Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage
The subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage is of great consequence because it affects the stability of the home, which in turn affects the nation and above all the church of our Lord. The church can be no stronger than the homes of those who make up the church. It seems almost superfluous to mention the fact that divorce and remarriage have become rampant in recent years and that the future holds only a promise of a further deterioration of family life. This condition should be alarming even if it were confined to the world, but in view of the fact that divorce and adulterous relationships have become so prevalent among the people of God, it is high time that we begin to preach and teach privately and publicly, in the corner and from the housetop, the law of Christ as it pertains to marriage. We need to proclaim as did Ezra, that "ye have transgressed, and have taken strange views, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure; and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives." (Ezra 10:10, 11).
In order to emphasize the heinousness of the present treatment of marriage by so many, let us consider the innate dignity of such a relationship. To begin with, everyone should be mindful of the fact that God is the author of marriage. Jesus, in quoting from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 said, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?" (Matt. 1:4, 5) Just as the innate dignity of man can be proved by his divine origin, this is likewise true of marriage, it is unquestionably His prerogative to legislate concerning it, and such legislation demands the respect of all. Christ continues in Matthew 19:6 by giving God's law concerning marriage when he says, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God bath joined together, let not man put asunder." Therefore, God is the author of marriage; He instituted it for the happiness of mankind, for the prevention of immorality, and for the procreation of the race; and finally, He wills that it be as lasting as life, as long as both companions shall live.
It should now be obvious to all that divorce is sinful. Since it is God's will that marriage end only in death, there can be no separation w1hout sin at least on the part of one, and no doubt most of the time both are in the wrong. The Lord simply said: "let -not man put asunder." Nothing could be easier to understand. In Matthew 5:31, 32 we read, "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That 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." Thus Jesus teaches that divorce may be responsible for adultery. Jesus does not mean that divorce actually forces the companion who is put away to commit adultery, but that it does place one in such circumstances wherein he is likely to succumb to the temptation. And though the one who so fails is responsible f or his sin, yet the one who put the companion away must also share the guilt since he was largely responsible for the sin! Surely anything which is responsible for adultery must be wrong itself. Like begets like. Good does not produce evil nor evil good. Divorce must be sinful!
It seems to me that there is an ever increasing softness among gospel preachers with regard to the Lord's teaching on divorce and remarriage. There are two extreme schools of thought on this subject. There are those who do not regard the teaching of Christ on divorce and remarriage applicable to aliens. Thereby they seek to justify the many adulterous relationships in the church, today simply because such relationships were formed prior to obedience to the gospel! This position, however, is faced with many insurmountable objections. To say that Christ's law for marriage does not extend beyond the boundaries of the kingdom of God is to say that marriage is peculiar to Christians, for certainly the law for marriage is as broad as marriage itself. They also in effect say that baptism makes an unholy relationship holy, and they will not accept that in any other matter. Furthermore, since the only way a man and women can live together acceptably is to be married in God's sight, they thereby are saying that baptism not only marries one to Christ, but that it also unites two in marriage who before baptism were nothing but adulterous companions! Such is repugnant!
The other extreme to which reference was made is the position that under no circumstances can one ever be justified in putting away a companion and marrying another. Those who so teach automatically condemn any and all who are married while at the same time they have a former companion still living. Of the two extremes, this is the lesser of the two evils since it would not be responsible for as serious consequences as the former. However, both are opposed to the teaching of Christ and should be abandoned for this reason alone.
Now let us hear the language of the Lord as found in Matthew 19:9: "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery." Could it have been expressed any simpler? I know not how. Let us notice the rule Jesus sets forth by eliminating for a moment the exception he mentions. He simply says that whoever puts away or divorces his companion and marries another is guilty of adultery. The reason the second union constitutes adultery is that such is not recognized as marriage by Almighty God. Otherwise there would be no adultery. And why is it not marriage in God's eyes? The answer to this has already been given in that marriage ends only in death. This is the rule. Jesus, however, mentions one exception to the rule. Hear it: "except it be for fornication." In this passage the Lord was talking about divorce and remarriage, not just divorce. A man doesn't commit adultery by the act of divorcing his companion, but in the act of remarrying. But if one puts away his companion because of fornication or unfaithfulness, then remarrying does not constitute adultery. If this isn't the obvious meaning of the passage, then what is it?? Jesus said "whosoever did such except for fornication was guilty. Therefore this language applies to all who are married and it allows remarriage only on the above-mentioned condition. Thus both of the extreme positions above fall.
In conclusion let us remember that Christ has all authority and that everything he taught demands our complete respect. The teaching of the Lord on marriage is not difficult to understand unless we make it so by our efforts to circumvent such teaching. The sectarian does not understand the Lord's teaching on baptism because he is looking for a loophole in it. Are we guilty of this on the subject of marriage? May we remember that God's truth will stand and by it we will be judged at the last day. Therefore, regardless of how the truth affects us or our loved ones or close friends, may we ever stand for that which is right and do our best to conform thereto.
Truth Magazine I:3, pp. 6-7, 20