The Marriage Approved Of God

Bryan Vinson, Sr.
Longview, Texas

That every marriage contracted between a man and woman is approved of God would scarcely be affirmed by anyone. If, then, all marriages are not divinely approved it should be of great concern and interest to learn which ones are, as distinguished from those which are not, lest we should be found under God's censure. But though there may be among professed believers in God an agreement that God doesn't approve all marriages, there is not an agreement on the point of just which marriages Jehovah approves and which ones he doesn't. With some, marriage is a church sacrament, and thus properly restricted to those who are in the church. While a dogma of Catholicism, such belief is not entirely restricted to that body in some vital aspects of it. Some members of the Lord's church hold to views much akin to the Catholic concept. They would, in effect, make marriage a religious thing by virtue of claiming a Christian can only marry another Christian. While recognizing the advisability of members of the church selecting their life companions from within the church, we cannot subscribe to this contention.

If a Christian is restricted from marrying one who isn't then one of two things follows, namely, (1) that only Christians may legitimately marry, and hence marriage between people in the world is illegitimate, or (2) that God has two laws of marriage, one for His children, and another for those of the world. Catholics accept the first, and we know of some within the church who hold to the second. However, we shall not labor the former because those who read this certainly are not of such persuasion. We will say, though, that if only those in covenant relation with God are subject to the law of God concerning the marriage relation, then those in the world could not violate this law, for where there is no law, there is no transgression," (Rom. 4:15). Consequently, those in Corinth, previously to becoming Christians could not have violated the law of God concerning the relation of the sexes. However, the apostle says that among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God are adulterers, and "such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus" (I Cor. 6:10-11). So, then, we see that they violated God's law, and thus were under it previous to becoming Christians, for they could not have violated it except they had been subject to it. Therefore, we conclude that the people of the world as well as those in the church are subjects of the law of God as touching the marriage institution.

But some are saying now that God has two laws of marriage, one for the believer and a different one for the unbeliever. The law governing the believer we are told, is found in the Scriptures and thus every statement bearing on the subject in the New Testament is of exclusive relevance to the Christian. The law of God to the alien is found in the civil laws of the land where the particular ones concerned live and are citizens. Otherwise stated, we have one law for the citizens of the country and another law for the citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and the latter is found in the New Testament and the former on the statute books of the various states. The consequence of this position is that the citizens of the earthly government may marry, divorce and remarry as frequently as they wish so long as they conform to the laws of the land governing such, and they are free of all guilt of adultery both in the eyes of the government and the eyes of God. God would thus accommodate Himself to the varied and changing moral code of time and place as affected by the ups and downs of moral standards.

I cannot conceive of any problem afflicting the people of God today more serious in both its character and consequences than the lax regard for the law of God on marriage and divorce. Institutionalism is a grave peril, and the centralization of the work of the church through sponsoring churches is a corruption of the Divine order, but these do not surpass in their gravity this peril. More needs to be taught in the pulpit, at the fireside and in the press on this subject. Not a great deal can be hoped for as concerns those who have entangled themselves in marital difficulties already, but much can be done by way of warning and teaching those who yet are unmarried to the end that they act with thought and caution, and due regard for the will of God. Does God recognize a dual standard or law on this relation? Under what general classification of law does this human relation come? It must be recognized as being a relationship that is moral in its nature, and therefore one governed by moral law. Illicit relations would not be immoral otherwise, and thus legitimate relations be esteemed is moral. Since, then, it is a moral issue We must ask the question, is there a duality or plurality of moral systems? If there is a plurality of marriage laws there must be plurality of moral codes corresponding thereto. And since the contention is made that these two laws are distinguishable on the grounds of the category of subjects being either Christian or alien, then there must be a distinct moral law for each. Then, since we read where the Christian is enjoined against stealing, lying, murdering, coveting, etc., we would not therefrom be able to conclude that such acts would be immoral for the person who isn't a Christian! That is, except as so defined and prohibited by civil law. Hence, if one should live under a government that didn't forbid lying, stealing, murder and polygamy then such things would not be a violation of God's will, eh?

This sort of contention would have God subjecting Himself as touching the right or wrong of a given matter to the whimsical will, fads and fancies of men. This no serious thinking person can believe. But on what does this dual system rest for support in the reasoning of those who hold it? We have heard a brother cite this passage: "Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But, if thou marry, thou hast not sinned" (I Cor. 7:27-28). The contribution sought from this passage is to the effect that the one here who is loosed from a wife is one who is divorced from her, and to such a one the assurance is tendered that should he marry, he sins not. Therefore, a divorced person, irrespective of the ground of divorce, may marry again. The view thus taken involves the idea that the previous marriage and divorce occurred before the one became a Christian, and hence in compliance with civil law as distinguished from divine law. Therefore, the passage is employed to enforce the idea that God recognizes and approves divorce and remarriage as defined by civil authority, however it may differ from the ground which the Scriptures establish and prescribe. The assumption, and a dangerous one, that here is taken is that loosed must involve and correspond with divorce as the act of loosing. The context doesn't so require, and other passages forbid.

John the Baptist acted in ignorance of this duality of law in condemning the marriage of Herod to his brother Phillip's wife, Herodias. Herod was not in covenant relation with God as a child, nevertheless his marriage was condemned. And certainly it was a marriage that was sanctioned by the law of the land since Herod was an official of the government. Therefore, a marriage may be approved by civil law and be condemned bv God. This being true, we must repudiate the contention of two laws of marriage, with God the author of one, and man the other, and with God approving the latter wherein it may differ from the one given by himself.

It is true that Moses because of the hardness of the hearts of the Jews relaxed the law of marriage, but Jesus says "from the beginning it was not so." With this statement he immediately states that which from the beginning was so, and for that reason is now so; that is, the laxity as identified with Moses no longer obtains. We are, therefore, severely bound by such as is taught bv Jesus Christ and His apostles on the subject. And the fact that which Jesus teaches was not identfied as originating with Him and thus with Christianity, but rather identified "with the beyinning," precludes its force being directed exclusively to Christians. Being traceable to the beginning it must apply to all men who have descended from those to whom it was given-Adam and Eve.

What is God's law of marriage? It is stated as illustrative of another truth in Romans 7:1-3. The lesson taught there was concerning the law of Moses being abolished, and therefore they could and were married to another, spiritually that is, to Christ. An analogy is drawn from the matter with which they were familiar-the marriage law. A wife is bound to her husband so long as he lives, but if he be dead she is loosed, released from the law of her husband, as by his death the law binding her has been abolished. This is God's law, and being His no exception other than as authorized by Him can ever be of force. Men may make multiple exceptions but they are without legitimate force. Exceptions do not nullify a law when made by the same power which made the law, but if other than a law-making power creates exceptions then the law is violated by such exceptions, and to that degree and in that sense is nullified. The Jews by their traditions made of none-effect, thus nullified, the law of God as charged by Jesus. Now if the law of God has created those things which were traditional, then they would have constituted legitimate exceptions and modifications of the law of God. As it was, they stood in the same relation to God's law as human traditions in our time do to God's law, whether as pertaining to marriage or anything else God has legislated.

That which Jesus said was from the beginning involved the durability and life-lasting characteristic of the marriage relation; hence, save for the cause of adultery no one can put away his wife, or a wife her husband, and be married to another. There may be circumstances which render a separation less censurable and displeasing than remaining together, but without infidelity on the part of the former companion there can be no second marriage while the first one lives as conforming to the right to put away one's wife or husband. In I Cor. 7:10-11, Paul teaches against departing from or putting away your companion, with the added injunction to remain unmarried or else be reconciled to the companion from which you are separated. This corresponds exactly with what Jesus had taught while here. Furthermore, he instructs the Christian regarding the binding force of his or her marriage, when the companion is not a Christian, and yet willing to abide with them. Such a marriage is of force, and the parties thereto are mutually sanctified to one another. The statement is made that the unbelieving is sanctified by the believing party or otherwise all the children, not being Christians, would be unfit to keep; that is, the reasoning that would lead one to think the companion being an unbeliever, was unsanctified as to marriage and hence unworthy to live with, would have to accept as a corollary truth that the children would be unclean in the same sense because children aren't Christians is here contemplated. What is the point? Religion is not the ground on which marriage rests, and thus not the ground for its continuance or discontinuance. Marriage is a natural relationship. In its nature human, in its origin divine, in its sphere social, in its character holy, and in its design procreative. It is for life, and no man should lightly enter into it, nor seek to end it. Adulterers shall not enter heaven, and that is true even though society should approve such a relationship, and where Divine exceptions do not exist any man or woman having a second living companion is living in adultery. If they live in it, they cannot go to heaven according to the statement of I Cor. 6:9.

Young people are in need of being taught the truth on these matters before they form an affection and attachment with one of the opposite sex. Once they have done this, all reason and argument is largely ineffective. No young person should keep company with one whom they would have no right to marry, or that would not be a suitable companion for life. If this be true, and I think it will not be disputed, then a proper understanding of the will of God on this matter is vital to the security and well-being of all of His children in particular, and human society in general. The ill effects of the looseness of the moral code as touching marriage and divorce is obvious, both in and out of the church. It is dangerous in some congregations to teach what the Scriptures say on the subject lest some members whose lives are fouled up become offended and thus employ their influence to remove the preacher. But the commission to preach the truth is not from man, and therefore one's accountability as touching that preached is not to men, but to the Lord. Consequently, it is far more dangerous to not teach the truth on this and all subjects than to teach it, because eternity out measures time, and what God can do to us is far more than what man can do.

Truth Magazine IV:12, pp. 11-13
September 1960