By Jack L. Holt
In Romans 7:2, the Holy Spirit tells us that “the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies she is released from the law concerning her husband.” The Holy Spirit is not teaching a lesson on the marriage bond as such, but is merely using the marriage relationship to teach the Jew a lesson on his relationship to the law and to Christ. The law by which the wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives is the universal law of marriage given to the world in Genesis 2:22-24.
Jesus confirms this truth in Matthew 19:1-9. In his teaching on marriage and divorce he turned to Genesis 2:22-24 and proved that the marriage law given by God in the beginning is the law for all men for all time. That blessed law has never needed, nor does it now need, revision. It needs to be accepted, highly honored, esteemed (Heb. 13:4) and obeyed by all men. Divorce and putting away has never been the will of God for any people at any time. Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (v. 8).
There is no power or authority on earth that can really part what God hath joined together. The “one flesh” statement in Genesis 2:24 forbids divorce. This was understood by the Jews in Moses’ day. If God’s marriage law as given in the beginning didn’t forbid divorce, why would Moses need to grant permission to divorce? The Jew could have asked, “Where is the law that forbids it?” When God gave the law of Moses, he didn’t give a new law on marriage and divorce. The marriage and divorce law given in the beginning was still God’s law for the world as well as for the Jews. A question, “What marriage law were the Jews under while they were in Egypt?” Did that law permit divorce? If it didn’t permit it then, since the world is still under that law does it permit it now? The fact that Moses gave a law permitting divorce shows that it was not permitted before! Those who divorced violated Genesis 2:24. Jesus taught that divorce as permitted by Moses was not that way in the beginning.
Jesus said, “For this cause (that is, to become one flesh) shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). This is the law that binds a married woman to her husband (and vice versa) as long as they both shall live. What God joined together, let not man put asunder. The only way that one flesh relationship can be put asunder is by immorality which frees the innocent party to marry again without committing adultery. There is no human court or legislative body that can actually part what God joined together. This act of God in joining a male and female together, the only joining together that can be truly called marriage, can’t be repealed by man.
When God in his infinite wisdom thought it better to create than not to create, he employed his wisdom and power to bring to pass what he willed (Rev. 4:11). In his mind the world stood complete as a habitation for mankind that he would create and place upon the earth. In creating mankind God had the sexual relationship in his mind before they were created. So mankind was created male and female. But God placed the sexual relationship within the bounds of “holy matrimony.” His law for all mankind for all time is stated in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh.”
It is to this law given in the beginning that God refers in Romans 7:2, “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning her husband.” The expression, “is bound,” refers to an action that has already taken place with the results continuing. God says the married woman is bound by his marriage law unto her husband until he dies (the exception mentioned in Matt. 19:9 is not included in Paul’s illustration).
This is the one flesh marriage law God gave in the beginning. God gave an exception to his marriage law, but he exempts no one from it. God alone has the right to amend his laws. Only God can speak for God. God the Son, gave the exception to the “one flesh” binding of Genesis 2:24. Jesus placed his teaching on the exception “except it be for fornication” in the scriptural context of God’s marriage law given to the world. What right do men have to take it out of that context and limit it to the church? This humanly devised imposition on the text of God’s holy word is a pretext!
But nowadays, men arrogate to themselves the right to amend God’s holy law of marriage so they can fit it into the changing times and ideals of a sinful world. They sit in judgment on the holy laws of the eternal God, declare that they are obsolete and unmerciful for the modern age, and then try to bend the Scriptures to fit their theory. God’s laws and God’s servants don’t bend! Man’s immorality will not unsettle God’s settled laws, nor cause them to pass away and the Scripture still cannot be broken (Psa. 11:89; Matt. 24:35; Jn. 10:35). God says, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” The Son says, “What God hath joined together let not man put asunder.” Do you hear him or man?
The only way God joins a man and woman together in the one flesh arrangement is within the marriage relationship given in the beginning. As all mankind were under that law then, so are they today. The first polygamist mentioned in Scripture came from the rebellious family of Cain (Gen. 4:19). Then as men multiplied upon the earth, the “sons of God” saw the daughters of men that they were fair and they took wives of all they chose. They ignored God’s marriage law, but God didn’t ignore their sin. One of the sins that brought on the flood to cleanse a world guilty before God was a violation of God’s marriage law.
Any nation that holds in contempt the Creator’s law of marriage given in the beginning invites ruin. Nations stand or fall in respect to their attitude towards God’s marriage law. The life of Israel in the land of Canaan was conditioned upon their fidelity to God’s marriage and divorce laws that protected the home (Deut. 6).
Marriage is a holy institution given by God to the world in a pure state. As only God, by his law of marriage can join male and female together, only God by his law can put that one flesh relationship apart. Men may play God and grant separations but human laws can never put asunder what God joined together. One may as well try to unsave one God has saved.
One good thing about this teaching that says the world is not under the marriage and divorce laws of God is that the world in general doesn’t believe it! And I am glad that the brethren who do believe it don’t preach it to the world for that teaching is subversive to society and will encourage the breakup of the home.
One has written these words that set forth very clearly the fact that “marriage should be held in honor among all men and the bed undefiled. ” After quoting Genesis 2:24, he wrote, “This marks the divine origin of the home, that institution upon which the greatness or baseness of every nation must eventually rest. As is the home so is the nation. Let the ideals of the home be high, its morals clean, its conduct chaste, and the nation will be noble and honorable.” (How so, if aliens can marry and divorce as they please with no guilt?) Further, “In the divine plan there was one man with one woman created as his companion and counterpart. It was always (all emp. mine, JLH) God’s intention that there should be one woman for one man and one man for one woman while both were alive (so bound by law as long as liveth, Rom. 7:2). It was and is God who joins the two, thus making them one in their purpose, ideals aims and work. . . The final word regarding this sacred permanence and unity was spoken by Jesus Christ when he said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). . . Throughout the Bible (thus in every age, JLH) God’s displeasure is manifested against unchaste behavior of husbands and wives, against divorce and the sins that lead to divorce. (Are aliens included in this?) Lack of respect for the divine origin of marriage and for God’s standards for the home have led to broken homes, untold sorrow, suffering and demoralization throughout the history of mankind. Here is a point all the world needs to consider in this present age. ” (Why, since as some claim the world is not subject to God’s marriage and divorce laws?) “Where can a higher or more noble standard be found than the one established by the Bible? Nowhere, for there is none. (But now some say that standard is only for the church!) Marriage came from God and back of it is a divine purpose. To accomplish that purpose marriage must be regulated by God’s divine laws – laws enacted for its permanence and our happiness” (Homer Hailey, From Creation To The Day Of Eternity, pp. 23-24).
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 1, pp. 9-10
January 4, 1990