points us to the way we are now enabled to live. Jesus teaches us six realities about marriage and God’s purpose through the seventh commandment.

1. Jesus points us to the purpose of creation.

In Jesus’ interpretation of this commandment, he points us to the original marriage that God established, creating man and woman for each other in perfect peace and harmony. They found their fulfillment and happiness in each other in their service to God. Yet, in their sin against God, they threw everything into disarray, even the sacred marriage and the sexuality in which God placed them.

Marriage isn’t just about children or about self-fulfillment. Here we see marriage is about glorifying God and serving others through self-denial. This is the deepest purpose of creation itself.

When Adam and Eve sought their own pleasure and glory, they instantly put their marital relationship in jeopardy, introducing fear and accusation. In this original sin, we find the root of adultery and all sexual sin. Against the backdrop and goodness of creation, Jesus highlights the gravity of the sin of adultery that distorts the most intimate relationships we have as humans. When we fail to die to ourselves and seek the glory of God and the other person’s good, we undermine the purpose of marriage and sexuality.

2. Jesus teaches us about the true nature of our sin.

When confronting us with our sin, Jesus speaks to the heart, digging below the surface. But he does so by showing the full weight of the law’s requirements. Jesus makes a shocking statement: we must have a righteousness that exceeds that of the holy men of his time:

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  – Matt. 5:20

The people thought that this law could easily be obeyed. If they did not touch a woman or actually commit adultery with her, they believed themselves to be without guilt, but Christ shows us that the seventh commandment includes so much more.

It requires the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s purity, in heart, speech, and behavior. It forbids all immoral thoughts, words, and actions. Not a single thought leading to lust should pass through our minds. If it does, we are guilty of committing adultery before God.

What is Jesus’ point? His point is simple: no one escapes the law’s condemnation. Our biggest problem in marriage (and in all of life) before God and each other is our own sin.

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