It is a delicate subject.
Men speak more openly and boldly concerning it today, not because we live in a more chaste world where these things can be spoken with less danger of inviting and encouraging the sin, but because the sin itself has developed to such tremendous proportions that we are hardly shocked any more by anything of the immorality and filth of the day.
But it is a delicate subject exactly because it deals with the most intimate of all the relationships of man. The fifth commandment deals with the neighbor as he stands before us representing God in the office to which God has called him. In a sense it forms a beautiful transition from the first to the second table of the law. For indeed we are still dealing with our relationship to God in the second table as well as in the first. In the first table we deal with our direct relationship to God; and in the second with the indirect relation through the human being whom He places next to us. In the fifth commandment-the first of this second table-that man next to us stands also as the man over us, whom we must honour in order to keep the first table of the law. The sixth commandment deals with that neighbour, that man God placed next to us, as one who has equal rights, from our point of view, to life as we do. To have no other God besides Jehovah we must accept this person whom He places next to us and may not remove him from the scene and in any way reveal a desire to injure him and limit him in his actions before and next to us as a neighbour. The seventh commandment deals with man in his relation to his help meet (please note not help mate) and physical, psychical and spiritual counterpart, his life’s companion who rounds out his life and enables him to have the full life of man.
The seventh commandment deals not first of all with sexual immorality in all the forms committed by the unmarried but exactly and literally with the sin as practiced by the married. It does not ignore the rest, and it surely does not condone it by simply speaking of adultery. But because it has to do with the relation between a husband and wife, and because we are male and female for the sake of the marriage relationship, the commandment speaks simply of adultery.
There is a beautiful figure in Scripture that is implied in this seventh commandment. It is that of the bride and bridegroom, which is used in Scripture to teach us of the intimate relationship of God’s covenant that exists between Himself and us as the bride of Christ. The Church is betrothed to Christ. And therefore she has a calling to be a virgin for His sake. The betrothal in that day when Scripture spoke of it was far more than our present day engagement. A betrothal, so we are told, took place before witnesses and was very much comparable to our marriage ceremony. The young man took a particular woman for his wife before witnesses, even as we do now in our marriage ceremony. And the young woman likewise took a man for her husband before witnesses. It was not simply engagement. It was more than a promise to be husband and wife, it was taking the first step of being man and wife, the legal step. It is exactly for that reason that righteous Joseph intended to proceed with the divorce of Mary, his espoused wife. He was minded to “put her away.” It was not breaking an engagement, it was separating from her to behave as though the legal tie did not exist. It was divorce on the grounds of an adultery that he feared had taken place.
We are such betrothed of Christ. The Church is not simply living in a promise — as wonderful as all of Christ’s promises are-to become His bride. We are! And as was the case in the days when Jesus was on earth when the wedding feast was celebrated a long time after the betrothal and only when the man had all arranged for a place for him and his betrothed wife to live, so we must wait for the wedding feast of the Lamb. But we are His bride right now. The Church always has been since God began the work of regeneration in the hearts of Adam and Eve, because in His eternal counsel He had betrothed a Church unto Christ. He picked the Bride of His Son from eternity; and He does not, wait to see what in time can be salvaged for His Son. He is far more interested in a wife for His Son than Abraham ever was and could have been in getting one for Isaac from his kinsmen in Haran. And we are never to give Abraham credit for more concern and thoughtfulness than the living God! Abraham’s covenant concern, according to which he made his servant swear an oath before God that he would not let Isaac take a wife from the wicked Canaanites, was only a faint reflection of what is in the eternal and sovereign mind of God. Abraham did this because God had done so long before. God put that covenant concern in Abraham’s heart because of what is eternally in His own. The distant window pane that lights up at sundown with a warm reddish glow does not cause the setting sun to be, as it were, on fire. The fire of that setting sun is reflected in that window pane. We do not show God how things ought to be done. He teaches us how we must do them. He betrothed us unto Himself before we even knew that He existed. Christ is quite capable of choosing His own bride and is no beggar Who is dependent upon the whims and fancies of men. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” John 15:16. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that thepurpose of God (italics added) according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth, (not begs or invites but commands) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, (before they did good or evil) Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” Romans 9:11-13. And hated is not the same as loved less. It is the opposite of love and is used that way by Jesus when He says, using the same word, “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” John 15:25. And this was written in their law in Psalm 69:4 where it is explained not as loving less but as that most intense of man’s passions that leads him to seek to destroy. Note the text, “They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me (and here the Hebrew parallelism explains the hatred), being mine enemies wrongfully are mighty.” Thus to hate is to desire to destroy!
Nay, Christ chooses His Church and that from eternity, and not because of something that we do in time. And Scripture is full of references to this relationship to Christ. In Isaiah 54:5 we read, “For thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name.” This truth is implied in what we read in Jeremiah 1 and 14, “They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return to her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted, but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers: yet return again to me, saith the Lord. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you; and I will take you one of a city and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” More literally we find in the New Testament these words, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and He is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in every thing.” Ephesians 5:23, 24. And again inRevelation 19:7 and 21:9 we read, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready,” which is further explained then as to who that wife is, “And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” John is then carried away to see the Church. For we read in the next verse,Revelation 21:10, “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” And that this city, the new Jerusalem, is the Church is evident from so many passages of Holy Writ.
That therefore the Word of God forbids rather than condones a divorce that allows remarriage, and calls remarrying of such a violation of the seventh commandment is plain to all who want to listen to that Word. The union between Christ and His bride is unbreakable. No matter how unfaithful His Church becomes, and the passages already quoted indicate that she has given Him every reason in the world to put her away (Which, by the way, is not the same as divorce and remarriage), Christ remains faithful, forgives His faithless Bride because He died for her sins on the cross. And through the Apostle Paul he gives those unequivocal words quoted above, “Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in every thing.” Yes, in every thing except in the sphere where they have no right to subject and command, and that is in the sphere of sin. Moses did not give the Israelites a bill of divorcement that dissolved the legal tie and allowed remarriage, and Jesus does not agree with the wicked Jews that he did. He concedes that because of the hardness of their hearts Moses gave them a right to put away, set loose from that subjection under their roof, those mates who were filthy and whose sexual corruption made it impossible for them to live under the same roof, to prevent a filthy home from being established and maintained. But we are to note that this is due to the hardness of their hearts and that, according to Matthew 5:31-32 whosoever marries that filthy partner commits adultery not only, but whoso marrieth one put away for any other cause causeth her to commit adultery.
By the hardness of their hearts Jesus plainly means, for this is set forth in that beautiful Sermon on the Mount, that Sermon on the Kingdom, which describes the citizens and portrays their spiritual characteristics, that these are not able to forgive and forget! That is the first calling and duty of the mate whose partner has become unfaithful and is not a “virgin” either for Christ’s sake or for the human partner’s sake. Here, too, “Judge not that ye be not judged, for with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,”Matthew 7:1-2. If we are hardhearted and cannot forgive the unfaithful mate (and cannot forgive young people who sincerely do confess their evil, and therefore constantly hold it against them) we must not expect Christ to forgive and forget our constant unfaithfulness to Him as His Bride. We are not very often virgins for His sake. We are ready to marry the world, the devil in his Antichrist for gold, silver, houses, land, fame, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life! Every time we sin we have ceased being virgins for Christ’s sake. A little self-examination will reveal that we deserve to be divorced from Christ forever and to be banished to hell.
If the sin committed bothers so much that with our hard hearts we are troubled by the presence of one who committed it, then the rule is to put away, set loose from the subjection that a husband has over his wife. But before God they remain “one flesh” and that is not changed as long as their flesh remains. Only death can sever that “one flesh” bond. Therefore whosoever marries the “innocent” party commits adultery. To adulterate is to add a foreign element. To mix in that which does not belong there. From marriage onward man and wife before God become “one flesh”, and whenever a third party is added <i>in that Relationship it is adulterating and it is sin before the living God. Death severs the bond. Death takes away the one element so that there is now no mixing of flesh, no adding of a foreign flesh. Separation may sometimes become necessary because of the weakness of the flesh and often because of the hardness of the heart, but this putting away, this loosing from subjection does not declare them no longer man and wife and one flesh but a separated man and wife, who by all must still be considered man and wife, because God so considers them. To be a virgin for Christ’s sake, all divorce in the sense of claiming to be a free flesh to be joined thus to another must be put aside and be condemned.