Marriage, Divorce and Re-Marriage
If you did not read the article in last month's magazine on the subject "Before and After Marriage," we would invite vou to do so now for it should serve as a proper preliminary to this one. In that article we pointed out some things that people should consider in preparing for marriage, and also some of the qualities and conditions of successful and happy marriages.
Let us further recognize that marriage is not really a device of man -- that is, it was not originated by man nor is it really to be governed by man except in such ways as are in complete harmony with God's will. In other words, since man did not make marriage, man has no right to change it. Let us never suppose that marriages are made and unmade by the will of man when such action violates God's word. The customs and decrees of people and of governments do not alter the law of the Lord, and since marriage is a divine institution it is to be regulated by the law of God. It is no more proper for man to try to regulate conditions of marriage or divorce than it is to try to regulate conditions of entrance into the Lord's church. Likewise it is no more right for man to place the woman as the head of the house than it is for man to place the deacons or the preachers in charge of the church instead of the bishops.
Divorce breaks the covenant that marriage made. Divorce destroys the union that marriage produced. Divorce leads to adultery. Let us point out right here that divorce itself is not adultery, for adultery is a relationship -- an unlawful sexual relationship. However, again remember that Jesus says divorce produces adultery - Mt. 5 :32. "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery . . ." Again Jesus said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." (Mt. 19:9). In other words, the real evil of divorce is that it leads to another union, which new union includes a new relationship. This is adultery. This second union and this new relationship is never recognized bv the Lord as a lawful one "except it be for fornication." (Mt. 19:9).
I shall not try to deal with a great number of hypothetical cases that are always likely to be mentioned in such a discussion as this, but, in the interest of truth and righteousness we must deal with some of the outstanding misconceptions. In the first place, some say that Jesus, in the passage just quoted, was simply explaining the Law of Moses. But Jesus himself said, ". . . from the beginning it was not so." Notice that what he suggests goes back of the Law of Moses. Jesus is simply re-stating a principle that had always been true and would forever remain true - that one man was to have one wife is long as both should live. He did give an exception. Aside from this he stated plainly that the practices which had prevailed under Moses were - in the beginning - and are now without God's sanction.
Some say that since this was stated before Pentecost and was not repeated by the Apostles, it has no force for us. But again let us remember that Jesus was not making a law. He was stating a fact. He simply said that if a man puts away his wife and marries another he commits adultery. It was a statement of fact just as is the statement of Solomon who said, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." That was just equal to saving, "As a twig is bent, so will it grow," which is not a command but a principle. Principles do not change, and it was, is and always will be true that when a man puts away one wife, without the reason Jesus gave, and marries another, he commits adultery.
Another misconception is that if the divorce and remarriage occurred before baptism, the union then is sanctified and holy and the couple can continue in such condition with God's blessings and favor. But this view is based upon the idea that the sin is in the marriage contract itself, whereas, though I do not defend that in any sense, the sin is specifically in the relationship that results, and as long as that relationship continues the couple continue in adultery. Some have argued that one "commits" adultery, and that one cannot "live in" adultery. But let us see. One commits any sin, yet we find that we may live in sin. ". . . Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" Rom. 6:1, 2. Thus Paul says we may live in sin by continuing in sin. So, to continue in an unlawful relationship would be to continue in sin - it would be to continue in adultery.
Let us not suppose that baptism brings pardon for sins that we have refused to quit. For instance suppose a man is engaged in a dishonest business enterprise, but he heard and obeys the gospel. May he then continue that business - just so he doesn't start another such enterprise? Or, suppose a man is married to two wives at the same time (in a country where such is permissible). After baptism may he keep such unions, just so he doesn't take more wives? In the case of adultery: certainly he must quit marrying, but he must also quit sinful relationships which are a part of his present marriage. Repentance is a change of decision and the fruit of repentance is changed conduct. The adulterer who truly repents will determine not to again commit the act of adultery and the fruit of that repentance will lead him to keep himself from marital relationships altogether unless he can be reconciled with his first wife.
Further arguments regarding the above paragraphs seem unnecessary, but the words of Jesus make it even plainer. He said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife . . . causeth her to commit adultery." The revised version says that he "maketh her an adulteress." This does not suggest that she is an adulteress just because she is divorced, but it does suggest that she will marry and then be guilty. The rest of the verse shows that this is what Jesus was teaching, for it says, "whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." She is not a sinner because she is divorced but because she commits adultery in her second marriage relationships.
This last paragraph also shows that the innocent party in a divorce action cannot marry except for the cause pointed out in Mt. 5 and 19. In other words, if a man divorces his wife because he doesn't like her cooking, she is not free to marry again (nor is he). Again let it be remembered that if two people divorce for "any cause," and then later one of them remarries, that does not give the other liberty to do so, even though the first one also married without authority.
It must be admitted that there may be many hardships because of God's law about marriage. According to the law of the Lord if a woman marries a scoundrel, she is stuck with him until he dies unless he commits fornication, even though he may mistreat her and make life completely miserable for her. By that I mean that the Bible teaches that she cannot put him away and get another husband just because she made a mistake the first time. With all of these truths in mind, let us be more diligent in teaching people to use greater care in selecting companions, and then to use more wisdom in perfecting the partnership when it is made. Let each partner remember his other responsibility in helping the companion avoid temptations. Paul said, "Defraud ye not one the other" (I Cor 7 :5).
Finally let us remember that "God's way, are not man's ways," and that God knows best. Even if some must suffer hardship, God's plan is best for the human race. Any compromise of his word will bring sure and certain disaster and will not eliminate, for the whole race, the suffering and. hardship. The Lord's people must stand firmly in defense of the sacredness of marriage, just as they must stand firmly in defense of the purity of the Lord's church. And when the church is kept pure from the defilements of human origin, uncontaminated by the creeds and deeds of men, and when the church is composed of those whose marriages are also kept pure and untainted by the passions of the flesh or by the customs of the people, then the Lord's church will be indeed a great and shining light to the world to bring the lost to Christ who can and will abundantly cleanse.
Truth Magazine III:3, pp. 6-7