Marriage is for life.
With that truth we were busy last time. And we made the remark last time that “Moses did not give the Israelites a bill of divorcement that dissolved the legal tie of marriage and allowed remarriage; and Jesus does not agree with the Jews that he (Moses) did.” Jesus gave answer to the contentious Jews, but His answer was not that those divorced according to Moses’ command might remarry because the marriage bond was severed by man. We wish at this time to refer you to Moses’ precepts as Paul presents them in Romans 7:1-3, “Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead, she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” Not only is the language here very, very clear, but it may be noted that this is the law which God gave through Moses. If Moses gave a precept and permission to Israel for the divorced to remarry because of the hardness of their hearts, it is not the law of God. But Paul here speaks of the law of God and not of any man-made or Moses-made exceptions. Paul repeats this in his epistle to the Corinthians. Thus in I Corinthians 7:39 he writes, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” And Moses, speaking as God’s mouthpiece, does not advocate and did not teach a divorce that allowed remarriage.
The hardness of man’s heart may require separation. The husband who, though he may be able to forgive, sins against his conscience by living further with a faithless mate may have to separate and give her a word of divorce that declares that he cannot live with her any more as husband and wife. But they remain before God as one flesh. Jesus, in Matthew 19:3-9, where He again speaks of divorce, and now in answer to these contentious and fault-finding Jews, says unequivocally, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” This surely is not agreeing that Moses gave a bill of divorcement that allows remarriage of either party. Besides, and perhaps this should be placed first as far as the meaning of the text is concerned, the hardness of the heart that demands divorce in the sense of living separately, so that the woman is not under the domination of the man under his roof, is to be found in an adulterous life. Where the mate has slipped into great temptation —whether she set the occasion herself or was trapped by a cleverly laid plan makes no difference — and repents and leaves that evil way, the rule applies to forgive and receive her back. But there are instances where the hard heart of the adulterer or adulteress produces a life of fornication and faithlessness. In such instances the husband or wife may need to give a word or bill of divorcement in the sense of separation for the family’s sake and the children’s sake. But there simply cannot be any denying that Jesus condemns attempts even to put away in the sense of claiming that the marriage bond has been dissolved, that the two are not before God one flesh anymore; and that either party is free to remarry.
Granted that a partner is unfaithful and sins against either husband or wife, this does not grant that offended party the right to commit a sin. The breaking of a commandment of God in one aspect of its broad meaning does not give right to break it in another phase of its meaning. The man who has been defrauded by falsification does not by virtue of that fact have the right to backbite and slander the defrauder. One on whose life an attempt has been made to kill does not receive because of this fact a God-given right now to injure bodily that would be murderer. And one sinned against by a faithless life’s companion does not receive the right to sin against that other half of the “one flesh” by adding a foreign element of a new “wife” or “husband.”
In that light Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:9 are so significant, “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 (as the innocent party) committeth adultery.” Why cannot a man marry the innocent party? Why does he commit adultery, if he does marry a woman put away by her husband because he wants to commit adultery due to the hardness of his heart and not because she has been unfaithful to him? Because, as Jesus said, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” And this is not mere advice. It is the command of God. Let not! Do so only under the penalty of the wages of sin which death! is the meaning. God joined together. God considers them one flesh until one of the two’s flesh dies. See againRomans 7:1-3 and I Corinthians 7:39.
Returning to Matthew 7:31 and 32 we may note that Jesus says, “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.” If you please! That man who puts away the innocent party causes her to commit adultery. No, the idea is not that she sins by an act which he commits. The text says clearly enough that he causes her to commit adultery. And that last part can only mean that he stigmatizes her as an adulteress. Since it may be necessary to put a wife away because she lives in fornication, and this is the only condition under which and grounds for which God grants a bill of divorce-that means separation from under one roof, when a man puts away his wife in the church world, all must conclude that she is an adulteress. And a woman who puts away in Israel and in the church world an husband stigmatizes him as a philandering, filthy and faithless partner. What is more, the verb in the phrase “causeth her to commit adultery,” that is, in the last part of this phrase, is in the original in the passive form. It does not speak then of an act which she commits but which is committed upon her by her hardhearted husband. He puts asunder what before God is still joined to him in God’s judgment. He, that hardhearted husband, deals with her as a foreign element and therein sins against her. And the man who would take this innocent party for his wife also sins against her by adding himself as a foreign element between and along with that which God will consider one flesh until either one of them die, and their flesh is no more.
And the church that allows and advocates remarriage of the divorced goes contrary to the ordinances of Christ, the Head of the Church and the Bridegroom Who is ever faithful to His Bride, the Church. She had better review her stand and be herself a virgin for Christ’s sake. The reason for advocating or for condemning remarriage of the divorced and of allowing divorces for any other reason than fornication must not be utilatarian. And convenience or inconvenience must not rule the Church. To be a virgin for Christ’s sake the Church must be pure in doctrine and walk regardless of the temptations and difficulties of the way. She may not allow rebellion against the authorities. She may not smile in approval of idolatry, image worship, taking God’s name in vain and desecrating the Sabbath. But she may not dirty her garments by allowing fornication and adultery among her membership by unscriptural divorces and remarriage of the divorced. She will not receive Christ’s smile of approval if she does; and in generations she will become the harlot that He destroys as the false church. She must not become like the world. She must be an imitator of God and follow after Christ and not the Antichrist.
There is an element that belongs to this picture and our young people do well to take heed to it. Our youth, in the very first place, must not become unequally yoked with the unbeliever and find all too soon spiritual incompatibility! That is the very worst kind of incompatibility that there is; and those who through their foolishness find themselves therein are to be pitied. How tragic that a young man or a young woman of the Church of Jesus Christ finds it so difficult to be a virgin for His sake because of a worldly-minded mate! Our children are simply asking for trouble when they deliberately seek to yoke themselves unequally with one who will not be an help meet for them in the spiritual sense. And now we must come back to that which we wrote last time. God gave to Adam an help meet for him and not an help mate. Be it far from our covenant seed simply to seek a play mate for themselves or a “plaything.” Marriage is a serious business that is for life!
An help meet for Adam is an help suitable for him from the point of view of God’s purpose in creating him. The word meet in the expression means fit, suitable, appropriate, becoming. Adam was created to be God’s friend-servant. Eve was created to help him in that capacity. In his natural life, in his spiritual life, in his life as an husband and as a father, in his work as prophet, priest and king Eve was to be at his side to help him and not to be a distraction, a hinderance and detriment. And our young people in the church are to seek one that will help them and not hinder them.
A pretty face is what attracts the flesh. A witty mind may appeal to the flesh. A quiet and meek nature that can be ruled, the clinging vine type that seems to emphasize and satisfy the male ego does appeal to the flesh. But the criterion for both young men and young women is spiritual compatibility not only but spiritual ability to help the other in the covenant calling of living together in the service of God to the praise of His name in every aspect of the married life. Man and wife together must be a synchronized team that functions as a virgin of Christ.
Paul puts it this way in that passage to which we already referred, I Corinthians 9:39: “. . .She is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” ONLY IN THE LORD is what our covenant youth must constantly bear in mind with all its relationships with the other sex. And there is an ocean of truth in that phrase. It means first of all that they marry so that both of them are in the Lord and that there is no foreign mixture of the Antichrist and of unbelief between the two of them and Christ. To be married in the Lord means that husband and wife together are the virgin of Christ. It means that they both are members of His Church. For the Church is the body of Christ, and unless both husband and wife are in Him by being in His body, the Church, they are not married in the Lord. Then one member may be in the Lord, but they are not as man and wife, as one flesh.
They must therefore both be in the faith, for that also is to be in the Lord. He is the object of our faith and must be in our single life but also in marriage bond. They must be of the same faith; and they must be of the same specific faith. Membership of one in the Roman Catholic Church and the other in a Protestant Church is spiritual incompatibility which brings nothing but grief and tears and hindrance in the spiritual life. It does not help either party one bit! But neither does marrying into different denominations of Protestantism that disagree on fundamental points of doctrine. There will be spiritual disagreement and grief in such an union. There are times in some communities and in small congregations and denominations where this marrying in the same denomination is impossible. Then our youth is still obliged to seek a life’s partner that will help in the service and worship of God and to choose one who is (1) willing to be instructed in his faith, and (2) is sincerely willing to agree not to agitate against the other’s faith. And even then they should not get serious until it is determined that they both will conscientiously before God embrace the same faith. For being married in the Lord also means being married in the presence or eyes or favour of the Lord. We do it before His face whether we are conscious of that fact or not. And our seed’s calling is to choose a life’s partner with HIM, whose virgin we are to be, in mind. Then when some natural incompatibilities do appear the common love of God and of His Christ will hold them together and enable them to live one life of dedication to Him, and receive His children to train in His fear.